Monday, November 30, 2015

The BMGM LA food tour

People in Boulder ask what I like to do when I am in LA.

I eat.

Bad Dad is a good cook and LA boasts some fantastic low-cost restaurants.  You can take a culinary world tour without traveling far.

On my last trip, I visited some favorite restaurants:
  • Rosalind's Ethiopian Cuisine (Ethiopia and Nigeria) on Fairfax.  Vegetarian sampler, fish tibs, yedoro wot.
  • Rice Things (Japan) in north Redondo Beach.  Tempura udon/soba.
  • Lee's Tofu (Korea) in Gardena.  Everything there comes with a bottomless kimchee bar.  I eat a tofu/seafood hot pot, but my carnivore DD likes the Korean BBQ ribs.  We split the combo.
  • Dumpling House (Taiwan) in Gardena.  Small plates.  Taiwanese street food in a casual setting.
  • Panchos' Tacos (Mexico) in RB

Fish tibs at Rosalind's
Lee's Tofu and Dumpling House are just two of the dozen restaurants in bustling pan-Asian Tozai Plaza.  We haven't had a bad meal in that strip mall yet, but we haven't tried the Marie Calendar's.

Bubbling seafood tofu combo with beef ribs and bottomless kim chee at Lee's Tofu in Gardena, CA. When you finish your kim chee and other sides, just ask for more.

And this is why I lose weight in Boulder, but regain it all in LA.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Benchmarking fracking

(BMGM has been accused of going into the weeds again when I wrote about Benchmarking government.  No, it's just that, as an interdisciplinary scientist, I see connections that don't occur to other people. Or, perhaps, I became an interdisciplinary scientist because I see connections between seemingly disparate things.)

Did you know that, when you buy a home or a plot of land, you don't automatically buy the mineral rights under that plot? Moreover, the seller of a property does NOT have to notify the buyer that the sale does not include the mineral rights. explains this in plain English:
As a property owner, if someone told you they were going to start drilling for oil on your land, you’d probably try to kick them off as a trespasser. But wait! Unless you also own the minerals under your land, that someone might have every right to start drilling.

In the United States, mineral rights can be sold or conveyed separately from property rights. As a result, owning a piece of land does not necessarily mean you also own the rights to the minerals beneath it. If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone. Many property owners do not understand mineral rights.

This article will discuss what mineral rights are, how they can be conveyed separately from the land they lie beneath, and whether you should worry about someone else owning the mineral rights under your property.
The loophole that does not require disclosure probably stems from the wild gold rush days when mineral claims records were patchy and often lost.  Sometimes, the owner of the property is genuinely ignorant about the status of the mineral rights of the property they are selling.

However, this loophole is being actively exploited by some of the largest home builders in the US.  For instance, Mother Jones explains how D. R. Horton systematically strips and sells the mineral rights from parcels before they build homes.

They used to disclose, before public awareness of fracking.  But, they stopped disclosing once buyers started asking questions and balking.  For tens of thousands new home buyers, their first indication that mineral rights have been stripped from their property is when a truck carrying a rig rolls into their neighborhood as in the photo below.  All photos and maps courtesy of Fractivist and used with permission.
For most homeowners, this is the first indication they receive that they don't own the mineral rights under their home.
New home development in Colorado with oil and gas wells drilled AFTER the homes were sold.
If you were a homebuyer, wouldn't you like a quick and low-cost way to find out who owns the mineral rights under the home and what kind of mining they might do in the future?

This is an extremely tedious process that requires specialist training and often involves travel to look at old records in many different possible records sites.

This is why Benchmarking Government matters and why I think the media and many government watchers are focusing on the wrong thing.  More people, not just Governor Brown, should perform the data retrieval experiment and request the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to provide information pertaining to their land.

Some of the fastest-developing areas in the country--North Carolina, Colorado, inland California--are the areas with the most potential for mining and oil and gas drilling.  Those home buyers deserve to know before they buy.

In fact, people who think they own mineral claims should have a deadline to prove and register their claims to a publicly-accessible digital database or lose their mineral claims.  The public should be able to search this database without charge.

What do people do in the absence of reliable information? They rely on their government to protect them against deep-pocketed oil companies.

Notice the line between Weld and Boulder counties and where the wells lie?  Politics, not oil, often determine the location of active oil and gas wells.  In Boulder County, registered voters skew 41.6% D to 18.8% R versus 38.4% R to 23.2% D in Weld County.  Guess which county banned fracking and which county government welcomes it (despite homeowner protests)?

Politics, not oil, often determine the location of active oil and gas wells.
Yes, I do think it is odd that the political party that purportedly stands for personal choice doesn't want homeowners to choose not to allow fracking under their homes.

This issue contributes to the 'big sorting' of America.  It's divisive and contributes to longer commutes (and more burning of fossil fuels).

This is why I believe it is so important for government to be able to provide complete and accurate records.  I'm willing to pay the taxes to develop and sustain these services because I want the records to be available everywhere--and not just in the places where private companies think they can make money doing so.

Also, I want uniform categorization rules and true data interoperability, something that is difficult to enforce in the dot com sector.  Because of my work, I've been able to observe that government has a good track record on data interoperability.  In the for-profit sector, companies have financial incentive to 'hoard' their data and to make it difficult for others to use.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Benchmarking government

I'm still processing the terrorist killings around the world right now.  I'll leave discussions about that to people who understand it better than I do.

Right now, I want to shed light on a little corner of the universe that I do know better than most.  Hopefully, the amount of understanding in the world will go up a little bit because of what I write.

I am a data specialist in a geophysical data archive so I follow news about geo-referenced data more than the average citizen.  Actually, I'm a bit obsessed with how data searches work or don't work and why.

This editorial appeared in my customized news feed and I was completely flummoxed by the ignorance displayed by the editorial board of a purportedly top-tier newspaper.

The LA Times Editorial Board was incensed by Governor Brown's request to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources--just days after the governor had appointed their new chief--to supply him with a report on the mineral history and the potential for mineral extraction of his family's ranch in rural California. The editorial said:
It's inappropriate for the governor to call the head of an agency for help with personal business, especially someone he had just installed in the job nine days before. It also was wrong for his aides to follow up with the agency to ensure that there would be a map and other specific information. State employees are paid to do state business, not take care of the governor's personal matters. Brown received his report within a couple of days after he asked for it — an uncommon alacrity in state government — and also received a satellite map drawn up especially for him.
When I read that, I was shocked, but not for the reason the editorial suggested.

I was impressed that Governor Brown, a 77 year-old philosophy major, understood the scientific method and how to apply it to data problems.

Whenever you tinker with a system, you run benchmark tests before and after.  If you install a new chief of a department, you measure his effectiveness by testing response time and job quality for a common task required by the department.  Moreover, you run this test for a case that you know well, so you can assess the accuracy of the results.

Asking for all the info on oil and gas extraction in the past, and potential for the future, for the family farm is a great idea.  His family has owned that land for more than 150 years.  If there had been oil and gas exploration on the land in the past, he would have known about it.

I asked my husband, a field scientist, what he thought of the story.  He said that you always test in an area you know really well, so you can gauge the quality of your measurements, before you go to an unknown area.  So that's two scientists who were impressed with the governor's grasp of the scientific method.

The governor got the correct answer in 24 hours, according to this later story with more details.
The wire service story said that "after a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides," the regulatory agency "produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas-drilling map" of the area.

You know, just like any ordinary citizen would expect to receive.

But the characterization of the service appears to be a stretch. Except for a one-page personal memo, all the material collected for the governor amounted to merely a pile of old letters sent other property owners, historic data from yesteryear and some oil field maps.

"Everything is available on the [state] website," said Nancy Vogel, chief spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Agency, the umbrella entity for these regulators. "If you know how to find it.

"They did not do a formal assessment. That would have been many weeks of work."

The governor got back his answer within 24 hours. "The potential for significant oil or gas in this area is very low," the memo read. As for mining, that potential also "is exceptionally low."

Steve Bohlen, Brown's appointee as chief regulator, said the governor asked him about the geology of the land, past oil or gas production and potential for any future production. "I said that was easy to do," Bohlen told me. "It wasn't like 'drop everything.'"

Two petroleum experts who aren't necessarily Brown fans confirmed to me that all this stuff is available on the state's oil and gas website.
That "just like any ordinary citizen would expect to receive," is a low blow. Ordinary citizens in this data-driven era should be able to look up the mineral history of their land (or surrounding land) as that is the best predictor of future mineral development.

The Center for Public Integrity gave California a C- in their 2015 State Integrity report card.  The grade was largely brought down because of an F on Public Access to Information.

Making public information easily available to citizens should be a high priority and the governor should appoint public officials who are committed to improving data processes and data access for citizens.  Running a benchmark test at the start of a new department chief's tenure was the right thing to do.

Let's hope that this media 'gotcha' campaign doesn't deter him from running the 'after' benchmark test to see if they turn up more (or less) data faster (or slower) after Bohlen has been on the job for a while.


Geophysical data is extremely difficult to search for many reasons.  Records are messy, inconsistent, and often came from the pre-digital era.  So many things can get lost in the translation--or get plain lost.

We are so accustomed to nearly instantaneous searches on the internet, we forgot how much work goes into making this magic mundane.

For instance, do you know how much software and data engineering went into creating this data order form?
Do you know the international treaties that enable the sharing of this data? The small army of people who worked to clean up and standardize this global dataset? It took a whole lot of work to make this look easy. But it was anything but easy or simple.


I explain why this issue is important in Benchmarking fracking.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The snowpack starts here

I took this photo two weeks ago, flying westbound between DEN and LAX.  The snowpack has deepened due to our recent snowstorms.

I believe we were slightly west of the Continental Divide, so this snow will eventually make it into the Colorado River and some of it will wind up in LAX.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Now that's a windsday!

The snow blew sideways outside my window for much of the afternoon.  When I left work tonight, I worried that I would be blown off the mesa!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Harley Quinn hat

I really didn't want to draft a pattern for the helmet-like Harley Quinn hat.  Fortunately, I found Alchymyst's tutorial for a simpler jester hat in Harley Quinn colors.

Behold, my simplified Harley Quinn hat.
I deviated from her pattern by using longer, curved hat legs. But I copied her method of sewing a hat-sized pair of leggings, cutting off the body, and then rotating it 180 degrees for a contrast band. Very simple and effective.

We stuffed the legs with crumpled up plastic produce bags to plump them out.

The hat will come in useful for those crisp mornings that are a little bit too cool to go hatless, but too warm for her fleece hat or her hooded winter parka.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Harley Quinn collar

I was resigned to purchasing white satin at a big box store and making an one-use collar. But, I scored 4 yards of white poly satin for 99 cents at the ARES thrift store.

I laid the front and back pieces of Kwik Sew 2555 (the pattern for the top) together and traced the shoulder line and around the neckline.  I used a saucer to draw round shapes--3 in the front, 2 in the back.

I checked the pattern piece against the top to for scale.
I wanted to use something with more grip than satin for the bottom side.  I found a scrap of white cotton jersey.  I stitched the shape all the way around with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and then trimmed close to stitching.

This is a technique often used in machine applique.  This left me a dilemma.  In machine applique, we snip the underside lining to turn the piece right side out.  The open cut side is then applied against the backing so that it never shows (or frays).

How do I close the cut opening on the collar so that it doesn't fray, stretch or tear?  I eventually used a carefully-placed piece of fusible interfacing under the hole and tweezers to hold it in place while I ironed it in place.

I sewed snaps on the back collar edge and then called it done.

This is the only part of the costume that won't have a post-Halloween afterlife.  It's pretty small and made from scraps.  I won't lose any sleep over the waste.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Harley Quinn top

I puzzled about how to get the Harley Quinn one-piece look with two pieces. The bodice reverses the legging colors, but the color change needs to occur higher than the top's hem.  Some online costumes reversed the colors in two places: below the bust (empire) and again at the hem of the top.  I wanted one sweep of color from the empire line to the bottom of the legging.
I switched thread colors to ensure that contrast stitching (on the outside) did not distract from the overall color-blocking.
Ordinarily, I center the neck band seam at the back. However, I offset it a little bit to reduce bulk at the back of the neck.

This top is built to last and is now a part of her everyday wardrobe.

BTW, this is my 30th rendition of Kwik Sew 2555 since I started tracking my pattern use.