The Aztecs

So I’ve been doing some research on poison oak, as my forehead is now red, swollen, and bumpy.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac, all provoke a reaction by producing the same oil, urushiol. This is some potent shit, folks. Details:

  • Only 1 nanogram (billionth of a gram) needed to cause rash
  • 1/4 ounce of urushiol is all that is needed to cause a rash in every person on earth
  • 500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin
  • Specimens of urushiol several centuries old have found to cause dermatitis in sensitive people.
  • 1 to 5 years is normal for urushiol oil to stay active on any surface including dead plants

The good news is that the oil is the only contagious thing; once you’ve taken a shower and soaped yourself down, you won’t contaminate anyone else. The rashes and blisters that follow are harmless.

The bad news is that there’s no proven way to make the rash go away.; you just have to wait it out for the 2-3 weeks it normally takes to subside. There are creams that will stop the itching, but you’ll still look like a freak. Doctors will often prescribe prednisone or some other kind of steroid. The problem with the steroids is that they often don’t work, and also cause some wacky side effects: insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, hallucinations, etc. Great.

So I’ve just got to tough it out.

Oh yeah I forgot to mention that we saw Chris Rock live at the Oakland Paramount right after New Year’s. He was awesome, his set was a good 90 minutes and funnier than I had anticipated. My sisters, skeptics at first, were totally sold by the end.

Some cool links:

  • This dude built his own Segway-esque scooter. A very reader-friendly site, and quite impressive.
  • A nice video of some Sony robots dancing. Their movements are surprisingly lifelike. It must have been crazy to program. I remember when Wing used our sketch renderer, to make a short animated demo (which you should also check out if you have the time :) took us forever. And the movements weren’t even realistic, and there were far fewer degrees of freedom. Another difficulty with the Sony robots is that they actually have to live in 3D, on two legs. Balancing and not falling over is hard.

I have to admit that I was a little inspired by my last LJ entry. Jenny and I started playing Civilization 2 today. It’s one of the most brilliant games ever. I love it!

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9 Responses to The Aztecs

  1. wingerz says:

    that’s some good trivia. it’s strange that you can wash it off though – down to the last nanogram?

    • aj says:

      If only it were like that

      So it’s pretty hard to remove:
      “The problem is that most ordinary bath soaps have little effect on removing the resinous sap. Have you ever tried removing pine pitch from your arm with facial soap? In fact, added moisturizers and oils in the soap together with brisk rubbing may even spread the urushiol, increasing the area of allergic response. Strong laundry soaps, such as Fels Naptha, may also spread the allergen and be harsh on sensitive skin.”

      But it’s worse than that.

      What happens is that the oil “readily penetrates the epidermal layer of the skin where it binds to proteins of deeper skin cell membranes”. Once there, “(bound to cell membranes) urushiol is virtually impossible to wash off.”

      So the reason it’s not contagious is that it sticks to your skin so much that you can’t get it off, even if you try… which is why there’s no known cure for it. Once it’s bound, you’re screwed. Yay!

      Info from

  2. jtlu says:

    yeah i think you could use hydrocortisone cream(like prednisone, also a corticosteroid) which wouldn’t reduce the time you have the rash, but would at least help with the irritation.

    the side effects are pretty uncommon, and would probably be more of a concern in younger children and elderly people. i’d be surprised if you had any of those effects happen to you, esp. since you’d be using it topically rather than systemically.

    • aj says:

      oh – I didn’t know that it only treated the irritation.

      my problem isn’t so much the irritation — i’m using benadryl periodically now and it works well enough — as much as it is the huge unsightly blotch on my forehead.

      but thanks for the advice :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is unrelated to today’s entry…

    but I wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your entries because they allow me to be kept up-to-date on your life, since our lives are crazy and we aren’t able to talk that often right now. Also, California was fun, and not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on the glory that was- VACATION! (Pictures are on the way… I promise)!
    Thanks for the presents and the late night phone calls. You’re a kickass brother, and now everyone who reads these comments will know that!

    Miss you dooooooooood.

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  7. I bet people were a tad annoyed with your slow moving. But none the less, a great video. It makes me miss Tokyo so much. But I’ll be back again, just have to get college out of the way…