Faucet Shock

Back in the ’70s, futurist Alvin Toffler coined the phrase “Future Shock” to refer to the mindset of many people in modern societies.  According to Toffler, “Future Shock” occurred when constant technological advancements and other changes in the world produced a peculiar psychological state in which individuals were overwhelmed by experiencing too much change in too short a time.

Me, I’ve just encountered “faucet shock.” 

That’s the baffled condition you experience when you go into a bathroom in a hotel where you’re attending meetings and the sink complex looks like the controls of a motorcycle, or maybe a video game, with nary a lever or handle or anything labeled with a C or an H in sight.  So, what do you do here?  Which gleaming device supplies water?  Do you grasp the wings sticking out of the central column and twist or turn?  Or just wave your hands around underneath the whole complex, hoping that there are photoelectric cells somewhere that will activate the water flow?

If you’re confronted with this bathroom set up, here’s what I learned after some embarrassing “faucet shock” trial and error.  First, you stick your hands under the little unit to get a dollop of soap foam, then insert your hands under the central column to activate the water flow — with no option to change the lukewarm temperature of the water, incidentally.  Then, after your hands are soaked, you place them under the wing pieces to have a Dyson unit blow-dry your hands. 

Or, if you feel silly doing that, as I did, you just grab a few paper towels, briskly dry your hands the old-fashioned way, and back away from the whole enterprise.

Into The Public Domain

Most Americans have been to the Smithsonian Institution museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  — whether it was on a family vacation, or on their 8th grade field trip to the nation’s capital, or because they lived or worked in the D.C. area as Kish and I did back in the ’80s.  The museums are a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and are filled with interesting things and insights.

But you can only enjoy them if you are on the National Mall.  Until now, that is.

dezp7clwsaed2ydThe Smithsonian is releasing 2.8 million images from its collection in all of its museums, libraries, and archives into the public domain.   The massive release includes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional high resolution images that have been downloaded onto an open-access online platform, which you can find here.  The on-line platform invites the public to “download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking.”  The first download is just the beginning, as the Smithsonian continues an effort to digitize its collection of more than 155 million items and artifacts.

The Smithsonian’s release is part of a growing effort by museums to move their collections into the public domain, where they can be perused and enjoyed by anyone with access to a computer.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and more than 200 other museums across the world are part of the effort, although the Smithsonian release is by far the most extensive.  The Smithsonian magazine article linked above explains that the materials in the Smithsonian on-line platform are now covered by a Creative Commons Zero license, which frees the items “from all restrictions, copyright or otherwise, enabling anyone with a decent Internet connection to build on them as raw materials—and ultimately participate in their evolution.”  And the on-line platform is easy to use, with a simple search function.  I like dinosaurs, so I did a search for an allosaurus, and downloaded the image above — which is now in the public domain.

I’m a museum lover, and can happily spend hours browsing through exhibitions, so I hope there is always a place for the quiet, thoughtful, in-person museum experience.  But I also am a proponent of putting things into the public domain and increasing access, and applaud the Smithsonian and the other museums participating in the effort for taking a leadership role in making their collections accessible to everyone.