Monday, July 23, 2018

Thank-you Jonathan Gold and Linda Burum

I was saddened to read of Jonathan Gold's death over the weekend. Others wrote about his importance quite eloquently. Gustavo Arellano (Ask a Mexican) explained, "His strength lay in the fact that he wrote as someone thankful that the Los Angeles of today was not the Los Angeles of his youth."

Ruth Reichl, his friend and former editor wrote:
But Jonathan didn’t want us to go out to Monterey Park simply to eat Sichuan pickles. He didn’t lure us out to El Monte or the world’s best birria burritos for their mere deliciousness. He wrote enticing prose designed to take us out of our safe little territories to mingle with other people because he knew that restaurants aren’t really about food. They’re about people.

He gave us the keys to a hidden city, introduced us to folks we’d never have known. And the city changed. It is nothing like the city I found when I first came here in 1984.
If you want to understand LA, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Gold's classic, Counter Intelligence: Where to eat in the real Los Angeles.

Gold wrote a column for the Counter Intelligence column for the LA Weekly starting in the mid-1980s.  A collection of the columns was published as this book in 2000.

When we first moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, A Guide to Ethnic Food in Los Angeles by Linda Burum (1992) was our LA food atlas.

We used to read the chapters (organized by ethnic food type) while looking at the AAA map of Metro Los Angeles (for the big picture) and the Thomas Guide for details. We planned outings to different areas of LA around food and walking around.

Until I moved to LA, I didn't understand it. It's still so vast and hard to describe. But food sociology is certainly a great way to start. Go out and explore. Eat. Look around. Listen. Talk to people.

I sat next to a food critic on a flight who knew Linda Burum. I asked why she didn't update her guide. He said that she moved to NY and was doing other stuff now. In the obituaries and tributes to the important work that Jonathan Gold and Anthony Bourdain have done in popularizing food sociology/anthropology, I see little mention of women.

I want to remind people not to overlook the women who were already there, doing the work in plain sight.  So many women have done the patient work of spending time in kitchens and explaining culture through food.   Culture has room for many heroes.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Aquifer cake

Reading the Water Wars of Arizona in the NY Times today and thinking about this aquifer cake.  Watch as she pours milk on an aquifer modeled in cake.
When I read the NYT headline, I thought they were referring to another Arizona water use controversy, ably explained by John Fleck.
Upper Colorado River Basin state leaders, in a letter Friday (April 13, 2018), said the water management approach being taken by the managers of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) “threaten the water supply for nearly 40 million people in the United States and Mexico, and threaten the interstate relationships and good will that must be maintained if we are to find and implement collaborative solutions” to the Colorado River’s problems.

[snip one paragraph]

The letter, using language that is striking in the normally staid interstate diplomacy of Colorado River interstate water management, takes issue with CAP’s practice of using more water than it might otherwise – avoiding “overconserving”, in CAP’s words – in order to ensure continue big releases from Lake Powell upstream. That has the effect of expanding water use in the Lower Colorado River Basin at the expense of draining Lake Powell, the critical reservoir for protecting Upper Colorado River Basin supplies. The managers of the Central Arizona Project are “disregard(ing) the (Colorado River) basin’s dire situation at the expense of Lake Powell and all the other basin states” by using more water than they need to, the letter said.
Many people read Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, originally written in 1986 (revised 1992), and think that is the last word on Colorado River water.   The book is very outdated.   UC Davis professor Jay Lund summed up the lessons he learned from the book and the things that changed in Reflections on Cadillac Desert on the California Water Blog.

The upshot is that the climate has become much more challenging for providing reliable water supplies to the Colorado River Basin.  But people have a much better understanding about the challenges and what actions to take.  Water agencies serving the 40 million people who rely on CO River water* have learned to cooperate in ways unimaginable in the 1980s.

However, there are agents intent on inflaming new water wars; the more we fight amongst ourselves, the less attention we pay to larger and more serious threats.  This may take the form of 'dark money' to fund lawsuits against local water agencies trying to impose water conservation measures or misinformation campaigns (aka lies) that sow doubt about the need for water conservation in the first place.

It's time to fight misinformation with factual information.

* Both Boulder, CO and Los Angeles, CA are outside the natural topological (gravity-fed) boundaries of the Colorado River Basin.  However, both places receive and use water from it.  In fact, about half the water used in the Colorado Front Range Urban Corridor (a high desert/plains strip east of the continental divide) is moved across the divide to the Platt River (and eventually, Mississippi River) basin.  More on that later.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Banking Rain for Sunny Days

Did you get the memo? Climate change will make rain less predictable and more intense in southern California. It's not clear if the total amount of rain will decrease along the coast. Rain will decrease in the Colorado River Basin, from which we import some of our water. For the sake of our water supply, we need to change how we handle water runoff.

Gregory Rachel, a firefighter and surfer, wrote a good primer on the why and how of water harvesting, with a photo of the Los Cerritos Channel Sub Basin 4 Stormwater Capture Project.

Joe Mozingo wrote A behind-the-scenes battle to divert L.A.'s storm water from going to waste for the LA Times and illustrated it with a picture of the huge Paseo del Rio at San Gabriel Coast Basin spreading grounds.

In 2016, he reported that only 65 billion gallons of rainwater is captured and stored in aquifers. Another 164 billion gallons goes out to sea.  I'm not sure if that 65 billion includes the water captured by smaller-scale "rain gardens" in homes and parks, such as this one that captures all the water on the parcel of the North Redondo Beach Branch Library.  I wrote about it in 2016.

The "local supplies" that provides ~40% of the water used in the LA area comes from wells or reservoirs stocked by water that fell as rain in our area (instead of water imported from the Colorado River or Northern California via long canals.) It does not count the rain that fell in your garden and soaked into the ground because that isn't metered/measured.

It's pretty clear that the Colorado River Basin is drying up and climate change is a major contributor. I'll write about regional competition and cooperation of cities and states in the Colorado River Compact later.

The supply from the California State Water Project that moves water from the Sacramento Delta to central and southern California is also endangered. It's threatened in the north by sea level rise and increased diversions that increase the salinity (salt) in the water supply.  Insane over-pumping of well-water by farmers in the Central Valley have caused the ground to sink as much as a foot per year in some areas, buckling and breaking the canals.  Currently, the peak capacity of the water canals to SoCal has been decreased by 20% because of the buckling.  Add to this that the canals must cross earthquake country and were built when we had much less experience in how to engineer for earthquake safety.  The California "Water Fix" is a political football and you can get whiplash from watching it.  That sounds like another blog post.

Long story short, we need to improve the things that are completely within our control.  That means we should build our neighborhoods with the intent of soaking as much rain water in the ground as we can.  It can be as simple as putting in gravel in the lowest spot in your garden so it doesn't flow off your property.  It can be giant basins that can harvest 200 million gallons from one storm and put it in the ground.   Or it can be something in between.

I'll end with pictures of a neighborhood-scale rainwater capture project in North Redondo Beach.  Thousands of people pass it every day on Aviation Boulevard and have no idea what it is.  This aerial view does not show you how hilly this area is.  Some of the streets are 15-20% grade!

Low-lying area in 90278
Some low-lying homes used to flood repeatedly.  Rather than rebuild these flood-prone homes, the homes were purchased for alternative uses.  The plot in the red box was bought by the city of Redondo Beach and turned into a parkette.  It also functions as a spreading ground to soak up the water that flows into it from surrounding areas.  After a heavy rain, it may be too soggy, or even covered in water, for kids to play in.  In that case, the park is temporarily closed off with cones until it dries up, typically in a few days.

The blue box was mysterious until I saw a workman doing maintenance there.  We had a fantastic conversation where he taught me what they do behind the chain link fence and I explained to him our best understanding of what climate change will do to our area.

The concrete channel in the blue box collects the rainwater that comes out of the storm drains (and flows off the surrounding land like the parkette.)  The "first flush" of stormwater, about 1/4" is sent to the sewage treatment plant for cleaning.  The rest of the water is sent downstream.

[LA has separate storm drains and sewage systems, aka "sanitary sewers."  Many older cities, notably Chicago, have just one system and raw sewage can be spilled when the sewage treatment plants cannot handle the rainwater volume.]

Water capture at local minima
Rainwater after the first flush is much cleaner.  It is sent slightly further downhill to a spreading ground where the water can slowly infiltrate into the shallow aquifer.  The grounds are blocked off from street view with a tall, solid fence, but an adjacent triangular permeable garden/parkette is visible from Aviation Boulevard.

Spreading grounds for rainwater
I've written earlier about how LA is ringed by hundreds of injection wells where fresh water (often reclaimed) is sent into the shallow aquifer to block sea water intrusion into the larger aquifer that we depend on.  The more rain we can get into the ground, the less fresh water we need to pump into the ground. 

Sea level rise from climate change increases the danger of salt water intrusion.  We'll need to put more fresh water into the ground along the coast to stave it off.

If we are to survive and thrive as a city/metro region in the face of climate change, we need to do smart things at the regional, local and personal levels.  Take a look around your neighborhood.  What is your city doing?  What are you personally doing?

Monday, July 02, 2018

Sew Inspirational

Sew Becky Jo asked me to write up a post about five sewists that inspire me for the Sewcialists blog and I am happy to oblige.

I had to step back to think a little bit about what that means, or how I want to interpret this assignment. I'm exhausted from all the bad news lately, and have been reflecting deeply about how I can respond--push to make the world more in keeping with my values, while protecting my emotional core. Depending on how you see it, I am either a procrastinator or a researcher.

Several of the books I read in the last year dealt with how social media and technology is harnessed by authoritarians and liars for their own ends. Thus, I decided to focus on five sewists that are less active and "hot" (in the sense of popularity), but resonate with me. I'll also explain why.

Have you ever heard about the Weak Ties Theory? Changing Minds has a good synopsis. In short, social ties are either strong (between tight clusters of members connected mainly with others in the same group) or weak (bridges between strong networks.) 
The more weak ties we have, the more connected to the world we are and are more likely to receive important information about ideas, threats and opportunities in time to respond to them.
Strong ties are the echo/bubble chambers in which misinformation can ricochet without challenge.

Weak ties are the ways in which we expand our understanding about how others experience the world.

(If this interests you, read an academic paper by Mark Granovetter,  who first explained and gave a name to this effect.)

Sewing is a great way to add weak ties to your social media. We are all makers who encounter and solve similar problems. We can learn about sewing *and* about the greater world by following people who experience much different lived experiences than our own. In doing so, we can learn to empathize with people who don't look like us.

Blogger 1.

If I want to direct attention to less-known sewing bloggers, why am I starting my list with super-popular Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic?  She's a super-star among bloggers for good reason.  She's been putting out quality content about her sewing journey since 2006, when the sewing blogger world was much smaller.  She's so generous with her time--showing what worked, what didn't, and analyzing why.

I've learned so much non-sewing information from her, too.

Through Carolyn, I've learned how challenging it is for plus-sized women to find professional and on-trend clothing, how much it means for African Americans that one of them was our president, and how personal BLM is when a mother has to send her son or grandson out in the world when so many see them only as a threat.

I read Carolyn to be a better sewist and a better person.

IG: @diaryofasewingfanatic

I'm intrigued by what sewists call Pattern Puzzles, novel ways to cut and shape garments.  Issey Miyake designs often fall in this category. So do the garments in the Pattern Magic series of books by Tomoko Nakamichi.

I follow many sewists that sew Pattern Puzzles and document their experiences to help others.  Some are less active on social media than they were in the past, but quality content is evergreen.

Blogger 2.

I first learned about Pattern Puzzles from Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion Incubator. She's blogged about Pattern Puzzles no fewer than 251 times!

Kathleen is less active in her open access blog than in the past. She runs a (paid) member forum for clothing manufacturers working in the US. I am not a member of that forum, but I hear it is a friendly and nurturing site full of people helping each other.

I have her book and it is an encyclopedia in one volume. Sometimes, I have to read it over several times because she can pack so much information in one paragraph and a few illustrations. Browse through her tutorials and use them. Your sewing will be so much better.

In 2015, she bought a factory--or rather, she built one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can follow her and her partners on IG @abqfi.

Another reason to follow Kathleen is to learn more about neurodiversity. She writes very movingly about how many of her life experiences made sense once she learned she is on the autism spectrum. The apparel manufacturing industry has traditionally been home to immigrants and people who think differently. This is it's strength.

 Like many people who are on the spectrum, Kathleen is a slayer of bullshit.

She compiled all her wisdom about The Myth of Vanity Sizing in one place. FYI, I went into this thinking vanity sizing is a thing. She completely convinced me I was wrong. Now I am smug because I know the right answer and there is no one more evangelical than the converted. ;-)

IG: @kathleenfasanella @abqfi

Blogger 3.

Lauriana of Petit Main Sauvage has sewn many pattern puzzles, though her recent makes lean more towards activewear. She works in a wedding dress salon and is generous with her knowledge.

I also enjoy her slice of life writing and photos of rock climbing, bicycle commuting and life in general in the Netherlands.  Plus, her organized, utilitarian and beautiful apartment (in the background of many of her photos) is a life goal.

If you like pattern pieces shaped like this, then this is a blog to read.  Start at the beginning and slowly work your way forwards in time.  I don't know if she is in IG.
Is this a bat or a sleeve?  Read and learn.

Blogger 3.5

Di of Clementine's Shoes took down all of her blog posts, so you can't see any of her Pattern Magic sewing experiments.  Some of the experiments worked.  Some failed.  They were real experiments.  It was inspirational just to watch someone who was up to try anything.

 I'm quite sad that she didn't leave her old posts up when she quit blogging.

Recently, she started posting on IG as @clementinesews. She also posts her work as an architect @dijonesarch. I hope she re-posts her old blog content, because it was really, really good. Oh, she knits and makes shoes, too.

The last two deal with disability or caring for the disabled along with sewing.

Blogger 4.

Many sewing bloggers order interfacing and other notions from Pam Erny of Fashion Sewing Supply. She is now my sole supplier of interfacing. No more bubbling from shrunken fusible interfacing!

Did you know that she also posts many helpful tutorials on her Off The Cuff Shirtmaking blog?

She doesn't write much about her personal life, but she's inspirational in that she is another math/physics person who created a second career for herself and her husband.

Don't you want to learn how to sew a placket like this?

Blogger 5.

Ms. Little Hunting Creek and I were frequent commenters on each others' blogs when we were both much more active bloggers.  We bonded over the fact that we both had the same Home Ec lesson in the 1970s in California.  We both earned BAs from UC Berkeley (Cal)--she in Classics, me in Mathematics.  We also both earned our livings in software despite not formally studying computer science in school.  Hey, if you can learn ancient Latin and Greek grammar, modern software languages are a piece of cake.

Berkeley's breadth with depth requirements for BAs meant that she had to take quite a few science classes (enough to earn a minor in Biology) and I had to take quite a few history classes.  This is probably the reason why Cal grads did not go on to found and run the tech companies that took down democracy around the world.

I suggest you read Sewing as Political Protest.

Her blogging slowed down due to health challenges that you can go over there to read about.  I find it inspirational that she could continue to work (but from home) and carve some time out to make stuff and blog about it.  Oh, she also wrote essays for the Toast.

From Wearing the Pants: A Brief Western History of Pants
According to Herodotus, when Greek soldiers met the Scythians in battle, they were amazed to see Scythian women on horseback fighting alongside the men, all wearing pants and decorated armor. When they went back to Greece they immortalized those Scythian women for posterity as the legendary Amazons in their poetry and art. Painting them looking both chic and fierce, their pictures of the Amazons are some of the earliest Western artworks showing women in pants. But even though pants came to the West from the Scythians and others (along with riding horses), in the West, wearing pants was associated with warfare and restricted to men only. Perhaps, remembering those Amazons, men feared what might happen to them if women were able to wear pants and get their hands on some weapons.
This is why I overcame my initial resistance to arming school teachers. If we armed the (mostly female) school teachers, perhaps they will enjoy the same high pay and cushy pensions as policemen. Amirite?

Each of these five bloggers have taught me things and even changed my mind by giving me new information or reframing it.  Let's keep on learning and making together.