serenissima: banded sphinx moth (beauty/nature)
2012-10-27 08:20 am
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Going shampoo-free: a question for the chemists

I've been doing the no-shampoo thing for about a month.  I cut my hair boyishly short over the summer, and I thought it was a good opportunity to try this method of cleaning my hair with baking soda solution and apple cider vinegar solution.  I was a little apprehensive about the baking soda and used only two teaspoons instead of three teaspoons (one tablespoon) dissolved in eight ounces of water.  What I found is that this proportion is very mild for me, and after a couple weeks I stopped using the apple cider vinegar.  I've been washing my hair once or twice a week, applying the baking soda solution to my crown and then rinsing out, and the only difference I can tell from when I used shampoo and conditioner is that it takes longer for my hair to get greasy, hence the infrequent washing.  (The bigger difference was from cutting my hair short: it reduced my time in the shower by around 66%.)  So, I'm sold.

The puzzling thing, though, is that the baking soda solution actually lathers up a little bit as I scrub it into my hair.  I see suds.  What causes that?  There are no suds in the bottle.  Is the baking soda reacting with my hair oil?

serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2012-08-15 09:10 am
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Two links

First, an example of how our democracy isn't working properly. Reuters: New homes burn faster, but states resist sprinklers
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In Scottsdale, Arizona, any new home must come equipped with fire sprinklers, a decades-old rule lauded by fire safety advocates nationwide. But 12 miles away in Phoenix, city officials are not even allowed to discuss adopting a requirement like Scottsdale's, because of a state law passed last year.

The same is true in Texas, Alabama, Kansas and Hawaii, where in the past four years state governments have enacted bills forbidding cities and towns from requiring sprinklers in new homes. A dozen have forbidden statewide building code councils from including the requirement in their guidelines.

[article continues]

Second, an Ursula Vernon short story: Bluebeard's Wife
She really hadn’t known.

No one believed her, of course. The more sympathetic among her friends said “Oh, poor Althea, you must have been terrified, of course you couldn’t tell anyone.” Her detractors—her sisters foremost among them—all said “Of course she knew. She just didn’t care. Those poor women.”

No one had actually suggested that she might be involved in the murders, of course. Once the bodies had been identified, it was obvious that she had still been in the nursery for most of them. The youngest of the lot had been dead for several years before Lord Bluebeard moved into the neighborhood, so no one could imply that she was a murderess herself.

Still, she’d kept silent, went the whispers, and that made her an accomplice, didn’t it?

She caught herself wishing that her husband were still alive, so that she could talk to him about it.

[story continues]
serenissima: banded sphinx moth (beauty/nature)
2012-08-08 04:40 am
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For the marsupial fans out there

Daily Mail: Orphaned kangaroo and wombat are inseparable friends
Opposites can attract and Anzac a doe-eyed baby kangaroo has become best friends with Peggy, a tiny squint-eyed wombat.

Their unlikely union developed after the pair - both orphans - shared a pouch at the Wildlife Kilmore Rescue Centre in Victoria, Australia.

At just over five months old, Anzac was brought to the centre after being rescued in the Macedon Ranges.

The joey is in the mother kangaroo's pouch for about eight months, depending on the species, but Anzac was abandoned a few months before he was ready to be free.

Luckily he was placed with Peggy, who was also feeling lonely and the two now sleep together, reducing the amount Anzac misses his mum.

Worker Lisa Milligan explained the unlikely friends are comforted by each others movement and heartbeat.
[article continues]

Lots of... cute?... photos in this article. The nearly hairless wombat joey is not my idea of cuddly. She needs a few months and a lot of fur.
serenissima: little red dragon (imagination)
2012-03-28 12:56 pm
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Two implementations of the same concept

I was going to write a post about how The Hunger Games (book, film) is a ripoff of Battle Royale (book, film). But plenty of people have gotten there before me, and as one critic points out, the quality of the later work is a different topic than whether or not it was influenced by the earlier work.
serenissima: hummingbird resting in my hand (trust)
2012-02-09 11:45 am
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Password management?

I'm thinking it's time for me to record my passwords in some safe place, so I don't have to keep resetting the ones I don't use very often.  Does anyone out there use password management software?  KeePass, anyone?  Or maybe some paid software?  What are the advantages over an encrypted spreadsheet file?
serenissima: "You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life." (fortune)
2012-02-04 12:31 pm
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Balance Cards assessment of the new year

Towards the end of last December, [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar posted a sort of read-your-own-fortune exercise using her Balance Cards system. I gave it a try and came up with a result that was surprisingly on target. Surprising, because the answers are considerably more specific than in the magazine quizzes I used to play with in junior high school, and I arrived at a very appropriate chronological order almost by random chance.

My reading was as follows.

Lesson to learn/Message/Issue from the Distant Past: The Engine. Directed purpose. Moving toward a specific destination. Choosing your destiny.

Lesson to learn/Message/Issue of 2011: The Rogue. Preservation of self. Taking steps to keep oneself safe. Putting oneself first, for good or ill.

Message to contemplate about the Present, Right Now: The Guardian. Protection of others. Looking outside the self. Being strong for others/the outside world.

Theme/Message to Ponder for 2012: Family. Ties we don't choose. People we deal with that we were born to, or cannot choose.

Something You Should Consider Working On: The Fallow Field. An open heart. Being willing to let things in. Being open to possibilities and people.
serenissima: (Default)
2011-10-27 01:32 pm
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An Ursula Vernon short story

Because Ursula Vernon fiction (and Ursula Vernon artwork) is generally pretty cool, IMO, and this piece is no exception.

"Never"
serenissima: (Cooking Master Boy)
2011-10-05 09:02 am
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Honey cake

I baked a cake last night. I'd actually put "bake yogurt cake" on my to-do list since a couple weeks ago, because we had a big tub of vanilla yogurt sitting in the fridge from some other yogurt-using recipe a few weeks ago. Yogurt keeps well, and I finally got around to using the rest of it. I followed this recipe, with one difference: instead of 1 cup sugar, I substituted 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of honey, as per advice here, because we had more honey around than sugar and I wanted to use it up.

The result was just fine. I would not describe the cake as "fluffy and cloud-like," but it is moist, maybe a little spongy; I like how it holds together and doesn't crumble much. The honey makes for a nice subtle flavor. [livejournal.com profile] aristeros prefers it sweeter and said I should use a full cup next time. At any rate, the cake went very well with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
serenissima: (Default)
2011-09-15 11:16 am
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American Apparel

"I entered American Apparel’s “plus-size model” contest as a joke—and won. But I want nothing to do with a company that’s wanted nothing to do with large women until now."
My Big, Fat Photo Spoof

Hmm.

Things like this generally don't appear on my radar, but I happened across it.... I don't entirely understand what the author was trying to accomplish with her joke contest entry. Do you? What do you make of it?

"The puns, the insulting, giggly tones, and the over-used euphemisms for fat that were scattered throughout the campaign’s solicitation began to crystalize an opinion in my mind. How offensive the campaign was. How it spoke to plus-sized women like they were starry-eyed 16 year olds from Kansas whose dream, obviously, was to hop a bus to L.A. to make it big in fashion. How apparently there were no words in existence to accurately describe the way American Apparel felt about a sexy, large woman, and so phrases like “booty-ful” and “XLent” would need to be invented for us—not only to fill this void in American vocabulary, but also make the company seem like a relatable, sassy friend to fat chicks.

A relatable, sassy friend who was looking to broaden its customer base after warning it might need to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. And a relatable, sassy friend who wanted as much free press as possible. That’s when I finally put my finger on why I couldn’t get this “contest” out of my head: American Apparel was going to try to use one fat girl as a symbol of apology and acceptance to a demographic it had long insisted on ignoring, while simultaneously having that girl (and a thousand other girls) shill their products."
serenissima: (Default)
2011-08-01 03:05 am
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Cheerios choices

There are now eleven varieties of Cheerios on the market, including a multicolored kind that looks like Froot Loops.  General Mills, why do you feel that this one cereal has to be everything?  Why aren't plain and Honey Nut enough?
serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2011-07-22 10:18 am
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Diploma factories?

This caught my eye the other day.

For-profit colleges sue Dept of Education over new rule
(Reuters) - An association of for-profit colleges in the United States has sued the Department of Education to block the implementation of a controversial rule, saying the rulemaking process was flawed and the agency was overreaching in its capacity to frame such rules.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), representing more than 1,650 colleges, filed a lawsuit in the federal District Court in Washington DC seeking to block the department's final 'gainful employment' regulations.

In June, the department finalized the rule which threatens to cut off federal aid -- a key source of revenue -- to colleges if they do not meet certain student debt criteria.
The final version of the rule is a much softer one than the draft published earlier as the industry fought back the strict rules through lobbying.

The rule is part of a larger package of regulations framed by the Obama administration to reduce student debt at for-profit colleges and make them more accountable for the taxpayers money they get to fund student loans.
[snip]
Context:
Frontline television program about how some for-profit colleges use federally funded loans to pay for students' sub-standard curricula
serenissima: sunlight streams through a chink in a stone wall (opportunity)
2011-07-13 12:10 am
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Swap books?

My brother was telling me about paperbackswap.com.  I see there's also bookins.com and goodreads.com.  Does anyone have experience with these book swapping sites, or with another comparable one?  Which is the best?
serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2011-03-15 07:18 pm
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Shopping for American-made stuff

While I was at my parents' house, I saw an ABC World News series of segments about shopping for products made in the USA. I've kept the idea in mind since.

My everyday shoes, a pair of flat Mary Janes from Lands' End, have rather worn insoles and outsoles. I've only had them for a year and a half and expected them to last longer; but perhaps I expect too much from a $20 pair of cloth shoes? At any rate, I'd like new flats for everyday. I also wanted a wallet with a wrist strap, because toting around a bulky diaper bag everywhere gets awkward. So yesterday I went shopping at my nearest general store.

I'm picky about the wallet, and the only one I found that seemed to fit the bill was a colorful cloth Vera Bradley wristlet. I wasn't happy about paying $20 for a cloth wallet, but none of the leather wallets were the right configuration. The Vera Bradley wristlet was made in China. I let the whelp wander around in the store a little, and he picked up several men's wallets — leather, Fossil brand. All made in China.

Of the five or six styles of shoes I considered, all but one were made in China; the exception was made in Vietnam.  I looked at a couple pairs of baby shoes, too, out of curiosity.  Also made in China.

I've since decided that I don't really need a new wallet, and I can afford to wait a little longer to extend my search for shoes.  It stinks that I can't find American made shoes without making a special trip.  Soon I'll be wanting a couple new tee shirts.  I want scoop neck, cotton with a touch of spandex, bonus points if it's organic cotton.  I wonder if I can find that, made in USA, for less than $15.
serenissima: little red dragon (imagination)
2011-02-28 11:03 am
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An unfinished story, and a meme

I'm at my parents' house for a couple weeks — they hadn't seen my son since last September. Their house is packed full of junk accumulated over 35 years, so I've tried to cull some of the stuff I left here after college. While tidying my old room, I came across a paperback novel [livejournal.com profile] aristeros gave me years ago: Siege of Shadows by Lynn Abbey. I liked the story well enough, but the frustrating thing about it is that the book ends at the climax, clearly anticipating a continuation of some kind... but no sequel was ever written. Does anyone know why? The author has written many books and doesn't seem to have ended her writing career.

Also, a meme! It's been almost two years since I did one. I got this one from [livejournal.com profile] purrzah. It says I have a vaguely northern accent, which I've been told before.

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on Memegen.net

Northern. Whether you have the world famous Inland North accent of the Great Lakes area, or the radio-friendly sound of upstate NY and western New England, your accent is what used to set the standard for American English pronunciation (not much anymore now that the Inland North sounds like it does).

If you are not from the North, you are probably one of the following:
(a) A Southerner who hates Southern accents and tries really hard to "talk right"; or
(b) A New Yorker or New Jerseyan who doesn't have the full accent

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?
serenissima: Huge fish and small boy stare at each other (wonder)
2011-02-09 09:43 am
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Tech link

For Christmas, I got [livejournal.com profile] aristeros a subscription to The Economist. I leafed through an issue from a couple weeks ago and found this little technology update towards the back:  
America’s navy is developing an antenna made of seawater
Apparently, a fountain of saltwater makes a decent radio antenna.
serenissima: Huge fish and small boy stare at each other (wonder)
2010-12-03 03:33 pm
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Little letters

Here's one of the nifty things I came across recently: World's Smallest Postal Service
I want to have letters from the tooth fairy sent to our house via this service.

The woman who runs the business seems to like small things... check out the other goods and services she has for sale, like Matchbox Theater.
serenissima: (culture/ethnicity)
2010-10-18 04:47 pm
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Words English doesn't have

Found this list by browsing the journal of an LJ friend's LJ friend:
20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World

To this list I would add the Tagalog word "pasalubong," which is a gift (or maybe it's a collective plural) one brings back from traveling to give to the folks at home. It differs from a souvenir in that a souvenir is for oneself to keep.
serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2010-10-12 10:14 am
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Pink Month

Last week, as I was shopping for groceries, I was a bit taken aback to see that the mushrooms I was buying for dinner came in a pink foamed plastic tray instead of the usual blue. Of course: it's Pink Month, when just about everything comes in a pink version, sometimes for a bit more money.

Let me quote from my post on the subject two years ago.
What about Diabetes Awareness Month, or Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, which both happen to be November, or my personal pick, Heart Disease Awareness Month, in February? Where are the custom cell phone cases promoting those?

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 329,250 women in the United States died of heart disease in 2005 (apparently the latest year for which they have stats), compared with 268,890 women who died of malignant neoplasms — that's all kinds of cancer put together. In fact, heart disease is the overall leading cause of death in the United States.

Now, I certainly have nothing against raising money to research any particular disease. But if we're going to have a massive advertising campaign, shouldn't it be directed at the disease that kills the most people, or sickens the most people? It looks like there's a start, but I've never noticed heart disease getting anywhere near the attention that breast cancer receives. Besides, a lot of the companies that take advantage of pink to sell their products don't donate very much to research, and some of the products even have carcinogenic ingredients.
For example, the other day a friend of mine bought a pink bag of potato chips. Potato chips to fight cancer? Isn't that a little backwards?

Please don't be dazzled by all the pink. If you want to make a contribution to breast cancer research, you are probably best off simply making a direct contribution to an organization rather than changing what you would otherwise purchase. If you want to give money to support public health in general... there are lots of other worthy candidates.
serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2010-06-25 04:33 pm
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Chronic homelessness and the power-law distribution

[livejournal.com profile] siege just linked to this old article, and I thought it was worth sharing more widely. It's originally from the New Yorker, but to get it directly from their site you need a subscription. The writer is the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, among other books.

"Million-Dollar Murray"
by Malcolm Gladwell
...if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten years that he had been on the streets—as well as substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors' fees, and other expenses—Murray Barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada.

"It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray," O'Bryan said.
serenissima: Eastern screech owl (observer)
2010-06-11 11:32 pm
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Complexities of an oil boycott

The leaking oil well makes me very depressed; I've been disinclined to learn details of what's going on, I just assume that area of the world will be severely damaged for a few generations. It's painful to think about.

But, I'm up late websurfing while trying to nurse the kidlet to sleep, so here are a couple of articles explaining why trying to punish the company who messed up is no simple action.

New York Times: "Punishing BP Is Harder Than Boycotting Stations"
...BP owns only a handful of the 11,000 stations that bear its brand and is trying to sell the few still on its books. So those who wish to inflict the maximum amount of pain on the company are instead putting much of the hurt on the family businesses that actually own the stations.

Just how little does BP gain from its gas stations, besides whatever ancillary marketing benefit it gains from the signs? The gas in its pumps may not be extracted, refined or stored by the company and may just get a spritz of BP additives right before it ends up at the service station. All of this puts a mere handful of coins in the company’s pocket per fill-up.

And the gas that people buy when they fill up elsewhere? Fuel from independent gas stations, grocery chains and big-box wholesale clubs sometimes comes directly from refineries or wholesalers that BP owns outright. ...

AP: "Boycott Big Oil? Prepare to give up your lifestyle"
...Oil is everywhere. It's in carpeting, furniture, computers and clothing. It's in the most personal of products like toothpaste, shaving cream, lipstick and vitamin capsules. Petrochemicals are the glue of our modern lives and even in glue, too. ...