Friday, December 26, 2014

My Current (Winter) Hair Routine

So...shockingly, I appear to be bad at posting consistently.  Whoops.

Anyway.  Hair.  Because this is me, and when in doubt, I talk about hair.

My hair tends to be decidedly picky about what works for it.  I've been trying to fine-tune what I use on my hair for the past three years or so, and am just now actually starting to figure stuff out.

So, I'm going to briefly go over my basic hair-care routine.  Because this is my blog, and I can.

I do a loose version of "CWC" - "condition, wash, condition."  I put conditioner on my hair, let it sit there for a bit, then shampoo, then put a different conditioner on my hair.  I let that sit for a while, rinse it, and then apply oil.

Currently, the first conditioner I use is Desert Essence Coconut Conditioner.  It's quite moisturizing, contains no protein, and is good for hair that tangles easily.  All of which are exactly what I need in a first conditioner, as my hair dries out easily and is very sensitive to the amount and type of protein that goes on it.

I smoosh about a quarter-sized blob of that conditioner down my length, then actually put my hair up in a nautilus for a few minutes and do other shower things.  Because it's got the conditioner in it, it doesn't tangle.

After I'm satisfied with the time the first conditioner has been on my hair, I take it down, and shampoo only my scalp.  I don't use a lot of shampoo, and dilute what I do use with water.  If it runs a bit down the length, I let it - the conditioner helps protect it.

Once my scalp is shampooed, I rinse the first conditioner mostly out of my hair, and smoosh in the second.  I actually use Alba Botanica's Cocoa Butter Hair Mask as a second conditioner most of the time, even though it's recommended to only use it every week or two because it's pretty heavy and contains a lot of protein.  But it works far and away better than anything else I've tried, so I stick with it.  I also use a lot more of it than normal people, but it works, so I go with it.

Then I bun my hair again for a few minutes.  This is a good opportunity to sing in the shower.  Or talk to yourself at length about things like the meaning of life (the answer is 42), plan out your research schedule for the next few days, debate your favorite flavor of ice cream, etc.  Then I rinse my hair.

While it's still quite wet, I put a couple pea-sized clumps of coconut oil in it, mostly avoiding the ends.  For whatever reason, it seems to work best if I do this while my hair is still soaked.  Then I plop it until I remember to let it down to air dry.

Brush as needed with a wide-tooth comb.  Add additional coconut oil to the length if it seems dry.  Repeat every few days.

Also, I have to adjust the amount of moisture to the weather, so I need a lot more of it during the winter months.  Come summer, I'll have to adapt my routine to fit that humidity.

I'm pretty sure I think way too hard about this stuff...

For a list of products by category ("high slip," "no protein," etc.) click here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

MBTI - A Tool for Understanding Alternate Perspectives

Disclaimer - I'm not an expert on personality typing, I just find it extremely interesting :-)

I've been interested in the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (mbti) for a while now.  Essentially, it's a personality indicator that "types" people into 1 of 16 categories based on how we process and interact with the world.  Each type has it's own unique "functional stack" of four cognitive functions (basically just how our brains work).  If you want to actually know what any of that means, click here.

Note - for anyone who cares, I'm an INFJ.  I mostly tell you that as a warning that a lot of what I say comes from an INFJ perspective, because that's what I know best :-)

I've used mbti for a while now as a tool to better understand people who think differently from me (in type theory language, people with different functional stacks - who process and interact with the world differently than I do.)

An example.  INFJ is a feeling type.  I'm a "feeler" - I consider how people feel, emotional implications, etc.  I put myself into a situation, and consider it from there.  I live with an INTJ - a "thinker."  Thinkers are much more subjective, and aren't likely to feel the emotions of others.  They will take themselves out of the situation, and look at it from there (note - I'm NOT saying this is bad - it's just different ways of functioning).  Once I understood that simple distinction, and was able to recognize it, I was able to make a lot more sense of our disagreements, and relationship as a whole.

As I learned more about the functions, and how they work together, it started really helping me.  I've always been good at subconsciously recognizing patterns of interaction, but type theory has allowed me to quickly summarize those patterns into applicable units of information.

Looking at the cognitive functions, and how they work together to create functional stacks, can be a pretty good baseline for quickly understanding why someone is approaching a problem differently from you.  Especially the F vs. T dichotomy (feeling vs. thinking - click here for more info) can be very confusing for people of the opposite type, and understanding it really allowed me to relate to people on a new level, because I understood their thought process better.

If I recognize I'm talking to a "feeler" I know what styles of communication are likely to be best for both of us.  If I think someone seems more comfortable in a "thinker" perspective, I will likely adjust my approach to the conversation to better understand them.  It lets me more quickly find an effective communication style, makes them more comfortable (which in turn makes me more comfortable), and generally makes for an easier, more enjoyable interaction.

Moral of the story - I use type theory as a way of deepening my understanding of others.  It isn't a judgement, and I don't put nearly as much stock in it as a lot of people do.  For me, it's a tool I've found helpful to understanding others more deeply and completely.

For anyone who's curious...
You can take the mbti here (at least a version of it).
After you've taken the test, this site has really good descriptions of type, as well as lots of good info on cognitive functions (and I recommend taking the test first, so your answers aren't biased by knowledge of the types and their functions).
This site has more information on this stuff than you could every hope for :-)

A Note - in addition to understanding others, or even before that, mbti can be extremely useful in better understanding yourself. I just didn't talk about that this time because recently I've been thinking more about how I use it to understand where other people are coming from than how I use it to understand myself.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coconut Oil

In the long haired community, there is a lot of talk about coconut oil - most of it concerning how great the stuff is for your hair.  A lot of people have really great results from using it on their hair, from moisturizing to conditioning.

However, I am one of those people who has had less luck.

This article does a good job of explaining the science, so I won't go into that too much here.  But essentially, the triglycerides in coconut oil have medium-length chains, which don't agree with all of our hair.

I've tried for a few years now to make coconut oil work for me.  In that time, I've learned two main things.  Firstly, for most of my length, it works pretty well to moisturize, and to decrease the velcro-like nature of my hair when it's being cranky.  Secondly, if I put it on the last eight inches or so, that part of my hair gets all crunchy and ornery and weird.

That stiff crunchiness is what happens (generally) when coconut oil doesn't agree with your hair.  And on mine, it lasts a really, really long time - if I over-oil my ends, they stay annoyed with me for several weeks.

Basically what I'm trying to say here is that everyone needs different things for their hair.  A lot of us might have really great luck with coconut oil.  Some of us might have terrible luck with it.  Some of us might have hair that can't decide what it thinks of it.  Trial and error is the only real way to figure out what works best for your hair.

Thus, I've been experimenting with how I use coconut oil in the last few weeks.  It hasn't been long enough for me to come to any conclusions, but I have realized that it isn't really the best oil for me - even though I really wanted it to work, because so many people say so many great things about it.

I may write about my hair routines at a future date, but as everything is in flux right now, what I end up settling on for the next few months is anyones guess.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On Walking Away

I think we all experience times when we want to just give up and walk away from something important in our lives, be it school, careers, a relationship, etc.  We all have our bad days, where our dreams just seem too big (or not big enough), where the amount of work ahead of us becomes too much, or the emotional turmoil of continuing just doesn't seem worth it.

The question then becomes - do we walk away?

It's a question I think is different for every person, in every situation.  I wish I could say "no, absolutely not!  Never give up on a dream!"  But the truth is, sometimes I wonder if walking away might be the wiser choice (I should note, however, that I'm not advocating giving up on dreams!)

For example.  A person goes to college, studies a minimum of four years, and spends a lot of money and time and effort, in hopes of getting a job.  Maybe they decide three years in they aren't so sure about their chosen career path (this happens A LOT, and everyones reaction to it is different).  Some people will acknowledge it, and change course, while others will stick with it to the bitter end.

And here's where the real challenge begins.  Who's to say which decision is the better one?  Some people would rather finish school quickly, and have their career in a field they maybe wouldn't have chosen, but have the qualifications for now.  Others might opt to stay in school another few years to change paths.

Whether that decision is right for them or not depends entirely on that person and their circumstances.

Sometimes, taking the least scary option is a good idea.  Sometimes, though, it's not.  Fear and freedom are strange companions, maybe, but they are most definitely companions.  At that point, you have to decide if you're willing to take on a scary task to keep moving forward, and commit to it.

Anyway.  I've been thinking a lot about the impact a decision to walk away could have, vs a decision to stick with something.  I haven't come to any strong conclusions, other than I tend to majorly over-think things when I'm avoiding a decision...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Braided Vortex Bun

I've always loved vortex buns.  There's just something about them that always had a high "wow" factor for me.  However, when you combine my inability to use bobby pins with my already slippery hair, you get a recipe for repeatedly failing at creating a decent vortex bun.

So, I have recently gone on a mission to learn how to successfully use pins in my hair.  This mission has had some sketchy moments, and it's only in the last few days that I've actually managed to get my hair up using bobby pins, and have it both look decent and feel secure.

Today was my first truly successful vortex bun.


feel free to ignore the terrible webcam picture...
I did a little French lace braid accent :-)
I think it looks pretty good (minus the pretty terrible pictures), and it's actually remarkably comfortable.  The pins aren't stabbing me, it feels secure, and it distributes the weight of my hair across the entire back of my head.  Triple win!

Not to mention the fact that this bun is HUGE!  Seriously, the thing is massive.

I made a small French lace braid on the right side of my head, then did a ponytail base with all of my hair.  Split the ponytail in three, english braided one of the pieces with the accent braid as one section, and rope braided the other two sections.  Then made the vortex bun from there.

You can't really see the fact that there is an English braid (which contains another English braid - BRAIDCEPTION) in the mass of rope braiding, but it is there, I promise.

Methinks I'm entirely too excited about this...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Synesthesia - "Seeing Sound"

I take forever to buy binders and notebooks for school.  Not because I don’t know what I need, but because I have to get the exact right color for any given subject, or I will not be able to focus properly for the rest of the year...I wish I was kidding.

A lot of people color-code things, including their school subjects.  But most of them can use arbitrary colors.  However, I’ve never been able to do that, because for me, I literally “see” my classes as colors.

Let me explain.

I “see” certain sounds as colors.  Primarily, words and musical tones.  The word “science” is teal, a C# minor chord is a bright, warm magenta, and one of my cats “meows periwinkle”.  These color responses also have texture, opacity, and shape in three dimensions, and some of them become so abstract and complex that I literally cannot describe them to another person.

This sort of cross-sensory response is a form of something called synesthesia

Synesthesia is a coming together of the senses - instead of simply hearing sound, a person might also “see” the sound.  Essentially, it’s a neurological “cross-wiring” between the senses, that causes a stimuli for one sense to also trigger a response in another.

The most common form is called “grapheme to color synesthesia” and it involves associating colors to letters and/or numbers.  Someone with this type will look at a plain, black number 3, but instead of seeing it in black, they’ll see it in yellow, or purple, or whatever color their mind connects to it.  

Other types of synesthesia can involve “smelling a sound”, or “feeling a sight.”  I don’t have any of these types, mine is purely auditory, so I have a much harder time explaining it, but there’s good information out there for anyone who is interested.

The first time I heard about the idea of synesthesia was when I was watching a documentary on composers, and the narrator was explaining how the composer Jean Sibelius had sound -> color synesthesia (what I have), and supposedly had a room for every key, each of which was painted the color he saw for each key.  They listed off some of these colors, and it was decidedly unpleasant for me because his color associations were totally different from mine.

I don’t really consider myself “fully synesthetic” because my responses tend to be very “behind the scenes” in my head - I sometimes have to consciously pay attention to them, and they aren’t always totally consistent.  The “color” of a key may change slightly depending on the instrument it’s being played on, or sometimes even the style.  Words will change color when different people say them sometimes, as some peoples voices actually elicit a response for me.  

Still, I do experience these responses, and with enough strength and consistency that I can notice them in everyday life.  Whereas most people only take a passing interest in color, for me, if there is any sort of audio component, the color has to match that - and I think it’s fascinating that there is a neurological basis for this.

So, essentially, I have a scientific reason for taking an eternity to select the exact right color of notebook.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge

A short little bit of flash fiction, inspired by a writing challenge prompt from Chuck Wendig over at  It's very different from what I'd normally write, but I haven't written in a while and really miss it, so I'm just going to go for it :-)

Don't Talk to the Dead

Everyone knew talking to the dead was a bad idea.  

It always ended up creating all manner of messes for the rest of the world to deal with.  The riddles the dead would weave…people knew better than to listen to them anymore.  If Osama Bin Ladin hadn’t thought he was following his ancestors plans, he probably never would have become a radical.  Hitler wouldn’t have become an elitist.  Hell, most serial killers start off by listening to the whispers of the dead.

That said, a lot of people were willing to break their rules to carry out the wishes of a lost loved one.  Only problem was, quite often, they didn’t realize that the echoes people left behind weren’t really them anymore.  Just the worst of them would remain, the parts they wanted to leave behind and never think about again.  Their darkest secrets, their worst desires, their most wild, inappropriate thoughts.  Remnants weren’t human anymore.  Just a concentration of evil, all their former goodness stripped away forever.

Cory already knew all this.  Knew it better than most people, in fact.  Not many people were willing to study old messages from the dead as a career, let alone be insane enough to actively attempt to communicate with them.  Cory had been deliberately talking to the dead for the better part of six years now, carefully recording each interaction, extensively analyzing every aspect of what the dead would say.

Granted, some of these conversations were more significant, and traumatic, than others.

He’d talked to his “grandfather” a total of twelve times now.  Each time was more difficult than the last.  Even though Cory knew, logically, that the man talking to him wasn’t really his grandpa anymore, it was impossible to completely dissociate the evil remnant from the kindly, world-wise man Cory had known.  

The first time they’d spoken, he’d told Cory to kill a judge.  He’d said the man had murdered more than one criminal to keep them from revealing his many affairs. Cory, obviously, hadn’t done it.  Truthfully, he didn’t believe any facts he got from the dead.  They were all spinning their own, manipulative stories, not to mention that their memories were skewed by how little of their original self was left.

Still, every time he spoke to his “grandfather” and the man wondered why Cory wasn’t doing as he’d been told, it got harder.  Having the man who raised you, the man you respected above all others, being disappointed in you was never easy, and Cory still hadn’t managed to totally separate this remnant from his grandpa.

The longer you talked to a specific remnant, the harder it got.  All the research said it.  And, by all accounts, no one who spoke to the same one thirteen times had managed to evade either ending up in a psychiatric facility, attempting to kill someone, or committing suicide.

Because that was what the dead did.  They tried to get more people to join them.