Please don't do that….

From the Detroit Free Press….

Backers of a program that would lend up to $25 billion to automakers and auto parts suppliers said today they had garnered 71 U.S. House members to support their search for $3.75 billion in funding over the next couple of months.

There only looking for $3.75 billion because that is all they think it will cost the government to borrow $25 billion and loan it to the auto makers. Apparently they expect it to be repaid. But read this from Reuters…..

General Motors Corp will need to raise as much as $15 billion in cash to shore up liquidity and bankruptcy is “not impossible” if the U.S. auto market continues to slump, Merrill Lynch said.

And that is just GM. The other car manufactures are in even worse shape. Very little chance of seeing the money repaid. And in related news….

The White House predicted on Monday that the Bush administration would bequeath a record deficit of $482 billion to the next president — a sobering turnabout in the nation’s fiscal condition from 2001 when President Bush took office and inherited three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

And this is including all the “extra” money from social security.

Given the scale of the federal budget, 25 billion is pocket change. But we are running out of pocket change.

How would you like to run in this?

From Fox News…

The Chinese capital was shrouded in a thick, gray haze of pollution Sunday, just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. One expert warned that drastic measures enacted to cut vehicle and factory emissions in the city were no guarantee skies would be clear during competitions.

The pollution was among the worst seen in Beijing in the past month, despite traffic restrictions enacted a week ago that removed half of the city’s vehicles from roadways.

Visibility was a half mile (less than 1 kilometer) in some places. During the opening ceremony of the Athletes’ Village on Sunday, the housing complex was invisible from the nearby main Olympic Green.

h/t Crunchy Con.

Gene Logsdon on growing raspberries

From his blog….

The reason the wild ones survive on their own is that they move about. In the garden, humans usually want to keep raspberries corralled in permanent rows. Raspberries are like teenagers: they want to get away from their parents but maintain a connection in case they got in a jam. On black and purple varieties, the new canes that come up in the springtime grow to about five feet high, then bend over in midsummer so that the tips of the canes pierce the soil surface and root. The red and yellow ones spread by suckering, that is new canes come up from the roots moving out and away from the parent plants. By moving away from the old stand every year, the new canes usually avoid disease until they fruit in their second year and then die naturally. (Everbearing reds and yellow canes fruit in the fall of their first year and summer of their second year and then die naturally.)

Understanding this process, the successful raspberry grower sets out new plants in the spring (suckers on red raspberries and the new tip sprouts on the blacks that rooted the year before), at some distance from the old plants, same as they do for strawberries. Setting out new plants at least a hundred feet from the old row avoids diseases or delays them at least. And makes weed control a little easier. Even if you buy so-called virus-free plants, they are not really all that free because virus-free rarely last for very long and is of no help against fungal diseases like orange rust. It does help to cut out the old canes as soon as they are through fruiting, but that is very hard work since they are growing right in among the new canes.

We have a lot of debt

From Naked Capitalism…..

We will return to discuss the implications of how big the debt level is, but the graph itself should serve to focus the mind. The March 31 level was 350% of GDP. The previous peak occurred in 1933, during the Great Depression, at just under 270% of GDP. Note that the peak was reached due to the start of the rapid fall in GDP taking hold faster than debts were written off, a dynamic not in operation now. So the comparable level to our situation is in fact lower than the 270% peak.

An additional bit of cheery news comes from reader Bjomar: Japan’s total debt to GDP in 1990 was roughly 250% (it took some triangulating among this, this, and this source, his interpolation of corporate debt at 100-140% of GDP, household at 65%, and government at 60%). And unlike us, Japan had a very high saving rate, so its net debt would have been less alarming.

Look at the Graph.

Rant of the Week: 7/27/08–8/2/08

The Chieftain of Seir recently wrote an essay arguing that authority is weak all over the world and that it would only take worldwide economic problems to shatter political stability the world over. One of the things that he linked to in support of his case was this rant by Le Pen.

Now we are no great fans of Le Pen (this reasonably fair overview of the man) but we think it is important to listen to the voices of those who are likely to be empowered by economic problems. For better or for worse, the arguments of Le Pen are the future of France

Essay of the Week: 7/27/08–8/2/08

The report of the commission to assess the threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack is too long for most mere mortals to read. But everyone should at least make an effort to read chapter one (skip the introduction and scroll down to page 17).

The commission details how the US electrical grid has become increasingly vulnerable to all forms of disruption, not just EMP Attacks. Like the various reports that detailed the problems with the levees that held back the water around New Orleans, this report is going to be ignored. It will only receive widespread press once the grid goes down.

And as the report makes clear, the electric grid is very vulnerable and becoming more vulnerable with every passing day. Vulnerability to EMP attacks is simply the tip of the iceberg. An increasing shortage of black start capability combined with a shortage of parts means that simply blowing up a few key transformers could cause major problems.

Somebody cue the music—here it comes!!

Which? What? Pictures and stories of my first ever self-drafted dress! That I finished last year, and never told you about, and finally now am gracing you with it’s presence! It is, basically, proof-positive that I finished Pattern Drafting 101. Taught be me. I was at the head of the graduating class. Which was only me.

Anyway, this is post is dedicated to Bridget. It’s all her fault. No, not really. Really, I could “Thank You” to a million people. Not really. I don’t know a million people. But there is the author of my one-and-only text book (Elizabeth Allemong and her wonderful book European Cut), and my sister who patiently took all my measurements a half-dozen times, and my aunt who introduced me to the world of sewing (but she’d probably die a million deaths if she realized she was responsible for starting me down this path, because for heaven’s sake you’re not supposed to take hobbies so seriously!), and my parents who borned me into this world in the first place—but I’m dedicating this one to Bridget.


‘Cause otherwise I wouldn’t have finished it, and it doesn’t matter how well you start if you never, ever finish. Oh, I guess I probably would have finished it. Eventually. Sometime. Maybe. But I was getting so sick of this project. I had reached ultimate saturation. I didn’t want to look at it, didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to work on it. And every time I looked at it, it seemed like it looked worse than it had the time before. And I was, like, 90% of the way there! It just needed finishing up, hemming and boring stuff like that. But instead, it had been tossed into a corner and was just sitting there. Bridget gave me the encouragment, that yes, actually, it’s coming along quite nicely indeed. So finish it.

Also, she kept me company while I cut, sewed, pressed and hemmed 177″ of bias binding. You really, really, really need company when doing something as tedious and mind-numbing as that.

Besides all that, you’d never being seeing this post except for her. She helped me cull through the over 130 photos my (very wonderful) sister took of me wearing the dress (yes, the same sister who took all my measurements!). It’s really no fun looking at over 130 photos of yourself. Then again, maybe she didn’t have fun looking at 130 photos of me, either, but she did it anyway. A true friend (but I’m sure the brownies didn’t hurt, either. . .they were really good brownies).

Anyway, yes. The dress. And me. Brace yourselves!

The Front

The side


The Back

You simply would not believe the tedious hours that went into making this dratted thing. The 177″ of homemade bias binding hem is just the beginning.

The hem

Besides the hem in this picture, you will note a couple of other things. For one thing, the whole dress is underlined. Interlined. Regular old lined. Something. Having bought this fabric way too many years ago when I was young and foolish, I failed to be deterred by the fact that it was rather thin. Very thin. Thin enough it really needed something more to keep it decent. This caused some disappointment to me later on. It may have needed two layers of fabric for opacity’s sake, but those two layers make it much, much warmer. Not so great for wearing during already-quite-warm-enough-thank-you-very-much weather. Everything I have ever read has claimed that building a dress like this will make it less prone to wrinkling, but the whole thing is 100% cotton, so I doubt you’ll see much of a difference on that count.

A second thing you will notice is all the orange thread-tracing lines. Techincally, now that the dress is done, they should be taken out. But that’s fuss and bother, and you can’t see them from the outside, and I’m quite finished working on this. I’m not in the least bit repentant of doing all that thread tracing, though. It was extremely useful for getting the pleats to line up right, and the darts and everything else. It is a time-eater, but if I ever have pieces-that-must-line-up, I would do it again in an instant. It was very reliable, didn’t go away until you wanted it to, and then did go away when you did want it to. It was Precise. I liked it.

inside detail

This is the inside shoulder; you can see the back shoulder dart. If you look close, you can see my hand stitching securing the muslin underlayer shoulders to each other. I was really doing quite the hybrid. I sewed a lot of the dress treating the muslin and the “fashion fabric” as one—the darts, and most of the seams. But where ever it tickled my fancy, I did it otherwise. The side seams were sewed together, but the inner and outer skirts were hemmed seperately. The muslin was treated as a lining at the neck and sleeve ends, sandwiching the (self-made) piping in between. And here, I sewed the “fashion fabric” shoulder seams seperately from the muslin, and descreetly hand stitched the muslin shoulder seams by hand. It made for a nice smooth finish.

Not that it was all so fine. Most of the time I just zig-zagged the seam allowances. I didn’t have a serger at the time. . .

inside scoop

Yes, you do see a waiststay. I was very ambivilant about putting it in. They say it’s supposed to support the weight of the skirt, and keep it from straining the rest of the dress. Having a hem that was 127″, and double layers of fabric, I thought that maybe it was necessary. But it’s rather uncomfortable, and I’m not sure at all that it makes any difference in the least. Especially since this was supposed to be a casual dress. Maybe if I was using fine, delicate fabric, I would be more worried. As it is—-it’s cotton. It’ll survive. Or not. I’m not too worried about it.

I say it was “supposed” to be a casual dress. It was. It was supposed to be the kind of dress you could host a picnic in—unfussy, but nice. The only reason I thought I could get away with such a fitted bodice is because I very cleverly added an ease-pleat in the back of the dress.

ease pleat

See? Very clever. I even precisely matched the print. Only problem? Sorry, Miss Knucklehead. You need your ease further down than that. As it is, I nearly burst a seam when I try to scoop ice cream, which means that whenever I wear this dress, I feel formal. And by “feel formal” I mean, I feel like I’m good for nothing but standing, prim and proper. Or maybe walking. But not doing anything that involves my reaching with my arms, with eliminates a startling number of activities. Half the time I ignore the “don’t move!” feeling and get on with my life anyway, but it is just not the casual do-anything dress I’d invisioned. I feel like such a failure. Kind of. Not really. The fit is really good, but I’m still pretty annoyed with this dress.

shoulder fit

Oh, well. At least I remembered to put in a pocket, and that’s once less annoyance.


The dratted back ties—they’re dratted because (1) I can’t tie them myself; I never mastered bow-tying behind my back, and (2) I cut it on the bias, which made it very difficult to sew without distorting.


Why did I do that? I don’t know. I think I thought the ties would be more fluid and coopertive when tied. Maybe they are. . .


Its loose in the back, but stitched down in the front, along the bottom edge. By hand. After tediously sewing it on by hand, I got it into my head to measure my stitches in their regularity and size. . .

Whoa. 1/16th of an inch, square on, everytime. Freaky. I guess maybe all my hand-quilting is paying off? Somebody go tell the atliers I’m readying for hiring!

I put a lot of silly stress on myself while working on this project. I just felt like it had to be perfect. It was a like a thesis paper, or something. It had to be the proof that I really truly had been learning, did learn. That I could draft to specific measurments and produce quality sewing. As such, how could I ever be fully satisfied with it? Every little mistake seemed like a disaster, completely obscuring the view of the rest of it. Instead of being pleased with how much I had accomplished, I wound up just being disgruntled with every little place where it didn’t seem to me to be perfect. Maybe that’s why, having drafted basic slopers that would enable me to make any dress, skirt or top I could possibly imagine, the only thing I wanted to do next was figure out how to make pants. Instead of feeling like I’d accomplished dress-making, I felt like I couldn’t measure up, and wanted to divert my attention elsewhere. Thankfully, I’ve relaxed (at least a bit), and my pattern drafting has continued.

Besides, in the grand scheme of things, the dress works:


me in front of a tree

here I am

in a tree

(Yes, you can climb a tree in this dress. If you’re detirmined. Or pig-headed. Take your pick, but I think I have a fair dose of one or the other!)

still in the tree

what do you see?

somewhere else

the other way


Besides, till this dress, I had only made 4 pieces of clothing for anything other than children. 3 of them were jumpers, and none of them came close to fitting.

I do believe I shall give myself a passing grade.

[Tune in next time, when I discuss my thoughts that went into the design of this dress. I have always been frustated by people who will tell you what they did, without giving any hint as to why they did it. I shall. And it will be fascinating. Sort of. Anyway, I'm out of time for it for now, because I've got to wash dishes, which is just loads of fun.]