IOT – The Internet of Toilets

I was thinking that it would be humorous to invent a wifi connected toilet lid so you can tell if it’s up or down from anywhere in the world. It seems like everyone is connecting even the most ridiculous things to the internet so why not this? Turns out, things like this have not only been talked about for years, they’re starting to come true.

Kohler has come out with the Numi SmartToilet, a toilet/bidet that opens and closes the lid for you among a host of other functions. Believe it or not, it’s even an MP3 player. This opens the lid on a whole new audio communication medium – the potcast.

Unfortunately, the Numi doesn’t appear to be internet connected. There’s really no reason for it to be internet connected but the lack of wifi makes it seem somehow unsophisticated. But the $6300 price tag makes up for it a little.

All that’s left is to create an IOT toilet with Alexa voice control. Then you can shop from your pot.

Certified Frustration Free

 

I had some batteries from Amazon delivered the other day. After opening the box that’s probably 4x bigger than the batteries themselves, I noticed the sticker on top declaring “Frustration Free Packaging”. It was definitely low frustration but I was still annoyed to have to go get something to cut the large tape label that held the box closed.

The label also makes a big deal about using no wire ties or clamshells. Personally, I’ve never worried about wire ties or clamshells. But I guess these things really frustrate some people.

The question I’m left with is how does packaging get certified “Frustration Free”? Is there actually a process? Do Amazon vans snatch people from the streets and force them to open taped boxes while monitoring their brain activity? That last one is just hearsay.

And what recourse do I have if I do get frustrated? There probably is none. Amazon’s probably just counting on the fact that nobody actually cares what the box looks like or how many pieces of tape are holding it closed. They just want their batteries.

Oh, Today’s a Holiday?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how holidays in the US have shifted so radically to be meaningless. What were once celebrations of people and events of meaning and consequence have turned into excuses to eat and drink to excess. 

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day has historically been a celebration of the life and work of Patrick, a 5th century Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. But if you asked most people today who St. Patrick is, they’ll probably tell you he was an Irish Brew Master or something. For most, this holiday is merely an excuse to drink green beer and eat corned beef. Grocery clerks wear stupid, tiny, glittery top hats and threaten to pinch anyone not wearing green. I’m considering making a line of t-shirts. The first one will be some color other than green. It will say “A punch for a pinch” or something to that effect.

Look at any of our major holidays and you’ll see the same pattern. On Easter we now celebrate rabbits that poop chocolate eggs. How do we celebrate this? By making our kids search for plastic copies of the chocolate scat while the adults eat ham and scalloped potatoes and drink too much wine. Thankfully, most people don’t color their wine green.

Thanksgiving’s become nothing more than a frenzied marathon for cooking a glut of carbohydrates and hormone injected turkeys. Then we eat way more than we know we should but still wash it all down with any beer containing the word fall, wheat or ale in the name.

Christmas now consists of cookies smeared with food coloring, lots of candy and presents that nobody needs or wants after January first. Oh, an you should start drinking hard liquor because, you know, it’s cold outside.

I know I sound bitter. I’m really not. I love the holidays. I just wish we would (as a society) pay a little more attention to the real meaning behind them. That, and stop pinching people.

Dare to Sketch

I’ve always done my sketching and drawing in lined notebooks or on plain printer paper. I’ve never bought a sketch book. I must have been scared to make less-than-perfect drawings in something that costs more than, well, free.

If you draw on a sheet of paper you can just crumple it up and throw it away if you don’t like it. In a sketch book, you’re committed.

Fear of imperfection is a terrible thing. It’s hard to overcome. It can affect all areas of your life. And it can keep you from realizing your life’s full potential. Even if you’ve determined not to let fear rule you, it often creeps up stealthily. I see this fear in myself when I don’t want to commit imperfect code to GitHub. I even recognize fear when I keep interrupting myself while starting a good book. I’m afraid I might not be able to understand it or finish it or accomplish what it’s trying to teach.

Fear of imperfection is a terrible thing. It’s hard to overcome. It can affect all areas of your life. And it can keep you from realizing your life’s full potential. Click To Tweet

A book I found recently at the library has started to change the way I think about sketch books. Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing on the Go, by Felix Scheinberger is a great motivator for starting to sketch in an actual book. Scheinberger gives the reader permission to make mistakes with sketches and to not make the images perfect.

Sketching isn’t fine art. It’s a way to capture the world around you in a personal pictorial narrative. Scheinberger emphasizes the personal aspect of sketching. It’s for you and no one else. These are your own private drawings, almost like a journal, that documents your own private artistic journey.

Sketches may be personal and private but of course you can show them if you want to. Scheinberger puts plenty of his own sketches in the pages of his book. It’s encouraging to see just how imperfect they are. By seeing the author’s rough line work and often disproportionate shapes, it gives the reader confidence to start sketching even if they don’t think they’re very good.

So I went out and got a sketch book. I’m determined to use it as an exploration tool for my drawing art. It won’t be a “public” book so I can make terrible sketches and not worry about what other people think. Instead, the challenge will be in not judging myself too harshly.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

I’ve always loved overcast and rainy days. Hot, sunny days often sap my strength and leave me lethargic. But when the sky is gray and dark I feel energized and more creative. I’m also able to concentrate on things better like reading or learning something new. My wife loves rainy days for me because I’m more likely to finish up lingering projects or clean the bathroom.

I’m not sure what caused my attraction to dark weather. Maybe the comfort of a wood fire on cold and rainy days while growing up made me appreciate them. When I was in grade school, rainy days seemed special because we had to eat lunch in the classroom and play games like heads up seven up instead of recess.

Whatever the cause of my gloomy super power, I’ve learned to recognize it and harness it. I try to accomplish things I’ve been putting off. I try to finish books I’m only half way through. Sometimes I get inspired to start new projects like the six panel comic thank you note zine I started writing this morning for my friends.

Gray days have turned out to be one of the best personal life hacks I have.

The Game of Everest

I love it when my kids go from “I’m bored” to “I’m making a board game”. This is one my older son prototyped with cardboard. It’s called Everest and the premise is that you’re part of a mountain climbing party trying to reach the summit.

The cool thing about it is that it’s a cooperative game so you’re not trying to battle each other. Each player has health, hunger and warmth points that go up or down based on cards you draw when you land on certain parts of the board. Even if your character dies, you can win the game if someone else on your team makes it to the top.

It’s kind of like a monumental Chutes and Ladders type of game only instead of playfully being sent down a slide, you starve, get hypothermia and get buried by an avalanche.

Taking Time To Tinker

In his famous lectures on creativity, John Cleese says that if you play around with a problem and put off calling it done for a while, you’ll often come up with a better solution than if you simply took the first solution that came to you.

Tinkering with an idea or a map or a code base is a great way to not only develop it but to develop it into something better than it had been before. It’s taking something that could be called complete but then further playing with it and manipulating it until it becomes something else.

This is an approach I take with application and code I’ve written. Even after I’ve finished a project, I’ll let it sit for a while and then come back to it. When I do, I try to reimagine its uses or how it can be written. I went through this process today with a code module I had written over a year ago. With fresh eyes I was able to play around with the code. I asked myself why something was written a certain way. I tried things like stripping out important lines of code just to see if it would improve performance in other areas. I also had fun seeing just how massively I could make the code fail.

The result of my playing around with my code wasn’t as dramatic as an entirely new application. But I was able to reduce its size and rewrite parts of it more elegantly. Well worth the time it took to tinker.

Leave it to Beaver

I set out early yesterday morning to photograph two things: A bridge and a beaver. I knew the bridge was likely to be there. But I wasn’t so sure about the beaver. They’ve proven somewhat tricky for me just to see let alone capture on camera.

Last week I was watching some birds with my back to the canal I was near when I heard a loud splash close behind me. I spun around and scrambled to get my camera up to my face. Unfortunately, I had my wide angle lens on and by the time I remembered to get the cap off, all I could see was a tiny brown speck way out in the water.

Yesterday was almost as disappointing. I spent a little time photographing the bridge but was getting a little tired (I’ve been under the weather since last week). I decided to start heading back to the car. After crossing back over the bridge I happened to glance over my left shoulder and caught a glimpse of what at first appeared to be a log. But the next instant I knew it was the beaver.

 

A few pictures of a bridge.

I wanted to climb down by the water but figured it would take too long and might scare off the little rodent. So I ran back onto the bridge and peered over the edge. I saw the beaver go under the bridge but as I watched, I couldn’t see him come out on the other side.

I stood there scanning the tangled canal bank for a couple of minutes figuring Mr. Beaver had probably submerged to carry out some business. Sure enough, I eventually saw a small break in the surface of the water about a hundred feet downstream.

I thought it was going to be a far-away photo at best but was surprised to see the little snout that was poking above the water coming closer. And he kept coming. He was staring right at me as he slowly battled the current and approached to about ten feet of the bridge.

Of course this entire time I was trying to get a clear picture of the little guy. I was wishing I could have been down at the water’s edge but after thinking about it, looking down from the bridge allowed me to see part of his body and tail. If I had taken pictures at a lower angle I would have only seen the snout and glare on the water.

 

 

I was happy to have achieved both of my morning’s goals. None of the pictures were spectacular or particularly interesting but I count it a win just to have recorded my elusive subject this time.

The Indisputable Existence of Today’s Blog Post

I just finished a book titled The Indisputable Existence of Santa Clause by Dr. Hannah Fry and Dr. Thomas Oleron Evans. In it, the authors conclude (on pages 11 and 152) that two simple logic statements are all that is needed to prove Santa Clause exists. Fortunately for those who buy the book, they then filled the intermediary 139 pages with interesting calculations, projects and mathematical formulas about things related (sometimes marginally) to Christmas.

You might be wondering why I read a book about the existence of Santa Clause in March. Well, for one thing, it was there. I like to read interesting books when I find them. I found it in passing at the library and figured I could probably keep it for a long time without anyone else putting a hold on it. Also, if they’re wrong about the premise of the book, I want to make sure there’s still time to buy presents.

This is one of those books that you could read every word of but you’d probably drive yourself insane. It was funny and witty and possibly even useful (how to wrap presents in a mathematically efficient manner) but a little too deep in parts. Or maybe I’m just not “into it” because it’s March.

Building an icosahedron Christmas Ornament