Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday Find: Scientifiques

The Etsy circle feature has been more of a bane than a boon for me. No matter how many times I clear out my "following" list, 90% of what shows up in my feed is just Not For Me.

That other 10%, though, includes some real gems, like Scientifiques. Everything Lorraine has is gorgeous and handcrafted, and she is obviously inspired by a variety of STEM fields! From math:

Euler's identity math bracelet jewelry from scientifiques.
Euler's identity cuff bracelet by scientifiques

to paleontology:

Green River bat fossil photo pendant by scientifiques
to chemistry:

Carbon science jewelry scientific necklace by scientifiques.
Etched Copper Carbon Period Table Pendant by scientifiques

In particular I love her use of metal (a skill I wish I had but at the moment don't have the supplies or space for). I love the warm brown of copper and am glad to see someone using it in the jewelry world. And check out this piece de resistance:

Diplocaulus Fossil Skull Necklace by scientifiques
Talk about a statement piece!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Trek Thursday: Court Martial

#65: Court Martial

In case you forgot: Kirk is on trial for the death of one of his crewmen owing to gross negligence (Starfleet suddenly cares about all those redshirts now?). THE COMPUTER has damning evidence against him, but the man Kirk stands accused of killing is still alive and has tampered with the memory banks in attempt to destroy Kirk's career and exact his revenge.

This week, on Perry Mason in Space...

That's all this episode is, really, and if you like procedurals then this episode gets a lot better. If you don't, though, you're SOL. The dated worries over man versus machines might have struck a chord with contemporary audiences, but it's not a theme that ages well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I'm Playing: HabitRPG

You're all playing HabitRPG right now, too. You just don't know it yet.

See, someone finally had the idea to gamify real life and give you rewards like gold and XP for completing arduous tasks like doing the dishes, exercising, or cleaning your apartment. Brilliant!

I'm only level 3 right now, so there isn't a whole lot of world content available for me at the moment. I'm sure that'll change soon: I am constantly adding new tasks to accomplish (like writing blogposts) and leveling up like crazy.

The best part about HabitRPG is that it is absolutely free. There's not much in the game you can't purchase or acquire for free, though you can unlock some things faster by donating to the site. I've only been using it for a couple days but already I'm more motivated to stay focused on tasks and get important things done. Which is sad, I guess, but that's how it goes: sometimes you need some external motivation to get things done!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Birthstones: Sapphire (September)

A maiden born when September leaves
Are rustling in September's breeze,
A sapphire on her brow should bind
`Twill cure diseases of the mind. 

After our brief trip back into silicates with peridot, in September we're returning to corundum. Instead of silicon and oxygen, it's composed of aluminum and oxygen.

Then what's the difference between a ruby and a sapphire? What makes them different colors? Chemical impurities. Ruby contains trace amounts of chromium; sapphire contains iron and/or titanium.

("But doesn't iron make things orange-y?" In silicates, yes. Not in oxides. This is the same reason why chromium makes silicates look green, but ruby red. It forms different kinds of bonds that reflect or absorb light differently.)

A cool effect you can get both in rubies and in sapphires is a "star": a rutile (titanium dioxide) crystal forms within the gem and creates a 6-lined star shape. This affect is called "asterism." It's fairly rare in nature, but it's possible to induce this effect in lab-grown sapphire.

Star sapphire is formed by rutlite crystals within the sapphire.
The name sapphire has a complicated history. The origins of its name can be traced conclusively to the Hebrew sappir, but it is likely even older than that. That became the Greek sapheiros, which was simply "blue stone." Such a precise name meant that many ancient blue stones were also called sapphire. Lapis lazuli, for example, was often referred to as sapphire, while sapphire might have been called hyakinthos by the ancient Greeks. There is another school of thought that suggests the name comes from Sanskrit sanipriya ("precious to Saturn"). It's difficult to say when, precisely, the name sapphire was pinned down to Al2O3.

Of course, as we learned with rubies, sapphires can come in a variety of colors besides blue.

Sapphire can also be found in shades of green.

Sapphire can also be found in shades of yellow.

However, it's the blue sapphire that is most often associated with September and has the most lore associated with it. Al203 in other colors were most likely confused for other stones, or considered separate.

Sapphire is a stone that has been around for a long, long time, as evident by the age of the name, so of course it's picked up a fair amount of folk beliefs and traditions!

Ancient Vedic astrologers believed the stone magnified the positive qualities of Saturn (otherwise considered an unlucky planet): leadership, ambition, responsibility, patience, and longevity. Clergy in the Middle Ages often wore sapphires (or other blue gems) to represent heaven, perhaps creating or just only reinforcing the belief that the stone attracted heavenly blessings. Royalty wore it as a charm against envy. Renaissance thinkers held that the stone could cure anger and stupidity.

The first sapphires were probably sifted out of alluvial (riverbed) deposits, where they are still found today (in addition to underground mines). The largest sapphire producers in the world are Madagascar and Australia. Some of the finest and most famous stones, however, have been mined in Sri Lanka.

Sapphire has also been synthesized since the early 1900s. The process leads to a proper, chemically-identical synthetic stone. Fortunate, because sapphire also has a lot of practical applications; particularly, it can be used for a special kind of glass that can tolerate a heavy heat load and also "let through" a broad spectrum of light. It also is scratch-resistant (considering the only thing harder than it is diamond) and extremely durable. "Sapphire glass" is used in lasers, spectrometers, barcode scanners, those xenon headlights everyone hates so much, and for shatter-resistant windows in armored vehicles. You can also find sapphire in cellphones, emergency vehicle radios, and satellite communications systems. It's quite the multipurpose stone!

Note that there, as always, unscrupulous people intent on trading on the prestige of sapphire's name. I've seen items on Etsy that list "sapphire jasper" as one of their materials used, but that's just a trade name. It's more likely variscite (also known as aqua terra jasper, snakeskin jasper, or impression jasper), which is a beautiful stone....but not actually sapphire. They are related only in that they are pretty.

Natural sapphires are often treated to improve their color and clarity; there are ones that are naturally brilliant and saturated with color, but they are rare and fetch a high price. There are, yes, synthetic ones as well, but beware artificial sapphire (usually just colored glass) posing as the real thing.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Read Play Blog

I stumbled across this from Karsyn! Read Play Blog is a monthly gaming-related meme hosted by Read Me Away and Happy Indulgence Books that goes up on the 16th of every month. This has just gotten underway, so there are only two sets of questions so far; like Karsyn I'm going to answer those now and then the following months I'll answer on the 16th like everyone else.



How did you get into gaming?

Lawyer Mom went right back to work after having me and my brother. Dad worked, too, so they hired a full-time sitter for us: a woman whose son became like our favorite cousin. He was some years older than us and very into video games; I remember playing (or more, watching him play) Legend of Zelda on the NES and going head-to-head in the versus mode of Sonic 2. He also had a GameGear and a Gameboy (there was no Nintendo v. SEGA rivalry in that house, believe it or not!) that he trusted us to play with when he was at school.

My brother and I both became hooked. From the SNES on, we had a console of our own we could play at home. SNES to Dreamcast to GameCube to Wii; now I live with JV who owns a GameCube, a PS2, a PS3, an XBox 360, and a Retron console that plays Genesis (sorry, I'm in Europe: Megadrive), NES, and SNES cartridges. He also has a Dreamcast tucked away somewhere.

What do you recommend for new gamers?

It depends so much on what you have and what you like. I think Minecraft is a nice introduction to gaming, because you can do whatever you want and make it as easy or as hard as you want. I think platformers are good, too. They're easy to get the hang of, even if they're fiendishly difficult, and I think that's what most people think of when they think "video game." Little Big Planet is a lot of fun, and it has a good coop mode so if you're not very good, you can get someone else to play with you and help you out.

I recommend you ask a friend who likes games (and you!) to make recommendations, or to ask if you can join them (if possible) on a game or two so you can try it out yourself with a friendly hand to guide you.

What game you are currently playing?

I've finished the main storyline of Ni no Kuni and have moved on to the "postgame" content. I say "postgame" because I still haven't beaten the final, FINAL boss. Lately, though, I've been playing the PS3 version of Minecraft with JV. When I have nothing else I feel like playing, I pop in Fallout 3 and run a few side quests here and there. I finished the main storyline in that, as well, or most of it (not the storyline in the DLC; I think I have a few quests left in that). There is just so much to do in that game, I don't think I'll ever finish it.

Theoretically I'm also playing Demon's Souls, but if I'm to be honest, most of my gaming time is taken up with Ni no Kuni and Minecraft.

JV also just bought Diablo III, a game I've been looking forward to for FOREVER, but I'm hesitant to get started with it now because I know I will be addicted by the time I clear the first dungeon.

What is your favorite gaming genre?

I will play most anything, truth be told. The easier question is, what is your least favorite gaming genre?, and that is FPS. I don't like the mechanics of the FPS most of the time (at least Fallout 3 gives you the VATS aiming system!) and I don't like the "gritty war shooter simulator" genre of Call of Duty (or as we call it, CALLERDERTY) or Wolfenstein or Battlefield or so on. It seems like a lot of bullshit macho posturing.

Anything else is fair game. I enjoy mellow puzzlers (Karsyn mentioned MYST in hers, and that game was my childhood), I enjoy platformers, I enjoy puzzle/adventure RPGS (Zelda, Ookami, etc.), I enjoy RPGs and JRPGs....anything, really.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Trek Thursday: Tomorrow is Yesterday

#66: Tomorrow is Yesterday

In case you forgot: The Enterprise accidentally travels through time  to late 1960s Earth and works desperately to undo the impression they fear leaving.

When you're dealing with science fiction, time travel is going to be a tempting (if not downright inevitable) plot point that comes up. This is the first such instance in Star Trek (discounting the last, weird ten minutes of "The Naked Time") and it was just as irritating upon rewatching as it was the first time I saw it. How could Spock (or the computer) fail to realize that captain Christopher would end up fathering the captain of the first successful Earth-to-Saturn probe? That seems like a pretty obvious oversight.

Shouldn't their encounter with a black hole-style anomaly have propelled them into the future, not the past? On the flip side of that coin, why does their "slingshot around the sun" idea send them forward in time instead of further into the past? If they've already messed with the timeline by taking Christopher aboard, how can they trust any of the history in the ship's databanks? More importantly, why does the Enterprise and everyone on it still exist? What if the Enterprise's visit to Earth is supposed to be part of the timeline? (And why doesn't Spock consider that last point?)

The logical consistency in this episode is just a big pile of NOPE.

The one redeeming factor is a little touch of melancholy at the end. It was Christopher's dream to go into space, and he got to do it, but he won't ever remember that he did. Kirk's runaround with the security is also pretty entertaining.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Design: Knotted Pi With Twine, Faux Pearls

The style for this necklace came to me by the way of a DIY pin some months ago. The shabby chic look of the twine and pearls combination was totally different from what I usually make, and since I'm always on the lookout for styles that mesh well with my numbers but are also different from what I've already made, I decided to give it a try. This was some months ago, but I only got around to photographing the results today. Ahem.

Three-strand pi necklace with twine and fake pearls.

The one problem with this look is that pearls are often drilled with exceptionally tiny holes. Twine, on the other hand, is often quite bulky. These faux pearls are just plastic beads from the craft section in our local department store: much easier to string on twine, but not as fun as the real thing. For that, I'd need a proper beading needle and some tricks. Or use invisible/illusion cord, a fine, transparent nylon cord which is often paired with pearls:

However, the look is different. A bit dressier, don't you think?

The other option is to use twine with other beads, like gemstones or wood, that are drilled a bit larger. But that doesn't seem to be a look that people are really making, or are interested in, at least not just strung with knots. Macrame is not really where I want to go with this.