Archive for ‘Real Life’

July 20, 2012

Being Superwoman

I am so happy about the buzz surrounding Marissa Mayer right now. She is amazing. I’ve had a massive girl crush on her for about three years now (ever since I read about her in Vogue’s August 2009 issue).  I will probably have more coherent post about the impact she is having in the morning, but, for now, this effusive little post will have to suffice.

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March 3, 2011

Not For Profit

“Thirsty for national profit, nations, and their systems of education, are heedlessly discarding skills that are needed to keep democracies alive.  If this trend continues, nations all over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements. ” – Martha Nussbaum in Not For Profit

Oh so very true.  It’s also as Cory Booker says “you cannot have a superior democracy with an inferior education.”  There is such a huge emphasis in gross profit security.  And many would and will sacrifice much in order to establish it.  Education, and moreover, learning should not be a sacrifice.  And yet it is.  Clearly we, as a society, should reassess just exactly what it is we value before carelessly eliminating concepts and programs without any regard to the consequences.

February 5, 2011

Owing, Value, and Worth

[Forgive me, for this will be a rather messy post.  Emotions are complicated, and it’s difficult for me to discern my own emotional philosophy at times.]

Before I start, I think I should state my concepts of “value” and “worth” because they have such similar implications.  According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, “value, worth imply intrinsic excellence or desirability.   [However,] Value is that quality of anything which renders it desirable or useful.  Worth implies especially spiritual qualities of mind and character or moral excellence.”  [I will always have issues with concepts that are placed on a moral scale, but that is an argument for another time.]

I have some serious issues with the connotations of “owing” and “worth” when they pertain to people.  Perhaps it is because I have issues with the socially constructed term “commitment” as well .  As a good friend pointed out, my greatest fear is to be confined.  Quantizing the  worth of a person or relationship is certainly confining to me.  The value of a person or relationship should not be quantized.  Relationships–at least meaningful ones–are so much more than a payment style of interactions.   I feel that just because I become involved with someone in any manner (emotionally, mentally, physically), it does not mean I owe him/her parts of myself.  And vice versa.  The other person, also, should not feel that he/she owes me something–love and affection, parts of himself/herself, or otherwise.  People are whole parts unto themselves.  Pieces of his/her truth must be freely given.   And I will treasure what is willingly volunteered.  But have an understanding that although the parts I end up volunteering of myself  are given as a sign of trust, the other person is not entitled to the majority of myself.  The same goes for him/her.

Want is a whole other territory.  Me wanting to give someone my affection, time, and loyalty is just that.  I believe that to be unconditional on my part.  And while I cannot predict the future, I can currently say that with conviction.  But more importantly, the other person does not owe me any affection, time, loyalty, etc. in return.  It would be much appreciated if they were returned, but it is not a condition of my own choice to give them to someone.   Which is a rather true statement of my contradictory nature I think, for  I am a major believer in reciprocation.  If someone does something for me, I feel an urge to do something in return.   Because “it’s only fair” as they say.  And I would hate for someone else to put in effort without putting in my own effort.

I guess in the end, it’s all about putting in the work for something of personal import.  But with a mental framework of willingness rather obligation.  I actually severely dislike it when people exclaim “you’re working so hard!” about my academic work ethic.  And I don’t like it any better when it is in reference to a relationship.  When it comes to academia, I don’t feel that I work hard at all.  Rather, I feel that I have a willingness to do what needs to be done in order to get where I want to be in life in the future.  Not to mention, to produce a result that I feel is fulfilling.  [I would normally say “worthwhile,” but I having enough issues with the concept of worth at the moment.]  For this, I believe that I am giving value to my academic choices.  But back to “work” in a relationship.  I believe that to be the compromises that people are willing to make.  Again, my stress on willingness–a willingness to set or shift boundaries, a willingness to voice concerns, a willingness to have frank discussion.  Anyone who I am involved with does not owe me this; he/she must, rather, consent to interact with me in this manner.  After all, promises and platitudes are all good and well, but they are nothing without the explicit consent of the person making them.

The topics of “worth” and “owing” has come up often enough in my life lately that I felt an urge to jot down my thoughts on them.  That and having just finished The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua had remarked that “Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything…[and that] the understanding is that Chinese children must spend the rest of their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud” (Chua, 52).  Maybe it’s some latent teenage rebellion rearing its head, but I vehemently disagree with that sentiment.  I can certainly feel gratitude towards my parents for pushing me to succeed (although, you know what they say about good intentions and the road to hell…), but there is a huge difference between gratitude and obligation.

So there’s my take so far on my personal interactions at the moment.

January 14, 2011

Thoughts on Sex

“Our best definition here is that sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is.”

-Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt

Amen to that.

January 2, 2011

Part of My 2011 Beauty Manifesto – The Big List of Things That Suck

Credit: Earth Take

I feel like that at times: where life feels like a delicate balancing act.  In this case, I’m trying to balance out my product usage to get the most effective, non-toxic ingredients possible.  Along with my current obsession with essential oils, Style.com’s Beauty Counter has some surprisingly interesting posts on green beauty.  One of which led me to Alicia Silverstone’s lovely little blog.  Many remember her as the lovable Cher in Clueless, but she’s also a fantastic advocate for going vegan and living green–not that I’d personally go vegan. Sorry cute animals but you’re delicious–without giving up taste, style, or creature comforts.  A follower of her own advice and “The Kind Diet”, she looks fantastic at 34 years old (she totally looks like she’s in her early twenties).  And I thought it best to let her explain the premise behind her blog:

But that’s not what I really want to post about. On thekindlife.com, I discovered EcoStiletto which is this lovely site by journalist Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff that embraces style and beauty without leaving a carbon footprint.  And it was there that I discovered this lovely little list: The Big List of Things That Suck.  It both informs the reader on common things we use everday and how to make it suck a little less :)  Here are a couple bits that I liked:

CASHMERE

Forget vintage. These days it seems that newly minted cashmere is everywhere: Americans bought 10.5 million sweaters in 2005—15 times more than 10 years prior, according to the Seattle Times, which asserts that the increase in cashmere production, primarily in China, is wreaking environmental havoc. As the herds of cashmere-producing goats grow, the grasslands are disappearing, leading to dust storms and a “plume of pollution” that reaches as far as Washington state.

Where you find it: Everywhere from Sam’s Club to Club Monaco.

Suck less: Vintage, upcycled vintage by designers like Deborah Lindquist, or Mongolian cashmere cultivated by traditional nomadic herders who laugh in the face of over-production. Mongolian cashmere is ridiculously soft yet incredibly durable—which will become immeasurably important when you watch that cheap cashmere wrap from Target start to pill up and lose its shape after one washing. See WOOL.

DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)

Not to scare you or anything, but we absorb 60 percent of what we put onto our skin. And, according to the Organic Consumers Association, the average woman
absorbs five pounds of toxic chemicals each year just from her beauty products. With that in mind, flip over your favorite concealer and take a look at the laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients like DEA—also known as diethanolamine (say that five times fast)—which disrupts hormones and can lead to birth defects.

These chemicals enter your body where they interact with the hundreds of other chemicals contained in the plethora of beauty products that you slather on each day.

Where to find it: Conventional beauty products.

Suck less: Read your labels, and look for “USDA Certified Organic” and “ECOCERT,” which means a product is government certified as 95 percent food-grade organic—zero chemicals or synthetics in it manufacturing or ingredients—in America and Europe, respectively. See ORGANIC (NOT).

FAST FASHION

So-called “fast fashion” has outsourced our $3 trillion a year apparel industry to countries like China, which exports ridiculous amounts of pollution—along with “disposable” clothing—to the United States. According to the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, the United States has established a $35 billion trade deficit with China by buying goods despite the fact that the country undervalues its currency, underpays its workers and utilizes the least expensive (and most toxic) means of production in order to provide the American consumer cheap and disposable goods. Why does this matter? Economically, it’s bad business: U.S. government statistics show that since 2002, China’s textile and apparel imports to the U.S. have increased 263 percent while the textile sector in the U.S. lost 433,000 jobs.

Environmentally, it’s worse. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, when it comes to environmental pollutants in our air and water, the United States is directly in China’s line of fire. “Scientists estimate that thirty percent of California’s particulate air pollution comes from across the Pacific,” said Linda Greer, director of the Health Program at NRDC and creator of its Clean by Design program, in a recent video. “China’s textile industry’s contribution to this soot is more than three billion tons per year [causing] cities across America to be in violation of air quality standards. In addition, “more than half the mercury contaminating the fish that we catch off our shores and in our freshwater lakes comes from China,” she said. When it comes to the environmental impact of our biggest trade partner, “America is, unfortunately, downwind.”

Where to find it: Your closet.

Suck less: If you’re buying new, look for fair trade, sustainable frocks and frivolities that actually support the workers that make them—and don’t pollute the communities in which they were made. We also are interested to see what impact Clean by Design has on participating companies like Walmart, H&M, Gap, Levi and Nike. Clean by Design has set its sights on cleaning up the Chinese textile and apparel industry by establishing business practices that reduce water pollution and energy use to help plants run more efficiently. The logic behind this program, as well as the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, is that if multi-national companies like these won’t pull out, then manufacturing in China must become more like that which takes place in the United States, with accurate currency valuation, fair wages for workers and environmentally conscious manufacturing. By enforcing these practices, the cost of doing business in China becomes more competitive. And manufacturing starts to come home. Sounds good to us.

SUNSCREENS

Chemical sunscreens like PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and oxybenzone are absorbed into the bloodstream, break down in the sun and offer far less protection than their labels declare, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Where to find them: On the beach; at the pool.

Suck less: Zinc (best) and titanium dioxide (better) provide a physical barrier to the sun, and no longer leave you with big white splotches on your nose. See NANO.

While the list is not enough to make me stop wearing leather or flushing toilets, it does make me think twice about where everything I use and wear comes from.  Moreover, I’m glad that she is calling attention to the state of our clothes and the materials used.  I have been seeing cashmere everywhere this season.  And it’s appalling because it is now scratchy cheap low quality shit that ruins easily as opposed to the luxurious durable material it used to represent (I had to search very hard for the Italian cashmere that I do own).  I do not like to the see the deterioration of clothes as well as food and beauty & cleaning products.  So now that my rant is over, check out the blogs and maybe it will make you reconsider things as well.

December 11, 2010

Life and Beauty

Not Washing Your Face at NightOverexfoliating

I’ve been on somewhat of a beauty cleanse lately.  I always thought that I was meticulous about the ingredients in my beauty products as I am about the fabric of my clothing.  Clearly I’ve been mistaken.  Products (of any sort) today are appalling.  And if boys think they are exempt, they have another thing coming.  They use soap, wash their hair, use moisturizer, etc. just like we do.  And guess what? None of it is good for you.  All these products are full of synthetics, petrochemicals, and carcinogens (synthetics have unknown long-term effects let alone the current short-term issues; petrochemicals are by-products of gasoline; and carcinogens directly cause cancer) among other things, but that’s the gist of it.  That may sound like a whole lot of gibberish to many people, but trust me, those aren’t things you want as they absorb into your body through your skin.  So better to address this now before I, along with everyone else, become set in my ways and use products that essentially are poisoning me.

No More Dirty Looks (by the lovely Siobhan O’Connor & Alexandra Spunt) has really opened my eyes to just how dirty the beauty industry actually is.  [Read their blog as well] I really shouldn’t be surprised considering it is a multi-billion dollar industry that operates under its own set of rules, its own product review panel, and its own testing process.  And to be blunt: FDA does jack shit.  It does not have the power (or budget) to regulate anything; not to mention, many of these companies will release these products at will.  They will go through cursory testing for rashes and whatnot, but could honestly care less if there is–say formaldehyde (nothing like a little embalming fluid to make one really feel good right?)–in it as long as it, I don’t know, goes on smoothly.  And most of the time, these products don’t even work.  They are so pumped of fillers to mask the heaviness of the toxins embedded in the product that the active ingredient does not work.  And about that ingredient list…; “fragrance” could mean absolutely anything.  For all you know, it could (and probably does) contain hundreds of chemicals in that one little word.  But worse, companies are not required to reveal the full ingredient list for the sake of trade secrets.  Bull shit.  Complete and utter bull shit.  Consumers have a right to know what they are putting on/in their bodies, and moreover, companies need to be held accountable.

Overloading on Products

[This is how I feel sometimes with the constant changing trends and advice]

I am a chemical engineer in the making that wants to work in the beauty industry.  This has distorted my entire world view.  I still want to work in the beauty industry, but more importantly, I want to change it.   I am extremely angry about the status quo when it comes to consumer products, particularly health and beauty products.  There is nothing remotely healthy about this.  I believe others should be angry as well.  These companies are deliberating taking advantage by catering to our vanity, and we’re buying into it for the sake of instant gratification.   We should ask for better.  We should know to ask for better.  This culture of instant gratification will lead to nowhere, but the deterioration of quality and safety standards.  I want to make better, more effective products.  But something needs to change.  People need to be made aware of the lack of regulation for everyday products we use and what happens because of it.

Now, I’m not the stereotypical crunchy eco-obsessed hippy who doesn’t wash her hair or shave her legs–because for one, I freely admit that I could care less about finding renewable energy and two, because I most certainly do those things–but I do not find it unreasonable to expect more of an industry I love.  To expect more of the FDA.  As in it actually does what it’s meant to.  And to expect products that aren’t willingly contaminated with poisonous chemicals.  To ask for products that are effective, relatively inexpensive, and moreover, safe for human consumption.  Is that really so hard to ask for?

But all is not lost.  There are some brands out there that are conscious of the mark they leave on consumers and on the earth.  REN, for one, is absolutely amazing.  It is a UK based company invented started by Robert Calcraft and Antony Buck ever since Antony’s wife had adverse reactions to practically every single skincare product while pregnant.  They operate under 5 principles:  Right Ingredients, Right Science, Right Product Experience, Right Environmental Impact, and Right Attitude.

Right Ingredients: To make Clean Products that don’t contain skin-unfriendly ingredients such a synthetic fragrance, petrochemicals, sulfate detergents, synthetic colours, animal ingredients, and parabens et al.

 

Right Science: To pioneer new ways of applying the latest discoveries in bio active technology to product skincare formulations that boost the skin’s natural processes of protection, repair, and renewal.

 

Right Product Experience: REN believes gorgeous products can make the world a slightly nicer place to be and make us feel just a little nicer being here.

 

Right Environmental Impact: They try to minimize their use of the world’s limited natural resources and donates a minimum of 2.5% of their profits to campaigns that promote better environment and a better life for those less fortunate

 

Right Attitude [This one I’m typing verbatim cuz it’s good]: We believe a principle is a principle even if it costs money.  We believe we reap what we sow.  We prefer goodwill to suspicion, humor to gravitas, informality to formality.  We welcome difference.

Moreover, their products work.  Beauty magazines have tested their wares for their annual best of “[year]” lists, and consumers have spoken immensely about them.  REN products keep appearing time and time again.  I personally use REN products; I will attest that they are the real deal.  They feel fantastic and keep my skin clear and well-balanced.  I will always endorse REN because of its transparency on what’s actually in the products, its premise of the creation effective clean gorgeous products that make a person feel good, its sophisticated cutting edge science, and its willingness to ask for more of itself as company.

Other approved brands include NUDE Skincare, Josie Maran, Dr. Hauschka, and John Masters (which you can find in your drugstore!).  My last advice is to always look at the ingredient list, be patient, and do take the time to fully explore your options and what you want for your lifestyle.  It can be intimidating to be hit with extensive ingredients lists and product choices, but hopefully I’ve shed some light on the topic.  And No More Dirty Looks should help as well.  Just remember to read up on company premises.  Knowing what they do and what ingredients are commonly used will go a long way in convincing you to trust them.

*All beauty images courtesy of Allure*

October 29, 2010

Rhapsody on Clothes

 

Credit: Vogue.com

 

It has certainly been a while (understatement) since I’ve posted one of these.  I have been so focused on editorials and shows for the blog and chemical engineering when I’m not, that these have fallen a bit behind.  This was one that struck me in the midst of Fashion Month Insanity.  It is being posted now as I have the time and cognitive coherence to post it.

I shop deliberately and decisively.  Any puzzlement or debate does not result in a purchase.  Lately, shopping has been a little less deliberate.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I walk out with something impulsive and lovely: a beautiful cashmere scarf bought at sight and treasured reverently as I caress its softness or sharp black bustier with an unusual V’d back.  And those may be some of the best purchases that I have ever made.

Clothes are pleasure-filled for me.  I touch everything.  Even before looking at price or need, I check material.  Quality fabric is the building block to a quality wardrobe.  One that is built over a lifetime.  Clothes may just pieces of fabric sewn and manipulated into certain shapes, but they are more powerful than that.  They can readily shift the psyche of a person.  People frequently forget that looking good in one’s mind truly factors into feeling good.  So I choose my clothes with care.  An outfit that suits my mood does so much more for me than anything else.

I approach magazines in the same manner.  There is no careless flipping through for me.  No, no.  I devour it: I scan over adds, dissect articles, peruse the editorials, and revel and dismay over chosen subjects.  It may take me an hour.  It may take me a day.  But in the end, I inspect it cover to cover.  And there had better be no torn or bent edges.  It is inspected for tears or printing mistakes.  Inspected for the glossiest cover and most saturated color.  It may seem OCD or anal retentive of me, but this is my trade.  I do not approach it lightly.  It is the world which I am passionate about and fascinated by.  To treat it otherwise would do it a great injustice.  And cheapen the work people have put into it.  Not to mention, fashion is so visually oriented.  With today’s technology and obsession with HD quality, there is no reason not to expect and want the best image clarity.

However, I do not take it so seriously that I cannot have fun with it.  It IS clothes after all.  There’s something enthralling about immersing oneself in the world of the best photographers, greatest designers, and the most beautiful clothes.  If anything, I uphold high standards.  I am an elitist, I free admit.  In a world of instant gratification, I await quality and applaud craftsmanship.  I value creativity and appreciate thoughtfulness.  Should I expect any less?

July 19, 2010

Why so serious?

All photos from Mrs.O

It’s nice to know others are contemplating the ridiculous balance (age old beauty vs. brains) woman must maintain as well.  Noel Duan (aka misscouturable) has written about her acceptance as a finalist for the Asian American Journalists Association’s 2010 Convention News Project.  [See her post here] And as a result her editor for the convention has advised her to dress very conservatively because “that is how investigative journalists for politics, social issues, and economic affairs are expected to dress.”  Now I don’t know about her, but I bristle at the thought dressing a particular way just because others think it is directly correlated to my intelligence.  That may be some residual teenage rebellion rearing its head, but I think that this is a bigger issue than simply what to wear.

Look! Polka dots and above knee length :)

I wasn’t aware that investigative journalists were so confined.  While there are levels of appropriate for work and certain events, I don’t understand how wearing something cute conveys an exclusively frivolous personality.  I can still debate and investigate politics, social issues, and economic affairs just as well as if I were wearing a business suit.

I believe in the right to freedom of expression.  Fashion is just that.  My freedom to change what “look” I’m portraying at the drop of a hat is does not impact my abilities to be a chemical engineer.  Being capable of intelligent thought and discussion is not exclusive to conservative dress.  That’s wrongfully limiting people who choose to care about art, culture, and fashion.  People are perfectly capable of caring about both substance and style.

Flowers and metallics

Now, I’m not saying to have at it with the leather miniskirt and 6 inch heels at work or convention.  However, I can still be taken seriously while wearing a polka-dotted corset bubble skirt.  Take a look at Michelle Obama.  She’s an excellent lawyer in her own right and yet manages to pull off high fashion with aplomb.  No one would say that we could not take her seriously.  She wears Jason Wu and Isabel Toledo with great flair and grace.  And color! Polka dots, prints, ruffles….Or take a look at Nancy Pelosi.  She wore an excellent purple (with matching purple pumps!) on the day of the decision on Health Care.

So let’s let go of those archaic notions that we can’t have it all ok?  With so many excellent role models, we know better than to believe having a flair for fashion denotes inferior intelligence or lack of seriousness.  Being serious about one’s ambition and career does not directly equate to conservative or uncaring of the way one looks either.  Because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to look good?  I do not mean that you have to overly care about the way you look, but looking polished and put together never hurt anyone.  It makes you feel good.  So go ahead and wear your ruffles and your prints.  Just don’t mistake the office/boardroom/convention for the club and it should be fine.  Be creative and be smart.  Because you can have it all.

June 5, 2010

Summer Precipice

I am comfortable

from my perch

of fading sunlight

and flickering cloud.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Exams are calling

and yet,

the world feels still

and distant,

as I watch

Dusk ascend.

March 22, 2010

Fashionable Contemplation

Now that I have some time I thought that I’d ponder about the subject I talk about constantly: fashion.  Although I am a bit sleepy…you have been forewarned about my state of being [part of it was written in the midst of fashion month; mainly the intro].

L-R: Stella McCartney, Haider Ackermann

What is fashion? And style?  Do they always coincide? I somehow think that style and fashion have become congruous in most people’s minds but they certainly don’t always coincide.  Fashion is a world I love and yet don’t fully understand.  I suspect that the industry insiders themselves don’t even fully grasp it.  However, that’s what makes it so exciting.  It is both definable and undefinable.  And in an age where the latest news tend to break on twitter and bloggers reign, it is even more undefinable.  I agree with Coco Chanel in that fashion is something that is fleeting while style always remains.  Because if one were to think about it, essentially fashion has a shelf life of 3 months-give or take- if one were to follow every single collection with: pre-fall, autumn/winter, resort, couture (both seasons), spring/summer.  And it’s always off.  Fashion always sets its sights into the future on what will be the next hit.  But there’s more to it.  I will not bore you with the tireless argument on the frivolity of the fashion industry (it IS clothes after all) or whether fashion = art (it is! so there! :P).  In the end, it still comes back to us as a consumer.  Even those who attempt to live “beyond” it or without it are living in it.  They just settle into denial instead.   But that is a debate for another time.

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