Wednesday, February 27, 2008

KGOY Kids Getting Old Younger

cosmetic companies and retailers increasingly aim their sophisticated products and service packages squarely at 6- to 9-year-olds, who are being transformed into savvy beauty consumers before they’re out of elementary school.
Read more in Never Too Young for That First Pedicure.

Why would you bring your child into a smelly salon? Why would you deliberately expose your children to toxic chemicals? Why is our society so obsessed with nails that nail salons would pop up in every strip mall? Why do we subject poor women who work in nail salons to the chemicals without a gas mask?

(I know the women know that their job makes them sick. They wear the gauze masks thinking that it offers them protection, but it doesn't do anything against the fumes.)

Look at this winning high school science project.
Michael Ding, 16, a junior at Glen Cove High School in Glen Cove, N.Y., decided on his study topic "after my mother complained about feeling dizzy after using nail polish." Ding found that 59 percent of nail products in three drugstores he canvassed contained ingredients known to be harmful to health. Moreover, one in eight nail products had no list of ingredients, in violation of Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Ding interviewed 239 girls at his high school and found that a third had experienced dizziness, nausea, allergies or headaches after applying nail polish. He also found that a third began painting their nails before they were 6 years old.
It snowed tonight. At sea level in Virginia Beach! What a time to lose my gloves. Brrr.

Tonight, I sought out a non-smoking restaurant. Last night, I ate in a restaurant that was so smoky, I had to take a shower and wash my hair right away. Because I couldn't stand the offgassing from my clothes, I washed everything I wore except for my coat in the bathroom sink. I put my coat on the balcony to air out. I miss California.

It has been a very productive meeting, though.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Another senseless act of beauty

I am watching "the Gates", a documentary about Christo and Jeanne Claude's struggle to create a snake of 7,500 saffron-colored gates through New York City's Central Park. I really liked the part when Christo was asked if he was making a gift to the city after September 11. He replied that they were doing it for no other reason besides that they wanted to.

Read more about the 6-part HBO series in the LA Times.

I also like the observations of many of the onlookers. One said something to the effect that most people experience art for about 30 seconds. They can't do that with the Gates.

The Gates just go on and on. Drive-by art appreciation would be impossible. Isn't that great?

I am at a meeting in Virginia Beach. My room overlooks the Atlantic ocean. When I walked in yesterday to my room for the first time, I was feeling road-weary and lonely. Then I looked at the ocean. Isn't it remarkable that I was walking along the Pacific ocean with my family on Saturday and, by Monday, gazing at the Atlantic?

It rained here today. I like to watch the rain, the wind and the ocean.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

February 2008 Rainfall II

The raingauge at Chez BadMom read 1.5" this morning even though it was slightly tilted over. Had it been perfectly upright, it might have held even more water.

The California-Nevada River Forecast Center shows that nearby spots received just under 1" in the last 24 hours. Breathing Treatment also wonders why my gauge readings are a little bit higher than at his house, only a few miles away.

My house is on a relatively flat area about 2 miles from the ocean. Two bands of hills (really sand dunes) stand between us and the ocean so there is no hope of ocean views unless we build an 80 foot tall house. If we were on the seaward side of a hill, we would expect higher rainfall due to orographic forcing. (That's fancy talk for the air moves uphill and the water condenses out of the air as it rises and cools.)

Rob of Are you cereus? explained that the area behind a hill also receives elevated rainfall. The water doesn't condense and start falling right away. In that time lag, the wind will carry the condensing water droplets downwind.

Additionally, the air that comes up and over the dunes can come slamming back downward in a bouyancy wave. So, there is an upside to living in Felony Flats, leeward of 140-160 foot sand dunes (Hermosa View, RB's Golden Hills, Manhattan Hill District and Manhattan Heights. I get more free water falling out of the sky and require less irrigation water.

[Incidentally, developers have been razing the small beach shacks in those areas and erecting massive houses on those sand dunes. Not surprisingly, those homes develop foundation problems very quickly.]

Past posts in the LA rainfall series:
February 2008 Rainfall
When is a moderate drought good news? Lots of rainfall statistics links there.
The whole meteorology thread.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

February 2008 Rainfall

I haven't been keeping careful track of the running rainfall total at my house like Breathing Treatment. I often forget to check and empty it out for weeks at a time. Mine is on a stake and sometimes blows over, making the readings lower than the actual rainfall. It is probably not very accurate. However, I emptied 0.5 inches from the rain gauge yesterday morning.

I listed a bunch of useful Los Angeles rainfall statistics links in When is a moderate drought good news? The good news is that the the US Drought Monitor shows our area has been downgraded from moderate drought to abnormally dry. (The map is clickable if you want to see a regional map.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How Alert!

Wandering Scientist has been discussing sleep (or lack of it) since she became a mother. I have been keeping mum about some of the not so warm and fuzzy aspects of motherhood. I don't want to scare future breeders and cause birthrates to plummet even further. But, I don't want others to be as surprised as we were. And, it may provide comfort.

When Iris was a newborn, staff at the hospital kept remarking, "How alert!" when they saw her huge beautiful eyes. (They were a dark grey with navy blue rims. I got lost in them for hours at a time.) That should have been a clue. What kind of newborn is open-eyed for hours at a time?

First time parents, we had no idea that they were really saying, "You are never going to get a full night of sleep again." Some babies are naturally more alert than others. They are more aware of their surroundings and require much less sleep than normal babies. While the other newborns doze in the nursery, super alert babies stand out because they appear to be studying their surroundings with wide open eyes.

Forget about all those parenting books' estimates that say "your baby should be sleeping x hours per day by this age. " You can scale those numbers down by a factor based upon past performance.

Eventually, she did sleep 3-5 hours at a time during the night. We co-slept and Iris and I became adept at breastfeeding while semi-dozing. My goal was to breastfeed her through her first two flu seasons; she was born in November 2000. In May 2002, I weaned her. That meant that we lost the only reliable means to put her to sleep. Eventually, she learned to sleep through the night, about 6 hours at a time.

Mark and I were high-fiving each other when, in late June, she taught us not to count your chickens (or hours of sleep) too soon.

We had rented a Chautauqua cabin in Boulder, CO. The cabins are spaced closely together. They are not air conditioned so everyone sleeps with their windows wide open.

What a great place for Iris to wake up screaming. She continued screaming for two more hours. She was inconsolable. She didn't respond to any of our normal methods of soothing her. In desperation, we called our pediatrician back in Los Angeles.

The triage nurse who answered the phone understood the problem immediately. She asked if we were first time parents. "Why, yes. How did she know? "

"Because you haven't heard about night terrors yet. She is just having a night terror. " She explained that Iris didn't respond because she wasn't really awake. 18 months was awfully young for onset; it usually starts at 2 or 3. She continued, "Congratulations, you have a highly imaginative child. It usually happens to imaginative children." Imaginative and precocious.

Mark took her outside, walked her round and round, and she calmed after 10 more minutes of screaming. Maybe the night air woke her up. Maybe she noticed the beauty of the moon. She was a happy baby when he brought her back to bed.

The next morning, the manager of the Chautauqua came by to talk to us. It appears that someone in another cabin had turned us in for possible child abuse.

That's all for now. We will discuss the night-time wheezing and sleep apnea later. It is a saga with no end.

Where is satellite USA 193?

And how fast is the orbit decaying?

Heavens Above displays the orbital data for USA-193 in a highly informative way. Along with the real-time ground track and current position, they show the view from above the satellite and above the orbital plane. They also show the two-line elements and which number is which. If you don't know your apogee from a perigee, this is a good place to start.

Go see Heavens Above's display.

A 58.5 degree inclination orbit puts the satellite over a great deal of populated land. (0 degrees inclination means a satellite flies over the equator. 90 degrees inclination means the satellite flies over the poles. An inclination greater than 90 degrees means the satellite retrogrades.)

Try tracking the satellite yourself by installing and running John A. Magliacane's Predict program which runs on any Unix platform. I posted step by step instructions for the Mac OS X port in DIY Satellite Tracking.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marketing to your target demographic

One particularly revealing passage may surprise some readers about how well-refined political campaigns have become in their research and determining our political leanings and distastes from seemingly superficial tastes. This enables them to "micro-target" messages to numerous niches, which is what is invisibly going on right now and will continue through Nov. 4.
Read about it at Top of the Ticket, the LA Times politics blog.

Speaking of marketing niches, take a look at the Community Tapestry data at ESRI.
Community Tapestry, ESRI's market segmentation system, classifies U.S. neighborhoods into 65 segments based on their socioeconomic and demographic composition. Segmentation explains customer diversity, describes lifestyles and lifestages, and incorporates a wide range of data such as demographic, business, and market potential data.
Type in a zip code. Type in the zip code of everyone you know! It is more entertaining than Tarot.

They are very good at their specialty, gathering and interpreting information. They glean all this from publicly available records and leased magazine subscriber databases.

In 2002, they acquired CACI Marketing Systems, of ACORN market segmentation fame. CACI may also sound familiar to people who followed the events at Abu Ghraib.
CACI International Inc. could be barred from future federal contracts, following revelations that Army officials hired prison interrogators for Iraq from CACI using a computer services contract that the Interior Department administered.
But it looks like the high-stress interrogations were done by the part of CACI that ESRI did not buy. Whew.

Information gathering is a murky business.

Eating Seasonally

It is commonly lamented that the best dishes at Chinese restaurants are not on the menu. Of course they are not. Why would they print foods available only at certain times of the year on the year round menu? The best stuff is written on the wall, in Chinese. If you are like me and don't read Chinese very well, you can always ask the waiter, "What's fresh?" Sometimes, they will take pity on you and tell you about the good stuff.

Like right now, the snow pea shoots are in season. When they thin out the snow peas, they save the tender greens and fry them up quickly with oil and garlic. Delicious!

Iris likes to pair the sweetness of the shoots with the salty crunchiness of Salt and Pepper Squid.

Speaking of seasonal foods, we attended a Burn's night party a couple of weeks ago. We ate all sorts of characteristically Scottish foods like Haggis, fried Milky Way Bars and a cake called Spotted Dick.

It comes out of a can. Don't ask the identity of the charming reveler posing in this photograph. There was a blind taste-testing of several varieties of Scotch...

The host describes the evening.
Wikipedia explains the Burns night supper.

When we first arrived, I chatted with a very nice young man who introduced himself as Brad. He spoke so knowledgeably about so many subjects, I asked him what he did. He said he was trying to sell an idea for a TV show. Every other person in LA appears to be doing that.

So I asked him what he did to earn a living while trying to produce a TV show. He said he was fortunate enough not to have to do anything because of a stint on a TV show early in his adult life. He's not just nice, he has his own wikipedia entry. That explains everything.

Shibori Knitting

I wanted to make the Angel Puff Scarf from Nicky Epstein's Knitting Never Felt Better. The miles of stockinette didn't appeal so I bought a Bond knitting machine. The tip in the book about how this was a good project for a knitting machine also sent me shopping.

I am not a good machine knitter. This thing was so frustrating--not Zen or relaxing at all. I thought this would make a good learning project for the Bond knitting machine. The unevenness, the dropped edge stitches, the skipped stitches... I figured, it won't show once I felt it. Wrong.

I could not get the machine to work once the scarf got long enough to touch the ground. In frustration, I turned it around and put the starting end on the hooks and knit from there. As you can see, I flipped the orientation by accident.

I used small marbles and ran it through the hot wash cycle twice (in a mesh bag). Iris helped with the Bond machine and tied a few marbles before getting bored and going back to her book. (She reread Harry Potter 7 last weekend.)

The way it looks in the book, made with Kidsilk Haze.

I used Sensations Kashmira, a feltable sportweight wool on sale at Joann's. It is a nice springy plied yarn, but has many flaws. I have sensitive skin, but did not find it is not too scratchy.

I will likely try again in pink for Iris. This time, I plan to taper it in the middle at the back of the neck and point the ends.

I love the pin I bought from Merry Wennerberg. She sells antique and reproduction buttons and jewelry made from buttons. The top one is Victorian, the middle button and the bottom belt buckle are from the 1930s. The Button Box, Mission Viejo, CA (949)581-9663

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More thoughts about BCAM

We hired a babysitter so we could go to the reception on Friday night. We dithered about taking Iris, but ultimately decided against it. I had heard that there would be a healthy dose of Jeff Koons and some of his stuff is not appropriate for Iris' developmental age. Or rather, I didn't want to answer some questions that might arise. (Little did I know that some of Cindy Sherman's work might elicit questions that I also don't want to answer.)

When we worked our way down to the bottom floor where the Richard Serra works reside, I sorta did wish we brought Iris. You should have seen the joy on this kid's face as he raced round and round the Torqued Ellipses. Even with the crowds, it was incredibly moving to walk between the massive steel walls. I liked the newer work, "Band", quite a bit. Mark felt quite meh about it. But you have to look up close at the surface of Band. Serra refined his rust technique so that the sculpture resembled a monochrome abstract expressionist painting that just went on and on. The surface of Torqued Ellipses was never as interesting.

Mark and I saw Torqued Ellipses (I don't know which version; there are several) eons ago at the Temporary Contemporary, now the Geffen Contemporary. The TC/GC has a platform from which you can view the rest of the cavernous gallery. It was a wonderful way to view the Torqued Ellipses because you could experience it from ground level, and then step back to take the whole thing in.

At BCAM, the first floor gallery seemed only slightly higher than the monumental sculptures. Additionally, they were on either side of the central hall (and glass elevator) so that one cannot step back and view the sculptures in their entirety. It is a lost opportunity.

Remember how Iris caught me completely unprepared for the birds and the bees discussion in MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency? How do you explain the coupling of Jeff Koons and Cicciolina? Or Cindy Sherman's rubber ahem? On second thought, the sitter was a good idea.
For the record, I thought Cindy Sherman was making a valid point and I would call that art.

Richard Serra's Outsized Vision
Tyler Green over at Modern Art Notes has been following Eli Broad's ego for some time. Read his recap and analysis of the brouhaha.
He pointed out this unintentionally hilarious interview with Broad.
The NY Times is similarly puzzled about the non-gift.
I wish they had built the Rem Koolhaas design below (picture from the NYT).

The new Renzo Piano design does a poor job of linking to the street. They took out the street light in front of the new entrance! You have to walk one block away, to the old entrance, to cross Wilshire. But, you won't be able to enter there because they closed that gate. You have to walk all the way back to the new entrance. Crazy urban design, no?

Christopher Hawthorne takes LACMA to task:
Last April, the Los Angeles Planning Commission endorsed a list of 14 aggressive principles to help make the city more livable. The first sentence of the plan was blunt: "Demand a walkable city."

But demanding and creating are two very different things. Too often in Los Angeles, city officials still give cars and the free flow of traffic almost automatic planning priority over pedestrians.

A recent case in point involves a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art...

The short version goes like this: The DOT refused to approve the new lane unless the museum also was willing to remove the stoplight and crosswalks at the intersection and extend the median strip running down the center of Wilshire.

The sum effect of the changes to the intersection, carried out last fall, has been to seal the south side of the boulevard off from the north right where the LACMA campus has established its new center of gravity.
See the previous post, BCAM Opening.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BCAM Opening

Mark and I were invited to a reception and BCAM preview at LACMA tonight. BCAM will be open to the public starting tomorrow. Click here to obtain free tickets.

The Broad collection was hit and miss. We saw some great stuff, and some not so great stuff. Frankly, I am relieved that Eli Broad reneged on his promise to donate his collection to LACMA. That way, the museum doesn't have to be obligated to display some of the lesser works.

I love this piece, though. It reminds me of being a child and playing under the table while the grownups sat at the table, chatting and drinking tea.

We explored the new walkway between BCAM and the Ahmanson building. What did I see at the top of the stairs between street and plaza level? I could hardly contain my excitement. Unfortunately, this example of El Anatsui's Gawa series is on loan from an anonymous patron. Maybe they will donate it to the museum. It looks great in that space.

They served a very nice dinner with wine and dessert. We met many interesting people, including International Chanteuse Morganne. She had the most incredible feathered headdress. Go to her official site to see the headdress in better light.

See also More thoughts about BCAM.

Full Hearts

Sometimes, when I catch a cold, or am stressed out, or the pollen/pollution levels are high, my treacherous white blood cells attack me. When they attack my eyes, I lose vision temporarily. When they attack my throat, I lose my voice temporarily. 2 days ago, I noticed the telltale signs in my left eye and in my throat. I left work early on Valentine's day to visit the eye doctor.

I will likely have to cancel my trip to the meeting on the east coast next week. Feeling rather sorry for myself, I drove home. (Don't worry, I can still see, though bright lights are very uncomfortable.) I took the route that takes me past Iris' school. What did I see? I thought my heart would burst from the sight.

A living, breathing Valentine. Can you see the shadow hearts?

I blogged about the sweater here (on my sister's blog). It's the shadow hearts sweater from Vivian Hoxbro's Shadow Knitting book.

2.5 years later, the sweater is still too big. See the heart buttons purchased from Britex fabrics? At the time I bought them, I didn't know what I would use them for, but knew they would be perfect for something.

If you read the original sweater post, you may also wish to read Size Matters II and III. But you have to promise that you are over 18 before you click on that link.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day Bystander

Once upon a time, I celebrated Valentine's day with handmade gifts for my sweetie. Look at this paper-pieced Mariner's compass with heart fabric. I was so focused on finishing it in time, that I forgot to take out the tracing paper backing. Thus, the pillow crinkles slightly when we squish it.

I made Mark a red and white Irish chain, my very first hand-quilted quilt. (We were newlywed then.) Because he never seems to stand still, I thought it was appropriate to use a lightning heraldic crest from the book, Japanese Design Motifs.

This year, I am too tired to do much of anything. Iris says she has an idea of a surprise for daddy. I can't say anything here before the fact.

Yesterday, Iris' school closed in observance of Lincoln's birthday. I had to work so I took her in with me. She charmed everyone she met at the office and lab. She loved the lab tour. Today, I discovered the Valentine that she hid in my office for me. It is so heart meltingly cute. Stay tuned for the photo.

I just noticed that I sewed everything shown in the top photo. I made the daybed cover, shams and skirt. The throw pillow is one of two made out of a pink chenille towel.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cuteness and Serendipity

The pile of unread Atlantic Monthly magazines on my coffee table keeps growing. For some reason, there is always something else that requires my attention. At my in laws' house, I managed to read two issues. Go figure.

Did you read James Fallows' Panda Land article? See the slide show.

The on-line only slide show led me to look at the on-line version of the article which led me to Fallows' blog which led me to Kevin Kelly's essay, Better than Free, about possible business models for giving away information for free.
Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.
When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.
Instead of despair, he wrote up 8 models for making a living off of creating free quality content. Perhaps you will read his ideas and come up with more.

Speaking of that, have you read James Fallows' books, Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy and More Like Us?

Iris wants to start her own website (really an on-line weekly magazine) and buy her own domain. I have been trying to explain ICANN, URLs, domain registries and web hosting to her. Does anyone know of a primer written at a pre-teen or teen level?

We played around with creating html with Microsoft word, but it proved to be too clunky for her. Please leave a comment if you have created a web page with a child with your lessons learned. Thanks.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Onesies, Twosies

A funeral brings Iris' aunt and cousin for a visit on short notice. People react to death in different ways. I make baby clothes.

Iris' second grade teacher left at winter break on maternity leave. Iris also left the class and entered third grade after the break. By procrastinating, I was able to learn that she had a girl.

Her two year old cousin gets a dress with matching panties and leggings. Her mom says she never has enough pants to last until the next wash day. This should help.

Notice how I used the "sickly mauve of blue-rinse hair" that Suzy Menkes, fashion editor for the International Herald Tribune, hates so much. Dharma Trading calls it Plum Blossom and I love the color.

Iris and I owe you a better picture of our mommy and me tulip skirts (aka An Affair to Remember aka butt skirt) from Annie Modesitt's Romantic Knits. We will take some daylight pix with the cover vantage point later.

Mommy Blogging Part 3

I forgot to add a link to Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can Balance Family and Careers by Mary Ann Mason and Eve Mason Ekman. I read about the book in the UC Berkeley News article, New book outlines discrimination against moms.
After all, the "make-it-or-break-it" years, according to Mason, are between ages 30 and 40, when both men and women must make their professional mark. Yet, it is also during these years that women hear their biological clocks ticking most loudly and the pressure to start a family crests.

Mommy Blogging, Part 2

The blogosphere lit up after Salon published a "Dear Cary" (advice column) letter, I get grossed out when I hear, "I'm a mom!" A thirty year old married woman is planning to have children soon, and quit her job to stay at home with them, but she doesn't want to end up self-identifying as just a mom.
I realize that being a mother is fun and rewarding, and all-consuming at times, but why does it have to be the primary identifying factor in some women's lives? I would think being a mother is sort of a family affair, and making it your calling card, so to speak, is no more appropriate than saying, "I'm a wife."
I don't plan on working in an office when I have small children -- I want to be at home and my husband agrees -- but I'll be damned if rearing children is all I'll do for five to 10 years.
She didn't mention the part about motherhood being physically and emotionally arduous and dangerous. She will learn that soon enough.

[I wonder if women who self-identify as mothers only are merely echoing back the message society sends them.]

Moreover, she is planning on being financially dependent upon her husband while the children are young and then returning to the workplace when they are older. Good luck with trying to find a job after the mommy resume gap. From Off to Work She Should Go:
The Center for Work-Life Policy, a research organization founded by Sylvia Ann Hewlett of Columbia, found that women lose an average of 18 percent of their earning power when they temporarily leave the work force. Women in business sectors lose 28 percent.

And despite the happy talk of “on ramps” back in, only 40 percent of even high-powered professionals get back to full-time work at all.
From the likes of the letter, it sounds like she works in an office at something that is less than a calling. Perhaps she is in the set of mothers that will lose 28 percent of their earning power.

Grasshopper has much to learn.

I covered much of this territory last April in Mommy Blogging.

It is worth noting that women don't generally refer to themselves as wives anymore. Women don't usually leave the paid workforce any more when they get married. For the most part, the workload and subtle discrimination doesn't hit the tipping point until women become mothers. In The Second Shift, Arlie Hochschild found the tipping point generally occurs after the birth of the second child.

A friend says that no one in the media has picked up that staying home makes more sense AFTER the children are in elementary school. I agree with her.

Daycare centers are much more working mommy-friendly than schools. They are open much longer hours, they don't expect volunteers at the center and they provide all the class materials. Wait till you see the treasure hunt shopping lists that the schools send home with your kids! Additionally, all the school teacher training and prep days catch working parents by surprise. Add the way the schools always call the mothers, not the fathers, about every sniffle and forgotten lunch...

Enrichment activity providers come to daycare centers instead of expecting the children to come to them. They understand that the children attend daycare centers because both their parents work. Once the children enter the school system, all that stops. There is so much more kid schlepping as they get older. I don't know why people tell me that "it just gets easier and easier" as the children get older.

FYI I describe myself at parties and such as a scientist with both a special needs child and a special needs husband. I deserve credit for all the difficult roles I play.

Has anyone read the Word Court in the back of the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly? WC deals with how to describe when you are trying to conceive a child, but not yet pregnant--the position of the Dear Cary letter writer. The March issue is not yet online so check back in month if you don't subscribe to the hard copy. (You really should subscribe and help pay their excellent writers. )

Also, don't miss Lori Gottlieb's article, Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough.

Cloud's comment brought Universal Sorrow to mind. Motherhood changed my persona forever.

I have two friends that left the workplace AFTER their first child hit elementary school age. That's when kids most need their parents' guidance. I understand that is the less financially feasible option. Isn't it crazy that financial considerations trump developmental concerns?

The whole act of bearing and raising children in the post-industrial era runs counter to parents' economic self-interest. Yet, we let economics rule how families divide up their work and time.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Different Kind of Bathtub Ring

The earth's atmosphere is often explained as a shallow pan of fluid atop the surface of the solid earth. It is a very large bathtub. So why should we be surprised to see a global-scale bathtub ring from space?

Read Dust Storms Overseas Carry Contaminants to U.S. There are huge clouds of dust traveling the rivers overhead. The dust carries heavy metals, toxins, insects, bacteria and viruses. Who needs jet travel to spread SARS when you have the jet stream?

I had thought it was a pacific northwest problem, but I learned that "authorities in Los Angeles estimate that on some days, one-quarter of the city's smog comes from China."

I downloaded the hemispherical view of the jet stream analysis from the California Regional Weather Service.

Check out NASA's MODIS picture of the day archive. A remarkable number of them are of severe dust events.

Look at my photos of the Fox Glacier. The guides told us that the reddish dust were deposited from the Australian outback during severe dust events.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Marie Antoinette Costumes and More at FIDM


In case you missed the exhibit of Marie Antoinette movie costumes in Hollywood last year, they will be on display at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
With great pleasure and excitement, FIDM has announced that the "16th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition" will adorn FIDM's Museum & Galleries at the Los Angeles Campus from January 28 through April 12.
(The exhibition will be closed March 21-23.)

Costumes from some of the top films of 2007 will be on display, along with costumes from the film that won the Academy Award™ for Best Costume in 2007, Marie Antoinette. Here's just a taste of the variety of films whose costumes you'll see in the Museum & Galleries during this history-making exhibition: Atonement, The Golden Compass, Enchanted, Hairspray, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Beowulf, 300, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Nancy Drew.

The exhibition is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free to the public.
Learn more here. (Click on the address and directions link.) If you can't make it in person, go see the online exhibit.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not So Minimalist Laptop Case

Now that I work in a computer science research group, my new boss ordered a fancy laptop for me. The standard issue laptop case at my company weighs more than the laptop. I declined one and decided to make my own.

The minimalism of the camera case bothered me somewhat. With all those wonderful colors to play with, why did I make it out of one monochromatic piece? I vowed to lavish a little bit more time on the laptop case.

It is still monochromatic, but much less boring. I call this the front because the first side didn't look right. I forgot how to sew a stem stitch; after consulting with by Judith Baker Montano's Elegant Stitches, it came back.

I cut apart two thrift store sweaters that had been run through the washer and dryer a couple of times. I laid the laptop on one sweater and drew lines around it (allowing for the thickness of the laptop and the seam allowance) with a purple air-erasable pen. The laptop will sit in my backpack or rolling briefcase the tall way. I sewed the bottom seam first.

Then I cut a thick jacquard piece from a second sweater to pad the bottom. I serged the long sides of the rectangle and topstitched it to the bottom of the case.

There were leftover pieces on the side which I cut freehand with the rotary cutter into leaves. I serged the edges of one leaf and decided I preferred them raw-edged. I embroidered stems with stem stitch and sewed the leaves down the middle with a running stitch. I added some leaf veins. You can see better from the back.

Finally, I sewed the side seams. Don't forget to fold over the top flap on the INSIDE when you sew the side seams!

Not so minimalist now. I have to fly to the east coast two weeks in a row for NASA meetings this month. I feel really guilty about my carbon footprint, but I can't wait to show off my new case.

In keeping with the slow life, all materials were salvaged. The sweaters had holes in them and were bought for $1-$2 a piece in the summer, when no one else wanted them. The charcoal yarn probably came from my sister in one of her care packages of leftover bits and pieces. It feels like merino/silk. I wish she had sent more. ;-)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Slow Life and Fast Filesharing

Grandma Ann's comment to The Slow Life brought up an interesting point:
How about Slow Music, too? That's where you spend years learning to play an instrument so you can entertain your friends and family, but most of all yourself, with your own music every day. Get others to join you and have loads of fun!
I have always wondered if musicians are as likely to illegally download copyrighted music files as "laymen". If you have worked years to hone a skill, do you honor the right of someone else to make a living off their skill? Someone else studied this phenomenon and concluded that, unfortunately, musicians are actually slightly more likely to illegally download music. Oh, well.

I think about this more than the average person. I don't really make a product. I live by my wits. I am only worth what people will pay me for my analysis. Respect for intellectual property and copyright law matter to me. Of course, having reasonable IP and copyright laws that are worth upholding are also important to me. We live in interesting times.

If you have access to Ravelry, have you been following the forum about the $94 neckwarmer (stockinette tube)? It has evolved into an interesting discussion about the value of skills like hand knitting and designing. There are 370 posts so far!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Slow Life

The Slow Food movement has extended into the Slow Life. Natalie "Alabama" Chanin is quoted extensively. I preordered a copy of her new book, Alabama Stitch Book: Projects and Stories Celebrating Hand-Sewing, Quilting and Embroidery for Contemporary Sustainable Style by Natalie Chanin, Stacie Stukin, and Robert Rausch.
Slow means that Alabama Chanin is run on the tenets of the Slow Food movement, which essentially challenges one to use local ingredients harvested and put together in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Above all it emphasizes slowness in the creation and consumption of products as a corrective to the frenetic pace of 21st-century life. “Good, clean and fair” is the Slow Food credo, and it has — rather slowly — begun to make its way out of the kitchen and into the rest of the house.
I meant to say more about that, but it will have to wait until later. Gotta get Iris off the school and me off the work.