Thursday, January 29, 2015

If all failures were so good

I am sick of hearing how meteorologists "blew" the blizzard forecast.  An offset by 20 miles is still pretty good.  Now and hindcasting is as easy as Monday morning quarterbacking.  Forecasting the exact locations of mesoscale (10-1000 km) rain and snow bands is extremely difficult.

As a mom of a school-aged child, I also appreciate the certainty of knowing whether schools will be closed or open a night in advance.  I don't want to spring last-minute surprises on my boss any more than I want last-minute surprises sprung on me.  Advance planning is good overall.

A false positive (overly cautious) forecast is not as severe as a false negative.  Fewer people hit the roads.  Fewer lives were lost.  People continued shopping, but just shifted the time or method.  The earth continued to spin around its axis while many took a snow day.

I spoke with a colleague about how a pretty good forecast came to be dubbed a failure.  Could we have seen a different forecast than the rest of the public?

No, it's just that we are used to seeing nuances and uncertainty in forecasts.  Maybe we meteorologists could have communicated it better.  Maybe the lay public could have listened better.

When I see spaghetti plots like this
NY Snow: NCEP ensemble forecast initiated 12Z Jan 25
or this
NY Snow: NCEP ensemble forecast initiated 12Z Jan 26
I think, hmmm. The 1-2 feet of snow projected 2-3 days out has been reduced to about 8-25" now that we are one day closer to the storm.  The forecast is trending down as we gather more information and get closer to storm time.

Prepare for the worst.  And be happy when it doesn't happen.

Off soapbox.

h/t Jeff Masters and Cliff Mass

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Step away from that calico

because, if you listen to your tween when she selects a cool calico print, and you make her a dress, it can end up too stiff and never worn.

Burda 8511 Front

Burda 8511 Back
The fabric was on sale. The zip came from my stash of 25 cent zips from SAS. I have already used Burda 8511 successfully for myself many times. This took me about $5 and an afternoon. Lesson learned.

I photographed it only to document it so I can put it in the out bag.  Hopefully, someone else's princess will be less finicky about stiff fabric.  I couldn't get a photograph of her in it (several years ago, when I made it).

She threw a hissy fit recently about trying on clothes that had been made or purchased expressly for her to her specifications because she didn't want to be interrupted.

I think she will not be getting mom-mades for a while until she behaves more charmingly.  I think it is time for mommy to step away and let her purchase her own clothes with her own money.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

The transitive property of empathy

I've been meaning to write about this ever since the murder of Trayvon Martin, but race is a painful subject and I put it off.  However, I feel compelled to write about this for MLK day.

Trayvon Martin was an American teenager who went out in the rain to buy a treat for his younger sibling.  While he was out, he was stalked and killed by a vigilante ("neighborhood watch volunteer").  His killer was acquitted of murder charges because he argued that he "feared for his life" when Trayvon tried to fend the killer off.
Trayvon in a hoodie
Look at the child in this photo. My heart goes out to his parents.

Someone asked me why I was so emotionally devastated by this and I had to explain the transitive property of empathy. She wasn't a math major so I am not sure she understood what I meant.

In math, the transitive property of equality states that, if A=B and B=C, then A=C.


starts about 25 years ago, when I was taking graduate classes in physics at the University of Colorado.  Applied mathematics and theoretical physics students take many of the same courses.  The difference is that math students try to extend or invent mathematics.  If their math has real-world applications, that is just incidental.

Physics students like me just use the mathematics they develop to help explain or predict physical phenomena.  If we extend the math, that is just incidental.

I had exactly one black classmate in my mathematical physics classes; R was an applied mathematics graduate student.  Our paths crossed in several of the more theoretical classes.  I might have been memorable because there were few females, particularly American ones, in those classes.

Another physics student invited me to a party at his house.  R was also a guest and we had a lengthy conversation for the first time.  We talked about our classwork and research, how we were adjusting to life in Boulder, etc.

The most memorable thing about our conversation is that R and I both were consumed with trying to understand "our equations", the set of equations describing the thing we were trying to understand.  We were working with different equations, describing different processes.  (Well, in his case, the math doesn't even have to describe anything physical.)

We bonded over the admission that we sometimes fall asleep while puzzling over our equations and dreamt about them.  We were two students, from different parts of the country, different genders, different races, but I knew in that instant that R was my tribe.

The tribe of people for whom math is a passion is not large (in my personal experience, YMMV).

You attack a member of my tribe, you attack me.


Another time, R told me about how a police car followed him as he walked from the bus stop to his home.  The cruiser left only after R used a key to unlock the front door.  (R rented the basement apartment in a house in a non-studenty part of Boulder.)

The police car crept behind him on subsequent nights.  The officers would slow down, recognize him, and then take off without following him all the way to his house.  The implication is that a black man is inherently suspicious.

I was pretty outraged by this type of police behavior.  R's civil rights were being violated!

R said that was just his life as a black man.

Trayvon was followed by not the police, but a vigilante masquerading as a neighborhood watch volunteer.

R had a similar experience.  R lived to relate his experience.  Trayvon did not.

Trayvon was just a child.  He was still learning how to cope with the George Zimmermans of this world--something that white children do not need to learn.

In closing

Trayvon's death, and Zimmerman's acquittal, is a self-inflicted wound for all Americans.  It's time to analyze what led to this tragedy and how to prevent future ones.

If you are interested in other human lessons that mathematics has taught me, read Lessons of Freeway Calculus.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

These are not Hammer pants

Iris requested winter-weight knit pants in dark go-with-everything colors.  I dutifully bought some gorgeous black cotton/lycra stretch fleece.  Because I was tired of seeing her wear leggings everywhere, I tried to steer her to some looser-fitting pants.  She told me she likes pockets; the top one has them.
Vogue 1417 Donna Karan

Simplicity 2061 Learn to Sew
She called them Hammer pants. No, they aren't. If they were Hammer pants, they would have a dropped crotch.
Hammer and PSY in Hammer pants

Besides, it is too late. I already cut and sewed the pants using the slimmer Simplicity 2061. To make them slimmer still, I cut one size down from her measurement size.

I photographed them side by side with leggings made from her TNT Kwik Sew 3476.  The crotch depths are similar, but the leggings sit higher--nearly to the waist--while Simplicity 2061 sits 1.5" below the waist.

Kwik Sew 3476
I also repaired a torn section of her blue denim skirt.  I am not sure if I previously blogged about them, but it is also made from recycled shirts and a small length of lightweight denim.  I made it to replace this outgrown skirt.
In 2015, Iris got 3 things, to my 0. She'd better be appreciative.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Net Nanny

One of Iris' friends Snapchatted this to her.

The backstory

Iris' high school issued--with great fanfare--Chromebooks to each student. The Chromebooks come with a filter that blocks a list of words, and all words containing those words.

This has the unintended consequence of blocking classes and assassination because they contain ass.

Iris asks, why is lace a bad word?

Readers, do you have any clue?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Not Marsala

  • Another sweater made of odds and ends in the same color family
  • From lace-weight to dk
  • In silk, merino and mohair
  • A little bit more rose or berry than Pantone's marsala.
  • Twist hand-dyed silk-merino lace creates a sheer fabric
  • Other yarns carried along to create opaque and textured stripes
  • Sitting in stash in WIP status until I decided to rip back the sleeve and redo with a different carry-along yarn.
  • Sleeve increase sequence comes from a_simmetrie.
  • Not happy with the holes in the lifted increase in the sheer stripes
  • The ladies of Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins suggested I wear it like I meant to create a deconstructed look.
  • Finished object here

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kwik Sew 3567

In an effort to clear the backlog of sewing and knitting projects, you will not get beautifully-styled outdoor pictures modeled on a human body.  You will get this.

It's even more of a shortcut because I sewed two tops, one in size S for Iris, another in size M for myself.  Iris asked for a close-fitting princess-seamed knit top.  I happened to have Kwik Sew 3567 in stash.

You may remember the polyester 'scuba knit' fabric from Back to School Sewing. It didn't get done before school.  It doesn't matter because the poly is too clammy for warm weather wear.

In fact, neither of us really want to wear these tops as outerwear.  We agreed to keep them as a base layer for skiing.

Live and learn.  Neither of us want to wear 'scuba knit' as every day wear.  I'm not even sure if it is suitable as active wear.  I'll post a comment here after the wear test.

After I laid out the pattern pieces, I realized I could make two tops.  I used cotton/poly/lycra ponte for the side panels and rayon/poly/lycra ponte for the sleeves and neckband.

The fit is actually quite good, though the crew neckline is higher than we prefer.  I will definitely use this pattern to replace my wardrobe of tired bicycle jerseys.  I'd make either the v-neck version or a modified crew-neck with a center zip and back pockets to turn it into a bicycle jersey.

Kwik Sew 3567 is the old-style KS pattern, with 1/4" seam allowances (SA) and printed on heavy paper.  It's out of print so get a copy while you can.

I definitely prefer the old patterns to the new patterns.  Wrestling with the v-neck opening on Kwik Sew 4014 with 5/8" SAs was a lesson in frustration.  Next time I make Kwik Sew 4014, I will trace it with 1/4" SAs and use Bab's method of inserting a v-neck neckband.  I know there will be more versions of 4014 because that's the first thing she wears out of the laundry.

Right now, she's clamoring for more cold-weather leggings like the ones I made for her with Kwik Sew 3476.

@KwikSew, bring back the 1/4" SA and heavy stock paper!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Knit Swirl, the Last

Remember Wordless Monday, in May 2013? After I blocked and seamed the sweater, I found the sleeves way too long. If they were too short, I would have added cuffs.  But, since they were too long, and I couldn't check the fit until after I had knitted and seamed the entire sweater, I had to frog the entire bodice.

Blast, you, knitted on sleeves!  The sweater marinated in stash for years.  Finally, I picked it apart, frogged and reknit it, with about 20 fewer stitches on each side.

It looks fine spread out like a butterfly.

It even looks ok on the dummy.

Because dummies don't move.
 If a human moves, the sweater bottom sticks out and stays that way.
Not the most flattering sweater.
Lift my arms, and it flares.
Wow, I do love the colors.
Omit the pin, and it juts out in front, too.

This project is a saga-length tragicomedy.

First, I thought I would use up my scrap teal yarns to make an oval knit swirl--the pattern featured on the cover.  However, the sweater looked awfully long (36"), so I shortened it 5 ridges or ~5-6".  I thought I was really clever because that saved so much knitting.

I couldn't get the exact yarns (see scraps), but I shopped for some teal worsted wool to alternate with my scraps.  The best color match was Malabrigo Rios.  It's 100% wool, just like the yarn in the pattern.  What can go wrong?
  1. Superwash wool stretches upon blocking.  Regular wool usually doesn't.  
  2. The pattern specifies a wool/mohair blend.  Mohair gives the yarn grip, so it doesn't stretch out as much when knit sideways. 
  3. The 5x5 stockinette and reverse stockinette stripes used in Knit Swirl sweaters has mechanical downward stretch.  Knit fabrics have more stretch sideways; that's why sideways knit sleeves are risky.
You have to take the measurements of knit Swirl sweaters on faith as you knit those concentric circles and batwing bodices.  Block to the measurements on the charts (if you can).

Apply gravity and then watch the sweater morph in ways you didn't anticipate.

The sleeve length (version 2) is ok.  But, the sweater is a lot more than 5" shorter the pattern.  I swatched!  What happened?

Gravity.  Remember how I gloated about how a shorter sweater represents less yarn and knitting?  The mass of the extra yarn would have pulled the sweater downward.

Notice how the 'waistline' of the sweater sits high, nearly empire?  The sweater pattern was designed for the bodice to be pulled down by the long peplum.  Shorten the peplum and the whole sweater goes "sprong" upwards.

I pride myself of problem-solving skills.  I went to McGuckins (Boulder's favorite hardware store and a tourist attraction in its own right) and bought three feet of brass chain.  I tacked every other link of the chain to the bottom of the sweater, above the first ridge.  It helped some, but not enough.

I tried the sweater one with different tops and pants, with a pin and without.  Nothing looked good enough to go out in public.

A friend invited me over for dinner.  I brought the sweater so we can have a good cry and laugh over it.  It looked great on her.

Damn.  She has a new sweater.

To add insult to injury, one of my pin experiments with the sweater snagged and broke a yarn, causing a small hole.

I gave her the leftover yarn so she can darn it up herself.  I am so .done. with that sweater.

I think I might give her the book, too.

I have another WIP that needs partial frogging.

I'm losing my knitting mojo.

I may have to cast on something else entirely.

Send yarn.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

2014 Wrap-up

I would like to post a wrap-up of my 2014 sewing and knitting activity. Unfortunately, this post doesn't contain any pictures of my makes. Most of them remain unblogged.

However, my spreadsheet says that I completed 37 items in 2014, including a sweater I started in 2010. Sadly, that sweater looks awful on me. Happily, it looks great on a beloved friend. Perhaps she will allow me to post a picture of her modeling it some day.
  • 37 items
  • 13 for me
  • 10 for Iris
  • 10 Home Dec
  • 4 for others
  • oops, forgot the 5 tie-dyed onesies 
January and August 2014 saw bursts of sewing activity.  Iris needed clothes, stat, and her mommy delivered.  It looks like January 2015 will also be about filling holes in Iris' wardrobe.

The big news (and cause of low sewing productivity) in 2014 is that I moved away from my family for a full-time job.  I haven't worked full-time since motherhood so this would have been a big transition even without the move.

In December 2013, I interviewed three times for a research position in Palo Alto.  Palo Alto to LA is a doable weekly commute and I was prepared to do it.

Surprisingly, I did not hear from that research lab for months.  Instead, I spotted a job posting in Boulder in a department and institution that I respect greatly.

It happened very quickly.  I applied.  I interviewed.  I got the job.  I moved to Boulder.  Palo Alto called just days after I moved to Boulder.  No, I wasn't available; I lost interest in them.

Bad Dad and I were married in Boulder.  I received my PhD and he postdoc'd here.  We have many friends in Boulder.  We had always dreamed of having condos in both Colorado and one of the California major cities (SF/LA/SD) and dividing our time between them once Iris moved away for college.

This job just accelerated the schedule somewhat.

I telecommute about 1 out of every 3 weeks so that Iris can remain with Bad Dad in California to finish high school.  They also visit me in Boulder.

Boulder is the epicenter for atmospheric science in the US.  Redondo Beach is the epicenter for the development of certain types of satellites.  It's not surprising that a two-PhD family would make their life among these two places.  There are more tragedies in life than having to split your time between the communities of Redondo Beach and Boulder.  The ocean and the mountains.  Rocket scientists are thick on the ground in both communities.

You've heard of selfish sewing?  What do you think of claiming this spot for my sewing space?  Creative play deserves an inspirational view, right?

This view is a short walk to Elfriede's Fine Fabrics (and JA's) and the Boulder Creek path. Velosewer, it is time to plan your sewing/biking/hiking retreat.