Monday, May 30, 2016

Newly Listed: Red Speed of Light Physics Bracelet

This fun little physics number in red Czech glass is the first I've listed in a while. What can I say? I've been busy!

Nerdy physics sciart speed of light jewelry science bracelet
Speed of light bracelet by Kokoba
I suppose the colors are better suited for winter and Christmas than summer, but I'm a rebel! I do what I want!

Nerdy physics sciart speed of light jewelry science bracelet

The spacer beads on this one are some faux cathedral beads I've had for ages. They were perfect for my project at the time (a necklace to go with my outfit for a wedding) but then I never used them again. I don't normally have a lot of red in my bead box, I suppose. 

I've been back in the habit of memory wire bracelets again, too. They're fun and quick, but I think my next few projects should be some science necklaces. Maybe this one will get a matching choker? Stay tuned!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Five: Good and Bad

Since the usual 5 Fandom Friday is on hiatus this month, I thought I'd go for the original (maybe?) Friday 5:

Image courtesy Ryan McGuire
What’s good and what’s bad about the weather lately?

The good is that it's SUNNY. And WARM. Enough that it's comfortable and enjoyable to go running outside! I have always loved summer (no school! birthday! swimming) but in Sweden I just love it extra much. It's my reward for getting through the cold, dark winter. If there's anything bad about the weather, it's that it's not sunny and warm enough. (Spring is always full of hiccups, and there are some days where it's still just like 11 *C outside.)

What’s something that’s so bad it’s good?

So many movies. There is a special place in my heart for Coleman Francis's weird, sad, brief body of work.

What’s something that used to be bad but now is good?

There's any number of foods I didn't like, or didn't try because I didn't think I would like, when I was younger that I've now grown quite fond of.

What are some of your pet words for very bad and very good?

I don't think I have any particular, idiosyncratic expressions for good or bad. I will say that I can't get on board with "amazeballs" though. I just can't.

What’s your favorite song by Bad Company (or Good Charlotte, if BadCo isn’t your style)?

Well, neither Bad Company or Good Charlotte are my style. I do have some Badfinger:

Good Riddance:

and Benny Goodman:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What I Read: The House of the Spirits

Image courtesy Plaza & Janés
Hoo boy, where do I start with this one?

I guess I need to start with the fact that I am an American transplant to Sweden (for those of you who might have just found me). My Swedish is passable, though on a daily basis I almost exclusively use English. I write here and elsewhere in English, I work on my literary aspirations in English, JV and I default to English, and I work in English editing and tutoring. The Swedes who comprise my new social circle use English with me, though if the conversation switches to Swedish it's not a problem. Really, the only time I use Swedish is with the parents of some of my tutees, themselves immigrants but who didn't acquire too much English before they moved here, or who feel more comfortable in Swedish than in English.

In other words, I have to make a concerted effort to expose myself to Swedish. The easiest way to do this is to read books in Swedish. Novel concept, right?

So when my Internet book club decided that March's book would be Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, I decided to challenge myself and read the Swedish translation rather than the English translation. (I think translation between languages is certainly fruitful and possible but I am team Original Language whenever possible.) Because if I'm reading a translation anyway, it might as well be a translation that benefits me somehow.

The book took me around two months to read. More than that, really, considering that I just finished it about a week ago.

So I want to preface everything I have to say about this book with the caveat that I read it through the hazy veil of a non-native language. Or non-fluent. (Though I would consider myself fluent in Swedish, I still have a ways to go. But I think someone who is technically a "non-native" speaker can acquire a native-level fluency in a language.) There were, no doubt, nuances that I missed or things that I completely misunderstood. But on a broad strokes, big picture level, I had no problem following what was going on.

It's hard for me to separate my enjoyment of the book from my pride at having finished a substantial novel in Swedish. This would be the longest thing I've ever read in Swedish by a not insignifcant margin. But even so, I also enjoyed the process of reading itself—mostly.

I also want to say that despite being a huge international celebrity and a writer (apparently?) discussed in schools in Sweden, Allende never came up for me in my studies. Not in high school, not in university. When I mentioned what I was reading to JV, he said, "Oh yeah, Allende. I haven't read anything by her but she's supposed to be good." I would have said, "Who's that?" So I feel like I am woefully underschooled in international contemporary literature, and that if you're in the same position as me, then this review is for you.

Because have you heard of Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Of course you (probably) have, because he is a Big Deal author and people can't stop talking about him. So how is it that Marquez is a household name for me but Allende isn't?

I bring up Marquez because he is comparable, and because his 100 Years of Solitude is comparable to The House of the Spirits. Both deal with a nation's tumultuous history by viewing it through the framework of a large and influential family. Both have the elements of magical realism that have become the hallmark of Latin American literature.

I hated 100 Years of Solitude, but I at least enjoyed reading The House of the Spirits. Over the entire course of 100 Years of Solitude, it felt like Marquez was reaching for some point that was always just out of reach. (I felt the same way about way-overhyped American Gods.) The House of the Spirits, on the other hand, put forward an idea of justice and something almost like karma quietly, without straining, and with more elegance. Her characters were nuanced, each with their personalities and their principles, so that despite a huge cast of characters you never confused them with each other.

The only part of the book I did not enjoy, even taking my pride at Swedish reading comprehension into account, were the sections of the book from the perspective of the family patriarch, Esteban. As a writer, I have to give Allende all the kudos in the world for sketching someone so vividly and creating someone so repulsive and yet so real. But as a reader, I could not endure Esteban and his violence and his snobbery. (And also rape! Not that people shouldn't write about rape; I actually think Allende writes about it very well in that she refuses to engage in salacious details or use it as character development. But I'm at a point in my life where I'm not in the mood for men, even fictional ones, defending and meditating on their entitlement to women's bodies.) So I quickly learned to just skip the sections written in the first person perspective and nothing of value was lost.

The House of the Spirits is another tally mark for my participation in the Women's Classic Literature Event. I'm still torn on whether or not I want to count it towards my modified TIME Top 100 Novels list. Would it be cheating? =/

If you are trying to diversifying your reading habits, if you have a burning curiosity about Latin American literature, or if you love long, multi-generational epics, then The House of the Spirits is very much worth your time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Turos Csusza

Remember when I used to sometimes blog about food? Yeah, me too. Then I stopped cooking for myself because JV is just so good at it.

But sometimes he doesn't feel like cooking, or he wants to have something I don't (pea soup in summer? no thanks). Behold, the world's laziest dish that maybe even might be good for you?

Turos Csusza

Since my work involves me with a lot of fellow immigrants, I've done a miniature world tour of cuisine: Persian, Sri Lankan, Hungarian, Arabic...I approve and my tastebuds approve. Also, my cooking repertoire approves, because often something is SO GOOD that I want to make it myself. Turos czusza is one of those, and it's easy as hell. I've made this a bunch of times since. (As compared to asheh reshteh, which I made once and completely botched because I didn't have enough of any of the herbs.)

The top recipe for turos csusza if you Google is from, and she suggests that you bake the dish for a few minutes after you prepare it. I eat this straight away every time I make it (freshly boiled pasta + refrigerated dairy = pretty good eating temperature), but if you prefer it a little warmer then you might as well nuke it instead of going to the trouble of preheating your oven. This is lazy food, child. This is when you can't be fucked but you feel too guilty to reach for that box of Kraft/Velveeta. (Not that you should feel guilty, because that is divine, but you know...sometimes you want to feel like you made an effort.)

What You Need

  • A carb of choice. The above recipe calls for egg noodles; I have it on good Hungarian authority that elbow macaroni is acceptable, so that's how I roll. I prefer whole wheat pasta just because my life is better when I get lots of fiber.
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sour cream/creme fraiche/Greek yogurt
  • Bacon or something savory to your own taste

What You Do

1. Prepare your carb of choice.

2. Prepare your bacon, if that's how you roll.

3. Mix your bacon, cottage cheese, and sour cream/creme fraiche/Greek yogurt with your carb of choice. Generally you have more cottage cheese than sour cream, but the ratio is totally up to your tastes.



  • I really, really, really do not like bacon. When I make this, I use roasted onion instead. Is that a thing in grocery stores elsewhere? It might not be, considering that the Wikipedia entry is only in Swedish and German.

    I guess y'all outside of northern Europe are missing out on the magic that is rostad lök. :(

    We always have a tub on hand because you can just add them to just about anything and it gets tastier, like croutons that are just pure onion. This recipe is so much easier for me because it dispenses with preparing the bacon in favor of these roasted onions. I bet you could get something similar if you had a fruit dehydrator? They're crispy and have a thin bread crumb-y coating but still taste very much of ONION.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Kjetil Ree. // They look like kind of unappealing pork rinds or something here but I promise they're delicious.
  • Because I'm an adult, I take supplements and vitamins and things now, and one of the supplement-type things I consume is chia seeds. They go really well with this (because they taste of nothing, really, and just look like pepper) and probably help add a little extra protein to a meal that's largely fat and carbs.
  • I had never had cottage cheese before I had this dish. I was always under the impression that cottage cheese was one of those gross, unappealing foods people only ate because they wanted to lose weight (like grapefruit). But no! Cottage cheese is delicious!! Why all the negativity around it? Like the roasted onion, cottage cheese is a permanent fixture in our kitchen.

Give this one a go the next time you're feeling uninspired and like you CBF to make dinner! Maybe add some vegetables if you're feeling fancy!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

ArmchairBEA 2016, Day 5: Wrap-Up

Image courtesy Marco Maru
Real talk, y'all: I had way too much wine while I was watching EuroVision last night and I am feeling it today. While I'm bummed that EuroVision meant I missed out on Saturday's Twitter chat, it was good to go out and socialize with people and watch OTT musical performances. JV is not really into EuroVision anymore ("It was fun when I was a kid," he explained), so I hadn't really watched any of the previous years (or Sweden's national "let's decide who we send to EuroVision" event, Melodifestivalen), but now I'm a convert. One step closer to being a true Swede!

I'm not mad about Ukraine winning—in fact I'm enjoying the rage and seething about how "politics isn't allowed in EuroVision"—but my favorite performer by far was Australia's Im Dami. Girl nailed it.

So I'm writing this wrap-up post feeling cozy and a little post-boozing regretful. After a week or two of absolutely summery weather, today has been gray and drizzly, but far from being depressing, that's actually perfect. JV is out of town for the weekend so I have our tiny apartment to myself, and oh gosh, it's nice, in a way. Sometimes I just really need to be alone for a while. But I also miss cuddles. I guess I'm just a bundle of contradictory moods today.

This year I didn't participate in any of the ArmchairBEA Twitter chats, which is a bummer because I feel like that's how I find the coolest new book bloggers to follow. I'm sitting here nursing my hangover with some fruit juice and clicking through all of the intros in the ArmchairBEA Day 1 link-up post, but it's not the same. That said: over 100 participants! Damn!! But I've already found quite a few new book bloggers to add to my feed, and I'll probably keep going through that post for the next few days. (Reminder! Make sure you have a validated and working RSS feed! A few bloggers I've wanted to add don't have that sorted and that's too bad, because I can't be fucked to remember to visit your site or use BlogLovin' in addition to my regular RSS reader, Inoread.)

I was lucky enough to win one of the daily giveaways, though! (Which I totally would have missed if Natalie hadn't alerted me to it, oop.) I'll be getting the Exilon 5 trilogy in ebook format. It looks like it'll be great commute reading, though I should probably finish my other commute reading first. Guess who now spends her commute fiddling with Fallout Shelter instead of reading her ebooks...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ArmchairBEA 2016, Day 4: Surviving Fictional Worlds

Today we'll talk about surviving fictional worlds. We all know that sometimes, the worlds we love in fiction can be dangerous. Which fictional worlds would you want to live in? Which worlds do you never want to dive into? Which worlds are you content to stay behind the glass, so to speak, rather than wishing to dive through the page? And once you get there, what would you do?

The first book I ever remember really wanting to live in was Little House on the Prairie. To this day I'm not entirely sure why, except that there is a part of me that really likes small spaces. I loved my tiny little "officetel" quarters in South Korea, and when I was in college I put my bedframe on risers and put the mattress under the bed. That way I had a cozy little nook to sleep in, and I got the bonus of a huge workspace I could spread out books and papers on. The actual desk just became like a bedside table and a random depository of stuff that accumulates: bath stuff, unrelated reading, and so on.

I'm the only person I know not freaked out by capsule hotels. // Image courtesy Peter Woodman

So the idea of living my whole life in a covered wagon was appealing to 5-year-old me. In a different life, I would probably be one of those retirees who just spends the rest of their day in a Winnebago. Who knows, maybe that will still be me?

I was also obsessed with boarding schools and Raj India, thanks to A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. (Yes, most of The Secret Garden takes place in England, but the first chapter about Mary's life in India was always filled with mystery for me.)

William Gibson's worlds are always fascinating, but more and more it seems like we're living in them right now, so....wish granted?

Finally, while we're on the topic of living in fictional worlds, I'd like to take a trip down memory lane and bring your attention to a semi-obscure picture book from 1977, The Paper Party. It's about a boy named Jory who, after wanting so badly to live in the world of his favorite TV program, actually gets sucked into show, in a world where everyone and everything is made of paper. It's a really adorable book, but it gets overshadowed by Don Freeman's much more famous work: Corduroy!

And as for worlds I'd rather avoid, it's basically every fantasy novel ever. Not because I hate fantasy, but because in fantasy novels it's almost always the end of the world, or in the middle of a war, or under the oppressive regime of some kind of fascist tyrant, or sometimes a combination of the three! Fun to read about, terrifying to live in. I'll pass, thanks.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Armchair BEA 2016, Day 3: Beyond Books and Blogs

Beyond the traditional form of the novel, what are your favorite alternative forms (graphic novels, audiobooks, webcomics, etc)? Do you have any favorite works within these alternate forms? How do you think the changing format affects the reading experience? 

If I'm not reading books, I'm reading graphic novels and comics. (But...I admit, I'm usually reading books.) I can't focus on audiobooks or podcasts; when someone's reading or lecturing without the context of their body language or visual aids, I totally zone out. Ages ago, an item on my 101 in 1001 list was to listen through the entirety of the History of Rome podcast, since I had heard so much about it from people whose taste I trusted. I started and then realized I wasn't retaining anything from the podcasts, so then I altered the goal to listen and take notes on maybe a third of the episodes. That got real old, too. So I scrubbed it from the list since it obviously wasn't happening and there wasn't really any good reason I wanted to do it.

My favorite comics/graphic I'll have to sit on this one for a while and then come back.

Okay, I've thought about it. In no particular order:

Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)

Kabuki (David Mack) ("The Alchemy," which is volume 7, has some one of the best art I've seen in comics. It's sumptuous.)

Doom Patrol (Grant Morrison) ("Crawling From the Wreckage" is the best, and "The Painting That Ate Paris" has some great moments in it, but by volume 3 it lost some of its magic.)

Fables (Bill Willingham) (y u gotta be a tool, bro)

Promethea (Alan Moore) (This is the best Alan Moore IMHO, though I admit the series takes a weird esoteric left turn that might not be your cup of tea.)

I read a lot of webcomics in college—Something Positive, Queen of Wands, MegaTokyo, The Order of the Stick, User Friendly—but these days I just stick with my old favorite Cat and Girl, which I've been reading since high school.

Our secondary topic, beyond the blog could focus on the ways you engage in talking about books outside of your blog. Do you participate in book clubs, take classes, meticulously maintain your goodreads profile? Let the world know!

I am a meticulous list-keeper, which is why I love GoodReads so much. I have some fusses over the site. Like, counting rereads, or the same book in different languages, is really tricky; I read Mrs. Dalloway in 2006 and again this past January, but there's no way for me to mark that I've read it twice, so my Good Reads Challenege is actually behind by one book! Or I read The Stranger in English a million years ago, and then read it again in Swedish last year for class. I think that should count as two books, really, but I can't get GoodReads to acknowledge that!

(If you want to creep on me on GoodReads, here I be!)

I'm also part of an online book club. It was started by two women, one of whom is a friend of mine, so it's a good mix of people who wouldn't otherwise know each other, and the books so far have been interesting—often ones that I didn't know about, or would have picked for myself. Like The House of the Spirits. Did I ever hear anything about Isabel Allende in high school? In college? Nope. But now I have, and I get to enjoy an author I would have otherwise maybe never heard of.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Armchair BEA 2016, Day 2: Aesthetics and Branding

Today is all about aesthetics! The first part of this topic is concerned specifically with the books, the second with our blogs. Here are some guiding questions to get you started!

The Books: How often do you judge a book by its cover? How often are you surprised by what you find? Do you strategize and make sure every book in your series has the same cover design (as far as you are able to) and type? How important is it for the visual art on the outside of the book to match or coordinate with the literature art on the inside?

Like anyone else, I can be drawn in by a well-designed or intriguing cover. But what I hate about covers is when they don't have any synopsis on them! I don't care how gorgeous the cover is, if your back cover or the flaps of your dust jacket are nothing but effusive quotes, I'm not going to read it.

Sometimes a cover is so interesting that I get fooled by it multiple times. I always think that Geek Love is going to be about something else, and then I read the back and remember that oh, this story doesn't sound interesting to me at all. It actually sounds really unappealing. Fortunately, later covers make the circus sideshow aspect of the book way clearer, but it feels like you only ever see the first edition cover.

Image courtesy Alfred Knopf

But when I have a series, I definitely want all of the books to match. My first copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe had this cover by Chris van Allsburg:

Image courtesy Harper Collins

But then as I started receiving the rest of the books in the series as gifts, they were these editions with covers by Leo and Diane Dillon:

Image courtesy Harper Collins

But no one would get me The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe again because I already owned it. Later, when I had a bit of my own money and such, I picked up a copy with the Dillon art at one of my favorite local used bookstores*, just so the collection would be uniform and complete. Years afterward, my copy of Prince Caspian got lost somehow, but fortunately the same bookstore had a Dillon cover copy left.

Despite all of their problems, I still love the Narnia books and I want them to all belong together. I'm the same with most series I really love.

I like good cover art as much as anyone else, and while I don't know if an ugly cover or inappropriate cover will ever ruin a book for me, I do find them disconcerting if they don't "match." The cover on the edition of Beloved that I read, for example, was just so not appropriate for what Beloved is actually about:

Image courtesy Alfred Knopf

The Blog: As a book blogger, in whatever form that takes, branding is important. Your colors, your fonts, your style of review, all of these things come together to make the "brand" of your blog - something that makes your reviews and posts and websites, all your various content, immediately recognizable to the people looking for you. What do you do to create a brand on your site? Do you think about these things?

I don't really brand my bookishness; it's there because I like to read but that's it. But for my jewelry and my blog and my whatever else, I try to use consistent colors (the medium-light warmish blue; even my moo cards and the ribbon I use in packaging is a similar shade) and the same banner image (courtesy JV). I just like consistency, guys.

*...which is now permanently closed! What?! One of the things I was looking forward to in my trip back to the US this October is gone. And it's been replaced by a bridal boutique of all things. Excuse me, I need a minute to grieve...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What I Read: Democracy in Black

I'm on my way out the door to a debate club meetup, but I want to take the time to let people know that this is a book that exists and that they should read it.

Image courtesy Crown Publishing
There are two big things I want to say about this book: one thing I disagree with and one thing I agree with. (For completion's sake, I did agree with basically everything else Glaude says, but then it's hard to disagree with facts!!! Anywho.)

But the one big thing I disagreed with was his proposal at the end for a "blank out," i.e. that people opt out of voting by way of turning in a blank ballot. And while I think Glaude sets this up more as a thought experiment ("wouldn't it be an awesome thing to see?") than an actual call to arms, I don't think it would happen as he envisions it. There is a reason certain groups are doing what they can to disenfranchise and limit certain other groups when it comes to voting, and that is because at the end of the day, voting...kind of matters? I understand—at least on an intellectual level; probably not at the instinctive, gut-wrenching visceral level—the frustration to be a POC in America advocating for racial justice and racial representation in governance, only to have those POC representatives downplay or flat-out ignore the very real problems many citizens of color face on a daily basis. (I definitely know the frustration of watching certain female figures vote and speak out against the best interests of women at large, but that's a drama that plays out almost entirely among white politicians, so not entirely comparable.) Who wouldn't want to just give up on the whole thing? But it's better to at least try to tread water and keep things from backsliding than to just give up and drown.

The one big thing I very much agreed with and loved was the frank assessment of how we define "American." Glaude points out that the common narrative we tell ourselves about American and American-ness is that the American ideal is a perfect and unassailable thing, and that our assorted failures (slavery, Jim Crow, resistance to black [and I would also add women's] suffrage) are separate from this American ideal; that we eventually realized these failures were "un-American" and attempted to resolve them because we wanted better align the actual America we live in with this ideal.

But Glaude thinks that narrative is misleading and I do too, and he managed to articulate things that have been bothering me for years but I haven't been able to find the words to say.

The American ideal is not perfect or unassailable; the Founding Fathers envisioned a country where, ideally, women could not vote and slavery was a significant part of the economy. We can't keep retconning the American ideal and suddenly declare certain things that were well within the scope of this idea of American-ness 100, 50 years ago are suddenly "not American." No, they totally are. They were American, just as the resistance to same-sex marriage is definitely American, and just as this clusterfuck over bathroom laws is definitely American. Just like McCarthyism and the Red Scare was American. Just like the resistance to entering World War II was American. You can keep going back like that to the foundation of the country.

"American" is not a synonym for "moral high ground" and it bugs me when people use it like that. I guess that's why I moved abroad.

So with those big ideas out of the way, I want to say that this is a book based in a helluva lot of research, studies, and statistics. I live for that! It definitely helped improve my understanding of the situation for the black population in the US today. I think this is a book that everyone should read, even though I know the people who would most benefit from it either won't read it or will jump through some serious mental hoops to say that Glaude is just overreacting or playing the race card or etc. And maybe me talking about this book will lose me some blog readers, but hey, that's how it is.

I got this book for free from NetGalley/BloggingForBooks in exchange for sharing my VERY IMPORTANT THOUGHTS on it.

Armchair BEA 2016, Day 1: Introductions

Y'all get a two-fer today, because I NEED to have my book reviews on Wednesdays, and I couldn't wait to talk about about Democracy in Black, so, I guess??

1. What is the name you prefer to use? I mean it's pretty obvious what my actual name is, so you can use that, or you can use Kokoba, or K or Kat or anything else you want? The topic of Internet names and handles is super complicated and interesting to me, so that will probably be a future Talky Tuesday post. But not today!

2. How long have you been a book blogger? NEVAR I RESIST YOUR INSISTENCE THAT I NICHE/SINCE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, take your pick. I don't think of myself as a book blogger as such, but I read a lot and I like to write about what I read, so I end up blogging about books! Sometimes! (If you take a look around, you'll notice pretty quickly that this is a blog that isn't only about books.) Before I had this blog (which I started back in 2008? 2009?), I was on LiveJournal (remember the 90s????) and I definitely wrote about books I loved and hated there, so...this is a tough question to answer.

3. Have you participated in ABEA before?  I did in 2014? I didn't in 2015 because I was in the middle of a chaotic lead-up to a huge road trip along the American West Coast. But this year my May is wide open! My years might be wrong, maybe. I might have participated in 2013, too? I don't know!

Not that I regret my trip because I TOUCHED A REDWOOD TREE!

4.  Do you have a favorite book? Do I have a favorite book? Child...

My two all-time nostalgia faves are Walden and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but that does not even begin to encompass the depth or breadth of my magnificent hipster-with-a-BA-in-English literary tastes.

5. If you could recommend one other book blogger, who would it be and why? Ugh, to be honest, my book blog feed sometimes...runs into each other? I feel like most of the people I follow end up morphing into like this Book Blogger Megazord, even though I follow quite a few. I want to say that Wildmoo Books, River City Reading, and The Book Wheel manage to find the kind of stuff that I'm the most interested in (which is to say beyond YA) (not that I'm hating but if I read only YA I would be miserable, but that seems to be what gets the attention in the book blog world). Oh, and also Shaina Reads. And Reading The End! Also Natalie should review more books because anytime she lets the hate flow I have a good lol.

6. Which day of ABEA are you looking forward to the most? I have literally no idea what's coming! Surprise me!! (I like the Twitter chats, though. Hopefully my schedule will allow for that this year!)

7.  How do you arrange your bookshelves? Is there a rhyme or reason? Or not at all? #ImmigrantLife means that most of my library is in boxes at my parents' house, and will stay there until we move into a bigger apartment. I have one shelf (not like one, one shelf in a bookcase) right now and it's sorted into fiction and non-fiction, with fiction sorted by author's last name and non-fiction sorted to what I remember of the Dewey decimal system. My shelves before I moved were sorted this way, except the Dewey decimal system was exact because I was really persnickety about it.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Custom Pi Wedding Necklace - SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT Revealed!

For the last few months, I've been low-key mentioning what I termed a SUPER SEAKRIT custom project. I didn't want to tip my hand too much about it, though—I wanted the recipient to be both surprised by the work and to be a participant in the process. As of this writing, the custom necklace has been done for a while, the wedding is over, and Mrs. Carter (the former Ms. Hagan) has spoken her piece about her custom pi necklace over at Math Equals Love.

I mostly just want to bask in the warm fuzzies of that post, first and foremost. I've been reading Math Equals Love for a while now, so I'm well aware of how thoughtful and warm Sarah is, so I have no good reason to be surprised by the depth of her appreciation and the kindness of her words. I guess I'm just cynical and world-weary. #TooCoolForSchool But I thought it would be fun to give my side of the story (such as it is). So: the life of a custom piece of STEM jewelry from Kokoba!

When it comes to blogs, I tend to add in huge binges: during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, ArmchairBEA, or (in this case) right after signing up for BlogLovin'. (Are you on BlogLovin'? You can follow me there!) Confession: I don't really use BlogLovin' at all for actually reading your blogs—that's what I use Inoreader for—but once in a while I peruse the categories. I found Math Equals Love and added it to my feed, and quickly grew to enjoy it. I make math jewelry, and I work as a teacher (though of English, not of math), so two things right up my alley.

I made the decision a while back to try to take my jewelry a little more seriously. I don't know if I want to make Kokoba a full-time endeavor, but my life is at the point where I could handle a fairly serious bump in sales without it eating up to much time or any of my sanity. I have a bookmark folder full of blogs that I still need to get in touch with, still; Sarah was the first blogger I contacted. Conveniently enough, she ended up getting married a while later and so I had the opportunity to make a pi necklace for her wedding. Cool!

There is something about doing a custom piece (or maybe just wedding jewelry?) that unlocks some kind of extra room in my creative brain. And, I won't lie, people also come to me with really awesome ideas for a custom piece that I would have never thought of. Rae's full adder skirt stay has now become two bracelets and a necklace (unlisted because I'm kind of "meh" about it, but the bracelets were snatched up); another custom piece was based on an equation, which I would have never thought to try and represent on my own. Another friend of mine pointed out how easily I could model molecules (somewhat abstractly) in beads. Basically, you all are super smart and give me so many ideas.

Behold, all of the silhouettes I proposed! Sarah eventually chose #3, which is the most like what I usually make. I have a couple like #2 that are back home (and were actually the suggestion of another friend aaaaaages ago), and Natalie often sports a (truncated) version of #5, the only version of that one I've made so far. I should make more. I need more bulk chain, though. (Psst: which one is your favorite? Which one is the most like what you usually wear?)

I like to take things to the next level when I can. Sarah's husband is Australian, a country renowned for some incredible gemstone deposits. And while a stone like mookaite might not be wedding-appropriate, opal sure is! It took some hunting to find opal that was 1) from Australia, 2) of decent quality, and 3) not ridiculously expensive. I eventually found these beautiful rondelles on BeadWalla:

To make things more interesting visually, I paired them with some snowy/milky quartz (which I should still do a geo-shopping post on, yikes) and some sterling beads for spacers. Overall the effect is regular without being too dull or repetitive—or that's how I'd like to think it is!

But more importantly, Sarah was happy with how it came out! (Also, I was freaked the hell out and, like, quadruple-checked the count and the digits, ahahah.) Like I've said before, I'd rather make people happy than have raw sales. Do I think that a math or science nerd needs to have a jewelry collection that's exclusively STEM-related? No way! I'm happy to be that one special piece of jewelry in someone's jewelry box. I hope to be part of many weddings to come. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2016: The Women's Classic Literature Event: Check-In 2

So this check-in for the Classics Club's Women's Literature Event was supposed to be in April, but then April was messy so now I'm putting up in early May. That's okay! Here's my check-in post from January if you want to see what I'm talking about.

I habitually check the Stockholm library system for the remaining books off my list; I also check every time I go return a book because who can just go to a library and return a book without checking out a new one? Not me, that's for sure. In those cases, I just plug whatever random names or titles I remember off the top of my head and the first one that turns up in the branch I'm at wins.

That's how I came home with A. S. Byatt's Possession.

The Beguiling of Merlin, Edward Burne-Jones
Which, conveniently for me, is by a female author!

It's very weird; in 2014 I started work on a novel. This is really embarrassing to admit in an age of independent publishing and NaNoWriMo because it seems like "working on a novel" is a thing that pretentious navel-gazers do. But if I'm a pretentious navel-gazer, so be it.

Now, I was already inspired by a couple of books when I started—one I loved and one I hate-loved, if that makes sense—but a weird thing happened after I finished the first draft of this novel. The books I was reading were, completely unintentionally, a reflection of what I was trying to work on. As in, I wasn't seeking out books in this particular format or on this particular subject matter. A Tale for the Time Being was one. So is Possession, with its focus on letters from inaccessible people—in this case, inaccessible because they're long dead.

I'm not far enough along that I know what Byatt is really planning to do with it, though the fact that it's called Possession: A Romance makes it kind of clear. The prose so far is the kind of complicated and heady stuff that I like, though that makes it slow going. (I like taking it slow, sometimes.) What's perhaps the most impressive about the book is the sheer amount of material Byatt created for her fictional 19th century poets. Whenever someone goes that extra mile, I always have to appreciate it.

As for my womanly reading so far this year: I've finished 11 books by now, and 5 of them have been by women. Not all of them are classics, though, so take that as you will. But I'm working on this, and I'm working on (still) a Swedish version of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, which will tilt things towards gender parity. The "classics" so far this year have been Mrs Dalloway in January (thank you book club!) and Giovanni's Room in April (thank you again book club!). So when it comes to canonical authors my focus on women is going pretty well. I think Byatt and Allende both firmly belong in the "classics" camp.

Do I rank The Price of Salt as a classic? That's a tough call. On the one hand, the book feels like pot boiler noir novel, while Giovanni's Room feels more ~~literary. But am I really being fair in that distinction? There are certainly beautiful, poetic moments in Highsmith's writing which feels above and beyond just a trashy dime store novel.

But back when I signed up for this project, I said I also wanted to read more graphic novels. I still haven't cracked open Nimona. That might be the perfect reading after I finish The House of the Spirits and Possession; it's nice to alternate between quick reads and slow ones.

Now, onto the actual question for this second check-in:
Share an interesting fact about the life of the author you’re currently reading for this event. This might take some research. You can share below or write up a pretty post for your blog, if you’re feeling creative.

So, I'm currently reading Allende and Byatt for this challenge, two women I know nothing about. But apparently The House of the Spirits began life as a letter Allende wrote to her dying grandfather in an attempt to "keep him alive, at least in spirit." Now I wonder which parts I've read so far were part of the original letter she wrote, and which ones she added later.

I'm also rolling my eyes at all of the people complaining that she's ruining the Latin magical realism tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez et al. The House of the Spirits >>>>>> 100 Years of Solitude. Deal with it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Talky Tuesday: 48 Days of Blue


I first caught wind of the #48DaysofBlue campaign via Natalie. I signed up immediately, because I love the ocean. Uh, duh, I guess. We all love the ocean, I know; it's a cliche at this point to rhapsodize about living on the beach. But I mean for real: I. love. the ocean. I love the experience of being in the water or on a boat or whatever, but more than that, we all kind of take the ocean for granted. At best, we don't really understand just how essential the oceans are for human life as it's come to be. 

But before I go on, you should go and sign up for #48DaysofBlue. Every day from Earth Day (already over, oops) to World Oceans Day (June 8th), you'll get a simple, actionable challenge you can do to help the oceans and to shift your thinking and habits to be more ocean-friendly.

Seriously, go now.

Okay, now you're back.

Since, as of this writing, I'm a few challenges behind, I'm going to get caught up on a whole bunch at once. You can do it, too!

Days 2 & 3: The Lights-Out Dinner
This weekend’s challenge is to host a lights-out dinner! 
Once you’ve loaded the dishwasher with the plates from tonight’s feast, take a minute to look into the types of lighting around your house. When it comes to replacing lightbulbs, go for the more energy-efficient options, like CFLs or LEDs. And of course, leave the lights off whenever the opportunity arises. 
In the summer, keeping the lights off can even help cool down a room!
This one was a bit of a shoo-in for me: I live in Sweden, where CFLs and LEDs have been the norm for way, way longer than they've been in the US and our preference for incandescent lighting. Our apartment is also so small that it's impossible to forget to turn off the lights—if I leave them on in the kitchen/my office, it's too light to fall asleep.

Now that we're past the vernal equinox here in Sweden, the days are only going to get longer, until we could conceivably never have to turn on the lights? That would be an interesting challenge: use only sunlight for light in the summer.

But I'll admit: I didn't go for the full-on lights-out dinner.

Day 4: Skip the Straw

Did you know that Americans use (and throw away) about 500 million plastic straws each day? That’s enough plastic to fill 127 school buses!
Still want to sip that soda through a straw? Or maybe your kiddo needs the help? No problem. Ditch the disposables, and try a reusable glass straw instead—some companies, like Simply Straws, even offer a bendy option!
If you want to make an even bigger impact, encourage local restaurants and bars to go straw-less with you. When you’re out to eat and notice a restaurant serving drinks with straws included, have a quick chat with a manager. Ask them to help support the strawless cause by bringing drinks to the table sans straw!
This simple switch could keep a considerable amount of plastic from our waterways.
So, this challenge is interesting. JV loves straws. He has a tendency to underhydrate (he's one of those people who just doesn't get thirsty), so generally anything that gets him to drink more I'm in favor of. But I've known for a while that plastic straws are a mess, so it's one of those times where either your health or the health of the planet is going to lose out and you've just got to make the call....right?

Maybe not anymore! This challenge alerted me to Simply Straws. I think I know what I'm going to get JV for Christmas now—and an extra wide one for myself, because smoothies just taste better through a straw.

Day 5: Skip the Stream
Did you know? You can save up to 20 gallons of water by skipping the stream each time you wash your dishes! 
Looking for more ways to conserve water while washing dishes? Don’t get too generous with the dish soap. Those extra suds translate to extra water—reduce rinse time by using only the soap you need. 
If you’re using a dishwasher, make sure you have a full load before hitting start, and opt for an eco-friendly detergent.
We don't have a stream option on our tap, so this one is another moot point. Our detergent of choice isn't labeled as eco-friendly, but we're nearly out of dish soap anyway, so I can pick up the green version of this brand. I'm already stingy with the dish soap.

Day 6: Trash Journal

Skipped this one; we're very good about recycling and right now I don't need the pressure of BE THE PERFECT RECYCLER in my life. I saved this one for another day.

Day 7: Beware of Vampires

Did you know that dormant electricity can account for 5 to 10 percent of your home’s energy use? 
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, appliances use about 75 percent of their energy when they’re turned off. 
Take a scan of your home and unplug the appliances you’re not using. Toasters, coffee makers, microwaves, lamps, phone chargers, game systems—the list goes on and on. And don’t forget about the office! Taking the extra effort to shut off your computer at the end of the day can help save energy. 
For convenience, plug appliances into a central power strip with an on/off switch. Turning off the power strip simultaneously cuts the power to all of those electronics, keeping the energy vampires at bay.

This is good to do. I am guilty of just letting my laptop run constantly. I don't really need to (except for Cookie Clicker); I should probably start hibernating it when I go to sleep. JV is much more responsible than me and shuts his laptop down every night.

Unplugging is a tougher question. We unplug things when we go on trips, but our outlets are not all easily accessible for easy access.

But, on the plus side, we also have the option of switching our power source to wind! (Even though we're one of like 90 apartments in this building; I don't know how they can individually allocate power sources like that and I suspect it's some kind of math magic but close enough.) It comes at no extra cost to our current (ha, ha) energy bill so I don't know why we haven't done it already. Oh wait, yes I do: we both hate calling people on the phone about anything. >.<

So as of this early blog writing (on Thursday the 28th), these are all of the challenges that have been available so far.

Even though things have already started, you can still sign up for #48DaysofBlue! It doesn't have to take a lot to make a difference. :)