Friday, February 26, 2010


I never did show a picture of the completed first quilt.
A 3x3 Irish chain quilt forms a giant X. The parents have already decided to nickname this boy "X". Fitting quilt for him, non?

Iris ran out of sewing steam after piecing the blocks.  So I sashed and completed the quilt top while she did her homework.  Then we sandwiched the quilt together.  I did the quilting.  The Bernina walking foot did a fantastic job on the straight areas.  I am still learning how to free-motion quilt using the BSR attachment.  I think that the irregular jags are due to operator error.  The fourth side looks much better than the first.  ;-)

This is supposed to be a feather.
Oops, I need to run off to his mommy's farewell lunch.  She starts maternity leave next week.

[In CA, new mothers can get up to 4 weeks off before their due date and 6 or 8 weeks after the birth (depending upon whether it was a vaginal or c-section delivery) and collect disability pay. Many employers, mine included, supplement the disability to the full salary. Fathers collect state disability to take the mothers or new baby to doctors' appointments and such.  When people complain about CA's high tax rates, this is because we are paying for family-friendly policies like this.  It takes money.  You don't get something for nothing.]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Sports

There is something special about taking a ski vacation during the winter Olympics. I was worried that we would have to cancel ski week because of my health (like we did last year). Fortunately, I was well enough to go and see my ski bunny progress to the steep blues, even under challenging conditions.

The snow was crusty (by Utah standards), but there was plenty of it.  A bad day of skiing in Utah is still better than most other places.  This is Presidents' day week, prime ski season.  Notice the lack of crowds?
Fresh snow arrived at the end of our trip, but I was too tired by then to ski with the others.  I stayed in the hotel, knitted, and watched Olympic curling on TV.

Who knew that curling could be so exciting?  It's got skill, strategy, kinematics, and the Clausius-Clapeyron equation.  (Actually, just about all winter sports evoke the Clausius-Clapeyron equation.) If Marge Simpson can make the USA curling team, I wonder if I have a shot?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ethnic Cleansing in Action

Remember when I wrote about ethnic cleansing in the media?  I saw it in action in my neighborhood coffee shop last week. 

A "reality" show was filming in the coffee shop around the corner from my daughter's school (top 10% for student body diversity in CA).  The owners of the shop are Asian Americans.  The on location producers for the show are Asian Americans.  The people working behind the camera are representative of LA's population. 

It's not the fake Barbieness of the "reality show" contestant with the fake blonde hair and boobs that bothered me.  It was the fact that the producers pushed the coffee shop's real patrons out of the frame--all except one table. 

Guess the color of the patrons they left in the camera frame?

Why is the real color spectrum of Los Angeles too shameful to show on a "reality" show?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Roadside Geology

One day, four (western-sized!) states, in the minivan. And we got up at 7 AM to pack, eat breakfast and tidy up the house (for the housesitter) before heading out. Whew! Bad Dad and I need a vacation after our vacation.

That dry lake bed on the California-Nevada border at I-15? It's a a salt pond today.
Snow-capped peaks outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Arizona section of I-15 may be short, ~30 miles, but it is particularly impressive.  Don't ever believe the tightwads who say that government can do nothing right. 
Utah is not too shabby, either.


I hate sugar holidays. I feel especially inadequate when other mommy bloggers show off their home made Valentines while I dash at the last minute to Target to buy the last box of gender-neutral Sponge Bob valentines.  (Iris needed 2 boxes, necessitating a mad dash to another Target).

Mintage Home shows you how she made three four (!?!) types of valentinesPennamite brags on her Facebook page that she made 26 handmade valentines over the weekend.

Chez Bad Mom, we still haven't gotten around to carving the pumpkin we bought last October. 
The narcissus bloomed early this week, followed yesterday by the daffodil. It's a bit earlier than I recall in previous years.  (See Earth Day Resolution 2009)

But I did one Good Mom thing.  Pennamite alerted me to the $2 clothing sale at our neighborhood Goodwill last month.  I found this girls' skirt (in addition to the sweater shown with my Emerald City shawl).  It's a bit too short for Iris, so I let out the hem and attached a ruffle made out of sueded rayon from my stash.  I also repaired a small rip and added a pink button.  Does this count as a valentine for my sweetie?
There was stash enhancement in January (from SAS Fabrics) in addition to the GW shopping spree. The top four shiny things are 25" wide tie fabrics. The three geometrics are high-quality polyesters (some of the bolts say made in Germany), the silk stripe is from England. 99 cents a yard. The bottom is a soft rayon/lycra. $3/pound.  What should I make with it?
Check out the label on the African fabric. 
Dries Van Noten's Spring 2010 RTW line is very appealing. Let's see what my Spring 2010 wardrobe looks like. I am channeling peacock colors of turquoise, purple, cobalt, emerald, shots of orange/gold and graphic black and white.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Emerald City

This shawl is loosely based upon the free pattern named Multnomah, home county of Portland, the “city of roses”. But, to me, Portland will always be the emerald city. Coming from parched California, I could not get over the greenness of Portland. Malabrigo colorway Solis contains deep emerald green, teal and flashes of brilliant blue. It’s like a peacock feather.
I was uncertain about the recommended size 3 needle. But it opened up nicely after wet blocking. The garter section became soft and drapey, the lace popped. All is good. The color is perfect with my “new-to-me” $2 thrift store sweater!

I changed the edge increases to yo 1 stitch inside the edges. There is also only 1 center stitch, instead of the 5 in the written pattern. The pattern says to use 10 repeats of the F&F pattern. But I tried to eke out 11 (based upon the weight of the remaining yarn) and fell short while binding off. Fortunately, I had another yarn in my collection that is a close match.
Ravelry project notes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The trouble with metrics

“In this world in which we are so centered on metrics, those things that are not measured get left off the agenda,” [Joseph Stiglitz] said. “You need a metric to fight a metric.”

Read Are Metrics Blinding Our Perception?

Related post, The metrics are running the insane asylum.

I am not advocating using psychics over metrics.  But I would like us to think a bit more carefully about what the metrics tell us.  What are we really measuring?  Are there alternate interpretations?

Hopeless but not serious offers an excellent alternate interpretation of the marshmallow test.  A philosophy professor at a top liberal arts school, Oona has quite a few cogent insights into metrics, accountability and ethics.

In praise of rock groups

Steven Strogatz' column about mathematics does not disappoint. Look at the enlightening figure above.  It explains why the sum of odd numbers always equals a square.  Read the rest of Rock Groups.

When Iris attended a Montessori pre-K and Kindergarten, one teacher told me that she never understood how to find a square root until her Montessori training.  Huh?

Montessori teaches multiplication as a special form of addition.  And, if you are teaching multiplication with manipulatives (beads and boards to hold the beads in sorted ways to make the abstract concepts concrete), then you can introduce square roots.  So they were teaching 5-6 year olds how to find square roots using beads and boards. 

I borrowed a book about Montessori math from the directress of the school, but it didn't make sense to this math major.  When I saw this figure, I sort of understood the basis.  I have to go back and think about it some more.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Two Issey Miyake Skirts

You ask, I answer.

Here is a schematic of my skirt made from Vogue 1256, a vintage Issey Miyake dress.  The original pattern had a drawstring casing at the junction between the bodice and the skirt.  I made a tunnel elastic waistband.

Construction Steps
  1. Sew center seams and make pleats.  Baste pleats.
  2. Staystitch inset corners, then clip to stitching.
  3. Sew rectangular pocket back pieces to both front and back.
  4. Stitch pocket sides, drape top and side seams.
  5. Attach a tunnel elastic waistband (a tube of fabric the length of the waist opening). Insert elastic.
  6. Trim corners, finish edges, hem
Because Marie-Christine asked nicely, I decided to draw a schematic for a second, bonus skirt.  Vogue 1256 didn't have a copyright YYYY notice on the envelope, so I didn't know the exact year of the pattern.  However, the $9 price on the envelope places it in the 1980s.

I think it was near 1984 because of this skirt that I tried on in a boutique on College Avenue in Berkeley in 1984.  It was made of cotton knit and black grosgrain ribbon.  I am not sure about the stripe orientation.  I think it went horizontally, but I thought it would have looked better vertically.  Knit-in stripes usually go horizontally, so that the machines knit with only one color at a time.

I am not sure which way the stretch in the skirt went.  It was 25+ years ago, and I think I should get a bye on that.  I do remember the very soft cream and grey fabric and black grosgrain ribbon.  I recall now that the stripes went horizontally, and the skirt appeared to use the full 60" width of knit fabric.  I  thought it was weird the stripes went in an unflattering direction.  I had no idea about machine knitting back then.

Topologically, it is the same as the skirt I just made.  There is no pocket and the drape portion is proportionately wider, almost 1/3 of the full width of the skirt.  (That's why I put 1/3+ or 1/3- on the drawing.)

Happy sewing and send me a picture or link to your skirts!
When I saw this knit skirt, I had never heard of Issey Miyake.  The window display intrigued me. I went right into the store and tried the skirt on, even though I couldn't afford it. I think the boutique was called Miki, but it may no longer exist. They sold the kind of cool clothes that I couldn't afford back then, and that don't fit my conservative workplace of today. Sigh. Life is so asynchronous.

A year later, SFMOMA devoted the entire top floor to a retrospective of Issey Miyake designs.  I blogged about that in Imagery from the Past.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The worst superbowl commercial

of all time? Or for 2010?

Did you see the Audi Green Police ad? Methinks they just shot themselves in the foot. I am their target market, and there is no way I am going to buy one of those after seeing that deeply insulting commercial.

If they were looking to alienate Boho Greens, they did a great job.

If they are were looking to sell cars, I gotta ask what they were smoking.

The NY Times calls this commercial misguided.  I call it marketing malpractice.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Time Machine

I make stuff. I am proud to be both a producer and a consumer. I don't just use software, I can write my own. I don't just wear clothes, I can make my own.

Exhibit A & B, the time traveling sweater and skirt combination.
I've liked this Adrienne Vittadini cabled shell since the pattern came out in Fall 2000. Have you ever seen cables in garter stitch? It looked so unusual, I knew I had to make it someday.
Theirs is made with Eva, a wool and alpaca blend.  Sleeveless and alpaca?!?  Not in my Los Angeles climate.  I used Art Fibers Liana, a pima cotton and merino wool blend.  A navy wool fine yarn is twisted around plum cotton boucle yarn.  It is soft, springy and loopy.  Sadly, it is also discontinued.
It felt like miles of garter stitch, but it was only slightly less than a kilometer of yarn (on size 1-2 needles).  Instead of the k2tog 10 times, I waited until the cable row. Then I put 10 sts on a cable needle and knitted the front and back stitches at the same time (like a 3 needle BO without the BO).  The ravelry review is here.

I found a real seersucker*  in my stash with threads that matched the two colors in the yarn almost exactly.  I had also wanted to try this1980s vintage Issey Miyake pattern, Vogue 1256.  Before I made the entire dress, I thought I would make just the skirt portion.  That was the part that I wasn't sure would be wearable in real life.
The pattern was given to me by a fellow ASG (American Sewing Guild) Boulder chapter member.  I had helped her grade another IM pattern up, and then she gave me a bunch of patterns in size 10 that she said she'd never use again.  I am a size 12-14, but IM runs large anyway.

Here's the pattern back.  It doesn't really show you how the skirt works. 
Does this picture of the skirt alone help?  Do you want me to post a hand drawing of how the skirt goes together?
In the interest of completeness, here is the AV full pattern page.
Skirt design from the 1980s, sweater design from 2000, outfit completed in 2010.  When you make stuff, you can time travel!

In other news, I am sick again.  The only question in my mind is if I have one infection or two different infections.  Immune deficiency sucks.  But at least I can time travel.

* Do not be fooled by fake seersucker sold at certain big box craft stores masquerading as fabric stores.  Those are cotton/poly blends treated with chemicals to create a bubbly texture.

Real seersucker is made on special looms that vary the tension on the warp threads.  The real stuff is 100% cotton.  In warm climates, real seersucker keeps you cool because the fabric doesn't cling to your skin.

The cotton/poly stuff feels like you are wearing a plastic shower curtain.

I bought the seersucker at SAS fabrics in Hawthorne, CA.  It's on the corner of 135th and Hawthorne Blvd (of Pulp Fiction fame).  They sell leftover ends of fabric from the fashion industry.  The one I used in this skirt looks like Indian cotton.  I have also bought Japanese seersucker there in red/white or gray/white.  It costs about $2.99 to $5.99 a pound or $1-3/yard.  I am on a fabric diet, but I got a bunch of stuff there last week that was too good to pass up.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Well said

“There is a certain stigma that comes with being from Berkeley,” [Scott Fujita] said. “And I’m proud of that stigma.”

Read The Saints Linebacker Who Speaks His Mind.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Education Links

There will be knitting and sewing posts coming soon.  But exhaustion (& a possible infection) and commitments at work and home preclude blogging.  If you follow Space News, today's headlines give a clue.

I would like point out a couple of education links from the NYT.  From Fish to Infinity is the first in a promising series explaining the beauty of math to the uninitiated. Steven Strogatz promises:
Crazy as it sounds, over the next several weeks I’m going to try to do something close to that. I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.
A further subtlety is that numbers (and all mathematical ideas, for that matter) have lives of their own. We can’t control them. Even though they exist in our minds, once we decide what we mean by them we have no say in how they behave. They obey certain laws and have certain properties, personalities, and ways of combining with one another, and there’s nothing we can do about it except watch and try to understand.
This column has generated 470 (mostly positive) comments so far. One curmudgeon (#51) took exception to the sentence about numbers having personalities.

Hmmph!  How can he not notice  that some numbers are more gregarious than others? In fact, some numbers (and I won't name any names) are downright unsociable.

The other unintentionally hilarious article is about grade deflation at Princeton.

OMG, less than 40% of grades handed out last year at Princeton were As.  Compare that to the 50% in 2004, when the grade deflation policy was instituted.

Let me put that in perspective.  In Organic Chemistry for sophomore chemistry majors at Berkeley, the grading curve was a strict 15% As, 25% Bs, 45% Cs;  the remainder got Ds & Fs.  One can be above average and still earn a C.

Moreover, my TA, who had been a Harvard undergrad, said that he couldn't believe what was expected of sophomores at Berkeley.  Undergrad O-Chem for Chem majors at Harvard was taught at the level that Berkeley taught the biology majors.  The sophomore O-Chem class for chemistry majors was taught at the level and pace of graduate O-Chem at Harvard.  My second semester TA, a CalTech undergrad, said that our classes were very similar in content and pace to his undergrad classes.

There are also huge differences in curves between departments.  The math department at Berkeley used to cross-list upper division and graduate classes, pitting undergraduate and graduate students against each other on the same curve.  One professor apologized to the undergraduates, saying that he gave all the As and all but 2 Bs to the graduate students.

No wonder another professor, who gave me a C+, offered to write me a letter of rec for grad school.  I questioned if he had me confused with another student.  He replied, "Of course not!  I remember you as one of my stronger students."

(The departmental secretary later told me that typical successful undergraduate students pass that course on their second try.  Only a few pass their first time, as I did.  After the third failed attempt, the department gently suggests those students select another major.)

Coincidentally, I recently read What Does It Take to Get Into Graduate School? A Survey of Atmospheric Science Programs (full pdf).  It had a few interesting tidbits.  The minimum GPA required to be admitted to the graduate programs that participated in the survey varied by major and undergraduate institution.  The lowest acceptable GPA named was 2.7 for math majors.  For non-science majors, the minimum acceptable GPA could be as high as 3.7. 

In the interest of full-disclosure, my undergraduate GPA was 3.14.  No, I didn't plan it that way, but there is a certain humor in a math major earning a GPA = π.

It didn't limit my prospects for grad school.  The Princeton kids should spend less time whining and more time studying.  Graduate admissions committees know what's what.

The difference in mean grades between science and non-science departments within the same school has a dark side.  I want to discuss that, and how I am trying to do something about it.  Another time.