Thursday, August 25, 2016

Feeling Patriotic

Another in the long list of reasons why I love this country...
Anyone can ftp into this NOAA server to download weather and climate data for free! Check out how easy it is to anonymously ftp into the data server.  Use "anonymous" as your username and an email address as your password*.
Grace> ftp
Trying 2610:20:8040:2::166...
Connected to
220 2610:20:8040:2::166 FTP server ready
Name ( anonymous
331 Anonymous login ok, send your complete email address as your password
230 Anonymous access granted, restrictions apply
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.
And look at the available data:
ftp> ls
229 Entering Extended Passive Mode (|||62934|)
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for file list
drwxrwxr-x 20 3682 nomads-prod 4096 Feb 16 2016 12
drwxrwxr-x 14 3682 3682 4096 Aug 16 11:43 32
drwxrwxr-x 23 3682 nomads-prod 4096 Sep 12 2012 33
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Mar 30 2015 CFSR
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Mar 30 2015 CFSRR
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 Aug 26 2013 GDAS -> 12/GDAS
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 Jun 6 2013 GENS -> 32/gens
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Jun 6 2013 GFS
drwxrwxr-x 11 3682 3682 32768 May 8 2015 model
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Jun 6 2013 NAM
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 Jun 6 2013 NARR -> 12/narr
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 10 Jun 6 2013 NARR_monthly -> 12/narrmon
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 7 Dec 18 2012 NDFD -> 33/ndfd
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 8 Aug 23 2013 NDGD -> 33/ndgd/
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 3 Sep 23 2013 RAP -> RUC
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 15 May 6 2015 reanalysis-2 -> 12/reanalysis-2
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 26 Oct 13 2010 robots.txt
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Dec 16 2015 RUC
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Jun 6 2013 SST
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 610 Mar 23 2011 welcome.msg
226 Transfer complete
Now what do you want to see?
This is where all the weather apps and websites get their data. They just package it up and add advertising or charge you. You can do this yourself with a computer by getting the data from NOAA and the easy-to-use Panoply software from NASA for free.

* You don't have to use your email address, but it is standard courtesy in anonymous ftp to use your email address as a password so that they can log where users are coming from. For instance, if you are a teacher or student, use your school email address so they can log you as an education user. This is how we discover needs and allocate funding.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The perennial dilemma

Air is a common resource. Each of us suffers from degradation of the air quality, but we have no little control over what others do to the air that we personally breathe.

When people think of the Boulder, they don't often think of air pollution. But, the elevation and topography (mountains to the west and northwest and the Louisville Rise to the east and southeast), and the automobile traffic in this small town, mean that the nose-level pollution in central Boulder is usually higher than the western coastal neighborhoods of Los Angeles. (My doctors had recommended in the 1990s that I move away from Boulder for my health and suggested coastal LA as a good alternative.)

You can't see ozone, but it is created by a combination of automobile exhaust and sunlight, specifically UV radiation.  At high altitudes, we have plenty of UV (and cosmic ray) radiation.

Ozone is a lung irritant.

We can't control sunshine, so the only way to keep the ozone from reaching dangerously high levels is to refrain from driving.  That means you AND me.

But, sensitive people are cautioned from strenuous outdoor exercise during high ozone days.

What does an asthmatic do when an Ozone Action Day is called?  Ride my bike and possibly have an asthma attack?  Drive solo and pollute the air even more?

The combination of pollen and ozone is particularly irritating.  People with pollen allergies can be affected by lower levels of pollen when ozone is present.  The only time I ever ended up in a clinic gasping for breath was when I went for an after work run (in grad school in the 1990s) up Boulder canyon during a day with both high ragweed pollen and high ozone.  I now get allergy shots and that has helped somewhat.  But, I still avoid outdoor exercise when pollens are especially high.

Fortunately, my bike and I can pick up a shuttle bus to work 2 blocks from my condo and be whisked up to the main entrance of Mesa Lab.

So many of my coworkers did the same, we filled up both the front and rear bike racks of the van.

Some even took the RTD bus to meet the shuttle.

The best part of leaving the driving to someone else is that my hands are free to take pictures like this.
The ride home is an 800 foot elevation drop, so it is not the strenuous type of exercise that would be dangerous for me.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wildfire PSA

Image courtesy of NASA

With wildfires burning all over the western United States and floods ravaging Lousiana, this is a good time to reread Fire is a river that runs uphill.
One major reason that fire fighting in the western forests has become more expensive is the number of structures (homes) being built in the trees. One Colorado newspaper had the guts to run a story questioning if our firefighters should risk (or lose) their lives protecting the vacation homes of the rich after twelve firefighters died in the Storm King Mountain fire.
My Wildfire series.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sewing in Series: Simplicity 2263

Why reinvent the wheel if something works?

I know that 'indie' and 'designer' patterns are all the rage in the blogosphere, but the 'Big 4' (but now really 6?) put out some solid patterns without much fanfare (e.g. blog tours.) Take Simplicity 2263, which looks rather pedestrian.

Prosaic pattern envelope.  The ASG symbol is a clue.
All patterns are 'designed' by someone.  Bold face names do not have a monopoly on good design.  I've had more misses than hits with indie patterns and their instructions.

However, I pick up some signals that others may overlook.  Have you heard of American Sewing Guild (ASG)?  ASG probably doesn't have a booth at 'Maker' faires, but ASG members know quality sewing.  (Disclaimer, I used to belong, but am not currently a member.)

Patterns with the ASG seal of approval tend to be very well drafted and extensively tested.  When I see a new pattern with the ASG seal, I pay attention.  This blouse with a back that extends over the shoulder to the front is a winner.  I've sewn it three times.

Three versions of Simplicity 2263
I made the first version in 2013 with a 1/2 yard remnant of rayon challis that I purchased at Britex at PR Weekend SF 2012.  1/2 yard is obviously not sufficient, so I improvised a yoke with a scrap of ponte.

Not faithful to the pattern, with a yoke and knit neckband.
When I saw this gray and red rayon challis at Elfriede's in Boulder, I snapped up a yard to sew another one for an upcoming MIT alumni event. (Is it the female version of a school tie?)

I used the serger for version 1.  Version 2 and 3 got the full french seam and bias binding clean finish.

I love a neat inside.  
I recently made a third version, with a rayon crepe I bought at SAS Fabrics in Hawthorne (near LA.)  Rayon crepe is rarely found in fabric stores.  When I found this small piece in a pretty print, for only $3, I brought it home without any immediate plans for it.  After I made version 2, I knew this remnant wanted to be version 3.

Version 3 with bonus view of kitchen.
Shoulder pleats instead of gathering.
You want to see them out in the wild?

Version 1 at the Getty Center in Brentwood.
Version 2 at the Petersen Museum in LA.
Version 3 outside my office.
A great, easy-to-make and easy-to-wear basic.  What's not to like?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

More statistical nonsense

I'm bereft that Serena lost today.

There's also the matter of a presidential candidate suggesting or joking that people assassinate his opponent and the judiciary.

Let's talk about something that makes me mad, but only mildly so.  This also gives me a chance to jump up and down on my soapbox about bad data crunching.

Exhibit A, this piece of click bait from the NY Times with a tone of schadenfreude toward engineering majors:
I clicked and read these counter-intuitive numbers.
This doesn't jibe with my personal experience. Physical scientists that I know are very, very civically engaged. How could we be such slackers when it comes to getting to the voting booth when I see "I voted" stickers on everyone in lab on election day?

Do I know a very atypical set of physical scientists?  I had a hunch that, perhaps, it is because (outside of school and student jobs) I have always worked in national labs that require US citizenship?

I did a little research.

First, I went to The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) website and read about the project. There appears to be a database accessible from that website. Because I'm not a participant in the research, I lack access to it.

There also appear to be some scholarly articles, which might have the summary data cited by the NY Times.  Again, I lack access to the articles.  (I'm not going to pay $41 for 24 hours of access to an article that may or may not have the data I seek.)

Search for "The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement report". I was able to find several, including reports for Columbia and Long Beach Community College students.

In each report, I saw that the figures for % of eligible students voting by major was calculated using IPEDS and the same percentage was applied to all majors at a school, given the schools' overall demographics.
This is based on the percentage of non-resident aliens reported by your institution to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and is more reliable than the demographic data campuses provide to the Clearinghouse at this time.
Do you see the statistical flaw? The reports gave the numbers with this caveat at the top:
Your students broken down by field of study. Please note that we are not able to adjust these voting rates by removing non-resident aliens.
The NY Times' poorly-researched and reported listicle did not include any methodology or context.

OK, now let's read what the National Science Foundation has to say about Higher Ed in Science and Engineering.
  • About 60% of all foreign graduate students in the United States in 2010 were enrolled in S&E fields, compared with 32% at the undergraduate level.
  • Foreign students earned 57% of all engineering doctorates, 54% of all computer science degrees, and 51% of physics doctoral degrees. Their overall share of S&E degrees was one-third.
  • In 2009, temporary visa students earned 27% of S&E master's degrees, receiving 46% of those in computer sciences, 43% of those in engineering, and 36% of those in physics.
Moreover, physical science and math students are vastly outnumbered by business and other students; the US graduated 19 business majors for every math or statistics major in 2011.

Let's list what we know:
  • Statistics tying individual students majors and voting behavior are difficult to obtain for privacy reasons.
  • They had to make estimates based upon school-wide statistics.
  • Each school reported the % of their students that were not on temporary visas.
  • NSLVE then applied the same % to all majors, even though they know this is inaccurate. They reported that this is a source of error.
  • They also removed students that were younger than 18 and not eligible to vote.
  • The % of students studying STEM is quite low compared to other majors, particularly business.   That gives larger error bars to STEM voting numbers, even without the eligibility estimation.
  • STEM students as a whole make up ~20% of the total undergraduate (UG) population, but 30% of the foreign UG student population; their voting participation is underestimated by the NSLVE methodology.
  • This means non-STEM students are more likely to be US natives; their voting participation is overestimated by the NSLVE methodology.
  • Foreign-born permanent residents are a wild card.  They do not need a temporary visa.  Yet, they cannot vote.  They are also disproportionately likely to be studying STEM.
  • Foreign students make up a disproportionate share of STEM students at every level, but particularly so at the graduate level.  They dominate in many STEM fields.  Thus, their voting participation is VASTLY underestimated by the NSLVE methodology.  (That 40% of physical science students could very well be 90% of eligible students.)
I found all sorts of interesting information, especially at the National Center for Education Statistics:
Anyway, after examining the data, I think it is very, very likely that physical science students that are eligible to vote do so at higher rates than journalism students.  I'm sure The average physical science student is better with data than the average journalism student.  We might even be better than the average NY Times journalist.

Another piece of bullshit debunked.


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Harley Quinn sadness

Remember the Harley Quinn costume I made for my daughter?

And my ambivalence about the hyper-sexualization of females in comics?

Check out the slide show about Harley Quinn cosplay in the LA Times. Look at the difference in (un)dress between the male and female cosplayers.

Then check out this tweet from David Helder pointing out the sexism at #defcon, a computer security conference. Please note, this is happening in 2016.
Hacker Jeopardy. Category is "Dicks". Men play. Women give them beers. Why aren't there more women in security?
Click to see the questions on the screens. To play this game, you have to have encyclopedic knowledge about p@rn.

Scroll down to read the discussion.  This is the state of one corner of tech.  I am not sure other areas of tech are any better.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Two links while I catch up at home

I'm back home after two weeks away.  I'll post more about the trip when I come up for air.

I found a couple of related links too good not to share.

In What is fashion good for? Part 1, Timo Rissanen explains that the current fashion system is terrible for the planet because it is terribly wasteful. It's also very harmful to the people involved in creating the cheap clothes that most people wear.

Home sewing is part of the solution.

The NYT profiled the McCall Pattern Company in Sewing for the Instagram Generation.