Tuesday, October 24, 2017

'Free college for all' or 'Free college for most'?

'Free college for most' doesn't sound as catchy as 'Free college for all!'

In a perfect world, the government would have enough money for all. But, in the current political climate, I'd settle for directing the money to the the most financially needy. I want government to give away subsidies to people in need or to change people's behavior. Giving money away to people who have enough and were already going to buy a product (college education) does neither.

New York may make waves for offering tuition-free college, but there is still the pesky problem of books and living expenses.  Meanwhile, California has been quietly charging tuition, but rebating it back to low and middle-income families.  In fact, most families will pay less under the CA system because CA offers more aid for living expenses.

Consider the University of California budget for 2018-2019 that was recently adopted.  It includes a small increase in tuition, but the bulk of UC costs is not tuition.  Living costs and books dwarf tuition two to one.

By charging tuition, and then redirecting those dollars to financial aid for needy students, many students and their families pay negative tuition.  That is, their financial aid is greater than the amount of tuition.

The median family income for CA families with children under 18 in 2010-2014 is $61,991. 


Under the new UC budget, tuition is ~$13,000/year and the students and parents would be expected to contribute ~$15,000.  (Undergraduate students can take out subsidized loans of up to $7,500/year or roughly half of the family contribution.)

If students start at a community college (CC) and live at home for the first 2-3 years, they can reduce the cost even further.  About half of CA CC students received full tuition waivers.  They only had to cover books and transportation costs, and those were subsidized for the neediest students.

Starting next year, the first year of California community college would be tuition-free for everyone.

One third of all UC graduates were CC transfer students.  They typically move away and live on campus at an UC for only the last 4-5 semesters.

CA has effectively had free college for most, if they can get over the hurdle of being prepared to take advantage of it.

This is where I think CA--our entire nation--could do better.  Notice that families with children under 18 have a lower income than families without children?  Not only are children expensive, but they impair their care-givers' ability to work for cash income.  This is why we need cash transfers from the unencumbered to the people who work hard to raise the next generation of citizens/tax-payers.

Look at the incomes for families with children under 18 by CA state assembly districts.

Consider the median family incomes in South LA, district 59.  Imagine raising kids on $26,341/year. Note that families with children are poorer in district 59 than those without.

That is one quarter the income of families in the South Bay region, district 66. Although families in this area with kids enjoy higher incomes than families without kids, the income difference is slight compared to the cost of childcare and other child-related expenses.  I want to be clear that, given the high cost of living in LA, $100,000/year is not luxurious at all.


But you cannot compare two-parent families earning $100k/yr with one parent families earning $25k/yr.  Every family in the latter group that manages to raise their children to be college-ready has achieved something heroic and earns my enthusiastic support.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

The dinosaurs among us

Another day, another Republican plan to take away healthcare from anyone who is unlucky. Insurance is for the things you can't predict, like a child that gets sick with something really complicated. I think that Rs that already know that, and are lying to us anyway.

I am so sick of lies and the lying liars that tell them.  I am so sick of constantly having to rebut lies.  Can we have a plan where we don't get sick with those diseases?

Meanwhile, let's think about something happy, like the fact that we walk among dinosaurs. FYI, Thornton is slightly north of Denver.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beware of false moral equivalence

Speaking of recent bullshit, I am surprised by the lack of pushback in the media with respect to false moral equivalence. For instance, consider this article about the taking down of a confederate monument in Hollywood.  (I added the bold face.)
A spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy explained the group’s decision to remove the monument this way:

“I was afraid to leave it overnight,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisal. “We have had the cemetery remove it until we decide what to do.”

Those calling for the monument’s removal are “erasing history,” she said.

“I do not believe in slavery — no sane human would believe in that today,” she said. “But back then, they did.”

She condemned the violence in Virginia and expressed sorrow for those killed and injured.

“We weep for the people who are involved in all of the things that are going on in our country — on both sides. We find hatred among white supremacists, we find hatred among Black Lives Matter,” she said. “We should all come together and become one under the United States of America.”
On both sides?  ON BOTH SIDES?

Why didn't the LA Times reporters press this unnamed spokeswoman for the Daughters of the Confederacy to clarify what kind of hatred from the BLM movement she is referring to?

One side wants to celebrate the treasonous people who went to war for the right to enslave other people.  All BLM wants is for the police to stop killing them.

There is no both sides about this.  There is no moral equivalence.

There was a concerted social media effort to portray the BLM movement falsely.  A great deal of money was spent to smear BLM so that they would lose public support..  Zeynep Tufekci ably explained how this was done in Twitter and Tear Gas.  Read it!

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Learn more about the Russian propaganda tool, 'whataboutism,' that is widely used by authoritarians, climate deniers and the right around the world.

I don't know what to call this

I am so effing tired that we have to even fight the dark forces that are threatening our country right now.  If you haven't already done so, I urge you to read Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Zeynep Tufekci has been studying the intersection of authoritarianism, technology and protest for decades and you really, really want to learn from her.

[Addendum: ZT has posted a free pdf version of Twitter and Teargas but I hope you support her and buy a copy.]

Meanwhile, I have an example of how adept the spinmeisters of satan are at manipulating technology and algorithms, I give you my search results yesterday for the "Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map":

An ad or two appears before the search results, as is typical for Google searches. But look carefully. Notice that the top ad is for a website that exists solely to discredit the splc.org with completely fabricated lies? Who paid for that ad?  How do they act so fast?  There are literally armies of people working on spreading disinformation so that people give up and say that the fault lies with 'many sides.'  Don't be that dumbf*ck.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet the screen capture to Google. Enough people must have done it because searches for the same phrase and SPLC in general are devoid of ads and go to the organization's site and map. BTW, this is the SPLC Hate Map tonight.

Less well-known, but deserves to be better known, is the Map of White Supremacy mob violence.


Don't miss @JuliusGoat's thread, 'Imagine if these people ever faced actual oppression.'

The white militia is here to demand your obedience with their guns.

AP photo via Mother Jones
Call me a feminazi, but I've never had to resort to carrying a gun to make you agree with me.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why are white people so afraid?

It turns out, white people who live among white people are at highest risk of being murdered or dying of illicit drugs.  Mike Males crunched the numbers in an LAT opinion piece.
I examined Centers for Disease Control statistics on murder, gun killings and illegal-drug overdoses among white Americans.
...
Rates of homicides, gun killings and illicit-drug fatalities are highest in counties where nine in 10 residents are white and where President Trump won.
...
Such counties are not limited to one geographical region. They include Boone County, W.V.; Washington County, Utah; Baxter County, Ark.; and Brown County, Ohio.
...
Overall, white Americans who live in predominantly white and Trump-voting counties are 50% more likely to die from murder, gun violence and drug overdoses than whites who live in the most diverse and Democratic-voting counties. The more white and Republican a county is, the greater the risk for white Americans.
...
Correspondingly, the white Americans who are safest from such deaths are those who live in racially diverse areas such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, where two-thirds of residents are nonwhite, where millions of immigrants live, and where voters favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. Nonwhites also are safer in these areas overall, though rates vary by location.
The last sentence is at the crux of the BLM movement. If you examine the evidence, white on black crime due to irrational fear, is the bigger crime problem in this country.  Trayvon Martin is not an isolated case.

Stand your ground laws make it impossible to convict someone of murder if they claim that they felt that their life is in danger.  If white people persist in irrationally believing that black people are dangerous, then they can legally get away with murder.  This is the new lynching.

It is the job of all of us to push back against irrational fear.  Don't let people like Trump get away with spouting lies without pushing back.  The lives of our fellow human beings depend on this.
Chawne Kimber's Self Study #4: the one for T

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 explore.org.


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.

Related:



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 explore.org.

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.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fauxtomation

This new word hit the zeitgeist on June 19, 2017 thanks to @astradisastra.


The next day, Mel Healy wrote a smart essay about Fauxtomation and the Mechanical Turk.
For all their tech, many leading tech firms nowadays may be rather more “hi-Turk”, relying on cheap labour to do the day-to-day maintenance and moderation of their social media. Like the Mechanical Turk’s operator these people are largely hidden away inside big boxes, only this time the boxes are on the opposite side of the planet, in India or the Philippines. Vast armies of invisible workers in underdeveloped countries.

Each box is decidedly unglamorous compared with the shiny new HQs and campuses of Silicon Valley in California or Google Docks in Dublin. You won’t find any fancy games rooms and lavish staff restaurants, or “micro kitchens”, chillout zones, fitness centres, swimming pools, wellness areas, tech stops or phone booths.
June 23, 2017, Shira Ovide wrote about the army of workers needed to bring you Amazon's one-click convenience.

Fauxtomation is the word that crystalizes why I feel so angry about gushing articles like this about places like Eatsa, a restaurant that supposedly serves vegetarian food made by robots.
Customers tap their meal selections on an iPad or their smartphone and pay electronically. No cash is taken here. Then when the order is ready, hands slide the meal into a “cubby,” which lights up with the customer’s name. The plan is for it to be ready in less than minutes from the time the order is placed.
Silicon Valley reinvented the automat. But--most insidiously--this time, they are selling a guilt-free low-cost experience by pretending that a low-paid human did not make the food.
Eatsa is the brainchild of Scott Drummond, a techie focused on data-driven results. He says forgoing meat, along with staff, helps keep the cost of goods down.
Drummond is all about the data science and other buzz words/phrases such as “enhanced predictive and personal health engagement.” But can robots prepare these meals? If so, what a breakthrough in robotics!
How the kitchen will hold up remains to be seen. For now, at least, it relies on human components: about five employees involved in prepping, assembling, and expediting behind the store’s façade.
The dirty secret finally comes out, there are people hiding in the mechanical Turks. Even then, he obfuscates further by invoking the glamour of warfare and robotics.
But for now, Eatsa still needs a few good chefs, with some special skills. “They can’t be afraid of technology,” say Drummond. “Our first general manager used to be a military robotics specialist.”
You betcha that a robotics expert is not the guy making your $7 lunch in San Francisco.

Wonkblog explains the crisis in restaurant staffing, particularly in high cost areas such as SF-SV.

And don't even get me started on Blue Apron's unsafe working conditions necessary to bring us cheap, home-cooked meals.  Food, like clothing, is not going to be cheap and fast unless we sacrifice some people.  Are we willing to confront those choices head-on?


Addendum:
The Washington Post reports that shipping costs account take up 30% of the price of Blue Apron meals.  It's a big driver in why BA squeezes their kitchen staff to work at unsafe speeds or to work off the clock without pay.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Comment away!

I apologize to not responding to comments earlier.

I had previously turned on comment moderation for posts older than 14 days in an attempt to control comment spam.  But, I had not realized that applies even to past frequent commenters that I want to hear from.

It wasn't a problem when I posted frequently because I saw the comments awaiting moderation when I logged into Blogger.

Oops.  I went 3 months without posting or noticing comments awaiting replies/answers to questions.

If you left a comment in limbo, I published and replied to them all.

Sorry and I set up email notifications of comments awaiting moderation so this doesn't happen again.


Monday, June 12, 2017

The high cost of grapes

Last week when my daughter and I were grocery shopping, she recalled the story about how I boycotted grapes for a decade* and asked if it was ok to buy them now.  I said yes with the caveat that we would buy only what we would really eat.  We were not going to let any rot in the fridge.

Do you remember when grapes were stupidly cheap? Stores used to advertise them for $.10 or $.15 per pound!  I think that today's $2/pound for California grapes (hauled hundreds of miles to Colorado) is still crazy cheap.
CA grapes image courtesy of ucanr.edu
Grapes--like all produce--is stupidly cheap because we treat farm workers as disposable people. It routinely reaches 110F (43C) at harvest time in the San Joaquin Valley.  Grape pickers work 10-12 hours a day in the searing heat to bring the harvest in on time.

Look at this list of farmworkers that died 2004-2008.  They are still dying.  Three people died in two days in 2016, including Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez.  It's not just grape pickers.

From California's Harvest of Shame: 2012
When a farm worker at Giumarra Vineyards, the largest table grape grower in the country, died of heat in 2004, the United Farm Workers union (UFW) began a campaign to end heat deaths. Since California issued its 2005 regulations to keep farm workers from dying of extreme heat, however, preventable farm worker deaths have continued to occur.
...
The fact is that the state simply just doesn’t have the resources to adequately enforce its heat standards. According to an August 22 editorial in the Desert Sun, “Last year only 1,090 heat inspections were conducted on California’s 81,500 farms. At that rate, many violations could go unnoticed.”

Fortunately, the UFW has a remedy. It has sponsored two bills — the Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act (AB 2676), sponsored by Assembly member Charles Calderon, and the Farm Worker Safety Act (AB 2346), sponsored by Assembly member Betsy Butler — that will allow farm workers to protect themselves.

The Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act says that agricultural employers must treat farm workers at least as well as animals or face the same criminal penalties. (California law makes it punishable as a misdemeanor or felony for every person who fails to provide any animal with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather). The bill has already passed the Senate floor and is on its way to the Assembly.
BTW, the bill was vetoed by Governor Brown on the grounds that existing laws were sufficient.  It's hard to see this legal outcome (40 hours community service, 3 years probation and a $370 fine for killing someone) and agree with him.

As a matter of conscience (and consistency), I think that the laws against mistreating humans should be as strong as the laws against mistreating animals.

Driving down Interstate 5, I notice shelters for shade near workers and the occasional chair with an overhead mister for cooling.  Farms located where people are watching probably put on a better show. Perhaps, in the era of personal drones, we can make it harder for farmers and contractors everywhere to evade laws.

I'm heartened by the people who see an opportunity to make working conditions better and scale up. Check out Garth Patterson's $20,000 portable cooling station that can cool down 12 people at once.  Where there's a problem, there's an opportunity!

Garth Patterson with his portable cooling station.  Photo courtesy of AP via ChicoER.
I'm also heartened by the public pressure that is forcing Cal-OSHA to do their job in protecting farm workers from heat stress.

Heat deaths are not the only problem.  Heat stress can lead to kidney failure.  Think about the cost of dialysis and disability payments.  Think about disposable people.

What do you think the true cost of grapes ought to be?

For legal geeks:

Liability for Heat-Related Injuries by San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review

Aside:

* When I was a member of a Berkeley Student Cooperative, a member came to house council to ask why we never had any grapes in the kitchen. The kitchen manager explained that we subscribed to and followed the recommendations in the National Boycott Newsletter, which recommended boycotting grapes.

Summer grapes came from California's central valley, where farmers were resisting farm workers' demands for better pay and working conditions. Winter grapes came from Chile, which was run by the brutal ruler, Pinochet.

Damage to Chile's economy from boycotts might have helped push him out of power in 1988.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Bee Fabric

I lost my blogging mojo after the November election.  I wrote up a very angry post the day after the election.  Decided to sleep on it before hitting post, and then decided to put it on hold for a while.  I'm back with a mix of short and longer pieces, depending on mojo.

Can I say how how thrilled I am that Ananya Vinay won the National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling a fabric, Marocain?


TBH (to be honest), until this week, I thought Marocain was a type of dress or coat. I didn't know it meant Moroccan crepe fabric.

I would further like to point out that the social media star trolling Trump on Twitter is an UC Berkeley alumna, Lauren Naturale.

The resistance is female--and Californian.

Go, Bears!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Water Day 2017

World Water Day snuck up on me this year and I've got nothing ready to hit 'publish.'  Please read my archive of previous year's entries about World Water Day.

I write often about water in general.

Remember when your elementary school teacher told you that water on the west side of the continental divide would end up in the Pacific Ocean and water on the east side would end up in the Atlantic Ocean?

Well, that's not true any longer.  Whether I am in Boulder, CO or Los Angeles County, I'm using Colorado River Water.



Both Boulder and LA's Metropolitan Water District have several water supplies.  Approximately 50% of Boulder County's water supply comes from the Western Slope, via the Colorado-BigThompson Project.  LA County imports about 45% it's water (30% from Northern CA and 15% from the Colorado River.)

BTW, water is heavy and it takes a lot of energy to move it.  Thus, an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use less water.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Ice dye experiment 2

I've been ice dyeing again.

Incredible visual texture
First, I soaked the shirts in a solution of 1/4 cup soda ash for each gallon of hot water.  Then I wrung them out by hand (but not too much) so that they were thoroughly soaked, but only slightly drippy.  Then I
  1. Arranged t-shirts on the bottom of each plastic bin
  2. Placed a cookie cooling rack above them
  3. Put a white dress shirt on top of the rack
  4. Mounded ice cubes to completely cover the shirts (2+ inches deep)
  5. Sprinkled dye powder on top
  6. Went to bed

Ice dye, low immersion scrunch dye, tie-dye in baggies.
In the morning, I
  1. Spun out the shirts in my spin dryer
  2. Washed them twice in *hot* water with synthrapol dyer's detergent
  3. Rinsed them twice in cool water
  4. Spun them in between each wash and rinse to extract as much dye as possible 
  5. Spinning minimizes the number of washes and rinses you have to do

That's no plunger; it's a Breathing Washer.
Drying
Front of my favorite shirt
Back of my favorite shirt
Look at that detail!
A friend treats a lot of kids with head injuries.  The kids are in pain.  The parents are freaked out.  He's intimidatingly big at 6'3".  He likes to wear goofy things to lighten up the mood.  I think these will break the tension.  What do you think?

Two shirts going to a friend.
I mailed them off this morning, tucking in one of the blue/green tie dye shirts you saw on the drying rack.

Detail of the pocket
Ice dye shirt underneath the dress shirt caught the drips.
Two of the shirts were claimed by friends who came over for dinner while they were still drying.  Two more were claimed by friends who came over for dinner a few nights later.  She selected this one

This shirt caught the drips under my fave dress shirt.
and he selected this one.  (I know the title says ice dye, but this scrunch dye came out pretty cool.)  It looks kinda like space--perfect for a physics professor.
Spacey scrunch dye

The back view that the students will see in the lecture hall.
Another shirt went home to DD via DH, who flew into Boulder for a quick business meeting.

In total, I dyed 4 dress shirts and 7 t-shirts.  All of them were post-consumer waste given to me; the only new things I purchased were the dyeing supplies.

I gave away 3 dress shirts and 5 t-shirts.  This made a sizable dent in my refashioning supplies.

A coworker had a baby boy recently, so I need to tie-dye some baby onesies.  Click that link to see adorable baby onesies I've made in the past.  Explore all my Dyeing posts for dye recipes, tutorials and the results.

I've been sewing.  I've been working hard at my day job.  I have some science posts planned, but don't know when I will find time to write them.  There may be some short, quick posts to highlight interesting things I found before then.