Monday, November 24, 2008

Million Dollar Ideas #2

Ok, I have another one, since Ben & Jerry's apparently have already taken my first one.

This one is in the improbable field of automobile design. I say "improbable" because lots of people have lots of ideas about improving the automobile, but the car companies generally don't buy in. So those who have money build their own, and those who don't, never have their ideas go mainstream.

One neat idea I like but can't find the link to was a guy in India who basically just carved an "X" in the tops of the cylinders, causing more turbulence in the fuel-air mixture, better burning, etc. He could do away with the transmission entirely, because the power output was high enough. Or something. It was in Popular Mechanics at some point.

Anyway, my idea is a take-off on another Indian innovation: the air car. Instead of storing electicity in a battery, they store highly compressed air, and use its kinetic energy to run the motor. As a bonus, the air coming out is supercooled, so it works as an air conditioner, too. The slight downside is that they have to make the car superlight, and even then it only has a range of about 125 miles.

My idea: hybrid. Like the Prius, but with the air cylinder instead of a battery. Why is it good? Because it's more efficient to store mechanical energy as air pressure than it is to convert it to electricity and back. Also, batteries are heavy and expensive. And dangerous, although I'm not sure that a super-high-pressure cannister is really safe. I imagine you get a pretty big kaboom if that gets punctured.

But there it is. Run with it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Million Dollar Ideas #1

You know those ideas you get every so often, for things that could make a million dollars, if only you could manage to make them a reality? Yeah, I'm going to start posting mine here. So if you are one of those people who can do anything but doesn't get ideas like this, feel free to steal mine and make it happen.

Then send me some money.

One I've had for a long time: ice cream koozies. Insulated holders for ice cream pints, especially. It would also be nice to have them for half-gallons, at ice cream socials. But it would be really great to have them for the pints, because they melt way too fast on the outside while they're still too hard to spoon in the middle. And they freeze your hand if you're eating right out of the pint.

Which I never do. But some people must, right?

The Fickle Flame of FlickrFame

This weekend was quite unusual for me regarding our Flickr photostream. First, a photo I posted made Explore. That's a set of 500 of the photos loaded each day that Flickr's algorithms find to be the most interesting. I've had a few photos in the high 400s, but nobody notices those. This one ranked as high as 71 (we monitored its progress at various times over the weekend) before falling (which is to say other photos gained interestingness, relative to mine) to — as of this writing — #179. Still pretty respectable, and satisfying, but not the most significant thing to happen. [Update: I see it has dropped off of Explore altogether.]

The other Flickr happening was that a photo I posted in March 2007 started getting marked as a "favorite" by people. I couldn't figure out why; I hadn't posted it to any new groups or done anything to give it attention. Looking more closely at its stats, I was astonished to see it had 12,000 views. That's 10x as many views as my next most-viewed image. I added a query to the photo's description, asking visitors to tell me why there was this sudden avalanche of viewers. The answer was posted almost immediately: Digg.

Digg is a site that helps people find interesting stuff on the web. Somebody finds something they think is interesting, and they report it to Digg. As other people check it out, they upvote or downvote it, causing it to become more or less prominent in the Digg listings. Somehow (possibly in a search for turkey images for Thanksgiving), someone found my image, and Digged it. After a while, it made it to the front page, and I was getting hundreds of views a minute. This went on for several hours, before it finally fell off the front page, and my turkey picture had over 60,000 views.

As it happens, the one other photo I'm aware of that made Digg's front page wound up with over 100,000 views. It was worth it.

Shelly and I both had fun watching the progress of these two images. The excitement has ended, now. Maybe one day I'll have another photo in Explore, but I doubt the Digg frenzy will be repeated.

I guess I've had my 15 minutes. It was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Making Predictions

Well, we lost. By "we", I mean America. Bought into a fantasy. It's the Nigerian 419 scam of American politics, and I'm just wondering how much we're going to pour into it before we realize it's not going to work out as promised.

Republicans can take a breather: they don't control anything in Washington. In that regard, it's similar to 1992. Two years later, the Republican Revolution came as the American public realized it's not a Good Thing to give unsupervised control of the cookie jar to those who act like it's bottomless. Maybe that will happen again. I don't see any reason to believe that Democrats have learned to be fiscally responsible, ethical, or in-touch. Sadly, Republicans have not lived up to their promises to be different in those areas, which is why it has come to this.

As for the Obama administration, I expect it to be ironically George W. Bush-like. He's every bit the privileged autocrat that W has been. It will be partisan. It will paint the opposition as un-American. It will probably go significantly further to stifle dissent, a prediction I base on the blinding hatred exhibited by so many of his supporters. It's pervasive and is encouraged more than condemned.

I used to wonder why liberals decried talk radio as "hate radio". There's very little hate in it. Lots of criticism, a fair amount of anger, but very little hate. I can only conclude that they are projecting their own hate for it as coming from it. So I think there will be a big push to shut it down, because they do hate opposing voices.

Predictions for Republicans: I think there will be some level of ODS, the Obama variant of BDS, but I don't think it will be as pervasive, because we've seen how ugly it is. Conservative hate groups are more reviled and marginalized by Republicans than those of the left are by Democrats. And maybe there's more nobility among Republican ranks.

I guess we'll see.