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21 August 2013

Planet-huggin’ Dunnies

I've just finished building a composting toilet. A few people have asked me if it's hygienic. You know, it's home-made toilet and just through together on the weekends. From now on I'm not going to go through a conversation about how composting toilets are great and are usually really safe. I'm just going to show them our commercial water recycling system. It's an Ozzi Kleen. Cost a lot of money. Uses a lot of electricity. In theory, it converts kitchen/toilet waste water into lovely clean water. In practice, it jams a lot and dumps a lot of random shit (literally) into our nice native garden.

Just now, for instance, the system alarm went off. The buzzer is about 500 dB of whine (right above poor little Nina's bed), letting us know the water recycling is somehow unhappy. I often have to go check on the system and give it some encouragement. Today was a little worse than usual. All the compartments were full of liquefied shit. And it was blocking most of the passages, and wasn't getting pumped out of the final tank. This is both good and bad. You don't really want to pump 100 of litres of shit onto your garden. But then, you kind of have no alternative. The trick is, once you have mixed your shit with 1000s of litres of previously clean water what do you do when the system to process that water fails. Every month or so.

Well, after some investigation I decided I'd just have to try and pump the shit out onto the garden. Nina won't be back for another week, so I figured it shouldn't be too bad. So I filled up the final tank with water to dilute the shit enough to get through the pump. Then I got the pump going. Then the pumped got blocked again. So I turned off the whole system at the switch AND the circuit board. Because I'm not an idiot. Then I detached the pump from the outflow hoses to reduce the resistance. Then I turned the power back on at the circuit board and then the switch. I got sprayed square in the face by a shit-load of mildly diluted shit-water. I watched for a while, as shit-water sprayed about 4 metres up in the air, over the whole garden. Then I switched the system of again. Closed the cover on the recycling system to stop the electricals from getting all shitted up. And turned it backed on again. It sprayed for a while. Then it felt better.

The garden has got shit sprayed all over it, and also had shit-water evenly pumped across it by our carefully laid irrigation hoses. There is not a square foot of the garden which isn't a serious health hazard. And people should probably avoid being near me for a while as well.

Next time people suggest my dry composting toilet is a health hazard because it wasn't installed by professionals, I'm going to ask them to read this post and then come back to me.

Mud brick toilet

Buying Films

The other day I tried to by a film with iTunes. I tried buy movies for money every few months to see if it's possible yet. I know other people do it, but it's nevert worked for me. Usually some about having the wrong operating system or the wrong media player or the wrong codec. This time I spent $6.99 for some GI Joe film. I tried to download it on my poor old 3G dongle and probably spent another $10 on download quota. I was using an Apple TV which I friend gave us, so I thought we could watch it on the TV proper instead of mushed onto my bedroom.

After 3 hours it was downloaded and I got ready to watch it. It spent a long time trying to play. Eventually it said "You need a TV which is HDCP compatible" or some other nonsense. The TV is almost 3 years old, so fair enough I should have to buy a new one if I am keen to pay for films instead of pirating them. However, I didn't have time to pop down to the TV shop and buy a new TV so instead I just watched some pirated movie, which had been downloaded on a proper internet connection some time previously.

Every time I try to pay for popular culture I end up coming to the same conclusion. It's sufficiently difficult for edge cases that I wouldn't bother. And for some reason, I'm usually and edge case. Either Linux issues, Mac issues, slow computer issues, slow internet issues or issues with medieval TVs from 2010. I have many experiences now of paying for films and music, but never actually getting to watch or listen to it. Or listening to it for a while, but then being told I can't anymore because I got a new computer.

This is definitely not to imply we entitled to consume popular culture for free until it becomes easy to pay for it. I don't think we are entitled to anything. However, consuming popular culture for free is incredible easy, reliable, consistent, fast, flexible and cheap. The sanctioned alternatives are none of those things. And I don't actually have any ethical issues with illegal bit copying. I prefer paying for things, because I quite like about trade. I'm happy to give talented rich people more money if they find it affirming to receive more money. But in the scheme of things, it doesn't seem enormously important.

If paying for things was only slightly more difficult than getting those things for free, I think I would try paying for them. And one day soon it will probably happen.

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