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15 May 2006
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My Favorite Organ

You gotta have skin.
All you really need is skin.
Skin's the thing that if you got it outside,
It helps keep your insides in.

...Allan Sherman

I'm squeamish.  I admit it.  I'm not keen on blood, and normally eschew discussions and even thinking about "bodily functions."  This all comes under the heading "squishy human stuff."  It doesn't properly fit into the nerd universe.  Although I'm not looking forward to the seeming inevitability of titanium implants at some future date, at least it's not squishy, and I can embody it with more pride than the no-doubt-defective item it will replace.

If you were to ask me what is my favorite organ, I would assert without hesitation:  My Skin!   Let's give it a try:

Q:  Richard, what's your favorite organ?
A:  (without hesitation):  My Skin!

See?

Pretty much for the reasons cleverly stated in the first stanza of Allan Sherman's song, I appreciate this flexible, underappreciated organ.  It's resistant to insult and protects your internal functional components from same.  It is easy to clean.  Try washing your liver or spleen with just soap and water!  It's a thermal barrier.  Despite its size, it presents a small and, yes, aerodynamic aspect to the environment, thus minimizing energy requirements when the weather is cold.  And when the weather is hot, it exudes a relatively inoffensive sacrificial fluid whose molecules remove excessive energy from your "system."  It has many additional functions:  It presents a barrier to disease-causing microorganisms.  It forms a flexible surface for gripping tools and small objects.  It anchors hair can you imagine just how appalling a "bad hair day" would be without skin?  I could go on and on, but you get that point, and I want to expatiate on mine.

Which is:  Skin is self-repairing.  This is so obvious that it is hardly noticed.  You get a paper cut, a scrape, a stubbed toe.  You emit an "Ow!" and, moments later, continue with your activity, tacitly leaving it to your skin to repair.  Isn't this a great feature!  A couple of winters ago, I suffered an injury.  If I had been running at the time, I would have proudly called it a "sport injury," but in fact I was just walking, and it wasn't sport, it was clums.  In any event, I tripped, and fell, with the palm of my hand and my right knee absorbing much of the gravitational potential energy released by the event.  The hand received minor scrapes, but the knee had a significant amount a couple of square inches of skin ablated.  I was over a mile from home, and had the option of either entering the abode of a stranger to request assistance, or walking home to tend the injury. 

After deciding I wasn't in immediate danger of critical death, the first option was discarded and I started walking home, warily inspecting my wound every few steps.  My first realization was:  This doesn't hurt very much!  My second was:  And it's not bleeding a lot, either!  My decision thus affirmed, I continued home, washed the wound to remove the remanent gravel and dirt, and applied some form of antiseptic gloop and enough Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages to cover the damaged area.

Avoiding as is my wont a detailed description of the ugly "healing process," I noted with amazement and not a little gratitude that, just a couple of weeks later, the damaged area was once again covered with skin.  I guess sometimes "squishy human stuff" has its place.

So whether you're fat, tall, big, small, chubby or thin,
Ain't ya glad you've got skin

2006
Richard Factor