The 12th Day of Christmas, or A (Sorta Belated) Happy 2007

Happy 2007! Merry 12th Day of Christmas! Best wishes to all!

Actually, if it were up to me, it’d be Christmas all year long. I love the lights and the feelings of peace and goodwill.

Meanwhile, the weather has made it far from Christmas-sy or New Year-ish. Is it me, or have El Nino and Global Warming joined forces to ruin winter in the Northeast? Ohmigod, doesn’t anyone realize that Al Gore might be right?…
PBS – Channel 13 here – re-airing Ken Burns’ Civil War. Episode One ended with this amazing reading of a letter of a Union soldier who died at Bull Run – his words of love to his wife, swearing to be with her again in the afterlife, and belief and pride in his country. It’s timeless stuff. The documentary still has a powerful effect – the feelings of war, loss, love, and politics remain. Great stuff as ever.

Tuesday night – season premiere of “Beauty and the Geek.” It’s an amusing reality show that either finds ways to transcend or perpetuate stereotypes. Can’t be sure which, but it’s a laugh to watch. The guys may be smart, but they find ways to be dumb. One’s a Trek fan who takes his Trek way too seriously (I don’t own a Starfleet uniform and I don’t identify myself as a “Trekker” – I prefer “Trekkie” because my fan-ness is that much lighter – those who do own the uniform and called themselves “Trekkers” – well, I think they are just way too much for even me). One plays a Star Wars band – but seems to function well enough as a person. One’s a Harvard guy who may turn out to be the cute one. The gals – well, one’s identified as a “sorority girl” – so, I’m assuming she’s in an actual college and not bimbo. Some of the beauties otherwise seem to be perpetuating “dumb blonde” thing, but we’ll see – the show’s a good watch and something of a “Social experiment” that “Survivor” couldn’t quite play up (well, as for “Survivor” – I still salute Korean-American lawyer Yul for winning with some integrity intact).

Thursday night – I was watching “Ugly Betty.” Great episode. As she leaves for a new magazine job, Betty reflects on her early days at “Mode” magazine, and how she met Henry, the guy from Accounting. I really am beginning to like this show – very well done.

And in other news in the tv front: the upcoming season premiere of “24” – Jack is Back – Jack Bauer returns to the States after several months of torture by the Chinese government (man, they don’t exactly make Asians look good in this, do they?); and, as usual, America is vulnerable (civil liberties? We don’t need no stinkin’ liberties! Umm – well, what’s Jack defending this country? Just our lives, I guess; we’ll figure out the legal ramifications – umm, later, huh). On a Trekker/Trekkie note: Alexander Siddig, Deep Space Nine’s own Dr. Bashir, may be playing a villain against Jack. Emphasis on the “may” – alleged terrorists on this show have a tendency to become not so Evil and I hope Siddig gets to play a more ambiguous character, since ever since after 9/11/01, he’s been playing these Arab characters who try to be gray.
Plus, Fox’s “The O.C.” will be cancelled. Aww. Too bad. It started strong. I’ve enjoyed the Christmakkuh episodes, and how Peter Gallagher played the amusing Jewish defense attorney from NY who married the California WASP (inspiring O.C. fans to become lawyers, I’m sure), and thinking, “Jeez, isn’t Donovan Tate a little young to play this alleged teenage character’s dad?” and wondering when will the O.C. protagonist Ryan ever stop brooding like an idiot. Ah, well. I’ll probably watch the series finale, in all likelihood, considering that I’ve probably only watching one scene this whole season, and only one episode last season. Disclosure: I lost interest when they pushed Donovan Tate off the show and made Mischa Barton’s teenage daughter character even more of a drunken idiot (why Ryan ever liked her Marissa character, I don’t know).
Slate has the “Explainer” of the Year (which year? 2006 or 2007?) – “Is soap ‘self-cleaning’ because it’s soap?” – i.e., how clean is that soap in the public bathroom? Answer:

It’s dirty, but that doesn’t make it a health hazard. Soap can indeed become contaminated with microorganisms, whether it’s in liquid or bar form. According to a series of tests conducted in the early 1980s, bars of soap are often covered with bacteria and carry a higher load than you’d find inside a liquid dispenser. But no one knows for sure whether this dirty soap will actually transfer its germs to your hands during a wash.

In fact, what little clinical evidence there is suggests that dirty soap isn’t so bad. A study from 1965 and another from 1988 used similar methodologies: Researchers coated bars of soap in the lab with E. coli and other nasty bacteria, and then gave them to test subjects for a vigorous hand-wash. Both teams found no transfer of contamination from the dirty soap. However, both studies were tainted by potential conflicts of interest: The first was conducted by Procter & Gamble, and the second came from the Dial Corp.

Still, there’s no good evidence to contradict these studies, and it’s likely that the bacteria on a dirty bar would just wash off when you rinsed your hands. In other words, you’d be cleaning the soap as you cleaned your hands. (Your hands would probably have been a lot dirtier than the soap to begin with.)

It’s not even clear that you need clean water to get the benefits of a hand-washing. Recent hand-hygiene studies in the developing world have found that washing with soap and water reduces infections even when the water supply might be contaminated. Dirty water, like dirty soap, might not make washing less effective.

Even under the best conditions, washing your hands can actually increase the number of microorganisms present on your hands, thanks to contaminated surfaces near the sink, splashes of contaminated water, or improperly dried hands. (In general, it’s safer to leave your hands unwashed than to leave them wet.) [….]
Still, washing with soap and water has been repeatedly shown to prevent the spread of illness, and may be helpful even when it increases your bacteria counts. That may be because two kinds of microbes live on the hands: residents and transients. (In fact, they can even protect your skin from more malicious microbes.) The transient variety are the ones that tend to cause colds or other infections—the ones you want to get rid of when you wash your hands. It’s possible that the increase in bacteria that can result from a hand-washing is composed of harmless residents, not dangerous transients.

According to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand-washing remains a very important method of staving off infectious disease, and either bar soap or liquid soap should be used after a trip to the bathroom or before a meal. Local health agencies and inspectors are sometimes more wary of bar soap. They either ban it outright or suggest that the bar be placed on a draining rack to dry out between washings. (The gooey bars are more likely to harbor germs.) [internal hyperlinks removed; check the complete article to links to the research and other stuff]

Well, that’s good to know then. Now I feel better about glowering at an ugly bar of soap. Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside on a warm and weird 12th Day of Christmas.

Heroes and Horrors

You probably already heard already about Wesley Autrey, the Subway Superhero who saved someone having a seizure on the tracks of the 1 train.

NYT asks if you would have the courage to do it?

He was on David Letterman last night. There were two factors that were to his advantage – that he was a Navy veteran, which provided courage, and that he is a construction worker who is accustomed to working in confined spaces, which enabled him to estimate that he and the ill person would fit under the train. The two other reasons why he did it was that he didn’t want his two daughters to see someone being killed.

The 2 seconds getting run over by 5 subway cars was actually the relatively safe part – the dangerous part was when he had to restrain the other guy for 20 minutes while under the train until they could cut the power. Real heroes are the ones that never ever think that they would. His advice: if you have the chance to be a hero, go for it.

A 15 year old graffiti artist was not as lucky, getting run over by an LIRR train this evening. Two other members of his crew were at the scene. Unfortunately, there were no heroes there.