This incredible camouflage for computer programmers and other office workers who snack at their desks will ensure that the dreaded mustard-on-white-shirt-before-crucial-meeting scenario is never repeated.


Camouflage is a useful tool for hiding something in a distracting pattern that it blends into.

Most frequently, camouflage is used to hide a person (for example, a hunter or soldier) in an environment where they would prefer not to be spotted.


Fig 1: Traditional forest camouflage, used to hide from snakes, owls, and other woodland predators.


Camouflage can also be used by individuals who don’t actually need to hide themselves. For example, computer programmers can apply camouflage techniques to hide undesirable stains on regular clothing.

Figure 2, below, depicts one of the classic hazards of snacking at a desk:


Fig 2: The main hazard that sedentary computer workers face—the sudden and unexpected assault of artificial-cheese-flavored snacks. These can easily stain clothing in an obvious and unsightly fashion.

In order to avoid having the cheese-product assault become a career ending injury, we can apply camouflage techniques to the user’s clothing. Behold, the cheese-patterned cargo shorts (Fig 3)!


Fig 3: These fashionable cargo shorts would most likely be advertised as “Cheeto-proof” or “Cheez-It-proof,” except that these are both trademark-protected brand names. Presumably the fallback name would be “artificial cheese product-proof cargo shorts.” This soon-to-be-ubiquitous pattern is the generic “woodland camo” of the high-tech office world.

Other camouflage patterns would also be available for non-cheese-product consumers (Figs 4, 5).


Fig 4: The “ketchup and mustard” variant protects against two of America’s favorite condiments. Essential for the hamburger connoisseur.


Fig 6: Other types of snack food would warrant different patterns. This example may protect against the colorful outside coating of M&Ms, Skittles, and a wide variety of other candies.


You can create one of these today at any custom-shirt-printing company. Be sure to send royalties to this blog!

PROS: An elegant and fashionable solution to a classic problem.

CONS: Since these new patterns do not blend into the forest, you may be attacked by a snake or an owl if you wear them while traipsing through the woodlands.



Never show up at the airport again without your passport with this one weird luggage trick! The trick is: remember your passport.


When packing for a trip, it’s easy to forget something.

One way to solve this problem is to make a list, but even that requires planning ahead of time and is prone to error.


To solve this problem, we will adopt a technique that is seen in prison kitchens (at least, the one in Alcatraz)—having a silhouette for each item that belongs in an area, so it it obvious if a specific object goes missing. In the Alcatraz scenario, the silhouette technique was applied to ensure that kitchen knives remained in the kitchen.

kitchen-silhouetteFig 1: In a prison kitchen, silhouettes can be used to ensure that a knife’s absence from the kitchen is obvious.


In the packing scenario, your luggage will come with a roll-out mat with black silhouettes of all the items you need to pack.

Simply put each required item onto the poster until there are no obvious silhouettes visible, and you’ll be done packing. Never arrive at the airport without your passport / money / socks again!

Silhouette mats could be customized for each user; for example, not every traveler is going to need a pair of glasses or a vial of anti-venom.


Fig 2: A roll-out mat with silhouettes of all required items would make it almost impossible to accidentally leave an item behind when packing.


Is it possible that this may actually be a legitimately marketable idea, even if it is just a more complicated version of “make a list?”

PROS: You probably won’t forget anything for your trip!

CONS: Bulky clothing, like a winter jacket or ski pants, would probably take up an entire roll-out mat all by itself. May work poorly when multiple copies of an item are involved (e.g., 6 pairs of socks, 20 pairs of contact lenses).

Regain hours of your life every day with this one weird anti-procrastination tip that may involve horrifying injury! You’ll never believe what happened next.


Sometimes, a difficult task or obligation hangs over a person, and is said to be “heavy” or “crushing.”

The issue:

However, until now, there has been no way to properly represent a person’s currently unresolved obligations in a three-dimensional space.


In order to reduce procrastination and make it easier for a person to determine how far they are along in resolving their current to-do list, the proposal is as follows:

  • In certain important rooms of the user’s house, or potentially in their workplace, a huge metal plate is installed on one end of the room, immediately in front of a wall. (Ideally, this location would also be directly across from a door on the opposing wall, although this is not mandatory.)
  • This metal plate is attached to a telescoping arm that can push the plate away from the wall and into the main space of the room.
  • In this fashion, the metal plate can take up as much of the room as needed, partitioning it into a “still usable” space and a “hidden behind the crushing wall” space.
  • The crushing wall would be linked the user’s email and calendar programs. If the user has many un-resolved email messages from days ago, and a large number of outstanding obligations (for example, “do taxes” or “repaint living room”), the wall will extend to take up a large amount of space in the room.
  • When the user resolves these tasks, the wall will retract back towards its origin. For example, if the user only has a few minor tasks to do (e.g. “go shopping for bread”), the wall will retract so that it only takes up a few inches along the wall.


Fig 1: In this figure, the crushing wall is mounted on the left wall. The remaining usable space in the room (right side) has only a table and door in it. Judging from the position of this wall, the user has a large number of currently outstanding tasks that they need to resolve if they want the crushing wall to retract.


Fig 2: Side view of a room similar to the one above. Blue area (left): a heavy-duty mounting bracket to attach the crushing wall to the floor and ceiling. Green: a telescoping hydraulic arm to allow the wall to move. Yellow: the crushing wall. In this diagram, the wall is taking up approximately two-thirds of the room.


This new room furnishing will make it easy for a person to visualize how many un-resolved tasks they need to work on, and will provide a satisfying sense of accomplishment when a task is complete and the wall retracts a few inches.

PROS: Provides sense of accomplishment. Reinvents the classic to-do list in three-dimensional form.

CONS: May result in injury, especially if the crushing wall is installed in a fashion such that there is no door on the opposing wall. More details, including a video re-enactment of this scenario, can be found by doing an Internet search for the term “Death Star trash compactor.”

This “smart carafe” will streamline office coffee acquisition and, if it is smart enough to use Microsoft Excel, possibly replace YOU as well! Smash it before it is too late.


In many office environments, communal coffee is brewed periodically. But it is difficult to tell how old the contents of the carafe are (or if it’s even coffee from the day before).


Fig 1: The classic coffee carafe. No bells or whistles. How barbaric!


The carafe should be able to easily tell you the following information:

  • How long since it was filled
  • How full it is
  • What temperature its contents are

The simplest proof-of-concept “smart carafe” would just have a small switch on the lid that would start a stopwatch on the side of the carafe. This would tell you when the lid was last opened, which would normally be a reasonably estimate for when the coffee was last made.

More complicated systems could use a floating sensor to determine the percentage filled (which would work even for liquids of other densities, in case you need a carafe full of liquid mercury for some reason) and a temperature sensor. Of course, a frosted glass window on the side of the carafe would also be sufficient for determining percent-fullness without any electronic gizmos.



Fig 2: The upgraded carafe. It’s been an hour and 24 minutes since this carafe was filled with a liquid of unknown type.


Your office should switch to the smart carafe for all future breakroom-liquid-containing needs.

PROS: The smart carafe upgrades the coffee-drinking experience from “satisfactory” to “transcendent.”

CONS: The carafe might be too smart. Did you ever see the Kubrick film 2001? Like that.



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 ( 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.

Election facts: three weird secrets for crafting the ultimate direct-democracy ballot proposal


Many jurisdictions allow a limited degree of direct democracy, where citizens can submit any measure to be voted on (for example: “the city will buy everyone a free horse to eat at Thanksgiving”). If a measure gets a sufficient number of signatures, it must be placed on the ballot.


It’s generally a lot of work to propose a valid ballot measure. But using the helpful tips below, you too can craft a successful ballot measure!

Make sure to:

  • Appeal to voters’ wallets. If your measure requires a new tax to support it, it is probably a non-starter.
    • Example 1: Prohibit increases in rent (note that this measure will be unpopular with landlords)
    • Example 2: Prohibit increases in property tax
    • Instead of funding your measure with taxes, you can propose a bond issuance (essentially just a loan) instead. Since this will not directly increase any taxes in an obvious way, voters are less likely to be opposed to it [1].
  • Appeal to people’s inherent dislike of change. Examples:
    • Prohibit new construction
    • Prohibit businesses in a residential area, and vice-versa
    • Restrict new businesses from coming into an area and competing with existing businesses
    • Prevent any external / façade modification of buildings
  • Choose an appealing name.
    • Example 1: a measure that de-funds all schools and sends children to work in the salt mines: “Hands-on Job Experience Primary School Education”
    • Example 2: a measure that turns all public parks into fenced-in garbage dumps: “Put Our Land to Work: Cheaper Trash Dropoffs and Parks that Pay for Themselves.”

Despite the examples directly above, it will be easier to pass a proposition that maintains the status quo. Your ideal proposition should both maintain the status quo and have an catchy name.

Here are two contrasting measures that make use of the above techniques:

MeasureR vs. MeasureH

Fig 1. Two conflicting sample measures that are frequently found on real-world ballots. While these specific ones may be too cartoonish to pass as currently written, they would have a chance with some creative re-wording! Use these as a template for your own ballot measure.

PROS: These ballot propositions will allow all voters to weigh in on important matters.

CONS: If citizens get too much democracy, this may result in “democracy overload,” which will instantly cause the government to revert to medieval feudalism [2].

[1]: Citation: just made up now, but might be true since it allows the proposition to avoid containing the word “tax.”

[2]: Citation: personal communication.

These 7 weird tricks to playing tennis with a ukulele will lead you wondering what happens next. . . probably severe elbow and wrist injury?


Sometimes, when playing tennis, one of the participants may wish to play a jaunty tune to raise the spirits of their partner (in a doubles match), or perhaps they may wish to play a mocking tune to demoralize their opponent.

However, currently this is not possible, as holding a tennis racquet precludes the playing of almost all instruments.


Fig 1: A ukulele, which is the smallest widely-available member of the guitar family.


Fig 2: A tennis racquet. Typically larger than a ukulele but less thick.

The proposal:

By combining the tennis racquet and ukulele, we can create a tool that can be used both in racquet sports and for impromptu string music. The active “mode” of the “racq-u-lele” can be changed simply by flipping it over.


Fig 3: The ukulele and tennis racquet overlap perfectly, although at 180° relative to each other. But this will probably not be an issue for the serious tennis / ukulele aficionado.


Fig 4: Technical diagram: side view of the racq-u-lele. The large gray rectangle at the top is the main body of the ukulele. Details: A) “Head” of the ukulele. B) Strings. C: Ukulele sound hole, in gray. D) Tennis racquet head. E) Tennis racquet strings. F) Tennis racquet grip / ukulele neck.


Fig 5: Artist’s conception of the final product. A) Racquet strings. B) Ukulele body. C) Tennis racquet handle, which also serves as the neck of the ukulele.


Finally, tennis and stringed instrument playing can be combined into a hybrid hobby for truly cultured individuals.

PROS: Increases the skill ceiling of tennis by requiring mastery of a musical discipline to rise to the highest levels. Allows players to have something to do in the boring period of time during a tennis match when the ball is in flight to the opponent.

CONS: May make rage-induced racquet smashing substantially more expensive. May also affect the ergonomics of the racquet, particularly with regard to backhand strokes.