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We can put a man on the moon, but…

June 11th, 2012 · 33 comments

This [plagiarized] note comes to us from a staff restroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “This is just great,” says our submitter. “We can put a 7-degrees-of-freedom robotic arm in space that can build a space station, but we can’t get a ‘wall robot’ to work…or even send in a work order request to get it fixed.”

Thank you...motion sensor hand towel machine. You never work, so I just end up looking like I'm waving hello to a wall robot.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, would you care to test out this motion sensor hand towel machine for yourself?

Aaaaand…there you have it.

related: It’s not rocket science.

extra credit: “Nice Work If You Can Get It” [This American Life]

FILED UNDER: bathroom · Houston · office · thanks (but not really)

33 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Chris

    I swear I was in that exact same bathroom about a week ago. The note wasn’t there though.

    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #2   Chris

    And yes, I am an astronaut.

    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   H for Toy

      Hey! Me too.

      Jun 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   Lil'

      Do you know Lisa Nowak?

      Jun 12, 2012 at 8:33 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   Thunder McKing

      Hey Chris, you can settle a PAN debate for us. So you guys at NASA have a bunch of freeze-dried food products there. Do your black and Hispanic colleagues enjoy the instant coffee more than your white and Asian colleagues?

      Jun 12, 2012 at 10:05 am   rating: 14  small thumbs up

    • #2.4   ash

      Everyone I know that works/worked at JSC never mentioned anything about freeze-dried food products.

      Jun 15, 2012 at 8:03 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #3   Jon

    What’s facilities going to do, reengineer the wall robot? What actually happens are that those branded wall dispensers (this one’s a Georgia Pacific) are given cheap or free by the paper company if the facility signs a long-term contract… just like your cell phone. Just like your cell phone, if it sucks, you’re stuck.

    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm   rating: 6  small thumbs up

  • #4   Hilary

    I always thought the watch out meme was Steve Harvey.

    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #5   Chris

    It’s actually a Canadian robot arm…

    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm   rating: 13  small thumbs up

  • #6   Clip Snark


    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #7   Slm

    somebody stole this from Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes book.

    Jun 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   Poltergeist

      The people at NASA must have a really shitty sense of humor if they have to resort to stealing material from Jimmy Fallon.

      Jun 11, 2012 at 9:58 pm   rating: 16  small thumbs up

  • #8   Zorin

    It’s funny. I get the point of motion sensor towel dispensers and hand dryers… avoiding having to touch dirty bathroom surfaces after you wash your hands.

    But then you look over at that big filthy door handle that you have to pull to get out of the room… that’s been touched by umpteen poeple who didn’t wash their hands. And you wonder what the point is. :)

    Jun 11, 2012 at 9:37 pm   rating: 26  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   Boo Radley

      Whenever possible, I use a paper towel to open the door.

      Jun 11, 2012 at 11:09 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #8.2   Zorin

      This plan falls to pieces when you end up in a restroom with a hand blower but no paper towels.


      Jun 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm   rating: 20  small thumbs up

    • #8.3   Goldie

      We have a hand blower installed in our office bathroom. No one uses it on purpose, because it sounds like a spaceship taking off. Walls shake. You can hear it in the office next door.

      Since it was conveniently installed in a heavy-traffic area, every so often someone walks close enough to the darn thing to set it off, then runs off in terror.

      Luckily, we’re redundant, and have a towel dispenser as well.

      Jun 12, 2012 at 10:20 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

  • #9   kathryn

    I put disposable paper covers on the seat, use my foot to flush the toilet, bring my own paper towels, wait for someone else to open the door and sneak through, and use Purell when I’m out of there. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, I have to pass through the level 4 decon hut when I enter my house. That is, if I ever went out of my house.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 6:32 am   rating: 14  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   The Elf

      Yeah, you forgot to spray Lysol on all the work surfaces if anyone has the sniffles. You’re gonna get sick now.

      Jun 13, 2012 at 7:07 am   rating: 6  small thumbs up

  • #10   bitchy the dwarf

    we have those same machines where I work. We have the opposite issue- they just randomly spit paper towels out when nobody is anywhere near them. Same thing with the automated soap dispensers, LOL.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 7:03 am   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #10.1   Noelegy

      I loathe automatic faucets, because 1) they rarely acknowledge my existence, and 2) they only run for a couple of seconds. Kind of hard to do the CDC-recommended 20 seconds of hand washing.

      Jun 12, 2012 at 11:13 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #10.2   The Elf

      Yes, I hate it when machinery doesn’t acknowledge my existence.

      I think, therefore I am. Respect that!

      Jun 13, 2012 at 7:08 am   rating: 10  small thumbs up

  • #11   Dane Zeller

    I don’t get the purpose of the towels.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 9:58 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #11.1   pxmidnight

      I’m not sure what the point of these machines is. The hospital where I work now has them in most of our bathrooms, and I really don’t see where they are any better than the old, low-tech dispensers that held the trifold paper towels. You got your towels, one at a time, only touching what you used – and there was no electric motor to break down and drive you nuts!

      Jun 12, 2012 at 11:01 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #11.2   Noelegy

      Yeah, and the blow driers may not kill trees, but they do recycle fecal mist!

      Jun 12, 2012 at 11:14 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #12   Goldie

    Somebody needs to tell the rocket scientists that these dispensers have a handle on the side, to be used when the motion sensor fails. Turning a handle is not as impressive as posting a snarky note, but it does the job. On second thought, the snarky note itself can serve as a semi-decent hand towel. Lots of options here!

    Jun 12, 2012 at 10:15 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #13   Ginamonster

    Actually, Goldie, that model doesn’t have a handle on the side. (I used to work in maintenance) But the batteries do need to be changed once in awhile. It takes DCells…

    Jun 12, 2012 at 11:41 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

  • #14   bitchy the dwarf

    i think people use fewer towels with these machines. One you have the first one you have to pull forward on the little bar or rip the towel off before the motion sensor resets. I think most folks lose patience after the 2nd towel. Plus you can set the length of the towel on these machines. I know this because they shortened the ones in our bathroom so now instead of getting one towel that would work just fine you end up getting 2 smaller ones that end up longer overall than the single long one you used to need.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #14.1   Poltergeist

      You’ve spent a little bit too much time thinking about this, dwarf named bitchy.

      Jun 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #15   Zsa

    I would rather walk around with wet handprints on my ass than be forced to acknowledge that the towel dispenser is smarter than me.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm   rating: 13  small thumbs up

    • #15.1   redheadwglasses

      Zsa, this made me laugh out loud!

      Jun 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #16   Hane

    The one at my old office used to go off and spew towels if someone happened to walk by it.

    We also had one of those zillion-decibel hand-dryers. I used to love using it whenever someone in one of the nearby toilet stalls was talking on her cell phone. Because I’m a bitch like that.

    Jun 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm   rating: 12  small thumbs up

  • #17   Tommy

    There was a long elaborate discussion in the database at Microsoft when these came out. Was the same time as the Kinect and it’s “Wave to engage” feature.

    Jun 23, 2012 at 4:47 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #18   Stefani

    The robotic space arm is, in fact, Canadian. Coincidentally, I have never met a Canadian hand dryer I didn’t like.

    Jun 25, 2012 at 10:09 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up


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