Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I hate Time Warner Cable

I hate Time Warner.

Time Warner Sucks.

Last night, Bad Dad canceled cable and downgraded us to "basic internet only" service, which was not supposed to change anything about our internet service or speed.

At 6 PM today, we were unable to browse the internet (with Chrome, Safari or Firefox).  All browsers showed a Time Warner provisioning error message telling us to call 1-877-777-7371 and give them my MAC address (provided in the browser) so that they could turn it on.

OS X network diagnostics showed that we were connected to the internet.

The UNIX command line utility, ping, also confirmed our connection.  Packet speeds were very slow, but less than 10% of the packets were dropped.  We were connected to the internet.  So why can't we browse?  Very strange.

I rebooted all the computers, the modem, and the wi-fi routers.  Still no change.

I called the number at 7:00 PM and dutifully navigated through the Byzantine voicemail prompts (that don't describe anything similar to my problem), trying to figure out the magic combination that would get me to a live person who can help me.

At 7:10, I landed a person in India who told me that he couldn't help me but could transfer me to someone who could.  I asked for a phone number that I can use in case my call got dropped (a non-negligible concern when dealing with TW customer service) but he refused to give me one.

At 7:14, I was patched through to their "internet service" customer service queue and placed on hold.

At 7:18  A "internet" customer service rep with an Indian accent asked me for my phone number and account information .again. !  ( Last time, I gave my real name but it didn't match the name on their account and told me my husband, the account holder, had to call them.  Of course, when he called them, the department that could help us was closed.)  This time, they took my husband's name and my name and proceeded to try to turn on connections to our MAC address.

I asked why ping works but he had no idea what I was talking about.  So then I tried to explain that I can access the internet through UNIX command line but not through a browser window.  He still didn't catch my drift.

At 7:27 the technician was unable to resolve the problem and said he would put us on hold while he worked with a more senior technician.

Time Warner Sucks.

At 8:00 he came back with apologies for taking so long (3 minutes, 33 minutes, what's an order of magnitude when you are TW?).  He told me that my modem was too old and not compatible with their system.  I asked to speak to a supervisor.

At 8:10 I asked the supervisor why we were being alerted now to old hardware compatibility.  Why didn't they alert us earlier, like when Bad Dad was on the phone with them last night?  Or during normal business hours so I can run out and purchase a newer modem?  And why can't they back out the firmware change?

They told me to buy a new modem tomorrow and then call them back so with the MAC address of the new modem.  I again asked for a direct phone number so that I don't have to go through the voicemail and hold hell again.  I don't like having to spend an hour just to get through to someone who can do something.  They said that they can't give me a more direct phone number than the TW customer service number.

So I asked them what is the TW customer service number and they refused to tell me.  Why don't they know their own number?

Bad Dad arrived home and I spoke with him and the rep on speakerphone.  Magically, they transferred Bad Dad to someone stateside who confirmed that we did NOT change our internet plan and ascertained that our old modem should work for the lower network speeds characteristic of our basic plan.  The  rep remotely enabled our old modem immediately.  I asked him, why didn't India transfer me to you right away?

I'm a former UNIX sysadmin.  I did the normal tests to try to isolate the problem.  I'm not a network engineer, but I hang out with friends who are.  My understanding of computer networking is sophisticated for a non-specialist.

I tried to explain to the Indian techs my observations, but they didn't listen to me or answer my questions.  It's not even clear to me that they even understood what I was telling them.

Why did Bad Dad get immediately referred to a stateside tech that understood and could resolve the problem quickly?  Why did I have to waste 80 minutes with bozos in India who told me that I was asking the impossible?

Is there any software or device that will lower my voice so I can sound like a man and get better customer service?

Or can Time Warner learn to respect their female customers?  Better yet, can they hire techs that respect female customers?  Can those techs be found in India given their pervasive climate of treating women badly?  Why is TW outsourcing to a country with such a poor human rights record?  Are there places more deserving of our $ support?

Don't tell me that Americans can't do the job.  It's clear from my experience tonight that Indians can't do it either.  ;-)

Time Warner Sucks.

What ISP are you using and how do they treat you?

Does it matter if you are a man or woman when you call customer service?

I hate Time Warner.

Thank-you for letting me vent.  It's been a frustrating evening.  I'm off to do a little yoga and then cast-on a project for moi.  I deserve it.  I'd show you the beautiful yarn, but I can't find my camera.

Friday, July 26, 2013

LACMA Summer Evenings

I was shocked to learn that some of the Beach Cities families also participating in the Sister City exchange have never been to LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  It's a shame because it's a fabulous cultural resource and it is free for kids and their adult chaperones.  LACMA is also free for all many hours each month.  Check the visiting LACMA page for details.

Each Friday and Saturday evening through the summer, there are free concerts--Jazz on Fridays, Latin on Saturdays--at 6 PM in the main entrance court.  We pack a picnic dinner and listen from above, on the balcony area of the Ahmanson building.  Other families bring blankets and sit on the grassy areas around the plaza.  If you get there really early, you can find seats right in front of the stage.

LACMA is free for all LA County residents between 3 PM and closing M-F.  On Fridays, all of the galleries are open to 8 PM and BCAM and Resnick Pavilion remain open until 11 PM.

The LACMA film program also screens classics or hard to find movies at very modest ticket prices of $0-10.

With all this--and $10 flat rate parking--I don't know why museum attendance is in decline.  It is a great value in terms of cost and quality of experience.

I also heard from some gallery visitors that they eat in the nearby (artificial and pricey) Grove shopping complex when they visit LACMA.  They drive through Little Ethiopia, but don't stop to explore the shops and restaurants because they don't know where to go.  We just stopped, walked around, tried a half dozen restaurants, and narrowed it down to our favorites.  Next up, I'll review some of them.  Ethiopian is a good cuisine for vegetarians, vegans and people on gluten-free diets.  We're omnivores that enjoy good food, and that--and the hospitality of the culture--are the best reasons to eat Ethiopian IMHO.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Slowly going back to normal

Our house guests from Mexico have departed.  They barely left the guest room while they were in our house.  Their schedule was so busy, it felt more like I was running a bed and breakfast cum livery service rather than hosting cultural exchange students.

Since Bad Dad and I don't speak Spanish, and they don't speak English, we relied on Google Translate a great deal.  The mother/group chaperone didn't criticize my housekeeping to my face.  But, I noticed that the kids had a conversation on Google Translate about how come the dishes are so dirty.  (Iris replied that the glasses aren't dirty, but they do come out cloudy from the dishwasher.)

While they were here, Bad Dad was in the middle of a field experiment, working out of a local municipal airport.  He came home a few hours a day to shower and sleep, but worked every day for two weeks.

Meanwhile, Iris stayed home with a modest fever and a head cold that developed into a sinus infection. She was so sick, she missed most of the exchange week activities, including Disneyland.  You know your kid is sick when she turns down a free trip to Disneyland.

Our Aussie visitors are friends and I was a lot more relaxed about housekeeping.  Moreover, one of them asked if there was anything from Australia that I coveted.  She showed up with six Style Arc patterns in my size.  She can stay with us anytime.  (Actually, she's been coming to the US on average every six months and usually schedules an LAX layover at our house bearing gifts.)

I hope to show the Style Arc projects soon.  But, I haven't even shown the Jalie patterns I picked up at PR Weekend in April.  I've sewn one up and love it.  One day, I'll do a proper review.

On the good news front, I learned how to switch from Google Hangouts back to the old Gmail Chat interface.  I really hated the Hangout interface because it required me (at least in Safari) to click on the chat box before typing.  In Chat, I could just start typing.  Interface and U/X designers, why add that extra step to something that worked fine before?

Some good news about free range kids

It's been super-busy chez BMGM this summer.  Our houseguests have left.  The three of us spent one night together under the same roof, without house guests, in the past 5.5 weeks.  We'll spend one more night together at home in the next week.  Things don't look like they will let up anytime soon.

Being home with a teen-aged know-it-all this summer often brings to mind the Dunning-Kruger effect*.

A last-minute announcement that she is going to her BFF's sleepover birthday party when we had a visit to San Diego planned just threw a monkey wrench into our already tight schedule.  I wasn't so keen on last-minute present shopping and wrapping either.

You know what she did?  She and two buddies set out on their scooters after lunch today and came back around dinner time.  She brought home a bag filled with presents and wrapping paper.  They went to the neighborhood mall, then the dollar store on Artesia for gift wrap, and finished up at the coffee shop to share a brownie for sustenance after their expedition.

I'm so proud of these free range kids.

Now, if I can just get her to eat something nutritious before bedtime.

* She actually said that she knows more about technology than I do.  Dead pan.  I think she really meant it.  OMG.  Total Dunning-Kruger effect.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More bad news about cashmere

In follow-up to The planetary cost of cashmere, we have more bad news.  Cashmere goat farming in Mongolia at ever higher and higher altitudes has increased killings of endangered snow leopards.  I was particularly shocked by this quote taken from Globalization of the Cashmere Market and the Decline of Large Mammals in Central Asia, published in the journal Conservation Biology:
"In the absence of commitment across global and local scales, this iconic wildlife will cease to persist as they have for millennia, concluded an international team of researchers in the journal Conservation Biology. "Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion." The study showed that 95% of all the forage across the Tibetan plateau, Mongolia and northern India was consumed by goats, sheep and other livestock, leaving just 5% for wild animals.
I have previously written how boring it would be if the world consisted of only humans and the things that we eat, but I guess I should have taken a more holistic view. I should have written, "only humans and the things that we consume."

Snow leopard photo courtesy of wallpaperstock.net.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Stories behind the garments

Did you know that UCLA's Fowler museum has one of the largest textile collections in the world?

I hope to attend tomorrow's Culture Fix lunch time talk. Admission is free. Hourly visitor parking is available at the nearby underground parking structure #4.  Approach from Sunset Boulevard and turn south at Westwood Plaza.  The road will end at the downhill ramp to the garage.
The beautiful textiles in Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe are primarily drawn from the Fowler’s impressive collection. If these clothes could talk, they would have some interesting tales to tell about their origins and how they came to the Museum! At this lunchtime gallery talk, join associate director of the Center for the Study for Regional Dress Barbara Belle Sloan as she unveils the personal histories behind some of the textiles currently on view.

Culture Fix: Barbara Belle Sloan: The Stories behind the Garments
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
12 pm (noon)
Free program
I did attend and wholeheartedly recommend seeing the exhibition before it closes on July 14, 2013.

Ms Sloan explained the history of how they came to put on this show. Financial necessity led them to look near home. Nearly all the garments came from their own collection or were donated by people who had heard that the Fowler/UCLA held similar garments.

Several relatives or friends of garment donors were also in attendance and told more stories. Really a delightful way to spend a lunch hour.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The definition of a friend

is someone I don't feel the need to clean my house for when they come over.  I have also heard someone say on NPR that, if someone helps themselves to stuff in your fridge without asking first, and you feel fine about that, then you are friends.

I enjoy hosting friends visiting from out of town.  I like to stay with friends instead of a hotel whenever possible.

But, what if you are hosting a stranger?  A stranger from our sister city in Mexico who hosted my (not always angelic) child during Spring break?  A stranger who, according to my normally not observant child, keeps an immaculate house?  Iris' host sister's mother is also coming as a group chaperone.  They will both stay with us for one week.

I asked our (Mexican-born/US Citizen) biweekly housecleaner for advice.  She replied that our house is pretty good for an American house.  We are going to tackle the house together the morning before the guests arrive.

Bad dad thinks the house looks fine.  I pointed to holes in the ceiling from repairs made 20 months ago.  "Oh, I forgot about that and stopped noticing.  We should get someone in to repair all the plaster and repaint."

He did notice that the dining room chairs were torn and wobbly.  We are eating on the piano bench until they come back from the upholsterers.

We sent some blinds out for repair and purchased new blinds for two bedrooms.  Now the rest of the blinds look shabby and their days are numbered.  Hmm, why hasn't the blind repair place called me back yet?  It's been a week.  [Update: they are working on it.  They had to order parts.]

We started with Iris' bathroom that guests share.  Mark fixed the towel rack.  I performed an archeological dig in the medicine cabinet and under the sink cabinet.  Why do we still have baby stuff? You can see the counter now.

New guest room sheets are on the way.   UPS says they should be delivered today.  [Update: UPS handed them off to USPS for delivery in 1-2 more days.  WTF?]  The pillows will get a good wash were washed in hot water.

I am tackling piles of clutter, one area at a time.  Now that I am looking, I see we have piles (and spiders!)  everywhere.

I may call a handyman and tackle the garage after the house.  I have BIG plans!  But, everything won't be done before Friday.

Meanwhile, I see from LinkedIn that my dream job just opened up in Belgium.  They need someone to test earth observation data and software as well as write their data preservation plans.  Hey, that's my specialty.

If hired, I'll move.  The hell with housework.  I'll let the other two clutterbugs sort out their own piles.

Seriously, there are parallels with sorting through and curating data and household clutter.  It takes knowledge, insight and imagination to understand how things are used, the effort it would take to replace something, to imagine future uses for old stuff/data and weigh that against the cost of storing the stuff.

I'm really, really good at that.

And data analysis and curation pay so much better than housework.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

In the days before helicopter parenting

The cat in the hat came avisiting.

So why do people ask what the mom was thinking?  Why does the dad get off scot-free in the blame game?

The Mom From ‘The Cat in the Hat’ Finally Speaks by Sarah Schmelling explains all.

You need to read this. Really.

February in July

Remember what Little Hunting Creek wrote about the Paradox of Choice?  I signed on to join her schedule.  The plan skidded off the rails when I had a little hang up with sewing a border print.  Anyway, it may be time to get back with the program.

I found myself sewing with silk, February's plan, in July.  Behold, Vogue 1291 in cotton/lycra interlock and silk crepe de chine (cdc).
I purchased this mystery piece at SAS Fabrics for ~$2, thinking it was poly and I was going to run off a cheap and quick muslin of the new to me pattern.  But, when I machine washed and dried it, the fabric finish came out and a flame test proved it was silk.    Happy surprise.

I had only 24" on the wide side and 40" on the long side of the of this 44" wide cdc.  The pattern called for 1 5/8 yards and I had much less than that.  Fortunately, single layer cutting allowed me to lay all the pieces out and on the intended grain.  If you want to reduce waste, try single layer cutting.
I used a visible band rather than the turned under and stitched neck band given in the pattern instructions.  The pattern suggests ~24" for the neck band and I cut 21", but it was still too wide.
The coolest thing about this pattern is the sleeves.  I love a topological challenge and was compelled to try the pattern just to learn how it works.  When you put it on, it's really fun how your arms appear like a turtle's flippers out of these things.
As you can see, I am out of practice with the roll hemmer.  It looks OK if you don't get too close.  And it would be rude to stand so close anyway.

I initially gathered the front sleeve at the neckline, but didn't like how that looked.  Ungathered, there is still enough room for your arm in the bottom opening.
My measurements fall between a B and C on Sandra Betzina's size chart.  I made a size C, because I am closer to a C than a B.  But, I should have sized down to a B or even an A.  It's huge around my neck.  The design needs to have zero/negative ease at the hips when sewn in a woven/knit to hold it up.

The shape of the knit body panels fit nicely into the scraps leftover from cutting out the skirt, Vogue 1358.   You can see version #4 and #5.  I bought the navy interlock at Fabrix during PR weekend.
At PR weekend, Sandra Betzina brought racks full of clothes from her own wardrobe made with her Vogue pattern line and allowed us to try them on.  This top is flattering to people with large shoulders and slim hips.  I wasn't sure how it would work on me.  Now I know it is meh.  However, making it was fun.

While the serger was threaded in navy, I made one other thing.  But, I want to digress to some science explaining before I get back to sewing blogging.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Food wars

Have you seen this example of internet fear-mongering, 8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries and the push back from a chemistry professor, Six chemicals we consume in our food and drink that should be banned?

Do you think that people who write about food additives should know something about chemistry?  Or do you think that any intern who works for free should be allowed to write about anything so long as they meet their posting requirements for the day?

I found this one about dyes so wrong-headed, I can't even figure out where to begin.
Why it’s dangerous: Artificial dyes are made from chemicals derived from petroleum, which is also used to make gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar!
There are real reasons to avoid artificial dyes in food, like allergic reactions. I get itchy skin, a common allergic reaction, from certain food dyes, and avoid them whenever possible.  Moreover, we should have a broader conversation about our overall dependence on petroleum in agriculture (or in modern life in general), but guilt by association is not a scientifically valid rationale.

One more example:
Synthetic growth hormones rBGH and rBST: Harmful to cows and linked to increasing tumor development in humans.
Harmful to cows and linked to increasing tumor development in humans.
Why it’s dangerous: Growth hormones are bad for cows and people, potentially causing infertility, weakened muscle growth, and a whole array of cancers.
How can she write about rBGH and rBST without mentioning the reliance on antibiotics in dairy cattle to counter mastitis brought on by the hormones?  That's the greatest danger.  Perhaps she didn't mention it because she doesn't know?

It gets worse.  Number 8 is Arsenic.  Yes, "arsenic is poison, which will kill you if you ingest enough."  But it is also a naturally occurring element in food because of its presence in water and soil. The same, "will kill you if you ingest enough", can be said for just about any other metal in our food, including ones necessary to sustain human life.

In case BuzzFeed's article makes your head hurt, go read Mark Lorch's response in the Guardian for levity.
Denatured protein

You might not know this but Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and CJD (the human version of mad cow disease) are all caused by proteins that have misfolded. Basically perfectly normal proteins get shape-shifted into evil versions of themselves that then cause dreadful diseases. And guess what, when you fry your egg you cause the proteins in the white to misfold. I'll leave you to draw the obvious conclusion.
Lorch links to another takedown of Buzzfeed by Derek Lowe.

If you want to get depressed about the public's lack of science literacy and policy implications, read The public don't want to be involved in science policy.

7 in 10 poll correspondants say that they are very interested in medical research, but 8 in 10 say they have little or no understanding of what the term "human genome" means.

I am a bit unclear on whether the term means the entire set of human genetic material or specific subsets of it, and whether it encompasses only DNA in chromosomes or includes mitochondrial DNA, or tRNA. But that lack of clarity wouldn't cause me to select "little or no understanding" in the poll.

If you think that is scary, take a look at the science literacy of the people making policy by writing laws or allocating research money.  Yikes!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How I let the internet eat my Sunday morning

It all started so innocently, when I checked headlines on a few news websites like the Guardian.  After reading a few stories in the World section, I cruised over to see the fashion articles in Life & Style.  I am often inspired by the colors and textures in men's fashions.  (Since I am not a size 0 amazon, women's fashion shows are useful only for inspiration anyway.)

That led to a gorgeous slide show of Trine Lindegaard's Spring-Summer 2013 collection for men. She incorporates hand-made textiles from Ghana in a way that highlights and honors the materials without appearing costume-y.

Photo courtesy of Trine Lindegaard via theGuardian.
I was particularly struck by some of Trine Lindegaard's comments from the accompanying article:
The mass clamour about how "so-and-so was inspired by Africa", together with a confusion between east and west African cloths and the question of whether it is a country or a continent*, only adds to the general malaise.

Animal print is another story. I use animal print all the time, as does Michael Kors; an instance of appropriation. There is no problem with appropriation, it's another word for inspiration; do we need the leopard's permission to use its spots?

The dialogue then becomes something along the lines of, how we appropriate a culture with due regard. Everyone knows what tartan is, but do they know its history? Is it essential they do? At the very least we all know that tartan is Scottish. We're not just going on about "how inspired we were by Europe this season".
Those are excellent points, especially in light of the things I learned about textiles and traditional knowledge in CopyrightX.  The short story is that prints on fabric are copyrightable expressions, and the treatment of traditional fabric patterns varies by country and date of creation.  Tread very, very carefully and remember that, just because something is legal, doesn't make it right.  Listen to your conscience and always follow the law.

Anyway, I visited Lindegaard's company's website, her blog and then found more articles about her work and thoughts.  She posted pictures of fabric production for her line here and here.  I was confused by her reference to these as Kita cloth, but then found Kita and Kente used interchangeably on another website.

A Nigerian roommate in college showed me an actual piece of high-quality Kente cloth.  It's not the printed stuff that often gets passed off as Kente cloth in the US.  It is woven of lustrous rayon or silk on narrow looms.  Then the strips are sewn together into fabric that is wrapped around the body on ceremonial occasions.

Lindegaard uses the real good stuff and her prices reflect the labor and care that went it its production.  One of my favorites mixes a front panel of Kita cloth with knit panels for a gorgeous sweater.  (I'm not sure why this online store mistakenly refers to it as embroidery.)
Photo courtesy of Trine Lindegaard's blog.

Google search took me to an article about Lindegaard's SS2013 collection in Shadders Africa, a fascinating site about African beauty and fashion. A comment left on a Shadders blog post about Sindiso Khumalo brought up another copyright issue:
Hello Shadders,

Great Post here.

We have seen your comment on our blog, and we take your concern seriously.
we also get accused of re-posting from other blogs/sites, so I can understand how such comments would be perceived.

However, we usually give full credit at the bottom of each post ( I'll have to make that more visible now).
Thank you for stopping by our blog.
We wish you all the best.

You guys are doing a fantastic job!

RealTimeFix Blog
Is RealTimeFix a spam blog? Is their rebroadcasting of imagery from Shadders (even with a link back) copyright infringement or fair use? That depends on the countries where the websites are created and how much of the source material (what % of the total?  the heart of the material?) and how she used it (parody? commentary? educational?).  A certificate of completion from CopyrightX does not make me a lawyer and I can't pass judgement.  Well, I do have an opinion.  ;-)

I'm in the US, where fair use is more broadly defined than in most other countries.  When using images from other websites, I am careful to link back and give credit *AND* provide some commentary and contextual information to the original material that I borrowed to make a point.  If you simply repost someone else's content without adding something creative and new, then that is copyright infringement in any country.

As promised earlier, I changed the footer on my blog to reflect that I am allowing noncommercial reuses of my content (like using one of my photos to compare with something else in your post) with attribution and share-alike.  That means, you can share my stuff as long as you attribute it (in text and also with link backs to original content, please), don't use it commercially, and also allow non-commercial reuse of your content with the same restrictions.

If you run ads on your blog, you are a commercial user.  Commercial users should contact me for licensing information.  There are varying degrees of commercialism.  If you run ads to raise money for charity, I'm not going to charge you.

This license does not require non-commerical users to ask permission, but I think asking permission or giving a heads up is always good manners.  Email me.

* Aside regarding confusion whether Africa is a country or a continent:  I met someone shopping for African fabric at SAS last week who thought that Africa was a country in the same way that Australia is a continent and a country.  Well, they both start with A.

Creative Commons License
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