Have an idea..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, December 28, 2010 10:02 AM 3 comments
What the world needs is software that makes it easy for senior citizens to use e-mail.

Assisted living facilities for seniors already have computers. But how many 80-year olds can navigate Gmail or Outlook?

What we need is software that acts as a "mask" and sits on top of, for example, Gmail. Its main function would be to hide all the options that aren't relevant.

All you would see is very large buttons labeled READ, WRITE, and OTHER.

Seniors should never see more than three large, clear choices on the screen at one time.

And there should never be any double-click situations. One click is enough.

And seniors should only receive e-mail from people who are in their address books. No spam allowed.

Any attachments should open automatically, as if they are part of the e-mail body.

Obviously someone would have to be available to do tech support, including entering new e-mail addresses in address books, and that sort of thing.

You can buy a special computer that is customized for seniors, but it would be handy to have the software available for existing computers.

If grandpa lives with you, and wants to use the home computer to send e-mail, just click "grandpa mode" and get out of the way.

Merry X'mas & a Happy New Year

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, December 25, 2010 8:11 AM 1 comments
Christmas is an excellent holiday for children.

But we adults need our own holiday too isn’t it?

One that is something like the opposite of Christmas. Let's call it National Discard Day.

It could be in June, just for symmetry. The concept for this holiday is that each of your friends and loved ones gets to decide which of your current possessions you have to get rid of.

It's like reverse gift-giving.

In December, people say "Happy holidays!" and "Happy New Year!" In June, around National Discard Day, you might hear something more along the lines of "Lose the Crocs, dipshit. You're not the scrap dealer."

National Discard Day would be cruel but practical.

I came upon this idea after hearing stories of old people's houses that are cluttered beyond all reason. The elderly often have three of everything. I always assumed that the packrat impulse comes from growing up during the post independence days.

There's no point in giving away something that you might need to barter for food.

I was thankful that I'm not like that. Then one day I noticed that we have three vacuum cleaners in the store cabinet. One is lightweight, and good for quick jobs, but it has no hose attachment. The other is useless except for the hose attachment. We need both of those vacuum cleaners, obviously.

The third vacuum cleaner is the "good" one that does everything well, but it is literally too complicated to operate.

It's like the unwanted son of Rusty Man and Prime Tweeter. I can't tell if I'm preparing to use the hose attachment or giving it a goddamn happy ending.

Topping it off, our Mumbai home has a whole new house vacuum system along with a miniature dust buster. If you're keeping count, we will soon have something like 5.5 vacuum cleaning systems, assuming the Dust Buster counts as a half.

Apparently the post independence days aren’t the cause of hoarding. There is always some perfectly good "reason" for keeping stuff. For example, you can't throw away an old chair because someday you might need it for a party.

You can't throw away an ugly knickknack because it was a gift. You can't throw away your stained sweatshirt because nothing else is quite as comfortable.

That's where National Discard Day comes in. You need the help of other people to make the hard decisions for you. In a perfect world, once your home reaches some point of possession saturation, one item must be discarded for every item that enters.

No exceptions. If you disagree, I label you a hoarder.

In my case, our loved ones would presumably force us to get rid of our Dust Buster and our two semi-crippled vacuum cleaners.

The only downside is that trying to figure out how to use the "good" vacuum cleaner looks a lot like porn for gay robots.

But I can definitely live with that.

Look out for this application....

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, December 22, 2010 9:34 AM 0 comments
Imagine you’re sitting down to eat, but before you take a bite, you whip out your smartphone, fire up a special app, and take a picture of your food.

The app identifies the food types by appearance, then calculates the size of your portions, and estimates your intake of calories, carbs, protein, vitamin, mineral, sugar, salt, and so on. Later you can review your data in a variety of ways.

You can see your calorie intake for the day, or compare yourself to other people who are your same age, size, activity level, and so on.

At the end of a meal, if you have some food left, you can snap another picture so the app can calculate the net of what you actually ate.

If it seems impossible that an app could recognize food types, consider that software can already recognize faces, voices, specific songs, and fingerprints. Recognizing broccoli can’t be that much harder.

And anything that has a label or a wrapper, such as Diet Coke or a Snickers candy bar, would be relatively easy for the app to identify.

Soups and casseroles would be harder to identify and analyze. The app might ask you to supply some information on the main components of the dish. If you said it was a casserole with potato, chicken, and garlic, the app would know that garlic is a minor ingredient and potato is the main ingredient.

It might even look at similar recipes in its database and take an average.

The app would not be perfect at estimating, even with your frequent tweaks. But it would be far better than your own guessing. And it would be great at telling you where your diet is lacking. You might think you have a good diet, only to discover that you aren’t getting enough variety of fruits and veggies.

Now imagine that an accessory for this app is a small waterproof motion detector that you can clip to your footwear. It comes with a watch that also has motion detection. When your smartphone is nearby, the two motion detectors wirelessly download how much movement your arms and legs have experienced that day.

That would be a rough proxy for exercise. You would have to add any data for weight training because that doesn’t require much movement.

Now your app has your total nutrition and exercise profile. You could round out its knowledge by telling it your age, weight, gender, whether you smoke, and other relevant health questions.

From that point on your app could predict your life expectancy and even your odds of dying from specific types of preventable diseases. Perhaps your watch could display both the current time and how many days you have left if you keep living the way you are.

Two factors that most influence human behavior are the ability to measure progress and the framework used to rank performance. This app solves both problems. Allow me to expand on this.

I’ve noticed that losers compare themselves to the average of other people, whereas winners compare themselves to their own natural potential.

The loser can find comfort in knowing there are plenty of other slackers, and he is average (good enough) among them. The winner compares his progress to his personal potential and doesn’t stop until he achieves it.

Researchers have found that simply being near overweight people has a large influence on your own weight. This is probably a result of looking around and deciding that eating a little extra is normal, and good enough. The app I described would change your point of reference by continually reinforcing your own potential.

In time, your frame of reference would be less about your chubby friends and more about how you are doing compared to your own best, as measured by your app.

Try to top it .... any suggestion?

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, December 16, 2010 1:25 AM 2 comments
For historical reasons, the device in your pocket or purse - the one that you use to browse the Internet and send email, is called a "phone." We need a new name for that thing.

Cell phone and Smartphone are words that recognize the historical roots of the device while making things worse. "Mobile phone" is archaic. Those are some ugly words.

And all of those labels have the problem of making the phone feature seem highest in importance while it trends less so every day. Ask a teen how often he makes phone calls on his texter.

I'm biased against the voice communication function of my so-called phone because I hate that particular feature. It's impossible to have a conversation by cellphone if any of the following conditions is true:

1. An earpiece, headset, or speakerphone is used.

2. One of you is in an area with bad reception.

3. One of you has an iPhone.

4. One of you has a heavy accent.

5. One of you is insanely boring.

6. One of you is near anything loud, such as traffic.

That covers just about every call I'm likely to get. I end half of my phone conversations by shouting


"On top of that, people use the phone to ask me for uncomfortable favors or deliver bad news, whereas they use email to give me information I want or need. When my so-called phone rings, my first reaction is "Shit. What's wrong now?"

When I get an email or text message, I feel a tingle of optimism.

Text and email are polite invitations to a conversation. They happen at the speed and leisure of both the sender and the receiver.

In stark contrast, when you get a phone call, it's almost always a convenient time for the caller and a bad time for the recipient, who I refer to as the "victim" because I insist on accuracy.

My philosophy is that every phone conversation has a loser.

Anyway, back to my point: We need a new name for your cellular phone.

The new name should embrace all of your device's functions while favoring none. It should understand the future of the device and release on its history.

The name should not be long or klunky or geeky, so forget about calling it a communicator.

My suggestion, which I offer simply to prime the pump, is to call the phone your "head." This term recognizes that you are essentially a cyborg with a detachable brain.

You offload a lot of your memory into your device, and it helps you communicate and gather information, just like the other parts of your general skull area.

There isn't much chance of name confusion with the organic part of your head because the context will always be clear. If you say, "I can't find my head," or "Whose head is ringing?" each utterance has only one rational interpretation.

Granted, there could be some confusion if a head is contemplated as a gift item, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

There's a saying in our country: "You'd lose your head if it weren't screwed on." And now it isn't. Your head is partly on your shoulders and partly in your pocket or purse.

And we often misplace it precisely because it isn't screwed on. I think the word "head" is perfect.

Try to top it. What is your suggestion for a new name?

Let's be more effective to face the future...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Sunday, December 5, 2010 8:22 AM 2 comments
In the early eighties, I had a neighbour who studied computer programming in college but didn't pursue it as a career because he believed it had no future.

His reasoning was that software coders were the future secretaries of the world, someday doing little more than rearranging the code written by those who came before.

He figured the pay for programmers would approach minimum wage in 15 years or so.

We're still waiting for that to happen, but I think of his prediction whenever I see young people making career choices.

There's a lot of guessing involved.

I think technical people, and engineers in particular, will always have good job prospects.

But what if you don't have the aptitude or personality to follow a technical path? How do you prepare for the future?

I'd like to see a college major focusing on the various skills of human persuasion. That's the sort of skillset that the marketplace will always value and the Internet is unlikely to replace.

The persuasion coursework might include...

Sales methods

Psychology of persuasion

Human Interface design

How to organize information for influence




Art (specifically design)


Public speaking

Appearance (hair, makeup, clothes)


Managing difficult personalities

Management theory

Voice coaching


How to entertain

Golf and tennis


You can imagine a few more classes that would be relevant. The idea is to create people who can enter any room and make it their pitch.

Colleges are unlikely to offer this sort of major because society is afraid and appalled by anything that can be labeled "manipulation," which isn't even a real thing.

Manipulation isn't real because almost every human social or business activity has as its major or minor objective the influence of others.

You can tell yourself that you dress the way you do because it makes you happy, but the real purpose of managing your appearance is to influence how others view you.

Humans actively sell themselves every minute they are interacting with anyone else.

Selling yourself, which sounds almost noble, is little more than manipulating other people to do what is good for you but might not be so good for others.

All I'm suggesting is that people could learn to be more effective at the things they are already trying to do all day long.

Care to bet with me?

Posted by Tandarin Nike Friday, December 3, 2010 1:27 AM 2 comments
I wonder if someday the doctor's waiting room will be a giant MRI device, or whatever technology replaces it, that can scan you, diagnose your problems, and write prescriptions without human intervention.

Imagine that someday you have a tiny chip inside you to monitor your blood chemistry on an ongoing basis.

When you enter the room, the computer recognizes your face and matches it to the identity information on your chip just to be sure. Then the computer reads your blood data from your chip and begins scanning your body.

You don't have to be motionless because the computer is fast enough to compensate for your movements. How about that?

The computer has your entire medical history, along with the genetic information that was taken from your umbilical cord. It also knows your lifestyle because your bank records and your location data (from GPS) are available by law to the medical establishment.

The computer can even scan your Facebook pages and other online sources to see what social situations you've been in lately.

By then, privacy will seem like a quaint custom from our primitive past. Children will learn about it in history class.

The computer then compares all of your information with a vast database about other human beings and looks for anomalies. Based on this information, the computer diagnosis you and prescribes treatment.

At that point, a human nurse might be involved to remove a splinter or apply a bandage. If you need surgery, a robot does the hard part while a human doctor probably just supervises.

In the next stage of healthcare, the MRI-like device shrinks to the size of an airport screening device that fits probably in the doorway of your home, so you get a full and instant physical every time you pass through.

Every problem is diagnosed early.

What part of that future is unlikely in say 50 years?

Can anyone challenge me on that?