Monday, January 7, 2019

OUR BRILLIANT INVENTIONS

RHYS BOWEN: I was driving to a doctor's appointment this morning and it's been very cold (by California standards. In the forties, I mean). And I decided that the best invention of the Twentieth Century was heated car seats. I was so cozy and comfortable by the time I pulled up in the doctor's parking lot that I didn't want to move.

So I started thinking about other things I wished they'd invent to make my life easier.

You know what I'd like to develop, if I had the time and resources to do so?  The un-towel. I dislike towels intensely. They never quite dry every inch of my back. You have to wriggle and change angles and part of you gets cold and wet while you dry the other bits. They slip off rails and lie in wait on my bathroom floor. What I'd like is something that blows warm air at me, all over my body while I gently revolve. Maybe a long pole with little jets coming out of it at regular intervals, like they make new showers, only with air instead of water. That shouldn't be too hard, should it? And much more hygenic than a towel that has probably fallen to the floor a couple of times and been washed in harsh detergents.


So now I'd like to hear from my brilliant sisters: what would you like to see invented this bright new year?

LUCY BURDETTE: I would think your untowel device should be easy enough to invent, Rhys--like an all-body hairdryer right? I would like a machine to automatically relax me when I get tense. Traffic is crazy? Babies are screaming? Political news is horrendous? The machine kicks in with its automatic relaxation. We don't need quite so much of the fight-or-flight response as we did back in the cave dweller days. I know, this makes me sound a little lazy:) but relaxation is hard!

RHYS: Even if it was like one of those old hairdryers and you just put it over your head and it played soothing beach and mountain scenes while murmuring "Everything is calm and peaceful". Sounds good to me.

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, Rhys, I hear you. It's the one good thing about winter in colder climes. The radiator in my bathroom heats up and I can drape my bath towel over it so that when I get out of the tub, the towel is toasty warm.

What I'd like is a way to block robocalls on my land line. At a minimum, block "spoofing" (incoming calls that display a number that's not real.) All I can think is there must be a way that the phone companies make money off those calls. Otherwise they'd be banned because surely the technology exists to do so.

JENN McKINLAY: Being in AZ, I feel you on the cold after the shower. I don't like it and your towel idea sounds lovely. I don't really have an inventor's mind. I'm usually slow to embrace new gadgets - still don't have an Instant Pot and only got my iPhone three years ago because I really liked the mini keyboard on my old phone (sigh) - so I'm more of a wait and see if this new fangled thing is really all that. And, of course, living in the frat house as I do, my obsession is mostly with cleaning. I'd give anything for help that doesn't roll its eyes, a leveling up of the current robotic vacuum to more of the Jetsons robotic maid Rosie.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Is there an empty-the-dishwasher gizmo? I really hate to empty the dishwasher.  A fitted-sheet folder? I'm a disaster at that, but have lowered my standards.

 Is there a way to put expense receipts directly into a thing so you don't have to keep little slips of paper? (I guess there are apps, but you still have to to something. Hmm. I suppose if you paid everything through ApplePay (let's say you had that, which I don't) it would keep track of it. But I still have not turned in my expenses from this fall, and ah. SUCH a pain.)

Hallie, those calls are often illegal, but bad guys don't are if they're illegal, that's the prob. Do what we do--just don't ever answer the landline phone. Unless caller ID says it's someone real.

And I love towels. Nice fluffy warm towels. Rhys, you make the body dryer thing--which sounds a little uncomfortable to me, just saying but that's just me--and I will take over your towels.

RHYS: Hank, take a picture with your camera and save to Evernote or similar. You can have folders for specific receipts. Travel/entertainment/gas etc.)


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I would love an invention that would pre-heat my cast iron bathtub when it's really cold in our house! I have to turn on the space heater in my little bathroom and let it run with the door closed for about an hour, just to get the tub warm enough that I don't scream when my back touches it. At least I can keep adding hot water with my toes...

I would also love something that would take care of the whole drying/fixing hair thing. Although my friend gave my this micro-fiber turban thing for Christmas, and it is way cool. You don't even touch your hair with a towel--you just put this turban on, wrap it tight, and button it, and by the time you've dried the rest of you, put on lotion or whatever, your hair is almost dry. Makes it much less frizzy and more manageable, too. A great invention!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm not much one for thinking up gadgets, but I'm great at thinking up services. Like a dating app just for those of us with gray hair and wrinkles: SenioR. (It should be SeniR ro go with GrindR and TindR, but somehow it looks sillier that way.) Or how about this one, which I came up with after Youngest was telling me about how stressed she was: PupstR! Feeling tense? Anxious? You just need a few minutes with something other than bad news? PupstR sends an experienced, friendly dog to your home, dorm or office. You can pet or play with the dog, take him or her for a walk, or just revel in the calming effect of having a soulful-eyed friend curled up next to your desk chair.

By gum, if I had any idea how to make websites or apps, I'd be a disrupter par excellence.

RHYS: The robo-maid sounds like the best idea, but witnessing John dealing with Alexa, I'm not too hopeful.  I haven't yet gotten around to a Roomba--we seem to have too many surfaces. So do they work?  And have you noticed that everything we want to invent is for our own comfort, not the good of mankind?  Are we shallow or do we just deserve a little warmth/serenity/ease?
And please share your brilliant ideas that would make our lives so much easier and more pleasant.

52 comments:

  1. Well, these all sound super-terrific to me, especially since I don’t have much of an inventor’s imagination. But I’d like an automatically-expanding bookcase so I’d have room for all my books. And a way to keep the snow off the roads . . . .

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  2. There was a news story not long ago that someone has invented a solar road surface....it both puts electricity into the grid, but heats itself to keep snow and ice off the roads. I’d like that in my driveway and on my walks so I don’t have to shovel snow. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that really worked? So many bad things could go away if it was used for the freeways and sidewalks all over the country. On a personal note, I’d love a way to change the color of my nail polish instantly....

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    1. There are systems available for heating driveways and sidewalks now, but they are very expensive to install. However they don't cost much to operate, maybe less than that ploughman we hire to remove the snow. He doesn't get to the ice tho.

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    2. The best thing like that I've seen recently. In India they are making road surfaces from recycled plastic bottles. Apparently it is very durable

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  3. I love all these! Rhys, I swear by my electric heated towel rack. I'm with Roberta on the destresser and Hank on the receipts thing. Every year at this time I groan that I have to go through the receipts, credit card statements, and check registers to do my taxes. Every year I swear I'll start doing it all online and I never do. Sorry, tangent - those inventions are already done, I just don't use them.

    How about a cluttered-surface dust-vacuumer? It would gently whoosh in all the dust from that bookshelf on which you have framed pictures and souvenirs and never get around to dusting because you have to pick up and dust and move every single thing.

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  4. When my brother-in-law, the mad scientist, built a house up above the snow line, he had heating elements installed in the driveway before they poured the concrete. Then, then it snowed, he'd stroll out to the garage, flip a switch, and sip his morning coffee while he watched the snow in his driveway melt away. Now that he's retired, maybe we can ask him about that robo-maid, because I'd like one of those, too, please.

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  5. Many years ago I had an idea for a combination sun block-bug spray. Of course I had no idea how to make something like that.
    Rhys, I really think you should get a heated towel rack and maybe some bigger, fluffier towels. Might change your whole life!

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    1. Surely there's a sunblock-bug spray. Seems like a no-brainer... just checked Amazon, and there are!

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  6. You guys are a hoot! I remember the heated towel racks from Europe, which are nice in winter.
    Rosie would be lovely to have, although I would want her mostly for conversation and to play cards with!
    I am not one for technology and the likes. My Kindle has Alexa and it still scares me when it starts talking!

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    1. Oh funny! Yes, our Alexa just starts talking sometimes… Very weird!

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  7. I say yes to anything that makes our lives easier and less stressful. I'll take a RoboYard-bot, to mow, rake, pick up branches and keep everything shipshape. My neighbors would love me! And yes to the snow/ice free roadways--that would be spectacularly wonderful and make driving so much safer.

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  8. I'll take Hank's "empty the dishwasher" gadget. I'd like something that folds my laundry, too. All of it, not just the fitted sheets.

    I wish I'd been forward-thinking enough to put heated floors in my bathroom. The cold tile in the winter is extremely unpleasant!

    Mary/Liz

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  9. Those European heated towel racks are a great idea, but so far I haven't come across one that worked. My towel hangs over the heat run, so it is always toasty. Rhys, there are systems on the market like the whole body dryer you mentioned. I think you should get one and let us know how it works.

    I'm a bit of a luddite when it comes to household gadgets. I bought a roomba years ago when we had five cats and an issue with cat litter tracking. It was fabulous for that. We are now down to one cat and the litter box is in the basement. The Roomba is probably in hiding somewhere.

    I can't think of one gadget that couldn't be replaced by a good maid/janitor/handyperson, who'd do a much better job and also let the dogs our to go potty on demand.

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  10. heated towel racks and tile grout made with mildew and mold-free properties.

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  11. Hallie, there IS a call-blocking service for landlines. Cincinnati Bell's version is Call Reveal. It requires callers to dial one additional digit (it tells the caller which one) in order to complete the call. Robocallers, because they are hooked up to auto dialers, can't dial this added digit, and their calls get dumped.

    I added this to our landline service in August or September, and to my blessed relief we did not get a single political phone call through the election season.

    Hank, there used to be a small wand scanner that allowed you to scan receipts (I think it was even called something like Neat Receipt) into a computer. Okay, I just looked it up. It still exists, and there is software for it that reads the data. This has been around since the early 90's; I had one back when I traveled a lot for business.

    If Alexa did actual work, like emptying the dishwasher and hanging up all the clothes strewn around, I'd hire her in a New York minute. But at the moment she's more like one of those servants in Downton Abbey who eavesdrop and then gossip about the upstairs people.

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  12. What great ideas! My "invention" falls into the category of magic rather than reality. Do you remember Hermione Granger's purse from Harry Potter? It was bottomless and small and it held EVERYTHING. I want a closet that will do that. One small closet that holds all my craft supplies, my sewing, the vacuum and sweeper and ALL the Christmas decorations. Plus, the books!

    On a more practical note, I would like an algorithm for all my devices. When I shop for something on line, find it, and make a successful purchase, I want the algorithm to tell every other retailer in cyberspace that I've found what I needed so they can STOP bombarding me with ads.

    Now that I thinks about it, this probably falls in the realm of magic too.

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    1. Mary Poppins had a suitcase ("carpet bag" actually) like that... she pulls a floor lamp out of it. Not sure how they'd deal with it at TSA.

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    2. My purse is kinda like that. One day I thought--why is this so HEAVY? I pulled out a full water bottle. It was still heavy. I looked again. ANOTHER full water bottle!

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    3. I had a "Heavy Purse Day" and pulled out a cat's paw (mini crow bar). I had been doing some demolition in the basement, lol.

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  13. I've done more thinking overnight. How about keys that automatically return to their docking station in the front hall? And I'd love Alexa to unload the dishwasher, maybe cook the meals.....

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  14. I've no ideas, but the creativity here is fantastic! Wait, a full body massager. There actually is such a thing, my former chiropractor had one. Its almost like a waterbed with directed waves. Oh, it was divine, then one day it disappeared. I never asked, but I think there was as story.

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  15. Upon reflection, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't need a robe-maid, if all of he men folk would just move out. Doesn't seem likely...sigh.

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  17. The Smithie informed me my first choice of a name for my dog-visiting service has some questionable sexual connotations. (I don't know, I DIDN'T look it up.) So I've changed it to PupstR, which is much more on-brand, anyway!

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    1. Julia, I need your pup service when I'm in the UK. I miss my dogs so much that I start stopping strangers in the street, asking if I can pet their dogs...

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    2. I can't remember what your original was, Julia, even though I read it early this morning. Remind us!

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  19. One of the things I love most about the UK is the heated towel racks. I'm sure you can buy electric ones here--I just don't have room in any of my bathrooms. Rhys, I think you should invest in one for your new house. And fluffier towels!

    Costco sells a towel that gets fluffier the more times you wash it. Seriously!! I was skeptical but it's true. The label says "Charisma."

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    1. How can that be?? It gets fluffier?

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    2. I know, but it's true. They are great!

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    3. Yes, but what about that annoying bit in the middle of my back. I need strong massage guy to dry it for me!

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  20. How about a thing that tells you when a ball point pen is out of ink? Or a sharpie? So you don't being writing something that you can't finish unless you change pens? Okay, I know this isn't earthshaking...xoox . :-0

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  21. Remote controlled trash wheelie bins ... so you can move the heavy bins to the curb from inside your warm house -- and wheel them back after emptying. In this age of bluetooth and drones, it should be do-able.

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    1. I'm with you! In the winter in Massachusetts I always wonder if I fall over in the dark while taking out the trash bin if that's how they will find my frozen body!

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  22. Genius ideas, everyone! I need a magic device that dusts all surfaces regardless of how many books and objects are roosting there. And ceiling fan blades. Our laundry gets done but may not be folded and put up for quite a while. I need that helpful robot that will do that and empty the dishwasher. I wish my credit cards would let me know when they are about to expire and what autopays I need to update before that happens.

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    1. Yes! The dreaded ceiling fan blades. That little swiffer thingy just doesn't quite do the job. And, the extension portion of my vacuum is too cumbersome. I'm afraid I'm going to end up hitting myself on the head.

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    2. Ha, Pat. I've had a new debit card for weeks now but haven't activated it, because I can't remember what things are linked to it!

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    3. Pat, Deborah- check the bank statement the debit/credit card is attached to. This will allow you to quickly see the recurring charges. But, the best part--it will list the contact phone number of the auto pay entity. I do this for my personal accounts and for my employer's company accounts. Good Luck

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    4. True. Actually the autopays usually contact me right before my card expires.

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  23. So many great ideas here. That dishwasher emptying idea sounds especially good. And, I could probably get used to a towel warmer. Probably better that I just never experience it. My mind is very inventive today, so I'll have to chime in again later if I think of something useful.

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  24. Before he retired, my husband was up at 5:30, showering in a chilly bathroom. I got him a towel warming rack so his towel is toasty warm for drying. I also buy new, fluffy towels periodically. Raspy, non-drying towels are the pits!
    Libby Dodd

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  25. Weirdly enough, I don't really mind emptying the dishwasher. It's the first thing I do in the morning after letting the dogs out, and it kind of helps me wake up.

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  26. After having been unable to comment here for a long time, I figured out the problem just in time to share my after shower routine. I have a specific towel for my hair and a couple of old and ratty but perfect large towels. Simply wrap hair and body. Lie in bed. (Sometimes I put a separate towel down on the bed.) Cover up with a “throw.” Play on phone until yo feel dryish.
    In summer this can be done au naturel.
    In other news an in-law at Christmas was telling everyone they should have two dishwashers. Empty dishwasher #1 as you use the dishes and then fill # 2. When #1 is empty, run # 2. Sound ridiculous to me

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  27. AP just tweeted an article on this topic: https://apnews.com/12787de930564f2cbe8fadfdf63e2e7e Personally, don't like how these things spy on us!

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    1. And here's a link to the tweet, which mentions a clothes folding machine: https://twitter.com/APBusiness/status/1082335044411232256

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  28. Stopping by a day late since yesterday was my birthday. I have been thinking about inventions. I would love to see more solar powered electric devices like solar powered blender, solar powered toothbrush, solar powered tv, solar powered computer, solar powered hair dryer, and so on. We already have electric cars. Would like to see solar powered automobiles.

    All of the Reds' inventions ideas sound great!

    Diana

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