Monthly Archives: June 2011

Big Hair

If Schwarzkopf brings out a volumizer spray, they can probably call it Arnold Schwarzkopf.

Troll In The Smithy

Trolls rush in where intelligent readers fear to tread.

Marvin’s World: My Daily (And Nightly) Health Nags

And now that I’m a self-confessed Android junkie, I’ve progressed from games to the other delights that the Market offers. Out of curiosity, I went looking for what this ‘techy’ bazaar had to specially offer a woman. I was hit by a barrage of menstrual-cycle linked apps. Of course, a mobilephone is a daily companion and who knows the value of a calendar better than a woman who has to figure out clothing, commute, food, grooming and schedule by predicting her body’s cycle?

Of the apps I looked at, WomanLog Calendar appealed the most to me. The app begins with a 5-step process (of which 2 are the ‘Welcome to this app’ and the ‘Congratulations, you’re in!’ announcements). The only really key part of this process is step 2, where you enter your average menstrual cycle length and the average length of your period, both in days. After that, you pick the beginning day of the week, set language and you’re done.

The app then opens up into a pink * cringe at the stereotyping* calendar. You enter your period cycle by clicking on a date, which takes you to a push-button screen. Here you can select the start & end dates. In addition you can also include details such as birth control pill consumption, Basal Metabolic Temperature (BMT), sexual activity, weight and notes. Other features include charts tracking weight and temperature.

Thoughtfully, a password-protect feature has also been provided to keep those prying eyes (or fingers) away from such intimate details. This is particularly interesting since a mobilephone is open to far more scrutiny and non-secure access than a computer.

Once I got over the pinkness of this app, I realised it was probably a must-have addition to Marvin. I’ve just added it so I can’t tell how good the charting will be, as yet but I see no reason they shouldn’t work right. The paid version, WomanLog Pro Calendar also lets one enter mood, cervical mucus (presumably to track infections) and provides notifications, which sound like great features to add to an already decent app.

WomanLog Calendar is a product of Pro Active App and is available for download in the Android Market and the iPhone App Store.

I haven’t been particularly health-conscious but the past few years have made me painfully aware that I’m not a teenager anymore. I spend most weekends catching up on a massive sleep debt accumulated during the week. The Android Market had something to say on this.

SleepBot Tracker Log sounded like it would be a stern mommy-figure type, wagging its finger in admonition at the unhealthy lifestyles of today. But instead, it turned out to be a sensible, easy-to-use app for the sleep-deprived advanced smartphone user segment of today. On installing the app, the first thing you can do is take a Sleep Debt Index Quiz, which looks at how sleepy you are likely to get in the afternoons, during phone conversations, commuting and other such drowsiness-striken situations. Based on this, you are given a Sleep Debt Index which tells you how sleep-deprived you are.

You use the app to track your sleeping patterns by clicking ‘Sleep’ when you fall asleep and ‘Wake up’ when you do. Alternately, you can also manually input the times of these two events. SleepBot logs the hours slept & napped and tracks the sleep debt you accumulate. You can change the settings to reflect what you think is optimal sleep amount for you.

Over time, the app graphs your sleep records to show you the fluctuations in your cycle. Other features include auto-flight mode (avoid calls in sleep), auto-silence during sleep, WiFi off when sleep button pushed, idle threshold (to determine when sleeping) and sleep/wake reminder text.

There is also a wealth of handy somna-related resources such as a Caffeine Content Chart, Sleep-inducing foods and a Bedside Necessities list. SleepBot also offers information on the nature of Sleep Debt, Sleep Disorders, Diagnostic tests and associated health problems. And finally, it offers quick tips on sleeping well.

All in all, SleepBot feels like a comprehensive sleep-related app and a very relevant one for the typical target user of smartphone. SleepBot Tracker Log is a product of SleepBot and is available for download in the Android Market.

Simi Garewal Selects India’s Most Desirable – Tacky & SpoofWorthy

Oh my god, Simi selects India’s Most Desirable….really? I wasn’t a regular viewer of her earlier show Rendezvous with Simi Garewal (actually, I don’t know anybody who will admit to being so) but I had seen a couple of episodes, not to mention the (debatably more successful) MTV spoof, Semi Girebaal.

I was curious (yes, bite me) about how this one was going to be different. Besides the promos have been hitting me left, right and center over Star World. This week’s episode with Siddhartha (pronounce the ‘a’) Mallya seemed to suggest that the young heir to the UB empire was a bit of a cad. I’m not sure whether Simi took a dislike to the lad or whether the show’s organizers did that to up the TRPs. I actually watched the program and was appalled how a convenient scene cut-and-paste could change the context altogether.

The episode was rather insipid actually. Sid Mallya doesn’t seem to have great screen presence but in any case, he isn’t a performer so I don’t see why he needs it. On the other hand, he did come across as a rather sensible and focussed young man (well, from what I could gather from the show), which rather unfortunately casts the show in rather poor light for positioning his first ever talk show as so.

I’m rather surprised to find that the look and feel of India’s Most Desirable is tacky and outdated. The lights are too bright and glaring, the sets remind me of the sidey gameshows of the early satellite TV days, so popularized by Zee TV (Tol Mol Ke Bol, anybody?). I’m guessing the show wanted to appeal to a younger segment so decided to chic it down and cool it up. The effort falls flat on its face, I’m afraid.

Simi Garewal’s frozen smile that never reaches her eyes is cringeworthy, not entertaining. This is neither as sensational as a Jerry Springer, nowhere as relatable as an Oprah, not even as aspirational as Karan Johar.

Doesn't that look like she's sticking a gun into Deeps?

And finally, the guests. Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Siddhartha Mallya and Sonakshi Sinha don’t surprise anyone by being on this list. But the toadying up to Simi (“You are the epitome of class” has been uniformly echoed by every guest so far) one can do without. But I guess being bullyed by Banshee Aunty and then having their parents simper over what perfect children they were, can kill anybody’s mojo.

In terms of guests, host and decor, India’s Most Desirable leaves only one thing to be desired – CHANGE THAT CHANNEL!

* I wouldn’t be averse to another Cyrus spoof of this, though. India’s most demented, perhaps? 🙂

Ideamarked Jun2011: Conspiracy Theories, eGadgets & Hakoba

Mid-month, I had coffee with two digital agency people to discuss the Indian blogosphere and the nature of content. On one hand, I’m delighted that the world is waking up to the thought that blogs are not just lunchtime amusement for the bored employee or the lovestruck teenager. With attention, I’m hoping will come the respect that any creator of original content deserves. On the other hand, it’s something that did come out of my own bored/frustrated moments, a diarying habit on multivitamins. It’s still curious to know that something that grew out of a personal quirk is now worthy of a distinctive opinion and even space.

But blogs, being reflections of people and their sentiments, must keep evolving as do their owners. While over at XX Factor, I’m moving to a more balanced perspective on relationships, men and such things, here at The Idea-smithy, I’ve gone back to my roots. Aside from my commissioned posts, the announcements of posts and press, I’ve also been posting snippets, stray thoughts and sundry commentary. I don’t know if you, my readers will like it or not but for now, this is me. Have a lovely monsoon!

  • How To Deal With Bullying & Harassment In The Workplace‘: Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any support systems legal or union. But it still helps to know that this happens and that it is wrong. (via Hubpages)
  • One for the foodies, if you’re wondering how to add that authentic East-Indian flavour to your vindaloo. (via East Indian Masalas, link courtesy Phyrodite)
  • If you’ve been a victim of unacknowledged praise (imitation, copycats, yada yada yada), Tynt might have a solution for you. The article reviews the product and offers some handy suggestions. (via Makeuseof, link courtesy Kirti Kapoor)
  • A Technophobe Unravels The Android Tapestry“:’Marvin’, my Android, showed up on Yahoo! Recommendations with an app-review!
  • 10 Classic Indianisms: Doing the needful and more“: As Indians we take zero pride in our identity. When we comprise 1/6th of the world’s population and godaloneknows how much of the English-speaking group, why is our usage ‘wrong’? (via CNNGO)
  • A person’s attitude to reading depends on the books they’ve experienced, especially early in life. Meet some of my childhood friends in “10 Great Vacation Reads For Children” (via FriendsofBooks)
  • E Vestigio came back to life with a poetic bit of writing, in silence.
  • Cracked was my favorite guilt-reading for this month: “10 mind-blowing Easter eggs hidden in music albums” (those mind-screwing musicians, them!), “7 Easter eggs in words of art(and you thought the Masters were all high-brow!) and “If Historical Figures Endorsed Modern Products” (heh, lookit Dali!) (link courtesy Dischordian)
  • A pretty white hakoba dress and a whole lot of imaginative photographs are up on Purple Peeptoes.
  • Navin Kabra has an existential question for the socially networked world, regarding a witness for one’s actions (via Facebook).
  • The 30 harshest author-on-author insults in history” (via Flavorwire, link courtesy Meenakshi Reddy).
  • “Yeh ladki hain ya ladka hain?” could well refer to the actor singing the song. Oh wait, who did she grow up into? (via Youtube)
  • Move over Sheila Kejwani and Munni Badam, errr…whozzat is here?! What is with Salman Khan casting lookalikes of his ex-es in his films? Catchy song though, this Character Dheela (via Youtube)

Relationship Managers

I’ve only ever had flings with Banking Relationship Managers. They all go by so fast.

Building Noticeboard

Somebody has been trashing up my building. There’s a watchman around at all times (though he’s asleep every time I see him) so methinx it is the cats.

But the committee’s taking no chances. The notice is part request and part threat:

“We request the culprit person that if has got any anger and hatred he should express it within house walls of the wallsof his flat and he is free to damage his own property.”

Marvin’s World: 3 Urban Survival Apps

It’s not just a way to let your mother/boyfriend/spouse/kid know where you are, anymore. It’s your shopping list, your address book, your scheduler, not to mention your status symbol. Marvin (my Android phone) certainly is mine.

I’m one of those women who likes to be prepared for every eventuality possible. Survival kits are like chocolate to me – essential! Just like real world shopping, the Android Market is equally attractive for its useful tools as for its fun stuff like games. These are some apps that are on my front screen for immediate access.

Sun Flashlight

 

My very first mobile phone was a basic Nokia 1100 (“Made for India”) whose only feature was that it had a flashlight. I never had that on a phone after that and I’ve missed it ever since. The number of times I find myself fumbling in poor lighting to read a sign or to open a door or even just find my way to my seat in a theatre, makes me wonder why mobile phone makers didn’t put that feature on more phones.

I remedied that on my Android with this app. Once installed, all you do is touch the icon and within seconds your screen lights up like a flashlight. It’s bright enough to light up a small room and provide adequate visibility that keeps you from bumping or falling.

Sun Flashlight is available for free download in the Android Market.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Fare

 

Any urban dweller knows that public transport is the holy grail of your personal happiness. The only good thing for me about the movie ‘Shaitan’ was a snide reference to the autorickshaw woes of an Mumbaiker. Earlier, I used to keep a fare card (bought off the local trains) that would have to be periodically hunted and replaced when the rates changed. Now I just upgrade the app.

There are a number of taxi/rickshaw fare apps available, by city and features. This one suited my purpose and I rather liked the logo of an autorickshaw meter. Here’s how it works: You feed in the rate displayed on the meter and check the Night Rates On/Off option (since rates increase after midnight in Mumbai). On the same screen below these, the corresponding fare for taxi and autorickshaw shows up immediately, eliminating all awkward fumbling and scrabbling for a paper rate card. Also, because taxi and auto fares both show up on the same screen, it lets you choose what you want instantly.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Card is a creation of Aditya Talpade and available for free download on the Android Market.

Gesture Search

And finally, because I like big bags and packing them in, I do the same with apps, photographs, music and other files on my phone. Finding the one I want is always a pain, no matter how organized I am. I often find myself wishing there was a ‘Find’ function in real life as there is in certain Microsoft applications.

I tried the Voice Search app but somehow my accent gets results that are amusing at best. Instead, I found Gesture Search much more useful. Gesture Search recognizes images that you trace onto the touchscreen and corresponds them to the names of contacts, images and files. The app also learns intuitively which means the results get better with use. You can imagine just how helpful this is when you urgently need to make a phone call without scrolling through hundreds of names.

Gesture Search is a product of Google Labs and is available for free download in the Android Market.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Hairy Not Scary: Wella Kolestint Didn’t Change My Look But It Sure Feels Good

I think I became conscious of my hair around the age of seventeen. I had survived the big, curly haired dos of the 80s, looking on wistfully, since my own was ‘flat and sat on my head like a mop’. Straight hair became popular in the mid-90s and happily for me, that coincided with my teens. Of all the image-issues a teenager could face, bad hair wasn’t one of mine. My silky, straight locks were suddenly in and have been a source of my vanity ever since then.

I started ‘doing’ stuff with my hair well only in my 20s. I guess I was scared to mess with the one thing about my appearance that actually worked on its own. Rebonding was the first styling technique and it took my mane from the ‘nice girl’ look of hair that contoured itself around the face to the harder, then edgier, razor-sharp look. The only odd touch was that now my extra-straight hair shone so much that it sometimes got mistaken for white patches in photographs (true story, someone asked me online if I was prematurely graying!!).

My first experience with hair colour was at twenty-four. My cousin was getting married, I was going to wear a startling red Kanjeevaram saree shot with gold threads. I figured I’d add something whacky to that look by way of colour. My shoulder-length hair was streaked with brilliant eye-tearing red. I loved it when I went home. But the euphoria lasted all of a few hours. My scalp began itching and burning unbearably the next morning. Unfortunately I was due in Chennai in a couple of days. To make matters worse, with every wash, the colour ran out so badly that I landed in Chennai with hair that was streaked dirty brown with only faint traces of the brilliant red.

Someone suggested using egg to condition the hair. In desperation and deaf to my mother’s pleas to not stink up the bathroom, I broke an egg onto my head, rubbed it in and sat in the smell for five minutes. It was so soothing, I incorporated it into my routine. Once a week, I’d massage some oil into my hair, then coat it with a mixture of egg, a spoon of curd and a pinch of mehendi. It worked wonders. Not only did the itching cease, my hair began growing faster and thicker. To this day I follow that routine, even if the frequency has reduced. My hair is still silky, thick and glossy.

You would think that after such a disastrous experience, I’d never touch my hair again. Call me an optimist there then, since I didn’t stop. Hair, I reasoned was dead cells. It would grow out, fall out or be cut out. But as long as I had it, it would be a waste to not live a little. In the years to come, I tried every length and style I could think of. About four years ago, in the middle of a life crisis, I decided to follow the oldest trick in a woman’s book and change my look to change my mood. I chopped off the mid-length flip hairstyle I had, into a pageboy-like cut with straggly strands down the back. And I had it coloured in four colours – burgundy on the right, brown on the left, shocking red down the front and golden-blond on the back strands. It turned some heads alright, even if it didn’t quite turn my life around.

I haven’t styled my hair other than the usual haircuts, for nearly two years now. I guess even if my hair is fairly malleable to styling, I just like the natural texture too much to deviate from it. Even the best of hair colouring experiences has caused a slight dryness, a subtle roughness. So I’ve stuck to the safe for awhile.

Wella Kolestint 55/46 Exotic Red (with PR5 for an extremely vibrant red)

Nearly two months ago, I was invited to a blogger event at Bungalow 9, Bandra, to introduce Wella Kolestint’s do-it-yourself hair colourant. There was a short talk about the product, its history and technology. Hair consultant, Natasha Nagaemwala addressed questions and talked about her personal experience with the product. The afternoon closed with a free product gifted to each blogger with Natasha advising on shade and coloring style.

A few days later, the advertisements with Bipasha Basu, the official brand ambassador began airing. The premise of this product is that men don’t tend to notice when women change their look but a good hair colourant could really get him to notice you.

The box in its fancy red cover has sat in the corner of my wardrobe all this while and I’ve felt a little twinge of guilt each time I saw the ad air, for not testing it. For all my wildness, I’m still a little leery about touching the one thing about my appearance, that does work. Still, I took heart today and pulled out the box.

It is a 4-part kit containing a pre-treatment cream, a developer, the colour cream itself and a post-treatment conditioner. Natasha had taken one look at me and suggested the ’55/46 Exotic Red’, which was the one I had an eye on too. I’m told that it’s not a common colour since it is so bold but somehow red has always felt right to me. She also suggested that given my face shape, my style and personality, I could go in for a whacky one-side colouring. I debated buying a brush and silver foil to try out all of that. In the end, though, I decided to just go the simple route and cover the entire head (it’s called global colouring). The right choice, I realised after I started the actual process.

Here are some things I noticed:

1. Skin test: The instructions prescribe a skin test to check for allergic reaction but do not explain what this is. For a hair colour newbie, this can be baffling. I had to call a friend to check.

2. Packaging: You’re supposed to mix the developer and the cream colour in equal parts for the colour. The developer is in a bottle with a nozzle whose cap has to be broken off and can’t be fitted on again. This means once you open it for the allergy test, you need to use it within the next hour. That goes counter to the instructions that tell you to wait 48 hours before application.

3. Colour shade: As it turned out, I mixed a couple of drops of developer and cream and tested it on the inside of my elbow. The patch turned red in ten minutes and the colour hasn’t worn off through heavy soaping. But the results are different on hair and skin so this test doesn’t actually tell you how the product will look and feel on your hair.

The instructions also say the mix has to be exactly 50:50 or the colour results cannot be guaranteed. After application evenly, you’re supposed to for 40 minutes ‘or as long as indicated by the strand test’. No explanation of what a strand test is so I’m assuming you clean a strand to check if the colour has caught. The tips of my ears, back of neck and bathroom floor were all streaked red so I assumed the colour caught on really well. My hair just looked like it had been soaped but not rinsed out…white foam settled on the strands. I waited about 50 minutes and then rinsed out with a little warm water as prescribed. As expected, the water ran out all red. After that, I massaged in a little post-treatment conditioner and waited the requisite two minutes.

All excited I took the towel off my head and ran to my mirror to check. My hair still looked the same. If I couldn’t tell the difference, I rather doubted that the boy would. On the up side, it didn’t t feel rougher or dryer. Still, I could get this feel with a handful of beer (I’ll tell you about that another time), an egg or even my simple everyday shampoo.

Two hours later, the hair was dry. I still couldn’t see any difference. But when I met the boy and asked him, he said it looked very subtly coloured. Another friend echoed the same thing. I decided that I should wait till morning to tell. Now, in daylight, I can see what they mean. My hair looks a deep, burgundy. When I stand in the sunlight, there’s a sort of halo of the colour along the edges of my hair and I daresay when it moves, you’d be able to see a swish of the colour.

I’m guessing taking out the bleaching step (which hair salons routinely do before applying colour) means that the colour doesn’t show. Well, burgundy isn’t exactly what I signed up for but it is a lovely colour anyhow. I feared a global head of flaming red might be too much. Oddly enough, minus the four-odd hours a salon would have taken, not to mention the rates (!!), I seem to have gotten myself a pretty classy highlight in about an hour’s time at home. But I’m just wondering that if the most extreme red showed up as burgundy on my hair, would a burgundy or a chocolate have showed at all?

My hair smells faintly (but not unpleasantly) of the chemical. I’d heard a few people wax eloquent about the conditioner and I have to agree with them now. It feels distinctly luxuriant and soft to touch, even though I haven’t shampooed my hair today. Also, I usually wake up with at least a few tangles (my hair is too short to tie up). But this morning, when I jumped out of bed to rush to the mirror, a shake of the head is all it took to settle into position.

Wella Kolestint might want to consider revising their instruction manual to make the tests clearer, since presumably I didn’t keep the colour on long enough. If the product is meant to be truly do-it-yourself, a user should not need anything but the instructions to reach the promised result. Also, if the low colour intensity is something other users are seeing, maybe it’s back to the drawing board for Wella Kolestint. Keep the good conditioning, up the colour!

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The product was a free blogger PR sample. This review is based on my experience. I used Wella Kolestint 55/46 Exotic Red. The pack is adequate for a one-time global colouring.

Related Links:

Wella Kolestint on Social Media: Twitter, Facebook

Other blogger accounts:

Cross-posted to Divadom

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