Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Better Car Seats

For the start of the ideas series, go here.

We used to have a mini-SUV but when we got pregnant with our third, we had to upgrade to a mini-van.  The van is fine, though it is often too big for simple parking or for mileage concerns.  But we had to go bigger, our car seats mandated it.
Those with small children know what I'm talking about so let me explain it for everyone else. 
  • When kids are very young (less than a year old) you can put them in a seat much like a basket.  You strap them in and then carry the basket out to the car.  This basket locks into a plastic base which is strapped in tightly.  
  • The next step up is the more traditional car seat.  It's a full seat that is strapped in place.  It has a full back that extends up to the head and arm rests. 
  • After a certain age (or weight gain) they go to a booster which is a much smaller piece that rests on the car seat and raises them to a height where the regular seat belt can be used.
Here's what you need to know, the first two items there are so large that you can only fit two of them into a regular back seat.  Even if you could fit three adults, there is only room for two infants.  So if you have a third, you need another row of seats.  And voila, you have a mini-van.
The solution is simple, though as far as I know, it's not offered on the market.  For the early 'basket' seats, someone should offer a double base.  The baskets would simply sit right next to each other, leaving space next to them for someone to sit.  The car seats would be similar.  Instead of individual seats, a double should be offered. 
All of the seats would be designed to work with all modern safety protocols, of course.  The seats could be offset a little forward and back to make more room.  We're simply talking about changing the shape of molded plastic, so there shouldn't be any technological leaps here.
I don't know how big the market is but I'm sure it's there.  We hit the limit with our third child which isn't that large of a family.  This approach would make sense for any family with twins.  Maybe there would even be a market for triplets or quadruplets. 
In any case, it doesn't make sense that you should need an entire back seat for two infants or toddlers.  There simply must be a better way.

Monday, November 24, 2014

School For Writers

For the start of the ideas series, go here.

Sometimes I fantasize about winning the lottery.  If this ever happens, I have some ideas of what to do with the money (including a great one about a giant map that I'm NOT going to share).  This idea would be kind of my way of giving something back to the world at large.  Since I'm unlikely (odds at least 4-1 against) to win the lottery, any wealthy person or group of people can feel free to rip off this idea.

This is an idea about a high school for writers all over the country.  The student body would literally be selected from all 50 states and various territories and districts.  Each year of students would be around 220.  This would mean four from each state, two boys and two girls.  One of the intentions of this would be to create something of a support group for each incoming student.  The other twenty students would represent DC and other 'at large' students.  It would be a four year school so the total would end up being just under 900 students.
The school would be for writers.  It would have classes that would emphasize technique.  It would have classes that encourage reading from various sources, especially some classics.  It would even have some classes that would concentrate on how writers work in the real world (economics, job opportunities, habits, etc.).  The school would feature visits from famous writers for Q&A.  It would also cover the basics of other subjects like science and math.
I'm thinking that there would be some group of script writers as well.  They could be partnered with a sister school that concentrates on acting so that their writing could be performed by actors and actresses who are learning their skills as well.  This would mean a ton of hands on learning experience for both writers and performers.
I can envision a situation where the school would become so well known that students would be head-hunted and go off into writing careers.  Maybe even some connections with Hollywood and television would happen.  It's not easy to set off on a writing career.  Such a school might make it easier.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

College for Young Teens

For the start of the ideas series, go here.  (I'll admit up front that I'm coming at this one from a place of ignorance.  I tried searching to see if this was being done and I couldn't find anything.  If I'm wrong, please let me know in the comments.)

Sometimes there are special children who don't fit well in our school system.  I'm talking about the geniuses that skip through school and wind up in college as young teens.  In fiction, this is well represented by Sheldon Cooper but they exist in real life as well.
It's my understanding that we don't really have a good set up for these prodigies.  I'm thinking of people like Ted Kaczynski and James Dallas Egbert III here.  Each of them started college very early and their lives became very messed up.  One of the obvious issues here is that college is set up for people aged 18-22.  That's a tough place for a 14 year old, especially if they have some socialization issues (again, think of Sheldon Cooper). 
I don't know what number of geniuses qualify for what I'm speaking of, but we should make an effort with them.  What I'm proposing is a set of colleges specifically for them.  Even if we just spoke of the top 10,000 teenagers in the US, that would be large enough to work with.  There could be a set of campuses in various spots around the country.  These would either specialize in various areas (engineering, math, psychology) or they could piggy-back upon existing colleges.  For instance, a campus in Boston could work with both Harvard and MIT.
Each campus would be staffed with people that would be specially trained to work with special children.  There would be extra support for the very young being away from their families.  Perhaps extra counselors would be provided.  The goal would be to have a top level education available, while protecting kids that have more needs than the average college student. 
This would require special focus, but it would be completely worth it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy 41st

And now my birthday!  Another good year!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy Birthday FP Gal

A big happy 40th birthday to my dear wife, the FP Gal.  I hope that this next year is simply wonderful!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Printed Classic Cars

For the start of the ideas series, go here.

This idea was inspired by this story, about a company that uses a 3D printer to make cars.  If I understand it correctly (and I might not), they make a basic framework of machinery and then a shell is created to be on top of it.  And if I don't have that right, well, that's the way I'd do it.
The idea is to make about half a dozen different basic car 'frames'.  These would differ a bit in size, with some being longer than others or perhaps a bit wider.  This would allow for smaller cars and recreations of some of the longer cars of the past.  Yep, the past.  Because the inspiration for the shell on top would be the classic cars of yesteryear.
Just take a look at these cars from the 30's.  Gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  Some of them would have to be updated for safety reasons, no doubt, but the clean outside lines could be kept.  A recreation based on one of these would turn heads and bring wolf whistles as you drove through the neighborhoods.
Or maybe you prefer cars from the 50's.  If some smart car maker put tail-fins on a modern car, it would cause a sensation.  With modern technology, it would be easy enough to do.  All it takes is some smart and savvy person to make it happen.

The modern car is very blah.  All sedans look alike.  That's even true for car makers that are known for their style.  SUV's and trucks all look like they came from the same cast.  Oh sure, the grills and the headlights differ here and there but otherwise they could all be the same.
And then someone makes the Mini Cooper or the VW Bug and they find that they can hardly produce enough of them.  It's not hard to figure out why.  The big auto-makers may be locked into their cookie cutters.  (I strongly suspect that they are.)  But it wouldn't be hard to break that mold.
And I suspect it won't take long before others figure that out too.