Thursday, July 19, 2018

Banking Rain for Sunny Days

Did you get the memo? Climate change will make rain less predictable and more intense in southern California. It's not clear if the total amount of rain will decrease along the coast. Rain will decrease in the Colorado River Basin, from which we import some of our water. For the sake of our water supply, we need to change how we handle water runoff.

Gregory Rachel, a firefighter and surfer, wrote a good primer on the why and how of water harvesting, with a photo of the Los Cerritos Channel Sub Basin 4 Stormwater Capture Project.


Joe Mozingo wrote A behind-the-scenes battle to divert L.A.'s storm water from going to waste for the LA Times and illustrated it with a picture of the huge Paseo del Rio at San Gabriel Coast Basin spreading grounds.


In 2016, he reported that only 65 billion gallons of rainwater is captured and stored in aquifers. Another 164 billion gallons goes out to sea.  I'm not sure if that 65 billion includes the water captured by smaller-scale "rain gardens" in homes and parks, such as this one that captures all the water on the parcel of the North Redondo Beach Branch Library.  I wrote about it in 2016.

The "local supplies" that provides ~40% of the water used in the LA area comes from wells or reservoirs stocked by water that fell as rain in our area (instead of water imported from the Colorado River or Northern California via long canals.) It does not count the rain that fell in your garden and soaked into the ground because that isn't metered/measured.

It's pretty clear that the Colorado River Basin is drying up and climate change is a major contributor. I'll write about regional competition and cooperation of cities and states in the Colorado River Compact later.

The supply from the California State Water Project that moves water from the Sacramento Delta to central and southern California is also endangered. It's threatened in the north by sea level rise and increased diversions that increase the salinity (salt) in the water supply.  Insane over-pumping of well-water by farmers in the Central Valley have caused the ground to sink as much as a foot per year in some areas, buckling and breaking the canals.  Currently, the peak capacity of the water canals to SoCal has been decreased by 20% because of the buckling.  Add to this that the canals must cross earthquake country and were built when we had much less experience in how to engineer for earthquake safety.  The California "Water Fix" is a political football and you can get whiplash from watching it.  That sounds like another blog post.

Long story short, we need to improve the things that are completely within our control.  That means we should build our neighborhoods with the intent of soaking as much rain water in the ground as we can.  It can be as simple as putting in gravel in the lowest spot in your garden so it doesn't flow off your property.  It can be giant basins that can harvest 200 million gallons from one storm and put it in the ground.   Or it can be something in between.

I'll end with pictures of a neighborhood-scale rainwater capture project in North Redondo Beach.  Thousands of people pass it every day on Aviation Boulevard and have no idea what it is.  This aerial view does not show you how hilly this area is.  Some of the streets are 15-20% grade!

Low-lying area in 90278
Some low-lying homes used to flood repeatedly.  Rather than rebuild these flood-prone homes, the homes were purchased for alternative uses.  The plot in the red box was bought by the city of Redondo Beach and turned into a parkette.  It also functions as a spreading ground to soak up the water that flows into it from surrounding areas.  After a heavy rain, it may be too soggy, or even covered in water, for kids to play in.  In that case, the park is temporarily closed off with cones until it dries up, typically in a few days.

The blue box was mysterious until I saw a workman doing maintenance there.  We had a fantastic conversation where he taught me what they do behind the chain link fence and I explained to him our best understanding of what climate change will do to our area.

The concrete channel in the blue box collects the rainwater that comes out of the storm drains (and flows off the surrounding land like the parkette.)  The "first flush" of stormwater, about 1/4" is sent to the sewage treatment plant for cleaning.  The rest of the water is sent downstream.

[LA has separate storm drains and sewage systems, aka "sanitary sewers."  Many older cities, notably Chicago, have just one system and raw sewage can be spilled when the sewage treatment plants cannot handle the rainwater volume.]

Water capture at local minima
Rainwater after the first flush is much cleaner.  It is sent slightly further downhill to a spreading ground where the water can slowly infiltrate into the shallow aquifer.  The grounds are blocked off from street view with a tall, solid fence, but an adjacent triangular permeable garden/parkette is visible from Aviation Boulevard.

Spreading grounds for rainwater
I've written earlier about how LA is ringed by hundreds of injection wells where fresh water (often reclaimed) is sent into the shallow aquifer to block sea water intrusion into the larger aquifer that we depend on.  The more rain we can get into the ground, the less fresh water we need to pump into the ground. 

Sea level rise from climate change increases the danger of salt water intrusion.  We'll need to put more fresh water into the ground along the coast to stave it off.

If we are to survive and thrive as a city/metro region in the face of climate change, we need to do smart things at the regional, local and personal levels.  Take a look around your neighborhood.  What is your city doing?  What are you personally doing?



Monday, July 02, 2018

Sew Inspirational

Sew Becky Jo asked me to write up a post about five sewists that inspire me for the Sewcialists blog and I am happy to oblige.

I had to step back to think a little bit about what that means, or how I want to interpret this assignment. I'm exhausted from all the bad news lately, and have been reflecting deeply about how I can respond--push to make the world more in keeping with my values, while protecting my emotional core. Depending on how you see it, I am either a procrastinator or a researcher.

Several of the books I read in the last year dealt with how social media and technology is harnessed by authoritarians and liars for their own ends. Thus, I decided to focus on five sewists that are less active and "hot" (in the sense of popularity), but resonate with me. I'll also explain why.

Ever hear about Weak Ties Theory? Changing Minds has a good synopsis. In short, social ties are either strong (between tight clusters of members connected only with each other) or weak (bridge between strong networks.) 
The more weak ties we have, the more connected to the world we are and are more likely to receive important information about ideas, threats and opportunities in time to respond to them.
Strong ties are the echo/bubble chambers in which misinformation can ricochet without challenge.

Weak ties are the ways in which we expand our understanding about how others experience the world.

(If this interests you, read an academic paper by Mark Granovetter,  who first explained and gave a name to this effect.)

Sewing is a great way to add weak ties to your social media. We are all makers who encounter and solve similar problems. We can learn about sewing *and* about the greater world by following people who experience much different lived experiences than our own. In doing so, we can learn to empathize with people who don't look like us.


Blogger 1.

If I want to direct attention to less-known sewing bloggers, why am I starting my list with super-popular Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic?  She's a super-star among bloggers for good reason.  She's been putting out quality content about her sewing journey since 2006, when the sewing blogger world was much smaller.  She's so generous with her time--showing what worked, what didn't, and analyzing why. 

I've learned so much non-sewing information from her, too.

Through Carolyn, I've learned how challenging it is for plus-sized women to find professional and on-trend clothing, how much it means for African Americans that one of them was our president, and how personal BLM is when a mother has to send her son or grandson out in the world when so many see them only as a threat.

I read Carolyn to be a better sewist and a better person.

IG: @diaryofasewingfanatic


I'm intrigued by what sewists call Pattern Puzzles, novel ways to cut and shape garments.  Issey Miyake designs often fall in this category. So do the garments in the Pattern Magic series of books by Tomoko Nakamichi.

I follow many sewists that sew Pattern Puzzles and document their experiences to help others.  Some are less active on social media than they were in the past, but quality content is evergreen.


Blogger 2.

I first learned about Pattern Puzzles from Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion Incubator. She's blogged about Pattern Puzzles no fewer than 251 times!

Kathleen is less active in her open access blog than in the past. She runs a (paid) member forum for clothing manufacturers working in the US. I am not a member of that forum, but I hear it is a friendly and nurturing site full of people helping each other.

I have her book and it is an encyclopedia in one volume. Sometimes, I have to read it over several times because she can pack so much information in one paragraph and a few illustrations. Browse through her tutorials and use them. Your sewing will be so much better.

In 2015, she bought a factory--or rather, she built one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow her and her partners on IG @abqfi.

Another reason to follow Kathleen is to learn more about neurodiversity. She writes very movingly about how many of her life experiences made sense once she learned she is on the autism spectrum. The apparel manufacturing industry has traditionally been home to immigrants and people who think differently. This is it's strength.

 Like many people who are on the spectrum, Kathleen is a slayer of bullshit.

She compiled all her wisdom about The Myth of Vanity Sizing in one place. FYI, I went into this thinking vanity sizing is a thing. She completely convinced me I was wrong. Now I am smug because I know the right answer and there is no one more evangelical than the converted. ;-)

IG: @kathleenfasanella @abqfi

Blogger 3.

Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage has sewn many pattern puzzles, though her recent makes lean more towards activewear. She works in a wedding dress salon and is generous with her knowledge.

I also enjoy her slice of life writing and photos of rock climbing, bicycle commuting and life in general in the Netherlands.  Plus, her organized, utilitarian and beautiful apartment (in the background of many of her photos) is a life goal.

If you like pattern pieces shaped like this, then this is a blog to read.  Start at the beginning and slowly work your way forwards in time.  I don't know if she is in IG.
Is this a bat or a sleeve?  Read and learn.

Blogger 3.5

Di of Clementine's Shoes took down all of her blog posts, so you can't see any of her Pattern Magic sewing experiments.  Some of the experiments worked.  Some failed.  They were real experiments.  It was truly inspirational just to watch someone who was up to try anything.

 I'm quite sad that she didn't leave her old posts up when she quit blogging.

Recently, she started posting on IG as @clementinesews. She also posts her work as an architect @dijonesarch. I hope she re-posts her old blog content, because it was really, really good. Oh, she knits and makes shoes, too.


The last two deal with disability or caring for the disabled along with sewing.

Blogger 4.

Many sewing bloggers order interfacing and other notions from Pam Erny of Fashion Sewing Supply. She is now my sole supplier of interfacing. No more bubbling from shrunken fusible interfacing!

Did you know that she also posts many helpful tutorials on her Off The Cuff Shirtmaking blog?

She doesn't write much about her personal life, but she's inspirational in that she is another math/physics person who created a second career for herself and her husband.

Don't you want to learn how to sew a placket like this?

Blogger 5.

Ms. Little Hunting Creek and I were frequent commenters on each others' blogs when we were both much more active bloggers.  We bonded over the fact that we both had the same Home Ec lesson in the 1970s in California.  We both earned BAs from UC Berkeley (Cal)--she in Classics, me in Mathematics.  We also both earned our livings in software, despite not formally studying computer science in school.  Hey, if you can learn ancient Latin and Greek grammar, modern software languages are a piece of cake.

Berkeley's breadth with depth requirements for BAs meant that she had to take quite a few science classes (enough to earn a minor in Biology) and I had to take quite a few history classes.  This is probably the reason why Cal grads did not go on to found and run the tech companies that took down democracy around the world.

I suggest you read Sewing as Political Protest.

Her blogging slowed down due to health challenges that you can go over there to read about.  I find it inspirational that she could continue to work (but from home) and carve some time out to make stuff and blog about it.  Oh, she also wrote essays for the Toast.

From Wearing the Pants: A Brief Western History of Pants
According to Herodotus, when Greek soldiers met the Scythians in battle, they were amazed to see Scythian women on horseback fighting alongside the men, all wearing pants and decorated armor. When they went back to Greece they immortalized those Scythian women for posterity as the legendary Amazons in their poetry and art. Painting them looking both chic and fierce, their pictures of the Amazons are some of the earliest Western artworks showing women in pants. But even though pants came to the West from the Scythians and others (along with riding horses), in the West, wearing pants was associated with warfare and restricted to men only. Perhaps, remembering those Amazons, men feared what might happen to them if women were able to wear pants and get their hands on some weapons.
This is why I overcame my initial resistance to arming school teachers. If we armed the (mostly female) school teachers, perhaps they will enjoy the same high pay and cushy pensions as police men. Amirite?


Each of these five bloggers have taught me things and even changed my mind by giving me new information or reframing it.  Let's keep on learning and making together.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Home district

One of the things I miss about moving my legal residence from LA to Boulder is my congressman, Ted Lieu.  The first time I met him, he was in the CA state assembly and had just voted against the law making it illegal to harvest shark fins.  Amazingly enough, I found myself next to him at a meeting at my daughter's school.  Naturally, I asked him why he voted that way.

He proceeded to say that he voted against it because it was discriminatory.  Why does it criminalize only shark fin and not other uses of sharks?  That penalizes Chinese people over other people that kill and harass sharks.  He wrote and submitted another bill that treats all parts of sharks equally.

It takes a special person to convince me in less than 2 minutes that I was wrong and should change my position.

If you are on twitter and don't follow @tedlieu, you are missing out.

Today, I found out that congressional district CA 33 is special for another reason. Take a look at the % of new mortgages that are over $750,000 by CA congressional districts. CA 33, Coastal LA county has larger new mortgages than San Francisco and Silicon Valley (CA 12, 14, 17, 18.) 
In terms of unaffordability, CA 33 edges out Palo Alto (18) and San Francisco (12). 

Well, at least Silicon Beach has nicer weather and more polite people.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Not looking like a white Christmas

Have you seen the Aleutian Low? It appears to be lost. But maybe we can work together to bring it back?


I have a new personal computer at work and setting it up for weather data wrangling has been a slow and sometimes painful process.

We have a new supercomputer at work and setting it up for weather data wrangling has been an excruciatingly painful process.

Anyway, I made a movie for you of the 10-day GFS forecast and it looks really, really dry.

Instead of a low pressure system near the Aleutians, bringing in storms into the Pacific Northwest and sometimes into California, we have a variant of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (R3).

I plotted the Geopotential heights of the 700 mb isobaric surface (about 70% of normal sea level pressure and about the height of winter moisture.). The red area sitting over the western US is about 200-300 meters higher than surrounding areas.

This is the equivalent of a 200-300 meter high mountain range sitting between you and winter rains.  The rain is going to find a lower energy path.

Around December 20, an offshore Omega Block pattern forms.  Alaska is going to get some dramatically atypical December weather!

I'll be with family in CA and we will probably be dry, cold, and windy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mturk and fauxtomation

Did you know that Expensify's “SmartScan” technology is actually people working for Amazon Mechanical Turk? Read more.
SmartScan is presumably a selling point for Expensify, since the receipts it handles can contain sensitive personal information, like names, purchase details, email addresses, and even bank routing numbers. So it was awkward when, last week, the company was caught posting receipts to an online marketplace for freelancers so that their contents could be transcribed not by SmartScan, but by humans.
No, I do not want Alexa or Google listening in on my conversations at home.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Old Indigo

I want to blog about water, but work, family stuff and sleep is getting priority these days.

I just want to give a quick link to this lovely story about Thao Vu and the artisans she works with in Vietnam--the people behind Kilomet109.

Hand batik.  Living and dead indigo.  Embroidery.  Interesting Shapes.

Detail of reversible tank top. Photo courtesy of NYT

Batik and indigo reversible tank top. Photo courtesy of Kilomet109
This is my favorite dress from the online store.

Photo courtesy of Kilomet109

But I would be happy if Santa brought me this coat.  I've been very, very good.

Jacket photo courtesy of NYT

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

'Free college for all' or 'Free college for most'?

'Free college for most' doesn't sound as catchy as 'Free college for all!'

In a perfect world, the government would have enough money for all. But, in the current political climate, I'd settle for directing the money to the the most financially needy. I want government to give away subsidies to people in need or to change people's behavior. Giving money away to people who have enough and were already going to buy a product (college education) does neither.

New York may make waves for offering tuition-free college, but there is still the pesky problem of books and living expenses.  Meanwhile, California has been quietly charging tuition, but rebating it back to low and middle-income families.  In fact, most families will pay less under the CA system because CA offers more aid for living expenses.

Consider the University of California budget for 2018-2019 that was recently adopted.  It includes a small increase in tuition, but the bulk of UC costs is not tuition.  Living costs and books dwarf tuition two to one.

By charging tuition, and then redirecting those dollars to financial aid for needy students, many students and their families pay negative tuition.  That is, their financial aid is greater than the amount of tuition.

The median family income for CA families with children under 18 in 2010-2014 is $61,991. 


Under the new UC budget, tuition is ~$13,000/year and the students and parents would be expected to contribute ~$15,000.  (Undergraduate students can take out subsidized loans of up to $7,500/year or roughly half of the family contribution.)

If students start at a community college (CC) and live at home for the first 2-3 years, they can reduce the cost even further.  About half of CA CC students received full tuition waivers.  They only had to cover books and transportation costs, and those were subsidized for the neediest students.

Starting next year, the first year of California community college would be tuition-free for everyone.

One third of all UC graduates were CC transfer students.  They typically move away and live on campus at an UC for only the last 4-5 semesters.

CA has effectively had free college for most, if they can get over the hurdle of being prepared to take advantage of it.

This is where I think CA--our entire nation--could do better.  Notice that families with children under 18 have a lower income than families without children?  Not only are children expensive, but they impair their care-givers' ability to work for cash income.  This is why we need cash transfers from the unencumbered to the people who work hard to raise the next generation of citizens/tax-payers.

Look at the incomes for families with children under 18 by CA state assembly districts.

Consider the median family incomes in South LA, district 59.  Imagine raising kids on $26,341/year. Note that families with children are poorer in district 59 than those without.

That is one quarter the income of families in the South Bay region, district 66. Although families in this area with kids enjoy higher incomes than families without kids, the income difference is slight compared to the cost of childcare and other child-related expenses.  I want to be clear that, given the high cost of living in LA, $100,000/year is not luxurious at all.


But you cannot compare two-parent families earning $100k/yr with one parent families earning $25k/yr.  Every family in the latter group that manages to raise their children to be college-ready has achieved something heroic and earns my enthusiastic support.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

The dinosaurs among us

Another day, another Republican plan to take away healthcare from anyone who is unlucky. Insurance is for the things you can't predict, like a child that gets sick with something really complicated. I think that Rs that already know that, and are lying to us anyway.

I am so sick of lies and the lying liars that tell them.  I am so sick of constantly having to rebut lies.  Can we have a plan where we don't get sick with those diseases?

Meanwhile, let's think about something happy, like the fact that we walk among dinosaurs. FYI, Thornton is slightly north of Denver.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beware of false moral equivalence

Speaking of recent bullshit, I am surprised by the lack of pushback in the media with respect to false moral equivalence. For instance, consider this article about the taking down of a confederate monument in Hollywood.  (I added the bold face.)
A spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy explained the group’s decision to remove the monument this way:

“I was afraid to leave it overnight,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisal. “We have had the cemetery remove it until we decide what to do.”

Those calling for the monument’s removal are “erasing history,” she said.

“I do not believe in slavery — no sane human would believe in that today,” she said. “But back then, they did.”

She condemned the violence in Virginia and expressed sorrow for those killed and injured.

“We weep for the people who are involved in all of the things that are going on in our country — on both sides. We find hatred among white supremacists, we find hatred among Black Lives Matter,” she said. “We should all come together and become one under the United States of America.”
On both sides?  ON BOTH SIDES?

Why didn't the LA Times reporters press this unnamed spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy to clarify what kind of hatred from the BLM movement she is referring to?

One side wants to celebrate the treasonous people who went to war for the right to enslave other people.  All BLM wants is for the police to stop killing them.

There is no both sides about this.  There is no moral equivalence.

There was a concerted social media effort to portray the BLM movement falsely.  A great deal of money was spent to smear BLM so that they would lose public support..  Zeynep Tufekci ably explained how this was done in Twitter and Tear Gas.  Read it!

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Learn more about the Russian propaganda tool, 'whataboutism,' that is widely used by authoritarians, climate deniers and the right around the world.

I don't know what to call this

I am so effing tired that we have to even fight the dark forces that are threatening our country right now.  If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Zeynep Tufekci has been studying the intersection of authoritarianism, technology and protest for decades and you really, really want to learn from her.

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Meanwhile, I have an example of how adept the spinmeisters of satan are at manipulating technology and algorithms, I give you my search results yesterday for the "Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map":

An ad or two appears before the search results, as is typical for Google searches. But look carefully. Notice that the top ad is for a website that exists solely to discredit the splc.org with completely fabricated lies? Who paid for that ad?  How do they act so fast?  There are literally armies of people working on spreading disinformation so that people give up and say that the fault lies with 'many sides.'  Don't be that dumbf*ck.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet the screen capture to Google. Enough people must have done it because searches for the same phrase and SPLC in general are devoid of ads and go to the organization's site and map. BTW, this is the SPLC Hate Map tonight.

Less well-known, but deserves to be better known, is the Map of White Supremacy mob violence.


Don't miss @JuliusGoat's thread, 'Imagine if these people ever faced actual oppression.'

The white militia is here to demand your obedience with their guns.

AP photo via Mother Jones
Call me a feminazi, but I've never had to resort to carrying a gun to make you agree with me.