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 dinner 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!).


If you want to use your own bedding while you’re away, a duvet with a built in undersheet – rather like an oversized sleeping bag – would do the trick. It would also eliminate the need for the people you’re staying with having to wash the bedding after you’ve left.

Self Thinking

This is not so much an idea as a commentary on other great ideas…. A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Richard Harper, gave me a book to read – ‘Writing The Self’ by Peter Heehs. I guess it came up in our conversation because of my writings in and because of my questioning about why I keep things. However, it turns out that it informs neither of those endeavours. Instead, it made me realise, first, just how little I ever learned about mankind’s greatest thinkers; and, second, that I’m really not sure all that great thinking would have been any use to me.

The book is essentially a quick run  through of the great philosophers and theologists and their most basic tenets in respect of The Self (they may well have pronounced on other great matters but this book sticks to their ideas about Self); which, so far as I can see, tend to have concentrated on answers to the simple questions of what we are and what we are doing in the universe. The answers seem to have been anything but simple – particularly as religion seems to have provided the excuse for huge amounts of rationalisation and speculation. Thankfully, as the book points out in its last chapter, the consensus among today’s philosophers, social scientists, cultural theorists and neuroscientists is that the self is a construct not a substance; and most people in modern society take selfhood for granted, and don’t bother theorizing about it. I’m not sure where that leaves the huge amount of writings that have been produced in the past on the subject.

The ‘writings’ focus of the book seems to have four aspects; first, the fact that ideas produced by the great thinkers were recorded in writing; second, from about the 16th century onwards, the thinkers started to use their own writings for self examination (the start of the modern diary); third, memoirs and autobiographies started to become commonplace in the eighteenth century; and, fourth, also around the eighteenth century, novelists started to explore the notion of the self – sometimes using the mechanism of diaries and memoirs as a vehicle for their fictional stories. Writings in the age of the internet – the blog and social media – are only given a brief mention in the last 7 pages of the book; and, disappointingly, I found only one half page passage (on page 170 regarding the Goncourt Brothers in the nineteenth century) referring to the survival of the personality through material artefacts, writings etc. –  there must be more of that out there somewhere.

I’m left feeling that I should appreciate more, glad that at least I’m aware there is more, and thankful that I am not driven to find out more. However, It would be interesting to hear from someone who is knowledgeable in these fields as to whether the past thoughts of the great thinkers on the subject of The Self still hold any sort of sway today.

Expanding the Textbook of Text Books

I was thinking it would be good to be able to specify a particular piece of music or sound to be played when a particular piece of text was being read in a book. Then I realised that ebooks on tablets  make that feasible. In fact why stop at sound – there could be pictures or video associated with particular pieces of text. It would just be a matter of being able to specify the exact location of a piece of text on the screen when such additions start and stop or appear and disappear. Whether this would be a useful adjunct to reading is something that would have to be explored, as, no doubt, somewhere, somebody has done or is already doing – some ideas (like google glass) are just too interesting to some people to not find out they don’t work.

The Watering Pot

It would be very useful to have an indoor plant pot that could store a lot of water and release it slowly, as well as letting you know when the water was running out. I’m sure there are such devices/systems out there. However, I wonder if anyone has constructed a plant pot which has a substantial gap between the outside and the inside of the pot which would act as a water reservoir; and an internet connection which would alert you when the water is running low.