Thursday, April 29, 2010

Debugging the House

This week's Change the World Wednesday challenge strikes home:
"This week remove, or begin to phase out, antibacterial products from your home (specifically those products containing Triclosan). Why? Antibacterial products contribute to new strains of antibiotic-resistant "super-bugs". They are toxic chemicals which also pollute waterways and affect the environment. So this week ... get rid of them."
Antibacterial products are a good way to show how evolution works. We introduce into the bacteria's environment a substance that kills them; those few bacteria that in the natural course of variation tend to be resistent flourish in the new environment.

This was strictly an academic exercise to me until last year when I got an entry-level superbug myself. When I got what I thought was a minor eye irritation, I treated it with what would usually work: hot wet compresses, and taking it easy for a bit. This usually clears up any such problem, but not this time: the area around the eye got swollen and even I couldn't deny that it wasn't going to get better.

A trip to the doctor confirmed I had some kinda infection. They suspected MRSA (which subsequent testing confirmed) and gave me some pills that must've tasted as bad to the MRSA as they did to me, because it cleared the thing up within a few days. Since we have pretty good health care coverage, the whole thing cost me only a couple hundred dollars; there's a charge for a doctor's visit and a charge for a followup visit and a charge for lab tests and a charge for the medication. I never got a bill up front so I could make a rational decision about paying for stuff; the "free market" argument on health care is complete hooey ... but that's another story.

Before the medication kicked in, there was an additional therapeutic measure:  "expressing" the contents of the swelling. This was a gooey and unpleasant process which involved a medical professional wearing gloves and eye protection. It was sufficiently unpleasant from the perspective of sensation alone to persuade me that I didn't want to do this again. Query: what if the antibiotic hadn't worked? How long would I have had to "express" the swelling around my eye before my body's natural defenses won out? What if the superbug defeated those defenses? I don't want to know and I hope you never find out, but clearly we should feel very stupid for evolving these superbugs just to make cleaning a little bit easier.

Anyway, we are almost done moving to our new house and we plan on staying here a loooooooooong time, so we want it to be the healthiest house possible. That means systematically getting rid of anything in it that might help get us sick, or in other ways harm our environment. Getting rid of antibacterials makes sense; for most purposes, plain old soap-and-water works fine, and of course there's always alcohol. The bacteria does not exist that can swim in vodka!

A Book Potlach

books packaged for shipping
Seattle-area friends are invited to my Book Potlach this Saturday, from 1pm until we're done. You can help by coming and taking as many as you want. Seriously!

We're moving, and my collection of over 1,000 used books needs serious culling. I'll be doing technical writing full time so selling books online is out.

I have packed my last book for shipment (see photo), which was Terry Pratchett's "Thief of Time". Now I need you to haul away the rest.

We briefly considered having a yard sale, but why bother? It's more fun to have a conspicuous display of generosity and community, a.k.a. potlach. Come join the fun!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shower Power: Why You Should Share!

shower head
In honor of Earth Day: I have always laughed at the idea of sharing showers with my partner - c'mon, haven't you snickered too? - but once we started, it made so much sense that, more than half a decade later, I can attest:
  • It's Good For The Planet: You save a lot of water because you can soap up while your partner rinses off, and vice versa.
  • It's Good For Your Wallet: Saving water saves money. 'Nuf said!
  • It's Good For Your Relationship: There are so many ways that showering together every day is good for you together! First and most important, it's easy stupid fun. You don't need to buy anything or go anywhere; you just do it. But it's is also structured down time, a time to chat about nothing in particular; and if you're not in the mood you don't have to talk much because when there's water pounding on your head, just saying, "How'd you sleep last night?" sounds profound. If conversation flags, you can always ask about the new soap, scrub, wash, rinse or conditioner that your wife has picked up. Whatever you talk about, you simply cannot fight when you're soaking wet and depending on the other person to maintain your balance, but you can be reminded as to why you don't really want to fight. You can also check each other for changes in the moles on your back and do other health-related things. Most of all, you are practicing the habit of admiring each other for a couple of minutes each day, and that's gotta be good!
It may be awkward at first practicing how to maneuver at such close quarters in a slippery-wet environment but just take it slow and you'll soon be as agile as teenagers on prom night!

Or as clumsy. Remember, practice safe showering!

This post is in response to last week's "Change The World Wednesday" challenge
"This week, cut the number of showers you take in half. If you take a shower daily, try taking one every other day instead. Whatever the number of showers you take in a given week, cut it in half. Warning ... accepting this challenge may negatively affect any social functions or gatherings ... but will save water. :)"
While I can't cut back to a semi-daily shower schedule due to my level of physical activity, sharing showers effectively halves the number we take at home or travelling.

And ... just talking about the idea still makes me laugh!