Friday, March 31, 2006

Women's Interests II

Maribeth knows how to make me feel really old. She pointed out a jumper in my closet that I sewed in graduate school and said her mother sewed her one from the same pattern when she was in high school.

I feel sad for all the women who came of age in the era of Lucky. Magazines used to have editorial content beyond pushing the goods of their advertisers.

Salon wrote in an eulogy for Mademoiselle:
After 66 years of continuous publication, Mademoiselle had become little more than a product-pushing, "Sex and the City" fanzine, a far cry from the magazine that launched the careers of writers like Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Chabon and Jennifer Egan -- and won O. Henry Awards (43) and a National Magazine Award for Fiction in the process.
Its disappearance from newsstands marked an official departure, but there are those -- editors and readers alike -- who believe that Mademoiselle died, along with a handful of other "women's glossies," when they stopped publishing fiction back in the 1990s. The move was seen by some media analysts to have been financially inevitable, but was interpreted by many in the worlds of media and publishing as a surrender to simplistic marketing instincts and a misinterpretation of readers' interests and aptitude.
Last Monday, I went out on disability because my health problems were taking up so much of my time and energy. On the upside, I have a lot more time to lie around and read. Naturally, I have opinions about what I read and will subject you to them. If I go a week without posting and you are wondering why, call my husband for news.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Women's Interests

After dropping my mom off at LAX, I stopped by Barnes and Noble, hoping to find a pattern for a new spring sweater in one of the magazines. The first rack on the right as you enter the Manhattan Beach store is labeled "Women's Interests". Sadly, women are only interested in wedding planning, fashion, decorating, beauty and their best friends that they have never met in Hollywood. Say it ain't so.

The rack next to it held copies of the Economist, Harper's and Scientific American. I can't remember how they labeled that rack.

Am I the only one who misses the articles about current events, fiction and poetry in the "women's magazines"? To be fair, a recent issue of Elle had a profile about Caitlin Flanagan and the issues she raises in her writing.

Aside again
Her writing disappeared from the Atlantic several years ago and she recently returned with a book of her greatest hits with a few new essays. When she stopped writing, I suspected a health or family issue. Her work was clearly very broadly read and influential (even if she did get alot of hate mail). The Elle piece said that she had breast cancer during her hiatus.

Because this blog is called badmomgoodmom, I should say that Caitlin writes about just that. Even though her definition of a good mom differs from mine, I do find her astute observations about human nature hilarious. She simply states that kids are better off with a parent always around, even if that parent is working at home. It just takes an army to raise twins and work at home. Unlike many of her detractors, I think she does get the irony of her position. It is easier to be a self-styled "at home" mom with nannies, housekeepers and a weekly visit from a professional organizer. ;-)

The profile also said that her husband works down the street from me at Mattel. He was responsible for a couple of the Barbie movies. Unfortunately, they were not the one that I liked, where Barbie saves her kingdom with her prowess as a geologist.

We will talk about Barbie at a later time.

keywords: reading, sociology, magazines

Death Valley II

Because you asked for more photos.

Bird at Furnace Creek Ranch

Badwater was not underwater this year. The shiny surface behind the sign is not water, but salt reflecting the sun. After seeing this phenomena, I am no longer surprised by the strong, predictable breezes that Mark observes out on the test ranges every sunny afternoon.

Another reason to get up for the sunrise at Zabriskie point.

The salt crystals at Devil's Golfcourse sure are hairy.

We did see flowers.

We found the rare lavender spotted something or other. It was next to a tiny plant with impossibly small floweres, each shaped like a slipper orchid. Of course, it did not photograph well.

keywords: travel, California, wild flowers, Death Valley

Monday, March 27, 2006

Death Valley 2006

We returned to Death Valley during wildflower season because my mom was so entranced with our pictures from last year. Alas, 2006 is shaping up to be a normal year for DV wildflowers. We did watch the sunrise at Zabriskie point.

I took the obligatory photo of the sun hitting beacon rock.

But I was more taken with the shadows on the alluvial fan to the south.

Then we stopped to say hello to the pupfish in Salt Creek. They were friskier than the dire newspaper articles suggested they would be. We lured Iris to walk the entire boardwalk loop with the admonishment, "Hurry up and see the pupfish before they go extinct!"

Saturday was very windy. We saw dust devils galore. People drove with their headlights on due to the poor visibility and our poor car was sandblasted. Of course, Mark said it was just as windy during the Death Valley Double in 1996. I think his memory is faulty. Yes, it might have seemed just as windy while riding his bicycle for 200 miles that day in DV, but they would have called off the ride if it was that bad. Just the same, I promised to look up the archival wind data for that day and Saturday to give him relative upper level wind strength.

Here is the jet stream analysis for the region about the time that the ranger station at Furnace Creek measured gusts of 51 mph. The upper level winds looked like they were about 175 mph over DV on Saturday afternoon. (Be sure to convert from UTC to PST.)

keywords: travel, California, Death Valley, meteorology

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Which Graduate Text in Mathematics are you?

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be W.B.R. Lickorish's An Introduction to Knot Theory.

I am an introduction to mathematical Knot Theory; the theory of knots and links of simple closed curves in three-dimensional space. I consist of a selection of topics which graduate students have found to be a successful introduction to the field. Three distinct techniques are employed; Geometric Topology Manoeuvres, Combinatorics, and Algebraic Topology.

Which Springer GTM would you be?

Take The Springer GTM Test

The quiz has me correctly pegged as a knitter!

Normally, I do not take quizzes on the web lest they be just marketing phishing sites. But this quiz was hosted by the McGill University's Math department website so I took it. Funny thing though--I own (and read!) several GTMs but have never even seen this one. I did have a great fondness for abstract algebra and topology in college, though.

I still do not know why Maribeth holds such a grudge against group theory.

The McGill link is broken. Try the Springer GTM quiz at U of Arizona. The link above has also been updated. Thanks to Kathleen who pointed out the new link.

Happy Anniversary Artfibers

Artfibers in celebrating their anniversary at their store in SF today. The store invited their customers to bring something they made with stuff they bought there. Since I live in LA and can't make the party, I will post a picture of Iris posing with a scarf made from two balls of Golden Chai in silver (38) and mauve (40) in a random garter drop stitch pattern. Kira suggested the stitch after my repeated attempts at swatching dragon teeth with the yarn left a limp mess. Here is a closeup of the luscious yarn.

keywords: knitting, Artfibers, Iris, scarf, Golden Chai

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Windy Not Windsday

People like to ask me about the weather. Why, yes, I did notice it has been windy and stormy lately. Is it part of the big storm up north? It feels kind of warm--maybe it is a "pineapple express" storm?

Check out the latest jet stream analysis at the California Regional Weather Server. We are in the region south of the Pacific Northwest storm system, but north of the "pineapple express".

[Pineapple express storms originate near Hawaii and bring the storms with the heaviest precipitation to southern CA. The colder ones originating in the Aleutian low do not typically bring much moisture this far south.]

A bit of weather trivia
The wind vectors in the first plot point in the direction of the wind flow. The wind barbs in the second plot point in the direction that the wind is coming from. When looking at a wind analysis, be sure you know whether you are looking at a wind vector or a wind barb. The difference is only 180 degrees.

The cyan blue lines are lines of constant pressure, isobars. See how the jet stream winds follow the contours of the isobars?

Here is another example of a wind barb plot (from the unisys weather server); this one is for winds at the surface at the same time.

Notice that the surface winds do not usually blow in the same direction as the jet stream winds.

Our rain gauge is empty.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Pi Day

Iris and I wish everyone a happy π day.
π is the ratio of the circumference of a circle over its diameter. The most common way this is expressed is shown below.

c = &pi d

This really sunk in for me when my 5th grade teacher sent me out with a measuring tape and a notebook to measure the diameter and the circumference of every round object I could find in an hour.

When I returned, we divided each circumference by its corresponding diameter measurement. Some of the ratios were larger than &pi, some were smaller. When we summed all the circumferences and divided by the sum of all the diameters (taking an average--but I didn't know that yet), the ratio became very close to &pi .

Why was one of the ratios so different than the others? I did recall that the trash can was dented in on one side. I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader. ;-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Coping Mechanisms

There are two things I do when I get bad medical news.
  1. I buy more Health Care Mutual Fund shares.
  2. I go shopping.
So far, I bought a new sewing machine, art supplies, a ton of fabric, enough yarn for several sweaters, and an embarrassing amount of books and CDs.

This gives me something productive to do while waiting around at doctor's appointments. Instead of stressing about all the medical bills, I can think about how much money I am making as a shareholder in the heathcare industrial complex.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bringing Your Daughter to Work

A colleague and I commiserated about the dual burden of bringing our families to conferences with us. The purpose of a conference is to meet with your colleagues. But business travel takes precious time away from family--unless you bring your family along. Then we are torn between wanting to be with both colleagues and family, but having to choose.

Try getting ready for a business meeting and a family trip at the same time.

So why do it at all? Because the younger scientists are watching. Because our daughters are watching.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Depressing News

The time study scientists have noticed that working mothers are stretched to the limit. We can't seem to manufacture more time. You can read the NY Times article.

NASA has finally admitted that they cannot do all the things that various parties want them to do with the budget they have been given. Therefore, science is going out the window. You can read the official version here. The saddest part IMHO is the suspension of the explorer missions. So many graduate students' research were funded by that program. If this nation is serious about producing more scientists and engineers, we would put more funding into supporting exciting and compelling research projects for students. [I am speaking strictly as a private citizen and this does not reflect the policies of the company that I work for.]

Another digression
At my 20th high school reunion, I was astonished by how many people worked in marketing and how few people worked in production. I use production in a loose sense to mean producing things, ideas, art, intellectual property or providing necessary services. Do the vast majority of people in this nation work in inducing people to buy things that they don't need? [This explanation of what marketers do comes from a friend who is a very successful marketer.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Knitting with Wire Lessons Learned

With only 2 wire bracelets under my belt, I decided to share a few lessons learned.
1. Use cheap metal needles that you won’t mind scratching up.
2. The needles will slip out of the stitches no matter how careful you are.
3. This won’t matter because the stitches won’t run (ladder).
4. This works for you when you drop stitches.
5. This works against you if you make a mistake and want to rip out stitches.
6. There is no need to cast on to 3 needles to make the bracelet in the round like in the picture I posted earlier. Cast all the required stitches onto one long metal needle. Pull out the long needle and divide up the stitches onto 3 needles. Knit with the 4th needle.
7. I found it helpful to knit on a pillow placed on my lap. This kept the knitting level so the needles were less likely to fall out.
8. Knitting ‘combination’ style so that the leading edge of the stitch is towards the back was easier.
9. When knitting combination style in the round, wrap the yarn the other direction than you would in forming a western-style knit stitch.
10. There is no need to hold the wire to regulate tension. This makes wrapping the yarn a breeze.
11. Combination style knitting is very important for setting up for the final k2tog bind off row. If you aren’t able to get used to combination knitting, just knit the western way and then rotate the stitches so they mount the other way before starting the bind off row.
12. Then pull the needle out, manually twist the stitches to face the other way and then scoop them back on the needle.
13. Use much smaller needles than you would use for yarn to obtain the same gauge. I knitted the bracelet with size 4 (3.5 mm). To even up the cast on row on the second bracelet, I used a size 9 (5.5 mm) needle.

keywords: knitting, wire