Christmas shopping idea: Harvey Weinstein-endorsed massage chair

Happy Black Friday.

On a recent trip to the mall, a friend stopped in at Brookstone to shop for gifts for her brothers. Her husband and I relaxed in the massage chairs. It occurred to me what Harvey Weinstein’s next job could be… endorsing massage chairs! (The ads could run next to Al Franken ads for a doorknob/door-knocker manufacturer.)

Readers: What is on your Christmas list this year?

Here are some of my own ideas:

Ideas that aren’t in the photo-nerd category:

  • Nokia watch. It looks like a regular watch, but has a 0-100% activity dial so that your friend can be constantly reminded of his or her progress against a goal, e.g., 10,000 steps, but not have to keep checking a phone. 8-month battery life so it doesn’t become another hassle in your friend’s life.

Ideas in the flying-nerd category:

  • for pilot friends with iPhones: Foreflight gift certificate
  • for pilot friends: offer to go over to their hangar and send the life jackets and/or life raft in for recertification (needs to be done every 1-5 years and is a hassle)
  • Aero Vodochody L-39NG(!); see Wikipedia for the vanilla L-39, a beautiful example of which, complete with ejection seats, can be purchased for $ 300,000 (less than an Icon A5!)

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Thanksgiving Idea: Give government back to the Native Americans?

I’m thankful for a lot of things this year, but I don’t want to disfigure this blog too much with the maudlin friends-and-family sentiments that are more conventional on Facebook.

Let me try something in the old-style Thanksgiving spirit and just say thank-you to the Native Americans for not insisting that all of the Europeans who landed here return back home. Without Native American hospitality I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the use of this great continent for 54 years.

However, I wonder if we European-Americans haven’t overstayed our welcome. I haven’t kept in touch with the Native American friends whom I made while living in New Mexico, but I can’t imagine that they looked at the 2016 Presidential election and said “It is amazing that these European immigrants managed to find two such fantastic candidates.”

Maybe we can’t all clear out and leave North America to its rightful inhabitants (unless we start to do better on the PISA test, other countries probably wouldn’t want us), but could we at least clear out politically? Why not let the Native Americans set up a government (presumably they’d pick a British-style parliamentary system, as have most countries) and we non-Native Americans can agree to respect their decisions?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Idea for a TV show: Saudi Royal Family

The Saudi royal family has been in the news lately (example). The Turkish TV show The Magnificent Century (about the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century) has proved popular on Netflix and around the world (and, as a bonus, was produced without a lot of Hollywood folks having sex with each other and then litigating afterwards). A lot of the drama in the Ottoman Empire was driven by competition among members of the royal family and nobility. Saudi Arabia is one of the few modern governments that has a similar family dynamic.

Why not a TV series about the modern-day Saudi royal family and its intrigues?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Congress considering ordering cars to add about 1 IQ point (my 2003 idea)

Back in 2003 I asked why cars didn’t integrate data from existing sensors and warn owners about kids left in the back seat (see Lack of wireless Internet killing children). Today’s New York Times carries “Forgetting a Child in a Back Seat Can Kill. Cars May Soon Warn You”:

At least 41 children have died of heatstroke this year after being left in the back seat of a parked vehicle. Since 1990, when the annual number of vehicular heatstroke victims was first recorded, more than 800 children have died in hot parked cars.

But congressional lawmakers are now weighing whether to require new cars to include a device for detecting children in the back seat and warning the driver of their presence after the car has been turned off. The requirements were attached to a House bill, passed last month, that is meant to speed the development of self-driving vehicles. The Senate version of the bill, which cleared a committee vote this month, includes an amendment with the warning requirement.

It looks as though my 2003 post overlooked a super simple way to do this:

General Motors and Nissan have introduced technologies that remind the driver that a child is in the back seat by analyzing door sequencing. If the rear door is opened before the car is started but not after it is turned off, a warning sounds.

This will be annoying for dog owners, though, in moderate temperatures. The dog enjoys riding around in the back seat, but isn’t welcome in the Kwik-E-Mart. So there will be a lot of spurious warnings.

My 2003 post also overlooked the utility of an additional sensor:

Some companies that sell equipment to the auto industry have developed warning devices. One such system, the VitaSense, uses low-power radio to sense movement and breathing. The technology, developed in Luxembourg by IEE, a manufacturer of automotive sensors, can reportedly detect even a sleeping infant in a rear-facing child seat. If a child is detected after the vehicle has been turned off, it alerts the driver by several means, including flashing lights, beeps, and messages sent to cellphones and computers.

(maybe this is why Luxembourg is so much richer, per capita, than the U.S.?)

For proponents of markets, it is kind of sad that this has taken so long. Why wouldn’t Toyota have added this (at least the trivial door sequence monitor) to the Camry in order to distinguish its product from the Honda Accord? Unless consumers are indifferent to whether their children survive, how to explain this apparent failure of the market?

Readers: how come hundreds of children had to die between my 2003 post and today? There is sort of a competitive market in automobiles (enough competition that GM needed almost $ 100 billion in tax dollars to survive!).


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Hollywood book idea: I went to this married guy’s hotel room and then…

As with the stories told by plaintiffs suing Bill Cosby, it seems that a lot of the stories about Harvey Weinstein begin with a consensual trip to the at-the-time-powerful mogul’s hotel room.

For example, “‘I had to defend myself’: the night Harvey Weinstein jumped on me” (by Léa Seydoux in the Guardian):

When I first met Harvey Weinstein, it didn’t take me long to figure him out. We were at a fashion show. He was charming, funny, smart – but very domineering. He wanted to meet me for drinks and insisted we had to make an appointment that very night. This was never going to be about work. He had other intentions – I could see that very clearly.

He invited me to come to his hotel room for a drink. We went up together. It was hard to say no because he’s so powerful.

How about this for the title of a book with collected stories about Hollywood: I went to this married guy’s hotel room and then…

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog