Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Maille DNA Bracelet 2.0

I like my DNA maille bracelet well enough, but I thought there was still room for improvement. Or just room for variation. I sat down about a week ago and put together another one, this time with smaller connecting jump rings. As a result, the bracelet retains its spiral shape much better than previously, and has a smoother silhouette overall. (I think the original one looks quite "spiky" somehow.) On the left is the first bracelet; on the right is the second.

I didn't think I'd like the two-tone look that much, but I'm surprised to find that I don't really notice it!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Trek Thursday: And the Children Shall Lead

#31: And the Children Shall Lead

In case you forgot: The Enterprise answers a distress call only to find the chilling leftovers of a mass suicide: dead bodies and cheerful kids totally unaffected by their parents' deaths. The landing party takes the kids back with them to get them to a star base and it turns out that the kids are in possession of some godlike powers. Apparently their power stems from some ancient green ghost who's fueled by the children's belief in/allegiance to him. Kirk convinces the kids the ghost is a bad guy and saves the day (and the children finally grieve).

Note to Adrian Spies (of "Miri" fame): this is how you write kiddie antagonists. I don't mean so much that "oh, they're possessed by a ghost, they're not so evil after all." I mean that the kids scheme and plan like reasonably intelligent kids would do, and also that they conduct themselves using proper English.  The eleventh-hour ghost cop-out is kind of unfortunate, but then I suppose it would be too dark for TOS to have truly evil children as an antagonist.

What I like about this episode in particular is that to do the right thing and to save the day, Kirk has to ruin these children's lives. YOUR MOMMY AND DADDY ARE DEAD BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T LIVE WITH THEMSELVES ANYMORE, THEY ABANDONED YOU. THEY WEREN'T BORING, THEY LOVED YOU. YOU DIDN'T APPRECIATE THEM ENOUGH.

Yeah, those kids are going to need a lot of therapy.

A solid episode but not without its flaws. The mechanics of how exactly the green omnipotent ghost works in the world are hazy and unsatisfying and it smacks a bit of backassery. ("How can we get kids to act evil without actually being evil?") Also, the jerk-off motion the kids make to use their powers isn't scary or threatening; it just detracts from the creepiness of it all.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Fandom Friday on Saturday: Comfort Films

This week's 5 Fandom Friday is one that I think anyone can relate to: comfort movies! Distraction and escapism are popular ways to cope with stress (maybe not always the best ways, though) and what are movies if not distraction and escapism? It didn't take me long at all to come up with my list.

1. Little Miss Sunshine

The weird thing is, I've only seen this movie once. I was having a really rough patch at one of my jobs in South Korea, and one of my friends had me over for drinks and noraebang duets and watching this movie. "It's the perfect movie to watch when you feel like shit," she told me, and it is. It gave me the renewed determination I needed to leave a toxic job—and wouldn't you know it but I found another job just a week after I gave my 30 days' notice, the best school I worked out in Korea hands-down.

I haven't really felt that worn-down and stressful since, but I know that if I ever do, this will be an instant pick-me-up. Do what you love and fuck the rest.

2. My Neighbor Totoro

This movie is just pure feel-good, 100%. There might be some darker shit going on behind it, but I steadfastly choose to believe otherwise.

3. The Comedy of Terrors

I stumbled across this one at my favorite Suncoast Video back in high school, one of MGM's "Midnite Movies" series of double billings. This one came on a disc with The Raven, a horror-comedy adaptation of Poe's poem of the same name by none other than Roger Corman. It's fun and goofy but it doesn't stand up to The Comedy of Terrors, even though both were written by Hollywood legend Richard Matheson. 

I loved it from the first and I love re-watching it. My favorite is to watch it with someone who hasn't seen it before, because whatever they're expecting, this movie subverts it. A childhood of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 may have made me an unlikely expert on low-budget horror movies of the 50s and 60s, but it wasn't until I saw The Comedy of Terrors that I truly began to appreciate the wonderful camp that is horror movie staple Vincent Price.

4. Pitch Perfect

The movie is hilarious, but I have to admit that my "comfort" part is the last performance at championships (or nationals or regionals or whatever they're called). I am a sucker for OTT music performances as a Crowning Moment of Awesome. I have watched that clip on YouTube too many times to count.

Honorable mention for this slot includes the battle of the bands scene in School of Rock and the final concert by Mr. Holland's grown students in Mr. Holland's Opus.

5. The Goonies

A childhood classic. I never saw it in the theaters (I was born too late for that) but I watched it a lot on tape. My brother and I had a babysitter (not quite like a nanny—it was more like a daycare thing, only we were the only children she watched, and she took care of us right in her home) and her son, maybe like five or six years older than me, was our big brother and hero. He taped loads and loads of movies from TV and then watch them with us. The Goonies was one that got a lot of repeat viewings. It's not a perfect movie—even 6-year-old-me was irritated by the girls' irritating and useless characters, sensing an injustice I couldn't quite put to words at the time—but I love it and never tire of it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Item Prototype: DNA Bracelet

I've been wanting to try chainmaille forever. I kept on putting it off in the states because I worked at a bead store and couldn't help constantly replenishing my bead stock with new and wonderful stones to play with. But now that I'm in Stockholm, I have yet to find a good brick-and-mortar bead store. This means that I'm not replenishing my bead stock quite as quickly, whereas my supply of jump rings has more or less remained steady. (Makes sense, since I buy them in large quantities and you really only need 2, maybe 4 at most for your typical beaded piece.)

These are jump rings, for those whose interests do not include jewelry-making.

Necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case, experimentation, and lately my attention has been directed less towards beads and more towards chainmaille: the art of interlocking jump rings to create a wide variety of projects: clothing and armor, chains for larger projects, standalone pieces, and more. It's not just for SCA and Ren Faire enthusiasts!

I have a couple ideas regarding chainmaille that I want to try out. Some of them will have to wait until I get different rings, but I did manage to get one project done: a double helix DNA bracelet!

Hopefully the resemblance between this (a weave called This Is Not Food) and DNA is easy enough to see here; my small jump rings may be a touch too large (or my large jump rings not large enough). It definitely looks nicer in real life. I should have spent more time on staging the photos so you can get a better idea of how it "really" looks but I was too impatient!

Overall I'm quite pleased with how it came out. There are a lot of different spiral weaves available but there aren't a lot that have the shape I'm going for. The only other one I could find is the 4 in 1 Spiral, but it's hard to get it to maintain its spiral shape. This Is Not Food, on the other hand, maintains its spiral shape naturally. This one was the learning piece, so I won't be selling it, but I expect to crank out a few more right away. Unlike beaded jewelry, chainmaille jewelry has a lot of potential for the men's/unisex niche, so I'm excited to be able to add this skill to my repertoire!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trek Thursday: That Which Survives

#32: That Which Survives

In case you forgot: Kirk, Bones, Sulu, and a blue-shirted redshirt are investigating a planet that is by all accounts a scientific anomaly. The redshirt dies and the Enterprise is thrown over 900 light-years away. Spock and Scott work to repair the ship while the landing party faces off against a woman programmed to destroy.

Another solid "extinct alien technology" episode. This one has some solid questions: how can a planet so young seem so old? What happened to the Enterprise? Who is this woman who can kill people with just a touch of her hand? And, unlike some other episodes, the questions that get asked in the beginning are all satisfactorily answered by the time the credits roll.

Whenever the Enterprise encounters the technological remains of an alien race, there's always a good bit of melancholy and wonder: with so many races out there that we don't know and can never know, who knows what kinds of advancements and exchanges we're missing out on, even in a future full of faster-than-light travel and medical miracles? It's a galaxy full of tragedy and missed opportunities.

That said, it seems too easy an out that the computer-woman can only be programmed to kill one party member at a time (until the three of her show up at the end), or that she can kept away so easily by the other two members of the party. Guess you have to level the playing field somehow...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Failure of Mars One

I missed out on Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day on the blog, but it warmed my hear to see so many other blogs observing some math nerdiness! The truth is that I am still a little busy at the moment, so I couldn't really give Pi Day its proper due. And St. Patrick's Day? Living in neither the US nor Ireland, I can assure you that the only place that was a "thing" was in Stockholm's Irish pubs.But I'm taking half a minute out of my life to talk a bit about Mars One.

This is a project that has been getting a lot of hype, and it's not hard to see why: most sane people are concerned about the potentially irreversible changes we're triggering in our planet (or they at least agree that it will eventually be a problem for someone to deal with). If we've unequivocally ruined Earth, expanding out into other space and other planets is our only hope for long-term survival. Even if we manage to salvage Earth's climate so that it remains more or less hospitable for humanity, there's nothing we can do about the Sun's inevitable life cycle—either way, space travel is part of our future, if humans are going to play the really long game. Space colonization and extraterrestrial life is the premise of so much science fiction, from the classic (Star Trek) to the obscure (Henry Martinson's Aniaria), that the appeal is no surprise.

It seems like the Mars One project has taken that appeal and turned it into a poorly-organized cash grab. This Medium.com article has a great run-down on it. That's really all you need to read on the topic.

I really hope that I can live to see a successful mission to Mars. I think it's entirely possible, but maybe it isn't.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Read Play Blog: Multiplayer or Single Player?

Read Play Blog is a meme about video games and books, posted every 16th of the month. Bloggers are encouraged to answer a discussion question, and recommend a video game that is similar to a book they liked. Hosted by Happy Indulgence Books & Read Me Away.

This month's question: Single or multiplayer?

If a game isn't fun or playable in single player mode, I have no interest in it. Sure, there are plenty of games I like to play with JV (Little Big Planet, Super Mario Galaxy, Minecraft, once in a while some Sonic 2 or Streets of Rage 2 from his SEGA arcade collection), and who doesn't love a few rounds of their favorite fighting game among friends, or a marathon co-op beat 'em up run? But overall, gaming has always been a solitary, withdrawn activity for me. It's one of the things I like to do when I've had too many people.

Currently playing:

Minecraft, mostly. I think this is what I was playing in February, too. Sometimes I just gotta go on a block bender, I guess!

But truthfully February and early March were crappy, busy times for me. I've been too busy doing things like filing taxes, renewing a whole bunch of ID paperwork, and preparing for a Swedish oral exam—very little focus left over for games. I couldn't handle much more except plunking down in front of the TV for a couple hours, losing myself in the almost-hypnotic task of shearing my pen of sheep and the ambient mellow-out Minecraft soundtrack.


Can we all take a moment to remember how great Streets of Rage 2  was? This game sucked away hours of my free time and despite all of that I've never managed to beat it...

There were so many great beat 'em ups from this era, I know, but this one is my favorite.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: My Fictional BFFs

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly meme from The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick. This week's topic is your five fictional best friends!

I kind of blogged about this before, but not really. My favorite fictional BFF pairings aren't necessarily the ones that I would be friends with in real life, after all, though don't be surprised if you see some overlap. ;)

1. Janie and Sport (Harriet the Spy)

Janie is kind of eerily similar to my real-life high school best friend. That's how I know we'd get along if she were real. Sport's cool too, so he can tag along.

2. Randal Graves (Clerks)

I am a Dante. It's just how it is. Naturally, Randal Graves is pretty high on my list of potential fictional best friends. He would do a great job at bringing me out of my shell and getting me to live a little, and if we got in trouble he'd suffer the consequences with me. Friendship.

3. Henry David Thoreau

Okay, so he's not fictional, but Walden is one of my favorite books. I don't know if I could have hacked living out in the woods like he tried to, but then again neither did he, quite—regular trips to town so his mom could do his washing up and so he could trade beans for other food and books and things. But I think we could have had a beautiful "being alone together" friendship if we weren't, you know, born like 150 years apart.

4. Jane Lane (Daria)

Since I get compared to Daria a lot, I'm sure Jane would be a suitable companion. Her art skills and insights would be a huge boon when it comes to making jewelry, and maybe we could even collaborate on a graphic novel project or two. I'm surprised she and Daria didn't do anything like that on the show, actually, given Daria's implied penchant for the written word. Plus I can guarantee that there wouldn't be any boy trouble, since JV is way cooler than Tom.

5. Brian Ralph Johnson  (The Breakfast Club)

I guess I have a soft spot for nerdy guys who get pressed over not getting an A in shop class. But I understand that obsession with grade-grubbing and that need to always get everything right on the first go. But Brian is the only one in the whole movie who understands how the social system works (the whole "We're going to go back to school on Monday and nothing will be different, we won't be friends at all" speech he gives) but also at least has enough confidence in himself to not get caught up in a roleplay to deal with it (which is how Allison's aggressive weirdness comes off at times, never mind her stupid makeover at the end....ugh, John Hughes, what is it with your crappy female characters?). 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Trek Thursday: Requiem for Methuselah

#33: Requiem for Methuselah 

In case you forgot:  The Power Trio touches down on what's supposed to be an uninhabited planet for some supplies to stop the deadly Rigelian fever that's spreading among the crew. They meet an old man called Flint and spend some time relaxing with him while a robot does the menial labor. Eventually they learn that Flint is was born in 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan....oh wait, sorry. He is immortal, though, or close enough, and life is hard. After some shenanigans with his android companion, the Power Trio gets what they came for and leave.

 Meditations on what immortality (or near-immortality) would be like haven't really lost their appeal for me. The premise is a solid one. Even Flint intentionally using the Power Trio (or well, Kirk) to try to develop human emotion in his android companion is an interesting one. I like them enough that even though the rest of the episode frustrated me, I still enjoyed the episode.

Though, you know what was better? The Man From Earth, which was also written by Jerome Bixby. You should watch it, if you haven't already.

Spock's mind-meld-y type instruction to Kirk to "forget" is touching, and a testament to their friendship. It's not quite "Amok Time," but it's nice.

The reveal that Flint is something like 6000 years old doesn't bug me, but the idea that he would have spent his life on Earth just casually being so many famous geniuses is just too much. There's also the problem of using a deadly fever aboard the Enterprise as little more than a MacGuffin. This isn't the first time some kind of medical catastrophe has been the impetus for this week's adventure in space, but is the first time the crew of the Enterprise is in that sort of danger, a fact the Power Trio is totally willing to conveniently forget (because it's a MacGuffin). How many people on the Enterprise are dying because you're fucking around, Kirk?!

Much as I like Spock doing Kirk a favor and helping him to forget Rayna, it's impossible to take Kirk's grief over Rayna seriously, unless it's poorly-communicated guilt over being the instrument of her death (or well, "death").

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Five Fandom Friday on Saturday: Snacking and Drinking While Blogging

Quick reminder that today is the last day of the #SciArt tweetstorm! Feel free to share your favorite Kokoba pieces, or any other piece of scientific art, with the #SciArt hashtag. Also feel free to just browse the tag to find some wonderful science-inspired treasures to favorite and RT them! (I will probably do a round-up post on Monday or so, for the Twitter-phobic who nonetheless would like to see a sampling of what #SciArt has to offer.) Let's all help make this successful so it can become a regular smörgåsbord of scientific delights.

Yesterday's 5 Fandom Friday was all about SNACKS and holy shit you guys I LOVE FOOD.

I know it's a bad habit but I admit that I can sometimes be found at the computer with a drink and a snack beside me. Sometimes I'm just so busy! So here are the snacks and drinks I usually choose from.

5. Tea or Smoothie

It depends on the season if I want a hot fruity drink or a cold one. I like water more than anything else, but in the winter it's nice to have something warm. My favorite tea at the moment is the Swedish Söder tea, though I also enjoy anything with fruits or berries (most often a black tea blend, though sometimes white tea as well; I can't drink green tea).

4. Grapes

Grapes are nature's perfect snack! They come in little bite-sized portions and leave almost no nasty mess behind. Though, I'm usually having grapes with something else, like a cheese sandwich or some chips...

3. Digestives

Only the ones covered in dark chocolate will do.

2. Yogurt

Strawberry flavor and all of its variants, please. The only problem with yogurt is that it's become such a "diet" snack is that many brands in the US are flavored with artificial sweeteners. I don't oppose them on principle, but the problem is that the artificial sweetener du jour is Splenda and it tastes like copper. This trend is not as big in Sweden, thankfully, so all of the yogurt we get tastes as it should. 

1. Cheese-flavored puffed corn snacks

Cheetos, cheese balls, whatever you want to call them. I am a sucker for that savory, salty umami flavor, especially when it tastes more or less like cheese. There was a time when I exhibited no self control around these at all, but I'm a mature enough adult now that I know when I've had enough. I also eat these with grapes because the two tastes just go so well together! (And it keeps me from filling up entirely on the cheese balls....)

What do you munch on while you're writing (or doing anything else)?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Finds: #SciArt TweetStorm!

There is a rad blog over at SciAm: Symbiartic. All of this week they have been pushing and promoting for a "tweetstorm" for the #SciArt hashtag. This is basically a call to action/promotional/sharing space for scientific artists (and lesser beings like yours truly) to promote their stuff and to share others' work. I have been a little busy lately, which is why the Etsy shop has exactly 1 item in it, but I have found the time to RT a few cool things. For the Twitter-phobic, I'll share them here!

But there is sure to be a bunch of new, cool stuff if you dive into the #SciArt hashtag right now. It's running until March 7th (so, um, tomorrow) but of course the tweets and links will be up there for a while to come.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Lights of Zetar

#34: The Lights of Zetar

In case you forgot: The Enterprise is delivering Mira Romaine to her first station, Memory Alpha. On the way, the ship gets caught up in some kind crazy storm that incapacitates much of the crew and Mira most of all. Eventually we learn that the the storm is actually the collective will of a dead race looking for some bodies to inhabit. While all of the workers on Memory Alpha are lost, at least Scotty's new girlfriend Mira survives the ordeal.

I love that Shari Lewis wrote this, but man it's weird that a woman famous for puppets wrote a body snatchers episode of Star Trek. It's just so thematically appropriate but also makes you wonder about her attitude towards Lambchop. (Apparently she wrote another script, too, but nothing ever came of it. Would have been interesting to see.) I also love that Lewis intentionally wrote a love interest for Scott as a response to Kirk always getting the girl. He's a little overprotective and paternalistic, but on the whole it comes off more cute than creepy, so I'm counting it as a point for.

Nonetheless, another woman who exists basically to be a love interest is still kind of disappointing, even if she was written by Shari Lewis. Scott also plays down Romaine's visions to a point that's (somewhat) to the detriment of the crew. Does space sickness make you psychic, Scotty? I doubt it. The way the bodysnatchers are driven out of Romaine is a bit slapdash but that's how the show goes, sometimes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I'm Reading: The Mandarins

There's a game I play sometimes. I learned it from one of my friends in college, who learned it from some friends of his that I didn't hang out with. It's called "You'd Think That...""You'd Think That..." is a basically a confessional game and I guess it could work well as an ice-breaker (at least under the right circumstances).

I realize now that calling it a "game" is really an overstatement, but too late for that. Basically, the point is for everyone playing to confess gross oversights in their life or gaping holes in their knowledge and experience.

For example, as a movie enthusiast who wrote her philosophy thesis on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, you'd think that I'd have seen Bladerunner.

Here's my next round: as a feminist who studied writing and literature, you'd think that I'd have known about The Mandarins before I saw it on the library shelf.

All I had known about Simone de Beauvoir for ages was that she was Sartre's main squeeze and that she had written The Second Sex, a book I tried and failed to read from the library. (Some books you just need to own, you know?) I had always assumed her to be concerned primarily with essays and philosophy, so imagine my surprise when I realized that she write fiction, too!

The Mandarins is what I would call a "bagel book." This is a term I made up just now but I've had the experience in other books before this one.

In the town I grew up in, there was (and still remains to this day!) a popular indie coffee and bagel shop, a profitable franchise to run in a town with two private colleges and a local community college within a reasonable driving distance. It was right down the block from the country's oldest bookstore and so my best friend and I spent a lot of time in that part of town, eating bagels and looking at books.

One time, halfway through a particularly delicious bagel, I said, "This bagel is really good, and I want to finish it, but I also don't want to finish it, because there won't be any left."

My friend gave me A Look. "That's how depressed people think!"

Those are bagel books for me: books that I enjoy and want to read, but books that I also am afraid to read because I don't them to be over. The Madarins is a bagel book; after tearing through my last few library books at a lightning pace, I am slowing down with this one and I don't think it's due entirely to being busy.

The Mandarins looks at a social circle in newly-liberated France during the end of WWII. According to the back of my copy, it is largely autobiographical and based on de Beauvoir's group of friends at the time (though with the names changed). I refuse to look up any of the specific events or characters until after the book is done because somehow that will spoil things, but in the meantime it's fun to guess.

The perspective is mainly that of Henri, the owner and editor of the newspaper L'espoir, which has so far remained politically neutral and is therefore subjected to bribes and woos and interest from all sorts of outside parties in the chaos that is Liberated Paris: the Communists, Americans, the non-Communist left, et al. Henri juggles those along with a lackluster relationship, the attention of young Nadine, and his own ambitions as a writer.

Periodically we see things from the perspective of Anne, wife to one of Henri's friends and mother to Nadine. She's a Freudian psychotherapist troubled by the strained relationship between herself and her daughter and the memoirs her husband puts off writing. It's interesting to note that Henri's sections are written in close third person, while Anne's are in first person.

de Beauvoir's prose is light and straightforward, yet this is no mere melodrama. Nor are her characters flat stereotypes. Henri and Anne meditate on compelling and relatable problems: relationships with others, anxiety over the future (individually but also of France), the role of art and literature in society, one's moral responsibilities. Even the characters outside the perspectives of Henri and Anne are nuanced and distinct from each other, some far more likable than others. (I hope Henri's wife Paula isn't based on anyone who actually existed. She seems like an unbearable person, and one who is deeply sad to boot.)

I don't know how I made it through university without knowing about any of de Beauvoir's novels, let alone reading them. I am enjoying this a lot, and I'm also putting it on my altered TIME Top 100 list, because really, do I need to read Deliverance? No, no, I don't. And I suspect that if I hadn't heard about this novel, there are a lot of people out there like me who wouldn't come across it otherwise. Check out The Mandarins! You won't regret it.