A Man with a Flashlight

GM can suck my balls
July 7, 2007, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Design

Now and then the truth looks you right in the face: America hasn’t produced a car with any style since the 1970s.

From the parking lot at the Lawson near my place this morning. I was going out to take pictures of some concrete-form buildings and I ran into my favorite car – the Nissan Figaro (ragtop edition). I snapped a picture while the lady driving it was busy inside the store.

The Zeer Pot: Refrigeration Without Electricity
May 5, 2007, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Freakin’ cool man. The Zeer, or “pot-in-pot refrigerator,” is made by putting a small clay pot inside a large one. The space between the pots is filled with sand, which acts as an insulator. Water added to the sand evaporates steadily, cooling the inner pot. There’s more:

Each zeer can contain 12 kg of vegetables, and costs less than US$2 to produce.

Experiments assessing its ability to extend shelf life show that tomatoes and guavas can be kept for 20 days, compared to just two without. Even rocket, which usually lasts only a day before wilting, can be kept for five days.

And it was invented in Nigeria.

Green building materials
May 5, 2007, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

The BBC has a detailed article about London’s Think 07 trade fair. Treehugger blogs it here.

This is a subject I want to learn more about.

That some hot shit!
May 5, 2007, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

A concrete bench at the University of Quebec Design Student show uses the heat of underground sewer pipes to warm your ass. Cool!

Does size matter?
May 5, 2007, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Subway systems of the world, presented at the same scale. Nod to Design Observer.

The sound of one jaw dropping
April 29, 2007, 1:52 am
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Now and then you come across a slap-to-the-face reminder of human ingenuity. Here’s a beauty – the Falkirk Wheel. Most futuristic visual design turns me off, but in this device, any attempt not to look futuristic would seem silly.


My favorite line from the Wikipedia description: “The electric motors… consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.”

If we really do screw the pooch and melt the icecaps, how are we going to explain to the future that our civilization could build this, but it couldn’t stop a catastrophe that was seen coming for decades?

I waited too long to renew my passport
April 24, 2007, 1:04 am
Filed under: Design

So my new one is going to look like this.

So far my biggest mistake of 2007. And it’ll haunt me until 2017. Doh! (Nod to Design Observer.)

How much space do you need?
April 23, 2007, 12:50 am
Filed under: Design, The Earth

Tiny houses are taking off, says the Christian Science Monitor.

A much-needed trend. Until now quality of life has been a matter of how much you can consume – money, oil, electricity, space.
For us to survive the next century, we need to start asking instead how many different things we can do with a limited pool of resources.


More tiny house pictures on display at tinyhouses.net. Just one complaint: they’re all standard American country/suburban single-family homes. The age of the automobile is ending. Let’s dense up, shall we?

Iraq vs. World War II – a design perspective
April 14, 2007, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Design, The War on Terror, World War Two

Lacking in almost every respect:

No cool propaganda posters. (Ok, Micah Wright’s, but they’re ironic.)


No war bonds or victory gardens.


No G.I. comic books.


Saddam: more facial hair, less panache.


And certainly not least, no cool technical information leaflets. (Nod to Neatorama.)


Quite a cozy desk to be sitting at inside a bomber, innit? View Cyberheritage’s collection of technical cutaway images from World War Two here.

Ryu Umeharu house – Living large in a tiny bungalow
April 2, 2007, 8:15 am
Filed under: Design, The East

Near the south end of Okinawa there’s a community of artists living near the beach. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of the mother of one of the founding artists, so there was a music festival and general open house.

These pictures are from Ryu Umehara’s gallery space and cabin near the beach. It’s a rectangle about 12 feet by 36 feet. The central two-thirds of the rectangle is a living room and gallery for Umeharu’s paintings; the rest is a kitchen and a bathroom. On the roof there’s a small bedroom.

The rear wall of the living room opens onto a patio. Beyond that is a natural coral wall that the house was placed next to. Notice how when the sliding patio doors are open, it becomes one boundary of the interior space – complete with plants growing up the side:

“Outside” on the patio the interior flooring continues, and wooden slats and transparent corrugated plastic enclose the space visually and provide some protection from weather.

The patio also gives access to two stairways (that shape on the bottom right is the second one) to the roof:

One stairway rises past a shaft where plants grow up from the ground beneath the house:

The roof holds a small bedroom with views of the ocean:

A final touch, borrowed from traditional Okinawan houses – the sliding doors (which cover such a large entrance in front and back they should really be called sliding walls) have 3 different layers. First a sliding screen, then a sliding glass door, to let in air and light as desired. Finally a lightweight wooden wall slides into place, to seal the house during typhoons. Clever, eh?

The really lovely thing about this house is how compact it all is. I would guess around 500 square feet, plus the roof. As in many Japanese houses, it’s amazing how many separate interior spaces are created in a very small area.
Check out Umehara’s website here. Well click around anyway… I don’t read Japanese, unfortunately.

Bakery on the first floor of my building
March 24, 2007, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Design, The East

In Okinawa. It’s almost as rare here for a building to have an apartment on the first floor as it is in Taipei. Instead most have shops, which makes for convenient shopping. I also like how the delivery van is small enough to park next to his window without blocking the sidewalk, and the visual image it creates, which communicates very simply that the shop bakes bread and delivers it. The red sign hanging in the glass door says he’s inside baking; when the truck is gone, it turns around and says “out making deliveries”… at least I assume that’s what it says, I can’t read Japanese very well.
Very tidy, like everything here. If I stay on, soon i won’t notice it any more.