Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Shampooing Less

Some light fare for y'all today. I want to share a little experiment with you, that I'm a month into.

I have really really fine hair. Light colored and long and super straight. One of the biggest problems I've had with it, as an adult, is that it gets really oily, really fast, and it's really obvious. For most of the past 20 years, I've been washing it every day. With a variety of shampoos, trending towards more and more of the dandruff control shampoos because itching and flaking were getting worse.
If I ever skipped a shower I could count on my hair looking like an oil slick and being itchy and flaky to boot.

This state of affairs was becoming something I was not happy with.  I did some research and came across some interesting points.  Modern Americans wash their hair more than any other culture, pretty much all the way back to when we climbed out of the trees. That's great for companies like Unilever, they make big bucks off of that. They make massive profits off convincing people they should be doing this daily, if not more.  I'm reminded of a story my mother told me about her sister washing her hair once in the morning for the pep-rally then washing it again that afternoon before the game.

So what's a gal to do? Well if you're a hippy like me, the obvious answer is to stop doing that. :-D I already make my own deodorant, and now I'm strongly considering making my own shampoo.  I thought there might need to be an intermediate step though.  Just like my homemade deodorant can't handle my stink when I've been eating eating too much processed food, I doubt a homemade shampoo could handle the crazy oil slick that is my hair 24 hours after the last shampoo.

The reason for this, I think, is that my scalp oil glands are like a PID loop. They want to keep a certain amount of oil on my hair, to protect it from UV, wind, heat, etc. Everytime I strip the oils out with my modern shampoo, they freak out and pump out more oil to replace it. Literally rinse and repeat every day and these oil glands are on overdrive trying to keep up with me.

So my working hypothesis right now is, can I wash my hair with less frequency and calm down these oil glands?  These aren't the smartest glands in the world, I should give them some time to adjust, after 20 years of the previous pattern.

The experiment:
  • Wash hair only 3 times per week, as opposed to the 6-7 I have been doing. (M/W/F mornings is what I decided on.)
  • Use conditioner on the bottom 2/3rds of my long hair after I shampoo. (While the roots are an oily mess, the bottom 2/3rds of my really long hair tends towards frizzy dryness.)
  • Do this for 3 months, using the same shampoo I've been using most often for the past 5 years. (To limit the number of variables I'm testing at once.)

The results so far?  Well, the first week was awful. I worked from home a couple of days, and felt really self conscious about the oil slick.  The second week, it seemed a little better. I was able to do some up-do's that masked the mess a bit. I also used a bit of my homemade powder deodorant, which is mostly corn starch, to calm down a couple of troublesome areas and keep things looking presentable. The third week, last week, seemed even better still. Itch and flake were both down. My hair seemed not as oily on the no wash days, I didn't have to use any corn starch. It also had a bit more body since every other day it was a "second day" hair and had kinks and waves in it from the first day hair style.  It's definitely been enough positive improvement that I'll be finishing out the experiment.  Maybe even after the first 2 months see if I can go even lower on the washings for the 3rd month.  But, we'll see.

Once I feel like the oil problem is under control I can try making my own shampoo and transitioning away from the dandruff shampoo and see how that goes. I'll also have to see how summer exercise fits in with things, but maybe sweat and dirt can be rinsed out with water and I can still avoid the oil stripping shampoos most days. Again, we'll see.

On a positive note, if anyone noticed my extra oily tresses, they never said anything. Maybe they just chalked it up to Mom-of-toddlers. :-D

I'll let you know the final results later this year.  Has anyone else tried something similar? How did it go for you?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Why I Won't Move to Oklahoma, or Kansas, or Texas..

The list is actually quite long, of states I won't be moving to in this great country I call home. Some folks might be curious about why. So here's the break down.

Some are for religious reasons. Did you know 6 states still have laws on their books that bar atheists from holding office? I'm not going to fake an interest in a make-believe being just to get involved in civic governance as is my right as an American citizen. So that takes the following states off my list.
  • Texas
  • Tennesse
  • South Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Maryland
  • Arkansas
Oklahoma gets a special mention in this category because GOP lawmakers there have recently introduced a bill that would restrict marriage to Christians and Jews. HB1125, check it out. As in, atheists, muslims, etc need not apply for marriage; so sad, too bad, you weren't needing that status for health insurance or tax purposes were you? Better find yourself some jesus and get to a church. Because, in addition, the bill would bar all judges and other secular officials from performing marriages in Oklahoma. So people who just need a quiet, quick ceremony are out of luck too.  That does not endear the state to me, no matter how many of my relatives are there.
Kansas likes to shove religious nonsense into school curriculum so they get an honorable mention too.

Some are off the list for reasons that are tangential to religious reasons, namely their war against women's reproductive rights. And, no, I don't buy for one precious second that these abhorrent laws are based on safety for women. You want to look at women's safety? Check out the rates of death by botched abortion and note the point on the graph where women finally had court mandated access to safe legal abortions. (Hint: Roe v Wade was decided in 1973.)
Women's safety is certainly not maintained when researchers say nearly 200,000 Texas women have lost access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care, especially in low-income, rural parts of the state. All in the name of "safety." So spare me that.
So, with that little bit of clarity behind us, here are the states that I won't move to because I'm a woman of reproductive age and controlling my fertility is of vital importance to my economic and physical well being.
  •  Oklahoma - Yes, unfortunatly OK tops this list, as it has the highest number of laws restricting women's access to abortion and that has affected the number of women's clinics, making all other health services hard to come by.
  • Kansas is high on this list too, so in spite of its close proximity to family, it's out.
  • Louisiana has family in it, but again it's out. (Plus, they like to elect felons, what is up with that?)
  • Missouri climbed this particular graph in a dramatic way this past year, it was in consideration before that happened. Oh well, too bad. 
  • Texas .. oh Texas.   When I say this state is a war-zone, I'm not just talking about the 100 mile radius surrounding the border. They are waging war against the health of half their population. Texas Health and Human Services estimates that the state will see almost 24,000 unplanned births in the coming year because of the cuts to services.  That will cost taxpayers a pretty penny, up to $273 Million is what the THHS says.  I'm so not interested in joining that party.

(The data in this chart is primarily sourced to the Guttmacher Institute).

 It's really too bad. I wish I could move closer to extended family, there are a lot of them I really miss, but I'm not interested in rewarding the lawmakers of these states. If they are going to pass laws hostile to women, and/or hostile to secular Americans, this woman is not going to move there. Period.

They don't deserve my brain power, they don't deserve my skills or my payroll taxes. They don't deserve my sales taxes, my fees, fines or permit dollars. Fuck 'em. 

It's perhaps a small thing in the larger picture of state budgets, but they are my small things, and I still have control over them, so I'll decide where they go.

Oregon, Vermont and Washington, why do you have to be so far away?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Does it Matter How I Pay the Bills?


Right now I work (indirectly) for a large multi-national corporation. One of the largest. You know their name, and you know the pet food that the plants I support produce. They are interchangeable with any number of other large corporations, producing goods that I largely avoid, so I'll keep their name to myself, it's not germane to this discussion. So why do I work for them? I don't care about their products. I don't care about their brand. In fact, I think the corporation represents a lot about what's wrong with the current situation in America.
The short answer is I needed to pay the bills.

The longer answer brings up my massive student loan debt, my need to prove (to myself) that the Computer Engineering degree wasn't a waste of money and time; and really, isn't germane.

I don't want to do it anymore. I don't want my brainpower to go to a large corporation. I don't want my entire life's work to boil down to "I kept 5 pet food plants running 24/7."  Because, let's face it, a lack of efficiently produced pet food is not one of the larger problems facing my generation and those that follow.

There are problems that I see clearly and feel strongly and passionately about solving.  Problems of food production, food access and food security.  Problems that I don't want to relegate to the 3 hours of free time I have every week. When I find myself doing research or reading, it's rarely tech related, or automation related. 9 out 10 times, I'm researching a farming or food question. Farming is suffering from the same population problem that the rest of the country is facing, aging quickly with not enough young working-age people to keep things going. It's one thing to have not enough automation professionals, it's a whole nother thing for a country to have it's food production experts age out without replacement. Demand is not going to wane for food, and without enough producers we'll end up with more and more of the hellish confinement feeding style operations as the few remaining farmers try to produce enough food for all of us. This country needs more young people to take up hoes and get on tractors. I think I can answer that call.  I think I can do it and make a living too. So I'm going to try.

I can see myself getting involved in the on-farm research that Iowa State University and Practical Farmers of Iowa help organize and fund. Mostly though I just want to grow vegetables. Wholesale is an option, farmers's markets are too, so is a CSA model if I can get people excited for my brand of organic food. Of course, this is all assuming I can grow the food. I manage to largely meet my family's vegetable needs with only the spare time I have between my other two jobs. I'm hoping that with more hours a week to dedicate to it, my output will scale up accordingly. I'll have new obstacles, and I'll need to learn a new skill set as I cross that boundary between gardener and farmer. I'm aware of that. I can't shake the feeling though that now's the time. Social safety nets are in place, I have a good chunk of my youth and health still, and I want to set my family on a path that will mesh better with our life goals and quality of life needs. It doesn't even mean that I have to leave my technical skills behind. Modern greenhouses use a bit of automation, as do most aquaculture setups. Both of which I could see myself getting into. Or tablet/phone applications to help farmers keep track of which field got planted when, with what, cross referenced with expected output vs actual production numbers. Anyway, the business plan has been started. Budgets for the next 3-5 years have been started. I have 3 acres of tillable land near Boone, IA that my best friend owns and wants to grow vegetables on. I have been accepted into the PFI Beginning Farmer Savings Incentive Plan, (more on that in another post.) So, now is the time to DO THIS THING!

But, yes, this will be a change in our lives. A large change. That's sorta the point.  There are aspects we don't like in our life right now. And change is not scary to me. Risk can be scary, and there is some risk here. But, I know what the risks are if I don't change anything. I have a pretty good idea of what the outcome will be if I choose cubicals and factories for the next 25 years. All I have to do is look around the office at the people who have been programming for 15+ years. I'll become adapted to the life of cubical fauna and gradually lose my health and fitness. It's not a hard stretch to see where that leads.

Metabolic disorders have become the #1 killer of adults.  High blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, these sorts of things now kill more people than all the communicable things like flu and pneumonia.

I'm so not interested in going down that path.

Can I try to live my life by a different metric? Instead of worrying about billable hours and corporate facetime? Can I work hard and measure success by happiness levels?  Because it's not the hard work that's the problem, it's the metric I'm currently using to define a successful week that's a problem. I'm one of those people that goes crazy if I'm not working, but it's also become apparent these past 5 years that I go a little crazy if I don't get enough outside time, and time with my hands dirty.

"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.  These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.  Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.  Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free.  For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech." - Aldo Leopold 

It's also become clear to me that I go a little crazy if I feel my work doesn't have enough meaning.  I do care where my brainpower goes, it's not an insignificant thing to me. I place great value on this strong, logical, crazy, creative, never-still brain of mine and the problems I solve day in and day out need to be worthy of it, or I feel like I'm slacking off.

A lot of words since the title question, but the gist is: It matters to me.

Some of you might be wondering, am I doing all of this because I'm a doomer?
Yes and no. All of the reasons above would still be here even if I thought the bright modern world wasn't about to come crashing down on us. I do think that it's all going to come crashing down though.  A stable successful automation career depends on cheap reliable grid energy. None of the plants I've done work in could operate on spotty power, generator power, etc. And since our country has an electrical grid that's old and in desperate need of re-organizing, strengthening and 10 years worth of maintenance, that makes me nervous. Our Civil Engineers rank our grid and energy infrastructure at a D+ in 2013. (link) Why would I risk getting specialized in a field that our country seems unwilling to support? Why put my family's wellbeing on the line by staying in a career path with prerequisites that are a few points away from failing? The pendulum has swung a long ways towards automation; employing fewer people, using more energy and machines to do what hands used to. I think we've reached the zenith though, and the pendulum will be swinging back the other way. I really honestly think we're headed towards the point where human power will be much cheaper and much more reliable than grid power. Automation won't make sense in that environment, not like we see today. I'm not going to stick around to wait and see if my predictions are right though. I'll be specializing in a skill set that won't need as much grid power to make a product, and won't need as many rare earth minerals or travel by air for a successful career.  If I happen to be wrong, I may make less money, but I'll probably be healthier and happier. If I'm right, I've dodged a canonball that will destroy the careers of many a tech worker.
 One of the hard facts of our present predicament is that the steps that have to be taken to get ready for the future bearing down on us all require letting go of the privileges and perquisites that most Americans consider theirs by right. A few years ago, I coined the acronym LESS—Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation—to summarize the changes that we’re all going to have to make as things proceed, and began pointing out that any response to our predicament that doesn’t start with using LESS simply isn’t serious.
I’m pleased to say that a certain fraction of my readers have taken that advice seriously, and tackled the uncomfortable job of downsizing their dependence on the absurd amounts of energy, stuff, and artificial stimulation that are involved in an ordinary American lifestyle these days. I’m equally pleased to say that an even larger number of people who don’t read The Archdruid Report and don’t know me from Hu Gadarn’s off ox have gotten to work doing the same thing. Those people are going to be in a much better position not merely to weather the crises ahead, but to help their loved ones, friends and neighbors do the same thing, and potentially also contribute to the preservation of the more useful achievements of the last few centuries. Still, it’s hard work, and it also requires a willingness to step outside the conventional wisdom of our society, which claims to be open to new and innovative ideas but in practice tolerates only endless rehashings of the same old notions.  -Archdruid

I, of course, have no proof that this is the right choice to make right now.  Nobody I know has a working crystal ball right now.  Maybe in 30 years time I'll be selling carrots to the next crop of tech millionaires and wishing I'd stayed at my computer. Right now, I'm betting not though.

Living boldly is also not being forever strong and fearless. You can live boldly and still have weak moments, emotional meltdowns, failures, self-doubts and plenty of 3:00 a.m. fears for the future. (Ask me how I know.) Living boldly is what you do in spite of all that.
Living boldly is creating your own life in your own way, even if you’re depressed, discouraged, defeated, and downtrodden. Even if you fear — or are downright dead-solid certain — that the whole damn world is doomed.    -Claire Wolfe

Is it really a good time to get into food production?
Stay tuned, I have a post that answers that question too.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Don't Care About "Your" Sports Team, and Why You Shouldn't Either.

Sports song from Garfunkel and Oates.

There are days, when I feel like I'm the only person in America who doesn't follow sports or claim a team. Coworkers look at me funny when I tell them that the only thing I hate more than golf is professional sports, and that my feelings towards collegiate sports are souring.

The NFL, a 25 billion dollar industry somehow also enjoys a tax exempt non-profit status. Their giant corporate-named monstrosities of stadiums, enjoy hefty amounts of tax payer support to build. In turn said taxpayers get to enjoy the bread and circus, I mean the Frito-Lay Championship Bowl Game. Normal Christian Americans, happily devour hours upon hours of this mindless violence. Never once worrying about their immortal souls as they support the Golden Calf du-jour. I know I'm a long way from my Southern Baptist roots, but it seems to me a fairly obvious worship of violence, greed, and fame.  As an atheist I'm appalled by the hyper and toxic masculinity on display and the cozy relationships with corporate entities, which force viewers to sit through corporate-named replays, corporate-named half time shows and then straight up corporate commercials in the many breaks.  One of the weirdest things I ever experienced was watching an ISU game, in person, at the field and being told that the break in play we were waiting through was to allow the tv stations to play commercials. My in person experience was being interrupted by tv commercials.  And ask yourself, sports fans, have your ticket prices dropped with all this increased revenue the teams enjoy by whoring out the naming rights to everything? Nope, didn't think so.

I don't understand the folks that feel they have a team. I want to tell them; "this money-making entity, of which you have no control over and for which you spend lots of money, isn't 'yours.' If anything, that team owns you. It controls your TV watching, your spending and your self image." What do these people get in return? A chance to cheer when one of the sportsers sports hard enough to get a ball in the goal? How does that improve their life?

I don't get it.  I don't care.  I strongly suspect that it's yet another opium for the masses.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Je suis desole

What a shitty week for free speech. Getting bullets to the face for cartoon drawings. Getting 1000 lashes for a website. These things make me despair for our survival as a race of thinking beings.

Don't sit there, dear reader, smug in your belief that these things are examples of problems that Muslims alone bring to the table.

Christians in this country routinely murder doctors, some have been killed while attending Christian worship service.  Christians routinely harm trans-folks, queer-folks, and people of color, in some cases trying to modify local laws to justify their hatred and ill-treatment. Christian culture has embraced the gun culture that's rotting America, with the usual sorts of results. Timothy McVey was a Christian, as was Adam Lanza and probably everyone at the Bundy Ranch. Guns have become a "GOD given right." And somehow different from the guns that every other religious extremist totes.
If your ideas require a gun to defend them, they're probably shitty ideas. Period. It doesn't matter which flag you drape on it, or which holy book you cherry pick some nice sounding quotes out of.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

1st Day of Kindergarten - Rowen

He's going to do great.  He walked in to his classroom with his usual big smile. He gave the teacher a big hug, then hung up his backpack and found his seat.  I'm sure he's making lots of friends, because really, he's never met a person he didn't like.

There's always that worry, did we do enough? Will he thrive?
Here's hoping he does. 
Send him good vibes today and tomorrow. He's out in the big world.  Expanding his horizons.
Go baby go!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fall crops are up!

When I pulled the garlic from my kitchen garden, at the end of July, I immediately started prepping that space for fall crops. Garlic harvests best when the soil is dry, so that soil was very dry. I added a couple of buckets of compost, and roughly hoed that in a little. Then a bunch of water, (the kids wanted to play in a sprinkler, it was a win-win operation.)  Then I  seeded Swiss Chard, Red Russian Kale, the last of the onion sets that were still in a plantable state, some green beans, white turnips and Cylindra beets. It might sound like a lot, but there's only 2-3 feet of each one.

Thanks to a week of rain and a waxing super moon, I had GREAT germination on all of them, and with any luck, it will be a welcome wave of fresh veggies at the end of the season.  I'll be curious to see if the beans will have enough time to produce, they are bush beans, so I only need them to put on that first big flush.

Worst case, they'll shade out some weeds and be interesting from a research/trial-and-error stance.  But I'm betting at least half will give me food. That Swiss Chard and Kale will probably give me food well into winter, they are both super hardy.

Some notes for future reference. No onion sets for sale this late in the season. Keep more onion sets in a dry dark location after spring plantings. That means I have to buy enough in the spring so I'll have leftovers that I can plant in fall. And actually get them into a safe place. I had probably 3 little bags of sets this year leftover, but one got wet during a watering "incident" that soaked my whole gardening basket, so it rotted. One was left in a sunny place and sprouted, then rotted.  Only one was in a dry dark place, and of course, that was totally by accident.

Other food related things going on, include a bunch of canning. Dave has really stepped into the lead on preservation work, but we still work together on most batches.  We've done a couple rounds of zucchini relish. Bread and Butter pickles are still to do this week.  Some sweet corn next week. We've dried a lot of herbs. Tons of oregano, some mint and parsley.

I don't know if we'll get a tomato glut this year, it's been so mild, there are barely enough heat units to ripen anything. I'll just have to wait and see how the rest of August plays out.