Monday, October 24, 2016

Newly Listed: DNA Chainmaille Bracelet

From the very beginning of my jewelry...line, I guess?...I knew I wanted to do something with the infamous double helix structure of DNA:

But how to do it? It took years of selling and digging around on the Internet, but I think I've finally figured it out! So, to celebrate my latest and greatest , let's review my brief and inglorious history with the double helix.

1. I made one sad attempt at wire earrings and they were actually my first sale on Etsy—mortifying. I try not to remember that too often, and I hope that customer is still happy with them.

Not pictured because UGH EMBARRASSING.

2. Years later I learned that chainmaille was a thing, and that there were spiral weaves. The prettiest one I found at first was the serpentine weave, also known as spiral 4-in-1 or just spiral. Here it is to great effect by an Etsy shop I love, PartsByNC:

Spiral chainmaille sterling silver DNA necklace
Spiral Chainmaille Sterling Silver Necklace by PartsByNC
But the weave is unstable, unless you loop it back on itself, which I did here in this bracelet of my own you can pick up in the Da Vinci Center gift shop:

Otherwise it just turns into Jens Pind Linkage which I think is heinous. (I might make some JPL pieces later, as JPL can stand for both Jens Pind Linkage and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but that's a joke that's essentially only funny to me.)

Another option is a spiral 8-in-2 (instead of 4-in-1) but the end result isn't nearly so slinky and serpentine. Here's an example from Van Alphen Studio:

Double Spiral 8-in-2 Maille Bracelet by Van Alphen Studio

3. So I did some digging off-and-on and found a couple of other weaves that I liked! The first was a weave called This Is Not Food, which naturally retains a clean spiral shape and, because of the small jump rings you use to lock the spiral, has a funky, spiky look to it. I didn't love it at first—I liked it, but I didn't love it—but now it's grown on me.

Double Helix Chainmaille Bracelets (This Is Not Food) by Kokoba
4. At some point I got the idea to see if I could do something with Viking knit and accent beads. While these didn't turn out as I had hoped, they still turned out nicely. This is something I plan on returning to in the future. I love Viking knit too much not to use it.

Double Helix Viking Knit Bracelet
Double Helix Viking Knit Bracelet

Double Helix Viking Knit Necklace
Double Helix Viking Knit Necklace

5. Around the same time I found This Is Not Food, I found Lorraine's Inverted Spiral, which I loved for the sleekness of the profile and for the uniformity of the rings. (This Is Not Food requires jump rings of two different sizes.) I worked out a prototype bracelet over the winter holidays last year, and made it harder on myself by choosing a monochrome (rather than a two-tone) theme.

Double Helix Chainmaille Bracelet (Inverted Spiral) by Kokoba
What I realize now is that the two-tone scheme, in addition to making the weaving much, much easier, also serves to make the spiral shape clear. I will, of course, still offer monochrome options in the shop for anyone who wants that sort of thing, but I just personally prefer the two-tone version. Now that I was comfortable with the weave (almost a year later), I could take the next step and invest in a special jump ring order from The Ring Lord rather than pull from my generous stock of jewelry findings. The rings in this new piece are anodized aluminum, rather than the nickel/copper/zinc alloy I usually use.

Black/Champagne Double Helix Maille Bracelet
Black/Champagne Double Helix Maille Bracelet

The result is something lightweight and comfortable (and also really pretty!), and something I will definitely be making more of. Of course, I realize now that the way I first learned to spiral in this weave creates the infamous left-handed DNA. Sigh. The good news is that it was surprisingly easy to correct this technical flaw. As of this post, I have both this left-handed bracelet and a proper right-handed bracelet listed in the Kokoba Etsy shop. (I'm not redoing this one, though. Either someone loves it, in all its inaccuracy, or I get to keep it and wear it and look fly. Either way works for me!)

There it is: the eight-year evolution of an idea. Is this the last iteration? Who knows!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What I Read: Running With a Police Escort: Tales From the Back of the Pack

I've blogged, a little bit, about running while fat. Despite this new-found interest, I've been really lax into trying to find the online running community, so it wasn't until Running With a Police Escort hit NetGalley that I learned about Jill Grunenwald. Fat and slow while running? Sign me up! The book is due out this January so this is one of the handful of reviews I've written that will go up well in advance of publication.

On the ball!

If you want to sample some of Grunenwald and her writing before committing to the book, you can find her on Twitter and her health blog (she's on hiatus from the latter but there's plenty of backlog to cruise) and decide for yourself it she's your ~~thang or not. In addition to reading my review, of course!

Image courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

When I read the initial description for Running With a Police Escort, I was a little hesitant. The back copy makes it pretty clear that Grunenwald started running as part of a weight loss goal that she tackled as a result of an email from her sister—the kind of email that would sit with me as concern troll-ish and unwelcome, fan as I am of Health At Every Size. But everyone has different relationships with their weight and their family that I can't possibly know about, so I let it drop. Truthfully, it was relatively easy to look past that part of the story, as Grunenwald doesn't spend a whole lot of time on it. More importantly, she spends zero time evangelizing her weight loss or snarking on her body. Running With a Police Escort could have been a weight loss memoir disguised as a running memoir, but no: it's actually a running memoir!

The conceit behind the title is that Grunenwald acknowledges and embraces the fact that she is a slow runner. Not a fat one: a slow one. Slow enough that she's often followed by the police cars sent to re-open streets after a given race is over. The "slow versus fat" distinction is important; I think a lot of people shy away from running because of hang ups about being slow (maybe more people than shy away because of insecurity over their weight). Grunenwald's memoir is for any runner that feels like a faker or out of place. I definitely do, being slow and fat. Honestly, seeing this pop up on NetGalley, I could have cried. I doubt I'm alone.

My only true gripe is organization. Aside from the chapter on finishing medals ("race bling"), I was really had pressed to see the underlying theme for any of the given chapters. Nor did the book proceed entirely chronologically. I suspect this is a result of the book being born out of Grunenwald's social media presence ("just write like you do for your blog!") but I can't say for sure.

My copy was the eBook copy. I will probably be picking up a proper paperback edition when it comes out. Comfort reads deserve to be in tangible, smell-the-ink-and-touch-the-paper format. And I can guarantee that this will be a comfort read I'll return to whenever I have a bad run.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday 5: Be of Good Cheer

What’s something non-political you’re rooting for nowadays?

Cubbies! Who doesn't love a good underdog story?

What were the circumstances–and who was the recipient–the last time you were part of a standing ovation?

I can't remember specifically but I'm sure it was some kind of musical performance. Maybe when I saw Folkoperan's performance of Carmina Burana?

What’s a cheer you remember from high school or college?


What inanimate object in your residence deserves applause for its outstanding role in your life this past week?

Priscilla, my ten-year-old laptop, still runs just fine. Good news, since I didn't bring a computer with me on this trip.

When was the last time a group of people clapped for you?

After a presentation in Swedish class. We clap for everyone; I wasn''t especially awesome.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday 5: Bacon

Not only do I not like bacon, I actually kind of hate it. Blegh. :(

When did you most recently have bacon, and what did you have with it?

I had some in a pastry my Hungarian student made for lunch. It came in a flaky pastry with cheese.

How do you like your bacon?

Not at all. >:C

Where do you rate bacon among the standard breakfast meats?

At the very bottom. Maybe better than ham, but only by a hair.

What’s something unusual you’ve had with bacon as an ingredient?  How was it?


What’s a better aroma to wake up to than bacon?

I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like...victory.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


By the time this post goes up, I'll be en route to, and probably already in, the US! I have some blog posts and Tweets scheduled, but no orders will be shipping from October 5 to October 18. Please bear this in mind when placing orders! Here's some (relevant and appropiate) ear candy to tide you over until then.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What I Read: The Three-Body Problem

I normally don't pay attention to awards in real time. If I'm browsing a bookstore and I see that a particular book has won this or that prize, it might push me towards buying it rather than putting it back. But nominees? Voting? Nah. I'm still prioritizing my Classics Club journey through the TIME Top 100 Novels list, so I'm not really up to date on new releases (except the ones I get from NetGalley and Blogging for Books).

But sometimes I catch wind of things and my interest gets piqued. That was the case with The Three-Body Problem—and that was mostly because of the Puppies Hugo debacle. Chinese science fiction? Sign me up! It didn't take too many mentions for me to add it to my GoodReads TBR (which is now over 100 titles, how'd that happen?), but I went around for maybe a year with the title in the back of my head without ever buying it. More than that apparently: I added it to GoodReads in December of 2014, and this post is going up in October of 2016. Well.

A couple weeks ago, I had some time to kill in Stockholm's Old Town, so I dropped by SF Bokhandeln to pick up Heir of Fire. I still needed an extra 70 kronor or so to earn a stamp on my stamp card, so I took my time and meandered through the shelves. I contemplated a couple volumes—so many people keep on talking about Raven Boys, and there was also Kameron Hurley's essay collection—but then I wandered through the science fiction shelves, where I saw The Three-Body Problem, and the little accounting clerk who lives in the back of my head and keeps track of all of the books I've added to my GoodReads TBR reminded me hey, you wanted to read that!

Image courtesy Tor

In a nutshell, The Three-Body Problem is a first contact novel that has at its center the the physics chestnut of (you guessed it) the three-body problem. It's the kind of hard science fiction that is very much informed by contemporary breakthroughs (the LHC) and theories (quantum entanglement). It's an interesting companion piece to The Sparrow, where the scientific expertise isn't in the tech or the theory but in the culture- and race-building.

I don't want to talk about the story too much because I think it's a lot more fun to read the actual story than to read a summary. So, some general notes:

The art of translation has long fascinated me. What is a "good" translation? Or an exact one? The language in The Three-Body Problem starts out choppy, almost clunky. But then either the language changed, or I did, because it grew on me. The translator, Ken Liu, was able to include his own thoughts on translation and choice in an afterword, and he remarked that part of his job was also to account for the different tastes between English- and Chinese-speaking audiences, and ultimately decided to choose something a little closer to a Chinese style than an English style. That explains that!

My big problem with The Martian was the characterization, especially with Watney. While I still think The Martian is an overrated gilded turd, I have to admit that science fiction has not always been a genre that lends itself to nuanced, mutli-layered characters—often we have a few given types that are faced with a predicament, and the narrative thrust isn't about their journey as characters but about how the problem is solved. The same tradition seems to have informed The Three-Body Problem as well, though Liu Cixin doesn't cop to his literary influences too much in his own afterword. The characters, again, are largely types or just stand-ins; plot points for a story rather than flesh-and-blood people. But none are as clueless or grating as Watney, so it doesn't matter, and I even found Ye Wenjie to be quite compelling.

The movie (because yes, of course there's a movie) is due out next year. Fortunately it was picked up by a Chinese studio instead of Hollywood, so there won't be any egregious #whitewashedOUT shenanigans. Still, I'm not entirely sure what a film adaptation can bring to the story. More interestingly, I guess Chinese readers have been making...soundtracks? Wikipedia is not really detailed on this, but it does link to one of them, and it's pretty chill.

The good thing about not being up-to-date on books is that if I find something in a trilogy or a series, I usually find it by the time the whole thing is wrapped up. So I can move on to The Dark Forest and Death's End anytime I like!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Newly Listed: Pink and Green Pi Focal Necklace

I made this modern little pi necklace ages ago but didn't get around to taking photos until a couple of days ago. For shame!

Pink green nerdy sciart mathart pi jewelry math necklace
Pink and Green Pi Focal Necklace by Kokoba
First of all, I am having the. worst. time trying to figure out what Google did to Picasa. lionelmessi.gif

I like doing beaded things, but I also like experimenting in different silhouettes and using more chains (or maille!) for more modern, minimalist looks. Sometimes less is more!

Pink green nerdy sciart mathart pi jewelry math necklace
Pink and Green Pi Focal Necklace
I also like how pi specifically looks in this kind of style, thanks to the regular/linear progression of the first few digits. Think about it; pi goes 3.1415... and so on. The 1s are nice little spacers and 3, 4, and 5 have a nice asymmetrical yet entirely regular increase to them. I have a deep need for symmetry (Lawyer Mom and Teacher Dad can tell you all about that!), but asymmetry like this I can live with. It doesn't feel entirely off-the-wall or unbalanced.

So far this is the only "focal" style piece available in the shop. I have a couple others tucked in storage in the US that I'll be bringing back out soon, so keep your eyes open! I love my beadwork, but once in a while I like to keep things easy and understated.