Coded green.

Sunday 13 May 2001


Pic of the day: The forest has gone from winter to summer in a week. Impressive. Quite a contrast to my latest activity:

Sinister left-hand work

When I brought home my new computer on Friday, I accidentally cut the inside of my right hand on a part of the crate. Just a superficial paper cut. I have had plenty of those in my lifetime. And I have found, despite all the virtues of soap and artificial healing aids, that the best treatment of a paper cut is to squeeze out a small drop of blood, lightly press the edges of the cut together until they stick firmly, and leave dry for a couple days if possible.

Obviously, not all people have jobs that allow them to not wash all or part of their hands for two days, so this may not be very helpful advice. I understand that there are now special band-aids that allow your skin to stay dry even when you wash with water. I have no idea whether the skin will still grow without air, though ... what I know is that with traditional band-aids, the healing takes longer time. With water and soap, it takes quite a bit more time and a small inflammation is likely.


One of the nice things about being human is that superficial wounds heal at twice the rate of mammals we like to compare with. There are still some frogs that outperform us easily, but we're doing pretty well. Presumably this is an adaptation to living without fur, as our naked skin bumps into all manner of rouch surfaces. A side effect is that we scar easily. The fast healing process makes generous use of scar tissue, a quick solution that evidently does not bother to match up completely with the surrounding body.

It may be that there are ways to speed up the healing process without scarring, but there seems not to be much selection pressure this way. In fact, people in many tribal society ritually scar themselves as decoration. It is possible that the scars, like the naked skin itself, aids in species identification and therefore is subconsciously seen as attractive. Or it could be just the randomness of fashion. Certainly there are times and places where scars are considered ugly. But it is worth noticing that there is a longer way from ugly to beautiful that it is from ugly to sexy. And for a trait to survive in the population, sexy is what counts, not beauty.

Incidentally, you should have seen the scars on my knee! Boy are they ugly ... ;)


It is when I try to not disturb my right palm that I find out how ambidextrous I not am. Actually, I am more right-handed than almost all people, as I discovered when taking a test in one of Desmond Morris' books. (I think it was "Manwatching", which incidentally is a lot more gender-neutral than some readers would assume. It is a pun on "birdwatching". Sadly I only borrowed it from the library so no page numbers.) I scored a 0 out of 10 on left-handedness.

Because most people are right-handed (though few as much as I) there are all kinds of superstitions and suspicion against the left-handed. Or at least this was the case until recently. Today left-handed people are encouraged to live their lives naturally, except that most tools are still made for right-handed people only. But we still have reminders of the more intensive discrimination of the past. In English, "right" means both the direction and "correct", while "left" also means something that one walks away from, or something that is found no use for (leftovers). In southern Europe, the word for left was the same as sinister ("sinestro" or some such - local readers please correct me on the spelling here). And here in Norway we still refer to a botched or poorly done job as "left hand work".

One theory is that from ancient times, the left hand was used to clean oneself after defecation. Consequently, it was a good idea to use the right hand for eating and various social activities. I am not sure how common this was - I for one never heard about it until I started to read English, and around here people wash their hands after visiting the WC.

(Another different between a guilt-based and a shame-based culture, I guess: In a shame-based culture you wash your hands after visiting the bathroom only when there may be people around to see, whereas in a guilt-based culture you do it anyway because your conscience is watching you. Provided you have a conscience, of course. On the other hand, I bet the shame-based people are scrubbing with double diligence when there is anyone around...)


Be that as it may, I really find it interesting to see how I cope with using my left hand for some things. For instance shaving. I rely on wet shaving, as my electric razor broke down as soon as the warranty was gone. Also wet shaving irritates my skin less. While I have had the electric razor for emergencies and fast shaving when I oversleep, I have mostly used various Gilette razors since my teen years. So this is really ingrained. Trying to use my left hand is a whole little challenge.

So I found myself thinking: At this age, the second mass extinction of brain cells is well underway. (The first and far the greatest being puberty, no big surprise here.) Basically the cells that go out are the ones who have not made themselves useful. What will happen if I ever lose my right hand, or at least the ability to control it normally? Being so one-sided, I would be in more than usual trouble, I think. Of course I hope this will not become a problem, but it is the kind of thoughts I sometimes force myself to think. Don't become so set in your ways, I say to myself, that you cannot live with a change. Change comes, but you do not know how.


Oh, and incidentally. I tried to install the client software for the Pocket PC on the new computer. The installation program told me to first install TCP/IP from the control panel. Which I did. Restarted computer. TCP/IP was not installed. Repeated. It just fakes installing the protocol, nothing actually happens. Seems that either the el cheapo no brand computer or Win ME is, after all, a "left-hand job". Heh.

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