Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Failure to launch

The eBay auction for Seattle's failed auto-loos has er, failed. City officials are hopeful though that an extended auction date may prove more successful.

Tardis toilet

So, the big question is, why did the spaceship toilets fail in the first place?


Toilet provision is a thorny issue with most civic councils. On the one hand, good toilets in city centres encourage tourism and shopping, keep rough sleepers from pissing in the street and give a good  impression to visitors. On the other hand, toilets are prone to vandalism, can attract criminal behaviour and are difficult to maintain in a cost-effective manner. 


How do you balance the necessary against the evil?


I believe that councils go wrong when they fall into the 'spaceship toilet' trap. These self-cleaning tardises from Germany are a favourite with councils looking to install city toilets. They appeal to council budget-watchers because although they have a high set-up cost, they are supposed to have minimal upkeep costs. But the fact is that after a short while self-cleaning toilets don't. Then you're left with a room the size of 3 toilets in which only one person can relieve themselves every 15 minutes.


Wellington City Council (New Zealand) has a brilliant set of public toilets, on the corner of Lambton Quay and Featherston Street. There are 6 toilets arranged in a semi-circle and a room in which a toilet attendant sits. The attendant keeps the queue moving, mops the floors, keeps each cubicle in paper and provides general chit chat.


For many councils, taking the human element out of toilets seems to be the best option, but I think they are letting their squeamishness override their common sense. They believe that a toilet attendant is a demeaning job and they're not willing to create it. But there are people who are good at it, just like any other job. The best toilet attendants are like good taxi or bus drivers. They're proud of the facilities they offer, they welcome you aboard and they're pleased to take you to your destination. In other words, they are professional.


The stigma attached to the profession of toilet attendant must end if councils are to provide good clean facilities they can be proud of.


The location of public toilets is also key. The middle of a park is always going to attract criminal behaviour. The middle of a shopping district - not behind the carpark, or hidden away down an alley - is the best location. Toilets must take up excellent real estate if they are to be excellent. At the same time, there must also be decent simple provision outside of the main shopping area for people who are making their way home or for people who have no home. But the facilities must still be on good real estate.


To ignore the human element in city centre public toilets is to commit a fatal flaw. Toilets ARE human. Expensive machines which make the human element disappear fail. Seattle has paid the price, but has it learned the lesson?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday Flush 25/07/2008

Oooh, it's quite an international flush today, and a big one at that! So what we need is a massive toilet. A Yorkshire Water campaign to encourage people to 'do one thing differently' to conserve water is being fronted by giant toilets. I don't believe the toilets actually speak or anything, but it is a fun way to get people thinking about the fact that toilets account for one third of a household's water usage. By the way, I don't really believe that statistic. Maybe it's true in the UK, but I know that here in Australia, water saving cisterns have been standard for at least a decade. I couldn't be arsed researching this at the moment though. Would appreciate others' thoughts.


Another interesting statistic, is that Russians use 10 times less toilet paper than Americans and Western Europeans. Now, this statistic I do believe. The experts claim it all comes down to the old 'do ya scrunch or fold?' question. That is a poll for another time.


Still no bids on the infamous Seattle toilets which are up for sale on eBay at a starting price of $89,000, however Calgary and Fort Lauderdale might be interested in buying them. Not put off by Seattle's experience with the spaceship toilets, Toronto and Vancouver are moving ahead with plans to install more of the suckers. However, they might be better off buying their facilities from Vietnam where the toilets only cost $20,000 a piece - that's a massive saving!


Meanwhile, over in London, red Boris wants to offer free toilet facilities to all senior citizens. The idea is actually extraordinarily deceptive - it is a discriminatory Community Toilet Scheme. As Londonist points out, non-senior-people who pay £100 more for their monthly train tickets should reasonably object to being denied access to toilets because of their age.


Old folk


To prove that everything strange in the world actually comes from Austria, and not the USA as many people believe, is this story about a man who was blasted off his toilet seat by hailstones. Oh. My. God. I can't even believe how much that would hurt.


And finally in Jamaica, a businessman has been accused of selling counterfeit toilet paper on the black market.


And that's the Friday flush for this week!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Feeling Meme-ish

Many moons ago, The Radical Radish tagged me for a meme. Having no idea what a meme was, I looked it up, then got busy doing things like moving country (again) so forgot all about it. But now that I'm back on the bog wagon I'll give this meme thing a go.

1. What were you doing ten years ago?
Um, let's see, that was 1998. I had just switched from engineering to arts but was still doing spectactularly badly. I ran into a friend of mine in the Godfrey Tanner Bar who had just walked down to the Registrar's Office and withdrawn from all of his subjects. I was astonished. Who did that sort of thing? Six months later, I was sitting in the same pub when suddenly I realised that I was wasting my time and I wanted to go see Europe. I walked down to the Registrar's Office, withdrew from all my subjects, went back to the pub and ran into a friend who was astonished to hear what I'd just done.

(I did go to Europe and, eventually, I did get my Bachelor of Arts)

2. What are five things on your to-do list today?
Get out of bed before 8am. Check.
Have cup of tea. Check.
Expunge yesterday's Thai from my bowels. Check.
Read various blogs. Check.
Pretend I don't have a hangover. Check. Sigh.

3. What snacks do you enjoy?
I snack on Nutella from the jar and Milo from the tin.

4. Things you would do if you were a billionaire.
Provide clean, efficient and eco-friendly sanitation to the world.
Travel into space.

5. Three of your bad habits.
Talking about inappropriate subjects in inappropriate places.
Not answering my phone.

6. Five places you have lived.
Oooh, I can do better than five places; I can do five countries!
Australia (Sydney and Newcastle), UK (London and Cleethorpes), Croatia (Kamanje), China (Suzhou) and New Zealand (Wellington).

7. Five jobs that you’ve had?
Analyst, office manager, personal assistant, team assistant and project administrator (all five of which are pretty well the same thing).

8. How did you name your blog?
I thought that a blog about toilets would naturally be called Bog Log, but that name was taken. So The Bog Logger was born.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday Flush

Queer - Pride London has issued a statement providing further details about the incident where a trans woman was denied access to the female toilets. As always, the incident was more complicated than was at first reported.


Opening and closing - The toilets on Southend's seafront have been closed for 2 years and are now being replaced with... portaloos! Poor bastards. Better than nothing I suppose. Having said that, Portaloo is currently on a bit of a PR blitz, highlighting its amazing job at Warwick Castle when it provided facilities for 5,000 American kids during a medieval summer festival, and at made-famous-by-The-Da-Vinci-Code Rosslyn Castle.


Technology - The good people at AFT have created a toilet roll dispenser... which has an iPod connector with speakers and charger. No, really. I wish I was joking.


Entertainment - I'm not sure if it's really news or really toilety, but anyway, a decades-old recording of Tom Jones singing in a YMCA toilet has sold for $5,000. I've often sung in the shower, but rarely in the toilet. Anyone else? Also, Pixie Geldof (is this entertainment either? I'm a bit fuzzy with this category) got stuck in a toilet in Kings Cross station.


As promised - the problem-plagued Seattle spaceship toilets are up for sale on eBay here. There are, unfortunately, no bids so far, but there are 8 days to go so get bidding people!


Odd - Ever wondered if your toilet has a birthday? The good news is, it might! The odd news is, there's a website devoted to it.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

At what price clean toilets?

Ahead of the Olympics, Beijing has been cleaning up its toilets.

Readers may have noticed that I'm very sceptical about everything that I hear about China. I lived there for six months and, suffice it to say, it's not my favourite country.

Going to the toilet in China is not very pleasant. Public roadside toilets do not have doors; they are long deep pits with a trickle of water in the bottom ineffectively attempting to push along poo, nappies, cigarettes and sanitary napkins. Over this pit you hover while bemused Chinese people stare at you. Not fun.

Having said that, China has the best provision of toilets of any country I've visited when it comes to volume. In Suzhou, where I lived, the main street has toilets every 200 metres. Even the back street along the canal, which I would take when I just couldn't handle the busy main road anymore, had pit toilets in little concrete houses regularly along the route. No doubt the pits emptied into the canal, and no doubt the fish sold in the market came from the canal - but that is an issue for another blog. I never ate fish in China.

Beijing has spent $57million on cleaning up the streets and toilets. While I think it's wonderful that these toilets have finally been cleaned, I know that the shitty work was probably done by poorly paid (even by Chinese standards) migrant workers, people who are displaced, whose children cannot attend school, whose homes are being demolished to make way for new highways and buildings. Check out http://china.hrw.org to see the human rights abuses that are occurring in China to make sure that we all have clean toilets for the Olympics (and then try to tell me that sport should be beyond politics).

Another thing I read on that Russian site (it's very reputable!) is that only tall beautiful girls (beautiful by Western standards, I imagine) will serve athletes and tourists. I'll leave the tirade against that ridiculousness to someone better qualified (Rayedish?).

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Toilet proposal prize

Congratulations to Ashura Kiesa for winning BBC Swahili's young entrepreneur competition.


Ashura, the only female finalist, won a trophy and $5000 to kick-start her business of providing commercial public toilets in East and Central Africa. The prize was presented to her by the Ugandan Prime Minister in this the second year of the competition.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Totally irrelevant

But too good not to share.


Rayedish did a 1930s Marital Scale test and scored a neat 56 (Average). I thought I'd give it a go, cos certainly a girl who writes a blog about toilets is going to have a cracking score, right?



As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!


Minus 5!!!??? Holy crap. Must have been because I walk around the house in tatty clothes and stockinged feet.

Ebay for spaceship toilets

I hate, loathe and despise spaceship toilets, and Seattle residents apparently feel the same way. They're getting rid of 5 of the expensive behemoths which have been in central city locations since 2004, but keeping the $2.59 tax which was introduced to pay for them.


The toilets, purchased from a German company, proved extremely unpopular with locals. The contract for the $6.6million toilets has been ended early after they became a magnet for drugs and prostitution. The self-cleaning machines, after a while, didn't. Instead of saving money on cleaning the facilities the Council had to employ cleaners. At the initial consultation, the toilets were supposed to be a cost-effective solution, but at $360 per toilet per day they are anything but.


As well as being expensive, space inefficient drug dungeons, I personally find these toilets terrifying. When they installed one in Newcastle (Australia) I would piss next to it rather than go in (much to the amusement of the bouncers at the Crown and Anchor). What if it started 'self-cleaning' while you were in it? *shudder* Nope, a squat by the wall it was. Hey, I'm a classy girl.


The Council is now hoping to sell the unsuccessful toilets on eBay. I'll post the link as soon as there is one.


Mark Harrison - The Seattle Times

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Friday Flush

I have so much loo news to get through that it's not possible to comment on everything. So I introduce The Friday Flush!


Loo News


Voting for America's Best Restroom is currently open.


Officials in India are keeping the streets clean by offering money to people to use urinals. I'm not sure if that's awesome or stupid. I welcome suggestions.


Pride London has apologised after some event staff asked trans people to use a disabled toilet, apparently because they were so tall amongst all those short lesbians. Hey! Not all lesbians are short! People are more civilised in Thailand; a school in Si Sa Ket has created separate toilets for its 200 trans students.


A ridiculous gadget claims to 'promote better relationships' because it enables users to lift and lower the toilet seat without touching the often soiled seat. Whatever.


Taiwan decided flushing toilet paper down the toilet paper was okay, and then decided it wasn't, because 82 per cent of of toilets flow directly into river and waterways. Taiwan uses 340 tonnes of toilet paper a day. Better to turn that into landfill, I say.


Sloan Valve Company's new High Efficiency Toilet (HET) Systems have all sorts of sensor-flushy-solar-electro doovies to make your toilet super efficient. I think.


There's a few stories about China allegedly poshing up its toilets so that Westerners don't find them so offensive. As someone who has lived in China let me tell you that I'm very skeptical.


And to finish, Geri Haliwell loves talking about poo and wee. Good on you Geri.



In Colchester, the town centre toilets are open again, and 'the first 50 customers to use the new arty loos in Lion Walk received a commemorative loo-roll', designed by the artists. That's so awesome I can't even speak. No pic yet, but maybe soon.

The toilets are the first to be refurbished as part of Colchester Borough Council’s  Creative Conveniences project, during which a partnership of arts, street and tourism officers have worked together to improve the look, feel and function of a selection of Colchester’s public conveniences.

That's so cool it deserves its own post. Oh, man, I need more time!!


Staying in the UK, COLDSTREAM and Eyemouth are top of the list to have their public toilets refurbished and also to get a town attendant each, responsible for cleaning the toilets and other general duties around the town. I'm such a fan of toilet attendants. It's a really important job, and it also keeps toilets human - something I advocate strongly.


For every toilet that opens, dozens are closed. Angry Burnham-On-Sea town councillors this week threatened to withdraw £35,000 of funding for the district council in protest at the authority's decision to shut down and sell the town's seafront toilets. And in Borehamwood, the Community Toilet Scheme proposed 18 months ago is still not off the ground.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Sulabh liberates 60,000 scavengers, tots up $32 mn revenue: UNDP

Sulabh International is the reason I became interested in all things
toilety. Its good work has been highlighted in a UN report this week.
the story below is from www.mangalorean.com

---------- Forwarded message ----------
New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Sulabh International, a 38-year-old movement
promoting low-cost safe sanitation in the country, has liberated over
60,000 scavengers, a report by the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) released Tuesday said.

The report, focusing on the various strategies adopted across the
world to engage the poor, additionally said Sulabh's revenues reached
$32 million in 2005, with approximately $5 million in surplus.

Sulabh maintains 6,500 public pay per-use toilets and by 2006, had
installed 1.4 million household toilets. An estimated 10 million
people used its facilities across the country, the report said.

"The public toilets run by Sulabh break even within eight to nine
months," it added. "Facilities in prominent places were highly

There is ample scope for replication and even scaling up of the Sulabh
model that its founder Bindheshwar Pathak started in 1970, UNDP said.

"State governments that used to invite Sulabh into single-party
tenders have now started inviting competitive bids to build and run
public toilets," it noted.

The UNDP report noted that while it was officially said in 2003 that
India had 676,000 scavengers - people, mainly women, who eke out a
living lifting human excreta - unofficial estimates peg the figure at
1.2 million.

Of them, Sulabh had liberated 60,000 through various skill development
and adult literacy programmes; for instance, it trains women in food
processing and markets their products.

It has successfully used internal and external resources to start an
English medium school and a variety of business incubators targeted at
the erstwhile scavengers to get them accepted in mainstream society,
the report said.

Sulabh, which employs over 50,000 associates and presently operates in
26 states, also trained 19,000 masons who could build low-cost,
twin-pit toilets using locally available materials, UNDP said.

Focusing on the constraints Sulabh faced when it started off, the
report identified three key hurdles.

First, there was a lack of market information: businesses just did not
know whether poor people would pay to use toilets and related
facilities or install toilets.

Second, there existed an acute lack of widespread knowledge on
propagating low-cost hygiene solutions.

And finally, perhaps the most critical factor: the poor did not have
access to finance to provide for sanitation.

The report then highlights the strategies Sulabh adopted to overcome
these obstacles.

It first developed an initial pilot project and demonstrated the
popularity of pay-per-use toilet facilities in urban Bihar and
pioneered the low-cost toilet model to be installed in poor
residential areas.

Next, it constructed a museum and planned for a sanitation university,
took its own designs and trained other non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), and started policy dialogue with governments.

"Sulabh influenced the central government and over 100,000 public
toilets will be constructed in addition to local government's
provision of toilet-related loans and subsidies," the report said.


This News is featured in Mangalorean.com

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Hands, Toilets, Work & Diamonds

A Cape Cod boy was retrieving his toothbrush from the family toilet when he found two diamond rings lodged in the pipes.


Apparently, the former owner had placed the rings on a piece of toilet paper after cleaning them and had accidentally flushed them 12 years before. Remarkably, the intervening years of flushing, cleaning, snaking and plunging had failed to dislodge them; it took a solid hand groping to find the missing jewels.


Many years ago when I was at the Crown and Anchor in Newcastle (not the old crappy dodgy Crown and Anchor, but the new crappy trendy Crown and Anchor) I found a drivers licence in the toilet. I weed, I wiped, I flushed - and then I plunged my hand in and pulled out the licence. Now before you say 'ewww!' you must realise that I knew then what very few people know, which is this: your toilet bowl is cleaner than your kitchen sink. Seriously.


Last month, a report comparing toilets and computer keyboards at one UK workplace found the keyboards far, far, far more grubby than the toilet seat and the toilet door handle. In fact, the keyboards had ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY TIMES the recommended limit for bacteria. This isn't at all surprising. Workplace toilets are cleaned every day; when was the last time you cleaned your keyboard? It also makes sense that there are fewer germs on your thighs than on your hands. Hands are filthy dirty disgusting things. My geneticist buddy used to say that after going to the toilet men should wash their penises, not their hands. Sticking your hands in a (clean) toilet can only improve them.


Another friend of mine has just moved into a brand new apartment in Wellington. In the bottom of his toilet there is something that looks like a bit of rolled up paper, maybe a cigarette. Anyway, it was there when he moved in, it was there when I went round to help him set up his TV stand, it was there when I went round for a few drinks at his housewarming party. Chances are, it'll stay there until he moves out in six months time. Some people, I guess, just can't shove their hand into their toilet, no matter how clean it is.


The good news is, the father of the kid that found the diamond rings tracked down the former owner of the house and gave the rings back. I'm not sure what happened to his toothbrush.