Friday, November 26, 2010

How I Bleach My Hair

As many people know, I am a fan of coloring my hair. It's a form of self expression and all that good stuff. Since my hair is naturally a thick dark brown (shh, don't tell my colleagues, they think I have no natural hair color), I have to bleach it before dying it most colors (except black). I'm not really a fan of salons because I don't like talking to strangers for hours, so I tend to do it myself. Since other people sometimes get inspired by my hair experimentations and want tips, I'm going to share my technique here.

First, when it comes to bleaching, I do not use one of those kits with pretty people on the front. The kits are handy because they come with all the supplies you need and very specific instructions, but I find that they are not very strong - even the ones that purport to be the strongest.

Instead, I start with bleach powder and 40 volume creme developer. The "volume" refers to the strength of the developer, and "40 volume" is the strongest that you'll find. I'm currently using Fudge brand developer and powder, which I got from the hair supplies shop at Harbourside Mall in Sydney, Australia. If you're in the US, you may want to check out Manic Panic's 40 volume bleach kit instead.

I then put on cheap latex gloves and mix 1 part powder with 2 parts developer in a tupperware container (leftover from too much takeaway). If you don't mix enough, no worries, you can easily mix more later.

Then I rub the mix over my hair, starting at the ends. Instructions always have you do the roots last, and as it turns out, that's because the chemicals process faster when they're close to the head, because your head is so warm and heats them up.

When I think that I've got everything covered (don't forget the back of your head), I go and watch a TV show for a half hour or hour. I'm used to the slight burning sensation of bleach so I tend to let it stay on for longer, but if it bothers you, you can rinse it out after just 30 minutes.

After I rinse it out and dry it, I check out how white it became, and if I missed any spots (not usually).

If it is still a bit yellow (as is natural with hair) and I am trying to dye it blue or just go for the very white look, then I wait for it to dry and then put a purple toner on it. A purple toner is basically a light purple hair dye that counters the natural yellow hues in human hair - so it does sometimes make your hair a bit purple-y if you overdo it (but I like that). I use one of two options these days: Fudge purple toner, or Schwarzkopf LIVE Color Silver toner.

If I really care about maintaining the whiteness of the color, then I sometimes invest in toning shampoo, which is basically like shampoo with a little purple hair dye in it.

And that's it... happy bleaching!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

GirlDevelopIt Sydney: Round 1, A Success!

As I posted in August, GirlDevelopIt is an initiative to increase the number of women in tech through low-cost programming workshops. It was created in New York and is thriving there (on their 27th class now!), and I wanted to try bringing it here to Sydney, Australia.

Our tireless TAs
We started here with the basics, a 5-lesson course on HTML & CSS, with the hope of expanding to more topics if there was enough interest. We ended up filling the room with 40 eager female students from varied backgrounds - like marketing, travel, advertising, and photography - plus 6 super talented teaching assistants of various expertise - like SEO, startups, and standards. At the end of the course, students put together their own personal website to show what they'd learnt, and it was awesome seeing the unique webpages that each of them put together.

All in all, I would call this experiment a success, and I'm excited to see the momentum continue. We have an upcoming lecture with 30 RSVPs, we have a new offer of sponsorship (thanks to ThoughtWorks), and more importantly, we have 60 members in our meetup group who are all ready and willing to become women developers.

So, if you're keen and looking to help, here's a wishlist for things that would be awesome:

  • We could use spare laptops for the workshops, if you have any old ones lying around. They typically just need a web browser like Chrome and a text editor like Notepad++.
  • We would love for a hosting company to provide students in the courses with FTP accounts and a teeny amount of disk space. We used my server for the last round, but we couldn't do more than 8 simultaneous logins on mine, so it was not ideal.
  • We can currently get 10 free books from O'Reilly for each course, but if we had a sponsor (like a bookstore) that would provide free books for every student (~40), that would be just amazing.
  • We would love to have GDI branded t-shirts to give to the students, to help them feel proud of their involvement and to spread the message.

We can always use more women students and teachers, of course, so join the group if you're keen to get involved. Onwards and upwards. :)

Thanks to Kate Carruthers for the embedded photo.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"No Boys Allowed"...And Why I Like It

We just wrapped up our first Girl Develop It course in Sydney tonight. When I was first planning the course, I had males ask if they could be students and TAs, and after some consideration, I said no to them.

Part of me wanted to prove that we could pull it off with an all female ensemble. We ended up enrolling 40 female students, bringing us to full room capacity (daisy-chained power cords, ftw!), and enlisting the help of 6 highly skilled female teaching assistants, from web standards wizards to JS experts. I thus concluded that lack of "womanpower" was clearly not an issue.

The other part of me wanted to see if we could indeed have a better learning environment by having it be all female, as we suggest is the case on the Girl Develop It website. I was the teacher in this course, so I can only give my perspective from the front of the room. But, I have to say, I liked it. I am a straight woman, so when I am giving talks to the mostly all-male crowds at most tech events, I sense a small part of me is trying to impress a small part of them ("that way"). It's not something I'm very conscious of, as I'm usually fairly empassioned by the ideas my talk, but it is there nonetheless. When I am speaking to a group of all females, I am motivated only by the desire to educate them and not by any hidden desires. I played the part of the teacher in this course, but at the same time, I am also a student in an Afro-Brazilian dance class which is largely female. Similar to my reasoning for enjoying the absence of boys in the web dev course, I find that I enjoy the dance classes more when it is just us girls. I can shake my hips without worrying subconciously about impressing the boys in the class and having my performance affected by subsequent nervousness.

On a related note, it's nice to be in an environment where we can talk girl stuff and bring up "risque" topics without worrying about making boys feel awkward or wondering if they'll misinterpret our language. In dance class, we often make up rhymes about our "boobs", "hips", and "asses", and they help us learn the move... but it always feels a bit odd to teach them to boys too. That sort of thing doesn't happen as often in the web development course situation (well, maybe during the after-drinks :), but it's nice to have that kind of environment just-in-case.

Finally, it's cool to meet local women. I have to admit that I'm not that great at making friends with girls (I grew up more around males), so I typically only make them when I'm forced to. Being in an entirely female room definitely helps as a forcing function. :) I met a bunch of awesome girls during this course and the dance class who I probably wouldnt've met otherwise, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them.

I know there are people who may argue that it is sexist to not allow boys into the classes, but I think that if you are going to go the "no boys" route, you should go all the way or you risk losing some of the benefits completely. This doesn't mean that I think every thing should be all girls - I will be actively encouraging the GDI students to come to mixed meetups, workshops, and user groups. It just means that I do see benefits to single-gender groups in some situations, atleast from my own personal perspective.