fledge capable of flying, from Middle English flegge, from Old English -flycge; akin to Old High German flucki capable of flying,
Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
intransitive verb, of a young bird : to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday, I don't care about you.

Image via.

So, after a hike along the coast and gazing out over the blue waters, hoping to spot a whale, Jack asks an important question: "Why did we screw it all up?"

Well, the reasons for screwing up the earth have to do with survival and comfort and ego and ignorance and greed and progress and habit, I suppose. Human nature being, by nature, antithetical to nature-nature. I will not claim that I tread lightly on the earth. No, I tread not lightly at all. But I try to tread lighter. I try to make an effort to understand my choices and how they effect the earth. Recently, I did some research into a topic near and dear to me: Textiles.

Did you know that the manufacturing of textiles uses twenty-five percent of all synthetic chemicals manufactured in the world? I think that bears repeating: One quarter of all man-made chemicals are made by man just to make textiles. Here's another jaw dropper: Did you know that it takes up to 700 liters (185 gallons) of freshwater to make a single kilogram of fabric (just over two pounds)? Imagine 37 of those large 5-gallon water cooler jugs to make about two yards of material. That's almost a full pallet of water at CostCo. That's a lot of freshwater. This water is then contaminated with dyes, cleaning agents, finishing chemicals, as well as chemicals used in the making of synthetic fibers. These toxins can then cause immense environmental damage when discharged untreated into rivers and lakes. Anecdotally, it has been said that rival apparel companies have learned of the competitions’ color choices for the upcoming season by looking at the discharged water in the local rivers in poorly regulated industrial areas. According to the Wall Street Journal in 2007, "Prices on fabric and clothing imported to the U.S. have fallen 25% since 1995, partly due to the downward pricing pressure brought by discount retail chains. One way China’s factories have historically kept costs down is by dumping waste water directly into rivers. Treating contaminated water costs upwards of about 13 cents a metric ton, so large factories can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by sending waste water directly to rivers in violation of China’s water-pollution laws."

But let's say you don't care about pollution over there. Let's say we're a callous bunch and can live with cheap clothing and inexpensive fabric, because the pollution is all over there. Problem for the callous among us is still, is that the pollution is not all over there. It's over here: Some leading researchers claim to have traced one-third of the particulates in the smog in Los Angeles and other western cities to industry in Asia. In one particularly troubling incident in 1998, unhealthy pollution levels were measured in the American Northwest and Canadian Southwest, areas containing little industrial manufacturing. 75% of the pollution was traced to China. These researchers are studying airborne rivers of pollution wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon that span the entire Pacific Ocean which carry, among other pollutants, perhaps three-quarters of the black carbon in West Coast smog.

Satellite image of trans-contiental dust river via NASA.

Black carbon particulates are particularly nasty: They contributes to both lung disease and is very likely responsible for 50% of temperature increases in the Arctic regions.

"In a very real and immediate sense, you can look at a dust event you are breathing in China and look at this same dust as it tracks across the Pacific and reaches the United States," said climate analyst Jeff Stith at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado to the Wall Street Journal. "It is a remarkable mix of natural and man-made particles."

Los Angeles smog, Made in China
So, it's not just my SUV making make all this smog. Part of it comes from my jeans, too.

Textile production is recognized as a major polluter where regulation is not enforced. And, let's face it: There's a big difference between having a law and then enforcing that law. I find it noteworthy that while more attention is placed on the environmental damage the textile industry causes, less data is forthcoming from the textile producing nations. The big dog in the room, China, gave these figures in April: According to Ministry of Industry and Information, China's textile industry generated RMB812.6 billion of industrial value added in 2007, accounting for 6.9% of the country's total and 3.3% of GDP. Around 30% of the textile products were sold in the international market. In 2007, China's textile and garment exports amounted to US$175. That's not small potatoes. Since the global economic downturn, China has announced a five-point plan to boost the Chinese textile industry: This plan is focused on developing indigenous brands and updating technology. Not a word in there about actively reducing pollution, only as pollution relates to upgrading equipment for improved efficiencies. Just sayin'.

I figure, right now, before countries like China have developed independent brands, multinational companies based in the West, but manufacturing in China, will have the upper hand in discussing pollution. Once China has it's own viable brands, it may be a different story. And who has an upper hand with Western multinationals? Well, I do. Not as much as I'd like, but as a consumer, I determine in a very small way a company's viability. A very, very, very small way. Very, very, very, very, very small. But a way, nonetheless. No, I haven't had the nerve to ask a fabric maker, "So, what are the waste water management practices at your supplying mill in Zhangjiagang?" But I do think about it. By default, then, I like to take manufacturing standards, such as REACH, Öko-Tex, and ISO 9000 standards, the production location and manufacturing practices into consideration when I purchase each yard of my fabric. As a general rule of thumb, if I am unable to determine if the fabric was milled according to an international standard, I aim for fabrics milled and dyed in the United States and the European Union. While many popular makers of fabric, who mill outside the United States and European Union, make fabrics free of lead and harmful chemicals, I'm not entirely confident about the manufacturing practices and waste management. Most U.S. and E.U. mills adhere to international manufacturing standards and environmental laws are generally rigorously enforced in these countries. I figure, if you can determine if the fabric was milled and dyed in the United States or the European Union, it is very likely that the manufacturing practices involved were considerably less polluting. Yes, my fabric costs more. A lot more. Or am I just, in fact, paying the real price? We'll all end up paying the price one way or the other. “Prices in the U.S. are artificially low,” says Andy Xie, former chief economist for Morgan Stanley Asia, who now works independently, told the Wall Street Journal. “You’re not paying the costs of pollution, and that is why China is an environmental catastrophe.”

In President Obama's recent speech on climate change, he reminded us what President Kennedy once said, "Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I don't care if Monday's blue

These jeans are about six months old. They are a certain fancy/schmancy brand of jeans, which even on the ol' Ebay start at over $100 (used). And these cotton-pickin' jeans are fraying at the knee. The fact that they are fraying in a heart shape is a bonus, but a bonus I could do without. I'm not exactly cotton on this cotton.

Have you ever wondered why your favorite jeans from high school are still going strong, while the jeans you bought just last year pill, tear and fray? Or how about your favorite concert t-shirt from the 80s? Why did that last through the decades while this one bought just recently doesn’t last five washings? I recently watched a DVD about finding Nefertiti's mummy. In this hole in a rock were pieces of cloth that were 3,000+ years old. So, fabric can last. 3,000 years, even. Fact is, not all cotton is created equal. It is likely the cotton in your high school jeans and concert t-shirt were made of a longer staple variety cotton and your jeans from last year made of a twill of shorter, fast-growing variety cotton.

Except for outerwear or special occasion dressing, for children’s clothing, most of the material I use most often will be cotton. I know a thing or two about cotton. Or I know person or two who know a thing or two about cotton. “Cotton has been grown on the homeplace in Southeast Missouri since it was acquired in a land grant from President Franklin Pierce,” my dad recalls of the home in grew up in, “That gumbo mud is rich for growing. Until World War II, all picking was done by hand. The most I ever earned from picking cotton was one cent a pound. I tried to pick 200 pounds a day. Why, those cotton burs would get under your nails—I’d rather do anything than pick cotton!” My Aunt Lou still sharecrops a bit of the land and grows cotton. So, if you will allow, I'll write up a thing or two about cotton.

The better quality cotton will be woven of slow-growing cotton. Slower growth allows the cotton blossom fibers, know as staples, to grow longer. Longer staples spun into yarn are stronger and silkier than their shorter staple cousins. The longest staple cotton, Sea Island Cotton, is very expensive and usually found only in the most expensive dress shirts. Egyptian Cotton can be found for a price, as well. (Egyptian cotton was introduced to the United States by the Firestone company to use in their tires and was first cultivated by them in Arizona: So says my dad. See? He knows a thing or two or three about cotton). Most medium quality sewing fabrics will be made of American Upland Long Staple (and "near-long" staple, go figure), which is long only when compared to its shorter cousin, American Short Staple. And then there are Asian varieties that look like fluff.

The yarns of longer staple cottons can be spun much tighter and thinner, allowing for a higher thread count. Many quilting cottons have a lower thread count, for example 160 or 140 threads per inch. For garment sewing, I prefer percale fabrics produced especially for garments, which tend to have a thread count of 200 threads per inch. The warp and weft (weave) of 140 or 160 fiber count cotton is easily visible at a distance of about 10 inches. Higher counts are less visible to the naked eye. (Those 600 and even 1500 thread count cottons, well, those are a bit of a misnomer: Those use a three- to five-ply yarn and count those individual plies as threads. Those silly marketing people).

1. Sea Island; 2. Egyptian; 3. Pima; 4. American Upland Long; 5. American Upland Short; 6. Asian Short. Image via St. Geneve.

There are other processes in textile manufacturing, which will have an effect on quality: Singeing, Mercerizing and ammoniating finishing. Singeing is what it implies. The tiny fibers that stand up after weaving are burned off. These stray fibers are what are often the root cause of pilling. Shorter staple cottons will tend to pill more, so singeing here is important. Mercerizing, named for a 19th Century chemist, John Mercer, is a process of adding chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide, to natural fibers and then stretching and holding the material while the chemicals react. This gives a fabric a more lustrous appearance and improves the material’s affinity for dye. Ammoniating finish is an alternative to Mercerizing, which is less expensive to produce, as well as less polluting. Ammonia treated cotton and rayon fabrics are up to 40 percent stronger than untreated textiles. These textiles are sold under the trade names Duralized and Saforset.

While buying your cotton fabrics, go ahead and rub a corner between your thumb and forefinger and create some real friction. The fabrics woven of better cottons will retain their shape. The lower quality cottons will pucker a bit from the friction. If you purchase your fabrics online, don’t be shy! I ask my online retailers to give me their opinion of the fabric quality. My trusted online retailers are fabric fanatics at heart and are very happy to share their opinion of the fabric quality they stock. Some online shops have live chat. Others will send a swatch for a nominal fee. If I like a print, but the quality isn’t suitable for lots of wash and wear, I’ll purchase it for trim or accent.

In addition, for me personally, if I’m going to invest my time and ideas with these materials, I want to put my hands on the good stuff. Using cheap material can be more expensive in the end. Cheaply made knit fabrics, for one, are simply not worth my time. For example, ever wonder why the side seams of an inexpensive t-shirt twist diagonally after a few washes? A poorer-quality knit will twist along the loop direction, as circular knitting machines are more efficient than the flatbed counterparts. This is also a tip when purchasing knit clothes: Hold the garment up and see if you recognize a slight twist. (Do this with men's neckties, as well).

Stay tuned. I may tell you a thing or two about polluting manufacturing practices, if you are interested.

Monday, September 14, 2009





"Dear Lifeguard Betsy,

I wasn't trying to go out that far. I was at the beach, because I got a new surfboard and wanted to try it out. I usually surf in El Porto, but I heard the break in Redondo was very good, so I went there. But the waves were unsurfable, so I played in the water with my friend Ryan. After about fifteen minutes, a huge rip opened up and I was quickly sucked out to sea. I tried to swim parallel to shore, but I kept getting sucked out. I heard a loud EEEE EEE WWW WWW EEE EEE WWW WWW, then I looked to shore and realized how far out I was. I then saw you running out into the water. When you finally got to me you asked me to grab your (rescue) can, so I remembered what they said at JG's (Junior Guards), "If you are a victim, kick if you can," so I did. Then another lifeguard came out and helped pull me in. When we got to shore, my mom hugged me and some dude asked my name and I said, "Jack."

Thank you soooooooooooooooooooo much for saving my life.

Sincerely, Jack"

Yes, thank you, Lifeguard Betsy, that Jack didn't end up so much like the cell phone he left in his shorts' pocket and put in the washing machine the very next day. You would not believe how happy I was to see his cell phone in the washing machine that next day: A real blessing. My forgetful, scatterbrained, darling boy is here with us to put his cell phone through the washing machine.

P.S. Always swim near a lifeguard. A rip current can open up any time where sand bars form. The rip that carried Jack some 150 meters from shore in just a matter of seconds formed right in the middle of the "safe swim zone" flags the lifeguards set up. In addition to Jack, four other guys-- young guys in their twenties and in excellent shape--were swept out as well and needed to be pulled back to shore.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday, I don't care about you.


This is happening too fast.

I can't focus.

A button was pushed.

I'm not ready.

Will you look back?

Now you're gone.

Wait. This is happening too fast. I can't focus. A button was pushed. I'm not ready. I'm not ready. I'm not ready.

Can't you wait?

Will you look back?


You've got focus.

A button was pushed.

Now you're going.

You're ready.

You won't look back.

You're gone.

Have a great first day in middle school, son. I may not be, but you're ready.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday's grey and Wednesday, too.

Yes, the bugs still regard Jack as a favored landing spot. Today, as well.

The top photo makes me happy, because that tiny critter is an El Segundo blue butterfly, which is on the Federal Endangered Species list. He has been on that list since about the beginning of the Endangered Species list. Turns out, if you give the guy just enough of a certain milkweed, he'll be happy to come back. I think the bottom one may be an El Segundo blue, maybe ... If you know, tell me. At any rate, This habitat for flutterby-ity project is simple and nonetheless an amazing success story.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Mattel Inc., world's largest toy manufacturer, the company which recalled two million toys because of lead contamination, the company that worked closely with government regulators to write the provisions of the CPSIA, the company which therefore received a huge head start in achieving compliance, this same company... wait...

...wait for it...

...this same company has--very quiety--received (ready for this?) a waiver from the government's requirement to third-party testing!

Mattel will be allowed to use their own labs.

Did you read about that?

And there's no conflict of interest there, really, because... because ... um ... Mattel says so ... They used a good word to describe their very own testing labs: "Firewalls." Ooo: "Firewalls." Good word. "Firewalls" in Indonesia, China, Mexico...

Supposedly, the few inspectors that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has are currently knocking on thrift shop doors to make sure they are in compliance.

I'm singing a new line for the Alanis Morrisette classic in my head..."It's like raaaain on your wedding day...it's like a big corporation being allowed to bend the rules, because they're big and because they spent over one million dollars in lobbying efforts according to federal records and in this economy, if they had to comply with the regulation for which they in large part are responsible, it would be the end of civilization as we know it..."

I'm not a good song writer. But I'll argue my song sounds better than this waiver...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday, I'm in love!

I love good customer service. I really, really, really appreciate good customer service. I understand that answering questions and meeting the customer more than half-way is expensive and sometimes, going the extra step does not pay off in the end. And, living in Los Angeles, I've become accustomed to the worst in service. Wait staff at restaurants are usually from a much superior gene pool and because of their much, much more appealing phenotype, really, now, a glass of water? Or perhaps the salad I ordered and not this, um, sandwich? Slowly, now, "saaal-AD" not "saaand-WICH". I really ask too much.

But today, here's to you, MOO. I'm not jumping on the MOO bandwagon, because they make beautiful cards. They claim to make beautiful cards, so they should do that. It's like this: I ordered some business cards and the image on the information side of the card was scootched a bit to the right, so that there's that white stripe. I like White Stripes. I like White Stripes probably more than a middle-aging Redondo Beach hausfrau should. Kinda creepy. Kinda weird, in a I-haven't-come-to-terms-with-my-real-age way. But I don't like these white stripes, here, on the side of my business card. Oh, yeah, I clicked off on the design. I understand the rules: You click off on the design, you're stuck with what you get. But, well, I musta done something wrong, 'cause there's the white stripe, the kind of white stripe I don't like, and when I order more MOO, MOO Contact Us, please tell me what to do.

In response, of course, I was expecting something like this:

In QED you have

\mathcal{L}_{QED} = \bar{\psi}(i\gamma^{\mu}\partial_{\mu}-m)\psi + ie\bar{\psi}\gamma^{\mu}A_{\mu}\psi

From this you can work out the equations of motion, the Feynman rules and start calculating scattering amplitudes (ie how particles bounce off one another). In string theory it's not quite as straight forward but there is a Lagrangian for how strings interact, known as the Polyakov action and there's a generalisation of it to branes (ie higher dimensional objects).

S = \int d^{n}\xi \, \mathcal{L} = \int d^{n}\xi \, P(G_{ab}) = \int d^{n}\xi \, \frac{\partial X^{\mu}}{\partial xi^{a}}\frac{\partial X^{\nu}}{\partial \xi^{b}}G_{\mu\nu}

P(G) is the pullback of the space-time metric into the n-brane world volume.

When you start considering fields living on the branes or strings it gets generalised to the DBI action where P(G) goes to P(G_{ab}+2\pi \alpha' F_{ab}) where F_{ab} relates to generalisatoions of electromagnetic fields.

Then you can go into more specific cases and construct Type IIA, IIB, I, E8xE8 and SO(32) string actions in 10 dimensions, supergravity actions in 11 or less dimensions and even the M theory action. Each are interrelated by dualities, compactifications, particular limits and a slew of other things which if you don't know about the different string types already it's pointless me explaining it.

And buried in all of this are the more familiar things like E^{2} = m^{2} + |p|^{2}, from special relativity and G_{\mu\nu} = 8\pi T_{\mu\nu} from general relativity, the former is an input of string theory and the latter is an output.


(Above-mentioned genius-ness via AlphaNumeric).

But no: I received a personal email from "Al," with an apology. It was all probably an error on their end, and here's a coupon code for a replacement pack.

Just like that. No worries. MOO will replace the cards and refund my shipping.



I love that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too.

("love thy anemone")


Image via here.

I've been suffering a bit from I-don't-know-what-to-post-on-this-blog-itis. I haven't been sewing much that I can show you (yet). I'm a terrible cook and pretty reluctant Hausfrau. But then I found a cure. Rather, I found The Cure.

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday, I'm in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Oh, Thursday doesn't even start
It's Friday I'm in love

Saturday, wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday, never hesitate...

I don't care if Mondays black
Tuesday, Wednesday - heart attack
Thursday, never looking back
It's Friday, I'm in love

Monday, you can hold your head
Tuesday, Wednesday stay in bed
Or Thursday - watch the walls instead
It's Friday, I'm in love

Saturday, wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday, never hesitate...

So, yeah, depending on the day of the week, I'll have an idea of what to post. On Monday, I could post something blue, for example. Or not, because "I don't care if Monday's blue". See? Kinda? Sorta? And Saturday, you'll have to ... wait!

Lookie here: Robert Smith has only gotten chubbier since the 80s. He's kept the make-up the same. Me, too.

And below, the rest of the lyrics. Just for the sake of completeness. If you want to meme me, meme me at will.

Dressed up to the eyes
It's a wonderful surprise
To see your shoes and your spirits rise
Throwing out your frown
And just smiling at the sound
And as sleek as a sheik
Spinning round and round
Always take a big bite
It's such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It's Friday, I'm in love

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday, I'm in love

Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn't even start
It's Friday I'm in love


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