Blogging at the Intersection of Community & Technology

This is a blog about design.

More often than not, our problems are design problems – meaning they can be solved by designing better. Most Cape Bretoners I know would agree. After all, “self-reliant” is just a bold word for problem-solver.

Last summer I met an elderly woman who told me a story about her mom, a country midwife (that’s so Kafkaesque). During the winter, mom used a snowmobile – or its mid-century equivalent – to get to deliveries. It was huge, on skis, and powered by propeller.

One day the propeller chopped mom’s ear off.

Dad’s response was to dismantle the thing, presumably to prevent it from hurting anyone else. Come to think of it, I can’t remember if the vehicle belonged to mom’s family, or if it belonged to the family of a woman in labour, who had sent little Jimmy to fetch the midwife. I suppose dad could just as easily have dismantled the thing out of revenge; or as payment for one lost ear.

In any case, dad took the propeller, rigged it up to some batteries, and attached it to the roof of the house to create a miniature wind turbine. It produced enough energy to power the lightbulb in his daughter’s room.

The neighbourhood kids, whose own homes were lit using coal oil lamps, came over all the time to marvel at the newfangled contraption.

One can only imagine what dad did with the rest of the dismantled machine’s parts.