Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trek Thursday: By Any Other Name

#14: By Any Other Name

In case you forgot: Aliens from Andromeda have hijacked the Enterprise to help them conquer and colonize (in that order) the Milky Way. The Power Trio and Scotty defeat them with the power of being human.

The episode gets off to a strong start and keeps it up. The Power Trio comes up with a whole host of plans that meet with varying levels of success: getting a hold of the Kelvans' weapon, getting Spock on the ship, the suicide trigger, and finally convincing the Kelvans that they're better off in their alien bodies. While Kirk seems to be the most essential part of the puzzle on that last one—by seducing Kelinda and making Rojan jealous—everyone else on the ship who isn't a styrofoam polygon helps, too. McCoy gets one of the Kelvans hopped up on stimulants while Scotty drinks another under the table. Arguably those scenes are comic relief and filler, but they do serve a purpose. After all, the more experience the Kelvans have being human (as opposed to the galactic octopi they apparently "really" are), the easier it will be for them to accept Rojan's new mission: peaceful colonization with the help of the Federation.

But instead of giving the rest of the crew their due, it's another episode where Kirk saves the day with the power of his mighty mojo. I like that the humans and the Kelvans come to a diplomatic and peaceful understanding, without the use of any weapons, but it would have been immensely satisfying for drunk Scotty to hand over the alien weapon to Kirk to use against the Kelvans. Or, in a nice continuity nod, some of the humans get crazy psychic powers (remember how they crossed the edge of the galaxy in "Where No Man Has Gone Before"? And Kirk even references it in the episode!) and use those to immobilize the Kelvans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Playing: Hatoful Boyfriend

I did it. I broke down and started playing Hatoful Boyfriend. I had added it to my Steam wishlist a while ago, and then JV surprised me while I was on my trip and bought me a whole bunch of those games for my birthday, including this surreal pigeon-oriented dating sim.

I'm late to the game on this one, but for anyone who hasn't played it yet, a summary: you are a human in the unnamed but not-too-distant future. There aren't many humans now. A deadly strain of avian flu devastated the entire world, but it made birds super smart in a relatively short period of time. Now almost all of the remaining culture and civilization on Earth is bird-based, with humans relegated to a second-class status and a strained relationship between the two prevailing.

You are a sophomore, and the only human, at the prestigious St. Pigeonation Academy for obscure political reasons. Everyone else is a bird. There are the typical shounen portraits for almost all of your suitors, but they are actually birds. You can even turn off the portraits if you want, for extra surreal effect.

Nor is the only joke in the game just, "Hah, hah! Everyone's a bird!" Pudding, mad science, snark, and puns abound.

This is my first and probably only foray into the world of anime dating sims. While Hatoful Boyfriend is consistently hilarious with its bizarre interspecies romance, the normal sort of dating sim isn't really my thing.

I haven't played through to all of the endings yet, but I've done almost all of them, and I've romanced every bird (just some have multiple endings). I think my favorite suitor is Okosan (pictured above, demanding to fight in the nude).

Have you played Hatoful Boyfriend? Do you have any other humor/parody games to recommend?

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Design: Woven Hemp

Go on, who among you didn't hit a hemp and/or friendship bracelet phase in your youth? I know you did. I did, too.

After I bought some hemp for my knotted twine and (faux) pearls idea, I had a lot left over. Like, a lot. And I could have done more, but I wanted to branch out. My big issue with that design is that twine and hemp are too heavy to string through actual pearls, in addition to most conventionally-drilled beads, so if I wanted to go for that look I would have to use something imitation. (The ones pictured in that image are plastic.)

Rather than use imitation pearls, I decided to see what else I could do with these supplies. I've made a few wrap bracelets, like this blue and black pi piece, but that was about it. Then I remembered all the bracelets I would weave over a couple of summers at the beach. A bit of Googling over how to make a square knot, and I was back in business, though I was surprised at much I remembered!

A black and gold woven hemp pi bracelet. Math jewelry is a unique gift for graduation, birthdays, or teachers!
Pi. My square knots need a little practicing, though.

A black and hot pink DNA double helix spiral bracelet. Science jewelry makes a unique birthday or graduation gift for biology teachers or geneticists!
Yet another DNA bracelet. I'm just seeing double helix spirals everywhere!

I don't know if this is a style I want to continue to offer. I like the wood and hemp look but I wonder if it's too much of a departure from my usual style?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Science Saturday: The Power of Writing

Of course, this is a very particular kind of writing, but it goes to show how being able to express yourself with words, even at a basic level, can help focus your thinking and build focus towards personal goals.

NPR: The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives

A summary, for the link phobic:

Jordan Peterson teaches in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto. For decades, he has been fascinated by the effects of writing on organizing thoughts and emotions.


"The act of writing is more powerful than people think," Peterson says.

Most people grapple at some time or another with free-floating anxiety that saps energy and increases stress. Through written reflection, you may realize that a certain unpleasant feeling ties back to, say, a difficult interaction with your mother. That type of insight, research has shown, can help locate, ground and ultimately resolve the emotion and the associated stress.

At the same time, "goal-setting theory" holds that writing down concrete, specific goals and strategies can help people overcome obstacles and achieve.

Peterson's class based around this subject has had significant benefits. These same concepts have been applied in universities in the Netherlands, leading to a near-complete closing of the performance gap between foreign students at risk for "stereotype threat" and native and/or Western students.

I'm not at all surprised by these findings, though I do think there probably needs to be more research done? But speaking from personal experience, I've found that journaling about fears, goals, and anxieties helps me see them for what they are and develop strategies for accomplishing/conquering them. Not to mention I am an incorrigible list-maker, especially when I feel stressed and overwhelmed. There must be all kinds of stuff that lights up in your brain while you write—arguably even more when you write by hand, though of course not everyone enjoys writing by hand as much as I do—that help you calm down and think of creative solutions.

Dr. Peterson has done a lot of interesting work, but these above ideas of "self-authoring" are explored in material he has for sale (I guess you gotta make a buck where you can).

Do you do much self-reflective writing? Do you think it's helped you succeed?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Empath

#15: The Empath

In case you forgot: The Power Trio are trapped in some weird lab with aliens and a woman who can't talk.

This episode gets a lot of flak, but I really like it. I'm not afraid to admit it! The twist that the aliens are running an experiment to see if the mute woman's race is worth saving is some nice piece of philosophical sci-fi. The way that episode builds to that reveal is nice—for a while it seems like the aliens just might be sadists without any kind of purpose—as is Kirk's speech to them at the end. Hero points also go to McCoy for refusing to let the empath heal him, preferring to die himself than to put her in danger. He takes that Hippocratic oath pretty seriously.

A race of beings who communicate through pure feelings and sensations without the use of any intermediaries like language is also a cool idea (that doesn't get explored at all, but still). What would they do for fun? Would they have anything resembling art or music? Would their entertainment be something like "emotional concerts" put on by beings of unusually strong feelings?

That said, I can see why this episode's not a beloved fan favorite. "Gem"? Really? Aside from the rather lackluster set, the aliens are also kind of needless jerks at the end. Gem's obviously passed the test as they initially set it to be: she was willing to sacrifice herself to save someone else, and it was pretty much McCoy's doing that prevented her from sealing the deal, yet they still insist that she failed? But it gives Kirk a chance to make a nice speech, so, not too bad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

DNA Maille Bracelet 3.0

Earlier this year, I started looking at maille projects and thinking about how I could use them for my own nerdy purposes. I love beading and all, and I always will, but I think it's important to branch out and try new techniques and styles. It's the mark of a dedicated artist and it's also just good for business. After all, not everyone is into beads!

I decided on maille because I had a huge surplus of jump rings (not so much anymore...) and because it's a totally different look from beads. Plus, one of my partners in craft is huge into maille so I had a personal resource I could tap any time I had questions or problems.

One of the first weaves I came across was the 4-in-1 spiral, which I loved because it looks exactly like a piece of DNA. But the spiral shape of that weave is difficult (impossible?) to maintain unless you lock it somehow—that is, unless you make it one loop—so I looked into other spiral weaves, and came up with DNA bracelet 1.0 and DNA bracelet 2.0 using "This Is Not Food."

DNA bracelet 1.0 (left) and 2.0 (right)

I was happy with them, especially 2.0, but the 4-in-1 spiral still had a hold on me. I was busy with other things, though, so I had to put solving that particular problem aside.

Now I'm not as busy, though. A couple nights ago I decided to sit down and see if I couldn't try out a simple solution: make a large spiral loop that would lock the shape into place, then add a clasp at either end (effectively making a double-stranded bracelet).

DNA biology genetics bracelet jewelry gift
DNA bracelet 3.0

I think it turned out fantastically! Though I still have a few jump rings to tighten up, of course.

DNA biology genetics bracelet jewelry gift

Here it is in action. Even from a distance you can see that the spiral is maintaining its shape.

The whole thing took around two hours, from opening all of the rings (I used 170!) to adding the clasp. My goal is to trim that time down to an hour and a half. It should be achievable; I spent a long time figuring out the best way to close the loop. I did it incorrectly the first couple of times, meaning that half of the bracelet spiraled while the other half kept twisting into Jens Pind Linkage, which I think is kind of ugly.

What do you think? Which one do you like better: bracelet 1, bracelet 2, or bracelet 3?

Monday, July 13, 2015

101 in 1001: Round 3

My second 101 in 1001 list sort of petered out towards the end. I was updating it for a month or two after it was over—that's how well I was keeping track of time!

For those of you new to the concept, 101 in 1001 is simply a list of 101 things to accomplish in the next 1001 days. Them palindromes. I've done two of these lists so far and I think it's a good way to give myself direction and goals in life. I don't know about you, but I'm really bad at setting goals for myself—syllabi and reading lists are some of the biggest things I miss about being a student. Sitting down and writing goals for myself is a really useful organizing experience.

You'll notice that the list (after the jump) is only halfway complete. My first list taught me that it's better to keep your options open rather than rush to fill up the list with 101 goals right away. You're going to be working on this project for something like three years—there will be things that no longer work for you by the end of that time frame. There will be others that weren't important when you wrote the list but will become important over time.

I've already finished one goal, which is promising! In the time between the end of my last list and the beginning of this one, I finished cycling to Rauros Falls! I ended up deciding to go to Mordor first, and I'm about 70 kilometers in (out of 700+).