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Month: November, 2015

You’ll never believe the horrifying hotel room scene that awaited one guest! Because you aren’t a gullible rube.


When renting a hotel room or apartment, usually one is treated to a boring combination of standard amenities. Bed, table, chairs, etc.


But what if, instead, a rental could also be the stage for an Agatha Christie-like murder mystery scene? Then the guest would have the opportunity to engage in Sherlock Holmes-esque crime scene at their leisure in an interesting location.

The idea would work as follows:

  • A client books a hotel room or short-term rental.
  • The rental unit is staged to look like a classic murder mystery scene. Perhaps a chalk outline of a body is the initial clue that is found on the living room floor.
  • Additional clues are found throughout the house to point to a list of possible suspects and give clues as to their motives.
  • For example: a will with a forged signature. A defaced portrait of one of the heiress’s daughters. Receipts for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from failed financial speculation. A cache of fake passports. And more!
  • Finally, the client has the time of their entire stay to solve the mystery. Whether they solve it successfully or not, they will get a letter later indicating the aftermath of the investigation. For example: “Good work, we apprehended the real killer!” or “Whoops, you falsely accused the butler of murder!”


Fig 1: The rental apartment would be indistinguishable from any other high-class rental except for the chalk victim outline and miscellaneous clues strewn about the premises.

PROS: Could increase the rate of repeat patronage at participating rental units.

CONS: “HORRIFYING MURDER HOUSE” and “comfortable vacation rental” would, if made into two Venn diagram circles, probably have a low degree of overlap.



This shockingly un-patented business plan will streamline your errand-running in the future!


Many recurring obligations in modern society require significant amounts of waiting.

For example:

  • Waiting in line at the DMV
  • Waiting to be interviewed during the jury selection process, for jury duty
  • Getting your car’s oil changed

The issue:

This time is generally not put to productive use (perhaps due to its unpredictable duration). Millions of hours or productive time are wasted every year at these locations.

Proposal: multitask by adding a second activity

The only real requirement is that the second activity needs to be interruptible with a small amount of lead time. So “learn to fold an origami crane” would work, but “practice scuba diving” or “assist a doctor in performing open-heart surgery” would not.


  • Jury selection PLUS speed dating
  • DMV driver’s license renewal PLUS a dentist appointment
  • Waiting at the airport at your plane’s gate PLUS Red Cross first aid training

There are many more possible locations where a “captive audience” can be found, such as:

  • Waiting for car maintenance to be completed
  • Waiting for a bus / train
  • Stranded on a desert island
  • Stranded on a regular island
  • Waiting in line at a store


By adding a second (productive) activity to the primarily waiting-related first activity, we can greatly improve citizens’ productivity.

PROS: Reduces wasted time during certain obligatory activities.

CONS: None!

Upon seeing this cell phone and realizing it is not for sale, you will gnash and grind your teeth in rage. Dentists hate it!


Nearly all modern cell phones have the same touch-screen form factor.

Except for a few buttons of low importance (e.g. volume adjustment, power, camera shutter), all interaction is done through the screen itself.

The issue:

This style of interaction makes use of only one finger, and leaves the remaining four fingers with nothing to do (except hold the phone).

It can also be difficult to reach across the entire phone with one thumb. Finally, one’s grip of the phone is significantly diminished when interacting with the phone, making it easier to drop it during interaction with an app or web page.


Fig 1: Modern phones typically have a form factor similar to the one at left. Right: when holding the phone, the thumb (labeled “5”) does all the work, while fingers 1–4 flop about uselessly on the opposite side of the phone.

Proposal: additional hardware keys on the phone edges

In order to improve phone-handling characteristics, we can add easy-to-press hardware keys to the edge of the phone.

Let us assume that this phone will be intended for right-handed operation. See figure 2 for the proposed button layout.

buttons default with slide or scroll wheel

Fig 2: On the left edge of the phone, four keys (one for each finger) are added.

On the right edge of the phone, a slideable switch is added. This acts as a scrollwheel; it can be pressed in to click, or slid up or down to scroll a web page. This is an old idea seen most notably in the “thumb scrollwheel” in Blackberry phones ~2000–2010.

Slight downside: these new features are unusable when the phone is held in the left hand.

chorded keyboard

Fig 3: The new buttons on the left (numbered 1–4) would allow for typing in the fashion of a chorded keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorded_keyboard). With 4 buttons, we have (2^4 – 1) = 15 possible letters.


Fig 4: If full typing ability is desired, it would be possible to make the buttons into rings instead, allowing the buttons to be pulled out instead of just pushed. Now we are up to (3^4 – 1) = 80 possible combinations of letters when typing in a chorded keyboard fashion. This is more than enough for any alphabet.

(Note: the thumb ring in this diagram would need to pivot in order to allow a comfortable grip.) would have to be rotated almost 90 degrees to allow for a comfortable grip.)


Although this new interaction style could take some time to get used to, it would greatly improve phone interaction efficiency.

PROS: Makes phone interaction faster. Makes it easier to hold the phone in a secure grip.

CONS: If no one drops their phones anymore, phone case manufacturers may go out of business.

One weird trick that the FAT CATS don’t want you to know. By which I mean actual cats who are fat.


If you have a pet, it’s probably overweight.

Sorry to have to break the news to you this way.

Your cat / dog / snake / whatever probably does not get enough exercise, and you most likely compound the problem by over-feeding it.


Fig 1: In the wild, food isn’t found in conveniently-labeled bowls that don’t fight back!

The proposal:

Luckily, there is a solution: instead of just allowing your pet to eat in peace, make it earn its meal by eating out of a special motorized food bowl that constantly tries to escape.

(The “minimum viable product” version of this concept is just a pet bowl superglued onto a Roomba vacuum.)

More complex versions might include a food bowl on a remote-controlled toy car, a food bowl on spider-like appendages (see Fig. 2), or even a quad-copter drone with attached food bowl (see Fig. 3).

By using this type of food bowl, two requirements can be met simultaneously:

* Your pet gets some additional exercise.

* Your pet’s hunting instinct is satisfied. This is the same principle involved in chasing a laser pointer.


Fig 2: A food bowl could be placed on motorized robotic legs, possibly with wheels on the bottom, to allow the bowl to make a quick getaway in any terrain.

quadcopter food bowl

Fig 3: The quadcopter variant opens up additional options for pet-food-acquisition difficulty, but may be difficult in a normal sized house. Beware of using this with pet birds, as contact with rotors may not be beneficial to avian physiology.

PROS: Your pet can become the apex predator that it was destined to be.

CONS: If your pet becomes too skilled, it may supplant you as ruler of the home, eventually leading to the same “Planet of the Apes” scenario seen in the “train your pet to bite you if you procrastinate” idea.