Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dispenser of happiness

I haven't done any major work lately, just a lot of little things to improve my quality of life.  None of these things are particularly interesting.  I was going to write one interesting thing related to each one, but I got distracted reading about the history of toilet paper.  So, I'll give you the list of dull but life-improving things I've done and then write about toilet paper for a while.
  • I put up a fluorescent light over my kitchen counter.  This was super easy and makes it much easier to see when I'm cooking.
  • I put up a more convenient towel hook in the kitchen.  Yay.
  • I installed a better rack of hooks in the bathroom.  This simple project went the way of other simple projects.  I took the old rack of hooks off the door where it was hung and discovered that the door had been painted around it and that there was a hole in the door behind it.  I spackled the door and painted and put up the new hooks.
  • I finally patched the bathroom ceiling around where the new vent fan was installed.  I ended up using the same method I used for the walls, and it went fine.
  • I got a new shower head in the bathroom.  I didn't like the harsh spray from the old one, and it was so gunked up with minerals that an hours-long vinegar soak didn't help it.
  • I installed a better toilet paper dispenser. 
Old Dumb toilet paper holder
New non-Dumb toilet paper holder
My toilet paper dispenser replacement falls under the category of "Dumb reduction" in addition to "quality of life improvements".  The old toilet paper holder was one of those fancy designer toilet paper holders that's shaped like a ring and only has one connection to the wall.  The toilet paper roll slides onto the ring.  However, the single point of connection with the wall means the thing is doomed to always unscrew itself and spin on its axis.  Mine ended up kind of upside down at one point.  Also, it was just screwed into the wall plaster, which is kind of precarious for something that is pulled, bumped, and jostled so often.  I decided it had to go.  I bought an equally nice-looking non-fancy non-designer toilet paper holder of the traditional kind for about $4 and screwed it into the hardwood window frame. It's so nice to not be annoyed every time I go to use the toilet.

Toilet paper was used in China as early as 1500 years ago.  Toilet paper as a commercial good in the United States was introduced in 1857 and was sold in packets of flat sheets.  Rolls and dispensers didn't come about until later.  Unsurprisingly, Americans use more toilet paper per capita than people anywhere else in the world.  More surprisingly (to me, anyway), people in other developed countries don't use toilet paper at all.  In parts of Europe, people commonly use bidets to wash with water.  My family in Greece have bidets in their bathrooms, but I could never really figure out the mechanics and practicality of how one was supposed to use them.

Of course, throughout the ages, people have used a wide variety of things for cleaning themselves after going to the bathroom.  Things like leaves, sticks, hay, moss, seaweed, wool or fur, hemp, rags, corncobs, fruit skins,  rocks, sand, sea shells, snow, sponges.  Sears catalogs were popular for this purpose in rural America.  The Wikipedia article on anal cleansing is actually quite fascinating and well worth a read.  It's an age-old problem, and toilet paper isn't the only solution to it.

And now, I'm off to bed, after a quick trip to the potty.

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