Thursday, February 23, 2017

#TBT: Pi and Golden Ratio Multistrand Bracelet

This is one of my newer TBT posts. I made it in 2011, and I'm not entirely sure why I never listed it. I loved it then, and I still love it now. (Maybe I was being greedy and keeping it to myself?)

Math Jewelry - Pi Golden Ratio Bracelet - STEM Sciart Mathart Jewelry - Math Nerd Teacher Student Graduate Gift
Pi and Golden Ratio bracelet from Kokoba
This multistrand bracelet features the digits of pi and the Golden Ratio in blue lace agate and aventurine, with adorable faceted mookaite briolettes acting as spacers in between digits.

Math Jewelry - Pi Golden Ratio Bracelet - STEM Sciart Mathart Jewelry - Math Nerd Teacher Student Graduate Gift

I love the hell out of those briolettes. They are just the cutest thing, and perfect for bracelets and earrings! 

Math Jewelry - Pi Golden Ratio Bracelet - STEM Sciart Mathart Jewelry - Math Nerd Teacher Student Graduate Gift

The copper has a lovely patina by now, but you could also brighten it up with a quick run through a polishing cloth.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What I Read: Passing

My Internet book club is still going strong! Their selection for February was Passing, a short but powerful novel by Nella Larsen.

As I've alluded to here a couple of times, my academic background isn't in STEM, but the humanities: English and philosophy, to be more specific. Here is an incomplete but relatively comprehensive list of what I read for the English portion of that degree:

  • A bunch of poetry I don't care about because I don't get poetry and never will.
  • Oroonoko, Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, Great Expectations, Emma, Nightwood, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Paradise Lost and some assorted essays and poetry by John Milton, which is the rare exception to my distaste for poetry.
  • Edgar Huntly, Last of the Mohicans, Arthur Gordon Prym, Pudd'nhead Wilson, Benito Cereno
  • A Passage to India, Kim, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (selections), Invisible Cities
  • Winesburg Ohio, Waiting for Lefty, In Our Time, Invisible Man, Light in August, The Souls of Black Folk,* Cane
  • A Dream Play, Kallocain, Aniara, Women and Apple Trees, Money, Doctor Glass, Blackwater, The Visit of the Royal Physician, A Burnt Child, Nils Holgersson 
It's a very weird and spotty list because I was technically a Creative Writing major, not a pure English major, so I was in a lot of writing workshop classes instead of jumping too deep into critical analysis or any kind of comprehensive scope of the English literature canon. All of this is to say that despite my background, there are pretty huge gaps in my literary knowledge and I'm pretty sure that's why I'd never heard of Nella Larsen before.

This is why I love my book club. The organizers are excellent at finding classics I would otherwise have missed entirely!

Passing is the story of Irene Redfield and her high school classmate Clare Kendry. Both women are mixed race; Irene is "out" (if I can borrow the term) as a woman of color, living a life in Harlem with a black husband and black children, while Clare is currently "passing" (as in, passing for white) within white society—a big deal in 1927. A chance encounter brings Clare back into Irene's life after years apart, throwing both of their lives into disarray. One thing leads to another, until things reach their tragic, if inevitable, conclusion.

I don't want to spoil too much, because I think it's an excellent psychological thriller story. It's superbly plotted, especially in the last section—a real page-turner. 

I will say that much of the tension is built on concepts of race and passing that I don't think would be quite as relevant today. Normally that would feel dated in a book, but in this case I think it just highlights what a different time it was. Not that we've suddenly gone post-racial, of course; just that we've at least more or less abandoned the "one drop" rule and related thinking. (I hope?) The way Clare Kendry is described, she might as well be Aryan Princess Taylor Swift; someone like her being written off as black says a lot about an America still in living memory.

Of course, other elements of tension in the story are more universal: secrets and trust within relationships, motherhood, the lot of women in society, the limits of what we can know about others. Passing is a thriller but it's also a character study. While some of the specific worries about race may belong to another time, the suspense and the breakneck speed feel very modern. 

Seeing as we're in the last week of African American** History month, Passing would be a great read. It's a quick, snappy little book that you can finish in a couple days, and it's available on the Internet Archive. I hope you give it a chance, because I really enjoyed it!

*By W. E. B. DeBois, according to the DOE! #alternatefacts

Monday, February 20, 2017

Newly Listed: Spring Flower Comp Sci Earrings

Maybe a few months ago I went on a little bead box cleaning spree: I deconstructed earlier pieces I had made featuring fiber optic beads, and cannibalized some of them into newer, nicer pieces. Last night I finished the work by putting them all on ear wires, and now I'll have plenty of new items to list for the next week or so!

Today's feature is a sweet and femme-y hybrid of traditional prints and new materials:

Floral cybertwee fiber optic earrings by Kokoba

I like the contrast between the blue fiber optic accent beads and the floral pattern on the large focal beads. The new with the old!

Floral cybertwee hacker coder programmer gamer blogger computer science earrings STEM sciart jewelry

The combination of delicate florals and high tech would fit in perfectly with the soft, pastel aesthetic of the cybertwee movement. 

Floral cybertwee hacker coder programmer gamer blogger computer science earrings STEM sciart jewelry

I'm not normally a fan of floral prints and patterns, but I think they can be used in interesting and subversive new ways. These earrings are a pretty subtle example; one can absolutely go further.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday 5: Yule Never Be Alone

Photo by lauramusikanski at

About how many family Christmas photo-cards did you receive this year*?

I get why people do the annual "family photo holiday card," and I'm happy to have photographs of my friends on hand, but it's a tradition that will never appeal to me as a sender.

This year I got at least three photo-cards. I may have gotten one or two more than that, but that's it.

About how many family Christmas newsletters did you receive this year?

This is a holiday tradition I like a little better. Not surprising, I guess, considering my penchant for words and language! I don't ever write one, though. Different people hear from me at differing intervals, so I tend to address holiday cards personally, based on how often I talk to the recipient and how much they know about what's going on in my life.

I didn't receive many "state of the friend" letters in cards this year. I know I got at least two, but there might be one or two I'm forgetting.

What do you do with the Christmas photo-cards and newsletters you get each year?

The newsletters get filed under "correspondence," along with notes from friends or family that get slipped in with care packages and the odd snail mail letter.

The photo-cards get tacked up on the wall next to my desk. This is actually the first year I've received photo-cards (in the past it's been just regular cards). I'm not sure if I'll keep them up, or if I'll file them away somewhere. The nicest cards (according to my arbitrary rules of taste) stay up on the wall. The others I hoard because one day I will make a garland or bunting with the ones that aren't quite as pretty.

I have a couple of artist friends and I love when they send doodles or drawings in the cards. I will always sacrifice a greeting card for the sake of displaying their original art!

What’s a good solution for singles who want to participate in this tradition without coming across as a loser?

Just do it, because there's nothing loser-y about sending out photo-cards or newsletters as a single person?

About how many old-school, hand-addressed Christmas cards did you receive this year?

Oh man, maybe about two dozen? I participate in an online holiday card exchange so I got a lot from strangers and near-strangers, in addition to the ones from my friends.

* Yeah, yeah. It was last year, but you know what I mean

Thursday, February 16, 2017

TBT: Root 2 Peridot Rhodonite Bloodstone Shells 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, February 10, 2017

Friday 5: Hold On to the Knight

This week's Friday 5 is all about chess, a game that I'm staggeringly bad at but nonetheless somewhat fascinated by.

Photo by Alvimann at

1. When and how did you learn to play chess?

I think at some point Teacher Dad tried to teach me and my brother. He had grown up playing a lot of chess with his brother and I think he wanted us to learn, too, but it never really took for either of us. I think I still have an Usborne Guide to Chess he gave me for Christmas one year somewhere. Since then, I've tried a couple times to "really learn how to play this time." It seems to be a whim that hits me every couple of years, but never really sticks.

When it comes to black-and-white strategy board games, I had a slightly better time with Othello (or Reversi, if you prefer), but only slightly. Lawyer Mom, maybe among the last people you would ever suspect of being strategic and crafty, habitually destroyed me at it. I'm sure if she had been born in another time and place, she would have been a champion Go player.

2. How is your chess game?

As you can probably imagine, not very good.

3. When did you last find yourself in a stalemate?

As a rule, I try to avoid conflict and confrontation with people. The closest thing to a stalemate would be, I guess, my critique group stalling out in scheduling an upcoming make-up meeting. Yes, not quite a stalemate, but like I said—the closest I get.

4. A gambit is a chess opening in which a player sacrifices a piece in hopes of gaining an advantageous position. What was one of your recent, real-world gambits?

I think one of the problems I have with chess is that I have a tendency to hoard pieces. Even though the mechanics of the game dictate that both players have to lose pieces in order for the board to open up and for play to really begin, I can never feel totally comfortable losing a piece. I think I maintain that attitude in real life as well.

5. Which piece on the chessboard is most like you, and why?

I suppose the bishop: I'm narrow in my interests, but within them I'm quite knowledgeable. Or maybe the knight: I eventually get to where I'm going, but my path is a little more roundabout than other people's.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What I Read: 2016 in Review

I realize we're well into February of 2017 right now, which makes this 2016 reading summary post a little late, but better late than never! I actually had it ready to go for a month, but this is the first Wednesday of the new year where I don't have any book reviews to go up.

 First of all, something weird happened since I grabbed this screenshot and today: the number of pages in Empire of Storms jumped from 693 to 701. What? What's going on with that?

Compared to 2015, I read more books and more pages, so probably more reading overall. Much like 2015, I hated the most popular book on my reading list (2016: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, 2015: The Fault in Our Stars) with a fiery passion. This is not to be confused with the highest-rated book I read, which is not pictured in this screen shot. In 2016 it was Queen of Shadows; in 2015 it was The Martian. And while I liked Queen of Shadows well enough, I thought The Martian was largely a crappy, overrated excuse for SF.

Lesson? I will continue to dislike around 75% of popular things! But even so, my average rating crept up from a 3.2 in 2015 to a generous 3.4 in 2016. Maybe turning 30 made me go soft?

Much like 2015, the least popular book I read in 2016 was in Swedish. This year it was a collection of essays, rather than a collection of flash fiction.

I smashed my GoodReads goal in 2016 (much like I did in 2015). Hopefully I will smash this year's goal (48) as well. Some book bloggers and BookTubers (haha, BookTubers, like y'all are potatoes or something!) read what I can only describe as a ridiculous amount of books per year. I think some of that is attributable to different tastes (you see Empire of Storms up there, but Throne of Glass is basically my only concession to YA or New Adult or whatever the marketing term du jour is), and part of is that I sometimes make an effort to read in Swedish (which slows me down), but if I'm being honest, some of it is definitely that I am a slacker. Ideally I'd like to shoot for 4 books a month (this year's GoodReads challenge), which is still no great shakes compared to what some other readers out there get through—even the ones who read heavier lifting than YA.

So far I'm doing okay on my 2017 GoodReads challenge, but only because I binged on Saga. I am here for comics and graphic novels, especially ones that opt to be anything-but-superhero, but I won't pretend that they're much quicker reading than regular books. Yeah, I sat and read three Saga trade paperbacks, so that counts as three books, but it didn't take me as long as it would to read three traditional novels. The novel my book club picked for February looks really interesting and it's available on the Internet Archive. Plus, it's short, so I have plenty of time to catch up with everyone else who has a head start!

How'd you do on your 2016 reading goals? You crush it or what? Let's talk books!