28 September 2007

How World Peace Is Ruining My Life

There's a lot I could discuss about the UN General Assembly that was held this past week. The controversial Ahmadinejad speech at Columbia University: Should they have invited him? Having invited him was it appropriate for PresBo to excoriate him in his opening remarks? The anti-George Bush protests: Can activism ever be effective when the movement doesn't have a leader with the oratory skills to whip up a crowd? The stupid-ass global warming meeting W held in DC when all the other world leaders, not to mention President Clinton and his gang of billionaires, were meeting about it in New York: no comment. The Senagalese president: Why didn't he honor his commitment to meet with a group of Senagalese citizens living in Harlem?

But those are questions for another blog. This is about me, and my pain.

What I want to know is not why security has to be such that the stretch of Lexington Avenue from the mid-50s through the mid-40s has to be barricaded and surrounded by police, funneling vehicles through one lane and diverting all east-west traffic to my street -- after all, there are world leaders staying in those hotels, any one of whom could be the target of an assassination attempt (except maybe Norway's Jens Stoltenberg; no one would want to hurt the leader of the most peaceful country in the world, right?), so while it inconvenienced me greatly, I can let it go and think of the greater good it's serving.

No, the worst of it was this: our cable television was out last night, and when I called Time Warner to find out whether it was just us, or the entire neighborhood, I learned that the security equipment in use because of the UN meetings was so substantial that it was interfering with the cable signals in the area. Can you imagine? No television?! Oh, the humanity.

13 September 2007

Saving the Environment, Smelling Like Salad

I don't have much personal vanity, but for my hair. It's of the tousled/wavy/curly/frizzy/ messy variety, depending on the weather, which makes it impossible ever to look sleek and sophisticated unless I pay someone a lot of money to style it for me. I'm constantly looking for the shampoo/conditioner/gel/ spray/lighter-fluid combination that will make it look presentable on a daily basis, but every person who has ever cut my hair has exclaimed, "you have great hair!" as if they really meant it, and while I demurely thank them, inside I'm kvelling.

The perfect set of products may actually be those made by Devachan, a Soho salon that specializes in curly hair. The beauty world is actively hostile to curly hair. Before I started going to Devachan, the "great hair" comment would nearly always be followed by a plea that I should try it straight. At Devachan, they would not only be insulted if you asked to have your hair dried straight, they'd probably kick you out. They're hardcore, but it's nice to look around the salon and only see people with crazy hair like yours for a change.

Devachan is a bit cult-ish, though. God forbid you not want to sit under the low heat lamps for an hour with a quart of gel squished into your hair to achieve maximum Shirley Templedom. Their products, though, actually work better for curly hair than anything else, starting with something they call "No Poo", so called because they don't believe in shampooing curly hair, which they believe strips it of... something... essential... to curliness. I generally tune out the dogma while I'm getting my hair washed beneath the graceful mosquito netting that hangs above their sinks.

But the products are expensive, they come in big plastic bottles (recyclable number 2, yes, but I'm trying to cut down on my plastic consumption), and they're not organic. I don't know if a bunch of chemicals you smoosh on your head for a minute or two every morning have much of an impact on your health, but it stands to reason that less of them can't be bad for you, and might even be good.

There are several natural shampoos, but they're all in plastic bottles, too, and once you start down that path, you're into the "frees": cruelty, parabens, petroleum, FD&C color, SLS/SLES, etc. If you buy a bottle of something that doesn't have this list on the front, maybe you're not really going organic after all, and you could drive yourself crazy trying to work out which of them matters. Plus, they're all expensive anyway.

Oh for the days when I blithely used $1-a-bottle Suave and was done with it.

I work at an engineering firm, and we like to debate the NASA imperative to launch missions "better, faster, cheaper." Is it ever possible to get all three? You can get things that are good and fast, but you'll pay a lot. Fast and cheap, sure; but how good is, say, a McDonald's hamburger compared to a three-course meal at a four-star restaurant? And yes, you can get things that are good and cheap, but they often take a long time to procure or execute.

Which brings me to my evolving hair-care routine. It started with baking soda. Devachan is right that you don't really need to wash your hair. Every few days, my scalp gets a little itchy, though, and a handful of baking soda, turned into a paste in the shower and rubbed through, feels and works great. A big box of baking soda is cheap, plus it's cardboard, which seems a better environmental bet than plastic.

But curly hair can't not be conditioned. I'd read that people follow their baking soda with apple cider vinegar to soft and shiny effect, but I didn't believe it. How could something acidic do anything other than strip your hair? And since the claims made on its behalf seemed too miraculous to be true -- drinking it will cure allergies! acne! arthritis! and that's just the a's -- I couldn't help but be skeptical.

Ha. How wrong was I to have waited so long to try this? A few swishes of some organic acv from a glass bottle (not sure of the environmental impact of glass over plastic, honestly; it uses more oil to transport because it's heavier, blah blah blah), and my hair magically detangled. Once dry, it was softer and maybe even a little shinier than before. And though I used more of it than I probably needed to -- it's harder to control than a goopy conditioner, though I suppose I could put it into a squeeze bottle -- it's far cheaper than anything else I've ever used, except the Suave, and that's more expensive these days anyway. I even swigged a little of it to see if it would cure me anything, but so far I don't think it has.

My new routine doesn't take any longer than regular shampoo and conditioner, it's much cheaper, and it's better for the environment, possibly my own personal health, and dare I say, the loveliness of my hair. Ta dah.

Unfortunately, it makes my hair smell like I've been wearing the salad bowl as a hat.

My fiance said he hoped I wasn't going to start adding olive oil. Oh, but do you know my hair stylist said I should coat my hair in the stuff at least once a week and sleep through the night that way? My cats attack my head when I do it, but it does seem to do something nice to my hair. You don't mind, sweetie, do you? Pass the tongs.

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04 September 2007

Back to it, again

According to a study released last week, nearly half of all American workers are dissatisfied with their job.

However, the study went on to find that only 13% of people who reported making "post-Labor Day resolutions" were planning to look for a new job. I guess we're all (I count myself in the nearly half referenced above) discouraged about the prospects of finding something better.

I also count myself in the group of people who make Labor Day resolutions. I doubt I'll ever stop feeling that this time of year is "back to school," and back to school means getting down to business.

To wit: walk to work every day (this is a gimme, because I moved over the weekend to an apartment exactly one mile from my office, and the cross-town bus takes longer than walking); get up earlier for writing and stretching (not at all hard this morning, because the cats are still getting used to their new apartment, and were climbing on my head at 5am); no more deli coffee (oops; drinking a cup now); go to the gym, go to the greenmarket, go to yoga (I'll let you know); less freaking out, more finding ways to soothe myself and transcend stressful situations (ditto).

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