Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday 5: Questions to Make Your Hands Clammy

Apropos as fuck for our fishy-ass new commander-in-chief.

Who’s been a ray of sunshine lately?

My English students. In Cure, Marchant cites a study about how spending just an hour with kids every week can keep the elderly from slipping into the worst pits of old age: depression, dementia, aches and pains, etc. Even though it involves waking up early on a Sunday, the three hours I spend with my students does a lot to affect my mood. They don't always want to study, but they're always happy to see me and having the time to play and chat with them afterwards makes it all worth it. The weeks where I don't have any tutoring appointments are the weeks I end up feeling the crappiest.

Hah, crappy!

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

When do you next expect to be stuffed to the gills?

Tonight's pizza night, so in a few hours?

Among people you know, who can really tell a whale of a tale?

Back when I was a cave tour guide, one of my coworkers was the most ridiculous compulsive liar ever. It took me a little while to catch on—I'm naive—but things just spiraled out of control. It wasn't anything related to our job, so it didn't really matter, but he was just so OTT.

What’s something you’ve been herring good things about?

One of my friends just recommended The OA, so JV and I will probably start watching that soon.

Which of the S.S. Minnow‘s passengers or crew do you think you’d get along best with?

I don't know. I haven't seen a single episode of Gilligan's Island. Weirdly enough, JV and I only just got around to watching the MST3K episode The Space Children, featuring the professor as a drunk child beater! (It also had Uncle Fester as a rocket scientist.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

TBT: Purple and Yellow Fiber Optic Earrings

The goodie bags I picked up on my trip to the US in October seem like they're bottomless! But I think we're approaching the end. At least, the end of pieces I don't want to cannibalize for something better. Eight? Nine? years later and I still like these fiber optic earrings enough to keep them as is.

Computer Science Jewelry - Fiber Optic Earrings - Gamer Programmer Sciart STEM Internet Cybertwee Jewelry
Purple and yellow fiber optic earrings from Kokoba
Fun fact: purple and gold are actually my high school colors, but I didn't make these out of a fit of ~~be true to your school~~. I just think they look nice together!

Computer Science Jewelry - Fiber Optic Earrings - Gamer Programmer Sciart STEM Internet Cybertwee Jewelry
Purple and yellow fiber optic earrings

I think I'll be back in the US in August; I'm wondering if I should pick up as many fiber optic beads as I can get my hands on. It's probably a dated look for most people (the stock these beads came from dated back to the 80s or maybe early 90s), but I think there's potential for a nerdy niche market. Maybe?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What I Read: The Road to Mecca

My book club is still going strong! We closed out 2016 with the religious travel memoir The Road to Mecca, Muhammad Asad's account of his travels and journalism within the Middle East and his eventual conversion to Islam.

Image courtesy Fons Vitae

In a world with ISIS and terror and xenophobia, it's more important than ever for all of us—elected officials, private citizens, government clerks who can change lives just by pushing paper—to remain curious and compassionate about the world around us. Books help us do just that. If your only exposure to a culture (or a religion, etc.) is its extremes, it's difficult to remember that there are nuances. Memoirs like The Road to Mecca highlight this nuance and paint a more detailed picture of mainstream Islam than what most Americans otherwise have access to.

Also, the writing is gorgeous.

The good news is that it's available for free (as in freedom and as in beer) online at, along with other works by Asad (including his English translation of the Koran).

Asad is not without criticism, from within and without the Muslim community. You can read a little about that from Martin Kramer. But you don't develop a nuanced and intuitive understanding of a culture without reading a variety of opinions and experiences; and again, the writing is gorgeous.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Susan Pevensie

Long-time readers will know that I have VERY IMPORTANT OPINIONS about Susan Pevensie and her fate in the Narnia books. Maybe you also have VERY IMPORTANT OPINIONS about Susan Pevensie! If so, this Twitter thread will bring a scrap of joy to your heart, hardened by the dumpster fire that was 2016.

I mean, it doesn't excuse the fact that if Narnia's going to be an allegory for Christianity, Susan having doubts amounts to holding a VERY BIG IDIOT BALL—I think even the most fervent believers would admit that God and spiritual experiences aren't nearly as immediate and concrete as the physical world. Susan losing her faith is one thing; Susan drastically rewriting her own past is something else entirely. So it's a little clunky, still. But at least it's less spiteful? I hope? Big ups either way for the man to encourage his readers to write their own stories, and also tears to my eyes for all of the children who were so upset about Susan that they wrote their favorite author about it. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Newly Relisted: Faux Turquoise Gravity Necklace

This time last year I was in the middle of schoolwork and paperwork. This time, things are much more chill (in my life at least—things in the world at large are probably going to get a lot less chill very soon). So happy anniversary you, faux turquoise (dyed howlite) G necklace I put together to decompress! It's a shame no one's adopted you yet. Maybe I need to reshoot some of your photos?

Turquoise physics science necklace sciart teacher jewelry gift
Newtonian Constant of Gravitation Necklace by Kokoba

Otherwise, allow me to reiterate the point I made (one year ago today, actually!) why I have a hard time incorporating G into things, particularly necklaces.
The disadvantage to this particular number is that it's short: it's a physical constant, not an irrational, so it can't go on forever, and even compared to other physical constants I have less to work with it's rather brief: 
Newtonian constant of gravitation: 6.67408: 31 or 32 beads for the digits (depending on the design), and 5 for spacers (if I decide to use them) 

Speed of light: 2.99792548: 55 beads for the digits, and 8 for the spacers (depending on the design) 
Avogadro's number: 6.022140857: 35 or 36 beads (depending on the design) and 9 for spacers (also depending on the design)

so gravity is one of those that ends up being too long for a bracelet, but too short for a necklace. It's good anklet length but who wears those anymore?

Of course, the other option (which I've done on occasion) is to bead a focal piece and then add a chain on either side to make it a comfortable length. A fairly elegant hack, as this allows you to put the entire number on display instead of hiding the first and last few digits on the back of your neck. On the other hand, necklaces tend to slide a lot and so you'll probably end up having to adjust it a couple times a day, or just be cool with the focal point getting pulled halfway up your neck.
Otherwise I tend to stick with bracelets for G, like these:

STEM sciart physics teacher science jewelry gravity bracelet
Newtonian constant of gravitation bracelet by Kokoba

Or this one:

STEM sciart physics teacher science jewelry gravity bracelet
Newtonian constant of gravitation bracelet by Kokoba
If you found me by way of STARtorliast or their booth at AAS 229, don't forget that your discount code is valid all the way until March 31st!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trek Thursday: Netflix!

All of the Star Trek you could ever want (and more) is finally available on NetFlix! (Also, JV and I got with the times and got NetFlix.) And which version are we currently watching?

The Animated Series, natch. The one that everyone either trash talks or pretends doesn't exist, and the only incarnation to be less popular than Enterprise. (I mean, that poll is hardly scientific, but I don't think it's controversial to say that everyone dumps on Enterprise.)

Maybe I'll do an episode ranking, or maybe I'll just episode reviews as we watch them. Who knows? But oh man, I love that janky-ass 70s animation!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What I Played: Analogue: A Hate Story

My first foray into visual novels (if the game can be counted as such) was last year, with Long Live the Queen. A year and change later, I just finished (mostly) my second: Analogue: A Hate Story.

Image courtesy Raide and Love Conquers All Games
The idea is that you are some kind of data hunter, tasked with fishing out some data from a long-abandoned  space colonizing vessel, the Mugunghwa (pronounced moo-goong-hwa; in English it's Rose of Sharon, the national flower of Korea [both Koreas; this is a symbol that dates back to the Shilla dynasty]).

Mugungwha at a grave site in Uijeongbu, South Korea
During the job you interact with two different AIs, who share different logs from the long-dead residents of the Mugunghwa. Those logs comprise the story of Analogue. There are also dating sim overtones, as your dialogue choices with the AIs determine if you leave the job with none, one, or both of them downloaded to your own computer. More importantly, your choices dictate which logs they decide to show you.

The science fiction background story is essentially "Joseon Korea in space," which is an interesting conceit that could have been better explored but wasn't.

I appreciated the wrinkle of having to do things in the terminal to move the story along, even solving the game's one and only puzzle. (It's a tricky puzzle; I had to find a guide to get the answer.)

Analogue is a lot more forgiving than Long Live the Queen. You can't really die—I guess maybe only if you don't solve the puzzle you can, but that's it. Your choices aren't so critical, either. This isn't to say that none of them matter. If you're too rude to Hyun-ae (the main AI), or too disinterested in her, she'll disconnect and you'll lose the game. If you neglect to talk to the AIs (by showing them certain logs), you won't unlock all of the content, and you certainly won't be able to finish the game. But Analogue has fewer choices than Long Live the Queen, and generally speaking they're a lot more forgiving.

As the story is presented achronologically, it's hard to tell what's happening at first. This is a point in the game's favor, as it makes repeated play-throughs more rewarding. I don't think I really understood things until I unlocked my third or fourth ending (out of seven total).

It's important to save! If only because it can be tedious to play through the entire story again if you just want to switch AIs or change options at a particular branch. There comes a point in the story, maybe like halfway or two-thirds in, where you're railroaded into finishing the game with whatever AI you're engaging with at the moment; if you want to get the other AI's ending(s) and you haven't saved in good time, you'll have to start from the beginning.

Overall it's cute. I don't think it's quite as holy shit!! as some of the breathless reviews on the website make it out to be, but I think it's a mildly interesting story presented in a really clever and creative way. I would have loved to see more backstory and less dating sim, but I admit I am way more interested in coherent and logical word building than the typical reader/gamer. On the other hand, I am a little bit of a Koreaboo (if you'll pardon the portmanteau) so a game that's "Joseon Korea in space!" is going to appeal to me no matter what. (For me, the best part were the Korean history resources Love lists in the end. Adding them to my endless TBR pile!)