Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday 5: Mornings Are for Coffee and Contemplation

Why are waffles better than pancakes?

Are they, though? I'll sit down to a stack of chocolate chip silver dollar pancakes anytime—plenty of fond childhood memories there. Of course, I also have fond memories of 3 AM Waffle House runs, but those aren't the same kind of fond memory.

I admit, however, to liking Swedish pancakes better than American pancakes.

American pancakes // Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Swedish pancakes are essentially crepes, and an excuse to have dessert for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner...I don't think they're a solid breakfast food here?).

Swedish pancakes, basically. // Photo by andreeautza on

Swedish waffles are materially identical to American waffles, except in shape.

Swedish waffle // Photo by Pietro De Grandi on Unsplash
American waffle // Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

What’s something you remember about being 11?

Middle school? Sixth grade? Lockers? It's a blur, truthfully.

What experience do you have with role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons?

Middle school is when I got started, though not with Dungeons and Dragons. Online play-by-post RPGs were kind of my thing; I didn't play D&D proper until college, with a weird mix of people who were really into getting into character and people (like me) who were more meta-gamer about it. Player groups shuffled and changed and settled as social groups shuffled and changed and settled, and now when I spend time with the final line-up (so to speak), it's not unusual to go for a casual one-shot, just for funsies.

How do you feel about carnival rides that make you go upside-down?

Not great? I don't like carnival rides in general. They feel so pointless.

You’ve seen Matthew Modine in more films than you realize (which he famously admitted during his opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1988) (filmography here). Which have you seen, and which was the best?

I might have seen him in more films than I realize, but that doesn't mean I've seen him in a lot. The only movies I've seen in that list are Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises, and Stranger Things (not a movie, but still). Those are all really good, but I think Stranger Things might be the best? And I'm not just saying that because these questions are very obviously based on Stranger Things.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I Read: Karen Memory

I mentioned having reading to do for Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club during my vacation in Austin, and how I finally tackled The Dispossessed maybe a decade after I first tried to read it. The other book on the docket for book club was Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory. I finished it in July, but you're reading this in August, after feminist science fiction book club, because book club gets first dibs on my thoughts!

Image courtesy Tor
Karen Memory is a steampunk Wild West version of Jack the Ripper, kind of. It says that on the back of the book, and I habitually re-read the backs of books as I read, and even still I was waiting for this to turn into a feminist steampunk version of Johnny Mnemonic. Should I have expected that? Obviously not. Was I letting myself get tripped up by the title? Yes, probably. Still, I have to admit to being just slightly disappointed in the book not delivering what I had promised myself it would be.

In a nutshell: prostitutes take on a serial killer and espionage in an steampunk alternate universe version of late 19th century Seattle.

Elizabeth Bear's writing is fantastic. Karen has a distinct voice that's just a lot of fun to read, and the book is worth it for that. This is the first book I've read by Bear and I'll have to find more in the future.


Small things bugged me.

  1. Insta-love!
  2. The amazing-and-brilliant-and-perfect-at-everything love interest
  3. Habitual asides about how life is hard/unfair for women. I'm here for feminist sci-fi in the biggest possible way, but I hate when authors don't have faith in the world they're building, or in the sensibilities of their readers, to just show-don't-tell that life is hard/unfair for women but instead have really awkward, add-nothing asides or commentary by characters or the narrator. The same goes for minorities. The Fifth Season handled that particular nuance much better.
  4. A perfectly needless dialogue aside about radium watch dial-painting, an industry that wasn't in full swing until around 1917, which is years after the book ostensibly takes place. Sure, I could write this off as "it's an alternate universe that found radium a little earlier," but what bugs me is that it's not an essential plot point; it's tossed in as an aside, I guess as a world-building thing? or Bear wanting to show off research thing? IT WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. Like, nuclear-powered steampunk mechas would be fine with me, because you'll probably explicitly fold your universe around the "here we discovered nuclear power a little earlier and took it and ran with it" wrinkle and it'll work. But asides that are historical allusions in a universe with other real-world events and figures that are more or less contemporaneous with each other (the gold rush, Bass Reeves, Mary Ann Conklin, Orange Jacobs) better not be anachronisms because otherwise it just looks like a mistake.
  5. I still kind of wish it had been feminist steampunk Johnny Mnemonic.
Other people might complain that it's not especially steampunk-y enough, but I thought it was just right. (I also appreciate that the gadgets don't always work. Sometimes engineers get it wrong!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday 5: Grabby

There’s a convenience store nearby and you have a small case of the munchies. What do you grab?

A chocolate protein shake and then a croissant or a piece of fruit. Maybe both!

You’re about to get on a plane and someone just stole all your reading material, but there’s a newsstand nearby. What magazine (of likely available titles) do you grab? 

Why am I so chill about someone stealing my stuff? Because if they've stolen my airplane reading material, that means they have my phone!

But I'll answer this question in the spirit in which it's intended, which is: what would I grab from Hudson News (or whatever) if I didn't have any of my own reading material for a flight. The answer is: anything without an airbrushed model or celebrity that isn't also about business or sports.

On a regular work day, where do you grab lunch and what do you get if you don’t bring a lunch from home?

Since I have the luxury of working from phone, I grab lunch in my own kitchen (which is also my office). After putting in a couple hours in the comma mines (I use the Pomodoro Method, but I tend to work for entire hours instead of 25-minute bursts), I take a leisurely lunch: usually a sandwich or a bowl of muesli, sometimes leftovers.

Instead of a lunch, you decide you need a quick nap during your workday. Where can you grab 40 winks?

In my own damn bed!

How close to your head is your cell phone when you’re asleep in bed?

Image courtesy DodgertonSkillhause

Not at all. I leave it to charge in the kitchen partially because there's not enough outlet space by the bed, and partially because having to get up and walk to the opposite end of the apartment to shut off the alarm helps me wake up.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What I Read: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

I borrowed this book from a friend. She thought to recommend it to me on the basis of the footnotes (long story), not knowing that I'm also a huge nerd for Ada Lovelace. I mean, I'm pretty obviously a huge nerd generally and she knew that much when she let me borrow it; I mean for Lovelace and the Analytical Engine specifically.

Image courtesy Sydney Padua and Pantheon
I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. This is the rare instance where a book is popular on GoodReads and I LOVE IT. Bullet points:

  • Padua did so much research, and it shows. I love research. More research!
  • It is so meticulously well researched that Padua makes a point of clearly demarcating where the fictional licenses occur, not only by explicitly creating a "pocket universe" where the fanciful adventures take place, but even the poetic licenses she takes within that pocket universe, e.g. when she fudges the timelines for people like Jane Austen or Lord Nelson. When people don't acknowledge small goofs like that in their historical fiction/alternative fiction universe, IT BUGS ME. (More on this in a forthcoming review of another book.)
  • The art is adorable.
  • Padua also endeavors to actually illustrate how the Analytical Engine might have actually looked, which is so cool!
  • She also includes lots of original correspondence from Babbage and Lovelace as well as their contemporaries in the appendices, if you're into that.
  • Yes, did I mention just how well this web comic-turned-graphic novel is researched?
  • I love the way that fictional Lovelace and fictional Babbage pal around and have adventures together and are clearly good friends and there's no weird romance shoehorned in. 
  • Padua also uses direct or almost-direct quotations from other historical figures in people's dialogue, which I love.
  • Also Lovelace's pipe!
  • So much research, y'all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Travel Announcement

I'm on vacation! I'll be bouncing around the US to visit friends, attend a wedding, and (belatedly) celebrate a PhD! I have some posts scheduled to go up in my absence, but I won't really be "here."

Image courtesy Art.Science.Gallery.

Most pertinent for this blog, I'll be in Austin for a few days, and hopefully I can convince my hosts to visit the Art.Science.Gallery with me. I've been staring longingly at it from a distance for a while now; I'd love to see it up close and in person! But will I make it? Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Newly Relisted: Black and Red Fibonacci Necklace

This is a Kokoba alpha release that I've always been pretty happy with. All credit for this design idea goes to my longtime Internet buddy (and occasional real-life hang-out buddy) Melissa. I was still thinking in series on strands when she suggested this idea with dangles instead.

A beaded statement necklace featuring round and rectangular black glass beads and red Swarovski crystals counting out Fibonacci numbers. It's Harley Quinn mathart!
Fibonacci statement necklace by Kokoba

This is one of the first ones I made after she tossed that idea out on a blog post or in a chat, and I still love it. A lot. Looking at it now, it also has a very Harley Quinn vibe to it (more like The Animated Series Harley Quinn than Suicide Squad, of course) and that was definitely unintentional when I made it but now I can't unsee it? All the more reason to love it! It's been in Etsy limbo for a while because I didn't like the photos I had originally taken; these aren't prefect but they're a step in the right direction, at least!

Chain and clasp detail

That chain looks large, maybe even oversized, but it's aluminum, so it has virtually no weight to it. The lobster claw and jump rings are a zinc/nickel/copper alloy, so they have a little heft to them, but the whole thing is pretty lightweight and comfortable.

A beaded statement necklace featuring round and rectangular black glass beads and red Swarovski crystals counting out Fibonacci numbers. It's Harley Quinn mathart!

This is a longer piece. Each section of chain is 10 inches long, and the focal point is probably another 2 inches, so it it hangs like a longer piece. Just the kind of thing to layer over a t-shirt or, though it pains me to say it, a bulky sweater? (#WinterIsComing)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday 5: Shape of Things to Come

What shape is your mood today?

Swings and roundabouts. Is that a shape? The replacement for my cracked smartphone screen is in sooner than I expected and I have work to help me pay for it, so that's good. But our bed broke and there's no way getting a new one is worth it, so that's not so good. But our mattress is in fine shape, as are the wooden slats it was resting on, and have "pillow tops" as well (I think in Swedish they're the parts that people call mattresses), so we can just live without a bed frame, I guess?

Back when I was a wee thing and my bed was upgraded in order to give my brother a "big kid" bed, I got to sleep on a mattress on the floor for a few days and I thought it was way better than sleeping on a mattress on a proper bed. The novelty hasn't worn off entirely, so I could be in much worse mood about it than I am. It just sucks that we lose a bit of under-the-bed storage, but oh well.

What snack comes in a fun shape?

I guess those cone-shaped chips you can put on your fingers. Bugles? Yeah, Bugles.

Image courtesy Glane23

Someone’s building your dream house, but it has to be in the shape of a letter of the alphabet.  Which letter do you choose?

For architectural purposes, something like H or I seems the smartest. I'm not vain enough to have my house be in the shape of my initials, definitely (and K seems like not a great shape for a house). C might be nice: you'd a mostly-enclose courtyard that you could still enter and exit easily.

What’s a great song with a shape in its title or lyrics?



Don't judge me. Only Gunde can judge me.

And I guess I'm stretching with this one, but "Pentagram":

What’s something in your line of sight that can reasonably be called blob-shaped?

I have a couple burnt-down candles on the windowsill.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Summer Solstice on the Lake

One of Teacher Dad's coworkers (from back when he was Engineer Dad, not Teacher Dad) had hunting cabin out in the mountains, which he alternated summering at and renting out to people to summer at. Every couple of years we drove up to New England and spent a week in the mountains, right up until Teacher Dad bought Disney timeshares. I wish he would have skipped the timeshares and just kept taking us to the lake, but oh well.

Not "my" lake, but close enough. // Image courtesy earl53 on MorgueFile

For the summer solstice this year, a friend of mine invited me to join a picnic at a lake. That's the thing about Stockholm: there's so much nature and water right within the city limits, or just outside the city limits. I've been remiss about taking advantage of that.

We grabbed a bus from city center, and after a surprisingly short ride (and, to be fair, a longer-than-expected walk), I could have cried, y'all. For a second I was back in the mountains on family trips before the onset of puberty and stress that was high school. A throwback to a more innocent time: lots of jigsaw puzzles and games of Clue (Lawyer Mom taught us how to play Clue incorrectly, and I didn't learn how to actually play until I was in 20s, but we still had fun) and taking bizarre artiste-y Dutch-angled photos in my Crayola camera.

I realize they're not actually much alike—where we vacationed in the US is much more mountainous than most of Sweden—but somehow my brain connected the two.

We had a guest during our lunch by the lake. :)
I had been advised to bring a bathing suit, and I was glad I did. I hadn't been for a proper swim in years, so I gladly jumped in and went for a paddle. If I hadn't been on other people's time table, I would have definitely done some laps back and forth across the short length. The heated pool in our basement is great in the winter, but nothing beats swimming in proper bodies of water when it's summer.

But a quick dip is better than no dip at all! We had sandwiches and fruits and things, and set up a little fire by the edge of the lake (just because) and sang and talked about our goals for the rest of the year. Someone in the area was playing a flute or panpipe or something, so once in a while we heard some plaintive music drift over on the breeze.

Life goals: be able to rent a cabin out in the archipelago for a week during the summer. I don't understand the national obsession with taking off right when Sweden hits, like, peak gorgeousness, but there you have it. July rolls around and people jetset off to the Mediterranean or to Spain or something. (And I guess the rest of Europe comes up here? Maybe that's why Swedes all get out!)

It was a lovely time and I hope I'm invited to participate again next year. :)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday 5: Don't Go There

Where were you forbidden (or too frightened) to go when you were growing up, and why?

There was nothing I was ever expressly forbidden from going, but I was always obsessed with a local paper mill that had stood abandoned my entire life. I can't find a photo to share here, even though it's prime urban exploration fodder, so I'll have to make do with photos of a sister plant across the river in New Jersey.

What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve done in the past couple of years?

I totally bought a reduced fare SL ticket when I wasn't eligible for it! More than once!

Under what circumstances have you gone into a place you knew you weren’t supposed to enter?

I can't think of any, actually?

Which aisle in your supermarket do you just about never go down?

The pet food aisle. The baby food aisle. The canned-fruits-for-baking aisle.

Here's one for the "little differences" department: canned fruits and vegetables were pretty normal for me growing up in the US. A couple of Green Giant cans of vegetables were always a side for dinner (unless our own vegetable garden was in season) and the little Del Monte tins of diced pears and peaches were a common packed lunch accessory. I didn't realize that frozen vegetables were a thing until, well, probably older than I should have been. But in Sweden, the canned fruits live in exile with pie crusts and chocolate chips, and I don't think canned vegetables even exist?

Not counting traffic situations, when did you last willfully disobey something you read on a sign?

Like property demarcations, signs are something I'm pretty good at obeying signs. Apologies to the Five Man Electrical Band.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Newly Relisted: Yellow Flower Seed of Light Physics Sciart Bracelet

We are in the middle of summer and I am JUST. LOVING. IT. I'm a night owl but also a sun worshiper. (Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.) I should absolutely write up about how I spent summer solstice, but that's another post. Today I want to share this cheerful summertime bracelet with you:

Yellow beaded sciart bracelet with floral accents that features the speed of light in meters per second squared.
Speed of Light Bracelet by Kokoba

These are some old, old beads from what could easily be ten years ago, now? Have I really been at this for that long? Yikes! I'm pretty sure I gutted a Kokoba alpha release for this one, and I like how it turned out.

Yellow beaded sciart bracelet with floral accents that features the speed of light in meters per second squared.

I'm always disappointed when a memory wire bracelet turns out on the short side—it's like, "Well, I should just make it a regular bracelet with a clasp, then!" And I like the multistrand look of chunkier memory wire bracelets that make it through multiple wraps. This one passes the test!

Yellow beaded sciart bracelet with floral accents that features the speed of light in meters per second squared.

The yellow beads spell out the digits of c (in meters per second), while the floral beads act as spacers between each digit.

Bracelet available for sale here! You can also pick up other STEM-inspired bracelets or browse other physics-related wares.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday 5: Questions Created Very Quickly Late Friday Morning

Image from NinoAndonis on

What are you reading?

I'm reading Karen Memory for an upcoming feminist science fiction book club meeting, as I mentioned earlier. Other, not-as-high-priority reading includes:
  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, a graphic novel (possibly adapted web comic?) that recounts the fictional adventures of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage in a pocket steampunk universe
  • Kris, my regular allotment of Swedish reading.
  • The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide for my own local critique group
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism, because it's relevant
  • The Copyeditor's Handbook for my own edification
  • Foxlowe, which I originally heard about via a book blogger I found via ArmchairBEA a couple years ago (speaking of ArmchairBEA...)

What are you listening to?

During my #scicomm day job, I typically listen to classical. I favor the Romantics and have listened through all of Beethoven's symphonies a bunch of times by now, but I hop around the musical timeline a lot: Bach, Mozart, Copland, Alice Mary Smith . . .

When I'm working on jewelry or playing Diablo III, I like to get in my podcast listening: SawbonesThe Adventure ZoneThe History of the English LanguageAdam Ruins Everything, Dirt Nap, and Red Skirts are all good.

My running playlist is probably utterly unremarkable and predictable. The more standout selections are from the now-defunct Music Alliance Pact, a monthly round-up of international indie music. My playlist also tilts a little heavily towards Korean music, specifically artists discussed on the Indieful ROK blog (Say Sue Me) or that I learned about while I lived there (Drunken Tiger/MFBTY/Tiger JK).

Anything amusing or strange happen to you recently?

Working with children is always amusing, though in small and unremarkable ways. It's a good counterbalance to the almost-always private, solitary work that is copyediting. I don't miss the stress of a classroom and the management that entails, but working with kids in small groups or one-on-one is the dream. Of course, working with adults has own its own set of rewards as well. But adults don't have the same sideways perspective on things that lead to "kids say the darndest things" aphorisms or puns.

What’s cookin’?

So much instant chicken soup. Guess who caught a cold during peak summer season. :(

What was your contribution to your most recent potluck?

I tried for stewed tomatoes but they didn't turn out. (Protip: start making food a little earlier than 5 minutes before you're due to eat.) (Other protip: learn to actually cook.)

My last successful contribution was a vegetarian version of turos csusza. It went over okay, but I think I skimped a bit on the roasted onion.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What I Read: The Dispossessed

Almost every time I talk about science fiction on this blog, I bring up my brother's gorgeous Easton Press collection of leather-bound science fiction classics. Fortunately, he was cool about sharing, so I got to enjoy the collection as much as he did (maybe even more?) and my first experience with a lot of classics of the genre came out of it: Neuromancer, She, Dying Inside, The Doomsday Book, and Dune, to name a few. (Aside: the ideal form of Dune is in a leather-bound hardcover edition with metallic trim. Somehow that elevates it from space opera into grand epic.)

But sometimes those books fell a little flat. The Diamond Age was one of those. The Dispossessed was another. I must have been 13 or 14 when I tried reading it, maybe a bit older, and it just couldn't stick. I had this problem with LeGuin generally—A Wizard of Earthsea was on a semi-required reading list a few years before I tried to tackle The Dispossessed, but again I couldn't seem to get into it. Since then I just wrote LeGuin off as one of the great and admirable giants of science fiction who just wasn't for me. 

Fast forward to 2017, and I'm getting ready to visit one of my best friends; my visit will coincide with the August meeting of his feminist science fiction book club. This is the same feminist science fiction book club that brought The Fifth Season to his attention, and then subsequently mine when he gave me a copy as a gift back in October. 

Their scheduled book is Karen Memory, but he let me know that:

 "[w]e also might be discussing The Dispossessed, which was this month's book but most people couldn't make it to this month's discussion (and I really want to discuss The Dispossessed again, there's so much to talk about)" 
"man i tried reading the dispossessed in high school and couldn't get into it, but maybe i'm a better reader now" 
"The Dispossessed is sooooooooooooo good. Le Guin is hard to get into (especially in high school, yeesh, I can't imagine), but this is one of the best books we've read so far"

Good news, everyone! I am a better reader now, because I finished The Dispossessed in record time! How many years late to the game am I with this one?

First of all, I'm proud of myself for finishing a book I DNF'd years ago. My own book club tackled The Invisible Bridge for April? May? and despite picking at it for two months I just couldn't get into it, and finally I returned it to the library, DNF'd. It's not fault of the book's; the writing is actually fluid and snappy, and the rather large cast of characters are unique and well-sketched. I guess a novel about Hungarian Jews during World War II is a little too real, right now? Whatever the reason, it slowed down my reading and I went from being 5 books ahead of my GoodReads goal to being a book behind. Madonna in a Fur Coat was the shot in the arm I needed to get back to reading again, and The Dispossessed  was the self-esteem boost I needed after the first DNF I've had in a long, long while.

But while I can see why teenage me couldn't get into The Dispossessed, adult me really liked it. I liked the little grammatical nuances of Pravic (like the total absence of possessive pronouns), I liked the world-building, I liked how Urras was a whole planet full of nations at cross-purposes instead of a single monoculture. I liked how neither Urras nor Anarres were all-good or all-bad, but both oppressive and less than ideal in their own way, though maybe that's pessimism on Le Guin's part. (Or maybe it's just realism. #bleak)

But I think the most pertinent part of The Dispossessed is actually connected to some complaints leveraged at the March for Science: science shouldn't be political! science doesn't have an agenda except the truth! and so on. But Shevek's presence on Urras (and specifically, within the nation-state of Io) is entirely political, as is the knowledge Io hopes to gain from him. Knowledge doesn't exist in a vacuum, and scientists have an obligation to be clear-eyed about the impact of their science beyond the narrow scope of academia. If scientists are only willing to engage in politics to the extent that politics interferes with their ability to do science, rather than to ensure the responsible application and dissemination of the work they do, then we're boned.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Overdue Like Whoa 101 in 1001 Check-In

This blog has been quiet for a while now (is that why my Etsy shop is so dead, too?) (#thingsthatmakeyougohmmm). I hate that, though. While other work has picked up (yay!), the truth is that the reason I've been quiet here is because I suck at time management, not because I've been busy in any meaningful way. So let's come back to 2016's word of the year and reintegrate that into my life or however the heck frou-frou life coaches would put it.

I won't bore you by slapping my entire 101 in 1001 list in this entry and calling it quits. You can read it over here, if you really want to know what I'm trying to do with my life over the medium-term. I mostly want to talk about it in a big picture sense.

1. First of all, I'm almost at the end of my 1001 days and there's a whole bunch of goals that I know I'll miss, most of which constitute some kind of daily or weekly habit: checking in, #resisting, etc. The one I'm most bummed about is, I guess, my 1001 sun salutations goal. It didn't seem ambitious when I wrote the list, because that comes down to just one sun salutation every day, and that's easy, right? That's like a minimally easy goal, totally! I was already on board the yoga train when I wrote the list and that was going to continue, right?

Bzzt! Nope, guess not. And I should be doing yoga, since my running habit has stuck in a serious way. I'm fat, but probably more importantly, I am seriously deconditioned and don't have the kind of muscle strength I should if I want to keep running without fucking up my ankles or knees. (Knees, realistically: that seems to run [hah!] in the family.) I need to sit with why I've opted out of yoga, an activity I legitimately love.

2. Part of that might be that I'm actually literally sitting—meditating, that is. This wasn't a habit I had on my 101 in 1001 list, but I just picked it up (again) organically. So even though I'm not practicing yoga at the moment, I'm still getting a daily chill pill. This without actually adding it as an official goal. I might add it, just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing off something I'm already doing.

Image courtesy GarboFromHungary

3. Speaking of new habits, running is now a thing I do. And this fat kid jogged a non-stop mile for the first time in her life, maybe, just a couple of weeks ago, so I guess I get to call myself a runner now? I should make it to Mordor (FINALLY!) by the end of this list!

Copenhagen Collage2
By Dr. Blofeld [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. A goal that I'm going to be able to check off in a few weeks is visiting continental Europe. I have a 6-hour layover in Copenhagen en route to the US, and I fully intend to go out and see as much of the city as I can between my flights. It's arguably not a true "continental" visit, as Denmark is still part of Scandinavia, but it'll still be a new city and a new country for me, so that counts!

5. I still haven't read the handful of books left on my (altered) TIME Top 100 list. Still! But it's going to happen, This year's my year. I can feel it. The good news reason behind why I've been so pokey with the end of this list is that I've been diving into good books thanks to NetGalley, Blogging For Books, and my Facebook book club. I originally decided to tackle the TIME Top 100 list when I was fresh out of university and didn't know what to read next. Now college is far behind me and I'm pretty good at finding books, so I don't need that guiding hand as much anymore.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday 5: Tiny Gestures

What might you put in a small, pretty glass bottle as a romantic gift to someone?

I imagine some kind of memento from a place that's important to both of you, like some sand from the beach you went to on your honeymoon, or water from the stream you went fishing in for your first date, or a petal from their favorite flower. That kind of thing.

Image from jdurham on

Someone you care very much for is leaving for a long time but will be back. What small object (not a photo) might you give him or her to remember you by?

One of my best friends from college has a family tradition of using something white to wave goodbye to someone leaving on a trip. Anything white—when either of us have remembered to do it with each other, it's usually a receipt from a wallet, purse, or glove compartment. Who doesn't always have fifty million receipts hanging around?

But I don't think I would really gift anyone leaving on a trip a proper memento. They'll be back, right? So what's the point?

If you were to leave a small mark in your current residence, as lasting evidence that you lived there, what would you leave, and where would you leave it?

My family often vacationed at a cabin up in Danby Vermont, right on Tinmouth Pond. We always got at least one breakfast at Sugar and Spice, and my brother and I were allowed something from the gift shop. I almost always opted for a watercolor paint set. They came with maybe five or six thematic pencil sketches (kittens, natural vistas, etc.) for you to paint yourself, and one year I left one of my masterpieces propped on a beam in my loft. I hope it's still there!

What would you like to toss into the fires of Mount Doom?

Can I get really abstract here for a moment? Ignorance, or maybe greed. If it has to be a physical thing, then I have some garbage headphones that weren't all that cheap but still had garbage sound quality and broke after a few months of normal use. I have the worst luck with headphones.

Those adopt-a-star things are gimmicky rip-offs, but if they weren’t, and someone gave you one as a gift, what would you name it?

Probably after someone I care about. It would depend on who was on my mind at the moment I got the little certificate.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth?

Nothing says "America" like a gay first-generation Lithuanian-American Jew!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Madonna in a Fur Coat

As the paucity of book reviews here would suggest, I've been in a reading slump recently. As an avid reader, I always find it troubling when I go for weeks without finishing a proper novel. Madonna in a Fur Coat was exactly what I needed to break my losing streak.

I'm a member of an informal Internet book club that's going on two years old. It's done a really good job of balancing light fiction, classics, and nonfiction, so I have to say that our two founders (who started the club and who pick most of the books, though with input from everyone else) have excellent taste! Other books I've read (and enjoyed!) for this book club include  The Road to MeccaPassing, and The Price of Salt.

I am a sucker for character-driven stories that feature moody, introspective protagonists. I guess that even as an adult, I'm an angsty teenager at heart. That's not to suggest that there's anything callow or self-indulgent about Madonna in a Furcoat. Even if it leans heavily on romance tropes that might strike some readers as overdone or tedious, what makes Madonna in a Furcoat stand out isn't the love story but the writing and the characters. It would have been a welcome palate cleanser after The French Lieutenant's Woman, a novel with a similar plot but altogether different style and attitude towards its characters, particularly its love interest. I'll leave off with a favorite quote:
Just as warm sunlight can, by passing through a lens, turn to fire, so too can love. It's wrong to see it as something that swoops in from the outside. It's because it arises from the feelings we carry inside us that it strikes with such violence, at the moment we least expect.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Newly Relisted: Peridot Bloodstone Rhodonite and Shell Root 2 Necklace

This is another Kokoba beta release, so to speak. It's not among some of the very first sciart jewelry I ever made, but it's still been sitting in storage for a while—probably six or seven years, I'd say.

Nautical sciart STEM math necklace teacher graduation mother wife gift
Root 2 necklace featuring peridot, rhodonite, bloodstone, and seashells by Kokoba

Pi is usually the darling of the "math-for-the-masses" world, and it's easy to see why. It has a cool and instantly recognizable Greek letter for a symbol; it's a concept you touch on relatively early in your math career (at least in the US, I was in 6th grade when we learned about pi); you can make puns about pies and pirates.

Nautical sciart STEM math necklace teacher graduation mother wife gift

Somewhere in my calculus notes there's a doodle of a pi symbol with a tail, some paws, and a rat face in pirate costume and the caption "pi-rat." It's probably been lost to time (and by "lost to time," I mean "thrown out with the rest of my calculus notes"). I don't think anyone was celebrating Root 2 Day on January 4, 2014 (or on April 1 2014, if you're in Europe). But pi gets a day every year!

Nautical sciart STEM math necklace teacher graduation mother wife gift

So this is my tribute to poor, neglected root 2. I admit, I've played some part in neglecting it. Did you know, for example, that root 2 is the first number proven to be irrational? The Ancient Greeks actually cooked up an elegant proof on the topic

There's a lot going on in this necklace: there's chips, there's cubes, there's regular round beads, and there's shells. But it still feels fairly balanced, rather than haphazard or chaotic.

If you want to show some love for an overlooked irrational, this root 2 necklace is available in my Etsy shop. I'm thinking I should sit down and whip up some more root 2 bling. Just for variety's sake.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday 5: Straight No Chaser


What keeps you on the straight and narrow?

I use Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) to keep track of my to-do list and to make sure that I stay on task and finish the things I need to do.

Who in your life is a real straight shooter?

Noah (another friend I'll be visiting en route to the wedding this August) is probably the most forthright friend I have. Exhibit A: After a 24-hour bus journey across three states to see him for the first time in over a year, his first words to me were: "Whoa, you need a shower."

Teacher Dad could probably also take this prize.

How straight are your teeth and hair?

My teeth are pretty well aligned. My hair is naturally a touch wavy, which can make having bangs/fringe a little tricky. If you dry them the wrong way, the end result can be a very goofy look.

What’s a good song with the word straight in its lyrics or title?

The only ones in my library with "striaght' in the title are "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Straight Outta Compten," which I guess speaks to the broad range of my musical tastes?

If we include lyrics, then "An Englishman in New York," "School of Rock," and no doubt loads of others I can't remember right now.

What’s something that needs straightening?

My apartment. :(

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What I'm Reading: ArmchairBEA, Day 1: Introductions

ArmchairBEA graphic courtesy and Boquilla's Window

ArmchairBEA is the Internet/social media version of BEA: Book Expo America. BEA is a chance for readers, authors, and publishers to mingle and share their love of the written word.

I missed ArmchairBEA this year, which is a shame because it's my favorite way to hear about new books and to find new book bloggers and BookTubers. So I'm going to hop on board the hype train after it's already left the station (can you even do that? idgaf) and throw my hat in the ring.

The first prompt is, as usual, a simple introduction prompt. In case you wanted to know more than what's on my About Me page!

I am . . .

Most basically, I'm an American expat in Stockholm who makes STEM-inspired jewelry when she isn't reading or working.

Currently . . .

I have such a backlog of new jewelry to photograph and list on Etsy. I wish the productivity fairy would pay me a visit. :(

I love . . .

I love being creative, which sounds like such a banal, dating profile thing to say, but there you have it. I love to sit down and make something new, especially if it involves blending disparate media or ideas. I love it so much that I actually put off doing it as much as possible to prioritize other things that I feel like I "should" be doing. =/

My favorite . . .

My favorite thing right now is candles. I decided that if I was stuck with having to be an adult, then I was at least going to give myself the permission to indulge in my favorite childhood and teenage things that I either wasn't allowed to do or never got to do enough. Chief among them are candles and incense, but since JV is sensitive to smells, that rules out incense (and stinky candles). Candles it is!

My least favorite . . .

I still hate bureaucracy.

My current read . . .

Oh, so many! I have two that I'm reading for group obligations:  Madonna in a Fur Coat for my Internet book club and The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide for my in-person critique group. I've also borrowed The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage from a critique group friend, a book that is relevant to my ongoing writing project and my jewelry! Finally, my Swedish book of the moment is Karin Boye's Kris.

My summer plans . . .

I'll be traveling to the US in August for a wedding.

My buddy . . .

My buddy Aaron is the one getting married! Here we are in Beijing during Lunar New Year 2010:

Myself (center left) and Aaron (center right) partying it up in Beijing.
There's actually a great story behind that random party shot. Aaron is conversant, if not fluent, in (Mandarin) Chinese, and when I touched down in Beijing on the evening before Lunar New Year, he put that Chinese to good use finding us a place to eat. All of the restaurants anywhere near our hostel had been closed all day, or closed early. When we got here, they initially turned us away, too, but he finally switched to Chinese and explained that it was my first night in Beijing, and that I had just flown in from Seoul without any dinner and there was nowhere else to eat. Even the convenience stores were closed! Either his Chinese, my sad story, or both convinced them to let us in, and we shared a huge company meal, complete with alcohol and dancing.

And now he's getting married!

My blog/channel/social media . . .

I'm on Twitter (@kokoba42) and Facebook (KokobaJewelry). I theoretically have Pinterest but the spammier it got to use, the less I wanted to use or post there. And I would rather eat rusty nails than start a video channel.

The best . . .

The best part of this trip will definitely be seeing so many of my friends in the US who can't take the time (or spend the money) to come see me in Stockholm.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Newly Listed: Rhodonite and Mookaite Speed of Light Bracelet

And the fourth Adventure Zone bracelet is now up! Again, this bracelet features the speed of light (in meters per second).

Rhodonite mookaite speed of light science physics sciart jewelry
Rhodonite and Mookaite Speed of Light Bracelet by Kokoba

This time it's "spelled" out in pink rhodonite chips, with round mookaite beads acting as spacers in between digits.

Rhodonite mookaite speed of light science physics sciart jewelry

Rhodonite and mookaite are both stones I've had in my supplies for a long time, almost since I started making jewelry, but I think this is the first time I've combined them.

Rhodonite mookaite speed of light science physics sciart jewelry

I'm pleasantly surprised at how this combination turned out. I don't know why I didn't think mix these stones before, but I'll be sure to revisit it in the future.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday 5: MVP

What’s the most important single ingredient in trail mix?

Here's my typical trail mix:

Image of M&Ms from Anitapepper on

What’s the most important single topping in a taco?

Shredded cheese!

What’s the coolest instrument in an orchestra?

I'm going to go with the harp. A deep and abiding love for The Marx Brothers, and Harpo in particular, has left me enamored with this particular instrument.

What’s your favorite animal at the zoo?

I love giraffes and how cute-awkward they are.

I also love okapis, which aren't quite so common in zoos, but I'm going to count them anyway because they're relatives of the giraffe and they also have a tough time, so they can use some extra love. (Donate to the Okapi Conservation Project if you feel like helping them out!)

Which are the best pieces in a sampler box of chocolates?

The ones that don't mix unholy abominations into chocolate, like nuts or peanut butter. Anything else is great, but nuts? Peanut butter? Why would you do that to perfectly good chocolate? Why??