Don’t Be An Idiot

This morning I got an email from the Risk Management department where I work. The email was a list of bullet points about how to walk safely during the winter months. The tips were common sense and should beknown and understood without an “expert” reminding you about it.

I usually just delete “don’t be an idiot” emails like this without reading them closely. But this time, for whatever reason, I read allthe way to the end. I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I would have missed the absolute gem that was the last bullet point. It read:

  • “When going for a walk in winter weather, carry a small bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter to place on an icy spot that you have towalk on. This will help give you traction and help avoid a fall.”

I can just imagine someone carefully inspecting the ground before each step they take and sprinkling kitty litter on the path just to make sure it’s safe. Or maybe, there’s a more efficient way of doing this. Hence the sketch above.

Beautiful Transformers

If you live in a neighborhood without overhead power lines, you likely live in a neighborhood with big, ugly, green transformers popping up out of cement pads. It’s not uncommon to have one every three or four houses.

Now, I understand the necessity for electrical transformers. I love electricity but even I know that 13000 volts is more than my toaster needs. But why do these utilities have to be so, utilitarian? Why do they all have to be the same olive drab green?

A nice alternative color scheme to mimic the neighborhood feel would go a long way toward removing these things as eyesores. I don’t blame the electric companies for not doing this. Sticking with one color is cheaper and easier to maintain. But I’d love to see them allowing customers to spruce them up.

So here’s an idea. Why not manufacture removable skins that can be stretched right over the top of one. Imagine the decorative possibilities. And it could be a great business. There are probably hundreds of thousands of these things in the U.S. alone and more are being put in all the time.

Overhead lines are coming down and being replaced with underground lines in many cities. In some ways, we are replacing ugly poles that everyone’s used to with ugly boxes right in people’s yards. It’s a ripe situation for a cosmetic solution. 

Of course this will never happen. Anywhere there’s a warning sticker (like on every transformer ever installed), there’s absolutely zero chance of having any fun. That’s just the world we live in today. But I might start coming up with some designs anyway.

Invention 237: X-Ray Toothbrush

Kids hate getting x-rays when they go to the dentist. For that matter adults don’t usually care for it either. You have to have a big sharp piece of plastic shoved into your cheeks and then you’re told to sit in an uncomfortable chair and hold still while the hygienist runs and hides behind a lead wall. I mean, they’re hygienists, are they even qualified to use this kind of equipment?

So I got to thinking, what’s another situation where kids can have pieces of plastic shoved in their mouths where we could take x-rays without the uncomfortable chair? Then it hit me that the toothbrush is the perfect tool for this. I just have to figure out how to miniaturize a machine needing 10,000 volts to work. I’ll probably just make this a hard wired device which will require an electrician (or at least someone who kind of knows what they’re doing). I’m sure it will be very safe.

Every night this toothbrush will image your child’s teeth to check for cavities or hidden knives in their cheeks. As an added bonus your child gets a healthy dose of radiation which I once read in some random blog actually promotes stronger bones!

Just download the free app on your iPhone or Android and the images will be transferred directly to your device. You can then configure it to send updates straight to your kid’s dentist.

Each toothbrush is shipped with a lead lined parent smock.

Set Tiny Goals To Accomplish Anything

I have more project ideas and things to write about now than at any other time in my life. But I can’t seem to get very many of them done or even started. I look through my notes every day and think, this is a good idea. I’ll start on that today. But by the end of the day nothing has happened.

There are three things that seem to cause this:.

  1. The complexity of a project overwhelms me.
  2. I have no idea why I wrote something or why I think it’s important.
  3. I missed my peak motivation time and can’t get myself started.

It’s great to have a broad overview of the thing you’re trying to accomplish. But it can be overwhelming to take on the whole thing at once. I try to get it completed today or I’m afraid I won’t complete it later. I end up not starting a lot of things because I fear not finishing. The irony is that I’ll never finish it anyway if I never start. At least there’s a chance to finish a thinig if you start it.

Instead of getting bogged down in complexity, you just have to sit down and think of the individual steps that it will take to get a thing done. Break a project down into tasks that can be accomplished quickly. If those individual steps seem too big themselves just break them down into progressively smaller chunks until they seem doable. Then start doing them. This even works for projects that don’t have a known outcome or proceedure. Once you start working on something, its purpose and meaning will start to unfold.

Sometimes you just have to sit and think about things. Some of my ideas are just random thoughts, phrases or observations. On their own they don’t go anywhere. That’s when deeper thinking comes into play. My mind generated these ideas for a reason. Now I need to mull them over and try to find connections with the other data lurking in my mind. Once a connection is made, those ideas become something real and actionable.

But even if I can see the next step and it’s small enough to accomplish, I don’t always buckle down and do it. If it gets late in the day I get tired. I do my best work between 5 am and 11:00 am and then again between 7:00pm and 10:00pm. Outside of those hours I’m often tired and unmotivated to do anything that takes real thinking. When I’m at work during the day, I try to schedule my activities so I’m doing planning, programming and design during my peak hours. I try to spend the afternoon hours doing any rote work and attending meetings.

Outside of work hours it’s always a struggle to juggle exerecise, spending time with my family and trying to be creative. I often find myself just wanting to watch TV, read a book or play a game. These situations are almost impossible to get out of. The trick is to avoid getting into them in the first place. Even when I’m tired and unmotivated it’s not too difficult to write a list of things that can be done tomorrow. Then, I set a calendar appointment to do those things early in the morning. Or I plan to do them in the evening so my mind is predisposed to getting things done at night rather than binging on netflix. When I know what I have to do and I have a list in front of me, I move faster and get more done during my peak times.

Ultimately, getting stuff done, for me, means breaking projects down into tiny component tasks, thinking about what I’m actually trying to do and then executing on those tiny tasks early when I’m still fresh and motivated. Now if I can just remember to do this each day, I’ll have no problem.

Great Ideas Are Hard to Come By

When I get a great idea for a project that would be satisfying to complete, my first reaction is often to shelve it and not start. Two things drive this:

  1. An unfulfilled idea means I still have the potential to finish it. If I start on it, I might find I lack the motivation and drive to finish it. It would become another idea in a huge slush pile of ideas that never came to fruition.
  2. If I start on it, I might find that the idea itself is flawed.

The irony of the first excuse is that if I never start a project or play with an idea, there’s a 100% certainty that it will never get done. The slush pile is already started. The goal is to eventually get one or two things out of it.

The second driver of inertia is itself a flawed idea. An idea may well be bad. But I’ll never know it if I don’t work with it and see what it’s made of. The fact is, most ideas are going to be bad. It’s in the formation of a glut of ideas that you end up with one or two that are home runs.

The lesson I have to keep teaching myself is that ideas are a dime-a-dozen. Great ideas that are unique and useful are much harder to come by. But you can’t have the great ideas until you sift through all of them, good and bad. You don’t automatically know which is which. You have to research, experiment and think. Ultimately, most will fall to the slush pile. But first, you have to make sure they belong there.

Invention 43097: The Standing Desk Swing

I’ve long been an advocate of standing desks. Sitting all day not only makes my legs ache, it’s considered bad for your heart and circulation too. Of course standing in one place all day is almost as bad.

Movement is the key. That’s why I always have a chair and a wobble board available when I’m at my standing desk.

Standing desks are old news. The concept needs to be refreshed. Click To Tweet

But let’s face it, standing desks are old news. The concept needs to be refreshed. That’s why I came up with the Standing Desk Swing. It’s like a hammock except you don’t lie down, there’s no netting and you’re working instead of relaxing. So it’s really only like a hammock in that it swings.

It’s probably more like a playground swing. Except that you’re standing instead of sitting, you have a computer on a pedestal and you’re not 8 years old. I guess it really doesn’t need an analogy after all. It’s a standing desk swing. That describes it well enough.

Creativity in Motion

Boredom can eat away at your enjoyment of a day. That’s why when I walked into my son’s room the other day and saw him listening to music and staring blankly at the wall, I knew something had to be done.

Usually when I hear the words “I’m bored” from my kids I take it as an opportunity to remind them of all the chores they have put off doing. But this time I pitied the boy and decided to work with him on some ideas for interesting projects.

Here is the list of things I mentioned he might enjoy:

  1. Create wall art for his bedroom. He enjoys drawing and is actually quite good. I encouraged him to make a large version of a smaller drawing he had already done. Then we could frame it and hang it.

    My son’s hand drawn Hollow Knight fan art.

  2. Make origami. He has dabbled in origami in the past so I thought this could be a good opportunity to get back into it. I recently bought a pack of origami papers to practice with and have on hand for the kids.

  3. Painting miniature figures. He likes fantasy and miniatures games already. He could get a game that comes with figures or buy them separately.

  4. Build PVC weapons or other crafts. PVC is cheap and readily available. There are some really cool things you can do with it.

  5. Build model planes, boats or cars. I had fun building plastic models and painting them when I was a kid. You can find models that can be glued or snapped together. The real fun and creativity is when you custom paint your model. It takes time and a steady hand but can be rewarding.

Basically, I was looking for something that would be a challenge but something he could do mostly on his own. Anything that would be more than just a flash-in-the-pan activity. In the end he choose PVC weapons.

Over the next two days we had a great time building a PVC sword and dagger.  Although I helped buy materials and gave a little instruction on measuring and cutting and painting, this was a project done primarily by my son. I wanted it this way so that he would have something enjoyable that he could do any time and could get his creative juices flowing.

I could tell he was having fun creating something of value to him. As he built his projects he kept telling me about his other ideas for more PVC projects. That’s what I was hoping for; something to spark his creativity and thinking. Something to get the ball rolling and keep his mind busy.  Creativity in motion tends to stay in motion while creativity at rest tends to stay at rest.

Creativity in motion tends to stay in motion while creativity at rest tends to stay at rest. Click To Tweet

 

Invention 34001: Quick Release Glasses

I don’t mind being a glasses wearer but sometimes it’s a pain. For example, when I want to lie down on the couch and watch television. But when I do, the temple arm presses into the side of my head. It hurts.

To combat this I decided the thing to do is remove the temple from one side of the glasses. However, it would be inconvenient to take out the tiny screw holding it on every time I wanted to lie down. Then I would have to put it back in when I was finished so I wouldn’t look like an idiot. And so my glasses wouldn’t fall off.

My solution was to start designing a quick release mechanism for removing the temples. A small lever could be rotated so the arm could be pulled off. Then, it would easily be reattached by rotating the lever the other direction. Below are some quick sketches of my idea.

IOT – The Internet of Toilets

I was thinking that it would be humorous to invent a wifi connected toilet lid so you can tell if it’s up or down from anywhere in the world. It seems like everyone is connecting even the most ridiculous things to the internet so why not this? Turns out, things like this have not only been talked about for years, they’re starting to come true.

Kohler has come out with the Numi SmartToilet, a toilet/bidet that opens and closes the lid for you among a host of other functions. Believe it or not, it’s even an MP3 player. This opens the lid on a whole new audio communication medium – the potcast.

Unfortunately, the Numi doesn’t appear to be internet connected. There’s really no reason for it to be internet connected but the lack of wifi makes it seem somehow unsophisticated. But the $6300 price tag makes up for it a little.

All that’s left is to create an IOT toilet with Alexa voice control. Then you can shop from your pot.