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four clever ideas I wish I'd had

I've basically always thought of myself as lacking creativity. A childhood assignment to write a story would result in a dull sequence of strung-together lists: names of characters, places, objects, colors. Really, I'm tempted to scan the ones that my parents saved in boxes in the attic to show you just how bad they are. A free-drawing assignment would typically result in a sort of garish, geometric graphic art. As a student violinist I was encouraged, along with others, to improvise by one of our jazz-oriented teachers—not just privately but in our public end-of-session performance in a concert hall—and what I came up with was awkward at best. As an adult I've visited a massive quasi-annual multimedia art event for years, each time coming away eager to make something interesting to submit to the event's next iteration, and never coming up with something. Just the other day, I ironically "won" a storytelling card game with an uncomfortably silence-punctuated effort.

All that is to preface this list of clever ideas with a sense of contemplation as to why I don't seem to have (or harness?) these kinds of creative ideas:
  • the Up-Goer Five text editor. For those not familiar, Up-Goer Five is one of many awesome and funny and witty xkcd comics; it's a diagram of a Saturn V rocket labeled using only the thousand most common words in the English language. The text editor is a simple web-based text field that highlights any words within it that aren't among the thousand most common. Given that comic, the text editor is a straightforward idea, but giving people a mechanism to constrain their writing to a very limited vocabulary turns out to encourage the kind of plain English that "creates windows where you can grasp at some previously ungraspable idea." So, friends, is there anything you'd like me to write about in Up-Goer Five vocabulary?
  • Möbius music box. I have one of these punched-paper-tape music boxes, and it never occurred to me to fold or loop the tape, much less form it into a Möbius strip as did the ebullient Vi Hart.
  • USB typewriter, "A Groundbreaking Advancement in the Field of Obsolescence." It's a kit that one integrates into a typewriter to allow it to function as a USB keyboard. I first saw this in the vending area at The Next HOPE, where I had to restrain myself from buying one. The practicality to expense ratio was too low. As an idea it's a cousin to the retro telephone handsets fitted with bluetooth or whatever so as to work with mobile phones. (And does anyone use those?) There's something more romantic about a typewriter, though.
  • A reverse geocache is a locked box that makes itself openable only at a certain location as determined by onboard GPS. The only information it provides to the user is its distance to the location. "But triangulation!" you say. No, the word you want is trilateration, and it's true that that's a fairly obvious and straightforward solution. Ideally it would be less obvious and straightforward; any ideas on how to tweak it to make it more challenging but still doable? Still, I think it's a clever, fun idea.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/32859.html.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
I want to do the reverse geocache thing at some point.
Feb. 6th, 2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, I don't think your storytelling in the card game was any more awkward than anybody else's. I think that's at least partially a function of the game.
Feb. 6th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
That last one is fascinating! Thanks for the link!

Regarding the up-goer five, I was interested to see when playing around with that that I can write in those terms easily and without thought. I think a lot of this is from navigating places where I don't speak the language, or people who have very little English if any at all. I had to start putting complex words into the box to ensure that it was working for me, because I'd written three paragraphs and it hadn't flagged on a thing.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )