How the humble S-bend made modern toilets possible – BBC News

via How the humble S-bend made modern toilets possible – BBC News

“”Gentility of speech is at an end,” thundered an editorial in London’s City Press, in 1858. “It stinks!””

“More than 170 years later, about two-thirds of the world’s people have access to what’s called “improved sanitation”, according to the World Health Organization, up from about a quarter in 1980.”

“Across various African countries, for example, it reckons inadequate sanitation lops one or two percentage points off gross domestic product (GDP), in India and Bangladesh over 6%, and in Cambodia 7%”

Is Health Care a Right? | The New Yorker

This is a fairly long article, but it is a worthwhile read, especially for those of us who live in the US.   It could give you a window into viewpoints about the healthcare debate outside the bubble of our own existences and thinking.

via Is Health Care a Right? | The New Yorker

What the Disasters Say About Us

The Equifax disaster was somewhat inevitable considering the current state of software systems and network security around the world.  I have noted in the past that the moment one became a part of the Internet, you have basically given up your privacy.  You may ask then, what more is left to be said about what happened at Equifax, when the extremely private information of over 143 million people, more than forty percent of the population of the United States, was compromised by a single entity, all in one shot.

What astounds me is the response of the people, and of the folks who run our country, to what is going on.  Indeed, it is the lack of response that is amazing.  While there are a minority of people who seem to appreciate the seriousness of the matter, beyond the context how this one-time incident effects people, most others go about their lives simply hoping that the current problem does not affect them, when indeed this incident is only the tip of the iceberg and a symptom of greater disasters that can happen with the way our systems are structured and the way we live our lives.  In this particular case, also consider the additional cluelessness of the company involved.   They appear to have had no sense of the seriousness of the situation and value of the information that they were handling, and once disaster struck, they had no idea how to to handle the situation.  Indeed, as of today, they still have not demonstrated that they know what they are doing.

Perhaps I should not be surprised with what is happening.  The same kind of attitude seems to hold in the case of physical disasters.  Weather events like hurricanes seem to be getting more powerful over the years, yet we choose to ignore the science behind the phenomenon and refuse to acknowledge why this may be happening.  Indeed, we will even reduce the resources available to further understand and address the problem and very few will even care or protest.   It does not matter if the origins of our problems are physical or virtual, the same kind of attitudes and philosophies hold.

We think we are an advanced society because of our access to all kinds of technologies.  But that does not mean that we really know what we are doing.

The Andes Bike Shop

It used to be a small carpet store, and I remembered it having a certain mideast flavor. It sat at the corner of a neighborhood strip mall, well set back from a main road, behind the Wendy’s and the McDonalds, so much so that you could barely make out the names on the store fronts when you drove by on Darnestown Road.  I remember having gone to the carpet store once to ask if they would like to put an advertisement in the program book for the annual show of the chorus.  The proprietor said that he would look into it but he never got back to me.  That was then.

But then we noticed that something had changed. It was when we were driving to the park for one our Sunday morning walks along the towpath.  There was now a new sign over  the storefront that simply said “Bike Shop”.  A bike shop in our neighborhood was something new, and it was a surprising, if not puzzling, thing to me.  This was a curiosity.  Running a local bike store had to be a tough gig, especially when you were competing with big nationwide companies and their large and well stocked stores.   Local bike stores have come and gone in other neighborhoods.  Why had folks opened a small bike shop in this location?  I resolved to pay these guys a visit some time.

The opportunity arose after my first training ride of the year last week.  While I had been wanting to go the bike store for a while, it was only after that ride that I found the focus to remember in a timely manner my intent to visit the store.  So I stopped by after the ride.

I stepped into a small space that was filled with used bikes of all kinds, for all ages, and for all the different kinds of biking experiences that were possible.  There was also some other biking gear and equipment sitting around on stands and on shelves on the walls.  The place had a crowded feel to it.  Behind a counter was a young man working on a bike. Music was playing on a computer in the background.

I started the conversation by noting that I had stopped by because of curiosity, and asked the guy how long the shop had been open. “Ten months,” he said.  He spoke with a very distinct but light accent.  He seemed very friendly and open.  I told him about the bike ride I had done last year.  That seemed to break the ice.   He turned down the music and started chatting.  And gradually the story emerged.

The store was owned and operated by his father and him.  Their primary business was not selling new equipment, but in taking care of and maintaining bicycles for people.  He loved touring on his bicycle. He said he was the kind of person who would pack his bike with all the equipment that he would need for a ride, including what was needed for outdoor stays and cooking, and just go.  He said that if I were interested in a bike, he could put one together from parts obtained from used bikes that he could get from his contacts, and that he could fit the bike with exactly the right kind of equipment I would need for the type of ride I was interested in doing.  And he could do this for a reasonable price.  He was very conversational, but I also noticed a certain ease and sense of confidence that he had with what he was doing.

I got the sense that he was enjoying being in business with his dad. He gave me a business card as I was preparing to leave.  The card said “Andes Bike Shop”, and the name on the card was Oscar Ramirez.  I asked him if that was his name, and he noted that both he and his dad had the same name.  When I asked him why the name of the shop did not appear on the sign up front, he said that this was something his dad had decided.  And even in that comment I could sense the connection he had with his dad.  It was a connection of love and respect.  There seemed to be a sense of togetherness and trust in their activity of running the store.

I was curious about the Ramirezes and the Andes Bike Shop, and about what it was that had brought them and their store to our little corner of Gaithersburg.   I had asked the young Oscar where they resided, and he had mentioned that they  lived nearby.   I still wondered what triggered their decision to set up the store in its current location.  I did manage to find this video about them.

This happens to be an immigrant story, and I find stories like this somewhat inspiring.  I will perhaps go out of my way to give them some business even if there are other less expensive options.  We need more of these kinds of small family businesses to survive and thrive.  You have to believe that it is not always about the money.

 

“1945-1998” by Isao Hashimoto

This is an old one, and the video has been linked to by many people in the past. I am providing the link just in case you have missed it. There is  an eerie beauty to this piece of “art” even while it provides a different kind of testament to the manner in which humankind can put itself in danger by its actions.

via “1945-1998” by Isao Hashimoto

My apologies if you have seen this already.

Googling Gives Us Answers—But Deprives Us Of Intelligence

The article I have provided a link for below is quite good even though its title may be somewhat misleading.  The deprivation of intelligence because of the ubiquitous use of search engines like Google is not what is addressed primarily in the guts of the article.  It is more a listing of the practical issues that the author sees with the current construct and use of search engines.

But I was drawn in by the title, which was something I have been thinking of for a while.  I realize that while I have access to a wealth of information because of the existence of the search engine, information that I am also able to freely share with others at the drop of a hat,  I am really not getting any smarter because of this.  It is questionable whether the amount of information that I can retain in my mind, and the kind of critical thinking that is crucial to my intelligence, have really been helped.  In fact, because of the easy availability of information, I might be less inclined to try to figure things out, and even retain information.  After all, why would I bother deriving the area of regular dodecagon when needed when all I need to do is look it up on the Internet.

via Google’s search algorithms act as our brains—but what are they trying to get us to think? — Quartz