Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Thursday, January 15, 2015


For some reason, when I was in church the other day I fixated on a young girl in the pew in front of me.  What caught my attention was the fact that her hair was in two braids, what might have been called pig-tails had they not been as long as they were.

I actually went to school when the desks had holes for inkwells reminding us of a time when the naughty boys would dip the innocent girls braids in ink while in class.  And I have a black silhouette cutout of Mary when she was in second or third grade, where her braids are prominent in the silhouette.  I asked for her memories of those times and she remembers her mother braiding her hair in the morning, almost as a ritual.

Venus of Brassempouy - circa 25,000 BCE
Braiding is a very old custom, and one which was geographically and culturally specific.  The earliest history of braiding would indicate braids were fashionable for women as early as 25,000 BCE.  Fashion was only one of the distinctions through the ages.  Others included materials incorporated in the braids: Native Americans used Bison, Australians used kangaroo, and through the years fashion has dictated the use of feathers, bone, beads and jewels to distinguish class, marriage availability, and financial status.

Even the size and style of braids reflected cultural and status diversity.  We all have some sort of memory of the Brunhilda Germanic character with long, blonde, braids, or Rapunzel, whose tresses were recently paramount in the film Into the Woods or in the “Double Check” commercial where Aaron Rogers is exercising.  The strength and length of the braids was recognized in a more commercial fashion when braiding rope was used to increase the strength and utilitarianism of the product.

Going back to Mary’s go-to-school braids: one fact helps explain why in America the custom has perhaps lapsed:  braiding is best done by someone other than the person whose hair is being braided.  So, in most cultures it was a servant or a mother who did the process on the child, often with another child watching and learning.  As demands on both the mother’s and domestic help’s time has become more demanding, the process has become one for special occasions.  For instance, a visit to a Caribbean Resort often includes a braiding session, as might a Prom or wedding.  A friend of mine made a serious splash a few years ago, braiding feathers into young girls’ hair.
Corn Rows

Male athletes a few years ago revived the African fashion of braiding hair into intricate Corn Rows.  Ornamental braiding, of which corn rows are one example was popular even in the time of Solomon.  Recently athletes seem to prefer either unbraided hair long enough to braid or no hair at all.  At the recent Golden Globes Award Show, I saw only one female actor with braided hair.  I saw more male actors in braids, though not by much.

Historically, there are two other braids of consequence: the Topknot of Chinese culture and the Hindu, Sikh, or Moslem hair kept long for religious reasons and often loosely braided for convenience.  In both these cases, the hair is often sacrificed by enemies, not so much as a trophy,  as scalping by both sides was in the Indian Wars, as for the humiliation gained by knowing regrowth would take years.

Who would have guessed braiding could be so interesting?

There was much interest and concern recently when Sony Pictures was hacked and emails were made public.  There also is major general concern over hacking personal information, which may be used for financial gain.  In my next post I will share some observations on “hacking” that you may fine both interesting and useful.  I hope you will join me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Giving Tuesday

Looking at the contents of my mailbox last month I was struck with the idea that perhaps I had missed one or more memos.  For example, I didn’t remember seeing that 2014 marked the third year of #Giving Tuesday, which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday: celebrating, if that is the correct word, the occasion of prioritizing charities to donate on the last few days you would be able to claim the donation as a deduction on your taxes.

Don’t mistake my rhetoric for a negative position towards charity donations.  Last I looked, my donations on my tax form exceeded the Obama’s, partially due to Mary and me attending at least five private universities supporting at least two Publically-supported media, a dozen or more on-going religious charities, and half a dozen charities where donations were made “in lieu of flowers”.

What I noticed this year was a full-court press beyond my past experiences.  I had more solicitations than catalogs or Christmas Cards.  It triggers some of my pet peeves.

1.       Solicitations from charities where I have an annual membership:  Not only is this confusing, it makes me wonder why I belong to this group.  Biggest offenders are the state and national parks.  Caught in the process are organizations like the Audubon Society, whose membership renewals look like solicitations.

2.      Solicitations that come in the same envelope as acknowledgment of a donation.  Hey, if I had meant to include more I would have put it in the earlier envelope.

3.      Telephone solicitations, including some of the above universities.  If I donate annually, send me a request with notice of my last contribution.  Hearing from a current student doesn’t hit my heart strings, especially knowing that he/she is paying a five-figure tuition to be on the telephone.

4.      Assuming that because I donated in memory of someone who has passed away, I have a personal interest in your charity.

5.      Assuming that I delay my contributions until the end of the year because of tax reasons.

6.      Assuming that I am ignorant of how to contribute through a will.  If you haven’t got my loyalty by the time I am ready to die, you’re unlikely to convince me on my deathbed.  I probably have other things on my mind.

Getting back to #Giving Tuesday: it seems to be working.  This year’s total was $45 million, up from $28 million last year.  And, as the hashtag implies, most of it came online.  The biggest move in online giving this year was the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, which raised some $21.7 million dollars in a viral social media summer splurge.  This sum is all the more remarkable because it came from small donations.

There was an interesting article in the WSJ recently discussing how charities are using data to increase donations.  Related articles discussed big-money philanthropy and the fact that in the US, individuals make up almost 75% of the donations to charities.  These point out the fact that most donors are interested in such things as how charities rank in overhead expenses, a number that the Red Cross backpedaled this year.  If you are interested in such things a good site is .

It would seem that most donors don’t take the trouble to check out how much of their donation gets to those in need.  Instead, the study showed, they assume that big-money givers do that research and, if they are mentioned in the solicitation, poorer individuals will follow.  Ironically, donations are less impacted by the economy than might be thought, belying the old joke about the man who apologizes to the beggar for a small donation because “times have been hard”. The beggar says, “Why should your problem be my problem?”

Why, indeed?

In my next post I will share why, all of a sudden I had a memory of some seventy years of thinking about braids.  I hope you will be interested to join me.