Monday, February 29, 2016

Newly Listed: Speed of Light Wrap Bracelet With Red Czech Glass

So I blogged about this speed of light wrap bracelet ages ago. I finally got better pictures maybe two weeks ago. And today I'm listing it!

I solemnly swear that I was up to my eyebrows and work and studies, and not pouring countless hours into Fallout: New Vegas. (Though I might have done some of that as well...)

Physics sciart jewelry bracelet speed of light
Speed of light wrap bracelet by Kokoba
I mentioned before that I wasn't entirely jazzed about how this bracelet came out. But I decided to go ahead and list it at my standard wrap bracelet price, anyway. My reasoning is basically: there is nothing about the construction of this bracelet that makes me nervous. I simply do not sell jewelry whose physical integrity I doubt. It's the aesthetics that I don't like, and since I know that I'm a finicky little pedant, there is a good chance that the only person bothered by them! My reasoning is also: if it doesn't sell at this price, I can always discount it. And if it doesn't sell at a discount, I get to wear it. I wasn't so hot on this one before—the colors seem too bold and "Ms. Frizzle" to suit me—but I have to admit that it's grown on me. I wouldn't mind if this one stayed in my jewelry box!

Physics sciart jewelry bracelet speed of light
Speed of light wrap bracelet by Kokoba
Also, it's leap day! I know it's not really a holiday or anything to be excited about (unless you're someone born on a leap day), but I like calendar-based excuses to watch things. You bet your bippy I marathoned the Back to the Future movies on the date when Marty McFly went to 2015; I regularly watch Groundhog Day on, well, Groundhog Day; and on Leap Day I watch Pirates of Penzance.

Do you have any special plans or traditions for Leap Day?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday Five on Saturday: 5 Things In My Purse At All Times

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick. This week's question is: what do you have in your purse?

I resisted carrying a purse for a long, long time. I guess because as a student (in high school and then in college), I already was carrying a bag with all of my school stuff, so that was enough. But once I was out in the adult world, I realized having a bag for my stuff just made sense. Especially because women's clothing has a troubled relationship with pockets and because I like having a book on hand.

Without further ado, 5 6 things in my purse at all times!

1. A portable whiteboard and all of the attendant accouterments

Right now I have tutoring appointments six days a week, so my whiteboard and its stuff is in my purse more often than not. (It's a large-is purse, there's room!)

2. My little bag of tutoring supplies

So this one isn't in my bag all the time, but close enough! In it I have markers, colored pencils, flashcards of some variety (those green ones are personal pronoun flashcards), a pair of dice, little trolls (great makeshift game pieces), and a deck of playing cards. I can work wonders with this stuff.

3. My melon change purse/wallet from Japan

Ever since I had my wallet lifted two years ago, I've taken to just using this instead. Also, it's super cute! No, I haven't been to Japan, even though JV and I would love to go one day. This was a gift from my friend Breda. She lives in Korea and goes to Japan often enough that she should probably get some kind of customer loyalty bonus card.

4. A notebook and an ungodly amount of pens

A lot of those pens are dead, but I never think to go through them all and throw out the dead ones until I'm out and in desperate need of one that works. I have a bunch of different notebooks, too: there's one with random notes (addresses for Etsy, grocery lists, directions to new students) and then ones with my lesson plans in them. (Different students each have their own notebooks, of course.)

5. My phone

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; not my actual phone but the same model
Pretty straightforward, right? I was late on the smartphone train but I'm glad I eventually boarded! I use Google Maps when I'm trying to find a new place; I can carry a dozen books at once (always something to read on public transportation!); I use the timer function in my lessons; I can use Google Image Search and Google Translate to help explain new vocabulary to students; I can check those nagging "ugh what was that movie/who was that guy" questions the moment they turn up in a conversation; I can use it to store songs and listening practice assignments.

6. My MP3 player

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; not my actual MP3 player but the same model

I refuse to use my smartphone for a music player, though. Instead I have my beat-up SansaFuze that I just can't quit, even if the battery life is a ghost of its former self. But I bought it in South Korea and I like having that little reminder of my time there with me, no matter how dingy it looks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Above The Noise: Creating Trust, Value, and Reputation Online Using Digital PR

I am now officially hooked on NetGalley. I love the library system here, but sometimes it just doesn't have what I'm looking for. Enter NetGalley! After finishing Cure, I was eager to to find another nonfiction book. I chose Above the Noise because I'm technically an indie biz owner. In addition to my Etsy shop, I'm an independent editor and English language instructor trying to get myself established. I was looking for something with a little more depth and heavy lifting than your typical "how to be a brand!!" blog post.

Image courtesy Motivational Press, Inc.

Morgan is obviously competent—more than competent: talented—at her job but this book follows Hemingway's iceberg rule to its detriment. In other word: there was enough to demonstrate that Morgan knows what she's talking about it, but not enough that I felt like I walked away learning a whole lot. I've thought about it and decided that there are three parts of that iceberg.

First, I don't think I'm the intended market. Being a ~digital native~ means that I grok the importance of social media, as well as its assorted unspoken rules of etiquette. I don't need someone to drive home the point that I should be on social media, because I already am. But maybe a small business owner ten or fifteen years older than me has never caught on—that's who the target audience feels like in a lot of places.

But even if part of it was "it's not you, it's me," part of it can also be attributed to flaws in the book itself. The second part of Above The Noise's iceberg-y-ness was due to padding and using a lot to say a little. Morgan knows a lot about digital PR but she also has a knack for choosing uninteresting analogies to describe ideas that aren't terribly complicated or difficult to begin with. I definitely skimmed a lot.

I think the final part of this iceberg trifecta is that Morgan is addressing a broad audience. In situations like these, it's the specifics that are helpful, but having a broad audience means you can't really get down to specifics. Like: I don't own a brick-and-mortar shop or have any employees. Trying to get reviews on Yelp or Glassdoor would be a complete waste of time for me, whether for Etsy or for tutoring.

A smart editor would have had her organize her book into multiple sections. One for small, brick-and-mortar businesses, and one for single-owner shows running purely online or out of the home. Maybe differentiate between people offering a service and people offering a product. I don't know! It could have gone lots of ways. But if the book had been organized according to audience, it would have been a lot easier to zero in on the tips relevant to me (blogging, content creation) and skip everything that's useless for me (how to encourage employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor).

The information I could find that was relevant to me was specific and helpful. How often to post new content, how long it should be, how often to post on assorted social media sites...that was golden. But that's all information I could have picked up in a good infographic. A good book should have more tips than can be presented on an infographic.

Putting all that aside, I was simply not impressed with the quality of the book in terms of formatting and professionalism. However, I lay this issue not at Morgan's feet but her publisher's: Motivational Press, Inc. A writer's job is to come up with the book, to write it, and to work with editors to make it even better. I think Morgan held up her end of that bargain; I think it's Motivational Press that failed in their job: to polish everything up and make sure it looks professional and awesome. This ebook had numerous mistakes (misused semi-colons, comma splices) and typos (unclosed brackets or quotation marks)—more than I've seen in any ebook I've read so far, whether self-published, legacy published, or hell, even from Project Gutenberg. Nor was this a particularly long or arduous read!

In a nutshell: quite a few kernels of good information. If the purpose of the book was to establish Morgan as competent and knowledgeable in her field, it was a rousing success. (Would that I earned enough money to enlist her professional services!) But as a lean, punchy, and helpful book, it fell flat. I would be interested in a revised version of this book handled by a different, more professional publisher. As it stands, try to find it on NetGalley or on sale.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Newly Listed: Multistrand Avogradro Bracelet in Wood and Cotton

I don't know what it is, but I've been on a real fiber kick recently.

This boho sciart jewelry would be a great gift for chemists and chemistry teachers.
Avogadro's Number in wood beads on waxed cotton from Kokoba
I love the warm and earthy colors in this one. It's 70s but in the best possible way.

The green beads are the ones that spell out the digits of Avogadro's number. The two gold-colored beads are placeholders for 0. I think they also add a nice splashy highlight!

STEM sciart jewelry chemistry chemist avogadro bracelet

It looks bulky, but because nearly all of the beads are wood, it's actually quite lightweight and comfortable. It's great for when you want that chunky look without all of the attendant weight. 

As always, you can take the edge off your Monday by checking out the wonderful goodies on the #sciart hashtag over on Twitter. And as always, you can pick up this chemistry bracelet over at Kokoba on Etsy.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Five Fandom Friday on Saturday: 5 Favorite Womances

Yes, I'm late to the game on this one, but since I have no opinion about cupcakes* I'd rather go back to the prompt I missed: womance.

I love a good story about the Power of Friendship (TM). I think I like them even more than love stories. I don't know why, except that I've never seen a love story that mirrored my own or even felt genuine. But I've seen my close friendships modeled in stories relatively often.

In no particular order!

1. Jane and Daria (Daria)

I talk about Daria and Jane so often I'm surprised I don't have more images of them uploaded to Blogger! The show holds up to rewatching, and one of the things I appreciate about it is that even though Daria and Jane are outsiders, they're not really bullied or harassed by the popular ("popular") students. Other popular students (Jodie and Mack) even seem to like them, despite their differing social roles and attitudes about the high school social world in general.

I guess this might be a controversial opinion, as I'm not naive enough to believe that bullying doesn't happen in American high schools. But I was our school's Daria and no one ever harassed me about it, even if they didn't really get me, either.

But I love Daria and Jane. I just do. Not much to say about that.

2. Becky and Enid (Ghost World)

I need to go back and re-read Ghost World (it's been over ten years, so it's been long enough) but I remember really liking it. Becky and Enid are essentially a proto-Daria and proto-Jane. Again, even if they're outsiders, they're not really bullied about it. The one thing that I didn't like about the story (which also happens with Daria and Jane) is stupid drama over a boy.

3. Mikey and Margalo (Bad Girls)

Courtesy Scholastic

First of all, can you handle that 90s realness in the cover? This was the exact copy I had and loved when I was a kid.

This is a little obscure, maybe. Voigt won a boatload of awards for novels in her "Tillerman cycle" of novels but this one seems to have gone largely unnoticed. In fact, I didn't realize there were sequels to Bad Girls until I was an adult. I might pick them up one day, when I just want something distracting  I can burn through in a day or two.

Anyway, Bad Girls is about the budding BFF-ship between Margalo and Michelle (who goes by Mikey). They're both smart and loners and, if you want to stretch, budding critical thinkers. A lot of their story is about their critical engagement with social norms, mostly gender roles. And they're just fifth-graders! If you find this somewhere, pick it up.

4. Sal and Phoebe (Walk Two Moons)

Courtesy Scholastic

This one was one of my elementary school favorites. I read the next few books by Creech (Chasing Redbird, Bloomability) but they seemed like pale imitations of Walk Two Moons. While the story is mostly about Sal and her history with her mother, there's a good deal of backstory with her and Phoebe. Even if they're not exactly BFFs, I liked the two of them together.

5. Everyone in Linda, Linda, Linda

If you haven't seen this movie, you need to. It's time for the end-of-year festival at a Japanese high school, and an all-girl punk band (tribute to iconic Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, whose song "Linda Linda" is the inspiration for the movie title) might not be able to perform. They enlist the help of a Korean exchange student at the last minute and work furiously to get everyone ready for the big show.

There's a lot more to it than that, really, but it's all about high school nostalgia and friendships: maintaining them, growing them, and breaking them.

This was a harder 5 Fandom Friday than I thought it would be! Shout out to The Babysitter's Club, Anne and Diane (Anne of Green Gables), and Bridesmaids as honorable mentions.

What are your favorite womances?

*Fun fact: Swedish has gone many years without distinguishing between muffins and cupcakes; the advent of the word "cupcake" has been very recent.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day 5: Burnout

Day 5: One of the unfortunate side effects of reading and blogging like rockstars seems to be a tendency toward burnout. How do you keep things fresh on your blog and in your reading?

I talked a little bit about this before, but the short answer is that I refuse to see blogging as my job. I'm up in the air about whether or not I'll register my own domain, but I probably won't ever migrate to WordPress or freak out too much about sponsors or affiliate links or so on. I think burnout happens when people convince themselves that they should be earning money from their blog. They start churning out content a little more regularly, even when they don't feel like it; after a while, the exhaustion begins to show. Normally they'd take a break, but because they feel like they need to keep posting regularly so they can keep readers and get those affiliate links/clicks/whatevers, they keep going.

Usually this is the point where I start thinking about dropping a blog from my feed. I read a decent "received a free whatever in exchange for a review" post maybe like 1% of the time; most of those posts don't enrich my life or give me information I wanted about a product I was interested in. They're just joyless and blah.

If you can't afford to self-host your blog, then don't. This is all for fun, not for being the coolest most serious most legit blogger on the Internet. You should be able to take a break when you want to and post what you want to.

It's okay to be a small fish in a huge pond.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day 4: Community Connection

Day 4: How do you stay connected to the community? Examples: social media, regular commenting, participation in blog events, etc. Tell us your faves!

I am pretty awful at ~~community. In anything. When it comes to book blogging, I've enjoyed watching and participating in ArmchairBEA on Twitter (and on here). I'm also a member-in-bad-standing of the Classics Club (see the graphic on the right); I say that because I haven't done much to participate in the spins or memes. But the blogs and the books over at The Classics Club run much more to my taste than what most book bloggers read, so I have the graphic over there to remind me to check out the blogs and the lists and the discussions when I have the time.

I follow a crapton of blogs, of all kinds, but book blogs comprise the majority of my reading at the moment. I use Inoreader for my blogging purposes, so that means I don't really land on anyone's homepage very often. So if you want me to read your blog, make sure you have your page's RSS feed in order! If you're not sure how to do that, I'd recommend using FeedBurner. And if you're not using an RSS reader, it makes your life so much easier! A moment of silence for Google Reader...but Inoreader is probably the best one that's filled the void. I know BlogLovin' is really popular as a an aggregate blog reading feed/whatever, but it's just...not for me.  So overwhelming. So much activity. There are some other, non-web-based programs too, but generally speaking they are annoying, cumbersome, and uggo. Inoreader is simple and elegant. And all you have to do is paste a webpage's URL in the upper left and it hunts down and adds the RSS feed for you!

No matter what RSS option you use, you can add me to it through FeedBurner.

So, out of all the blogs I read, I try to comment regularly-ish. It doesn't always happen: sometimes I'm busy, sometimes I'm tired, and sometimes I just don't have any words. I'm trying to be better about commenting on blogs and being ~~personal and so on, but I don't have endless reserves of energy and focus so it's slow going.

ETA: don't forget to check out the link-up for today's prompt over at the Estella Society!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day 3: Blame a Blogger

Courtesy The Estella Society
Day 3. Have you ever read a book because of a book blogger? Be it a good book or bad, bloggers recommend books every day of the year. Sometimes we take their advice and it’s great! Sometimes, it’s not so great. Today, tell us all about the book or books you’ve read because of a book blogger and be sure to sure to spread the blame around.

Sometime last year, I decided to be a little more diligent about using my GoodReads "to-read" shelf and started immediately adding interesting books that I heard about from bloggers. I have yet to tackle that list (oops), but there were two books I read last year that were only brought to my attention because of the splash they made in the book blog scene.

1. I hated it: The Martian

That's right. I hated science fiction's 2014 darling, The Martian.

But I saw so many people reading and raving about this book, though not so many that I became skeptical. My tastes are swayed by a very precise hype-to-obscurity ratio: enough people (preferably of differing tastes) have to mention a book to get me to think it might be good; too many people mentioning it and I know I won't like it. The Martian was right in the sweet spot so I went in with high expectations.

My favorite thing about GoodReads is that even though the star ratings are inflated beyond belief (soooooo many people receiving free copies in exchange for "an honest review" = lots of mediocre books getting 4-star ratings), if you filter the actual reviews by popularity, you can quickly get a taste for what the book is actually like. Check out this quote from the highest-ranked* review for The Martian:

 It's a good thing I'm so naturally optimistic, because it sure would make for a bummer book if I ever showed any signs of being depressed or having any kind of mental deterioration after spending nearly two years in total solitude!

Yeah, that's kind of the book's biggest problem in a nutshell.

This is a fun game to play with any book you hate. Like, this review for The Fault in Our Stars gives me so much life.

2. I loved it: A Tale For The Time Being

Again, A Tale For The Time Being hit the Goldilocks amount of hype: enough that I knew about it, not so much that I became skeptical. I was lucky enough to get a copy from a friend and it quickly became a "bagel book" for me: a book I didn't want to finish because it was so good; if I finished, there'd be nothing left to read!

My "what does the highest-ranked GoodReads review say?" game is less fun to play with a book you love, but it is no less illuminating:

** spoiler alert ** Dammit this should have been at least a 4 star book!
Till about the second half of part 3, I was all set to give this rave reviews 'cause Nao's story was so compelling and well written plus there wasn't enough of Ruth's woeful tone to grate on the nerves. Then Ruth's dream sequence comes up and ugh it damn near ruins the bloody book. 
And here I will begrudgingly agree: Ruth's dream sequence does take the story down a weird left turn. If you're not a fan of magical realism, it won't be to your taste. Even if you are, it might still seem forced. 

Though, I agree only to an extent. Even if the dream sequences was a bit odd, I wasn't bothered by Ruth's sections at all, so her parts never grated on my nerves.

I don't remember where I heard about either of those books from originally, so I can't blame (or thank!) any one blogger in particular. Just the emergent property that is the ~~book blogosphere.

You can read other answers to "Blame a Blogger" over at the BBAW link-up!

*according to GoodReads' "secret sauce," which they describe as "...a closely guarded trade secret, but the ingredients are: length of the review, number of people who liked it, recency of the review, popularity of the reviewer (i.e., number of people who have liked reviews by that person across all books)."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Day 1

Before I loved making jewelry, and before I got over my distaste for numbers (a post for a later date), I loved books. I still do. Professional branding experts would probably poo-poo my blog for not being focused enough—for mixing up all of the book and video game posts with the relevant jewelry and science content posts—but I don't care. I do what I want!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week went on for years, went on hiatus, and has now come back, so this is the first I've heard of it. And while I do think it's stretching it to say that we should appreciate book bloggers for all the hard work they do (write a book blog because it's fun; stop when it isn't; don't spend money on it that you can't afford; don't try to turn it into your day job), I thought it would be fun to talk about books this week!

And while I'm a day late to the party, I missed the interview sign-ups so I'll be skipping day 2 anyway. So I guess that means I'm on track?

Courtesy of The Estella Society

Day 1: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

There are so many! First out of the gate is always and forever Walden, even if it's perennially used to foster a political agenda at odds with my own. Thoreau taught me that it was okay to be weird. Not surface-level manic pixie dream girl weird, but really and fundamentally different.

Of course, this was coming from a guy who grubbed free meals off his friends ("friends") whenever he could and was the world's most hanger-on-y house guest (just ask Emerson), so maybe he should have toned down his weirdness and cared a little more about what other people were thinking. Still, he resonated very much with teenage me.

Next I would have to say The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. By now it's a geek cliche (and I won't disagree that some of Douglas Adams's fans are insufferable and obnoxious), but it's one of the few books I've been able to read and read again, maybe four or five times?, and still been able to enjoy. This is high praise; I typically don't reread often, except in different languages or years apart. But Hitchhiker stays fresh every time, at least up until Life, the Universe, and Everything.

There exists, somewhere, senior high school portraits of me posing with these two books. You were allowed to bring a number of items in as props (so people brought musical instruments or sports paraphernalia or what have you). I just brought these books. 

Taking a break from favorite books to most often referenced books, I would have to say Schumann's Gemstones of the World. If you're at all interested in gemstones, this is the most important book you can have. My copy is in the US right now, but it's a "high priority, relocate as soon as possible" book. I always refer to it for my geo-shopping and birthstones pieces; part of the reason I've been so lax on those recently is because I don't have Schumann at hand.

Courtesy Robert Hale, Ltd.

If I'm allowed to list a book I haven't read in its entirety, then it's definitely going to be The Second Sex. I've read and loved selections, but I've never had the chance to sit down with my own copy and really pore over it. One of my philosophy professors at the ol' alma mater is offering a course on Beauvoir (with a heavy focus on The Second Sex in particular) and she's writing about it over at My Semester With Simone Beauvoir. While I don't know if college-era me would have taken such a class, right now me would love to. Alas!

And for my fifth and final slot, I'm going to say: Language in Thought and Action, by S. I. Hayakawa. Again, Hayakawa has some unfortunate politics, but this seminal work and will always be relevant. Honestly, Language in Thought and Action should be required reading. At least, required reading for awkward weirdos like me who struggled with socializing and small talk for ages.

Courtesy Kristian Bjornard
It's too late to sign up for interviews, but the rest of the prompts are interesting ones for any blogger to tackle! I'll be participating, and I hope you will too.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Newly Listed: Black and Brown Mahogany Obsidian Pi Bracelet

This is a little stash-buster I threw together a while ago. I was just hoping to use up some things and clean out some space in the ol' bead box. These little mahogany obsidian cubes have been in my collection since 2012.

STEM sciart piday math jewelry
Black and brown pi bracelet with mahogany obsidian
It's a nice, understated neutral piece. Perfect to grab on your way out the door without worrying if you match or not. This subtle piece of wearable sciart can be yours, or you can browse some of the other fantastic sciart creations using the hashtag #sciart.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What I Read: Cure

A perpetual item on my 101 in 1001 list (guess I should update about that one at some point! today is not that day, though) is to read one nonfiction book a month. I love novels and literature, but I also am endlessly curious about the world around me. So you can imagine how my eyes lit up when I saw that Cure was one of the books available for me on Blogging For Books. I requested it the same day I signed up and, after a little futzing around with NetGalley and Amazon, I dove right in.

Image courtesy Crown Publishers

The full title is Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body, and it's right what it says on the tin. The one thing I'd like to add is that when Marchant uses the word "science" in the subtitle there, she means good, solid science—not some fuzzier woo usage of "science." The entire book is built on extensive interviews with professional scientists: experts in medicine, human physiology, biology, genetics, and so forth. It's also built on the premise that Western, evidence-based medicine mostly works and has been a net boon to society. There is no "you can cure your cancer with positive thinking!" or "vaccines cause autism!" quackery going on here.

The reasonable hypothesis that Marchant explores in the book is that the placebo effect, as well as feeling cared for, is an underrated and potentially immensely useful tool in our healthcare arsenal. For many people with a more materialist view of things, this can seem like nonsense, or uncomfortably close to lying. Materialism—that all we are is the body and its physical components and interactions—has driven Western medicine for years. Marchant challenges that view and offers a more pragmatic one: however you feel about the inherent honesty of offering a placebo, we can't deny that the placebo effect works.

There is case study after case study in her book about chronically ill patients who, say, underwent a sham surgery and still reported a drastic decrease in pain and quality of life; or who have been able to reduce the dosage of powerful immuno-suppressive or stimulant drugs by taking a placebo alongside their regular medication, or by forging strong mental associations between their medicine and a particular concept. They're all fascinating to read, and Marchant approaches all of them with respect and good-natured interest without veering into condescension. It's pretty much impossible for me to pick a favorite; instead, I want to focus on the  limits of the placebo effect.

Marchant gets to the limits of what the placebo effect can do right in the first chapter (though not before a juicy hook, natch). It has to do with altitude sickness.

Fabrizio Benedetti has a high-altitude lab in the Alps. I don't know how he finds study subjects, but he does—and he encourages them to travel to his lab as quickly as possible, rather than the suggested staggered journey, so as to maximize their altitude sickness. Then he runs all kinds of tests with diodes and treadmills and real oxygen and fake oxygen.

The results are multifaceted, but they're consistent: in a nutshell, a placebo can't fix the physical thing wrong with you (in the case of altitude sickness: a lack of oxygen in your blood), but it can do a lot to mitigate your brain's reaction to what's wrong with you—which is often what causes the worst symptoms of a sickness. In Marchant's words: "Breathing fake oxygen can cause the brain to respond as if there is more oxygen in the air, but it cannot increase the underlying level of oxygen in the blood."

Everything else that Marchant discusses later, which sometimes borders on what some would call "the miraculous," remains well within that boundary. She also points out the pitfalls of going too far woo: namely, that if you subscribe to a philosophy that illness is entirely in your mind, then when you become gravely ill, you will blame yourself for it, which is about the worst guilt trip of all time. (This victim-blaming mentality is why I side-eye The Secret so very hard.) The book is overall hopeful and fuzzy feel-goody, but this particular encounter stands out as a stark warning:
"One problem, of course, is that patients who adopt alternative medicines do not always have a positive outcome. While researching this book, for example, I met 37-year-old Tunde Balogh. Originally from Hungary, she lives in Ireland with her husband and young son...A year earlier, she had been diagnosed with cancer in her right breast. 'I was so against doctors, hospitals, nurses,' she told me, '...I knew inside—if I caused this I can fix this.' Then she found German New Medicine, which teaches that cancer is caused by emotional conflict...Tunde says this resonated with her, because insecurities about her body had been causing her to distance herself from her husband. 'Why did you do that, now you have cancer!' she says. 'It took me around six months to forgive myself.' 
But her cancer wasn't cured. In January 2014, she started suffering from searing joint pains; the disease had spread to her bones. 'Cancer in the bones is when you don't feel valuable,' she says. She stood in front of the bedroom mirror each day, repeating: 'I'm valuable. I love myself.' 
By June, Tunde struggled to walk and was in severe pain. She was as convinced as ever that the answer was inside her, though, and still searching for a cure."
There is definitely a place for evidence-based medicine in Marchant's schema. Not only that; it's absolutely essential. Nearly all of the best possible effects and outcomes in Marchant's case studies are due to the combination of evidence-based medicine and the placebo effect, rather than just one or the other.

Still, even within those limits, the placebo effect can accomplish some incredible things. The only question Marchant doesn't really touch on (and this may be because we don't know the answer yet) is why the placebo effect works for some people, but not others. Is it just random? Does it have to do with personality, habits, psychology?

There's more to this book than the placebo effect. Marchant also investigates, to a more limited extent, the social determinants of health, defined by the WHO as "the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life." It's not just genetics and lifestyle choices that affect your health: where you're born, what kind of lives your parents and even grandparents had (separate from the genetic predispositions they passed on to you), and even the kind of stresses and relationships you had as child and teenager all seem to have long-lasting physiological effects.

All in all, Cure is a quick but by no means shallow read. Some might accuse Marchant of trying to pander, or to play to both sides (instead of coming down hard on woo), but I think those critics are coming down way too harsh. The truth is, our brain is a fantastically complex organ and not only do we not know how it all works, we don't even know how much we don't know. Even if just a handful of the therapies Marchant investigates were to bear out in real life use, it would mean an incredible improvement in the quality of life for millions of people worldwide. Hopefully Cure will nudge the popular and medical consciousness towards implementing these therapies.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. And trust me: I don't hold back when I think something is bullshit.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Talky Tuesday: Gossip and "Gossip"

As it turns out, I have a lot of things that would be great Talky Tuesday fodder. But I've just been reading the archives of Captain Awkward, which is relevant to a personal experience I went through last fall that I just rehashed (for good reasons, no worry) and is currently in my mindspace. So I'm putting aside some of the other topics I thought would be good for Talky Tuesday and am instead going to jump straight to:


We've all watched all the after-school specials about manners and being a good friend and "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," and all of us—especially women—have had it drilled into us that we have to be nice and positive all the time, otherwise we are catty. We're gossiping.

Of course, the lesson, when targeted to young children, is (arguably) targeted equally to both sexes. But I think adult women, and even teenagers, face a special level of scrutiny, even when they need to be negative ("You're so dramatic!" "You're just overreacting." "Are you on your period?") that men (yes, even teenage men) do not. The only people in culture who get described as "catty" or "gossipy" are, conveniently, ones who are often codefied as femme (that is, women and gay men*). Here's a pretty good example of what I mean by gossip being codefied as femme/female:

It gets even more complicated when we're trying to convince women of all ages to strive for solidarity, that other women are not your enemy, that there is value in sisterhood. Again, discussions about absent parties that aren't entirely positive are perceived as dangerous and harmful.

I say: we need to drop the stigma. Both sexes, but women especially, and for this reason: what society codefies as "gossip" is often what protects victims from predators.

This dawned on me while I was having a fika** with a friend of mine who was writing on the phenomenon of "the missing stair" as it related to someone who had recently been summarily dismissed from our social group on account of sexual harassment and molestation.

What follows is a brief account of drama, but since other people's drama is usually boring, I'm bracketing it off so you know where to start reading again.

To give a brief summary: I encountered Eric***  early on in my move here. He immediately pinged on my autistic radar (it's a gift), specifically as the type who is loud, excitable, and sometimes intolerable in crowds, but potentially fine one-on-one. Because I thought Eric was a good friend of Angie*** (someone I really, genuinely like and admire), and because everyone else in the Stockholm NaNoWriMo group seemed to like or at least tolerate him, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and went out of my way to be social with him. He either didn't notice or didn't care until he found my OkCupid profile.

(And everyone who hears this story immediately side-eyes me like "GIRL WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON OKCUPID YOU HAVE A MAN." Well, asshole, I make it clear MULTIPLE TIMES that I'm in a monogamous relationship and that I'm only looking for friends. "LOLOL WHO USES OKCUPID TO MAKE FRIENDS?" people sometimes reply, to which I say: when you are an immigrant or an expat in a foreign country, you use whatever means necessary to make friends. I met my best friend in Korea on OkCupid, as a matter of fact.)

Around the time Eric found my OkCupid profile and started sending cutesy, flirty FB messages (somehow not understanding that really, I was on there to make friends), Angie's new boyfriend had been simmering and trying to navigate his feelings over Eric: legitimate feminist ally concern or just macho territorialism or what. So when Angie's boyfriend made the "Euuuugh, that guy" sound at the mention of Eric at some point early last year, I looked him square in the eye and said, "We need to fika about this. I'm serious." I was probably way too intense about it but fortunately Angie's boyfriend needed to vent so he either didn't notice or didn't mind my crazy eyes about it. I showed him my FB messages from Eric and recounted some things I had observed that had got my hackles up, things I had previously only shared with my boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Eric had seriously and gravely misconducted himself around one of Angie's friends, leaving her skeeved out and in tears. Between my relayed messages to Angie, and Angie's friend telling her what happened, she then decided enough was enough and told Eric in no uncertain terms that he was a snake for calling himself a feminist and then treating women the way he did, and that their friendship was over and she did not want to see him at all.

I breathed a sigh of relief, then unfriended and blocked Eric on all our forms of contact.

"What do you think led to Eric being allowed to remain in the group for so long?"

I took a mental inventory of the story that I just shared with you up there. It took some thought, but in the end I had a pretty clear answer.

"I know this is shitty, but if the group weren't entirely a dry group...I'm cool with people who are sober, of course, but a bit of alcohol can get people to open up and trust a little if me, Sara, Angie, and Robin*** were all a cohesive group who felt comfortable slagging people off in front of each other, like we didn't have to be positive all of the time...yeah, I think it certainly would have been dealt with a lot quicker. Like if everyone realized that everyone else actually agreed with them. If I had known that Angie was harboring those doubts about him, then I would have never bothered to 'try and like him.'"

Especially when it comes to men, women are seen as bitchy, catty, and worse if we even just voice our honest opinions about people. We're cast as the snobby popular girl in the teen melodrama if we say that Creeper McCreeperson makes us uncomfortable: "He's really a nice guy! He's just socially awkward! You should give him a chance!"

So we clam up. We clam up around men, but then a funny thing starts to happen: we clam up around other women, too. You can't blame us; the training runs deep. We wait until it's (almost) too late to voice our opinions on That Guy in the group, making the inertia the group has to overcome in either modulating That Guy or tragically excising him all the greater. Often, if someone is brave enough to tepidly put forward an, "I don't know, there's just something about him....but maybe it's just me," we wave our hands and say, "Nah, he's weird but he means well~~" even while we're silently going "YES YES YES, HELL YES." All because we don't want to be catty gossips.

Well, I say fuck that. You're an adult with a moral compass: you know when you're voicing legitimate concerns, and when you're just cutting someone down for fun or indulging in a taste for scandal and rumors. One is good and healthy for a social group and ensures everyone's comfort and safety. The other—that's gossip.

The distinction is important. Learn it. Recognize it. Speak up when you feel uncomfortable. Listen when others say they're uncomfortable: they're likely the tip of a huge, messy iceberg. It probably means your social group has a missing stair.

This is why I always encourage people to finish or clarify their "Eugh, I know they're a friend of yours, but $person just bugs me," statements. More often than not it's a mutual acknowledgement of someone else's problematic or annoying (not always creeper) behavior; when it's not, I have no qualms putting on the Friend Hat and defending my absentee buddy.

If your good, bestest, most amazing buddy is Creeper McCreeperson? Sorry, but it's kind of your responsibility as their friend to recognize what is loathsome about their behavior and bring it to Creeper's attention. If Creeper really is just "socially awkward," they will ultimately benefit from (and probably appreciate) your intervention. If Creeper's a jerk, then do you want to invest your friendship currency in a jerk?

Be honest. Be open. Own your feelings.

*Holy shit there's a lot to say about gay male representation and I'm aware there's more than the femme-y, lisping stereotype, and I hate to frame it like this, so I'm sorry.

**coffee/tea and snacks, but much more than that; the backbone of Swedish culture

***name changed

Monday, February 8, 2016

Newly Listed: DNA Maille Bracelet

I've been busy lately (or rather, I've not been good about time management lately), so this newly listed piece is actually something I worked on over the holidays. It represents me mastering a new weave (one I should go back and practice—I'm reading Fluent Forever and so now I have spaced repetition on the brain), so in terms of time and value, I'm selling this one at a loss. But as far as learning pieces go, it looks pretty good, so why not sell it? I've been known to wear it myself, on occasion.

Sciart nerdy biology science jewelry gift DNA double helix maille bracelet
DNA Double Helix Spiral Maille Bracelet
I think, looking at this photo and all of the other ones in the listing, that I'll need to take some better (i.e. not rushed) photographs. It has a wonderful spiral shape to it, but you can't quite see it from this angle. Of course, if you already like it...

The weave I used was the "inverted spiral," credited to Lorraine Menard. You can see the shape better in her sample projects here:

Inverted spiral maille earrings by Lorraine Menard
The next project I do in this weave will probably use two-tone rings, as pictured here. That might help visually organize the shape better. Or the issue might be a purely physical one (the weave will look different laying flat versus hanging freely). We'll see!

But first I need to pass Russian.

Anyway, in lieu of the usual #sciart Twitter links, I want to share just one story I saw on Facebook:

3D-Printed, Acoustically-Generated Ceramics

For the link-phobic, a laboratory in the Netherlands uses a combination of 3D-printing, ceramics, and acoustics to create vases and other goods that retain the physicality of sound—basically, the vibrations of the sound coming through the speakers vibrates the pottery-in-progress, and as a result creates patterns.

Pieces from "Solid Vibration" at Studio Van Broekhoven

The demo video only uses loud WUB WUB style dubstep bass; I would love to see one "created" by, say, Ride of the Valkyries. Or Misirlou. For more information on the process, check out Studio Van Broekhoven's official page for the "Solid Vibration" project.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Five: Press

This past week I've been gearing up for an oral exam that I just finished today (and I passed, whew, fantastic). I was studying my butt off, which is why I didn't get around to blogging even though I have really cool things I want to talk about!

But those cool things don't involve OTPs. Sorry, geeks, but I don't do fanfic and I don't ship so this week's prompt isn't my thing. Instead, I've decided to borrow from the (original?) Friday 5 site for those days when I can't get into 5 Fandom Friday.

This week's theme is "press"!

In what way are you pressing your luck?

I mentioned that oral exam. More specifically, it was an oral exam in Russian. Now, I studied Russian in university for three semesters and then promptly forgot nearly all of it. I signed up for Russian 1 through Stockholm's adult education center, and so far all of it has felt like review. And rather than apply myself, I'm being a lazy shithead and like 80% coasting on what I remember.

When did you last wield an iron?

Probably in middle school home ec class. I have bigger things to worry about than wrinkles—whether it's in my clothes or in my skin.

Not counting buttons on your computer, tablet, or phone, what was the result the last time you pressed a button?

To call the elevator.

What was the name of your high school newspaper?

Probably something incredibly banal. Newspaper wasn't really a thing in my high school. My college paper was "The Spectator." It was definitely not much of a paper. (Apologies, HamTech journalism department, but I'm just saying what we were all thinking.)

To “press the flesh” means (usually in the context of politics or public relations) to meet and greet as many people as you can, shaking hands and making personal contact. When were you last called upon to press the flesh, and how were you?

I would have to say during all of November, with NaNoWriMo. I didn't have anywhere near the responsibilities of an ML, but I did help run a few events. In those cases, I think it's standard practice to be extra friendly and outgoing.