Sunday, July 30, 2017

The end of tapwater

Trevi Fountain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Italy has neglected infrastructure so badly that Rome, their capital city, will begin rolling water shutoffs
One-third of the city’s residents are set to have their water supply cut off for eight hours every day, possibly beginning as early as Friday; different neighborhoods will take turns in sharing the burden. It’s an unprecedented move for a major Italian city, said Giampaolo Attanasio, a public infrastructure expert at the advisory firm Ernst & Young. But it may soon be routine.

"Rome could be just the beginning. If the situation doesn’t improve, other large cities will have to ration water as well," Attanasio said in a telephone interview. "Small towns already have."
The math is damning.
as much as one-fourth of water pipes in Italy are more than 50 years old, and that it will take 250 years to replace the whole system at current rates.
This means that the pace of water pipe replacement has slowed in recent years. Otherwise, the % of older pipes would be higher.

Moreover, they lose 44% of their water through leaks in the pipes!

Climate change compounds the problem.  With higher temperatures come higher evaporation rates.  This means less water will flow from the mountains to the cities below, even if rainfall stays the same.

Rainfall patterns do not remain the same with climate change.  Storm tracks change with the weather, but the climactic average of storm tracks vary much less.  Those average storm tracks are being disrupted around the globe as the jet stream becomes more wavy.

In Spring 2017, Italy received 50% of the rainfall that they received over the 1971-2000 reference period.  At the same time, it was the second hottest Spring since 1800--1.9 C warmer than the 1971-2000 average.

Austerity measures compounded the body blow dealt by climate change and normal variation.

Lack of public funds meant reliance on so-called 'public-private partnerships' with for profit companies who cut maintenance to increase profits.

There is no time to lose.  The longer we wait to slow global warming, the worse these problems will become.

We should be spending more on infrastructure to build for climate resilience rather than less.

Will it be expensive?  Yes.

But the alternative, doing nothing, is even more expensive.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Water views

When I was visiting family in San Diego last winter, we went for daily walks around this reservoir. I overheard some other walkers discuss why this reservoir was so low, if they had been getting so much rain lately. It took a great deal of effort for me not to run up to them and explain at that time. ;-)

Most of the water in the reservoirs near where people live in coastal California is imported!  They are really just decorative water storage tanks.

You can see more land along the shores of Lake Murray in this photo than you do during dryer times precisely because people in the reservoir's service area need to use less piped-in water during rainy periods.

Moreover, they want to leave some room in the reservoir to catch the runoff from the storms in the local area.  Local rain augments the imported water supply (and not the other way around.)

Remember during the drought and last winter when the newspapers showed this weekly reservoir status map?  You can download it from the CA Data Exchange.  Click on Selected Reservoirs Daily Graphs PDF.

This well-designed graphic shows the relative sizes of reservoirs. The scale breaks down for the smallest reservoirs in the southern end of CA but you get the overall idea.

It doesn't matter if some area gets 200% of normal precipitation if that normal is 3". It's not as significant as another place getting 120% of normal (PON) when their normal is 65".

Check out the wide normal rainfall variation at the California-Nevada River Forecast Center.

It also matters where that rain falls.  Is it over a wide area?  Did it fall in a drainage basin connected to dry areas by our plumbing (rivers and aqueducts)?

The plumbing that brings water from where it falls to where it is used is a complex system of aqueducts, ditches, rivers and pumps.  About 20-25% of the electricity consumed in California is used to move water around.  (Water is heavy.)

Read the in-depth, California's Water Supply, A 700 Mile Journey to learn more about the CA aqueduct. I'll write about the Colorado River later.

Los Angeles is a semi-arid place surrounded by tall mountain ranges and the ocean.  Bringing enough water to it is a challenge.  That is why it had to become a leader in water recycling.  There is really no choice.

The takeaway is that your water travels farther than you think.  It isn't just the total distance, but the number of (vertical) lifts required to get it to you.  Lifting water uphill is energy intensive and we can not cut our carbon footprint without lowering our water footprint.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Shirtdress shortcut

The black and white shirtdress was so successful, I decided to make another one. Time has been short this summer, so I started with a men's shirt from Goodwill and went searching through my supplies for the perfect match for the skirt portion.

I knew that I wanted to use the skirt from Vogue 1916 again. This time, I made the pockets 1" wider and 1.5" deeper to securely hold my cell phone.

I auditioned many skirt fabrics.  This was my second choice.  I had 4.5 yards of my first choice and decided to save it to a dress at a later time.  I was worried that this light-medium denim was too heavy and stiff for this style.

I needn't have worried.  The denim is soft and drapey.  In fact, it was so soft that the waistline stretched out and I had to insert back darts to draw it in.

The denim was purchased cheaply by the pound near LA because it has some minor flaws and fading. I buy most of my fabric (by yardage but not by $) from odd jobbers like that, and cut around flaws. This time, there was no avoiding all the flaws, but they are relatively minor. Also, denim is supposed to develop a patina and this has a head start.

I also used one of my husband's shirts that had been retired after a sad encounter with soy sauce.  The contrast kick pleat flashes nicely when the skirt moves.

The piece left over after I cut the kick pleat insert had a pleasing curved hem.  I rotated it a quarter turn to make a wonky second shirt pocket.  I added the buttonhole, but decided to omit the button in the end.

I used the sleeves of the shirt to line the skirt pockets.  If you look carefully, you can see some stains from droplets of soy sauce.

It's not easy to refashion a dress shirt from long to short sleeves due to the sleeves' taper.  I cut some bias bands to hem the sleeves so that they lay evenly.  I wish I made the bands twice as wide for more visual oomph.  Next time.

I measured the black/white dress bodice length and then added a smidgen when trimming the thrifted shirt. I shouldn't have added the length. It looked so sad. After a date with my seam ripper on Saturday night, I put in two back waist skirt darts, readjusted the shirt pleats, and reattached the two parts. It looks and feels great now.

This is a water post because of the embedded water I reclaimed by using all second hand or irregular fabrics that might have gone to waste.

Read more about the reclaiming the energy/water/value of textiles:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Brooks Falls live cam screenshots

For no reason in particular, I want to show some screen shots from the live Bear Cam at

It's really hard to get the screen shot just as the salmon jump.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Shirtdress fever

Before I take a leisurely water tour, I want to blog a few sewing projects.

Although I am a fan of 'blogging without obligation' and not writing about every single thing I make, I want to show my favorite make from 2016.  I made this dress July 10-16, 2016 and spent even longer planning it.

I had already been thinking about my favorite shirtdresses in the past, including this rayon challis number that had become horribly pilled and was subsequently retired.

I purchased many vintage and current shirtdress patterns over the years, studied them, and then drew up a list of likes and dislikes.  When the McCall Pattern Company blog announced the Shirtdress Sew-Along, I got serious.

 I knew that I liked the oversized relaxed look of the top of Vogue 1873, but wasn't so fond of the bulkiness of the gathered rectangle skirt. (User error made the skirt much bulkier at the waist than it should have been.)

I wanted to try the flared skirt of Vogue 1916 with those fantastic pockets.  The front kick-pleat also looked like fun.  I was put off by the fussiness of the front placket directions for V1916 so Frankenpatterning the two looked like a good plan.

Selecting the main fabric was easy.  I knew I wanted to use this cotton poplin purchased during a family Hawaii trip almost a dozen years ago.

I wanted contrast details, but nothing in my supplies was quite right.  I liked the look of this stretch cotton gingham, which was perfect in scale and color, but a bit thin and too stretchy.

I went shopping at Colorado Fabrics and bought small pieces of both of the middle prints.

I pinned them to my dress dummy and auditioned both of them for at least a day each.  They didn't sing to me.

In the end, I fused the gingham to soft tricot interfacing and the color and pocket came out well.  I did not fuse the bias bands on the sleeve, much to my regret.

You can't see it but I clean finished the bodice interior with all flat-fell seams.
But it is a minor quibble because I love the dress. It feels great, swishes in a satisfying way, doesn't get in the way when walking (even up and down stairs), and comes out of the wash pretty much wrinkle-free. (That's due to the tight poplin weave and good quality cotton--not a resin fabric finish.)

Front view

Back view

What a view!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Prepare to get wet

Are you ready to get wet? I hope so because I'm starting (restarting) a series about water*.

Yesterday, my daughter and I participated in a fascinating Northern Water tour to the headwaters of the Colorado River (CR) to learn how water is diverted across the Continental Divide (under Rocky Mountain National Park!)

I also recently read Where the Water Goes, a book that follows the CR from the headwaters I visited yesterday all the way to Mexico.  Read the New Yorker article by David Owen that he expanded into this fascinating book.

While I do not live in the natural Colorado River basin, the CR provides a portion of the water I use whether I am at home in Los Angeles County or Boulder.

Bad Dad bought me a signed copy of the book when David Owen visited {pages}.  He wondered if I would learn anything new because I'm such a water geek and I also work in environmental science.

The answer is an unequivocal, "Yes!"

Water is complex.  Although I already knew most of the environmental science, the history and rationale for past decisions were mostly news and fascinating.  The NPR story gives a hint of some of the things you can learn in the book.

Your homework is to read the New Yorker article and my past water posts.  If you like the NY article, then read the book.  (Even though I own a physical copy, I checked an ebook out from the library so I could read it on the go on my phone.)

Then we will dive into water issues.  It will be a highly idiosyncratic tour with stops where I think the issues need better explanation.

Your tour guide will be me, a lifelong outdoors woman who grew up in the American west, earned a BS in chemistry, a PhD in physics and works as a weather and climate data specialist.  I also hang out with a lot of people who are as interested in water as I am and have lots of tidbits to share.

Rain gear and waterproof shoes are optional.

* Have I written only 34 past posts about water? I thought I wrote more often about it. I might not have tagged all pertinent blog posts and will go back and rectify that when I have more time.

Friday, July 14, 2017

That bamboo rayon may not be so green

More bad news about clothing choices came to light recently.

First, remember how I wrote that polyester shirts were greener than cotton shirts when the full use cycle is considered? Well, it turns out that polyester clothing can shed fibers in the wash, which may end up in the oceans and rivers and, eventually, in wildlife.

Rayon has been hailed as a miracle fiber.  It's silky like silk and polyester, breathes like cotton and linen, takes dye readily,  and is washable.  It used to be made from wood chips that are mill waste from making lumber out of trees.

Now that rayon has grown in popularity and the price of paper has shot up, there aren't enough trees.  Fast-growing bamboo to the rescue!  It's a grass so it grows fast.  It's renewable, natural and sustainable!

Not so fast.

When I was a chemistry undergrad at Berkeley in the 1980s, I came across a thick textbook at Moe's Books about rayon manufacturing.  The number of steps and caustic chemicals needed to turn break down wood chips into cellulose fibers and then to reconstruct them into rayon fibers is staggering.

The good news is some mills, notably in Europe and Australia, have invested in equipment to make rayon using closed-loop processes in which 99% of the chemicals are recovered and reused.  You can find them labeled with trade names such as Tencel and Lyocell.

The bad news is that most rayons on the market are dirty in the sense that they are made with great harm to the environment and workers.  Paul David Blanc wrote about this in Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon.  Also read H&M, Zara and Marks & Spencer linked to polluting viscose factories in Asia.

Wastewater outfall near Sateri Fiber and Jiujiang Jinyuan Chemical Fiber viscose plants in Jiangxi, China Photograph: Changing Markets Foundation via Guardian
Just as I haven't given up eating meat entirely.  I haven't given up rayon, cotton or synthetic fibers.  I use everything in moderation and try to buy from responsible manufacturers.  I also often reuse/repurpose old textiles.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chow time at Brooks Falls

Brooks Falls - Katmai National Park, Alaska

Live! Bears! Salmon! Birds! Waterfall!

See the live Bear Cam at

Faux Disruption

I read Home Delivery! What Will They Think of Next? by Peter Funt with a chuckle.

When I bought my first Bernina, I went to the store by bike. The Bernina dealer delivered the machine to my home on her way home from work. Another colleague bought a framed picture and the art dealer delivered it to him at home, too.

At one time, the Boulder Public Library delivered requested books to your home in a "green bag." You return the bag and the book to the library later.

Funt rightly points out that dot coms like AmazonFresh and Instacart are inventing stuff that already exists. Home delivery of food was ubiquitous from the days when milkmen and green grocers were common sights on the street. Grocery stores delivered because most housewives didn't have cars.  They never stopped offering home delivery.

When I was in graduate school 20+ years ago, a classmate without a car told me about King Soopers' home delivery service. She would ride her bike to KS, select her weekly fresh food plus monthly nonperishable staples, and then take them to the customer service desk to arrange for home delivery. She then rode her bike home and met the KS delivery van a few minutes later. The rest of the month, she bought just what she could carry by bike.

Back then, King Soopers charged $9 to pull your groceries and deliver to your home. If you needed only one of those services; e.g. you pulled your own groceries and just needed delivery, or you needed someone to pull the groceries for you and load them up into your own car at the store, then you paid about half as much as full (pull+delivery) service.

For about $5/month, my friend solved one of the difficulties of being car-free.

The Denver Channel compared different home food delivery services and discovered that, while Instacart allows you to order groceries from King Soopers, Instacart offers a much smaller selection and charges 30% more than if you order directly from KS.
King Soopers Homeshop would cost me $96.12 for delivery and $90.12 for pick-up, followed by Instacart who cost $134.51, or 30% more than just ordering from King Soopers directly.
Home delivery was a necessary service before private cars were commonplace. For less mobile people, particularly the sick and elderly, those services are a lifeline.

Silicon Valley did not invent any of this. SV just pays their workers less, charges you more, and evades taxes.

This is an extension of my thoughts about Fauxtomation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Making Trouble

Herma Hill Kay's obituary made me sad that I didn't meet her at Berkeley.

“How to make trouble without being a troublemaker, that describes my style,” Ms. Kay said in 1992, after she was named dean at Berkeley Law School. “I think that if you are going to help build an institution, you have to be careful not to destroy it in the process.”
Read more about this pioneer and deep thinker. Iconic is an understatement!
A co-author of the California Family Law Act of 1969, Kay also served as a co-reporter on the state commission that drafted the nation’s first no-fault divorce statute. She later co-authored the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which has become the standard for no-fault divorce nationwide.

“It was never undertaken to achieve equality between men and women,” Kay said during a 2008 interview. “It was undertaken to try to get the blackmail out of divorce and I think it has accomplished that…. Marriage is no longer the only career open to women.”

In 1974 she co-authored the seminal Sex-based Discrimination casebook, now in its seventh edition, with Professor Kenneth Davidson and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In 2015, Kay received the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Law Schools (AALS)—from Ginsburg herself.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Still mourning but moving ahead

November 9, 2016 was very tough for me. It seemed like the people out to destroy everything that I value had won. They won by waging asymmetric warfare, using tactics that I would never even consider using. The bad guys won.

My husband suggested we walk on the beach to improve our moods. It didn't work. We walked in Manhattan Beach, the only place I go to on a regular basis that had Trump Pence yard signs. Every time we passed white people, I wondered if they were among the majority of white people that threw everyone else under the bus.

I wrote a post that day. Then decided to sleep on it before clicking "Publish." I still have not decided to publish that piece.

I'm mourning for the America that I thought was within reach. The one that lives up to it's ideals and treats everyone justly under the same rules and laws. The one where we act rationally to maximize the public good *and* personal freedom.

The people who espouse racial profiling and make deadly "Stop and Frisk" ubiquitous, want to impose Christian sharia on everyone, beat up and jail political opponents, collude with hostile nations and throw away our constitution won.

I became an earth scientist because I'm passionate about the planet that we live on. The people who shouted, "Drill, Baby, Drill!" and want to ignore global warming won. If we follow their path, this planet, and all the people on it, are toast.

I've not been blogging much because I'm in mourning for my country and my planet.

On November 10, 2016, Wandering Scientist tweeted a picture of a Bunny ready to fight from Rabbit Isle Bot.

I've been reading and thinking a great deal and believe it is time to get more active in my resistance. I'm very short on time, so will be posting shorter pieces--often in linked series--instead of the long stand-alone pieces that I used to write. There will be more about environmental, energy and social issues. There will be fewer sewing and knitting projects because I'm doing less of those these days.

The resistance against injustice has always been largely middle-aged females. E.g. Liberia and Chile [1] [2]. We must build and hold together coalitions founded in mutual respect and trust. It is not easy. The struggle will never end. But it is necessary. We are not alone.

Some recommended important books (all but one written by women):

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Gender wars of household chores

How did I miss The gender wars of household chores: a feminist comic.  It was published in the Guardian back in May!
In case you are wondering, Emma hits close to home x2.