Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Favorite Late to the Game TV Shows

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
This week's 5 Fandom Friday is going to be a stretch for me because I kind of really hate television, hah. But let's give it a whirl!

1. Star Trek

Yes, despite my undying though nonetheless critically attentive love for Star Trek: TOS, I missed out on it until my mid-20s. You can't blame me; I never caught it on syndication and my parents somehow didn't love it enough to own any copies on VHS or DVD. It took the J. J. Abrams reboot for me to think, "Hm, I should probably actually watch the original series." By that point, I knew all the jokes and tropes (Kirk's sluttiness, "live long and prosper," the fate of most redshirts) just through cultural osmosis, so it had never felt super urgent to watch.

Next up is The Next Generation, but it will probably be a while before we finish that one, for reasons similar to the next  item on the list.

2. Red Dwarf

This is one of JV's favorites, so it was only a matter of time before we sat down and watched it together. Unfortunately, since we were streaming it from less-than-reputable online sources, sometimes the stream quality sucked, and then it happened so often that we put aside the series in favor of something else. When we finally thought we should maybe get around to finishing the series, we realized we had no idea what season or episode we were on. We were quite far in (far enough that Krachanski was now part of the crew), too. We better get it sorted soon, though, because two new seasons are on their way!

I feel like one day I'll probably unload a whole critical analysis on the series, but today is not that day.

3. Q.I.

QI first aired in 2003 but I knew nothing of its existence until 2009? 2010? There was a glorious period when I had so! much! backlog! to catch up on, but that period of binge-watching is over and now I'm stuck waiting for new episodes just like everyone else. The UK has a real knack for great panel shows, but I think things may have reached a saturation point. In any case, much as I love Would I Lie To You? and 8 of 10 Cats (Does Countdown), Q.I. is forever the superior panel show (in my view). There was even a short-lived Swedish version of it, which was great fun for practicing my listening, but after season 4 (series "D"), SVT didn't want to buy any more episodes and neither did anyone else. I'm pretty sure my Swedish listening comprehension has suffered as a result.

4. Jonathan Creek

Speaking of Q.I., this list wouldn't be complete with Jonathan Creek! If you are hurting for some tricky whodunnits solved by a short-tempered savant and can't wait for more Sherlock (or, like me, had to go through a messy break-up with Sherlock because Moffat is garbage), this might be the methadone treatment for your TV heroin addiction. This was a series we picked up to watch in between new episodes of Q.I. and I was mostly pleased with it, though the second pretty lady sidekick was a goddamn trainwreck. Alternatively, if you're already a fan of Jonathan Creek, you should check out Trick!

5. The I.T. Crowd

Are we noticing a pattern yet? I didn't even learn about this one until years after it had been canceled (though before the concluding special in 2013, which I don't think I've seen yet...!). Sorry British TV, somehow I'm really slow on the uptake on most of your good television. It's still a tragedy that there isn't more of this show. Four seasons with only six episodes each? That's essentially one season of TV. One! But we have so many wonderful reaction gifs to show for it...

What's some great TV you were late to the game for?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I'm Reading: The Price of Salt

So with all of this Academy Awards buzz and #OscarsSoWhite buzz and everyone talking about media representation, it's fitting that my book club choice for February is The Price of Salt: the novel, later retitled Carol, that's the basis for Carol the movie, which is up for some awards.

I'm not usually so timely and relevant!

But The Price of Salt is definitely timely and relevant, which is weird considering that it's a positive lesbian romance published in 1953. How often do we say that someone is just a product of their time? That things were different back then? And look at this.

That being said, The Price of Salt was the result of author Patricia Highsmith's experience with psychotherapy as an attempt to learn to enjoy sex with her fiance after years of sexual relationships primarily with women. So maybe what needs to be applauded is not Highsmith's compassion for the plight of other people, but her bravery for choosing to write and publish something, especially something so personal, that would no doubt garner her scandal and negative prestige. (Of course, it was originally published under a pseudonym, no doubt for that reason.)

I had never read any Highsmith before, so her reputation as an author of suspense and thriller novels is unknown to me. (Yes, I haven't even seen Strangers on a Train.) The Price of Salt is a horse of an entirely different color: personal drama, maybe even bordering on the melodrama. But the language is light, precise, and airy; a stark contrast to the complex and meandering prose of January's Mrs. Dalloway. It's a snappy read that is coming along fairly quickly for me.

If you're like me, and missed Gay Fiction 101 in life, this is probably a great place to start. And you know that I'm all about reading the book and watching the movie. After you finish, you can consider Sir Ian McKellen's thoughts on the Oscars and diversity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Meeting People From THE INTERNET

If you're not following me on Twitter, then you missed my response to this tweet, which one of my friends (an Internet friend, natch) RT'd:

Which I also initially RT'd and then I got sucked down memory lane and ended up tweeting an abbreviated version of my Internet friends story, before realizing that it'd maybe be better on the blog. So welcome to a new regular-ish feature where y'all learn more about me than you needed or even wanted to know! At least until Twitter officially does away with the 144-character limit and I can opine into the void to my heart's content.

As a kid, I was definitely on the periphery. Even though I escaped being bullied (pure luck: there were kids who were much weirder than me; even though I was a fat smart girl, I knew how to play the game and keep my head down), I still orbited the social center of my growing-up from a fair distance.

It never bothered me much, because as an introvert I was perfectly content with just one or two good friends here and there. Daria was essentially my high school life—even when I participated in group things (and I did: orchestra, marching band, Reading Olympics, pit orchestra, debate team, trivia team), those groups never formed the core of my socializing. Most of the time, it was just me and my BFF (who joined me in orchestra, pit orchestra, and debate team).

But everyone, even introverts, can benefit from feeling like they belong to a cohesive group* and that's where the Internet stepped in for me.

I cannot mention Internet friendship without shouting out to the random group of friends I made, via an online play-by-post RP forum, on the opposite coast in the town of Eureka, CA. Things fizzled a bit after my Internet boyfriend (lolol) in the group dumped me and everyone went to college, but my West Coast Wander last year proved that there was still connection and friendship. In fact, I wouldn't have met up with the second group of Internet friends that would change my life in an even more profound way if it weren't for the first.

The second group I met on a message board for the now cringe-inducing Nickelodeon show Invader Zim, originally linked to me by one of my Eureka friends. After a slow, awkward start, I got to know a lot of the other members, and was invited to the first of an annual/biannual series of meetups that we dubbed MooseCon.

Now, I was 16 at the time, and this was when actual, honest-to-God socializing on the Internet came with warnings of STRANGER DANGER! An assigned reading I had for school at this point in my life was a memoir of one of the earliest Internet pedophile cases, called It was a book that felt selected for us teenagers as a DIRE WARNING from our CONCERNED  TEACHERS.

As an adult, I recognize that Tarbox went through a terrifying and traumatic experience, and I'm glad that she seems to have become a proper badass now, who climbs mountains and runs marathons.

But as a teenage girl, I hated the book for a couple of reasons: first, I thought from the title it was going to be a badass, competent hacker chick and was looking forward to reading about a teenage girl's experience within hackerdom. Then I read the summary and was immediately deflated: it was just Internet STRANGER DANGER. If I were more articulate then, I would have said something about perpetuating the narrative of teenage girl victimhood rather than agency, but I wasn't that articulate, so it just stewed.

Second: at this point in my life, I had plenty of friends online. They formed a group, a cohesive group, where I finally was accepted and belonged, instead of just piecemeal friends here and there. And my experience with it had not been full of shady-ass child molesters, but other teenagers (and their parents). We were all normal (well, relatively) and we were all each other's closest friends. Where was the memoir about that? About the power of Internet friendship? Nowhere to be seen.

Because the only time in my life where I've had the sort of group mutual-best-friendery like you see in Friends or Community hasn't been with high school or college classmates, or a sports team, or a club: it's been with my Internet tribe. The only thing to rival that communal belonging sense would be my coworkers at the cave, but that was after my formative high school years.

But even with all of the mass panic beginning to build over Internet predators (I had graduated by the time To Catch a Predator rolled around, but the famous New Yorker "on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" joke had been well cemented into the public consciousness), my parents were either unaware or were just super chill. I think this was because I initially met basically everyone in safe, public spaces with my parents in tow: first, a Eureka friend stopped by during an East Coast vacation with his mother, and my parents got to meet him. It was a year or two later that the first MooseCon happened, and again my parents were with me, and again they saw that everyone from the Internet was a teenager more or less just like their kid.

Flying to San Antonio (under the supervision of my mother) for the next MooseCon was no problem. Later trips alone to Montreal, New Orleans, Ithaca, and Buffalo were considered par for the course. They even allowed me to invite a whole bunch into our home during what Swedes call "the in-between days" (mellandagar; the time after Christmas but before New Year's) on multiple occasions. They were collectively known to my parents as "my friends from Con."

I neglected to mention any romantic attachments during this time, only because I found the idea of discussing any romantic attachments with my parents off-putting, even the ones I had formed in real life. But when the time came to visit my overseas Internet boyfriend for the first time, my parents were more or less chill. Also, I was 19, so I was basically an adult.

(This is how I met JV, by the way. If you've ever been wondering, since I've sideways implied that I moved to Sweden for him: he is my teenage Internet Boyfriend.)

Con happened annually for 10 years. Ten years. Today we're (mostly) all still friends and connected on Facebook**, but since we're adults with jobs/limited funds/limited vacation time, large Cons happen maybe every other year, with small meet-ups arranged between people interspersed here and there. You wouldn't be able to tell based on our Facebook interaction—there isn't much of it between everyone publicly. But you can tell by the occasional post in our secret Facebook group (the original board we used to post on has been borked for years now because of a MySQL error and no one's been able to get in contact with the owner to fix it, even though the fix is trivial) that we're all there for each other: when someone's having a rough time or needs advice, the post never goes for long without a comment or a response. Couches are always available for crashing, the odd care package turns up here and there, comfort is always given. I'm still in touch with more of my Con friends (both in terms of percentage and in terms of raw numbers) than I am with anyone I ever knew in high school (that number is essentially: 1). For me, they were high school. Or they were the ethereal vision of what high school could and should have been, if only we weren't all so far apart.

So no, my parents actually never flipped their shit over me meeting people from the Internet, probably because they knew exactly who I was meeting. Nor were they fazed when I finally announced that I had an Internet boyfriend and asked if he could come visit over winter break. Whether they knew it or not, my parents rode the ~wave of the future~ with grace and sense. And now? Now I live in a foreign country with my boyfriend from the Internet (13th anniversary this April), and my family loves him and his family loves me.

Finally, I'd like to close with an incredibly apropos quote from Gibson's Pattern Recognition:

It is a way now, approximately, of being at home. The forum has become one of the most consistent places of her life, like a familiar cafe that exists somewhere outside geography and beyond time zones.

*This statement probably backed up by science but I can't be fucked to go and get you the studies right now, so for now consider it "just, like, my opinion, man."

**I won't lie: this was the Internet and we did manage to attract a few weirdos who were too weird even for us, which led to a few geek socializing fallacies, but it's more or less sorted today.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Newly Listed: Newtonian Constant of Gravitation in Australian Opal and Fancy Jasper

Things have been a little quiet around here lately. I have to admit: I'm caught up in some really fascinating new reading and also Fallout New Vegas. But I've kept my hands busy, too!

This physics sciart science bracelet, featuring the Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper, would make a great science gift for nerds, physicists, and teachers.
Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper

Like I've said earlier, I've started really digging into the depths of my bead stash to try and clear out as much as possible. The fancy jasper beads in this bracelet are an example of that. The opal, on the other hand, is a relatively new addition to the bead box. It was a pretty luxurious buy, so this is a piece where I've opted to use some of my sterling findings instead of just base metal. Yes, sometimes I get fancy!

This physics sciart science bracelet, featuring the Newtonian constant of gravitation in genuine Australian opal and fancy jasper, would make a great science gift for nerds, physicists, and teachers.

This would be a great treat for any science nerds you know with an October birthday, or just a passion for opal (or Australia!). Go on, indulge.

If you just feel like window shopping today, be sure to stop by The Blue Beehive. Despite being open since 2012, they only just now turned up in my latest sciart search on Etsy. They have a wonderful mix of sciart and just art, like these:

Etched copper trilobite earrings

and this:

Boho style single wrap bracelet

And as always, Twitter is chock full of sciart finds!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What I Read: Mrs. Dalloway

I originally read Mrs. Dalloway for my freshman year course on the history of the novel. That was ten years ago now -- well over my threshold for "reread material." Good news, because this was the selection for my Facebook book club! I also forgot I already featured this at the beginning of the month but I don't care. I took a lot of time to write these words, so I'm going to keep 'em!

That said, I also realized that I never touched on the first thing I read for this book club: We. It was somewhat obscure and bizarre Soviet dystopian sci-fi, so it's worth going into detail over it. But another day!

I will open with this: Mrs. Dalloway was definitely a contentious piece in our group. A lot of people ragequit it, and I can't blame them. Woolf's style can be rambling, difficult, and disjointed. But give the woman some credit: she was trying to fashion a whole new way of writing novels! So was James Joyce, and all due respect, but I think Dalloway ends up being the better novel.

So that was my first encounter with Dalloway: presented in the larger context of the evolution of the novel as a genre. It's really strange to think about, but we didn't always have novels. Sure, we had mythology, epics, and folk tales, but we didn't have much of a purely written tradition until around the 1600s. (In English, anyway.) People had to spend maybe a hundred and fifty years to figure out just what the hell a novel was or could be—the idea of  writing about a thing that happened to somebody one time was just a completely foreign concept. Not only that, but novels were long regarded as wastes of time at best (or gateway drugs into sinful debauchery and sloth) that were only suitable guessed it, women.

Then we got the general gist of things in terms of structure and expectations, but they were on the whole quite rigid. The novel was, with a few notable exceptions, a very external thing. We understood characters from their actions, their words; if we were reading a journalistic or epistolary novel, there was a little more privileged insight into the narrator, but not much more than anyone else. I think this is why a lot of people find it hard to enjoy so many classics: novels today all offer an immediacy and intimacy with character, which makes them easier to read and makes them feel more real. By comparison, characters in Edwardian and Victorian novels can feel stiff and distant.

This is the mold that Woolf and her contemporaries were struggling against. Stream-of-consciousness was the Modernist tool for loosening up and enlivening their characters, for allowing the reader to get to know them the same way they would a person in real life.

Knowing that can maybe make you appreciate Woolf all the more, but it doesn't make it any easier to read. (For that, I would recommend reading some of the greats chronologically up to Mrs. Dalloway: Oroonoko, Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, any Dickens you like, and then Dalloway.)

With that out of the way, did I like reading it again? Generally, though I was not as blown away as I remember being in college. I think this is because I read Dalloway  fresh off the heels of Nightwood and holy shit anything is amazing after Nightwood! But I still liked it, and once I let myself relax and just go with the flow instead of trying to speed read it I really got lost in everything. This is a book that you really need to slow down and to really focus to be able to enjoy. You also need to be chill with semi-colons, because Woolf uses a lot of them. ;)

The other thing that makes Mrs. Dalloway notable is Clarissa Dalloway herself,  our protagonist (or one of them). As a woman well into her 50s, this kind of character is tremendously underrepresented in the canon. If you're invested in diversity and representation in the literature, this a book you've probably read already (and should if you haven't!).

So, with snowmaggedon coming up in a lot of parts of the US, now may be the time to check this out of the library to keep you busy for the next day or two.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Newly Listed: Turquoise, White, and Gold Gravity Necklace

Today was a long Monday for me, so long that I'm actually technically posting this on Tuesday. But since I live in the future, it'll still go up on Monday in the US, where I suspect the vast majority of my readers are. :)

Today was long for two reasons. First, I had to go the immigration office in Solna, a municipality just outside Stockholm. For those of you who are just tuning in: I'm an American immigrant to Sweden. I've been here for just over two years (WHAT) and there are still things that need to be settled and finalized, like a completely worthless piece of plastic that cannot legally function as ID and has zero bearing on the legality of my stay here.

I should tone down the snark, though, because it's not that difficult to actually obtain. What it represents (one's permanent or temporary residence permit) is a little trickier—that requires lots of scans of pieces of identification and questionnaires and a not insignificant amount of money. But I finished that ages ago; I received the decision on my permanent residence permit in November. (Hooray!) But the email said "if we already have your picture and fingerprints, your card will arrive within a week," and it was the last push for NaNo, so I figured I'd wait and see if I got the card before booking an appointment at the immigration office. The week came and went, and I never got the card, but because I should really be more organized I didn't even remember that I needed new prints and a new picture until it was Christmas.

"Ugh, I'm not doing crappy bureaucracy stuff over Christmas," I thought, and put it out of my mind until the New Year. Last week I finally sat down and made the appointment (for today). And it was painless! I don't know why I have such an aversion to booking and showing up for bureaucratic appointments, but there it is.

Of course, today my bangs looked like hell and I had a huge pimple on my chin, but whatever. It's an card literally no one will ever see—I have the standard ID card that every other Swede has and that's what I'm supposed to use instead, so...whatever!

The other reason was that my Russian textbook is due back at the library this week. Yes, Russian! Like I mentioned in the last 5 Fandom Friday, living in Sweden (well, living in Sweden and having a Swedish personal ID number) means that I have access to free classes! In a lot of things! I finished Swedish last year and took a break, and now I've decided to start on Russian. But since the textbook is not free and is $100, I tried my best friend the library and they had it! But unfortunately, I can't renew this particular checkout so I'll have to return the book 3 weeks before the class is over (and it's only a 5-week course!). I'm doing as much work ahead as I can before it's due, so as soon as I got home from Solna I dove straight into Russian studies.

I'm glad I chose a language I'm fairly familiar with (even if it is in random patches); nearly everything so far has been more like a refresher than anything new. The only problem is that it's a distance course, so I have no chance to practice speaking or listening (downside of my best friend the library: the CD that came with the book is scratched beyond usefulness, even after trying to repair it).

That's why I'm not getting around to sharing one of my newest pieces with you until right now!

This one is only a couple of days old. I'm trying really hard to clean out the bead box, so this can definitely be filed under "stash-buster." That's the last of those turquoise nuggets!

Turquoise physics science necklace sciart teacher jewelry gift
Newtonian Constant of Gravitation Necklace by Kokoba

I guess I've been on a turquoise kick lately:

Red, turquoise, silver, and white speed of light bracelet is a unique STEM science physics sciart gift for scientists and teachers.
Speed of light in glass, aluminum, and waxed cotton thread. (Not yet listed)

Red, turquoise, and white pi bracelet is a unique STEM math sciart gift for scientists and teachers.
Multistrand pi bracelet in glass and mother-of-pearl on waxed cotton

And I don't know why! I guess I'm just really, really done with winter? We're just coming out of the darkest time of the year here and I couldn't be happier. Then I remember that Stockholm is pretty far south in Sweden, relatively speaking; I don't know how anyone up in Norrland actually survives, honestly. Full-spectrum lighting and lots of coffee, I guess?

Anyway, this latest creation features the Newtonian constant of gravitation, a number I don't work with too often and have been trying to utilize more over the past few months. If I don't make a conscious effort to broaden my horizons, everything in the shop would just be math. Endless, endless pi. But when you look at my sales and keywords, people are buying a lot more than just math jewelry—and they're looking for more than that, too! So I've been trying to lean a little more physics recently.

The disadvantage to this particular number is that it's short: it's a physical constant, not an irrational, so it can't go on forever, and even compared to other physical constants I have less to work with it's rather brief:

Newtonian constant of gravitation: 6.67408: 31 or 32 beads for the digits (depending on the design), and 5 for spacers (if I decide to use them)

Speed of light: 2.99792548: 55 beads for the digits, and 8 for the spacers (depending on the design

Avogadro's number: 6.022140857: 35 or 36 beads (depending on the design) and 9 for spacers (also depending on the design)

so gravity is one of those that ends up being too long for a bracelet, but too short for a necklace (I guess I should start using the concise form, which ironically would be longer?). It's good anklet length but who wears those anymore?

Of course, the other option (which I've done on occasion) is to bead a focal piece and then add a chain on either side to make it a comfortable length. A fairly elegant hack, as this allows you to put the entire number on display instead of hiding the first and last few digits on the back of your neck. On the other hand, necklaces tend to slide a lot and so you'll probably end up having to adjust it a couple times a day, or just be cool with the focal point getting pulled halfway up your neck.

This was the rare case where I had beads large and chunky enough that just by themselves, they were a perfectly acceptable size for a necklace! And the colors are really eye-catching:

Turquoise gold white necklace sciart stem physics science jewelry teacher gift
Turquoise, white, and "gold" Newtonian constant of gravitation necklace: detail
So if you're with me in trying to beat the winter doldrums, treat yourself to a vibrant little turquoise pick-me-up! Or just browse #sciart. Whatever you do, I hope you all survived your Mondays!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Science Saturday: Thesis Art

A blog that's been on my feed for ages now is The Finch and Pea. It's a science blog for everyone, but it's particularly been at the nexus of the recent (ish?) sciart movement. See, if you're not following The Finch and Pea, you might miss out on cool stuff like this thesis art.

"Beat Poetry" by Stephen Gaeta
I love this trend of word art (like, I'm sure I'm the last book nerd on the Internet to discover and I appreciate how it's reminiscent of old plate engravings used for science illustrations back in the day. Very, very fitting!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Ways I'm Going To Take Chances In 2016

Another srs bzness 5 Fandom Friday, whoa! I can dig this. What chances am I going to take in 2016? First let me get this earworm out of my head...


1. Promote my jewelry more.

I've been selling nerdy jewelry on Etsy since 2008, and do you know how many blogs I've asked for a feature? One. One! What is that? Well, my photography has improved since 2008, and so has my craft, so now that looking at my shop doesn't make me cringe, it's time to put my work out there for people to find. I already have one deal done and dusted; since then I've found another blog and a vendor that are really relevant to STEM and steminism (that I also think are really interesting and cool in their own right!). Plus, there are a lot of great museums here in Stockholm that I could pitch to (though that might mean doing something unpleasant with my tax status). But the long and the short of it is, I have enough of a range now, in terms of skills, that I can start to bring Kokoba Jewelry out into the spotlight. A little bit.

2. Take more classes.

They're free (all hail the socialist nanny state!) and I can mostly survive on my editing work. This is maybe the best chance I'll ever have to finally study everything I've ever been interested in. Right now I'm in a distance Russian course, but there's certainly room in my schedule for one or two more. Arabic? Korean? Chinese? Finish trigonometry on Kahn academy?

3. Get serious about careers.

There are a number of careers I'm interested in and want to fall back on if it turns out I can't feasibly be a ninja tutor-editor-jeweler for the rest of my life. Those careers require official training and certification. Even being a ninja tutor-editor-jeweler means having a professional web presence and having to promote myself. Either way, I need to be less of a lump.

4. People more.

I am by nature an anxious, passive person. So are most people that I get along best with and want to be friends with. So we sit alone, never daring to suggest a fika or a movie or Netflix and chill (am I using that expression right? probably not), because we're afraid that the other person is actually too cool for us, or that we're annoying, or that the other person doesn't really like us as much as we like them, and never get to know each other better. So in 2016 I'm going to try to be more social (outside of NaNoWriMo).

5. Freak out less about my independence.

This is kind of counterintuitive, but I should put it like this: I'm an American and I have really strong, internalized ideas about BOOTSTRAPS!! and SELF-SUFFICIENCY!! that are not helpful at this stage in my life. Letting people help me and take care of things for me is, weird as it sounds, a risk for me. It's a chance; it's outside my comfort zone. But human beings are social creatures; after all, if all of my loved ones never wanted my help with anything, how would I feel? Frustrated. unappreciated, useless.

What chances are you going to take this year?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What I'm Playing: Fallout New Vegas

Okay, I know that I've already talked about this game before, in December 2015's Read Play Blog post (also, has anyone else signed up for the new Read Play Blog...whatever it will be? do you know what's going on? I'm super curious!), but I want to talk about some more SO I WILL.

I should begin by saying that for years I was convinced that Fallout was a shooter series. I guess it doesn't help that Half-Life, another scifi game with a nuclear-related name, is a shooter. (At least, it's a very different game from Fallout.) Or that the perspective from Fallout 3 onwards is first-person. So for years I had just put Fallout in the category of "hardcore brogamer shooty games that I won't like" and kept playing my platformers, RPGs, dungeon crawlers, hack 'n' slashers, fighters, and puzzlers.

But then I moved in with JV, my long-distance and long-suffering boyfriend of...13 years, now? Yeah, my math is right.

Now, we both like reading. We both like gaming. But for me, reading is my life's blood. If I go for too long without reading anything, I get depressed. Seriously: I get fidgety, I lose my focus, and I feel this general sense of malaise. Conversely, if I feel like shit, the quickest way for me to feel better is to finish a book. My most important possessions, even more than my jewelry supplies, are my books. Gaming, however, is a fun hobby that I can pick up and put down whenever. It's usually the first thing I drop when my schedule is too crowded, because honestly I can get along fine without it.

It's the complete reverse for JV. I don't think he could go for a week without a game, and his game collection rivals my books collection. It's taken a while for me to come to grips with the fact that I live with someone who isn't, to their bones, a reader, but I'm okay with it now. And presumably he's had the same journey about me and not being a gamer.

The good thing about this mismatch is that, from our deep love and understanding of our respective media, we can turn the other towards something they might not have picked up. JV is in the middle of Redshirts, for example: a book he loves but would have never known about or picked up if I hadn't recommended it to him. And I'm in the middle of Fallout Lou Bega New Vegas, a game I love but would have never given a chance if JV hadn't recommended it (and Fallout 3) to me.

This was a long story to say: if you, like me, were under the assumption that the Fallout games are whiz-bang shooters, you were wrong. If you are an RPG fan who likes exploring new worlds and meeting new characters, you need to give it a shot. It only looks like a FPS.

(That said, I won't be picking up any recent Elder Scrolls releases, anytime soon, even if they're essentially Bethesda's fantasy equivalent of Fallout 3. Not until they figure out how to work something like V.A.T.S. into the game.)

Anyway, on to Lou Bega. What am I really digging about it?

First of all, the graphics. But I already wrote about that, so I'll just say: I cannot overstate how much I prefer this look to Fallout 3.

Beyond the surface-level stuff, though, I really like your companions. In Fallout 3, your companions are automatically limited by your karma: out of the 8 available, 6 have specific karma requirements (2 good, 2 neutral, and 2 evil). The other 2 are karma neutral. To get to know all of the companions, you'd need three different playthroughs—unless you take the perks to reset your karma, but that would be kind of waste, I think. And personally, no matter how much I love a game and want to experience all of it, I have a really hard time taking the evil path. I'm not going to compromise my gaming experience to unlock extra followers. I'm just not that much of a completionist.

The Fallout New Vegas companions. 
In Lou Bega, none of the 8 companions have a karma requirement, making it possible to collect all 8 of them in one go. Some of them definitely have different faction allegiances and preferences, but since (so far) they seem to align with mine (fuck Caesar's Legion, essentially), I haven't seen what happens if you line up with a group they despise.

Using a hazy faction allegiance framework instead of a strict "where do you fall on the good/evil spectrum?" framework makes the characters way more interesting. That, and the fact that the companions develop over time. In Fallout 3, my only companion was Fawkes (somehow I missed out on Star Paladin Cross). You learn his background as soon as you meet him (if you opt to save/not kill him), and then that's about it. In New Vegas, people have complicated histories with different organizations and as you spend time with them, you can learn more about them, and even unlock quests specific to their storyline. Even if Fawkes is definitely cool (an erudite and philosophical Super Mutant!), he doesn't develop in the same way as, say, Cass does during her "investigate the caravans" quest. If I stop to talk to him once in a while, the only dialogue options will be about his strategy (and maybe the same backstory as he tells you when you meet him, I forget).

It's hard for me to pick a favorite companion. I've unlocked all of them except Raoul and Veronica—it feels weird to have even four people at my disposal, compared to just the one I had in Fallout 3. (I mean, I also had Dogmeat in Fallout 3, but he feels like a pet more than a companion.)

ED-E is probably the most useful one. Because there is more of an emphasis on crafting in New Vegas, it's really handy to have a floating workbench following you whereever you go. Especially because I have a preference for energy weapons—energy weapon ammo is hard to come by, so I recycle everything.

Fun fact: JV pronounces ED-E as "Ee dee ee." The quest you get after you fix ED-E in Primm is called "ED-E My Love," which I recognized instantly as a nod to Grease as well as The Teen Queens and The Chordettes. References JV missed.

The first companion I picked up is Boone, who has kind of a typical tragic past backstory, but I appreciate his burning hatred for Caesar's Legion. Anytime I'm going to fight Caesar's Legion, I make sure to take him with me:

"I'm going to shoot any Caesar's Legion members I see. I hope that's not a problem."
"That sounds like a solution to me."

Lily is a more compelling and interesting character, with a more unique tragic past backstory. Story-wise, she might be my favorite. But Cass is pretty great, too. Arcade Gannon is maybe the least interesting, but he's the only companion who also packs energy weapons, making him pretty invaluable in combat—despite being a scientist and not a fighter by trade.

So there are a lot of companions who add a lot of content and a lot of different fighting tactics, because when you have them around you get their perk! Lily boosts your stealthiness, Boone helps you pick out far away enemies while aiming down sights, Arcade raises the effectiveness of your healing items, and Cass gives you a recipe for booze (and also makes you better at handling booze).

Overall, companions have a lot more nuance in New Vegas. (That's not even getting into the companions you temporarily pick up for the DLC quests! But I haven't started any DLC quests yet so I can't really say much about them.)

The other thing I really like in  Lou Bega is the crafting. In both Fallout 3 and Lou Bega, there is a lot of stuff you can pick up. Some poor soul out there, I'm sure, has diligently picked up every piece of junk and scrap in every location. Just because. And while scattered pots and burned books in a house do a lot for atmosphere, there's not much point in making them something you can pick up. Sure, you can craft some custom weapons, but that's about it. In New Vegas not only can you make weapons, but you can also make a variety of consumables, ammo (either recycle it or make it from scratch), armor, and poisons. Every random piece of junk you find (or almost every) can probably be used to craft a fairly useful item. Duct tape, scrap metal, scrap electronics, WonderGlue, and a wrench? Weapon repair kit! Sensor module? Upgrade your regular StimPak to an AutoStimPak! Surgical tubing and buffalo gourd seed? Snakebite tourniquet! It's cool that all of this stuff finally gets some use, and it's also cool to have alternatives for supplies if you find yourself low on caps.

There are some things I miss from Fallout 3. The radio in New Vegas is great but there's no replacing Three Dog. Which is why I'm bummed he won't return for Fallout 4. What are you doing, Bethesda?! And while I appreciate the attempt at realism in a video game, sometimes having healing items heal X points over Y seconds instead of immediately upon use really fucks with my chi. There's also an esoteric damage versus DPS thing going on with the ammo (piercing armor versus doing lots of damage) and it just seems needless. I just ignore it and shoot things with plasma until they're green puddles of goo!

For those of you who haven't played a Fallout game yet, or are on the fence about it, let me try to sum it up: it is, first and foremost, an RPG. There's combat, and the default presentation is first-person, but it's an RPG, and a story-based one at that. You'll be surprised at how much shooting you can avoid if you have enough skill points in Speech or a high enough Intelligence score. And even when the combat turns up, you always have your trusty V.A.T.S. to help and you nearly always (not right at the beginning) have a companion or two at your side. You don't have to be great at shooters to enjoy Fallout. I suck at shooters and I love Fallout!

It's also not a game that's particularly fun to watch, either—so don't assume that because you didn't like watching someone else play it, you won't like playing it yourself. Personally, I get really terrible headaches watching someone else play a first-person perspective game. I can watch Saints Row and GTA San Andreas for ages, but anything more than five minutes of Fallout and I have to get up and do something else.

It supports a lot of play styles, too. Do you really, really, really hate shooting? Then don't! There are numerous melee weapons available. Hell, you can even bareknuckle box your way through the whole game, if you want. It might be a lot harder, but you can at least try.

You'll noticed that I only talked about Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas in here. There's a whole history of games I haven't gotten to yet, so if the first-person perspective really isn't your thing, you can try one of the first two, which are very RP-y. Tactics is much more action-oriented, as is Brotherhood of Steel—both of which are isometric rather than first-person. There's something for everybody!

What are you playing right now?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Newly Listed: Speed of Light in Snow Quartz and Faceted Amethyst

Back when I was working on SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT (it's done now; all that's left is to count down the days until I can share it with you!), I bought a whole bunch of a kind of stone entirely new to me: snow quartz (also called snowy quartz, milky quartz, and white quartz). It was something I could use in so many projects, when moonstone was too expensive and when mother-of-pearl was too warm.

In so many projects, it turned out, that I used it all up before writing a geo-shopping post about it. Oops!

In the meantime, feast your eyes on this latest piece of sciart jewelry: the speed of light in snow quartz, with faceted amethyst acting as spacers.

Physics teacher steminism sciart gift: speed of light science bracelet jewelry
Speed of light bracelet by Kokoba
This is only the second speed of light piece in my shop and (according to my photo backlog) the third I've ever done. How could I forget one of the most important physical constants there is? I don't know, but I'm determined to rectify that situation.

This would be a great gift for any physics nerds or hard SF fans you know, whether for Valentine's day or for a February birthday (since amethyst is February's birthstone).

Last week, I decided to dig on Etsy for some #sciart finds. This week I originally planned on searching on Pinterest, but you know what? Either Pinterest users are idiots, or there is something fucky with their algorithms (why not both?), because the vast majority of stuff that turns up when you search for "#sciart" is fairies and fantasy things. And, for some reason, fashion color palette advice based on your "season."

Meanwhile, if you search #sciart on Twitter, you get some really nifty new stuff! Like neurons painted in sumi-e style:

Some immunology jewelry from the fantastic Vexed Muddler:

And some breathtaking marine biology:

So, sorry Pinterest: you were a cool idea but for now I'm going to stick to recipes, thanks.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Five Fandom Friday: How I Changed in 2015

This week's 5 Fandom Friday isn't exactly fandom-y but I think that's why I like it so much. I don't care how much you like Star Wars or YA fantasy, your fandoms aren't your defining characteristic as a person. I always feel like I know a blogger much better after a serious, non-fandom-y post than a fandom-y one. I guess I'm just a Serious Sally or something. Fun comes later! First, bare your heart and soul to me!

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly blog meme put together by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick.

1. I value my time more.

I talked about this, uh, yesterday. And a month ago. But it's something I'm beginning to discover not only in my jewelry work but in my professional work as well. Until editing work picks up again (which it should soon, tack och lov!), right now my biggest income-earner is tutoring. I sat down, crunched numbers, looked at the time I was spending not only with my tutees, but the commute, and the time I was putting in on lesson plans, activities, and materials and decided: I am not paying myself enough.

At the beginning of December I let my tutees know that I was raising my rates in 2016. It wasn't an insignificant increase, but based on research I did, my new rate is much more in line with the market. Did I lose any customers? Not permanently. Did I see a drop in business? Yes.

However, for around the same amount I was earning before, I have so much more time. Half of my weekend used to be busy (longest commute there and back + 2-hour session = hard to muster energy for the rest of Saturday) and now it's free. I can be social! A few days after this client said they would be taking January off (and letting me know about the rest of the year after), I got the idea to have people over to watch Groundhog Day on...Groundhog Day. A Tuesday. That's a bad day for most people, and now that I've valued my time more, that's okay, because I can have my Groundhog Day party on the Saturday before.

2. I got over my bad break-up with exercise.

Note that this is stock photography. I only wish I had nice
hardwood floors and an adorable kitty.

Real talk, you guys: I was never a star athlete. Shocking, I know! I played kiddie soccer as, well, a kiddie, and then softball for a few years (which I always hated because I sucked at it, but somehow continued to sign up for it or be signed up for it or pretend I loved it or something, I can't remember), and then that was it.

Of course, when you're a chubby kid, well-meaning adults will try to find a way to get you to magically become athletic because scaremongers have convinced them that chubby kids are doomed to get heart attacks and cancer by their 40s.

So I looked forward to adulthood as this glorious, beautiful time where I wouldn't have to exercise or play sports or go to gym class. And that's mostly been my adulthood. There were times when I flirted with exercise, but it was always part of a "not a diet, ~*~*~lifestyle change~*~*~" period where I was trying to be smaller, and sometimes I almost liked it but inevitably it wouldn't work and I would bounce back to "FUCK YO' EXERCISE, TIME FOR STAR TREK AND PRINGLES."

2015 was the year I finished the Star Trek marathon and the can of Pringles. Metaphorically. I finally saw exercise as a tool that would improve my health (not my mood, never my mood: sorry health nuts but nothing will ever destress me and lift my spirits as much as a good book or destroying the competition at bar trivia) and, on a woo-woo note, how I felt in my body. I got back into daily yoga after years of off-and-on. I should probably do a whole post about yoga at some point, but here I'll just say that since the gentle stretching is something noncompetitive that I can practice in the privacy of my home, it's a lot easier for me to get into than hardcore cardio stuff. (Exercise-induced asthma means cardio needs to be approached with care and caution.)

I also made it a goal to do "some" cardio on our exercise bike every day. I learned two things from this. One: I hate that bike. The seat has no cushion (NO cushion! at all!) and sitting on it at all is torture. Two: I like walking.

The second one should have been obvious, but it wasn't. It wasn't until I was trying to get out of my promise to myself to do "some" cardio that I realized walking (and walking outside) was enjoyable. In the desperation to find an alternative, either my subconscious had given up its last resistance to movement, or forgotten all of the complex rules we have about what movement "counts," or something else, but suddenly walking from Gullmarsplan to our apartment on my way home, or taking walks around the neighborhood, seemed fine. Good, even.

I even started weight training with free weights, something I previously thought was only the purview of jocks and meatheads. But more on that later (much later). I'm still a weak-ass newb.

3. I got fatter, and I got okay with that.

Mostly okay. But I'm trying.

4. I took my writing more seriously.

2015 was  the year of editing 2014's first draft from NaNoWriMo. This is significant for a few reasons. First of all, it's a coin toss whether or not I even the first draft of anything. Second of all, even if I do finish a first draft, I usually just let it sit and rot (digitally) forever. This was the first year I actively worked on and revised a piece of fiction...maybe ever. I'm on the third round of revisions and it's not even close to done. Prior to that I would maybe do the one token revision I needed for creative writing workshops and call it a day.

5. I stopped putting up with bullshit.

Clerks is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I think the reason I love it is because Dante and Randall remind me a lot of myself and my high school best friend. I have principles, sure, and I can lose my temper and even pick fights pretty easily (in certain company), but at the end of the day I am mostly passive and a pushover. I am that guy who you can call to open the store for you, even if I wasn't supposed to be there today.

So when I stop putting up with bullshit, it looks different than how other people might envision themselves doing the same.

Did I tell anyone off? No. Did I start responding to idiocy in Facebook comments? Hahahahah, no. But I thought long and hard about the kind of people I wanted to share my life with (in a general sense). Who should I grant access to? Who should I deny?

For a couple of weeks I stressed over whether the people I dropped would find me elsewhere, talk to me elsewhere, ask me why I had unfriended them. Nothing came of it.

For a lot of people, clicking the unfriend button on Facebook is just another thing, but the stress of that potential confrontation kept me from doing it for months.

I set boundaries with other people, too. I did this explicitly—informing people that I was not going to discuss certain topics with them, ever—but also in a more interior, subtle sense. I allowed myself to walk away from conversations if I had nothing to say, instead of manufacturing a hollow response to the latest Real Housewives of Nevada update. I started to hold others accountable for their actions and how they treated me.

Some of these changes happened quickly, others were a long time coming, but they were all important. How did you grow in 2015?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Art and Science and Insecurity of Pricing on Etsy: Round 2

So! I made a bracelet. I'm sure this is all shocking to anyone who's followed me for any length of time!

The picture is not the greatest. Better ones will be up on the Facebook page tomorrow, when I have more flattering daylight. Until then, here's this noisy, low-quality, poorly-edited mess:

Sciart jewelry: speed of light bracelet for physics lovers.
Speed of light (meters per second, in a vacuum)  wrap bracelet/choker

This is a bracelet I've been thinking about making since December. Today I sat down and made it (mostly because I put it on my HabitRPG "to do" list). It took around an hour and a half to make. The beaded portion is around 16", meaning it will comfortably wrap twice around the typical wrist as a bracelet or once around the neck as a choker. (Really. Probably. If it fits comfortably on me, it will probably fit comfortably on a lot of people; I have a thick neck.)

Sometimes when I finish a project, all I feel is unequivocal pride. "Girl, you are lookin' flyyyyyy," my inner diva says, admiring the work. Other times I shrug and go, "Eh."

That is how I feel about this bracelet. Anyone who knows anything about making these guys will be able to spot some problems with my ladder stitching straight away.

So then the question is: should I sell it?  Or keep it?

I love the colors the way I would love a throw pillow, or someone else's outfit. Really cool, but not necessarily my thing to wear on my person. So it's not something I'm dying to keep (unlike some other pieces in my shop that break my heart to sell). So the answer is to sell it, right? (Assuming for the moment I have no one to give it away to. Maybe I'll give it away here. Stay tuned!)

But then here we are, to the kernel of the issue: for how much? How should I price it? If I know how I normally value my time but wish to make an exception, how can I do that?

I talked just a few weeks ago about pricing items on Etsy, which I think sellers and buyers alike should read. If it's fresh in your memory, you'll recall that one of my guidelines for pricing is: how much do I value an hour of my time? how long did an item take to make?

My going rate when pricing things is $30 an hour, or $58,000 annually if I were working full-time. (Hint: I do not make jewelry full-time.) So I'd have to think of a retail price that would be profitable if I were selling this bracelet at $45 wholesale.

Whoa child, slow down!

If this had been a "girl, you are lookin' flyyyyyy" bracelet, I'd have no issue with that amount. But it's not.

Believe me, I value my work. And I value other people's work. But you should also be able to acknowledge when a piece of work is a (re)learning experience. When you were not efficient with the time you spent on something. So I can admit to myself that this is a practice piece, and so if I want to sell it I should take the hit. How much of a hit should I take?

Well, there's the "how much do I think other people would value it" method: you can try to imagine it in a store, or scour Etsy for similar items, but this involves a lot of shopping around and, ultimately, guess work. So

Let's make it the US minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. A retail value of $22 would be completely doable in that scenario....if I wanted to earn a minimum wage that hasn't been updated or adjusted in six years ($15,000 annually). Even if I think my time is worth more than minimum wage (it is!), I now have a "basement value" for this piece. If I sell it below this price, I'm valuing my time even less than Uncle Sam does. In fact, the basement price should really be something like $25, to account for Etsy fees, the time spent photographing and then image editing, and the packaging for when it finally ships—otherwise I'd be paying myself less than minimum wage.

Let's take the minimum wage that Barack Obama mandated in 2014 for federal workers: $10.10. That would be a retail price of $30. (Makes sense: an extra $2.85 an hour = an extra $4.37 in labor costs, which when doubled to account for retail is around the $8 difference.) Now we're looking at around $19,000 annually.

As a final tier, let's take the ideal minimum wage that many activists are campaigning: $15 / hour, or half of how I normally price my time: $29,000 annually. That would call for a retail cost of $44.

Now I have a range of concrete values to choose from, depending on how "meh" I feel about this particular piece—if I still want to sell it.

Because there are other ways to see value, too. The value for me, for example, isn't only in "how much money can I make from this?" There's also value in learning or remembering a technique, and practicing it so that in the future I can do it better and more efficiently. I can value it as a step towards more even stitches, and reducing the time it takes to make a comparable bracelet from an hour and a half to maybe just one hour, or maybe even less. It won't put food on the table but it's still worthwhile.

Even given away, under the right circumstances and with the right management, would be beneficial: free advertising, increased brand recognition, and other positive things could lead to future sales. Given away free, or for the cost of shipping, also relieves me of the guilt of "not as good as it could have been," since I'm asking nothing in return.

My point here in all this rambling is that it's possible to value "practice work" monetarily as well as abstractly. (My point also is that handiwork takes time and artisan's time is worth paying for, but that is kind of always my point.)

I guess my other point is that holy crap these wrap bracelets take a long time to make and I need some protips on how to do it better and faster.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What I'm Reading: Mrs. Dalloway

I said I would read it in January, and that's exactly what I'm doing! I originally read Mrs. Dalloway in college so there's nothing really new to me. I will say that I'm reading this edition, and the introduction and footnotes are quite interesting—they're something new to me this time around, at least! (I don't normally read introductions first, unless I've already read the book.) So if you come across this one, pick it up. Or at least nose through the introduction.

Overall it's a cozy and familiar way to start the new year.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Newly Listed: Avogadro Red Creek Jasper Necklace

It's the first Monday of the new year! Yeah!

I've been busting my butt getting pieces together and getting them out on the intarwebs. Online sellers talk a lot about Christmas and Cyber Monday and so on, often saying that it's the busiest time of year for them.

Kokoba has always been a pretty small operation. "Busy" is relative and for me, that means 3 or more sales in a month. Just to give you an idea of how small I am.

What I have noticed is that I have just as many sales in April as I do in December, and more than I have in November. Now, I haven't polled my customers about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if those April sales were graduation gifts, or gifts for favorite teachers. So that means that as soon as the "holiday rush" is over, I need to start ramping up my game for April! Last year I let the store sit in a weird limbo and missed out on a lot. This is not the case, and here is one of the latest pieces created in anticipation of the end-of-school "rush".

Sciart chemistry necklace featuring Avogadro's number and red creek jasper, a great gift for chemists and chemistry teachers.
Avogadro's number in red creek jasper, by Kokoba
I've forgotten how satisfying it can be to work with just one stone. This and my recent mookaite gravity bracelet both feature only one stone: this time, it's red creek jasper. (The small gold-colored beads are glass.)

The large ovals were a gift from a former coworker, back when I worked at the cave, and to be honest I almost don't want to sell this one. But I think it could make someone really happy, and I used the bulk of those lovely ovals in a Fibonacci necklace that is mine and mine forever. So.

Working with physical constants is tricky because I swear to space they're always changing on me. Rather, physical constants are hard to very measure precisely and accurately. This, coupled with the fact that in the past I would reference Google calculator, Wikipedia, and CODATA's official website willy-nilly means that there is inconsistency across my past work. These days I only use CODATA as a reference, but even then it's updated every couple of years, as scientists adjust their calculations and as our technology becomes more fine-tuned. So fact decay inevitably occurs and one day this necklace will no longer be quite as accurate or as relevant!

(Physical constants are a different beast than irrational numbers. We're incredibly certain about the precise value of numbers like pi or the Golden Ratio to an incredible amount of decimal places.)

I decided to step away from the #sciart hashtag on Twitter this week and see what I could find in Etsy. A lot of great things, it turned out!

Many I recognized from the Mad Scientists of Etsy!:

 Minouette's linocut prints and portraits

ArtAtomic's particle physics prints
which makes sense, since they were the ones who let me know (via Twitter) that #sciart was a thing in the first place. But I also found some really cool new-to-me shops!

Custom DNA Plasmid Art by sandraculliton on Etsy
Sandra Culliton has an amazing variety of watercolor sciart pieces and funky vinyl stickers. DNA plasmids, origami cranes, and jellyfish, oh my!

Jellyfish No. 7, "In the Deep"
I've also admired Ink & Sword's clean retro graphic designs on previous sciart Mondays, but for some reason never made the connection that the pieces were available for purchase on Etsy!

"All That Matters," Ink & Sword

Apollo 11 tribute, Ink & Sword

And finally, Nervous System has some awesome haute couture 3D-printed goodies for your inner Lady Gaga who's also a science nerd:

Silver "Medusa" Necklace, Nervous System

There's a lot more #sciart goodness waiting for you on Etsy, go check it out!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Skeptical Saturday: Why Your Resolution to Lose Weight is Doomed to Failure (And Also Bullshit to Begin With)

Natalie asked if this was going to become a regular feature on the blog, and I joked that if I were to do that, I'd probably give myself a coronary. But I guess the holiday season is just rife with things that piss me off, so here's another one a lot sooner than you should probably expect!

Why is my weight loss resolution doomed to failure?

From the best studies we have on the topic, around 95% of calorie-restrictive diets fail. The odds are stacked against you, especially if you're set on dropping anything greater than around 10% of your starting weight—that seems to be the highest amount you're likely to keep off.

There are freakshows, and there will always be freakshows, but you have a 5% chance of becoming one of them. Not only that, but the price of being that 5% freakshow is eternal fucking vigilance. / Miguel Saavedra
Not just around food, but around exercise, too. You better learn to love the gym because you'll have to exercise an extra hour every day to maintain this new, smaller body compared to someone else who was always that size. Very few of us have the lifestyle to make that much exercise (since your job is probably something sedentary) a priority for the rest of our lives. If you read no other link in here, read the one in the previous paragraph ("The Fat Trap," New York Times). Or here, I'll quote what permanent, successful, significant weight loss entails:

Janice Bridge, a registry member who has successfully maintained a 135-pound weight loss for about five years, is a perfect example... 
Since October 2006 she has weighed herself every morning and recorded the result in a weight diary. She even carries a scale with her when she travels. In the past six years, she made only one exception to this routine: a two-week, no-weigh vacation in Hawaii. 
She always weighs everything in her kitchen. She knows that lettuce is about 5 calories a cup, while flour is about 400. If she goes out to dinner, she conducts a web search first to look at the menu and calculate calories to help her decide what to order. She avoids anything with sugar or white flour, what she calls her "gateway drugs" for cravings and overeating...She writes down everything she eats. At night, she transfers all the information to an electronic record...
Bridge also supports her careful regimen with an equally rigorous regimen of physical activity. She exercises from 100 to 120 minutes a day, six or seven days a week*, often by riding her bicycle to the gym, where she takes a water-aerobics class.
*Editor's note: For comparison, the American Heart Association's official recommendation is 30 - 50 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, three days a week, for optimal heart health.

So that's why you're doomed to failure! But there's good news: it was a bullshit goal to begin with. You were duped, and there's a better way.

Why was it bullshit?

A couple of years ago, I wrote up a post on the bogus science of BMI for NEDA's Eating Disorder Awareness Week. If you haven't read it already, go check it out now!

This is relevant here because you often hear about lower or higher BMIs being associated with this or that, when the truth is that BMI is a flawed model that was originally intended as a statistical tool in the 1800s and was appropriated by insurance companies (not doctors, not scientists, not knowledgeable health professionals) to decide who were and weren't high-risk customers—that is, customers more prone to having heart attacks.

Now we take BMI as medical gospel when nothing could be further from the truth. It basically renders all of those studies you hear about being "too fat" having something to do with this or that medical malady inherently flawed, because their criterion for "too fat" is inherently flawed.

"Okay," you argue, "I cede your point that BMI is a broken system that would be better replaced by more accurate measurements of muscle-to-fat ratios specifically. But we can all agree that having too much fat is, objectively, bad for you. You said yourself that we've known since the 1700s that larger people tend to die earlier, after all."

You know how when you hit puberty, your parents, teachers, and helpful books told you that you need to shower every day? Because it's good hygiene? Yeah, that's a marketing scam from soap companies in the beginning of the 20th century. Advertisers convinced people that they were just secretly stinky and that their friends were gossiping about them because of it, so it became "common sense" that you should bathe every day for the sake of hygiene. In actuality, your skin does a good job of handling bacteria and icky things, and once a week is usually enough to be healthy and hygienic, really—so long as you're not training for an Ironman or Tough Mudder every day, or handling sewage or hazardous waste.  (You should still brush and floss every day, and you should still wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food and after using the toilet. But that's something else entirely.)

It's that same kind of common sense (OR "COM-NONSENSE" AMIRITE????!!!) we're seeing with fat and obesity now. Everyone "just knows" that it's unhealthy to be fat, but any study that avoids the trap of using BMI as a sorting tool almost always fails to take into account social stigma and how that affects health. Really, you "just know" that being fat is unhealthy because everyone is mindlessly repeating it: advertisements, your clueless Facebook friends, Michelle Obama. (Advertisements especially. Do you realize how much bank companies like NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, and WeightWatchers make? Never mind gyms that deliberately overbook their memberships because they know that people will panic about being fat or unhealthy but then most likely not actually turn up? Books about this or that new fad diet?)

In reality, it's actually very difficult to tell if it's fat that makes you ill, or the stigma around being fat. If fat people are dying earlier, is it because they're fat, or because they put off going to the doctor, sometimes to the point that whatever medical intervention they receive is less effective? Is it because even when they go to the doctor, doctors often dismiss legitimate medical complaints as just being a result of their obesity?  Is it because we have no way of knowing which of these fat people haven't given into the pressure from society to lose weight, only to go and gain a whole bunch more back—a process called yo-yo dieting or "weight cycling" that can cause long-term damage? Is it because they can receive hundreds of messages a day from media, friends, and family that they are unhealthy, an Other, a less-than, leaving them in a state of perpetual semi-stressedness? Elevated stress hormones are demonstrably bad for you, and as long as we keep treating fat people like shit we'll never know if having fat elevates those hormones or if it's people being dicks (it's probably people being dicks, though).

Why were larger people keeling over from heart attacks 200 years ago? Who knows? Maybe it was too much food and not enough physical movement that did it—making fat a symptom of an underlying problem rather a problem and in and of itself. Maybe it was something they ate. Maybe it was stress. Maybe it was a direct result of too much body fat. Maybe it was just a huge coincidence.

The truth is that the fear of fat is a marketing tool designed to make you feel bad about yourself, no matter what. If you're already thin, the fear is of becoming fat. If you're average, the (misguided) fear is that you're already too fat. If you're actually fat, well, how could you not feel bad about yourself? A capitalist society wants people to be insecure and unsure of themselves because that's how companies can sell more items. (Remember that soap example I mentioned earlier?) This isn't tinhattery; this is how marketing works. This method is called "the halitosis method," after Listerine's unbelievably successful campaign to get people to start using mouthwash—by creating an imaginary enemy called "halitosis" and then selling you the solution.

If no one felt bad about their bodies, companies like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and NutriSystem would be out of business. Most of the "casual gyms" across the country (as opposed to the hardcore bodybuilding gyms) would close their doors as well. We would no longer compulsively buy clothes and cosmetics we don't need in an attempt to look/feel beautiful (or that we need to buy because of endless yo-yo dieting and closet purges). Hell, how many blogs that you follow would suddenly have nothing left to sell or say? There are lots of people invested in you feeling like crap, and invested in you trying to "better yourself" according to society's impossible beauty standards and also moral health imperatives.

This is where I see a lot of people try to sidestep all of this. "I don't care how I look," they claim, "I just want to be healthier."

Who told you that you weren't already healthy? Who told you that you have a moral imperative to be healthy? Who told you that less of you means a healthier you? Who told you that being fit and athletically competent was a good barometer of health?

How do you feel?

How can we do this better?

If you're feeling sluggish, achey, or otherwise unwell, then yes: you might well benefit from moving more, or from making changes in your diet. If you're having a hard time keeping up with friends in your favorite physical hobbies, you would probably be happier if you invested in some more training.

Because there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel better. I picked up a lot of awful habits in college, but one good one was keeping an eye on my fiber intake because I learned that without it, I could be left in excruciating abdominal pain that wouldn't relent for days. Gallstones? Constipation? Lactose intolerance? Hell if I know, but I figured out a change that worked and I made it part of my adult life. Did I get thinner? Temporarily, only. But was I in less pain? Permanently. Did I feel better? Permanently.

People who have lost a lot of weight claim to suddenly feel better in a similar way. Is it because they've started moving and eating a more balanced, nutrient-rich diet, rather than because they're smaller? Is it a psychological thing about successfully belonging to the group? Most likely. Is it just because they're smaller? That the shrinking of their fat cells kickstarted some mysterious and positive metabolic process? Probably not.

If you make the resolution a habit, and you make it for its own sake rather than wanting to be smaller, you'll succeed. For more on creating and achieving habit-based goals, please read this series on habits at Power, Peace, and the Porch Gym. And don't do it as a mind hack to "win" at dieting. Very few people win at dieting, even with the "not a diet" diet. Do it because you will be stronger, sleep better, have more energy, or be in less pain. Do it because those are things that you value and want in your life. Not because you want to be smaller. Not because someone else told you that those are things you should value.

You are enough. Just as you are.