Street Use

Marching Water Drums of Brazil

I caught this glimpse of street use in a documentary about the AfroReggae movement taking place in the favelas of Rio, Brazil. In an effort to raiser pride and social awareness, the kids are given percussion workshops. Desperately poor, they make their own marching drums from empty water jugs and small oil cans, much in the manner of the Caribbean steel drum makers, but much more crudely. The film is called Favela Rising and it’s not half bad.


Posted on February 28, 2007 at 8:46 pm | comments

Camel Bookmobile

There’s few streets in this part of Kenya, so the bookmobile comes via a camel. This ingenious library is boxed and strapped to a camel. Author Masha Hamilton has accompanied the camels on library trips through Kenya’s isolated Northeastern Province. She writes on her web site:


The actual Camel Bookmobile brings books to semi-nomadic people in Northeastern Kenya who live with the most minimal of possessions, suffering from chronic poverty and periodic drought. I visited the region during a period of drought and made several hours-long walks through the African bush with the bookmobile. I cannot describe how moving it was to see the people, particularly children, crowding around as the traveling librarians set up straw mats under an acacia tree and spread out the books. The excitement is palpable.

The Camel Bookmobile books are primarily in English. The children are taught the language in outdoor “classrooms” under acacia trees for the younger students, indoor classrooms for the older students. They particularly like children’s storybooks, though all fiction is also sought-after, as well as books about math and astronomy, biology and other sciences. As you can imagine, the camel library always needs more books — the trip is hard on books and, as these are a semi-nomadic people known as pastoralists, not all volumes are returned.

This area, Northeast Kenya near the unstable border with Somalia, is definitely a region in transition. Due to years of drought and famine, the elders (many of whom still feel romantically attached to their nomadic lifestyles) are recognizing that their children must be educated, so the demand on the camel library is growing. Illiteracy rates in this region are put at 85 percent. Among adults outside the towns, my guess is that it is higher than that. We in the West have so many books; just mailing a single one to the camel library, if done five-hundred times, would have enormous impact.

The Camel Bookmobile librarians told me their patrons also really appreciate the sense of connection they get when a book is signed from a particular place and person. It widens their understanding of the world. So send a favorite book or two, sign your donations with your name and city, and add a note if you wish.

Instructions for contributing to the camel bookmobile are on Marsha’s site.

Posted on February 21, 2007 at 6:33 pm | comments

Key Ring Dashboard in Finland

Every couple of weeks I like to check into Jan Chipchase’s latest travels. He’s constantly moving around the world noticing little things, like how we noted our world with little messages using technology. On his blog Future Perfect he posted this nice find in Finland.

Key ring board for Helsinki’s Yrjonkatu swimming pool and sauna includes a minature clocks to mark the entry time for each pool goer – anyone staying longer than the one and half hours is charged extra. Or at least they were – the practice of limiting the customer time in the pool hasn’t been used since the 90’s. The board serves multiple purposes. The number of missing keyrings provides a visual snapshot of how many people are currently in the building. And because each key relates to a specific locker it is possible for the attendant to ‘partner up’ pool goers to have neighbouring lockers, increasing the likelyhood of social interaction or in the case of males on the prowl, something more. Unlikely? On men only night? Yeah right.


I like the way it serves as a dashboard to the entire spa. I bet it does not last another three years before it is replaced by the standard PC screen.

Posted on February 17, 2007 at 10:42 am | comments

Improvised Seat in Several Layers

Thanks to Rob Cruickshank for the pointer and this photo. He says, “As soon as I saw this, I thought “Street Use”! Looks like the worn-out seat was replaced first with a pillow, then with a wooden fruit-crate. It’s possible that the wood is warmer than a cushion — it’s been cold here.”


Posted on February 13, 2007 at 9:29 pm | comments

Improvised Second Tier Bike Rack

When you run out of space on an improvised bike rack you can go for the second level. This picture of “a few of the 200 brakeless fixed gear bikes at monstertrack 2006 in NYC” was posted on John Rogers’ Flickr set.


Posted on February 12, 2007 at 7:53 pm | comments

Coffee Pot Mini Meth Lab

According this the local news station in Huntsville Alabama, the ubiquitous cheap Mr. Coffee pot in hotel rooms is often used as a just-in-time makeshift mini-laboratory to make the drug meth. It :

Ask just about anyone in law enforcement, and they’ll tell you to be careful if you ever brew coffee in a hotel room.
“I know enough now that whenever I go to a hotel, regardless of how nice it is, I’ll never use a coffee pot,” said Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall.


Instead of brewing coffee, coffee pots are sometimes used to brew methamphetamine. And since meth labs in hotels aren’t anything new, Rick Phillips of the Marshall County Drug Enforcement Unit says there’s definitely a risk. “The coffee makers that you find in every motel room is an ideal heat source. They mix it up in the coffee pot, put it on a heat source and let it sit there and cook,” said Phillips. It’s common knowledge to those who fight meth, but a shock to your average citizen. Phillips says it’s pretty easy to tell if a coffee pot has been used to cook meth. It will have a dark reddish-orange stain.

Posted on February 9, 2007 at 9:19 am | comments

Bling Trucks, or Dekotora, in Japan

Reader Alexander Rose passed on a website featuring these really cool truck decorations found in Japan. The blogger who posted the images say this about them:


“If you meet such an embellished apparition on a highway at midnight, it may either scare you off the road, or cause you to start to believe in alien encounters. The amount of chrome on these babies is probably equal to a monthly chrome production of a small African republic. I have to admit I’m still scratching my head after seeing this.”

These chrome beauties are known as “dekorota’ in Japanese. According to Wikipedia, “Dekotora (デコトラ) commonly have neon or ultraviolet lights, extravagant paints, and shiny stainless or golden exterior parts. These decorations can be found on both the cab and the trailer, and not only on the exterior but also in the interior. Dekotora may be created by workers out of their work trucks for fun, or they may be designed by hobbyists for special events. They are sometimes also referred to as Art Trucks.


In 1975, Toei released a movie Trucker (トラック野郎 torakku yarō) that featured as the protagonist a costumed trucker who drove his garishly decorated truck all over Japan. [YouTube clip from movie here.] This movie was a big hit with both old and young, and caused a wave of Dekotora popularity to sweep over the country. While Dekotoras were present throughout the 1970s, before the movie they were restricted to the north-eastern fishing transport trucks. It is possible that the movie was an attempt to popularise this kind of trucks. In those days, ready-made parts for trucks were not easily available, so these trucks freely utilised parts from sightseeing buses or US military vehicles.

Dekotora 1

Since the late 1990s, Dekotora have been heavily influenced by the art of Gundam [think lumbering Japanese manga robot]. In addition to the Gundam-influenced designs, it is common to see decorations that are more akin to modern art, or even retro designs that closely resemble those found in the movie Trucker.

Posted on February 6, 2007 at 7:22 pm | comments

Park Bench Theft Deterrent

A reader named John says he “saw this bench at the car wash in San Diego, CA a few weeks ago and thought of street use. Apparently they dont want their bench stolen.”

It is actually a pretty cool design. It makes the bench heavy and awkward to move. Yet it doesn’t detract from either its use or its looks (too much). And it is probably cheap to make. Also it can easily be applied to a variety of bench types. Why don’t we see this solution more often?


Posted on February 1, 2007 at 12:31 am | comments

© 2023