Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Gossip and "Gossip"

As it turns out, I have a lot of things that would be great Talky Tuesday fodder. But I've just been reading the archives of Captain Awkward, which is relevant to a personal experience I went through last fall that I just rehashed (for good reasons, no worry) and is currently in my mindspace. So I'm putting aside some of the other topics I thought would be good for Talky Tuesday and am instead going to jump straight to:



We've all watched all the after-school specials about manners and being a good friend and "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," and all of us—especially women—have had it drilled into us that we have to be nice and positive all the time, otherwise we are catty. We're gossiping.

Of course, the lesson, when targeted to young children, is (arguably) targeted equally to both sexes. But I think adult women, and even teenagers, face a special level of scrutiny, even when they need to be negative ("You're so dramatic!" "You're just overreacting." "Are you on your period?") that men (yes, even teenage men) do not. The only people in culture who get described as "catty" or "gossipy" are, conveniently, ones who are often codefied as femme (that is, women and gay men*). Here's a pretty good example of what I mean by gossip being codefied as femme/female:

It gets even more complicated when we're trying to convince women of all ages to strive for solidarity, that other women are not your enemy, that there is value in sisterhood. Again, discussions about absent parties that aren't entirely positive are perceived as dangerous and harmful.

I say: we need to drop the stigma. Both sexes, but women especially, and for this reason: what society codefies as "gossip" is often what protects victims from predators.

This dawned on me while I was having a fika** with a friend of mine who was writing on the phenomenon of "the missing stair" as it related to someone who had recently been summarily dismissed from our social group on account of sexual harassment and molestation.

What follows is a brief account of drama, but since other people's drama is usually boring, I'm bracketing it off so you know where to start reading again.

To give a brief summary: I encountered Eric***  early on in my move here. He immediately pinged on my autistic radar (it's a gift), specifically as the type who is loud, excitable, and sometimes intolerable in crowds, but potentially fine one-on-one. Because I thought Eric was a good friend of Angie*** (someone I really, genuinely like and admire), and because everyone else in the Stockholm NaNoWriMo group seemed to like or at least tolerate him, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and went out of my way to be social with him. He either didn't notice or didn't care until he found my OkCupid profile.

(And everyone who hears this story immediately side-eyes me like "GIRL WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON OKCUPID YOU HAVE A MAN." Well, asshole, I make it clear MULTIPLE TIMES that I'm in a monogamous relationship and that I'm only looking for friends. "LOLOL WHO USES OKCUPID TO MAKE FRIENDS?" people sometimes reply, to which I say: when you are an immigrant or an expat in a foreign country, you use whatever means necessary to make friends. I met my best friend in Korea on OkCupid, as a matter of fact.)

Around the time Eric found my OkCupid profile and started sending cutesy, flirty FB messages (somehow not understanding that really, I was on there to make friends), Angie's new boyfriend had been simmering and trying to navigate his feelings over Eric: legitimate feminist ally concern or just macho territorialism or what. So when Angie's boyfriend made the "Euuuugh, that guy" sound at the mention of Eric at some point early last year, I looked him square in the eye and said, "We need to fika about this. I'm serious." I was probably way too intense about it but fortunately Angie's boyfriend needed to vent so he either didn't notice or didn't mind my crazy eyes about it. I showed him my FB messages from Eric and recounted some things I had observed that had got my hackles up, things I had previously only shared with my boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Eric had seriously and gravely misconducted himself around one of Angie's friends, leaving her skeeved out and in tears. Between my relayed messages to Angie, and Angie's friend telling her what happened, she then decided enough was enough and told Eric in no uncertain terms that he was a snake for calling himself a feminist and then treating women the way he did, and that their friendship was over and she did not want to see him at all.

I breathed a sigh of relief, then unfriended and blocked Eric on all our forms of contact.

"What do you think led to Eric being allowed to remain in the group for so long?"

I took a mental inventory of the story that I just shared with you up there. It took some thought, but in the end I had a pretty clear answer.

"I know this is shitty, but if the group weren't entirely a dry group...I'm cool with people who are sober, of course, but a bit of alcohol can get people to open up and trust a little more...like if me, Sara, Angie, and Robin*** were all a cohesive group who felt comfortable slagging people off in front of each other, like we didn't have to be positive all of the time...yeah, I think it certainly would have been dealt with a lot quicker. Like if everyone realized that everyone else actually agreed with them. If I had known that Angie was harboring those doubts about him, then I would have never bothered to 'try and like him.'"

Especially when it comes to men, women are seen as bitchy, catty, and worse if we even just voice our honest opinions about people. We're cast as the snobby popular girl in the teen melodrama if we say that Creeper McCreeperson makes us uncomfortable: "He's really a nice guy! He's just socially awkward! You should give him a chance!"

So we clam up. We clam up around men, but then a funny thing starts to happen: we clam up around other women, too. You can't blame us; the training runs deep. We wait until it's (almost) too late to voice our opinions on That Guy in the group, making the inertia the group has to overcome in either modulating That Guy or tragically excising him all the greater. Often, if someone is brave enough to tepidly put forward an, "I don't know, there's just something about him....but maybe it's just me," we wave our hands and say, "Nah, he's weird but he means well~~" even while we're silently going "YES YES YES, HELL YES." All because we don't want to be catty gossips.

Well, I say fuck that. You're an adult with a moral compass: you know when you're voicing legitimate concerns, and when you're just cutting someone down for fun or indulging in a taste for scandal and rumors. One is good and healthy for a social group and ensures everyone's comfort and safety. The other—that's gossip.

The distinction is important. Learn it. Recognize it. Speak up when you feel uncomfortable. Listen when others say they're uncomfortable: they're likely the tip of a huge, messy iceberg. It probably means your social group has a missing stair.


This is why I always encourage people to finish or clarify their "Eugh, I know they're a friend of yours, but $person just bugs me," statements. More often than not it's a mutual acknowledgement of someone else's problematic or annoying (not always creeper) behavior; when it's not, I have no qualms putting on the Friend Hat and defending my absentee buddy.

If your good, bestest, most amazing buddy is Creeper McCreeperson? Sorry, but it's kind of your responsibility as their friend to recognize what is loathsome about their behavior and bring it to Creeper's attention. If Creeper really is just "socially awkward," they will ultimately benefit from (and probably appreciate) your intervention. If Creeper's a jerk, then do you want to invest your friendship currency in a jerk?

Be honest. Be open. Own your feelings.

*Holy shit there's a lot to say about gay male representation and I'm aware there's more than the femme-y, lisping stereotype, and I hate to frame it like this, so I'm sorry.

**coffee/tea and snacks, but much more than that; the backbone of Swedish culture

***name changed

Monday, February 8, 2016

Newly Listed: DNA Maille Bracelet

I've been busy lately (or rather, I've not been good about time management lately), so this newly listed piece is actually something I worked on over the holidays. It represents me mastering a new weave (one I should go back and practice—I'm reading Fluent Forever and so now I have spaced repetition on the brain), so in terms of time and value, I'm selling this one at a loss. But as far as learning pieces go, it looks pretty good, so why not sell it? I've been known to wear it myself, on occasion.

Sciart nerdy biology science jewelry gift DNA double helix maille bracelet
DNA Double Helix Spiral Maille Bracelet
I think, looking at this photo and all of the other ones in the listing, that I'll need to take some better (i.e. not rushed) photographs. It has a wonderful spiral shape to it, but you can't quite see it from this angle. Of course, if you already like it...

The weave I used was the "inverted spiral," credited to Lorraine Menard. You can see the shape better in her sample projects here:

Inverted spiral maille earrings by Lorraine Menard
The next project I do in this weave will probably use two-tone rings, as pictured here. That might help visually organize the shape better. Or the issue might be a purely physical one (the weave will look different laying flat versus hanging freely). We'll see!

But first I need to pass Russian.

Anyway, in lieu of the usual #sciart Twitter links, I want to share just one story I saw on Facebook:

3D-Printed, Acoustically-Generated Ceramics

For the link-phobic, a laboratory in the Netherlands uses a combination of 3D-printing, ceramics, and acoustics to create vases and other goods that retain the physicality of sound—basically, the vibrations of the sound coming through the speakers vibrates the pottery-in-progress, and as a result creates patterns.

Pieces from "Solid Vibration" at Studio Van Broekhoven

The demo video only uses loud WUB WUB style dubstep bass; I would love to see one "created" by, say, Ride of the Valkyries. Or Misirlou. For more information on the process, check out Studio Van Broekhoven's official page for the "Solid Vibration" project.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Five: Press

This past week I've been gearing up for an oral exam that I just finished today (and I passed, whew, fantastic). I was studying my butt off, which is why I didn't get around to blogging even though I have really cool things I want to talk about!

But those cool things don't involve OTPs. Sorry, geeks, but I don't do fanfic and I don't ship so this week's prompt isn't my thing. Instead, I've decided to borrow from the (original?) Friday 5 site for those days when I can't get into 5 Fandom Friday.

This week's theme is "press"!

In what way are you pressing your luck?

I mentioned that oral exam. More specifically, it was an oral exam in Russian. Now, I studied Russian in university for three semesters and then promptly forgot nearly all of it. I signed up for Russian 1 through Stockholm's adult education center, and so far all of it has felt like review. And rather than apply myself, I'm being a lazy shithead and like 80% coasting on what I remember.

When did you last wield an iron?

Probably in middle school home ec class. I have bigger things to worry about than wrinkles—whether it's in my clothes or in my skin.

Not counting buttons on your computer, tablet, or phone, what was the result the last time you pressed a button?

To call the elevator.

What was the name of your high school newspaper?

Probably something incredibly banal. Newspaper wasn't really a thing in my high school. My college paper was "The Spectator." It was definitely not much of a paper. (Apologies, HamTech journalism department, but I'm just saying what we were all thinking.)

To “press the flesh” means (usually in the context of politics or public relations) to meet and greet as many people as you can, shaking hands and making personal contact. When were you last called upon to press the flesh, and how were you?

I would have to say during all of November, with NaNoWriMo. I didn't have anywhere near the responsibilities of an ML, but I did help run a few events. In those cases, I think it's standard practice to be extra friendly and outgoing.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Favorite Late to the Game TV Shows

This week's 5 Fandom Friday is going to be a stretch for me because I kind of really hate television, hah. But let's give it a whirl!

1. Star Trek

Yes, despite my undying though nonetheless critically attentive love for Star Trek: TOS, I missed out on it until my mid-20s. You can't blame me; I never caught it on syndication and my parents somehow didn't love it enough to own any copies on VHS or DVD. It took the J. J. Abrams reboot for me to think, "Hm, I should probably actually watch the original series." By that point, I knew all the jokes and tropes (Kirk's sluttiness, "live long and prosper," the fate of most redshirts) just through cultural osmosis, so it had never felt super urgent to watch.

Next up is The Next Generation, but it will probably be a while before we finish that one, for reasons similar to the next  item on the list.

2. Red Dwarf

This is one of JV's favorites, so it was only a matter of time before we sat down and watched it together. Unfortunately, since we were streaming it from less-than-reputable online sources, sometimes the stream quality sucked, and then it happened so often that we put aside the series in favor of something else. When we finally thought we should maybe get around to finishing the series, we realized we had no idea what season or episode we were on. We were quite far in (far enough that Krachanski was now part of the crew), too. We better get it sorted soon, though, because two new seasons are on their way!

I feel like one day I'll probably unload a whole critical analysis on the series, but today is not that day.

3. Q.I.

QI first aired in 2003 but I knew nothing of its existence until 2009? 2010? There was a glorious period when I had so! much! backlog! to catch up on, but that period of binge-watching is over and now I'm stuck waiting for new episodes just like everyone else. The UK has a real knack for great panel shows, but I think things may have reached a saturation point. In any case, much as I love Would I Lie To You? and 8 of 10 Cats (Does Countdown), Q.I. is forever the superior panel show (in my view). There was even a short-lived Swedish version of it, which was great fun for practicing my listening, but after season 4 (series "D"), SVT didn't want to buy any more episodes and neither did anyone else. I'm pretty sure my Swedish listening comprehension has suffered as a result.

4. Jonathan Creek

Speaking of Q.I., this list wouldn't be complete with Jonathan Creek! If you are hurting for some tricky whodunnits solved by a short-tempered savant and can't wait for more Sherlock (or, like me, had to go through a messy break-up with Sherlock because Moffat is garbage), this might be the methadone treatment for your TV heroin addiction. This was a series we picked up to watch in between new episodes of Q.I. and I was mostly pleased with it, though the second pretty lady sidekick was a goddamn trainwreck. Alternatively, if you're already a fan of Jonathan Creek, you should check out Trick!

5. The I.T. Crowd

Are we noticing a pattern yet? I didn't even learn about this one until years after it had been canceled (though before the concluding special in 2013, which I don't think I've seen yet...!). Sorry British TV, somehow I'm really slow on the uptake on most of your good television. It's still a tragedy that there isn't more of this show. Four seasons with only six episodes each? That's essentially one season of TV. One! But we have so many wonderful reaction gifs to show for it...

What's some great TV you were late to the game for?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I'm Reading: The Price of Salt

So with all of this Academy Awards buzz and #OscarsSoWhite buzz and everyone talking about media representation, it's fitting that my book club choice for February is The Price of Salt: the novel, later retitled Carol, that's the basis for Carol the movie, which is up for some awards.

I'm not usually so timely and relevant!

But The Price of Salt is definitely timely and relevant, which is weird considering that it's a positive lesbian romance published in 1953. How often do we say that someone is just a product of their time? That things were different back then? And look at this.

That being said, The Price of Salt was the result of author Patricia Highsmith's experience with psychotherapy as an attempt to learn to enjoy sex with her fiance after years of sexual relationships primarily with women. So maybe what needs to be applauded is not Highsmith's compassion for the plight of other people, but her bravery for choosing to write and publish something, especially something so personal, that would no doubt garner her scandal and negative prestige. (Of course, it was originally published under a pseudonym, no doubt for that reason.)

I had never read any Highsmith before, so her reputation as an author of suspense and thriller novels is unknown to me. (Yes, I haven't even seen Strangers on a Train.) The Price of Salt is a horse of an entirely different color: personal drama, maybe even bordering on the melodrama. But the language is light, precise, and airy; a stark contrast to the complex and meandering prose of January's Mrs. Dalloway. It's a snappy read that is coming along fairly quickly for me.

If you're like me, and missed Gay Fiction 101 in life, this is probably a great place to start. And you know that I'm all about reading the book and watching the movie. After you finish, you can consider Sir Ian McKellen's thoughts on the Oscars and diversity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Meeting People From THE INTERNET

If you're not following me on Twitter, then you missed my response to this tweet, which one of my friends (an Internet friend, natch) RT'd:

Which I also initially RT'd and then I got sucked down memory lane and ended up tweeting an abbreviated version of my Internet friends story, before realizing that it'd maybe be better on the blog. So welcome to a new regular-ish feature where y'all learn more about me than you needed or even wanted to know! At least until Twitter officially does away with the 144-character limit and I can opine into the void to my heart's content.

As a kid, I was definitely on the periphery. Even though I escaped being bullied (pure luck: there were kids who were much weirder than me; even though I was a fat smart girl, I knew how to play the game and keep my head down), I still orbited the social center of my growing-up from a fair distance.

It never bothered me much, because as an introvert I was perfectly content with just one or two good friends here and there. Daria was essentially my high school life—even when I participated in group things (and I did: orchestra, marching band, Reading Olympics, pit orchestra, debate team, trivia team), those groups never formed the core of my socializing. Most of the time, it was just me and my BFF (who joined me in orchestra, pit orchestra, and debate team).

But everyone, even introverts, can benefit from feeling like they belong to a cohesive group* and that's where the Internet stepped in for me.

I cannot mention Internet friendship without shouting out to the random group of friends I made, via an online play-by-post RP forum, on the opposite coast in the town of Eureka, CA. Things fizzled a bit after my Internet boyfriend (lolol) in the group dumped me and everyone went to college, but my West Coast Wander last year proved that there was still connection and friendship. In fact, I wouldn't have met up with the second group of Internet friends that would change my life in an even more profound way if it weren't for the first.

The second group I met on a message board for the now cringe-inducing Nickelodeon show Invader Zim, originally linked to me by one of my Eureka friends. After a slow, awkward start, I got to know a lot of the other members, and was invited to the first of an annual/biannual series of meetups that we dubbed MooseCon.

Now, I was 16 at the time, and this was when actual, honest-to-God socializing on the Internet came with warnings of STRANGER DANGER! An assigned reading I had for school at this point in my life was a memoir of one of the earliest Internet pedophile cases, called Katie.com. It was a book that felt selected for us teenagers as a DIRE WARNING from our CONCERNED  TEACHERS.

As an adult, I recognize that Tarbox went through a terrifying and traumatic experience, and I'm glad that she seems to have become a proper badass now, who climbs mountains and runs marathons.

But as a teenage girl, I hated the book for a couple of reasons: first, I thought from the title it was going to be a badass, competent hacker chick and was looking forward to reading about a teenage girl's experience within hackerdom. Then I read the summary and was immediately deflated: it was just Internet STRANGER DANGER. If I were more articulate then, I would have said something about perpetuating the narrative of teenage girl victimhood rather than agency, but I wasn't that articulate, so it just stewed.

Second: at this point in my life, I had plenty of friends online. They formed a group, a cohesive group, where I finally was accepted and belonged, instead of just piecemeal friends here and there. And my experience with it had not been full of shady-ass child molesters, but other teenagers (and their parents). We were all normal (well, relatively) and we were all each other's closest friends. Where was the memoir about that? About the power of Internet friendship? Nowhere to be seen.

Because the only time in my life where I've had the sort of group mutual-best-friendery like you see in Friends or Community hasn't been with high school or college classmates, or a sports team, or a club: it's been with my Internet tribe. The only thing to rival that communal belonging sense would be my coworkers at the cave, but that was after my formative high school years.

But even with all of the mass panic beginning to build over Internet predators (I had graduated by the time To Catch a Predator rolled around, but the famous New Yorker "on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" joke had been well cemented into the public consciousness), my parents were either unaware or were just super chill. I think this was because I initially met basically everyone in safe, public spaces with my parents in tow: first, a Eureka friend stopped by during an East Coast vacation with his mother, and my parents got to meet him. It was a year or two later that the first MooseCon happened, and again my parents were with me, and again they saw that everyone from the Internet was a teenager more or less just like their kid.

Flying to San Antonio (under the supervision of my mother) for the next MooseCon was no problem. Later trips alone to Montreal, New Orleans, Ithaca, and Buffalo were considered par for the course. They even allowed me to invite a whole bunch into our home during what Swedes call "the in-between days" (mellandagar; the time after Christmas but before New Year's) on multiple occasions. They were collectively known to my parents as "my friends from Con."

I neglected to mention any romantic attachments during this time, only because I found the idea of discussing any romantic attachments with my parents off-putting, even the ones I had formed in real life. But when the time came to visit my overseas Internet boyfriend for the first time, my parents were more or less chill. Also, I was 19, so I was basically an adult.

(This is how I met JV, by the way. If you've ever been wondering, since I've sideways implied that I moved to Sweden for him: he is my teenage Internet Boyfriend.)

Con happened annually for 10 years. Ten years. Today we're (mostly) all still friends and connected on Facebook**, but since we're adults with jobs/limited funds/limited vacation time, large Cons happen maybe every other year, with small meet-ups arranged between people interspersed here and there. You wouldn't be able to tell based on our Facebook interaction—there isn't much of it between everyone publicly. But you can tell by the occasional post in our secret Facebook group (the original board we used to post on has been borked for years now because of a MySQL error and no one's been able to get in contact with the owner to fix it, even though the fix is trivial) that we're all there for each other: when someone's having a rough time or needs advice, the post never goes for long without a comment or a response. Couches are always available for crashing, the odd care package turns up here and there, comfort is always given. I'm still in touch with more of my Con friends (both in terms of percentage and in terms of raw numbers) than I am with anyone I ever knew in high school (that number is essentially: 1). For me, they were high school. Or they were the ethereal vision of what high school could and should have been, if only we weren't all so far apart.


So no, my parents actually never flipped their shit over me meeting people from the Internet, probably because they knew exactly who I was meeting. Nor were they fazed when I finally announced that I had an Internet boyfriend and asked if he could come visit over winter break. Whether they knew it or not, my parents rode the ~wave of the future~ with grace and sense. And now? Now I live in a foreign country with my boyfriend from the Internet (13th anniversary this April), and my family loves him and his family loves me.

Finally, I'd like to close with an incredibly apropos quote from Gibson's Pattern Recognition:

It is a way now, approximately, of being at home. The forum has become one of the most consistent places of her life, like a familiar cafe that exists somewhere outside geography and beyond time zones.

*This statement probably backed up by science but I can't be fucked to go and get you the studies right now, so for now consider it "just, like, my opinion, man."

**I won't lie: this was the Internet and we did manage to attract a few weirdos who were too weird even for us, which led to a few geek socializing fallacies, but it's more or less sorted today.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Newly Listed: Newtonian Constant of Gravitation in Australian Opal and Fancy Jasper

Things have been a little quiet around here lately. I have to admit: I'm caught up in some really fascinating new reading and also Fallout New Vegas. But I've kept my hands busy, too!

This physics sciart science bracelet, featuring the Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper, would make a great science gift for nerds, physicists, and teachers.
Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper

Like I've said earlier, I've started really digging into the depths of my bead stash to try and clear out as much as possible. The fancy jasper beads in this bracelet are an example of that. The opal, on the other hand, is a relatively new addition to the bead box. It was a pretty luxurious buy, so this is a piece where I've opted to use some of my sterling findings instead of just base metal. Yes, sometimes I get fancy!

This physics sciart science bracelet, featuring the Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper, would make a great science gift for nerds, physicists, and teachers.

This would be a great treat for any science nerds you know with an October birthday, or just a passion for opal (or Australia!). Go on, indulge.

If you just feel like window shopping today, be sure to stop by The Blue Beehive. Despite being open since 2012, they only just now turned up in my latest sciart search on Etsy. They have a wonderful mix of sciart and just art, like these:

Etched copper trilobite earrings

and this:

Boho style single wrap bracelet

And as always, Twitter is chock full of sciart finds!