Frank’s Personal Hygiene Tips

Toilet PaperIt has been a while since I’ve written about germs and my generally strong feelings about the subject. It’s strange, because I am not what anyone would mistake for a clean freak. But I think I have a good perspective. And I feel even more superior after having read, Everything You Know About Your Personal Hygiene Is Wrong. That’s in reference to you. Not me.

I’m not going to wade through the whole list. If you are interested, I recommend clicking over. There are minor points worth noting like the fact that antibacterial soap is not only bad for your hormonal chemistry, but it’s no better than ordinary soap at keeping you healthy. There is something about how stupid the “5 second rule” is, but you should have already known that. And there is some really interesting information about air dryers and how they are less sanitary because of how long they take; while your hands are wet, they are “bacteria magnets.”

There is also a slide show of things that are dirtier than your toilet. Number 1: your carpet. In fact, the article spends a lot of time noting that just about everything is dirtier than your toilet. It even offers this charming observation, “In most cases, it’s safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board.” I’m not sure just how seriously we can take this. For one thing, I wash my cutting board a few times per night. But more to the point: are the worst bacteria really in higher abundances on the cutting board than the toilet seat? I’m skeptical. But it’s probably a good idea to take more care with your kitchen cleaning.

This leads me to an issue that I am absolutely obsessed with: toilet seats. Okay folks, this is so easy. When toilets flush, they spray fecal matter all around the room. The article says up to six feet away, but it really depends upon your toilet. Certainly those industrial ones must spray the stuff out of the bathroom and halfway into the food court. But when you’re out, what are you going to do? At home, you can do something really simple: close the fucking lid! When people use my bathroom at home, I make sure they understand this. Nothing is more important in the bathroom. Also: I would keep your toothbrush inside some enclosure. It isn’t just fecal matter that’s disgusting. Dust is disgusting too. Trust me, you don’t want to know.

Arrested Development Fall on CarpetNow let’s talk about your body. Your belly button is disgusting! But don’t pick at it; wash it! The same goes for those toes, although the article doesn’t discuss this. Here’s something personally gross: my two feet have different bacteria and fungus growing. I know this because they smell disgusting in completely different ways. Anyway, clean these areas! It’s even more important than your anus, which has been designed by evolution to be in a fairly safe location. Still, clean it too. But what you do instead, is shower every day. You shampoo your hair—some of you fools do it twice! Just stop that. You only need to bathe a couple times a week. So save some time and do it less. But when you do it, get in there and work those disgusting parts. And don’t worry about your hair!

I hope this has been helpful to you. I know it’s made me feel better. There are basically three takeaways here. First, close that toilet lid. Second, clean your kitchen well. And third, wash the disgusting bits of your body more thoroughly less often than you probably want to.

And stay off the floor. It’s disgusting.

Sarah Palin Still Terrifies Me

Sarah PalinThe Des Moines Register reported yesterday, Palin Compares Federal Debt to Slavery at Iowa Dinner. And you may well ask why I care. After all, Sarah Palin is always saying something stupid and she is always somewhere. This weekend, it was Iowa.

But I think it is important. I don’t care about the slavery bit and all her racist talk. What does bother me is this, “Our free stuff today is being paid for by taking money from our children and borrowing from China.” There are two things wrong with this sentence. First: China. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about this, so I think it is worth bringing up again. As I discussed in China Owns America! In Republican Ads, only 32% of our debt is owed to anyone outside the country; only 8% is owed to China. The vast majority of American debt is owed to ourselves.

I see this kind of fear that we are going to bury ourselves in debt—especially from conservatives. But it is based on an extremely poor understanding of finance. Consider this example. When I was 5-years-old, my parents bought a house for $17,000. It is now 44 years later. Imagine that they had kept that house all this time and had only paid the interest on it. Let’s also assume that their mortgage rate was 8%, which is actually kind of high. That would mean that today, they would be paying $113 per month in interest. Clearly, they would be better off having paid off the principle—$113 per month better off. But it’s not the case that they would be buried in principle. What’s more, they would now have a house that is worth about a quarter million dollars.

That brings us to the second problem with Palin’s sentence. We aren’t taking money away from our children by borrowing money today. That is especially true if we are using the money we borrow to invest in infrastructure, health, and education. College graduates are having a hard time finding jobs right now. And that will hurt them into the future. Having a low paying job or no job at all will be a big problem compared to that modest $113 mortgage we are supposedly saving our kids from.

The real concern about our “debt problem” is that in the future, the government will have to raise taxes on the rich. That’s why conservatives care about the issue. But I’m not sure that’s the reason that Palin cares about the issue. She seems more like the base of the conservative movement—someone like Amy Kremer. These kinds of people seem to have just decided to join the conservative movement and so they repeat the talking points without even understanding them. Of course, that makes them really dangerous if they ever get power. You can depend upon someone like Karl Rove to not do anything really crazy. He knows that most of the Republican talking points are nonsense. But if Palin were president, she really would allow the government to default. There would be no convincing here. She believes in conservative principles the same way she believes in Jesus.

Sadly, this is the legacy of the modern Republican Party. And as I’ve written about a lot here, it is wrong to think that a crazy Republican can’t become president. All it takes is a bad economy.

Real Atheists in Foxholes

Atheists On AirIf there is one thing that all atheists hate, it is the phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes!” The problem with it is that it implies that atheists haven’t really thought through what they think and that when it comes right down to it, they will turn to God just like the theists. This goes right along with claims that Darwin had a deathbed conversion. He didn’t. But this is a whole genre of stories Christians tell about noted atheists. Voltaire did not convert. David Hume did not convert. Interestingly, Oscar Wilde did, although not on his deathbed and he wasn’t really an atheist.

Given this, I was very pleased when Nice Atheist Girl tweeted out a photo from Atheists On Air. It is a podcast about… well, guess! On their Facebook page, it says, “The Explicit, Honest, Humorous, Heathen Podcast with Cash & Love.” Here it is, especially for Veterans Day:

Atheists in Foxholes

Also along the same lines of military people who are not as you normally think of them, Frank Conniff tweeted out the following:

Diversity in the military is a very good thing. Now we just need it in our politicians!

Update (11 November 2013 1:14 pm)

This is via Reed Richardson:

First Female US Soldier Statue

Now I think this article should have a different title: Military Diversity.

Remembrance on Veterans Day

Veterans DayI got this picture from Wikipedia. The caption reads, “Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.” This is not just how I think about Veterans Day; it is how I think our country should think about it. Let us honor veterans but let us also regret that we have them.

In most countries, today is Armistice Day: it marks the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. It is also referred to as the more appropriate Remembrance Day. It is a day to remember those who have died in our wars. It is a solemn occasion. And it should be. Even the “good” war, World War II, should not be looked back on as a great adventure. It was a tragedy for the world. Over 60 million people were killed in that war. And for what? A bad economy that allowed a megalomaniac to gain power in Germany?

It’s my opinion, based upon nothing but a fair insight into human nature, that most people just want to live their ordinary lives with their families and friends and the occasional barbecue and backyard party. And that’s as true of people in the army as anywhere else. I put the number at 95%. It’s that 5% of the population that fucks everything up. And I’m not just talking about Hitler here. Why did we started the Iraq War? It certainly had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction—that was just a cover. And I don’t think it had to do with oil either, but that doubtless played some role. I think it was just another example of a small group of men who thought it would be super keen to take out big bad Saddam Hussein.

In the United States, of course, we celebrate Veterans Day. The idea of it is not bad. We need to honor our veterans, although I think better than a single day would be an everyday approach to providing them their earned benefits. But it seems that Veterans Day to most people is just another day to celebrate what a kick ass country the United States is. Except because it references veterans, there is more explicit jingoism. To most people, it is a time to celebrate the fact that the United States spends 46% of what all the 171 countries of the world spend on military. It ought to be our great national shame, especially when even the Democrats want to cut food stamps for the poor.

But back to that picture. That’s how we should think of Veterans Day: an old veteran from one of our many useless wars with a symbol of his son who died in another of our useless wars. To call the wars useless is not to disrespect the veterans. It is no disrespect to Achilles and Hector to note that the Trojan War was useless and tragic. To see wars clearly is a reminder of what a precious thing life is and how we should value it just as much before the war as after it.

Have a safe and thoughtful Veterans Day.

Crime and Dostoyevsky

Fyodor DostoyevskyOn this day in 1863, the French neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac was born. He was most clearly influenced by Georges Seurat. But it is taken to extremes. What’s more, there are more modern aspects of his work—designs that remind me of Paul Klee but also that 1960s San Francisco sunburst kind of art. And his use of light in landscapes is like Monet, but again, taken to extreme. I think he is one of the most interesting artists of that period.

The great American general George S Patton was born in 1885. He was a fascinating guy—very much in the mold of Sherman. On the one hand, he was a terrible human being who thought that war was the ultimate expression of human creativity. On the other, if you’re going to have wars, you need men like him around. He is much better than the men who get us into war but claim that it is the last thing they want. I’m talking to you every president of the United States ever! As much as I like George C Scott’s portrayal of him, I think that it gives the wrong idea about him. It makes him coarser than he was and also more of a loose cannon. But I think as a society, we want to see great generals like that. It has certainly been done to Sherman and Grant, although in Grant’s case, it’s probably right.

The Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire was born in 1915. He was a great Senator, but his legacy is a pernicious one: the Golden Fleece Award. The idea was to point out government waste. Before getting to it, however, let’s just be clear: there really isn’t much waste in government. People always think there is because they don’t realize just how much the government does—including a lot of things for them. Do projects go over budget? Could the system be even more efficient? Of course! But we’re talking marginal stuff here. What’s more, most of the waste in government contracts is in the military. That’s the one area where conservatives never want to even think about cuts. Regardless, the Golden Fleece is used most every year to make fun not of wasteful spending but mostly just research contract titles with little or no understand of what the work actually is. I recommend checking out, Fighting William Proxmire with Golden Gooses.

Other birthdays: film director Rene Clair (1898); the great writer Kurt Vonnegut (1922); comedian Jonathan Winters (1925); my good Senator Barbara Boxer (73); President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega (68); and then a bunch of actors: Stanley Tucci (53); Demi Moore (51); Calista Flockhart (49); Adam Beach (41); and finally the really annoying Leonardo DiCaprio (39).

The day, however, belongs to the great Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky who was born on this day in 1821. It’s always hard to discuss authors who wrote in a language you don’t read. But I’ve never gotten the impression that the sound of his writing was terribly important. In fact, I’ve always wished that translations would anglicize the character names. It can be hard to keep track of people. The main thing in his works, however, is the depth of the characters he creates. I’ve never read any of his early work. But the later stuff clearly shows the influence of his hardly rosy life. My preference is for those who find humor in tragedy, but there is nothing more compelling than men who stare into the abyss and explain in detail exactly what they see.

Happy birthday Fyodor Dostoyevsky!