Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Daycare Round 2

Mark sent me a link to Emily Bazelon's article, The Kids Are Alright, in She interviewed study's author, Margaret Burchinal. The article is worth reading in it's entirety.

One thing that is lost in much of the media hoopla is how little high quality daycare they found in their data set. Nearly all the families that used center-based care used low-quality ones, probably because they are the cheapest. They wanted to compare high and low quality daycare centers, but there weren't enough kids in high-quality daycare for them to do a meaningful comparison.

The media also overlooked the finding that the behavior problems increased only by a very slight amount, and mainly for kids who had spent 4 years or more in day care centers by the time they were 4 1/2 years of age. That meant they were in poor quality day care centers from infancy.

That makes me unbelievably sad, that parents are leaving their children in places that they know are not high-quality, but can't afford better.

When we were searching for daycare, we looked at a variety of places, both in centers and homes. In our research, we were astonished that ratios as high as 6:1 are allowed in daycare centers in most states. Who can take care of that many babies at once?

We put Iris in one of the most expensive ones because it had a 3:1 infant to caregiver ratio, versus the 4:1 required by California law. The kids seemed happier and the employees less stressed out. (It was also a 7 minute walk from our house and the bus stop for the line to our workplace was 50 feet away.)

Whenever we visited, it seemed like about 1/3 of the babies were sleeping and 1-2 babies were being held by each child care provider. When meal or diaper change time came, a center "floater" came to assist. Often, parents were visiting at the center. I was there often because I worked 20-30 hours a week back then and breast fed Iris at the center during my break.

As soon as she was able to sit up, she was playing games with the staff. We even have pictures of her finger painting at 11 weeks! The families bonded at the day care center. Today, she still plays with those friends.

In closing, did you notice that the articles almost always state that 1364 children were followed in the study? According to the NIH summary, they had lost track of nearly 300 children by 2004; the recently published results follow 1073 children. By the next report, they will likely have lost a few more.

Blogger Linda Thomas has a humorous take on this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Does using daycare make you a bad mother? Some people reading recent study results might conclude that. I don't really know; it is not my research area. However, I do know a few things about handling statistics.

Mark Twain wrote, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." (Actually, there is some confusion about who first coined this phrase.)

First off, read the report and see how the data were collected. The NIH, the people who funded the study, has an online overview of the longitudinal study. (Longitudinal studies follow the same group over time.)

The researchers recruited families with newborns in ten hospitals around the US to participate in this study. In 1991, there were 1364 children in this study. By 2004, there were only 1073 children, a loss of over 21%. No one knows why those children, or their families, dropped out of the study. The researchers are careful to point out that this is not a representative sampling. They got the volunteers that they got (less 21%).

How do they define child care? "Child care was defined as care by anyone other than the child’s mother that was regularly scheduled for at least 10 hours per week. This included care by fathers, grandparents and other relatives."

See, we are not blaming mothers here. But we are pointing out that care by mothers is fundamentally different than any other type of care, including care by fathers. ;-)

Read the report summary at the NIH website.
The researchers found that the correlation between high quality care and better vocabulary scores continued regardless of the amount of time the child had spent in child care or the type of care. The researchers wrote that this finding was consistent with other evidence indicating that children with greater early exposure to adult language were themselves more likely to score higher on measures of language development. However, child care quality was not associated with improved reading skills after 54 months of age.

The researchers also found that, as in the earlier grades, children with more experience in child care centers continued to show, through sixth grade, a greater frequency of what the researchers termed teacher-reported externalizing problem behavior.

Children who had been in center care in early childhood were more likely to score higher on teacher reports of aggression and disobedience. This was true regardless of the quality of the center-based care they received.

The researchers emphasized that the children’s behavior was within the normal range and were not considered clinically disordered.
The researchers are also careful to point out that their study can show correlations but cannot prove causality. (Correlation does not imply causality.) There was no control group. Children were not randomly assigned to child care centers; the families freely chose their own child care arrangements.

My interpretation of the report is that the negative effect (disruptive behavior) is very small in statistical significance compared to the large positive effect (increased vocabulary). The sample size is also quite small, not representative and uncontrolled.

Seriously, though, there is one fundamental flaw in this study. Because the families chose their own child care arrangements, there is likely an economic consideration that this report did not take into account. Families with only one child are more likely to use center-based child care.

High quality child care centers are simply too expensive for most families with more than one child. The disruptive behaviors described sound very similar to the behaviors more prevalent in only children.

I wouldn't worry too much about the effect of child care based on this study. So what if Iris is more likely, as a sixth grader, to be labeled disobedient and argumentative? When you tell her to jump, she looks at you like you are nuts. She takes nothing at face value and calls people on inconsistencies. Gee, I wonder where she gets that from.

Sex, Lies and Statistics has nothing to do with child care, but I just like the title. It is also a good introduction to Bayesian statistics. I am an agnostic in the Bayesian wars. I think it is helpful sometimes, but often abused.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fire is a river that runs uphill

Remember the "dreamscapes" homes featured in the Los Angeles Times' west magazine? When I asked what the four homes had in common besides killer views, no one guessed that the homes are all in harm's way.

The ocean view home in Pacific Palisades was built after the previous house slid down the hill. The Malibu home replaces one that burned down in 1993. The hilltop studio is just that, and situated amid a grove of oily, fire-prone eucalyptus trees. The Palm Springs house does not look like it is in imminent danger, but it is essentially a glass box sitting next to an active earthquake fault.

Years ago, I listened to a fire modeler from Los Alamos National Lab. The takeaway message from his talk was that fire is a river that runs uphill. On flat land, in the absence of winds, a fire will burn itself out after it has exhausted the fuels in the fire perimeter. To fight the fire, you need only create a firebreak which denies the fire of the fuel it needs to maintain itself.

Flames and hot embers rise. On a hill (still in the absence of winds), the fire will keep moving uphill, picking up fresh fuel, until it can climb no further. Living on a ridge line is doubly dangerous because you are in not one, but two firesheds. A mountain top compounds the danger even further. But that is where the killer views are.

Living below the ridgeline, say on the ocean side, is not a guarantee of safety. Strong winds (can you say Santa Ana?) can blow a wall of flames over so that it curves up and over mountain ridges.

After the LANL scientist had his say, I turned to the fire chief (of a major metropolitan city with many people living at the urban wild land interface) sitting next to me and asked, "Why do you give people building permits for those homes?". He replied that he didn't. He denies them the first time because they are unsafe.

But the people who have the financial resources to build those homes are not used to hearing no. They call their buddy, the mayor, and then the mayor calls to ask the fire chief to chew his hide. To save his job, he gives the rich and powerful what they want, even though he knows it is a bad idea.

It costs a lot of money to fight fires in those mountainous subdivisions. That cost is subsidized by people living in the flatlands with views of the apartment building 10 feet away. The fire chief doesn't want to expend his department's meager resources on defending yet another home deliberately put in harm's way. But he feels like he has no choice.

Similiarly, the land in Malibu has a habit of sliding away when it rains. Caltrans does a bang-up job, continuously clearing the rocks that fall on the Pacific Coast Highway so that the rich and powerful are not inconvenienced in their commute. (The same goes for "Devil's Slide" near San Francisco.) That is money that is not spent fixing potholes in the flatlands, home of plebian chumps.

Some will say that those people pay a lot of taxes for their expensive homes. That may be, but more taxes are paid in the flatlands simply because more people live there. Yet, the cost of providing services, on a per capita (or per dwelling unit) basis are disproportionately high for the extreme view neighborhoods.

Perhaps it is time we institute something like Boulder's "blue line". Above that line, you can build a home, but don't expect any city water or fire protection. That preserves personal freedom, but doesn't ask someone else to shoulder your risk. (Well, unless you count the insurance risk pool.)

Read Heat Invades Cool Heights Over Arizona Desert.
Since 1990, more than eight million homes have been built in Western areas that foresters call “the urban-wild land” interface, also the focus of recent federal firefighting efforts...

Last year, wildfires burned nearly 10 million acres in the United States — a record, surpassing the previous year. The Forest Service has become the fire service, devoting 42 percent of its budget to fire suppression last year — more than triple what it was in 1991.
One major reason that fire fighting in the western forests has become more expensive is the number of structures (homes) being built in the trees. One Colorado newspaper had the guts to run a story questioning if our firefighters should risk (or lose) their lives protecting the vacation homes of the rich after twelve firefighters died in the Storm King Mountain fire.

It is an issue of fairness. Why should poor and middle class people subsidize the requirement of the rich to have their views?

(Of course I am jealous. I would love to have a killer view and a glass house to frame those views. Alas, my scientist salary does not allow that anywhere within bicycle commuting distance of my job. Maybe I can paint a mural on the apartment building next door to improve my view.)

The Hollywood Hills fire behaved just like a computer modeled fire!
Read Wildfire Weather to find out why I am so obsessed with wildfires.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


The curbside send off at LAX on Wednesday afternoon. Notice that all the teeth are present and not a bit wobbly.

Mark called Thursday evening to tell me that the tooth was loose. I asked to speak to Iris. I reminded her not to play with the loose tooth; let it come out in its own time. We had discussed months ago that the longer she has a gap in her mouth, the more risk of requiring braces. She said that she did not want braces.

"How did it happen so quickly?", I asked her upon my return. She said she couldn't help playing with it, it was so much fun. It came out at school. The school health clerk sent her home with a tooth necklace.

I missed another milestone.

After the meeting concluded, I took the BX express bus to Boulder to visit friends. One friend and I were even captured by a Daily Camera photographer while walking a few hundred yards from my old home at 4th and Pearl. We are in today's photo gallery. We are upside down because this image shows our reflection in the children's fishing pond. In the spring time, you use this at your own risk. Those nesting geese are very effective at protecting their young.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another Bad Mom Moment

Remember when Iris learned to walk while I was away on a business trip? Guess where I am now that her first tooth is loose? Let's hope the tooth does not fall out before I get home Saturday night.

At least the sendoff yesterday at LAX was much happier than "Mommy don't go."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mending is the new Eyelet

I did a little mending of a ripped, unlined linen jacket. First, I fused knit interfacing to the inside of the jacket and stitched all over the ripped region with triple zigzag. Then I glued lace appliques (using a kids' washable glue stick) over the ripped areas. I finished by edge stitching the appliques down.

The result reminds me of some of the fancy eyelets I have seen this spring around the blogsphere. Perhaps I will go back to SAS Fabrics to buy more appliques. I think I paid about 10 or 15 cents each. They had boxes of them in black or white.

A few years ago, I used another lace applique to trim a dress for Iris. The link takes you to my sister's blog back when I guest-blogged there. In the archives, you will find many of my handknits.

I repurposed the dress now that Iris has outgrown it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Image Problem

The LA Times Image section debuted today. You are not to blame if you missed it. It is easy to miss if you do not subscribe to the print version. When you go to the LA Times home page, you will not find a tab for the Image section on the left. The astute might notice a gray bar in the middle of the page with links to The Week in Photos and the new Image section.

If you look at the url for the Image section, you will notice it is filed electronically under How much more muddled can you get?

If Style is good enough for the WaPost and the NYT, then why isn't it good enough for the LAT? Maybe they want to set themselves apart. They could have gone with a more serious-sounding name like Design. But they chose the word Image. Perhaps they meant to poke fun at the "image is everything" ethos in LA?

I seriously doubt it as the cover story has a huge picture of a very pale, blonde and blue-eyed actress, Chloe Sevigny. The accompanying feature story about her individual style was deadpan straight.

What about the other content? It is too early to tell. Translation: I was not thrilled with it but am forcing myself to keep an open mind.

One of the things I love about LA is its diversity and energy. We are a Pacific Rim city with ties to Asia and Latin America as well as Europe. I look to the LAT for stories about events around the world and their connection to my community. Their coverage of the Pacific Rim had no rival in the other national papers of record. (Notice I used the past tense as the Tribune Company wants the LAT to get out of the business of reporting on international events.)

The LAT, until recently "got LA" in that it was a paper for all of LA, not just for rich white folks who cooled their heels in LA between jetting off to their many vacation homes. Read the NY Times and you might never figure out that whites are a minority in NYC. No wonder some LAT staffers are calling the remake of the paper the "Manhattan Beach Project". For those that are not familiar with Manhattan Beach, that is not a compliment. ;-)

Image did a feature about Twinkle's designer, Wenlan Chia. She's a New York-based designer. The article even contains two free patterns reprinted from the book, "Twinkle's Big City Knits." If you like knitting with super bulky yarns and size 19 needles, you might want to check out the article.

I normally find the Current (high-concept name for Op-Ed) section rather lame. But today's paper contains a gem by Barry Schwartz, Make college admissions a crapshoot, buried in the inside pages. The article might leave people sputtering, "But, but...". However, he does make some good points about the crazy system in place today.

In case you are too lame (like me) to figure out how to navigate to the section, look at the links to the left of the LAT home page. Click on Opinion. That opens up another menu with several types of opinion pieces. Click on Sunday Current. Oy! the paper should spend a few bucks on an interface designer or human factors engineer.

Digression 2
Look at the four featured homes in West (the LAT Sunday magazine). Aren't the views amazing? Do you notice something that the homes have in common besides that?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Driveway Moment

I came home from work last night while KPCC aired This American Life. I was so riveted, I stayed in the car until the end of Dan Savage's monologue. The episode airs today on most public radio stations. If you miss it, you can listen to it at the This American Life website.

Today's episode deals with "What I learned from TV". Dan Savage was so poignant, funny and spot on in his observations. DS's son, and Iris, love the Disney show, "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody". That show creeps me out but I never understood why until DS deconstructed the show in his monologue.

Just as DS, growing up in a straight family, learned about what it was like to be a gay man from TV, his straight son, growing up with two daddies, is learning about straight life from TV. "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" is not worthy of emulation. DS objects to the rampant stereotyping, especially the sex-crazy portrayal of 10 year old Zack who constantly harasses 17 year old Maddie, who works at the hotel, for dates.

I agree with everything DS said about the show. But I would add, "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" plays workplace sexual harassment for laughs. I don't want Iris to grow up accepting that as normal and acceptable behavior.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Get Out of Jail Free

I signed up for Wardrobe Refashion 2007 back in January. I pledged not to buy any new mass manufactured clothes for two months. During that time, I could buy used or handmade clothes, remake used clothes or make them from scratch.

Well, we had a family emergency (and also a minor health relapse for me) and my sewing and knitting time disappeared. I did manage to organize my closet and repair most of the clothes that needed it. It seemed like I had more clothes because I was simply reaching deeper into my closet. That alone makes the wardrobe refashion pledge worthwhile.

Anyhow, I got some bad medical news the other day which sent me shopping. At first, I stuck to the pledge and bought some spring Vogue and Burda patterns releases and some quilt batting.

Then Iris needed new shoes and her nanny, who had been a real lifesaver during this crisis, deserved a present. Who knew that black Mary Janes are a fall item and that I couldn't find them in March? I dragged Iris to every place that sold children's shoes in the mall--no small feat--but we couldn't locate a single pair of black leather Mary Janes in her size. We also looked for a pretty hair accessory with roses for her nanny, but struck out.

We did have a few minutes to kill before meeting Mark for lunch so I perused the sale rack at Nordstrom. Oooh, bad idea. The Eileen Fisher High Neck Steel Satin jacket I had admired since last fall was on sale for 40% off; it was even in my size. I tried it on and it was perfect.

What about the pledge? 40% off a lot is still a lot and I don't need another jacket. I just wanted it very badly. I put it on hold and we went off to meet Mark for lunch at the appointed time and brasserie.

I sat down and told Mark about the jacket that I was not going to buy. He asked if it cost less than x hundred dollars. Yes, it was substantially less than that. Then he said, "If you like it, I don't understand why you don't just buy it. You don't need to discuss any purchase that size with me. Besides, you need something to cheer you up."

You could think, "What a great guy!" But we've been married for some time. I thought, "Uh-oh, what x hundred dollar item does he want?" A new DVD player that displays twice the number of interlaced lines as the old one is on its way to our house.

Quid pro quo. But I love the jacket. It goes perfectly with a dark taupe skirt that I sewed from a discontinued Calvin Klein pattern. It's too bad that the skirt doesn't show in the picture above.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Marie Antoinette Movie Costumes


I posted a Flickr slide show of the pictures I wrote about in Serendipity. Click on the photo above to go to the slide show. Click on Serendipity to learn more about the exhibition.
Serendipitously, we ran across the Los Angeles-Italia Film, Fashion and Art Fest. An Italian designer, Milena Canonero, was up for best costume design for the film, Marie Antoinette. Several dresses were on display and the security guard let me photograph them with the flash turned off.
Milena Canonero won a well-deserved Oscar for this work. The stitchers all deserve a standing ovation. You cannot believe the quality of this work. The seams and all the details were absolutely perfect.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Riverside Museums

A friend and I took a vacation day last Friday to see Material Girls at the Riverside Art Museum. Of course, we waited until the last week to see the show. By the time you read this, it has already closed. It is too bad because all the art in the show was worth seeing.

I really liked the above dresses in unconventional materials. Unfortunately, I forgot the artist's name. They are made in silver vinyl with pink fake fur, pink clear vinyl, metal window screening, glue gun stick, and twigs. Click on the close-up of the pink dress and you might be able to read the words detailing all the multiple things mothers do in the course of their day. It sounds like a day in my life.

The Riverside Art Museum is housed in the former YWCA building which was designed by Julia Morgan. The museum is worth a visit even for the architecture alone. Afterwards, we ate lunch in the lovely atrium.

It hadn't occurred to us that Riverside would have two museums near the Mission Inn. When we asked directions, we were first directed to the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. Once we saw the banner outside for "A Celebration of Japan's Textile and Costume Traditions", we had to go in.

There were several gorgeous wedding kimonos.

Click on the close-up of the embroidery for a higher-res image.

The shading of the threads in another wedding kimono is incredible. Click for a close-up.

There were humbler costumes like this indigo ikat farmer's outfit. The farmers lead such hard lives, yet managed to surround themselves with beauty through great effort. It is such a contrast to "fast fashion".


I dabble in shibori sometimes. See the Shibori Slideshow and Dye Workshop for photos of the process.

Friday, March 09, 2007

It's Showtime for Scientists

The LA Times ran a story about a science teacher today. Check out the video of explosive classroom techniques.

The story brings back memories of happy youthful days in Berkeley's Pimental Lecture Hall. The hall is round and mostly underground. Students enter at ground level and step down into the theater. The stage is a smaller circle and divided up into three 120 degree stage sections. The audience sees one set at a time. Backstage, one set is being knocked down while another is being prepared for showtime.

It takes many people to put on those shows. Someone has to do that job, why not me? I applied and worked there for nearly three years.

If you had been there in the late 1980's, you would have seen a girl wearing a purple lab coat and eye and ear protection blow hydrogen-filled soap bubbles. Then a man with a very long blowtorch would have ignited the bubble; a resulting yellow fireball would have drifted upwards inside the lecture hall.

I spent a few minutes searching the web and found the demo lab's website. You can read the job description and see the list of staff alumni. I am even listed. (Hi, Lonnie!) Check out the experiment index. Alas, in these risk adverse days, the soap bubbles have been replaced with rubber balloons and they don't do the acetylene bubbles indoors anymore. Mark and I have spent some happy hours together with acetylene torches--but not around Iris. We are not that bad.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What do I tell her?

Iris and I were playing around in the sewing room, making faces out of fabric scraps. She is quite the collage artist. Her eyesight is much better than mine; she threads the needles for both of us.

She said that she was a good sewer and I agreed. (Kids these days do not have low self esteem issues.)

She added that women make better surgeons than men because we sew better. I was at a loss for words. Yes, I have shown her pictures of her cousin, the hot-shot surgeon. She has been to many tie-dye parties where the vast majority of women hold PhDs in science. Iris assumed that the world was open to her because I showed her that it could be done.

Yet, until that moment, she didn't know that her surgeon cousin was not a mother. In fact, surgeons and scientists are rarely women at all. Even if they are women, they are rarely mothers.

I stopped breathing and looked at her to see how she took the news.

She asked why.

There were so many reasons, but I didn't want to tell her about the unfairness of it all. I wanted her to believe, for a little bit longer, that anything is possible. I changed the topic back to sewing.

Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about the moment.

We have not made much progress in the 30 years since Pat Schroeder famously said, "I have a brain and a uterus and I use both." in answer to a question about how she could be both a congresswoman and a mother.

In “Does Science Promote Women? Evidence From Academia 1973–2001,” Donna K. Ginther (University of Kansas) and Shulamit Kahn (Boston University) wrote that the gender gap in science can be entirely explained by "fertility decisions". The Atlantic Monthly has a synopsis. Those with .gov or developing country IP addresses can download the entire article without charge.

Women in traditionally male careers are not the only ones who experience the fear.

In The Motherhood Experiment, Sharon Lerner observed,
Looking at America’s fertility rate, which now hovers around replacement level, you could assume that the U.S. has escaped such problems. But in fact, it’s the relatively large families of new immigrants that are staving off a population crisis — and masking the difficulties women face when they try to “have it all.”
CIA The World Factbook: Total Fertility Rate
CIA The World Factbook: Birthrate (per 1000)
The Santa Chronicles

I have some more thoughts (and an amusing story) about relative birth rates in the US and Europe, but it will have to wait until I am less sleepy.

Have a good International Women's Day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Would you buy cookies from this face?

Iris helped her Brownie troop sell cookies in front of our neighborhood supermarket last weekend. She insisted on two pigtails.

Why? Because it's her cutest look. She said she needed to look extra cute because cute sells more cookies.

How quickly they learn.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Consuming Fashion

"I make fashion to provoke, to make you smile, whatever," said Mr. Scott, who is ranked No. 31 on The Face magazine's list of the most influential people in fashion. "It can't just be about consuming goods."

Read more about the sameness of fashion brought to you by the global luxury powerhouses and the backlash against it in the March 1, 2007 Fashion Diary in the NY Times.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stick That Up Your Light Socket

Southern California Edison wants to give me $200 for allowing them to install a remote control on my air conditioner. Oops, they will not be giving me $200 because I do not have an air conditioner.

This is akin to their program in 2001 that gave people rebates if they decreased their 2001 electricity usage (relative to 2000) by some percentage---I believe it was 10 or 20%. Of course, I didn’t qualify then because I had already reduced my electricity usage in 2000.

You see, California was being gamed by the likes of Enron during the summer of 2000. We had rolling blackouts. I was also at home, pregnant and on bed rest. It got hot up there on the second floor, especially because it was an unusually warm and muggy summer. I already mentioned that we don’t have an air conditioner. The sea breeze was weaker than usual that summer. It wouldn’t have made much difference, as I often had to close the west-facing windows anyway. My neighbor to the west didn’t want to smell up his apartment so he smoked outdoors, 5 feet away from my windows.

Oh, yeah, back to electricity and the summer of 2000. I was trying to do my bit for California by using as little electricity as possible. Also, like many pregnant women, I was very sensitive to heat. I went after every heat source in the house. I replaced the light bulbs we used most often with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFBs). I turned lights off whenever I left the room. I made Mark hang our laundry out on the clothesline. I put power strips everywhere so that I could shut off energy vampires (electronics) not in use. (They also protected the electronics from power surges, which happened frequently that summer.)

For all this effort, I got no reward---unless you count Governor Schwarzenegger. ;-) If I had been wasteful in 2000, then I would have been financially rewarded in 2001. If I had put in an air conditioner when we replaced the furnace, SCE would have given me $200 today. Oh, well.

Now, California’s legislators are talking about banning incandescent light bulbs altogether. There are so many more productive ways they can spend their time. Where to start?

First, CFBs cannot completely replace incandescent bulbs. Most CFBs hum when used in dimmable light fixtures. The few (and expensive) dimmable CFBs on the market do not have the same dynamic range as incandescent bulbs. Since CFBs take up to 15 minutes to reach maximum brightness, you wouldn’t want to use them for lights that are used only for short periods of time--say in a closet, a refrigerator or a bathroom.

There are also aesthetic considerations. Many things look more appealing under incandescent lights than under CFBs. This argument is becoming weaker as the CFBs continue to improve. In 2006, our first CFBs burned out and I replaced them with new ones. Because I had the old and new bulbs in the same room, I could immediately tell that the new ones gave off a more pleasant color spectrum than the old, first generation ones.

In my sewing room, I have 1 halogen, 1 incandescent, 1 CFB and 2 Ott-lights (“full-spectrum” fluorescent lights used by crafters). When working after dark, I like to check my color choices under all the different light sources. I also find that mixing the light source types produces less of a color bias.

If my overall electricity usage is much lower than that of most of my neighbors, why take away my choice to use incandescent light bulbs in a few places?

Slight digression
We have tiered electricity rates in California. I.e., the cost per kilowatt-hour goes up in a tiered fashion as energy usage goes up (baseline, 130% of baseline, 200% of baseline, etc). However, the baseline depends on where you live. Take a look at the baseline region map. The people who live near the coast subsidize the people who live inland because we don’t “need” air conditioners as much.

This is insane. People who live near the coast already pay a huge housing premium, and live in older and smaller homes on smaller lots. Yet we are forced to subsidize the electricity for all the new huge McMansions being built inland with their soaring cathedral ceilings and large lots. (Electricity use climbs with total volume of air that is cooled. Taller ceilings and more square feet = more total volume.) Why aren’t our elected officials debating that in Sacramento?

  • SCE FAQs about Baseline
  • SCE Baseline Allocation Chart (click on the Baseline Region Map)
  • The Power of Less The cheapest energy source is the one that you didn't use. You must read this wonderful article about energy conservation pioneer, Art Rosenfeld. That's only one of the 25 Brilliant California ideas (many green) in the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of California Monthly.
  • Procrastination and Climate Change thoughts about work, climate change, and my personal involvement.
  • Spectra of Fluorescent Light Bulbs from the LED Museum. See for yourself that some light bulbs are more "full spectrum" than others.
  • Tokyo Air Conditioners Heat Up Outside Air. The second law of thermodynamics applies to air conditioning use. "A study by scientists at several scientific institutions in Tokyo has found that the heat waste from office air conditioning units is causing a 1º - 2 º C temperature increase in the Tokyo office areas. This heating promotes the heat-island phenomenon in Tokyo on weekdays." The link goes to the current American Meteorological Society, AMS, Science Highlights. The paper is in the January 2007 AMS Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.
  • Setting future energy consumption targets based on past profligacy is counterproductive and unfair. I previously wrote about it in On Time and MPG. That's also the Kyoto Protocol's major flaw. If you were not a developed (major energy consuming) nation in 1990, would you sign the treaty?
  • There are medical reasons why people need to avoid fluorescent lights. While the level of UV light emitted by fluorescent lights is safe for most people, it causes skin cancer and/or burns on people with a rare disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. The daughter of some friends suffers from this disease; they cannot use any light bulbs in the house more powerful than a 50 watt incandescent bulb. While the Australian law gives medical exemptions, would they have to bring over their own light bulbs when they come over for a playdate?
I get my CFBs at Costco and IKEA. They carry a selection of CFBs at very reasonable prices. IKEA accepts used CFBs for recycling in their customer service area. When buying multi-packs at Costco, I buy several sizes and split the packs with other families. That way, we each get the wattages we need. We put the used CFBs in the box for hazardous household waste in the garage. Because of the density in coastal LA, services like IKEA and hazardous waste collection sites are always nearby.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Closet Therapy

I have been cleaning out the closets again. We got rid of the hanging shelves--the kind that attaches to the hanger rods. Mark and I assembled this Pax 20" wide by 14" deep shelf one night after putting Iris to bed.

In the morning, when I showed this sight to Iris, she exclaimed, "It's beautiful!" It does make me happy to step into the closet in the morning and see everything neatly sorted and stacked.

The handknits are on upper shelves to the left. Note the lavender cabled shrug trailing over the lower hanging rod.