Weird And Fascinating Facts About Hygiene

The word hygiene comes to us from Greek. Hygieia was the goddess of health, cleanliness and the moon. The lesser Greek gods had multiple responsibilities to maintain their importance in the hierarchy, like today’s politicians.

If you have seen a commercial about a monk (looking possibly Buddhist) turning over an upturned turtle and moving a crawly thing from indoors to the outside by carrying it on a piece of paper, then sneezing into a tissue and screaming when told he has killed millions of germs, you may have seen something almost real. Monks of the Jain Dharma (an offshoot religion from Hindu, having several million followers in India) wash only their hands and feet. They do not bathe other parts of their bodies in order to do no harm to millions of microorganisms that live there symbiotically.

The human body harbours some one thousand species of bacteria, most of which are beneficial to us and live in a mutually beneficial relationship with us–we keep them alive and they keep us healthy. Killing all bacteria on and in you, despite what you may read in advertisements or see in commercials, will make you more vulnerable to disease.

There are far more bacteria on your body than there are people living in the United States. It’s estimated now that we have more microorganisms living on our skin and inside of us than we have cells of our own bodies.

Antibacterial soap has been found to be no more effective at preventing infection than ordinary soap. The active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps, triclosan, can actually mess up your hormones and affect your libido.

A recent study involving over 11,000 children showed that an overly hygienic environment–especially in their first decade of life–increases the risk of their having eczema and asthma. Bodies of young children have relatively immature immune systems that need to work very hard to build immunities to many harmful pathogens in the environment. Other studies have examined how a sterile environment may affect allergies in children.

The word soap derives from the mythological Mount Sapo. Women washing their clothing in the river below found a “natural” cleaning agent in the water. It turned out that fat and wood ash from animal sacrifices on the mountain drained into the Tiber River. One of the first recorded cases of human waste products polluting a waterway turned out to be beneficial to humankind.

The Aztecs and the people of ancient Egypt were known to rub urine on their skin to treat cuts and burns. Urea, a key chemical in urine, kills bacteria and fungi, major causes of infection.

England’s King Henry IV made a grand move toward cleanliness when he insisted that his knights bathe at least once in their lives, during the ritual of their knighthood ceremony. The rest of his people stuck with their belief that bathing was unhealthy.

The daily bath or shower has only become common during the past half century.

If you have seen women in movies tossing human urine and excrement out the second story windows of their homes in 18th century London you will understand how the city’s water supply was constantly contaminated. It’s said that the good citizens of Londontown got their daily supply of hydration from gin.

The “five second rule” or “ten second rule” about something dropped on the floor or ground not being able to pick up germs if it is picked up within that time frame is nonsense. An object (including skin) that touches something contaminated can become contaminated itself as soon as the touch occurs.

Most people get colds and flu from handling something with germs on it then putting their fingers in their mouths, touching food that then goes into their mouths or even from rubbing their eyes. The mouth has natural defences against germ attack in the saliva whereas the eyes have virtually no protection.

Those commercials that urge you to kill all the bacteria in your mouth with their mouthwash will also have you kill all the good bacteria that form the body’s first line of defence against disease. If you wipe out your body’s first defence (in your mouth) you must depend on your gastric juices (in your gut) to kill the bad microorganisms before they get into your bloodstream. The companies that make mouthwash don’t usually make drugs, but the link would make you wonder.

A school science fair in Florida recently crowned a seventh grader with top prize for proving that ice machines in fast food restaurants harbour more bacteria than the water in your toilet bowl. The belief that fresh toilet bowl water is automatically contaminated is not necessarily true unless you clean the bowl rarely. Pets who drink from the toilet bowl may know more than their owners about clean water.

The toothbrush was likely invented in China somewhere around 1498. (Since the Chinese travelled the world as explorers–even to the Americas–a century before Columbus ever set sail, it’s possible that the Chinese picked the idea up from somewhere else.) Someone wired Siberian pig hair to a carved cattle bone. Before that it was sticks and bones used as toothpicks and for rubbing the teeth.

Brushing of the teeth didn’t become common in the United States until after World War II. Soldiers during the war were required to brush their teeth to prevent decay. (Not many dentists made it to the front.)

Brace yourself for this. In 1935, Northern Tissue introduced “splinter-free” toilet paper as a grand innovation. The Innuit (aka Eskimoes) of the far north used tundra moss. The ancient Romans used a sponge with salt water. In the American west–fondly known as the Old West–it was common to wipe the butt with corncobs (with the kernels removed, and “splinters” too).

In the 17th through 19th centuries in Europe and the Americas, one-quarter of all women died giving birth due to contracting puerperal fever. They picked up the pathogen from doctors and nurses who commonly didn’t wash their hands. Death in childbirth wasn’t just bad luck or insufficient knowledge as movies would have us believe.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that television remotes in hospitals do the best job or spreading bacteria. Even better than toilet handles (maybe they had been licked by visiting dogs). TV remotes accounted for the majority of deaths from antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus in hospitals, which annually runs around 90,000 people (er…ex-people).

James Garfield, one of the few US presidents who died in office, did not likely die from a gunshot wound from Charles Guiteau after all. He more likely died (three months after the incident) from severe infection that originated from the hands of his medical team. Their hands were contaminated with manure stains.

Those latex gloves that doctors and nurses use today seem like a great idea now, don’t they? The medical people think they’re protecting themselves from picking up something from us. Do we really want to know how doctors attending the president of the USA had manure stains on their hands?

[Primary resource:Discover , September 2007]Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about teaching children the important lessons of life–including washing their hands–before they need them as adolescents and adults. Our people have too many problems because they didn’t have the information they needed soon enough.
Learn more at


Is Anyone Paying Attention To You?

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should read and a worldwide plan to make the world a safer and healthier place to live. Learn more about the book and the plan at
The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.
– Sir Winston Churchill

Though Churchill was referring to writers of history and the sciences, in which case they water down their premises and arguments to the point where it would be hard for anyone to disagree with them (example: “motherhood” issues), the quotation applies as well to today’s writers and even to non-writers in terms of their behaviour.

Political correctness comes to mind first. Initially its purpose for each person is to prevent the offence of an innocent second party by an unthinking or boorish first party. The problem, however, is that political correctness kicks in so that an arrogant and supercilious third party attempts to control the behaviour of the first party. The objective is not learning a lesson, but control of another’s behaviour.

Political correctness has become the weapon of bigots who presume to support the cause of avoiding bigotry. Practitioners of political correctness on a scale where it is intended to affect the behaviour of others (accused of bigotry) are themselves bigots, especially with their bullying ways.

As a response, innocent people try to avoid being labelled as racist or as bigots by writing and speaking in wishy-washy ways so that they can never make a strong point in an argument for fear that it may offend someone. Meanwhile we can see the ultimate in extremist political correctness on such services as FOX-NEWS where an interviewee or guest may suffer verbal abuse at the hands of a host who purports to be a defender of the innocent.

In the United States the hypocrisy of political correctness reaches absurdity as people with white skin may be fired from their jobs or suffer overwhelming condemnation for using “the N-word” publicly or privately in a way that becomes public later as a result of spying. Meanwhile African-Americans freely use the whole word in large public gatherings and hi-hop music lyrics. Somehow, the inequality of that issue doesn’t strike home with the advocates of political correctness.

What hits home with more people is the effect of the movement on how they speak. Some get so tied up with striving to use the politically correct words that their listeners or readers lose track of what the purpose of the issue at hand is.

When conveying messages of any type, you can’t please everyone. If you do, you find yourself with an audience that cares nothing for what you have said.

When making a strong point in any argument, whether written or oral, if your words don’t generate at least some opposition, even enemies, then not enough people are paying any attention to your message. Without opposition, the mountain you want to climb becomes a plain, a desert where you can get lost and no one will notice. Or care.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to grow into competent, confident adults worth listening to.
Learn more at

The Most Commonly Broken Law

“In life and business, there are two cardinal sins.
The first is to act precipitously without thought and
the second is to not act at all.”
– Carl Icahn

In business, acting without thought, planning and due diligence may be fatal to the business. However, can this be true of life in general? Is doing nothing or doing something without careful thought a cardinal sin?

Icahn likely doesn’t mean cardinal sin in a religious sense, only in the sense of being critical to good health.

If doing nothing is critical, then it seems a large portion of the populations of most western countries has reached that stage. What they do is to buy and, in the case of some, to devote themselves to a religious belief set proposed by a few people who have as much (or more) to gain from selling their religious concepts as industries have from bringing in customers through their advertising.

Thinking seldom enters their lives as an active pursuit any more than it does a predator animal when it chooses between two potential victims.

It has become progressively harder to get people out to vote because they have little or no idea who to vote for. Many who do vote do so based on what they have been told by someone else (including the media) or on the emotional wave that has followed some personal issue among the candidates (such as prior drug use or marital indiscretion of one).

I happen to live in a rural municipality where city cottagers leave their accumulated weekend waste at the landfill (dump) at the end of each weekend. Many arrive in their $60,000 SUVs and must ask the attendant (every weekend) where to put their newspapers, their cardboard or their recyclables. Some don’t even ask, they simply put what they have into the wrong bins despite the fact that each bin has acceptable contents clearly shown in illustrations and in words on their sides.

These give no evidence that they have the ability to think beyond the minimum necessary for doing their jobs and for survival in the family.

Ask any one of them if something should be done to alleviate the problems that precipitate global warming (climate change) and without exception they will reply in the affirmative. Yet nothing in their behaviour confirms that their belief has been transferred to a change in behaviour. Their reaction toward the climate change question is knee-jerk reaction, with no actual thinking following up.

At least the people who act precipitously and make mistakes learn from them and don’t make the same mistakes more than seven or eight times. The people who learn nothing do no thinking.

Perhaps that is the moral aspect that Icahn called a cardinal sin. Doing nothing is an indication of no thinking. In the animal world, these people would be the first course of lunch when the first predator came around. That’s a violation of natural laws.

Bill Allin
‘Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems,’ a book about how and what to teach children so that they don’t become SUV-driving, drug-using, non-thinking vegetables as adults.
Learn more at

Let’s Look Into Your Future

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
– Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD – 180 AD)

Many people fear the future, mostly because it’s unknown and they fear that which is not familiar to them. Anything unknown, they learned somewhere, should be feared, or at least faced with apprehension.

Some look with trepidation to the future because they see the present being so much worse than the past they knew and are concerned that the conditions of today will only get worse in the future. (“I wouldn’t want to have to raise kids today.”)

What they fail to realize is that in their younger years they were relatively ignorant of the conditions of the world of their time. As we get older we gain a broader perspective of many things in life, whereas when we are younger we focus more on our immediate present.

This condition even exists with vision, where younger people can focus better on specific objects in the distance, but not so well the whole scene, whereas older people can take in a larger picture and assess the overall conditions better but may not be able to see specifics as easily. For example, kids can find Waldo in the Where’s Waldo puzzles far easier than older adults.

A few people don’t want to think about the future because they imagine that it will bring more of the pain they have suffered in the past and they are not certain they can tolerate any more. Those people may not consider the good parts of their past, thus see little possibility of a balance between good and bad in their future. The good was there, but they allow the bad to overwhelm them, so they believe the future will be equally as bad.

The future is neither good nor bad, not any more so than the past. We tend to remember that which impacts our emotions most, especially the negative emotions, and forget (most of the time) the good times we experienced. Our memories of good experiences may not be as vivid as those of the bad ones. At least not until we have lived long enough to be able to look back more than 40 years into our own past.

Life is filled with good times and bad times. We may miss some of the good times because we spend so much time focussing on our problems while not appreciating what we have that is valuable. Often, for example, we don’t consider how fortunate we are to have people who love us, though many people in the world have no one who cares deeply for them. Love is a treasure beyond compare. Though it doesn’t pay the bills, it’s far more valuable than the money that does. If we appreciate it. If not, love is wasted.

Life really is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. There’s nothing fair about it. Life being fair is a misconception we were taught as young children, often when we were expected to share something tasty or a toy with siblings. (“Be fair and share.”) Life, in general, is not fair.

We have no right to expect that life should be fair because no other life form on earth experiences fairness in life. For most of us, just surviving after we have made grievous mistakes or terrible errors of judgment gives us a huge advantage over other animals who would have become lunch for a predator for making the same degree of mistake.

The future will be as good as we want it to be, as good as we expect it to be. Or as bad. In general, life for us humans is improving. You don’t have to study much history to discover that life in the past–any part of the past–was much worse, much riskier, shorter and with fewer benefits than life today. In western countries alone people live twice as long as the average life span of their grandparents’ generation.

Almost everyone forgets one thing about the unknown aspect of the future. It doesn’t remain unknown. And it doesn’t remain the future. We only ever get to experience it as the present.

Considering how many bad experiences you’ve had in the past and weathered them, you can expect that you will do as well in the future. Maybe better, as you have more experience that should allow you to make fewer mistakes thus generate fewer downturns in your life.

And you have the good times to look forward to.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about arming children with the knowledge and skills they require to live healthy and positive lives, as opposed to the lives of many troubled adults of today.
Learn more at

A Message From The Taliban

When the Soviet military pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, Afghan
citizens cheered wildly because the Soviets had reportedly killed about
one million Afghans during their occupation of the country.

The Mujahideen that had nominally routed the Soviets separated into
their various (mostly tribal) factions and began turf wars within the
country, each determined to dominate the economy. This would be somewhat
like organized crime gangs battling each other, only lots of innocent
citizens were robbed, raped and killed, including children. Torture of
the (summarily convicted) “accused” was a daily practice.

The Afghans cheered again in 1996 when the Taliban defeated the warlords
in most of the country. By then an estimated 50,000 innocent Afghans had
died in the conflict in Kabul alone at the hands of the gangs of the

Most of us have an idea of how brutal the Taliban regime was before it
was driven into the mountains along the border with Pakistan. What
follows below accurately depicts the true nature of the Shari’a law the
Taliban put into place immediately.

It’s worth keeping in mind that even today the Taliban intends to retake
control of Afghanistan. And Shia militants from the south of Iraq and
Iran (with military weaponry support from Iran) plan to turn all of Iraq
into a Taliban-style repressive regime. We already know what the Sunni
militants did to Iraq during the Saddam years.

What follows was broadcast on the radio, from loudspeakers atop each
mosque and printed on flyers that were dropped all over the streets
where every citizen could find them.

Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are
the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:

All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you
are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.

All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one
clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be

All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear
black turbans, higher grades will wear white. All boys will wear Islamic
clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.

Singing is forbidden.

Dancing is forbidden.

Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.

Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.

If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.

If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal
again, your foot will be cut off.

If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims.
If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. If you are caught trying
to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

Attention women:
You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women
to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be
accompanied by a mahram (a male relative). If you are caught alone on
the street, you will be beaten and sent home.

You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover
with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.

Cosmetics are forbidden.

Jewelry is forbidden.

You will not wear charming clothes.

You will not speak unless spoken to.

You will not make eye contact with men.

You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.

You will not paint your nails. If you do you will lose a finger.

Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be
closed immediately.

Women are forbidden from working.

If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.

Listen. Listen well. Obey. Allah-u-akbar.

Not only were women thereafter forbidden from receiving an education,
they received no vote or political status, including no representation
in the government.

In Kabul one hospital was designated for women, while all other
hospitals (including those for women only) were assigned for men.
Children had to attend the hospital for women unless they were taken by
their fathers to the male hospitals (only if they were boys).

The one hospital for women was given no supplies, including no drugs for
anesthesia during operations and no fuel for power generators. Female
surgeons were to wear their burqa while conducting their surgery in the
operating theatre.

The power and influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and militant
Muslims in Iraq is why foreign troops are in those countries. We believe
that we cannot treasure life in our own countries while allowing the
slaughter of innocent men, women and children elsewhere.

Every Muslim mother in Iraq and Afghanistan has the same hopes and
aspirations for her children as your mother had for you. We want to give
those children a chance.

It’s the right thing to do.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social
, a book about what, when and how to teach children what they
need to know to be competent and confident adults.
Learn more at

Why We Suffer And What We Can Do About It

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you
cope with it is what makes the difference.
– Virginia Satir

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit
to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and writer (1906-1945)

Putting these two quotations together I’m tempted to believe that how we
cope with the bad things in life is to suffer them. Sure enough, that’s
what most of us do. If we don’t die in the midst of our suffering,
conditions change and life gets better. Sometimes it takes longer than
others and some don’t live long enough to enjoy the coming good times,
but it’s safe saying its a rule that life always gets better a some time
after the worst of its bad times.

Why do we suffer? Because we don’t have the skills and knowledge about
how to cope more effectively. If we had the skills and knowledge, we
could busy ourselves working our way out of the messes we find ourselves

Simply knowing that life always gets better eventually after a bad
period is a good beginning toward giving people the motivation to endure
the hardships of the bad times in order to eventually reach the good
ones. That’s an extremely important life skill. Most of us were never
taught that as children or adolescents. If we learned that lesson, it
was the hard way for most.

Knowing that every life has downturns is another very important fact
about life. Everyone has them. Everyone has bad times several times a
year. How bad they are, how long they last and how our life changes as a
result of them may be determined by coincidence. Some might call it fate
or bad luck, but it’s more often coincidence of conditions that results
in downturns.

Sure, many of them may be attributed to ourselves. We make bad decisions
and suffer the consequences. Yet it’s not as simple as that. Seldom is a
bad decision all bad. We learn from our mistakes. The more we learn, the
wiser we become. Therefore the more bad decisions we make the more we
have to learn with a personal experience base. That’s the most common
way we learn about life. Not the best way, but the most common.

Of course we all shouldn’t go about making mistakes just so we can learn
from them. We could be taught, as children, about how to avoid making
many major life mistakes.

When do we teach our children about life mistakes they may face? Usually
when they are in their teen years, when they no longer want advice from
us and aren’t likely to accept it. That’s too late.

Children form their major concepts of life during their first ten years.
After that it’s hard to break into that core of being to tinker with the
fundamentals and make changes. In general, every major lesson about life
should be taught to children before they reach their tenth birthday.

When each one gets taught may be a matter for debate, but by age eleven
they have almost passed the stage of being able to internalize life
lessons and reformulate their life concepts other than through the ones
they experience themselves. In other words, by their tenth birthday they
are ready to ignore all advice and make their own mistakes, whether they
realize it or not.

Most adults seem to think that children younger than ten years are too
young to learn about the grisly facts of life. Those adults are wrong
and their children pay a great penalty for the ignorance of their
parents. The kids, inevitably, make more mistakes in life than they need
to make. And they suffer more, needlessly. Because their parents just
plain didn’t know.

Strangely, the most important job in life is parenting, yet we hand it
over to those least knowledgeable and skilled to handle it. By the time
most young adults have learned about the developmental stages of the
lives of their children, the kids are beyond age ten and it’s too late
for the parents to do anything to make major differences. The kids have
already learned by the examples set (as role models) of their parents.
The very same parents who had no idea that their kids were learning so
much from them when they were so very young.

Children learn the most important life lessons through teaching in their
first decade of life. After that it’s just fine tuning. And learning
from their own mistakes.

Hard to believe those little guys are forming such grand concepts of
life when they can barely write and they don’t know much math or
geography or science, isn’t it? That’s the way life works. It’s the way
it works for every species of mammal on earth. Every other animal learns
those life lessons early or they become lunch for a predator. If we
don’t learn them in time, we suffer for many decades afterward. We
usually don’t die, we just suffer.

As the 1960s song by Crosby, Stills and Nash said, “Teach your children
well.” And teach them young. Don’t keep then “innocent.” An innocent
child becomes and ignorant adult. Look around you to see the results of
so many families who kept their children “innocent.”

Life eats the innocent for lunch.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social
, a book about what, how and when to teach young children the
important lessons of life that schools don’t teach and many parents
Learn more at 
Contact Bill Allin directly at
The book’s an excellent gift for your grown children who have young children
or will soon. Pretty good for older parents to learn what they missed

Life Is A Waste Of time

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should read and a worldwide plan to make the world a safer and healthier place to live. Learn more about the book and the plan at

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of
its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of
attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the
overabundance of information sources that might consume it.
– Herbert Alexander Simon, economist, Nobel laureate (1916-2001)

Let’s try to put the ducks in order here. We have too much information available to us constantly. The Information Highway became the Information Superhighway, which became an information stampede. Trying to stand firm in the face of any stampede brings challenges and risks. Not the least of which is that we could get run over.

The wealth of information tends to come to us from only a few major sources. Television, radio and the internet bring us news, not just local and national but from every corner of the planet, 24/7. Some of those sources believe that we need to know that opposition groups in the former Soviet state of Georgia are demonstrating for change, that Vladimir Putin is putting the squeeze on European countries that buy oil from Russia and that the Dalai Lama visiting Washington and Ottawa has upset the establishment in Beijing.

Do we really need to know all this news? In today’s world, knowing what’s going on in the countries of the preceding paragraph could affect who we vote for in our own national elections. International relations and reputations among countries of the world are extremely important when they often help to determine what trade alliances happen or fail, which can affect the long term stability of the economy of our country. Yes, it is important to know this stuff.

What we need for all this news that could be important is a time management technique that will allow us to attend to the news when we make time to absorb it and to ignore it until that time. Those who do not exercise that kind of time management can become news junkies, who may know what is happening on the far side of the planet but not whether their own kids are taking drugs after school.

From the way many people pay attention to their surroundings it’s obvious that they are in the grip of information overload. Spend some time watching people in the aisles of supermarkets, on roadways or even at parties and you will see how much time people waste because they can’t focus on what is supposed to be the object of their attention at the moment. They waste their own time, waste a great deal of the time of others by their thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour, and even create situations that can precipitate such incidents as road rage, office rage or household bickering because they can’t cope with the amount of input to which their brains are subjected.

And what do we do about it? We form committees and commission studies which prove that our anecdotal observations are correct. What we seldom do is to teach the conditions of life in modern times to young people and give them the skills of time management so that they know how to prioritize the many demands on their lives.

We could do that. But it takes time. No one has enough time to devote to making it happen.

Just another one of those things that would benefit everyone, but no one wants to take the time to change the education system a bit to put the change into effect. So we all waste time, either by our own design or as a result of having to put up with others around us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to change education curriculum to address the real needs of children instead of only the needs of their future employers.
Learn more at