A critical review (of mundane things)

In the slightly-no-longer-new Stephen Roberts (’62) Campus center, everything is green. The trash has four buckets (but all get converted to trash as the biodegradeable takeout boxes stack up, uncrushed and large in volume). The bathrooms have those airblade handdriers (which are actually extremely effective).

What I really cannot withstand is the toilets. They’re the kind with two settings: push in one direction to use less water for liquid waste, push the handle in the opposite direction to use more water for solid waste.

In the Campus center, despite all good intention, the toilet handles are installed upside-down.

What do I mean by this? People are used to flushing down. Most people tend to discharge liquid waste more often than solid waste. So it should be natural that the down direction correspond to the setting for liquid waste.

But the handles are installed in the opposite way! Now I have to do the new, unnatural, conscious behavior of flushing up to use the appropriate amount of water. This is inane. Certainly, if the solid waste flush is no more than an ordinary toilet flush (ordinary, in that the toilet has only water use option), we’re not using any more water than before. The frustration is that we could probably save so much more water simply by reinstalling these flush handles.

Now, more about water. I like water. I drink a lot of it, and to facilitate this, I carry a supply of water in my 32 oz. water bottle.

SR’62 has these hi-tech, sensor-based automatic “hydration stations.” In theory, you place your bottle in front of a sensor, the water begins to fall in a 1/4″ stream; you remove the bottle and the water stops.

This is an example of throwing technology at a task without addressing the main difficulties of the task.

Look, why do we need separate hydration stations? Because when you’re at a water fountain, you taking the 30 seconds to fill up your water bottle means that no one else can use that water fountain for 30 seconds. This makes you feel awkward, etc. Holding down the little button to turn on the water is not the hard part. Moreover, you can rest the bottle on the fountain as it fills up. To me, at least, the main chore of getting water is the time.

The hydration stations are slow. I’ve seen water fountains with greater flow; filling up 32 oz takes an eternity, compared to turning on a tap on a sink and filling up. These new hydration stations don’t even provide you the luxury of letting you rest the water bottle on a surface. You have to hold up, on average, 1 kg of water during the course of filling. The sensor is also imperfect, which mostly serves to make you feel like an idiot as you try all sorts of tricks to get the water to turn on.

I would like a bottle filler that is fast and relieves me the chore of holding up the bottle. I would like to be able to place my bottle on a platform, say that I require 2L of water, and have it jet out exactly as much. I am willing to discard any existing water in the bottle.

If this is unacceptable, this could be adapted so that I give it the total volume of my water bottle (yes, various bottles have different weights, but this range isn’t huge), place my bottle on a spring-sensored platform, and have the (faster) water flow adjust as it detects that the bottle has gotten full. This doesn’t seem terribly hard, though, might be economically untenable due to the cost of fast sensors.