Monday, June 16, 2014

Flying solo

On day four on the new job, my boss made me the data curator of record for a popular dataset.  Gulp.  Day FOUR!  I did NOT think I was ready.

Within an hour, I fielded the first phone inquiry.  Luckily, it was an easy question and I knew the answer off the top of my head.

In two weeks of answering questions and reading the download logs, I realized how many data users come from poor countries that cannot afford pricey data analysis and visualization software.

Our family trip to Tanzania in 2010 taught me the value of convertible currencies--or rather how hard  life can be when your nation's currency is not accepted as payment abroad.  If you need something made abroad, how do you pay for it?  You need to have something that people will pay you for in dollars, euros or yen so you can convert it into dollars (if needed) to purchase it.

This has major implications.  Say you need gas or diesel for fuel and asphalt for roads.  The term petrodollars refers to the OPEC agreement to set the price of crude oil in dollars.  If your currency isn't convertible to dollars, how do you get the crude oil to make that gas, diesel and asphalt?  What kind of transportation network would you have without dollars?  Without all-weather roads and vehicles, how do you grow your economy and get your goods to markets where they will fetch better prices?

I can't control OPEC, but I can help--in my own small way--by helping scientists and risk managers in poor countries access and use weather and climate data without spending scarce convertible cash.

Behold, my current obsession.
They still need color bar legends and I need to streamline the R code a bit.  But, I'm making good progress towards a dataflow that decodes GRIB data and makes it ready for further analysis--all using public domain or open-source software  Furthermore, it is my goal to figure out cross-platform and easily accessible ways to do this.

Can you pick out the summer hemisphere?  Or the day/night sides?  Yowza, Siberia and the Himalayas are cold.

Do you know why the tropopause temperature appears to be anti-correlated with the surface temperature?

Anyway, I was just getting the hang of being a reference librarian for this dataset and making plans to update the help pages (including adding tutorials!) when my boss added a half dozen more datasets to my workload.

They are not nearly so popular, so they shouldn't demand as much time.  But, seriously? People use BUFR in real life?

My boss has plans to put me on YouTube so I can teach people how to be bona fide weathergirls.  Stay tuned for a link when the tutorials go live.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

First Colorado Make

When I told a Boulder friend that I was moving back to Boulder and will be splitting my time between CA and CO, he asked where my sewing studio would reside. Astute question. My main sewing machine and serger will reside in my main residence, of course.

I consider myself settled in because I unpacked all boxes, cooked some meals and sewed something.

My apartment has oddities such as a linen closet that opens to the bathroom (and doorless to boot)! I calculated how many bins of fabric and yarn I could fit in the apartment and only brought a portion of my stash. However, this lovely ecru/blue cotton that I originally found on the free share table at South Bay Quilt Guild made the trip to CO with me.

It wasn't quite long enough, so I pieced it at the bottom. I wanted it to puddle slightly to block dust and moisture. CO natives laugh because they claim moisture is not a problem. However, does anyone else remember the summer where the combination of swamp coolers and above normal rainfall led to a mold problem in the Norlin library stacks?  What a mess!

Before the move, when I was laid up in bed with dual sprained ankles, I laid in bed and knitted two "Absorba" log cabin bathroom mats.  I place one by the tub, another by the sink.  I used up nearly my entire supply of white cotton and a significant chunk of the cone of blue yarn I found at Marukai.
I felt so virtuous in using up stuff I already had, that I made a date this morning to check out Colorado Fabrics, formerly Denver Fabrics (and not associated with the internet fabric store out of St Louis that calls itself Denver Fabrics).  I went in to get a zipper, and walked out with all sorts of other goodies.  The new owner has some .great. fashion industry contacts.  The quality and selection of designer overstocks and closeouts and the prices compare favorably with The Fabric Store in Los Angeles.

I got a little bit overenthusiastic and my friend was a great enabler.  But, I rarely encounter cotton as fine as silk, in colors I love, for $8/yard.  I bought two coordinating fabrics.  One is an uneven plaid in navy/blue/teal/white.  The other shares the same threads, but is woven in such a way so that it has teal stripes on one side and cobalt blue ones on the other.  They will be fondled a great deal, even if they don't get sewn up this summer.  I am combing my pattern collection for a suitable shirtdress pattern.

See my first Absorba log cabin garter stitch bath mat.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Add foxes to the list

Remember the safety briefing about deer, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, hikers, bicyclists, and dogs? Add foxes to the list.

Last Friday, I left work much later than everyone else because I had dealt with so many IT issues, I felt like I wanted to sit down and accomplish something real before the end of my first week.

[Administrivia, setting up a personal computer and gaining access to shared network resources take up a good chunk of time when starting any job. Add the complexity of working in a national supercomputing center and in a department that runs a pretty big development system before rolling out services to the world and you get a window into my last two weeks.]

Besides, we enjoyed a pretty good thunderstorm last Friday and I didn't relish carrying empty cardboard boxes out in the rain.

Imagine my surprise when I walked out the back (loading dock) door and encountered a fox. Perhaps the fox was as startled by me as I was by it.  I hesitated, and decided to slowly walk away, toward my car.  The fox moved away, too.

Then, I wondered about the wisdom of turning my back to a predator and looked back.  It had turned back to look at me, too!  Smart animal.  I'm a predator, too.

My hands were full and I didn't have a camera on me, but the fox I encountered looked very much like the one in this photo from nature photographer, Doug Rodda's Fox page.  Copyright Doug Rodda and used with permission.

As I drove away, I saw the fox had moved back to the original location where we first met.  I wonder what it was waiting for.  Godot?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The view from my window

I never dreamed that I would work in an iconic building (IM Pei!) or that I could have an office view like this. The trails beckon when work is done.

A close-up of the mountain view.

But, I miss my family and Torrance ramen.