Daily Ablutions – Necessary?

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

– William Shakespeare 

Bathed, that is. Or, rather, the necessity to – and if so, how often. 

If the old chestnut of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is true, one could think we Americans are surely heaven bound. But we’re not alone. The average American showers six to seven times a week, the global average, including people in Spain, France, and India (for Mexico, the Middle East, and Australia, eight showers a week is fairly normal.) But that’s nothing in comparison to Colombia and Brazil, where they take 10 to 12 showers a week. And if bathing (cleanliness) leads to heaven, the people living in Japan, the UK, and China, who only indulge in around 5 showers a week, need to step up their game.

In the Bard’s day, in Elizabethan England, the lower classes would only bathe a few times in a single year (the “uppers” roughly once every few weeks – it is said that Good Queen Bess of England only took a bath every four weeks “whether it was necessary or not”), in a wooden tub next to the fireplace to keep the water warm, everyone in the household sharing, in turn, the same water (and, as an aside, with no running water, no indoor toilets. And in the facilities outdoors – quaintly called “outhouses” in America – there was no toilet paper, only clumps of grass or hay was employed for, uh, cleaning. But I digress.) 

Using soap in the bath has been around since time immemorial. By the second century A.D., the Greek physician, Galen, recommended soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes. But after Rome (Romans delighted in bathing) fell in 467 A.D., so did the habit of bathing. It didn’t revive until the 7th century. Even so, the popularity of bathing was slow to rebound, and the use of soap even slower.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century, that the advertising industry created a “need” for “toilet soap” where one hadn’t existed for most Americans (prior to that, “soap” meant laundry soap, usually made with lye) – people merely used water to rinse away the grime. A gentler alternative was invented for cleaning the body, called ‘toilet soap’ to distinguish from the more caustic laundry stuff. Today, ‘toilet soap’ is simply called soap. And showering was virtually unheard of until just 100 years ago. It was only with the advent of indoor plumbing that it became the alternative to tub bathing, due to convenience. 

But enough history, back to the questions of: Is bathing (or more commonly, showering) necessary? How often?  They are worth considering.

Your skin is teeming with bacteria that help prevent infections. They educate your skin cells to make your own antibiotics while they produce their own antibiotics that both use to kill off bad bacteria. And it’s bad bacteria that not only can cause disease, but also skin problems by exascerbating conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and body odor. When you shower or bathe, you not only wash away dirt but also this microbial balance. Using soap in addition only makes it worse. Daily showers might ultimately upset your health. Still, we want to be clean, feel clean and – above all – smell clean.

Dermatologists tend to frown on daily showers, especially in hot water and with harsh soap, because of the damage it can do to your skin. According to John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry: “A vigorous daily shower would disturb the natural bug flora of the skin as well as skin oils… As long as people wash their hands often enough and pay attention to the area of the body below the belt, showering or bathing every other day would do no harm  …Even twice a week would not be a problem if people used a bidet daily as most infectious bugs hang around our lower halves… We should wash to stop cross-infection, not for grooming reasons.”

Dr. Casey Carlos, assistant professor of medicine in the division of dermatology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine notes:  “It’s the hardest thing to get people to use soap only where they need it… People don’t realize that the skin does a pretty good job of cleaning itself.” 

Professor Elizabeth Shove, (a sociology researcher at the University of Lancaster, England), says, “Ask yourself whether you need to do it before you turn on and step under.”

So, a bath/shower, (warm but not hot water, dermatologists advise) maybe every other day, and only daily washing with soap those areas where bad bacteria thrive – under arms, crotch, skin folds, etc. It’s all one needs to have healthy skin and odor control. Unless, of course, one perspires excessively or gets dirty.

Also, the frequency of bathing/showering depends on age. According to the American Academy of Dermatology and other authorities:

• Infants – A bath isn’t really necessary more than once or twice a week. Just wash the face frequently and thoroughly clean the genital area after each diaper change. Many people think that babies need to have a bath every day, but that can dry out your baby’s skin. 

• Toddlers to Tweens – Once or twice a week, more only if they get dirty, such as playing in the mud, or after being in a pool, lake, ocean or other body of water, or if they start to smell.

• Tweens and Teens – Once puberty starts, kids should shower or take a bath daily, wash their face twice a day to remove oil and dirt, and after swimming or playing sports.

• Young and middle aged Adults – (I already told you; re-read everything above.)

• Older adults and Seniors – like infants, older people have dryer skin; it’s a developmental thing in babies, an aging thing for seniors. Twice a week bathing (either bath or shower) is sufficient along with spot washing daily as needed (in the critical areas – crotch, underarms, etc.) for odor control.

And on a related subject, shampooing, most authorities agree – in all likelihood you’re doing it a lot too often. Daily use can cause conditions that will require more products to correct resulting dryness, oiliness, brittleness, etc. Shampoo less often and allow your hair’s natural oils to hold in moisture. As a general rule, shampoo once or twice a week. If you exercise every day, consider simply rinsing your hair with water and applying a little conditioner; it – with the water – will leave your hair clean without washing out the natural oils that protect both hair and scalp.

So there you have it. Bathe (rinse, really) – if you must – daily, but without soap (except for “pits and privates”), unless you play in the dirt.

Give it a try for a month and let me know how it works for you. I’ll be glad to do a follow-up article on your conclusions.

– Bill

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Oh, the Insanity of it all!

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” – Bertrand Russell

ra·tion·al [rash-uh-nl, rash-nl] —adjective: sane. – Dictionary

Like Bertrand, I search today for even a modicum of lucidity – given the current state of affairs in this country.

We have a president who daily demonstrates his predisposion to pander to the base emotions of the radical conservative minority that got him elected; a congress that would rather defer to their monied supporters instead of the needs of the populous; a supreme court whose individual members allow their personal political persuasions instead of impartiality to influence their rulings; and, as a result, a people who have become polarized into an us versus them, based on color, religion, political persuasion, economic level, even sexuality.

It is no longer the “united” states.

Race, religion, social inequality and every imaginable other difference, all are battlefields fought over in government, in the media, on the streets. There is no longer the desire, the will, to find common ground, amicable compromise, acceptance of diversity.

People rebelling against everything this country has always stood for, the common belief in fairness and equality, freedom of speech; we have become a country of individual – personal – interests and wants, demands.

They speak of “trickle down” economics – the discredited belief that if you give the rich more, they will pass the wealth down to the poorer – well, apparently, the the attitudes and behaviors of the government can “trickle” down to the average citizen, who, as a result, thinks they must protect their own self-interest, because they believe their government and society doesn’t care about them, so they act out accordingly.

So we have Black men killing cops. Cops killing Black men. Ethnic neighborhood gangs doing “drive by” attacks on each other.  

White men committing mass murder.

All with guns.

Because we have a president who campaigned on the right of every American to own a gun (with some 300 millions guns in private possession – enough for one gun for every American man, woman and child – that is already a reality); a congress that is working on removing [most] all restrictions on carrying a concealed, loaded handgun across all state lines, and to remove existing restrictions on silencers for “sportsmen” (explain that, if you can); a supreme court that has held it unconstitutional to outlaw possession of a gun for self-defense; a deep-pocketed, well-financed gun lobby (better known as the NRA) that has corrupted the literal interpretation of our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment that calls for an armed militia to protect the nation (into meaning private citizens in addition to a legitimate national guard and national army), and we have what we have today, a veritable license to kill.

We are a sorry lot. We have lost – if we ever had – any sense of rationality.

Discontent, hate, anger, aggression.

MAD – mutually assured distruction – the acronym applied to the insanity of nuclear war, is an apparent overreach; we don’t need bombs to destroy us, only ego, social, economic, religious, or politically-centric attitudes need do.

And guns.

Just counting mass killings so far this year, in the United States (there’s an oxymoron for you) – January, 31; February, 25; March, 22; April, 39; May, 23; June, 35; July, 36, August, 33; September, 27; October, 2 (and counting).

279 days. 273 mass shootings. Zero action by the president, the congress, or the courts to put a stop to this madness and restrict (forbidding the manufacture or importing) of the types (e.g., semi-automatics) and the number of guns for an individual that have no possible justification or semblance of need for the hunter, target shooter, for home defense.

A target shooter needs nothing more than a bolt-action .22, the hunter nothing more than a .22 for small game and a .243 or 30-06 bolt-action for larger game (if you can’t drop an animal with one shot – and need a semi-automatic to do the job – you are a lousy shot), and for home defense (all experts agree) a pump-action shotgun is the best weapon. A handgun (pistol/revolver)? Its only purpose is to kill a human being.

In my past, I once was a member of the NRA (but quit over their political activities) and I owned each of the mentioned guns, but gave them up as target shooting became boring, lost interest in hunting, and felt safe in my home (but I am reconsidering that). I even wrote a post back on July 8, 2016 defending one’s right to gun ownership for self-defense (and I still stand by what I said in it.)

Admittedly, even those restrictions/limits won’t stop a mass shooting by some deranged psychopath, but it will help lessen the number of shots fired before the police can stop the shooter, thereby lessening the carnage.

What we need is a government, a society, that will work together to resolve the issues that lead to people acting out in anger against each other.

The insanity evidenced in America today is sufficient proof that Americans are anything but rational.

– Bill

The Religion of Politics

“We have…associated religion and politics…we cannot leave our religiously based moral convictions outside the polling station, but we do need to remember the difference between civil and religious law.”

― Fr Iggy O’Donovan

The U.S. might have been the very first nation to officially ban the church from state affairs, allowing no restrictions on the exercise of religious beliefs except as a civil requirement for political office. To this day, most countries still have an official religion, and the head of state is usually considered the head of its’ church, even if it is in name only. Only those that are communist countries have either outlawed all religion or severely limit its practice.

Dispite our founding father’s intentions to keep religion out of politics, having learned of the atrocities other church-led governments had put upon their people, it has never really come about successfully here; the Christian religious (historically the majority belief in America) have always believed that it is God who institutes governments and believers believe that the government and every citizen – indeed, the world – should thus conform to biblical standards. To that end, they try – often successfully – to leglislate and impose their moral convictions upon everyone.

And yet, it is they that seem the most vocal in denouncing the radical jihadist Muslims who want to do the same, according to their religious beliefs.

Go figure.

It would seem that mankind, before it’s a political creature, is a religious one first and foremost. And some in the U.S. have taken it a step further and have elevated politics to a religious level, a sort of secular religion – without calling it religion – with all the trappings of organized religion. Consider the state of politics in America compared to organized religion:

• our national anthem for the Gloria Patri.

• our pledge of allegiance for the Apostles Creed.

• our national flag for the cross.

• our Constitution for the Bible.

• our Founding Fathers for saints.

• (with apologies to the Catholic Church), Washington D.C. is our Holy See, Congress is our College of Cardinals, the Supreme Court is our Signatura, the President is our Pope.

And the name given to this secular religion is Patriotism.

Most ardent adherents hold the belief that to not salute the flag (our cross) in any manner, to publicly refuse to say the pledge of allegiance (our Apostles Creed), to fail to stand at attention for the national anthem (our Gloria Patri), to interpret the constitution (our Bible) in any manner other than literally, to question the correctness of congressional (College of Cardinals) acts or supreme court (Signatura) rulings, to not hold the president (Pope) in the highest esteem, is unpatriotic (sacrilegious and anathema.) [As an aside, in religion, to genuflect – to “take a knee” – is considered reverential and worshipful; politically, today, it is considered disrespectful.]

But, like all religions, politics is fraught with schism, competing sects (parties or blocs within each – liberal, middle of the road, conservative), each (especially either extreme) proclaiming to be the anointed one, more correct and righteous than the rest.

And, as with any religion, the most pius, righteous believers insist on proper behaviour and the non-conforming (especially unrepentant heretics – those who don’t buy-in to the platform or dictates of the dominate party – call it religion – at the moment) are ridiculed, ostracized, or otherwise publicly rebuked and shamed into conformity or silence.

Don’t for a second think America is unreligious. We may not have a formal, national religion, but we do have the pantomine of one.

God save us.

– Bill

Patriotic Claptrap

“In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.”

― Eugene V. Debs

Claptrap (- noun): ” [Anything] expedient for winning applause or impressing the public.”

– Dictionary

Patriotism, or to what degree (if any), is a hot topic of late here in the ol’ USofA. Patriotism can be defined as loyality to one’s country, encompassing love, support and its defense. But the extent, the degree, of and the manner in which it is displayed – including symbolically – is (or should be) a matter of personal disposition, and to call another’s patriotism into question, compared to one’s own and what one defines patriotism as, is utter hubris.

I served this country for 42 years in federal civil service and 4 years in uniform – voluntarily – during the Viet Nam War. There hasn’t been – without exception – a war this country has fought, begining with the Revolutionary War, that multiple direct ancestors of mine didn’t fight in; for over 30 of those years, within my own lifetime, multiple family members have not only served in the Armed Forces, but have also served this country in the intelligence community (including myself). They, and I, have served this country, fighting to keep it and our people safe and free. 

Free, to exercise their rights under our Constitution.

And I say that, not to brag, but to illustrate that I and my family are no different than other Americans who have served, in some compacity – even passively – their country. We have believed in, even fought and died for, the rights of every American, including their right to disagree and to find fault – and express the same in any manner they think appropriate within the law – with anythng they believe this country is not doing right or could do better.

I have nothing but pure, unadulterated contempt for anyone who questions their or my patriotism. 

Those that do question or challenge another’s patriotism are self-serving, self-righteous, petty tyrants, intentionally exploiting the emotions of like-minded others and who attempt to oppress and suppress the individual right of expression of those who disagree. As if to prove how much more “patriotic” they and their like are – as if being a super-patriot were a badge of some kind of honor in some kind of children’s game.

I took no offense at the manner in which Colin Kaepernick “took a knee” during the National Anthem all last year, and I took none at all at the NFL team players, managers and staff, and even owners, who either took the knee or joined arms in solidarity, or absented themselves during the Anthem, this past weekend in protest of (in Kaepernick’s instance) continuing racial inequality or (in the NFL’s) an en masse protest against the President’s asinine public comments about athletes, how they should be “fired” for displaying in public “unpatriotic” behavior during the National Anthem.

It is their Constitutional right to symbolically express their disdain. To deny them that right might be considered unAmerican and unpatriotic.

Not standing at attention, with hand over heart, for the National Anthem, not flying a flag at home or saluting a passing flag, not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, not wearing a flag lapel pin or any other outward, overt display of  patriotism should not be the measure by which another is judged “unpatriotic”, just because they do not conform to one’s personal sensibilities.

Mr. Trump? Can’t wait to see what his response is to this weekends protests.

Most likely, just some more tweeted claptrap for those petty “patriots” who think as he does.

– Bill

Perceptions Limit Our Choices

“People see what they want to see.”

― Susan Beth Pfeffer

“Two people can see the same thing, disagree, and yet both be right [or wrong]. It’s not logical; it’s psychological.”

― Stephen R. Covey

I remember when, in a college psychology class, we were given a short personality test. Not graded, just for self-knowledge. Later, the professor used the results anonymously in the aggregate, in a lecture, to illustrate differences among a random group, such as my class of some 200 people. At the end of that class, the prof called out to me to stay behind.

He told me that, of all his classes, I was the only one who answered one question differently from every other student and he wanted to ask it again just to make sure my original response was what I really meant. The question was, “When you look at this picture (of a glass containing a liquid filled to the middle point), is the glass half full or half empty?” He asked if I remembered my response. “Yes,” I said, “I wrote down that there is no way of knowing.” “But that wasn’t one of the two choices given for an answer,” he explained. I responded,  “Either answer given could be either right or wrong. There’s insufficient information in the question to determine if the glass was in the act of being filled – and therefore half full – or in the act of being drunk – therefore half empty – assuming it was completely full to begin with. ”

“That is the correct answer,” he said and explained the reason no one else gave it was because he had limited them to only two choices for an answer and they never considered there was a third possibly, a more correct one. He said I had thought logically and most people don’t, they either preceive things based on how they’ve been conditioned to or according to their own inner needs at the moment – everyone else answered either to their conditioning that given a choice of only two possibilities, only one could be correct, or, their answer was based on whether they were or weren’t thirsty at the moment. If they were thirsty, they’d say the glass was only half full. While I remained still not knowing about how half full or half empty the glass, I remember leaving him more than half full of myself, ego-wise.

I relate all this because of the tension in the world today. US and North Korea, Palistinians and Jews, Muslim extremists and the world, and liberals and conservatives everywhere. In each instance both sides have been conditioned to believe that their way is the only way and they each have the perception that there can be no compromise, the only answer to the other is to yield or…war.

We can’t allow these situations to be based on a conditioned choice of only one or the other. There has to be a third alternative, a more logical answer to each side’s imperfect perception of the other or each’s inner needs, than going to war.

Everything in life needn’t be reduced to a pass/fail basis – nothing in life is (or should be perceived as) limited to true/false, white/black, one way or no way. There is always a third way.

I may have been smart enough that day in class to figure out what others didn’t. But not now, not today, despite my inner need for peace in the world, I can’t perceive of a way to figure out what others haven’t, what a more correct, third possibility might be to resolve the tensions.

There has to be someone out there that can.

Anyone?!

– Bill

Paint, Memories, and the Wife

“It was strange walking through the empty apartment. My battered purple room was gone, Brittany’s bruised blue was gone. Two coats covered everything. It was like none of it had ever happened.”

― Kimberly Novosel

Painting. A room. Our bedroom. We (the wife and I) have been at it for five days now and we still aren’t done yet. Well, the painting part, yes (that only took three days), it’s all the preparations before and cleanup after that adds so much more time to a painting project. And that’s not including all the time it took (on her part – eons, it seemed – but I suppose, if you’re going to have to live with it for a few years, you better make the right choice straight off) in choosing the colors. Colors, plural; it was decided one wall had to be strikingly different (a dark sea-blue), yet complimentary to the other three (a very, very light gray) and the trim yet another (stark white).

It is now the second such multi-hued room, after the kitchen (three walls medium gray, one dark gray, contrasting with black appliances and white granite counter tops).

Hummm…am I the only one seeing patterns here? Patterns, plural. Accent walls? Grays? A theme, perhaps? No, not perhaps, a definite probability. Same dark sea-blue on one wall of the living room to contrast with light sandy-brown on the others, to highlight the dark-brown wood floor, gray-blue sofas, and white and brown wood French country style side and coffee tables, and white trim; the same blue surrounding the white brick fireplace with a slightly different light-brown on the others, to contrast with the same French country style white and brown table/chairs, and blond wood flooring in the dining room? Well, that’s what is being invisioned as the next paint projects.

(I’m told that the use of one or two of the same color in all of one’s rooms ties them together, as a whole. Color coordinated. But what do I know? I’m just a man. Who, like most men, isn’t particularily fashion coordinated. I’ve been known to wear a brown belt with black shoes, or a patterned tie with a stripped shirt. Hey, at least I got dressed in something more than my boxers!)

Still, I have to admit, it does look good, and I’ll confess that my wife has a good eye for such things.

But it is strange to me, seeing new coats of color on walls that were for so very long some other, their colors then so much a part of our lives spent in those rooms. Now gone. Now, with new colors, it’s like that part of our lives never happened. Now, just memories.

But, with new paint, new memories.

Now the blues, and grays, and sandy-browns all bring to my mind, remind me, of other favorite memories, those enjoyable days past spent at the beach – the blue of the ocean, the light brown of sandy shore, the dark brown of driftwood, the gray of overcast days. Fond memories. And, as we don’t get to the beach now as often as we wish, it’s as if (with a little imagination) we are (or will be when all the rooms are painted) there in every room of our house.

And that’ll be nice. I never realized before what feelings, what memories, can be invoked by a little paint. So, whereas I wasn’t exactly wanting and excited (God, that’s a lot of work!) to do a complete paint make-over house-wide, I’m now onboard with it (so long as I have a small respite between rooms.)

Thank you, dear wife. For the memories of the good times we’ve shared in our home. And new ones to come.

-Bill

Insisting on your Rights can be Deadly

“Rights’ [and] ‘privileges,’ and if I am arrogant enough to demand the former without respecting the latter I will lose both.”

― Craig D. Lounsbrough

[This is for all you bicyclists. As you read the following, know that I was once one. One who for five years rode his bike daily to work and back during rush hours, and who had so many near misses with unattentive drivers that it forced me back to driving my car and just riding my bike in suburban or trail areas for exercise. So I am no stranger to bike/car issues.]

I’ve had a spirited and engaging exchange with one of my nephews about bicycles, specifically in how they ride in lanes of traffic with autos. The genesis of the discussion began with a photo on Facebook that he posted and commented on –  it showed a painted bike lane on a road with the symbol for a bicycle painted sideways, perpendicular to the lane, instead of in the direction of the lane, making it look as if the bike should cross the bike lane into the lane for auto traffic – and to which I commented back with – I admit – a snarky remark about the photo being a commentary on either the lack of attention by the public works crew or the fact that it accurately portrayed bicyclists – especially when there are several together. I noted about how often they ride side-by-side, two and three across, or pass each other outside the bike lane and into traffic, or ride in packs (in or practicing for a race, specially on mountainous roads with blind curves), taking up most or all of a lane and put themselves in harms way with cars.

The repartee included: (He) bikes have every right to occupy a traffic lane, auto drivers need to recognize that and be attentive; (I) bikers need to recognize that drivers are looking for other cars and not bikers, bikers need to not expect anything more and need to stay in their (bike) lane (or farthest to the right), single file, for their own safety; (He) reiterating that bikers have a right to traffic lanes, even if auto drivers don’t like it. (I, finally saying), “…most bicyclists exercize awareness and demonsrtate it by how they ride [with] great caution…[but many] seem to have the attitude that cars need to defer to their right to be on the road…[and] while they have the legal right…their’s isn’t the only right…on the road, and it isn’t smart to insist on a right just because it is a right. One can be right…and still be wrong. Deadly wrong.”

I received no resonse to my final comment. Either I’d persuaded him to my argument, or he’d decided it wasn’t worth pursuing, he’d given up on me. I imagine the later.

It was only after I saw the above quote, and I wish I’d seen it before so I could’ve expanded upon it:

Under the law, there are both rights and privileges. Rights cannot be denied (there are exceptions), but privileges can be (without exception). Legally (in every state that I’m aware of) it is a privilege – and not a right – to operate a vehicle (which includes bicycles) on the public roads. As with any privilege, to keep whatever rights that may accompany it, one mustn’t abuse it, to keep from losing it.

And, as with all privileges, to insist your privilege has equal “rights” with another’s, the result might be you “lose” , something you hadn’t reckoned on, if they have more weight on their side. 

Like a two ton car versus a thirty pound bicycle.

But I’ll concede my nephew’s point, drivers should be more observant and tolerant of bikes.

If he’ll concede mine that bikers should be less expectant and demanding of cars.

– Bill