Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kettle Logic

Last week, I am called bullshit on a climate denier and exposed some of her rhetorical devices.

I want to call your attention to kettle logic, a rhetorical device that posits multiple reasonable-sounding arguments, but that contradict each other.

The term, kettle logic comes from an example given by Freud:
Freud relates the story of a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition and the three arguments he offers.
  1. That he had returned the kettle undamaged;
  2. That it was already damaged when he borrowed it;
  3. That he had never borrowed it in the first place.
The three arguments are inconsistent, and Freud notes that it would have been better if he had only used one.
 Logically Fallacious does a very good job summarizing it:
two or more propositions are asserted that cannot both possibly be true. In a more general sense, holding two or more views/beliefs that cannot be all be true together.
I have heard it in use so many times in the last month, I stopped keeping track. I'll just give one example, that of the role and necessity of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

First, Republicans in Congress proposed abolishing it altogether by saying that a federal agency cannot protect the environment as well as state and local agencies can.

Then, Trump nominates and the Republicans confirm Scott Pruitt who, in his confirmation hearings, said that he does not believe that California can make it's own environmental standards.
Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt said at a contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday that he cannot commit to keeping in place the current version of a decades-old federal waiver that allows California to set emissions standards stricter than elsewhere in the United States.
Which is it?

Should environmental standards be set at the national level, so that companies do not have the burden of complying with 50 states' different standards?

Or should states and local governments have the right to make decisions for their unique environmental and social challenges?

The status quo has the federal government, through the EPA, set the *minimum* standards, and allows states and local governments to set higher ones at their discretion.
Two-thirds of states choose to do no more than what is required of them by the EPA while the other third of states -- including New York and California -- set higher standards than required at the federal level, Walke said.
10 Million people live in Los Angeles county, between a mountain range and the sea.  In the early 1970s, millions of automobiles, which met federal standards, made LA unlivable.  People my age remember days when children had to stay indoors, even at recess, due to unhealthy air.  If you spent even a short time outdoors, your eyes would sting.

California asked for, and was given permission, to set a higher emission standard.  13 states have adopted California's automobile emission standards, including highly populous New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

In effect, the US has two auto emissions standards, the minimum federal one and the stricter California one.  States get to pick which is more appropriate for their circumstances.  That is not too burdensome to business and protects the health of people who live in high-density areas.

CA emissions controls cost more and it might be overkill for low density states such as Wyoming.  But, it is certainly necessary in California.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Los Angeles Weather and Climate

I was so shocked when I read this, it took me a while to figure out how to respond. I choose #sciencenotsilence.

 While I am aware that I have political differences with this sewing blogger, I had been prepared to look at our commonalities instead of our differences. I even took her on a tour of the Olmstead District in Old Town Torrance and introduced her to Momen+ fabric.

I'm not going to link to her blog, because that would drive up the reputation ranking of these #fakefacts. I'm just going to share a screen capture so you can see what I am talking about.


Deep breath here.  I read her blog because she is an extremely prolific and skilled sewer, knitter and photographer.  She is highly competent in her areas of expertise.  I read her blog so I can learn and be inspired.

I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I cannot let lies go unchallenged.

My blog is not glossy and professional.  I do not sew prolifically.  I sew and blog late at night.  I take photos with my phone or a compact point and shoot--often with poor lighting.  Why should you believe me and not her?

I work as a data specialist at one of the world's premier weather and climate data archives.  Prior to this, I earned a BA in Mathematics and a BS in Chemistry.  Then I earned a PhD writing models to compare theory with precision physical measurements.   The expertise I developed led to a job in an Air Force research lab running weather models and performing weather satellite Cal/Val (calibration and validation.)  I have also run climate models, but only at an introductory classroom level.  I eventually landed in my current position.   I am working in my third national lab.

I could earn much more money using my math, statistics and computer skills to spy on your web behavior to influence you to buy stuff you don't need.  Instead, I'm busy trying to preserve the best quality data available for future generations.

I am proud to be part of the global weather and climate enterprise.  It takes a huge amount of international cooperation to study our planet for our common safety and good.  I would never take part in an international conspiracy to lie to everyone.   It's absolutely ludicrous.

The reason that scientists are so alarmed about global warming is because it is a threat to all life on earth.  We're all going to fry together unless we work together to change our behavior.

So let's unpack the statements:
I don't believe in global warming
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."  He's right in that the planet is frying whether or not you believe in it.  But it's not a good thing.
or climate change or whatever they are calling it these days.
Don't blame the scientists. Blame the political appointees in the Bush 43 administration that forbade federal scientists from using the term, "global warming." Our scientific findings and reports were even scrubbed by fresh out of college political science majors with no science expertise whatsoever but fantastic partisan bona fides. But that is another rant.

The Obama administration did not renew that rule and some scientists drifted back to using global warming, while others use climate change. The planet does not warm uniformly, so there are good reasons to use CC when referring to some effects.
To me, it’s all weather, in some ways it’s predictable, in others it’s not.
This sows confusion.  "Oh, well.  We don't know for sure so let's ignore it."  No, we cannot ignore it and it is not confusing at all.

Actually, weather and climate are different things to scientists. The simplest definition is "Weather is what you get; climate is what you expect."

Edward N Lorenz wrote a classic explanation.

Weather is on a short time-scale and we are really good at predicting it. In fact, a 10-day forecast today is as accurate as a 3-day forecast was 20 years ago. I've written about Verification Statistics for my work blog. Weather verification is ongoing and published openly on the web. We got nothing to hide.

Climate models are similar and also very different from weather models. They have all the same physical models of how air, water and trace gases behave. But, they also vary in their external forcings (e.g. sun) and boundary conditions. Both types require millions of lines of computer code.

Early weather and climate models were not so good but both experienced continual improvement. Weather models are easier to verify and improve because of their short time-scale. I'm not going to live to see the verification statistics of 2100 climate simulations.  I'm going to have to trust that, because climate models verify well with the past, they will preform similarly well in the future.
What has been happening these last few years in California is predictable and following a pattern.
I don't know what she means by this. Is she referring to the El Nino/La Nina cycle that reverses every year of two? Or is she referring to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a similar warm/cool ocean pattern that occurs on much longer timescales?

When the cool phase of the PDO lines up with La Nina, rainfall plummets in southern California.  We expected a few very dry years and we got them.  We got a longer dry spell than we were expecting and there is much research about why that occurred.  Overall, scientists were less surprised than the media.  I don't know if you can blame the scientists or the professional weather communicators who are hired more for ratings rather than scientific accuracy.

This next paragraph took me a long time to unpack.
Simply put, we get rain in the winter, then we get a few years of drought, we always have fires, but at some point, we have massive fires all over the state. The following winter we will have an abundance of rain and snow, then come the mudslides. Maybe back to regular rain for a while and then the cycle repeats.
Have you studied rhetorical devices? It's useful to understand how people try to persuade you, even when the facts aren't clear.

Consider the false dilemma. They set up an either or situation. If A is right, then B is wrong. But the fancy talk obscures that there is no real logical connection between A and B.

Yes, California's normally dry summers would qualify as a drought practically anywhere else. That's just our climate. Fire is a perpetual hazard in the American west. Burned areas are prone to mudslides the following winter. All that is true.

Just because weather and seasons are cyclical does not mean that the climate is not changing.


2016 was the hottest year globally in modern history.  Higher temperatures cause more water to evaporate both directly and indirectly through evapotranspiration of plants.  Even with the same amount of water, high temperatures will create drier and more combustible forests.  We are already seeing this.  The fire season is starting earlier and ending later.  We are experiencing wildfires in January!

Just because it rains in the winter, does not mean that our climate is not changing.  No one is saying that climate change = no seasons.  In fact, we expect more weather extremes in both precipitation and temperatures.  That is exactly what we are experiencing.

The Sierra snowpack is a complex and highly alarming subject that deserves its own post at a later date.

Next, I plan another post about kettle logic and how it is weaponized to confuse people about science.

I haven't sewn anything since early December so I might as well blog about science.  #resist

Burda 6919 for my daughter was a success.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Illuminating Infrastructure

I'm very nervous about the state and direction of our nation right now and am unsure about how to deal with it.

I want to get back into the habit of writing quick posts to share interesting things I come across.  At the very least, I hope to inform and entertain a few people.

I'm fascinated with infrastructure*.  It's so ubiquitous and reliable that we stop seeing it.  Yet, our comfortable lives would not be possible if we didn't cooperatively build and maintain our common infrastructure.

I recently learned about my neighborhood lift station, a place that pumps sewage uphill so that it can continue to flow downhill to a sewage treatment plant.  These stations are scattered all over the place, but they are usually designed to be as nondescript as possible.

I wish my neighborhood lift station was as cool as this one in Calgary.
That's a shame, because we then stop thinking about the everyday magic of infrastructure.  We flush and forget until something goes wrong.

Check out Calgary's solution that combines public art and the visual display of status information.
The crisscrossed LEDs on the Forest Lawn Lift Station form a graphical map of the 9 kilometers of pipe that feed into this building. Inside, a pump lifts Calgary’s wastewater to higher ground so it continues to flow by gravity to the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Connected to instruments inside, the lights change color according to water volume and demand: blue when water flows freely, red when the system is taxed.
I'm not a Canada fan girl, but I love the names.  The sewage treatment plant is called Bonnybrook!  Forest Lawn means something very different in Los Angeles.  LOL.

I first learned about this art/infrastructure project from a highly negative newspaper article that I refuse to link to.  Honestly, I think that the $236,000 (Canadian) is a reasonable price to pay for
  1. a real-time visual display of system operational status 
  2. public warning system for when their infrastructure is over-taxed
  3. public education about infrastructure
  4. cool art (Art is supposed to get you to see and think about things differently so this might reiterate point 3.)
Forest Lawn is just one of 40 sanitary wastewater lift stations in the city (Calgary); 33 more handle just stormwater. And yet, until this project, “I’d never seen one once,” says Surtees. “[They’re] not visually present in the fabric of the city.”
If I can see when my local lift station is over-taxed, I can delay my shower or my load of laundry. Alternatively, if I see that the local sewage flow is running sluggishly, I might start the clothes or dish washer earlier to help keep the water pressure up.  If we see that the system is running red (overtaxed) much of the time, we can plan to upgrade to a larger pump before a catastrophic failure.

Isn't it cool to see a map of how our homes are all connected by our common infrastructure? To see the shape and size of our network?

Walking My Watershed contains pictures of my local RB stormwater basin, which I will write more about soon.  Now that it is actually raining during our rainy season, the pictures will be more interesting.

* My work is commonly described as data infrastructure. IMHO, my work is fascinating, but it's not fodder for this blog. Read my work blog for more about that; the link is on the right.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in books

2016 has been a rough year for me.  I really didn't know how to respond.  But, I recently read a book that helped me make sense of what I was observing.

So, I'm gathering my friends and family around me by throwing a party tonight for LA-area friends.  I need to get back to picking up clutter and cooking.

I'll quickly share my eclectic 2016 reading list on Goodreads.  I read to learn; I read to connect to other humans; I read for entertainment; I listen to audiobooks to help me fall asleep.
My thoughts about the book, What is Populism, by Jan-Werner Mueller:
This is a short book and should have been readable in one evening had the last election not freaked me out so much.

I had to put it down when too discomfited by PTSD from all the rhetoric that reminded me of living under Chang Kai Shek and martial law.

Even my 6 yo self could recognize the lies in our textbooks. I never expected to live in a post-truth United States.

Chapter 1 describes 'What is populism.' This is the scariest part for me, which brought up PTSD.

Chapter 2 explains 'How populists rule.' This scares me.

Chapter 3 gives some proscriptions for how to fight populists, from a scholar who has studied how populism waxes and wanes in regimes around the world. It gives me hope b/c some countries have defeated populists. But it is difficult as they change rules as soon as they are in charge to make it difficult. E.g. North Carolina voting changes and the Supreme Court that ruled that Lily Ledbetter couldn't file for discrimination because she didn't do so within 6 months of the wrong-doing, even while ruling her employers can withhold information and stall requests for info as long as they like. This is populism.

It's a difficult book, because of the emotional stuff. The language may be difficult for people who aren't used to academic treatises. But this book is essential reading for our times.
Bad Dad's thoughts on the same book:
With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America, What is Populism? is officially promoted from useful reading to essential reading. Jan-Werner Muller first defines populism both in terms of what it is and isn't - the defining feature of populism being a claim to represent a "real" citizenry that excludes elites and/or minorities. Another important feature is a derisive attitude towards the give and take of the political process and a rejection of the entire idea of political pluralism.

Then comes the scary part of this monograph, where Muller describes how populists rule. Populists start by controlling and purging the government bureaucracy (note the Trump transition team's requests for names of DOE climate scientists and State Department personnel working on women's rights issues). After decrying the corruption of the previous regime, populists are incredibly tolerant of their own corruption and don't seem to care when this corruption is pointed out (sound familiar?). Finally, populists change the rules of government so that their party is difficult to remove and their policies are difficult to change (are events in North Carolina a sign of what is to come in Washington?).

The third chapter is about how to talk to populists, and explains how those who want to protect political liberalism need to address the very real concerns that are causing populist movements to flourish. Many, including me, will feel that they are reading this chapter a bit late in the game.

Muller's monograph is very well researched, and has numerous examples from populist movements of both left and right (including countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey). Although its tone is very academic, the intelligent layperson should have no problem with this book - unless it totally freaks him or her out.
If you view his list of 2016 books read, you can see why I love him so and hate his housekeeping.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Colorado Gives 2016 Update

I already explained my misgivings about Colorado Gives and the inefficiency of philanthropy.

I found the Colorado Department of Revenue's Annual Report for 2015.

The dismal results of Colorado Gives 2015 proves my hunch is correct. A very, very small number of people (less than 63,690 Coloradans) gave a measly $28.5 Million (much of that in recurring gifts that would have occurred anyway.)

Census.gov estimates that Colorado has 4.2 million adults 18 and over.  This means about 1.5% of Coloradan adults gave something.

Colorado taxes are a regressive disgrace.  They manage to be even more regressive than the sad nationwide average.  See how your state stacks up.

 To file part-year taxes for Colorado and California, I first calculate my taxes as if I solely resided in CA or CO.  I would pay about 3% more of my gross income to live in CA over CO. But Californians enjoy more legal, environmental and economic protections as well as higher levels of service from government.  If Colorado just followed California's example, we wouldn't have to resort to begging.

During the presidential campaign, one candidate bragged that not paying taxes makes him smart, normalizes tax avoidance.  Furthermore, he also gave virtually nothing to charities.  This normalizes selfishness.  He didn't just normalize it, he celebrated selfishness.

Giving to charity is for chumps under the current system.  Charities (thousand points of light) fills holes in the societal needs dike while states enable wholesale avoidance of responsibility to society with regressive tax codes and low tax rates.

I'm sitting out Colorado Gives.  It's a band-aid as long as Colorado has TABOR (the so-called tax payor bill of rights.)

If you feel like giving, please donate to High Country News.  I like to buy an e-subscription and donate a hard copy to a classroom.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Big Data, Big Planet

I wrote Big Data, Big Planet for UCARConnect explaining what I do to K-12 teachers and high school students.

Climate reconstruction with atmospheric rivers, including the one that flooded one third of Los Angeles in 1938.

The November 2016 issue of UCARConnect is all about Data: The Currency of Science.

Animation from The atmospheric river that caused the Los Angeles flood of 1938.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The unique pain of living in a swing district

If Leo Tolstoy lived in the South Bay, I wonder what he would make of this election?

We've received most of these flyers.
Due to gerrymandering, very few races are really in play. The California 66th Assembly seat in south coastal Los Angeles county is an exception.  This may be the most important Assembly race in California.

Al Muratsuchi (D) won in 2012, helping CA Democrats win the 2/3 super-majority in Sacramento necessary to pass laws in the aftermath of Proposition 13. David Hadley (R) narrowly won in 2014, which ended the super-majority and brought back gridlock. Now they are battling it out in a rematch.

The burden of living in a swing state pretty much sums up our experience living in a swing district within blue California.

We are being stalked at home by phone calls.  We get postcards from Independent Expenditure (IE) groups accusing Hadley for being a Trump surrogate (which he denies) and Al Muratsuchi of protecting pedophile teachers and of voting to repeal Proposition 13 for residential properties (both lies.)

At first, I wondered why we were receiving so many postcards from the Hadley camp (both from the official campaign and also by IEs funded by out of state right-wing billionaires.)  This election season has been a crash course in election tactics.

The postcards with bold fabrications against a Democratic candidate, sent to a home with registered Democrats, is all about suppressing Democratic votes.  If they can sow enough confusion, they hope to dishearten us enough to not bother to vote.

It worked in 2014, when Hadley won by 700 votes by using the exact same lies and tactics.
In 2014, only 40 percent of the 66th Assembly District’s registered voters showed up to the polls, versus 70 percent in 2012. That led to a loss of about 78,000 total votes.
I think that the total disregard for truth--lying about your opponent early and often--is Trump-like. So I do understand the logic of comparing Hadley to Trump.  The two candidates are not equally bad.

#nastywomen and #badhombres, get out and vote!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Your Colorado Voter Guides

Hey, that's me, a volunteer!
This week, I've been walking around my precinct distributing the BoCoDems 2016 Voter Guide.
This Voter Guide was dropped off at your door, or mailed to you by a neighborhood volunteer!"
It's a long ballot, with many Ballot Issues.   By press time, the BoCoDems had made recommendations on all but 4 of the initiatives.

Once again, my Colorado friend has written a well-considered guide to the issues.  To learn more, go to Colorado and Boulder Ballot Issues.

The two guides differ on Boulder County Issues 1B & 1C and BVSD Issue 3A.  So please read them and make up your own mind.

As long as I have your attention, vote the down-ticket races.  If you don't vote, then someone else decides for you.  Moreover, you won't get national candidates that you are happy with unless you give them experience at the local level.  Get civically-engaged.  Convince your friends and family to become civically-engaged.

We have a presidential candidate for a major party that says very dangerous things about minorities, women, the disabled and climate scientists.  This election hits very close to home.  If nothing else, please vote to protect me.

Monday, October 03, 2016

A tale of 2 t-shirts

I made two woven t-shirts this summer.

I used an old pattern for knits (8998 left) and a new one for wovens (6610 right).  I bought the black/gray ikat in NYC while shopping with Claudine.   I found the blue batik in the remnant basket at Fancy Tiger*.

Both envelopes describe the tops as semi-fitted.  I had previously used Burda 8998 with wovens before, and remembered to size up from 14 to 16 (going from knit to woven).  Since Burda 6610 is designed for wovens, I made it in size 14.  If I lay 6610 on top of 8998, you can see that the black one is slightly roomier.

 6610 has bust darts, for a better fit.

It also has back shoulder darts!

I shaped the hem on the black t-shirt for a slight elliptical high-low effect.  To help the hem lay flat, I hemmed it with a bias strip instead of a turned hem.  I'm wearing it with Simplicity 1887 shorts Version 2 in the photo below.

The front shoulder slope for 8998 does not match the slope of the back piece.  If you don't trim it to fit the back, the shoulder seam slants toward the back in an odd way.  The rest of the pattern is drafted accurately.

Burda 6610 is drafted really well, and I appreciate the way the darts elevate the fit and look.

It's a bit tighter around the upper chest than I like.  Next time, I will either size up to a 16 or use a stretch woven if I sew a size 14.  YMMV.  Fit is subjective and I prefer roomy over tight.

I think this top will go to my DD, who says she would like some more color in her wardrobe.

* Last Saturday, I took a fabric shop tour of Denver, visiting Fancy Tiger, Fabric Bliss and Colorado Fabrics while working my way south to IKEA.  I chanced upon Fabric Bliss while going to an exhibition at Metro State Univ Center for Visual Arts.  The Broadway and Santa Fe corridors are chock-full of galleries and interesting shops for makers.  If you are visiting Denver, I highly recommend spending a half day or more in this area.

Colorado Fabrics is the largest fabric store in our time zone and, when they move in January, they will be huge.  Right now, they don't have enough room to stock everything they would like; the selection of apparel fabrics is hit or miss.  Last June, I didn't find anything to tempt me other than the hard-to-find notions on my shopping list.

They offer a good selection of designer overstock fabrics in the front, mostly from LA and NY, at NYC garment district prices.  They also have a big and well-organized bargain section in the back with lower quality (but still good!) fabrics at LA-area (lower than NYC) prices.  Last weekend, I wanted to take home all the fabrics from the front section.

These digitally-printed rayon challises have a delightful hand.  Three of them came home with me.

If we want brick and mortar fabric stores to stay in business, we have to support them.  I'm happy to do my part.  And the fabrics I brought home are drool-worthy.  I'm sure you'll see more of them later.