Friday, September 29, 2006


I would like to congratulate several of my coworkers and their friends, spouses and hangers on. They made the DARPA grand challenge for the nth year in a row. Way to go! Check out their team website and individual blogs here and here.

In related news, Beach Cities Robotics is having an open house between 2 and 5pm this Sunday, 1 Oct 2006. Let these national champions show you their stuff. Way to go, kids!

And why is their so much robot activity around here? Iris picked up on it right away. Satellites are the original transformer robots. They are packed into tin cans and shot up into space. Once in space, they transform themselves into satellites that must function autonomously part of the time.

Life Simplification Continues

The health news continues to be so-so to not so good at chez badmom. Therefore, life simplification continues. We replaced our groundcover area, which was mostly weeds and mud, with fake grass. Exhibit A a day before the contractors arrived.
Exhibit B from June 2006. Note all the bare patches and weeds.
After. The grass looks a bit too shiny in the bright sun but quite realistic under most lighting conditions by the beach (foggy).The sun is setting earlier and the nights are cooler. That can only mean...japanese anemones.
See the buds forming on the japonica camellias next to the anemones?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This Global Warming Article Sponsored by...a SUV!

I read two articles about global warming today from CBC News and Voice of America. Surprisingly, the Canadian headline said, "Earth at warmest point in 12,000 years" while the American source stated, "Study: Earth's Temperatures Near Million-Year High". Usually, I would expect the Canadians to be more alarmist about global climate change than the Americans.

Could they both be writing about the same report by Jim Hansen et al?

Enquiring minds at chez badmom read the report and the two articles. Actually, their headlines are much more different than their content. Yes, 2005 was the warmest year of the holocene epoch (the last ~12,000 years). But the VOA article also mentioned that there was only one warmer period in the last million years, a period ~400,000 years ago, but that we would likely surpass that temperature within a few decades. Yowza!

Why the softpedalling at Could it be because the article web page was sponsored by the "all-new turbocharged RDX", a new small SUV that manages to seat only 4 people comfortably but gets only an "EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway"? (And we all know that EPA mpg estimates are a hoax and overstate actual gas mileage for most drivers.)

Check out the article soon before they pull the Acura RDX banner, sidebar and inline ads.

Lest anyone say that the Hansen article is alarmist and that the weather is nonlinear so there is no cause for alarm, I say you are right. Weather, and lots of things, are nonlinear. Anyone heard of the standard map? You tweak the parameters a little bit and the map shifts in a semilinear fashion. But don't tweak too much or else wild oscillations ensue! Believe me, we don't want to perform this experiment on our home planet.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Napkin Art and Clothing as Art

While we were catching up with an old friend over vegetarian southern Indian food, Iris amused herself with my pen and napkins replenished frequently by the kind staff. This one particularly amused our friend.
Picture her asking, "Where's the sun?", with a big grin on her face. (That's a cloud in the upper left hand corner with some ink bleeding through from the reverse.)

"I don't know, maybe it was cloudy like today."

She flips the corner back and

We also went to LACMA family Sunday with a playmate and her mom. They learned how to make printing plates from pieces of foam. On the first one, I wrote Iris' name backwards on the foam. She asked why I did it that way. I told her that the print would be a mirror image of the printing plate. Sure enough, we compared our results to others' and she saw that her name looked "normal" while the others were backwards.

She said she wanted to do another one. I let her work unassisted. While I was chatting with the other mom, Iris tugged on my shirt and asked if the order of the letters as well as the letters need to be backwards. I told her yes and went back to chatting.

The second print had Iris' name exactly right to print correctly. Even the S was right. I was floored. How many 5 year olds can flip and draw objects on their first attempt?

We also made pop-up cards and hit the cafeteria for pastries. Iris was sad that they closed the bookshop next to the cafeteria.

We then enjoyed the "Breaking the Mode" exhibit. Iris kept dragging me around to show me which dresses she wanted me to make for her. Of course, she wanted some pretty complex designs--bustles, Fortuny pleats, etc. But I managed to talk her down to a Norma Kamali leopard print dress and an Issey Miyake Pleats Please piece. I didn't know before today that IM pleated the clothes after sewing. Because I had always seen the polyester fabric prepleated in the fabric stores, I had assumed he also worked with prepleated fabric.

I still haven't made any skirts from her wish list after we saw the "Waist Down" exhibit. Shh. Don't remind her.

links: More about Issey Miyake in Imagery from the past, Iris designs her own dresses at age 4 in Rocket Science

Saturday, September 23, 2006

More Mommy Wars in the News

I am beginning to think that the mommy wars is merely a chimera promulgated by the media to increase readership. (Translation: they are desperate to increase revenue.) James Wolcott at The New Republic weighs in on the mommy wars in the Oct 2, 2006 issue. If you are annoyed at the snarky writing at the beginning of the piece, skip it and read on. On the whole, it's a very intelligent and balanced survey of the mommy wars literature.

I am a working mom who feels no guilt about working and being away from my child. However, I do miss her when I am away from her. I wish I could have several lifetimes for all the things that I want to do, including not missing a minute of her childhood.

I actually agree with both Caitlin Flanagan (also here) and Linda Hirschman. Something is lost when a parent is away from the child. Read Mommy Don't Go.

When I explain to people what I do for a living and why, I have never had anyone suggest to me that I should do otherwise. No stay at home mom has ever tried to tell me that my child would be better off if I quit working. The only exception has been my child. But she told me yesterday that I was being a good mommy right now.

keywords: mommy wars, modern motherhood
links: archives here and here

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Apple sure doesn't look dead

In a strange coincidence, I returned from an Apple demonstration at my workplace Mac User Group meeting today to find a newsletter from David Pogue in my inbox. He wrote about how, 10 years ago, Apple "was the dog that the media liked to kick". You can read today's column at Pogue's Posts here. Here is a sample of some of the writing from that era.
* BusinessWeek, 2/5/96: “There was so much magic in Apple Computer in the early ’80s that it is hard to believe that it may fade away. Apple went from hip to has-been in just 19 years.”
25 years ago, I learned to program on an Apple IIe. 10 years ago, I wrote my PhD thesis with the aid of a Macintosh. (I made some of my figures and schematics on a Mac but I wrote my thesis on an Unix workstation using LaTeX and BibTeX macros provided by my university.) 15 years ago, my husband not only wrote his entire PhD thesis on a Macintosh, but he used to tell everyone around him who would listen about the superior integration of Macintosh software.

When I started my first "real" job, I was given a hand me down Mac for administrative tasks (and an account on a Cray with no one else running on it). I wanted to buy a Mac for home use with my new paycheck. My husband told me no. We were not going to support two operating systems at home. He further argued that we should go with the OS with the largest market share and the lowest cost. Shortly after that, the new president of our workplace said that the company would no longer support two operating systems and Macintoshes were out. I switched to the PC at work as well.

Fast forward to 2005 and I had had enough. I went out and bought an iBook for Iris and myself to share.

The dirty little secret about market share is that it measures the number of users of a product, but it doesn't measure why they use it or their level of engagement with the product. The stereotype of Apple users being a tad cult-like is accurate. Look at how many Mac Users Groups exist. You just don't see that kind of passion in PC users.

The Parallels demo was impressive. I see no reason to use a PC at work any more. The Leopard demo was jawdropping. I gotta have it. I see a 24" iMac in our family room's future. Even Mark is getting behind the idea now that he has spent some time using the iBook. It is not just aesthetically pleasing, it is an Unix workstation!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Attempted Shibori

I bought Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada et al. The book is well worth the $ for all the instructive history and techniques. I even tried my hand at two of my favorite easy stitch resist patterns, Mokume
and Ori-Nui.Here are my first attempts.

I was just playing around, hosting another mom who wanted to dye a t-shirt. I stitched these two samples up and threw them in a ziploc baggie with the leftover dye.

After we put the ziploc bags on the sunny patio to react, we took our daughters to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to see the animatronic monsters exhibit. (You just gotta love all the oddball stuff to do in LA.) Then we took the girls out for sushi and soba.

When we got back, the stuff was overly done. Next time, I will not let the fabric sit in the dye bath for so long. I didn't get the visual texture I had hoped for, but it still looks interesting.

I had previously ordered Elfriede Moller's Shibori: The Art of Fabric Tying, Folding, Pleating and Dyeing but returned the book. It was just too annoying, the way the author kept bragging about the techniques she had invented. It was also low on information content. Save up your $ and get Wada's book.

Links: Shibori Slideshow, Dye Workshop

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Haiku wrap-up

Eighteen for dinner
Our Australia cousins
Gulp. No worries mate!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Day Fire II

While driving home from SF on Labor Day, we passed by the Day Fire. Just in case you didn't have insomnia and didn't search the MODIS real-time imagery archive for pictures of the fire, I will post it for you. The fire fell on the bottom edge of one of the imagery tiles. You can see the area outlined in red at the bottom of the image. The fire plume extends northwards from the fire area.

This satellite was launched from Vandenberg AFB which is also in the image. Doubly interesting. However, the Day Fire was not the most impressive fire in the image. Take a look at northern California below.

Earlier posts: a picture of the start of the Day fire in Home Sweet Home and Plunging Birthrates, another impressive MODIS image of California wildfire in Wildfire Weather

Madison Avenue Discovers Moms

I read Marketers Look Past Jelly Stains and See a Mom Who Has Needs today with some incredulity and a hint of anger. Every source of angst is another marketing opportunity!

The worst part about the article is that the quoted "experts" stereotype mothers while protesting that they are done stereotyping mothers. There is so much crapola in that article, I am not sure where to begin.

The beginning is as good a place to start as any:
Brands as disparate as Suave shampoo, Time Warner Cable, KFC fried chicken and Tide are tailoring their messages to mothers who, they are certain, are dying to spend more time on themselves, but feel too guilty to do so.
Who says that moms feel guilty about spending time on ourselves? I wish I had more time for myself, but I never ever feel guilty about the small amount of time I manage to carve out for myself. I revel in it. I blog about it ad nauseum. Do I write like a woman conflicted about time not spent doing underappreciated housework? Do they think I should feel any more guilt than a father?

A little further down:
“We used to stereotype women as sex objects, and then we stereotyped them as superwomen: career woman, homemaker, mom and mate,’’ said Gary Armstrong, professor of marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina. “But now we are recognizing that anyone who has been out in the world as a smart, beautiful woman will not give that up because she’s a mom.”
I was going to dismiss this quote because it came from a man (or a woman named Gary), but Donna Charlton-Perrin, creative director on the Suave account said,
"There seems to be this feeling in the culture that moms must be martyrs, that their lives have to be all about their kids. But the beautiful woman inside that mom is still dying to get out. So we’re saying, ‘A pretty mommy is a better mommy.’ "
The ick factor runs high. Evidently, we are not done with the physical beauty stereotype. Our society is so fixated on equating beauty with goodness. Women are judged so much by our looks. I deeply resent the encroachment of the beauty myth on motherhood.

Everytime I listen to the soundtrack of "Into the Woods", my heart breaks when the witch sings, "Stay awhile", to her daughter. The daughter who would run away from the one who loved and raised her. Why? Because her mother was ugly.

The article also said Ms. Charlton-Perrin was looking for ways to
“interrupt moms when they are not thinking about themselves’’— say, by putting Suave stickers on food shelves in supermarkets, or running pop-up ads on Internet sites that sell children’s clothes.
My life has enough interruptions, thank-you. Please don't add any more. I will hold a grudge against you. I have a long and excellent memory thanks to lots of practice as chief household systems engineer.

keyword: modern motherhood

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Santa Chronicles II

Iris has started making wishes to Santa a week or more ago. When I asked her what she wished for, she said that she couldn't tell me, or else she wouldn't get her wish. Somehow, the breakfast conversation came back to Santa yesterday. How many people live and work at Santa's workshop at the North Pole?

I told her that, frankly, Santa's workshop does not show up on any of the satellite imagery.

She asked how Santa could not be seen by the satellite?

I told her that it must be Santa's magic.

She said, "Oh, it must be like Santa's magic book. He opens it up and he can see your name and whether you are good or bad. It has to be a magic book to have everyone's names in it," while using her hands to show that it is not a very large book.

Past posts: The Santa Chronicles

NORADSanta calls me a liar. They claim to track Santa via satellites. They must be privy to satellite imagery that I can't get.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Yarnex Performance Art?

I just finished binding off the Ajoure yoke tank from Lana Grossa's website. This is actually take 2 of the tank. The first version was too large at the shoulders so I ripped back two rows and decreased 16 stitches, did one more round even, and then did 2 more rounds with a needle 2 sizes smaller before binding off. Now it fits in the shoulders but the armscythe is too long.

I am underwhelmed. The underarm is quite a bit lower than I envisioned it. Notice the armpit of the model is not shown so you have no idea how much she might reveal if she moved her arm. The sweater also bags in the back in spite of the waist shaping. That might be because of the extra length.

I am wearing it with the reverse stockinette side out. I think it looks better that way. When I showed the sweater to my sister with the stockinette side out, she looked like she was trying really hard to keep a polite expression on her face. I thought it looked weird with part of the sweater striping and part of it not. The effect is less noticeable on the reverse stockinette side. Also, the Ajoure lace pattern looks better on the reverse side.

I played around with the neckline and thought about removing half the yoke part to lift the sweater up a notch. If that doesn't work, I will frog the whole thing. Like performance art, it will be a testament to the temporal nature of art.

earlier project posts: Dye Workshop, Handpaint Yarn Experiment, Unfaithful, Special Delivery.

Friday, September 08, 2006

More Low Birthrates and Little Miss Sunshine Geography

I have been reading alot about low birthrates in the news lately. George Will wrote about the impact of low birthrates on Japan yesterday. Several Japanese government officials made interesting points.
Another says of immigration that it is wrong to import workers to do "hard, risky jobs. Hardships should be shouldered by the Japanese themselves." And, he asks, "Why should we increase our population?" Leaving aside the welfare state's grinding imperatives, that is not a foolish question. In 1920 Japan's population was 56 million. Today it is 127.5 million on a land mass the size of California (population: 36 million) that is three-quarters mountainous. A third official, noting that Japan imports 60 percent of its staple foods, says, "It might be good to have a declining population" of, say, 100 million by 2050.
Why should population always stay stable or increase? Sure, it is more expensive to run a pay as you go systems--both to fund consumption and social welfare--than to save for the inevitable. But, if you can see the train wreck coming, why not prepare for it instead of bemoaning the fact that women aren't willing to bear the brunt of the burden in producing more people to shore up the pyramid scheme?

What does it say for a society when it outsources the difficult and risky work to immigrants and foreigners? Is it a society to be proud of? If you believe in the free market, then employers would compete for workers by making the jobs less risky through industrial engineering and generous insurance plans and also improve the pay and working conditions. But why do that when cheap and compliant workers can so easily be found? For example, an appalling number of people are hurt lifting patients in hospitals and nursing homes or working in construction; not surprisingly, that work is mainly done by immigrants.

I also want to point out that, in Mayan culture, two groups acquire exalted status upon death. Men who die in battle, and women who die during childbirth. Both made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.

As a Californian, I also have to groan at the comparison to the land mass to California. Land mass is not everything. Much of CA is also mountainous and even more of it is a veritable desert. It isn't land so much as water that should be the constraint on population here. People who live on the lush east coast just don't get it.

Also in George Will's column:
But other senior officials say the way to square a declining population and workforce with the pension costs of long-lived retirees is to rethink retirement -- to "work for life," one official says.
As my daughter would say, "Helloooo?" Who are the retirees they are referring to? The women never get to retire. Their work load actually increases when the men stay home. That is why retired men are called "wet leaves" in Japan. They stick to your shoes.

WaPost had another piece recently about the low birthrate in Japan. My heart goes out to the princesses of the Chrysanthemum Throne. I wish they could be valued as whole human beings rather than just for their (in)ability to produce male heirs. It is especially unfair because, biologically, the princes determine the gender of the baby. In addition, all this business about ensuring the purity of the line is bunk. The only way to really ensure the purity of a line is matrilineally. ;-)

Little Miss Sunshine Geography
Mark and I went to see Little Miss Sunshine last night. I laughed so hard. I heartily recommend the movie to anyone who has read or wishes they had read Nietzsche and Proust. Or, if you are short of time like me, you can just read about reading Proust. The cinematography was quite good, but geographically inaccurate. Mark and I decided to give the filmmakers a pass on that. However, if you were doing the drive for real, you might see something like this sunset. We even have the buggy windscreen for realism!

Read an earlier post about plunging birthrates here.
keyword: modern motherhood

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


So we were driving along the other afternoon when I noticed that the moon was right in front of us. Mark chimed in that it was almost a full moon. Iris looked up at the moon and remarked that there would be no moon that night. Mark started to correct her, and then stopped.

I said, "That's amazing, Iris. Do you know how old I was before I made the connection between seeing the moon during the day and not seeing it at night?"

"Grrrr! Hellooo? What do you think Ms. A teaches us in science class?" (Kindergarten science class)

Because I didn't take a photo of the moon that day, I will have to post a similiar picture taken from our rental car near Volterra, Italy.

Iris started first grade at a new school today. Of course, I took photos. However, the memory card in the camera is not cooperating and needs to be replaced. You will have to take my word for it that she looked adorable. She also chose her own outfit and I made or refashioned every item she wore. (Top, skirt, jacket, tie-dyed unmentionables--but not her shoes and socks.) Very pink. Very girly.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home and Plunging Birthrates

We drove home from San Francisco to Los Angeles yesterday afternoon and evening. Driving Interstate 5 at the end of a holiday weekend is not a bright idea. We sat in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic through the grapevine. The air quality was also not great.

At first, I thought that the sunset was really spectacular. Then I realized that was not the soft backlight of the sun setting over the coastal mountain range, but a wildfire. My little point and shoot camera got a couple of images of the brightest part of the fire. Click here to see a map of CA wildfires. Then click on the big red area north of LA to see the extent of the fire. [You can manually edit the link where YYYY is the year, DOY is the day of year from 001-365, HH is hour from 00-23, and MM is minute and should be left at 00.]
Addendum: This has been dubbed the Day Fire because it began on Labor Day. I post more about that on September 15.

We did show Iris the exact spot that mommy and daddy met. Unfortunately, the laboratory was all torn apart and not very photogenic.

I rest my case.

Now the plunging birthrates part

There was another article about plunging birthrates (in eastern Europe) over the weekend. Read it soon before the link disappears. Notably, the governments put their main focus on changing the behavior of women. There didn't appear to be any attempt to change the behaviors of the men who father children or the employers who make life so difficult for mothers. Linda Hirshman is right. Maybe, if the birthrates plummet enough, there will be more than band-aid changes.

When we were in Australia in 2003, I read an article in one of the papers about the low birthrate in Australia. The government there had surveyed birthrates in industrialized countries around the world and found a strong correlation between the amount of time fathers spent on housework and childcare and the birthrate. Australian men fared very badly compared to American and Canadian men, and so did their birthrate. I wonder why that was not a bigger international news story?

Maybe they should bring back mandatory home economics classes in high school for both boys and girls. Equal participation in family work would be much more character and nation building than sports programs for boys. I am not advocating getting rid of sports entirely. A study of the factors that influence girls to earn doctorates in the sciences found that childhood participation in competitive sports was the second greatest influence (only slightly less influential than the encouragement of a teacher or parent). ;-)