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September 21, 2019

William Burroughs: Cut-ups

The master shows and tells.

September 21, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Decoding utility markings spray-painted on city streets


From 99percentinvisible:

It wasn't the first or last accident of its kind, but it helped catalyze the systemization of critical color-coded utility markings — mysterious-looking tags that look like nonsense or a secret code until you start to decipher them.

On that fateful June 15th, workers were excavating Venice Boulevard to widen the road when disaster struck.

Pressurized gas from a ruptured line ignited into a fireball and smoke rose hundreds of feet into the air.

Flames engulfed businesses and apartment buildings along the block, killing and injuring dozens of people.

Three months later, the state created the DigAlert system for contractors and citizens to contact when planning a subterranean dig to help avoid future disasters.

Keeping track of work areas and what's underground can be tricky, so organizations like DigAlert mandate the use of white (paint, chalk, flour or flags) to mark off construction zones, plus Uniform Color Codes developed by the American Public Works Association (APWA) for the temporary marking of underground utilities. 


These "safety colors" were formalized by the American Standards Institute (ANSI) as Safety Color Code Z535.

  • Red: electric power lines, cables, conduit and lighting cables
  • Orange: telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit
  • Yellow: natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum or other flammables
  • Green: sewers and drain lines
  • Blue: drinking water
  • Purple: reclaimed water, irrigation and slurry lines
  • Pink: temporary survey markings, unknown/unidentified facilities
  • White: proposed excavation limits or routes

These colors cover the general categories of unseen hazards workers need to take into account, but they are only part of the equation.

Notations are also necessary to keep track of the locations, widths, and depths of conduits, cables, and pipes and identify the associated utility company.

Accordingly, the Common Ground Alliance maintains a set of Guidelines for Operator Facility Field Delineation to indicate where and how to mark things with arrows, numbers and symbols.


The stakes are high for underground excavation and construction projects.

Negligent digging can cause everything from a major utility outage to gas leak evacuations (or worse).

Hitting a water main may also trigger local flooding or require a boil-water advisory.

In the US, thanks to the 2002 Pipeline Safety Improvement Act, most municipalities require that people call before digging.

Utilities will then send people out to mark out underground hazards.

Other countries have evolved various similar systems to avoid accidents as well.


Deciphering Utility Codes Around the World

Some places, like Scotland, offer excavators detailed maps of utilities, but in the rest of the UK, for instance, people are on their own when it comes to finding and avoiding obstacles.

Many thus rely on CATs (Cable Avoidance Tools) to identify dangers. For metal pipes and cables, electromagnetic equipment can help workers "see" below the surface.

For plastic or concrete piping, ground-penetrating radar is employed.


[Above, utility locator tool in use]

Various countries have also evolved different color schemes and markings, too, often with some overlap (like: blue for water).

On British roads, many colors are the same as in the U.S., but some vary (e.g. green is used for telecom rather than sewage and drain lines).

In terms of markings, a number next to a "D" indicates depth and a looping infinity symbol marks the beginning or end of a project area.

For electrical lines, "H/V" means high voltage and "L/V" low voltage, while "S/L" is for streetlights.

For gas lines, "HP" denotes high pressure while "MP" refers to medium pressure and "LP" stands for low pressure.

With standards guides in hand, these odd hieroglyphics start to become legible.

Australia has its own system too, using orange for electricity, yellow for gas, blue for water, light blue for air, white for communications, red for fire services, cream for sewage, purple for reclaimed water, silver or gray for steam, pink for "unknown," brown for oils, and black for other liquids.

Most of Canada uses the same system as the United States.

The subterranean stretches of most cities are teeming with utilities, not to mention mass transit and road tunnels.

Mapping and marking all of this is a complex task often done by third-party contractors whose sole job it is to locate and tag potential hazards below.

The biodegradable paints they use are generally designed to fade over time, but, for those in the know, these odd scribblings provide unique temporary windows into the complex systems running underneath our built environments.

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And for residents, as well as workers in a dangerous industry, these codes are essential to public and workplace safety.

September 21, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Takata Airbags — Part 3


Constant readers will recall my posts of August 20 and 21, (Parts 1 & 2), in which I explained why I was going to ignore the fact that my car's long-ago-recalled Takata airbags were potentially defective and and capable of exploding into shrapnel that could maim or kill me should they go off in a collision.

Don't say I don't listen to you: enough readers commented and emailed their unhappiness at my decision that I reconsidered.

What tipped the balance was Flautist's comment: "Ask Gray Cat."

The thought of her left alone while I lay bleeding to death because of my stubbornness trumped my quantum-influenced logic, so I went in last week and got the airbags replaced.

Of course, by doing so I've moved to a new universe and world-line, one in which I might now end up in a fatal front-end collision in which my new airbags behave impeccably, where before I would've driven on with my TEDs (Takata Explosive Devices) in situ quite happily for many years.

September 21, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Public Database

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"An open and searchable record of more than one million consumer accusations of inaccurate bills, illegal fees, improper overdraft charges, mistakes on loans and a long list of other issues."

[via the New York Times]

September 21, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wearable Chair

Screen Shot 2019-09-20 at 9.18.49 AM

From the Guardian:

On Wednesday night, the Tech Insider Twitter account made a simple statement: "This wearable chair could change how we work and travel."

The text was accompanied by a short video advertising the LEX bionic chair, a pair of $250 (£200) foldable aluminum legs that you strap to your bum and lean against whenever your legs get a bit tired.

In the video, a man uses the LEX while sitting at a desk, waiting for a bus, and taking photos. It really does it all.

The LEX began as a Kickstarter project last September, which claimed the chair was designed to enhance "posture, comfort, and life."

It has already been fully funded — according to Kickstarter, more than $143,000 (£115,000) has been pledged, smashing the $50,000 goal — which proves that there is a market for it, but the Tech Insider tweet provoked less positive reactions.

"I'm not sure ass prongs was the invention the world was waiting for," replied one user. Another simply stated: "LAME."

The LEX website offers the tempting prospect of being able to sit down anywhere, whenever you want.

Screen Shot 2019-09-20 at 9.18.42 AM

Wear it on a hike and you can stop for a breather with minimal fuss.

Wear it on your commute and you're guaranteed a seat at the platform.

More than that, though, the LEX is a nifty posture-correction tool.

Used standing up or sitting down, it's in essence an exoskeleton that helps to keep your back in good alignment whether you're sitting or standing.

It even comes with something called a "load distribution module," a little platform that you can rest your backpack on as you wear it, significantly lowering the burden on your spine.

When you think about the money that the NHS spends on treating back pain each year — not to mention the effect on the economy of days lost to back pain — then the LEX could become more than just a nifty little seat; it might even help fix a broken nation.

But for every pro there's a con.

In the LEX's case, the big con is that it looks absolutely ridiculous.

It's not really a wearable chair, more a shooting stick that you Velcro to your bum at the cost of getting to sit in a more comfortable chair.

And, not to be indelicate about this, but what are you supposed to do when you need the toilet?

Fastidiously spend a couple of minutes unfastening all the straps before you can sit down? Hardly.

Listen, I've needed the toilet before, and sometimes these things happen without warning. For that reason, I'm out.

Not to worry: though the Kickstarter's over, you can still get one: shipping in December, it'll cost you $399.

Hey, you snooze, you lose.

September 21, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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