Introducing the People Washer

peoplewasher 1 Another gem from the June 1977 issue of The Futurist, an excerpt from Stephen Rosen’s book Future Facts: The way things are going to work in the future of technology, science, medicine and life (available for a penny on Amazon!).

Egg-shaped “People Washer” is an ultrasonic bath developed by the Sanyo Electric Company of Japan. The machine showers and bathes the body, cleans the skin, massages the muscles, and dries the person off.

To take a bath, the bather selects the water temperature, climbs inside the egg, and starts the machine. The machine first gives the bather a warm shower, then begins ultrasonic washing with bubbly warm water. Then the bath fills with warm water to a set level, at which point the water intake automatically shuts off and the hot water begins to whirl, cleaning the body even more thoroughly. While the water whirls, small rubber balls float around in the water, massage the skin, and relax the muscles. After seven minutes of washing and rubber-ball massage, the bath water drains from the sphere and the body is reshowered for two minutes. The shower and the ultrasonic waves cease and the water is drained out. Finally there is a dry cycle during which low moisture air circulates through the chamber. The entire cycle takes 15 minutes.

As crazy as this sounds, it looks like a version of it actually got made for taking care of elderly folks.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

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The combination of responsibilities this week and passing a kidney stone last night means that we’re calling a close to the first season of the Root Simple Podcast and planning new episodes for season two. That’s a pretentious way of saying there’s no podcast today. We’ll be back next week.

Who would you like to see as guests? How do you like the podcast so far?

The Future is Biomorphic

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One of Glen Small’s Biomorphic Biosphere Megastructures.

Thumbing through the June 1977 issue of The Futurist reminds me of the wisdom of what Nassim Taleb calls, “non-predictive decision making.” Why? Futurists and prognosticators are as accurate as a dead clock. Twice a day they get it right and the rest of the time they end up looking foolish. We can be especially thankful that the washing machine for people on page 179 of The Futurist never caught on.

That said, the point is not always to predict the future. Architects, artists and designers push the envelope of consensus reality to spark a dialog. Architect Glen Small, one of the founders of SCI-Arc and the subject of an entertaining documentary, “My Father, the Genius” is one such provocateur whose thoughtstylings appear in The Futurist. In an article in the magazine, Small describes his “Biomorphic Biosphere Megastructure (BBM):”

This union of nature and technology is what I am trying to achieve in my work. People say that the structures I draw look “alive.” They are alive–not in the sense that nature produced them independently of human control, but because they carry out all the different functions of living systems, respond to their environment, and grow. Certainly they are not “dead” as are many of today’s buildings which were constructed without regard for their surroundings or their effect on any form of life other than human beings.

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Inside a BBM life is a party.

Some of the ecological consciousness of Small’s work and other like minded architects of the 1970s later evolved into the environmental building standards of today. But Small is much more interesting. While my own architectural tastes lean towards the conservative Prince Charles end of the spectrum, I appreciate a  good harebrained idea when I hear one. Here’s Small describing life in one of his BBMs:

Your house is a self-contained personal flying module whose soft surfaces can be adjusted to any configuration from smooth planes to womb-like curves. These surfaces–walls, floors and ceiling–can also change in color and opacity. Are you feeling gregarious? Then live a while in completely transparent surroundings! Are you feeling reclusive? Dial walls of any color to shut out the world! You can even open your module like a flower to receive the sun, and close it tightly and inclement weather.

As Marshall McLuhan was fond of saying, “If you don’t like those ideas, I got others.” Among those other ideas, that have more of a chance of catching on, is Small’s passion to align the natural world with the build environment. Small says,

Too often in the past we have behaved like uninvited and unwelcome guests, looting and trashing our surroundings. . . We need a new global building code to insure that all future planning and construction will protect the natural environment and at the same time help establish a social environment that is truly responsive to man’s psychological and physical needs.

While we may not be soaring around in our own personal Barbarella-style floating pods, we do have LEED certification. I’m sure Small would say we could go much further than LEED. On a personal level we can help grow gardens in our cities. On a grass roots political level (pun intended) we can stop incentivizing AstroTurf and leaf blowers. Like Small, I hope the future is biomorphic!

Thanks to Anne Hars for lending me a copy of The Futurist.

Councilmen Want to Astroturf Los Angeles and Turn it Into a Big Minigolf Course

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Los Angeles’ political leaders have a tendency to say the right things and get all the details wrong. Offering homeowners rebates to replace water hungry lawns is a good idea. Letting them use those rebates to put artificial turf in the parkway (see council motion 14-1197–introduced by councilpersons Blumenfield and O’Farrell) is not ecologically responsible.

I disagree with a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times, about giving rebates for artificial turf. It’s time for all of us in this dry Mediterranean climate to go beyond the lawn and bad topiary paradigm. Yes, we need to reduce irrigation, but we also need to create landscapes beneficial to all life: to insects, mammals, reptiles and human beings. And we need beauty. Gardens are both ecological and spiritual. If the author of the Times editorial needs a good example of what’s possible, I’d suggest visiting the new garden surrounding the Natural History Museum.

Artificial turf has a place on athletic fields and put-put golf courses. It does not belong in residential landscapes, especially in the parkway.

Thanks to Travis Longcore, science director for the Urban Wildlands Group, for tipping me off to this situation.

Saturday Linkages: Dia de los Muertos Edition

What Will Be the New Kale?

Our 2011 crop of spigarello.

Our 2011 crop of spigarello.

Since 2011, we’ve been saying that Spigarello is the new kale. Thanks to a tip from the folks at Winnetka Farms, we may need to wait for BroccoLeaf™ to have its fifteen minutes of fame as the new kale.

The Salinas, California based Foxy Organic is, quite sensibly, marketing broccoli leaves. Broccoli leaves are indeed edible and tasty. Foxy has the recursive media to prove it, a Facebook photo of someone Instagramming Broccoli leaves:

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Now I’ve just blogged about someone Facebooking about someone Instagramming Broccoli leaves. How far can we take this? Will broccoli leaves act as the gateway vegetable to Spigarello?

Why it’s Better to Pressure Can Tomatoes

Image: University of Wisconsin Extension Service

Image: University of Wisconsin Extension Service

As most avid canners know, 4.6 is the pH dividing line between acid foods that can be safely water bath canned and less acidic foods that need to be canned in a pressure canner. Most fruits have a lower, i.e. more acidic pH and can be water bath canned.

Tomatoes, on the other hand, are often near the 4.6 pH level and USDA tested recipes will call for adding either bottled lemon juice or citric acid (I prefer citric acid as the taste is more neutral).

I used to think that this issue was because different tomato varieties vary in their acid content. It turns out that it’s more about when tomatoes are harvested, not to mention what the weather was like during the growing season. Add this variability to other factors, such as how many cans you put in your canner, the material your pot is made out of and the type of heat source and you end up with a tricky question for the food scientists who test home canning recipes. All of these factors are why the recommended hot water bath canning time for raw packed tomatoes is 85 minutes.

I’ve hot water bath canned tomatoes and got great results (especially with San Marzano tomatoes). But 85 minutes is a long time. You can cut the processing down considerably and get better results by pressure canning tomatoes. Here’s a raw pack recipe that includes both hot water and pressure canning instructions. Note that you still need to acidify.

Thanks to Linda Harris, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, Food Safety and Microbiology who gave a lecture at the Master Food Preserver conference where I gleaned these factoids.

023 Cleaning, Spam Poetry and Shoemaking

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In episode 23 of the Root Simple Podcast, Kelly and Erik give an update on their housecleaning habits, read some spam poetry and discuss Randy Fritz’s shoemaking workshop. Some links we mention:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho and Choc. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Hundertwasser: Architecture as Spontaneous Vegetation

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One of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, just did an episode about Austrian outsider architect Tausendsassa Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (“Multi-Talented Peace-Filled Rainy Day Dark-Colored Hundred Waters” in German).

Hundertwasser viewed straight lines as an affront to both God and creativity. He was also a big fan of humanure, mold (!) and, just like Alexandro Jodorowsky, did the occasional speaking gig completely nude.

Listen to the 99% Invisible podcast for more on Hundertwasser’s architectural thoughtstylings.