Automated Bathroom Apparatus

“Wash Me, Dammit”

I’m not sure the exact technical term, but there’s a word for when emerging technology becomes accepted on a massive scale, and becomes the new normal. Maybe it’s the tipping point? I’m sure Malcolm Gladwell would know.

Hands-free bathroom technology has reached my personal tipping point. More and more public places are forgoing actual skin to machine contact, and instead, we’re just waving our hands at towel dispensers, soap sloppers, sinks, and hand dryers.

On the whole, I’m pro automation when it comes to the bathroom. I once worked at a place where everything in the bathroom was automated, and when I would come home to my very not automated home bathroom, I would have to mentally reboot a few times, realizing that I still had to *do* things.

Which brings about the dark side of automated bathroom technology. When they don’t work, the situation can go from comical to dire.

We’ve all done it. We’ve been in an unfamiliar bathroom, noticed that the sink has one of those sensors, and blindly put our hands under the faucet, ready for our paws to be polished with water. And then.

Nothing.

Nothing happens. You glance around, see if other people are having the same problem with their sink, and of course, they’re not. They’re technically literate. What are you, a Luddite?

You wave your hands in front of the sink, with ever-increasing frenzy. It either turns on or if not you’ll quickly abandon that sink and slink over to another automated station. Perhaps you’ll even try to shrug it off with a bad joke or a “whaddayagonnado” shrug to the invisible crowd.

Or, you’ll just pretend like the water hit your hands, throw some soap on it, and then grab a towel and hightail it.

However, there is nothing worse than being presented with faulty automatic technology when in a bathroom stall. Say what you will about manual toilets, but you know who’s in control.

It’s a truly humbling moment when you’re in a restroom, waving at a toilet, praying to the machine gods that it will quickly dispose of your waste.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Especially when we count on that sword to edge against the side of excrement.

Automated Bathroom Apparatus – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Dog Hollering

“Who’s A Good Boy?”

I have a problem.No matter the situation, level of propriety, or expected decorum, if I see a friendly looking dog, I will try to talk to it.

It’s not so bad that I will cross the street in hopes of petting a good boy. Instead, I’ll just keep mental tabs on it, and use my own personal version of “The Secret” and hope that we cross paths.

As someone who grew up with dogs, all dogs are nice in my mind until they’re not. If the existential question toward humanity is “Is man inherently good or evil?” my own personal philosophy toward dogs is “Are Dogs inherently great, or the greatest?”

Even after being bitten by a street dog in Thailand, I still trust all dogs to have my love as their best interest.

Dogs have to work for me to not like them. Most small dogs I judge instantly. A dog under 20 pounds has to earn my affection. It’s not hard, but it’s an uphill battle for their weirdly tiny legs.

Up until recently, I realized that I was doing something almost without noticing it. If I was driving, and I saw a great looking dog, there was a 50/50 chance that I would shout out something complimentary to the dog. Something like “Good Boy!” “What a Great Doggo!” or even just “Floof!”

It was brought to my attention that while the dog may enjoy the drive-by praising, the dog owner might misinterpret my dog enthusiasm for nefarious mutterings.

Kate and I were driving somewhere early in our relationship, and I saw a good boy. Instantly my window was down and I gave the dog a shouted phrase of praise. Turning back to Kate with a satisfied grin on my face, I saw a look mixed with horror and disgust.

Turns out, the dog walker was an attractive woman, and Kate interpreted my dog hollering as actual hollering. Looking back, I see the error in my ways.

Tail between my legs, I toned down my dog hollering. For a while, I would just yell praise to the dog, but with my window up. I felt confident that the doggo’s superior sense of hearing would pick up my words of encouragement, without me branding myself as a street harasser.

Now, I wait for a dog to pass me by, then I politely ask the owner if I can pet their dog.

But, to all the doggos out in the world. Know this. You are all good boys and good girls.

Dog Hollering – 3 out of 5 Stars

The Graffiti Wall

“An Ever-Changing Array of Aerosol”

I’ve been running on a pretty consistent schedule for the last two months in preparation for a 10k next week. Yes, after completing the Venice Christmas 5k last year, we’re doing it again. Except Kate signed me up for double the distance.

Is she running double the distance? Nope. But I am. Hooray.

To not embarrass myself in a sea of swift strangers, I’ve been using the Nike Run Club app to keep a regular workout setting. If you’re into running, or want to get into it, I would recommend the app. It creates a custom workout schedule, and adjusts to your speed and completed runs.

Part of the challenge of running (besides the physical act of it), is planning or discovering a route that is both your desired length and also isn’t full of traffic intersections and other hazards.

Luckily we live right by the beach, so I’ve been running along the Venice Beach Bike Path in the morning. The only hazards I encounter are enthusiastic cyclists, haggard heroin hobos, and the various characters that have chosen to make the streets of Venice their final destination.

Yes, I know it’s a bike path, but I stick very close to the sides, and it’s 7 AM, so the path isn’t busy at all.

My route to rack up miles follows the same normal pattern. Start on the Venice Canals, run out to the Venice Pier, and then take the bike path until I hit a halfway point, then head back via the Boardwalk.

One of the early milestones this run takes me on is a winding sand-covered stretch of bike path that becomes a tourist quagmire after 9 PM. It bisects the famous Venice Skate Park and a concrete area that has become an accepted stage for rollerskate performances.

Next to the skatepark is a set of walls and concrete pillars where graffiti is legal. I don’t know the details, but what I do know is that every weekend, legions of artists armed with backpacks full of spray paint create murals over murals.

This means that whenever I run by these walls, there’s a strong chance that I’ll see something new and bizarre. Most of the time the paintings are simply well-executed tags of the artist’s name. But other times I’ll be astounded with the subtle style that these creators are able to coax out of an aerosol can.

My run on Tuesday took me past the wall, and I was greeted with a new mural staring back at me. What on Sunday had been a silver script in elegant graffiti font saying “Anti Death Krew” now had been painted over and had a crying baby face.

I surprised that a new piece had been executed so quickly. But as I ran, I started to ponder the significance of the baby’s face. Was the Anti Death Krew trying to make a statement about the cycle of life? Is the true “anti-death” bringing new life into the world? To leave a legacy?

Damn, I thought. Better just stick to running. I’ll leave the existential life questions to the graffiti wall.

The Graffiti Wall – 3 out of 5 Stars

Archery

“Not Just For Cupid”

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, we went to a gun range to shoot archery.

Before we dive into this review, I’ve been struggling with the correct verbiage. Is it shoot “bows and arrows?” that doesn’t sound right, because you don’t shoot “guns and bullets.” But then again, do you even “shoot” arrows? Really you draw, knock, and loose.

We’ll just stick with “shoot” but I have to tell you, I’ve been struggling with the correct words when sharing this story with friends.

Like an owl at an orgy says, anywhooo.

We woke up at 6 am, met up with friends, and visited a gun range in Newhall, California. My only previous knowledge of Newhall is that if you wanted to pass your driver’s license test when you were 16, they had a more forgiving DMV than Pasadena’s.

The Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall is nestled in a little canyon off the freeway and has all the makings of wonderland for survivalists and those who like to play with things that go boom.

I’ve only been to one professional gun range before in my life. I went to shoot pistols with a friend in Texas. Other than that, my gun range experience was limited to Boy Scout camp where I learned to shoot .22’s and skeet.

Oak Tree seemed less of a gun range and more of a gun compound. First off, it was massive, containing an archery range, pistol range, rifle range, trap and skeet range, gift shop, cafeteria, and a bar.

Second Amendment discussion tabled for the moment, walking around a gun range is exciting. Booms and bangs abound, and men and women with real weapons walk around with serious yet gleeful looks on their faces.

The archery range was a steep walk up from the rest of the gun ranges and consisted of a small area with standard paper bulls-eye targets tacked to bales of hay. But just beyond that was a little stand where you could aim at an array of foam targets that were in the shape of elk, deer, and even a headless zombie.

Obviously, we decided to go after the foam targets. We rented standard bows and spent the next hour and a half riddling the targets with flimsily fletched arrows. Our bows spoke to our amateur status. Everyone else on the range had compound bows outfitted with rangefinders and other intense looking hunting doodads.

I haven’t shot bows since summer camp, but once I got in the groove of it, I found that I still had a dash of Robin of Loxley in my arm. After taking down most of the targets, my greatest achievement was putting an arrow into the haunch of a foam ram almost 150 feet down the range.

We left the Oak Tree gun club feeling happy with our morning. The only thing that soured it at the end was seeing a pasty blonde man with a beard but no mustache not only wearing a red MAGA hat, but also outfitted in a football jersey with “TRUMP 45” emblazoned on the back. Then again, it’s a gun range, so I feel like we got lucky seeing only one.

Archery – 3 out of 5 Stars

No Handed Bike Riding

“Dutch People Do It Better”

I’m blessed to work at a company that has a rich tableau of international flair. About half of our office comes from outside the U.S. and it’s honestly one of my favorite things about working where I work.

There’s a large contingent of us who bicycle to work (yay environment), and I consider myself a pretty good two-wheeler.

Or at least I did, until I saw one of my Dutch colleagues casually riding down a busy street jam-packed with cars, fiddling with his phone, hands not even close to the handlebars.

I was impressed (and intimidated) and decided to make no-handed bike riding a skill that I master in the year of 2019.

The thing about Dutch people is, they’re just naturally talented cyclists. It’s the main mode of casual transportation in Amsterdam, and I feel like I’ve heard stories of babies being in bicycles before they learned how to walk.

And after our trip to Holland, I believe it! You would see a Dutch mother with not one, but two babies strapped into her bicycle. Similar to what you see on motorbikes in Vietnam and Cambodia, but much safer.

A goal in mind, I began to practice my balancing act on my daily bike ride to work. There’s a stretch of side streets that I take that don’t have traffic, so I’ve been able to ride several blocks without falling or flailing frantically at my handlebars.

Sitting down for lunch one day with my Dutch compatriot, I told him how his nonchalant no-handedness had inspired me, and that I was on a daily training regimen that required no phalanages.

He took a bite of his salad, chewed thoughtfully, and said:

“You know the secret right? You just have to steer with your asshole.”

The Dutch are famously blunt.

But sure enough, the next time I let my sphincter steer, the ride was ever-so-smooth.

No-Handed Bike Riding – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Pie

“Superior in Every Way”

It’s November, which can only mean two things.

 

  1. My birthday is coming up, marking the one year anniversary of starting The J.R.S.
  2. It’s socially acceptable to eat pumpkin pie whenever you want.
As much as I love writing topics that the internet has fiercely debated already (clickbait works for a reason) I don’t want to waste keystrokes talking arguing the differences between cake and pie.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s just that those who enjoy cake more than pie are wrong. That’s okay. We all have different strengths. Some people correctly choose pie, and others live a shell of an existence.

It’s just that pie can take so many forms, and always retain a deed of deliciousness.

Pizza Pie? I guess we’re in New York or Chicago in this scenario. My west coast face, yet commonly mistaken for an east coast accent, would still feel odd ordering a pizza pie, but I understand the merit.

Shepherds Pie? I don’t think I know any actual shepherds, but fuck yes to whatever that is.

Chicken Pot Pie? Yeah, let’s just take pie crust and fill it with dinner than seal it back up. Check please.

Cake really only exists in two forms. Cake, and ice cream cake. Ice cream cake is better than regular cake. But if you’re not a sweets enthusiast, what do you have?

Then we have traditional pie. If I have one order of pie before I die, you know it’s going to be pumpkin. However, because I grew up in Los Angeles, I feel like I’ve missed out some classic culinary pie staples. I think I’ve had Key Lime pie once? Apple Pie is okay. but I really want to try it with some hot cheddar cheese on top to get the full Thank You For Smoking experience.

Rhubarb pie? Isn’t that a weed? I’m confused.

Cherry Pie is meh. Would be completely okay with the world if it disappeared tomorrow.

My point is, the world of pies is wide and varied, unlike the small island nation of cake.

Dig in while it’s the season, and don’t forget to savor the crust. Because, it’s basically the main difference between this silly internet argument.

Pie – 3 out of 5 Stars

Automatic Bathroom Apparatus

“Work Smarter…and Sometimes Dumber”

We’ve all been there. You’re in a bathroom that has some fancy new technology that makes it so you don’t have to touch anything to wash your hands. Most of the time these situations occur to me at the airport. You go to the sink, patiently place your hands underneath the faucet, and wait for a soothing jet of water to moisturize your mitts.

Instead, you wave your hands like a madman, while simultaneously glancing around to see if anyone else is seeing your embarrassing technology predicament. After 13.5 seconds of futile flailing, it’s time to abandon hope, and either:

Just walk out with soapy hands or quickly move to another faucet and hope for the best.

I love the advent of new technology in our lives to make the little things that much easier. I marveled at the genius who created the automatic hand paper towel dispensers and spent hours upon hours contemplating how much money that company made with each whirl of a towel.

At one point in college, I sketched a design of a urinal that would use low powered suction fans to drastically reduce (and hopefully eliminate completely) splashback. A frenzied search for patent lawyers resulted in a very patient old man explaining to me the cost of patent applications. And so, the dream of Joey’s Unbelievable Urinal Ward was dead.

The use of hands-free technology in wash closets is a small upgrade that makes bathroom experiences that much better. But we haven’t perfected it yet, which results in everyone frantically waving at a sink or a toilet at least once in their life.

And in those moments of true vulnerability, the desire to be seen, to be acknowledged is never stronger. I came here to go to the bathroom, not have an existential crisis. But as I waggle my palm with increasing nervousness at a thin black square of infrared light, I find myself asking myself, “Am I really here?”

Then the toilet flushes, and all is right with the world.

Automatic Bathroom Apparatus – 3 out of 5 Stars