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Book Review: Packing for Mars

Friday, January 28, 2011

Last night I finished reading a book on the space program, not realizing that today was the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. Packing for Mars is not about Challenger specifically, but rather NASA's continuing efforts to put (and keep) humans in space. In many ways it's a celebration of everything the Challenger astronauts lived and died for, so I figured today was a good day to tell you about it.



First and foremost, this isn't some dry and somber science book. The author, Mary Roach, is HILARIOUS. I could just stop there, but you know I won't.

If you get the Reader's Digest you may be familiar with Roach's humor columns from the past few years. Those two page articles hardly allowed her real skill to shine, though. In Packing for Mars, it is her copious footnotes, asides, and wryly irreverent observations that will have you busting a gut - all while learning things like how exactly an astronaut poops in space. (In fact, it was the chapter on waste elimination that had me startling John awake with my laughter.)

Mary takes her research seriously, though, and I was fascinated by her detailed history of the trials and triumphs mankind has faced in its pursuit of the stars. She traveled around the world to interview cosmonauts and astronauts alike, flew parabolas in a jet to experience zero G, had a "go" with the official NASA potty 'cam, and drank her own treated urine, all to give earth-bound laypersons like you and me a glimpse at what real life star trekkers go through each day.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I used to have this vague impression of astronauts floating around in one big zero G party up there, eating freeze-dried ice cream, playing chess with HAL, taking Star Trek style sonic showers - the works. Roach took away that glamorous image, and replaced it with a nitty-gritty every-day heroism that, frankly, inspires far more respect (and often sympathy).

Growing up here in Central Florida, I've often taken Cape Canaveral and the space program for granted. I was in my second-grade classroom when Challenger broke apart in midair, but if I'd been allowed those few steps outside I could have seen it with my naked eyes. I remember the TV coverage, and the shock, and the special memorial song a teacher wrote and sang a few weeks later at a school assembly. One line in the chorus - the only line I remember, in fact - asked, "Can we face the challenge?" Twenty five years later, and I can still hear her singing that question. With so much else clamoring for our attention in the world today, it's kind of gratifying to know that some brave men and women the world over are still doing just that - and even more gratifying that someone as smart as Mary Roach is out there to explain it all to us.


So guys, what are you reading? Tell me in the comments!

Posted by Jen at 7:51 PM   |  154 comments  |   Labels: ,

Doctor Who and the Japanese "Smile" Girls

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ok, so actually what I have here is a new "fashion accessory" in Japan:

Blinking mouth lights.

Yes, really.

And yes, only in Japan.
[Edit: Or raves. Assuming they even have those anymore. Heh.]


However, as I watched the girls marching silently and rather creepily toward the camera in the video below (especially around 0:45), all I could see was a new breed of villain for the good Doctor.

Take a look and see if you agree:

via LikeCool
Now we just need one of you video geniuses to splice these shots in with a Doctor Who chase scene. I'll even let you choose which Doctor. :D Then I will post it and giggle uproariously. Mostly because I like the word "uproariously."

Oh, and also: synchronized mouth lights as fashion? Really? And here I thought the LED eyelashes were out there. At least the lashes draw attention to the eyes, and could be a fun costume accessory:

See the video here.

I am kind of curious how well she can see over them, though.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want my teeth getting that much attention. Ladies? Gentlemen? Geeks? What say you all?


UPDATE: WOO-HOOOOO!!!


Thanks to Rebecca R. for rocking out with her mad video-editing skillz. ;)

Posted by Jen at 1:59 AM   |  63 comments  |   Labels:

Geek Chic Jewelry

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekends were made for online shopping, right? So here, allow me to help:


These comic book cuff links Kendra B. found are sure to add a little "POW!" to your wardrobe. They're available at RedEnvelope for $89.95, but you could easily DIY for less. You just need some old comic books, epoxy resin, and jewelry shells (or bottle caps, if you want to go *really* cheap). Hellooo, awesome necklaces!


I will never tire of drooling over polymer clay jewelry. NEVER.

Sub'd by Linz H. and made by Jessica Montanelli, who has an Etsy shop here.
(No sign of this bracelet at the moment, though!)

Confession: I've never tried a macaron. So to me, this bracelet looks like Rainbow Brite made a batch of Whoopie Pies. And believe me, I am perfectly fine with that. :D


Are door knockers geeky? Ok, maybe not. Still, this ring looks pretty darn cool:

Found via Craft:, $75 at Pat Kim Designs


And if you have any friends in Japan, tell them to be on the lookout for this ├╝ber geeky pi necklace:


Found by Tess B. and made by RGB Laboratory

Math nerds, rejoice! Except I don't think it's available online anywhere, so maybe don't rejoice too much. It's probably just as well, though; this looks both expensive and kind of scratchy. (Just keep telling yourself that, Jen...)


And finally, for my fellow gamer girls:

Sub'd by Rachel N., $35 at UseYourDigits on Etsy

It's all in the wrist, baby - or in this case, *on* the wrist. This bracelet is like a trip down memory lane with all the different game controllers, plus it comes in four different colors! I'd wear it with my Nintendo controller belt buckle, even though I'd get mocked mercilessly for it by all my friends. (Except you guys, of course. You wouldn't mock me, right? Guys? Hello?)


So, seen any great and geeky jewelry lately? Share your links in the comments!


BORING PERSONAL UPDATE: By the by, all, just thought I'd mention that I'm in the midst of writing CW book 2 - which is due in 3 weeks, eek! - so posting here will continue to be a bit sporadic for the foreseeable future. I have lots of fun tutorials and posts planned out, but I also have to survive the next month. Heh. So, thanks for being patient while I handle my "real" "job," and I'll do my best to continue posting here at least twice a week.

Posted by Jen at 2:29 PM   |  54 comments  |   Labels:

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