Misc: December 2006 Archives


December 20, 2006

This Chrishannukwanzaa I was the proud recipient of some SquidSoap:

The concept here is that the top of the dispenser has an ink pad on it so that when you press down to get the soap it puts an ink mark on your hand. That ink mark takes about 20 seconds to wash off, so you get positive reinforcement of good washing habits. This is a pretty clever idea but the execution is a little off. With my model you need to press down unnaturally hard to get the ink to mark your hand much at all. That seems easily fixable.

A more serious problem is that while just getting people to wash long enough is important, there's a lot more to good handwashing than that—you need to wash your whole hand, not just the palms. Really getting your hands clean turns out to require quite a bit of dedicated scrubbing. I once attended an exhibit at the Puyallup Fair designed to demonstrate this. They had you rub this lotion onto your hands and then wash it off. Once you thought you'd done an adequate job of washing you put your hand under a UV light at which point all the lotion that you haven't washed off glows brightly. I thought I'd done a good job of washing already and was appalled at all the places that were still glowing (the webbing in between my hands, cuticles, under the nails, etc.) This is one reason for the growing emphasis on waterless hand sanitizers which do a pretty good job with less scrubbing. Still, washing for 20 seconds is a lot better than nothing. Now if we could just get a gizmo which would teach people to wash their hands at all!


December 5, 2006

Thanks to the DVD TV-show time machine, I'm watching The Rockford Files Season 1 (1974). Rockford's at the Office of Vital Statistics:

Rockford: Could you tell me, are the dates of death and the birth certificates cross-referenced.
Clerk: Are you kidding, that would be a monumental task.
Rockford: So, the date of death doesn't appear anywhere on the birth certificate index.
Clerk: You got it.
Rockford: Doesn't that leave a rather large hole in the system?
Clerk: They're a lot of holes in the system. So what?
Rockford: So what? Do you realize that you could adopt a new identity by ordering a birth certificate of somebody that's already dead. And you'd mail it out without question because the date of death doesn't appear anywhere in the birth records.
Clerk: You're a genius.

Of course, with digital records this is a simple database query—though that isn't to say that modern birth certificates are handled much better.

Of course, 1974 was right when records were starting to go digital. Later in the episode Rockford has someone look up a bunch of insurance records, which goes pretty fast since "they're all on the computer."