The Whole HOG: March/April 2013

“I think when we really see each other, we want to help each other.”
– Amanda Palmer, musician

In his book Imagine: How Creativity Works Jonah Lehrer examines the intricacies of how the human mind creates, from ‘a ha’ moments of epiphany to the way centralized bathrooms help foster innovation in the business environment. Starting with the neural pathways of the brain, and ranging from cultural and historical moments of genius to the benefits of urban friction in modern cities, Lehrer is a nimble guide down the oft-divergent path of creativity.

ImagineImagine has circulated the headquarters of our small green business, where we know from experience that creativity is fostered by hard work, outsider thinking and social exchange. We found Lehrer’s book to be useful, immensely readable, and even inspirational.  (Yep, we heard about the debacle of the fake Bob Dylan quote. We still recommend the book. )

In a footnote, Lehrer remarks, “Architecture has real cognitive consequence.” We think Thomas Hardwick’s Seed Cathedral is an example of consciousness-shifting architecture worth seeing.

Speaking of, this month we’re substituting a B.U.G. Design feature – our monthly creative sustenance – for a timely Ask Dr. HOG feature. Earthquake-prone California and large steel water tanks don’t mix, especially on the playground. Find out why from architect Sally Dominguez, HOG inventor who moonlights as our resident Dr. HOG.

Sally has recently been named ambassador to the humanitarian nonprofit Engineers Without Borders Australia. If you’re in California the first weekend of June, you can catch her making a case for rainwater harvesting – “Good for the plants, good for the planet,” she says – at the Marin Home and Garden Expo.

The ever-expanding Austin musical festival that is South by Southwest (SXSW) had the web (and us too) all abuzz this March. One musician’s name kept surfacing, in part because of a recent TED talk she gave called “The Art of Asking.” Amanda Palmer and her band, Grand Theft Orchestra, raised an unprecedented amount of money through KickStarter for a new album.

Art of AskingFearless, bold, and a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of a performer, Amanda uses her outsider status – Lehrer makes the case that this is an important perspective for looking at a problem from a new angle – to reframe the music-industry question, “How do you make people pay for your music?”

Her paradigm-shifting answer: “I didn’t make them. I asked them, and through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

“Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing,” T.S. Eliot wrote in an introduction to Dante’s Inferno. Lehrer opens Imagine with this quote and proceeds to demonstrate with example after example that the best way of coming up with something from nothing – the definition of creative problem solving – is to make unexpected connections across diverse fields of knowledge.

It is as a connector that Amanda Palmer envisions a musician at her most successful. She says, “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of their community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.” To get a sense of her ability to connect in action, check out how she crowdsourced a SXSW showcase and panel in under 24 hours.

We strive to connect-the-dots in unexpected ways and bring new perspectives to you in The Whole HOG.  The Amsha Africa Foundation’s project to bring rainwater harvesting to rural Kenya makes us think about the value of water differently. Keep reading to find out more.

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March/April 2013: Amsha Africa Foundation

Amsha Africa Foundation to Bring Rainwater Harvesting to Rural Kenya

Amsha Africa Foundation
Amsha is a swahili word that means “wake up”. The non-profit Amsha Africa Foundation works to raise the standard of living in rural Africa by working with registered community-based organizations.

Rainwater Harvesting in Rural Kenya
Here’s the difference something as small as one Rainwater HOG tank used to harvest rainwater  can make. Women in rural Kenya often spend as much as 3 hours a day carrying water to their homes from distant sources.

Chibanga two women carrying waterIf a woman can carry 5 gallons of water per day, then one Rainwater HOG storage tank can hold water that would have taken her over 10 days to carry.

If she spends 3 hours per day carrying this water, a storage tank near the home can save her 30 hours of water transport over 10 days. This results in 1,080 more hours a year to do other tasks, such as entrepreneurial activities, daily cooking, cleaning, child care, and schoolwork.

If she spends even half of those 1,080 hours on work that earns even $0.50 per hour of income, this extra time can result in over $250 of income for this woman and her family.

The Amsha Africa Foundation is currently fundraising to purchase and install 130 Rainwater HOG tanks for communities in the semi-arid regions of rural Kenya where one of the most significant issues, with a wide-ranging set of repercussions, is access to clean water.

Some common problems include:

No access to safe water: Residents depend on frequently interrupted central water supply systems from the government.
No adequate waste water management resulting in polluted ground water.
Lack of safe sanitation.

Amsha Africa founder Tony Abuta, a native Kenyan, lives and works in the U.S.A. It was a combination of his childhood experiences and return visits to Africa and other developing countries that inspired him to found Amsha. The organization aims to use common-sense, site-specific solutions to help lift people out of poverty with dignity.

One hundred thirty Rainwater HOGs tanks would make over 6,760 gallons of water available to rural communities in Kenya. Here’s how you can help.

March/April 2013: Ask Dr. HOG

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Ask Dr. HOG About Water and Earthquakes: Water Tanks in Seismically Active Zones

Dr. HOG recently visited a school in Northern California that wants to install a large, round 1,500 gallon tank on a hill above the playground for decent gravity feed. They felt that steel was a sturdy, durable choice. What’s wrong with this scenario?

The Problem
There’s a reason many steel tank manufacturers do not sell in California – and its all about rock ‘n roll. Well, actually its slip ‘n slide as the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate grind together. When the ground moves abruptly under a large or medium body of water contained in a tank the top section of water sloshes, and the bottom section moves with the tank body, effectively creating some very powerful shear.  A riveted tank might just pop its rivets, pouring around 6 tons of water down onto the playground.  A welded tank attached to a stiff foundation could shear in the middle.

The Solution
The volume the school wants to store is not a viable project for Rainwater HOGs, so I recommended daisy chaining two 660-gallon round Bushman tanks with a secondary fastening system to the ground, and allowing room for an additional tank when funding became available.  Daisy-chaining smaller tanks has a number of advantages to the monolith proposed:

bushman tank 660 gallons big1. It acts as a baffle to prevent the water mass gaining too much momentum in a seismic event, giving the system more chance of surviving an earthquake without spilling.
2. It facilitates a progressive installation as funds become available.
3. It prevents large scale failure – in the event that a tank fails (this is known to happen with some thinner walled tanks, although a Bushman quality tank means that it probably won’t), there is still functional storage in place.
4. It is less expensive and a more residential-scale installation of compacted gravel vs. the large scale concrete or other substrate that a big tank requires.

Click here for real time earthquake monitoring. And click here for more answers from Dr. HOG.

March/April 2013: New Ambassador for EWB Australia

Engineers Without Borders Australia Names Sally Dominguez as Ambassador

“I am honored to represent EWB Australia as an ambassador and ‘non-gineer’,” says Sally Dominguez.

Sal with flagInventor, adventurer and educator, Sally’s unique blend of talents have led her on an extraordinary journey that includes manufacturing and invention, car design and rallying, and journeys across Cambodia, China and the USA to see pioneering technologies at work first hand.

Discover more about Sally and EWB Australia here.

 

Her first role as ambassador will be to host the 10th Anniversary Engineers Without Borders Australia Gala Dinner in Melbourne this August. EWB gala

 

March/April 2013: Marin Home and Garden Expo

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Simple Sustainable DIY Rainwater Harvesting with Sally Dominguez
Sunday, June 2nd at 1 pm, Marin Center Fairgrounds,  San Rafael, CA

Rainwater HOG’s own Sally Dominguez, multi award-winning sustainable designer and educator, will present Simple, Sustainable DIY Rainwater Harvesting at the 2013 Marin Home and Garden Expo. Marin GardenShe looks to all corners of the globe for ways to use rainwater on the garden and inside the home. From selecting BPA-free vessels and calculating rainwater storage potential to the effective filtration of roof water and even using rainwater to flush toilets and wash laundry, Sally draws on her experience designing for Australia and for the Bay Area to guide you to the best sustainable choices for rainwater re-use.