Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I'm Going to Read/Play/Watch in 2016

Since this is the last Wednesday of 2015, I thought it would be appropriate to vary my theme a little bit and focus on my media consumption hopes for the upcoming year!


First of all, without a doubt I am definitely going to read Mrs. Dalloway. I've been a member of a Facebook-based book club, founded by one of my bookish friends, since October and Mrs. Dalloway is January's book. I've already read this one in school, but it's been ten (!!) years since I read it and I liked it enough that I would read it again anyway.

February's book is The Price of Salt, which I very much want to read. The question is whether or not I'll be able to find an English language version at the library. It's a timely read, considering a film version was released last month!

Speaking of the library, my big book goal for the year (aside from the book club) is to finish the TIME Top 100 list. For realsies. There are only 14 left. According to my GoodReads records, I read 36 books this year (probably a little more, but GoodReads is wacky when it comes to tracking re-reads), so I should be able to finish this list once and for all. The books that are left are:

  • An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (though I may substitute in Sister Carrie by the same author, as I have a free copy of that on my Kindle app)
  • The Berlin Stories, Christopher Ishwerwood
  • The Day of the Locust, Nathaneal West
  • The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen
  • Falconer, John Cheever (this might be one that gets bumped off for something else, judging by the summaries I've read elsewhere)
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowler
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
  • Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
  • The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
  • The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
  • Native Son, Richard Wright
  • Play it As it Lays, Joan Didion
  • Possession, A. S. Byatt

So hopefully they will turn up here on the blog next year!

Then I went on a WILD AND CRAZY BOOK-BUYING SPREE and came home from SF Bokhandeln (Stockholm's premiere SF/F bookstore) with a whopping two books. I know, I know, someone should stop me! But I am excited about what I picked up: Queen of Shadows and Nimona. I was not expecting Queen of Shadows to be such a door-stopper, so I doubt I'll finish it before the new year. But finish it I will!


I will definitely be playing a lot of Fallout: Lou Bega in the upcoming year, along with Fallout Shelter. Beyond that, it's hard to say. Will this be the year I woman up and beat Demon's Souls? (So I can move on to Dark Souls.) (I know that Demon's Souls and Dark Souls aren't related. Don't care. It's the principle of the thing.) My boyfriend also just bought the original Japanese Soul Calibur and Powerstone for his Dreamcast (holy shit does anyone else remember Powerstone????) so we might just spend a lot of video game time beating each other up. Virtually.

I never got around to finishing Papers, Please. And so unless I sit down and treat myself to a depressing, dystopian couple of days before the new year, I won't finish this until next year.

Otherwise the video game schedule in 2016 is wide open!


Hook & Ladder Firehouse Company. Photo by Philip Ritz
There is only one movie I care about seeing next year: Ghostbusters! I AM SO EXCITED I HAVE TO USE CAPS. If you're going to complain about Hollywood's endless sequels and reimaginings as opposed to new content, you have a point and I won't disagree. If you're going to whine about pandering to SJWs by making it an all-female version, I'm going to roll my eyes.

As far as television goes, I assume we can expect the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to hit the airwaves in one form or another in 2016. I have a lot of feelings about this, which are probably best saved for another post.

Otherwise, my television viewing is largely behind the times: I'll probably watch a lot of Poirot and Columbo (holy shit y'all I fucking love murder mysteries) (also David Suchet as Poirot is essentially my uncle with a smaller and more fastidiously groomed mustache, it's crazy!). Maybe we'll figure out where we left off in Red Dwarf and finish it (in time for the new series coming out!). The only contemporary show I'll be following is Steven Universe, which is clearly the best thing coming out of Cartoon Network these days.

What's on your agenda for next year?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Newly Listed: Mookaite Gravity Bracelet

After I went on a little bit of a pi binge, I realized I needed to beef up the science sections of my shop. It's not just pi, after all!

This bracelet is in one of my favorite stones, mookaite. For some reason I hadn't really done much with it for a long time, but buying new beads (for SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT and otherwise) somehow inspired me to use other, completely unrelated items. I guess I just needed fresh inspiration.

I like how subtle this one is. Using just one stone for the whole piece has a really nice effect, especially with a stone as variegated and interesting as mookaite.

Sciart STEM gravity jewelry gift for physics fans
Mookaite Newtonian constant of gravity bracelet by Kokoba

The Newtonian constant of gravity (according to the latest CODATA values; physical constants are tricky things and are sometimes revised or updated) is 6.67408 × 10–11 m–3 kg–1 s–2. Usually I try to photograph things so you read the number from left to right, but I goofed with this one. Oops! I also never use the scientific notation when I work with physical constants. It would just be overly long sections tacked on the end and that's not a look I really like.

If you like this beauty as much as I do, you can treat yo' self over at the store! There are also some lovely #sciart pieces over on Twitter. I'd also recommend adding The Science of Illustration to your blog feed for periodic science snippets (complete with illustrations).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I'm Reading: Barabbas

I guess it's a little weird of me to be reading an Easter-themed story during Christmas, but it is what it is. I guess it does have a central theme of religion? Christ? I don't know, I got nothing.

Barabbas is a book that I've actually already read. I took a course in modern Swedish literature while I was in college—but it was a course specifically for international (read as: American) students, so everything we read was an English translation, even if we were studying Swedish at the time. Barabbas was one of those books.

Pä Lagerkvist is probably one of Sweden's preeminent writers, yet I fear he might be fading into literary obscurity. Apparently it's not hip to read him anymore; my Swedish teacher this year, while I was presenting another one of Lagerkvist's novels, said that if you conducted a survey of Swedes, maybe half of them would know Lagerkvist.


Vintage Books, 1989
Finally, after years of searching for it, I finally found a copy of Barabbas (possibly one of my all-time favorite novels?) in Swedish. I try to do as much reading as I can in Swedish to keep my language up, especially now that I'm not in class, and an easy way to do it is to pick up books that I've already read in English. That way I don't get so stressed about understanding what's going on.

 For those of you who didn't grow up on a steady diet of church and Sunday school, Barabbas is the criminal who is set free (according to the dictates of mob rule and angry Pharisees) while Jesus Christ is condemned to be crucified. Lagerkvist's novel takes this Biblical footnote and places him front and center at the story, short and easy but nonetheless penetrating and illuminating. Disturbed by his encounter with Jesus first in the prison and then at Golgotha (where he watches the crucifixion from a distance), Barabbas sets out to learn more about the meek, strange figure who took his place on the cross.

On the surface this sounds like an awkward little Easter Sunday homily, something on par with The Pilgrim's Progress, but in reality it's a moving account of the search for faith and belief in the face of a bleak world utterly without miracles. I won't spoil the ending here except to say that it's an ambiguous one with many layers of interpretation.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm reading it in Swedish now, but originally read it in English. The translation I read was by Alan Blair, and as translations go it is an excellent one. (I have no idea if it's the only one available; it would make sense, because really it's a wonderful translation that won't need updating for a long, long time.) If you're browsing your favorite book place (library, bookstore, etc.) and stumble across this little gem, pick it up. Or read the whole thing online! (As far as novels go, it's a short one. No worries.) It's got something for everyone, regardless of faith (or lack thereof).

What are you reading for Christmas?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Newly Listed: Aquamarine Pi Necklace

Weeks later and I'm still in the zone, as they say. It's funny how just a handful of purchases suddenly get you thinking about your entire bead collection in an entirely new light. It looks like I'm going to have plenty of new items to list...just in time for the end-of-year holiday gift-buying bonanza to be over. The good news is that I'll have plenty lined up for next year's graduation gift-buying bonanza! Yes, I actually sat down with a spreadsheet (like a dork) and it turns out that I sell just as much in April/May as I do in November/December.

This necklace has actually been up in the shop for a few days, but whatever. It's still "newly listed" to you guys!

This aquamarine pi necklace would be perfect for STEM and sciart nerds.
Aquamarine pi necklace by Kokoba
You may recognize this pattern from a pair of pi earrings I featured here a couple of weeks ago. Each piece alone is stunning (IMHO) but together they would make a lovely set!

The necklace is also a great alternative to the earrings: the chips are large and, more importantly, heavy, which rules them out as earrings for at least a few people. But that same weight in a necklace isn't a problem, even for the daintiest of necks!

Aquamarine is a fascinating, beautiful stone. You can follow that link to learn more about it and feast upon the world's most stunning specimen, the Dom Pedro. Don't forget to also browse this week's collection of #sciart on Twitter. Some lovelies I've RT'd include:

And finally, you pick up this OOAK necklace in my Etsy store, if it speaks to you. TREAT YO' SELF.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Skeptical Saturday: Bad Charity Facebook Infographic

I've seen this making the rounds in my personal Facebook feed recently:

And while the spirit of the post is right—before any large charitable donation, you'll probably want to think a bit and do some research before you donate—everything else is...questionable.

First and foremost, I want people to stop calling Salvation Army a charity. They're not. They're a religious proselytizing group who actively campaign against LGBTQ+ rights whenever possible. There's a good reason that noted queer rights supporter Macklemore didn't name drop the charity in his paean to secondhand clothes shopping. I refuse to even dignify it with any further discussion here.

But secondly, if you run this information via Snopes, you get something...interesting. Turns out it's...mostly outdated and inaccurate!

Anyway, here is what Charity Navigator has to say about all of the charities in this image:

Ronald McDonald House: 4 star rating; CEO receives no compensation.

Lions Club International: 4 star rating; CEO receives no compensation from the organization (but some from affiliates)

Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation (what I assume that image means by "The Veterans of Foreign Wars"): 3 star rating; president receives no compensation from the organization (but some from affiliates, as does the former president). They get 4 stars for transparency but only 2 for financials.

St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital: 3 star rating; current CEO receives around $1.3 million compensation annually (accounting for just 0.13% of expenses) and CEO of ALSAC receives around $600,000 annual compensation (accounting for just 0.06% of expenses). They have a full 4 stars on transparency and 3 on financials.

World Vision: 2 star rating; president receives $447,000 in annual compensation (accounting for just 0.04% of expenses). The CEO tried to do a good and awesome thing by allowing Christians in same-sex relationships and marriages to work for them, but then chickened out after a whopping total of 48 hours, so...

Make-A-Wish Foundation: 4 star rating; president and CEO (same person) receives around $220,000 in compensation annually (accounting for 5.31% of expenses).

So most of the "good" charities are good. World Vision has a ding on Charity Navigator in their financial score, not in their transparency score.

Now, on to the baddies:

The image says UNICEF, but when you nose around a bit, the comment about "CEO having use of a Rolls-Royce" seems to point to the U. S. Fund for UNICEF specifically. It just so happens to have a 4 star rating on Charity Navigator and the organization actually dispels this Rolls-Royce and millionaire myth right on their damn page.

Anonymous emails claim that the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's CEO earns more than $1 million and has use of a Rolls Royce. These assertions are false. 
As President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Caryl Stern earns $521,820. She does not have a company car; she drives a 2007 Prius which she purchased in 2009.

March of Dimes: 2 star rating; president receives around $500,000 compensation annually, which accounts for 0.24% of expenses. And while they have a full 4 stars for transparency, they have a 1 star rating on financial performance, which was the lowest financial score for any of the named organizations.

Again, the image is unclear, so I assume they mean United Way Worldwide. Otherwise there are hundreds of different United Ways in different cities listed on Charity Navigator, each with their own individual ranking. United Way Worldwide has a 3 star rating: 4 stars for transparency but only 2 for financials. The president and CEO (the same person) receives $764,000 annually for compensation (0.84% of expenses). However, there is a good chance that your local United Way has a different score. Many local ones have strong 4 star ratings.

The American Red Cross: 3 star rating; the president and CEO (same person) receives $562,000 annually in compensation (which accounts for 0.01% of expenses). 4 stars for transparency, 2 for financials.

Goodwill Industries: not listed on Charity Navigator, but they've also addressed this meme-ified accusation head-on:
The message then quotes erroneous information and salary figures for several nonprofit organizations’ chief executives, including a reference to a so-called “Goodwill CEO and Owner Mark Curran, who profits $2.3 million a year.”  Jim Gibbons is the CEO of Goodwill Industries International...
Goodwill Industries International earns $5 billion revenue per year, and we spend about 83 cents of every dollar on programs and services for people in need. This is a very healthy number in the nonprofit world, and a solid indicator of our commitment to good stewardship of your donations.
Should you think before you donate? Yes, absolutely. Should "thinking" involve a mindless image shared a thousand times over in your Facebook news feed? Probably not. While most of the good ones were certifiably good, not all of them were—and good organizations like Goodwill and the U. S. Fund for UNICEF were erroneously labeled as wasteful. And, if you want to talk about administrative costs, the Make-A-Wish Foundation's president and CEO takes the largest percentage of funds compared to anything else here—and this was considered a "good guy"!

The funny thing about data is that you can massage it to paint any picture you like. Like how the image up there lists CEO salaries: some of that information was inaccurate, but some was not, but it was all deliberately chosen to paint a certain picture. But when you take those salaries, some of which are quite generous, and compare them with the organizations expenses, that's something totally different.

What disturbs me a little in these smear campaigns is a distrust of secular or multinational groups, and an implicit trust in religious (Christian) and American ones. I don't fault the faithful for wanting to do good in the world (charity is probably one of the most universal tenets among religions) and for wanting to give to charities specific to their denomination, but if the organization you're donating to is continuing to fight against progress and tolerance, you might want to donate elsewhere. Or you might not! That would make us very different people, though.

What Facebook meme has really gotten on your nerves recently?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Read Play Blog December: Holiday Wishlist

Read Play Blog is a meme about video games and books, posted every 16th of the month. Bloggers are encouraged to answer a discussion question, and recommend a video game that is similar to a book they liked. Hosted by Happy Indulgence Books & Read Me Away.

What is on your gaming wishlist?

Not much, to be honest! I'm not one that anticipates games, really. I'm a patient gamer without even trying! But there are a few games I already have access to that I've been meaning to play/finish:

Papers, Please. Yes, it was my New Year's resolution to finish the game by the end of the year. I know! But hopefully I will have time on Friday. I'm so close to the end of this particular play through. The problem is that I already know what the ending is going to be. :( The other problem is that there are SO MANY little paperwork rules you need to follow by this point—it's been so long that I don't know if I can remember them all, or remember them very quickly! But I'm SO CLOSE to the end I don't want to start all over! Ugh!

Journey. I started playing this one at a friend's while I was traveling in the US in June. Unfortunately I was still fairly jetlagged and the game is very mellow and calming, so I didn't get to play it a whole lot because I would fall asleep while the controller was still in my hand. But JV bought it a couple of months ago, so now I'm excited to give it a try when my sleep schedule is normal.

Fallout New Vegas. It finally happened! I finished (more or less) Fallout 3 and decided it was time to move on! So by the time we pick up the Fallout 4 GOTY edition (at a reasonable price), I should be done with New Vegas, right? Also, JV and I call it "Fallout Lou Bega." In fact, it was pretty hard for me to type the actual name up there, instead of Fallout Lou Bega.

Speaking of which...

Recommendation & currently playing:


But it's fun, and it's free. I know a couple of people playing it who haven't played a Fallout game before, so I think it's important to stress that the cutesy sims resource management game that is Fallout Shelter is nothing like the actual Fallout games. There are some of the trappings that are the same: weapon and item names, the SPECIAL traits, and so on. But otherwise it's a horse of an entirely different color.

As for Fallout Lou Bega, I really like it so far. I'm only level 5 or so, so that's a real shock coming straight after being an unstoppable death machine in Fallout 3. "Oh, that's right, I don't have Grim Reaper Sprint anymore." "Ugh why can't I hit anything in VATS?!" "What do you mean, I only have 25 points in lock-picking?"

But the biggest and best difference for me is the graphics. It's so shallow, I know. I should really cite some substantive difference, like the expanded companion interaction options or the massive amount of crafting possibilities, but I can't help it: the landscape in New Vegas is actually attractive. And interesting.

Fallout 3 screencap from Joseph Nicolla
I really liked Fallout 3, don't get me wrong. There is an astonishing level of content involved; lots of fantastic little details that don't really affect the game in any way but make the experience that much richer. But when you're in the Wasteland, it's...gray. Brown. Rust. Yeah, a nuclear winter isn't going to be bursting with wildlife (well, except that one sidequest....) but there's some kind of blue-gray filter that dulls everything.

Fallout New Vegas screencap from Jamiecat

The biggest difference is the sky (which you'll naturally see a lot of while you're roaming the Wasteland). It's much richer and brighter and stands in much starker contrast to the landscape. The landscape itself is also different, though more subtly. The desert fared much better than the Capitol Wasteland in the Fallout alternative history timeline, so there are many more plants and quite a bit more greenery—even if this is the desert.

I mentioned this to JV and, being more educated in these things and also more sensitive to them than me, he immediately pegged the difference I was trying to describe. "Fallout 3 has a blue tint to all of the colors, and it's quite strong. In Lou Bega, it's yellow, and it's not as strong."

All of this means that it's much easier to stare at the game for hours on end. I mean, just compare the weapons between those two grabs! The rifle in the top image is nearly all gray, with just darker and lighter bits. In the bottom, there's a clear difference  between the brown wood of the stock and then the yellow metal (brass?) decoration.  I'll probably get through New Vegas a lot faster than I did with Fallout 3, even if the gameplay and writing are equally strong in both. (Though, it goes without saying, I really like the expanded crafting options in Lou Bega, especially all the different options for healing items!)

I don't have any good post-apocalyptic reading suggestions that would go well with the Fallout universe, but when it comes to nuclear disasters, I think I'm going to try to find Red Alert by Peter George. Apparently it's the novel that "loosely inspired" Dr. Strangelove. And there's nothing more relevant to Fallout than the Cold War and nuclear armageddon!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Newly Listed: Peridot Pi Earrings

I needed to pick up a few supplies for a custom Christmas order, and suddenly I had enough left over to make a whole bunch of tiny little things I had been thinking about for weeks! This is the first of a few pairs of earrings that I just whipped up within the past week.

Peridot pi earrings: a cute little math gift for any nerdy August babies.
Peridot pi earrings by Kokoba
There's not much to say about these guys! They're short and sweet and up for grabs. I don't wear earrings myself so I don't think to make them all that often. But they definitely come in handy for using up the last little remnants of this or that earlier project. In this case, I've had these peridot chips kicking around for years by now. And they're not even used up yet! At least after this latest bout of earring-mania, they're that much closer to being cleaned out.

You can snatch them up at the Kokoba Etsy shop if they're to your fancy. ;) If you're curious about peridot (August's birthstone!), you can go read the peridot post in my on-going birthstones series.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Newly Listed: Aquamarine Pi Earrings

At this point I can't make any promises about shipments arriving in time for Christmas, but I can share what I've been up to lately. If only this burst of creativity had bitten a couple weeks earlier, then they could be in the shop in time for all manner of wintertime gift-giving occasions.

At least they're in good time for graduation season! I've sold more pieces in April than any other time of the year, and maybe graduation has something to do with it?

Anyway, I've been in a creative rut for ages. Then I got tapped to work on SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT (more on that later), needed to order a couple strands of beads, and suddenly....ALL THE IDEAS!

This first idea incorporates a couple beads from SUPER SEKRIT PROJECT, but is mostly old stash I had.

Nothing extraordinarily fancy going on here, just the first couple digits of pi in a sea green beryl/aquamarine with some new snowy quartz as spacers in between digits. They're not too long (maybe an inch and a half), but they still manage to be something like statement earrings. The aquamarine chips are relatively large, so these are substantial earrings—if you can't wear heavy earrings, don't despair, I have a necklace version that I'll be listing soon, too!

The snowy quartz (also called snow quartz, milk quartz, milky quartz, or white quartz) is a new stone in my repertoire. I'm already quite fond of it (and need to do a geo-shopping post on it soon). 

You can pick up these lovelies over in the Kokoba store, or hold out for the necklace. If they're not to your style, maybe some of this new #SciArt over on Twitter is?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Best Episode

#1: Amok Time

Here we are, everyone. My favorite episode and the end of my massive Star Trek: The Original Series retrospective. Other blogs have done it before, and better, but everyone should have a go at it.

In case you forgot: The infamous pon farr episode. Spock has to get back to Vulcan to mate. His chosen bride doesn't seem too keen on getting with him, which results in Kirk and Spock battling to the death. Or the fake death, in this case.

"Amok Time" pretty much represents the ideal balance of a good drama (best friends forced to fight to the death) and solid science-fiction ideas (the Vulcans and pon farr). Nimoy's performance is without equal; honestly, it's probably the best over the course of the entire series. Proof that less is more: Spock's smile and the way he calls out Kirk's name when he sees him again in sick bay is everything that ever need be said about their friendship. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best moment in TOS.

Besides the drama and sci-fi balance, "Amok Time" also has the ideal balance between our Power Trio. Everyone has a part to play, and it's all equally important: Spock is the unwitting antagonist (and victim); once on Vulcan and Spock's safety ensured, Kirk is the endangered one; McCoy is the quick-thinking hero that saves Kirk's life and Spock's reputation. That's also a rare thing in TOS.

It's the golden mean and happy mediums all over this episode. I love it. I never get tired of it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I Watched: John Wick

When was the last time some random movie from the bargain bin surprised you?

That was the case with John Wick, which somehow was announced, released in theaters, released on DVD, and then marked down to the bargain bin without me hearing anything about it.

There isn't much to say about the content of the movie; it's your typical neo-noir revenge fest filled with guns and fists. You probably know already if you like that or not.

But what surprised me about the movie was the visual style. I was convinced that this had to be a cinematic adaptation of a comic or graphic novel, as so many scenes and establishing shots looked like something out of a comic. Of course all of the screencaps online are precisely not good examples of what I mean. My screen grabs from a streaming copy aren't the highest res, but hopefully they get the point across.

It's hard to say what I like, particularly, about each one, except that the blocking, mise en scene, set design, and so on, all feel very deliberate in a way that you don't often see in mindless revenge-driven action flicks. Especially the beginning of the movie, where we see Wick in mourning the day of his wife's funeral. It's a lot quieter than the rest of the movie (obviously).

Stills don't quite do these scenes justice, either—part of the beauty is in the movement—but it's better than nothing. It's stylistic without being melodramatic.

These are all shots from just the first five minutes or so. As the action ramps up, the visual focus naturally shifts from this sort of stuff to the fighting. In another mood I might have been disappointed about that, but I was along for the ride. It didn't hurt that the fight choreography was really well done, of course.

There's also a surprising amount of world-building for something in such a typically surface-level genre. The underworld that Wick returns to is rich with history, rules, settings, and characters. Not only do we meet other assassins trying to take out Wick, but we meet the neighborhood underworld mechanic (John Leguizamo!), cops who know Wick from his past life, and the local "cleaners." We travel to a hotel for hitmen (manned by the world's most unflappable concierge and governed by a very strict set of rules), surreal and seedy night clubs, and even a cathedral operating as a front for the Russian mob. The whole thing is a wonderful example of Hemingway's iceberg missive: Wick gives us just the tip of what is obviously a rich, multifaceted underworld.

Of course, it's not the world's deepest movie. At the end of the day it's just a popcorn revenge flick, but it's stylish, well-paced, and just immensely satisfying. I'll just warn any animal lovers out there that the beginning is a bit rough, but it makes the rest of the movie worth it.

What bargain bin movie has surprised you recently?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Art and Science and Insecurity of Etsy Pricing

A lot of bloggers I follow shop on Etsy. A few of them shop a lot on Etsy. And some of them even have their own Etsy stores, or other handmade business. (Pimp yours in the comments, please! I have a hard time keeping track of stores and it would be great to have a whole bunch in one place so I can go and mass-favorite all of you.)

I normally have an aversion to talking shop, as it were, because I'm not exactly a success story who could reasonable considered an expert. But this is something I've come to realize is important (and it will probably betray my personal economic philosophy but oh well).

If you're selling on Etsy (or anywhere else) as a hobbyist, but you've been working in your craft for years and know what you're doing, you are probably not charging enough. (Unless you've been selling for a while, then you might have this all figured out.) If you do shopping on Etsy, you might be confused by the wide range of prices you see for similar items. What gives?

Why Aren't You Charging Enough?

Pricing your handmade work can be nerve-wracking. ( Aydin)

It's certainly tempting to keep a razor-thin profit margin. "It's just a hobby, not a business," you might explain, "so I don't think charging a lot of money is really fair." Or: "I can afford it. I just want to get stuff out of my stash."

Or you might feel pressured into keeping your prices "reasonable" because you see other sellers offering something similar within a certain range.

Or you might not feel like you're talented enough to justify a price over a certain amount.

Stop. There's a better way.

Why Should You Charge More?

There are two reasons: you benefit, and others around you benefit.

How do you benefit? First of all, you actually get rewarded for your time. Not only the time it takes to sell a given item (whether it's photographs and online listings, or transportation times to and from craft fairs), but the time it takes to make a given item.

"But I don't need to be rewarded for the time I take to make something. I don't want to be! The making is fun enough."

If that's really how you feel, then donate your profits to a charity of your choice. Problem solved!

Because your time is valuable. It really is. And taking your time into account when pricing signals to consumers that they should value the time you spent on an item. Other people should respect that.

This signaling leads into my second point: others around you benefit.

Because while you may be a hobbyist who sews to take the edge off a high-pressure but well-paying job, the booth next to you may be an artisan who makes their living off their craft. If they're selling in a market full of hobbyists who are pricing their products at a hobby level instead of a retail level (never mind dirt cheap goods imported from unscrupulous and unethical overseas manufacturers), and are selling items of a similar style and quality, capitalism means they're not going to be able to compete—not unless they lower their prices. But they can't lower them indefinitely, especially when they have many more costs to factor in. And they can't explain to every customer that their doll clothing costs "so much" because they have to take their time and their overall cost of living into consideration, in addition to "just" materials.

In other words, customers often have skewed perceptions of the true value of new goods. By taking your time into consideration and valuing your time and talent as it should be, you can help skew the perception back towards something reasonable. You can signal that the time all makers spend on their craft, whether it's jewelry or soap or sewing or what have you, is valuable. Because customers have no idea who's a hobbyist and who's a full-time artisan, not without doing some digging first. Meeting them at the price point is the quickest and simplest way to do it.

Okay, How Should I Set My Prices, Then? Imeri

Every Etsy hanger-on asshole on the Internet has an ebook out there that includes rehashed advice about how to price. You can get one of those if you want; they're probably more knowledgeable about this than I am. But it might be illuminating to see my guidelines. There are basically three rules that I follow.

1. Price everything for retail. This is probably the real secret behind pricing things yourself. Everything in my Etsy shop is listed at a retail price. This gives me wiggle room to have sales if I want to. It also means that if a vendor finds me and inquires about wholesale discounts, I won't be losing money on the sale.

I know that it feels weird, like you're somehow double-dipping. Just roll with it. Eventually you'll hit a new normal when it comes to valuing your goods.

This one is less a guideline and more of an attitude shift, but it's the most helpful one you can make.

2. I just never sell anything under $X, ever. For me, that cut-off is $10 ($10 retail). In the future I might decide to raise it, but for now I think that's a good lower boundary, considering my craft. It might be higher or lower for you, depending on how you sell. There are a lot of little things (memory wire cuffs, earrings) that I make in fairly short bursts of time. But the bottom price is always $10. It leaves a pretty wide profit margin so that I can be a little more forgiving on higher-end items. It also ensures that I earn enough to cover the cost of materials.

3. I give myself an hourly rate.  I guess you can tell that I'm not a real grown-up yet because I think of my work in terms of rates and wages instead of a salary—that's been the nature of most of the jobs I've had over the course of my adult life. It certainly helps take some of the guesswork out of pricing, because you can decide: how much do I value an hour of my time? What's the minimum I'd be okay with earning at an actual job under someone else's employ? Then keep an eye on the clock while you make to get an idea of how long items take you to make.

This might mean that some items cost less than you expected, while others cost more. This is valuable data and you should probably keep track of it somewhere, or at least try to remember it.

I certainly haven't perfected the art of pricing yet (particularly when it comes to sourcing materials), but I'm doing much better now than when I started. And while I wouldn't expect you to follow my guidelines (your craft may be quite different!), I've hopefully got you thinking about how you price your items and whether you're valuing your time.

If you peddle your wares on Etsy (or anywhere else), leave a link in the comments! Do you find it difficult to find the right price for your goods? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): The Doomsday Machine

This is the last of my skipped episodes. Of course, if you've been playing along at home, by the end of this post you'll know what my favorite Star Trek: TOS episode is just by process of elimination, but whatever! It's still exciting!

Where it should have been: #8, making it one of the best TOS episodes of all time.

In case you forgot: While answering a distress signal from the USS Constellation, the Enterprise encounters a planet-eating "doomsday machine." While Kirk is stuck on the broken-down Constellation, Decker takes over the Enterprise and goes full Ahab. Kirk manages to destroy the killer tube sock and returns to the Enterprise.

The good: "The Doomsday Machine" is a great sci-fi premise, and the story that plays out is well-paced and engaging. We've had Federation blowhards intent on usurping Kirk's command before (and we will again), but this episode is the only one where said blowhard has an entirely believable (if insane and misguided) motivation in doing so. After all, Decker had to listen to the cries of his dying crew; by trying to do the honorable thing and go down with his ship, he sent more than 400 people to their deaths. You get why he wants to destroy this thing.

The bad: Decker's obsession is great, but the way that Spock insists on tolerating it is incredibly frustrating. Refusing to submit to a psychological evaluation would be more than enough grounds to declare him unfit for duty. It comes across as an easy way to ramp up the tension.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What I Read: The Radiance of the King

So lately I've stopped adhering strictly to the TIME Top 100 Novels list and instead have been browsing the "world literature" section of my library, picking up books, and then replacing things on the list.

That's how I found The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du Roi). Any book with an introduction by Toni Morrison has to be a good choice, after all.

The story revolves around Clarence, a kind of useless European who has found himself stranded in a fictional, unnamed African country. In debt, he decides that his whiteness is sufficient grounds for him to find employment in the king's court. An old beggar agrees to help Clarence out, but can't deliver much. After a failed attempt to see the king, the beggar convinces Clarence to come south with him, because the king is certainly going to come south at some point, and they will have another chance to plead for an audience.

The rest of the book concerns Clarence's travels southward, and then his life in the village.

And at some point it totally lost me.

My background is in reading literature (generally) fairly closely, so I legitimately enjoy a lot of books that people often find difficult or complicated (#humblebrag) but sometimes things are beyond my ken. That's what happened with The Radiance of the King. It started in familiar territory and I was really excited to see how Laye would subvert my favorite though incredibly problematic "African adventure" genre. When I closed the book, I wasn't sure if anything had been subverted, or if I just have crude tastes that require crude caricatures to make a point.

In other words, I thought it was going to be much more obvious than it was. Still, I'm glad I read it. The question remains of who should be booted off the list to make room for this book? I'm getting down to the wire on the TIME Top 100 Novels list. In the end I decided to put away Call It Sleep, as the only versions available are Swedish translations and I don't know if I'm really ready for that kind of challenge.

If you want something weird and challenging, then by all means go for The Radiance of the King. If you want to branch out into Guinean literature by way of Laye, it might be easier to go for his other works, which all sound more down-to-earth and autobiographical than surreal extended metaphor. The most prominent one seems to be L'enfant Noir (The Dark Child or The African Child, depending on your translation). Once I finish the rest of this list (only 14 more to go!), I'm sure I'll check that one out.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Women's Classic Literature Event

Recently I've tried to make Mondays about #SciArt and updating (and sharing!) the goodies in my Etsy shop. However, I've run out of backlog to list over on Etsy and to feature here, so this Monday is instead announcing my participation in The Classics Club's Women's Classic Literature Event. I won't be officially starting until January, but I'm letting you all know I'm doing it now so you have time to check it out and decide if you want to join, too!

I've already been trying to diversify the old/dead white guy list that is TIME's "Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century," but 2016 will focus on women (and hopefully WOC) specifically, both in an attempt to diversify that list but also just to find stuff. I've seen a lot of great reviews of comics and graphic novels written by women that I've already put on my TBR pile: Nimona, Lumberjanes, Rat Queens, and This One Summer.

Am I missing anything else?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Seasonal Foods

I'm not feeling like the greatest, all told, but better than last week and is there anything more cheerful than talking about your favorite foods? I don't think so!

4. Hot tea!

Okay, so it's neither seasonal nor a food (talk amongst yourselves!) but we are well into tea season now, when hot drinks are no longer a question of "enjoyable" but "necessary."

3. Cider doughnuts

Courtesy Megan Chromik

2. Halloween candy (read as: candy corn)

Only the best Halloween candy ever!



And a bonus kind of, because it's not something I particularly like (I don't like carbonated things) but it is something unique to Sweden and therefore of possible interest to everyone else. If you've been following this blog for a while (or are Swedish/have been in Sweden in the fall/winter), then you can probably guess the bonus:

0. Julmust!

So yeah, this is a thing here, and it seems to be the rare "thing" that doesn't have an analogue in any of the other Nordic or Scandinavian countries (except also in the Swedish bits of Finland). Supposedly it turns up in foreign IKEAs during the holiday season? 

It tastes like a really Swede sweet root beer, more or less. It's only available seasonally; I think this year I saw the first bottles go on sale in October? You know the darkness is coming when the julmust bottles start cropping up. So even though I don't really drink it, I do like seeing the bottles come out, especially Apotekarnes goofy old-fashioned Christmas elf art. It's cheerful and colorful, just when days are getting unbearably short.

There is a spring version too (påskmust) but I don't think that's half as popular.

There! I feel better already. What are your favorite seasonal foods?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): Operation: Annihilate!

Where it should have been: #19, so a solid episode all around.

In case you forgot: The Enterprise is investigating some mass madness weirdness going on in a solar system. The planet Deneva, where Kirk has family, is next. Turns out the planet has succumbed to the madness as well—it's brought on by little puddles of fake vomit that latch on to people's backs. Fortunately, it turns out that UV light can kill it. (Somehow this planet doesn't ever get UV light? Atmospheric anomaly? I don't know.)

The good: Even if the monsters do look like goofy puddles of fake vomit, the threat they represent is a pretty frightening one. "Operation: Annihilate!" is a nice variation on the typical body snatchers theme, in that the entities doing the snatching are just thoughtless members of a giant collective enemy.

The bad: Spock going blind but then not really is a bit of unnecessary tacked-on drama. The creatures' aversion to UV light is also a cop-out solution on par with the aliens and water in War of the Worlds: it's nice that the day is saved, but it feels kind of unsatisfying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Read Play Blog: November

Read Play Blog is a meme about video games and books, posted every 16th of the month. Bloggers are encouraged to answer a discussion question, and recommend a video game that is similar to a book they liked. Hosted by Happy Indulgence Books & Read Me Away.

This week's questions: when do you game and when do you read?

I game fairly infrequently, all told. I know that when I pick up a controller or fire up Steam, I'm basically on my way into a black hole of time. Maybe we need to hang a wall clock above the TV so that we can keep track of time better?

Because of that I usually game around once or twice a week (depending on what I've got going on), at the end of the day when I've finished all (or enough) of my work.

Reading, on the other hand, is an all-times food! That said, I probably do more reading on the subway and bus than anywhere else. My tutoring and my writing critique group take me on some lengthy commutes.

Currently playing/Recommendation

It's a month later and I'm still mostly playing Hexcells and Fallout 3. (JV and I are patient gamers, so Fallout 4 won't be on our shopping list for a while.) I finally wrapped up the last of the Fallout 3 DLC a couple weeks ago (just a few side quests left), so maybe I'll get started on Fallout 3: New Vegas?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Postponed

Sorry, but Paris has me not really feeling it this week. Tomorrow, maybe.

Instead, I invite you to rekindle your lost faith in humanity by browsing the #LookForTheHelpers, #OpenDoor, and #PorteOuverte hashtags. Me? I just watched a video of a corgi going down stairs. Now I'm going to brush my teeth, hug my boyfriend, and hope the world is a little cheerier when I wake up. Then I can talk about food.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): Obsession

Where it should have been: #31, so another decent-to-good workhorse of an episode.

In case you forgot: Kirk becomes obsessed with destroying a cloud-like monster that he's convinced it's the same creature he encountered eleven years ago on the USS Farragut. He gets pretty close to going full-on Ahab, but his obsession pays off and they're able to kill the monster.

The good: The monster and what it does—draining all the red blood corpuscles from someone's body—is pretty cool. I always like the monsters that are just these giant thoughtless blobs of instincts and reactions. Not all life has to be intelligent, after all. This episode is also as close as it gets to Kirk really screwing the pooch, which is a nice foil to his usual hypercompetent self.

The bad: The episode seems to undercut its whole point by making Kirk's obsession pay off (by way of a dead monster). I really wish the danger would have come not from the monster of the week, but from Kirk being wrongly obsessed, and that the issue had been resolved by Kirk coming to his senses, not killing another monster.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Newly Listed: Amethyst Swarovski Pi Bracelet

Time for another weekly shop update! I'm getting near to the bottom of my stock, which means I need to sit down and do some crafting soon. But I've been keeping busy recently, between NaNoWriMo and a book club reading (yes, a book club! though sadly it's not one based on drinking wine, which I would still totally join, Natalie!), so I don't know if I'm going to have the spoons anytime soon. Yikes.

Purple and green pi bracelet would be a great sciart gift for math/science teachers or graduates.
Amethyst and green Swarovski pi bracelet

This bracelet was another stash-buster. I really love this color combination. It's bright but not too garish (I will grant maybe a little garish but that's just how it is with Swarovskis) and it reminds me so much of Mardi Gras. I'm not from New Orleans, I don't observe Lent (except as the occasional personal challenge), and I'm certainly not religious, but Mardi Gras cheers me up. I guess I like eating donuts and listening to Dixieland jazz?

Pictured on my chubby, disembodied hand.
I've found and RT'd a few cool sciart pieces on Twitter, like most Mondays, but you should check the #sciart hashtag yourself and see what's new and cool! If you dig the little piece of sciart pictured above, you can cruise on over to the Kokoba Etsy shop and pick it up for you or someone you love.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Favorite Halloween Episodes

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
Since it seems like Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick have left this spot blank, I can just continue on my week-delayed 5 Fandom Friday posts and then next week I'll be on track. All right!!

So, my favorite Halloween specials, then. Truth be told, I don't watch a lot of TV. (I feel like I bring this up a lot in 5 Fandom Friday, but it's true.) So allow me to reach a bit:

5. The "Treehouse of Horror" episodes (The Simpsons)

Image courtesy Mrfebruary / Wikimedia

I'm not enough of a Simpsons fan to be able to sort all of the "Treehouse..." episodes from memory, but I always like watching one if it's on! I like that the one-off nature of the episodes lets the writers do crazy, off-the-wall things with characters that are otherwise well-established and hard to kill, and I also like when they reference classic gothic, horror, or science fiction stories.

4. "Epidemiology" (Community)

Image courtesy Keith McDuffee
Community's take on zombies and zombie tropes is, as usual, dead on. Pun intended.

3. The Twilight Zone

Really, isn't every episode of The Twilight Zone a Halloween episode, one way or another?

2. "Catspaw" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

Witches of Pyris VII, courtesy Memory Alpha
As far as Star Trek TOS episodes go, "Catspaw" is pretty meh. But once you know what to expect out of it (hint: it's not great science fiction or drama), it's goofy and fun. So much camp. So much.

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I mean, come on. It's the Great Pumpkin! Though I never understood who the awful adults were that kept giving Charlie Brown rocks. That's just a bridge too far! Poor Charlie Brown.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

Where it should have been:
 #34, so another middle-of-the-road episode.

In case you forgot: Good Kirk and Evil Kirk run around the Enterprise while Sulu and an anonymous landing party almost freeze to death on the planet below.

Serious ethical dilemmas and meditations on the greater philosophical point about the duality of man are the kind of heady stuff that makes Trek stand out from the other pulp of its time. Even if it doesn't really dig that deep into the questions, it's nice that they even bothered to ask. Sulu's deadpan lines are great and probably the highlight of the episode; it's not much, but it does reveal a certain amount of stalwart, stoic courage he doesn't often get to display up on the bridge.

I also just love that goofy little space dog. TOS could have used some more costumed animals.

I enjoyed "The Enemy Within" a lot the first time I watched it, but a second viewing soured much of it. Poor Yeoman Rand didn't have much purpose in her few episodes except to bring food to Kirk and to be menaced/assaulted as the script called for. The pacing also drags: they figure out fairly early on that the transporter is duplicating things into Good and Evil (though it seems like Passive and Aggressive would have been better descriptors), but it still feels like it takes everyone much longer than is necessary to solve the freaking problem. Evil Kirk has to accidentally phaser some of the components of the transporter (in the engine room...?) to stretch the episode out even more and give it a bit of extra dramatic tension.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I Played: Never Alone and Fox Tales

I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo and so I don't have a lot of words to spare on blogging and game reviews and things. But I wanted to take some time to inform/remind you all that Never Alone/Fox Tales exists.

Whale interior from Never Alone, courtesy Upper One games

Never Alone is the original game, based on Iñupiat legend, and Fox Tales is the sequel? prequel? parallel story? available as DLC. Both are quite short, but they're great.

The co-op is well done: Nuna and the fox have slightly different physics and abilities, and both are equally important when it comes to solving the game's many puzzles. Of course, you could play by yourself (just switch between characters) but that seems counterproductive for a game that's called Never Alone. The art is simple and understated but no less effective and striking.

As you progress you unlock short, informative videos about Iñupiat culture. I like them a lot, but  I wish they were better integrated into the game aside from a completionist "gotta catch 'em all" achievement. Still, I think this is a good first step when it comes to using modern media (in this case, video games) to preserve indigenous heritage and stories that are in danger of dying out.

If you haven't tried Never Alone/Fox Tales  yet, you should add it to your wishlist.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Characters I Would Dress Up As For Halloween

So I love Halloween and putting together a costume. I'm not a brilliant seamstress or even particularly clever, but I do get immense satisfaction out of doing the best I can with what I've got. This list is a combination of characters I've already been and ones that I would like to be.

5. Link

Thank you, @House_Owner. Thank you.

This is one I did back in high school and was probably the most labor-intensive costume I've ever made: I sewed the tunic and the hat (rather poorly) and I made a master shield out of cardboard. I managed to scrounge up a boomerang and some weird red fruit punch flavored drink mix for a health potion from around the house, and a crappy toy sword from the Halloween shop. 

4. Silent Bob

Image courtesy GabboT on Flickr

All I had to do was paint on a fake beard, borrow Lawyer Mom's London Fog trench coat, and I was good to go.

3. Velma

Image courtesy Michael Mol on Flickr
I got to buy a cute skirt and sweater that stayed in my wardrobe for years afterwards. I should probably be Velma again at some point.

2. Amethyst

Steven Universe logo courtesy Cartoon Network Studios

I've finally started watching Steven Universe and I am so much in love. So much! Amethyst is my favorite of the gems, and I have enough on hand for an okay Amethyst costume. The only issue left is the hair: dye it? wig? So I'm saving Amethyst for a future costume, when I have a little more expendable cashflow to spend.

1. Athena

Do gods and goddesses count as characters? It's a tough question. I say yes, so that I can show you guys my rad Athena costume from 2010 and 2011.