Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Why are we spending so much time talking about bathrooms and not talking about clean and safe water?

I'm supposed to attend a work conference this summer in North Carolina.  Rather than prepare for the conference, I'm figuring out if I should go and changing my travel plans because the venue changed from a state (university) to a private conference center.

My bullshit detector wonders why the chatter cycle is so focused on bathrooms for transgendered individuals and not on issues that impact a larger swath of society.

I've written before in It's a girl! Maybe about how male/female gene expression is a tricky business. In short, XY=Boy and XX=Girl is sometimes wrong. If the Y gene is very damaged, the child may appear as a female. If the Y gene is slightly damaged, the child may appear outwardly as a male, but with complications.

Erroneous Gender Identification by the Amelogenin Sex Test reported that a common gender test is commonly wrong.
The amelogenin gene, located on the X and Y chromosomes in humans (1), produces a protein important in the development of the tooth enamel matrix (2). Using specific amelogenin PCR primers, different bp fragments are amplifiable from the X and Y chromosomes, respectively (3). Hence, it has been a central system to differentiate males from females especially in forensic casework and prenatal diagnosis
Under electrophoresis, the amelogenin gene originating from X and Y chromosomes are resolvable due to differing weights/sizes. An XY sample should have two bumps (two types/weights), and an XX sample should have one bump.  A male soldier showed one bump, at the place where female versions of the gene usually fall.
The occurrence of this phenomenon has been reported as an 0.018% observed sex test failure rate in the Austrian National DNA database (9), 1.85% observed sex test failure rate in Indian males (10), 0.6% frequency of sex test failure attributable to deletion from 350 specimens from all around the world (11), and 8% (2 out of 24) samples of unrelated Sri Lankan males (11).

With the finding of our first mistyped amelogenin result on a male out of a total of 96 samples, we can report the failure rate of this test as 1.04% in Israel. Moreover, the failure of two different primer sets, to amplify the Y chromosome DNA, suggests that this sample contains a deletion in the relevant area.

8% ?!?!?!?!?!

What causes this gene deletion? Could it be that different populations evolved differently over time? Or could environmental factors be at play? Do you also notice a correlation between countries with high pollution and high sex-test failures?

What about sperm counts? Industrial chemicals and heavy metals can depress sperm counts.   Sperm counts are holding steady in some countries, and dropping in others. 

It is well-known that Chemicals in Water Alter Gender of Fish and the Pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs into females. Pesticides are a large contributor to the collapse of frog and fish populations around the world. What are their effects in mammals, including humans?  There is a lot that we don't know.  But we won't learn more unless we focus attention to those problems.

Isn't it funny how the North Carolina bathroom controversy has pushed the Flint water crisis (and other stories about aging water infrastructure) and industrial/agricultural water pollution out of the news?

We're allowing ourselves to be distracted by a side show about bathrooms instead of examining the prevalence of poisons in water supplies world-wide and what that is doing to the genetically vulnerable among us.


I'm deeply offended and disappointed by the NIH gender dysphoria web page.
The cause of gender dysphoria is unknown. Hormones in the womb, genes, social and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved.
Let's blame the parenting, usually mothers, instead of the hormone disrupting chemicals in our water.

A transgender 9-year-old tells her story in the LA Times.

Last weekend, I saw The Edge Theater Company's production of Casa Valentina. It is a good production of a good play. I highly recommend seeing it this weekend (the closing weekend of the show.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The river that binds us

I'm swamped with both family work and market work that demand much of my time and attention.  The story about how I named my blog explains why.

As I sat on an airplane, leaving the family that needs me, to the job that also needs me, I pondered the irony that a woman so concerned with climate change is sitting on an airplane, spewing CO2 into the stratosphere.

A window seat in an airplane between LAX and DEN is also a good time to reflect about the water cycle.

Our familial home is down there, as is DD's school and DH's lab.
Remember when our elementary school teachers told us that, if we could pour a cup of water on top of the Continental Divide, half could end up in the Atlantic Ocean and half would end up in the Pacific Ocean?

It turns out, that it is not quite so simple.

The Colorado River, originating west of the Continental Divide, used to drain into the Pacific Ocean. But it hasn't for decades, because all of the water was used and reused until it peters out in the inland deserts of California (to grow alfalfa to grow cows to feed people.)

Colorado Snowpack
The water evaporates off the ocean and eventually falls down as condensed water or ice in the mountains.  Imagine the amount of energy it takes to lift up that large a mass and move it that great a distance!

Somewhere over the Four Corners area.  Not sure if this is the Colorado River or a tributary.  
The melted snow seeps into the soil and seeps into rivulets, creeks, small tributary rivers and then eventually into the mighty* Colorado River.  More than half of Colorado River water flow begins as groundwater.

Beginning in 1957, with the opening of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, trans-basin water diversions were moving water from the western side of the Continental Divide to the eastern side. Without this water, the massive population growth of the Colorado Front Range wouldn't have been possible.

Trans-basin water diversion map.
Want to learn more about Northern (Colorado) Water, the public agency that brings this water to millions?  Of course you do!

Visit the Northern Water Annual open house and conservation gardens fair next Saturday, May 21, 2016.   Walk this scale model of the Colorado-Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects that deliver *half* of the water used by the Northern Colorado member communities (including Boulder.)  It's awe-inspiring to think about the amount of work that it takes to bring this volume and mass of water across the harsh alpine environment.

My favorite part is this landscape sculpture, which allows me to walk the journey of my Colorado tap water from mountain-top through tunnels, pipelines, and reservoirs.  It makes the monumental intimate.

Landscape art that makes this huge engineering and social project intimate.
Read Your Colorado Water Blog write-up about this event for more details.  I went last year with some gardening enthusiast friends.  I geeked out over the water engineering while they geeked out over the gardening booths.

Many, many Front Range nurseries set up booths at the fair to sell Colorado native plants that are rarely sold at commercial nurseries.  It's one-stop shopping for people who grow native and low-water gardens.  Plants, education, ideas and support from Colorado Extension master gardeners.

Whether I am in Boulder, Colorado, or in Los Angeles, the two parts of my life depend on the mighty* Colorado River.

* Anything that can carve the Grand Canyon and all the minor canyons you see here deserves the adjective mighty.  Anything that can bind my torn heart also deserves the adjective mighty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In defense of home ec 4: beauty edition

In my preteens, I discovered that I have extremely sensitive skin.  In an effort to understand what was happening and to regain control of my skin and my life*, I scoured the library bookshelves for anything that could help me.

In the era before the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database of cosmetics ingredients, there was Paula Begoun's Don't go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.

Begoun explained that some of the most irritating ingredients in cosmetics are the preservatives necessary to reduce bacterial and fungal growth in the moist and damp bathroom environment.  If we want to reduce the amount of preservatives in our cosmetics, we have several options:
  • package them in smaller jars so they get used up before bacteria can grow
  • package them in pump containers to reduce contamination (from fingers or the air)
  • ensure that the cosmetics are stored outside of the bathroom (manufacturers have no control over this so that is a nonstarter)
  • universal bathroom refrigerators to store cosmetics
She further explained that expensive products are often less irritating because they are packaged in smaller quantities.  Thus, their formulas can contain less preservatives.

Think about this next time you buy Costco-sized containers of cosmetics that lie around in your bathroom for a year before you finish them.

Last week, I opened up a bathroom drawer to reach for my face moisturizer and found black signs of fungal growth.  (Read In defense of home ec 2 for another example.)

This is not a big deal because I use a clean knife to transfer skin cream (wield like a spatula) from the container I keep in the refrigerator to smaller containers that I keep in each bathroom.  Because we go through moisturizer more slowly with me in Boulder part of the time, I opted to use a smaller container (bottom).

When the containers are empty, I wash them out with soap and water AND run them through the dishwasher to sterilize them.  I also use a knife directly out of the dishwasher to minimize germ transfer.

* Try to perform a complex task while your skin is on fire.  Tell me how long you can concentrate.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A few details from Reigning Men

Does the Reigning Men exhibit at LACMA make you think of the song, It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls?  Methinks the curators at LACMA have a sense of humor.  After all, they placed the Reigning Men exhibit next to the Robert Mapplethorpe show.

I'm just going to show you a few pictures to whet your appetite.

This is one of the many, many gorgeous ensembles on view.
But check out the hand-embroidered buttons that tie all the colors and patterns of the ensemble together.
Check out the way the line continues from one shoe to the next.
The poster for the exhibit, with a close-up of this coat, may have come home with me.
If you are new to this blog, you might want to read 25 years, which I originally posted in June 2006.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Kwik Sew 2452

Or what we wore during Me Made May 2016 Day 1.

I gave a glimpse of a new dress in the ensemble picture (and also on IG).

When I pulled out that black/ecru printed cotton/lycra jersey, I recalled that I purchased it at the time to make a t-shirt dress.  Which pattern should I use?  I have tons of t-shirt patterns to select from.

Associations are funny.

I was making the top and skirt for a petite friend.  In 1995 or 1996, I made a mint green cotton interlock dress from Kwik Sew 2452.  I got the pattern and fabric from Denver Fabrics, which is now called Colorado Fabrics.  (The online Denver Fabrics retailer is actually in St Louis and has nothing to do with the original Denver Fabrics except that they bought the name.)

I made the longer version of the dress.  When my petite friend went on a trip to Saudi Arabia, she borrowed the mint dress, which was a maxi on her.

I bought he black/ecru dress fabric at Colorado Fabrics.  Thinking of the store and the friend, I searched for the dress pattern and found it in my most excellent pattern drawers, designed for me by the son of the manager of Simplicity's pattern printing plant.

Can you think of a more perfect dress to wear for the first day of Me Made May 2016?
DH got many compliments on his snow-dyed shirt at the TCM Classic Movies Festival 2016 today.  Because he feels a little guilty about the cost of his festival pass, he asked me to buy myself something.  OK, twist my arm.
I stopped by The Fabric Store on my way home from viewing the Robert Mapplethorpe and Reigning Men exhibits at LACMA.  Reigning Men was sensory overload for a textile geek, especially after I had spent so much time at the Mapplethorpe show.

We have until August 21, 2016 to examine the details on Reigning Men.  I'll be back.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

MMMay16 Day 1 or Simplicity 1199

When I showed my LA sewing space, I wrote about how I make clothes from a combo of pre and post-consumer waste and new fabric.

I explained in Laziness or SWAP, how I organize my planned sewing projects by serger thread color.  Then I tackle them in semi-assembly line order.

Let me show you a bit of the process.

First, I pull fabric and candidates for refashioning from my supplies.  I lay them out and look at them, adding and subtracting to the set and moving them around, until I have a vision of what they want to be.

When I was looking for something else, I came across the black/tan marl fabric.  When I bought it at SAS Fabrics, I reckoned it was black/gray.  Outside, in natural daylight, I realized I had reckoned wrongly.  But, 1.2 yards of cotton jersey for $2 is a steal and I thought I could make baby clothes for LA County foster children with the piece.

That didn't happen.  When I came across this piece again, I knew what it wanted to be and who would wear it.  I pulled some coordinating fabrics and refashioning candidates and laid them out on the dining table.  Over several days, I added and subtracted candidates and pulled patterns.

Eventually, I settled upon a black cotton/poly pique remnant from a something I made DD years ago along with some new fabric I bought at Colorado Fabrics last year.  I cut out the pieces one (snowy) weekend afternoon.

Then I sewed them up in batch fashion (like chain piecing when quilting) over two dreary snowy evenings.

The top came out better than I imagined.  The last two times that I sewed Simplicity 1199, I selected the size by the measurement chart, making the S for DD and the M for myself.  They were huge.  I wanted to test the fit of a S at the shoulders and M at the hips.

As you can see, it fits the dress form that approximates my measurements.  I took 2" out above the waist and shortened the back another 1" to fit a petite friend.

I bound the neckline with the technique I learned from Kwik Sew 2555 (which I have used 30+ times) instead of the method found in Simplicity 1199.  The cotton/lycra printed jersey had enough body and recovery to make a satisfyingly hefty neckband.
Aside from the length, the top fits exactly to my liking.  I'll be making more for myself this summer.

While the serger was dressed in black thread, it was a good time give the thrifted black t-shirt I wear to the gym a curved hem.

Oops, this post got so long, I'm going to reveal the outfit I wore for MMM16 Day 1 on the next post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My problem with Facebook and Instagram

Have you read Dave Carroll's Facebook's Privacy Problem with Parents?
Apparently, I am one of the first people on Earth to carefully inspect the latest Facebook data policy because I found several broken links, blank page dead-ends, and the most astonishing form I have ever come across as a parent. I promptly tweeted it. It immediately went viral in collective disbelief and general outrage.
It’s both chilling and telling that the company forces a parent or guardian to hire a lawyer to draft a notorized statement to “establish guardianship rights” in order to opt their child out of ad settings on Facebook which include using their name to endorse unknown products and services to other users, should they experience any trouble finding, understanding, and using this screen in their child’s account settings.
I'm not going to paraphrase it here, because Prof. Carroll does a very able and thorough job explaining why this is so dangerous and alarming. Read it!

I left the Facebook platform because I was unhappy with the way they used private medical data gleaned, not from public posts, but from private messages between FB users*. Anyway, now I wonder if I should leave Instagram.

What do you think?

* It's difficult to find the news stories that criticize FB practices.  FB likely pays a lot of money to make sure those search results appear far, far down--or disappear altogether.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Snow Dyeing Experiment

First, you need to harvest some snow.  The NWS predicted rain Friday night turning overnight to snow.

When I woke up Saturday morning, the snow was still melting immediately when it reached the warm ground. When the snow began to stick, I set my IKEA Torkis baskets outside to harvest some snow.  I put them on a bench, so they would equilibrate to the air temperature instead of the ground temperature.

Then I went back inside to mix a cup of soda ash with 5 gallons of hot water. I soaked the four items I wanted to dye in the soda ash solution.

Meanwhile, outside, the air temperature remained stubbornly right above freezing.  My snow yield was disappointingly low compared to the dead leaf yield.  I moved the Torkis to a more open area on the grass.

Back inside, I put the scrunched up the damp clothing in plastic bins, mixed some Procion fiber-reactive dyes with water, and splashed the dye in.

For the snow dye experiment, I decided to supplement with ice from the ice-maker in the kitchen.  (Isn't it ironic that we run ice-makers in the winter?)
Note that I did not put the shirt on a rack to suspend it above the dye as it drips through.  I wanted a more solid look.

My total snow harvest was pretty pathetic. I consolidated all four baskets of slush and barely had enough to cover the shirt.

I sprinkled one teaspoon each of midnight blue and strong navy Procion dye powder on the slush/ice/shirt tostada.

Waiting inside, catching up with my mending pile.

Waiting on the other side of the condo, enjoying the quiet beauty of a snowstorm.

Silence in the heart of the city.

Sunday morning, I rinsed out the clothes until the water ran clear.  In LA, I use the spin cycle of my washer to extract the moisture (with the excess dye).  That cuts the time and water required for rinsing by a huge amount.

In Boulder, I use a Nina Soft Spin Dryer, which is a centrifuge for fabric/clothing.


I am a total snow dye convert now.

The NWS nailed the forecast.  We got an astonishing amount of snow for April.  But, most of it fell Saturday night/Sunday morning--too late for my snow dye experiment.

I think I will have to learn how to make artificial snow with ice in my blender...and see what happens when I suspend the fabric on a cookie rack.

Links to stuff I used*

* I have no financial relationship with Dharma Trading except that I've been buying from them for nearly 30 years and have *never* had an unsatisfactory experience with them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A tale of two saves 2

Remember this Dye Magic shirt?  I bought it at a thrift store for a song because of a pen ink stain on the front.  After a date with Imperial Purple Procion MX dye, you don't notice it.
Because the snow/ice storm cancelled my original plans for this weekend, I tried snow dyeing at home instead.  I'll show the in-progress photos later.  Let's now just admire the end result.

I sprinkled a teaspoon each of Midnight Blue and Strong Navy dye powder on the soda ash-soaked shirt, ice, and snow layer cake.  One or both of the colors separated into their component colors.
I also see flashes of fuchsia dye that did not thoroughly dissolve.
I see more snow/ice dyeing in my future.  I just have to display enough discipline to use one color at a time until I understand how the colors behave with this method.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A tale of two saves 1

The weekend is almost over and I did not sew a single item from scratch. But, I did clear my mending pile.

The purple T was a hot pink T in a former life. I think I bought it at the Gap on the corner of Bancroft and University avenues, when I was an undergrad (?!?). It's probably from the late 1980s because the tag says that it was made in the US, and the construction was done without shortcuts. If you've read Sew Fast, Faster, Fastest (SFFF), then you know what I mean.

I wore that shirt a lot, and it held up very well.  One day, it encountered a pen.  Can you see the pen ink stain?  Scrunch dyed in a plastic shoebox with cobalt blue Procion MX.  My basic recipe.

I bought the navy shirt later.  The tag said that it was made in Mexico, so it was probably made in the 1990s.  The shirt may have been made in a medium-wage country, but it was made very cheaply.  That is, the right shoulder was sewn first, then the neckband was sewn in flat.  Finally, the left shoulder and neckband was sewn in one step.  That's the fastest method explained in SFFF and one I would never use in my own grandma sewing.

This left a scratchy lump at the left neckline that caused red welts on my skin every time I wore it.  A snowy night, binge Netflix, and I ripped out the neckline and redid the neckline the right way.  I also shortened the unisex shirt and curved the side hip as shown here.

Astute observers may notice that there are three items in the first picture, but only two saves. I rarely wore the black shorts. I thought it was because of the (too long) length. But, after I shortened it, I realized that I still don't like it. Slim-fitting longer shorts may be elongating, but they are not comfortable.  I like my shorts roomy enough for sitting and bicycling.

They are in the outbound box.

As I went though my mending and refashion pile, I noticed a progression.  I could see the increase in construction short-cuts as manufacturers tried to produce in the US, then MX, then central America.  But, China could beat them on quality for the price because Chinese wages allowed them to take the extra time.

Now China is too expensive and clothing manufacturing has moved on to the next low-wage haven.  I don't want my clothing's country of origin tags to be an atlas of human misery and ecological destruction.  That leaves welts on the soul.

We can't compete on price.  We have to compete on quality in a broad sense.  That means taking into account the external costs of our economy, ecology and fairness.

Fashion Revolution Day is actually the week of April 18-24 this year.  Be curious about #whomademyclothes.