Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Democracy requires an educated electorate. In that spirit, a friend has started a blog to educate visitors about issues on the lengthy Colorado ballot. Please visit Colorado and Boulder Ballot Issues.

If you are eligible to vote in Colorado, please follow their advice to vote No on any constitutional amendments that you do not strongly support. (Actually, this makes sense for any state.) Otherwise, an energized minority can hog-tie the judiciary and elected officials, leading to the type of paralysis that afflicts California.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Edge of Disaster

Iris: Mommy, sometimes I see really horrible things.

Me: What kind of things?

Iris: When I see something sharp, like a knife, I think that it could cut me.

Me: That's just prudent.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. I imagine all sorts of possible scenarios. Fortunately, I found a career where I can put my imagination to good use. The day after I attended a meeting to discuss data replication for disaster recovery, the Yorba Linda earthquake struck.

I was reading this issue of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy at work the other day, and I wanted to share a couple of quotes.

From The Rise of Agri-Powers by Andrew Pickford:
Rome experienced a growing distance between food production and consumption when it pushed its grain producing regions out from areas around the capital, to Sicily, and then Northern Africa and Egypt, to free up land for higher value-add activities or simply leisure pursuits.
Short-term fiscal logic exerted a significant long-term cost on the unity of empire. Just as the fiscal cost of maintaining access to crude oil is prohibitive, and potentially avoidable, so was the cost to the Roman Empire of maintaining access, and control over, grain producing regions. Not only did it have to ensure open and free sea lines of communication, it also had to maintain peace and order in the grain producing provinces.
From The Strategic Earthquake by Gregory R. Copley:
The entire re-thinking of the issue of disaster response by governments and their armed forces relates to the movement of thinking which postulates that national security is a "whole of government" and even a "whole of society" engagement. The first step toward addressing large-scale natural disasters and humanitarian crises lies in recognizing that a new mindset must create linkages across government and NGO capabilities--literally across confilicting "corporate cultures"--so that more efficient capabilities can be created to resolve the longer-term effects of major disasters.
I finished reading Stephen Flynn's The Edge of Disaster over the weekend. You can listen to his four-part series on NPR.org that covers four of the areas discussed in the book. From Chapter 10, A Resilient Society:
While only the smallest percentage of us are likely to find ourselves victims of a terrorist act, at some point nearly all of us will see our lives or property endangered by a natural disaster. Those odds only climb as we continue to allow our nation to become more brittle by neglecting critical infrastructure, avoiding actions on a personal and society level that could reduce our vulnerabilities, and forgoing investments in the frontline professionals we are expecting to respond to our calls for help.
September 30 is a hazard of another kind. It is one of the few days of the year that people can cash out of hedge funds.

To counterbalance the doom and gloom, I put extra effort into dressing stylishly today. ;-) I also have two knitting and a sewing project to share as soon as I tame my to-do list and the new computer system at home. Ahh, the end of fiscal year madness, exacerbated by DH's travel schedule.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking with Dinosaurs

A coworker needed to travel on short notice and gave Iris and myself a pair of tickets to Walking with Dinosaurs at Staples Center last night. He warned us that these were cheap seats in the nosebleed section. We thought our seats were wonderful. Thanks for the tickets!
In case you have never heard of it, this is a touring stage show based upon the BBC series of the same name. The premise of the series and show is that the viewer has been transported back into time and a actor playing a paleontologist narrates the events as if observing the creatures in the wild. It is a bit hokey, but the dinosaurs were so fantastic that we didn't care.

Many of the small children were restless. Iris tried to hush kids on either side of us with no success. Best of all, I managed to drive there and back exactly on the route I plotted using the map. (Mark and I have driven around downtown in circles more than once, trying to find a suitable freeway on-ramp.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Because

I need to read about something not doom and gloom. Margaret Williams, a fellow member of the South Bay Quilters' Guild was featured in the LA Times recently.
Now I'd like to tell you how old Mrs. Williams is, "but any woman who tells you her age, will tell you anything," she says.

A Dodgers fan for life, a trip recently to Arizona to be with the team, and yet all those losses the last 20 years, and here she is sitting in a wheelchair and pumping her right hand into the air when Nomar Garciaparra hits a first-inning home run.

"That's my guy," she says, while careful not to raise her left hand, which was broken in a recent fall that also resulted in a broken hip. "Try and put a pair of pantyhose on with one hand."

Now how old did you say you were, Mrs. Williams?

"Just because I'm old, I'm not forgetful," she says. "Go ahead and try and trick me, but I'm not saying."

The woman is still teaching adult classes on how to make clothes and quilts. She's wearing an outfit she made herself. She taught her husband how to make his own clothes.

She was teacher of the year for the Los Angeles Unified School District a few decades back, and one of the founders of Project Jordan, which financially assists youngsters who have advanced from Jordan High in Watts to college.
Read the rest. She is delightful.

Dear Congress

I am not normally moved to write my congressional delegation, but I sent this email to Senators Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Representative Jane Harmon:
Don't do it! Don't vote for the bailout package until after you have had a chance to talk to your constituents and we learn more about how the banks got themselves into such a mess.

Caps on bank CEO pay, while politically appealing, don't get at the root of the problem. How did people who thought they were so smart that they didn't need regulation* get into so much trouble? How did they amass and throw away so much money? Why are they so eager now for government intervention? This was a slow-moving train wreck and there is no need to act hastily.

Don't tack on more bailouts for unfortunate homeowners. We've all heard the hard luck stories. But propping up a bubble real estate market is not the responsibility of my government. In fact, by keeping real estate priced unrealistically high, government will be robbing young and responsible families of their chance to buy an affordable home.

If we need an economic stimulus package, do not throw it at the financial services or housing industry. They already have the cut in the capital gains tax and the mortgage interest deduction.

Our nation has other pressing needs. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our public health safety net is practically non-existent. Our schools have become beggars. Our transportation system, especially in California, needs a major overhaul. Our military is involved in two foreign wars with horrific tolls on veterans' mental health. The bankers and the fools can get in line behind the rest of us.
In the Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb warned precisely against the type of "risk analysis" that was used by the brokerage houses. Their models looked only at small daily fluctuations and did look at the big picture. Actually, a lot of people warned that the pyramid scheme would come down.

BTW, did anyone else read about how some institutions lied to their own compliance departments so that they wouldn't have to stop trading when their reserves became too low? Now why would I want to help someone like that?

* Virginia rightly points out that investment banks are regulated. They just operate under looser regulations than commercial banks. I did know that, as demonstrated by the last remark about reporting false numbers to their own compliance departments. My only defense is that, my anger had momentarily blurred the distinction between hedge funds and investment banks.

US Demographics vs Vogue Demographics

[In answer to Rebekka's comment.]

The Wikipedia article, Demographics of the United States, calculates:

The U.S. population's racial distribution in 2006 was as follows:[22]

The article cites the US Census Bureau's detailed tables of estimated 2006 Demographics.

So 100% white in the editorial content is very out of proportion relative to the rest of America. The ads use 92% white (non-celebrity) professional models, which only looks progressive when compared to Anna Wintour's vision.

But those are breakdowns for the total population, not the fashion-consuming public. Fashionistas are younger than average. Older Americans are much whiter than younger Americans. The younger you look, the browner we get. In some states, non-Hispanic whites are a minority in the under 25 population. Very soon, that will be true for the US as a whole. Models are drawn mainly from the under 25 population.

That fashion advertisers and Anna Wintour don't see this is a sign of their total cluelessness. Or maybe they are worse than clueless? Either interpretation is not very flattering to them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vogue practices apartheid

I like to buy a fashion mag each September to for ideas. However, the September 2008 Vogue was a surreal experience. After the first 100 lily-white pages, I started leafing through the magazine, desperately seeking any non-white faces. Aside from Halle Berry (actress) and Kimora Lee Simmons (designer) I didn't see any black women in the entire issue. There were no non-white models in any of the editorial content.

I didn't look through the issue very carefully. I was too sickened. However, Jezebel went through the Fall mags above and made a full tally.

• Total Asian models: 7 (2 celebrity/non-models)
• Total Black models: 9 (1 celebrity/non-model)
• Total White models: 236 (14 celebrity non-models)
• Total ambiguous race/mixed race models: 9 (3 celebrity/non-models)


Fashion Spreads:
• Total Asian models: 0
• Total Black models: 0
• Total White models: 9 (1 celebrity/non-model)
• Total ambiguous race/mixed race models: 0


Booth Moore of the LAT took Jil Sanders' Raf Simmons to task for using all white models in a show that was supposedly inspired by Africa. She called it an Aryan army.

It's too bad. I liked some of the clothes very much, especially the more subtle of the fringed pieces like the one below. (Fringe is one of Iris' spelling/vocabulary words this week and we had sew much fun in the sewing room with my stash of fringe.)

Take a look at this scary model from the Jil Sander show. Somebody feed her.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where are the men?

One thing struck me about Abortion foes begin to make their case in Russia. Why are all the efforts about getting women to carry their babies to term? Why aren't they making any effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies? To persuade men to accept contraception? Why do Russian men derisively refer to condoms as "rubber raincoats" and refuse to use them? Why don't Russian women have more power in their relationships to negotiate contraceptive use?

Here is one clue:
The government is desperate to persuade citizens to bear more children. Russians are dying faster than they're being born, a trend that has emerged as one of the most serious challenges faced by this sprawling, scantily populated land.
Why not make their country a better place for mothers, with and without husbands? It's just easier to blame the women for selfishness.

Thrift Store Finds

It appears that everyone has caught the Prada lace bug. Suddenly, I want to wear lace, too. Fortunately, I bought this top years ago at a thrift store for $10, before lace became the hot look of the season. It is totally impractical. It distorts and snags easily so I can't wear a shoulder bag. It does look nice worn loose, and with the longer silk camisole tucked into trousers. Hard and soft.

This was another favorite thrift store find. I keep an eye out for garments with good buttons at thrift stores. This one came with so many buttons! $25. When I took it up to the counter to pay for it, they charged me $12.50 because it had sat around in the store for so long. Apparently, many customers thought all those buttons looked weird.

Here they are closeup.
In the end, I decided it was too much fun to wear the jacket "as is" to sacrifice it for the buttons. The tag says Lolita Lempicka (link to pix of some of her 2005 designs). Read an old NYT review from the fashion house's glory days.

I agree with Booth Moore, fashion editor for the LA Times:
I've read countless stories about how you should throw out things that you haven't worn in the last year, because you probably won't wear them again. Not so. How I wish this season that I had that pair of mid-heel, brown, lace-up shoes I bought when I lived in Washington, D.C., more than a decade ago, or that DKNY bag in raspberry and purple I carried when I first moved here, which would look so of-the-moment.

My rule: If you thought it was a beautiful piece 10 years ago, it probably still is. You just have to wait for fashion to come around to it again.
Read the entire article, Making the switch to women's fall styles.

Wardrobe Maintenance

My recent sewing burst of sewing activity is attributable to finishing the huge pile of repairs and alterations that had stacked up. That and the flu shot last Friday that made working out at the gym so unappealing.

As part of Wardrobe Refashion and the Stuff Diet, I had sorted through our family's wardrobes. Some stuff was sent off to charity or Iris' cousin. Some stuff was set aside to be refashioned. The last pile, of mending or alterations, was like a millstone about my neck. It ought to have been easy to knock them out so I can get down to the fun stuff. I wish. It took months to get through that stack.

I watched as Summerset sewed new school wardrobes for her kids. She mentioned in one post that she aims for about a ~6-8 outfits for either warm and cool weather. In LA, we only have mild weather so Iris should need less, right?

Iris has 17 skirts and 16 dresses. This, after 2 dresses were demoted to nightgowns and 3 nightgowns were retired (one to her cousin, one to the trash, one to the rag bag). She still has plans for more clothes that she wants me to sew.

I was also surprised to learn that Bad Dad has 5 pairs of presentable black jeans and only 2 pairs of blue ones. (Ripped jeans are expressly forbidden in our very casual "business casual" work dress code.) He had also asked for a blue/green sweater. I had stalled him on that, thinking he had plenty of blue/green sweaters. He doesn't have any right now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More from the BMGM Sweatshop

Iris needed longer shorts for play. As long as the serger was threaded with light grey thread and I had the Kwik-Sew (discontinued) pants pattern out, I made her two pairs. And then this puckered cotton/lycra stretch-woven looked greyish; the serger was all threaded up and ready to go. I got out my favorite woven T-shirt pattern, Burda 8998, and discovered that there wasn't enough for the short-sleeved top after all. I pieced together some bias strips to bind the neckline and armholes. The high armhole works perfectly as a shell.
This is the way I would wear it at work, with taupe slacks and a grey-green Eileen Fisher jacket. Ever notice the EF offers only solid-colored clothing? This shell adds a bit of pattern and the color matches amazingly well.
I store my most frequently-used patterns in sleeves in a binder above the sewing machine.
The pressing station. Notice the hammer in the right bin, under the sleeve board? I pound the daylights out of jeans hems at the seams to weaken the fibers enough so I can sew through 8-12 layers of denim.
With so much sewing this weekend, I ran out of waistband elastic and distilled water for the iron. Mark mentioned that he was walking to the library to pick up a DVD being held for him. Perfect! I gave him a snippet of the type of elastic I needed and instructions to buy 5 yards.

He walked to Starbucks for a coffee, then to the Cotton Shop for the elastic. He crossed the street to pick up the DVD at the library and then walked another block to Albertson's for the distilled water. Then he walked the 200 yards home. We can walk to an outrageous number of useful places from our house. We miss some aspects of chi-chi neighborhoods we have lived in the past, but no place is as convenient. (Our home's walkscore is 88, just shy of "Walkers' Paradise".

Mark reports that the Cotton Shop was packed. He had plenty of time to sip his coffee while waiting. We are both very glad that business is brisk there, lest they close like the two other independent fabric stores in the South Bay.


All fabrics I used this weekend came from SAS Fabrics and most of the notions came from the Cotton Shop. The Cotton Shop apparently also shops SAS. Remember the large-scale rick-rack trim from the last post? When I went back to SAS for more, they had sold out of all the large ones. They had only the tiny ones left. The Cotton Shop, however, had rolls of the large rick-rack, on the same spools as at SAS, for about 10 times more. At least I got a second chance to buy them. What a difference 5 miles makes in Las Angeles.

The photos above show that the sewing/craft room is crammed with stuff. My father in law was a tailor who used to run his own shop. Before that, he used to be the head of alterations for a chain of department stores in Southern California. Before that, he used to be a senior tailor at a European suit factory. When he retired, he was so happy to send his supplies to a good home where they would be used.

Additionally, the South Bay Quilters' Guild has a swap area at the entrance to the meeting hall. At the end of the meeting, all the stuff that didn't find takers is sent to charity. There is so much good stuff there. I have to restrain myself to take only stuff I will actually use. At the last meeting, I managed to take home two magazines (issues of Threads and Quilting Arts) that I already owned.

I need a bigger studio. And I need to wash that filthy ironing board cover.


Iris selected this print for another Simplicity 5827 dress. We auditioned trims.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough fabric to cut out the dress. The French terry was too heavy for the dress anyway. I offered her pants instead. There was enough fabric leftover to make a top (Kwik-Sew 2893) with some coordinating cotton/lycra jersey. It looks like pajamas, though. I don't think she will be wearing it this way.
There was enough cotton/lycra jersey to make a skirt, using the skirt pattern pieces from Simplicity 5827 and a separate, sewn-on elastic waistband. She wanted to be sure you can see the full swirliness of the skirt. (Both fabrics and trims were purchased at SAS Fabrics in Hawthorne.)
This action shot in the sculpture garden of the Bowers museum* shows it better.
Thank-you for visiting our messy house. If I had spent any time this weekend cleaning up, it certainly wouldn't have been a productive and bloggable weekend.

* I dragged Iris and Mark, kicking and screaming to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana to see the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor (May 18 - October 16, 2008) and American Quilts: Two Hundred Years of Tradition (September 20, 2008 – March 15, 2009). Both exhibits were "Wow" and well worth seeing.

They were charging an extortionate $75 for admission for two adults and one child. $75 (partially tax deductible) buys you an annual membership that admits two adults and offers discounted children's tickets.

I take back what I said about the Patina group restaurants and kids' meals. We ate at at Tangata, the Patina group's restaurant at the Bowers museum. Iris had a bowl of buttered noodles ($9) and a chocolate concoction ($8). Our food was similarly uninspired and spendy. We won't eat there again.

Next time, we plan to visit the Bowers Kidseum and eat at Little India on Pioneer Boulevard next time.

From the archives:
I want to be let alone in which Iris learns about sweatshops and slaves/prisoners inside of barbed wire fenced compounds who produce cheap clothes. It includes a cute story in which she tries to pay me with her own money while I sew her clothes so that I won't be a slave.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fact and Fiction

I recently read Martha Grimes' Dakota. It is not for those who like to eat their meat and not question where it comes from. Follow Martha Grimes' rationale in this interview:
“I feel that fiction will get to more people than nonfiction,” she said, citing Gail Eisnitz’s “Slaughterhouse” as an example. “When you have a book called ‘Slaughterhouse’ sitting on a table, how many people are going to buy it? How many people are going to read it?”

Most people don’t want to see what is going on at animal factories, she said, “but if you don’t see it, you don’t know what’s going on. I know there is this perception, this feeling, that if you know something like this is going on, then you have
to do something about it. No, you do not. You don’t have to do something about it. But the fact that so many people think you have to do something about it keeps them from wanting to know anything about it. At least if you know, then you can do something about it.”

Did you read the AP exclusive, Video shows workers abusing pigs?
An undercover video shot at an Iowa pig farm shows workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods up into sows' hindquarters.

On the video, obtained by The Associated Press, a supervisor tells an undercover investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that when he gets angry or a sow won't move, "I grab one of these rods and jam it in her (anus)."
The truth is even worse than fiction.

A few of my favorite things

The Daily Mail's headline read Pictured: Rare upside-down rainbow spotted in the UK. The Telegraph's headline read 'Upside down rainbow' caused by freak weather.

The Daily Mail's article:
Relatively rare in Britain, the arc only appears when sunlight shines at a specific angle through a thin veil of wispy clouds at a height of around 20,000 to 25,000 feet.

At this altitude the cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals, the size of grains of salt.

Meteorologists say the clouds must be convex to the sun with the ice particles lined up together in the right direction to refract the light.

This results in the sunlight bouncing off the ice crystals high in the atmosphere, sending the light rays back up and bending the sunlight like a glass prism into a spectrum of colour.

Renowned astronomer and writer Dr Jacqueline Mitton was lucky enough to capture the optical phenomenon on camera near her home in Cambridge last Sunday.

'The conditions have to be just right: you need the right sort of ice crystals and the sky has to be clear.

'It's quite surprising for this to occur somewhere like Cambridge, usually it is in places that are colder.

'We're not sure how big an area it was visible over, but it was certainly very impressive.'

According to Dr Mitton, the colours in the rainbow were intensified by the position of the sun, which was at the optimum spot in the sky of 22 degrees.

The vision was made even more dazzling by the presence of "sun dogs" - gleaming spots on a halo around the sun.

Dr Mitton added: 'It was just an amazing combination of factors that happened at the right time.'

Her husband Simon, 62, an astronomy writer, said: 'The circumzenithal arc is a quarter circle, pointing toward the setting sun.

'The "rainbow'" is much brighter and more concentrated than a rainfall rainbow.'

Rainbows are formed when sunlight is refracted in a raindrop.

But in a circumzenithal arc, the colours are in reverse order from a rainbow, with violet on the top and red at the bottom.

The arc usually vanishes quickly because the cirrus clouds containing the ice crystals shift their position.

Ice particles in high cirrus clouds occur all year round, but circumzenithal arcs are usually obscured by lower level clouds.

Circumzenithal arcs are so named as they go around the zenith - the point in the sky directly above the observer- rather than the sun.

The Telegraph's article:
Freak atmospheric conditions rarely seen outside the polar regions have been credited with causing the formation of an "upside down rainbow".

Normal rainbows are made when light penetrates raindrops and re-emerges out the other side in the same direction but the inverted types, known as circumzenithal arcs, are caused when sunlight bounces off ice crystals high in the atmosphere, sending the light rays back up.

The "smiley faces in the sky" need extremely specific conditions not usually found above Britain.

This picture was reportedly captured on camera by astronomer Dr Jacqueline Mitton near her home in Cambridge last Sunday.
Who defines normal anyway? Are circumzenithal arcs "freaks" or just atmospheric phenomena rarely seen in southern England due to frequent low-lying cloudcover?

I don't live in the UK so I am not very familiar with the differences between the papers. But is the Telegraph really "Britain's No.1 quality newspaper"? How do you define quality in English English?

As a sky watcher, rainbows are one of my favorite things. I did, after all, name my child Iris.

Stash Addition

I went to SAS fabrics last Friday and did not find what I was looking for. However, I found these two bolts of Tana Lawn, Pelagia B and Pelagia C. 20 pounds per meter in London, $40 per yard in NYC, $130 for 56 yards in Hawthorne, CA. Some people who live less than 5 miles to the west are afraid to venture into Hawthorne, but that just means less competition for me. ;-)

I also bought some silk remnant pieces that I will use for lining. If you look inside my garments, you will sometimes see mismatched lining pieces.

SAS sells some fabric by the yard, others by the pound. There is gold and dross so be prepared to spend some time digging. I bought up all the Tana Lawn, but left plenty of good stuff for the rest of you.

Patternreview posted an article about Fabric Shopping in the LA Fashion District today.

Yelp says that there are SAS Fabrics by the Pound in both Hawthorne, California and Phoenix, Arizona.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bedtime Stories and Parental Complacency

Mark and I read and enjoyed Politically Correct Bedtime Stories when it was published in 1994. (You can read an excerpted alternative version of Little Red Riding Hood here.) I forgot about the book until I stumbled upon it while cleaning out the bookshelves in the family room. I remembered it as an amusing little book. I reshelved it in Iris' room next to more conventional fairy tales and bedtime stores. She found and read it from cover to cover several times.

She wasn't satisfied. She insisted that we read one story to her every night and explain all the jokes to her. That went fine until we arrived at Snow White. Um, do I really want to explain some of those jokes to my 7 year old?

Frack, no.

Luckily, she fell asleep before the part I didn't want her to hear. I can claim that I did explain it, but she must have forgotten.

MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency 2

Remember MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency, the post that propelled Bad Mom to the top of the Google search engine rankings for "parental complacency"? Unlike some of her playmates, Iris has seen things that are not rated G. In fact, she has seen many PG and some PG-13 movies.

She has even been lobbying to be allowed to watch R-rated movies. "It will be fine because you know I don't repeat bad words." I wonder how much she has seen already? Mark has quite the DVD collection (that list is badly outdated). He's seen and rated over 1000 movies in his Netflix profile. We don't lock up any of the movies around our house. She knows how to work the TV/DVD player and also how to watch DVDs on the computer when she doesn't want to watch what Mark is watching. Hmm.

Their latest obsession is the new Battlestar Galactica series (rated TV-14). Mark loves the political intrigue and the hot women. (In space, everyone is much better looking.) Iris loves it because of the references to Greek mythology. Battlestar Galactica is definitely not a kids' show and only very bad, lax parents would allow their children to watch it. We told her not to talk about the show at school lest any of the other parents find out how bad we really are.

When I found out that I made #1 for "parental complacency" in 2006, I emailed all my friends to type the phrase into the Google search engine and then click through. Alas, I did not have enough friends and I lost the distinction in a day. I need more friends.

Mark says that, at least, he didn't show The Omega Man to a 4 year old like someone we know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Photo Catch Up

We are still porting our picture archive from the old computer to the new one. That's why posting of photos has been light in the past two weeks. Moreover, I can't find pictures of some old projects from the beginning of the summer. Why does getting a new computer have to be so painful?

Anyway, I finally sucked it up and finished the Habu Jacket Kit 36. I finished knitting the pieces an entire month ago, but never got around to seaming. I used my new Bernina tricot foot #12 and a 2 mm long, 1.5 mm wide zigzag stitch and grey thread. Three out of four seams looked fabulous and the fourth came out wonky. A session with a steamer set things right.

I couldn't decide whether to use buttons. I backed some shank buttons with flat, clear ones. That way, I can wear the jacket with or without them.

The jacket would look better with a collarless shirt instead of the polo in the picture.
The shorts are a wardrobe refashion. I mentioned how the wide legged jeans had a pair of shorts yearning to get out. I can't find the photos of the first attempt at refashioning the jeans.
Iris' yo-yo bedecked denim skirt. She loves the bling of the glass beads.
This weekend, I hemmed up 4 pairs of jeans/pants, let out the hem on another pair of pants, and added fasteners to two jackets. Alterations can be so tedious; I put them off as long as I can, but the pile became daunting. I outsourced two other alterations, repairing luggage and replacing a zipper.

Next up, sewing Iris a new a nightgown and some shorts and a shirt refashion she requested. The knitting news will have to wait.

The backstory:
Refashioning Update
Wardrobe Refashion thread

The rest of the Habu Kit 36 thread:
Not Green
Color Talk

The view from my window

Remember the smoker next door? He bought an outdoor wood fireplace. Try to imagine that immediately below your window, upwind by five feet. The first time, we didn't figure out what it was until 1:30 AM. We let it slide. This time, we were not going to let it go on all night.

We went over there to ask them to put out the fire. No one answered the doorbell. Why? Because they were outside by the fire and they had shut all their own windows. Thus, they couldn't hear the door chime inside.

We then climbed the fence and talked to them about the smoke. To his credit, he did appear to be embarrassed and put the fire out immediately.

The backstory:
Density my mixed feelings about living the low-carbon urban infill life.

Anniversary Dinner

We celebrated our anniversary two nights early at Petros. Mark and I had eaten there once before and loved the octopus appetizer. We ordered that again; Iris had the fried calamari with lemons, olives and almonds. I never knew that fried lemon slices could taste so good.

If you go there, you have to order the octopus. Mark enjoyed his Horiatiki Flatbread Pizza but I had to send my Lamb Pasta back because it was too spicy. The menu forgot to mention the generous portion of chili flakes in the pasta sauce.

The rack of lamb is also quite good, and large enough for two people to share. Iris' chocolate cake was excellent. Portions are generous. Food is generally very good to excellent. Service, however, is slow.

Dining Out

Two weekends ago, we went to Pasadena to pick up our tandem from the a shop that I will not mention by name because they treat women so badly. (It's not just me; I watched them treat two other women badly.)

Afterwards, we checked out at Book Alley's new location and planned to eat dinner there. Iris complained that her eyes hurt and my breathing was not optimal. We ate downtown instead.

Cafe Pinot's patio has such a nice ambience on a warm night. The building in the background is the Los Angeles City main library.
City Views.
The chocolate sundae off the kids' menu.
Cafe Pinot's children's menu can be quite intimidating. They offer a choice of several drinks, 3 entrees and two dessert choices, but NO PRICES. The first time we went there, we asked the waiter why. He said that there are no prices because childrens' menu items are free. Yes, FREE. I believe the same policy is in effect at all the Patina Restaurant Group restaurants. Iris let me have a taste of her dessert, and it was better than mine (off the regular menu).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bananagrams Aversion

We played Bananagrams yesterday evening with Iris and one of her playmates (his parents were attending a party). I should have taken a picture of our words, because they really are amusing.

However, I can't believe Bad Dad ever scored high enough on the SAT to be admitted to an elite college. Perhaps he had a larger vocabulary in high school than he has now? He raised an eyebrow at WEIR but challenged me on AVER. There ought to be a penalty in Bananagrams for challenging actual words.

In two days, we celebrate our 18th anniversary. Iris says she wants to accompany us for our anniversary dinner. Where should we go?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waiting for Disaster

Reading Stephen Flynn's The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation. Why didn't we listen to him?

Reading Jeff Masters' weather blog. It's highly educational; pay special attention to the discussion of storm surge severity.

Trying different scenarios in the flood maps web app.

I really should be reading the satellite sensor owner's manual in front of me. But first, to sleep.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink

I've been looking at the pictures of flooding in Haiti like the one below. (This one is from the Lambi Fund of Haiti.)

It brought to mind this picture of night time lights of the world (circa 2000). Why?

Does this picture of the change between 1993 and 2000 make it clearer?

Legend for image
Nighttime lights percentage

new lights

high intensity increased

low intensity increased

high intensity unchanged

average intensity unchanged

low intensity unchanged

low intensity decreased

high intensity decreased

extinct lights

See the increase in lights in Haiti? Those aren't, for the most part, city lights; those are charcoal making operations.

Haiti is 97-98% deforested. The trees have been cut down to make charcoal. Why would they do something that sets up a vicious cycle of erosion and flooding?

In the early 1990s, I heard an interview with a woman in the Dominican Republic on NPR. She spoke about the health hazards and dangers of cooking with charcoal. Yet, she had no choice. She said that she used to cook with a kerosene stove, but kerosene became too expensive and she reluctantly switched to charcoal.

I made the connection immediately. That woman and I are in competition for petroleum products. There is no way she can earn enough in DR to outbid me. I think about her, and billions of other people, every time I fill up my gas tank and feel very guilty about my lazy habits. I get so angry when I look around me at gas stations and see the gas guzzlers and their unthinking drivers. Don't they know? Don't they care?

Fortunately for the Dominican Republic, their government did care. Their military actually guards forests to prevent further deforestation. They managed to save 30% of their forests. Consequently, the flooding and death toll has been lighter in the Dominican Republic than in neighboring Haiti.


Refashioning Update

The refashioning playdate was fun, but not especially productive. Penny set right to work, fearlessly cutting apart thrifted clothes. I took a scrap of celery green cotton lawn she discarded and held it up to the Habu cardigan on the dress dummy. Wow, a perfect match for the linen tape yarn. Too bad any embellishment would destroy the perfect minimalist lines of the sweater.

The cotton was screaming to be turned into yo-yos. I don't know how that idea popped into my head, because I had never made a yo-yo before. Fired up with enthusiasm, I cut 8 circles out and set to work. Pretty soon, I had two girls watching me, asking me to teach them. "Sure! "

The girls weren't happy with the celery yo-yos; they felt the yo-yos needed something. I brought out some glass beads and put three beads into the center of each. The girls wanted to try beads on theirs, too. The entire container of beads was upended on the carpet. The girls picked up most of them. I sewed three embellished yo-yos to one of Iris' denim skirts.

Time's up! Dinner's ready. That's all I accomplished. Pix coming soon.

  • I made the yo-yos wrong. I wasn't happy with the raw edges. I don't recall seeing raw edges on yo-yos before. A search on "how to make a yo-yo" showed me that I forgot to turn the edges under.
  • View the How to Make a Yo-Yo slide show tutorial.
  • As soon as I showed Iris the circles, she asked if they can be made in other shapes. How about a heart? Click on the link to learn how to make the "secret stitch" that gives the heart yo-yo its distinctive shape.
Iris was so excited about the play date, that she spent the whole morning setting it up. She wanted to play school and had set up the first three days up. Of course, to her, the first 3 days of school includes placement testing. (Big sigh.)

The other girl heard that Iris wanted to play school and immediately said, "No tests." Iris was crushed. The girls recovered and managed to come up with other things to play.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Human Goodness

Good people are childlike--or, rather, are like children before they become self-conscious. They are not afraid to be laughed at. They are so confident in who they are and what is right that they do not much care what others think.

...The goodness of the simple and the goodness of the child lie deep in both Western and Eastern thought. Simpleton and child are both ignorant, but their ignorance is not the ignorance of the stupid.

...And so, what exactly is stupidity? How does it differ from ignorance and slowness of mind? A comparison with a quality in young children and Tolstoy's peasants is helpful. That quality is their openness to the world, their readiness to respond without prejudice. Their very ignorance--their not-knowing (their innocence)--makes this possible. In sharp contrast, the stupid are closed to the world, and if they respond to external events it is through a rigidly held position. The rigidity itself owes less to low IQ than to anxiety and fear and, under these burdens, a slavish need to conform.
From Human Goodness, by Yi-Fu Tuan.

I want to thank Virginia for bringing this insightful thinker to my attention. Go read what she says about him. She's read much more of his work than I have. But I know I want to read more. In the mean time, you can read the archive of his Dear Colleague letters.

I am returning the book to the RB library this afternoon in case any of you want to request it.

Pennamite will be here any moment for a wardrobe refashion playdate and I need to feed Iris first.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Vintage Knitwear

The Daily Telegraph wrote about Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters today, complete with 5 of the 21 patterns in the book as a free pdf download. I agree with them about the unfortunate period with bulky yarns and knitting needles the size of saplings. But, knitting these vintage sweaters from the 1920s through the 1950s on tiny (as small as size 2) needles requires a good deal of patience.

Ooh, but I do love the Jacket with Frog Fasteners, Cardigan with First-Class Tailoring and Angora Bolero (30 stitches x 40 rows per 10cm/4" square!). Go read the article, download the patterns and perhaps buy the book. I don't think the book is available in the US yet, but Lise-Lotte Lystrup's Vintage Knitwear for Modern Knitters looks like it would be a good read for the history and inspiration.

The Black Swan 2

Mark told me that, like the black swan, there are no Priuses sporting "W" stickers in the country. I saw a silver Prius with a "W" sticker today heading southbound on Anza. The driver then made a left turn (eastbound) on Torrance Blvd. It exists!

From the archives:
The Black Swan

Sabine Scarf

Grandma Ann of Sitting Knitting loaned Norah Gaughan Volume 1 to me. At first, I thought I would make just the scarves, Sabine (pictured below) and Jyri.

Intriguing, isn't it?
My version, in Sensations Kashmira.

You can wear it as shown in the brochure, or pull one scarf end between the slats of the other end. Your choice.

I later learned that Berroco offers nearly the same pattern, sans twist, for free as Sabinette. See assemblage's version in alpaca. I threw the scarf into the washer with the laundry 3 times and ran it through the dryer once. Kashmira does not felt easily for a yarn labeled as feltable. In green, this would resemble kelp, I think in a good way.

I did not follow the directions exactly. I used the 28 stitches as the pattern suggested. I knit the dk gauge yarn on size 7 needles, what I typically use for worsted gauge. Instead of the knitted cast on, I used a crochet cast on. This forms a chain on the bottom of each slat. I cast off using the crochet hook in the normal manner. This forms a chain on the top of each slat. When twisted, the two sides look identical. A small detail, but I think it looks nicer than the written pattern.

(You can see the crochet cast off and cast on in this post.)

Additionally, I did a slip stitch in the last bound off stitch before commencing the cast on to tighten it up. If you are a tight knitter, you may not notice the looseness between the stitches not cast off and the new cast on stitches. I am a big believer in doing whatever pleases you rather than following directions exactly.

Next up, did you look at the gorgeous skirt, Aune, in the top photograph? It reminds me of the Prada lace skirt that has been showing up in all the fashion spreads this fall.

I became obsessed with making this skirt. I even had my sister and Iris track down some Berroco Ultra Alpaca in a medium to dark color* for me while I was bicycling in the San Juans. They selected a gorgeous teal tweed. Alas, the yarn was too dark for the pattern to show. Don't worry, the yarn is being turned into a pencil skirt with flirty ruffles along the bottom instead.

*Would you wear a light colored lacy skirt below the waist if you had 39" hips?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Corporate Bullshit at the Conventions

Robert Reich is as outraged by corporate hypocrisy as I am. Listen to his NPR Marketplace commentary today.

At the Democratic convention last week, I kept bumping into two different kinds of corporate professionals. Most have headed over to the Republican convention this week. One type says its job is "public affairs;" the other, "government affairs." They sound similar but the jobs are quite different.

The "public affairs" types are at the conventions to bring attention to their companies' commitments to social responsibility. Many of them have hand-outs and fancy brochures touting all the good things their firms do.

The "government affairs" types are at the conventions to build their companies' political influence. They're the ones in the sky boxes with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.

The two types often work for the same big companies but they seem to operate at cross purposes. For example, I met a public affairs person who talked about the great strides his company was making in green technologies. But the government-affairs people from the same company have been actively lobbying against environmental laws and regulations.

Another public affairs person was touting her company's dedication to its communities -- gifts to local schools and playgrounds, for example. But in the sky boxes were lobbyists from the same firm that have been demanding tax abatements from those same communities, as a condition for keeping jobs there. And those tax abatements have meant less revenues for local schools and playgrounds.

Other public affairs people told me how much their firms value their employees, giving them more flexible work schedules and extra days off. But the same firms have been lobbying against paid family leave.

You can also read the full text here.

If you are lucky enough for technorati to give you any authority as a "mommy blogger" in one of the major metro markets (say LA), then you, too, can get email "news bulletins" from corporate public affairs specialists or their hired guns at public relations firms. It is all very interesting, but I am loathe to blog about it lest they cut me off from their bulletins. I like to read them in the interest of research.

Pants for Every Figure But Mine

The Thoughful Dresser linked to a funny/sad article that purports to show trousers for every figure. They have trousers/pants recommendations for tall, thin, petite and hourglass figures, but alas, nothing for average pear-shaped women.

TTD and I are both 5'5" and pear-shaped. We both prefer skirts. We shouldn't be so hard to fit; some sizing studies claim that pear shapes are the most common. At 5'5", we are both slightly taller than average. Why then, aren't manufacturers producing pants that fit us? Why do they insist on telling us that our legs are too short? Perhaps the pants are too long or cut unflattering?

(And why are petite sizes designed for women 5'4" and shorter and misses sizes for women ~5'7"? Does the fashion industry really want to relegated half the populace to petites? What about average size women? Should someone 5'4" shop petites or regular/misses? As it stands right now, the average size woman has the least choice. Is that a smart business move on the part of the manufacturers?)

However, I have found pants that I can wear. They are just not trendy. For work, I wear boring straight legged trousers in dark colors like black, navy, charcoal or chocolate (and aubergine for adventuresome days). For variety, I have some with pleats, some plain front and a few with small patterns.

Jeans are the toughest to find. This fall, I retired two pairs of 5-10 year old jeans. I like pants that do not ride too high, nor too low. I don't want to feel like a sausage; I sit at a desk all day. I do not want my pants to graze the floor--too much laundry. I usually wear my pants a few times between washings. (That's another labor-saving thing I do for the sake of the environment.) I sat out the low-rise boot cut pants era.

I went through my closet and found a pair of size 6 average (length) Charter Club (Macy's house label) stretch denim straight leg jeans that fit OK, with only a slight gap at the back waist. I also headed over to JC Penny and bought a pair of size 8 average Lee stretch denim relaxed fit jeans ($22). Surprisingly, a pair of size 10 long SJB (JPC house label) straight leg jeans ($7.50) fit me very well except for the inseam. That can be fixed easily enough so I bought them also.

I also found a pair of size 8 CK Jeans wide-legged denim trousers at Goodwill ($5). They are very comfortable, but have a difficult cropped and wide silhouette. I tried to let out the hem, but that didn't look right. I added navy/white trim to the hem and that didn't look right. The legs are too wide Perhaps they will be turned into shorts.

Both pairs of new jeans were made in Mexico, which is buying local for someone who lives in SoCal. I hope to find more clothes made in Mexico in stores in the future. Our cleaning lady (a legal immigrant) says that she would have preferred to stay in Mexico with her mother and siblings, but she couldn't find work there. I am all for helping people find work near their support network so they can keep their families intact.

Speaking of Mexico, we took Iris there last Sunday. We drove from San Diego through Tijuana to Ensenada. We strolled around Ensenada and had a seafood lunch. (It's funny how some restaurants are all locals, others all tourists. We ate at one that was mostly locals.) Iris and I bought lovely silver bracelets as souvenirs (3 for $20). Then we drove through a beautiful wine-growing region between Ensenada and Tecate where we crossed back into the US.

This brings up why I am at home today. Big sigh. I am simply too delicate to sleep on my in-laws guest beds/pillows. There is so much spinal inflammation that I cannot turn my head more than half an inch. I am staying home today to ice and rest. A physical therapist said that the inflammation peaks 2 or so days after the injury. The exact same thing happened 2 days after the last time I stayed overnight at my in-laws. Oddly, the first sensation I had of something amiss was nausea all day yesterday. That happens with ear infections, too. I notice the nausea before the pain.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

First Week of School

School technically starts on Thursday, but all the kids that attend after school daycare are back.

Remember when Iris asked me to respect her privacy? She has selected a first day of school outfit but I am not allowed to spoil the surprise. I only made two things that I think she will wear regularly to school; a few others will be worn as make believe costumes. I plan to make one more top and another dress. The top will be a copy of something she outgrew. Anyway, I cannot show the outfits until after she has debuted them in real life.

In the mean time, please visit Summerset Banks' blog, Pins and Needles, to follow how she made roughly 85% of the school clothes for her two children. I read her blog with awe. Shock and awe. She did it with a little bit of refashioning, but she sews mostly from scratch. She is not making 10 minute t-shirts, either. The attention to detail is amazing (that cowboy shirt with all those stars!).

Unlike Summerset, I don't even attempt to make anything that I can easily buy. Much as I would like to, I have other priorities for my time. I find it particularly sad that she made a beautiful khaki skirt for her daughter (look at the quality of the inside finishing), and her daughter is more excited about a new Gap sweatshirt. Sigh.

It reminds me of the Design a Shoe Contest. A blogger visited Cambodia, where any shoe can be custom made for $25, and offered to buy the winner of the shoe design contest a pair of custom made shoes. Did entrants want original designs? No, most wrote that they wanted copies of Gucci shoes.

I really do mean to blog someday about Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

I wholeheartedly agree with Slapdash Sewist, who is trying to counter the zeitgeist at Wardrobe Remix that fashion is about labels. She has so much fun with fashion and sewing.

Do you remember the documentary, Paris is Burning, about drag ball competitions? My heart broke at several points in the movie. But I still remember the part where an older competitor recalled the days when they made their costumes. He lamented that the competition had become one of having the right labels. Poor urban black kids can't afford the labels so they either compete in stolen goods or they prostitute themselves for money to buy the labels.

Just to get into the mood for the start of school, read Sandra Tsing Loh's discussion in today's WaPost Book World. She makes some excellent points about urban public schools. I don't live in LAUSD, but much of what she covers also applies to our area. I would counter that I did meet a Harvard student who attended an urban public school in the last decade. She is the child of a college professor who felt that it was important to live near work and to send his children to public school. Her essay about her experience as the only white middle class girl in her school helped win her admission to Harvard. She also wrote on her application that she is fluent in Spanish.

(Sandra, I bought your book this weekend at Borders and will read it soon. Really*.)

* The backstory is that I told her that we meant to see the one woman show, "Mother on Fire", but it closed before we got our act together. She replied, "That's OK, it only ran for 9 months."