Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunset Kayak

After our last day of bicycling, we went for a sunset kayak trip with Crystal Seas Kayaking, putting out at Snug Harbor. We saw two tiny swimming crabs right away.
They seem to have established a rhythm.A bald eagle watched us pass.
Why is the group hanging out here?
A seal!
Actually, two seals playing among the kelp and the paddlers.
After the seals became bored with us, we paddled on. Iris shows off some delicious seaweed.
She looks triumphant, but she has pretty much stopped paddling by the return part of the journey.
The bald eagle took off into the sunset, but I am not sure I captured that in this frame. We also saw a pair of herons.
Moonrise back at Snug Harbor.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Water Hazard 2

I can't believe that I neglected to mention in Water Hazard the danger of killing off microbes in the soil when spreading Triclosan out in the open. Not only might it kill beneficial microbes in the soil, but it also builds up in the tissues of worms and other creatures. It is probably building up in me right now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monster in the Tub

More than a month before our drive up to Seattle, I told Mark that Redding might not be the ideal place to stop because of smoke from the wildfires. Furthermore, it was the logical staging area for resting firefighters. Mark told me that the fires would be out by then. (Which one of us did wildfire research?)

Hotel rooms were scarce in Redding on both our northbound and southbound stays. On the return trip, with Iris in tow, they upgraded us to a spa tub suite because that was the only room available. All the other rooms had been turned over to firefighters.

As soon as she saw the tub sitting at one end of the bedroom, Iris had to take a bubble bath in it. She didn't expect--none of us did--the dramatic effect of the jacuzzi jets upon the bubbles. Fortunately, we turned them off before the bubbles overflowed the tub.

Iris signals for help.
We encountered the most severe smoke north of Redding and south of the Oregon/California border.

Embers have been known to stay hot under a blanket of snow and reignite wildfires as soon as the fuel become dry enough in the spring. Fires can go on for a year or more, until all the fuel is exhausted and/or all the embers go out.

Perhaps we should have spread the bubble bath foam in the forest as a flame retardant blanket?


"Are you in Redding to see the Sundial Bridge?"

"No, we are seeing the Sundial Bridge because we are in Redding."
Suggestive landscaping.
There is a round garden at the base of the sundial not visible in this photograph. Mark explained to Iris how sundials work. We asked her when a sundial would not work, expecting an answer about cloudy periods or the dark. Instead, she said that a sundial would not know about daylight savings time. Though, if you think about the recent extension of daylight savings time, we are on daylight savings time longer than "regular" time.
The elements have not been kind to the four year old bridge.
Notice the man driving the floor polisher in the top photo. His is a Sisyphean task.
We spotted a family of birds (possibly quail?), but the little ones fled into the brush and this large one stood guard.
Bye, bye Redding--halfway point between Seattle and LA.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Water Hazard

The NY Times ran a sneering article about how LA has finally got to face reality and use reclaimed water. My last water bill came with an insert with information about water reclamation. I wasn't alarmed, because I was already aware that 50% of my tap water comes from underground aquifers fed largely by treated sewage from several area sewage treatment plants. I even blogged about that in Walking My Watershed.

You know what really alarms me? Triclosan and the difficulty I have in buying soap without it. It seems like every soap and cleaner on the store shelves has been adding this chemical so that they, too, can claim to be anti-bacterial. In fact, a recent study showed that even most soaps that do not tout their anti-bacterial properties contain triclosan.

This is really bad for several reasons. Marla Cone, who recently departed from the LA Times, had long covered this developing environmental hazard. Read Threat Seen from Antibacterial Soap Chemicals. Since no one currently at the LAT appears to have the time to follow the story, I will put in my two cents.

Triclosan was an effective antibacterial agent used mainly in hospitals until a few years ago. Then it appeared in household products. Unlike chlorine and alcohol, which kill all bacteria, triclosan only affects susceptible bacteria. Thus, widespread use of triclosan had lead to bacterial resistance. That is very, very disturbing news for someone with my genetic problem.

Triclosan is only effective if it is in contact with the bacterial for a period of time much longer than the time it takes most people to wash their hands. Thus, we are dumping huge amounts of triclosan into the waste stream even though it doesn't kill any bacteria under ordinary usage.
About 75% of a potent bacteria-killing chemical that people flush down their drains survives treatment at sewage plants, and most of that ends up in sludge spread on farm fields, according to Johns Hopkins University research. Every year, it says, an estimated 200 tons of two compounds – triclocarban and triclosan – are applied to agricultural lands nationwide.
Biosolids are spread on farmland as fertilizer. That is not a bad practice in theory. Why landfill a nitrogen-rich resource when you can recycle it into food? But biosolids contain a whole chemical alphabet soup of things that humans use and ingest. Read also, Marla Cone's One big drug test: Analyzing a city’s sewage can put a number on its vices.

Suppose you don't have a BS in Chemistry and work at a lab with access to chemistry journals like me. You probably haven't been following the research by the Spanish research team of Marta Lores, Maria Llompart, Lucia Sanchez-Prado, Carmen Garcia-Jares and Rafael Cela. You can still read the abstracts for two eye-popping articles for free:
In a process they call photo solid-phase microextraction (photo-SPME), they dip fibers in water to coat them, then irradiate the fibers with UV light and study the byproducts. "Triclosan is rapidly photodegraded (70% of triclosan was degraded in 2 min); the most important novel aspect of this work is the conversion of triclosan to DCDD [dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin] directly on the polydimethylsiloxane coating of the SPME fiber.

Yup, that antibacterial soap you are using is helping to introduce dioxin into your food, your soil, your rivers. (To be fair, photo-degradation of triclosan results in several chemicals, including DCDD.)

No wonder Kern county is suing to stop the spreading of LA's biosolids in their county. If they are successful, and Marla Cone's article said they likely will be, our biosolids will be trucked to Arizona instead. So maybe we will be spared from eating our own dioxin?

Maybe not.

Some portion of the triclosan remains in the treated water and is released into our streams, rivers and oceans. In my area, treated waste water is injected into the ground to prevent salt water incursion from the ocean into our underground aquifer. Over time, that water seeps into the aquifer; I am already drinking recycled water.

Is it a big deal to drink triclosan? Aren't we likely getting some from our dishes washed in triclosan-containing soaps? Or absorbing it through our skin when we wash with the stuff?

Grass is a fiber-like material repeatedly sprayed with water containing triclosan and then exposed to sunlight; will grass clippings contain dioxin? Will my home-grown veggies become coated with a triclosan and dioxin? Will that triclosan/dioxin build up in me the same way it has been shown to build up in earthworms?

Why are we poisoning ourselves and our planet for absolutely no good reason?

The media has been largely silent on this issue. Recall why the shows are called soap operas.

As if this wasn't enough to keep me up at night, my water district says that they are putting in place a new state of the art system that irradiates the treated wastewater with UV light. UV light is an effective bacteria killer. However, the UV treatment of water containing triclosan doesn't make me feel safer. (Isn't it ironic that the combination of two bacteria killers can be so hazardous?)

I am NOT saying we should avoid recycling water. People have been doing that forever. People have always lived downstream from someone else and reusing water cannot be avoided. In such an arid climate, and with so many people, we need to reuse our water.

The real issue is getting triclosan out of our waste stream now.

The EPA held a hearing in July 2008 to address this issue. I found this story from the enviro-nuts at the Fox News Network:
In comments filed today with the Environmental Protection Agency on its new risk assessment and evaluation of the widely used anti-bacterial chemical triclosan, found in a wide range of products including soaps, toothpastes and personal care products, plastics, paints and clothing, public interest health and environmental groups point to health effects, environmental contamination and wildlife impacts and call for consumer uses to be halted.

The comments, submitted by Beyond Pesticides, Food and Water Watch, Greenpeace US, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and dozens of public health and environmental groups from the U.S. and Canada, urge the agency to use its authority to cancel the non-medical uses of the antibacterial chemical triclosan, widely found in consumer products and shown to threaten health and the environment. Triclosan and its degradation products bioaccumulate in humans, is widely found in the nation's waterways, fish and aquatic organisms, and because of its proliferating uses, are linked to bacterial resistance, rendering triclosan and antibiotics ineffective for critical medical uses. The chemical and its degradates are also linked to endocrine disruption, cancer and dermal sensitization.

The non-medical uses of triclosan are frivolous and dangerous, creating serious direct health and environmental hazards and long-term health problems associated with the creation of resistant strains of bacteria, said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. The American Medical Association (AMA) is on record questioning the efficacy of triclosan in consumer products, raising the question of whether the consumer uses are necessary and are doing more harm than good. The coalition of groups commenting today, in addition to the hazards cited, criticizes EPA for not completing an analysis of the impact of triclosan on endangered species and other deficiencies in its review.

The EPA's public comment period for the reevaluation of triclosan, known as the reregistration eligibility decision (RED), closes today. The document releases EPA's risk assessment and its decision to allow triclosan's uses to continue and expand. EPA shares responsibility for regulating triclosan with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). EPA has jurisdiction over treated textiles, paints and plastics and FDA is responsible for soaps, toothpaste, deodorants and antiseptics. The RED, however, is intended to assess the potential adverse effects across all uses.

In separate comments today, water utilities commented that triclosan and its degradation products are not cleaned out of the water treatment process and end up in sewage sludge, often referred to as biosolids. Research shows that earthworms take in triclosan residues, as do fish and aquatic organisms. Concerns have also been raised about residues in drinking water.
So what did our EPA decide to do? They decided to ignore the advice of "dozens of public health and environmental groups from the U.S. and Canada" and their own scientists and allow the continued use of triclosan.

In a separate action, the EPA also decided to lower the value of a human life for use in their cost-benefit calculations. No explanation was given for why this action was taken.

It has been pointed out that we are conducting a large-scale biological experiment on ourselves by introducing triclosan into our environment. It kills beneficial microbes in the soil and has been shown to build up in the tissues of earthworms and other living creatures.

BMGM Weighs In

Do you remember 12 year old model Gerren Taylor? I forgot about her until I read Booth Moore's LAT profile about Gerren Taylor. The article was precipitated by the opening of the new documetary, America the Beautiful, about Taylor's brief career. Her modeling career was basically over by the time she was 15. Moreover, her sense of self was in tatters.

Several things struck me.

She had the unfortunate luck for coming of age at a time when black models were out of vogue, both literally and figuratively. Poof, all but one black model disappeared. (The appearance of one black model is proof that the editors and designers are not racist.)

She was also unlucky to grow 38 inch hips in the era of the incredible shrinking model. In 1997, Tyra Banks posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated at 5'10" and 140 pounds (BMI 20). Gerren Taylor was labeled obese for carrying 140 pounds on her 6' frame in 2005 (BMI 19). "That started in New York, calling her obese at a size 4," says her mother.

Models are getting younger. Fashion's demand for thin hips (Taylor's agent suggested she could get work if she could whittle her hips down from 38" to 35") requires youth. Our eyes adjust. We get used to seeing taller and skinnier figures. Shoes, especially on the runways and the red carpets, are getting higher and higher. Sharing the runways with preteens sets an all but impossible standard for adult models.

And the age-weight issue made me think about age restrictions in other competitive fields like Olympic gymnastics. Why do they even exist? If a competitor can perform the feat, then aren't they competition ready? Who are we to judge what is best for them?

But then, I remembered the words of another coach at an earlier Olympics. He said that the younger girls have higher centers of gravity than the older girls who have developed hips. That changes what is possible and not possible. It is dangerous for older girls to do the things that younger girls' bodies can do. By making them compete on the same field, we push the older girls to endanger themselves.

And I thought about Dara Torres, who developed bulimia in college. (You can read her account in this pdf file or view it in html.) So many athletes and models develop eating disorders in their late teens. In order to compete, we are taught that we have to deny our developing womanhood.

I played varsity volleyball and badminton in high school, played club volleyball through my teens and played in competitive intramural and city leagues in Berkeley and Boulder until my late twenties. Although I never had an eating disorder, many of my teammates did. They gave similar accounts of how they started. A coach told them that they could 1) jump higher 2) be faster 3) win more if they could only drop 5 or 10 pounds. Torres told the same story.

From the archives:
Spring Fashion Preview
What is Wrong with this Picture?

Still Too Thin, and Getting Younger

The article claims, "The average American woman is 140 pounds and 5-foot-4," though I have read figures that put the weight a little higher. Gee, if someone 6 foot tall and 140 pounds is obese, what does that make the rest of America? We must resemble the slug-like humans in Wall-E.

I kept all my sewing notebooks with my measurements. When I worked out 30 hours a week and had a 20" vertical (starting from the 10 foot line), I had the same 39" hips and 22" thighs I have today. Besides being fitter in those days, I had a 25-26" waist. It is now 28-29". I didn't record my weight in those notebooks because that wasn't relevant for fitting.

I should point out that I have a borderline case of hip dysplasia that went undiagnosed until my early twenties, when I developed severe hip pain. By then, it was too late to treat it. But it would explain the 39" hips on a 15 year old with a 25" waist. (Or how, much as I tried, I could never walk without sashaying my hips.)

Do you think I could fit into off the rack clothes back then? I was highly motivated to learn how to sew my own clothes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fair Winds

As she explained in Whirlwind Named Iris, this is a difficult time of year for my sister.
Iris and I were strolling the docks of the Corsican port town of Bastia the night before we caught the ferry to Livorno, Italy. I pointed out all the wooden boats and told her how her uncle Martin used to build and restore wooden boats; he taught those skills to others at the Center for Wooden Boats.

She suddenly said, "People don't ever completely die, as long as we remember them."

Then she continued to explain that, she didn't believe in reincarnation. If you look at the number of people who die, there aren't enough people living for that to work. But we can remember people and tell stories about them.

Fair Winds, Martin, from all of us. We miss you.

At the time, I thought her preoccupation with metaphysical subjects at age four was due to the amount of death and near death she had experienced in such a short time span. Maybe not.

My sister had explained the Buddhist service and the concept of reincarnation to Iris during my stepmother's funeral, less than a year before Martin's. That was the painful period where I lost two family members and two coworkers, and even spent three weeks with a P.I.C.C. (peripherally inserted central catheter) while they pumped one the drugs of last resort into me.

August Bloomday

I mistook these for globe artichokes, but the gardener kindly explained that they are cardoons, a close relative.
They grow in the garden of the Roche Harbor resort, on San Juan Island.
At the Afterglow mausoleum near Roche Harbor.

Bicycle built for four

What does a quad, a bicycle built for four, look like?
The captain (usually the largest and/or most experienced rider) sits in the front. Notice that the smallest rider (a five year old) has a child stoker conversion kit that brings the pedals up higher so he can reach.

In another small world moment, we ran into this particular family at the rally after losing track of them a dozen years ago. They were our next door neighbors on Pearl Street, in Boulder. Actually, they became our next door neighbors because I told my classmate, the captain pictured above, about the vacancy next door. His wife (then girlfriend) and I bonded when she immediately hung up a clothesline and then told her mother that her next door neighbor used one, too.

We lost track of each other when he went off to do a postdoc and I moved to LA. Unbeknownst to us, they had moved near LA so he could teach at the same college as Writing Maternity and Hopeless But Not Serious, which is also the alma mater of one of my grad school roommates. Very small world indeed, especially considering the small size of the college.

See a cute video of a two year old peddling with a child stoker kit and more pictures of families riding quads and triples here.

(Does the dweeby guy checking voicemail on his cell phone at the RH edge of the photo look familiar?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

40 bicycles, 93 riders

(Then a miracle happened and the monitor booted up with the PC.)

There are four quads, bicycles built for four, in this sea of tandems. If you look closely, you may also see a few triples.
The view in the other direction.
We look surprisingly chipper halfway up Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island.
Mark really didn't feel well that day and it was a struggle to push him even to the halfway point. But, once we made it that far, there was no way I wasn't going to summit. On my own bike, I would have left him at the halfway viewpoint to wait for me. On a tandem, I had no choice but to push my captain up the rest of the way. In three places, I had to let him get off and rest while I pushed the bike up alone.

The view didn't improve much with the extra 1000+ feet of elevation. It also clouded up some. We took an obligatory photo just to prove we made it up to the top of the lookout tower at the summit.
As much as we enjoyed Santana's San Juan Islands Tandem Rally, it felt very hectic compared to our usual vacations. Afterwards, we spent a night at Ann's cabin.

Ann, Iris and Waldo on their routine evening walk.

Refashioning Roundup

Every now and then, refashioning is rediscovered by the mainstream media.

The great fashion detox
follows several women who have downsized their fashion spending. Several mention mending, shopping their closets, clothing swaps and a couple even practice refashioning. They all look terrific.

Tokyo hones its vintage clothing market introduces a new (to me) label:
Some vintage enthusiasts say it's not enough anymore merely to hunt and purchase. Professional buyers like Shinichi Kotani, who travels Europe and South America for five vintage shops, said, "The problem has always been with size. The fact is, clothes made overseas are just too large for the Japanese body."

This is where the "remake" comes in.

The successful pioneer company in this field is called Taos, which collaborates with a vintage wholesale retailer. Taos remakes and refashions old clothes in a way that makes them undistinguishable from new. Shirts are taken apart and sewn together again, re-emerging with a tighter, more fashionable silhouette. A pair of woolen pants may turn into a vest, a chef's shirt into a sleeveless summer blouse. A linen bed sheet becomes a button-down shirt. Almost all the work is done by hand. The end-product bears the Taos tag and is sold for a higher price than what people expect to pay for vintage clothing, but as Kotani points out, it would be "unfair and inaccurate to call Taos products vintage or recycled products. What they're creating is something completely new."
Alabama Studio Style also featured Upcycled Embroidery and linked to the tutorial at How to Finish the Trendy Tunic.

Find tons of inspiration at Wardrobe Refashion.

The Thoughful Dresser also links to My fashion footprint: Is your wardrobe bad for the planet? In Britain, "a woman buys 34 new items of clothes a year, a figure that has nearly doubled in the past decade." That makes the average American woman, at 48 items, positively gluttonous.

(I re-upped for a 9 month Wardrobe Refashion pledge starting in April. However, like some who are about to embark upon a diet, I did some spring/summer shopping before taking the pledge. Work clothes also don't count against the 1 item every two months. Plus, I got to Maui and discovered that one of the two swimsuits I brought had disintegrated to the point of indecency. That said, I have bought 20 items in 2008 with 4 months to go.)

The fashion footprint article introduced the Environmental Damage Unit, or EDU. The author eschews tumble drying and buys much less than typical women.
Our household EDUs is 1,282. A breakdown shows that our actual clothing EDUs is quite low at 558. But then there's the laundry, which at 724 EDUs is slightly alarming. It includes 324 from washing and a whopping 400 from ironing.
I knew there was a good reason I gave up ironing. The environmental impact of laundry and ironing is also discussed in How 'Green' is Your T-shirt? and Waste Couture and Made in LA.

IT Blues

As you might have guessed, we were away on vacation. We had hoped to post lots of pictures of the scenery from the Santana San Juan Islands Tandem Rally. Alas, our minor home IT problems became major IT woes and posting will be light until a new computer arrives.

You can see some pictures at a Whirlwind Named Iris on my sister's fiber arts blog. When we arrived at Ann's cabin, on our homebound journey, the two of them announced that they would like to make this Ann and Iris time together an annual tradition. However, they agreed one week is enough; two weeks was too much. Yes, I felt like that during last year's vacation at home. You can read about it in the July 2007 archive.

Iris says that blogs are for bragging. So I will brag that, through prodigious effort, all bags have been unpacked and the laundry washed, folded and put away--within 24 hours of crossing the threshold at home. Oh, and I went to work and the immunologist's in the same 24 hours.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Remember how Iris turned her back to views of beautiful Lake Wanaka in New Zealand while she buried her nose in a book? Ann emailed me this picture from her phone today. Notice how almost everyone else is whale watching out on the deck?

Iris, this is your mother speaking. It is called Orcas Island for a reason. Now close that book and get out there on the deck with everyone else. I don't want to hear any whining about how your life is sooo boring.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Knitting makes the cover of ACM

This is not a real swatch.
This is also not a real scarf.
They are both simulations of pieces of knitting, created by computer modeling of yarn behavior. Read Simulating knitted cloth at the yarn level by Jonathan M. Kaldor, Doug L. James and Steve Marschner.
Knitted fabric is widely used in clothing because of its unique and stretchy behavior, which is fundamentally different from the behavior of woven cloth. The properties of knits come from the nonlinear, three-dimensional kinematics of long, inter-looping yarns, and despite significant advances in cloth animation we still do not know how to simulate knitted fabric faithfully. Existing cloth simulators mainly adopt elastic-sheet mechanical models inspired by woven materials, focusing less on the model itself than on important simulation challenges such as efficiency, stability, and robustness. We define a new computational model for knits in terms of the motion of yarns, rather than the motion of a sheet. Each yarn is modeled as an inextensible, yet otherwise flexible, B-spline tube. To simulate complex knitted garments, we propose an implicit-explicit integrator, with yarn inextensibility constraints imposed using efficient projections. Friction among yarns is approximated using rigid-body velocity filters, and key yarn-yarn interactions are mediated by stiff penalty forces. Our results show that this simple model predicts the key mechanical properties of different knits, as demonstrated by qualitative comparisons to observed deformations of actual samples in the laboratory, and that the simulator can scale up to substantial animations with complex dynamic motion.
ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery. This paper will be presented next week at the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Los Angeles, California. One of my coworkers pointed this paper out to me because he worked with one of these guys on his PhD research; he knows I am a knitter who also enjoys computer modeling.

Guess which pays better? ;-)

Los Angeles Rainfall II

Remember my rant in Los Angeles Rainfall? I do so hate sloppy language when describing quantitative data. Take a look at Another rain season below normal in the LAT August 5, 2008.

See the line drawn at 14.99 inches denoting the average rainfall in Los Angeles (weather station downtown near the Civic Center)? Notice how most years are well below the average (aka mean) but a few very wet outliers drastically skew the average.

What's normal, the mean or the median? Let's not start a religious debate and just agree that Los Angeles is a semi-arid area.

Speaking of religious debates, read San Gabriel River becomes deathbed for dozens of ducks.
"It would be nice if they took into account impacts on vulnerable nesting birds before they manipulate water levels," [Kimball Garrett, ornithology collections manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County] said. "This illustrates the bigger problem, which is that if we have these channelized rivers intended for flood control but are also the only de facto wildlife habitat left, shouldn't we manage for both purposes?"
"Its balance of benefit weighs in favor of humans, not wildlife," Waldie [spokesman for the city of Lakewood] said. "Does it need an advocate for wildlife in the same way there are advocates for movement of its water toward bathtubs, taps and lawns from Whittier to Long Beach?"

"That's a difficult question to ask in a time of serious drought," he said.
Are jacuzzi tubs and six shower head "spa" showers and growing Kentucky bluegrass lawns higher uses of water than simple survival for wildlife?

The Worst Idea Ever II

Apparently, I am not the only one bothered by the increase in Banner Towing Aircraft (BTA) in the Beach Cities. Read The Worst Idea Ever.

Flybys hit too close to home in Hermosa Beach

There are now SIX companies that operate BTA over the Beach Cities now. They are even running on weekdays now. The buzz is unbearable if you are sensitive to noise.

I cannot believe the fatuousness of one of the owners of a BTA company :
To Dobry, the planes are, by now, "part of going to the beach."

"It's no different than a couple of kids playing with a ball or somebody surfing or laying there getting a suntan," he said. "It's just part of the environment."

That's not logic that Dave Hollander, chief executive of Becker Surfboards, can follow.

"Just because we're used to them they should stay? That's not right," said Hollander, 55, who lives in Hermosa Beach, where Becker's main store is located.

For many, the tipping point came at a beach volleyball tournament last summer, when the planes seemed as prevalent -- and as close, in some cases -- as mosquitoes. Around the same time, Hollander started posting ads in local newspapers urging a boycott of companies that advertised on the planes.
The kids running around the beach are not creating noise affecting 100,000 people. You can move away from loud kids (if it bothers you), but you cannot move your house. Sigh. I could go on and on. I wonder if there is a list of advertisers that use BTA so that I can boycott them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Night Out

I had dinner at Yuzu with Pennamite and a blogless friend. No visit to Yuzu is complete (for me) without sesame ice cream.
We also stopped by Books Sanseido for Mrs Stylebook. I thought about buying both copies in stock-one for me, one for Bubblegum 4 Breakfast. But I wasn't sure if she really wanted one. What if someone else really, really wanted it and I took the last copy? They only order two of each issue. (They really need to order more.) I paid $14.52 including tax, much less than anything I found on the web. Hurry over there before it is gone.
It's late so I will scan in the designs I love at another time. But do notice that the cover girl is wearing flats. Inside, the models come in a wide variety of ages and they all look fantastic. They are all super small though.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Big Burn

LA Observed has been monitoring the slow death of environmental reporting at local papers here
Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, cites declines at the Times as one reason he now writes a blog: "Since I first started working at Heal the Bay 20 years ago, newspaper media has been experiencing a slow and painful death. The first casualty was the Herald Examiner, followed by The Outlook, The Reader, and now the slow dismantling of the once highly respected Los Angeles Times. Now, it is nearly impossible to get a newspaper to run an investigative piece on the environment in LA, let alone cover the day to day decisions that continue to erode our local quality of life."
and here. (in list of reporters leaving LAT)
Janet Wilson covered air quality on the environment desk. With the previously noted departure of environment writer Marla Cone and the exit of veteran editor Frank Clifford earlier this year, there's concern in the scientific community that the Times is surrendering its tradition as a leader in environment and science coverage.
I have seen them drop the ball on some stories that they failed to follow through. But, Bettina Boxall, Julie Cart and many others have done a fantastic job with Big Burn, a series about "the growth and cost of wildfires".

Read the whole series, visiting each web page (and hit refresh many, many times). Maybe the bean counters at LAT who can't recognize great journalism when they see it will recognize a spike in pageviews.

Pay special attention to the Living near wildlands graphic in A Santa Barbara area canyon's residents are among many Californians living in harm's way in fire-prone areas.

Notice that there are only two ways out of this canyon 80 years ago, and that is still true today. The roads are still single lane each way, same as then. The only difference is that today, several orders of magnitude more people live in this canyon and the landscape has become more combustible. This is a deathtrap. (Albeit a deathtrap with pretty views.)

I will never forget a graphic shown by UCSB geography professor, Keith Clarke. The graphic depicted exit choke points and the integrated populace that lived in the hills above the choke points. The more people, the broader the thick red line. Map showed the narrowness of the choke points and how many people per hour the roads can handle. You look at the road capacity, you look at the number of people, and you know that is a horror story waiting to happen.

Actually, it has already happened, as explained in the LAT story:
In a 2005 research paper, Thomas Cova, an associate geography professor at the University of Utah, posed a question: Should places like Mission Canyon have population limits, just as movie theaters have occupancy limits to ensure everyone can escape in an emergency?
He grew up in the Bay Area. His career has been shaped by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which destroyed nearly 3,000 structures and killed 25 people in a matter of hours. Many of them died in or near their cars at the end of a long line of traffic, trying to flee a neighborhood of narrow, winding roads that funneled to four exits, two of which were blocked by the fire.
  • I wish I remembered the name of the student that produced the haunting graphic, but I didn't catch it and write it down at the time; not that I can decipher my old notebooks anyway.
  • It reminded me of Minard's map of Napoleon's March to Moscow.
From the archives:

There's yoga, and then there's Yoga

I went to yoga class at the chi-chi gym yesterday. It was so different than the yoga studio in India that Desi Knitter described so beautifully in Twists, II.
You can probably tell from the photos that it’s also not a place where Lululemon Athletica would find many customers. No mats, blocks, blankets, no “yoga pants.” The class costs me Rs.150 for 20-odd sessions, a total of about $3.75 for the whole month (yes, you read that right) at the current exchange rate. The difference in cost is enormous; there are many fancy-ass yoga classes in posh areas, but this is mercifully very basic, lower-middle-class and uncommercialised. And it kicks ASS! Most women wear kurtas and slacks, some t-shirts and slacks, and there’s one thin linoleum mat for all.
It’s the social atmosphere that is so different. For one, it’s not as solemn. No ritual namaste (which is anyway just ‘hi!’ in many Indian languages, namaskaar in Marathi); no invitation to center and ground yourself before the class, no getting in touch with your breathing. Interspersed with Mrs. Adkar’s instructions is continuous conversation during the asana sessions - recipes, speculation about why some folks have bunked the class for several days in a row, bitching about the power and water crises, anything.
Go visit her blog to see the fantastic photos of India. Also, congratulate her for earning tenure and see the Ogee Tunic (from Knitting Nature) that I also want to knit someday.

The instructor's cell phone rang during the guided meditation. She told us Namaste is a prayer. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the yoga class I was seeking. I like the yogalates type classes that are just good stretches and core training without pretense. I wish it was more like the class that Desi Knitter found. Compare that gym's rate of $3.75 per month versus $200 per month. ($200/month also covers Mark and Iris and includes the rest of the stuff the gigantic chi-chi gym offers.)

(It didn't help that the instructor told us to visualize being in a puffy cloud in a blue sky which brought up all sorts of anxieties on how I haven't rewritten my paper on improving cloud recognition/characterization using signal to noise and excess phase information that is normally thrown out.)

After that anxiety-producing meditation session, I had to go in to the office for a couple of hours. Besides, I had wanted to swim afterwards but I was too hungry. After brunch at the club (yes, they have a healthy food restaurant inside), I went to the office. Two hours later, I went back to the club for spin class and a swim. Because I didn't need to rush back to feed Iris, I had time for a leisurely soak in the jacuzzi and meditation in the steam sauna. I showered, dressed and headed to Whole Foods.

Never shop Whole Foods hungry. 'Nuff said.

Still enjoying my freedom, I walked over to Borders and perused books and magazines until they closed the joint and kicked me out.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Last weekend, Iris said, "Mommy, I think I am not like everyone else."

I held my breath. How did she figure it out? I asked nonchalantly, "In what way do you think you are different from everyone else?"

"I like to spend hours and hours by myself."

Big sigh of relief. I should show her Caring for Your Introvert.

Yes, her daddy is an INTJ and her mommy is NTJ, borderline I/E. If this makes no sense to you, then you haven't hung out long enough at an university career counseling center. ;-)


I've been following Crazy Aunt Purl's progress in decluttering. Did you see her desk and her closet? Do scroll down the desk entry and see the "before" state of that room. I am so impressed with her persistence and discipline. Compare her recovery from divorce and crushing debt to this woman's.

The Stuff Diet at our home continues to have its ups and downs. We are actually doing a good job of not buying stuff we don't need (except for more yarn and fabric, but that is another post). It's akin to trying to lose body weight.

And that is the other news. After bragging about how I can wear clothes I bought 20 years ago, that is no longer the case. It appears that my skinniness was a symptom of ill health. Now that my lymphocytes are behaving more like functioning lymphocytes, the weight is not dropping off me any more. I am the same weight and size as my mom when she was my current age.

I gave some clothes to Goodwill, and Iris asked to hold on to some of the better stuff until she is older and can wear them. She is going to be a very well-dressed teenager someday.

Not Green

I am not sure why this kit (Habu Kit 36) is labeled green. Can you see the green? It more resembles a mossy piece of granite. Here is a close-up of the fabric texture with a flash.
And without a flash.
I started the final front piece last night. I might save the rest for later and take advantage of everyone's absence to go on a finishing binge. I have a bunch of projects 80-90% done and awaiting a few finishing steps that require space and concentration. Most of my knitting is done waiting in doctor's office or in bed. My knitting progress has been slowed down by the return of my health. (Yay!) This is the week I attack my UFO pile.

But first, off the Yoga class, a swim and a quick visit to my office.

The rest of the Habu Kit 36 thread:
Color Talk

Saturday, August 02, 2008

First Solo Flight

SEANow I am even more bereft than Yarn Harlot. Though the Lufthansa strike is over, they anticipate canceling many flights for the next 10-14 days while they catch up on deferred airplane maintenance. Without Mark or Iris, and all their laundry, what will I do to fill my empty days?

Anyone up for a girls' night out at Yuzu?

Check Iris' Everything Blog and Fiber Musings for her exploits. She says she wants to blog in real time now that she is truly on vacation. Iris, that is. Ann will have to work hard to keep her occupied.

She wanted to wear her fanciest dress for the flight. Remember the days when people dressed up for air travel? I was flattered she choose the black dress I made for her in June.

Friday, August 01, 2008


Summer is zooming along. This afternoon, Iris performed in her second play of the summer season. Her nanny is moving into her college dorm next week. (She will be a resident assistant and needs to return to campus early for training.)

After the performance, we were going picnic at the beach, but no one had the time to pack sandwiches. We decided to go eat at the Redondo Beach pier instead. Iris fell asleep in the car. That should have been a clue. I parked at the Spectrum Club lot and we never made it to the pier. As soon as we passed the Cheesecake Factory, Iris would go no further. She told her nanny that she had gone there once before and said she really wanted to eat there again.

Iris posted about the show on her blog.

We are so happy her nanny came home from college for the summer. We are even more happy that she was able to help out so many evenings. Marriage to a field scientist is not so glamorous. They work out in the field for weeks (if not months) at a time, usually in the summer. Day camps have much shorter hours than school and daycare. If it weren't for her nanny's help this summer, I don't think I could have coped.

We pay her decently. She told me that one of her college friends takes care of THREE kids, two of them diagnosed with special needs (but she suspects the youngest one is as well), for half what I pay her for taking care of Iris. I also reimburse mileage at the IRS rate.

I am going to miss the luxury of emailing my shopping list in the morning and coming home to find the kitchen stocked, the house picked up, and my kid happy, fed and bathed.

Fortunately, the Lufthansa strike is over and Bad Dad will be able to return as scheduled.