Changing “Home”, Transforming Identity

In a humble car

And arms ready to embrace

My eyes are mesmerized

At a marble statue.

Elevated, separated

From virtue and modesty

The cascading windows and flourished wealth

Laugh at me with pity.

It masks familiarity, equality, history.

As I enter, the countenance of a queen

Greets me with a hint of oblivion, lacking of care.

The blood that hugs her lips

The dirt that stains her eyes

I cannot bear.

From her pores drip coins,

The click of her heels fade the comforting memories

You have forgotten.

Clearly,

They have rotted.

As I break free of foreign feelings

I see the marbled back of the Goddess,

Chipped, stained, and worn.

Her eyes draw me in as if I would have missed her,

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I hear her whisper.

And with an elongated finger,

She points where I shall no longer linger.

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Making Up with Makeup

If you asked me to create a natural, refined look with makeup a year ago, I would have fumbled and stumbled and stammered as a confused and hopeless clean-faced girl. I never knew how to work the makeup, or how to allow the makeup to work for my strong facial features, oily skin, and blotchy unevenness. I kept my distance from powders and creams and colorful palettes, weary of its strange and seemingly impermeable powers, granting flawlessness and perfect complexion to expert users – i.e. everyone except myself. Whenever I attempted to pretty-up my face, it turned out all wrong. I used powder foundation during my early experimental years, and it simply did not provide enough coverage. Whilst using eye shadow, mascara, and eyeliner, I created too much of a bold expression, which didn’t bode well with my already bold facial features. Liquid foundation was either too dark, too light, too cake-y, too much. And lipstick was out of the question. I was so traumatized with my unfavorable experiences with makeup that I instead focused on maintaining a clean face with cleansers that contained salicylic acid, an antioxidant that could reduce inflammation in the pores of skin.

I had watched “beauty gurus” on Youtube before, but back in 2009, all I could find were girls experimenting with wild eye shadow pallets and bold, dramatic looks for dates and questionable outings. I couldn’t find the logic to how products were combined and applied to create very natural looks. Over the years, however, there has been an abundance of daily-look tutorials, copious product reviews, application tips, and an emerging logic to assist those who have zero intuitive understanding of this realm of life. I thought it might be worth showing you some of my very reasonably priced products that have worked for me so far. My collection is still very small, and thus not by any measure comprehensive, but hopefully someone can glean a bit of helpfulness from this post.

Firstly, a picked up this ecobeauty makeup bag from T.J. Maxx for roughly $12.99.

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It comes with three main compartments that hold a fair amount of items whilst staying compact when folded up. I use this at home and hang it in my closet, but it’s certainly a viable option for traveling.

Now I’ll progress in order of the items I typically use on my face in an everyday context. I’ll start with a thorough face wash using a salicylic acid-based cleanser or scrub. Then I’ll moisturize with Neutrogena’s oil-free moisture with sunscreen (~$9.99), applying just enough for full coverage without over-doing it. This will provide the skin with enough moisture after washing the face so that foundation is less likely to dry out and forms cracks and creases. However, make sure to provide enough time (roughly a minute) between application of the moisturizer and foundation for more effective coverage.

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Now on to the actual makeup-y part. I’ve found that using 1.) concealer for dark under-eye circles and acne or pronounced red marks, 2.) liquid foundation for my main coverage, and 3.) mineral powder for setting the foundation and working out remaining creases or unevenness has been the best process for my skin type (oily, blotchy, and acne-prone). For concealer, I’ve been using the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind (~$8.99) in light/pale.

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I’ll first apply this using blotting motions, then will buff the product out with a small concealer brush. I’ll then apply my favorite liquid foundation I’ve found yet, the Revlon Colorstay 24 hrs (~$14) in color nude, in small dots around my face with the same concealer brush. I’ll use my middle or ring finger to pat the foundation for full coverage, and then buff it out with a larger foundation brush.

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My next step is fairly new. With a medium-sized kabuki brush, I’ll apply some bareMinerals Mineral Veil (~$21) in hydrating to set the liquid foundation and create a softer finish.

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The rest of this post is going to be fairly open-ended. I haven’t exactly found the be-all-end-all of eye shadow palettes, blushes, bronzers, or lip products. But as someone with light/pale skin and relatively strong female facial features, I’ve found some colors to work better than others. As for eye shadow, I own a very, very, very old Urban Decay Ammo Palette which has some very nice colors to create a dazzling look without going over the top. It includes some neutrals, some pinks, darker golden shades for contouring, lighter shades for highlighting, and a couple of bolder colors to add variety. I’m sure the Urban Decay Naked Palettes have caught your attention at least once if you’re a Youtube fanatic. All three palettes contain very agreeable neutral colors in glittery, shimmery, and matte textures. Although they do come at a fairly steep price, I’m assuming the quality is pretty solid considering my experience with Urban Decay, so it might be something to consider. If you’re like me and not willing to spend over $50 on this stuff, I’d suggest trying e.l.f. I’m extremely satisfied with their 32-piece everyday palette that includes mainly neutrals in shimmery and matte textures, but they also have plenty of other products to choose from that are extremely affordable.

If you lead a fairly professional work or school life, I think the key in choosing workable and cost-effective palettes is to stick to those that have mainly neutral tones with few bolder colors. In terms of application, I’ve been using concealer on my eyelids before applying shadow to even the skin tone in that area by removing redness or blotchiness, and to form a base to help the shadow stay put on the lid. If you’re not keen on using concealer, you can certainly pursue specific eye-shadow primers to prep the eyelid. Once that’s done, I’ll start with contouring the outer portions of the lid and crease with browns, dark golden shades, and perhaps a bit of black, buffing the intensity with a larger brush afterwards. I’ll then focus on the mid and inner portions of the lid with neutral tones – light pink, rose, light gold, and light tan shades seem to work the best. I’ll then carefully highlight the upper lid near the brow and the inner corners of my eye with a pure shimmery or matte white, which works very fell with the contouring to bring focus to the eyes, making them look larger. If I’m confined to more of a professional look, I’ll skip the contouring all together and apply a single neutral color with a bit of highlight. At this point in my life, eyeliner hasn’t been a companion of mine. As per the strong facial features, even a touch of eyeliner appears too dramatic, but experiment on yourself!

As for lip color, I’ve found shimmering pinks and nudes to work best for me, but again, purchasing drug-store brand products in a variety of colors and textures is a great way to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

I hope this is at least slightly helpful for anyone who isn’t quite sure what direction to approach makeup products. The key to success here is the willingness to try a little experimentation and research, and to not give up in the face of failure.

The Diner Lunch

My father and I were sitting in our usual diner. The bearded host gave us a booth seat with a view of Route 18. Nice.

The staffing is limited as today is MLK day. I believe they forgot (or wanted to forget) that we hadn’t ordered.

My father gets a turkey burger with rice on the side, sans horrid coleslaw, and I a grilled chicken salad. I try to divert my eyes from the congealed balsamic dressing.

My father is relaying his boss’s money-making schemes and ideas as I look out onto the bustling highway, thinking about what this year can offer. Hopefully more than this dressing.

 

Prompt from the Weekly Writing Challenge

My Shortcomings with Knitting and Purling

From the Daily Post

Starting from a bundled ball of brightly colored yarn, she knits furiously. I hear the taps and clanks of the metal needles as they involuntary greet and depart from one another in swift, repetitive motions. I busy myself with a textbook and look up to see a growing patch of knitted wool grow larger and longer from my roommate’s hands. I dart my eyes back to the technical blabber of the thermodynamic principles of ideal and real solutions and think to myself (and to an imaginary crowd of captivated and sympathetic uber-knitters), “Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today to admit that I have regrettably been deprived of a certain skill that turns water into wine, that turns 100% acrylic strands of yarn into breathtaking scarves and Pinterest-like hats. Knitting is love, and I now love to knit. Teach me to purl and I shall clothe myself for a lifetime.”

(I’m sorry about that, I’ve just finished watching The Ruling Class with Peter O’Toole and now feel the urge to dress in robes and take my galvanized pressure cooker out of storage.)

So in order to dig myself out of the trenches of society, I needed to knit. I needed to knit like the wind.

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All of my female ancestors were counting on me. I marched right into Michaels and bought myself a bundled ball of brightly colored yarn and the largest pair of needles I’ve ever imagined handling. Thankfully I had watched a bunch of Youtube videos for point-by-point advice for knit-wits like me. I was never really taught/urged to knit when I was younger, so knitting wasn’t a hobby that I had ever put forth time and effort into.

I was completely stupefied of even the most basic knitting patterns until I realized the objective of adding a layer of yarn via transferring your work from one needle to the other. “Genius!” When I finally got the hang of it, I was unstoppable. I knitted while listening to news, while filing my tax return, while making coffee for myself in the morning, while thwarting off a burglar in the middle of the night, while taking down the Christmas tree. It was effortless and relaxing, but also satisfying because I figured this scarf would turn out just as I had expected it to. Well, 256 yards later, quite a few missed stitches and rough edges were staring at me; taunting and mocking me. Had I failed? Might I need to scrap this and start all over again?

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Yeah, probably. But that’s ok, because I can always just hide this in my drawer and pretend this never happened, right? Right?

Happiness is a Good Product

From the Daily Post

As a student studying chemistry, I can tell you exactly what happiness looks like. From all my research and lab courses, happiness is a good yield, a TLC plate with few spots, an NMR spectrum without unexplainable peaks, an IR spectrum with no unexpected -OH bands, and a purification technique that was successful! One of the most common purification techniques used in an organic lab is recrystallization of the product. For instance, when synthesizing benzil from benzaldehyde, it is appropriate to use boiling ethanol to dissolve all the crude benzil to produce a saturated solution. As the solution cools, the desired product becomes less soluble in solution and crystalizes. Ideally, the impurity will remain in solution, or only very little will co-precipitate. If this process is repeated, the purity will increase as more impurity is isolated from the target product. 

Benzil – Before Recrystallization

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Benzil – After recrystallization 

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Give Me the Prognosis

Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?

 

From The Daily Post

 

As painful and shocking as it may be, I want honesty and full disclosure. 

For the past few days, my mother has been in the hospital for a life-threatening condition, and all I want is to know exactly what those doctors and nurses know. I want to know if her vitals are ok, what tests are being run, what medication she’s being given, what will be performed later on, the general prognosis, and the cause of all this heartbreaking turmoil. If you aren’t too familiar with Multiple Sclerosis, I can tell you that it is one son-of-a-bitch disease. As my uncle so forthrightly said, “She was dealt a shitty hand of cards”.

And for all the honest medical information I’ve been given thus far, I’ve to thank all doctors and medical professionals out there. 

 

 

The electric toothbrush: an indispensable tool for superior dental hygiene, or an expensive waste?

As I sit here gently vibrating in a newly acquired massaging seat cushion, my brain is wrought with curiosity from what my dental hygienist said to me during my cleaning visit (you’ll understand the connection later). I regretfully admit, my omnipotent tooth-father, that my last teeth cleaning has been not only 6 months but perhaps 6 years. How many prayers must I recite to receive full penance for my unyielding dental negligence? As I wince while the hygienist forcefully scrapes the several pounds of plaque and soot and dryer lint and dead leaves that have been decoratively lining and subsequently corroding the enamel of my teeth, she suggests I use an electric toothbrush. I was adamant to ask her by how large of a degree are electronic toothbrushes advantageous to their hand-powered counterparts, but I had quite a bit of equipment securely lodged in the side of my mouth. Therefore, attempting to bolster my personal brushing habits was out of the question. I understand the condition of my teeth were not in any way admirable, but I think that is more due to not scheduling a cleaning in a half-decade more than using an inferior brushing method.

But I’m not here to berate my dentists, I’m here to present some evidence against the claimed superiority of the whirring and buzzing and vibrating electric toothbrush. Below, I have presented claims from two commercial toothbrush manufacturers and two peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Commercial Claims:

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According to Oral-B, ““Brushes that worked with a rotation oscillation action removed more plaque and reduced gingivitis more effectively than manual brushes in the short and long-term… No other powered brush designs were consistently superior…”* Oral-B pioneered this oscillating-pulsating and cupping power technology in 1991 and has incorporated it into its premium power toothbrush range ever since. Recently, it has also incorporated oscillating-rotating technology into entry tier (lower cost) options, like Oral-B Vitality.” The study was provided by Robinson, P.G. et al, and was not meant to endorse or be in any way affiliated with Oral-B products. Other reasons in favor of electric toothbrushes includes ease of use for the consumer. You needn’t strenuously brush back and forth repetitively (oh, the humanity!) because the brush head’s oscillation requires you to only guide it along the surfaces of your teeth. Electric, or power, toothbrushes may also be a better alternative for children or people with arthritis. They list some other features which, for all intents and purposes, do not provide reasonable evidence that this variety of toothbrush prevents tooth decay, cavities, or promotes dental hygiene more efficiently than regular toothbrushes.

Philips designed their website around bold action verbs and pictures of smiling individuals. They claim that “Philips Sonicare believes that good oral habits can and will help maintain your teeth for life” and “Philips Sonicare is based on innovative patented sonic technology. High frequency and high amplitude motions create a dynamic cleaning action that drives fluids deep into the tight spaces between your teeth and along the gum line, which results in a cleaner, healthier mouth”.

See evidence A: an electric toothbrush having a severe myoclonic seizure.

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Empirical Evidence:

This abstract references a study performed by Parizi et al. published in the International Dental Journal. This research, performed via a randomized clinical trial, compared an electric toothbrush (Jordan Power electric toothbrush) with two manual toothbrushes in their efficacy of controlling plaque build-up. Conclusions? The lower plaque indices obtained by the Jordan toothbrush compared to both manual toothbrushes were not statistically significant. Moreover, “The results of this study shows no evidence of statistically significant difference in respect to plaque control, between Jordan Power electric toothbrush and either of Oral-B Advantage or Panbehriz Classic manual brushes in a group of dental students after 2 weeks.” To clarify, when we speak of statistical significance, we mean that an experimental outcome or effect is due not just to chance alone.

This paper by Ganesh et al. published in the Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventative Dentistry outlines a study performed to test the effectiveness of a musical electric toothbrush for dental plaque removal. In their introduction, they reference previous studies on the differences. These studies concluded that the electric toothbrush was not superior to the manual brush. This current study, to briefly summarize the important take-away, concluded that the differences in reduction of clinical parameters between the electric and manual toothbrush were only statistically significant within a 30 and 60-day study period, and was non-significant at 90 days. However, the short duration of its effectiveness was due to children losing interest in brushing their teeth with a musical toothbrush after a certain period of time. Thus, after 90 days, usage of the musical toothbrush was similar in efficacy to that of a regular non-musical manual toothbrush.

I obviously haven’t done any of this research and only considered two published papers in this assessment. However, this will at least give you, the consumer, some grounding to form your own judgement of electric toothbrushes. I’ll stick to the manual kind.

It’s Educational!

“You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?”

From the Daily Post

If by “school” we mean university, higher education, college, etc., then the only structural pillar that I would set happily ablaze as a neo-arsonist and rebuild is the “big business” attitude that many have seemed to duplicitously adopt in the US. They are not meant to foremost be a lucrative business opportunity for administrators and sports coaches and textbook sellers. They ought not be meant to cost a year’s salary or a young person’s sanity. It is a place for education and the opportunity for young adults to build marketable skills and acquire better ways of thinking and learning.

If we’re explicitly speaking of the reformations needed to K-12 schools, I have a few ideas:

  • Make teaching an incentive for teachers: although I don’t believe a sharp increase in salary would be easy, feasible, or economically sound, prospective and current teachers should be respected for the job they do and for doing a a good job. Reward teachers for not just preparing their students for the next dreadful standardized test  but for educating students in creative and empirically-successful ways.
  • Continue to provide a wide range of traditionally academic courses (maths, english, history, science, etc.) for students interesting in university and professional schools and technical courses for students that have less likely chances of pursuing higher education.
  • Expand useful education outside classrooms: provide homework that is not laboriously long and tedious but challenging and succinct. Encourage direct reading from textbooks, classical and contemporary literature, and reputable online sources. Then, encourage them to write critically and think independently.
  • Provide students with reasonably healthy meals. I understand this is not an easy endeavor for schools districts, but students deserve the right to proper nutritious meals. Also, I will not allow teacher and school board members to fraudulently enlist their child(ren) in free lunch programs.
  • Provide schools with adequate funding that will fully provide the means for students to learn and teachers to teach. That means no siphoning thousands of dollars to failing school districts without full accountability to where that money is going. Also, absolutely no preferences should be given to private schools in terms of state funding when public schools IN THE SAME TOWN are crumbling from a lack of resources (I’m looking at you, Lakewood, NJ…..And the state of NJ).
  • Rebuild dysfunctional family structures and communities to encourage learning. This is obviously a pipe dream. But we can’t deny that a lot of problems with failing school districts originate from the socioeconomic status of…yeah, I know, I won’t blabber on with this.

These are all fairly obvious and redundant points for what makes a successful school, but it really comes down to looking at the numbers to see what works and what doesn’t. Numbers don’t lie.

Diner’s Dilemma

Tell us about a time you’d been trying to solve a knotty problem — maybe it was an interpersonal problem, a life problem, a big ol’ problem — and you had a moment of clarity when the solution appeared to you, as though you were struck by lightening.

From the Daily Prompt.

I’ve experienced a slew of dilemmas and mountainous life problems, so frequent and so disconcerting that one seems to invite itself unwarranted before I’ve even begun to solve the last. I’ve rarely ever been gifted with an instantaneous solution as obvious as a cloudless sky is blue that has been able to at once reduce a problem such that is it a problem no longer. My solutions to life’s problems are experience-based, perhaps even experiment-based. Like modern medicine, I’d like to think my solutions are scientific; that I could publish them in Nature or the American Journal of Existential Woes without anyone batting a skeptic eye.

Alright, joking aside (but perhaps not too far aside), there has been one problem that I’ve encountered, and perhaps all of New Jersey has encountered at one point or another. As you plebeians may or may not know, New Jersey is home to a staggeringly high number of diners. This is no revelatory statement to native residents. We’ve got a lotta hash browns and crispy bacon and roast beef sandwiches and salad bars and glass ketchup bottles and tiny jam stands and paper table mats and half-and-half containers … and a peculiar shortage of napkins. Despite their shiny tacky retro glory, I still experience the somewhat earth-shattering and life-altering dilemma of picking out something decent from the menu. I’d classify this as an intrapersonal problem, so here’s my conflicting intrapersonal monologue as I scan the small novel-like menu booklet:

“Is breakfast acceptable at this hour? No, I don’t see anyone feasting on diabetes-inducing pancakes or french toast. Alright, what about a sandwich? Ah, I’m really trying to avoid the torch-wielding gluten demons. Diet menu options? Why would anyone on this life-sustaining earth would want to come to a diner for the sole purpose of cottage cheese and melon? What about a salad? What about the senior citizen specials? I could go for pre-chewed food right now. Screw it, I’ll just get the omelette.”

My moment of clarity in the hazy diner food effluvium occurred when I realized that eggs are perhaps the safest and most guaranteed meal one could order at a diner of questionable food standards. Any scientist could tell you that the answer to certain problems may not always be obvious, but can be relatively simple. I am in no way trying to extrapolate my paltry diner experience to quantum mechanics, but what I am trying to say is that when life gets a bit too complicated, I just order the eggs.