Monday, August 31, 2015

Pillow Poll

I have two 20" square pillow forms and 5/8 yards of each of these two fabrics. Should I make the pillows reverse to each other or to themselves?

AB + AB or  AA + BB?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Girly Bike

Continuing the bicycling theme, I made the perfect pillow for my couch.  Pink.  Bicycles.  Linen.  The fabric was just screaming to come home with me.  Echino is pricey, so I only bought half a yard.  It was enough to cover a 14"x20" pillow.

I attempted the exposed zipper treatment a la Galbraith and Paul pillows.

But it was less than successful. I think I need to interface a wider portion of the edge so that it holds its shape.

I drove all the way down to Colorado Fabrics for a pillow form filled with siliconized polyester fiber because the silicone is supposed to minimize polyfill's tendency to mat down.  It is a lovely, squishy, yet resilient pillow form.  But, I should have realized that the silicone also makes the fibers slick enough to escape the fabric covers.  It beards like crazy.

I got the Echino linen/cotton fabric from Momen, in Torrance, CA before the move.  It only took my about 18 months to sew it up.  ;-)

Thursday, August 27, 2015


I prefer a drama-free day-to-day life.   Ideally, I'd only get my drama vicariously, through art.   But, I do like my dramatic commute.  Pinch me, I work in the office building on top of this mesa.
School starts this week and the traffic during move-in week is unreal.  I commuted by bike* last Friday, before the smoke from the myriad wildfires moved in.

My lonely bike because I work a later schedule than most.
Even the flag had already gone to rest for the evening.  
Pretending I have a handle-bar camera as I exit the driveway.
About to descend.
Stop 20 meters into descent for dramatic view.
It's easy to miss this ped/bike shortcut when whizzing downhill.  It leads through a neighborhood.
To another ped/bike way behind the DOC (Department of Commerce, NIST & NOAA) Laboratories.  Then a couple of blocks through another neighborhood and along the Broadway bike path.  I wave to the atomic clocks as I roll by.
Then roll through the University of Colorado, Boulder to central Boulder and home.
~800 vertical feet descent.  Three national labs.  One research university.  Google's Boulder campus. A dramatic commute.

Does anyone have a helmet camera they can loan me so I can film a video of the commute?

* I bike to a shuttle stop in the morning and get a lift UP to work.  I roll downhill home on my bike.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

For Bad Dad...

...who says that the absence of a turn signal is a signal of intent to go straight. He's had way too many drivers nearly turn into him while he is bicycling. He asked how to get one of these stickers for his bike.

I doubt drivers can read a bumper sticker on a bike frame. As a public service announcement, I'm going to post it here. Spread the word.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Smoke Effects

During my after-work bike ride on Thursday, August 20, I noticed flashes of red coming from Boulder creek. Further investigation showed that they were the reflections of sunlight coming off the sun. We have been getting spectacular red sunsets due to the smoke from all the wildfires around the western part of North America.

Fortunately, I didn't need my inhaler during or after my bike ride.  I did cough a bit more than usual after my ride.

I did give up my hiking and biking plans for the weekend, though.  It's just too smoky outside.  My eyes hurt if I spend extended time outdoors.  When will the winds shift?  Check the California Regional Weather Server's Jet Stream visualizations of NCEP forecasts.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Simplicity 1463 Set

I bought Simplicity 1463 because I thought Iris would like View C, but her friend selected View A.

I've always had good experiences with Karen Z for Simplicity patterns and this was no exception.

I like the way the top gently curves down in the back.
Again, we went one size down from a L to a M.  We also used a S neckline.
It looks much cuter on the 18 yo than on my dress form.

We went straight from the airport to Colorado Fabrics, where she selected 3 pieces from the pre-cut tables in the back.  There was enough of this red and black stripe rayon/lycra jersey to make a skirt using Vogue 9789 View C.  We added CF and CB seams and mitered at a 10 degree angle.  10 degrees makes a very subtle V.  If we had more fabric, we could have angled the skirt pieces more.  But, I was pretty proud to show her how to get 2 items out of a ~2 yard cut.

She has 5 new pieces for her fall/college wardrobe and some new skills.

Iris doesn't have the attention span for or interest in sewing.  I made one skirt for her.  She OK'd the pattern and fabric, then said it was all wrong.  Grr.  I'm going to step away and do some selfish sewing for a while.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Speed Sewing

I came across my early 2015 sewing priority list and my summer 2015 course corrected sewing list. Shorts that fit my current midsection size were high on both lists.  How many have I sewn?

0, zip, zilch, nada.

Realistically, I don't have enough time. Since I sprained both my ankles in April 2014, I gained 15 pounds and lost 10 of them. I place a higher priority on work, family, settling into my new place, and losing the last 5 pounds than sewing things that are time consuming (fly fronts) and don't excite me.

I went to Goodwill instead.

3 pairs of shorts for $4 a piece. Done.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kwik Sew 3262

Iris' friend is learning to sew. I pulled the remainder of the black/ecru ponte I used for my Burda 7184 waterfall cardigan.
She selected Kwik Sew 3262.  OOP, but you can still buy it here.
We used a nylon/lycra for the neckband.

It's interesting to sew and fit with someone with a different build.  I am a slight pear and she is an inverted triangle.   Her chest puts her in a L but her hips put her in a M.  The pattern is sized for thick fleeces and we used a ponte.  We took some pattern measurements and decided to go down a M and she is very happy with the fit.

Her friend learned how to cut single layer, match stripes, use a serger and hem with a twin needle.  My child is still not interested in learning to sew.  She likes giving orders though.

This is an old Kwik Sew pattern, printed on heavy paper with 1/4" seam allowances.  I much prefer these to the new ones with tissue paper and 5/8" seam allowances.

It's a Kwik Sew.  The drafting is great.  It goes together easily.  The directions tell you to fuse interfacing to the shoulder seams to reinforce them before sewing.  That's the technique I would use even if the instructions didn't say so.

I only wish that, in addition to giving you pattern pieces for the rectangular pieces, they also gave you the measurements.  I cut rectangles with a rotary cutter and ruler, not with tiny paper pattern pieces.  What do you do?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not a sewing video

In case you want to hear my actual voice (not the POV 'voice' you read at BMGM), you can view a tutorial I taped as part of the Yellowstone User Seminar series. Yellowstone* is NCAR's main supercomputer. (The older, retired ones are reserved for use by my section.)

Citizen scientists who don't have an account on Yellowstone may find the general info on how to find and use our open access weather and climate data useful.  In my years as a SAHM and citizen scientist, I downloaded and practiced data wrangling/mash-ups/analysis/science with RDA data.  When they had a job opening, I was in a good position to go pro.

* Since last June, YS has slipped from #29 to #50 on the list of world's fastest supercomputers.  You think supermodels have a short shelf life at the top?  Try being a supercomputer.  Read Slice of Sky.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Twin Refashion

I fell out of love with this rib knit twin set. It started out a pale blue. Then I tie-dyed it with a deeper blue at the bottom.  I still didn't love it.

Iris and a friend spent a week with me in Colorado.  Her friend liked the twinset, but wanted to extend the bottom hem 2-3".  (I wear higher-waisted jeans than teenagers.)
I had a piece of linen in just the right shade of blue.  We shaped the sides of the original shell with a curved shirt-tail bottom before blind-hemming the linen band to the bottom.
She starts college this month.  Is this set too cool for school?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Culture Clash

Texas plates.
We were having a good day at Rocky Mountain National Park until we saw that a car sharing the picnic area we picked sported that sticker.
Why do they want to bring a gun to a park?

Update: The NYT wrote about the gun culture clash in the backcountry 3 days later.

Dear Burdastyle

Your website is one big ad for Burda. It's overkill to run banner ads for non-sewing-related companies on top of your commercial site.

At least the banner ads stay put and I can ignore them.

But I cannot forgive the ads that play peekaboo, obscuring the pictures of your products that I came to see.  They move up, they move down.  I can't seem to aim my mouse over the 'close' button.  Then, when I finally do hit close, it gives me another misleading and counter-intuitive popup screen which opens yet another ad page.

I just cannot make them go away.
Even if you do manage to close one, these zombie ads keep coming back.
Burda, how much money are you making from these ads?

How much money are you losing from these ads?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

The legacy of John Galt

People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored from a mine waste spill. Credit Jerry Mcbride/The Durango Herald, via Associated Press
A whole lot of unbloggable stuff is happening chez BMGM and I hesitate to blog about something that makes me angry.  I have a ton of work to do, both at my paid job and at home.

But, this review of Ayn Rand’s ‘Ideal’ Presents a Protagonist Familiar in Her Superiority on top of all the unchallenged bullshit people are saying about the Animas River toxic spill pushed me over the edge.
In short, Kay Gonda is one of Rand’s Nietzschean protagonists — an über-frau who has fans, not friends, and who thinks that she towers above all the losers and “second-handers” who populate the world.
“Kay Gonda does not cook her own meals or knit her own underwear. She does not play golf, adopt babies, or endow hospitals for homeless horses. She is not kind to her dear old mother — she has no dear old mother."
To admit to having a mother would be to admit that one owes the debt of life to a 'second-hander'.

Literary Background

John Galt is the protagonist in Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged (plot summary).  The business men who really create value go on strike against 'second-handers' who want a share of the wealth they created.  They hole up in 'Galt's Gulch', a town in southwest Colorado, near Durango, while the country collapses without them.

Ayn Rand has a Colorado fixation.  She thinks it is the land of wealth grabbers creators like Howard Roark and John Galt.

It's no coincidence that this week's mine waste spill is in John Galt country.

Mining Background

Colorado has created a lot of wealth.  But, the unique geology of the region and the indulgence and assistance of the federal government had a lot more to do with it than the men Ayn Rand credits.

Precious metals are largely mined where the earth folds, e.g. in the mountains. In fact, Colorado gets it's name from the Colorado River, which means the colorful river. The color comes from minerals. Guess what came out of Silverton and Leadville, CO.

Cyanide is used to leach heavy metals out of ore.  Mining industry websites (that are high on Google search rankings but not on impartial information) claim that cyanide is used in dilute quantities of only a measly 0.05%.  I don't even want to link to them lest I push their search ranking higher.

They don't report the large quantities of water involved in mining.  That dilute chemical stew?  Suppose the 3 million gallons estimated to have leaked in this spill contained 0.05% sodium cyanide by weight and that the chemical stew has roughly the same specific gravity as pure water.  (This is only a back of the envelope estimate because evaporation could concentrate the cyanide and rain could dilute it.)

3 million gallons is 1.13562e7 liters or about 1.13562e7 kg.
0.05% is 0.0005*1.13562e7 = 5,678.1 kilograms

5,678 kilograms of sodium cyanide sounds a lot less benign than 0.05%, doesn't it?

It gets worse.  The heavy metals are probably more hazardous to human health than the cyanide in the river.

That yellow color probably comes from sulfur, which is released in the mining process.  It makes for a dramatic picture, but I'm more worried about the stuff we can't see.

The Legal Background

WaPost gives some background in What the EPA was doing when it sent yellow sludge spilling into a Colorado creek.
Ginny Brannon, director of the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, told the Denver Post that until 1977, Colorado had few laws requiring mining companies to deal with the wastewater they created.

“Folks could go out and do what they want and walk away from the sites, and this is one of them,” she said.
After the John Galts of the world were done doing unspeakable things to the land, they let someone else deal with their damage.
The Animas River Stakeholders Group that was set up to deal with the issue after the mines were closed, which includes Sunnyside Gold Corp., didn’t have the estimated $12 million to $15 million it would take to treat the contaminated runoff. And for years, Silverton residents resisted EPA involvement out of fear that the “Superfund” label given to the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites would jeopardize the tourism industry — the only source of income that could replace the vanished mines. A few even hoped that the mines would reopen one day.

Meanwhile supporters of EPA intervention accused Sunnyside of stonewalling the cleanup attempt to avoid liability.

The two sides reached an agreement of sorts this year. The mines would not be designated a Superfund site, and the EPA would provide $1.5 billion to plug the problematic Red and Bonita mine, where polluted water drained at a rate of 500 gallons per minute, according to the Durango Herald.
That's $1.5 BILLION of federal dollars to clean up one mine site that isn't even designated a Superfund site.

It gets even worse.  Colorado has thousands of mines and hundreds of Superfund sites.  The EPA archive lists 237 Colorado Superfund sites where the cleanup was performed with federal dollars after the perpetrators fled (either before laws were in force or by declaring bankruptcy after making the money they earned disappear).  Nationwide, we have spent trillions cleaning up after the John Galts of this world.

The Media Background

People say stupid bullshit like in this LA Times Story.
“There is usually wave after wave of people floating past, but today nothing,” said Sairi Dwyer, 32, watching the yellow water roll past. “The EPA causes all of this and then they say, ‘Oh well’ and nothing happens. If you or I did this or anything close we’d be in jail.”
Even the headlines in the NY Times (the Times!) give the impression that the Feds caused this mess.

Actually, the people who created this mess are not in jail. In fact, no one has been sent to jail for this mess, or any other of the thousands of toxic sites in Colorado.  They took the money (precious metals) and ran, leaving you and me on the hook for the billions (perhaps trillions in total) that it takes to clean up after them.

Moreover, they didn't even tell us what they did before they fled the scene of their environmental crimes.  The EPA created the breach while probing the site to figure out just how bad the mess was.  The earthen dam gave way precisely because it was in such a precarious state to begin with.

Yes, the 'nanny state' that objectivists rail against is paying for the 'externalities' aka messes of these selfish ingrates.

The BMGM Background

I hate it when people propagate bullshit and get away with it.  It's especially egregious when the errors are in major papers.  Reporters should actually report rather than ape back erroneous opinions.  Fact-checkers should check facts.  Editors should edit.  How does so much bullshit get published?

Read my (anti) bullshit series.  Join the pushback against bullshit.


Ever heard of Coors beer?  The one that advertises that the beer is made from pure Rocky Mountain spring water?  Did you know that the Coors bottling plant near Golden, Colorado had to shut off one of their water intake sources after a mine tailing spill from an upstream uranium mine?

As an English visiting professor put it, "Colorado is a beautiful place with unspeakable things done to it."


The Colorado Water Blog is much more conversant with this issue than me.  Read The Orange Animas.

Dumb 'Smart' Objects

Please read Zeynep Tufekci's Op-Ed, Why ‘Smart’ Objects May Be a Dumb Idea.  I've worked with enough software to NOT want my car to be connected to the Internet.

After reading Tufekci's Op-Ed, you may want to read my What Do Automobiles and Spacecraft Have in Common?, which I am reposting in its entirety here because The Atlantic is now serving tons of annoying ads with content I let them post for free as a favor. This blog is ad-free. If you want to link to this article, link to it on this blog.

I didn't explicitly state then, but I will now, hooking up objects to the internet, when you don't know what is in the software, is a VERY BAD IDEA.  Software is layered on top of each other.  Software written by different teams working in different companies or at different times, often without awareness or intent to be layered up other software, is prone to breaking.  Breaking is not the same as braking.

Do you want to learn that your car's software broke while you are driving 75 mph on I-5 and heading into 'the Grapevine'?

This article was originally written in March 2011.

What Do Automobiles and Spacecraft Have in Common?

Software, and lots of it!

The issue of Toyota's sudden acceleration problem came up at both the last PTA meeting I attended and at my mother-in-law's dinner table last weekend. Perhaps this digression about real-time software is of general interest.

Software has become embedded into so many things we use every day that it has become invisible to us. Because of its ubiquity, we are not using independent pieces of software, but rather systems made up of smaller interacting subsystems, each with their own software. Because of this complexity, it can be difficult to trace a root cause when a problem arises.

Like this? Follow The Atlantic on Facebook.
In grad school, I wrote and worked with computer models that try to describe physical processes. That led to numerical weather prediction (NWP), which led to satellite data processing -- how the signal off a satellite sensor gets turned into bits which flow down to a groundstation and get turned into information that helps NWP do a better job of predicting the weather.

That's all software. But there is a fundamental difference between the type of software I have written and real-time systems.

No one cares how long it takes for a grad student's model to run, except for the grad student that wants to finish up and graduate.

NWP predictions have to run faster than elapsed model time or else it would be a hindcast instead of a forecast.

Real-time software must run at the same speed as elapsed time. When they are inseparably installed in a machine to control or take readings from it, they are called real-time embedded software. So the answer to the title question should have been that both automobiles and spacecraft contain large amounts of embedded real-time software.

The similarities don't stop there. Both are complex systems of subsystems, each with their own computer and software. The manufacturer of the automobile or spacecraft likely did not build all of the subsystems. So they become an integrator of subsystems and software. The system becomes very complex, and difficult to test robustly. That is, it is difficult to design tests that cover all possible scenarios or paths down a decision tree.

In the satellite software world, the standard is to "test like we fly." (I imagine the automotive industry does the same.) All of the software in the system will be tested together for weeks or months at a time, with all manner of monkey wrenches thrown in the mix, to make sure everything behaves in the intended manner.

Toyota's engineers didn't find a sudden acceleration problem before the cars went to market. Even after the accidents, they tried to simulate the events the motorists described and they still couldn't find a software root cause. What were they missing?

When you can't find what you are looking for, it is logical to ask someone with fresh eyes to look for it. You can't hand over your software to a competitor to test. That's too much temptation. It's better to ask a neutral party, perhaps someone in government for help. In case there is an industry-wide myopia to the root cause, it helps to ask someone in a different industry who does the same functional task.

Hence, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center was called in. GSFC integrates many satellites and has both the laboratory capability and the human expertise to perform that kind of testing and analysis.

[Speaking as a private individual and not as a representative of my employer or any of the government agencies that fund us, I would like to make an appeal. Those scientists, engineers and technicians need to get paid so they don't drift into other industries that do pay. If they weren't there, who would be there for us when a problem arises? It pains me when our politicians spout off about "killing the beast" and "getting government off the backs of industry." I think we should send them on a fact-finding mission to Somalia so they can see what a country without a functioning government looks like. Perhaps they want to move there?]

Remember the part about asking fresh eyes for help when you are stuck? A group of similar individuals can fall prey to groupthink. How can we trust a piece of software or a new drug with our lives if we aren't sure about the design and testing process? And how can we do that if only a narrow cross-section of society engages in that process? That's the best argument for a diverse workforce I have ever seen.

In science and technology, we test and test again. The more the results stand up to multiple experiments in different laboratories, and different experimental designs, the more we can trust the results. STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) needs people with all kinds of backgrounds to point out things that other people may have missed.

In closing, I would like to point out it is never too late to learn something new and learning come can come from unexpected places.

My daughter is on her middle school Lego robotics team. Like many public school teams, they are at a disadvantage relative to the boy/girl scout troops and private schools because they have one teacher to 32 students. A teammate's dad had been helping out one afternoon a week. When his project at his market work was heading into PDR*, he sent an e-mail asking me to take over.

I duly bought a Lego NXT 2.0 kit and some books, installed the software on my laptop and set out to learn how to program a Lego robot. It turns out that the Lego API (application programming interface) is a variation of LabVIEW, a real-time programming tool used in many labs. At the 2010 Workshop on Spacecraft Flight Software, I learned that LabVIEW is used by MIT students to prototype spacecraft control algorithms!

My daughter helped me program a robot to run a (American football) post play. That means I do have some real-time programming experience after all. But I had to learn it from my 10-year-old.

I would like to thank Keith Blount for his excellent introduction in DIY software. Let's turn every house into a software house.

*PDR stands for preliminary design review. All satellite programs go through thorough design reviews at various stages or milestones. Engineers and managers for both the contractor and the buyer work very long hours leading up to and during the design review process. PDR is the last chance to catch gotchas before proceeding to build the satellite.

I don't mean to shill for my blog, but I have covered this beat for years.

Mommy Art (and Science) explains why software jobs can be highly compatible with child-rearing.

Rockin' deals with the historical reason why the NWP field enjoys a relative abundance of women. I collected one oral history about what happened before, during the depression and WWII, but I need to collect more evidence. Better yet, a professional historian should cover this because I need to go to work now.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Women's heath is human health

I'm so sick of this discussion.  But, I feel a need to explain this point, especially to the men who say that they shouldn't have to pay health insurance premiums that cover maternity benefits because they never gave birth.

I think you should pay extra premiums because someone gave birth to you and you won't need to put your life and livelihood on the line to give birth to someone else.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Duvet Tweak

I purchased a comforter and duvet/shams set for BR2*.  About 30 years ago, I saw some ready-made comforters and duvets with this handy ring and tie combo.  Many duvets have corner ties, but they make the comforter bunch up in the corners.  I retrofit my new bedding.

Sew plastic rings (found in the notions department of many fabric stores) to the corners of the duvet and twill tape to the corners of the duvet.
I start with the duvet cover inside out, on top of the duvet.  Tie a bow in each corner.  Turn the duvet right-side out.  Button up the opening and give it a good shake.  No lumps!
* On the blueprints, we named each bedroom #1, #2, #3 in clockwise order because people interpret the bedrooms differently. I consider BR1 the "master" bedroom because it has an en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet. But, others perceive the largest bedroom (BR2) as the master. To avoid confusion, we assigned them numbers.  One can lie in bed in BR1 and view the mountains.  With the windows open, people in BR2 can hear the creek rushing below.