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.

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.

The Whole HOG: September 2012

Water-centric Green Design News

“Water is fundamental to our economic vitality and overall quality of life, not to mention our very survival. And, at about a penny a gallon (far less than the cost a gallon of milk – or bottled water), this precious resource is also an exceptional value; especially considering how often we use it every day.”
– Randy A. Moore, President of Iowa American Water

This September, when it comes to water, we’re taking problem-solving seriously. Doctor HOG helps brainstorm solutions for Frank Katz’s two-HOG installation in New Mexico, and we get real-world perspectives on America’s water crisis from a clean energy economy advocate in California and from the president of Iowa’s largest investor-owned water utility.

We also feature an award-winning, student-designed hybrid. Read more about the water-saving Washit in our B.U.G. Design section. And speaking of student-powered solutions, registration is now open for the EPA sponsored Campus Rainworks Challenge!