Review: Dessange Color Corrector

You may not know this about me, but I dye my hair. What can I say, I like to try new things. Blonde has been my jam for awhile now and so when Influenster asked if I would like to try and review some hair care products for bottle blondes, I jumped at the chance. Everybody loves when their hair looks extra nice and shiny!

Dessange Paris sent me shampoo, conditioner and a color corrector. I was most interested in the color corrector as it is meant to take some of the warm tones out of their and give you a cooler blonde color. My most recent foray into home hair-dying has left me with a really warm blonde, was I wasn’t expecting much. (If you’re thinking, What do warm and cool have to do with this? Think of all of the different blondes you’ve seen running from strawberry blondes to platinum blondes. The platinums have a cooler blonde; they have bluer undertones and the strawberries have a warmer blonde with more orange and yellow undertones.) Different people are into (and look good in) different things. I’ve always preferred a cooler blonde so I was eager to test something that I would help me achieve that. The color corrector is basically a purple paste that you leave in for 5-10 minutes. It infuses your hair with purples and blues and that cools down your blonde. The difference wasn’t dramatic but I would say that my hair looked less brassy after I tried it out.

The shampoo and conditioner are illuminating and I didn’t notice a difference after I used them until I went outside. In the sunlight, my hair really does look very shiny and vibrant and healthy. My only complaint with the shampoo and conditioner is that I don’t love the way the products are scented. The scent just sticks to my hair. I smell like I just stepped out of a salon and I showered more than 8 hours ago and I’ve been to the gym. You have to admire a scent that sticks that tenaciously (although I still don’t love the scent).

Dessange Paris is new to the US market and I think they’re worthwhile products. That once the weather is finally nice enough that it makes sense to be outside that I’ll be thrilled to have such shiny, vibrant-in-the-sun hair.

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

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Following my arrow 


This is the fire cake by Spartickes Dyes.  This is from the Gilmore Girls yarn club!  

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Describing Language: Sounds

This is the second post in my series on describing language: linguistics for the non-linguists in my life. In this post I am going to talk about the sounds in language and the how and why of describing sounds.

 The first step in describing a language is describing its sounds.  Sounds are really, very important because each language has a set a sounds that contrast with each other and let speakers make up different words by using them.  But, the contrast set isn’t made up of single sounds so much as it is made up of sound categories.  Think for a minute about the letter t. We use this letter to represent the category of sounds we call “t”. ts can be at the beginning of a word, a middle of a word, at the end of the word; ts can appear in clusters. Say a few words outloud: table, butter, bat, stop. Do the ts sound the same? When I make them, they do not. The t in table sounds like it has a puff of air after it but the t in stop does not. The t (well, ts) in butter is really fast, just barely a tap on the roof of my mouth and my vocal cords are vibrating in my throat (something that isn’t true for stop and table!) and the t in bat feels like it’s happening in my throat. But, they’re all recognizable as t!

So, figuring out the sounds in a language is a little complicated.

Claire Bowern in her book called Linguistic Fieldwork suggests that you start by eliciting greetings and then some words. Last summer at CoLang 2014, we started with numbers and animals. The goal is to listen as carefully as possible and write down exactly what you hear. In order to help with doing that, linguists use a tool called the international phonetic alphabet or IPA. This alphabet is ideal for trying to describe contrasts because each symbol only ever represents one sound. So, all of my different ts above would be written down differently. As you can see below, this way of writing down sounds makes it really easy to see the differences because each difference has its own way of being represented. In addition to seeing the different ts, you can also see that vowels in the IPA don’t match with the spelling. This takes some getting used to but it  is so handy for pronunciation! 

table: [thebɫ]
 stop: [stap]

butter: [bʊɾɚ]

Once you have a good set of words, you try to find the environments where each sound can be found. This is how you determine what sounds are contrasts, they belong in the set of sounds in the language, and what sounds are complements, they belong in a group that makes up a particular sound in a language. Which, can be a little confusing. Each language has a set of sounds but each sounds is also its own set? Yes, possibly. Like with t above, it is possible that you have a sound that every native speaker thinks of as t but, in particular circumstances is pronounced one way but in other circumstances is pronounced another way. When you have a sound that is distinctive, linguists call it a phoneme. When you two sounds that could be the same phoneme but one sound is said in one circumstance and the other sound is said in another circumstance, these sounds are allophones of the same phoneme. Why would that happen? It might happen because the sound is affected by the sounds around it. Ideally, you’d have way more than four words so that you’d be able to see that there is a pattern and that there are rules that can describe when you hear one sound to represent t and when you hear the other. Below is an example of the environments.

[t]: s_a

[th]: #_e
[ɾ]: ʊ_ɚ

[ʔ]: æ_#

Sometimes you get lucky and you what are called minimal pairs. These are pairs of words that mean different things but only differ in a single sound. And English example is “Jess” and “Chess”. They only differ in their first sound. (And, to be technical, they only differ in one property of their first sound. J is voiced and Ch is not.) When you have a good set of environments you can make a guess about what all of the sounds in the language are. Of course, every new word you collect is more evidence for those sounds. Hopefully, you can get to the point where every new word is more evidence for your hypotheses and not a reason to rewrite the rules.

This is been a very brief overview of how linguists start to investigate the sounds of a language. Please come back for our next in the series: Morphology (or word parts!) 

 For further reading on Phonology:

Introductory Phonology by Bruce Hayes

Introducing Phonology by David Odden

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Getting back on the hobby horse

Nothing feels better than feeling better. After I wrote the post on not feeling well, I spent a few days alternating between napping and working. And, then I was back on the knitting horse. I felt better even if I didn’t sound better.  Colds are the best.  I started a new project. Couldn’t help myself. I have some Gilmore Girls yarn from  Spartickes Dyes and I started a Follow Your Arrow 2 by Ysolda Teague.   As I got into the rhythm of knitting, Cooper got comfortable and we spent a lovely afternoon knitting and snoozing. 

At first, I wasn’t sure about the color way of the yarn. It is called fire cake and it is a color I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own. (This is part of the joy of being in a yarn club, the Gilmore Girls one in particular.  You get to pick from the inspiration but you don’t get to pick the yarn itself.)   Now that I’ve knit it up some, I like the 1970s vibe it’s giving off. This will be a fun piece to have in the fall. 

The colors are actually brighter in person.  And, yes, even though I didn’t get a shot of Cooper in the project, it does look pretty good on him. 

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Knitting with gifts

One of the best things in life is being given wool by friends and family. It is so wonderful to think of people I love searching through yarn shops or markets and picking something out with me in mind. (This thought is actually the best part of the gift.) And, then you have some lovely yarn picked out just for you and, possibly because I neurotic, I feel you have to find the perfect pattern to honor the yarn.

This last part, the neurotic part, makes knitting with gifts a little stressful. I want to do a good. And, I want to knit. I want to let my friends know that I appreciated the gift by making an awesome piece. It can be exhausting.

But, it is the best kind of exhausting.

Over the winter holidays, I gave up trying to find the perfect pattern for some yarn I was given a little over a year ago by a world traveling friend (Yarn I was so pleased came through my moth disaster unscathed), I gave up deciding on the perfect pattern and just went with a great pattern. I started knitting a boneyard. The boneyard shawl is a free Stephen West pattern that is simple but elegant. I just wanted to knit and assumed that, as much as I hate it, that I might have to knit and frog a little before I found the perfect pattern. But, I didn’t have to frog. Sometimes, just getting to work on something good leads you to wonderful.

I got to the end of the wool I was given and I decided that the shawl wasn’t done. Thankfully, I was able find a little more online. Now I just have to find the time to quietly knit the rest of this lovely, lovely shawl.


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Feeling Poorly

You know that you’re under the weather when even the thought of knitting seems like too much work.

Recently, I have been fighting off a cold (and probably a bit of the winter blues. It is hard when it is so cold and windy out that even a quick walk is an invitation to frostbite) and have spent a lot of time recently doing nothing but lying in bed. Thankfully, my furry little roommates have been looking after me. Occasionally, I’ve put on an audio book or netflix (I’ve been re-watching/listening to series so that I don’t have to pay attention to them to know what is going on. If you’re going to fall asleep a quarter into an episode or a chapter, it may as well be an episode or a chapter you’ve already read.)

But, the bitch of all of this sickness (and sleep, which my body clearly needs if I can’t stay awake past 9 pm) is that nothing sounds good to me other than lying very still in a dark room under lots of blankets. Knitting? Why would you do that? Dissertation? Nope. Exciting new side project that a friend dangled in front of me? Ya, I can see why I want to be involved, but can it happen after I nap? I have a standing work date with a colleague that I made it out of the house to earlier this week and at the end of it she said, “If you were feeling better, we could go to the makeup store.” And, I responded, “Can I just go to bed?” You know things are serious when the dissertation, knitting, and my new obsession with lipstick and nail polish have all been sidelined in favor of sleep.

I am looking forward to being well again.

I’ve been taking lots of cold medicine and the naps are starting to have more wakefulness in between them. Hopefully, soon, I will emerge from my cocoon of blankets, tissue packets and cups of tea into a fulling functioning adult (who doesn’t cough all the time).

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Describing Language

Last summer, I had the privilege of taking a field methods class at CoLang (Institute for Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Texas at Arlington and while I was there I had had many conversations with friends asking about what I’m doing. So, I would like to take this time to describe in a series of posts the processes involved in describing a language by describing what we did in this four week class. This will not be a complete description of the process but I hope it will provide enough information and references that if you, as a non- linguist, have questions you have an idea of what and who you should ask.  Aside from me, of course.

First, I want you to think about five situations in which you used language today. Who were you talking to? What, if anything, were you trying to accomplish? If you had been talking to different people, would you have said or done things differently? Did you use slang? Complete sentences? Were you joking or sarcastic?

The first language I used this morning was in a (rather one-sided) conversation with my cat. I told him at 5:30 this morning that I was sleeping. I said it in a full sentence and at a higher pitch than I would ever use to speak to an adult.

The most recent language I used (aside from what I’m typing now) was to order food at a restaurant. I said, “I would like…” and then I told the waitress would I wanted to eat. I used complete sentences sometimes but sometimes I used phrases (“ranch, on the side.”)

I talked to my Mom.  There were quick back and forths in the conversation where we only used phrases or incomplete sentences and we sometimes talked over each other.

I talked to myself while working on my homework for my class.  The class is in Spanish, so my conversation with myself was with mix of Spanish and English where English is subbed in when I either don’t have the Spanish vocabulary to describe to myself what I want to say or when my patience was stretched by my lack of fluency.

I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook Messenger.  The friend is another linguist and we used a lot of technical vocabulary to talk about a project we are working on together.  We also used a lot of emoji.

All of these times I used language today, I used different voice pitches, different vocabulary, different languages, different speeds and different types of sentences all to get the job of communicating with others done.  As a native speaker of English, I’ve grown up with access to all of these different ways of using the language and I can appropriately situate myself and my communication with that knowledge.  (I can also violate appropriateness conditions, if I choose to do so like when I’m being sarcastic.)  All native speakers of any language have access to these resources in their own language and they know how to be ironic and how to be funny and how to be (or not to be) rude. These things are part of what we know when we say we know a language. We know how to form sentences, we know how to make plurals, and we know how to use all of these technical skills to speak.

There isn’t a part of my life in which I can’t use English.  I use it at work.  I use it at home.  I use it with my family.  I use it with my friends.  I can use it with doctors and administrators and government officials.  I can use it to talk to strangers.  As a learner of another language, I don’t have the same set of skills in the other language, but I do have access to some of it and I do my best to exploit that.  When I couldn’t do something I wanted to do, I fell back onto my English.  And, if I want to know about English or Spanish, I can look up what I want to know.  There are books and websites about words and grammar.  If I want to know about the differences between the past and the present, I can look it up.  If I want to know more about how words are put together to make new words, I can look it up.  English and Spanish are both well documented (although, we still don’t know everything about either of them.)  And, there are vast bodies of academic literature about all of the moving parts of English and Spanish so I can look at that if I choose to, too.

But, for many of the world’s languages, that isn’t the case. Speakers might be able to use their language in their home and their village, but they might need to know another language to talk to government officials or to see (and understand) a doctor, for example.  Additionally, if they are interested in their language, they can’t go to library and check out books on it because those books don’t exist.  For some linguists, their entire job is documenting languages that have never been studied or have only been studied a little and to help create resources that speakers themselves can use. (For some linguists, like me, language provides a window into how the mind/brain works and also how groups of people work together. But, that’s a post for another day.)


This class that I am took focused on how to collect data to document an un(der)documented language.  In a series of post over the next couple of months I will discuss how we go about figuring out some of the parts of the language so that we could write preliminary sketches of those parts of the language.

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Blocking with Cats


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Earlier this year I asked the question: when do you decide to frog? I really hate frogging, not just because it is a pain to back out of a pattern but also because I hate all the wasted effort it represents. Nevertheless, I have these two projects that I only work on grudgingly and that have gotten shuffled to the side every time I want to start something new. Knitting on them doesn’t make me happy (and since knitting is a hobby) I don’t even want to make myself continue with them. but, ugh. I hate frogging! I came up with a compromise. I decided to hibernate the projects and that I would revisit them in Late Spring and reconsider them.

In typing this post, though, I decided I need to frog the Summer Steps and start again on bigger needles. I like the pattern, I like the yarn. I think I will like the whole thing better when it is wider and it knits up faster.

Do you make compromises like this with yourself? Do you find that putting off a decision can be helpful to resolving an issue?

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Nerdy Little Valentine ( A week late, but nonetheless heart felt)

Ladles and Jelly Spoons, I am a huge nerd. Let me provide you with some evidence. My sister introduced me to a book series, (possible spoilers ahead) in which there was a character that I fell in love with and that met an untimely ending. So far, only kind of nerdy. Well, then I decided that I needed to do something in honor of this character. A little nerdier.

I decided to make a shawl in honor of him. This might be where I crossed the line into weirdo nerd territory. (Or, maybe not? At least I didn’t write slash fiction starring the character and me?)

The pattern I picked is the dreambird, which is a lovely piece constructed out of short rows within short rows. The pattern itself seems intimidating, as it is something like 9 pages long, but once you get into it, it isn’t bad. There’s a nice rhythm to knitting short rows. Plus, the pattern introduces you to a short row technique known as German short rows which all you to avoid short row gaps without wrapping. I’m only about 20% done with this pattern but I’m happy with it so far.

Where do you get inspiration for your knitting? Has you taken it from books? Which book characters would you knit something in honor of?

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