Category Archives: Spontaneous Ideas

I have snow idea

It snowed about twelve inches in the Boston-area.  Since we don’t have a garage, or indeed off street parking, I had to shovel out the car.  Especially the snow that gathers under the car since it turns to ice and that can be very unpleasant to get caught sitting on when you are in a hurry to get out.

All this shoveling gave me that idea that if I put a fence, preferably one without any holes, around the car before it snows, then I wouldn’t need to shovel under the car or move the car to get at the snow.

Additionally, since we have no off street parking, we tend to pile up the snow at every possible location.  As the piles grow bigger, snow rolls down covering over the area you just cleared.  Another useful product would be a flexible barrier, such as with some compost fences, that you could put up at the border of one of these piles and would keep the snow in.  It would need to dissolve within a day in snow, after the snow froze in place.

Tickets for Parents Travelling Separately

My wife and I are going to a wedding in a bit, and since we have kids, thought it would be a good idea to go in separate planes.  That way should, in the very unlikely event that the plane crash, only one of us would be lost.  Finding tickets so that our departure and arrival times were similar proved rather difficult.

It may have been the times we wanted to travel, though there seemed to be lots of available seats on the seat chooser.  I tried Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, United, American Airlines, and Price line, but the flights weren’t very good.  I could have chosen me going out on American and my wife going out on United, but due to flights and picking up the kids, I would need to return on United and my wife on American.  This makes getting fares a bit more difficult and the idea of having four one way tickets just didn’t seem like a good idea with the TSA looking over all flights.

If one of the travel sites, was able to accomodate parents desire to travel separately and present the flight possiblilities in an easier manner, I would be a happy person.

Shopping is a joy

My wife and I have a disagreement over the food shopping.  I do the shopping and she maintains the list .. on her computer.

I like the items on the list to be organized by where they are in the store, roughly.  Milk near the eggs and yogurt, vegetables and fruits in one section, etc.  Since my wife doesn’t do the shopping, she doesn’t know where things are, so I have to periodically go onto her computer and rearrange the list.

We also have different styles to updating the list.  For me, the list is everything that we could ever need from a particular store.  I go through what we have before I go to the store and cross of the things we don’t need.  My wife edits the list for each trip.

Now there was a nice little list keeping app for the Palm OS that I had awhile ago, but I lost it.  It is great if one person is the list maintainer and shopper.  When the responsibility is shared it breaks down.

What would be really useful would be a web site that allowed people to create, edit, organize and share shopping lists.  The basic service could be free with $ for alternative ways to access the data (iphone app, mac os interface, etc.)

An additional feature would be to list the average/lowest prices for each item on the list at stores in their area so someone could compare the price to what is at the store they are at.  A variation of this would be to look at the prices for the items on the list and find the store that has the lowest overall cost for the items.  If reliable, it could be an additional monthly fee.  However, these features would require some method to get the user to put the items into identifiable products and either some site scraping for the prices, or an Atom/RSS feed for the prices.  The price data would be a problem without some serious effort or buy-in from the supermarkets.

So how does a brain know what memories to put into long term storage?

As I was going to sleep last night, I was thinking about not remembering many specific memories from childhood.  Does the brain overwrite older memories to make way for new ones?

I then remembered an NPR story from a year or more back about some brain researchers who had determined in rats that while a rat sleeps, its brain plays back its short term memories backwards and places in the part of the brain the short term memories (or an abbreviated form of them) into the place that stores long term memories.  Lack of sleep disrupted this process and lead to poor recollection of the now long term memories.

It got me asking how do brains determine which memories to keep?

Repetition certainly helps, otherwise why else would I remember the layout of the SciFi club at UMass?  Many of us have heard the idea that stress helps to cement memories.

Certainly there are evolutionary justifications for both.  Repetition could allows us to create more connections to that part of the brain that stores a particular location or fact.  The more connections the better.

Likewise, it would make sense that a memory could get tagged as stressful due to fight/flight responses.  The brain could then use this tag to decide that such a memory was more deserving of storage in long term memory.

So a proper research topic would be to determine what types or memories are more likely to be stored for long term retrieval.

Your source for songs about historical topics

One idea I keep thinking about, but which has captured my imagination is a website that people can post to and search for songs about historical events or periods of time.  Want songs about the great depression, they would be there.  Songs about Pearl Harbor, they would be there.  Songs about Catherine the Great’s supposed horse fetish, yes that would be there too.

Initially, it could be just a list with songs tagged by period or type (war, life, economy, culture, etc.) that would note who wrote it, who has sung it, who published it, etc.  Overtime, perhaps, it would have links to the songs so people could buy/download them, get the lyrics, etc.  It should allow people to comment on the song such as its historical accuracy, the quality of the rendition, etc.  Voting on the song seems like a desirable feature as well.  Branching out into other media could also be a possibility, but there seems to be much to do with just songs.

My guess would be that the links for people to buy the songs would provide the income stream needed to keep the site profitable.  It might even provide the ability for people upload their own songs for free or sell them through the site.

Of course it could become a venue for nazi or racist songs, so some reporting, categorizing or policing capability would be needed.  Slander, libel or copyright infringement could also be an issue for uploaded songs as well.

To start off …

… this is my place to write down the spontaneous ideas that I have come up with and that have a measure of sense and usefulness to them, but which I am unlikely to pursue due to time or inclination.  Mostly time.

If you like the idea, take it and run with it.  Please be kind enough to cite my post and/or tell me if it provided you with inspiration or proved helpful.    It is how you execute it that counts, not the idea.  If I decide to pursue an idea here, then don’t worry, I won’t sue you, but I may ask to help.  If the idea already exists, then please tell me so I can use it.

Now, go make something useful!