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 either 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!

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


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?

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
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


* 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.
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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Colorado Fabrics trip report

I've posted some of these pictures on IG, but wanted to put down my impressions about the rebirth of Colorado Fabrics in their new home.  I have no affiliation with them, but a great deal of loyalty as I've shopped with them for 29 of their 30 years in business.

Even before I moved from Berkeley to Boulder, I had heard about both Tattered Cover Book Store and Denver Fabrics.  They were the premier stores in the time zone and among the best in the nation.  Legendary would not be an understatement.

Did you know that National Jewish Hospital in Denver began as the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives?  Jewish girls and women who worked in the garment industry in NYC were especially susceptible to consumption both due to crowding and inhaled fibers, which weakened their lungs.  National Jewish treated the sick, without regard for ability to pay.  Jewish organizations raised money to send the sick out to Denver and to pay for their medical care.

The women and girls who recovered founded the garment manufacturing industry in Denver.

All this is a digression to say that there were a lot of garmentos in Denver with links to the NYC and LA garment trade; one family founded Denver Fabrics.  The array of top quality old stock designer stuff sold on rolls at DF was amazing.  As .the. fabric store for the outdoor-obsessed Rocky Mountain region, they also stocked a room full of outdoor recreation fabric.  Add their bridal and home dec departments and you had one stop shopping.

Oh, if you joined their DF Club (mailing list) for $15/year, they gave you 30% discounts on all patterns and books and loaned sewing VHS tapes for free.

Denver Fabrics moved from Denver to bigger quarters in Littleton, but then had to downsize a few years later (but in the same location.)

Times changed.  Amazon arrived.  Joann's perpetually marked patterns down by 40%.  Manufacturing moved overseas and designer dead stock was harder to source.  People quit sewing garments and moved to quilting.  Times were so lean, the former owners sold the name, Denver Fabrics, to Fashion Fabrics Club in STL.

Some long-time employees of DF bought the store from the founding family and are trying to reinvent the sewing store.  It's a totally different time and I have to be careful to not lament what I miss.

The biggest change is that they moved from Littleton to south Aurora and doubled the floorspace to 40,000 square feet.  It's cavernous.
Plenty of parking and you'll need it to get to suburbia.

Panorama from the front entrance.

New NY Designer stuff on near right racks.  Older stuff on shelves to left and behind.
The aisles are wide.  The store feels empty.  However, an employee told me that they do have 1.25 the fabric as the Littleton store and 2.00 the floorspace.  I hope that, over time, they can add to the fabric so the place feels less cavernous.

This is the place to shop in Denver if you need to make a wedding or special occasion dress.

The depth of the silk selection is impressive.
Their large stock of quilting fabric rivals a standalone quilt shop.  I didn't get a photo because quilt fabric doesn't thrill me as much anymore.   I was impressed by their longarm studio.  You can pay someone to quilt your top, or take a class and rent time on the machine to DIY.

Longarm studio.  Rent time or pay someone to quilt for you.
 They stock an array of backings and battings at fair but not bargain prices.  That pretty much sums up their pricing strategy.  I hate places that mark stuff up and then have phony sales.  CF treats the customer respectfully, and prices realistically considering their overhead.
Batting sold at realistic prices every day (not Joann's mark-up or internet bargain prices.)
 I also like the convenience of having aisles and aisles in the center devoted to a plethora of notions.  You want to sew bags?  They have patterns, findings/hardware, interfacing and materials all in one place.  You want to sew couture?  Outdoor?  Home Dec?  They got you covered.

Bag findings, patterns and material all in one place.
I found it a bit exhausting so I just purchased some specialty notions from the center of the store and then cruised the bargain area.

Oops, did I mention that they had a well-organized bargain fabric area?  CF is also an odd-jobber of fabrics.
Bargain fabric ($3-$5/yd) is organized by color in a rainbow.
 Yes, it's a rainbow.  The moderate and lower quality stuff is in this back area--all $3-$5/yd.  The higher quality odd-jobber stuff is in the front and costs more.
Also bargain flat folds.  Not pictured, the bargain silk remnant area.
Refer back to the panorama to see the wool and knits sections.  They are each roughly the size of the special occasion silk section.

I ran out of steam and did not explore the Home Dec or Outdoor area last weekend.  They sell high quality pillow inserts at reasonable prices.  They're much better than stuff I ordered off the internet or found at IKEA and only slightly more expensive.

You'll have to imagine the thread and zipper selection.

I was disappointed in the button selection because I remember the wall of a la carte buttons in the old, old store.  It wasn't quite like Britex, but maybe half the selection.  Today's CF selection is kind of pedestrian in comparison.

They sell machines and have a classroom and a meeting room (in addition to the longarm studio.)

The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable.  They are the best part of shopping at CF.

It's almost 41 miles each way from Boulder.  (With each successive move, they get further and further from Boulder.)  I had to make IKEA and LL Bean runs, which are sort of in the south Denver area.

South Denver is undergoing explosive growth.  Roads are congested and constantly under construction.  People drive way crazier in Denver than in California.  I almost got t-boned by a jacked up Jeep that was cutting in and out of gridlocked traffic.  How he could have not seen a minivan is beyond me.  I arrived at CF so shell-shocked, my pulse did not go down to normal after a full hour of stroking fabric.

I stroked this silk crepe de chine remnant while walking around the store.  It came home with me.
It's not really worth it to drive 82 miles round trip to visit CF when I have Elfriede's Fine Fabrics (EFF) literally right around the corner from my home.

EFF is a jam-packed jewel box of a store that has a surprising amount of what I need (and didn't even know I needed.)  In fact, I found that CF didn't have the French grosgrain that I wanted.  I know that EFF stocks it.  It's in a drawer and you have to ask, but they have it.

Additionally, Boulder has a Joann's and Fabricate.  Then I have The Fabric Store, Mood and SAS in my neighborhood in LA.  There are also many other great fabric stores in LA in areas that I frequent less often.

I've decided that everything is much farther away in Colorado but traffic moves (somewhat) faster.  Overall, CO means more time spent driving than LA!

I did found out that the light-rail H line comes within 2 miles of CF.   I can bike to bus rapid transit (BRT) from Boulder to downtown Denver's Union Station, bike a mile through downtown Denver traffic to the light-rail station, take it to 9-mile station in Aurora, and then bike through Cherry Creek Reservoir state park to the store.  It can take 2 hours each way if I time it just right.  Or I can just shop local.

If you are flying into Denver, CF is off I-225, due south of the airport.  You can land, pick up a rental car, and shop CF on your way to the mountains.

Colorado Fabrics is having a grand opening on Saturday March 4, 2017.  It sounds like great fun.  I hope you check out the store because I hope they stay in business a long, long, long time.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kettle Logic

Last week, I am called bullshit on a climate denier and exposed some of her rhetorical devices.

I want to call your attention to kettle logic, a rhetorical device that posits multiple reasonable-sounding arguments, but that contradict each other.

The term, kettle logic comes from an example given by Freud:
Freud relates the story of a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition and the three arguments he offers.
  1. That he had returned the kettle undamaged;
  2. That it was already damaged when he borrowed it;
  3. That he had never borrowed it in the first place.
The three arguments are inconsistent, and Freud notes that it would have been better if he had only used one.
 Logically Fallacious does a very good job summarizing it:
two or more propositions are asserted that cannot both possibly be true. In a more general sense, holding two or more views/beliefs that cannot be all be true together.
I have heard it in use so many times in the last month, I stopped keeping track. I'll just give one example, that of the role and necessity of the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

First, Republicans in Congress proposed abolishing it altogether by saying that a federal agency cannot protect the environment as well as state and local agencies can.

Then, Trump nominates and the Republicans confirm Scott Pruitt who, in his confirmation hearings, said that he does not believe that California can make it's own environmental standards.
Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt said at a contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday that he cannot commit to keeping in place the current version of a decades-old federal waiver that allows California to set emissions standards stricter than elsewhere in the United States.
Which is it?

Should environmental standards be set at the national level, so that companies do not have the burden of complying with 50 states' different standards?

Or should states and local governments have the right to make decisions for their unique environmental and social challenges?

The status quo has the federal government, through the EPA, set the *minimum* standards, and allows states and local governments to set higher ones at their discretion.
Two-thirds of states choose to do no more than what is required of them by the EPA while the other third of states -- including New York and California -- set higher standards than required at the federal level, Walke said.
10 Million people live in Los Angeles county, between a mountain range and the sea.  In the early 1970s, millions of automobiles, which met federal standards, made LA unlivable.  People my age remember days when children had to stay indoors, even at recess, due to unhealthy air.  If you spent even a short time outdoors, your eyes would sting.

California asked for, and was given permission, to set a higher emission standard.  13 states have adopted California's automobile emission standards, including highly populous New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

In effect, the US has two auto emissions standards, the minimum federal one and the stricter California one.  States get to pick which is more appropriate for their circumstances.  That is not too burdensome to business and protects the health of people who live in high-density areas.

CA emissions controls cost more and it might be overkill for low density states such as Wyoming.  But, it is certainly necessary in California.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Los Angeles Weather and Climate

I was so shocked when I read this, it took me a while to figure out how to respond. I choose #sciencenotsilence.

 While I am aware that I have political differences with this sewing blogger, I had been prepared to look at our commonalities instead of our differences. I even took her on a tour of the Olmstead District in Old Town Torrance and introduced her to Momen+ fabric.

I'm not going to link to her blog, because that would drive up the reputation ranking of these #fakefacts. I'm just going to share a screen capture so you can see what I am talking about.

Deep breath here.  I read her blog because she is an extremely prolific and skilled sewer, knitter and photographer.  She is highly competent in her areas of expertise.  I read her blog so I can learn and be inspired.

I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I cannot let lies go unchallenged.

My blog is not glossy and professional.  I do not sew prolifically.  I sew and blog late at night.  I take photos with my phone or a compact point and shoot--often with poor lighting.  Why should you believe me and not her?

I work as a data specialist at one of the world's premier weather and climate data archives.  Prior to this, I earned a BA in Mathematics and a BS in Chemistry.  Then I earned a PhD writing models to compare theory with precision physical measurements.   The expertise I developed led to a job in an Air Force research lab running weather models and performing weather satellite Cal/Val (calibration and validation.)  I have also run climate models, but only at an introductory classroom level.  I eventually landed in my current position.   I am working in my third national lab.

I could earn much more money using my math, statistics and computer skills to spy on your web behavior to influence you to buy stuff you don't need.  Instead, I'm busy trying to preserve the best quality data available for future generations.

I am proud to be part of the global weather and climate enterprise.  It takes a huge amount of international cooperation to study our planet for our common safety and good.  I would never take part in an international conspiracy to lie to everyone.   It's absolutely ludicrous.

The reason that scientists are so alarmed about global warming is because it is a threat to all life on earth.  We're all going to fry together unless we work together to change our behavior.

So let's unpack the statements:
I don't believe in global warming
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."  He's right in that the planet is frying whether or not you believe in it.  But it's not a good thing.
or climate change or whatever they are calling it these days.
Don't blame the scientists. Blame the political appointees in the Bush 43 administration that forbade federal scientists from using the term, "global warming." Our scientific findings and reports were even scrubbed by fresh out of college political science majors with no science expertise whatsoever but fantastic partisan bona fides. But that is another rant.

The Obama administration did not renew that rule and some scientists drifted back to using global warming, while others use climate change. The planet does not warm uniformly, so there are good reasons to use CC when referring to some effects.
To me, it’s all weather, in some ways it’s predictable, in others it’s not.
This sows confusion.  "Oh, well.  We don't know for sure so let's ignore it."  No, we cannot ignore it and it is not confusing at all.

Actually, weather and climate are different things to scientists. The simplest definition is "Weather is what you get; climate is what you expect."

Edward N Lorenz wrote a classic explanation.

Weather is on a short time-scale and we are really good at predicting it. In fact, a 10-day forecast today is as accurate as a 3-day forecast was 20 years ago. I've written about Verification Statistics for my work blog. Weather verification is ongoing and published openly on the web. We got nothing to hide.

Climate models are similar and also very different from weather models. They have all the same physical models of how air, water and trace gases behave. But, they also vary in their external forcings (e.g. sun) and boundary conditions. Both types require millions of lines of computer code.

Early weather and climate models were not so good but both experienced continual improvement. Weather models are easier to verify and improve because of their short time-scale. I'm not going to live to see the verification statistics of 2100 climate simulations.  I'm going to have to trust that, because climate models verify well with the past, they will preform similarly well in the future.
What has been happening these last few years in California is predictable and following a pattern.
I don't know what she means by this. Is she referring to the El Nino/La Nina cycle that reverses every year of two? Or is she referring to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a similar warm/cool ocean pattern that occurs on much longer timescales?

When the cool phase of the PDO lines up with La Nina, rainfall plummets in southern California.  We expected a few very dry years and we got them.  We got a longer dry spell than we were expecting and there is much research about why that occurred.  Overall, scientists were less surprised than the media.  I don't know if you can blame the scientists or the professional weather communicators who are hired more for ratings rather than scientific accuracy.

This next paragraph took me a long time to unpack.
Simply put, we get rain in the winter, then we get a few years of drought, we always have fires, but at some point, we have massive fires all over the state. The following winter we will have an abundance of rain and snow, then come the mudslides. Maybe back to regular rain for a while and then the cycle repeats.
Have you studied rhetorical devices? It's useful to understand how people try to persuade you, even when the facts aren't clear.

Consider the false dilemma. They set up an either or situation. If A is right, then B is wrong. But the fancy talk obscures that there is no real logical connection between A and B.

Yes, California's normally dry summers would qualify as a drought practically anywhere else. That's just our climate. Fire is a perpetual hazard in the American west. Burned areas are prone to mudslides the following winter. All that is true.

Just because weather and seasons are cyclical does not mean that the climate is not changing.

2016 was the hottest year globally in modern history.  Higher temperatures cause more water to evaporate both directly and indirectly through evapotranspiration of plants.  Even with the same amount of water, high temperatures will create drier and more combustible forests.  We are already seeing this.  The fire season is starting earlier and ending later.  We are experiencing wildfires in January!

Just because it rains in the winter, does not mean that our climate is not changing.  No one is saying that climate change = no seasons.  In fact, we expect more weather extremes in both precipitation and temperatures.  That is exactly what we are experiencing.

The Sierra snowpack is a complex and highly alarming subject that deserves its own post at a later date.

Next, I plan another post about kettle logic and how it is weaponized to confuse people about science.

I haven't sewn anything since early December so I might as well blog about science.  #resist

Burda 6919 for my daughter was a success.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Illuminating Infrastructure

I'm very nervous about the state and direction of our nation right now and am unsure about how to deal with it.

I want to get back into the habit of writing quick posts to share interesting things I come across.  At the very least, I hope to inform and entertain a few people.

I'm fascinated with infrastructure*.  It's so ubiquitous and reliable that we stop seeing it.  Yet, our comfortable lives would not be possible if we didn't cooperatively build and maintain our common infrastructure.

I recently learned about my neighborhood lift station, a place that pumps sewage uphill so that it can continue to flow downhill to a sewage treatment plant.  These stations are scattered all over the place, but they are usually designed to be as nondescript as possible.

I wish my neighborhood lift station was as cool as this one in Calgary.
That's a shame, because we then stop thinking about the everyday magic of infrastructure.  We flush and forget until something goes wrong.

Check out Calgary's solution that combines public art and the visual display of status information.
The crisscrossed LEDs on the Forest Lawn Lift Station form a graphical map of the 9 kilometers of pipe that feed into this building. Inside, a pump lifts Calgary’s wastewater to higher ground so it continues to flow by gravity to the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Connected to instruments inside, the lights change color according to water volume and demand: blue when water flows freely, red when the system is taxed.
I'm not a Canada fan girl, but I love the names.  The sewage treatment plant is called Bonnybrook!  Forest Lawn means something very different in Los Angeles.  LOL.

I first learned about this art/infrastructure project from a highly negative newspaper article that I refuse to link to.  Honestly, I think that the $236,000 (Canadian) is a reasonable price to pay for
  1. a real-time visual display of system operational status 
  2. public warning system for when their infrastructure is over-taxed
  3. public education about infrastructure
  4. cool art (Art is supposed to get you to see and think about things differently so this might reiterate point 3.)
Forest Lawn is just one of 40 sanitary wastewater lift stations in the city (Calgary); 33 more handle just stormwater. And yet, until this project, “I’d never seen one once,” says Surtees. “[They’re] not visually present in the fabric of the city.”
If I can see when my local lift station is over-taxed, I can delay my shower or my load of laundry. Alternatively, if I see that the local sewage flow is running sluggishly, I might start the clothes or dish washer earlier to help keep the water pressure up.  If we see that the system is running red (overtaxed) much of the time, we can plan to upgrade to a larger pump before a catastrophic failure.

Isn't it cool to see a map of how our homes are all connected by our common infrastructure? To see the shape and size of our network?

Walking My Watershed contains pictures of my local RB stormwater basin, which I will write more about soon.  Now that it is actually raining during our rainy season, the pictures will be more interesting.

* My work is commonly described as data infrastructure. IMHO, my work is fascinating, but it's not fodder for this blog. Read my work blog for more about that; the link is on the right.