Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Technology Tuesday, Flabrats

This is really about statistics, but this is such a fundamental idea, I wanted to write about it and link to these fantastic videos.  It can be used to test the effectiveness of a technology, so I'm posting it to Technology Tuesday (TT).

My daughter's high school honors Chemistry class also started with this lesson, but using pennies.  My Berkeley honors Chemistry class's laboratory portion also started with this lesson and pennies.  Remember when I took PH207x and wrote about the experience?  You can now take the archived course and watch these videos in context.

Iris said that she wasn't good at Chemistry because she had difficulty with this lab.  Her teacher says that this is a very difficult concept and Iris understood it better than any other kid in the class.  Still, it takes a few times for this lesson to sink in and it helps to revisit it periodically and to see different applications of the concept.

I'm also hoping that my daughter reads these posts and watches them.  The flabrats are sooo cute--internet meme cute.  Perhaps we can start an internet meme using flabrats?

The first video introduces flabrats, lab rats fed a diet that makes them much heavier than your average labrat.

What happens when a lab rat gets loose in the building?  Is it a flabrat or a labrat from another lab?  How do you classify when you don't know the true answer?  With statistics!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Solar Eclipse

Did you see it today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Technology Tuesday

I'm older than my boss. and I think I gave away my age.  While he was teaching me, he would say bsub and my fingers would automatically type qsub.

qsub is the command to submit a batch job to Cray supercomputers.  bsub is the command for IBM and Linux supercomputers.    If you look carefully at Wandering Scientists photograph above, you can read that these Cray-1As were decommissioned in 1989.  I moved to Boulder for the first time (for a PhD program) in 1988.

Hmm, I think I also used later generations of Crays.  Yeah, I could be younger...  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  ;-)

Whether its source is a thunderstorm, an alpine waterfall or the water-cooled chillers in the Cray-1A,  the sound of Colorado is the roar of falling water.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another bike ride

I took a 360 degree movie of the view from the westernmost bridge of the Boulder creek bike path. It was easier this time. I hope this reflects better physical conditioning.

The leaves are dropping and the fall colors are past their peak here. The water is low. But I do love to watch the light shimmer off the top of the water and listen to the water and the wind from this spot. I can do without the roar of traffic. ;-)

Oh, and this is drying on my bedroom floor.  I am way behind in knit blogging, so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Color Lab Workspace

Have you seen the workspace series in the NYT? Previously, I'd seen the series about fashion designers. I'm really interested in behind the scene work so today's story about Beverly Bell, manager of color and quality standards for textiles at Pantone fascinated me.  Go read Where the Spectrum is Sliced and Diced.

How cool is this table-top spectrophotometer? In my dream home, I'd have room for one. Hmm, I'd also like to have both a table-top DNA sequencer and a replicator while I am dreaming.
Bad Dad is a spectroscopist. We initially met across a laser table*. We would feel right at home if our kitchen looked like a lab where the most colorful things are the food.

* Although we used a low-power laser to study the ions, we used a 10,000 volt power supply to generate the plasma containing the ions of interest. There was literally electricity in the air when we met.

In other news, the condo search is not going well.  If you are selling a condo in S, W or E Boulder near public transit lines and/or the bike path, can you contact me?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Simple 3 (Vogue 8392)

I am way behind on my sewing and knitting blogging. Remember the fabric I bought at Elfriede's on my Errand Adventure?  Well, 3/4 of a yard of this luscious pima cotton twill (bolt says made in Italy) became another Vogue 8392.
I picked this fabric because it had more body and was less sheer than most cotton shirtings.  However, I still lined the front with cotton/rayon voile.  Can you tell the slight difference in sheerness between the lined front and the unlined back?
I purchased the fabric on the errand adventure of July 26.  I took the finished photos of the top on August 23.  That's less than a one month turnaround for new fabric!  In contrast, the gray cotton/linen of the first iteration of Vogue 8392 marinated in stash for over 20 years.

Notice the absence of drag lines in the upper chest area when compared to Vogue 8392 Version 2.  For that one, I found the top too tight under the arm so I trimmed a little bit away from the bottom of the armhole.  Even then, I was not happy with pulling in the upper chest and the drag lines.

Hmmm.  I compared the shoulder slope to Simplicity and Burda top patterns, which fit me better.  What do you know, the shoulder slope is more pronounced in this Vogue top.  I flattened out the shoulder slope (making the shoulders more square) and that solved all three fitting problems!

I know that a white top is not terribly exciting.  I wish you could reach through your monitor and feel the luscious fabric.  (The mystery voile I picked up at SAS is also incredibly soft and might contain silk and/or rayon.)
My normcore look with a RTW cardigan.

BTW, Elfriede still has about a blouse/shirt length of this shirt-weight cotton twill left and she can order another bolt.  $14 a yard, 58" wide.  It's not among the fabrics featured on Elfriede's online store, but just describe the fabric to her or her staff and they will ship it out to you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014


Living in two states, I'm not sure if playing tourist in LA counts as a staycation.  Bad Dad and I toured LACMA on Saturday and Watts Towers on Sunday while Iris tackled her mountain of past due homework.
It does resemble a ship.
LACMA installed a sonic anenometer to monitor wind conditions.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Back in the saddle again

I finally got my act together last Saturday and took my bike over to my local bike shop to use their pump. I also lubed the chain and took it out for a little test spin. Somehow, the test spin took me to the intersection of Table Mesa Drive and Vassar, about where the federal land starts. Hmm, if my ankles and legs are up for it, perhaps I should try something more ambitious on Sunday?
In-town fall colors.
Once again, I combined recreational riding with errand-running.  I took a spur out to the western end of the Boulder creek path for the extra climbing challenge.  I do miss our old neighborhood.
The Sunday route.
I emailed the route to Bad Dad and he replied that I'll be riding to Gold Hill next. Hmm, anyone want to join me?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Saturday, October 04, 2014

I beg to differ

I've been thinking meta lately and coming up with more questions than answers. But, one of the things I am sure about is that there is something wrong with our socially constructed way of valuing art and artists and also science and scientists.

I'm halfway through Van Gogh on Demand, by Winnie Won Yin Wong, a book that explores the plight of many varieties of Chinese artists on different social and economic levels.  I highly recommend the book, based on what I have read so far.  If you can't find it, you can read the PhD thesis on which the book is based for free.

I'm doing major housekeeping on two major data sets.  This weekend, I'm babysitting supercomputer batch jobs that should (hopefully) run for several weeks.  While keeping an eye on things from home, I came across this Is Computer Coding an Art? via How Creative is Coding? This paragraph quoting, Vikram Chandra, stopped me cold:
But the virtues of what might be called “beautiful code” are different than those of beautiful art. “Beautiful code,” he writes, quoting Yukihirio “Maz” Matsumodo (the creator of the Ruby programming language), “is really meant to help the programmer be happy and productive.” It serves a purpose. Art, by its very nature, serves no purpose. Code is practical and logical. Art is about affect, associations, and emotional responses—part of what Chandra calls dhvani. The term, developed by Anandavardhana, a ninth-century Indian literary theorist, derives from a word meaning “to reverberate.” Dhvani is resonance or “that which is not spoken,” as Chandra says. Code is explicit. Art can be irrational and leave some of the most important things unsaid.
I'm especially repelled by "Art, by its very nature, serves no purpose."

Regular readers of this blog know me as a connoisseur of practical art and craft who enjoys amateur dabbling in same.  One friend calls my experimentation and documentation of remaking castoffs into new clothing a piece of performance art.  I take that as high praise.

Back to the point...

I am biased.  I think we should expand the definition of art to those fields and materials practiced primarily by women that produce beautiful as well as useful artifacts.

But, even if art objects serve no materially practical purpose, they .can. serve a purpose.  Does it illuminate some aspect of the world that was there, but not appreciated?  Do the viewers come away with more understanding of the world or a better grasp of what they don't know?  To repeat a cliche, art applies a mirror to society or a window into the human condition or insert your favorite phrase.

(Ok, I am not sure if making a balloon rabbit in polished metal is really art but I'll let other people go there.)

On the flip side, software aka code is not purely an abstraction.  It can control physical objects, such as how a satellite operates or, as I encountered this week, the behavior of tape robots.  One of these days, I want to attend Solid, a conference that explores this theme between software and tangible things.

Coding can create aesthetically-pleasing artifacts such as this 500 mb wind visualization made with help from NCEP and earth.nullschool.net.

This computational artifact of 500 millibar wind fields* helps explain weather (especially rainfall) patterns. Like (some) art, it is both pretty to look at, and provides insight.

Coders and artists both belong to the super set of makers.  That's all I know for certain.

Mommy Art (and Science)

* Sea level is roughly 1000 millibars.  500 mb is the half-height of the atmosphere, if you were to look at just one level, 500 mb is a good place to start.  The geopotential height of the 500 mb isobaric surface is an especially useful diagnostic tool to locate dry and wet areas; globally, proportional differences in the geopotential height are largest here.

Do you like the way I snuck in "computational artifact" several times?  That's a term I picked up after reading the new College Board and National Science Foundation Draft Curriculum Framework for the new AP Computer Science Principles class.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Slice of sky

One of the things I like about my apartment is the amount of sky I can see, considering the local population density.  If I get home before sunset, I can often watch the storms roll through.
After the rain, I saw broken clouds and blue sky.
The admin assistant for the group says that it takes about a year for new employees to learn the job. My boss joked that he threw 8000 things at me in my first two weeks. Not all of the things I need to learn are purely technical.

Last week, I asked him who I should contact to do a task that requires superuser permission on the network computer for me.  He replied that I should do it myself; I have superuser privileges.  Gulp.  I had been entrusted with superuser privileges on #29 of the world's fastest supercomputers and no one thought it was worth mentioning to me?  Fortunately, I didn't break it.  ;-)

I take that back.  I may or may not have been responsible for the tape drive crash slowdown last week.  I was trying to fix the metadata on some data that had been sprayed across thousands of different tapes over the last 15 years.  I envisioned making the IBM 3495-style yellow tape robots play Twister.
But I learned that the new-fangled tape robots I am using don't have the long articulated arms of earlier generations.

Am I the only curmudgeon, or do you also miss the quirkiness of old technologies? The IBM Selectric let us type faster, but did you miss watching the key arms along their trajectory?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

High-country fall colors

Bad Dad and Iris flew out to Colorado to visit me for a long weekend during Rosh Hashanah.  Bad Dad went hiking on Thursday while I worked and Iris did her homework in a conference room near my office.  Friday, we drove up Boulder canyon and along Peak to Peak highway to Estes Park, stopping for a short hike at Wild Basin.
Near Estes Park, Colorado

Near Allenspark

Trailside between the Wild Basin Trailhead in RMNP towards Calypso Cascades.
Happy New Year.

I have to do a little bit of mommy blogging/bragging.  I heard that Iris' math teacher needed to miss a day of class.  He left detailed notes for the substitute teacher, but the sub didn't know math well enough to understand them.  Iris read the notes and taught the class how to graph piecewise functions and determine left and right limits.

I congratulated her on understanding continuity well enough to teach it, but she informed me that continuity had nothing to do with it.  Fellow math majors will know why that is funny.