Becoming Less Clueless: Clothing

There has long been a disparity in my life between the clothes I wear, the clothes I like, and the aesthetic that I want to fulfill. For most of my life, the Venn diagram of these things would be three circles with no overlap of which to speak. Now, I’ve been working on closing that gap.

I think the first problem is that I don’t really do seasonal clothing. I wear long sleeves in the middle of summer and sweaters all year round. I love sweaters. I have a drawer filled with them. Precisely zero of them are even remotely flattering. There is a time and place for giant sweaters, but there is not really a time and place for the sweaters that have nothing going for them but a pretty colour.

I am oddly shaped and nothing fits. I’m not short, but I’m definitely not tall, either. My torso is disproportionately long, and for whatever reason, most button up blouses look ridiculous on me. This below is one of the few that doesn’t:515540f2-b34d-465c-bb8a-0f37fd8dc03b

The colour, material, and drape of this shirt make it way less awkward looking than most dress shirts, so I keep it around, but still isn’t exactly flattering. So if I lean away from stuff like that and more to stuff like the next picture, I get closer to my preferred aesthetic:

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Clean lines, nothing too flamboyant. Lately, I’ve been tending towards blacks and creams, and I think it looks pretty good. I don’t really have many full body shots, so I can’t show how a lot of the stuff I’ve been trying looks overall, but that’s the general vibe – simple and clean.

I like the idea of short dresses and such – as my mom says, the time for skimpy clothing is now. However, then I’d have to put on sunscreen on my whole body and not just my face, and I’m just not that level of motivated. Plus, I’m super self conscious, and I feel weird about my knees. That being said, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to not get heatstroke:

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I’m also a big fan of suits. By which I mean, I like the aesthetic on other people, but when I try, I look ridiculous.

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Oddly enough, as silly as it looked with the jacket and all, that’s actually my favourite blouse! It’s simple enough to be versatile, and it’s got fun, kinda billowy sleeves! Which you can’t see in the next picture, I just like the way my face looks in it.

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Verdict: The rules are made up, no one cares, you can justify literally anything you put on your body, and people should just wear whatever they damn well please.

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Becoming Less Clueless: Makeup

I have a number of things I’m reasonably good at: programming, machining, babbling about random topics that no one cares about. I also have a number of things that I don’t know jack about. So this will be the first in what I hope will become a series of posts about my attempts at becoming marginally less clueless about the very many things I know very little about. Let’s talk about makeup.

Makeup goes back to ancient Egypt. And historical makeup – and other beauty products and practices – was horrifyingLead. Arsenic. Crushed insects. Mercury. Nightshade. Radium. Jesus Christ. There are plenty of dangerous beauty practices and products that are still in use today – detox tea and dietary supplements, anyone? None of this is FDA approved! – and I’m certainly not going to argue against the fact that the expectations of women in terms of appearance are absurd, sexist, and dangerous both physically and psychologically. However, since today’s cosmetics are far, far less likely to literally kill you than those in 1700s England, I’m much more willing to approach using them as a valuable skill that I should be familiar with. So onwards, to what I’ve learned.

I don’t really do makeup. Not well or often. When I was in like eighth grade, my sister got me this eyeshadow palette with like thirty colours, so I tried some weird colourful looks for a while. And I used to do dance, which involved big dramatic eye stuff with bright red lipstick. But now I don’t dance anymore and am at a stage in my life where my attitude is more or less, “I will put in some amount of effort into my appearance if I have a reason to, but if it takes longer than five minutes or requires any amount of attention during the day else I’ll look absurd, I’m not doing it”. What that translates to is that most days, I don’t where makeup at all. When I do, it’s mostly just mascara. It’s only pretty recently that I’ve started using lipstick – and that’s because the formats have become more convenient and I’ve finally started to understand enough of colour theory to feel less awkward wearing it.

Now. Below is the combined product of a Snapchat filter and Nyx’s “try it on” tool.

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Snapchat filters are almost universally terrible. Like, what even is this? This doesn’t even look like me. I look like a white girl with a fake tan, and it makes me feel bad about how my face actually looks, which is ridiculous, because I am a person, not a doll. But anyway, I wanted to see how these lip colours would look on me with a full face of makeup, and I didn’t want to bother actually putting on makeup to get a more realistic impression. My face here looks considerably lighter than it is (also, so is my eye colour, normally I’d go on a tangent on how this is racist, but I’m tired and people more articulate than me have already done that, so I’ll let it pass this one time) so these lipsticks wouldn’t look quite this way on me, but I think it’s close enough to judge the colours and confirm what I’ve long suspected: I really can’t pull off bright. Dark colours work. Muted colours work. But they need to be warm colours on the cooler side. Anything too red or with warm undertones looks vaguely ridiculous. This is supported by the pictures I have of me wearing different lip colours in actuality:

The left pic and the right pic are the same lip cream, but the one on the right has gloss on top of it. The middle is an oil. It looks a lot darker in the tube, and I was disappointed when I put it on the first time, but I think it’s dark enough to work anyway. When I took the right pic, I put on eyeliner at first, then took it off, because it was annoying and smearing everywhere. I’m wearing a small amount of foundation mixed with a lot of moisturizer in the left and right pics and mascara in all three. I still don’t really understand the purpose of foundation. It requires too much product and too much time to cover up facial blemishes that don’t need to be covered up at all. Similarly, eyeshadow – which I didn’t bother with in any of these – looks at best distracting and at worst tacky. I am going to continue not using that.

The product that trying different things with makeup made me feel like I should try out is powder. Not always, certainly, and maybe not even on a regular basis, but my forehead is apparently prone to getting shiny, so I’m thinking I should be using powder to tone it down sometimes, for the same reason that I avoid eyeshadow. I want to blend into the crowd, not stand out. I definitely don’t want my shiny forehead to be the memory people have of me. I’ll have to add that to my pre-interview checklist: folder, pen, resumé, ironed shirt, and non-shiny forehead.

So to sum it up, what I’ve learned from this experience is that mascara is more worth the effort than eyeliner, but a little white eyeliner blended at the inner corners of the eyes really does help you look less asleep on your feet; lip creams are the best form of lip colour; and I should start powdering my forehead at times when I have to be across from someone for a prolonged period of time. Overall verdict: Makeup is annoying and I will continue not using it much, but a couple products used once in a blue moon will surprise the people that know you by reminding them how good you look if you decide to put some effort into it.

Laptop Struggles: A Life Update

You know what’s not pleasant? Laptop troubles. You know what’s even more unpleasant than laptop troubles? Laptop troubles with a laptop you only bought a month ago.

My computer decided to start acting up a couple weeks ago, just after I bought it. It was usable, but barely – there were weird pixel issues that rendered part of the screen completely unreadable. I managed to get through the last couple weeks of the semester with it without tossing it through a window in frustration, then packed it up and sent it to get fixed a couple days ago.

It still hasn’t left the FedEx office where I dropped it off. Here’s to hoping it gets to where it needs to go soon. I never realized how many things I use it for until I’m at home without it, away from campus and the computer labs that go along with that, trying to get things done on a seven year old iPad.

Things About Majoring In Engineering that Always Seemed Like Jokes But Are Actually Painfully True

A repost from my deleted blog, edited with updates.

1. The overwhelming male majority

Yes, I knew going in that electrical engineering is a male dominated major. But there’s a huge difference between knowing something intellectually and being able to comprehend what that means. My intro to electronics class was maybe fifteen percent female. The ratios in my engineering classes since then haven’t gotten better.

2. Forgetting how to write

My sister is four years older than me. She majored in neuroscience during her undergrad, and for years, she’s been making fun of me for wanting to go into engineering and telling me about how all the engineering students she knows have terrible grammar and can’t write anything comprehensible. I always thought that was just a stereotype.

I placed out of the freshman writing and research course, and the writing components of my gen eds up until second semester sophomore year were not remotely strenuous. As such, when I started writing my final paper for my Geography of Globalization class, I realized that I’d begun to lose any writing skills I ever had, a year and a half after starting university. If it’s already gotten this bad, I can only imagine it’s going to get worse when I have even fewer classes involving writing.

3. Feeling like you may have just joined a cult

At my school, the ECE building is pretty much the northernmost building on campus. It’s far away from everything else. It has its own coffee shop and its own store. People are there at all hours of the day and night. Most of my friends are other people in ECE, because for several reasons, despite next semester being the first in which I’ll have more than one actual ECE course at a time, these are the people I end up spending the most time around.

History, Hamilton, Music,and Pop Culture

I may not always love taking history classes – there’s a reason I’m in engineering – but reading about history is a lot of fun. When you choose a historical topic you want to know more about, you get to read stories about it that people found interesting or important enough to document. And maybe that’s less significant in recent times, since the advent of recording technology and the Internet – everything is documented – but you’re still reading about events that shaped the world as we know it today.

I went to see Hamilton last Saturday, and I loved it. I’d heard the soundtrack, of course, but that doesn’t compare to actually going and watching it. Something that struck me both when I first listened to the soundtrack and again when I was sitting in the theatre watching the show was that I was legitimately surprised at how much I was enjoying it. I was born in the US, and at this point, in total, I’ve been nearly as long here as I have in Canada, but I spent the formative years of my life in Ontario. I still consider myself Canadian above all else. This is an incredibly American production – not just the subject matter, but the focus on the individual rather than the results.

This kind of topic is something that could very easily come across as dry, not so much because of what it is – I wouldn’t consider that boring at all, because it’s a significant part of how this country got to the point it’s at today – but because of how dense it is. There’s just so much information that condensing it to a two and a half hour musical would be a daunting task. Lin Manuel Miranda did an excellent job doing that, keeping a lot of important information while glossing over details that weren’t directly related to what he was talking about and having an engaging story that didn’t drag at all.

As a musician, I adore soundtracks – whether they’re strictly instrumental or have vocals – and this was incredible to hear. I had heard the recording of the original New York cast before, so I got thrown off a few times by the different voices, especially the woman that played Angelica, but it wasn’t a bad surprise at all, just different. I haven’t gone to many musicals, and this was a wonderful one to go to. The music stood on its own so well that I never once felt like there needed to be something else going on on the stage.

I’m generally wary of people getting historical knowledge from pop culture. I’ve found that it leads to vague knowledge of a topic, but no more.Of course media and works of fiction have a role in piquing a person’s interest in a topic or a person, but it’s important to read. To question the conventional wisdom, to form your own opinions. To listen to what other people have to say, but focus on the facts and the argument, not the mythology.

In this regard, one of my opinions that’s furthest from conventional wisdom is mine of Jimmy Carter. I think that he was and is a very good man whose flaws included micromanagement and being loyal to a fault. I still think he did as good job as could be expected under the circumstances.

Carter took responsibility for failures. He brought back the confidence in the presidency that had been lost with the Vietnam and Korean wars, with Watergate. He had the courage and strength of character to tell people the blunt truth and not what they wanted to hear. And for all the complaints people have about him, it’s undeniable that he was squeaky clean ethically, and in 1976, the US really needed that. Just like how in 2008, it needed Obama’s message of hope and change, in 1976, it needed the peanut farmer and nuclear engineer from Georgia that believed in the goodness of the American people and had no scandals or controversies to speak of.

I only got this opinion from reading, from being fascinated by Carter and wanting to learn more. His presidency was over long before I was born. I don’t remember how long I’ve been interested in him, his presidency, and his post-presidential work, or how that interest was first sparked, but it’s been years now. I read everything, all sorts of articles, even if I have to sometimes have to grit my teeth to get through a piece of rhetoric that I can counter easily, just to know what people are saying. So many people, even if they do their research for current events and politics, accept what’s generally accepted about the past as true.Had I just considered the image of Carter presented in popular culture, I’d be one of the people considering him a complete disaster. I didn’t, so I’m not.

Hamilton is one thing. For all that it’s a positive take on Alexander Hamilton, it doesn’t gloss over his flaws to the same extent as a lot of fiction focusing on a historical figure does. It was also vague enough to pique a person’s interest without giving them misinformation. In most similar works, however, the writer’s biases come through even more clearly, altering the perception viewers or readers have of whatever historical figure is the topic at hand. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, but I do think people should keep that in mind when consuming media.

Cars, Pontiac, and Good Design: I Miss My High School Grand Prix

When I was in high school, I drove a Grand Prix. I learned to drive on a Cruze, so it was a little bit of an adjustment at first, but I loved that car.

It wasn’t something I really fully appreciated then, but since then, after driving other cars, I’ve realized just how well that car handled. It was very wide, which made it kind of a pain to park when I first starting driving it, but that and its low centre of gravity made it beautifully stable. It handled turns at speed excellently. It looked great. It was a performance vehicle with an excellent design – practical and functional without sacrificing the aesthetics.

I drive a Buick Lacrosse now. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. It drives fine. It’s somewhere between the Cruze and the Grand Prix for me – it’s a solid car, not difficult to drive at all, very comfortable for long distances, but none of the specific advantages of either of the other two. It’s very middle of the road, decent in everything, but nothing about it sticks out to me. It’s bigger than the Cruze, so it’s less easy to park anywhere. It’s heavier, too, so driving in the snow down the dirt road to my house isn’t as scary, but it doesn’t have as low a centre of gravity as the Grand Prix.

GM stopped manufacturing the Pontiac brand in 2010, and I understand why. They weren’t doing well, and it made sense to cut Pontiac loose instead of any of the four they kept making. But I seriously wish they were still being made, because my Grand Prix was a great car and I miss it.

Italy in the Summer

I took these in Italy in the summer of 2012. We went to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and while it’s tough for me to pick favourite vacations, Rome has to be one of my favourite cities in the world. Great food, sunshine, history, art – it’s unbelievably beautiful.

I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of years, what with school and work, and that hasn’t left me much time to travel. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go anywhere until after I finish university. Hopefully, I’ll have a little time between graduating and starting work to take a trip somewhere. I’ve been to the three big destinations in Italy, so if I ever do go back, I’d like to go visit some other countries first, but I’d love to see Rome again, or go to the countryside or the Amalfi Coast. I wasn’t all that taken with Venice, so I’d be fine giving that a pass. It felt too much like one massive tourist trap to me.

My family’s Europe trips tend to be to cities and historical sites. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. I like cities and history as much as the next girl. But it would be nice to do something different – visit some less popular destinations or smaller towns; have a more relaxed, less strictly planned vacation. That sounds like a great plan for the summer after university, just taking a week and lounging around somewhere gorgeous.