Friday, August 27, 2010

What's that in old money?

Recently I was reminded of my inevitable aging in a new way.

Commentary on getting old is not an original topic. Birthday cards joking about age abound, grey hairs arrive, and I swore I’d never grow too old for pop music but by the curly left horn of the great Jipply Gargler what the blazes is that ear crud the kids listening to these days? I mean, the fact that so much of today’s pop music uses samples of 80’s pop music proves that it was better back then surely?

Anyway I met a guy that sold hand-made wooden toys and—in a completely unconnected and somewhat baffling diversification—key rings made from old coins. He takes old coins, drills a little hole in them, puts them on a tiny chain, and arranges them in rows by decade.

Some were very cool. There were huge pennies from the 1800s when they put more metal into a penny than is used today in a hatchback; and there were coins so old the monarch effigy is male (though even if the queen were that bald it wouldn’t be immortalized on a coin). Many, of course, were of denominations or designs that no longer exist—like the three penny piece or the shilling.

But on the top row were coins that had no right being there. For example there were five pence pieces exactly like the ones in circulation when I was growing up. Ten pence pieces like the ones I used to balance on my elbow and then try to catch with the hand of the same arm without dropping any. What were these coins doing there? Suddenly, the no-longer-shiny-but-nothing-that-a-good-dollop-of-steak-sauce-wouldn’t-clean-up penny dropped. The coins given me as pocket money are not only defunct but are being made into novelty key rings. And looking at them were spotty, overly self-conscious teenagers giggling at the coins they used to use ‘back then.’

How dare they. 'back then’ indeed. I wanted to shout at them “Without ‘back then’ you wouldn’t have anything to plagiarize for what you define as pop music you melodically challenged generation of sample saturated, flossy eared, one hit wonder loving, flash in the pan dreamers. I’m a gen Xer, I used bigger currency and was proud of it! You, history will remember as the generation that let money slip through its fingers because it was so small and fiddly. Look, these coins on the lower rows are older and even bigger—aren’t they funny!”

So now when people ask ‘how old are you?’ I can't help but know I’m old enough that I can no longer use my magic disappearing coin box with the coins currently in use, even if I wanted to. (And I do).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cleanliness is Next to Costliness

Dettol and Lysol are both advertising hands-free soap pumps which are currently top of my list for devices you simply don’t need. Yes friends, the liquid soap you used to squirt into your hands through personal effort is now available not at the press of a button. Lysol pitch the hands-free soap pump with the thought that hands come into contact with millions of germs every day but what about the ‘germs ending up on your soap pump?’

Well what about them? First of all it is standard practice that once you’ve squirted soap into your palm you immediately use it to wash your hands. Surely the microscopic nasties that leap to your finger (just the one) from the top of the soap dispenser are the shortest lived germs of any that you acquire; being, as they are, immediately immersed in germ killing liquid soap and, if you’re any kind of smart, hot water.

When was the last time you squirted the soap into your palm and then thought ‘You know what, I think I’ll walk the dog first,’ and then strolled down the road with a leash in one hand and a glob of liquid soap in the upturned palm of the other? "No I wont shake hands, I'm covered in soap. Could you get the door for me?"

And why focus on this particular source of germs? Never mind door handles, sinks, drains, and other people’s sneezing kids—let’s throw our substantial corporate R&D efforts at the germs that are acquired by the tip of a single finger from the top of a soap dispenser. Stephen King could no doubt turn such an idea into something terrifying but coming from the soap company it just smacks of a desperate need to make money from faux fear.

Anyway, to conquer this tiny and very short-lived threat to our health the solution is, apparently, to prevent us from having to touch the dispenser by encasing it in another dispenser, albeit a high-tech one.

So now we have liquid soap in a non-degradable plastic container, which we put inside another non-degradable plastic container, which only dispenses the soap if we also buy electricity in the form of batteries. Yes, it takes power to get your hands clean.

It is a staggeringly resource-heavy solution for a non-existent problem. Even now Kim Jong Il is kicking himself for not having thought of it first. We are using more plastic and generating more spent batteries and the net result is simply that a single fingertip that is about to be washed anyway, will not be slightly dirtier for a couple of seconds longer than its fellow digits.

What next? A campaign to target the germs that accumulate on the outside of shampoo bottles that are kept in the shower or on the packaging of septic wipes?

If only soap weren’t a liquid. Imagine a world where soap didn’t run everywhere if it found itself outside of the bottle. One day I’m sure science will create soap in a solid state that doesn’t need two dispensers and four AAs. If only soap were solid it could be sold in, Oh I don’t know, maybe a nice convenient bar shape.