Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The devil's advocate internal monologue

My mind is fickle and flits from one point of view to another very easily. This is both a blessing and a curse. It allows me to see both isdes of an argument and therefore make informed assessments, but it also allows to do things I do not want myself to do or not do things I want myself to do.


A particular event, for example watching a movie, may inspire you to act in a certain way, but this inspiration wears off and you return to acting in your old ways. Is there a way of maximising the lifespan of the inspiration from an event?

Some events are once only, a movie may be inspirational once but has a lesser effect the second time. Is there a way of making events retain their inspirationality?

Is there a name for the study of inspiration?

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Everything you need to know

Who knows everything they need to know to do their job or everything they need to know to live their life?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Commercialisation of art

Art is for the people by the people: there should be no ownership or remuneration. The only benefit you should receive from creating art is recognition that you made it and the self satisfaction of having made it.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The untapped middle

The key people to talk to improve and organisation are those that have been there long enough to understand its problems but not so long that the become acustomed to its inefficiencies or are in such a position as they will not admit to them. 2 years.

Timespan for impact of a new technology

What is the time taken for a technology to spend all its potential to change society?

Initially, the effect is small as the technology is not well understood, widely known and the number of units is low.

As the technology becomes more mainstream the pace of change quickens, until such a point that the majority of the potential uses of the technology have been saturated, after which its capacity for change diminishes.

The barriers to the effect that technology can have are: the number of units (cost of raw materials, economies of scale), infrastructure, eduction, etc

Examples that can be considered are the internal combustion engine, mobile phones and email.

The internal combustion engine is probably over the hill in its capacity to change, although there are some societies where cars are less prevalent and thus there is still a capacity for change.

Email is widely used and perhaps ove the top, but there are still many IT illiterate people in the world and many possible uses of email that haven't been explored.

Mobile phones have probably peaked; mobile internet still has lots to change to enact.

Western drinking culture

Western societies' problems with alcohol stem from their preoccupation with conversation as the principle form of social interaction.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Nothing is ever news if given in context

Everything in the news has some relationship with events that have gone before and events that are likely to happen in the future; when set in its appropriate context most news stories lack punch.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

All cars should be taxis

Lift sharing with strangers can be a bit daunting. The person might not pay up or may be an axe murderer. If all cars were set up with an contact card reader (e.g. Oyster) then people could easily pay without worrying about cash. Additionally, the details recorded in the card reader would provide some security. Cars could also be fitted with displays saying where they are going, allowing people to flag down a car that is going in the same direction. This "flagging" need not be by hand, but could be done on a mobile phone, which communicates with cars in the area.

There are insurance implications to lift sharing, but the law could be changed to force insurance companies to cover life sharing by default.

Emergency service warning

When you hear the sirens of emergency services vehicles it is often difficult to work out where they are coming from. Using GPS locating technology, a bit of computing and communications, your car could be told by the emergency service vehicle where it was going such that your car stereo could tell you "There is an emergency services vehicle coming behind you, please move to your left/right".

Drive your own bus

Most bus routes have enough people who can drive sitting on the bus for a significant proportion of the journey - why not let the passengers drive the bus, bringing down the cost of public transport? An electronic ID or fingerprint recognition system could be used to only allow qualified people to drive. Drivers would get a small fee and a free ride.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Wasted crops

Fields of crops often have strips of flattened crops where the farmer has driven his tractor to spray the crops. This obviously creates waste. A solution would be an automated unmanned crop spraying helicopter.

Using pre-definied GPS coordinates this helicopter would spray an area, occasionally returning to its base station to refuel and take on more spray.

Baby zorber

Babies benefit from exercise; parents don't benefit from constant supervision. How can these two be reconciled?

Put the baby in a small zorb on a concave roller bed (bed of ball bearings). It can crawl as much as it likes but it's not going anywhere.

Additionally, a circular screen around the roller bed, coupled with sensors monitoring motion of the balls, would allow the baby to explore a virtual world.

It may even be possible to generate a small amount of electricity from the movement of the ball bearings, which would help power the screen.

Every silver lining has a cloud

Having something you really like to do makes doing the things you don't like doing worse. Is it better to have that something or not?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


Is it more costly to rehabiliate the non-worker than to subsidise an unacceptably low quality of life?


Private home ownership and rental by small-time landlords is an example of failure of the capitalist system. Homes should be owned by large corporations and administered by them. In the interest of customer relations the corporations would provide better customer service (such as maintenance) than current small landlords whose exposure to reputational risk is limited.

Deliberate reintroduction of species

England's red squirrels retreated to the North in the wake of the grey, its cities are plagued by pigeons. Can these problems not be solved through reintroduction of species?

Red squirrels could be mass bred in captivity and sold to people wanting them. Whilst they wouldn't be pets as such the squirrels could be semi-dependent on humans by having specially designed feeding stations for them that their "owners" filled. This could provide the squirrels with the edge needed to regain their lost ground.

Similarly, peregrin falcons and sparrow hawks are endangered species and yet cities are full of food. A mass breeding programme could reintroduce these birds to city life bolstering their numbers and reducing the number of flying rats.

Rehabilitation of islamic extremists

Rather than locking islamic extremists in Guantanamo and torturing them, would it not be better for all if they were re-educated in moderate Islam (whilst being kept securely)?

Recording every detail of the perfect photo

The more sensors that are added to a camera, the easier it is to recreate the perfect photo:

GPS -> location
Altimeter -> elevation
Compass -> direction
Gyroscope -> direction
Clock -> time, date

(alternatively, the camera could be connected by bluetooth to other devices)

Inner peace

Whenever you remember to do so, try to find inner peace.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Email fora

On a fairly regular basis I find the need to ask a question on a forum that I am not a member of, and will not need to be a member of once the question has been answered. Unfortunately, I am required to jump through the hoops of becoming a member before I can post.

I suggest a forum that uses email to create posts and reply to them. When you click on a "create post" or "reply" link you are directed (via a capatcha of course) to a unique use-once email address. You email your post or reply to that email and it appears on the forum.

Your email address would not be displayed to avoid spam. This could lead to confusing fora, so this is not the perfect solution for all fora.

The fora can be moderated by blocking email addresses of abusers.

Guard or fighter

I have often wondered if in times of strife I would have the courage to do what is right rather than that which is in my own interest: to be a resistance fighter rather than a concentration camp guard.

It now occurs to me that I have been living my whole life through such strife, but unlike times gone past I do not see it face to face, only on the news. Many people throughout the world lack basic needs or, worse, are subject to oppression and torture; I live in western affluence. That I do not do all that is in my power to right these wrongs marks me down as more the guard than the fighter.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The opposite to glass

Glass does two things, or rather, it does one thing and not another: it allows the passage of the, but not the passage of air.

But what of the opposite of glass, something that allows air, but not light?

Such a material would have to be super-absorbent and be designed in such a way as to allow air through. The diagram below shows a cross-section of a simple shape that would achieve this (on the left) and more complex 3D shape (on the right). I envisage that a panel of such tubes would interlock to give a window (to air, but not light).

Hopefully then, I won't get woken up by those early sunrises, but can still enjor the cool morning breeze!

Stress as a tool

Stress is a tool we use for motivation. It works, but too much has the opposite effect.

The soul

The soul is like a pool of water: if you search too hard you disturb the silt and obscure the bottom.

The arrogance of ideas

Is an ambition to have ideas and implement not arrogant, as it presuposes that ones ideas are better than other peoples?

The willingness of intelligent robots

Will robots intelligent enough to do our menial job be too intelligent to want to do them?


If you've taken a look around the web these days, you'll have seen its doing everything: office packages; communications; games; etc. The web desktop has arrived.

But what of all the old software that was written for this soon-to-be-obsolete Windows platform. Those old applications (particularly games) that we want to go back to every once in a while?

Well, why not put them online too. Without one shred of technical knowledge, I don't see why this isn't possible. The application is installed on and runs on a server computer, but is accessed and controlled through a web browser like the online applications.

A company could charge a hosting fee and have a database of all old software that people could run through their browser. Obviously files generated would be saved server-side, but could be shared between users.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Positive mental attitude

The unrealistic optimist says "I am going to do this", the slightly more realistic optimist says "I am going to do my best", the realistic optimist says "I am going to do what I can".

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I like alliteration as much as the next man, but this is harder than it seems. Recycling, despite its reputation is not a magic bullet, reducing and reusing may be the better of the three. This is mainly because recycling tends to use a lot of energy, for example melting down cans to make new cans.

Reuse can acheived in one of two ways: by the consumer; and by the retailer/manufacturer. The reuse of carrier bags is a good example of the former, whilst collected reused milk bottles illustrates the latter.

Methods of reuse

Imagine we had a set of stand sized containers for things. We could refill these containers at shops (for things that don't go off like shampoo) or give the containers back to the shops so they could wash them and reuse them (for things like fruit juice).

Alternatively the shop could come to the people: a lorry could pull up outside a group of houses and people could go in a refill their containers. The problem with this would be timing it for all the people.

Another possibility is that when a supermarket home delivers, it takes away all the empty containers to clean and reuse.


The styling of containers is used by companies to differentiate products.

There is an energy (and environmental) cost of cleaning the containers (however I can only guess that, on a industrial scale, this should be able to acheived fairly efficiently).

Damaged containers would need to be recycled.

Ultimate solution

As much of the waste that households generate is food related, much could be saved if we all ate as restaurants, which cook on a larger scale and hence more efficiently (both in terms of the cooking and the packaging).

Productivity and happiness

It seems to me that the relationship between happiness is as follows: when totally and utterly depressed we have not the ability to work (with the exception of some geniuses); when completely entirely happy and content we have not the will to work. The relationship probably looks something like the following:

As our productivity also influences other peoples' happiness (by making food, clean water, shelter, energy, entertainment etc), society wants each of us to not be at our happiest (on the plus side, neither does it want us to be depressed!).

Feature bloat

Feature bloat (or software bloat) is a term used to describe how software (and other forms of engineering) become clunky once features are added. It is most often used in a disparaging sense.

My thoughts on the subject is that the more features the better as long as they will be used by some users. The only downside of adding features is the cost and time to do so. Features should never make an item clunky as long as the user interface is well designed.

One cause of stress

One type of stress is a feeling that in the future we will not cope. The antidote to this is self-confidence that we will cope. This can be acheived by remembering past times where we have coped, and visualising the challenge ahead and coping with it.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Inner peace on a mountain top

The stereotypical monk seeks inner peace atop a mountain or in the calm serenty of a monastery. Is it not more of a test to find inner peace in a busy city centre?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Likes, dislikes and to do

I watched a fair few movies in my time. And read a few books, listened to a few bands, played a few games and surfed a few websites. What I'd really like, all in one place (read: a website), would be a database of those things I'd tried, those that I'd liked, those that I disliked and those I'd liked so much I want to experience them again.

Social bookmarking goes some of the way, as does the likes/dislikes on Facebook/MySpace, but this would cover every type of media all in one place.

And it would be an advertisers goldmine: how easy it is to target adverts when you know exactly what people like.

A social element of this site would be in recommending and reviewing media.

Spring loaded syringe guard

I don't like needles. I'm not adverse to pain, but the thought of something that can penetrate my skin so easily gives me the heebie-jeebies. On a serious note, needles contaminated with bloodbourne diseases are a killer. It occurs to me that a spring-loaded guard could protect people from contaminated needles. The guard is pulled back to use the needle and then springs back into place once it has been used. A catch system could make it that once it has sprung back, it is locked in place. The diagram below illustrates (although not a catch as this was too hard to draw!).

The sad fact about life

It seems to me that, as a general principle: things get worse faster than things get better.

[perhaps this has something to do with entropy and order being good...]

Friday, 9 May 2008

World idea body

I think the world would benefit from an ideas body acting in a similar way to a patent office. The remit of this body would be wider than patents and ideas would be submitted in less detail. A secure time-stamped system and a single repository would save-guard peoples' mental outputs, which would enable them to get recognition, which would encourage them to have and communicate ideas (many ordinary people have many ideas which remain unfulfilled). The result is that the world becomes and idea-rich (or idea-richer) place to live.

Strength/energy and the people around us

If I was walking along, having a good day, and someone knocked into me in the street I might get annoyed, but would probably soon forget and forgive (they probably didn't mean it). In the same situation if I were stressed, I'd probably get angry and maybe even shout at them. If I shout at them, then they become stressed and are more likely to shout at someone that bumps into them.

This is a simple example, but the concept can be applied to society as a whole: negativity is self-perpetuating.

One solution to this would be to entirely eliminate negativity from society (I know this would be difficult/impossible, but bear with me on the theory). However, some negativity is good for us: we learn from our mistakes.

So, how should society balance a healthy level of negativity with the risk of self-perpetuating negativity consuming the world?

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger

I think the original quote was "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" from Friedrich Nietzsche, although I haven't bothered to check this. This quote reminds me of Spartan ideology in which the youth were made to suffer in order to make them good soliders. I've tried to think of a few examples to help from an opinion on the validity of this statement:

Physical suffering -> physical strength

Scar tissue is stronger than normal skin.

Physical suffering -> physical weakness

If cut someone's achilles tendon they will never walk again.

Physical suffering -> mental strength

Even if you cut someone's achilles tendon, the forced change of lifestyle may make the person wiser.

Mental suffering -> mental strength

A person may be greive when one of their parents dies, but this experience may make them realise the value of their relationship with their remaining parent and make more of it.

Mental suffering -> mental weakness

The world is, unfortunately, littered with examples: the bullied become bullies; the marginalised become terrorists; those that once loved become bitter and twisted. Although it could be argued that some of these responses are a form of strength in that they protect the person from further damage, I consider mental strength to be the ability to make the right decisions even when they are difficult.

From the examples I have thought of, I can only conclude that this statement (at least in its literal interpretation) is wrong. Suffering can make you stronger, but it seems it can also weaken you. There is probably a threshold for every type of suffering, for every person, at every time above which they will be damaged, but below which they will be strengthened.

When they come

If I were an alien and I was planning to invade Earth, here's what I'd do:

1. Collect intelligence - determine the command and control structures, steal new technologies (unlikely we'd have anything new to the alien)
2. Engineer a supervirus to kill a large proportion of the human population
3. Attach densely populated areas with nuclear weapons (nuclear weapons would be used sparingly to avoid contamination of the planet)
4. Deploy robots or remote controlled vehicles to kill the remaining human beings
5. Land and harvest the resources

Another potential option would be engineering a third world war, however this would probably have a lower casulty rate than a supervirus and would risk contamination of the planet with nuclear fallout.

Unlike most alien fiction, the aliens would not do any fighting, or sustain any losses (asymmetric warfare). If we're sufficiently advanced now that we can use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, then it's likely that any alien's would also use (more advanced) robots.

What other people think

People think its good to get drunk, to stay out late, to take drugs and to slack. I've been aware of this for a long time, but now I come to think of it, I haven't refuted it. What would I rather were driving forces of popular culture? Creativity, contructiveness, intellectualism and spirituality. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, 4 May 2008

A wider stock exchange

I think it would be beneficial to have all companies quoted on an internet only stock exchange. It would help small companies obtain finance; it would enable the investor to benefit from the higher growth rates experienced by small companies (but of course suffering higher risk in the process); it would put all companies on a more level playing field avoiding the jump from being unquoted to being quoted.

Originality over self-expression

Should an artist strive from originality over self-expression? Or in doing so are they defeating the object of art?

The end of education

In a scene from the Matrix, Jujitsu is downloaded into Neo's brain. Whilst we a years away from that ever happening, when (or if) it does it will spark the biggest revolution in human history. For the first time all humans will be equal, every person could be a doctor, a lawyer or a scientist. There would no longer be any elite or any experts. Society as we know it would cease to exist. Who would do menial jobs when they had enough knowledge to be at the cutting edge of quantum physics? And who would get the key roles of leadership and research when everyone is equal?

Guide to self

Do you ever forget who you are? When we wake in the morning, we don't continue exactly as we were before we went to sleep; we're like a computer that was shut down and is rebooted. Yet unlike computers, the stored information we boot from is less reliable - we forget things - we forget who we are.

So, write yourself a start-up script: a reminder of who you are, what you like, what you're working towards. And direct that start-up script to more detailed documentation of your loves, hates and fears. Be like Leonard Shelby from Memento (without the complete memory loss and need for revenge) and fulfil Socrates advice: Know thyself.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Who stocks this search?

Have you ever tried to find out whether your nearest highstreet shop will stock the item you want (or an item of the type you want)? It's a pain. I would definitely make use of a "Who stocks this?" search engine, especially if it were linked with a businesses search engine (i.e. "Who stocks this near/in X?").

How would it work? Shops would need to submit stock data to the search engine, which would categorise it and search it for the customer. Whilst this could be difficult for smaller shops, it could be a standard exportable dataset from an electronic stock control system.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Snooze your smoke alarm

Some people might think this is the stupidist idea in the world, but hear me out:

Have you ever burnt the toast? Did it set off the smoke alarm? Did you take the battery out of the smoke alarm to stop it making noise? Did you forget to put the battery back in the smoke alarm? Did you burn alive, having not been alerted to a fire by the smoke alarm that you took a battery out of?

Ok, ignore the last question, but the point is serious. Everytime I burn something, the battery comes straight out. And I forget to put it back in. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and there may have been cases of people dying because they'd taken the battery out. So why not provide a snooze feature that stops the noise for 5 minutes while you get the burnt-toast-smoke out of the kitchen window.

Risk management risks

The risk management process, as I understand it, consists of the following processes:
  • Risk identification
  • Risk evaluation
  • Risk response
  • Risk monitoring
There are of course variations in this, but that gives the basic approach. What occurs to me is that there are risks associationed with the risk management process, what I would describe as metarisks. These consist of:
  • Risk of incompleteness of risk identification (forget/don't identify a risk)
  • Risk of misevaluation of risk (think its not high risk when it is, and vice versa)
  • Risk of unsuitable response
  • Risk that response fails
  • Risk of inadequate monitoring
Of course, there is a risk that this list of risks regarding the risk management process is incomplete, that the evaluation of these risks is inappropriate etc. These are metametarisks; there is infinite regression and questions of "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (who will guard the guards).

Aside from the discussion of infinite regression, the issue of addressing metarisks is a serious one; the solution a simple one. I recently had the pleasure of seeing a piece of software called Stream, produced by a company called Acuity, in action. It mitigates the risk of incompleteness of risk identification by having a large database of risks; it mitigates the risk of an unsuitable response by having response suggestions; and it mitigates the risk of inadequate monitoring by storing monitoring data in the database. It may not be the first or best of its type, but it certainly seems to do a good job.

No balls games

In the age of obesity, "no ball games" signs should probably be banned. Short of that, their negativity to exercise should be tempered by accompanying them with maps/directions to the nearest park/court/pitch were games are allowed. The practical problems associated with this are customising the signs to the vicinity, however a map with local facilities on could be used for several sign locations.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Visualising results

It is important for staff to understand the results of their work; their contribution needs to be comunicated to them by their managers. One way of doing this would be the use of posters to make the results visual. For example, for a factory making components for mobile phones, the poster would show the components they make, with an arrow to the phone, with arrows to the different outcomes of that phone's existence. These would include a person smiling while making a conversation, a person ringing the emergency services after an accident, a person taking a photo of a beautiful sunset (for camera phones obviously. Whilst this might be considered cheesy, I think it is important for people to understand that whatever work they do, it is doing something positive for someone somewhere.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Login failures

This security feature may well exist, but it is not something I have yet experienced:

Whilst many login systems have a 'disable account after x failed logins' feature, an added security feature would be to communicate to the user (once successfully logged in) how many failed logins there had been prior to this successful login (but below the account disable threshold). This is important as it is only the user that knows how many times they have failed - if they haven't then they know that someone has tried to get into their account and they know to change their password or alert security.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Spy camera sunglasses

I recently read an article on spy camera sunglasses, which look a great idea. How often have you been looking at something when something exciting happens, but you haven't had the time to rummage in your bag to find your camera?

But these glasses are hardly worthy of the word 'spy'. The glasses are bulky and the camera obvious. To reduce the size of the glasses, they should be given bluetooth, allowing the camera control and storage of images to be on a mobile phone. This would also allow easy communication of images captured. All that would need to be in the glasses would be CCD, battery and bluetooth transmitter.

Fresh bread

The problem I identified today is a lack of readily available (cheap) fresh bread. The highstreet bakery has been killed off by supermarkets, whose bread really doesn't cut it.

My solution is bread vending machine. They are two ways of implementing this:

Slow vending machine - in such a device, the bread would be stored in sealed packs of ready-shaped dough. After selection by the purchaser, the dough would be unwrapped and moved to an oven, baked and then delivered. Obviously baking takes a while so the customer would need to wait. The customer could be given a pin to access their bread once cooked, so that other customers could use the machine. Alternatively, both payment and collection could be instructed through a mobile phone (or company intranet). The customer would be texted (or emailed) to let them know the bread was ready. The slow vending machine seems most appropriate to a semi-private setting like an office.

Fast vending machine - this device would be more suitable for a public location. Bread would be pre-baked and stored in sealed containers. Once ordered, the bread is microwaved in a humid environment to give it a warm, moist, fresh taste/texture. Again such a device could be controlled by mobile phone (although the need for texting is removed by the faster cooking time).

Sandwich making machine - on the subject of bread vending machines, would it not be possible to automate the Subway sandwich making process? Ingredients would be in pre-packed containers; robot arms would add ingredients per the customers order. The great thing about this would be that your favorite sandwiches could be stored on your mobile to be texted to the machine.

Mobile phone cameras

Mobile phone cameras are getting to the stage where a separate camera is an unnecessary indulgence. But the problem is that they only do straightforward photos. It would be a great product differentiator for phones were they to have the option of additional lenses (fish eye, wide angle, fibre optic, macro, zoom, etc). Give that phones are much smaller than SLRs, a new range of lenses would need to be developed. And as phones should ideally be flat (most of the time), the (normal) lens would need to screw into the phone body - obviously a fibre optic or zoom lens would stick out, but these would only be used on occasion so that wouldn't be an issue.

If the housing was standardised then people would be able to use their old lenses when they got a new phone; on the plus side for the manufacturer, the lenses would be another optional extra to generate more revenue.

Simplifying English spelling

English spelling could do with simplifying, just take 'bow' and 'bough' as an example. The problem is that even spelling inconsistencies are inconsistent. So how best to respell words? The method that occurs to me is to get a database of every word (i.e. a dictionary), with pronounciation data and a ranking on how common the word is used. The new spelling of each sound is based on the most common spelling of that sound, and all words are given a new spelling automatically. The only problem then is convincing people to start using the new spelling and making sure people don't change how they pronounce things...

Further ideas on bins

Further to yesterday's discussion on bins, I have refined the problem I am seeking to solve: rather than having to change the bin per se, it is changing it when overfull that creates the real issue. And the solution: a sensor (and alarm) that tells you to empty the bin when its getting too full (solar powered of course). This way may lazy housemates would be forced to change it. Perhaps it could even lock when full to prevent over filling.

I think I've got carried away. It's only a bin after all.

Another spin-off idea: the lid of the bin should say "Can it be recycled?" or when the bin lid is opened then a voice recording says the same thing (solar powered of course). This would encourage people to recycle (or in the case of an annoying little voice - go insane).

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Inventions process

The key part of the inventions process is identifying need. And the key way to do this is to pay close attention to your own and other peoples' lives. Just off the top of my head, two needs occur to me, based on two of my pet hates: changing the bin; and having to stand up (particularly in queues).

Putting out the rubbish. It's a pain. If you do it the night before the bin men come, then foxes tear it open leaving a mess. If you put it out in the morning, it adds to the mornings woes (don't get me started on mornings). My first thought on solving the problem is some kind of chute from the kitchen to an outside place where the binmen would collect it. This way, rubbish is never stored in the house and I wouldn't need to do any changing. The problem is that the nature of kitchen waste means that chute's going to get messy. Really messy. Next thought: a robot. This is a particularly high-tech solution to a low-tech problem. A humanoid robot would do the trick, so perhaps would some kind of chair-lift like rail that carries the bag outside, tying it in the process.

Another alternative would be to do away with bags: they add to the landfill after all. A bin hatch would be built into the side of the house and rubbish/recycling would be dumped straight into a set of bins (see diagram). These would be picked up and emptied by the bin lorry, perhaps with some kind of robot arm that swept the inside of the bin (and sprayed with water to clean).

With respect to my issue of standing, the absence of queues would be a nice start, together with much more public seating. In lieu of this, what I need is a seat I can carry with me. It needs to fold so I can put it in my bag. I've seen umbrella seats, but how can the length be folded? Using a combination of locking corner joints (as used on step ladders) and telescopic arms (see diagram). Obviously a seat would need to be attached at one end, an either a spike or piece of rubber on the other.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Absolute fuel and consumption indicator

I want to know how much petrol is in my car. Exactly. Not approximately half full. To the millilitre. Surely this is not beyond the realms of possibility?

If this information was present with an onboard computer, accurate fuel consumption could be displayed. If the cost of fuel were communicated to the computer (maybe via bluetooth at the petrol pump) the actual fuel cost (possibly using a weighted average due to variations in fuel costs) of any one journey could be displayed. And if insurance/tax/maintenance costs for the prior year and milage for the prior year were input (probably manually) then an estimated cost of a particular journey could be displayed.

Only then will I truely know whether to consider getting the bus.


If you're human, you hate ironing. I must be more human than most. Short of a (desired) social revolution whereby I get to go to work in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops, how can I make ironing less painful? One thing that makes ironing worse is the fact that every time I iron (which is every day as I am not one of these people that can stomach doing a batch run) I have to go and find the ironing board and set it up, and find the iron and set it up. What I want is an ironing station already set-up for me with an ironing board that folds down from the wall, with the iron plugged in next to it. All I need to do is switch on and go. Obviously two designs would be required to suit space needs, one that folds to the wall lengthways (pictured) and one sideways (a sideways folding one needs to fold out on some kind of support so the item of clothing can hang over the far side).

Another advantage of this idea is that ironing boards are unstable and fall over (if you're as clumsy as me).

An ironing station would be an excellent feature in hotels. The iron could be locked in (e.g. a locked cover over the plug socket) to stop people stealing stuff.

Reverse eBay

eBay (and others) enable people who have stuff to sell it. What about people who want stuff? People that can't find what they're looking for on eBay or the web (super-rare items), or can't be bothered to look? Wouldn't it be great if you could post what you want and the price you're willing to pay for it, and let sellers come to you. After all, they're making money, so they should be doing the hard work.

To do lists

Anyone else got a big long to do list? Full of stuff you'd rather not do? It occurs to me that putting stuff I want to do on my to do list makes going down it less of an arduous task.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Stress and lists

I've suffered from both stress and lists. It seems to me that stress is caused when you have a list of things to do and you keep skipping from one to another rather than grabbing the bull by the horns, taking the first item on the list and getting it done.

Total perspective vortex

Ever since reading the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy I've been in love with the concept of the total perspective vortex. At school I wanted it in a gun format so I could shoot arrogant people, now I'd rather it as a way of putting life's problems in perspective (they're pretty trivial really). When you think about it though, there's enough evidence of the enormity and complexity of the universe all around us. Certainly enough to overwhelm the mind of a simple man.

Guilt for who we are

I'm not heir to a billionaire's estate (that I know of, if your a billionaire and want to adopt me, that's fine by me) but I still feel guilty for the relative affluence I was born into being brought up in the middle class of a western country. It occurs to me that whilst I feel guilty for this, I feel no guilt about being above average intelligence (per the IQ test) and not being horrendously ugly. Money, innate ability and looks all have a part to play in determining out quality of life so it is irrational of me to feel guilt for only one (I'm using this as an excuse for feeling less guilty not more).

Pots with lids

I hereby admit to being the laziest person in the world: I get a pot out to cook pasta and I can't be bothered to root through the cupboard to find the lid, so I boil the water without a lid. The result: it takes longer and is worse for the environment. So how can this be cured? I know of no medication that can cure my laziness, but a pot with a built-in hinged lid would help encourage people (and me) from wasting energy. The diagram illustrates an unlidded pot, one with a single hinged lid, and one with a double hinged lid.

Thought of the day

Authors make things out to be more than they are.

Thought of the day

Bad laws make criminals of good people.

Thought of the day

Don't plan too far in advance, you never know what mood you'll be in.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Thought of the day

James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones note in their book Lean Thinking: "many customers only know how to ask for some variant of what they are already getting".
Is not the same true of many inventors? Who has produced or is producing true innovation? Who is generating ideas that are not quite yet possible, but just might be?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Summary documents

Often in the workplace, employees are given the task reviewing a document and summarising it for their managers. This work would be made easier with a piece of software (perhaps a plugin to a word processor) that brings together all the text you have highlighted in a document into another document, allowing titles, table and comments to be added. The summary document would also link back to the original document such that if you click on some text that was highlighted from the original, you are taken to the original to see the context of that text.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Do not work for someone else

  • Work because of the money
  • Work because work is good for you
  • Work because you find it interesting/challenging (if you do)

Technocentric society

The ideal society, it seems to me, would be one whos prime function was to extend the limits of human knowledge and ability. All other functions would exist to support research and development (e.g finance, retail, resource gathering & processing, etc).

The source of stress

The source of stress (at least for me at the moment) seems to be the gap between other people's expectations of me and what I am able to do: I am expected to have an attention span that lasts the working day...

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Heightened state of conciousness

It occured to me that perhaps our individual purpose and that of society is the pursuit of a higher state of consciousness. We can pursue it individually through diet, exercise, sleep, caffeine (and nicotene), study/mental challenge, meditation and music. However we tend to go for a lower state of consciousness through escapism (TV, reading, films) and dulling our mind (alcohol). As a society we can pursue a higher state of consciousness through science and technology (brain enhancing drugs/gene therapy, and computing).

Cynicism and skepticism

Cynicism, in the modern sense, is a symptom of weakness; we don't have the strength to take the time and effort to see the good in things. Skepticism is a sign of strength, of having the balls to question that which others might blindly accept.