Crazy Ideas

Quirky 2

So I was playing around on my computer last night and I submitted another idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for the past few months. I don’t have anywhere near the time and effort into this idea as my remote control stuff, but I still think it has a lot of potential. Feel free to vote on it on their website if you like the idea:

Football Camera

A camera in both pointy ends of a football lets everyone see the game from a new perspective.

The Problem

Nobody can see the game from the football’s point of view.

The Solution

Two small cameras are a placed at both ends of a football. These cameras broadcast over wi-fi to nearby computers, authorized cell phones, and even directly to the internet without getting in the way of the game. Software would automatically “un-spin” the view when the ball is thrown for a smooth bird’s eye view from both ends of the ball.

Black Remote Update

I don’t spend too much time talking about my remote control patent mostly because there isn’t much humor in United States patents named “Electronic Control Conservation Devices.”  My idea is a remote control cradle that completely shuts off power to a home entertainment system. When the remote is placed in the cradle power to the home entertainment system is shut off. Removing the remote from the cradle restores power to the system.  Here is an early prototype:

I’ve submitted the idea to the website  If I can get 200 votes for it in the next 30 days they will consider producing it. I’ve already gotten 5 people to vote for it at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.  If you would like to see this on the shelves at your local stores please vote for it at the following link:


We’ve Got Ears Say Cheers

Just a quick post for some predictions on where things are headed with this whole “technology” thing.

We are going to see some new applications with noise canceling technology. Most commonly used in headphones to quiet unwanted sounds such as annoying coworkers, jet engines, and your daughter’s pet gerbil that sits in his cage as he chews up an entire empty paper towel roll one square millimeter at a time with his black beady eyes staring at me thinking “one day I’ll get out of here and the tables will be turned. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but somewhere down the road I’ll escape from this metal cage and all bets are off.” But I digress.

So now car companies are getting on the action by using noise canceling technology to create cars that are quieter inside by blocking out engine noise. When I get a free day to myself (projected date: 9/21/2019), I’m going to install a noise canceling device in my forced air heating and cooling system. I don’t think I need to hear the big fan in the basement from every possible location inside my home.

The military could use this technology to help airplanes avoid radar. Currently they spend all kinds of money on planes that have unusual angular designs and special coatings to absorb radar waves. All they need to do is have a computer that listens for radar waves and then send back a wave that is exactly inverse to what the airplane is reflecting back to the radar station. Granted that these waves are moving at pretty much the speed of light, but with some clever computer programming it just might work. And it could save the Department of Defense a few dollars here and there.

New topic– cell phone technology. While everyone and their dog knows that computer processors are getting faster all the time (roughly doubling in speed every 18 months) a somewhat less exciting benefit is that processors are using less energy per operation. While cell phones are being developed that let people talk on the phone, watch Youtube videos, and create highly accurate models of nuclear reactions all at the same time, cell phone companies could find a new market niche for phones that use so little energy to run that the device could be powered by the movement of your body in the form of a Star Trek communicator (or maybe a wrist watch for the nerd impaired). Warning: this device should not be used for anyone who is extremely lethargic.

So that wraps things up around here. Check back in a few years to see if any of these predictions came true.

Get Some Glass App

As the head writer for one of the most popular cutting-edge websites on the planet (or at least in my household), I have been fortunate to become one of the beta testers for the highly publicized “Google Glass” wearable computer. While the hardware is state-of-the-art, the real power of this product lays with the apps that take advantage of the abilities of Google Glass.

In my humble opinion, the best app to date is named “Get Some.” As the name implies, this app is designed to help the user establish intimate relations in their daily life. Once up and running, the app detects when the user starts up a conversation with a person not already stored in the database. It listens to the conversation and displays useful information based on keywords. This feature is great for impressing women when they ask irrational questions such as, “What is your very favorite Indigo Girls song?” While I’m not sure about all the programming aspects of this app, I suspect it networks with Watson, the Jeopardy! winning computer.

While conversation tips are great for anyone with a fear of talking to new people, the app doesn’t stop there. Once the app discovers the name of the person on the other end of the camera, it connects to various databases to actively search for more personalized information. I found that a majority of the time it could find Facebook pages, driver’s license information, and recent income tax returns. This is quite useful to determine if you want to take things to the next level.

As a single person trying to meet new people in a bar setting, having a good wing man is an essential element for success. If your wing man is not able to accompany you for reasons such as work, unexpected illness, house arrest, or scheduling conflicts with your mother’s monthly quilting class, the Get Some app lets any number of your associates view a live audio and video stream and send text messages directly to your screen. All of this is completely seamless and nobody in the room is aware the app is running.

So if things are going really well, the app can bring up directions to your place, his/her place, or the closest motel room within a preset budget. Also maps to open stores that sell your favorite contraceptive devices can easily be displayed. If too much alcohol or other mood enhancing drugs have been consumed, a taxi can be ordered with a blink of an eye. Literally.

So if things are going great, the app has done it’s job. At this point a message comes up and says, “Remember, it isn’t nice to capture video of having sex with someone without their knowledge and consent.” A few seconds later another message pops up saying, “Wink wink– our lawyers made us say that!” Common sense would dictate that you at least turn off the live streaming to your friends just in case some embarrassing situation arises such as inappropriate uncontrollable laughter, erectile dysfunction, or mistaken the gender of your partner.

While there is room for improvement, the Get Some app is clearly the direction Google Glass is heading. I highly recommend this for anyone looking to meet someone new when everyone else you know describes you as hopelessly boring, lacking any knowledge of current events, and/or obsessed with changes made to the 1997 re-release of “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

Wrong Numbers

So I was thinking about trigonometry the other day after I had been tutoring someone about to take a mathematics placement course focusing on the wide net of mathematical animals known a “pre-calculus.” Basically it covers everything from “Explain how many fingers you think you have, and don’t worry, there are no wrong answers, including leaving it blank.” to “Find a polynomial time algorithm for the traveling salesman problem and have it submitted for peer review for the past five years.”

One of my favorite mathematical topics to explain to people is geometry.  I suspect this is because I am a very visual person and I have almost no ability to draw.  Good thing I hardly ever help people with their zoology placement tests.  “OK, let me draw you two slightly different bird species and explain how different evolutionary patters in their lower beak have allowed them to both cooperate and thrive together for thousands of years.”

Right triangles are one of the most talked about objects in geometry.  This, of course, explains why trapizoids are so bitter and jealous.  Take the following triangle. (But remember I “borrowed” it from the wikipedia website, so put it back when you are finished.)

So questions often arise here such as: How do you “know” that the long side of the triangle has the length of the square root of two?  Why not make it something easier like 1 1/2?  And why does it matter anyways? When am I ever going to need a right triangle at a job interview?

Suppose you have a right triangle which has two sides of length 1 and you want to find the length of the unknown side:

My favorite way to prove this is to start by finding the area of this triangle.  (And yes, there are more ways to prove this than there are incorrect proofs about squaring the circle.)  Singe the area is 1/2bh we know the area of this triangle is 1/2.  Now imagine we have four of these triangles:

These triangles together have an area of 2.  Now suppose the triangles get rearranged as follows:

So now you have a square with an area of 2.  This means that each side of the square must have the length of the square root of two.  I like this approach because it uses the least number of tools to get the job done. Also, this is the philosophy I use to build my kinetics crafts, but with mixed results.

Then I started thinking of a different approach using a concept called limits.  Suppose we started building a staircase along the unknown length of the triangle.  As we use smaller and smaller steps it starts to look more like a straight line.  We can use limits to see what this would look like as we approach an infinite number of smaller and smaller steps.

Each time the steps get smaller, but the total length of the blue line is always two.  Now the big question is: What happens when we use a limit to see what happens as we approach an infinite number of steps?  I’m warning you– this is where some weird shit is going to go down.  If you are standing up, I suggest sitting down. If you are on public transportation, please activate the emergency stop mechanism.  If you are sitting on the toilet, I think you should be OK.

So as we approach the limit of this exercise, the length stays the same at 2, but all the points of the staircase line up exactly with the diagonal line. But at the beginning I told everyone the length was the square root of two, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.4.  So where did the extra 0.6 go?  Rounding error?  Did the dog run off with it?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  First of all, I’ve been a UPS driver for the past 10 years.  My number skills aren’t quite what they used to be. Eigthly, I hope this goes on to be one of the most discussed mathematical oddities of this generation– somewhere between the “Let’s Make a Deal” dilemma (people have literally written entire books on the subject) and understanding how Leonard is dating Penny on “The Big Bang Theory.”

2022 Goals: The Streets Or Capitol Hill

After giving it a bit of thought, I’ve decided on some possible goals for the next 10 years.  At the moment I’ve got two somewhat different directions:
Create a trumpet, baritone, and tuba playing and singing street performance troupe.  I used to play the baritone in high school marching band, so I just need a trumpet and tuba player. Also, I don’t know anything about how to arrange or write music, so at least one of the team members will need experience in this area.  (and FYI for anyone interested–  I don’t know many keys, if I see too many sharp signs I get dizzy.)

I plan on starting the routine with a new take on “dueling banjos” and move on through various popular music references.  One example would be to play “Cecilia” and then have a more accurate version revealing she was actually a call girl for Art Garfunkel.  Okay, so what rhymes with “prostitute”?

The second plan is to run for the House of Representative’s Fourth District in Colorado.  I think I would do quite well as a UPS driver who delivers packages over a large area in the district.  I mean, really, who doesn’t have a good opinion of their local UPS driver?  I plan on running a grass roots campaign that will include appearing in part one of an unknown number of Stephen Colbert’s new segment, “Better Know a Long Shot Challenger for Congress”.  The highlight of the segment will be me riding my kinetics craft up and down the street in a dignified manner.

I haven’t completely defined my policy goals, but some of the ideas that have come to mind include standardizing tupperware lids, a la carte cable and satellite options, and switching to daylight savings time all year round.  That last one is something that most people don’t care about with the exception of UPS drivers and golf course owners.

So stay tuned.  I’m open to suggestions in both areas, and I have a lot of time to plan this out.  I don’t want to rush things.

New Ad Campaign

Village Inn suggests you change your schedule:

Sunday: Shut your pie hole

Monday: Shut your pie hole

Tuesday: Shut your pie hole

Wednesday: Open your pie hole!

Thursday: Shut your pie hole

Friday: Shut your pie hole

Saturday: Shut your pie hole

Apple Products

In its ongoing effort to expand market share, Apple has announced plans for a new hardware platform.  While most of the specifications have yet to be finalized, a press release from the company covered the basic intentions of the product line.

Since the invention of the personal computer in the mid 1980s, a major demographic has been completely ignored.  Our new systems will feature applications such as “stop walking on my lawn,” “how much better things were in the past,” and “ultra-realistic customer phone service simulator.”  Operating these devices will be even more intuitive than our line of award-winning iPads– all commands will be given in the form of yelling at an excessively loud volume.  World, get ready for the Granny Smith computer.

Play Time

I’m not sure exactly how I got into this, but tonight I started reading rumors and speculations on the PlayStation 4.  Since the original PlayStation came on the scene back in 1994, Sony has consistently developed a new system every six years.  This would put the PS4 on the market in 2012.

My take (based on my own imagination more than anything else) is that the PS4 will be released just in time for Sony to introduce the successor to the Blu-Ray movie format.  It will be the exact same size as DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, and it will be called  “This is literally the exact same disc we send to the movie theaters.”  Their marketing department might come up with a different name, but the concept will be the same.  In addition to the best possible sound and video resolution, the PS4 will allow, in real time, the characters in the movie to be controlled through various console control devices as a bonus feature for all the nerds out there who need to recreate the Sarlacc Pit sequence in “Return of the Jedi.”  “No, I get to be be Princess Leia.”  “But I’m tired of being Jabba the Hut all the time!”  “You don’t have the body for that space-aged bikini, and we both know it.”  “I hate you! MOM! MOM!  This isn’t fair!”

But I digress– you heard it here first, for whatever that is worth.

World Racing Interface

As we approach the Autumnal Solstice, new automobile models are being released along with a seemingly equal number of automobile racing video games.  Every title these days is infinitely better than last year’s version:  more tracks, more cars, and new forced feedback so realistic that serious crashes WILL give you full body bruising, internal organ damage, and life threatening concussions.  Don’t get me wrong– all of this is great, but the next advance, in my humble opinion, will be when Google introduces their new World Racing Interface.

You see, Google has been busy photographing every square inch of the planet for the past few years.  It started out with satellite images free for public viewing.  Then they started driving around specially equipped vehicles that take high definition images every three feet and magically stitch them together so it actually feels like you are standing in front of your ex-girlfriend’s house for hours on end without police officers asking you to please remove your night vision goggles and produce a valid form of identification.

So in the near future, Google will use some type of wizard’s spell to access this four (insert made up word to represent some really really big number)-byte and counting map of the world.  So now instead of just being able to race on a few tracks, you can go anywhere in the world– literally.  Wait– maybe not exactly literally, but more of a symbolic literal manner.  Sure, racing through the streets of downtown Seattle is fun for a while, but how about building your own race track through your own part of town?  Wouldn’t that just kick some ass?  Bond with your neighbors with a networked racing league.  Just don’t take that last corner too fast or you could end up running into your own living room.  And we all know if that happens you die in real life.  No, that’s the Matrix.

The possibilities are endless.  Who wants to recreate “Cannonball Run”?  Or even “Cannonball Run 2”?  How about “Smokey and the Bandit 2”?    Just make sure you go to the bathroom before the race starts.  And, for those who lack direction AND ambition you can just drive around with no particular destination.  Enjoy the scenery of driving I-80 across Nebraska.  The world is your oyster.  Oyster has no cash value.

So, Google, you have your orders:  get this new project up and running.  I’m all ready to stay home and see the world.  (while I’m drinking soda and eating nacho favored corn chips, of course.)

And Google, I know you Google yourself, and since I’ve used the world Google almost a dozen times now, I’m sure someone is going to see this on their Google Alert, so don’t pretend like you didn’t hear about it.  I would like to see a beta version by the end of the year.

Build A Boat

OK, brace yourself for this one– I considered making this a “6 straight jacket” project, but I figured that would just put me on a slippery slope because I would then be tempted to crank it up to “11.”  The Foothills Mall in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a fairly typical indoor mall in decline.  In recent years it has lost two of the four anchors, and the smaller stores have a vacancy rate of around 30% with more stores leaving at a faster rate than new ones are coming.  Located in the center of Fort Collins, this piece of real estate is a prime candidate for redevelopment.  But what to build?  A large new commercial development on the south side of town has brought in many of the stores that would otherwise be interested in overhauling the Foothills Mall.

An interesting fact about Fort Collins is it’s close proximity to the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility in North America.  Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this.  First of all, you are probably thinking, “WTF is the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility in North America?”  It is the location in North America farthest from any of the oceans, and technically it is located in the far southwest corner of South Dakota.  Fort Collins is arguably the closest major town to this point. Sorry Cheyenne, I don’t consider you a major town.  Don’t take it personally.

So what, right?  Well, anyone who is interested in going on a cruise in Fort Collins has a long way to go before they take their first step on a boat.  This can be quite a deterrent for many people when making vacation plans.  The latest cruise ships have so many attractions aboard they have literally become a destination in themselves.  This kind of brings up the question, “If there is so much to do on the ship, does it need to go anywhere for people to have a good time?”  And if the answer to that question is NO, then the next question becomes, “Why don’t we just start building the ships on land and save the costs of making it float, driving it around all over the place, and cleaning barnacles off the hull every few weeks?”  So let’s build a luxury cruise ship right on top of the Foothills Mall.  Sears and Macy’s can stay where they are now (being anchors and all), but everything in between will look and feel exactly like a luxury cruise ship.  The first floor would be rebuilt as a traditional mall that is open to the general public.  The upper floors would be accessible only to the people who have booked a cruise.  The entire experience of being on a luxury cruise ship would be duplicated– from the compact sleeping arrangements to the elaborate dining halls to the continuous party atmosphere.  And being the first land based cruise ship, people from all over the country would travel to Fort Collins to experience the novel type of vacation.

I see this as a win-win-win situation.  The city gets a ton of new construction and service jobs, the cruise ship company that builds it gets to show off their fleet to a whole new demographic, and the mall gets a face lift.  I’m sure there will be some issues getting permits, financing, and few random people saying, “Let’s just do exactly the same thing we’ve been doing for the last ten years and just hope, for reasons that are not clearly evident, the mall and the surrounding area will suddenly recover through our blindly loyal inaction,” but the everyone else can rally around the new slogan I just thought of: “Let’s Get Our Ship Together!”

Inexpensive Solar Collector

I was reading an article in Popular Mechanics about solar energy when I came up with this idea.   Solar panels are generally made out of relatively rare and expensive materials and have other drawbacks that, given our current technology, keep solar panels from being economically competitive with other methods of generating electricity such as coal and natural gas.  While it is possible that improvements in solar panel technology may change this in the future, a more cost effective method of converting sunlight to electricity would reduce our toll on the environment.  This is where solar collectors come into the equation.  Is it possible to gather sunlight in such a way that could be used to generate electricity and be cheaper than current methods?

A company in New Mexico is working on reducing the cost of creating energy from sunlight. reflecting light onto a small area.  The energy harnessed in turn powers a Stirling Engine which then creates electricity  (pictured on the left).  As I read the article I was impressed with this different approach to the problem.  Honestly, I didn’t even know how a Stirling Engine worked.  They could really be onto something here.  The article mentioned the company has worked out all the technological issues, now they are focusing on reducing the cost of building these devices.   The article noted that each of these dishes can power roughly 12 houses with electricity.

So I thought about it for a while, and I think there is a much less expensive way to achieve the same results.  Here is how I would build a cheaper solar collector:

Step one: Acquire an OLD satellite dish.  Not one of the 18 inch models that are currently in use.  You need an old school dish that is several feet in diameter.  Here is a good example:

Step Two: Acquire/buy several hundred blank CDs.  Back in the day you could ask AOL for as many as you wanted, but I’m not sure that would fly today.

Step Three: Line the entire inside of the dish with CDs, with the exception of the very center, making sure the sure the most reflective side is facing up.  This will allow for the sunlight to be concentrated at the focal point.  Attach the CDs to the dish with bolts (in case they need to be replaced in the future), or Lee press on nails (if that’s all you have in your purse).

Step Four: Place a large sized convex mirror, maybe one from a truck side mirror, at the focal point of the dish.  This is made easier by using the existing support structure of the dish.  The purpose of the mirror is to focus the light back onto the exact center of the dish.  (This will be where the engine is eventually placed).  Finding a mirror with the correct curvature could take some work.

Step Five: Build a level circular base out of concrete.  The diameter should be at least as large as the diameter of the top edge of the dish.

Step Six: Place the Sterling Engine in the center of the base.

Step Seven: Build a support structure for the dish.  When finished, the base needs to be able to rotate freely in two dimensions in order to track the sun.  It also must be able to accommodate the engine in the center of the dish that keeps the top of the engine at the center of the dish.

Step Eight: Build a mechanism for tracking the sun.

So how is this method better than what has already been built?  The main improvement is moving the engine from the focal point of the dish to a stationary position underneath the dish.  This reduces overall center of gravity and complexity since only the dish itself is moving.  It also shades most of the engine, which relies on temperature differentials to produce energy.  Also, the smaller scale would allow individual homeowners to build this device from a kit to provide some or all of their home’s energy needs.

Buildin Better Townhomes

This idea has several sub-thoughts that are loosely related.  I’ve lived in a townhouse for more than five years now, and here are some things that I think could be improved.


I’ve lived in a townhouse for the past five years, and, in general, I’m quite happy with the layout of my unit and the development as a whole.  One problem in the area is parking.  Despite each unit having a two car garage, there is always a shortage of parking space around some of the buildings.  I soon realized that one cause of this problem is that many people have a bunch of crap in their garage, or have more than two vehicles that need to be parked.  So I would like to see townhouses developed where the entire garage and basement is combined into a single uninterrupted space that is two car lengths deep.  This way people could more easily store their garage related items while still parking two vehicles in the garage.  This large space would also allow four cars to be parked in the garage– in a two by two configuration.  OK, so maybe it couldn’t “officially” be called a four car garage, but people looking at buying a unit could see the possibilities.  Can someone get on that?  Thanks!

Radiant Heating

This has been around for a while now where deep wells are dug near a building and loops of plastic tubes are placed in the holes.  The holes are filled back up and a mixture of water and antifreeze is pumped down the wells and back up.  The constant temperature of the ground can be used to cool or heat building through more tubes running beneath the upper floors.  This is a really good system requiring minimal electricity to move the liquid, but digging the wells can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Would it be possible to build a house with tubes running in the concrete foundation and connecting to the tubes in the floors?  If there is enough thermal mass in the floor of the basement it could cut the cost of radiant heating by an order of magnitude by eliminating the expensive drilling step.

Keeping Houses Cool

In the summer time a lot of houses can get hot, and people spend a lot of time and money to keep this from happening.  Houses get hot inside in part because the sun is shining on the outside part of the house.  (That’s not exactly rocket science there)  Making houses that reflect most of that light instead of absorbing it would result in a much cooler house.  How about taking a few thousand blank CDs, tying them together to create a flat, hexagonal pattern, and sticking it to the roof during the summer.  This would reflect most of the energy off the roof and lower the temperature of the house.  If that works, someone could manufacture inexpensive interlocking reflective plastic squares to make the process even easier.  I would try this myself, but I would like to avoid a lengthy legal dispute with my homeowner’s association.

Television Playlists

I wrote a ranting lunatic type letter to Dish Network the other day just to make myself feel better. Basically I want to be able to make playlists of DVR television shows for my future children to watch based on their age. Then I want everyone to be able to share their playlists with the world through the Internet. Anyone, even Oprah, could make suggestions about programming to watch based on date of birth. From this I can see which shows are popular with parents whose children are the same age. Oh yeah, and when my kid turns on the TV, they have to enter their own password so they can only watch shows on their own playlist. I’ll switch over to which ever company can effectively set this up. So Dish, Echostar, Cable guys, and Tivo– get working on this ASAP– my first girl is due in December!

Stay Or Go

I watch quite a few home remodeling shows on television.  The premise this idea is to find homeowners who are on the fence about moving to a new home in the same general area.  A team of experts come in and talk to the homeowner about what issues they have with their current home.  From this they develop a plan to spend X dollars to fix up the house in an attempt to convince the homeowner to stay put.  The conclusion of each show would be the homeowner giving their final decision.  And, hopefully, HGTV could get the rights to “Should I Stay of Should I Go” from the Clash for before and after commercial breaks.

Dish It Up

Dear Dish Network,

As one of your faithful customers for the past five years, I thought I would take a few minutes and tell you how to run your business. I do watch a moderate amount of television, and therefore I feel qualified to give advice to a multi-billion dollar high-tech communications company.

First of all, you need to slowly move to an “a la carte” business model.  I would love to purchase the History International channel, but it is only available with a package that is two tiers above where I am at right now (which is an extra $30 a month).  It isn’t fair to me or the channels that I would really like to support financially.  And those 7 ESPN channels– well you can keep those.  I don’t have anything against sports programming, but I never watch them.  Same goes for all of the Spanish Channels.  No hablo Español.  Please credit my account.  I just want to be able to choose the channels I want and not be forced to pay for channels I never use.  Is that asking too much?  To start the conversion, you need to start rewarding quality programming by offering bonuses for the most recorded and viewed programming.  Eventually allow customers to customize exactly which channels they want.

As a side note on the “a la carte” issue, you should have a dedicated channel that gives previews of other channels for a week at a time.  Every now and then I hear about a “free Cinemax” weekend, but I forget to go into the channel selection, add Cinemax, and see if there is anything I want to watch.  If there was a channel that offered a week of FX, and then a week of HBO, and so on, I would keep it on my list of channels and be more likely to preview these channels.  A new channel to try out every week of the year!

I’ve got a kiddo on the way, and I would really like to see a better way to control what they watch.  How about letting customers set up “playlists” online that everyone can see and add to their DVRs?  Customers could then pick specific programs for their children, or supplement their choices for other people’s playlists that highlight age appropriate programming.  Netflix has a somewhat similar system for sharing information.  When the DVR is turned on a password would be required to see different playlists or live programming.  I know, it sounds complicated, but you guys can do it.  You got all those satellites into space– that couldn’t have been easy.  And remember– if you don’t do it someone else will on the Internet and bypass your network all together.

Let’s see– what else has been bugging my lately?  Oh yeah– I love my DVR and being able to record shows, but why not make it easier by taking note of what shows are being watched, and then just automatically start recording them in the future?  Kind of what Tivo has done with their recommendations, but this would be recording the shows that are otherwise getting watched on live tv.

Finally, can you make an option for listing channels sorted by popularity?  I watch about 5 channels 90% of the time– it would be nice to see all those on the top of the list followed by the less frequented channels.  You shouldn’t have too much trouble with that request.

That’s it– so if you end up using my ideas feel free to compensate me with a gift fruit basket, a singing telegram, or, if you can’t think of anything else– free cable is always an option!

Remote Control Conserves Energy

Most electronic devices that use a remote control are constantly wasting energy “listening” for signals from the remote control, even when they are turned off.  The problem is magnified with home entertainment centers which use multiple devices, all of which are accessible with a remote control.  I’ve applied for a patent for a remote control holster which physically disconnects power to an entertainment system when not in use.  Picking up the remote restores power to the system.  Another variation on this concept is to incorporate a holster into portable electronics devices, such as iPod speakers, such that if the remote is in the holster the device will stop listening for signals from the remote.  I’m currently waiting for the patent to be approved, but more information on this idea can be found on my website at

12862, 11561, 67, 2465, 762, -178, 938, 1292

What are these numbers– winning lottery numbers?  The numbers printed on the mysterious hatch on the television show “Lost”?  The combination to my luggage?

No, these were the table numbers at our wedding.  Instead of starting at 1 and ending at 8, we decided to make  our table numbers have multiple purposes.  In addition to telling people where to sit, each number represented an important milestone in our lives– measured in days.

Anyone who has been to a wedding with a buffet knows that you can’t just let everyone get up and start filling their plates all at once.  So I went around to tables and asked them what their table number meant.  It got a lot easier once the first table figured out to answer in the form of, “number of days since…”

Here are the answers:

12862:  Number of days since Omar was born.

11561:  Number of days since Katherine was born.

67:  Number of days we were officially married

2465:  Number of days Omar worked at UPS, or number of injury free days for Omar at UPS

762:  Number of days since we adopted our dog Maury.

-178:  Number of days until the baby is due.  (This got quite a few people’s attention.  Not everyone knew she is pregnant, so we figured this was as good of time as any to announce to everyone.)

938:  Number of days of safe driving for Omar at UPS.

1292:  Number of days since we met.

Some people were very fustrated by their numbers.  My UPS supervisor ended up having a bit of trouble getting the number of days of safe driving number, but it was a lot of fun to make fun of him with a microphone in a room full of people, many of whom were fellow UPS drivers.  His table ended up going to the buffet last, after giving him several big hints.

So when all was said and done, it was a fun activity to keep people occupied during the buffet down time.

A Word From Our Sponsors

No, doesn’t have any sponsors.  Not that I would mind someone giving me money for something that I’m already doing for free.  “A Word From Our Sponsors” is my idea for another television reality show.  I’ve worked for UPS for seven years now, and in that time I’ve come up with several ideas for what I think would be great commercials.  Unfortunately, UPS doesn’t accept unsolicited marketing concepts– even from it’s own employees.  With some 400,000 employees, I guess I can understand their position.  This is where “A Word From Our Sponsors” comes into play.

Instead of having commercials in between the show, the show is all about making commercials for specific products, and there aren’t any traditional commercial breaks.  The show starts off with 30 contestants:  10 writers, 10 directors, and 10 graphics specialists.  Each week, teams are randomly assigned with one person from each of the three groups.  At the beginning of the week the CEO of a company makes a presentation about a certain product they would like to promote.  Then each team of three has until the end of the week to come up with an idea for a 30 second commercial, film it, and add any needed computer graphics.  Next all the teams are brought back together with the sponsor to view the results.  Each team gets to score all the other team’s finished product.  The sponsor gets to decide if he wants to “buy” any of the commercials.  If the sponsor purchases a team’s submission the team automatically gets to go on to the next week.  The team with the lowest score gets eliminated.  The next week everything starts over.  The remaining people are randomly assigned new teams, and a new CEO and product line is introduced.

The show should be geared to encourage “outside the box” concepts that are funny, non-traditional, and memorable.  Here are examples of the UPS commercials I’ve thought of:

In the style of the television show “24”, show how a next day air package moves through the UPS system.
Show what it would be like if all the UPS drivers and pilots met in one place with their vehicles.
A “Lord of the Rings” themed commercial on an easier way to deliver the ring

So, if you are reading this and happen to be the CEO of General Electric or Viacom give me a call and we can work something out.  If you are a nobody, don’t call me– I’ve got a truckload of packages that need to get delivered before I can go home for the night.

Asset Management

Facing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chrysler announced a new “Employee Pricing Plus Plus,” incentive program Tuesday.  A top executive at the automaker explained how the new system works.  “Not only will employee pricing be offered for the purchase of all Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge vehicles, but for a limited time customers will also receive an actual Chrysler employee.  Have them clean up the yard, help the kids with their homework, or take the dog for a walk in the afternoons.  When we start up our factories again we will have the employee shipped back with no charge to the customer.”

Getting Published

I was sitting in Good Times taking my break from being a UPS driver and all, and I found a very inexpensive way to entertain myself for a few minutes before it was time to get back to work. I took a copy of the “Tidbits” newspaper (its a paper with random stories and local ads that’s maybe 8 pages total) and slightly altered all the photographs of people in the paper. Here is a partial list of items I added:

Harry Potter glasses
bushy eyebrows
pointy goatees
Hitler style mustaches
handlebar mustaches
devil horns
mustaches that curl up around at the ends

Also I found a really cute golden retriever that I altered so he was smoking a bong.

After I finished with that, I started the Suduko puzzle, but it was rated “very hard” and I gave up after I filled in a half dozen squares.  So I filled in a few more squares with random things like numbers bigger than 9, letters of the alphabet, pi, and a small drawing of a tree.

Of course the really entertaining part was carefully putting back on the stand with all the other new copies.  I amuse myself thinking of the next person who gets to see what I’ve done.

Now that I think about this, I remember doing a similar activity back in high school.  We would go out to Taco Bell, order the nachos, and take a few extra straws back to the table.  Carefully, we would take a straw out of the wrapper, suck up the nacho “cheese” into the straw, place the straw back in the wrapper, and casually take the straw back to the condiment area.  We never did get to see anyone get the nacho cheese filled straw, but knowing that someone did made entertained us for the rest of the afternoon.

I was always proud of that because it was funny, but not destructive.  Kind of like putting a rubber band around the trigger of the pull out sprayer at the kitchen sink so when the next person turns on the water it shoots straight at their chest.  I did that to my sister when I was in middle school.

Black Remote Technology

Who wants to save electricity? Or from a more pragmatic perspective: Who wants to save money? By far the best first step in reducing a home utility bill is to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace less efficient incandescent bulbs. These CFL bulbs used to be quite pricey, but I just checked on and found a pack of 8 bulbs available for $12.69. Don’t wait for the old bulbs to burn out– grab the step stool from the utility closet and go on a bulb changing spree. The the cost of the new bulbs will be covered by the savings on next month’s electricity bill. The biggest challenge is removing the new bulbs from the hermetically sealed double-walled cocoons that General Electric uses to keep their merchandise safe during the moving process. Personally, I have found these types of packages quite easy to open by driving to my local home improvement store and a) renting an acoustic welder, b) purchasing a set of the “jaws of life”, and c) ranting like a lunatic at the poor girl working the customer service center until she successfully opens the package.

So now you figured out how easy it is to save a few bucks each month without any real long-term lifestyle change. So what’s next? CFL bulbs are the low hanging fruit on the home energy efficiency tree. Many of the next ideas, while they will consume less electricity, have a more significant startup cost. Buying a programmable thermostat can save money, but it will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100. Buying Energy Star appliances is also going to save money in the long run. Heck, replacing all the exterior windows in a house with double pained high efficiency windows will pay off ten to fifteen years down the road. Assuming, of course, that home prices will stop going down somewhere down the road. And, just a reminder, if you don’t own the building in which you live, well, none of this paragraph applies to you anyway.

For the forty five percent of the population that is renting, and the rest of the home owners who are only one quarter the environmentalist of Ed Begley Jr., the next step is to go from room to room and count how many remote controls you use on a regular basis. Here is a list of the electronic devices in my house that use a remote control: two television sets, two DVD players, satellite box, audio receiver, Playstation 2, XM Radio, and two CD players. When these devices are plugged in but not turned on they are drawing power. All these devices are consuming small amounts of electricity 24/7 which adds up to about 5% of your electric bill.

One way to eliminate this problem is to plug these devices into outlets which are shut off by a nearby electrical switch. Another solution is to plug these devices into a power strip. When you turn off the switch on the wall or on the power strip, no electricity is getting to these devices. While this solution works in a technical sense, many people are going to forget to physically disconnect these devices on a regular basis. And, let’s face it, another segment of the population won’t really understand why they need to unplug something they just turned off.

I have a much better idea.

In the future, any stand-alone electronic device that comes with a remote control is also going to contain a built-in remote control cradle to physically keep the remote control with the device. When the remote is not in the cradle, the electronic device listens for signals from the remote. When the remote is returned to the cradle, it physically activates a switch which disables the circuitry used for the remote control. The benefits are twofold: The remote control is kept with the device when not in use and the device is not wasting energy associated with the remote control. Note that when the remote is in the cradle all the non-remote functionality is still active.

A slight variation of this idea can be implemented for more complex setups such as a home entertainment centers. Often times several components are working in unison. For example, a universal remote control can send signals to a television set, a cable box, and DVD player. For this setup a stand alone cradle can be used for the single remote control. This type of cradle plugs into a wall outlet and contains space for multiple electrical devices (much like a power switch) for the television, cable box, and DVD player. When the universal remote control is removed from the cradle, power is restored to all the devices. When the user is finished, all the devices are turned off through the remote control and the remote control is placed back in the cradle. This activates a switch which completely cuts off all power to these devices.

While reducing a home’s power consumption by 5% may seem trivial, as a nation we are wasting 65 Billion kilowatt-hours of electricity which costs us $5.8 billion dollars a year. To put that in perspective, the Hoover Dam produces 565 million kilowatt-hours each year. That is equivalent to 115 Hoover Dams.