Keeping on the rails at Christmas

If you have picture rails in your house, they can be used to hang Christmas cards on a line. However, picture hooks are designed to be pulled directly downwards, and a sideways force just pulls them along. What’s needed are some weighty Christmas-themed framed pictures which could be brought out each year with the other Christmas decorations and hung on the Xmas card line picture hooks to keep them in place. The pictures could be permanent or the frames could have slots for different things each year such as photos of last year’s Christmas party, or the best of last year’s cards.


It was the combination of my mother saying that she was finding it increasingly difficult to write legibly in over a hundred Christmas cards, and the presence of Alexa in our house, that made me think that we need SPARDS – spoken Christmas cards. They would have recording and playback capabilities so that you could just take one out of the pack you’ve just bought and start talking to the person that’s next on your Christmas Spard list. How nice for the person receiving it, to just make a cup of tea, put it on the mantelpiece, and sit back and relax to listen to your recorded missive and greetings for Christmas and the New Year.


The inspiration for this thread for Ideas came from a paper-based Ideas Book which I set up in 1972. It didn’t really get many entries and some of them were more reflection than specific ideas; and it’s lain dormant for many years. So, I’ve just scanned and destroyed the physical Ideas Book; however, for completeness, I’ve recorded below some of the items from it (suitably summarised where necessary).

Throwback 1 – 08Jan1972 – The idea of an ideas book

I guess the first idea to go into this Ideas Book must be the idea of having an Ideas Book. Basically, I think that, although thought is of paramount importance, thought without action is a great waste, both of time and – yes – ideas! So, in future, if, sorry – when, I get some crazy idea – something completely original and far out (like establishing a World Tune Library with a cataloguing system based on every possible combination of notes over, say, a two minute period; when a new tune is sent in to the library it is played into an analogue/digital computer, and this would then produce a ‘catalogue number’ – it would be most interesting to see just how many more tunes were available at any one time), then I will write it down and it will be on record to act upon, elaborate, or even just to read over and laugh! Something quite amusing about this Ideas Book is that maybe the only idea I ever put into it that ever gets acted on will be this first idea to have an Ideas Book….

Throwback 2 – 11Jan1972 – A light design

A light-come-ceiling decoration system could be constructed out of hollow cylinders made of stiff white paper of varying lengths – width 32cm with 2cm of that used for overlap and the varying height resulting in holes of about 10cm width at various different levels. A reflector could be made by covering a sheet of stiff card with bacon foil (to which the vertical cylinders could be secured) which could be fixed to the ceiling using aerofix)

Throwback 3 – 20May1972 – The soundproofing stubber

The vast quantities of cigarette stubs that are wasted could be used as sound proofing material by manufacturing attractive boxes which have a stubber through which the tip would be released into an inner, cheap and recyclable, container which could be removed and sent to a sound proofing company. Profits could be made from the sale of decorative external boxes and from the sale of sound proofing material made from used tips. Stubbing would be cleaner and more efficient; and there would be a reduction in cigarette tip pollution.

Throwback 4 – 21May1972 – Investigating the warping point

Our experience of the world tells us that there is a causal factor for everything. When I look at the stars I think about who or what put them there, because logic informs me that there must be an answer. As I think about this question I assimilate all the relevant information I have until there is maximum capacity thought but an inability to provide an answer. The result is a split second of total confusion. It would be interesting to see what electroencephlograph readings appear when this point – the warping point – is reached. I wonder if other people have the same experience, and, if so, would the measures vary depending on the level of comprehension that different  people have of the question? Would the measures change over time as people increase their comprehension of the question?

Throwback 5 – 01Jan1984 – Simultaneous phoning and computing

It would be useful to have a unit that would interface between a Type 96A jack plug and a home’s telephones/computers. The unit would enable, at the very least, the simultaneous use of the telephone and the use of the computer over the networks.

Throwback 6 – 01Jan1984 – Game designer CBT – and the potential for progs

A computer-based training program could help children design the logic of a computer game i.e. the design specification prior to programming. A program like that could sell for £1 a time. With the right kit at home and a link to the networks, you could design, build and test such a CBT program in the space of 24 hours at home and be selling it immediately over the networks. If it was a novel and good enough idea the mass network market would soon provide 25,000 purchasers; so you could have made £25,000 within 48 hours of first having had the idea.

Throwback 7 – 28Dec1996 – Crucial pursuits

There are five crucial pursuits for members of the human race:

  • Making other individual humans feel good through love, tenderness, intimacy, caring, understanding, and good deeds.
  • Creating the conditions for other humans to have better lives.
  • Learning and understanding about the world and universe about us and about our fellow humans and the way we live.
  • Learning and understanding the origins of humankind and the important findings, discoveries, secrets and developments that humankind has made and encountered.
  • Learning and understanding the origins, secrets, and meaning of the universe and its relevance to ourselves and humankind.

NORNOMOT (nora-no-mo)

Sometimes you hear about people who are always invited to events but never host any themselves. Similarly, some people don’t respond to communications or Xmas cards; and it’s not uncommon for presents sent to growing child relatives to remain unacknowledged or thanked for. In all such situations the giver begins to feel a little aggrieved with the situation, but perhaps feels it inappropriate to raise the matter directly with the individual concerned. To assist all those in such circumstances, it might help if there was an unobtrusive but clear way of signifying dissatisfaction.  Perhaps a code could be attached to the bottom of an address or invitation in the same vein as SWALK (sealed with a loving kiss). I suggest NORNOMOT (pronounced nora-no-mo) standing for No Reciprocity (or Response) No More Of This. Maybe the greeting card manufacturers could create special NORNOMOT cards which include pictures of a Last  Chance Saloon.

The Minimiser

I’ve been reading an increasing number of reports about how much time people are spending on their mobiles and of the many negative effects of such usage. Perhaps it’s time, therefore, for the emergence of a new breed of app explicitly designed to minimise one’s usage of the mobile. It would be capable of taking a whole variety of steps to reduce the amount of email you get; to summarise incoming communications for you; and to ask searching questions of you about new apps you want to load and new contacts you want to add. It would measure and report your usage of the mobile, and advise on ways that you can cut down the amount of time you are spending on it or reorganise your usage patterns so as to improve your quality of life.

Diner reciprocation

After finishing a dish of grilled sea bass which arrived within a folded over banana leaf, it occurred to me that diners should reciprocate the efforts of the chef. It seems only fair. I completed my finished plate presentation by putting my knife and fork within the folded over banana leaf. A meagre effort – but you have to start somewhere. Could the diner’s replete diner plate presentation become a cultural trend? Would it metamorphose into a commentary on the dining experience?

Wholly sunny buildings

When I saw the hole in the wall for the summer solstice sun at the Hagar Qim temple in Malta, it reminded me that many ancient monuments were designed to allow the sun to enter at certain times of the year and to illuminate the interior. Of course, many modern buildings are designed to make the most of natural light, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything that specifically lights up aspects of a modern building at particular times – it’s certainly not a common thing. Perhaps this is something that modern-day architecture could explore to provide additional interest in our buildings.

Anti-ant nozzle

After many years of caring for my lawn, I’ve concluded that the best way of getting rid of ants is to push a thin metal rod about 20cm down through the top of the ant mound and then to squeeze anti ant powder down the hole. However, it’s not so easy to get much powder actually down the hole using the squeezy anti-ant containers. It would be much more effective if the containers came with a long nozzle that you could push down the hole you have just made and then squeeze the powder through.


I’m thinking that one of the reason why things have been changing so much and so fast is immediacy. When it took several hours or even days to hear about the death of a monarch, and if people weren’t hearing about it all at the same time, then it’s not surprising that the reaction was not quite as concerted and overwhelming, as, say when JFK got shot or Diana died. When the population can travel long distances quickly and cheaply perhaps it’s not so surprising that deaths are characterised by mass flower laying at the scene or even people lining the route along the motorway route of Diana’s funeral procession – such shows of emotion could just not be achieved by a population with limited and slow transportation. Of course, we may have achieved instant news, but we are still only on the way to instant travel. We may have achieved just-in-time production, but how close are we to just-in-time market research? Whatever – immediacy is a driver of the age – and virtual reality is round the corner with instant presence.

Camera Feature 978: Flatness Surety

One of the problems I’ve encountered many times is when photographing a painting or a poster or anything flat on the wall or placed on the floor: unless the camera is absolutely parallel with the flat surface in both the horizontal and vertical planes, the object looks distorted in the resulting photo. I’m not sure if it’s already been done, but a facility that made sure that such photos came out correctly would be a really useful feature on a camera (among the many others that I know I’m not aware of!).