Little House In Ise

Robots on the Brain and Butt
September 16, 2006, 03:16
Filed under: Expat, Japan, Robots, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


On Sep 13, 2006, at 6:50 AM, marcus j chavez wrote:
ERIC!!!! how’s Nippon how are the children adjusting Megumi, CAN you go home again:)

Funny you should ask. I was just soaking in the tub listening to the rain. There was a horny cricket out there trying to get a little action. The burping of the tub as it heated up to 40 gave this little corner of the world a nice bass accompaniment. Right now, Japan sounds nice.

But there is a darker side…

I work in an office where industrial robots are designed and built. I walk past half a dozen varieties every day. I think, Asimov would have approved but been a little disappointed. None of these look even vaguely like people. The coolest of the lot, the AGV, looks a lot like the love-child of R2-D2 and a VW microbus (hi Bro!). It gets about as much love. I desperately want to add, “Are you Sarah Conner?” to its repertoire of error signals but no one around here would really get it. Anyway, my point is that I’m spending a lot of time around robots lately. So much so that I wish that Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were a reality. They might’ve saved my ass today.

It all starts with the almost fetish-like attitude toward personal cleanliness that is more than a stereotype here. This fetish has resulted in the development of plumbing that would look right on the set of a Star Trek episode (if they ever filmed in the bathroom). At the very least, I am convinced that the current models of toilets are robots in disguise. Most seem to be Three Laws compliant but the one in the far left stall of the visiting men’s room at my company stands out as being a deviant.

No one has complained, yet, that I use the visitors’ bathroom rather than take the long hike, to the farthest corner of the building, away from where I do my business, in order to do my business. The visitors’ bathroom is cleaner, or at least has better air freshener, and is equipped with robo-pots that do everything for you except, well, the obvious. Step up and the lid lifts, wait a moment and the hoop lifts. If you sit down you’d better read the instructions before you get serious otherwise you may need to call tech-support. If you think I’m kidding, think again. There is a two-page bilingual manual (full-color, glossy, nice use of graphics) hanging on the wall of each stall.

So, get comfortable, do your thing, press the right buttons, reduce the pressure and temperature — it’s always too powerful — and then fire up the dryer which, thankfully, is_much_ less powerful than the Mitsubishi JetTowel. Done, right? You’d think so but what happens when the toilet displays the Blue Screen of Death? How do you reboot a toilet? Sneaking away isn’t an option as the person to be blamed would be pretty obvious. Damn! Dr. Asimov, where are you when you’re needed!?!? When in doubt, a good engineer returns to the documentation, to RTFM a little more… Aha! On page two, “Tlouble Shooting”, is an answer Scotty would have been proud to use! There is a manual over-ride! The lid and hoop mechanisms still work so, getting down to open the hatch where the override is artfully concealed isn’t too horrific. Sure enough, lower right side behind the graphic showing how to open the hatch is YES! A hatch! With a flush lever. I rule! It may be an indicator of something that this is the sort of victory that I savor. 🙂

Anyway, wouldn’t it have been so much easier if the damn thing just followed orders? (second law of robotics)


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[…] example of this here is the Mitsubishi Jet Towel installed in the visiting men’s rest-room. Since the bathrooms in my office are not insulated and windows are left open for ventilation, in […]

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