Friday, December 31, 2010

Topology Coffee Mug

Topology Mug found on IQ Therefore I Am


How the humor works:

"Intuitively two spaces are homeomorphic if one can be deformed into the other
without cutting or gluing. A traditional joke is that a topologist can't distinguish a coffee mug from a doughnut, since a sufficiently pliable doughnut could be reshaped
to the form of a coffee cup by creating a dimple and progressively enlarging it, while shrinking the hole into a handle. A precise definition of homeomorphic, involving a continuous function with a continuous inverse, is necessarily more technical."
—Wikipedia, Topology

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jewelry and Storytelling

One of the tips you often hear from indie biz and handmade promoters is to tell (and sell) a story. And with good reason! Aren't our most favored possessions, the ones we really and truly cherish, storied items?

For example, one of my favorite pieces of jewelry that I've ever received has a few different stories behind it! Even if none of them are particularly geeky stories (unless Finnish mythology is geeky?).

Kalevala jewelry
My Kalevala necklace


First of all, it was a Christmas gift from my nearly-mother-in-law in 2007 or so. She bought it on a trip she took to Finland to study felting (she has a farm with lots of very very cute sheep and therefore LOTS of wool). How cool is that? I live on the other side of the globe from Finland (at the moment), I wouldn't normally have anything Finnish in my jewelry box. And it's a piece that will always make me think of her and her sheep and her thoughtful consideration & kindness long after she's gone.

Finland Map Pocket Mirror
Finland Map Pocket Mirror by LiteraryTease


Second of all, the design itself (cast in bronze) is based on a figure from the Kalevala, a collection of Finnish folklore and epic poetry. The two horses' heads represent all kinds of duality, but most importantly they keep watch over the past and the future. The bells that dangle are supposed to scare away evil spirits. Put the whole thing together and it's a protective talisman/good luck charm.

Despite my inclinations towards science, I will totally confess to being a wee bit superstitious and "frou-frou." I wear this necklace whenever I travel, or on occasions where I need a bit of extra good juju. If nothing else, it's a beautiful reminder of someone's love and thoughtful consideration of me. So it's a necklace that's been on a couple adventures!

Adventure Time pins Pande
Adventure Time with Finn & Jake Pins by Pande


My favorite adventure was one in Korea—the third story of this necklace. It was a Saturday, and at that point in my life in Korea, I spent my Saturdays making merry in Hongdae, the party district of Seoul. (I would like to point out that this exhausted me after just six weeks and did not characterize my normal behavior over the entire year!) The cast of characters in this story aside from myself included a Korean girl and a Chinese-Canadian girl, with special guest appearances from drunk Americans and Koreans. The Korean girl in question had been having a little too much fun that night. By four or five in the morning, she was passed out and clearly not on her best game. The Chinese-Canadian girl and I managed to get her out of the club and on to the sidewalk and watched over her while we figured out what to do.

We made quite the spectacle outside. A particularly belligerent Korean twentysomething—one who had been feeding her drinks for most of the night—hung around with hooded eyes, waiting for her to come out of it. Herds of Americans done partying for the night stumbled by and stared. A couple of the drunker ones asked us what we were doing. One such group seemed surprised at our altruism.

"What? You're going to stay here and take care of her?"

"Look at her necklace," their companion slurred, "of course she's going to take care of her!"

Of course by now you all know the necklace in question. :)

Mojo Bag BlackCatCurio
Sword and Shield Protection Mojo Bag from BlackCatCurio


I didn't press the fellow on just what the heck he meant by that as he and his gang stumbled away towards the subway, but it does speak to the appeal, power—and dare I say magic? ;)—of a good story; whether that story is one we tell, or hear, or of which we only catch faint glimpses and glimmers.

What's the story behind one of your cherished possessions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Birthday Bash: December

I have been remiss in keeping up the Birthay Bash posts. But what better time to reintroduce the series than near Christmas? My own father has a birthday near Christmas (January 2) and so I'm well-acquainted with the frustration of your private gift-giving holiday coinciding with perhaps the biggest one of the year!

So a happy December 28th birthday to Virginie of Roland Designs!

Virginie has a huge variety of goods in her shop: patterns, finished cross-stitches, jewelry, and cellphone charms, just to name a few. They all have an elegant vintage theme to them, perfect for when you want a little extra dash of class. She's a multi-talented lady, too: in addition to creating her own cross-stitch patterns, she crochets and makes jewelry, too! That's more than I can do...yet.

Crochet Rose Hair Pins
Pink Rose Hair Pins


These would be the perfect finishing touch to a cute little summertime outfit (even if it's still a cold and snowy December here on the East Coast).

Silver Pearl Cluster Earrings
Sterling Silver and Pearl Earrings


I can just imagine wearing these to the opera, or a fancy upscale New Year's Eve party. Cluster earrings like these are among my favorite styles, even though I don't actually wear earrings. So graceful! So classy!

Medieval Cross Stitch Pattern
"Le Moyen Age" Cross Stitch Pattern PDF


I actually used to cross-stitch when I was very young. Nothing fancy, but my mom showed me how and would let me work on a few bits of her projects sometimes. Crocheting never stuck, but cross-stitch did. So I have a soft spot in my heart for cross-stitch projects, and doubly-so for the commemorative birth/baptism/etc ones like this. My mom made ones for both me and my brother, and it's one of the few decorations that's hung in my room literally my entire life. Something like this would stay with a child (son, daughter, niece, friend's son, grandchild, whatever you have) forever. Besides, what little kid doesn't enjoy fairy tales about knights slaying dragons and rescuing princesses?

cartoon viking pins
Viking Buttons


These, though, may be my favorite. Virginie is based out of Norway, and what is Norway's number one export? Vikings, of course! And look how adorable these guys are! So much friendlier than the kind that used to plunder and pillage all over the world. My own boyfriend is Swedish, so Vikings and Norse history/mythology has a special place in my heart.

So Roland Designs has something for everyone, crafter or buyer alike. Stop by and take a gander when you're in the mood for a little old-fashioned elegance!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How does this stuff work?

One of the comments I get most often online about my math jewelry is that, even if they like the piece, people "don't understand what [I] do with the numbers." This is an unfortunate reality of the nature of being primarily a digitally-based operation; when I explain the work to people in real life, it's very easy to tactilely and visually explain the math. It's much more difficult to do in text! So I whipped up a quick visual guide to my math jewelry.

The example piece is Feigenbaum's Alpha Constant, sometimes called Feigenbaum's Second Constant. It's a constant based on the relationship between tines in a bifurcation diagram. But you don't need to know that! What you need to know is the number itself: 2.502907875095892... (Note the ellipsis: both Feigenbaum constants are irrational numbers, so they never terminate or repeat but continue on into infinity.)

Because irrational numbers are a source of (literally) endless randomization, I can use as many or as few digits as I want in a piece. I truncated this bracelet early on; it only has six digits in it (which I bolded below).

math jewelry explanation
α = 2.50290787509...


And what words obfuscate, images make clear! Hopefully. If you still don't see it, think on it some more and consider these factors:

  1. I omitted the decimal point for aesthetic purposes.

  2. The beads that are crossed out with red X's are the spacer beads that separate the digits. Don't count them!

  3. You start counting at the "male" end of the toggle, with 2 in the front, and loop around until the 0 in the back.

  4. In the case of 0, I simply put two spacer beads next to each other, using a lack of beads as a placeholder the same way that 0 acts as a placeholder in the number.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Subatomic Poll And Giveaway!

Heisenberg uncertainty

I am taking the leap into subatomic and quantum jewelry! There's a lot of numbers involved, though. A lot of constants and measurements, and I'm unfamiliar with most of them. I need your help in deciding which subatomic constant is most worth enshrining in beaded form!

  • Proton Mass
  • The Rydberg Constant
  • The Bohr Radius
  • Electron Mass
  • The Planck Constant
  • You forgot it, so I'll post it in a comment.
  • Neutron Mass


But you said giveaway!

That's right, I did. After you vote up here, leave a comment with two and a half things:

1. Email address or some other means of contact (in case you win!)
2.What you voted for
2.5 Why you voted for it (optional)


You also get up to three "bonus" entries by leaving a comment with a link to a Facebook link or Tweet back to this contest!

A post will be randomly selected via random number generator after the poll expires on February 24th, 2011. The winner will get their vote—regardless of whether or not it won—in a free necklace/bracelet/anklet (their choice). It's my way of saying "thank you," since I am terrible at making decisions myself.

Even if you're not interested in the giveaway, I still would love your vote. So go on and click that button!

Edit!: Since there's been overwhelming response to this (good on all of you for your passion for quantum mechanics!), I will draw three winners when the poll closes. Your chances of winning something just tripled! Vote & post!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Geo-Shopping!: Mookaite

The tried-and-true color analysis always pegs me as a fall, and true to that I do love warm, rich colors. No surprise, then, that I have a bunch of mookaite (also spelled mookite, moukite, mookalite, mookerite, moukalite, mouakite, or mooakite) in my beadbox!

mookite beads
Mookite Beads from A Bead Sea


Mookaite is a kind of jasper, which is itself a subcategory of the larger chalcedony category. (Protip: you pronounce chalcedony "kal-SID-nee," with a hard "k" sound and the emphasis on the second syllable.) Like agates, rhodonite, and amethyst, chalcedonies are silicates, composed primarily of silicon dioxide. Chalcedony is both the name of a species of minerals (of which members include the jaspers, the agates, onyx, sard, bloodstone, etc) and the name of a specific kind of mineral, a light blue and gray stone that resembles Blue Lace Agate.

Scientists put jaspers in their own grouping within the chalcedony family on account of their very grainy structure (as opposed to the agates, which are more fibrous in nature). Mookaite is a specific variety of jasper found only in Australia. The name derives from the place where it was first discovered: near Mooka Creek in western Australia. "Mooka," in turn, is an Aboriginal word for "running water." It's no surprise, then, that the sediments in mookite contain bits of aquatic life (even small fossils!), on an itty-bitty, microscopic and fragmented level.

Mookaite comes in a variety of warm, rich colors, ranging from a mustard yellow to mauve to brown to a pale kind of salmon. It's very easy to spot mookite and very difficult to confuse it with any other gemstone. The unique coloration of mookaite is due to iron and iron oxide inclusions (in the form of hematite and Goethite, mainly).

math jewelry mookaite
Root 2 Bracelet, with large mookite beads


You can see images of an actual mookaite mining operation at Outback Mining. There's also loads of neat stuff on Etsy, too:

'Mookaite' by Kokoba


$7.00

$82.00

$101.20

$42.00

$12.00

$124.00

$6.30

$400.00

$3.79

$22.00

$77.00

$34.00

$19.99

$44.00

$5.10

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Top 5 Jewelry Craft Reference Books

I have a bit of a book-buying problem. I'll admit it. I should never be left alone in a Barnes & Noble or a Borders. Browsing through their craft section the other day got me to thinking about reference books I love (and reference books I want).


The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques
The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastasia Young.


This is a new release from Interweave Press, a solid crafts book publisher. (We carry a lot of their titles at work.) I flipped through it the other day and The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques looks to be one of the most comprehensive guides I've seen yet on jewelry making, from beads and gemstones to metals and soldering, as well as step-by-step project instructions. Hardcover with 320 pages of beautiful color photographs, this is sure to become a well-referenced classic in the world of jewelry texts. The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques is at the absolute top of my crafty "to-buy" book list. Available at your favorite book retailer, or online from Interweave. ($34.95 US)

Gemstones of the World Walter Schumann
Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann


I call Gemstones of the World my "little red book." My copy is only the third edition, but nonetheless it's invaluable for anyone at all interested in the mineralogy of the gemstones they work with and the science behind their beauty. Gemstones of the World is one of the top guides in the field, and has been since its first publication in 1976. The writing is clear and concise, and the photos are all in glorious color—essential for a book about gemstones!—and contain examples of specimens both rough and polished. Gemstones of the World also has a comprehensive index and a slightly less comprehensive Table of Constants to help you identify minerals. Changes and updates to the fourth edition of Gemstones of the World (published December, 2009) include:
  • 400 new gemstone listings
  • expanded information on "What's On the Market"
  • a new chapter on treated gemstones


Available on Amazon, $24.95.


Beading Basics Carole Rodgers
Beading Basics by Carole Rodgers

or any other beginner's book



Beading Basics is pretty much what it says. Most serious jewelry makers are probably well beyond the level Rodgers addresses in Beading Basics, but that's why it has "basics" in the title. By her own admission, Ms Rodgers describes her book as geared for the beginner; a book she would have liked to have when she started. But that was then, this is now; Beading Basics is solid enough, but there are a plethora of beginners's books out there. Whatever you find works for you; for me, this books works. I included it in this list because she has the best instructions for making eyepins and wire-wrapped loops that I've read or heard anywhere, as well as full-color illustrations and solid tools explanations. But if you can wire-wrap in your sleep and know how to peyote stitch or put clamshells over your crimps, pass on this one—unless one of her included projects strikes your fancy.

Available on Amazon (I've also seen it in JoAnn's and Michael's, with the beads), $19.99.


The Handmade Marketplace Kari Chapin
The Handmade Marketplace, by Kari Chapin


Kari Chapin is a big deal name in the crafty world: teaching classes at Etsy's Summit of Awesome, hosting e-courses, writing books. The Handmade Marketplace is another book that's on my "when I get more disposable income" list. It was the #1 craft book on Amazon in 2010 and has nothing but rave reviews. It's a little book, but packed with a lot of awesome and a lot contributions from various Etsy artisans, all about how to sell and market your awesome handmade goodies. Given the time, I would have probably devoured the whole thing in Barnes & Noble. Alternatively, you can sign up for one of Ms. Chapin's online class and get some valuable one-on-one time with the amazing lady.

Available on Amazon (and for a song, on the Kindle!), $14.95.


Beginning GIMP Akkana Peck
Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition by Akkana Peck

(or any other photo software reference book)



The number one tip any seller gets on Etsy about how to improve their store is almost always: better photos! And while knowing the basics (lots of natural light, no flash, crisp and complementary backgrounds) is important, more often than not you're going to have to touch up your work digitally. Enter Beginning GIMP. The highest-rated GIMP reference book on Amazon, Beginning GIMP is comprehensive, with chapters ranging from GIMP basics to touch-ups, color, scripting, and plug-ins. Ms. Peck is an active member in the GIMP community, occasionally even contributing source code—all of this comes straight from the horses's mouth. While not everything will be relevant to Etsy product photos, too much information is certainly better than too little.

Of course, if you don't use the GIMP, then this isn't much help at all. Any good text on popular image editing programs (Photoshop, CS, etc) can fill in this slot. It's just that I use the GIMP.

What are the top reference books in your library/wishlist?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spotted!: Pi Hats by The Pi Shop

You can ever get your kids into math too young, as ThePiShop on Etsy can tell you. Why not get them into geometry in style with a sweet, understated pi hat?

pi hat infant


I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with this idea for math-based accessories. Can I also say that I love the idea of an Etsy store devoted entirely to pi? How about some pi sweaters? Pi scarves? Pi mittens?

Too cool!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Treasury: Lunar Eclipse

On late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, a total lunar eclipse will be visible all throughout the Western Hemisphere. Astronomy enthusiasts in Europe and East Asia will also be able to see the eclipse at moonset. The action starts at 12.27 AM EST Tuesday morning and finishes at 6.06 AM.

I did you all a favor and scoured Etsy for everything you need to enjoy the eclipse from the comfort of your own backyard. Enjoy!

'Total Eclipse of the Moon' by Kokoba


Single Serve White Hot Choco...
$3.00

Antique Brass and Leather Fi...
$47.00

Oh my stars astronomy-themed...
$25.00

MOON Felted slippers made of...
$70.00

Crochet Womens Young Miss Gr...
$40.00

Cabled Mittens in Soft Gray
$14.00

FREE SHIPPING Wool Blanket -...
$36.00

Winter Solstice Herbal Tea
$10.00

Crochet Coffee Cozy
$7.00

Vintage 1960 ASTRONOMY Book ...
$28.00

Eclipse Necklace - Sterling ...
$235.00

Working Telescope Spyglass N...
$36.00

Vintage XL Wool and Persian ...
$78.00

Camera/Video Case-Vertical
$8.00

Pine Tree and Moon Pottery C...
$25.00

Antique Eastman Kodak Browni...
$28.00

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