Sound Princess

Many years ago when we were visiting friends in Japan we were leaving a temple and decided to use a public restroom.

I went into the men’s room and used a urinal which looked a bit different from urinals I was used to but no doubt different commercial porcelain casting companies and different cultures make for differences in the shape of things like men’s urinals.

However, I noticed a button on the wall, seemingly independent from the urinal and its plumbing. I had no idea what the button did and I was concerned that pushing it might open a trapdoor in the floor and I’d fall through (joke).

When I met up with my wife and our friend Laurie who, at this point had lived in Japan for over ten years, I asked Laurie what the button was for.

She told me that many years ago Japan underwent a drought and designers had looked for ways to conserve water. One thing they noticed was that, for a variety of reasons, people were flushing before going to the bathroom (not just women which is stated in the video), generally to mask the sound of a fart or other toilet-related sounds. I certainly have noticed people doing this in the US as well: sound masking, men who have trouble peeing hearing running water, cleaning toilet before being near it, etc.

So, clever Japanese designers came up with a solution: digitize the sound of running water and put a button and a speaker at every urinal and toilet, thus saving water and at the same time, allowing people to use the water sound for whatever they needed to.

In the video above, the single button is replaced by a control panel and but the sound button is still there, now called the “privacy button.”

No Coincidence, No Story!

We were listening to NPR on the drive home from the train home from New York and got totally into an episode of This American Life: No Coincidence, No Story!.

The host was Sarah Koenig of Serial fame.

This American Life asked folks to send in their best coincidence stories and they picked great ones to put on the air. It’s a great show.

Had I known, I’d have submitted mine: It really is a small world.

NUMMI 2015

NUMMI 2015

This is a brilliant segment of This American Life in collaboration with Frank Langfitt and NPR news.

A car plant in Fremont California that might have saved the U.S. car industry. In 1984, General Motors and Toyota opened NUMMI as a joint venture. Toyota showed GM the secrets of its production system: How it made cars of much higher quality and much lower cost than GM achieved. Frank Langfitt explains why GM didn’t learn the lessons—until it was too late.

Wikipedia has a nice history of the NUMMI plant.

The NUMMI plant was bought by Tesla and their cars are now made there. Here’s a video of production of the Tesla Model S in the same plant.

David Remnick on Fresh Air

David Remnick Looks Back On Tough Decisions As ‘The New Yorker’ Turns 90

Terry Gross interviews David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. I love Fresh Air. I love The New Yorker. Remnick is a brilliant editor and a pleasure to listen to.

I listened to this live a week ago and just listened again via the Fresh Air podcast while I was having my truck worked on and it was just as good on second listen.

Radiolab on Race

Radiolab on Race

I highly recommend setting aside an hour and listening to this piece, it’s an incredible discussion in multiple parts on all things related to race: the nature – nurture of it, what it means, science vs. culture, and a lot more.

If it were simplistic it would sit back on the idea that there is no scientific or genetic basis for race yet it doesn’t, it digs much deeper.


[via Zapong]

Kesh Angels

In Photos: Moroccan Motorcycle Mash-Up

NPR has a great piece on a series called “Kesh Angels” where photographer Hassan Hajjaj used women wearing brightly colored traditional clothing, some wearing modern sunglasses while sitting on motorcycles in Marrakesh, Morocco. It sounds odd but as you’ll see in the images on their site, it’s quite a successful project.

These kinds of montages of seemingly disparate cultural artifacts, done right, are fantastic.

Hassan Hajjaj has a show of a series called My Rock Stars: Volume 2 at the Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles. Fantastic. What a great style he has.

Here’s an interview with Hassan done in conjunction with a show he had at LACMA: An Interview with Artist Hassan Hajjaj.

I love his work, can’t wait to see these large prints in person.

The Broadcast Clock

The Broadcast Clock

Click “Listen” under the credit.

This is a fascinating look behind the time structure of various National Public Radio shows.

99% Invisible is a podcast produced by Roman Mars and Sam Greenspan that covers the behind-the-scenes design elements that structures pieces of our world. Its sound will be familiar to NPR listeners but it’s not radio, it’s primarily produced as a podcast that sometimes gets edited for radio (more on this in The Broadcast Clock).

You can listen to it online or subscribe to the podcast. Lots of great Episodes.

David Eagleman

This short snippet is brilliant. David Eagleman is both a neuroscientist and a writer of fiction (great combo) as well as a Guggenheim Fellow. And, he’s a great explainer of things.

I’ve been following him since I heard him discuss his book SUM on NPR’s OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook: Envisioning the Afterlife which I blogged about here in 2009.

David Eagleman on Wikipedia
New Yorker Profile of David Eagleman
‘Incognito’: What’s Hiding In The Unconscious Mind, Eagleman on NPR

David Eagleman on Possibilianism from PopTech on Vimeo.

Here’s Eagleman at PopTech a few years back on Possibilianism, “a new philosophy that simultaneously embraces a scientific toolbox while exploring new, unconsidered uncertainties about the world around us.”