In the steam.

A former mayor of Columbus liked to say he did his best thinking in the shower, and was fond of sharing the many steamy ideas he got there. When I’m in the shower, I am very nearsighted and have a hard enough time remembering all my ablutionary chores — shampoo, condition, shave legs, exfoliate, etc. — to do much thinking. But as I have all those labels close to my face, I do take a moment to read them. And I have to tell you: Wow.

I used to use a brand of Costco shampoo that promised my hair was being hydrated with essence of kelp. Which makes it good for hair why? Because it grows in water? What is in its essence that would be good for hair? Is kelp oily? I don’t think so. Maybe all those otters who frolic in it leave behind lanolin or something.

I don’t use that shampoo anymore, having switched to another Costco brand. It, too, offers moisture, but not from kelp.


Perhaps kelp is in the Moisture Nutrient Complex(tm), or one of the Pure Natural Extracts. Hard to say, but it does have gentle cleansers and it is sulfate-free. Do note the long list of natural extracts in the actual ingredient list. Is this where people who finish with non-dean’s list degrees in chemistry end up?

Here’s my conditioner. It makes me laugh:


It has three naturally derived extracts that penetrate the hair, each to its own layer. Now there’s a trick, and I want to meet the man or woman who made it happen.

“Members of the board, I’m telling you, this triple-extract formula promises a breakthrough in hair-conditioning technology. We will penetrate the core, moisturize the middle and wrap the exterior of every strand! And it will be pleasantly scented, and look like a beige goo! We will transform the daily shampoo into hair therapy!”

Only it would all be in German, because Neutrogena. No, I’m thinking of Nivea. Neutrogena is based in Los Angeles.

But for total label nonsense, it’s hard to beat a brand that once carried the hair-and-makeup room for “Project Runway.”


Yes, TRESemmé, where the product instructions are presented as a friendly bit of advice from the brand’s lead stylist. I also love that “this product” paragraph, with its bold 97-percent-less-breakage claim, carefully asterisked, which presents the comparison: “vs. non-conditioning shampoo alone.” OK.

I once read a simple explanation of what soap is: A fat that strips another fat. A Lebanese man at Eastern Market sells this wonderful olive oil, and has lately started offering olive-oil soap, unscented, for $5 a bar. I think I’m going to buy one. Maybe use it on my hair.

One final note. I use this stuff, and like it:


Just soap with scratchy stuff in it. I loooove to exfoliate.

Do we have some bloggage? We do.

Those of you on Facebook? Stop clicking stuff to see what happens when the bear reaches the hiker standing on the cliff, or naming a city with no E in it. Like so much of Facebook, it’s a scam. “Like-farming.”

A great, funny read from Monica Hesse on Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, including two recipes! For a black-bean chili and a new condiment called Spicy Cashew Moment:

The book opens with Gwyneth describing her quest to clean out her system and become more healthy after having a migraine she mistook for a stroke. (She thought, she says, that she was going to die.) Her doctor prescribes a diet: “No coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deepwater fish, no potatoes, no tomatoes, no bell pepper, no eggplant, no wheat, no meat, no soy.”

It’s fascinating to witness a cookbook composed from a place of such intense deprivation — a purported goal of simple nutrition transformed into a complicated Gwynethian odyssey. I’ve been a vegetarian for a decade; blindfolded, I can differentiate between soy, almond, rice and hemp milks. But my day of cooking with Gwyneth sent me to heretofore uncharted crannies of Whole Foods Market.

I keep seeing recipes calling for hemp seeds. Where the hell do you find those? Are they even legal in all 50 states?

The longer I work among the data-mad, the less susceptible I am to emotion-based arguments, but this one touched me, even if it did come via Maureen Dowd:

Scalia uses the word “homosexual” the way George Wallace used the word “Negro.” There’s a tone to it. It’s humiliating and hurtful.

I guess we should be cheered, because no one says “sodomite” anymore. At least not from the bench.

Happy Thursday to all. It’s supposed to be warm. Halle-freakin’-lujah.

Posted at 12:38 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

49 responses to “In the steam.”

  1. alex said on April 4, 2013 at 1:07 am

    If only I could be a sodomite from the bench.

    Is this where people who finish with non-dean’s list degrees in chemistry end up?

    No, this is where A-list people with English degrees end up, cranking out marketing and advertising bullshit that moves such product as this. They might even end up buying into it themselves, God help them.

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  2. Dexter said on April 4, 2013 at 2:50 am

    My head product.

    Here’s my twin sister

    Belated April Fool am I.

    My tax accountant called and wanted me to stop in to go over my tax forms, then my wife sent me to the supermarket for a couple hundred bucks worth of food and hair care products.
    And…I missed out again on my bike ride. Today, I will get up soon and head out, I swear I will.

    One more comment about cars: Joe and others have the Ford Focus. I rented one as soon as they became available in 2000, drove it to Washington DC. Very nice except the cruise control popped out all the time. My point is, as a hoopdee man, even the 2000 Ford Focus holds an outrageous re-sell price. Another, the extinct Pontiac Vibe and its cousin, the Toyota Matrix. Untouchable. So high even after way over a hundred grand miles. For just cheap wheels, these white work vans that are just beat to hell on the inside, the kind with a ladder rack and beat shelving inside, can be had for a song. Also cheap are Chevy Aveos, I priced a 2006 Aveo for $2600. Old Chevy Astro vans are very cheap also. Beware ancient Chrysler products, the Dodge and Plymouth minivans: bad half-shaft axles. Horrible for that.

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  3. David C. said on April 4, 2013 at 7:37 am

    My wife bought hemp seed a few years ago from this place.
    We ground it in a coffee grinder and used it in home made bread. We weren’t all that impressed. If I remember correctly, it had an odd taste. They tout it as a nutty taste, but as far as I can see, when someone says something tastes nutty it’s just a minor step above saying something tastes interesting.

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  4. David C. said on April 4, 2013 at 7:38 am

    Oh, and we didn’t use it as flour in the bread, just a couple of tablespoons in the whole loaf.

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  5. Alan Stamm said on April 4, 2013 at 7:41 am

    “Ablutionary chores” is a sadly underused phrase.

    Thanks for, uh, washing it off. It’s really shiny.

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  6. Heather said on April 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

    “Spicy Cashew Moment” sounds like a snarky description of a post-snack burp. Or one of those garbled translations of entrees on a Chinese restaurant menu. Or my new band name.

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  7. alex said on April 4, 2013 at 7:52 am

    My head product. Srsly.

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  8. alex said on April 4, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Can’t help it but “spicy cashew moment” calls to mind Chinese take-out gastroenteritis.

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  9. beb said on April 4, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I would have to consider writing the product blurbs for things like these shampoos to be the worst of all possible jobs. I’d stall at “It’s soap, ok. Get over it.”

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  10. Suzanne said on April 4, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Another piece on the “like” button:

    I pretty much only like posts by people I know. I hate those “like” if you love Jesus and want everyone to go to heaven posts, or “like” if you hate cancer or love your children. So if I don’t hit like it means I love cancer, hate my kids, and don’t want anyone to go to heaven but me? Well, I have been accused of being a curmudgeon…

    I never use hemp in bread. Flax seeds? Almost always.

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  11. Mindy said on April 4, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Beb, I was once at a party where I told someone I thought that writing the blurbs on wine bottle labels had to be a terrible job. Said I thought many of them were silly, overly dramatic, etc. Turned out the guy had exactly that job. The embarrassment didn’t kill me, unfortunately.

    Lately I’ve been gradually replacing my chemical laden beauty products with those sporting labels with recognizable ingredients. This book does a wonderful job of explaining those chemicals and the harm they cause:—Cosmetics/dp/0738213969/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365078308&sr=1-1&keywords=no+more+dirty+looks
    The Truth About Beauty by Kat James is also good. Has loads of resources for alternative products.

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  12. Peter said on April 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

    You want something to read something in the shower – try this:

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  13. Scout said on April 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I love to exfoliate too. I make my own body scrub by mixing equal parts raw sugar and coconut oil. Then I add a few drops of essential oil, like lavender or bergamot. It’s the best thing I’ve ever used on my dry, wrinkly Caucasian skin. As for shampoo, I’ve tried them all and Suave works the same as anything costing way more. My favorite is the rosemary mint.

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  14. coozledad said on April 4, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Since we buy everything in bulk, there comes a time when you either have to throw a bunch of stuff out to the chickens, or consume a lot of it quickly. Right now I’m on the organic lemon juice laxative regimen. I’ve only got one and a half cases to go by April 15th, at which point my colon will be as clean and bright pink as a baby’s gums. I ought to arrange a scope.

    Speaking of hemp seeds and apricot facial scrubs, I just ordered some acupuncture needles and moxibustion pellets from a company that does volume massage sales. They shipped a catalog with my order, and judging from the ratio of lotions, plastic tarps, and sani-wipes to the rest of their product listings, it’s a safe bet they’re an anchor of the whorehouse trade. Their massage tables would need some modifications before they could be used as true sex chairs*, though.

    I want a massage oil that provides both friction and glide. Work on that one, chemistry majors.

    *There’s a band name.

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  15. Pam said on April 4, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Speaking of hair, I recently had to buy a new hair dryer which meant going to Target and standing in front of a display of at least 20. I commented (out loud apparently) which one of these cheap chinese junk piles should I buy. A woman standing behind me (a customer, not an employee) said that I should get an Ion hair dryer because it dries faster and won’t break my hair off (she added the off). While I really don’t have a breakage problem (she definitely did, straw hair), the faster drying was appealing so I bought a hot pink model. And surprisingly, it does dry my hair faster. I have no idea of the technology of how it works, but just happy that it does. Now if it would only last as long as my previous hair dryer which I think I bought waaayyyy back in the 90s sometime. It still works but has an unprotected air intake which sometimes sucked my hair into it and that did cause some breakage.

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    • nancy said on April 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

      I bought Kate the ion model, and it does seem to work better than mine, so I borrow it often. I use it with an ion brush, which doesn’t seem to make much difference. Will some science major mansplain it for us?

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  16. LAMary said on April 4, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Costco shampoo and conditioner are as good or better than anything else I’ve used. Costco body wash, the one that smells like oranges, is also good. Frankly, any Costco house brand stuff I’ve bought, whether it’s paper towels or ibuprofen or dog food is very good stuff. You cannnot beat the paper towels. About 15 dollars for a package the size of a steamer trunk, and they’re better than the brand name ones that go for twice as much. There is this storage issue, though.

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  17. LAMary said on April 4, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Dr. Bronner bottles are definitely good bathtub reading, but I would need wear glasses in the shower to read that font. Bronner’s peppermint soap is great in hot weather. It also brings back my semi-hippie days in Colorado. It was the soap of choice for scrubbing up in the great outdoors.

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  18. Dorothy said on April 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

    You guys are pretty funny today! Dex your twin sister picture cracked me up!

    The very last time I gave any thought to switching up the shampoo I buy (Suave or VO5 most of the time – whichever is on sale) was in July 2011 when I had my first surgery on my left thumb. I had to be able to get shampoo out of the bottle with one hand while the left hand was covered to keep the cast/dressing dry. So it took awhile but eventually I found a large bottle of (??) with a pump. I could use my forearm of my left hand to depress it, and out came the amount I needed into my right palm. It worked so good I saved the bottle and used it again this past November when I had my right thumb operated on. I’ve run out of polite things to say (I’d rather be snarky) when I get my hair cut and they ask me if I’d like to buy some of their ridiculously overpriced, sensationalized hair products. These days I just say “No thank you” and keep the snark inside my head where I won’t get in trouble.

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  19. Bitter Scribe said on April 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Whenever I read about shampoo labels, it makes me think of the urban legend about the marketing genius in the shampoo company who doubled sales by adding “repeat” to “lather and rinse.” (That’s been in at least two novels.)

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  20. Judybusy said on April 4, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Well, this is super off-topic again, but wanted to let everyone know about a great documentary I saw last night. The AIDS service organization I’m connected to hosted it, and we had the film maker and one of the subjects–the executive director of AIDS Alabama–in town for a shindig. It’s a film concerning HIV/AIDS in the south. The director during a panel discussion said she thinks of the south as the future, if we allow basic service infrastructure to be dismantled. The ED of AIDS Alabama was at times optimistic, in part because young people aren’t homophobic. The south has 1/2 of all HIV/AIDS cases in the country, but gets only 25% of the funding.

    In Mississippi, it’s abstinence-only education, and the teachers are not allowed to even say the word condom. In Alabama, they are required to state that homosexuality is immoral AND illegal. Regarding this last, there is a courageous lesbian state legislator working on getting that changed. Here’s the site for the film. If it comes your way, see it. It won’t be in theaters, but at small, hosted venues at colleges or universities. It would be great to get it on mainstream TV.

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  21. BigHank53 said on April 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I didn’t know you were a chinese medicine guy, Coozledad–my spouse is studying accupuncture so she can get the hell out of engineering.

    Shampoo dropped way down on my list of priorities when I gave in to the inevitable and just started buzz-cutting my hair. The receding hairline was okay, the gray was okay, but I’ve always had very fine hair and it just kept getting thinner. I shaved my head once in my early thirties and my scalp was as tanned as my face. Keeping your hair under a quarter inch long means you can use whatever the heck soap you like since your hair isn’t going to get long enough to care.

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  22. Charlotte said on April 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Oh the Dowd piece — I remember two different guy friends of mine in college wrestling and resisting and fighting with their sexuality — mostly because in 1982 it was inconceivable that you could be gay and have a family. And they were sweet guys who wanted families. Progress has been made … Here’s a piece from the WSJ that made me tear up a little bit:

    As for Gwynnie — I’ve always hated her with the fire of someone who grew up in Lake Forest surrounded by, and condescended to by such people. Grrr.

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  23. Jeff Borden said on April 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

    The actions of the Supreme Court remind me why I’m likely to always vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. These nine people wield such enormous power for such a very, very long time. I fear the Roberts court will stand firmly in the path of progress. And any Republican elected while the party is in thrall to its lunatic elements would likely nominate justices to the right of Scalia.

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  24. Catherine said on April 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I am a sucker for new technology, so I am presently trying Living Proof conditioner & styler. The MIT-developed part was more interesting to me than the Jennifer Aniston endorsement, but hey, she’s more appealing than Gwyneth, right? I do find truth so far in two of their claims: less frizz and longer between washes. I will let you know when my hair looks like Jennifer Aniston’s.

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  25. coozledad said on April 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I injured my back a few years ago and only recently started having problems with pain and immobility (I reinjured it trying to get a round bale of hay onto the gate of a truck). I looked into the treatment options. The surgery option, in addition to being ludicrously expensive, had limited effectiveness for referred pain. I’ve been in enough bands to know that the opiate option can make you dangerous around power tools and farm equipment, and turn you into a Republican in late middle age.

    I found a couple of studies that show acupuncture works better than conventional treatments for lower back pain. Another study shows that it’s difficult to establish protocols for clinical trials of acupuncture, because sham acupuncture seems to work just as well as acupuncture, and still works better than conventional therapies for lumbar pain.

    So I figured, it’s seven bucks for a pack of acupuncture needles, and I’ve got a couple of anatomy books with good maps of the peripheral nerve system, as well as a few blurry copies of traditional Chinese meridian maps. One study I read mentions the addition of moxibustion, which I haven’t tried, but I’ve got the stuff for, because it’s cheap.

    So I’m a sham acupuncturist. It’s good, so far. You can hardly feel those little needles.

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  26. bacioni said on April 4, 2013 at 11:19 am

    LOVE hemp seeds! I buy them from Amazon. They have a kind of nutty taste, but what I really like about them is that they are packed with essential fatty acids and protein. I sprinkle them on oatmeal, salad, etc. Yum!

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  27. Mark P said on April 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Based on what I can find, it seems that ionic hair dryers work better purely through perception.

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  28. Heather said on April 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I forgot to say earlier that the St. Ives apricot scrub is such a classic! I like the idea of making my own scrub too. I do splurge on hair products; I use a Redken shampoo and my stylist of nearly 20 years recommended a pretty expensive hair mask to use in place of conditioner, as mine was breaking off a lot in back; weird. I buy it slightly cheaper on eBay. But the main thing that has helped my hair recently (I suspect) is taking Vitamin E regularly. For body wash, I use stuff I get at Trader Joe’s.

    I kind of do like to try new products, but I don’t want to spend tons of money, so I signed up for Birchbox. You pay $10 a month and they send you a box of four or five sample-sized goodies every month. Since I mostly stopped freelancing about fashion and style, I needed something to replace the swag I got.

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  29. Sherri said on April 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    What MarkP said.

    A few years ago, my husband bought a ski jacket that purported to use negative ions to improve performance. That’s not why he bought, of course, he bought it because it was warm and comfortable and on sale. Here’s an excerpt from the marketing hype from the company’s website:

    Descente is the first to use negative ions to enhance sportswear performance. Negative ions are now widely recognized as having a positive effect on both the mind and body. The refreshing feeling that we get while in the forest or by a waterfall is due to the negative ions abundant in such places. They are said to promote blood circulation and have a healing effect on the body. Minerals which generate negative ions are powdered and impregnated into fibers used in the fabric. In recent years negative ions have been utilized by major manufacturers of hair dryers, air conditioners, sports drinks and cosmetics.

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  30. MichaelG said on April 4, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I used to use St. Ives shampoo but I haven’t seen it around in some times. Now I use Suave.

    A couple of years ago PBS had a foodie series that featured Mark Bittman, Mario Batali, Gwenyth Paltrow and a Spanish star whose name escapes me but who was sublimely beautiful and obviously a very fun and amusing companion. They drove around Spain and ate. It was a very good series but Gwenyth was a major drip. I’d be screaming and pulling my hair out after ten minutes with her.

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  31. MichaelG said on April 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    some time

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  32. Dexter said on April 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    St. Ives…the malt liquor 40 oz.-er I drank on my last day of drinking twenty-plus years ago.

    And now it’s “beyond rhetoric”, as North Korea is now moving missiles and pointing them at Japan.

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  33. Dexter said on April 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Any George Thorogood fans here?

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  34. beb said on April 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

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  35. Suzanne said on April 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Just heard about Roger Ebert. RIP indeed.

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  36. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 4, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Bad news, Roger Ebert’s passing. May flights of angels sing thee to thy seat in the balcony with Gene.

    Good news (if you live in central Ohio):

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  37. susan said on April 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    regarding Columbus, the most intelligent city in America…. While being so close to Cincinnati, too. Amazing.

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  38. susan said on April 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    What Roger Ebert said:

    Ebert wrote in 2010 that he did not fear death because he didn’t believe there was anything “on the other side of death to fear.”

    “I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state,” he wrote. “I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting.”

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  39. Sherri said on April 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Deadspin reruns Will Leitch’s 2010 Roger Ebert story. Preview: Roger Ebert was a mensch to a young journalist.

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  40. ROGirl said on April 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    I picked up an ion dryer at Aldi, of all places. It was on sale for $10 and worth every penny.

    I remember reading something about Gwynny flying in for a day to film her scenes with Mario (who was actually traveling around Spain), and not eating any of the food.

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  41. MarkH said on April 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Oooh, Susan. You didn’t have anybody particular in mind with that Cincinnati swipe, did you?

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  42. brian stouder said on April 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Even before I read today’s installment of nn.c, Nancy’s photos got me laughing.

    Pam has the habit of placing shampoos and conditioners and liquid soaps and other whatzits on top of the rail that contains the shower doors…and, as I’ve become older, I’ve noticed that I don’t know what the heck the various bottles ARE. I’ve got to take one down and read it – somewhat carefully! – to be sure I’m not about to wash my hair with hand soap or conditioner or some ex-filament (or whatever!).

    This became front-of-mind a few weeks ago, as we were cleaning out my mom’s house, and found her shampoo bottles and conditioner bottles and soap bottles all hand labeled – in large hand-written black-marker block letters – “SHAMPOO” and “CONDITIONER” and “SOAP”.

    Made me laugh out loud, in fact.

    I think Roger Ebert did an admirable job piloting his life from this world to the other side; I think it would be marvelous if my exit could be half as graceful.

    And, the girls and I drove out and parked the car and crossed Fort Wayne’s beautiful new Martin Luther King memorial bridge, and read the tablets and watched the cars go by as the sun went down and the beautiful colored lights came up. As we left, another family that had the same idea was coming the other way.

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  43. Deborah said on April 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I was in the garage working on a project this afternoon when Little Bird ran out to tell me Ebert had died. Bummer. I read his memoir recently and enjoyed reading his journal on-line. Selfishly I was hoping he’d hang on longer so I could keep reading.

    I use Pantene shampoo and conditioner, they come in gigantic bottles that I buy at Target, but on our road trip we stayed in a hotel in St. Louis that had some fantastic shampoo and conditioner by H2O. There’s an H2O shop on Michigan Avenue and I’m going to have to check it out. I bet it’s really expensive though. My husband uses really pricey shampoo and conditioner by Karatesse (spelling?) that he buys at the place where he gets his hair cut. He swears that it’s better than anything else. I doubt it.

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  44. MichaelG said on April 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    I’m truly saddened but not surprised by Roger Ebert’s death. I’ve been reading his blog – journals for some time as I suspect numerous other nn.cers have been. He made my eyes leak many times as they are now. He was a great man and a great writer and I will sorely miss him.

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  45. susan said on April 5, 2013 at 12:41 am

    MarkH @41– Nah, no person in mind, just the place. I grew up there. And fled as soon as I could.

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  46. MarkH said on April 5, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Susan, I grew up there, too (after age 13, moving from Pittsburgh) and can understand your resistance to its provincialism. But I spent eight years in Columbus in the ’70s. Let’s just say I still prefer Cincinnati.

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  47. susan said on April 5, 2013 at 9:21 am

    MarkH- I’ve actually never been to Columbus! Even after growing up relatively nearby. Just never had an occasion to go there. We usually headed to the West, to the Southwest, or to the New England area. But I always imagined Columbus as flat as Dayton, since the glaciers scoured out everything north of Cincinnati. Which may be one reason to prefer Cincinnati–the geomorphology. And geology. It’s got hills and wonderful Mississippian Period fossils. And fossilized Republican politics. The home of John Boner. Feh.

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  48. Rana said on April 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I have to admit that when I buy shampoo and conditioner, I’m motivated primarily by the absence of parabens and whether or not it smells good. The parabens make my head itch, and I think the appeal of a pleasant smell is obvious. Unfortunately, I dislike most of the cheap brands’ scents – they’re either too perfumey or weirdly fruity. Right now I’m using Nature’s Gate (one with hemp seed oil, in fact), which smells either spicy or green-grass weedy, depending on the variety.

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