Don’t Bother with Aftershave

Most men have gotten in the habit of splashing on some aftershave after, well, shaving. The reason is pretty obvious: after shaving, the skin is raw and susceptible to infection; aftershave kills any bacteria on the face, keeping it clean and infection-free.

This makes sense, but the active ingredient in aftershave is alcohol. The scents and perfumes in aftershave serves no practical purpose (in fact, it could even attract bugs if you are in a climate with a lot of flies, mosquitoes, etc.)

Therefore, there is no reason to spend a lot of money on what amounts to a small bottle of smelly alcohol. Instead, you can spend a dollar or two to buy a larger bottle of rubbing alcohol which provides at least the same level of antiseptic (often more since isopropyl alcohol is available in up to 99% concentrations). In addition to getting a larger quantity of stronger alcohol, it also has the benefit that it evaporates in seconds, leaving a nice, clean, refreshing, and odorless face.

Of course some people may think that the scent is the point to aftershave and prefer to smell for hours after shaving, but rubbing alcohol is superior in several ways, so for the rest of us, it is a great alternative.

Buying Time When Buried Alive

Being buried alive is a frightening thing for anyone. There’s plenty of ways it can happen; a few common ones include:

  • Being assumed dead when actually not (e.g., tetrodotoxin)
  • Being buried by a bad guy (or as a hostage)
  • Coming back to life (as a zombie, through magic, etc.)

If you return from the dead, then there’s not a whole lot to be done, you really just have to dig your way out. Depending on how you came back, you may or may not be at risk of dying again, so oxygen deprivation may or may not be an issue.

If you were believed to be dead, then you are probably in trouble because nobody is looking for you.

But what if you were buried by a bad guy? In the movie Buried, Ryan Reynolds’ character is taken hostage and while they wait for the ransom, he is stashed in a box underground. Towards the end of the first season of The Following, an FBI agent is buried alive as a way to torture the main character.

How can you survive? How can you buy time until you are rescued? Obviously oxygen is going to be your most immediate problem. You need to conserve oxygen as much as possible.

First and foremost, the best way to conserve oxygen is simply to sleep. Breathing rate drops significantly when we sleep, so sleeping will help to use as little oxygen as possible.

Another way to buy time is to create more oxygen. How do you create oxygen? Simple; just split water.

If you have some source of electricity like a phone battery, then you can split water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Simply take the battery out, use some sort of conductive write like a pin to create “electrodes” and hold them against the two ends of the battery. Then put the two electrodes into the water and let the electricity split water molecules into breathable air.

You may be wondering where you can get water in a box underground. Assuming that the box isn’t conveniently leaking groundwater, then you have saliva which has a lot of water, but urine has even more. Pee into the corner and put the electrodes in there. You should be able to get enough oxygen to buy at least some time until rescue arrives.

There are a few caveats with this however:

  • When you split water, you create both oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen is not breathable and anyone who knows of the Hindenburg will tell you that it is extremely combustible, so any spark (like from a short-circuit from a battery!) could blow up you and your casket.
  • There are plenty of other compounds in urine like urea (CO(NH2)2) as well as Chlorine, Sodium, and Potassium. It may be possible to create other harmful gases when electrolysing urine.
  • You will want to make sure to use your phone (if possible) to call for help before pulling out the battery. If you actually do have reception and your phone has GPS, then it’s best to just leave it on and sleep.
  • one more thing…

It may be dangerous to electrolyse urine, but if you’re about to die anyway, then it may be worth the chance to buy some time.

Quick, Easy, Cheap, and Safe Flea Removal

If your pet picks up fleas, don’t bother with expensive chemicals and poisons, let alone needles. There is a much safer and cheaper way to get rid of them.

Simply get a lice-comb (like the kind that you use when children get lice at school). They are at the drug-store for one or two dollars. Comb the pet thoroughly a couple of times a day with the lice-comb to remove the fleas and their eggs.

In addition, wash your pet a few times a week (yes, even cats). Get a plastic box like a Rubbermaid storage container. Put it in the tub, fill it with warm, soapy water and soak your pet in it for a few minutes, massaging the (gentle) soap into their fur. Make sure to thoroughly soak them, but of course be careful of their face.

Finally, thoroughly vacuum all areas that they go to or use (blankets, beds, chairs, holes, etc.) a few times per week to prevent re-infestation.

To summarize:

  1. Comb with lice-comb a couple of times per day
  2. Soak and wash a couple of times per week
  3. Vacuum a few times per week

It may seem like a lot of work (certainly more than simply spraying them with poison or wrapping poison around their neck or shooting them full of chemicals with a needle), but it’s safer and cheaper and more reliable. Besides, if you stick to it, it does not take long and can be over in as little as two weeks.

Don’t throw out your toothbrush… yet.

It is common practice to replace a toothbrush after about three months. However, you can prolong the life of your worn-out toothbrush by simply trimming the bristles. You can trim them a little or a lot to get varying degress of hardness (in fact you could even trim a new, soft brush to make it harder). Even if you get a new brush, you can keep the trimmed brush on the side for dealing with those tough-to-clean moments when you need a harder brush to scrub away stubborn coffee or chocolate build-up. (If you normally brush hard, then remember to brush softer since the shorter bristles are already harder.)

One thing to note is that any contouring of the bristles will be lost by a simple cut unless you specifically cut it (which you can do however you like regardless of whatever contouring the brush originally had).

Keep in mind that wearing-down of the bristles is only part of the reason that you are encouraged to change your brush; the other reason is germs. After a while, toothbrushes tend to accumulate germs, especially for people who don’t take much care in keeping them clean. You can deal with this by putting the toilet seat down before flushing (duh), using a toothbrush cover (though you will want to vigoursly shake the brush dry before putting it on to prevent mold), keeping the brush in a medicine cabinet or even another room (do not use those brush holders where the brush is slid into a hole and the brush head comes into contact with the open, exposed base).

Rinsing it with boiling water once in a while is extremely helpful and when combined with trimming the bristles can extend the life of a brush by quite a lot. (Yes, toothbrushes aren’t exactly expensive, but why waste? More importantly, it’s hard to find a good, firm, scrubbing brush for those stubborn coffee stains and plaque splotches.)

Finally, even when a tootbrush is of no hygenic use, it is still of use for cleaning. Brushes are the holy-grail of cleaning equipment and can make many cleaning tasks much easier than with a sponge, cloth, etc. In fact, toothbrushes are absolute gold when it comes to cleaning nooks and crannies. (Of course you will want to wash the brush first.)

It’s good to keep an old toothbrush in the toolbox or cleaning bucket.

Worn toothbrush from the side.Worn toothbrush from the top.
Toothbrush trimmed short.Toothbrush trimmed medium.
Two trimmed toothbrushes, one short, one medium.

Do Not Kill that Zombie!… Yet.

It is common knowledge that when a person is bitten by a zombie, they become infected with the virus and themselves eventually turn into a zombie after a while. It is also common in movies for the friends or family of an infected person to kill them before they turn in order to save them the presumed torture of becoming a mindless, violent creature. Unfortunately, this is always the wrong thing to do.

There are two scenarios in which a person may be infected by a zombie: (1) during a fight in which zombies are closing in, with little time to think or rest before the the person turns, (2) incidentally, with plenty of down time and waiting before the person turns.

In scenario (1) in which zombies are everywhere and everybody is desperately fighting for their lives, then mercy-killing an infected person is pointless. It wastes time, allowing the zombies to get closer, and deprives you of a an extra person who can fight or at the very least stall them and hold them off to give you time to get away.

In scenario (2) in which a person has been bitten (perhaps in a prior battle or close call) and now has time to sit and wait before turning, mercy-killing them is again pointless, and worse, potentially destructive. First, you deprive them of whatever little time they have left. Further, what happens if that person happens to be immune‽ Not only have you killed them unnecessarily, but you have just thrown away the possibility of developing a vaccine or even cure from their blood (yes, they must be alive otherwise the blood is in limited supply and decaying all the while).

Granted, waiting until the person turns puts you at risk because once they turn they become violent. However, the benefits of waiting until they turn to ensure that they are indeed gone far outweighs the risk. Besides, in scenario (1), there is no difference from one extra zombie (especially since they are not even a zombie yet), and in scenario (2), there is time and opportunity to secure the person to eliminate the risk altogether.

Moreover, even if a person looks like they are infected, it does not mean that they are not immune. When you get a cold or flu, you look and feel terrible for a few days, but eventually the immune system beats the virus back and you recover. It is no different from a zombie-virus; it may take a few hours or days, perhaps even weeks, who knows, but it is possible that some people could recover and not become a zombie.


When Crafting a Mnemonic Rhyme, Make Sure to Rhyme the Variable

A person on the weather network just recited this piece of sailing lore.

Red sky at morning; sailor’s warning

The problem with this is that there are two variables, namely the time of day and the color of the sky. However because warning rhymes with morning, it focus on the time of day instead of the color. As a result, the color could end up getting substituted without changing anything, and thus ruining the mnemonic:

Blue sky at morning; sailor’s warning
Purple sky at morning; sailor’s warning

The mnemonic should rhyme the primary variable, for example:

Morning sky be red; sailors be dead.

(Of course in this specific case, the mnemonic actually is correct because the line she recited was part of a longer one in which the active variable is in fact the time of day:

Red sky at night; sailor’s delight.
Red sky at morning; sailor’s warning.

However if the quote was indeed just that one line, then it would need to be rewritten to focus on the active variable.)

To Move or Not to Move; That is the Question

This is a follow-up to When to Pull the Cord.

As social as people like to think of the human race, we also like our space. Aside from public bathrooms, the bus is one place where this is very evident.

What happens when you get on a bus and there are plenty of seats free? You sit where you want. What do you do when there are few seats free? You sit wherever you can. More often than not, unless they are getting on the bus with a friend, most people will put a seat or two between themselves and the next person, creating a buffer, personal space (even with a friend, a lot of people make a buffer). Only when there isn’t enough space will people usually sit immediately next to someone else.

The question then becomes, what happens when some people get off and seats free up? Do you get up and go get your own seat or do you stay next to the person you sat next to earlier? What would the person you’re sitting next to think if you do? If you don’t?

If you move, the person may be happy to get their own space again. Or the may feel insulted that you felt you needed to move, perhaps because you think they smell or something.

If you don’t move, they may be upset that they are still being crowded when there is space available. Or maybe they are relieved that you don’t find them offensive, and perhaps even that other people will think that there must be something appealing about them to keep you sitting next to them when there are now free seats.

No matter what you choose, there will be some people who will view it as good, and some people who will view it as bad (and some people who will view it in ways that normal minds cannot even conceive of). In the end it more or less balances out, so there is no mathematical solution, and you are better off just doing whatever you prefer if the person does not give you an indication of their preference.

When To Pull the Cord

Having involuntarily had to ride the bus for many years, I’ve gotten to know the experience very well. One thing I’ve learned is when to pull the cord. While most people probably don’t give much thought to the timing (and I know this to be the case), it is not as simple as you would think.

The ideal time to pull the cord varies depending on several factors, but there are two main things you need to consider. Don’t pull it too early and don’t pull it too late.

Too late is obvious, it means that you shouldn’t pull it when the bus is too close to your stop since it will be difficult or even impossible, and certainly dangerous for the driver to stop in time, particularly if it’s snowy or rainy.

You may wonder what’s wrong with too early; what could be bad about pulling it immediately after you pass the stop before yours? This one’s not a safety issue, it’s a convenience issue. If you pull it too early, then the driver will start slowing down too early and it will take a little longer to get to your stop. Granted it may only be a few seconds more, but that’s still a few seconds you get back which can add up day in and day out, also anyone who’s missed the bus, train, or anything else by just a few seconds can attest to the importance of a few seconds.

There is no simple number such as four seconds before the stop, ¾ of the way between the two stops, etc. that can be used universally. It’s really just up to each person to use good judgment and common sense to figure it out. If you ride the same route often then it will be all the easier to figure out.

Bad RAM? Maybe Not.

It has become more and more popular to blame computer problems on bad RAM—poor RAM. While it’s certainly possible to have a RAM module with a problem, it’s not as common as people would have you believe. In the past few years with the release of various RAM testing apps, there has been a surge of comments to the effect of “test your memory”, “you’ve probably got bad RAM”, “you need to replace your RAM” in response to posts about computer problems. It is just so easy to blame the RAM since it’s one of the only things that can successfully explain intermittent or unexplainable problems. The snafu is that even when the RAM is at fault, it’s not necessarily because the RAM is bad, it could—and usually is—because the connection is bad.

There are three common ways that RAM can be the cause of a problem. The way that everyone is raving about is a defective RAM module, that is a problem in a RAM chip or circuitry. This would render it useless (for all intents and purposes) and require just chucking it and getting a new one. Another problem could be the contacts on the edge of the RAM module could be dirty or have a patina on them, which impedes contact with the socket. In this case, the RAM may or may not be detected and could work partially or not at all. Finally, the RAM socket itself could have a problem. It could be that the contacts are dirty or the pins/pads are bent. Fortunately the contact problems are more common and easily fixed.

If the contacts on the RAM module are dirty, then simply using a little water to dampen a small sponge can be used to clean them. There are fancy patina cleaners, but all you really need to do is to clean those little pins on the edge. Pretty much anything will do, even alcohol or solvents, as long as you don’t let them dissolve the metal, just clean them and wipe it off. The best solution of course is to use some good old soapy water and some toilet paper.

The RAM socket is a little more tricky. If the pins are dirty, an effective solution is to lightly wet a used toothbrush, and gently scrub the socket up and down with it. This will do a good job of cleaning it.

If the pins on the socket are bent, then it may not make proper contact with the RAM module and will be a problem. More often than not, you will have to abandon the socket or even the whole motherboard, but with a little dexterity and the right tools you can fix it. You will need a long, find-tipped object, like a dentist pick, or something. It must be long enough so that your hands don’t obstruct your view, and pointy enough so that you can work with the tiny pins. You will probably need two so that you can grasp them and bend them back. You will also need good lighting and perhaps a magnifying glass. Take a good look at the socket and locate the bent pin. Examine it carefully to determine exactly what the problem is and which way you need to bend it to fix it. Use the tools to carefully bend it back to match the others. Plug in the RAM and give it a test. Be aware however, that they are metal and can only be bent so many times before snapping.

In conclusion, don’t throw away your RAM just because someone told you that it’s the cause of a problem or because a testing app said there’s problem(s). Before heading to the store, clean the RAM edge and run it through the test app. If that doesn’t fix it, clean the socket. If that doesn’t fix it, check for bent pins. If that doesn’t fix it, then go to the store.

Quieter, Smoother Computer

Most computers come with fans to keep them running cool enough to avoid problems. Unfortunately, fans have moving parts, move fast, and stir air. All this results in quite a bit of noise which can cause headaches, not to mention being down right annoying. It also causes a lot of vibration which further adds to the noise, headaches, and annoyance. Some people get rid of their fans and use alternative cooling methods, however most of these are just too expensive for the regular computer user, and worse, too complicated. Good computer cases will come with rubber feet instead of the hard plastic ones that cheaper cases have. The rubber feet will absorb the vibrations instead of passing them to the desk, floor, or whatever surface the computer rests on. If your case does not have rubber feet, then you can add them if you are comfortable/able to open the case. If not (or even if your case does have rubber feet), there is a quick, easy, and cheap trick that can help to reduce vibration which will result in less noise and provide quieter, smoother computing environment.

Simply place a couple of foam-rubber mouse-pads beneath the computer. You’ve probably got a few lying around somewhere, or can easily buy a couple for under a dollar. The design does not matter, so you can get generic ones for less. The thick, foam-rubber kind work best, although even the thin rubber kinds are better than nothing. In either case, you just slip in under the computer to cushion it from the desk, making sure that the rubber side faces the computer. Even better, fold it in half (rubber side out), and you’ve got a vibration damping, noise canceling, double-cushioned, non-slip shim between the computer and the desk.

Here is a blog entry which says pretty much the same thing and includes pictures.