Thursday, January 10, 2008

5. RFID Door Scanner

5. RFID Door Scanner: I want to know when my stuff leaves my house and when it comes back. Linked to my inventory system, I want the data from all my RFID accessories accessible from a secure website or sent to my email. I would like all the RFID data I generate to also show up in a spreadsheet that shows my home insurer what I have and to have that fact reduce my premiums...yeah.

4. Personal RFID File Cabinet

4. Personal RFID File Cabinet: with the above RFID stickers, I want to have my file cabinet read the RFID sticker and have a LCD readout when it goes in and out of the file cabinet, and have that cabinet linked to my computer where the inventory will be tracked.

3. Personal RFID maker

3. Personal RFID maker: I want a simple roll of RFID stickers that I can put on my stuff to track and file my stuff. A digital/analog personal inventory system.

2. Natural Toy Book

2. Natural Toy Book: I want to eliminate the plastic toys from my life, and I know that there are tons of "toys" out there that are made of simple natural materials. I haven't Googled this yet, but I'm sure it would be a great book if it's not already out there. I'm talking about old-sock-soccerballs, gourd-maracas, pebble mancala. A folksy DIY book on how to make or find the toys suggested.

#15: "NetFlix Widget for OSX"

#15: "NetFlix Widget for OSX": I want to know which videos I have out and what's next in my queue, but I don't want to log in or have it emailed to me. It's a very tiny bit of text that could easily (and securely) be pushed to my desktop the same way stock tickers can.

#14: "Preemie Clothing Fitting Vest or Jumper"

#14: "Preemie Clothing Fitting Vest or Jumper": Essentially a waterproof system that snugs clothes that don't fit snugly enough yet. We have lots of clothes that are for newborns but they're not small enough. Maybe a one piece outfit that can be cinched up to make the bigger clothes underneath less roomy.

#13: "Strap-on Hands-Free Breast Pump Holder"

#13: "Strap-on Hands-Free Breast Pump Holder" My wife needs to pump in between breast feedings and the silly things have to be held by hand, and don't have any handy way of letting her pump while on the couch (where we live at the moment). The current contraption forces her to pump at a crazy leaning-forward angle or be at a desk or table. A strapping system could hold the pump-funnels on her chest so at least she could type while pumping, or at the very least not get a backache while trying to pump. Bonus: Backpack holds the pump motor while front straps hold the funnel collectors. Basically, a reverse CamelBack system for breastfeeding moms...

#19 "DIY Eco-Stickies"

#19 "DIY Eco-Stickies": I don't know what amount of Post-its are made from recycled material, but it seems they are usually "virgin tree yellow" in color. If you don't have a paper-cutter this will be harder, but scissors will do. The idea is to cut up your scrap paper and remake it into stickies. I don't know the mixture off hand, but there must be an eco-friendly kind of stickum one could cook up and slather on the stack of cut papers. Hmmm. Best that 3m just makes them, eh? Anyway, I want ec0-friendly sticky notes. And a spirograph. And a pony. Nyah.

#18 "Green Mainstream"

#18 "Green Mainstream": A website for the new movement of making Green something that isn't something you have to think about, proselytize or convince yourselves or others to "do". The best idea I can think of for the site would be showing what my pal Uncle Joe said to do; "be the change you want in the world". Show examples of normal people doing green things just because it's what they do. Tutorials on how to do subtle green things at the workplace to make it more normalized, habitualized, un-special. My underlying issue is with the current "fad" of green overtaking the actual caring for the earth by consuming less and using things more efficiently. It just has to be a cultural shift brought on by lots of people just doing it again and again, passing it on by showing people how it's just "what we do".

#17: "Banzai Micro Hydro Landscaping"

#17: "Banzai Micro Hydro Landscaping": extremely low-tech. Survey the lands of your back yard, and see if you have any sort of embankment or slope. It helps if rain would normally run down this slope. If you do have a slope, stare at it intensely until the image is burned into your mind, then close your eyes. With some mental muscle you should be able to envision that section of your sloping back yard area as the side of a mountain with a river running through it. Get a very detailed picture in your mind of the twists and turns the river makes. Open your eyes up and map that river out on the slope, perhaps with a stick. Then go inside and draw it out on paper, again with a very detailed image in mind. Put trees into the picture, waterfalls, mini rock slabs, you name it. Then go to a garden store (or better, look around your yard) and find the stuff you'll need to engineer the micro-river, and make that vision of yours a reality. The channels can be cut right into the dirt if you have the right soil, or you can make mud elsewhere in the yard to bring in, or if you're really excited you can actually make and pour small amounts of cement if you please... If you rock it hard enough, when it rains it will channel into your little scene and give you great pleasure. If it's not raining, pour some wastewater down the channel and see what happens. Ommmm.

#19: "(Shredded Paper) Family Brainstorm"

#19: "(Shredded Paper) Family Brainstorm": At some time in its life, paper usually ends up needing to be recycled or disposed of. Taxes from 1998, old checks, magazine offers, you know the drill. Rather than tossing all paper directly into the recycling bin as is your custom, use a shredder and make a bag of shredded paper. Gather up your friends and/or family and brainstorm at least 20 uses for the shredded stuff. Ideas already on the table: packing cushion materials, worm-bin layer, compost layer, wadded up into balls for firestarting in the fireplace. Shredded paper is just one topic for brainstorming. Make it a weekly event to come up with a bunch of new uses for stuff that is recycled or thrown away (landfilled). Great family bonding, and energizes the mind.

#18: "Creeping Crud"

#18: "Creeping Crud": This was my dad's idea. If you want your kids to help you clean the house, tell them that anything that's out of place harbors the deadly and mysterious "creeping crud". It has to be eradicated in order for the family to be safe. Run around with the kids and pick up clothes and trash and all things messy in a somewhat frantic fashion. The big trick is doing it with them. Pretty soon after the first few rounds of this as a child, I got an adrenaline rush from the mere mention of "creeping crud".

#17 "CD Disco Ball"

#17 "CD Disco Ball": What the heck do you do with those scratched CD's you have in your basement? I know, you're waiting for a miracle rub that will restore your bootleg copy of Nirvana's final show at Memorial Stadium. In case you're tired of waiting, but you don't want to throw the thing into a landfill, try your hand at making a funky low-tech disco ball: Get some really thick leather gloves, perhaps ones that no longer bend much and are still able to keep your hands safe. (If you don't want to do it by hand, just grab a hammer and have at it) Break the CD up into small pieces. You can etch patterns in the CD with a razor before you break it to make specific shaped pieces. Get some hobby glue and an old ball you have in the garage, and attach a sturdy string or some fishing line to the ball. Add a fishing spinner so the thing can freely spin. Then glue the shards on the ball. Aim a very bright light at the dangling ball of shards and you have a funky disco ball. Add a motor to it if you'd like the thing to spin without having to do it manually. Voila! If you have enough CDs to get rid of, skip the demolition step and just glue them (overlapped) together to make a much larger ball with half the mess.

#16 "Adopt-an-intern or apprentice"

#16 "Adopt-an-intern or apprentice": You probably know 3-5 kids who are just about to graduate high school. Maybe it's a neighbor or friends' kid or even your own niece or nephew. You also probably know a few things about the work you are currently doing. Make the leap (after talking to the parents first) and offer to show the kid around, tell them what you do, how you got the job in the first place, how to get a similar or better job, etc. If they dig it, see if you can help them get a job in the field. US culture desperately needs more lifeskills training and chances are pretty good you've got some knowledge to share or at least a connection that could be facilitated for a young adult.

#11 "Plastic Brick Maker"

#11 "Plastic Brick Maker" using the same tech assumption as in #10, I'd like a device that melts plastic bags down briefly for molding into a plastic brick. This brick would be a simple building tool, perhaps for the developing world. Perhaps it would have to use the loom technique as well, weaving the plastic bag into itself strongly enough to form a tight brick-shaped thing. Honestly, most any idea that re-uses the millions of plastic bags that float around the world right now would be excellent. Until we're smart enough to use and reuse sturdier grocery bags, we have to find a way to pull the plastic ones back out of the waste stream (at least for a bit).

#10 "Plastic Bag Fiber Kit"

#10 "Plastic Bag Fiber Kit" I want to re-use my plastic bags (or gather them up from the ocean...) and I want to do it myself. I am not sure of the off-gassing temperatures of the bags, but I'd guess there's a safer point at which bags will melt a little bit but still not burn. I imagine a loom of sorts, where you have a bunch of plastic bags in a bag and the loom pulls each bag out, welds it to the bag before it, melts it a bit, and turns it into a long thin strand of plastic. This strand would wrap around a spindle for re-use as rope, or plastic yarn-string for weaving. Could be that simply pulling it hard would generate enough friction to make it pliable and then thinned for string-making.

#9 "Compact Fluorescent Painting"

#9 "Compact Fluorescent Painting" I visited the EcoHaus in Seattle (Environmental Home Center) to learn a few things (I didn't learn much, unfortunately) about LED lights. I didn't find any there, but I did learn from a guy at Seattle City Light that different bulbs put out different Kelvin which translated into different coloring/tone to the light given off (as opposed to lumens which is the amount of light). I got to thinking today that I'd rather not replace the "wrong" colored lights, I'd rather just paint them a bit. I know it's not quite ready yet, but I'd like a specific to CFL paint kit. I want bluish, reddish, yellowish lights. I want to accent with my lights as I choose, without buying a particular (non-matching) color. Someone will eventually make a paint that will let the CFL owner paint it without building up too much heat.

#8 "WorldChanging Lamp"

#8 "WorldChanging Lamp" The book "WorldChanging" is excellent and inspiring for me. It was signed for me by its authors and given to me by Lief Utne who's a friend of my friend David Smith. It's got this awesome cover sleeve, but I can't bear to leave the book in the sleeve as I read it too often. The sleeve is sturdy, with a beautiful bird on it, and it's got this cool as hell design with poked holes emanating from the bird graphic. I will simply put a small compact fluorescent lamp inside, leaving a small hole in the corner for the wiring. Metaphorically cool as well, the book does shed much light, methinks.

#7 "I'm from Stupid T-shirt"

#7 "I'm from Stupid T-shirt" It's a white t-shirt with the phrase "I'm from Stupid" with two diagonally upward pointing arrows. Not something I myself would let my daughter wear, but I though it briefly clever. Alternately, could say "Geek Parents" with the same arrows.

#15: "Job Change Flip Book"

#15: "Job Change Flip Book": So, you quit that job at the local Hi-Fi store, but not before getting a hundred new business cards that finally spell your name right. What to do? Bind them together at one end, and make a flip book out of them. YouTube has many flipbook animations you can pattern your book on, here's one that uses both sides of the page:

Using your old cards is a great way to reuse rather than recycle, and it adds a nostalgia note to your animation. Perhaps a series of them could be made to illustrate and memorialize the job you just left. Maybe a short animation of you handing in your resignation would be appropriate...