Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ring in the new year at a tidepool!

I am sure that you can't get enough of your kids and don't feel a need to get them out of the house. But, if you are a bad mom like me, you might want to divert them for a while from their electronic toys.  Why not take them out to the clamber about on dangerous and slippery wet rocks?  Throw in some big waves that might drag them out to sea.  With any luck, they might not come home with you.

See the full list of tidepooling posts for more pictures of what you can see at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park.  The tide pools there are exposed whenever the low tide is -1.0 or more feet below the mean low tide.  (0 means the low tide that day is the same as the annual mean low tide.)  The NOAA 2009 and 2010 tide tables for Los Angeles yielded this information.
12/29/2009 Tue 01:59PM LST -1.1 L
12/30/2009 Wed 02:40PM LST -1.5 L
12/31/2009 Thu 03:21PM LST -1.7 L
01/01/2010 Fri 04:00PM LST -1.7 L
01/02/2010 Sat 04:42PM LST -1.5 L
01/03/2010 Sun 05:24PM LST -1.1 L
01/26/2010 Tue 01:03PM LST -0.7 L
01/27/2010 Wed 01:42PM LST -1.3 L
01/28/2010 Thu 02:21PM LST -1.6 L
01/29/2010 Fri 02:58PM LST -1.8 L
01/30/2010 Sat 03:35PM LST -1.6 L
01/31/2010 Sun 04:12PM LST -1.3 L
02/01/2010 Mon 04:48PM LST -0.8 L
02/26/2010 Fri 01:54PM LST -1.3 L
02/27/2010 Sat 02:29PM LST -1.3 L
02/28/2010 Sun 03:03PM LST -1.1 L
This is our lucky week because the west coast of the US is experiencing some of our lowest daylight tides of the year and school is out!

Don't live in LA?  No problem.  NOAA has the tide tables for the entire US right here.

Here's a blurb I wrote for Iris' school newsletter:

Tidepooling with Kids at Abalone Cove
Did you know we live near one of the best tide pool areas in California?  The tide pools of Abalone Cove, near Point Vicente on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, are exposed whenever the tide is 1 foot below mean lower low water (low tide).  These especially low tides occur during daylight hours mainly in the winter months.

If you look at the NOAA tide tables for Los Angeles, you will see that tides lower than    -1.0 (feet below mean low tide) rarely occur during daylight hours. Yet, those are the only conditions that expose the tidepools at Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. Take a look at the gorgeous photos in Steve's slide show.

The park is a nice place for a picnic any day of the year.  But, on days with especially low tides, it pays to get there at least an hour or two before the lowest tide time.  This ensures enough time to park and walk down to the rocks.  (Get there even earlier and you will have time for a picnic before scrambling on the rocks.)

The highest tide pools will become exposed about an hour before the minimum tide, and you can watch the sea anemones close as the water recedes.  As peak low tide approaches, more and more sea creatures will become exposed to view.  Our family has found octopuses, sea hares, limpets, mussels, sea urchins, sea stars, brittle stars, sea worms, hermit crabs, and myriad birds and sea plants.

Wear sturdy shoes that can get wet.  The rocks can get slippery so you want to wear shoes with a good grip.  Protect your family from the sun with hats and long-sleeved shirts, but leave the chemical sunscreens at home.  Those contain chemicals that make the sea creatures sick.

You can find more info about Abalone Cove from the park website:
Park admission is $5 per car; this is a cheap excursion if you carpool.

Abalone Cove is a protected area, and it has made a little bit of a recovery since the 1970s from the heavy pollution in that area.  But the tide pools are in jeopardy from poachers and ocean acidification from increased CO2 levels.  Don’t miss this opportunity to show your children this ecosystem while we still have it.

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footsteps.”

Did you miss anything lately?

Well, I would say in the beginning I thought I had to keep work and home very separate. I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do, especially as a woman. You know, you don’t bring up your children and you don’t bring up the fact that you’re having these issues at home.
I used to keep literally two separate calendars, and then wonder why I missed a few things.
I still don't have any shorty, pithy answers for work-life balance, whatever that means. But the interview with Teresa Taylor, COO of Qwest, contains one interesting viewpoint (and journey).

Monday, December 28, 2009

The perfect knit dress?

There was still enough black thread leftover in the bobbin so I made McCall's 5974, one of the Palmer/Pletsch "perfect knit dress" patterns.  Can you believe that the bobbin thread ran out as I was hemming the last sleeve?  I stopped and wound two bobbins for my next all black sewing frenzy.

Like all the P2 patterns, the instructions were very thorough and clear; the pattern was well-drafted. My only complaint is about the neckline finish.  They tell you to make a self-fabric narrow hem!  I think that this dress deserves a separate strip of stretch fabric, stitched and turned to the inside.

I added front pockets because always miss having pockets when I buy off the rack dresses.

Using the pattern markings, I made a SBA and sway back adjustment.  P2 patterns are known for printing these common pattern alterations right on the pieces. Next time I make a sway back adjustment (a tuck at the center back waist area), I will add length to the CB hem to compensate. Live and learn.  The back doesn't look too bad.

It fits me better than the dress dummy. That uniquely you dummy just grows and grows. The foam has enough pressure to launch that dummy into orbit someday.

It took some wrangling to cut the dress out of the two yards of cotton jersey I bought at SAS fabrics.  Here's the reason why.

SAS is an odd jobber of discards from the fashion industry.  The stuff is cheap for a reason.  This section of fabric looks like it got caught and torn in the printing machinery.  But it is a nice cotton with vibrant dyes and only cost $2.99 per pound.  This dress took about a pound.

Check out this cotton and lycra jersey I bought at the same time.  Do you think I can entice Iris to ride the family bike more often if I made her a bicycle jersey out of this?

Notice the misprint on the edge here, too.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Issey Miyake Top

As long as the serger and sewing machine were threaded with black thread, I made a wearable muslin of Vogue 2572 out of a cheap synthetic sweater knit I picked up at SAS Fabrics.  Now that I know how much I love this pattern, I want to remake it in nicer fabric.  Perhaps a wool doubleknit with ultrasuede collar and front bands?

There was no way I was going to attempt to make buttonholes in the sweater knit, so I used a quilting cotton for the front bands and collar. I cut the collar on the bias so that it would roll nicely. (I wish I had remembered the trim the bottom side of the collar slightly.)

I used a plain mitered top-stitched hem instead of the bands.  Omission of the bands shortened the back slightly.  I added length to the front side to allow room for the hem.

Here's what the Issey Miyake top looks like on the model.  Notice how happy she looks?  And her comfy shoes?  I don't think that is an accident.

Here's the back of the pattern envelope so you can see the back view.

The construction is so interesting, I scanned in the first page of the instructions so you can see the pattern shapes.  The front and back is essentially a rectangle with cutouts for sleeve and collar insertion.

Anyway, here's the front view

and the back view.

The full pattern review is here. More pictures with closeups of the mitered hem are on Flickr.

The real impact of Harry and Louise

I have previously blogged about all the goodies in the health care bill for Big Pharma, such as preventing the government from negotiating drug prices and blocking importation of lower-cost drugs from countries that negotiate drug prices.

I didn't see the point of the 2009 Harry and Louise television ad campaign in which Louise says that she hopes congress will pass the deal fast.  Did Big Pharma, the ones paying for this ad campaign, hope to get Americans to call up congress to pass the bill that their lobbyists wrote?

Then the real reason hit me.

By running these ads in favor of the health care bill, Big Pharma was flexing their muscles to show that they could also run ads against them, too.  Those ads were a threat.

We were robbed at gun point.  Thanks, Harry and Louise!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Beading Frenzy

On Tuesday, we went to the library and checked out three books about beading, including Simply Beautiful Beading by Heidi Boyd. On Wednesday, we went to the Bead Studio and bought supplies to make the bee bracelet.  Iris made this (with a little help) and will gift it to one of her playmates.

I caught the beading bug and restrung two broken necklaces that I loved enough to save the pieces.

The badge holder necklace was made by a friend at work (who has, sadly, moved away). I caught it on my desk drawer and pieces flew everywhere. I was able to salvage some of the beads. She knew my taste so well, I even already had matching beads at home.

I bought the faux pearls at a white elephant sale fundraiser at my high school in 1982. It became my signature necklace until I broke it sometime in the late 1990s. Now that I finally learned bead stringing basics, I fixed it.

Bead Studio is a 3 minute walk from my house. For Iris' birthday party, we took 9 kids there for a basic bead stringing class. People who have taken their classes can drop by the store and use the store tools at the back work bench any time they are open. One boy who attended the party has been at the store every day this past week, getting supplies to make presents for his entire extended family.

There were so many cute projects in the book. There are so many cute beads at the store. This can become a dangerous new hobby. At least we will be supporting a good merchant. Randy, the owner, is a sweetheart.  The staff loves beads and kids.  It's a great place to have in our neighborhood.

Santa Chronicles 2009

The gig is up.

I think she has known who Santa Claus really is for years, but became more lax about putting up a pretense as she became older.  Last year, we spent Christmas in a hotel room and she hung her stocking up on the television--the electronic hearth.  When she went through her loot in the morning, she said it was like Santa had been following her around the past few days and bought her everything she admired (including Belle).

A few months ago, she let it slip for real.  She used Santa and Dada interchangeably while we were sewing together one afternoon.  Then she realized what she had done.  She commanded, "Don't tell dada!"

Tonight, we went through the ritual of hanging up her stocking on the fireplace mantel.  I asked her if she's been good or bad. 

"Good enough.", she replied quickly.

I am not so sure about that.  I am still trying to locate a adoptive family for her.

Bad Dad, the old softy, has already filled the stocking with presents. 

In case you missed it, I've tagged the full Santa Chronicles series.

I've also figured out the discrepancy between my answer and NORAD's.  I don't see Santa Claus' workshop because his workshop is exactly at the North Pole.  I work with sun-synchronous weather satellites that do not go over the North Pole.  (They have a slight inclination of ~8  degrees offset from the poles.)  Thus, I have a data gap at the North Pole.  No wonder I have never seen his workshop.

The folks at NORAD are privy to imagery from more satellites.  If they say that they saw Santa's workshop, I am sure they did.  They've even captured Santa on film!

Visit NORAD Santa.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kwik Sew 3274 A aka the Floaty Blouse

We were browsing the selection at SAS Fabrics when she grabbed this and said, "You know, one of my favorite color combinations is pink and brown."

Good taste; I love paisley and this 100% rayon crepe was only $2/yard.  I bought 4 yards and only used a bit over 1 for the blouse.  Someday, she will get a skirt or floaty dress with the rest.  She already has a pair of brown corduroy jeans and a pink denim jean skirt that match.

Kwik Sew 3274 went together quickly.  She didn't cooperate and try it on before running out for her playdate this morning.   I am not sure if it fits.  I made a size 10 and need to shorten the sleeves by 2".  A size 8 might have fit better, but she said she prefers it loose and floppy.  The pattern review is here.

This concludes my holiday knitting and sewing for Iris.

There is one more item for her cousin, but I am going to wait until she comes for her visit and let her pick her own fabric.  Then, back to making stuff for moi.

Golden Braid

Not much to say.  The pattern (in Japanese) should be easy to follow if you read Japanese.  Even though I don't, the diagrams were not too difficult to decipher.  I scaled it down to 4/5 scale for Iris.  The pattern shows a turtleneck sweater.  I was working with 200 grams of this fluffy cotton/wool roving-type yarn.    There was enough to make only the yoke.  Iris didn't want a full sweater anyways.

Here's a scan of the picture in the book, Aran Knit by Keiko Okamoto.  You can buy the book from amazon.jp, yesasia.com or Books Sanseido.

The full project details are on Ravelry.

It looks great with the Black/Yellow/White version of Simplicity 5635.

The leather flower in the top photo was the only thing I bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale in July.  (Recession Chic is so uninspiring!)  I gave Iris a leather accessory in her favorite color for the first day of school for that extra boost of confidence.

Addendum:  She came home from the playdate.  She tried it on.  It fits!  She lurves it.

More poetry, please

In case you missed Christopher Cokinos' Op-Ed piece in the LAT,
Climate scientists could learn something from U.S. poet.

He makes a good point. When scientists talk to one another, we are poking at the data and the hypotheses asking, "Have we missed anything?" We are looking for errors and ambiguities so that we can stamp them out.

The majority of people don't think the same way. It's hard to remember that, when we talk to other scientists all day.

But, I don't fully agree with him. Science is a great detective story. I saw that, even as a child. I don't feel the need to beat other people over the head with that analogy.

Isn't it obvious?

“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Ricky Rood posted an amazing response to tribalism concerning the global climate change debate.
“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Yesterday I got into an exchange with a person who posted a comment wishing the curse of a pox to the students writing on the UoMichigan COP15 Blog . It reminded me of Joseph Welch’s question to Senator Joe McCarthy, “You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” (Welch-McCarthy Exchange from American Rhetoric)

In the United States we devolve into something that is more like tribalism with sides taken based on the color of your uniform or who pays you the most. Discussion is based not on ideas and solutions, but on who makes a statement. Issues are advocated, and ideas are placed into extremes that take on attributes such as good and evil, for and against. The other side is wrong, and their intentions are of hidden control or hidden profit. This threatens our credibility and our viability.
Read the whole thing, either in the original post at Weather Underground Climate Change Blog (the range of comments confirms his depressing assessment of the state of debate) or the American Meteorological Society Climate Policy Blog.  You must really read the whole eloquent piece.  He even invokes Shakespeare.  I think I have a blog crush.

I have been confronted by climate skeptics, both in performance of my soccer mom duties and at my paid job.  I really don't know how to respond or what their motivations are.  I chose science because I am naturally curious.  I just want to know what is going on.  Why, for some people, does that have to devolve into who is right and who is wrong?

A few months ago, this blog was attacked by a climate troll and I had to temporarily remove the posts about the polar ice caps until the attack died down.  I really don't know how to respond to people who don't understand the enthalpy of melting.  The whole episode taught me that I am no Judith Curry.  (But I am glad she took that challenge on.)

Science is hard.  People are intractable.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My project table

It's funny how the color zeitgeist travels. I assembled this collection of fabrics and yarn from my stash in October for my spring sewing.  In November, I added some turquoise glass beads to knit with the yarn.

Then Pantone declared Turquoise the color of the year for 2010Kathleen is also tickled pink by the turquoise trend.

CSA Fritatta

This is cross-posted on the Madison and Lincoln School CSA blog.

Since Penny asked what we do with our CSA veggies...

CSA deliveries are Thursday. Wednesday night, we clear out space in our refrigerator for the incoming produce.  Many weeks, that means whatever veggies we have left over go into one giant frittata.

Start by sauteing chopped veggies in oil, throwing the items in order of longest cooking times.

When the veggies are cooked through (but not overly soft) pour in eggs scrambled with a little bit of milk or water.  We typically use 6-8 omega-3 enriched eggs in order to cover the veggies.

Cover and reduce the heat.

When the eggs are almost done, you can dot some goat cheese on the top.  Cover again until the goat cheese melts into gooey goodness.

Serve with your favorite whole grain.  It's a 15 minute meal if you use a rice cooker with a timer for your grain.

Leftover frittata is wonderful for breakfast. 

Our December in Pictures

On the first night of Hanukkah

Bad Dad made latkas.

By the sixth night of Hanukkah, he finally succeeded in installing the Airport Extreme so that Iris can use wifi at home on her iPod Touch*.  He's taking a well-deserved break.
On the sixth day of Hanukkah, I spotted camelia #1 in the backyard.

Camellia #2 unfurls.

* It was a birthday present from her aunt. Iris says it was the best present ever, but it was also an expensive one for her parents because it wasn't compatible with our existing wifi. ;-)

@SB Latkas differ from hash browns because the egg helps it hold together.   By the time we smother them in sour cream and apple sauce, no one can tell.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The monsters among us

The Onion nails it.
A study published Monday in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vogue 9771

There was a whole lot of mending, alterations and present making and wrapping chez BMGM this weekend, but this is the only thing I sewed from scratch that I am going to show.

[I also wanted to write a post about how to take the temperature on a planetary scale, just to explain that we are not making this up out of thin air.  But, that's a pretty big subject.  And the weekend flew by while I was dithering about what to explain.  I find that the things that confound and fascinate me are not necessarily the ones that confuse and interest others.  How about you leave your questions and I try to answer them?  No question is too basic, but fast turnaround is not guaranteed.

Addendum: With all the news about Copenhagen, no one has questions about how we take the global temperature averages or detect global trends? Amazing. No wonder the world is going to hell in a hand basket. I guess no one really cares.]

Vogue 9771
Semi-fitted, pullover top has bias front and back, and short or long sleeves. C: sleeveless.
I made view A, the one with short sleeves.

I made a size 14 using a red and black rayon jacquard remnant. The fabric shrank when I pre-washed it, so the top ended up 1" shorter and with a narrower bottom hem than the original pattern. I also narrowed the back neck by 3/8". That was probably overkill. It might have fit better if I narrowed it by 3/16".

The front and back is cut on the bias, the sleeves and back neck facing are cut on grain.  I sewed the side seams with a 0.5 mm zig-zag and hand blind-hemmed the bottom to preserve the stretch.  The rest of it was sewn conventionally.
It looks fine on the dress dummy. It even looks fine on me unless I want to move my arms. Then the whole thing lifts up. I think I know the reason. Compare this top to my favorite basic woven top pattern, Burda 8998.

I laid the back pieces of both size 14s next to each other and found that the armscythe is slightly higher on the Burda and that the shoulder slope angles vary. A higher armscythe sounds like it would be uncomfortable, but it actually fits your torso better. You have more range of movement in a shirt with a higher armscythe.

The front drape sure looks nice, even though I used a fabric with a tad too much body to allow the drape to fall easily.  This top is part of my "no more orphans" project.  I am making things to coordinate with items in my closet that aren't in my regular rotation because I don't have things to go with them.

It all started with this red wool skirt from the clearance rack at Eileen Fisher.  When I got it home, I realized it was an odd red melange that looked terrible with the red sweater set I already had.  Matching reds is tricky.  This rayon jacquard picks up the black lowlights in the skirt.  The black jacket looks so boring with this ensemble.
So I tried the gray cardi-wrap that picks up the gray tones in the skirt. Now it looks like I am trying too hard to look arty.
This boiled wool jacket from Goodwill is a great color match for the skirt, but the neckline does not work with the blouse.
I have 10 balls of Frog Tree Yarns pima silk in red.  Surely I can come up with something.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How could he?

Why does the media keep referring to his "beautiful" wife?

Would it be OK to cheat on a wife who is not beautiful?

Aesthetics first

The mysterious light phenomena over Norway has been explained, but that doesn't change its beauty. The CSM article has more pictures and videos.

Some may have thought it was a prelude to a close encounter of the third kind. But evidence quickly emerged that it was probably a result of a Russian ballistic missile test.
The Russian explanation makes the most sense to William Dimpfl, a senior research scientist at the Aeorospace Corporation.

Dr. Dimpfl, whose non-profit conducts missile research for the US Air Force and NASA, and who has carried out research on the way exhaust is emitted from rockets and the space shuttle, says he's fully convinced that the spiral plume was caused by a man-made missile.

"I looked at the video and my first thought was it’s surprising how pretty it is," says Dimpfl.
He said after watching the video that he observed no "atmospheric drag" on the event, which implied the missile was higher than 100 kilometers from the earth's surface – beyond the line between our atmosphere and space. The large, white spiral in the video and images is, in his opinion, "an illuminated solid propellent motor." The spiral, he says, "comes when you have a motor firing off the axis of the vehicle at right angles to the line that connects to the center of mass" yielding a "pinwheel."

As to the tighter, bluish covered spiral that UFO believers have pointed to, he says: "The blue plume was from a motor that was still attached to the vehicle." He says the bluish color was from aluminum oxide that is typically added to the solid propellant used for such motors. "What I believe is that the blue is from solar fluorescence from chemicals in the plume. That’s just aluminium oxide that the sunlight is scattering from. Aluminum oxide is the chemical formula for sapphires, so what you’re looking at is sunlight scattering off lots of tiny sapphires."
I love how he brings a little bit of poetry into a description of a rocket plume.  'Tiny sapphires' indeed.

Remember what I wrote about our coworkers in Who's your city?  The best part of my job is my coworkers.

A luminous oil portrait of a boy, his face partially illuminated by a lamp, hangs in a prominent place in Bill's office.   At first, I assumed he had commissioned a portrait of his son.  He painted that in his first oil painting class.  He'd just learned!

And I am also very impressed with his violin playing.  I had private lessons much longer than he, and I never played that well.

PS There are more pictures of rocket plumes in Take your daughter to work a bit early.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


I've been meaning to post about the hacked climate emails, but I didn't have time to delve into the subject.

Fortunately, Richard has summed up the situation nicely.  Please read his post, Why we should worry about the hacked emails from CRU.  I will wait.

I am especially disheartened by headlines saying things to the effect that cutting carbon emissions will be expensive.  Some, but not all, of the costs will be offset by energy savings, but it will likely cause some economic dislocation.  But, the unstated assumption is that doing nothing will not cause economic dislocation.

Global warming is already causing economic dislocation among some of the poorest humans on the planet--the ones who are not running up the carbon tab.

What do we morally owe the Bangladeshi family of subsistence farmers whose wells have turned brackish due to salt water incursion from sea level rise?  No, buying a carbon offset every time we fly won't raise enough blood money to compensate them for their children who will be malnourished and die from our callousness.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Is it too late

to put my 9 yo up for adoption?

The Onion nailed it.


Came early this week.

I am flat on my back with a muscle strain, listening to the wind.  How often are the winds in southern California as strong as those in the northern plains states?

Puzzled?  Read the Windsday series.

Our raingauge blew over, but I guess we got a bit over 1", similar to neighboring rain gauges I found through weatherunderground.com.

Some links from the LA Rainfall series:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The cycle of life

When Iris was a newborn and when I was really sick, my in-laws would come over with a cooler full of food.  Or my mom would fly in, walk to the grocery store around the corner, and then cook up a storm.  They would not leave me without a freezer full of food.

They've had quite a few health challenges this year and are in no shape to travel to our house.

It gave me pause to realize that now I am the one cooking in huge batches and bringing them over to their homes.

Bad Dad is going to San Diego almost every weekend that he is not traveling for work.  Iris usually accompanies him.  I don't go every time, but I prep large amounts of ready-to-eat foods for them before he leaves.  Although we had Thanksgiving dinner in San Francisco, my in-laws enjoyed my traditional butternut squash and bacon soup with their thanksgiving meal.  (Their family traditionally holds a potluck with the host providing the mains while the guests provide the sides.)

I also sent down black bean and sweet potato salad (w/ corn but sans jalepenos) and apple-persimmon cake via my sister-in-law.  We met up with her at a hotel en route from her home in northern northern California to San Diego.

My mom received some of the same cake, but the rest of the meal came from Whole Foods.  Bad Dad pre-ordered it on the internet and specified the WF most convenient to my mom's house.  WF was mobbed on Thanksgiving morning.  We checked in at a computer kiosk set up for the event, paid at the register, and then went outside to the truck in front of the store from which they passed out the pre-ordered Thanksgiving meals.

A meal for 4?  Hah!

We ate it the next night, then divided up the leftovers.  We had turkey sandwiches for lunch this week.  Tonight, I made turkey salad and turkey and veggie soup (CSA delivery day).  Mark made turkey fried rice.  That's it for our leftovers.

What about you?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hiking the Volcano & Fiscal Stimulus

Where were we last week?

Hiking the lip of a volcano in Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.  Yes, but where is Sibley?

We hiked it in the afternoon, after I spent the morning at Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics with owner Suzan Steinberg in the green sweater.   (Steinberg. Stone Mountain.  Get it?)  She and her dad opened the store in 1981, but I didn't start shopping there until 1986, when my former boss used to send me over for sewing supplies*.

I wanted to take the whole button inventory home with me, but the Cotton Shop by my house has a good selection of buttons.  I opted to buy a whole bunch of woolens (which don't sell well at the beach), a silk/cotton poplin and some fabulous knits home.

Then I met Mark and Iris at Shakespeare and Company Books.  We also visited Moe's Books.  Mark went to Amoeba while Iris and I checked out the offerings at Hat Fetish.  She got the hat, but not the glasses.

These, sadly, did not come home with us.

By then, we were ravenous.  I inhaled the cornmeal waffles and fried chicken at Brown Sugar Kitchen.  Note the collard greens and black-eyed pea salad in the background.  All polished off quickly.

After we ate, I chatted with chef/owner Tanya Holland.  She said that she might open up in LA and some people had suggested West Hollywood or Redondo Beach.  I squealed, "Yes, please!  Redondo Beach needs you!".

Then we hiked on the side of a volcano and came downhill to this sunset.

The Golden Gate Bridge is probably a dead giveaway.

* My boss at the costume shop at Berkeley Shakespeare, now California Shakespeare.  But if I had mentioned which boss above, that would have given away our location.

Did you know the Berkeley and Oakland hills were volcanic in origin?  It hadn't occurred to me.  But it makes sense, given their proximity to Mt Diablo, which is clearly volcanic.

Hatfetish.com is actually the internet storefront for brick and mortar Berkeley Hat Company, which I also learned about while working in the costume shop.  The really skilled craftspeople used to buy wool hat blanks and magically shape them to match their vision.  While they were busy, they sent unskilled labor (me) out to buy supplies.

We later crossed the Bay Bridge to go to grandma's house for Thanksgiving.  Bad Dad and I love to pat ourselves on our backs for selecting parents that live in top vacation destinations.

We bought so much fabric and so many books, plus two big straw hats, we were not sure we could pack them into the car on the way home and still see out the back window of the Prius.  Fortunately, I have masterful spatial skills.

We were aided by the fact that we left some stuff behind for my mom.  We also met up with my sister in law (and Iris' cousin) en route and gave her a cooler full of food to take down to Bad Dad's parents in San Diego.  I gave Iris' cousin her pink leopard print hoodie.  I could kick myself for not taking pictures of Iris and H together in their matching hoodies.  Perhaps I can do that later this month.  The adorableness needs to be documented.

7 days, 6 nights, desert, East Bay and SF Peninsula.  Whew.  It's good to be home (and done with the laundry).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Leaf Yoke and Vogue 1358 Rerun

I finished the Leaf Yoke sweater shortly after my last post about it.

I made a few alterations, adding i-cord at both the top and bottom of the lace yoke, changing the armhole shaping, and using plain garter stitch at the hem and armhole edges. Of course, I changed the gauge slightly, too.
Not only did I finish the sweater, but I sewed a skirt to match.
I have to stop using the skirt from Vogue 1358 (blogged earlier here) and use some of the many others in my collection. But this skirt is so easy to make and graceful to wear.  I made a few alterations to this as well.  I used a stretch velvet, which meant that I could use an elastic pull-on waistband. 

Because my last incarnation of this skirt turned out to be too heavy, I bought only 1.25 yards (60" wide), vowing that the skirt would be only as long as would fit in that 1.25 yards = 1 pound = $5.99/lb (from SAS Fabrics in Hawthorne, CA).   I ran the nap upward to make the velvet appear darker than the sweater.  If I ran it the other way, the bottom would have looked lighter than the sweater.

Then I added a 3" rectangular band of doubled stretch illusion to the hem (cut 6.5" and the width of the skirt, then folded and sewn w/ a 1/4" seam allowance).  It might have flowed more gracefully if I used a curved band, but that would have added a seam at the hem. I made the choice to make it easy on myself and use the rectangular band.That's the great thing about making stuff yourself.  You can make alterations and experiment.

Time in a Box and Statistics

Kathleen's post, Time in a Box, about the oldest sewing patterns in her collection got me searching through mine to look for my oldies but goodies.

This is one of the oldest patterns that I bought new and kept. In my teens, I didn't buy many patterns. This is before patterns were sold as loss-leaders. They were pricey then.  (But, perhaps, better drafted and more thoroughly tested?)

I made the shorts several times and the pants once. The pants were a wadder, more due to my poor fabric choice than the pattern. But check out version one of the shorts!

I still remember that I paid $12/yard (1.5 yards) for the Hoffman cotton sateen, bought at Kaufman's Fabrics in downtown Berkeley.  I had to work 4 hours to pay for the fabric, notions and pattern at my job in the Chemistry lab, one of the highest-paying student jobs on campus.  I did gulp at the expenditure, but they became my favorite volleyball shorts.  I wore those giraffe shorts at least once a week for nearly a decade.

The giraffes were printed in Japan on American basecloth.  Hoffman is still selling cotton sateens for about the same price.  I wonder where they are made today?

Kaufman's closed years ago.  Willi Smith, the pattern designer, died of AIDS shortly after I made the shorts.

But I recently came back into contact with these friends/coworkers from the Chemistry lab through facebook.  I joined FB at my neighbor's suggestion.  I didn't know what to make of it--I still am not sure what it is about.

But, a week after I signed up, someone contacted me and asked me if I was the person he went to HS and college with.  I checked his pix and profile and recognized his friends as our friends.  So I friended him.  Then our former boss and the organizer of the Berkeley Chemistry Demo Lab group on FB found me because I was a friend of a friend.  I joined the group and he sent me a link to this photo from 1987.  I love the 1980s fashion vibe in the photo.

This photo then reminded me of the book, Statistics by David Freedman, Robert Pisani, and Roger Purves.  In the introduction, they discussed how statistics can be used to draw the wrong conclusions.  For example, the acceptance rate for women for graduate school at Berkeley was much lower than for men.  Did that mean bias?  A committee looked at acceptance rates for a half dozen major departments, broken down by gender.   It turned out, that acceptance rates varied by department, between ~30-80%.  In most departments, males and females were accepted at roughly comparable rates.  If anything, the data showed that women were more likely to be admitted on a department-wide basis.  The overall higher rejection rate for women reflected that they were more likely to apply to the most competitive graduate programs at Berkeley. 

Why did that picture remind me of the example in Statistics? Because everyone in the photo worked at the Chemistry Demo Lab (and stockroom) and there are two females and one male in the photo.  That was also the gender ratio of the workers during my tenure at the lab.  We were jokingly called Lonnie's angels by the male graduate students who used to hang out in the lab with us and get in our way.

Lonnie was called to task for hiring so many females.  If he drew his employees from students who had completed honors Freshman Chemistry and Quantitative Analysis,  and the population of that class was about 80-90% male, then why were the majority of his employees females?

Lonnie countered that he interviewed students that landed in the top third in theoretical grades and the top fifth in laboratory grades.  We made the stock solutions that the students used.  The students' quantitative analysis accuracy depended upon our accuracy.  It was very important to find the most careful workers.  Secondly, he wanted workers that understood what they were doing and why.

After the grade cutoff, he went by interview impressions.  We were interviewed by returning workers as well as Lonnie.  Basically, we had to be the type of person they wanted to work with.

So how did he hire 2/3 females from a class that was 7/8 male?  Because the female students who sign up for honors science classes are different than the males.  Women tend to underestimate their abilities and men tend to overestimate theirs.  The average female student who signed up for that class was stronger than the average male classmate.  Males and females were roughly evenly represented in the top third in theoretical scores, but the females had higher laboratory scores.  There was no bias.  Lonnie beat the rap.

No one told us, but we were smart enough to realize that, if we wore short skirts while performing the demos, the students were more likely to stay awake and pay attention.  And, thanks to FB, I learned that nearly all of my former coworkers went on to earn MDs and/or PhDs.  Lonnie certainly knew how to pick them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Propagate Errors, not Bullshit!

Thank-you, Eric.  I never fully understood the significance, or lack of significance, of p-values in clinical drug trials before your two posts.  It makes many expensive drugs much less impressive, now that I can see how marginal of an effect they offer for $$,$$$ per year per patient.

I have to admit that I also read the chapter about p-values in the back of "the best detective story ever"*, Statistics by David Freedman, Robert Pisani, and Roger Purves. (You can pick up used older editions at very reasonable prices.  It is a fantastic introduction to how to apply statistics intelligently.)

I think that science education should include more rigorous statistical training.  The only training I ever received in statistics was in Honors Freshman Chemistry at Berkeley.  We were instructed to read the first chapter (36 pages) in our laboratory textbook, Chemical Separations and Measurements: Theory and Practice of Analytical Chemistry by Dennis G. Peters, John M. Hayes and Gary M Hieftje.  Then we did a problem set to make sure that we understood the normal distribution, how to propagate errors and how to report our average values and 95% confidence intervals. As meager as that was, that was infinitely more than the nonexistent instruction that I received from the Physics department.

We could have used more training earlier in our careers.

When I taught physical chemistry lab, I read An Introduction to Error Analysis: The Study of Uncertainties in Physical Measurements by John R. Taylor, one of the assigned textbooks.  That's another highly-recommended classic book.

* Actual quip from the back cover of the 3rd edition.  Isn't that the most lovely quip you can imagine for a statistics book?

How did you learn statistics?  This is a question for everyone, not just trained scientists.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What is the P-Value of Bullshit? Part Two

Another guest post from Eric

Recall in part one of "What is the P-Value of Bullshit?" we did a thought experiment, called "Study #3" in which we encountered a measurement, four heads in a row, with p-value as low as .06, which was nonetheless almost certainly due to random statistics.

Study #4: In Which the Naive Interpretation of P-value Is Partially Redeemed

Surely there must be at least some scenarios in which we can interpret the p-value as "probability of our result being bullshit"? Well, yes, and here's one: Suppose our jar of 1000 pennies now contains 500 two-headed pennies and 500 ordinary pennies. So now a two-headed penny becomes a mundane hypothesis, no longer a "way out there" sort of thing. Suppose we pick a penny at random, and do our four flips and get four heads, a p=0.06 result.

Q4: Now what's the probability now that we are not holding a two-headed penny?
       The arithmetic goes [(1/2)/16]/[(1/2+(1/2)/16)] = 0.0588

A4: Almost 6%, about the same number as our p-value!

So in Study #4, in which we test a "mundane" hypothesis, your old thesis adviser's naive interpretation of p-value works pretty well.

As a general rule, in order to believe a measurement is real, you should look for a p-value that is small compared to how "out there" the result is you're trying to confirm. If you're testing a mundane hypothesis that is as likely to be true as not, then p=0.05 is probably good enough for you. But if you are trying to confirm that you have hit some one-in-a-thousand two-headed jackpot, then you'd better wait until you get a p value of safely less than 1/1000 (e.g., better flip 13 heads in a row, not just four!) Incidentally, the philosophy of this post, and of this approach to hypothesis confirmation, is based on Bayesian statistics.

You might complain that a sliding criterion for adequate p-value makes the believability of a statistical measurement a matter of subjective judgment. After all, usually we don't know ahead of time that we are fishing for a precisely one-in-a-thousand payoff, and we can only estimate how far "out there" our original hypothesis is.

My response to your complaint: tough tootsie roll. No one ever said doing science was going to be easy. You can blindly apply p-value analysis, and be a hack, or you can bring some careful thought to a problem, and be a real scientist. And speaking of hacks...

For a real-life example, let's go back to that NYT story, which had to do with two candidate AIDS vaccines. Each vaccine had been previously tested and shown quite decisively to be ineffective. The US Army and the NIH jointly decided to sponsor a placebo-controlled, Phase III human subjects trial on the use of the two vaccines in combination.Has the idea of using two vaccines in combination, when each is shown to be ineffective on its own, ever worked?

Dozens of AIDS scientists protested that this hypothesis was such a long shot that testing it amounted to a huge waste of AIDS-battle resources.Was it a one-in-a-thousand long shot, like our two-headed penny hypothesis? Who knows? But in any case it was surely one-in-25 or worse. The NIH and the Army pushed ahead, lined up 16,000 volunteers and spent $100 million, and in the end published a p = 0.04 result* claiming that the combined vaccine worked a wee little bit, providing immunity to only one in every three who got the full combined dose.

Does p = 0.04 mean that the probability that the published result is due to statistical noise is only 4%? The scientists interviewed in the NYT seemed to think so, but alas the study is most likely a 100 million dollars worth of statistical noise: bullshit.

At this very moment, somewhere in the world a scientist is testing a long-shot hypotheses: does eating a diet of only artichokes cure breast cancer?Are red-headed children more responsive to acetaminophen? There are thousands of such investigations going on. They are long shots, but every once in a while a seemingly bizarre hypothesis turns out to be true, so what the hell, no harm in checking it out?

Problem is, with many thousands of long-shot studies going on at any one time, by random chance you will get hundreds of "p = .04" results supporting hypotheses that are in fact incorrect. If you're from the naive school of p-value interpretation, you'll celebrate your p = 0.04 result by publishing a paper, or better, holding a press conference!

And if you are stats-challenged science journalist, you'll write the bullshit up for the New York Times.

*The "p=0.04" number actually comes from a fairly "aggressive" analysis. Playing more strictly by the rules, the study's authors got a still-less-impressive p=0.15.

**Thanks to Jonathan Golub of Slog for providing the point-of-departure for this two-part post. Always lively, readable and informative, Golub is, along with BMGM herself, one of my favorite bloggers on science and science policy. Like all prolific science writers, he has on rare occasions oversimplified and on very rare occasions, totally screwed up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is the P-Value of Bullshit? Part One

Eric here, sporadic guest poster on Bad Mom, Good Mom. I am a laboratory scientist working in Colorado.

Last week, BMGM aired one of her pet peeves, confusing correlation with causality.

My own statistical pet peeve? The oft-abused concept of p-value. Probably a majority of practicing laboratory scientists routinely misinterpret p-values. I'm not talking mere bit players either: last month the NYT reported on a Phase III human-subjects AIDS vaccine trial, run in Thailand by the US Army and the NIH. Naive thinking about statistics led to the publicized conclusions of the study being almost surely crap.

We'll come back to how we know the conclusions are crap, but first let's do a thought experiment. Imagine taking one two-headed penny and mixing it in with a jar of 999 ordinary pennies. Shake the jar up and pull out one penny. Don't look at it yet! Let's do some scientific studies.

Study #1: In Which We Collect No Data At All

Q1: Before you've looked at the penny you took out, what is the probability that the coin you are holding has two heads?
A1: You got it -- one in a thousand, or 0.1%.

Study #2: In Which We Collect Deterministic Data

Now look at both sides of the penny. Suppose you notice that on both sides, there is a head!
Q2: Now, what is the probability you are holding a two-headed penny?
A2: Yep -- unity, or 100%. OK, we're ready for something more difficult!

Study #3: In Which We Collect Some Odd-Seeming Statistical Data

Throw your two-headed coin back in, shake the jar, and again reach in and grab a single penny. Don't look at it yet! Now suppose you flip the coin four times and get a slightly unusual result: four heads in a row.
Q3: OK, given you flipped four heads in a row, now what would you say is the probability that your penny has two heads?

Well, if we were doing biomedical research, the first thing we do when we encounter statistical data is calculate the p-value, right? Turns out that if you took an ordinary (not two-headed) penny and flip in four times, then the probability you will get heads four times in a row is one in 16, or about 6%. So now we can (correctly!) define p-value by example: four heads in a row is a p-value 0.06 measurement.

Can we turn this idea on its head and say, "If we flip four heads in a row, then there is only a 6% chance the coin is not a two-headed coin"? Many practicing scientists would say "yes", but the correct answer is no, NO, Goddammit, NOOOOOO!

In our Study #3, picking a two-headed coin out of the jar is a very rare thing to do, one in 1000, whereas picking an ordinary coin out and flipping four heads in a row is only a slightly odd thing to do, (999/1000)(1/16), or about one in 16. Thus we get:

A3: the probability you are holding a two-headed coin is very small, (0.001)/(0.001+(999/1000)/16), or about 16 over 1000, only 1.6%. You are 98% likely not to be holding a two-headed coin!

Bottom line: your seemingly significant, p = 0.06 measurement of four heads in a row was not strong evidence of a two-headed coin, and saying otherwise would be, in the technical jargon of the trained laboratory scientist, "bullshit".

Perhaps your research adviser told you the p-value meant "probability your measurement is merely random noise". Is s/he always wrong about that?"

Nah, the old geezer got it right once in a while, if only by accident. To find out about that exception, stay tuned for part two of this post!

**Thanks to Jonathan Golub of Slog for providing the point-of-departure for this two-part post. Always lively, readable and informative, Golub is, along with BMGM herself, one of my favorite bloggers on science and science policy. Like all prolific science writers, he has on rare occasions oversimplified and on very rare occasions, totally screwed up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leaf Yoke Detour

Because I will do anything to avoid seaming up Shadow October Frost.  Including knitting another sweater.  Angela Hahn's Leaf Yoke Top [Ravelry link] in Knit Picks Comfy worsted, a super-soft pima cotton and acrylic blend.  The catalog called the color "planetarium".  I was expecting an inky navy-black.  It is really a dark Prussian blue.  Now why don't they just say that in the catalog instead of giving it an artsy-fartsy name?

Proof that cell phone use impairs driving

I was driving east on crowded Manhattan Beach Boulevard, performing my soccer mom duties, when this humongous SUV kept veering into my lane.  I looked over to see if the driver was drunk or perhaps having a stroke.  Nope, he was driving while talking on his hand-held cell phone, which BTW is illegal in California.

I told Iris to quickly get out the camera and catch him in flagrante delicto. He looked at our car and the camera and put down the phone. A few hundred yards later, he picked up the phone again. Iris managed to get some good photos.  Notice the height differential between our Prius and his Porsche Cayenne S.  His bumpers are aimed squarely at our head and shoulder height.  He's not paying attention to where he is aiming that 5000 pound weapon.

If you see this car, steer clear. He's a menace to society.

How to become a home cook

I've been thinking, reading and writing a great deal about food  lately.  It ramped up after I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I meant to post something about Michael Pollan's screed, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, but there was plenty of ink and pixels spilled across the internet without my contribution.

It's easy to judge people for watching others cook, rather than getting into the kitchen and cooking themselves.  But, what if someone doesn't know how to cook?  Where do they start?   How does someone who doesn't know a clove of garlic from a head of garlic* get started?

Cookbooks by celebrity chefs that are familiar from TV may not be the best place to start.  Professional chefs cook on restaurant scale on professional equipment (50,000 BTUs?  No problem!) with rare ingredients.  Years ago, a NYT article claimed that ~20% of cookbook recipes don't even work when tested in a home kitchen.  Recipes from celebrity restaurant chefs were heavily over-represented in the bad recipes .

I am a huge fan of Marion Cunningham because she tests each recipe in a home kitchen, using basic home equipment.  Then she has others test the recipes in their home kitchens.  I respect that attention to detail.

Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham is the best book I have ever seen for learning how to cook. She assumes no prior knowledge, explains every term and shows every step.  She developed the book while teaching rank beginners how to cook.  If you want to learn how to become a home cook, this is the place to start.

I've compiled a list of my most useful cookbooks (plus one example of the type of cookbook I hate). 

A bilingual compilation of Taiwanese recipes doesn't have an ISBN # and doesn't show up on that list.  But it's also highly recommended. It was put together by the Northern California Chapter of the North America Taiwanese Women's Association.  My mom might still have more.  Email me if you want a copy.

* Don't laugh, but I once had a housemate who borrowed one of my cookbooks and made a garlic pasta with three heads of garlic.  He thought that was a lot of garlic, but the recipe said 3 cloves of garlic.  He didn't know what a clove was, but he assumed it was a unit of garlic.  The entire garlic bulb looked like the basic unit of garlic to that novice.  So do not assume prior knowledge.  Newbies are not necessarily dumb, but they don't know the jargon yet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The catchy name school of science

Donald Knuth wrote in The Art of Computer Programming something to the effect of "The bubble sort has nothing to recommend it except for a catchy name."

What's catchier than "dandelion kids" and "orchid hypothesis"?  Read the Science of Success in the December issue of Atlantic.  Then read Genetic 'breakthroughs' in medicine are often nothing of the sort
Don't believe everything you read about genes and disease in prestigious journals like Science and Nature, say Marcus Munafò and Jonathan Flint. A lot of it is simply wrong.
I don't have time for a longer post. I have looming deadlines at work and at home. But my money is on Enrico Fermi, Marcus Munafò and Jonathan Flint.    ;-)

Discuss among yourself.