Saturday, June 30, 2012

Science Saturday: Game of Nerds!

Are you a nerd? Do you long for the high school days of trivia bowl? Do you find yourself completely useless at bar trivia because the questions are always about sports or Jersey Shore?

Problem solved! The only categories on Game of Nerds are the ones of interest to nerds and geeks: the Internet, fantasy novels, chemistry, and so forth.

As a limiting mechanism, each game costs "money" (fake currency) to play, but every Monday they give you more. It would be all too easy to burn through your initial 50 coins in like half an hour, so watch it! You'll burn through it before you even realize you're poor.

To help you out, you can recruit your friends to be on your team. You don't actually have any real interaction with them, however; you can just click on their avatar and the Game of Nerds program will put words in their mouth, as it were: "It's number three! I'm 72% sure!" However, the probability of your "friend" giving you the correct answer seems  correlated to how your real friend ranks in a certain category. So, for example, I'm currently doing pretty okay at Fantasy Movies and Television (72%), but not so hot in Fantasy Literature (37%!*).

So go ahead and sign up for Game of Nerds, and then friend me so we can be on each other's teams! I'm MST3Kakalina.

*Even though I love reading and I generally love fantasy, I am a snob about my preferences. Lots of the Fantasy Literature questions are from series I've either never heard of, or consider far beneath me. Likewise, the series I really love (The Dark is Rising, Sabriel) have yet to come up.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Foodie Friday: Microwave Banana Bread

I love food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, and I love making it as well. So why not Foodie Fridays?

The first installment in this Foodie Fridays series is some microwave banana bread from

See, I love bananas, but I can never finish a bunch by myself. Even after my most valiant of efforts (two bananas a day!), the latest bunch I bought was bringing in the drosophila like whoa. Gross. To stop the nascent fruit fly infestation in its tracks, I Googled for "microwave* banana bread" and tried the first recipe that came back.

I had to make some alterations as I was lacking some ingredients. I used vegetable oil instead of butter; I used three bananas and only one egg (you can substitute bananas for eggs if you're baking!); I added a touch more flour because I didn't have any salt on hand and the grocery stores were all closed when I was making this; the recipe calls for nuts, but I much prefer chocolate to nuts.

microwave banana bread
The finished product.
I didn't think to take pictures while I was making it, but here's some of the end result. It didn't come out as soft as I would have liked, as I realized after I baked it that a banana substitutes for two eggs, not one; therefore it was a bit drier than would be ideal. I also had to guesstimate on the baking soda as I don't have any teaspoons. I may have overcooked it for fear of the microwave not doing its job.

All in all, totally edible. Definitely a good recipe to keep on hand for those of you who love to bake but lack an oven. If you use three bananas instead of two bananas and two eggs, this is a vegan-friendly recipe, too!

*There aren't any ovens in officetels!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Project Rae" Update and Bonus Hint!

The Project Rae contest is still ongoing! Here's all eight hints:

The first Project Rae hint: a Full Adder circuit diagram.

The second Project Rae hint: the "pi oh my" tie by BuffaloNerdProject.

The third Project Rae hint: Minouette's Ada Lovelace print.

The fourth Project Rae hint: a family tree of silhouettes from JennaDCaldwell.

The fifth Project Rae hint: an original image Rae pinned as inspiration.

The sixth Project Rae hint: steampunk goggles from Mann and Co.

The seventh Project Rae hint: gears from Fallen Angel Brass.

The eighth Project Rae hint: giant safety pins from creativeARTifacts.

If you can guess what I'm making to go with Rae's upcoming project, you get some free custom swag! It doesn't even have to be purely nerd related swag, though nerdy swag does warm the cockles of my heart. You can leave a comment on any of the "hint" blog entries, or on Kokoba's Facebook page. The contest runs until November, at which point Rae reveals her upcoming project (and at which point the doodad in question will be out of my hands). You have a long time to mull this one over. And if you get it right, hey! Christmas shopping for at least one person is in the bag!

Here, have a bonus hint:

mother of pearl beads
Mother-of-pearl beads from Rondinelli

In other words: yes, this is still a thing with beads! Lots. Many of them are mother of pearl, like the ones pictured above. Itty-bitty beads only two millimeters in diameter.

The item itself is about 90% complete, I just have to make a minor color change and add some finishing touches.

More meta-hints (hints about the hints) coming in the near future to help you out, I promise!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Music Monday

Because today, this song is pretty much my mood. Enjoy some 90s nostalgia.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pinterest Post!

I'm still happily pinning away. Are you? If you need an invite, let me know! Here's some of my favorite recent pins:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Geo-Shopping: Mahogany Obsidian

Unlike most other of the finds in my geo-shopping series, mahogany obsidian is neither sedimentary nor a silicate (or rather, a silicate in the sense the others were: it still contains high levels of silica)! Obsidian is an extrusive igneous rock, meaning it formed from lava on the earth's surface (intrusive igneous rocks form from magma deep within the earth).

In short, obsidian is cooled lava. But what makes obsidian different from other extrusive igneous rocks? It cools quickly, but avoids the rapid changes in pressure that makes pumice.  Unlike tachylite, palagonite, or sideromelane, obsidian has a high silica content. Indeed, the brown color whence mahogany obsidian derives its name is due to the iron mixed in with all of the silicate that was in the lava when it cooled. It also cools away from water, which can do interesting things to lava before it solidifies.

Obsidian is not a true mineral, as it lacks any kind of crystalline structure. It is technically an "amorphous solid," or more colloquially, a glass. Given enough time, obsidian will break down into its component mineral crystals; hence, you can't find any obsidian that dates beyond the Cretaceous Age. It is exceptionally sharp and brittle, however. Obsidian, when available, was a popular rock to use for spearheads, arrowheads, blades, and anything else that needed to be sharp. Even today, many surgical knives have obsidian blades! Unlike many other rocks, it also has a natural, glossy sheen, and requires very little polishing or lapidary work.

 The name "obsidian" refers to an ancient Ethiopian by the name of Obsius, who was the first to discover it (according to Pliny the Elder).

In my collection right now are some adorable and unusually cut cubes, about 5mm square. I'm saving them for the perfect idea:

mahogany obsidian cube beads 5 mm small brown black beads
Aren't they adorable?

Here's some other great Etsy items featuring this post's stone!

'Mahogany Obsidian' by Kokoba

A celebration of the natural beauty that is mahogany obsidian!

















Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gochujang: Some Uses

I haven't been posting as much as I would like. I do have a lot on my mind, but I don't have the mental wherewithal to focus and write those pieces.

Part of that is because I've been stepping up my cooking game a notch. It's arguable whether or not that's a "poor skill" in Korea, where eating out is so cheap, but it's a useful skill and I like it. It also doesn't help that everyone in the world keeps posting delicious-looking recipes to Pinterest.

Of course, available ingredients in Korea are different than back home, so alterations must sometimes be made. You can experiment, too. My favorite thing to experiment with is the seminal Korean ingredient gochujang. Here are three non-Korean dishes that, I think, are vastly improved by red chili pepper paste.

1. Omelettes

Fry up your egg; before adding your stuffing, add some gochujang.

2. Shakshouksa

This was a Pinterest find: The Shiksa in the Kitchen's shakshuka recipe. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it. Lacking tomato paste, I used gochujang instead. Mmm, flavorful. 

3. Quesadillas

Same principle as the omelette: before you load up your tortilla with ingredients (mine were peppers, onions, and cheese), spread a dollop of gochujang on it. 

4. Bonus, Non-Culinary Use

It makes great fake blood!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean

I'm just a hair away from being halfway finished with Sam Kean's pop-chemistry book The Disappearing Spoon.  I borrowed it from a friend this past Saturday, but that's not my only reason for booking it (hah, hah) through this one: it's an interesting look both at the science of chemistry as well as the history, personalities, and applications involved with the recent history of chemistry, all framed through the periodic table.

periodic table penny luxe etsy chemistry
Modern Bright Periodic Table by Penny Luxe Sales
Kean has a background in science and knows his stuff. He also provides a refreshingly thorough look at the birth of the elements, going back to the Big Bang, protons, and neutrons. (Alas, no quarks or antimatter, but that's not particularly relevant to his project.)

The good: As I mentioned earlier, there's a wide breadth of information in this book, clearly and engagingly presented. Also, the paperback book club edition comes with recommended reading (from Kean himself) and his top five favorite elements. The appendix also includes a copy of the periodic table for reference.

The bad: I hate endnotes, and unfortunately that's how this book does supplemental information. Why do people hate footnotes? Why?

One interesting fact: All of the earliest recorded incidents of induced fission were observed by women. (And of course they were promptly overlooked...)

Would recommend? Yes! I would especially recommend it in conjunction with Just Six Numbers, as they touch on a lot of the same things. Review of that one coming soon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Music Monday

This one is going around the Internet like wildfire, but it's totally justified. I have many fond memories of Mr. Rogers growing up; if I catch him on PBS when I'm aimlessly channel surfing, I'll sit down and watch.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Science Saturday: Extinct: The Horizon Guide to Dinosaurs

I came across this gem on YouTube last weekend and watched it to wind down my Sunday night: Extinct: The Horizon Guide to Dinosaurs.

The good: It moves at a snappy pace and a lot of new (to me) information about dinosaurs. Paleontology isn't exactly my strong suit, after all. Also, the occasional melodrama is much more tolerable and tongue-in-cheek than in some other BBC productions.

The bad: If you're familiar with Horizon's series on the BBC, there's not really a whole lot that's new here. You know how Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is unashamedly, unabashedly "Sweet Home Alabama" with some nostalgic lyrics thrown on top? This is like the "All Summer Long" of dinosaur documentaries. There's a whole lot of old footage that pads this one out. A whole lot.

One interesting fact: Some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded!

Would recommend? If you have an hour to kill and like dinosaurs, sure. If you're a dino-nerd, or already familiar with Horizon's BBC series, I imagine there's not a whole that's new to you.