Friday, July 31, 2009


Then I changed the serger thread to black.

First up, I made a pair of black stretch pants for Iris using Kwik Sew 2893. She has grown since last summer. Rather than trace out a new pattern in the next larger size, I just used the old one from last year and added a 1/4 inch at the outer leg seams and an inch at the hem when I cut them out. It worked fine.

Costuming done, I went back to her fall wardrobe. When we cleaned out her closet, she sent a lot of clothes off to her cousin. The poor girl was down to only 10 skirts/skorts*.

Kwik Sew's Sewing for Children gives simple instructions for altering a pants pattern to make a skirt. I liked the pockets and the elastic gathered back of Butterick 4845 and decided to do just that. I had thought about adding front pleats to balance the fullness in the front and back of the skirt. Then the August 2009 issue of Burda Style (formerly Burda World of Fashion) arrived.

Iris was ready to wear the 08-2009-145 skirt as short as in the picture. I wanted it to be longer. We compromised by agreeing to ruffles. It was anther opportunity to experiment with the ruffler foot. (Click through to see a video of how the contraption works. Fascinating!)

I had another topological lapse, which resulted in a ruffle seam in the center front instead of the center back. I started sewing at 8:45 last night and finished 90 minutes later. Sigh.
I piped the pockets in hot pink. She complained that she only likes side seam pockets. Grrr.
There was much discussion over at Miss Celie's Pants and Sigrid's about the the new name and format for Burda Style/WOF/WTF. I tend to glance briefly at the crafts, but have never made any of them. The 11 pages of crafts did seem a bit excessive. But, it is a theme issue about British style. Making kooky lamps out of chipped china fits right in with the theme. Here's the table of contents. There is one sweater pattern, but it's still very sewing heavy. I looked at several other issues from 2009 and they all had a similar number of patterns.
I pulled out the oldest BWOF in my collection, June 1995. (Actually, I had some older ones in German from the 1980s, bought when I lived in Germany, but they didn't survive my many moves since then.)
The table of contents also shows many pages of crafts and knitting patterns!
The back had a garden theme.
The cross-stitch chart took several pages and there were several more pages of recipes.
The 1995 issue had 114 pages overall while the 2009 issue had 112 pages. But the 1995 issue had more non-sewing content and about the same number of sewing patterns. It's a wash. I like several of this month's patterns well enough to want to sew them up soon. What matters most to me is not how many patterns they give overall, but how many patterns they offer that I want to sew. Anyway, the issue was in my house only about 3 days before I sewed up the first item.

* Iris had 17 skirts at the last Wardobe Maintenance post in 2008.
Since she was a toddler, I had always refashioned thrifted denim skorts for her. See #1 in Sunday Hike, #2 in Photo Catch Up and #3 (oops, never got around to posting that one).


Iris is attending Performing Arts Workshops Summer Camp again. Previously, she had attended 3-week sessions. This is the first time she attended a 2-week session. She says that the shorter format feels a bit rushed. Everything is focused upon the show on the last day of camp, leaving little time for anything else but rehearsals. She missed the (voice/dance/acting) skills lessons that weren't directly related to the production.

I miss the time to prepare. She got 1/3 less time per production. But they receive their parts in the middle of the first week. I had one weekend, instead of two, to get her costume ready. That's half the preparation time for the costumer.

Behold, the police uniform! Well, the top half at any rate. Imagine black pants on the bottom instead of the skirt. ;-)
I made the jacket with Kwik Sew's Sewing for Children by Kerstin Martensson. It went together very easily and I highly recommend the pattern book. (I drafted a different self-fabric collar than the one given in the pattern.)
Iris was clothed out of the whole series, starting with Sewing for Babies, then Sewing for Toddlers. The book comes with master patterns for all of the garments shown on the back cover. The garments have 1/4 inch seam allowances; hem allowances vary and are marked on the pattern sheet. Just trace the size you need and sew!
The KS patterns are so well drafted. The instructions are very clear. I have no idea why they are 120,000 on the Amazon popularity list while some poorly drafted patterns with confusing instructions are 12,000 on the popularity list. Look beyond the styling.

I had a remnant of lightweight denim that begged to become a tiered skirt. Unfortunately, I needed more than the 7/8 yard available. I had just retired four frayed shirts from Bad Dad's wardrobe. I would have selected the plaid, but Iris wanted the blue with green stripes.

I got to play with my Bernina ruffler foot.
The final product.
Look at the little pocket at the hem.
When I switched the serger thread from gray to blue, I took the opportunity to unthread it completely and vacuum it. I also flossed the tension disks with waxed floss, oiled it and changed out the needles. After I put away the vacuum cleaner and started to sew, the sewing machine's maintenance light went on. Huzzah! The paperweight had sewed its first 180,000 stitches! Nevertheless, I used a little brush instead of hauling out the vacuum cleaner again.

While the serger was threaded in blue, I altered a clearance rack blue sweater for myself from a size L to a M. See Sweet Sassafras' tutorial, How to alter a wool sweater.

Edison's Mother, Part 2

In June and July, Iris attended a Center for Talented Youth summer program. She chose the inventions class. She had a blast. Here she is with her "Tri-bench", which combines the stability of a three-legged stool with a longer bench seat. This is just a prototype. She envisions a longer one suitable for sharing with friends if it were to go into production. She made it out of plumbing parts and a piece of lumber.For her final project, she made the "Server 3000". I had no idea why she called it that until someone pointed out the reference to Mystery Science Theater 3000. She had watched it with Bad Dad. It actually worked.
We had the foresight to use diet soda so spills wouldn't leave a sticky ant-attracting mess. However, we forgot to bring dishcloths or paper towels.

Look how inventively the Data and Chance class used a Barbie doll!
After the camp, Iris went to a sleepover at the house of one of the girls she met at camp. They went shopping at a big box toy store for a birthday present for another one of their classmates. It was Iris' first time to explore the place. (We went a few times when she was a toddler, but she doesn't remember.) It was interesting to wander the aisles with them.

Lego knows they have a girl problem. But I don't think a pink box and a horse on the front is going to be a magic bullet. If you work for Lego, email me for marketing research!
Read why she chose inventions class above all other offerings in Edison's mother.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Moon Shadow

Scott over at the CIMSS* Satellite Blog posted a lovely video of the earth shadow moving across Asia.

Brian posted more (some in color!)

While you are visiting Scott, don't miss Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) imagery from 2 satellites. Geosynchronous (high orbit) GOES satellites can scan small areas of interest in ultra high resolution, and more often then their usual mode of operation. Have you ever seen a movie of a huge storm in stereoscope? It's as close to IMAX 3D as you can get with a computer monitor.

Watching the stereo video reminded me of a American Meteorological Society meeting where a fellow from NOAA NESDIS compared the surface temperatures measured by GOES East and GOES West for several regions. They matched fairly well, except in Colorado. In the morning, GOES West temperatures for CO are 3-4 degrees Celsius/Kelvin lower than those measured by GOES East. In the afternoon, that pattern reverses itself. Can you guess why?

* What? You didn't know that CIMSS stands for Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the U of Wisconsin, Madison?

Hormones 101

Until Cloud pointed it out in the comments to Free Range Kids Book Review, I hadn't realized that some hormones are proteins*.

From Medterms
Hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs.
The definition does not impose any limitations upon the type of molecule. They are defined only by their actions and their origin. I suspect that I am not the only one who thought that hormones were limited to smaller molecules like testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. They were the only ones pictured in my organic chemistry textbook. Birth control pills, for example, are typically a mixture of progesterone and estrogen. Ingest those, and they enter the bloodstream.

Protein or peptide hormones, in contrast, do not survive the digestive system. Protein hormones are made up of long chains of amino acids, several orders of magnitude larger than estrogen molecules. If we ingest them, they are digested into their constituent amino acids, which are absorbed into the blood stream. Protein hormones must be delivered by injection (shots) or infusion (IV).

Bovine Growth Hormone, bGH, is one of those protein hormones. It is injected into dairy cows. Though their use can measurable elevate levels of hormones in milk, they aren't likely to have an effect on humans with a healthy gut.

I do worry about its effect on the cows, though. There are some studies that show cows injected with bGH develop mastitis more frequently. Many mothers who nursed, myself included, can attest to the pain of mastitis. Mastitis is treated with antibiotics, which contribute to antibiotic resistance and are also excreted into the milk and the environment through their excrement...

I found this extraordinarily complete and unbiased Fact Sheet, Consumer Concerns About Hormones in Food, from researchers at Cornell. See their list of Fact Sheets regarding Chemicals in Food and Water.

* I never took biochemistry; organic chemistry passed in a blur as I dealt with health problems associated with organic chemistry lab (without fume hoods!) and my genetic susceptibility.

Issey Miyake in his own words

On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on my hometown, Hiroshima. I was there, and only 7 years old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape — I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.

I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic.
Read the entire eloquent piece.

Pictures from the museum catalog for Issey Miyake Spectacle: Bodyworks in Imagery from the past. I will post some pictures of IM clothes that I have made from Vogue Patterns soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The 12 ways of the cozy

I have had this cozy in charcoal merino wool for two years. Yet, I had only worn it in method 1 and 2. Watch the 12 ways to wear a cozy video for ways 3-12.

You can sew your own using Vogue 8138 or BWOF 07-2009-126.

Drought News

Our last water bill announced drought water restrictions. Our baseline allocation is based upon a percentage of of our water usage in 2003-2006, the years before our current drought. If they had announced that earlier, we would have curbed our water usage in 2007.

Like I wrote before, we did not decrease our water usage during the drought because we feared we would be punished with an even lower allocation once mandatory water restrictions went into effect*. We had been punished for lowering our electricity usage in 2000, before everyone else.

(It is so unfair that I get a smaller water allowance than my neighbor who ran a car wash and detail business in his driveway during those years--with the effluent going into the storm drain and Santa Monica Bay.)

Fortunately, Since 2003, we have installed synthetic turf in our backyard and replaced our dishwasher, clothes washer and shower heads with ones that use less water. We've also stopped siphoning our fountain water into the storm drain when we clean it out (~monthly). We scoop it up in buckets and use the algae-laden water to deep soak our camellias and ferns. Additionally, the water in our master bath takes a circuitous route worthy of Rube Goldberg. I've been saving the ~2 gallons of cold water that come out before the hot water in a bucket for Iris' bath.

The targets will still be difficult to attain. During a drought, less water falls from the sky. That means vegetation needs more irrigation. We were responsible citizens during the wetter years. We watered our yard only twice a week and we shut off the sprinklers/drip irrigation if it rained in the past 3 days.

What are you doing to conserve water?

2003-2006 includes the driest and the second wettest years on record in LA. But there appears to be some controversy about that because the official LA weather station was moved in 1999. According to JPL climatologist Dr. Bill Patzert:
"The move from downtown Los Angeles to USC in 1999 has caused a major hiccup in our local climate history," said Patzert. "Suddenly, Los Angeles became dryer and cooler, and we were denied a record rain year in 2004-2005. The magnitude of change reflected in our study strongly suggests this relocation will bias long-term climatic studies."

This is hardly the first move of the downtown Los Angeles weather station, but it is by far the largest, and the first to move the station away from the built-up city center. The station was moved from the roof of a two-story parking structure at the Department of Water and Power building near city center at an elevation of almost 90 meters (270 feet), to a park-like environment on the USC campus with tall shade trees and grass at an elevation of almost 60 meters (180 feet).

The National Weather Service moved the station as part of a nationwide effort to locate all official weather stations on ground-level sites in natural settings. The Department of Water and Power site remained operational, however, allowing the direct comparisons used by Patzert and his colleagues.
There's more interesting news in the scientific literature about the impact of irrigation upon LA climate. But it deserves a separate post. The old fogeys who complain that the South Bay weather is much colder, cloudier and foggier than 40 years ago are right!

LA monthly rain statistics from 1921-2006
Downtown LA rainfall, 1877-1878 through 2008-2009 water years

Some news outlets are reporting an El Nino forming. I've been watching the SSTs (Sea Surface Temperature) Anomalies (departure from climatological mean), and it appears that they have been decreasing between June and July. I think it is too early to call it.

NOAA Current Operational SST Anomaly Charts for the year 2009

Fleet Numerical's (Navy) most recent SST and SST anomaly analyses
Skiers may want to pay special attention to SST anomalies. El Nino years are associated with a more active southern storm track. La Nina years are associated with a more active northern storm track. This is important when making ski reservations for the upcoming winter.

The boundary between the two falls roughly near I-70 in Colorado. Steamboat Springs is definitely on the northern storm track and Winter Park, slightly north of I-70, appears to be the southernmost ski resort on the northern storm track. Aspen and Telluride are definitely on the southern storm track.

The LA Rainfall series
US Drought Monitor from

* Remember when the chief of VW told shareholders not to worry about future fleet mileage requirements? VW was ready to instantly improve gas mileage across the board by 20% by uploading different software to their cars.

Does that mean they were purposely shipping inefficient cars? Should I have been hosing down my driveway like some of my neighbors in order to get a higher water allocation?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More biological experiments

Oonae and others at Hopeless but Not Serious have been discussing drinking water from garden hoses vs. straight out of a tap. The discussion about the chemicals that can leach out of PVC garden hoses reminded me of a story about drugs in the water supply.

From the Journal of Environmental Health, Cocaine in surface waters: a new evidence-based tool to monitor community drug abuse:
Cocaine and its main urinary metabolite (benzoylecgonine, BE) were measured by mass spectrometry in water samples collected from the River Po and urban waste water treatment plants of medium-size Italian cities. Drug concentration, water flow rate, and population at each site were used to estimate local cocaine consumption.

We showed that cocaine and BE are present, and measurable, in surface waters of populated areas. The largest Italian river, the Po, with a five-million people catchment basin, steadily carried the equivalent of about 4 kg cocaine per day. This would imply an average daily use of at least 27 ± 5 doses (100 mg each) for every 1000 young adults, an estimate that greatly exceeds official national figures. Data from waste water treatment plants serving medium-size Italian cities were consistent with this figure.
Remember Walking My Watershed in which I learned that I am drinking treated waste water from the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant that serves greater LA?

Cocaine and its metabolites are not the only chemicals found in water. Drugs in the water by Peter Montague, written in 1998 explains the issue (and editorializes):
A new class of water pollutants has been discovered during the past six years.[1] Pharmaceutical drugs given to people and to domestic animals including antibiotics, hormones, strong pain killers, tranquilizers, and chemotherapy chemicals given to cancer patients are being measured in surface water, in groundwater and in drinking water at the tap. Large quantities of drugs are excreted by humans and domestic animals, and are distributed into the environment by flushing toilets and by spreading manure and sewage sludge onto and into soil.

German scientists report that anywhere from 30 to 60 drugs can be measured in a typical water sample, if anyone takes the time to do the proper analyses.[2] The concentrations of some drugs in water are comparable to the low parts-per-billion (ppb) levels at which pesticides are typically found.[1] To some people this is reassuring, but others are asking, "What is the long-term effect of drinking, day after day, a dilute cocktail of pesticides, antibiotics, pain killers, tranquilizers and chemotherapy agents?"

The first study that detected drugs in sewage took place at the Big Blue River sewage treatment plant in Kansas City in 1976. The problem was duly recorded in scientific literature and then ignored for 15 years.[3] In 1992, researchers in Germany were looking for herbicides in water when they kept noticing a chemical they couldn't identify.[4] It turned out to be clofibric acid (CA), a drug used by many people in large quantities (1 to 2 grams per day) to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.[1] Clofibric acid is 2-(4)-chlorophenoxy-2-methyl propionic acid, a close chemical cousin of the popular weed killer 2,4-D.1 Based on that early discovery, the search for clofibric acid (CA) in the environment was stepped up.
We must limit our technological interventions into nature long before we have definitive scientific proof of harm. This is the principle of precautionary action, and if we don't adopt it, nature will get along just fine without us.

1. Hans-Rudolf Buser and Markus D. Muller, "Occurrence of the Pharmaceutical Drug Clofibric Acid and the Herbicide Mecoprop in Various Swiss Lakes and in the North Sea," Environmental Science And Technology Vol. 32, No. 1 (1998), pgs. 188-192.

2. Janet Raloff, "Drugged Waters," Science News Vol. 153, No. 12 (March 21, 1998), pgs. 187-189.

3. C. Hignite and D.L. Azarnoff, "Drugs and drug metabolites as environmental contaminants: chlorophenoxyisobutyrate and salicyclic acid in sewage water effluent," Life Sciences Vol. 20, No. 2 (January 15, 1977), pgs. 337-341.
Do read the whole thing. Any biochemists want to weigh in on this topic?

And read Free-range kid?
I don’t understand why some people complain about the bad language the kids pick up in the car. There is nothing more likely to give me a spurt of joy than hearing Eila holler out from the backseat, MOVE ALONG YOU BASTARDS, THE LIGHT IS GREEN! It’s so frolicsome. I get a kick out of just knowing how much she’s enjoying herself.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Free Range Kids Book Review

[One more post about Free Range Kids and I will get back to blogging my latest creative projects. Crafting has been slowed by work and my latest infection/inflammation cycle.]

Many people have asked me if I read Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry by Lenore Skenazy.

Yes, I bought and read it when it first came out. No, I am not wild about it. It covers familiar territory, but it doesn't delve deeply IMHO. It read like she was rushing to press while she was still in the limelight.

For example, she dismisses the dangers of BPA. I don't think she spoke to enough scientists. I don't think she spoke to any scientists. Investigative journalist David Case of Fast Company, did dig deep and The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A is great investigative reporting. I am posting a few excerpts, but you should really read the whole thing.
BPA is dangerous to human health. Or it is not. That's according to two government reports in recent months that came to opposite conclusions. The National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, reported in September 2008 "some concern" that BPA harms the human brain and reproductive system, especially in babies and fetuses. Yet less than a month earlier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that "at current levels of exposure" BPA is safe. Even after the FDA's own science board questioned the rigor of this analysis in late October, the agency didn't change its position.

Let's take a moment to ponder this absurd dichotomy. How could our nation's health watchdogs reach such divergent conclusions? Are we being unnecessarily scared by the NTP? Or could the FDA be sugarcoating things? What exactly is going on?

We went on a journey to find out. What we learned was shocking. To some degree, the BPA controversy is a story about a scientific dispute. But even more, it's about a battle to protect a multibillion-dollar market from regulation. In the United States, industrial chemicals are presumed safe until proven otherwise. As a result, the vast majority of the 80,000 chemicals registered to be used in products have never undergone a government safety review. Companies are left largely to police themselves


Perhaps. But consider this: Of the more than 100 independently funded experiments on BPA, about 90% have found evidence of adverse health effects at levels similar to human exposure. On the other hand, every single industry-funded study ever conducted -- 14 in all -- has found no such effects.


It is the industry-funded studies that have held sway among regulators. This is thanks largely to a small group of "product defense" consultants -- also funded by the chemical industry -- who have worked to sow doubt about negative effects of BPA by using a playbook that borrows from the wars over tobacco, asbestos, and other public-health controversies....Yet as BPA products have made their way into every part of our lives, biologists have discovered evidence that very low doses may have a completely different set of effects -- on the endocrine system, which influences human development, metabolism, and behavior.

At first, these discoveries emerged by accident, when test tubes and petri dishes in laboratories were switched from glass to plastic. A group of Stanford researchers in 1993 found that breast-cancer cells it was studying reacted with a mysterious estrogen, which it traced to polycarbonate lab flasks. A few years later, Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Case Western Reserve University, discovered abnormalities in the chromosomes of her lab mice. She eventually concluded that damaged polycarbonate cages were at fault.

Yes, the industry-funded studies had larger sample sizes; only industry has the deep pockets to afford such large sample sizes. But many scientists have found flaws in the experimental design in every the industry-funded study of BPA safety. A cynical person would conclude that is because those studies were designed to prove a foregone conclusion--BPA is safe. I'm betting my family's health on the independent, but smaller, studies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Free Range Cats

A tipster sent me the link to Mr Lee and the collar-mounted CatCam and CatTrack.
Check out the gallery of CatCam pictures. Click on the thumbnails to see the series for each cat. I learned that cats spend a great deal of time under cars.

This cat wanders over a larger area than most kids!
Users have found many creative uses. Check out a day in the life of a milk cow in the Swiss Alps. Has anyone attached one of these to their kid yet?

Seriously, I was so happy when Iris found a couple of playmates that lived within a block of our house. Finally, she could demonstrate her independence by walking alone to a playdate. Why, she might eventually have impromptu playdates!

I started the campaign with pre-arranged playdates. I watched from our driveway as she walked over to a home on the next block; she has to cross a residential street that has a stoplight at the arterial road nearby. When it was time to send her home at dinnertime, the other family called to ask what they should do. I told them to let her walk home alone, but to remind her to be careful at the intersection. They walked her over instead.

Another playmate lives 750 feet away, with only two quiet street crossings. They still want an adult to walk the kids back and forth. In fact, they told their kids that they would not be allowed to be home alone until they are sixteen! There might be a backstory to this. The parents are definitely not risk-averse adults. The father is a movie stuntman and does all sorts of unbelievable things in a normal workday.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dads' Thoughts on Free-Range Kids

Michael Chabon and Roger Ebert wrote recently about free-range kids. Bad Dad has shared some thoughts that he should post on his blog. We will see if he does it any faster than the other things on his honey do list.

Here are some excerpts from Roger Ebert's Raising free-range kids, but you should really go read the whole thing.
Certainly today we take for granted things that we never imagined in our own childhoods, like child car seats, bike helmets, bottled water, security guards, sunblock, hand sanitizer and childproof bottles. I mentioned my childhood memory that we boys would pee behind trees, shrubbery, or garages ("If you run home, your mom might grab you and make you do something"). I forgot to mention that one of the reasons we needed to pee is that when we got thirsty we drank out of garden hoses--our own, and anybody else's.
I don't know what the solution is. I really don't. What I do know is that something fundamental has disappeared from the American landscape, and that is the sight of girls and boys running around and playing. In 1957, there was a best-selling memoir about childhood titled, Where Did You Go? Out. What Did you Do? Nothing, by Robert Paul Smith. These days, a kid had better have an answer ready for that question.
Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood awakens a yearning for the wilderness of my youth. Again, read the whole thing.
Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That's because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story, whether that story is imaginatively or factually true. We have this idea of armchair traveling, of the reader who seeks in the pages of a ripping yarn or a memoir of polar exploration the kind of heroism and danger, in unknown, half-legendary lands, that he or she could never hope to find in life.

This is a mistaken notion, in my view. People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children.
What frontiers will my daughter map? I guess that is why I take her to Lair of the Golden Bear each summer.

Where the girls are...
Free Range Kids series
Lair series

Breathing Treatment took this picture of Bad Dad and myself while we were kayaking on Pinecrest lake this year.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


The comments to Latchkey Kid about internet use for children were very helpful. They also reminded our family of a funny story about what kids can pick up without the internet.

We go to the library weekly (Redondo Beach, Torrance, LA County). For the most part, Iris selects her own books. Recently, she found Princess in the Spotlight (The Princess Diaries, Vol. 2) by Meg Cabot in the children's section and asked if she could check it out.

Why not? We enjoyed the Disney movie.

"Sure, throw it in the basket!" The YA (Young Adult) sticker on the spine would have tipped off more observant parents that Disney might have sanitized the storyline for the movie.

On the way home from the library, she asked, "What's wedlock?"

At home, she asked, "What's a hooker?"

Hmm, mommy read the book and wondered about all the things she DIDN'T ask. Does she know more than she let's on? Why didn't some of the other stuff puzzle her?

More times like this:
MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency
Where the girls are...

I also figured out why there are so many mommy bloggers with babies & toddlers and so few with older children. Older kids are able to verbalize their need for privacy.

For some time now, Iris has demanded that she has to read and approve any story involving her. She puts the cabosh on some of the best material. Today, she stipulated that she also owns the copyright to all stories that involve her.
All content copyright © 2009 iriseverythingblog. All rights reserved.

The copyright notice at the bottom of this page applies only to posts that do not involve her. Got that?

If you want to follow what she is reading, friend her on goodreads.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Latchkey Kid

Iris' carpool drops her off at home every afternoon. She is home alone for 15-45 minutes and loving it.

We leave the computer unlocked because her homework requires her to do internet research. She is "very responsible" about that. LOL

A mommy coworker wonders if I am OK about letting her use the internet.

I am ambivalent. But, even when I am home, I am not always in the same room with her. We tend to leave the doors open and go about our independent activities.

How do you handle this?


Kathleen of Fashion Incubator wrote about Kate Rawlinson: Cutter Extraordinaire. I wonder if Kate could have found a way to make the stripes match on my skirt. Take a look at her work on her Flickr site!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Implications of academic redshirting

I just realized that there is another advantage to redshirting kindergartners--the practice of delaying the start of first grade by one year, either by enrolling a child in an extra year of preschool or an extra year of kindergarten. The rationale given is that the child will be bigger and more apt to be a star athletically, academically and socially.

This practice is an arms race in upper-middle class families, especially for boys. Those families can afford the extra year of preschool, childcare, or a stay at home parent.

Furthermore, the actuarial implications of this are significant. I have read studies that estimate the delay of one year to the earning years for an entire population without changing retirement age or benefits produces a 3% shortfall. Add a "gap year" between high school and college and we are in serious financial jeopardy. (No cheap digs about living in a state issuing IOUs, please.)

Anyway, back to my aha! moment today.

The multiple choice tests to identify "gifted" kids compare a kid's score relative to a nationwide sample of kids in the same grade. A borderline kid with an extra year of schooling under their belt has a relative advantage. Those older kids are more likely to be males and from upper-middle class backgrounds.

You can buy your way to a gifted kid. That is sooooo unfair.

  • Parents who back this practice like to ask, "Do you want your child to be a leader or a follower?"

    My answer has always been, "Neither". I would be surprised if anyone was able to lead Iris. I would be equally surprised if anyone actually follows her.

  • BTW, the birthday cutoff for kindergarten enrollment vary by states. In some states, it can be as early as June. In others, notably California, the child need only to turn 5 by Dec 2 of the kindergarten year. If no kids were redshirted, and births are distributed evenly throughout the year (they aren't), the kindergartners in CA are half a year younger than their cohorts in the early cutoff states. That accounts for some of the differences between low and high scoring states on national tests.

  • I realized this because Iris is attending the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) camp this summer. Look at their testing requirements for Grades 2-6.

    "Achievement at the 95th percentile or higher on one or more areas of a nationally normed standardized test."

    When we received Iris' scores in the mail, I learned they were comparing her against kids in the 3rd grade, not kids the same age. Our school district does the same thing for GATE identification. She's a November baby and she had skipped a grade, pitting her against kids 1-2 years older. Luckily, she made the cut.

    But what about a bright kid from south Los Angeles whose parents put her in school at the earliest opportunity to save on babysitting costs? What if she barely missed the cut? Should she be denied the opportunities given those whose parents could afford the extra year?
The Lengthening of Childhood:
New England Public Policy Center Working Paper No. 08-3
by David Deming and Susan Dynarski, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
You can download a pdf of the entire paper.
Forty years ago, 96 percent of six-year-old children were enrolled in first grade or above. As of 2005, the figure was just 84 percent. The school attendance rate of six-year-olds has not decreased; rather, they are increasingly likely to be enrolled in kindergarten rather than first grade. This paper documents this historical shift. We show that only about a quarter of the change can be proximately explained by changes in school entry laws; the rest reflects "academic redshirting," the practice of enrolling a child in a grade lower than the one for which he is eligible. We show that the decreased grade attainment of six-year-olds reverberates well beyond the kindergarten classroom. Recent stagnation in the high school and college completion rates of young people is partly explained by their later start in primary school. The relatively late start of boys in primary school explains a small but significant portion of the rising gender gaps in high school graduation and college completion. Increases in the age of legal school entry intensify socioeconomic differences in educational attainment, since lower-income children are at greater risk of dropping out of school when they reach the legal age of school exit.
Steve Sailer notes in Redshirting:" A Kindergarten Arms Race that:
The urge to redshirt is also found among state legislators. From 1975 to 2000, 22 states raised the minimum age at which a child is allowed to start kindergarten by moving the cutoff birthrate back earlier in the year. This has the effect of making younger children redshirt involuntarily. Only one state cut the starting age, and that by a mere two weeks.
Somewhat similarly, states have been moving to raise the age of their students so that their students will achieve higher average scores on national tests. A 1999 California law changing the minimum birthdate from December to September explained, "Comparisons between California pupils and pupils in other states on national achievement tests in the later grades are likely to be more equitable if the entry age of California pupils is more closely aligned to that of most other states."

Of course, even if its test scores go up, California won't necessarily be doing a better job of educating its children. It's just doing what educators all over have known for years. The easiest way to have your students score better on measures of educational performance is to start with students who score better on the measurements even before you try to educate them. Requiring students to be older when they start at the front end of the educational process is an attractive, if sneaky, approach to getting seemingly more impressive results out the back end.

This is true both with kindergarteners and professional students. For example, master of business administration programs are largely evaluated on the starting salaries of their graduates. Back in the '70s, business schools realized that the higher the salary a student earned in his last job before entering the MBA program, the higher his likely starting salary upon graduating.

So, elite business schools virtually stopped taking new college graduates. Entering MBA students at the famous Wharton School at the U. of Pennsylvania now average a full six years of work experience. Those spectacular near-six-figure starting salaries that MBA schools trumpet are less amazing when you realize that it's not uncommon for the average student at a top school to have left behind a job paying $65,000 or more.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Unsuitable for plaids or stripes

Because there is no way you are gonna match the stripes in Vogue 7607 at the side seams.
But no one will notice when you are wearing this swirly, bias-cut handkerchief linen skirt.
Look how well the stripes match Manon.
The matching top was made with Vogue 1695, a vintage pattern printed in 1986. I made the dress in 1986 and again in 1997, both times out of cotton oxford cloth.
I shortened the top, omitted the side vents, lined the front with black silk habotai, and added 2" of width to the front pattern piece.
I also learned how to make buttonholes with my Bernina 440 QE. Look, the purple disappearing ink markings haven't faded yet!
I can also wear the top untucked with the skirt if I wear a cardigan slightly longer than Manon.
This is half of a twin set made with a funky stainless steel yarn. I bought it at the Harari factory store in Redondo Beach. Sadly, Renko said that Harari had succumbed to the recession.

Although both patterns were rated easy, it took me many hours to make them. In recent years, I have sewn fewer garments and I am rusty. A decade ago, I would have pegged myself as a borderline intermediate/advanced seamstress. Today, I had to look up how to insert a lapped zipper. I also suffered a topological lapse while sewing the shoulder seam with the three layers (front, back and lining). As a result, the top buttons along the right shoulder and neck instead of on the left. ;^)

I am more picky about quality construction nowadays; partly due to psoriasis, and partly because I have a large enough wardrobe that I don't feel the need to rush to produce another outfit. I lined both pieces in black silk habotai, drafting lining pieces myself. (The skirt lining is based upon Vogue 9012.) I clean-finished all the seams because I didn't want to change the serger thread to black just for the lining. That turned out to suck up more time than changing the serger thread would have. But the inside of the skirt looks great. (I know the lining shows, but I deliberately made it longer than the short side of the asymmetrical skirt for coverage.)

I learned how to use my Bernina's zipper foot(35), buttonhole foot (3A)and narrow hemmer (63).) The Bernina owner's manual and Feetures books were useless when I needed to learn how to make a buttonhole. They didn't tell me how to set the length of a buttonhole. The on-line tutorial at the official Bernina website was equally worthless. Watch the offical Bernina video. It doesn't tell you that you need to hit the reverse button when the buttonhole is long enough! Luckily, Robyn posted the much more informative Bernina 440 QE buttonhole tutorial. It tells you everything you need to know with no filler. Bernina should hire her.

I don't have the same body I had when the pattern was new. I remember the size 12 dress/top as loosefitting in 1986. By 1997, it was straining at the front bust. (Perhaps it was the number of hours I spent weightlifting while taking a break from writing the PhD thesis?) Measuring the pattern and grading it up took extra time. Then I took a break to peruse Pattern Magic 1 and 2 again... What are holiday weekends for?

I can't believe my pattern collection now qualifies as vintage. Is my body also vintage?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

2009 Wardrobe Refashions

Although I am not currently taking the Wardrobe Refashion Pledge, I am still refashioning.

This pair of pants was an odd shade of light green that didn't work with anything else in my wardrobe. I overdyed it with Procion MX in olive drab. I was expecting something less vibrantly green. Can you say, "Hello, Mr. Greenjeans"?
I haven't worn this midnight blue pleated polyester skirt in over a decade. The old polyester lining ripped to shreds. It only took me a decade to reline it with black silk habotai.
I replaced the elastic in this polyester crepe skirt I made in the 1990s.
Bad Dad leaned up against some wet paint while wearing black jeans. I didn't have any mineral spirts, and I didn't want to use VOCs if I could avoid it. Instead, I scraped and sanded off the paint. While I was at it, I rehemmed the frayed hems, shortening them by 1/2 an inch.

This one doesn't count as a refashion because I bought this silk Shantung jacket yesterday at Renko. I was worried about how she would weather the recession, so I stopped by for some fiscal stimulus while Bad Dad had his hair cut nearby. Sure enough, she had closed her Santa Monica shop on Montana avenue because of the recession. The shop/factory in Redondo Beach is still open.
She charges for alterations for clearance items, but she pin fit the jacket on me gratis so I could alter it easily at home. Some people find the staff too hovering there. I used to find that off-putting, until I learned that the lady waiting on me was also the designer and stitcher. When she asks you how you like something, and fitting it on you, she is actually doing market research and tweaking the fit.

Yesterday, she was looking incredibly chic sporting pink and purple hair and wearing black shorts of her own design. They were slim-fitting, with a deep pleated self-ruffle along the bottom. She must not have read Rediscovering the Forgotten Woman; A Big Middle-Age Demand for the Not So Revealing but Still Stylish. She is not going the baggy Chico's and Eileen Fisher style and she looks fierce.

It is a small shop. There are onsies and twosies of each style. You may not find your size in your preferred color, but most things can be made to your specifications, especially if Renko produced it. She carries other small independent American designers as well.

Years ago, I admired a fantastic raincoat with a pleated collar/hood, but lamented that she didn't have one in my size in my preferred color and style. She said that she could have one made for me in two weeks. They are made in a small factory in NYC and she orders from them weekly. The low waste approach to fashion, and supporting domestic industry appealed to me. I had no choice but to buy it.

Right now, everything in the shop except for the raincoats are 20% or more off. My jacket was 85% off . The size was mis-labeled and there was a small stitching flaw at one cuff which I easily fixed.

And here's a sneak peak at my current knitting project.


You know the show biz adage about never following the kid act? In the Lair Week 2 Blue Revue (Camper Talent Show), we were on after a kid that played the piano while hula hooping and rollerblading. It was a tough act to follow.

Tent 65 sang to the tune of the Trolley Song with Lair-specific lyrics written by Bad Dad. L to R, we sing in tune about 50%, 90%, 30% of the time. BD wanted to keep the nature of the song secret to preserve the element of surprise. I told everyone in advance that I can't carry a tune, but I am a good sport.
Afterwards, one camper told me that I was a good mom for going up there and singing in public with my family. The song was well-received. the audience laughed at all the right places. Leave some comments at Bad Dad to convince him to post the lyrics.

In all fairness, I have to say that Lair food is much better than one line of the song would imply; he had to do that to make the rhyme. This year, the food was the best ever. The cook's bio said that he was heading to culinary school in the Fall. It must be for advanced studies because he is already darned good.

I unveiled Manon on stage because knitting is a talent, right?

I closed it with a button and a knitted loop a la Finishing Tutorial.
The pattern's armscythe depth is shorter than I normally like, but it is still very wearable.
I shortrowed both the shoulder slope and the back neck edge curve. The pattern bound off the neck stitches straight across. I noticed the Vera jacket rides backwards off my shoulders. That doesn't happen with Eileen Fisher sweaters that also have extended front bands that meet in the center back. When I looked at them, I realized that they have a curved, rather than straight, back neck edge.
So I added some short row shaping at Manon's back neck. Problem solved. The collar band lies more smoothly and it is more comfortable to wear.
Manon received Iris' seal of approval. She asked me to knit her one without sleeves. Now that she is 75% of my width, I think a switch from aran (4.5 sts/in) to DK (5.5 sts/in) yarn and knitting the 30" size instead of the 34" should produce something in the right ball park.

Pattern: Manon from Norah Gaughan Volume 1

5 balls of Cotton Ease in Stone

I used the chart for the triangles for the 34" sweater, but I reduced the stitch count on the top part of the body slightly because Cotton Ease is slightly thicker than Pure Merino.

Needle Size:
4.0 mm

Assorted singleton vintage buttons bought for a song from Merry Wennerberg of The Button Box. 949-581-9663 She supplied the vintage buttons for the Vera Jacket shown in Finishing Tutorial as well.

I knit long instead of half sleeves. I knit the front and backs as one. I curved the back neck edge. Instead of binding off the neck and shoulders, I shaped them with short rows and then connected the fronts and back with a 3-needle bind off. I attached the back neck ribbing as I bound off the back neck.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Where the girls are...

when they say they are down at the creek.We thought they meant this.
When they were really visiting the cataract
via the culvert under crabtree road.
We love our free range kids.

*The 7 yo was afraid of the deep water in the culvert (waist deep for her), so she crossed the road alone while the 8 and 10 yos crossed below. The other girls' parents were at the Camp Blue vs. Camp Gold kegger softball game so we said we would keep an eye on the kids. I told the girls to wait for me at the creek while I visited the head and that I would join them shortly for a creek walk.

I just about had a heart attack when I realized how far they can travel in such a short time. When Mark and I finally caught up with them, they were returning from the steep, cataract portion of the creek. I wondered, since the girls were OK, if their parents need know about the expedition. Then they told me that they had gone down there at least 8 times already that week.