Category Archives: My Crazy Ideas

Corporate Farmville

Welcome to the latest facebook application! For the 25,000,000 fans of the original FarmVille, we now introduce the next generation: Corporate Farmville! While planting and tending to small plots of land has its own unique charm, Corporate Farmville takes the entire process to the next level. Start the game by incorporating your business in a state with no substantial farming but extremely lax corporate liability laws (yes, we are looking at you Deleware!). Once your paper work is approved, use money from your quasi-ethical IPO to purchase locally owned farms. Maximize your profits through a variety of processes: gratuitous lawsuits, misused government subsidies, and blatently illegal partnerships. Start out as a simple corporate henchman and become master of all agriculture by perfecting a machine that spits out fast food quality hamburger meat 24/7!

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.

Inexpensive Solar Collector

stirling-sun-catcher-story-1108

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.

Building 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.

Basement/Garage

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” show on HGTV

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.

Remote Controls Conserve 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 BlackRemote.com.