Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Find: Leslie Tunic Top by SWAK

Okay, so normally I reserve my "Friday Finds" for Etsy or Zibbet shops, but I am so freaking over the moon that I'm making a rare exception.

"Leslie" Tunic Top by SWAK Designs
I could make a whole long song and dance post about being fat and fashion but instead I will only say:

Why doesn't anyone know how to make a good goddamn tunic top?

I can't count how many adorable tunic tops I've seen that inexplicably do not allow enough material above the gathered/sewn bit (you know, the part that should go right around your band) for the boobs they're supposed to be holding. This isn't a case of going a size or two up, either; you do that and now the gathered bit sits where it should, but the V-neck is halfway down to your navel. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that kind of look, but it's definitely not the shirt's intended use (judging by the models). It's like they're all designed for women with incredibly high-set, possibly gravity-defying bosoms. Either that or they're designed so that the horizontal bit goes RIGHT ACROSS your boobs? Which, if that's the case, is terrible design.

Enter: the "Leslie" tunic top from SWAK designs.

Let me back up: SWAK designs is a plus-sized (and only plus-sized, sorry) clothing vendor based in LA, with products made in the US in sizes (generous sizes at that) up to 6X. I've ordered clothes from them before, and been pleased, but this is my first post on them. 

I'm not getting any kind of swag for this, either; I have just found shirt nirvana.

Because that's what this is: proof positive that a good tunic top IS possible because the Leslie top is perfect. A generous neckline that doesn't venture into "would you like to see my new bra?" territory but still feels modern and flirty and a gathering that actually sits under your boobs. And! AND! The gathering is elastic so it can, if necessary, stretch over a large rack! Not a problem for me (I am not particularly out of proportion in that department) but I know there are women with bigger boob woes than me.

It is a bit pricey when not on sale ($49.90), but SWAK has loads of sales and discount codes so if you're smart about your shopping it won't break the bank.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music Monday: Picking on 13-Year-Old Kids For Science is Tacky

How Our Story on a Child's Science Experiment Sparked Controversy (NPR)

The story about Laura Arrington's school fair project about lionfish (an invasive species in Florida) has been making the rounds because we all love a story that can be translated into an attention-grabbing headline, and young people doing science is (fortunately!) an attention-grabber. Like these stories:

Middle schooler suggests using Garamond to save ink, money.

High schooler develops early detection test for pancreatic cancer.

Laura Arrington's study on lionfish and their salinity tolerance has sparked something of a controversy because a former colleague of one of her father's colleagues has also done research on the invasive lionfish and is bummed that it's not his name all over the headlines. Because doing science is all about getting the credit and becoming famous.

The point of a middle school science fair isn't to publish original results:* it's to teach kids the methodology of science in a self-directed, hands-on manner. I'm surprised that none of the top comments on the NPR story are making this point; rather, they're all trying to (de)legitimize Arrington's middle school science project. Um, hello? Did we all miss the part where it's a grown-ass adult coming after a freaking middle schooler? Who neither asked for nor expected this kind of media blow-up around her science fair project? Arrington even cites Jud in her sources, so it's not like she's getting away with plagiarism. Jud's complaint basically breaks down to "I wanna be interviewed by NPR, too."

It's not surprising, though, considering the climate surrounding professional science. The "publish or perish" mindset has created an obsession with publishing as much as possible (leading to the phenomenon of "least publishable units," or generating multiple papers from one study) as well as rabid defense of ownership of ideas (thanks, capitalism!). That has blinded people to the point of science: to learn about our world and to make it better. For every Elon Musk or Jonas Salk, you have a megacorporation like Monsanto that doesn't care about contributing to humanity's knowledge base or betterment. In an environment of cooperation, not competition, would Jud be so protective of his work and so intent on getting credit—even the unofficial credit of news story headline? 

*That said, there is the Journal for Emerging Investigators, with all the peer review and rigor of any respectable science journal, but targeted at "any middle school or high school student" working with  "a middle school teacher, high school teacher, or college/university professor" as senior author. It's run by graduate students at Harvard's School of Arts and Sciences. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trek Thursday: A Piece of the Action

#69: A Piece of the Action

In case you forgot: The Enterprise is sent to do some Prime Directive damage control on a planet  where Chicagoland mob rule is the word of the day.

I feel bad hating this episode so much, because at its heart it really is just naively goofy and the costumes are a welcome change of pace. But try as I might, I just can't ignore poorly implemented parallel Earths in stories. Which is a shame, because the idea of an "action"-crazy ultra capitalist alien society could have been a great story. But making it literally Prohibition era Chicago gangsters? Nope.

Still, Fizzbit.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday: We Are Here

I lived in Korea for two years and change (in case you didn't know, now you do) and still follow a few Korea-related blogs. This is another song I picked up from Indieful ROK. I'm digging both the music and the music video.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trek Thursday: Miri

#70: Miri

In case you forgot: The Enterprise responds to a radio distress call from an identical Earth!! A powerful disease born out of medical attempts at ultra-longevity has wiped out all of the adults and infected the children, who contract it and die upon puberty. The landing party has to find a cure in a week, or they'll die too.

The good news is that Gene Roddenberry thought this episode was crap, too. Adrian Spies never wrote for TOS again—not just because the story was weak, but apparently because he didn't really have a solid grasp of the teleplay format either.

But there is just so much still wrong in this episode: Kirk putting the moves on a confirmed underage girl (even though the actress playing her was obviously significantly older, still....eugh), the Power Trio and company being outwitted by a bunch of prepubescents, the terrible writing for the kids ("BONK! BONK!").

The kids are the worst. It's not their acting, either, even if child acting is legendary. They are just written so poorly. The episode lets us know that these "kid" are hundreds of years old, at the youngest. And yet being alive for hundreds (in some cases thousands) of years and watching friends and family succumb to the virus has not given them the kind of otherworldly "wise beyond their apparent years" aura one would expect. They are basically stuck in an awful arrested development scenario, a permanent prepubescence that has no bearing on the awful things they've endured.

The special ick in this episode is, of course, Kirk putting the moves on Miri. Not at all comfortable to watch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Word Crimes Wednesday

Usually I like to reserve Wednesday posts for books that I'm reading, or have read, but I am in a slump right now so the only thing I've been reading about the past three days are prototypes of new cores to be used in electricity transformers. This particular paper has been a rough slog (not that I want to whine about it!), so Weird Al released this new music video at the perfect time for me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthstones: Ruby (July)

The glowing ruby shall adorn,
Those who in July are born;
Then they'll be exempt and free
From love's doubts and anxiety. 

 Congratulations, July babies, your birthstone is the rarest in all the land!

Ruby is a variety of corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide (illustrated above). It is one of the hardest things on Earth (9 on the Mohs scale), outdone only by diamonds and moissanite. This makes it incredibly useful industrially, in addition to the romance and respect afforded to it in the jewelry world. I mean, let's be real: who doesn't love rubies?

Corundum occurs in a variety of colors in nature, depending on mineral impurities. Ruby is the red variety (from the Latin ruber, meaning "red"), the pink-orange type is padparadscha, and anything else is known as "sapphire." Yes, this includes the sapphire, a stone we'll come to later. In my experience with gemstone names, blue is the default color for sapphire and anything else gets specified in the name ("green sapphire").

Corundum of any kind is relatively rare, as it by definition lacks silicate, one of the most common mineral varieties found in the Earth's crust. While we have some idea of how ruby formation works (magma, granite, marble, and metasomatism are involved), there's not yet a solid hypothesis regarding why marble is so ubiquitous but corundum (usually found within marble when it's found at all) is so rare.

(When I was little, I thought for a long time that "sapphire" referred to a red or yellow color, since it had "fire" right in the name. Considering that there are pink and yellow sapphires, I wasn't too far off....but maybe for the wrong reasons.)

The red in ruby comes from chromium replacing some of the aluminum, resulting in a red color.

But wait! Isn't chromium responsible for green coloring in other stones? How does that work?


No, actually: it's complicated. To say that only the replacement of one metal with another results in a color change is disingenuous. Forgive me. That metal has a relationship with the other elements in the crystal, and they both have a relationship with light.

Remember: a gemstone or a crystal doesn't inherently have any particular color. It's all about the reflection and refraction and energy absorbed/not absorbed by a stone in particular, as you might recall from the color shift in alexandrite. Chromium bonds with the silicates in beryl (aquamarine, emerald) differently than it bonds with oxides (corundum), so the light bounces differently and the colors the human eye see as a result are different. You can find a more in-depth explanation at professor Bassam Z. Shakhasiri's chemical of the week feature.

However, corundum isn't the only stone to be called a ruby when it's red-colored.

As I've written about earlier, many of the historical rubies would not be considered rubies today, but rather red spinels. Spinel is not corundum. On a chemical level, spinel looks like this:

MgAl204 (links to a 3D model you can manipulate)

while corundum looks like this:


Ruby, as in red corundum, has a number of industrial uses. It is sometimes used as an abrasive on metal alloys, in watches and clockwork, and in lasers. When it comes to abrasive, natural industrial-grade leftovers from the mining of gem-quality stones are used. As for time pieces and lasers, synthetic ruby is the stone of choice.

Ruby has a long and storied history in the realm of magic and occult. In Vedic astrology, ruby is associated with the Sun and thought to support one's overall health, vitality, career, wealth, and popularity. More than that, it was thought to render its wearer invulnerable and enable them to live in peace among their enemies, and to bring good fortune in all matters related to the heart. It was also thought to glow with its own inner fire, and to darken in the presence of danger. Small wonder, then, that the Sanskrit name for ruby (ratnaraj) means "king of precious stones." God created rubies first, so the story goes, and then created man to admire it.

Similar beliefs appeared in the West. The Greeks and Romans associated the stone with love, beauty, and affairs of the heart as well as with wealth and riches. By the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ruby, with all of its associations with love and prosperity. was considered a stone for weddings and to be especially appropriate for wedding gifts.

Because it is such a luxury stone, there is a world of intrigue and misinformation surrounding the ruby. There are any number of synthetic rubies (that is to say, chemically identical but grown in a lab) out there; many of them would require an inspection by a gemologist to distinguish them from natural rubies. Personally, I'm not much of a snob about synthetic stones, since they're chemically identical, often of a higher quality, and not rife with the economic, environmental, and human rights mess that precious gemstones often are. Everyone has different preferences, though!

Besides synthetics, there are also imitation rubies: red-colored stones that are intended to look like ruby. As with other stones, the word "ruby" has gained so much prestige that other stones have acquired trade names like Balas Ruby (red spinel) or Rubellite (red tourmaline). There are even varieties of corundum that lack chromium but have been dyed red to achieve the same color.

It's always been my opinion that there is no point in natural versus synthetic or imitation snobbery; if it looks good, it looks good. Ironically enough, it is the snobbery and obsession with natural stones that leads to the fraud and deceit you see throughout the gemstones market. Don't let yourself get swindled into throwing down a lot of money for some colored glass!