Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Science of the Shower

About a year ago, I understood that I needed to change how I take a shower, because I finally internalized what I saw around the world and what we hear from science. Even though a lot of hotels in the US have plumbing which makes it hard to do right – plumbing which encourages less effectiveness,  waste of water, and more time.

The basic idea: get wet quickly, and turn off the water. Then soap up effectively all over. Then… in no hurry.. turn it back on, to rinse of the soap. The optimal details depend somewhat on the needs of the day; on some days, this can be done quickly, but on leisurely days I add some use of one of those long rubbing tools (like brush on a long handle or the bright blue and white plastic thing we have now to serve the same purpose).

More detail: on a typical kind of day, the minimum steps:

(1)  unless it is summer, be sure fans are off, windows and doors closed, and a clean pair of socks and underpants are near at hand.
(2)  turn shower water to maximum heat and full strength, and feel the water
(3)  when it is hot enough, immediately turn the temperature knob to a level which will be bearable hot as it gets to equilibrium
(4)  get wet enough all over as soon as possible, and turn it off as soon as possible. Experience gives a feeling for how wet is wet enough, anticipating the next stage.
(5)  Soap up all over, from bottom up. First, sweep soap all over the left leg, quickly moving to use fingers to be sure soap is between the toes and on all fingers, and then enough on the rest of the leg. Then the same on the right, Then the thighs – possibly using left hand if there is a dirty area one must be strict about. Then quickly arms, front, back neck face. Be sure you see where on the floor of the shower is the soap to be used on hair. Then face and hair.
(6)  Rinsing off, just by pulling the volume, same temperature as before. Do rub with hands on body as water/soap mix starts to flow… make sure to use it for the moments it is there. Rinse off hair and bottom orifice last.  IF any part of the body seems to want extra hot water, and if there is time, do it.
(7)  Floor should be dry enough that soap stayed between toes until step 6. Then, drying off… top down… maybe don’t dry foot or bottom of foot.
(8)  Get out… and sit with feet to the right. Dry feet throughly first. (“Angelical cats dry between the toes.”  Immediately put on the socks, most days. Then out towel back up, put on underpants, go to next station.
(9)  At next station, brush hair, and use Qtips dipped in vinegar to clean out ears.
Not enough time this morning to summarize all the observations which led to this. Japan, Ukraine, Fareed Zakaria, interagency committee on WMD terrorism, simple logic., watching what works in washing floors. Zakaria reciting doctor’s rules about letting the soap act on the skin for a minimum of 30 seconds. Still wondering about solvent efficiency of how I soap up now, versus the more watery stuff in stage two.  And of course, I recognize that the optimum is a function of the needs of the specific day – “a parametrized decision block or skill,” as I would say in brain math or robotics respectively.

All for now.

Having some knowledge of engineering, I have at times thought about how one could use a shower as a testbed or problem set for a few basic principles. I have also thought of using additional degrees of freedom here, like volume of water flow, and mobile showerhead. However, even good showerheads from Costco seem to have some maintenance problems when one does fancy things, so I mostly don't.
ON rare occasion, however, I have found it important to use mobile showerhead to direct high temperature to some areas.

Complementing this is ringing mouth with the hottest water I can get, salt water, at time of getting into bed or out, when I suspect bad bugs in the mouth or other parts inside connected to the mouth.
Easier and cheaper than chlorhex, which has its uses at rarer times. Am glad I do not need to mix vinegar with stronger stuff in the ears, for years, but there were times when that was necessary,
and a bit tricky in the US medical system which has obvious problems.

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