Concrete Pool Table

I first encountered this brain child when I was just a teenager; when I was first learning what to do with a pool cue.

One Christmas back in the early 60痴, my parents gave me a pool table. Instead of slate, it had a 4x8 foot piece of plywood for a base, and balls would travel a rather circuitous path to their destinations, despite my most diligent attempts to flatten the bed. Shots requiring some delicacy might actually roll back at me without touching a rail.

Well, I got better and better at this game; not in the least because I knew the roll of every inch of this table. I suppose that beating me on my table was like trying to beat the club pro on his own golf course.

But I wanted a good table. So I pestered my parents, who said no. (Slate bed tables are rather expensive.)

And then it came to me. Why not use reinforced concrete for the base? I値l start with a mold that measures 48x96x2 inches. I値l suspend ス inch steel rods from front to back and side to side. Then, I値l place the mold at its intended location, mounted on a sturdy foundation, such as a stack of cinder blocks. Before I pour the concrete, I値l level the empty mold to just as close to horizontal as I can.

Then I値l mix the concrete using a standard water/mix ratio, pour concrete into the mold and fill it up to 1セ inch mark.

Finally, I値l make a very thin mix of cement to cover the top シ inch of the mold. The mix must be the minimum possible viscosity that will still eventually harden. Hopefully, the wateryness of the mix will enable it to settle into a flat, horizontal surface, just as a cup of water would, but of course, more slowly.

When it hardens, I may have to do some light sanding before I mount the rails and pockets to the mold. The felt on the concrete base might disguise any minor imperfections.

But even if it works as perfectly as I optimistically describe, I thought of one liability. The table痴 surface would be easily chipped by a bouncing ball, either by normal play or a clumsy competitor. Maybe the top felt could attach under the rails by Velcro for easy removal and repair of the surface.

When I presented this idea to my dad, he replied, 展ell, it値l be as heavy as a slate pool table anyway.


Three pops/six grounders with a golf ball

If you were a boy who grew up loving baseball as I did, your childhood and adolescence, like mine, included many games of three pops/six grounders, or variations thereof. One player would be the batter, and he would toss up balls and bat them into the playing field, which was filled with defensive players. When a player in the field caught three balls in the air, or cleanly fielded six grounders, he became batter.

To add a measure of excitement to this game, why not play it at a par 5 hole at a regulation golf course. But what would be the experience to stand with a first baseman痴 glove 250 yards away from the 澱atter who is armed with a bucket of golf balls and a #1 driver? Would you see them coming? Or, would you need a helmet?


A More Efficient Use of Cheese on Hamburgers

Here痴 a more efficient way to cover a hamburger with cheese. A standard slice of American cheese is too large for a normally sized hamburger patty. The cheese痴 sharp corners often droop over the round edges of the burger and burn on the pan.

Instead, try breaking up the slice in either of the following ways. If the burger is small enough (and it often is), you can cover two hockey pucks with one cheese slice.


Copier with Employee-Assigned Slots

When I have sent a job to a printer or copier that is shared by many others in my work environment and then become delayed before I pick it up, I might find the job buried in the out stack, set aside on a shelf, in the trash, or perhaps I might not find it at all. (Someone may have grabbed their job with mine underneath; I致e certainly done that to others often enough.)

But what if a copier is equipped with a large number of separate output trays, preferably one for each employee? That way, my jobs would wait for me in my own compartment, separate from all others who share the printer/copier. They値l never be lost.

If I知 delinquent in picking up my output, my compartment fills up and a message appears at my workstation telling me that I must empty my tray before any more copying for me can happen.

This idea will work for small jobs, but jobs that require 50 collated copies with 75 pages each will print on the common trays, as before.


Arm/Leg Restraints

Tabitha is my disabled daughter. She has a brain tumor that sometimes causes some unpredictable, inappropriate, and occasionally dangerous behaviors. When that rock is not influencing her, she is the sweetest daughter a dad could hope for. For this reason, it can be a challenging experience to have her with us for a visit, especially when we are in public.

Sometimes I wish there were a set of remote-controlled arm and leg restraints. These would attach to both arms and legs. During normal behavior, they would allow unimpeded movement of all appendages.

However, when her behavior becomes difficult, a click of the remote would contract the restraints, pulling both wrists together, and both ankles together as she attempted to walk or run. This would prevent or at least reduce the chances of harming herself, others, or property. (Someone should be near her to keep her from hurting herself should she fall.)

When behavior returns to normal, normal movement could be reinstated.


Date and Time on Bank Statements

I wish my bank would include both the date and the time of all ATM transactions on my monthly statement. Not only don稚 they include the time, but the date is when the transaction reaches the bank. If my bank would use the date and time that I used the machine, this would minimize confusion when I try to reconcile my checkbook with my statement, especially when making multiple withdrawals of the same amount on different days, or even on the same day. Hey, my ATM receipt includes the date and time, so this shouldn稚 be too tough.


How to Play a Golf Tournament

Jean Vandeveld is a name from the sports pages that you may not recognize. But he痴 an obscure French golfer who, several years ago, nearly won the British Open, one of the most prestigious of all golf tournaments. However, If I remember correctly, I think he quadrupled bogied the final hole, ending up in a three-way tie for first place. He subsequently lost the tie-breaker, and the tournament, to someone else.

Jean lost due to the extreme difficulty of performing normal driving, pitching, and putting under abnormal competitive pressure; pressure that causes abnormal perspiration, heartbeat and respiration.

Of course, there are many golfers, as well as athletes from many other sports whose performance has dramatically deteriorated at a critical time in response to severe pressure. For example, a normal reliable pitcher or basketball player, can稚 find the plate or drain a free throw. We call it choking, which has become a loathsome term, but I think all of us are susceptible to this malady to one degree or another.

But what if a golfer played a tournament, or at least the final round, wearing head phones that played gentle soothing music? What if he also didn稚 wear his eye glasses or contacts so that he couldn稚 read a scoreboard? What if he could only see his ball over which he stands and a blurry view of the green and pin? What if he depended entirely on his caddy to hand him the right clubs?

Such a golfer could play an entire tournament without knowing where he stands on the leader board, totally sequestered in his own thoughts. Therefore, no pressure, and no choking. But is that legal?

Even if legal, some might object that had Jean played in such a manner, conventional wisdom would have his caddy hand him a two-iron, rather than a driver, for a more conservative strategy on that fateful, final hole. Doing so may have sent a message to Jean that may trigger all that stress.

Anyway, that痴 how I would play the BO, but then I stink at golf.

Help for Pedophiles

We have laws, good laws, that are intended to protect our children from sexual predators. It seems that these laws have been enforced more rigorously in recent years, and rightly so. I think that all responsible, knowledgeable voices agree on the emotional devastation that a sexual encounter can cause a child, or any victim.

But is it my imagination, or do a growing number of sexual perpetrators consist of family or friends of the victim? These include dads, uncles, brothers, cousins, as well as acquaintances. If so, these disoriented people are likely to have a certain measure of protective instincts for their victim. But their addiction causes them to make distorted decisions.

Therefore, why aren稚 we spending more resources in the media exhorting men to get help before they hurt someone they love? This can and should be done, but the perpetrator of a sexual crime is considered to be a despicably vile pervert who is tightly focused on gratifying his own appetites, rather than a loving, caring friend who needs help.

Sump Backup

Many of us have basements that would become flooded if we didn稚 have a sump pump. But what if we get heavy wind that knocks out power, followed by heavy rain. The result is water damage in that basement. And, because it痴 due to rising water, many home owners policies do not cover the damage.

But what if a chargeable battery drives a second, redundant pump? This strategy, hopefully, could keep the basement dry until power is restored. Could the battery hold that charge long enough?

Floss Tool

There痴 room for improvement in the way we floss our teeth. Consider these ideas.

Let痴 begin with an electric toothbrush the type with an oscillating brush (i.e., rotates one way, and then the other), rather than continuously rotating brush. This project consists of two steps:

  1. Install two notches in the base of the rotating brush.

  2. Build a snap-on attachment that connects to the base of the tooth brush, just below the brush itself. Check the graphic for how it looks.

Now you池e ready to set up. Proceed as follows:

  1. Attach the end of the roll of floss to one of the notches that you cut in the brush head.

  2. Feed the floss through the attachment as shown in the graphic.

  3. Attach the other end of the floss to the other notch.

  4. Cut the floss from the roll.

Now you池e ready to floss. Proceed as follows:

  1. Turn on the brush. Notice that the oscillating brush head moves the floss back and forth between the two arms of the attachment.

  2. Insert the section of floss that is between the two attachment arms between each two consecutive teeth, just as you would for conventional flossing.

So how does electric flossing beat manual?

If floss could be sold in 4-5 inch loops, the continuously rotating brushes could also serve as flossers.

On 8/31/02, I tried to fabricate the attachment using coat hanger wire. Everything went together well. But the attachment presented too much friction for the motor. As a result, both the brush head and the floss did not move. But I think this idea would work using a lower friction (e.g., Teflon coated) material.


How to Start a Fire in the Fireplace

Why not use charcoal? The same stuff that you used to cook those hockey pucks last summer! Everyone who uses a fireplace in the wintertime knows that the prerequisite to a successful fire is a glowing bed of embers. BBQ charcoal is made from hardwood, so claimed on the bag. So why not? Would the lighter fluid that helps you start the coals leave a residue in the chimney?


How to Maintain a Fire in the Fireplace

I love my fireplace. It痴 a high-efficiency (65%), air-tight system that turns off our thermostat even on the coldest days. (I know that higher efficiencies are available, but it痴 the best we could do without filling the den with a piece of cast iron, which the wife does not like.)

But the problem is overnight, during which the fire goes out because no one is awake to tend to the fire. (Folks who have open systems have a bigger problem; like my brother-in-law, Al, once said when he had one 鄭t 4 am my fireplace turns into an air conditioner.)

I offer two solutions, both of which have some obstacles, but perhaps they will inspire further ideas:


Modular Supermarket

I suppose that all of us have been born and raise with the conventionally accepted way of buying groceries. We do as follows:

  1. Go to the supermarket

  2. Find a cart.

  3. Go up and down the aisles filling the cart.

  4. Stand in the checkout line.

  5. Pay.

  6. Go home.

Instead, supermarkets should be huge warehouses with no cart-pushing customers inside. Such stores would allow you to shop this way instead:

  1. Go to the store痴 web site, where all merchandise is listed.

  2. Click on the products you want.

  3. The store, which now is a huge warehouse with no cart-pushing customers inside, uses computers, automated equipment, and rollers to assemble your order.

  4. Go to the store and take your order home. You can pay either while you are on-line or when you pick up your order.

But, I suspect that modular stores would depend on modular product packaging to allow automated bagging. That is, if all product packages have as many common dimensions (i.e., length, width, height) as possible, then a computer can more easily calculate the most space-efficient way to package the entire order.


Email Auto-Delete

I知 tired of accumulating 200 email messages and then going through the exhaustive process of deleting the messages that I don稚 need. I often have to look at each one to decide which ones are no longer important.

But what if the sender could attach a date that would tell the receiver痴 computer when the message becomes irrelevant. At that time the message would automatically disappear from the receiver痴 inbox.

In fact, in the same way that most email is not sendable unless the sender fills in the subject box, do the same for the Auto Delete box.


Crawler Boundary

I have an in-ground swimming pool. Recently, my friend Jim gave me one of those automatic pool cleaners that wander around the floor of the pool as it cleans up all dirt.

It works well, but the crawler can稚 climb out of the deep end. When it tries, the front/back ratchet kicks in because it thinks it reached the pool wall. When I put it in the shallow end, it quickly runs back to the deep end.

I just need a non-floating boundary that sits on the floor of the pool between the deep and shallow end. When the crawler reaches it, it turns around by itself, and remains in the shallow end until it is clean.


Paint it in the Store

I recently bought five 4遅8 pieces of T1-11 wood siding for the back and side of our kitchen, which desperately needed a new face. But I had to paint each of those five pieces. I used a roller for the open spaces and a brush for the vertical slots.

Although I could have saved some time had I used a sprayer, I知 surprised that Home Depot didn稚 offer a more practical time-saving painting service.

What if Home Depot had a 4 by 8 by 1 inch tank that would be filled with my favorite paint? Each of my five pieces of siding could then be immersed into the tank and then pulled out to dry. I would pay for the siding, the paint, and perhaps a nominal service charge, but I would save all the time that I would have spent on painting.


Using the Cell Phone while Driving the Car

Some townships have passed ordinances that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Not without good reason either. I see and hear stories in the media where people die while using them, because they take the eyes off the road.

But to be more specific, it痴 the dialing, rather than the talking, that compromises auto safety. After all, most of us can talk and steer with one hand without risking harm.

An effective, inexpensive solution seems obvious. Mount a plate (e.g., plywood) inside the steering wheel itself. Using adhesive Velcro, stick one side to the plate, and the other to the back of the cell phone. Connect the phone to the plate using the two Velcro strips. Connect an ear piece to the phone and run the wire down the steering column. Allow enough slack to avoid tangles or straining due to turning the wheel. Run the wire either down to the floor to the seat and up to the ear, or up to the roof, across the ceiling and down to the ear.

This setup allows you to use your thumbs to dial while your eyes are facing the road. In fact, with a little practice, it seems possible to perform all dialing by touch only, without help from the eyes, which are busy with a more important task.


Ice Maker Add-On

Why can't we add an ice-maker to an existing refrigerator? The input water line could feed through a hole in the door seal to the freezer.

But how do we prevent water from freezing in the part of the input water line that extends from the add-on ice maker to the door seal? Perhaps the input line needs some accompanying electrical wires that wrap around this segment of the water line to prevent it from freezing. Of course, those wires must be well insulated to prevent temperature elevation in the freezer.

Web-Controlled TV Viewing

Some day I would like to see on my coffee table a certain kind of black box that would consists of a cell phone, TV remote control, and peripheral to my home computer. Here痴 what it would do:

  1. When it痴 time for a show I want to see, it turns on the set automatically.

  2. When a commercial appears, an employee at a very specialized internet service provider to which I subscribe sees the same commercial that I see and puts a signal out on the web, which my cell phone receives. The phone sends a signal to the TV remote, which responds in any one of the following ways:

  1. When the commercials are over, my box receives a second signal which returns me to my program.

Of course, this service could be replaced by a much simpler and less expensive one, if anyone has yet designed an automatic commercial detector, which I don稚 believe has yet happened. (If it痴 true that commercials have a higher volume than regular programming, that would be an easy basis for such a device.)

Of course, this service might help kill commercially sponsored television. But, hey, don稚 most of us change the channel during the ads?

Glasses Prop

I wear bifocals. They serve me well for most of my daily activities, except for one.

When sitting behind my computer, I need to use the lower half of my glasses to see the information on the screen. But to do that, I must face the ceiling (almost) and look down my nose, which is uncomfortable, especially for prolonged tasks at the computer.

Now I could buy another pair of glasses. But wouldn稚 it be nice to have a way that my glasses could sit higher on my face.

Then it came to me. I took an ordinary paper clip, twisted it into a suitable shape, inserted it onto my glasses on the part of the frame that holds the nose rests, and my problem was solved! Now I face my computer screen and I see it clearly.

Plus I have an extra bonus that I didn稚 think of originally. Because there痴 now a gap between my face and the lower edge of my glasses, I don稚 have to remove my glasses to read printed material, which I always did before this idea arrived.

The only drawback is what I heard from my children. 敵ee Dad, it makes you looks like a dork, is what I would hear. Well, maybe, but if you choose a paper clip whose color matches your frames, you minimize the dorkiness.

My Make-a-Wish

I admire the work of the Make-a Wish Foundation. How they put joy in the hearts and faces of terminally ill children is marvelous.

But have you ever thought about what your wish might be? I realize that I知 too old and too healthy to qualify for this program, but if I did, here is what I would want.

As a Philadelphia sports fan, I would love to see all four of Philly痴 major sports teams (i.e., Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers) participate in a sports tournament to determine Philly痴 sports champion.

Here is how it would work: Each team would compete with each other another team in the two sports that do not relate to their speciality. For example, the Eagles and Sixers would compete in softball and asphalt hocker.

But when could such a tournament be held? At least one team is busy with its regular schedule of competition at any given time of year.

Well, this tournament would be distributed throughout the year. Here is the schedule that I propose: (Possible playing dates are shown in parentheses.)








v. Sixers (Feb*, Jun)

v. Flyers (Jun-Sep)

v. Eagles (Feb*, June)

Touch football

v. Flyers (Feb*, July*, Oct)


v. Phillies (Feb*, July*, Oct)

v. Sixers (Jun-Sep)

1/2 court Basketball

v. Eagles (Feb*, June)

v. Flyers (Feb*, June)


v. Phillies (Feb*, June*, Oct)

Asphalt hockey

v. Sixers (Feb*, June*, Oct)

v. Phillies (June*, Feb)

v. Eagles (Feb*, June)


*During all star break


Now this schedule may seem ambitious. For example, the Phillies have to fit in four contests in late October/early November, which admittedly would be a challenge if they go to the World Series.

But we could allow each team to split up into two or more squads to play different sports. (Donovan McNabb might be more interested in playing basketball than hockey.)

Other possible times for competition might be during all-star breaks in July and February. Players not participating in their all-star contests would be available to play in the Philly tournament.

And please do not use the argument that athletes might hurt themselves and thereby diminish their team痴 competitive level. An injury to an all-star at his all-star game will more greatly weaken his team than an injury to a non-all-star at my tournament.

Such a tournament would raise lots of money for worthy causes. And what owner could possibly deny a young child痴 final wish?

Robotic Soldiers

Some day we will merge the leading edge technologies of robotics, military science, computer science, and global positioning to create the ultimate warrior, the robotic soldier.

All wars should be fought by these machines. Never again would we worry about the danger to American losses due to house-to-house searches in Baghdad, Afghanistan, Somalia, or anywhere else. Each soldier would be controlled by a human operator at the safety of a remote computer workstation. (At last those hours of video games will look rather impressive on a resume.)

In many ways, the robotic soldier will have many advantages over a human type. But can we make a robot that can march, run, climb, crawl, and maneuver like a person? Let痴 get to work.

Video Menus on the Phone

Are you tired of 典hank you for calling Amalgamated Applesauce. Your call is important to us. Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Marketing, 3 for Production, 4 for Shipping, 5 for the second stall in the back men痴 room, etc.?

Well, I am! Why can稚 we design a telephone (and perhaps an international communications standard) that could put these phone menus on a video display, such as a computer screen or even a small flat screen display that attaches to the phone? That way I have all the options at once and I can select via my telephone keypad or computer keyboard right away.

Aglet Tool

I知 constantly breaking my aglets. And when they池e broken, well, they池e not as useful, although I can usually get by with some reduced functionality. Sometimes they don稚 break, but the connection to which they are joined breaks, and I really would like to make a new aglet at the new termination point.

Every household should have a aglet tool. Such a tool would make new aglets where the old have broken or where a new termination point is created.

Well, what do you think?

If you池e wondering what an aglet is, it痴 that little piece of plastic at the end of a shoe string. It makes it easier to put the shoe string through the holes on the shoe.

Office Map

When I send a job to a printer for the first time, I don稚 really want to know the name of the printer as much I would appreciate an office map on my computer screen that shows me where the printer is located in the office.

Automatic Email Deletion

It seems that my email box is constantly packed. Sometimes there are 100s of messages waiting for me to delete or save.

Since many of these messages became irrelevant after a certain date, the sender should be asked (required?) to include a date of deletion, when the message will automatically disappear from my mailbox.

A Better Anti-Porn Web Filter

Conventional porn filters look for certain key words, and, when found, the block the page. The problem, of course, is that many of these words can be used without any pornographic intent or meaning. Here are some of the inherent weaknesses:

  1. I read that the planners of the Middlesex County Fair were disappointed that their web site was inaccessible to the anti-porn filter subscribers.

  2. When I was surfing the net at my local library, I noticed that a filter blocked off part of this site, because some of the entries pertain to human sexuality, although no pornographic material appears here.

  3. A local adult establishment changed its web address from 吐antasysex to 吐antasyshowbar to bypass the filters.

Instead, an internet service is needed that aggressively searches the cyber every day, labels all new sites for content, assigns filter criteria, and blocks all sites that meet the criteria that is specified by the customer.

Senior Achievement

While I was unemployed, I participated in my local Professional Services Group, where I polished my resume, job hunting skills, and interview skills. I suppose that about 100 members were part of PSG while I was there, and each month, among many other activities, we had our all-member meeting. During each meeting, each of us would practice our 30-second delivery, listen to a guest speaker, and share contacts and encouragement.

At more than one meeting, our chairman, Dave O'Malley, would share this very thought-provoking statement. "In this room, we have enough talent to begin our own business venture." My guess is that all agreed.

Well, why not?, I thought, and later regretted that I did not mention, as well. Although we all support each other as we seek individual employment, there's a certain bitter-sweetness when one of us finds a job and leaves the rest of us behind.

But what if we all had the same objective? What if we all come to next month's meeting with our ideas about what our business objective might be, we'll vote for the plan we like best, develop and present a business plan for investors, and begin our own American dream. Because all of us are receiving unemployment, no member would receive a salary until we become profitable, which should make us more attractive to prospective investors.

In high school, we called it "Junior Achievement". Why not "Senior Achievement"?

Pool Table Hockey

When two kids encounter a pool table, they instinctively stand at either end of the table, and roll billiard balls at each other, often as fast as they can propel them.

This game brings lots of enjoyment for the two youngsters as balls collide all over the table, but sooner or later an incoming ball pinches the fingers that are in the process of launching an outgoing rocket, and the result is immediate pain. Game over; run to Mom.

Nurtured on air hockey, I guess it's natural for children to view a pool table as an "airless" hockey table. But with some ingenuity, that transition is very possible. Consider the following:



Bathroom Door/Light Switch

About a year ago I replaced our downstairs bathroom door, and when I did, I thought that the bathroom closet might be more accessible if I hinged the door on the right side of the door frame, instead of the left, where the original door was hinged. So I did.

When I finished the task, I realized that I had made a fundamental oversight. Now, Each of us had the inconvenience of reaching around the door to turn the light on or off. Not long after, I encountered the following observation about bathrooms; both their doors and their lights.

The bathroom is a unique in many ways from the other rooms in the typical American house; but the uniqueness to which I am specifically referring is that no other room so consistently requires the light to be on when the door is closed; and off when open.

With this in mind, I set out to design such a door/light device. My first attempt was too complex and it failed. But my second attempt scored.

I drilled a small hole in the switch lever itself, fastened a screw eyelet into the door about an inch from the edge and fastened the two with a piece of coat hanger wire. A few bends in the wire are included to allow for expansion and compression.

Now, when the door opens, the wire pushes the switch lever to the Off position; when closed, the switch is pulled to the On setting. Also the wire is easily lifted out of the switch lever for those occasions when we need to close the door to isolate the bathroom from the rest of the house due to uh 兎nvironmental issues.

Battery Pack Plug-in

While using a 2AA battery-powered electric toothbrush to brush my teeth one morning, I realized how nice it would be to be able to plug in my toothbrush to the wall outlet above the sink. (I致e worn out lots of Alkalines with this appliance.)

But my brush doesn稚 have an outlet for an external adapter.  

Suppose I had a different type of adapter that would allow me to plug in the AC connector into the wall (as usual), while at the other end of the cord would be a small black box that is shaped and sized exactly like a pair of side-by-side AA batteries? This end of the cord could then be inserted into any battery compartment that accepts two AAs.

The cord that attaches to this box could be dressed in a variety of ways to allow the greatest possible compatibility with as many different compartments as possible.

Of course, a hole is still needed through which the cord passes. A drill could make a strategically located hole for this connection.

Perhaps this adapter could be manually transformed to simulate two end-to-end AA batteries for compartments requiring this configuration.


Mulching Mower

I have recently realized that I don稚 need one. Simply cut the grass so that the exhaust throws the clippings onto the side of the lawn that has not yet been cut. Doing so accomplishes two objectives:

Pool Cover

Over the past 20+ years I have tried various methods to cover our in-ground pool at the end of each summer swimming season. All of these methods had one common factor; they all failed to keep the leaves out of the pool.

We have two towering maple trees that look down on the pool. Every autumn they exfoliate where we swim. If a cover is used, the leaves gather on top of that cover, they push the cover into the pool, the leaves become wet and heavy due to rain, and the following spring, I can稚 remove the cover without dumping the load into the pool, the very reason I had a cover in the first place.

I would try inflatables under the cover, but they would lose their pressure before Thanksgiving.

Several times I came close to spending lots of bux for one of those expensive porous covers that an elephant can walk on, or a car can drive on while filtering the debris from the rain water, which passes right through.

But this past year, inspired by the concept of the porous cover, I made my own. I purchased a plain construction quality 40遅20 tarp, I laid it out on the side yard, I poked it full of holes with my ice pick. Then I put about 20 stakes around the pool, between the coping and the concrete deck. Using thin nylon cord, I created a mesh across the top of the pool by tying the cord to the stakes. Then I laid the cover on top of the mesh and secured the edges of the cover.

The nylon cord held the cover above the water. When the rain came, the rain would pass through the holes that I made in the cover. During heavy rain, the water would puddle as it waited to pass through the cover. At that time the cover would become heavy causing the cord to stretch and dip into the water. But when the rain stopped and the cord would dry out, it would gradually tighten and slowly lift the cover until all the water passed through. Leaves on top of the cover could then dry and blow away.

After one season, I知 very happy with this solution.

Train Station Safety

A few months ago we took the high-speed line from Collingswood to center city Philadelphia.

While waiting for the train on the elevated platform, I couldn稚 help but feel relieved that I was not a young dad again with one or more active youngsters to transport into the city. I壇 want to tie each kid to the bench to prevent them from falling off the platform onto the tracks. I致e heard of some rather grisly mishaps in this environment. These are the inspiration for this entry.

I propose that the railroad platform be surrounded by an iron fence. This fence would have gates that correspond to where the train痴 doors will be when fully stopped. These gates cannot be opened from the platform; they can be opened only from the train.

Here痴 the scenario:

  1. All passengers are safely waiting for the train within the enclosed platform.

  2. When the train arrives and comes to a stop, each door on the train engages the corresponding gate.

  3. When each train door opens, the corresponding gate opens.

  4. After all passengers embark or disembark, the train痴 doors and the corresponding gates close.

  5. Each train door disengages from its corresponding gate before the train leaves for the next stop.

One Big House

Frankly, I think that life would be much more economical (as well as comfortable) if our extended family (i.e., the families of A&D, B&S, J&P, M&D, and my mother) would sell our respective homes and all property therein, pool all our money, and buy one big house, centrally located to all employers, in which all of us could live comfortably. Here are the advantages:

Patinir痴 Legacy

Oliver, a coworker of mine, is an art lover. One of the posters in his office would always grab my attention when I would pass by. Its title is 鼎rossing the River Styx by a Flemish painter named Joachim Patinir, who created this masterpiece way back in the 15th century. I asked so many questions about this work of art, that Oliver finally gave it to me. It痴 now displayed in my office.

The painting depicts heaven on the left and hell on the right. Between these two eternal destinies is the Styx, the famous river from Greek mythology.

Patinir has included some Biblical theology into his painting as well. On the heavenly side angels are walking with some of the redeemed inhabitants. In the far background is the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem. In the middle background is something that looks like a fountain of water; the Fountain of Life, perhaps (Revelation 21:6).

The hell side illustrates Revelation 14:11, where John the Apostle writes 典he smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever. Patinir痴 smoke from hell is remarkably well painted.

I was disappointed to see that Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the entrance to the underworld, looks about as menacing as my little terrier at home.

A boat is in the middle of the river, in which Charon, the boatman, is transporting a poor lost soul to hell. That individual does not seem to be particularly concerned about his destination. His face seems to imply 展ell, at least we値l have a BBQ every night!. Furthermore, Charon looks like a benevolent grandfatherly type.

I was surprised to learn that the great artist Michelangelo included these same mythological characters in his painting on the Sistine Chapel痴 ceiling. Only M痴 Charon looks like the demonic character one would expect and the faces of the passengers on his boat appear contorted by the absolute terror of their destination.

I write about this painting because it has provided several opportunities to discuss with visitors to my office about eternity, salvation, grace, redemption, etc. In fact, Patinir痴 painting has offered more opportunities than a similar painting with purely biblical content. Why? Because it痴 less threatening. Due to its pagan content, people do not feel as 兎vangelized when looking at this painting.

My visitors naively ask about the two sides of the river, the boat, the passengers, etc., where they may be a little more reticent if the painting depicted the rich man with a burning tongue calling across the gulf to Abraham and Lazarus.

Wanna see it? Check out these links: (The second shows you Michelangelo's Charon as well.)



But does the monkey in the lower right corner have any significance?


For many years now I have been trying to get a job as a writer of A&Q's for the 7 PM game show, Jeopardy. Here's my latest attempt:

Hello Jeopardy,

I have been a viewer and fan of Jeopardy for many, many years now. Friends and family say I should enter your tryouts, but I know that I知 just not quick enough to hold my own with a typical Jeopardy contestant.

But I would love to be a writer of Jeopardy痴 answers & questions. Here are two free samples of my work:

Category: State Boundaries

Lake Tahoe is located on the border between California and this state.

What is Nevada?

Both the river that separates Texas and Oklahoma and the river that separates Minnesota and North Dakota share this same colorful name.

What is the Red River?

With the same name as another state, it痴 the river that separates Vermont from New Hampshire.

What is the Connecticut River?

Sounding like something 電istastefully underground, it痴 the mountain range that separates Montana from Idaho.

What are the Bitterroot Mountains?

Pennsylvania and this state have the only border that is shaped like the arc of a circle.

What is Delaware?

Category: Animal Adjectives* **


What is a cat?


What is a dog?


What is a cow?


What is a bear?


What is a wolf?

* When introducing this category, Mr. Trebek tells the contestants 展e値l give you the adjective, and you give us the animal it describes.

** If these are either too hard or too easy, some alternates are equine (horse), vulpine (fox), assinine (mule), leonine (lion), taurine (bull).

If you feel that these A&Q痴 are good enough for Jeopardy, I would be greatly honored to see them used on your show. Please edit them in whatever way you feel is necessary.

However, if an outside party provides all material, would you please send me their contact information and forward this letter?

May God bless you for providing such good, clean, and stimulating entertainment for so many years.


Endangered Products

I love Aldi痴, which sells lots of grocery items at remarkably low prices; less than Acme, Shop Rite, PathMark, Wall-Mart, and even wholesale clubs like BJ痴 and Sam痴.

How they do it is not the topic at hand, but one clue might be that they honor God痴 holy day every week by not opening for business.

But what I do want to talk about is my disappointment when a favorite product of mine no longer appears on Aldi痴 shelves. This happened first with a 10-pound bag of quality cat litter for only 79 cents; then a gallon of bleach for 69 cents; recently a 16-ounce loaf of rye bread for 79 cents; and for my last two visits I haven稚 seen the three pound tub of margarine for 99 cents.

Now I understand that the nature of our economy generally drives prices upward, but my favorite grocery store no longer carries any of these products at any price.

So I suggested to Pat, one of the store managers, that he should post a list of endangered products, with a warning that if this product doesn稚 sell out by this deadline, the product will not be restocked.

This 兎ndangered products list would give a heads-up to those who do like the product to stock up before it痴 terminated. The result may extend or even cancel the product痴 termination.

Unfortunately, Pat says that he usually doesn稚 find out that a product ends until he no longer receives it on the truck. Perhaps someone at corporate HQ痴 will read this idea.

Graphic Search Tool

Because genealogy has become an interest of mine, I have been studying lots of internet and CD files that consist of scans of old documents (i.e., records for census, marriage, birth, death, etc.)

Because scanned documents are usually bit-mapped graphics, and not text, I can稚 use a text search tool to search these documents for family names.

But what if I had a graphics search tool, which would let me search the document for a specific bit map pattern? Here痴 how it should work:

  1. Begin by entering the command for a graphics search.

  2. Key in the family name from the keyboard.

  3. Convert the family name into a bitmapped image (Alt-Print Screen).

  4. Select a tolerance for the background color and text color. (Photoshop users will understand this step.) Or, ignore either or both of these colors.

  5. Select the degree of 吐uzziness between the text and background and enter a tolerance.

  6. Click OK. The first occurrence is then found.

You may need to tighten or loosen the tolerances to find the right level.

A Better Swimming Pool Filtration System

I enjoy our swimming pool, and because laziness is one of my essential character traits, this idea has finally arrived.

My summer water maintenance has reduced to a routine that I perform over and over again. When the pressure in my filter reaches 15 lbs, the filter has trapped its maximum amount of dirt to efficiently clean the water, and I do the following:

  1. I turn off the motor.

  2. I set the multiport to the backwash setting.

  3. I turn on the motor.

  4. I wait about 30 seconds for the pump to remove all dirt from the filter.

  5. I turn off the motor.

  6. I set the multiport to rinse so that residual dirt doesn稚 come in the pool.

  7. I turn on the motor.

  8. I wait another 15 seconds until the waste water appears clean.

  9. I turn off the motor.

  10. I set the multiport to filter.

  11. I turn on the motor.

But what if the filter were equipped with a pressure sensor that could send signals to electrically controlled valves? The first of following pictures shows normal filtration of the pool water, which enters the sump, where it is pumped through the filter, which in turn returns clean water to the pool.

Sooner (more often than later) enough dirt collects in the filter to push the internal pressure up to 15 lbs. At that time, an electrical signal moves from the pressure sensor to the electrically controlled valves which results in backwash. The second picture shows backwash, during which incoming water from the pool is diverted to the filter痴 lower connection, the water removes dirt by sluicing it out the upper port and out the waste port to a holding tank. This tank contains sand filtering medium, which slowly removes the dirt from the water and returns clean water to the pool. The contents in the holding tank could also water nearby gardens.

After about 30 seconds the filter should be clean enough. A timer then changes the valves to the rinse setting for an additional 10 seconds (third picture) before returning to normal operation (first pic).


How to Buy Gas

When I visit the gas station, I want the best of both:

Now the previous two objectives may seem mutually exclusive, because, after all, someone has to do it, right?

Well, that痴 the purpose of this entry; how I can have both. This idea requires only minor modifications to the car, and more substantial changes to the pump.

What if I could fully open my external gasoline intake line (both cover and cap) from inside the car? Immediately above and below the intake line are infrared sensors that would guide the synchro-driven nozzle to its target. When fully engaged, pumping begins.

When complete, the nozzle retracts to its original position. Then pay at the pump using the currently available technology, which could be similarly modified to allow the transaction using a wireless mouse from behind your window.