Monday, July 21, 2014

A tale of two weekends

A quiet weekend sewing in the Boulder apartment.  After shifting some things around, I found a workable and productive layout.

Enjoying the views at the Getty Center while walking between exhibitions with Bad Dad.

Dining choices in Gardena's Tozai Plaza.  We ate at Lee's Tofu.  Many types of kim chi, yum!

Iris was home for two nights between sessions of CTY camp.  How can you tell a 13 yo is happy to see you?  Can you clue me in to the subtle signs?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Now that's telecommuting!

I thought I had a good telecommuting gig, answering data user email from Europe or Asia from my laptop while lying in bed, but I saw some fantastic telecommuting yesterday.  (Leave your telecommuting stories in the comments.)

After the close of the meeting, I offered the data manager for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution a ride to Boulder.  The weather was going to be challenging (lightning, thunder, torrential rain, localized flooding) and I didn't relish attempting the drive alone.

She asked if I would mind if she made phone calls during the drive.  I said that I didn't mind.  But, I was surprised by what I observed.  It may have been a normal work day for her, but I found it very interesting.  She gave me permission to blog about it.

She prefaced her calls by telling the other end that she was in an automobile on Interstate 70 in Colorado and may lose reception when we head into Eisenhower tunnel, which carries automobile traffic under the continental divide.

Eisenhower tunnel in clearer weather.  Photo from Wikipedia.
Who was she talking to?  Well, it wasn't these particular guys from a photo I snagged from WHOI, but guys suited up much like this so that they could dive down below to check how the scientific instruments fared from Hurricane Arthur.

The divers checked instrument health.  If everything looked fine, they came back up and then climbed to the top of the towers on the mooring so they could call her.  (I'm guessing they were on different moorings with taller towers than in this picture.)

From a moving car on the western (Pacific) side of the continental divide, she used her cell phone as a wi-fi hotspot and her laptop to remotely turn on the power to the instruments in the Atlantic ocean.  They repeated this sequence the entire trip to Boulder.

I know there are astronomers who remotely control telescopes.  What other remote science experiments can you think of?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I'm up in Summit County, Colorado, for a meeting. Yesterday, I arrived later than I had hoped and only had time for a short 30 minute ride. This evening, I was free to bike from Copper Mountain to Vail Pass. It's only 6 miles, but quite steep in places.

I'm a sucker for wild irises, hence my daughter's name.
A colleague told me to be on the lookout for a beaver dam. I wonder if that is how Beaver Creek got its name?
I wasn't sure if this was the summit.
But it turns out there was a higher spot.
A commemorative plaque explaining how Vail pass got its name.
I went beyond the pass because I heard there was a pretty lake on the other side.
A Colorado native told me that she left and returned because Colorado is for sky people. Los Angeles has its charms, but big skies is not one of them.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Flying solo

On day four on the new job, my boss made me the data curator of record for a popular dataset.  Gulp.  Day FOUR!  I did NOT think I was ready.

Within an hour, I fielded the first phone inquiry.  Luckily, it was an easy question and I knew the answer off the top of my head.

In two weeks of answering questions and reading the download logs, I realized how many data users come from poor countries that cannot afford pricey data analysis and visualization software.

Our family trip to Tanzania in 2010 taught me the value of convertible currencies--or rather how hard  life can be when your nation's currency is not accepted as payment abroad.  If you need something made abroad, how do you pay for it?  You need to have something that people will pay you for in dollars, euros or yen so you can convert it into dollars (if needed) to purchase it.

This has major implications.  Say you need gas or diesel for fuel and asphalt for roads.  The term petrodollars refers to the OPEC agreement to set the price of crude oil in dollars.  If your currency isn't convertible to dollars, how do you get the crude oil to make that gas, diesel and asphalt?  What kind of transportation network would you have without dollars?  Without all-weather roads and vehicles, how do you grow your economy and get your goods to markets where they will fetch better prices?

I can't control OPEC, but I can help--in my own small way--by helping scientists and risk managers in poor countries access and use weather and climate data without spending scarce convertible cash.

Behold, my current obsession.
They still need color bar legends and I need to streamline the R code a bit.  But, I'm making good progress towards a dataflow that decodes GRIB data and makes it ready for further analysis--all using public domain or open-source software  Furthermore, it is my goal to figure out cross-platform and easily accessible ways to do this.

Can you pick out the summer hemisphere?  Or the day/night sides?  Yowza, Siberia and the Himalayas are cold.

Do you know why the tropopause temperature appears to be anti-correlated with the surface temperature?

Anyway, I was just getting the hang of being a reference librarian for this dataset and making plans to update the help pages (including adding tutorials!) when my boss added a half dozen more datasets to my workload.

They are not nearly so popular, so they shouldn't demand as much time.  But, seriously? People use BUFR in real life?

My boss has plans to put me on YouTube so I can teach people how to be bona fide weathergirls.  Stay tuned for a link when the tutorials go live.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

First Colorado Make

When I told a Boulder friend that I was moving back to Boulder and will be splitting my time between CA and CO, he asked where my sewing studio would reside. Astute question. My main sewing machine and serger will reside in my main residence, of course.

I consider myself settled in because I unpacked all boxes, cooked some meals and sewed something.

My apartment has oddities such as a linen closet that opens to the bathroom (and doorless to boot)! I calculated how many bins of fabric and yarn I could fit in the apartment and only brought a portion of my stash. However, this lovely ecru/blue cotton that I originally found on the free share table at South Bay Quilt Guild made the trip to CO with me.

It wasn't quite long enough, so I pieced it at the bottom. I wanted it to puddle slightly to block dust and moisture. CO natives laugh because they claim moisture is not a problem. However, does anyone else remember the summer where the combination of swamp coolers and above normal rainfall led to a mold problem in the Norlin library stacks?  What a mess!

Before the move, when I was laid up in bed with dual sprained ankles, I laid in bed and knitted two "Absorba" log cabin bathroom mats.  I place one by the tub, another by the sink.  I used up nearly my entire supply of white cotton and a significant chunk of the cone of blue yarn I found at Marukai.
I felt so virtuous in using up stuff I already had, that I made a date this morning to check out Colorado Fabrics, formerly Denver Fabrics (and not associated with the internet fabric store out of St Louis that calls itself Denver Fabrics).  I went in to get a zipper, and walked out with all sorts of other goodies.  The new owner has some .great. fashion industry contacts.  The quality and selection of designer overstocks and closeouts and the prices compare favorably with The Fabric Store in Los Angeles.

I got a little bit overenthusiastic and my friend was a great enabler.  But, I rarely encounter cotton as fine as silk, in colors I love, for $8/yard.  I bought two coordinating fabrics.  One is an uneven plaid in navy/blue/teal/white.  The other shares the same threads, but is woven in such a way so that it has teal stripes on one side and cobalt blue ones on the other.  They will be fondled a great deal, even if they don't get sewn up this summer.  I am combing my pattern collection for a suitable shirtdress pattern.

See my first Absorba log cabin garter stitch bath mat.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Add foxes to the list

Remember the safety briefing about deer, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, hikers, bicyclists, and dogs? Add foxes to the list.

Last Friday, I left work much later than everyone else because I had dealt with so many IT issues, I felt like I wanted to sit down and accomplish something real before the end of my first week.

[Administrivia, setting up a personal computer and gaining access to shared network resources take up a good chunk of time when starting any job. Add the complexity of working in a national supercomputing center and in a department that runs a pretty big development system before rolling out services to the world and you get a window into my last two weeks.]

Besides, we enjoyed a pretty good thunderstorm last Friday and I didn't relish carrying empty cardboard boxes out in the rain.

Imagine my surprise when I walked out the back (loading dock) door and encountered a fox. Perhaps the fox was as startled by me as I was by it.  I hesitated, and decided to slowly walk away, toward my car.  The fox moved away, too.

Then, I wondered about the wisdom of turning my back to a predator and looked back.  It had turned back to look at me, too!  Smart animal.  I'm a predator, too.

My hands were full and I didn't have a camera on me, but the fox I encountered looked very much like the one in this photo from nature photographer, Doug Rodda's Fox page.  Copyright Doug Rodda and used with permission.

As I drove away, I saw the fox had moved back to the original location where we first met.  I wonder what it was waiting for.  Godot?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The view from my window

I never dreamed that I would work in an iconic building (IM Pei!) or that I could have an office view like this. The trails beckon when work is done.

A close-up of the mountain view.

But, I miss my family and Torrance ramen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another selfie

Heading in for my first day at the new job.
The safety briefing includes warnings about deer, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, hikers, bicyclists, and dogs. The gist of the briefing is that we should keep a careful distance from all of them.  ;-)

Lunch at the cafeteria on the second day.

The hiking and bicycling is excellent.  Plan your visit.  And give me a call if you are in the building.

There is so much to learn at work and the new hire administrivia is considerable.  I am not quite done unpacking, but I've definitely lost momentum.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

No pictures

because I was driving solo.  You can follow my route.  Click to embiggen and see how many national parks I skirted while driving Interstate freeways 405 to 105 to 605 to 210 to 15 to 70.
There are people going around waving yellow "Don't tread on me flags" badmouthing the federal government.  They don't want to pay federal taxes or obey federal laws because they don't recognize the federal government or they dismiss it as not doing anything worthwhile.

I left Los Angeles at 12:00 PDT yesterday and arrived in Denver at 19:00 MDT today.  My 1000 mile route crossed sections of California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.  Try doing that with only state and local roads.  The federal interstate highway system is an engineering marvel and an economic boon.

I found a YouTube video of just one of the stunning sections I travelled these past two days.

Although the desert southwest and the rocky mountain range are both stunningly beautiful, they pose uniquely different--but extreme--climatic and geologic challenges for road builders.  I am just in awe of the natural scenery, and the human imagination, skill and willpower that it took to raise the money and build these highways.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Scratch and Pack

The MIT Club of Southern California is hosting Scratch Day with three family-friendly events in Los Alamitos, Irvine and Mission Viejo.
The Irvine location is SOLD OUT. Walk-in registrations at the Los Alamitos and Mission Viejo locations will be accepted on a space-available basis only.
While Bad Dad and Iris are bonding over Scratch tomorrow, I will be home packing up my sewing room and clothes.  I need help because I am still not fully mobile.

The kitchen, office and linens are mostly packed.  The bathroom stuff won't take much time.  I could really use a hand (and legs!) to help with my sewing and craft stuff tomorrow.

Do any LA-area sewists want to come help?  I suffer from SABLE, stash accumulation beyond life expectancy.  You can take home lots of free sewing supplies.  ;-)

Email and/or leave a comment if you can join me in my Redondo Beach home to sift through my sewing stuff.