Sunday, January 18, 2015

Women in Physics

This past weekend a couple other Hendrix students and I headed to Ole Miss for the Southern Undergraduate Women in Physics conference. ((Think that's a mouthful? Try the acronym! SUWiP. Yeah. Catchy.))

Having a conference solely for women in physics might sound a bit odd, until you look at the numbers. Recently a university emailed me to check out their physics graduate program. They boasted a relatively large number of female students-- almost 20%!

20%. That means the student body is 80% male. And that's supposed a number that they want to brag about? That describes, in a nutshell, why there is an entire conference whose purpose is to encourage women to study physics.

There are cautionary tales of sexism women face in pursuit of the sciences. Personally, while I have been told I'm unable to do plenty of things because I'm a woman, physics has never been on the list.

However, physics is still lagging far behind the other sciences, which are getting closer to the 50%-50% gender ratio.

I've never cared or really noticed that I was in the minority in my physics classes, being a woman. Though that tells you sometime-- I've come to fully expect to be in male-dominated classes, so it is no surprise when that is true. The only instance where I've ever been really frustrated with the lack of other female students was when I was trying to make assertations about the way society views female physics students.

You see, whenever I tell a stranger that I'm a physics major they typically respond with two emotions: shock and awe. Awe is too strong of a word, but you get the idea, right? Here's a typical interaction.

Them : "So what do you study?"
Me: "Oh I'm a physics major."
Them: "Wow! Physics! Man, I could never do that. It's so hard. You must be so smart!"

Which is not true, but that's a topic for another post. Anyway, it was only after a couple years that I began to really analyze the typical response. While there is the whole "you must be super smart" which, once again, needs to be delegated to its own personal post about societal perceptions of science, there is always an element of surprise.

As a scientist-- or rather, as a rational human being-- I can't just jump to any conclusions. I can't declare 'oh they must be so surprised because I'm a woman! They must not expect me to be into the sciences'. While this might be true, there are too many other plausible answers. Perhaps they don't meet many physics majors-- and would respond with the same level of shock if a guy told them he was a physics major.

To try and ascertain if my gender actually did play a role in peoples' responses, I turned to other female physics majors.

Oh wait.

 There's only one in my grade besides me-- and she's a physics/English double major, which skews the results. Peoples' response could be due to the duel major or just the English part-- I have no way of knowing how people perceive just her role in physics.

Out of the eight senior physics majors, two are female. Could be worse, but it could be better. There are three female physics majors in the class below me, but there are also a lot more male physics majors.

The purpose of the conference was to encourage those still on the fence about physics, hoping to trickle the numbers so that eventually schools will be graduating a physics class that is half male, half female. Of course, we really need to talk about science education starting even younger than college freshman-- somewhere in elementary school girls start dropping out of the sciences.

But that's a topic for another time! I've already put off application work long enough. I only have two more graduate schools to apply to but I need to go and actually apply.

Thanks for reading! :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

DIY Watercolor Mugs

Do you remember the water marbling nail craze? I was in high school when it was most popular, and never was able to pull the technique off on my nails. It was fickle and wasn't worth the effort, as I knew my nails would chip in a day or two regardless.

However, a couple weeks ago, I stumbled onto a DIY which put the water marbling technique to great use on a surprising subject-- mugs!

While I loved the idea, I was worried that water marbling mugs would be just as difficult as my failed-nail attempts. After all, the finished product looked gorgeous-- and anything that looks that cool had to be impossibly hard, right?

Wrong! I was happy to find that water marbling mugs was delightfully straight forward. In less than 10 minutes you can have a beautiful watercolor-inspired mug!

What you'll be making:


What you need:
  • A mug. I like using white mugs, so the color shows better, but they can be a little tricky to find. I've had luck at Walmart and various thrift stores.
  • Nail polish. For the color to show up, you need a really vibrant polish. Not all nail polish works-- it takes a little trial and error. For me, as long as the polish is really colorful it works.
  • Dishwasher safe Mod Podge. This is the most difficult product to find, but essential if you want your mug to be dishwasher safe. If you skip this step, the design might come off, even if you just hand wash the mug.
  • Plastic basin to do your marbling in. I used an old tubberware container. Just make sure that the container is big enough to dip the mug into. 
That's it! Like I said, the dishwasher safe Mod Podge is a bit tricky to find-- Hobby Lobby doesn't carry it, but Michael's does (unfortunately I don't live near a Michael's and had to buy mine online at

Step One:

Fill your plastic container with warm water from the sink. It doesn't have to be hot, but the warm temperature will help keep the polish from setting too quickly.

Step Two:

 Pour a little nail polish into the container. It should spread out over the surface of the water. It won't look too dark-- and that's okay. It will take a little trial and error to see how much polish you need; obviously the more your pour into the water, the darker the final result will be. For a reference point, I didn't use a lot of nail polish for the mugs pictured here.

Step Three:

Working quickly, so the polish doesn't dry and set into a unusable film, dip your mug into the water. Some nail polishes set quicker than others. If you wait too long, the polish will become a hard film on top of your water and won't adhere to the mug properly. I don't have a picture for this step because I was too worried the polish would set while I was messing with my phone.
It's hard to anticipate exactly how the polish will go onto the mug, which for me is part of the fun. Experiment with different angles and different depths until you find a result you like. If you don't like your mug-- or if the polish gets too close to where you'll be putting your mouth-- simply use nail polish remover to take the design off and try again.

Step Four:

Now it's time for Mod Podge! While this dishwasher safe Mod Podge is non-toxic, it is not food safe. This means that you need to keep the Mod Podge away from where the drink/your lips will be going. I used painter's tape to tape off about an inch around the top of the mug to keep the mod podge from going there.

The Mod Podge container recommends 2-3 coats, allowing a couple hours in between coats for it to dry. Before you seal the mug you can use sharpies to decorate it further//write a quote///whatever your crafty heart desires.

The container also recommends waiting 28 days before washing the mug. This obviously is just a suggestion-- if you just must use the mug before then, you should probably gently hand wash it, avoiding the design if at all possible.

I've heard positive reviews of the dishwasher safe Mod Podge, but I'll be sure to write an update in a month or so to let you know how the mugs are holding up! 

Exciting News!

I just opened an Etsy shop! If you love these mugs, but don't want to buy the materials and make them yourself, please click here to check out my mugs. :) 

Thanks so much for reading! I really enjoyed this craft; I'm off to make some more mugs.

Be sure to check back; I have a least one more sewing craft up my sleeves before the semester starts!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Book List

Last year I constructed a 2013 book list, populated mainly by books I read while over in France. I thought I would continue this trend this year!

To call it a 2014 book list is slightly misleading, these are mainly books I've read since August of this year. As I have a good number of very talented English-major friends, I'm staying far away from critical reviews or academic insight of these books. Mainly I just want to share some great books I've enjoyed recently, and try to convince you to read some if you haven't already. If I magically convince you to read one of these novels please tell me so I can earn bragging rights, as that is not a feat I believe I've ever accomplished before.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
8 out of 10

I found this title on a book list I wrote on my phone ages ago, I'm not sure where I heard about it. It's a short novel written during the turn of the century. It tells the struggle of one women as she tries to reconcile herself with her role in society as a woman. I loved how Chopin portrayed the main character as she chafes under restricting societal norms, as she searches for love and happiness, while trying to define what those things mean to her. It was surprisingly interesting, given that early 1900s literature isn't my forte.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9.5 out of 10 

I finally broke down and read this classic, mostly because I felt like I should. However, from the first page I was hooked and really enjoyed the novel. Not only was it surprisingly funny in parts, the characters were fully fleshed out, and the story was captivating. It also breaks the glass on some of those cutsy love quotes you see on Pinterest taken from this novel, which turn out to have not so cutsy back stories.

The Faithful Place by Tana French
10 out of 10

I am in love with this author. If I wrote fan mail, I would send her letters, gushing about how much I adore her writing. She writes detective mysteries set in Dublin, Ireland, and is well known for her skill in character development. On top of multidimensional characters, her plots are twisting and haunting. Throw in her poetic skill with words and you'll see why I read anything that she writes. This is actually the 3rd book in a (loosely associated) series. While you can read them out of order, you should probably start with Into the Woods first, which is one of my all time favorite novels.

American Gods by Neil Gaimen
8.5  out of 10

Another classic, though not in the same sense as Wuthering Heights. American Gods is a classic, as it has influenced the entire genre of modern magic novels. This novel twist to magic and mythology was captivating from page one. Gaimen is already a giant in literature, and this book proves why. The main character was likeable and easy to root for, which is something I always love in a book. 


Neverwhere by Neil Gaimen
8 out of 10

This is the first Gaimen book I've read and I loved it. It's a fascinating story set in London featuring a really unique modern day magic system. It's not as well known as American Gods, and is not as massive in its undertaking, but I really enjoyed this little book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
7 out of 10

Guaranteed by Buzzfeed to change my life, I pinned this title on Pinterest and finally got around to reading it. This light sci-fi novel is written like a memoir, a style that I was not expecting. It portrays one woman's life in a future with a dsytopian sheen; not all encompassing like 1984, but the type of dsytopian which does such a good job of passing itself off as normal you almost don't see it. After reading the novel I spent the better part of an hour ranting and raving to my poor roommates; it's a good, but frustrating novel.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Kowal
6.5 out of 10

I'm pretty sure that this novel was recommended in one of Hank Green's vlogs. It's a light fantasy set in Victorian England. While the magic system set up is quite unique, I went away feeling like I had read a watered down Jane Austen novel. The main love interests could easily be plotted on a Darcy at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice vs Darcy at the end of the novel graph. All of their main characteristics being traced back to classical underpinnings, like the close connection between the Darcy-look-a-like and his sister; or the gruff, arrogant demeanor of Darcy-look-a-like-number-2. It felt a little artless at times-- which isn't a fatal flaw, I just wanted a bit more poetry in the words. Regardless, it was a fun, short read.

Don't Breathe A Word by McMahon
6 out of 10
I found this title on Pinterest, promised some high title like best books of 2014! or best mystery books ever, as per usual on Pinterest. This book is a quick modern fantasy read. The plot seems straight forward at first, but the more you read, the more convoluted and twisting everything becomes. Allegiances shift with every page until you don't know who is real, and who you can trust. That part I felt was done well. The reason why it has such a low rating, then, is because towards the end the plot reached critical capacities of convoluted-ness. I'm still not entirely sure what happened on a couple plot points. At the end the novel began to resemble Dreams and Shadows by Cargill mainly in the surprising dark and hopeless events. Even if I'm still bitter at the ending, it was a page-turner, and worth the read. 

So that's it! Just a little list of some great books that I've enjoyed reading. I hope that maybe I've inspired you to pick up one of these novels. If so, I would love to hear what you thought about it! 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back to see more crafting adventures!

Friday, January 2, 2015

DIY Crayon Lipstick

What? I'm still alive?

I know it has been months since I have last posted here. I couldn't think of a creative way to convey how much physics homework I was buried beneath, and since that's basically what my life  has been like this past semester, I haven't written a post.

Now that it is officially the Christmas holidays, I have more time to get back to crafting! Most of my crafts have been Christmas gifts, thus the continued lack of posts. But today I did a quick DIY which thus far I don't plan on gifting out.

All you need is some crayons, some Vaseline, olive oil, and in less than 10 minutes (or at least, that was the plan) you can have a customized colored chapstick/lipstick!

Most people use coconut oil and if you happen to have that then go ahead and substitute that in. I do not own coconut oil, and it's too expensive to pick up for this craft, so I just grabbed my handy-dandy Vaseline. ((Okay, technically it was my lovely mother's handy-dandy Vaseline that she lent me))

Can we just take a second to appreciate the little photo set-up I have going here? I took advantage of the light that was temperamentally streaming through my window, and grabbed some white paper to reflect the light onto my subjects.

I decided to go the normal route, and grabbed a red make my lipstick. I didn't want my lipstick to be too blood-red dramatic, so I grabbed a pink crayon to soften the color.

I used two inches of red crayon and one inch or pink crayon.

Tip: Use disposable everything. Cut the crayons with a plastic knife, put them in a disposable (but microwaveable safe) bowl. You don't have to, but this will make your life better. Crayons have a nasty habit to sticking to something-- say a knife edge-- and never letting go, which makes clean up a mess.

I ended up using (after much trial and error) 1 1/4 teaspoons of Vaseline and probably 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil with my crayons.

Put your crayon pieces,Vaseline, and olive oil, in a microwavable safe bowl and start to microwave. I did 30 second intervals. I read one tutorial which said only do 5 second intervals or your mixture will explode. They must have been working with a restaurant grade microwave because my little microwave took much longer to melt the crayons. It took me maybe 5-6 minutes for my crayons to finally melt.

Another way to melt your mixture is set up a double broiler (just put a bowl over some boiling water on the stove). I never have much patience to set up a double broiler, so I stuck to my microwave.

Every 30 seconds I used toothpicks to mix up my slowly melting crayons.

The hardest part of this craft is finding the right crayon:Vaseline:olive oil ratio. I first made a batch using 1/4 teaspoon per inch of crayon and no olive oil. This seemed to work fine, but after sitting on the counter for five minutes the mixture was hard and unusable. Since I had used the last of my Vaseline in this attempt, my craft was put on hold until I bought some more Vaseline.

I reheated my last attempt and threw in more Vaseline and slowly poured in some olive oil. The olive oil seemed to help liquify the crayon mixture. Also, it feels great on your lips, even if I began to feel like a rotisserie chicken ready to be broiled after slathering the mixture onto my lips.

Once you've heated your mixture until it is liquid, pour it into a small container.

And the award for the sketchiest chapstick container goes to me for this pill container I picked up at Dollar Tree.

Hey. Whatever works, right? I twisted off the top container and it looks like a perfectly normal little chapstick holder.

Et, volia!

I put some on my hand to make sure that I had not diluted the color too much with all my Vaseline and olive oil. I like the color! It turned out more vibrant than I had expected. It goes on the lips quite smoothly, thank you olive oil.

This craft is great for make Halloween/stage makeup where you need odd colored lipstick. As far as safety goes, as long as you don't wear this everyday you'll be fine. This definitely won't replace any cheap lipstick I buy at the drugstore, as it is annoying and messy. However, if you want weird/cheap colors for costumes, this is a fun craft which actually works.

I have a couple more crafts in the works, so be sure to check back!

Thanks for reading :)