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Soaps, Cleaners, and Detergents

Note: See also Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergents and Cleaners

It seems that the more we learn about how much of the human world is manufactured, and the more we realize how unnecessary, wasteful, and destructive it is, the more self-sufficiency and self-reliance becomes a demand on my soul. By self and by soul we do not mean a solitary existence, but rather a rooted one.

Soaps and Cleaning

To begin with, any modern product that has descended from an antique one, while possibly an improvement, has more likely strayed far from the mark. For indeed, the soap and detergent industry is not about making soap, or improving soap, or even preserving ancient soap-making. Rather it is about the manufacture, distribution, sale, and promotion of soap and detergent. Some might say the industry is trying to enable others to clean better, faster, cheaper, etc. But let's begin with soap manufacturing. It is rather a simple process, and indeed has been aided by industrial processes for the production of the two constituent elements: oils and lye. Case in point. Take the humble Aleppo soap, now faced with an existential threat due to years of war. It uses an old tradition of soap-making, a simple and time-honored process using olive oil, laurel oil, lye, water, and heat. This soap has excellent properties and even today is considered valuable and on par with the finest out of perfumeries and factories of large multinationals. Yet, those multinationals have not improved matters much. Costs are truly high, when taking into account the quality of the product hawked in supermarkets. The vast quantities and varieties of synthetic chemicals which extend the life of the product, induce fake smells, and produce enormous waste in their creation and distribution. Another example is the need for liquid soaps and detergents. The enormous cost of transporting what is mostly water is truly mind-boggling. And finally, while certainly some science and innovation has been applied to the soap and detergent production, what usually results is a process that requires huge scale, and therefore can only profit the wealthy.

Soaps, Detergents, and Daily Life

A brief reflection on just how many soaps, detergents and other cleaning agents in our lives, quickly becomes quite a list: - Hand soap, body soap, shampoo - Shaving cream - Toothpaste - Dishwashing liquid, washing machine soap - Laundry soap - Bathroom cleaner - Floor cleaner - Window cleaner - Wood cleaner - Grease cleaner Adding to this are a few additional body care products such as: - Anti-perspirant - Hand moisturizer - Sunscreen - Lip balm

Core Ingredients and Processes

For soap-making there are hot process and cold process. All processes however can be done at home. A crock-pot is not recommended (because of possible lead leaching from ceramics), and it is important to have good ventilation and safety equipment (goggles, long sleeves, gloves). Essentially soap is oil + lye, or if liquid soap can be - Lye (Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide (for liquid soaps) - Oils (vegetable or animal) - Olive oil, as well as coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado butter, shea butter - Essential Oils (optional) - Baking Soda - Washing Soda (can be made from heating Baking Soda to 230c for 60-90 minutes. - Hand soap (grated as an input into liquid hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, bathroom cleaner, and floor cleaner) - Coarse salt - Citric acid (powdered), and/or lemon juice - Borax - Vinegar - Coffee grounds (as a de-greaser) - Sugar (as a de-greaser) - Oatmeal (as exfoliant) - Corn starch (used in glass cleaners) - Reusable steel wool (not commercial cleaning pads that contain toxic cleaners) - Hydrogen peroxide-based bleaches (if needed) Some more sophisticated approaches using surficants.

Core Ingredients of Surface Cleaners

Some Soap, Detergent, Cleaner and Body Care Recipes

Hair stuff

Basic Assumptions - Safer, Better, Cheaper

The basic assumptions of a DIY approach includes the three holy sisters: safer, better, and less expensive. First let's tackle safety. Safety - is one of the most important aspects, especially for families with children, but obviously no one would want unsafe soap or detergent. But that is indeed what we get (and not mentioned on the labels), even with personal care "no-fragrance" soap products from large vendors: > Cleaning product companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients they use in their products, and what they’re keeping secret from you could be hazardous to your health. Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) commissioned an independent laboratory to test twenty popular cleaning products for hidden toxic chemicals from five top companies: Clorox, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson and Son, and Sunshine Makers (Simple Green). We found reproductive toxins, carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and allergens, and none of these chemicals were listed on the product label.
. So unnecessary and so unsafe, and so hidden. Clearly the profits from these companies stop real consumer advocacy from taking place to ensure all toxins are reported for all products.

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Role of Speech in Intellect

From 2001 to 2009 I was in a PhD program in the US that had, as many do, students from around the world. Included were students from many Asian countries, including Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Thailand, etc. The mainly western professors always became impatient with these students, in their first few years in the program. These students would not participate fully in the classroom. Essentially, their ability to express themselves in a fully engaged, seminar-style classroom was very limited. These students were equally as competent in all areas, except they were retarded in their ability to express themselves, in front of teachers and other students. As a Thai colleague once said: "We have been trained to listen well, but not to speak well." Of course one should be good at both, and perhaps the Western students were not at good at listening as the Asian students, taken as a whole. Nonetheless, the ability and the habit of interacting by speaking (as well as listening) with others in a collegial fashion is a requirement of academic success in the West. When the need to develop this skill is retarded, true intellectual development and full participation in the world of ideas is retarded. This is not to mention the fact that no single person or group has all the good ideas, and discussion of ideas is the only way to really get a full understanding of them. This is the basic nature of intellectual development. If Thailand is to reach International standards in education, the skill of speaking, as well as listening, needs to be developed. It doesn't help when a government actively condemns open discussion of ideas. Rather, this kind of policy actively retards the intellectual ability of a people and a nation.

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Death in Thailand

Currently I am expecting the birth of a son, sometime around early November (about two months). This of course makes me reflect on safety and other issues. Taking a look at lifespans and probabilities due to various causes, here are some comparative charts. The biggest problems for infant mortality are well-known. The gap between developed and developing nations is essentially that of public health issues.

Main Risks for Children in Thailand


The main risks have to do with basic sanitation/bacteria/virus and resultant dehydration/diarrhea, accident prevention, maternal disorders, and non-communicable diseases. These can be quite adequately addressed by public health increases, and thereby create significant savings for the country. This should immediately become the first priority, especially in a country with a sub-replacement-level and declining birthrate. Every citizen born in Thailand should get adequate resource and training to lower the risk of death to that of fully developed countries, or at least that of nearby Malaysia, a bordering country and ASEAN member.

Main Risks for Adults in Thailand


For adults, especially adult males, there are enormous risks when compared with developed nations. These are mainly violence; accidents, especially transportation accidents; diabetes; substance abuse, and large contributors from basic health issues, as well as HIV. It really is quite scandalous how dangerous Thailand is, even though it is supposedly the so-called Land of Smiles and Thai people are famous for their hospitality.

Main Risks for Elderly in Thailand


If one makes it to their 50s, things are a bit easier in Thailand. Still, improvements can be made through better health care, tackling substance abuse, and improving diet.

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Micro Course Content

I read a provocative article on Micro Course Content which was linked from an article on the (potential) rise of mobile learning. Note the word potential as we only really see smartphone adoption rate information, not actually micro course content adoption or success rates. > Side note: unclear why a learning company couldn't use the word how instead of why other than clickbait laziness.

Micro Course vs. Full Course

The problem with micro course content is that it while there are some small, stand-alone learning elements, such as things like vocabulary lists, historical events, or perhaps some refresher content, many things that make a long course necessary, including extended attention drawn to a particular subject, over time, makes this "micro" stuff not very useful.

A Week's Worth of Dinner or 400 Bites

Dividing a course into 400 bites is a bit like dividing a week's worth of dinner into 400 bites. There is a reason we don't do it that way, and it doesn't make sense. A well-designed multi-course meal (not necessarily a large meal, but one with complexity and integrity) alternates between different palatial experiences. Time spent on each course, and time between courses, as well as the order of those courses and the differences in taste are all required to have a complete experience, and also to form memories of that experience.

Thinking Takes Time

The more educated people become, the longer it takes them to accomplish tasks which become ever more complex. 5-7 minutes is enough to read an email and come up with a response one already knows and understands. But actual thinking takes longer than that. Simply because more people have smartphones (and thankfully their screens are getting a little bigger), doesn't mean that everything can, or should, be put on small screens and divided up into small attention span segments that can be accessed on-demand. Sure, some things work for that, but most learning, I would argue, does not, nor should it, nor could it.

Doing Takes Time

These days, while I certainly have some tasks that are fairly quick, or might take an hour or so, much of what I write on my task list takes 4 hours or more. Originally that was shorter, but these are the kinds of time divisions needed to accomplish something. Either it will take 4 hours of focus (basically, half a day), or multiple 4 hour blocks, or it can be squeezed into a half-day when other small tasks are being done.