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??

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What I Watched: Wonder Woman

I never got around to binge-reading all things Wonder Woman like I set out to do I don't know how long ago. First I was lazy, and then I had a sinking feeling in my gut when I realized Zack Snyder was set to write the script, and then when willow-y and superlatively gorgeous Gal Gadot was cast. Wonder Woman does not need or deserve the Suckerpunch treatment.

(Me: Ugh, can you imagine if Zack Snyder had directed Wonder Woman?
JV: "Suckerpunch 2: The Wonder Years.")

I was ready to be disappointed, so I didn't invest any of my time going full-on fan mode. I mean, I still want to get my hands on the New 52 run of Wonder Woman because I hear it's really good, but that's a "whenever" sort of goal. Still, June 2 rolled around and I hadn't seen a movie in theaters since the Ghostbusters reboot, so why not?

But script doctors had happened and the good sis Patty Jenkins stepped in and all was right and good with the world.

I am not really interested in superhero ensemble movies, so I'm not going to be seeing the Justice League movie anytime soon; Wonder Woman's brief appearance in Batman v Superman was not enough to get me to watch at all, let alone in theaters. And when (and it's almost definitely a "when," not "if," at this point) Wonder Woman 2 happens, if it's an excuse for a Justice League movie I probably won't see it either. But in this one glorious moment, Wonder Woman gets her own damn movie and it's great, and Gal Gadot was great. I might have cried a whole bunch of times for assorted reasons. I might go see it again.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Newly Listed: Pink Quartz Speed of Light Bracelet

The third entry in my podcast bracelet series!

Rhodonite pink quartz STEM physics sciart science jewelry
Pink Quartz and Rhodonite Speed of Light Bracelet by Kokoba
These are some more chips reclaimed pieces from Kokoba alpha releases: rhodonite, rose quartz, and cherry quartz.

Rhodonite pink quartz STEM physics sciart science jewelry

I love the blend of pinks in this one. It's like a little bit of strawberry and cream to wear on your wrist!

Rhodonite pink quartz STEM physics sciart science jewelry

The chips spell out the digits of the speed of light (in meters per second). The round rhodonite beads are the spacers between each digit. Most of the ones I made during the podcast binge-crafting session ended up featuring the speed of light. I tend to default to pi, so I have to consciously try to branch out into other fields/numbers.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday 5: Malfunction Junction

When have you had a wardrobe malfunction?

I lost a skirt to a motorbike gear while I was in Indonesia. Nothing too mortifying, but we needed to stop and get a new one for me. Going to Indonesia with a regular peasant skirt from the US and leaving with a batik print one from Indonesia isn't a bad deal, though!


...and after.

When did you last have a problem with your alarm clock?

Yesterday, actually! Either I slept through it, or the alarm doesn't automatically override the headphones if they're plugged in. It's set for 7:30 and I didn't wake up until almost 10.

What was your most recent computer problem, and what was the fix?

Well, one of the hinges on my laptop is breaking, which seems to be a common denominator in a lot of HP laptops. I'm not sure what the fix is, since at this point it's no longer under warranty and I can't really afford the time it would take to send it off for repairs.

As for software, once in a while I need to restart Word or OpenOffice because they slow down, but that's about it.

What’s something about cars you know specifically because you had to have one repaired?

Nothing, really.

Have you had any brain malfunctions this week?

For once in my life, no! I was pretty on the ball.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What I Read: Classics Club Update

I was in a reading slump for a long while, but No-No Boy might have kicked me out of it. Regardless, I figured that now's the time to update my Classics Club list. The last time I updated it was back in February.

Changes Made

1. I decided to take off The Berlin Stories in favor of A Tale for the Time Being. Maybe I'll get around to reading The Berlin Stories one day, or maybe not, but I think A Tale for the Time Being deserves to be on this list.

2. I also apparently had taken out Farewell to Manzanar in favor of We Need New Names. I don't regret this alteration; I just forgot I made it. But in keeping with the spirit of Farewell to Manzanar's original inclusion, I'm replacing An American Tragedy with No-No Boy.

Books Left to Go

1. The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead (I'm slowly reading an ebook version right now, and I'm not impressed, but Adam over at Memento Mori really loved this book and I trust his taste, so . . . I'm conflicted!) (I was "slowly reading an ebook version" back in February; it's almost June and nothing has changed.)

4. Play it As it Lays, Joan Didion. I found a copy at The English Book Shop in town! So I bought it, and now it's mine to read whenever I want to.

The Whole List
(with links to reviews when possible!)

1. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
2. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
3. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
4. No-No Boy, John Okada
5. Animal Farm, George Orwell
6. Appointment in Samarra, John O'Hara
7. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
8. The Assistant, Bernard Malamud
9. At Swim-Two-Birds, Flann O'Brien
10. Atonement, Ian McEwan
11. Beloved, Toni Morrison

12. A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
13. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
14. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
15. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy
16. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
17. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder

18. The Radiance of the King, Camara Laye
19. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
20. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

20 / 20

21. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
22. The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron
23. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
24. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
25. Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Patton

26. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West
27. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
28. A Death in the Family, James Agee

29. The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen
30. A House for Mr Biswas V. S. Naipaul
31. The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir
32. The House of the Spirits, Isabell Allende
33. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
34. Martha Quest, Doris Lessing
35.Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
36. The Gravedigger's Daughter, Joyce Carol Oates
37. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
38. Please Look After Mother, Shin Kyung-sook
39. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
40. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

20 / 20

41. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
42. Native Speaker, Lee Chang-rae
43. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

44. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
45. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
46. I, Claudius, Robert Graves
47. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
48. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
49. Light in August, William Faulkner
50. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
51. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
52. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
53. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
54. Kokoro, Soseki Natsumi
55. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

56. The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
57. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
58. Money, Martin Amis

59. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
60. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

19 / 20

61. Naked Lunch, William Burroughs
62. Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

63. Native Son, Richard Wright
64. Neuromancer, William Gibson
65. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
66. 1984, George Orwell
67. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
68. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
69. The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski

70. The Last Word, Hanif Kureishi
71. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
72. Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion
73. We Need New Names, NoViolet Buwayo
74. Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
75. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
76. Rabbit, Run, John Updike
77. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow

78. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
79. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
80. Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates

19 / 20

81. The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles
82. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
83. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

84. Possession, AS Byatt
85. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
86. Your Republic is Calling You, Kim Young-ha
87. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John le Carre
88. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
89. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
90. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
91. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
92. Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence

93. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
94. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
95. Under the Net, Iris Murdoch
96. Villa Incognito, Tom Robbins
97. Watchmen, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

98. White Noise, Don DeLillo
99. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
100. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

20 / 20

98 / 100

Monday, May 29, 2017

Newly Listed: Peridot and Jasper Avogadro Bracelet

This is another one of my podcasting bracelets. I was working on this while JV and I listened to an episode of The Adventure Zone's "The Suffering Games" arc. Who ever thought that a D&D podcast would hit you right in the feels?

Peridot science chemistry sciart Avogadro bracelet
Peridot and Jasper Avogadro Bracelet by Kokoba

This bracelet features Avogadro's number in peridot chips, with jasper (pretty sure it's poppy jasper, but I'm not 100% on that, to be honest). It's a little longer than I like to make, but it's good to have a variety of lengths. Everyone's wrists and tastes are different.

Peridot science chemistry sciart Avogadro bracelet

Whatever kind of jasper this is, it has a lot of rich texture and details.

Peridot science chemistry sciart Avogadro bracelet

I like using toggles for bracelets (when I'm not just making memory wire bracelets). They're so much easier to manipulate when you're trying to get something on or off with only one hand. This one is base metal, but a sterling version can be switched if needed/wanted.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday 5: Guestimation

How well do you adjust to sleeping in an unfamiliar place?
Very well. Sleeping in strange places never disturbs my sleep.

When were you recently someone’s guest, and when were you recently someone’s host?
I traveled around the northeast US last fall while I was home for a wedding, and my parents and a few high school and college friends were excellent hosts. The last time I was a proper host was maybe two years ago? A friend of mine came to Stockholm for a few days during an epic around-the-world tour.

What’s the ickiest place where you’ve ever showered or bathed?
I don't know about showering or bathing, but I've had to use some really questionable toilets over the course of my travels. I think the worst would have to be the squat toilets you occasionally find throughout Korea (and elsewhere, I can only assume).

What’s something you don’t need but insist on taking when you travel?
I always, always, always take too many books. The age of the ebook reader has helped a lot with this bad habit--now I can carry an entire library in my pocket!--but still, by all accounts I don't need to load up my Kindle app with all of those books. I'm just very optimistic about how I'll use all of that dead time while I'm in the air (or on the road).

Who’s got a comfy couch?
The couch in my parents' basement (if it's still there) is one of the most comfortable I've ever encountered. The friends in Albany that I visited during the aforementioned trip also have a fantastic, sleepable couch.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trek Thursday: Redskirts and Charlie X

The next episode of Redskirts is up! This week Diana and Anna tackle Charlie X, an episode I apparently liked more than they did.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What I Read: No-No Boy

I have two big shout-outs/thanks in this post. First, for Adam over at Memento Mori who mentioned this in a haul or TBR or review video. As soon as he mentioned it, I realized that I hadn't really read anything about the Japanese internment camps, like, ever. I think we had a copy of Baseball Saved Us somewhere in the house, but I want to say it was my brother's (baseball fan that he is) and not mine. I might have never even read it and just remember the cover.

I've talked endlessly about how the TIME Top 100 Novels list is a lot of white dudes; I made some changes and turned it into my Classics Club List. I halfway knew early on in that goal that I wanted to read something by an East Asian author, a group that was more or less totally excluded from the original list. A friend recommended Farewell to Manzanar, which I still absolutely intend to read, but I had a hard time finding it in my libraries, and it felt a little weird to include a straight-up memoir on a list of novels. 

So Adam basically dropped the perfect book in my lap, or at least the perfect title. The second shout-out and thanks go to Henny Blanco (of Dirt Nap Podcast fame), who was kind enough send me a huge dump of ebooks from my Goodreads TBR, including . . . No-No Boy

Image courtesy of University of Washington Press
The story of John Okada, the author, is kind of tragic. No-No Boy is his only novel. It was published in 1957 to a lukewarm reception at best, and so he more or less left the writing world for the rest of his short life. He died in the early 70s of a heart attack, and while he was working on another novel at the time, the documents are lost to us so it's hard to tell if he just had notes, or if he had a completed draft, or if he had something almost completely finished.

The title refers to the loyalty questionnaire Nisei Americans (American-born Japanese) were asked to swear when being called up to the draft, which consisted of a number of questions. The last two were real humdingers:

Question 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?

Question 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiances to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization?

Thousands of people answered "no" to both questions and ended up serving time in prison for it, and they became known as "no-nos" or "no-no boys." Okada was not one of them, but the protagonist of his novel is. No-No Boy is the story of Ichiro Yamada, a no-no boy who comes back to his life in Seattle after his prison sentence. His mother is proud of him for being a no-no boy; she thinks Japan actually won the war, and that soon she and other loyal Japanese will get to go back. Others are, unsurprisingly, furious with Ichiro, white and Nisei alike. Eventually Ichiro runs into Kenji, a fellow Nisei and a veteran who lost his leg in the European theater and who is only getting more and more ill. Kenji seems to understand Ichiro, at least better than anyone else does, and the two spend a lot of time together as Ichiro tries to figure out his new place in the world. 

I'm so glad I finally got to read this. (Thanks again, Henny!) I'm not sure if I missed out on it during my American literature education because it's obscure, or because my education in particular was really spotty, or because I'm just not as well-read as I'd like to think.

There are a handful of books I review here that I really hope people will go out and read (if they haven't already). Usually it's because they're really good, but this is one I think we should read because it's important. Well, and it's also really good and worth reading regardless, but for all of the novels we have World War II veterans, it's important to remember what was happening to other Americans at the same time. No-No Boy widens that focus and broadens that perspective. I'll leave off with a quote from early on the in the novel, when Ichiro decides to pay a visit to the university where he was studying before the internment camps and then prison:

Not until the bus had traversed the business district and pointed itself toward the northeast did he realize that he was on the same bus which he used to take every morning as a university student. There had been such a time and he vividly brought to mind, with a hunger that he would never lose, the weighty volumes which he had carried against his side that the cloth of his pants became thin and frayed, and the sandwiches in a brown grocery bag and the slide rule with the leather case which hung from his belt like the sword of learning which it was, for he was going to become an engineer and it had not mattered that Japan would soon be at war with America. To be a student in America was a wonderful thing. To be a student in America studying engineering was a beautiful life. That, in itself, was worth defending from anyone and anything which dared to threaten it with change or extinction. Where was the slide rule, he asked himself, where was the shaft of exacting and thrilling discovery when I need it most? If only I had pictured it and felt it in my hands, I might well have made the right decision, for the seeing and feeling of it would have pushed out the bitterness with the greenness of the grass on the campus and the hardness of the chairs in the airy classrooms with the blackboards stretched wall-to-wall behind the professor, and the books and the sandwiches and the bus rides coming and going. I would have gone into the army for that and I would have shot and killed, and shot and killed some more, because I was happy when I was a student with the finely calculated white sword at my side. But I did not remember or I could not remember because, when one is born in America and learning to love it more and more every day without thinking it, it is not an easy thing to discover suddenly that being American is a terribly incomplete thing if one's face is not white and one's parents are Japanese of the country Japan which attacked America. It is like being pulled asunder by a whirling tornado and one does not think of a slide rule though that may be the thing which will save one. 

I hope that whet your appetite! If you've read No-No Boy, I'm curious about what you think. If not (or even if you have, I guess), what are some other under-read and underappreciated classics that you think should be more famous? Why?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Newly Listed: Rhodonite Speed of Light Bracelet

Well, I'm back to the land of the living! Jewelry-wise, anyway. A few nights ago I pulled out the ol' bead box and put together a few bracelets while JV and I listened to some podcasts.

There are so many interesting podcasts out there, both amateur and professional, that I want to listen to more often, but I find that I need something to do with my hands while I listen. Otherwise I alternate between spacing out and feeling guilty for not making better use of my time. The net result is that I'm trying to use listening to podcasts to put out more jewelry. (Even though I still have some alpha and beta release backlog to work through and list...)

This is the first in a couple new pieces. I'm trying to tilt things towards science, since there's more math than science in the shop right now. This bracelet features the speed of light (in meters per second).

Pink speed of light sciart physics science jewelry bracelet

The rhodonite chips are some that I reclaimed from an alpha release, and same with the round beads.

Pink speed of light sciart physics science jewelry bracelet

I don't usually work with just one stone in an entire piece, but I figured since I had rhodonite in both round beads and chips, it might be a nice, subtle look to go with. The grays in rhodonite still give it a little bit of visual interest., I think. And the random variation in the size and shape of the chips.

This is a memory wire cuff, which is my favorite to make (it doesn't require a lot of fussing with crimp beads and wire and jump rings) and my favorite to wear (one size fits all, no clasp to fiddle with yet incredibly secure). I try to branch out into other styles, but I keep coming back to memory wire again and again.

Speaking of podcasts, I'm also trying to have them on in the background while I write these up, just to work through the backlog of episodes. So right now I'm writing this up while I listen to The Dirt Nap.

Be on the lookout for more items going up in the following days!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday 5: Over/Under

What’s a film you consider overrated, and what’s a related or similar film you consider underrated?

This is actually a conversation I like to have with people. It's interesting to see when people's opinions diverge from the generally given consensus. It's been a long time since I've had this conversation with people, though.

The first answer that comes up for me is the Sam Raimi Spider-man movie. There was a lot of buzz about it when it first came out, so I went in with high hopes. Something just never clicked with me, though, and I left the theater feeling disappointed.

If I had to go with an underrated superhero movie (since we're in the genre), that's a little tougher. So I'll cheat and branch out a little bit, and say that some of my favorite movies are maybe in danger of becoming underrated or unknown. I'm a huge fan of The Marx Brothers, Vincent Price, and Gene Kelly (also major props to Donald O'Connor, an equally talented dancer who had the rotten luck of not being as handsome as Gene Kelly). It's good to appreciate the old as well as the new.

I will say this, though: of old things, I think The Three Stooges are fantastically overrated.

What’s overrated about the area in which you live, and what’s underrated about it?

I'm not sure what's overrated about Stockholm? But I don't think a lot of people realize how many (free!) museums there are in Stockholm, as well as festivals, concerts, and events. It has all of the culture of New York City, but with a fraction of the population.

Whose talent or skill is overrated, and whose is underrated?

This is a tricky one. I think I'll say that the concept of "talent" itself is overrated, as it leads to so much self-defeat. It takes a lot of work to get good at something, and if you just rely on focusing on what's easy the first time around, "you're gonna have a bad time."

I think people underrate the value of a good copyeditor, but I might just be biased. ;)

What item in the supermarket is overrated, and what’s underrated?

I will never be able to enjoy bacon the same way the rest of the world does. I can choke it down if I accidentally end up with some in a meal somewhere, but I'm still quite likely to pick it out. Nor have I ever developed a taste for coffee or fizzy drinks.

As for underrated, for years I labored under the false notion that cottage cheese was bland, boring diet food. I don't know if that's still the reputation it has today, but I'd like the record to show that cottage cheese is delicious.

What’s utterly terrific except for one or two things?

A few years ago, I read Jennifer Ouellette's The Calculus Diaries. As a humanities student trying to (belatedly) make peace with STEM, it was right up my alley, and overall I really enjoyed it. Except! In one of the chapters, she repeats the apocryphal story about ancient Rome and post-festivity vomitoriums. Ancient Rome had vomitoriums, but they weren't special rooms for vomiting after a particularly large meal; they were (and are) just exits in large public buildings like stadiums or amphitheaters.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday 5: Bizarro Cliche

The Magic Word is “please,” but what’s the magic gesture?

Well, hm, I think we can just let this one go without comment . . .

“Big D” is Dallas, but where is Big G?

I guess as a Swede, I'm obligated to say Göteberg, but it seems a little odd to hype a city I haven't visited (yet). I'm trying to think of places I've at least visited that begin with G, but I'm coming up blank.

Also, again: "Big D." I'll let this one slide, too . . .

Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll, but who’s the king of your personal music collection?

Here's a question I can answer! I think Ben Folds is probably forever the king of my music library. Even when I don't love every single one of his songs (I like the more pop-oriented ones than the ballad-y or story ones, because I am a basic bitch), the ones I do love are some of my favorites. He's also a whip-smart lyricist, too, which I value in an artist.

The motherland is wherever you consider your family’s origins, but what’s the cousinland?

Any language-adjacent country or one with a similar history. Given the reputation for drinking and recent history of being oppressed by a neighboring island, for example, I think Korea and Ireland could be considered cousinlands.

CBS calls itself the Tiffany Network, but what would you call the Walmart Network?

I realize that calling itself "the Tiffany Network" is supposed to be a comment on their quality, but for me all I think about is Trump's least-favorite child. (Poor Tiffany . . . )

But moving on to the actual question: CNN? It's everywhere, it's open 24 hours, it's got the basics but nothing high-end or specialized.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trek Thursday: Redskirts

Allow me to bring back this intermittent series on the blog to pimp my buddy Dromeda's podcast: Redskirts! In their own words, Redskirts is "a Star Trek podcast by two people who sometimes wear skirts." Right now they're focusing on TOS, my eternal fave of the franchise. It's basically the kind of podcast I'd want to be a guest on (and that was actually what I told Dromeda after she sent me the pilot ep: "When can I come in for a guest episode?"). Maybe if Skype and time zones play nice, that can happen? I have really strong feelings about The Devil in the Dark, y'all.

They're taking the episodes in air date order, so this first episode tackles The Man Trap. But if you want more, their pilot episode tackles . . . the first pilot, The Cage.

If you like it, you can follow their RSS feed and get new episodes as they go up.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Newly Relisted: Gel Electrophoresis Chainmaille Bracelets

Guys, I am so damn proud of these bracelets. I spent years thinking about how to incorporate chainmaille into my work, until I hit upon the idea of gel electrophoresis art. Then, I probably spent another couple of months thinking about how I could pull it off. I finally debuted these puppies during this year's SciArt Tweetstorm, after some valuable input from Peggy over at The Vexed Muddler.

Biology has always been a field that I've had to neglect. The nature of the work is not something easily encapsulated by simple bead-stringing; chainmaille finally allowed me to represent images instead of numbers. I was, and still am, excited about taking my jewelry in this direction.

You can imagine, then, that it's breaking my heart a little that they're not selling, but I have no one but myself to blame for that. I picked the wrong time of year to stop promoting my shop -- the triple whammy of Pi Day, Mother's Day and graduation events within a three-month period means that this is exactly the time of year for nerdy bespoke jewelry to be popular, right? Usually, yes. This year I dropped off the map.

That's a long way to say that these bracelets deserve better than me. More promotion, a sexed-up photograph, some clever copy . . . all three? But there's only so many balls a person can juggle.

Biology science sciart gel electrophoresis art bracelet chainmalle jewelry
1kb Step Ladder Gel Electrophoresis Bracelet by Kokoba Jewelry

I love bead-stringing, and I always will, because I am a sucker for pretty rocks. But there is a Zen-like simplicity in chainmaille. No knots, no crimps, no string or wire: just you, two pliers, and a bunch of jump rings. It's a lot easier to pick up and put down, which is something I need at this point in my life.

Biology science sciart gel electrophoresis art bracelet chainmalle jewelry

Right now I only have these two colors (black and a silvery champagne). Once I recover from the hit that is tax season in two different countries, I'm going to put in an order for more. I have visions of rainbow pride versions of these, for the LGBTQ+ scientists and allies in the field, but that might have to remain a pipe dream for the time being. I don't think I could get more than a couple out in time for actual Pride this year.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday 5: Ssssssssh!

What’s something sneaky you’ve recently done?

I'm not really good at being sneaky. It's hard to answer this one!

Who or what do you feel the need to tiptoe around?

Facebook and politics has become an interesting place since the election. And by "interesting place," I mean, "barren wasteland bereft of hope or goodwill."

What’s the dirty secret about the field in which you work?

Your own spit is, like, a really useful fluid in metal working.

For example: you could use actual lubricant (or maybe water? my memory's rusty, pun totally intended) on your hand saw, pictured above. Or you could just lick your finger and run it along the flat, non-serrated edge of the sawblade.

What was the subject of your last whispered conversation?

If we want to call the noise police (like, fake cops) or rental company about our neighbor's loud music. The situation resolved itself when the neighbor turned down the music like half an hour later.

What’s recently snuck up on you?

It's tax season, y'all! In two countries!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Newly Relisted: Avogadro Necklace

Hey kids, how you doing? I dropped off the face of the Earth for a while. Good thing I have my Etsy listings set up to automatically relist things as they expire! I'm working on some more chainmaille pieces but it's going to be some time before I put them up in the shop. Here's some chemistry #sciart jewelry to whet your appetite until then!

Avogadro chemistry science nerd sciart jewelry
Avogadro in faux pearls and green marbled acrylic by Kokoba
These are glass faux pearls I received from a friend a while ago, when she was cleaning out her jewelry box. I gratefully accepted the free goodies and turned out quite a few pieces with them. This necklace is just of maybe 4 or 5 from that same batch.

Avogadro chemistry science nerd sciart jewelry

I prefer gemstones (or even glass) to this kind of lightweight plastic material, but it does have its place and advantage. 

I'm also thinking about what kind of jewelry I want to tackle next. Well, I guess I'm always thinking about that! What techniques I want to try, what fields within science I want to tackle. I'm staring down a prototype for a full adder circuit I haven't shared yet here (because I want to lengthen it a little). Maybe that should be my next step. I love rocks and gems and beads, but there is something about chainmaille that is really fascinating me at the moment.

Still, though, beading is my first and deepest love, so I'm sure I'll be stringing again before long!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What I Read: Otto and the Flying Twins

I picked up Otto and the Flying Twins at a library sale some months ago, and in an odd coincidence (given the book's subject matter) I had it in my bag while I was stranded in town during the Asshole With A Beer Delivery Truck Incident at the beginning of the month. I finished it while I waited for the city to open up so I could go back home.

On the surface, Otto and the Flying Twins a whimsical fantasy story about an evil queen (though in an updated form of an evil councilwoman) trying to eradicate magic from the city, and the young boy and his magical friends who stop her. But dig a little deeper and it's hard to deny the parallels with pre-World War II Germany: the "magicos" are declared inferior and a threat to the city's well-being, relegated to ghettos or sent to work in moonstone mines.

It's hard to strike a balance between light whimsy and serious hardship, and my only complaint with the book is that Haptie never finds a good balance; despite some serious moments, the mood tilts very heavily towards "fun fantasy." Rather than address the very real problem that hatred and prejudice is built up over lifetimes and generations, Haptie compresses what was probably two or three centuries of anti-Semitic sentiment that contributed to the Holocaust into just a couple of years and the flimsiest of pretenses—essentially, one individual's personal grudge. (And greed, but arguably it's something like greed that drives people to blame The Other for economic woes, so that's not so unrealistic after all.)

But it's a fantasy book for middle grade readers, not Holocaust scholarship. I realize this is a very high-level nitpick, and I'm willing to overlook it because everything else about the book was delightful.

Anyone familiar with YA and middle grade tropes will see some of them refreshingly subverted or avoided. The titular Otto isn't The Chosen One; that's actually his dad, Albert who does much of the heroics (if off-screen). Otto is, of course, gifted with what everyone considers The Best Power Ever, but it's well-balanced: neither over-powerful enough to render his friends useless, nor so under-powered that we wonder why anyone values such a power in the first place.

When his mom finds out that Albert hid his magical heritage from her, she lashes out at him and spends most of the rest of the book angry at him, for ugly reasons (internalized prejudice) as well as respectable ones (building a life with someone only to find out they've lied about a very important part of themselves is bound to be a shocker). It's a response that feels very human, especially because she balances it with protecting her family. There's nothing worse than conflict driven by one or more parties being willfully stupid. Instead, Dolores does what she can to protect her undeniably magical family and keeps her frustration with Albert separate.

Otto's obligatory female sidekick, Mab, isn't presented as a love interest, which is refreshing—but this might be due to the target audience (the story feels and reads much more middle grade than YA). She's not entirely useful, it feels like, except to explain things to Otto (and by extension, the reader).

The language in this book is something to behold. There is an air of genuine whimsy in this that I found lacking in Harry Potter. (Well, either lacking or totally oppressive.) Normal Police, widges, dammerung, an Impossible List . . . Haptie takes well-worn fantasy tropes and adds her own unique spin to them.

Otto and the Flying Twins is the first in a trilogy of books. I get the impression that they were meant to be a longer series, but seeing as the last one was published in 2006, I think it's safe to say that the series stops at three books. If you can find it, get it. Otto and the Flying Twins is a great example of middle grade fantasy at its finest. More than that, it's a great jumping-off point to discuss prejudice and resistance—topics that are going to be quite relevant for the next few years.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Science Saturday: MARCH!

I'm marching for science today, and so can you! You can find a local march at the official March for Science website. If you're in Stockholm, I'll be a volunteer with the activities at Medborgarplatsen at the end of the march. Come say hi, listen to some awesome and knowledgeable speakers, and try some cool science stuff!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday 5: Nor Any Drop to Drink

Image courtesy Superfamous Images

What’s a memory you have of a nearby stream?

At some point during my elementary school years, our church congregation (or maybe just us kids) realized that the church's property didn't extend to the edge of the parking lot, but all the way across a neighboring field. We took this as a license to immediately tear through the long grass and down to the tree line to see if we could find anything, and were pleasantly surprised to find a crick we didn't know about. It was full of mint leaves and skunk cabbage and interesting rocks, and the whole thing felt distinctly magical.

We never went exploring there again, as far as I can remember. Something about it not being entirely church property. Or maybe parents told us that to keep us from running off and playing unattended.

What’s a good film scene or song lyric involving a river?

Hm. A two-fer first.

I have a great track by the indie band Brother called "River," but it's not on YouTube so that gem will just have to stay hidden for now.

What fond memory do you have of a lake?

My family spent a week at a hunting cabin in Vermont for maybe a dozen summers, right on Tinmouth Pond (officially Lake Chapman). No TV, no Internet, just the woods and the water. We always spent a day or two at the nearby Emerald Lake state park as well. I LOVERMONT!

What’s the most fascinating sea creature?

I was obsessed with dolphins for years, but as an adult I have to admit that they are . . . kind of assholes? The same goes for orcas (which apparently are technically dolphins, not whales?). So I don't know what to think about sea animals anymore. How about octopuses? They're cool.

What’s something that caused you to cry tears of laughter?

The only times I end up crying with laughter are those times where I'm laughing at how much I/someone else is laughing, usually over something not that funny, which then makes it even funnier, and then I'm laughing at myself laughing at someone laughing at the unfunny joke, and it just keeps snowballing. Like, for example, one time it was a really cheesy Weekly World News cover image of a fish with . . . hands? a human face? Something like that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday 5: Gimme One Reason

This is the Friday 5 from April 7, which I didn't get around to answering for pretty obvious reasons.

Now I'm a week behind on Friday 5 posts, but that works out for me. The questions sometimes go up relatively late in the day (at least here in Stockholm), so it used to be a bit of a rush to get them out on time. Now I have a whole week to answer them!

First, some appropriate tunes:

What makes you unreasonably irritated?

I like to think that most of the things that irritate me are reasonable. ;)

What are you unreasonably particular about?

Punctuation! Spelling! Grammar! Language usage! But then, only if you pay me to be. Or if I think you're someone who should know better. (A book I was otherwise enjoying from Kindle Press talked about a "heart-warming antidote." I hope someone will fix that in an updated edition, because the author and the rest of the story deserve better!)

What’s something that’s unreasonably complicated?

Oh man, doing taxes. I don't mind paying them, because I understand they're a necessary part of a functioning society, but all of the surrounding paperwork is nightmarish, and I don't think it needs to be. The US, compared to many other countries, has a nightmarish and needlessly complicated tax-paying process (as opposed to needless or oppressive taxes). In Sweden, for example, most people can just pay their taxes by SMS. It's not quite that easy for me, as a freelancer, but it's also not so bad. There are also multiple umbrella companies out there whose sole purpose is to make the whole tax process easier for freelancers; I just made life harder for myself for no good reason.

I think if we revamped the tax-filing and tax-paying system and made it easier and less of a hassle, more Americans wouldn't be so incensed about paying taxes.

What are the best reasons for working in your field?

As far as teaching goes, it's immensely satisfying to feel like you are immediately and concretely making someone's life better. Your work isn't useless or pointless. Unfortunately, this idealism is too often leveraged against teachers, effectively bullying them into working beyond their paygrade or the original scope of their work, because how dare they prioritize something like money above their students?

My feelings about copyediting are similar. You're helping someone create the best product possible. You can see the results of your work immediately and you know that it matters (to the author, if no one else!). People at least seem to value copyeditors a little more than teachers—at least, their commitment to helping others isn't used as a bargaining chip to deny copyeditors the pay or resources they deserve and need to do their job.

When it concerns my #sciart dabbling, it's the wide array of awesome scientists, artists, and scientist-artists (or artist-scientists?) I've Internet-met since I started. So many cool projects and Kickstarters and people out there! But do I want to kick my STEM jewelry into higher gear? I don't know. I don't need to be running three different "businesses," I don't think.

What are some good reasons for the most recent silly purchase you made?

I don't typically make "silly" purchases. The closest thing to a silly purchase that I've made at all recently was some shredded cauliflower marketed as "cauliflower rice." I know it's a marketing tactic ("cauliflower rice" sounds more appealing than "shredded cauliflower"; people generally like rice more than they like cauliflower), but I just wanted some pre-shredded cauliflower. I knew it wasn't going to taste like rice, and I wasn't buying it because I thought it would, so I don't know if that really counts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I Read: The View From Flyover Country

Sarah Kendzior is a national treasure and we do not deserve her. I follow her on, and The Correspondent. The View From Flyover Country is a collection of previously-published essays, but it's a solid collection that saves you trouble of scurrying hither and yon to find her work. The only issue is that they're from 2013 to 2015. Not too long ago, normally, but suddenly that feels like decades rather than years. And if you want her more recent work, well, see above.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Talky Tuesday: April 7, 2017

I wasn't expecting to do another Talky Tuesday post so soon after my last one, but then some asshole hijacked a beer delivery truck and drove it down a popular pedestrian thoroughfare in Stockholm so here we are!

Obviously, I'm fine. I wasn't particularly close to Drottninggatan when this happened, so I was never in danger and I was spared having to witness real-life violence and gore. That said, it's a part of Stockholm I know well and have walked many times before, so it is a little surreal. Minimally so, but it's there.

I'm worried about the near future of Sweden, and the rise of white nationalism. I'm worried about my friends who are fellow immigrants but with the bad luck to be from the "wrong" countries and to have "wrong" names. I want their children to grow up safe and happy in the same Sweden I do, and I don't know how much I can do to ensure that.  I'm worried about refugee quarters being terrorized and burned, in Sweden and elsewhere.

Here's an image from a "love demonstration" on the following Sunday. I'm in there, somewhere, maybe. (I showed up late so I only made the tail end.) Maybe there's hope.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What I Read: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

I received The Radium Girls in a free ebook form from NetGalley, which is both good and bad. Good, because I was possibly spared pictures of jawbones rotting out of women's mouths. Bad, because an ebook means I had a harder time tracking all the names and dates (and also that I read it while commuting and so often got misty-eyed in public, which is not something I feel totally comfortable with!). And I also didn't get to see all the before photos of the radium girls, which is probably how they would prefer to be remembered.

I knew about the radium girls in the vaguest of senses thanks to an offhand mention in The Radioactive Boy Scout. Silverstein mentions that scores of workers (women, mostly) in the dial-painting factories became ill and even died from their work, but since that's largely a footnote in the story of David Hahn, Silverstein doesn't go into much detail about it. I didn't think about it any further until last year, when I saw that an available book on NetGalley was Kate Moore's The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women, adapted from and inspired by Melanie March's play These Shining Lives.

I received the book in December and just finished it a week ago. That's unusually slow going for me, I have to admit. Part of it was life (I was busy with Swedish), part of it was the format (ebooks are not great for me when there are lots of names and dates to keep track of), and part of it was the ghastly content.

I have to admit, I was not entirely prepared for what I read. I know enough about radiation poisoning to know that the women employed in these factories suffered, and suffered a lot. That's a biological reality I knew going in. It was how steadfastly the companies refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing that was the most shocking and the most viscerally upsetting. Their legal battles dragged on for years—over a decade. It's one thing to lose an arm or the use of your legs and have a workman's comp case take a few years. It's another thing for the case to go on for 13 years when you're dying of cancer. Not to mention these companies did the most in trying to dodge responsibility, both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. They insisted that the sick, dying, and dead women were already in poor health when they started work; they refused to release medical examination records; they insisted that the cause of death in a few cases was syphilis, not radium poisoning, thereby adding an extra dose of slut-shaming indignity to it all. They claimed in one case that radium was a poison and therefore not covered by existing workman's compensation laws; after the law was changed to include poison, they turned around in another case and claimed that radium wasn't poisonous at all.

People talking about #resisting in this weird new era we live in also talk about the importance of surrounding yourself with stories of people being courageous and doing the right thing. I think that makes The Radium Girls a book we should all be reading, especially given that organizations like the EPA and OSHA seem to be on the public's shit list. Yet these are the organizations that cleaned up the mess that United States Radium left in Orange, NJ (the clean-up cost the equivalent of millions of dollars; USR paid a few hundred thousand); that protected all future employees who handled radium or other dangerous substances in their work.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. If there's any takeaway from The Radium Girls, surely it's that. The profit motive will squelch all but the strongest moral imperative, whether it's a luminous watch factory in New Jersey or sweatshop labor in Bangladesh. Robust worker protection and compensation laws are a society's most effective protection against large-scale corporate injustice; "a shield to protect, and not a sword to destroy" the humanity of workers, in the words of the Ottawa plaintiffs' lawyer, Lev Grossman.

His son, Len Grossman, has scanned and made public his father's scrapbook surrounding the case. It's worth browsing.

The Radium Girls is set to be published in the US in May this year (it's already out in the UK). If you can't get a preview copy from NetGalley or from the UK now, I really hope you'll pick The Radium Girls in May. Until then, there are a couple other books on the subject:

Deadly Glow: The Radium Dial Worker Tragedy
Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform

Other books touch on the radium girls tangentially:

Romancing the Atom
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

There's also the documentary Radium City, which focuses on the history of the Radium Dial Company in Ottawa, IL.