Saturday, April 30, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: Media You Hold Dear But No One's Ever Heard Of

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly meme hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick. This week's question was originally 5 Fandoms You Hold Dear... but I changed it a little because I'm not much of a fandom person. Anyway, moving on!

1. The Abhorsen series

Image courtesy HarperCollins
Remember when Harry Potter kicked off a mania for fantasy adaptations? On the one hand, we got The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, but on the other hand, it's too bad they never made a movie adaptation of The Dark is Rising and the disaster (though hilarious RiffTrax) that was Eragon. It took ages, but we even got a mind-blowing miniseries adaptation for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. But no one ever has made a film or even TV version of Garth Nix's Abhorsen books. Whenever I bring up this one, it's like only super YA/fantasy nerds have heard of it. This breaks my heart, because it's miles ahead of Harry Potter in world-building, consistency, characters, and overall quality of writing, but it's JRowls who has all of the cash and acclaim and mindshare.

Life isn't fair, guys.

2. Jade Empire

Courtesy EA/Bioware
The day Bioware got bought out by EA was a dark day indeed for this original IP inspired by kung fu movies and Chinese mythology. Bioware built an entire world for this title and seemed keen to expand on it, but then Dragon Age and Mass Effect happened, not to mention some Star Wars games, and I suspect EA will be pumping them for sequels to those forever. I think I'm the only person who remembers Jade Empire these days. :( RIP best, most elegant fighting system in an RPG ever.

3. Sliders

Image courtesy St. Clare Entertainment/Universal Television

When people even remember this gem, they usually rag on it for being a poor man's version of Quantum Leap or Stargate SG-1, but those people are ignorant haters. The show definitely took some weird turns under Fox's overmuch control in the middle seasons, and Wade is the obnoxious token woman who just whines and moons after the hero, and Rembrandt might be a bit of an awful stereotype, but still.

4. The Dungeons and Dragons movie

Image courtesy Sweetpea Entertainment

I remember the trailers for this when it was first out, though I didn't see it until it was already on video. I don't remember what I thought of it back then, except that I knew it had gotten terrible reviews. But rewatching it as an adult, you know what? It's not that bad. I kind of wish it had become a full-on franchise, like every couple years we got another goofy swords and sorcery story set in a D&D campaign. Like the Dragonlance novels, only self-aware and funny. But I guess the golden age of 80s/early 90s swords and sorcery movies was over by the time Dungeons and Dragons came out.

5. Standard Action

Image courtesy Rob Hunt/Critical Success Productions
Speaking of goofy, self-aware swords and sorcery stories set in the D&D universe, how about Standard Action? Most web series are cringe-inducing, and even this one has its rough spots, but I laughed more than I groaned. Start with the first season and you'll have a few hours of binge-watching ahead of you.

Bonus self-aware D&D fantasy indie movies: The Gamers

Image courtesy Dead Gentlemen Productions

Bless Dead Gentlemen Studios, they seem to have built a pretty credible success out of their indie college production, The Gamers. I still haven't seen Humans & Households, Hands of Fate, Curse of the Blind Swordsman, or Natural One, but The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising are fantastic.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I'm Playing: Cookie Clicker

I don't think I mentioned Cookie Clicker the first time I got hooked on it, and really I don't think it's a game even worth commenting on because it's so ubiquitous and mindless, but here I am without a post since last Monday, so fuck it I'll let you all know that I am hooked on Cookie Clicker.

I guess this is my life now.
If you've been on the Internet, you probably have run across Cookie Clicker. If you've missed it, the idea just is: make as many cookies as you can as quickly as you can. You start the game by clicking the big cookie, but soon you graduate from that to buying things to produce cookies for you.

Cookies are both the currency and the end game.

It's so simple! You don't even need to touch the game, ever, really. You could just let it run with a handful of cursors and grandmas, but in true MMO style you quickly get hooked on how to optimize your cookie production. There's an interesting take on it on this article over on Polygon.

This addiction comes at the best or worst time, as I've been hit with the double whammy of Russian finals and tax season. So, like a responsible adult, I've suddenly become OBSESSED (again) with how to optimize my cookie generation. Focus? Not entirely out the window, but edging pretty close. Fortunately, with the prestige updates in this latest version, there is an upgrade that, long story short, incentivizes  putting the game in the background and doing other things with your life: everybody wins!

Do you play any other mindless accumulation games? AdVenture Capitalist, maybe? Or Clicker Heroes?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Newly Listed: Turquoise and Pink Newtonian Constant of Gravitation Bracelet

I made this new bright, chirpy piece of gravity sciart a few weeks ago and then nearly forgot to photograph it! That would have been a shame, don't you think?

This pastel physics sciart gravity bracelet is perfect for summer!
Newtonian Constant of Gravitation Bracelet by Kokoba
But I'm way more organized than I look or feel, apparently, so not even this sneaky little rascal could slip past my camera lens!

This pastel physics sciart gravity bracelet is perfect for summer!

The digits of the Newtonian constant of gravitation are spelled out in the rich blue beads. I'm not sure what color to call them. They're a little more blue than I usually call turquoise, but I can't think of anything better. Indigo, maybe? Seafoam? The lone pink bead you see there is a placeholder for 0. (It makes a nice accent piece too, don't you think?)

(And speaking of physics, this physics infographic with PENGUINS!! has been my favorite #sciart offering this week. Go on, have a look!)

One of the greatest and worst things about being your own jewelry boss is that you can get carried away with color palettes that you love to death. Great because it's fun to work with colors you love! Worse because it's easy to become really repetitive, or only have things that are to your taste in your shop.

Now, I don't believe in following trends or the Pantone color of the year or what have you. I think, if you're an indie artisan, you should make things that you would actually wear (or at least not be embarrassed to wear). But I also believe that it's important to experiment with new styles and color palettes and try to reach out to the customers you have who are almost like you, but not quite. 

It's been a really fun run with these colors I've been using lately—bright pink, indigo-turquoise, fire engine read—and I'm sure I'll come back to them, but my inner store critic is telling me it's time to move on. I'm not entirely sure what I to focus on next. Fiery reds, yellows, and oranges? More maille? (Yes, always more maille.) Understated neutrals? Rich jewel tones? 

Tell me, what colors do you find yourself drawn to these days? Has it been consistent over time, or does it change with moods/life stages/the weather?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: Things You LOVE But Didn't Think You Would

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly meme hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick. This week's theme is: fandoms you love but didn't think you would. But I don't do fandom so instead I'm just going with media in general.

Hot Fuzz

It took me a long time to see Hot Fuzz, and I was convinced that it was going to be overhyped. I had heard too many people rave about it, and when too many people rave about something, it ends up being Harry Potter or The Hunger Games or Frozen and...yeah.

Now, I'd already seen Shaun of the Dead and really liked it. I wasn't expecting to like Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead but I did! The movie was a pleasant surprise and definitely has rewatchability.


People complain about Ulysses being a really difficult book and I get where they're coming from but it's also...gorgeous? Granted I'm reading it off and on (since I'm reading JV's copy), so I haven't finished it yet, but that's not because I'm not enjoying it. When I was in middle school someone once told me that this was the worst book ever written in the English language. For the record, Jay, wherever you are: there are definitely worse books than Ulysses!


As I've mentioned before, for a long, long time I was convinced that the Fallout games were hardcore shooters. I don't know why or how I labored under that misconception for so long, but I'm glad I finally rectified it. (No, I still haven't gotten around to Fallout 4 yet. #PatientGamer)

Steven Universe

This was another one that was getting way too much hype, but I took the trusted advice of a close friend and gave it a shot, and....amazing.

The Turkish Delight novels

Courtesy Serpent's Tail Publishing/Penguin Books

I randomly found one of these novels on GoodReads somehow, and immediately alerted my book friend in Turkey that she had to read it because Turkish! transvestites! detectives! She couldn't find a copy in Turkish, but managed to secure on in English and then passed it on to me, and it was actually really fun! It's not great literature but it's a goofy beach read. Also, they've been translated into Swedish, which is good news for my language practice. There aren't that many books in the series (yet?) but the Swedish library has most of them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What I'm Playing: Charity Miles

It seems disingenuous to say that I'm "playing" Charity Miles because even though it's an app, it's not really a game. But I like to keep my themes consistent so "playing" it is!

Charity Miles is an app that tracks your walking, running, or biking workout via GPS and uses your mileage to donate to charity. In the abstract. In practice, the donations are physically given out once a year, based on everyone's total mileage. So if you walk, run, or bike X miles in a term, an amount based on X will be given to a charity at the end of the term. You earn up to $0.25 US / mile by walking or running, and up to $0.10 US / mile by biking. "Up to" because some kind of bookkeeping voodoo means that if CharityMiles' userbase outperforms a set limit, they might have to tweak their donations. You choose the charity you want to raise money for before each work out. There are a lot to choose from; right now I'm focusing on a water charity.

(Unfortunately, one of the charities supported is Autism Speaks. Another cool thing you can do this April is to comment on Charity Miles' Facebook wall and ask them to reconsider their partnership with that particular charity.)

Now that it's warming up and (more importantly) getting light here again, JV and I are much more amenable to going out and walking. Right around fall I discovered that I'd rather walk than do anything else, in terms of physical activity—right in time for it to get dark and cold. But hopefully my love of walking and my desire to help others (coupled with my inability to help as much as I'd like) will result in me getting out of the apartment and on my feet a little more often.

It definitely seems to good to be true, but so far I have yet to come across any concerns about things like data mining or privacy invasions. That's always my secret fear with apps like these: that the company is benefiting from me in ways that I'm not aware of or that I'd never agree to if they told me up front. But while you can find no end of articles decrying Facebook's privacy issues and data mining practices, Charity Miles seems in the clear.

I've been enjoying walking and biking to Mordor, but the reality check of: "It is so easy for you to just go outside and move, that's all it takes to be able to help someone, you might as well just do it" has been the kick in the pants I need. I mean, if I never make it to Mordor, so what? The only person who misses out is me. But to help build a well to increase clean water access? Sure, I can walk around the block to help make that happen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Word of the Year: Focus

Image courtesy Ryan McGuire

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions, and this year was no different. But I was attracted to this concept of the "word of the year," as I wrote elsewhere, and chose the word focus:
A few people I follow and vaguely know online have talked about this concept of a "word of the year" instead of resolutions. Even though it kind of violates all of the standard rules about what a good goal is (clear, achievable, incremental, etc.) the concept seems to work well enough, so I thought I would give it a shot. 
Reflecting on the past year, I think the one thing that has hurt me the most is focus—rather, lack thereof. I am interested in approximately a thousand things, and I want to be approximately a thousand things, but I can't sit down and focus on any of those for long enough to get anywhere so I just end up pissing away my time on Facebook while I "try to remember" what it was I wanted to do.
Now that it's well into April, how are things going?

One clear improvement is in how many tabs I keep open in Chromium. This is a totally trivial thing but it's hard to focus on one project (finishing a blog post, writing an Etsy listing) when you have a thousand other tabs open. I had a habit of keeping tabs open for things I wanted to read later, or to discuss on the blog, and so my browser window was just a mess.

No more! I made a bookmark folder for "stuff to share later" and now I make liberal use of it. As a result, I can focus on online tasks easier, and get them done quicker (no more hunting through tabs: "Which one was it again...?") Bookmarks feel like 90s web 1.0 stuff, but it works, so whatever.

I'm also more on my own case about one thing at a time. When I'm stressed, I forget this, and start to cycle through tasks, but invariably if I catch myself doing that and slow down to just one, I feel better. More accomplished. The question is if, though. I've had some days where I got sucked into that black hole and went to bed feeling antsy and unfulfilled.

I'm also better at recognizing when I'm just futzing around and, as a result, finding something better to do, or finding something relaxing to do off the computer, which is invariably more relaxing than mindlessly refreshing Facebook. (This is slightly different than manically cycling through 400 different projects.)

Likewise with my open windows. I can leave a thousand windows open in a workspace and that's similarly distracting. But there's no excuse for that, especially in Linux—I think every available desktop environment for Linux has a multiple workspaces option, yet I hardly utilize it. It's like having a dual/multiple monitor setup with just one monitor.

Now I've been better about either closing windows I don't need, or organizing my workspaces by theme: jewelry stuff in this workspace, writing projects in another, and so on. Keeping a neat and tidy taskbar really makes you feel more organized.

One thing that really helped me a lot was a Coursera course: Learning How to Learn. It's the best MOOC I've taken so far, probably because it's on ideas that are instantly applicable to real life. Like: why do we procrastinate? how can we study more efficiently? I don't like the route that Coursera is taking—pushing their "specializations" that cost money over the stand-alone free courses—but there are still some gems to be had. Learning How to Learn is one of them. It's informative but low-key and low-stress. Most importantly, I learned to recognize when I'm procrastinating and to ask myself what painful experience I'm avoiding (sending an email, checking my bank account, finishing an assignment for Russian).

But focus is also applicable to the larger, long-term plans I have as well. I've begun to collect different blogs/businesses/outlets that I could partner with and started to reach out to them. I've decided on a career path to pursue beyond my jewelry and to take steps towards professionalism.

I didn't realize it, but leaving things so hazy and undecided was really fucking with my chi. I can deal with outside-imposed limbos and purgatories: waiting for paperwork to clear, waiting for acceptance/rejection letters. It sucks but knowing that it's out of my control is something of a relief, if that makes sense? But when it's all self-imposed, that's another thing entirely.

So, overall, my word of the year is going really well and helping me get my shit together.

Do you have a word of the year? Do you think you need one?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Newly Listed: Turquoise and Pink Pi Bracelet

Finally, spring is here! Put away your neutral, muted colors and break out some color! Turquoise and pink is a combination I've been loving for a while now, so I featured it in my latest pi bracelet:

This bright turquoise pink pi sciart bracelet is the perfect jewelry gift for math nerds.
Turquoise and Pink Pi Bracelet by Kokoba
I haven't done any memory wire bracelets in a while, so it was quite fun to string this little guy together. The colors strike me as being very mermaid-ish...or maybe that's just because a mermaid-obssessed acquaintance of mine has just gotten married in Hawaii and it's been beaches and mermaids all up in my news feed for the last couple weeks!

This bright turquoise pink pi sciart bracelet is the perfect jewelry gift for math nerds.

The Czech glass beads in this and other recent bracelets have been a new-to-me discovery in the last few months. The color is a wax coating, but it stands up to abuse quite well. I'm looking to get some larger ones soon so I can start putting out more necklaces again. If you look at the shop, I have a tendency to favor bracelets. They're quick and short, but there are also lots of reasons people avoid wearing bracelets—so the selection for them is a bit skimpier, and that's not fair. 

I think I also need to curb my habit of using pi as my default number in a project. I love pi, and pi day, and tau day, but it gets a disproportionate amount of the nerdy accessory love, and that's not fair either.

The SciArt Tweetstorm has been over long enough that someone's been able to do what scientists do best: crunch and analyze the numbers! Also, you may have also noticed some errant porn bots thrown in the mix this year. It's actually kind of a funny story, and it all has to do with M. melolontha.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Mario Sarto
Or you can get lost in the winners of the 2016 Vizzies—awards for science and data visualizations run by Popular Science.

Happy Monday!