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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Brain Won't Shut Up

No, I’m not talking about voices in my head telling me to do things.  Don't worry, I'm more-or-less sane.

I just have this constant inner "monologue" happening.  Sometimes it’s actually words, but others it's music, or some combination of things.  But regardless of what it is, it’s always going, and this can occasionally become quite annoying.

I mean, just about everyone gets songs stuck in their heads.  But most people I know don’t have to sit there and feel the muscles in their arms and hands twitching as they “play” along with the song (one of the curses of being a musician).  I have literally spent entire nights lying awake, unable to fall asleep because I can’t stop twitching along with the song in my head.  This is made even worse when I only get some fractured fragment of the music that doesn’t logically begin or end, just cycles on awkwardly…forever.

This can be problematic when doing something that requires real focus though.  Like driving.  I very often have to turn on the radio, because the only way to get rid of the insistent song fragments in my brain is to just drown them out with another song.

Also, I know that the brain does a lot of thinking behind the scenes, but mine seems incapable of maintaining that boundary.  Especially with math and science related topics.  I spend more time than I care to admit unable to focus on my homework because my brain is still fixated on a problem from two weeks ago.  

Or it’ll decide that 4:32 a.m. is a fantastic time to try and figure out how the time travel in Back to the Future somehow worked without destroying all of reality, freak out about what to do with my life, or why Tolkien thought his deus ex machina eagles were a good idea.

These are important questions, okay?  Even if they do temporarily ruin my suspension of disbelief...

But the really strange thing is that, when my brain finally does shut up, it’s decidedly disconcerting.  I’ve had all this racket happening in my mind, either playing music or deriving some equation or something else, and suddenly it’s gone.  You’d think that’d be pleasant, but really it just leaves this weird, empty swirling nothingness that I don’t particularly like.  

I wonder if maybe it’s like when you’re around a loud noise for a long time, and it finally stops but you still have that weird feeling of sound in your ears.  You’ve experienced it for so long, your mind doesn’t seem to quite know what to do without it.

Anyway.  I know I can't be the the only person who's mind wants their constant attention.  The brain is a fascinating thing, and even though everyone's works differently, there tend to be some common themes.

Like a mind that just never shuts up.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Among the Nerds - An Introduction

I am a nerd.  Shocking, I know, you never would have guessed that from the title.  I've always been "the weird kid."  I live in a family of nerds.  I relate to nerds.  I'm a nerd among nerds, and I like it that way :-)

Granted, I'm not a "conventional" nerd.  In high school, I hated math, and wasn't too fond of science.  I use an apple computer, and technology hates me.

No, I'm a music nerd.

I was the weird kid who loved music theory.  I would spend hours figuring out what a chord was and why it was used the way it was.  I'd chart out keys and harmonic structures.  In college, I'm a music major, and I absolutely loved my theory and aural skills classes.  I am sentimentally attached to my theory textbooks, okay?

That being said, now that I'm in college, I have discovered the wonders of math and science.  For some suicidal reason, I elected to take calculus I, and now calc II, for no other reason than because I wanted to...don't judge me...

Anyway.  This blog will probably contain a good bit of rambling about whatever I happen to be obsessed with at the moment.  I may post hair tutorials or other information about hair, specifically for people with very long hair (my hair is about mid-thigh length and I am entirely too fond of it).  There will probably be the occasional post about some book I've just read and feel the need to talk about.  There will be stuff related to school.  And I may occasionally have to talk about how cute my cat is being.

Also, be prepared for me to fall into a state of existential crisis, or start freaking out about how there is no one best answer to anything, or rant about the concept of "normal" when frankly I'm not entirely convinced such a thing exists.  Because that does happen sometimes...I apologize in advance.

Essentially, this is just a place for me to write things.  Theoretically, as I continue attempting to blog, I will start to fail progressively better.  I imagine there will always be an element of fail, but such is life :-)  The point isn't to always be perfect, it's to always do your best.

"Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better."
     -Samuel Beckett