Archive for March, 2007

Inventions! We’ve got your Inventions Here!

I am an inventor.  The previous statement can only be considered true if the term inventor does not require me to have actually invented things.  The term “gentleman inventor” might be closer to the truth, but that also seems to require some sort of actual, hands-on, inventing, be it for fun or profit.  Also, a gentleman inventor is probably the type of person who spends time in a workshop, tinkering with things to see how they work and how they can be used in other ways; rather than someone who yaps incessantly about his invention ideas after a couple of beers.   I have no idea how anything works, and I don’t have a workshop, nor do I take steps to make any of my invention ideas happen.  I guess that, if I had to use a label, “idea man” would be the most accurate. 

As an idea man, I have a few ideas that I have been rolling around in my head for quite some time.  There is no chance that I will actually invent any of these things, so I invite anyone to run with my ideas, while providing me with a modest fee for my creativity.  If you don’t provide my fee…I’ll have you know that I have trained my lawyers to crave the flesh of people who don’t provide my modest fees. 

My oldest invention is a pocket that would be sewn into the back of a pair of underwear (in my mind, this would be a pair of men’s boxer shorts).  Into this pocket would be placed a thin cotton packet that has been filled with some sort of neutralizing scent; perhaps like the neutralizer scent used in air fresheners. 

This packet would, from its strategic location, serve as a filter that would neutralize the offending properties of any, um, wind that might pass through it.  This invention could prove invaluable to the person sitting in a crowded business meeting the morning after a wild night of tacos, bean dip, and pickled eggs.  Riding in a crowded elevator would also become a much less hazardous and anxiety-filled experience. 

If, instead of a neutralizer scent, the packet was filled with a pleasing aroma –freshly baked bread, say – then what has traditionally been a negative experience could be transformed into something quite pleasant.  People who are currently shunned for their inability to control their bodily emissions might suddenly find themselves quite popular.  A social revolution, if you will. 

Now, it has been brought to my attention that this idea has since been invented.  In fact, an idea similar to mine was on some television show about inventions.  I know this because after the episode aired, I received a deluge of emails from people who had endured my “inventions speech.” 

Ordinarily, I would already have my lawyers gnawing on the femur of the inventor from the show, but it seems that he has yet to make my idea a commercial success.  Following my personal creed – “Never sue poor people” – requires that I wait until he makes a go of it. 

My second invention idea came while I was sitting in a dentists chair having the saliva sucked out of my mouth by the little hanging vacuum-thingy (a quick Google search tells me that the technical term is Dental Saliva Ejector Tube Assembly).  I had a stuffy nose that day, and I thought how nice it would be to have a Personal Nose Vacuum and avoid blowing my nose over, and over, and over again. 

There is a version of this product used by medical professionals, because one of my friends had a deviated septum repaired.  Because of potential damage to the repaired area, my friend wasn’t allowed to blow his nose; but that the doctor relieved the pressure by evacuating the area with a medical vacuum. 

I think it would be great to have the same device for home use.  It could help to relieve sinus headaches and stuffy noses, with the only, minor, drawbacks being:  1) that it would be, in the words of my wife, “totally gross” and 2) the slight possibility of sucking your brain out of your left nostril. 

My third idea came when I was running on a treadmill at my local gym.  I glanced to my left and was comforted to see that there was a defibrillator machine, in case I was going to have Fred Sanford’s proverbial “Big One.”  These defibrillator machines are showing up in more and more places these days, and it gave me an idea for a new invention:  Personal Defibrillator Machines. 

These new-fangled defibrillators can determine for themselves whether a shock is necessary, which removes the need for qualified medical personnel to be around to use the machine (and to shout “Clear!”).  So, if the defibrillator knows when to do a shock, why not wear one all the time? 

The patches could be affixed to the person’s chest under the clothing, and the battery could be carried in, say, a fanny pack (I hear that fanny packs are all the rage these days).  Then, even if no one is around, you would still receive a life-saving shock if your heart happens to stop. 

I can’t see a downside to this idea other than the fact that I have no idea how it might work, and that some people might be accidentally electrocuted if they should perspire while wearing the device. 

Some people have told me that my ideas “have already been invented,” and that some of them are “incredibly unsafe,” but, as a true idea man, I don’t believe that my lawyers should be deterred by such piddling obstacles in their pursuit of my fees.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 30 Mar 2007 No Comments

The Crooked Finger

It was an unseasonably warm day in early December, 1999. To be specific, it was The Megger’s birthday. The Megger and I had been dating for about six months at the time, and to celebrate her birthday “we” decided to play touch football. To be fair, it was a playoff game for a team that I had organized. Also, to be fair, The Megger is a good sport.

After playing for a bit, we were losing the game to a team we didn’t like very much (sniff…they played too rough). On one crucial third-down play, the opposing quarterback lofted a pass in my direction. I turned and ran, my head looking back at the ball and my left arm extended and ready to bat the pass away.

My teammate Matt had cut in front of me, but since I had been looking back I never saw him. As an aside, Matt went on to be my coworker, then my roommate, then my boss, and then he married the woman who ran the touch football league. Small world.

There was a loud CRACK as my outstretched left index finger impacted with the side of Matt’s head. Matt’s head was fine, but my finger experienced what you might call, “a blunt trauma.” I knew that something had gone wrong, so I grabbed my finger with my right hand and just walked off of the field, afraid to look at it.

One of my teammates was a nurse, and she ran to grab some ice. When she came back, she wanted to see my finger. I slowly opened my hand and revealed a finger that looked like a set of stairs.

The bone at the end of my finger had separated at the knuckle and been driven up over the back of my finger. As a result, my index finger was now much shorter than my other fingers, but it now featured a nice second story bedroom and half-bath. Remarkably, despite how ugly it looked, my finger didn’t hurt.

I looked at it for a minute and said, “I’m going to try to pop it back into place.”

The Megger looked at me like I had just grown an arm from my forehead and said, “Are you crazy? Let’s go to the hospital.”

“This is a playoff game,” I replied, and began tugging on my finger, just like any red-blooded American boy would do if the future of his touch football team was at stake.

Later, at the emergency room, I showed my crooked, and now incredibly painful, finger to the woman who was taking my information. “Wow,” she said, “it looks like a set of stairs.”

She may have been impressed by the looks of my finger, but that emergency room lady didn’t give me any special treatment because of it. I waited for what seemed like hours (and probably was hours) while patients with ailments like halitosis and skin tags waltzed in to be seen.

The Megger sat next to me the whole time, keeping me entertained and talking about anything that didn’t involve a dislocated finger. I’m sure that she had not planned to spend her birthday playing football, and then wasting the afternoon in the emergency room, but she never said a word.

When I finally got in to see an intern – after an x-ray – he gave me a digit block. From what I can tell, a digit block, meant to numb a finger or a toe, is applied by sticking a long needle full of liquid fire directly into the bone of the digit. I gritted my teeth and resolved that if this happened again I would try harder to pop the finger back into place…maybe with a pair of pliers; anything to avoid another digit block.

Once the fire did its job and my finger was numb, the doctor popped – actually, more like dragged – my finger back into place and put a splint on it. I think he might have done something wrong, though, because the finger never quite healed properly. I would go to get the finger fixed, but I’m pretty sure that would involve another digit block; and besides, it’s not THAT crooked.

Crooked finger or not, I can’t be mad at the intern. Before leaving the hospital, I secretly asked him for a copy of the x-ray, and he gladly gave me one, gratis. After all, what kind of boyfriend would I have been if I hadn’t gotten The Megger a present for her birthday?

Crooked Finger Aftermath

Crooked Finger X-Ray

Back in the Day Tim 23 Mar 2007 No Comments

U-Mass Lowell Should Have Done Better

I was sad to read that Representative Martin T. Meehan (D-Lowell) was tabbed recently to serve as the new Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.  I was not sad that Massachusetts will be losing Meehan’s voice in Congress; rather, as an alumnus of UMass-Lowell, I was hoping for a better candidate for chancellor. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I voted for Representative Meehan when I was a student at UMass-Lowell.  At the time, he seemed like a fresh voice in politics and I was impressed by his unusual stance on term limits.  Meehan’s platform was that he would not, under any circumstances, serve more than 4 terms in the House of Representatives.  I remember thinking, “Finally, here is a politician who will be more than just a tax-fattened hyena who considers public office as lifetime employment,” as I cast my vote. 

Meehan’s term limit pledge seemed to be more than just an empty promise at the time.  According to www.salon.com, Meehan asked the clerk of the US House to remove him from the roll call if he should stay in the House past 4 terms.  Salon.com also reported that, when a term-limits bill was defeated in 1995, Meehan said, “I have always been skeptical of the legislators who claim they are for term limits but have been in office for 15 or 20 years. The best test of any politician’s credibility on term limits is whether they are willing to put their careers where their mouths are and limit their own service.” 

My guess is that Rep. Meehan counted on some other job opening up for him before he would have to honor his term limit pledge.  Perhaps one of our Senators would retire, or maybe a Democrat would get elected Governor and appoint him to some cushy job.  None of that happened. 

So, in 2000, when given the opportunity to keep his word to the voters and to back up the strong statements he had made about term limits, Rep. Meehan couldn’t bring himself to do it.  He ran for Congress in 2000, 2002, and 2004, becoming just the type of politician he had raged against in his early political career.  His alibi for continuing to run, as quoted by Patrick Korten at www.cato.org, was, “I am obviously more effective today than I was when I arrived.  And my district would be better off with a member of Congress who utilized his or her seniority to the advantage of the district.” 

So with that, Marty Meehan became just another blowhard politician; always at the ready to tell other people what is right and wrong, but lacking the moral character to live up to his own standards.  It is easy to bluster and shout when there is nothing at stake personally, but when faced with losing a $165,000 annual salary and the prospect of looking for work in the dreaded private sector, Rep. Meehan folded like a shirt. 

He apparently isn’t overly proud of that record, either.  In 2006, it was reported on the BBC News website that members of Meehan’s staff made changes to Meehan’s Wikipedia entry (For those who are not slaves to the internet, Wikipedia is like an internet-based encyclopedia maintained by the public).  The staffers removed references to the Meehan’s broken term limits promise and replaced it with “Meehan-friendly” information.  I’m sure that the people in the Meehan camp justified this to themselves as something approaching “spin-control”, but it looks like a ham-handed attempt to deceive the public.  The thought of it makes the skin crawl.  Meehan WAS term limits until it was inconvenient, and no eraser is going to change that fact. 

The powers that be at UMass-Lowell apparently conducted the traditional “nationwide search” for a new chancellor.  Theoretically, they were looking for someone with the academic background usually expected of university chancellors; someone with integrity; someone who could serve as a role model for the students of UMass-Lowell; someone who wasn’t just a washed-up politician looking for a place to land; someone who wanted more than just a $100,000 raise. 

Instead, it seems that the search committee used the same criteria that brought Billy Bulger to the presidency of the UMass system.  Their “nationwide search” went no further than their own backyard and they overlooked academic accomplishment for the political connections that local boy and noted hypocrite Marty Meehan brings to the table.  It’s business as usual in Massachusetts. 

My alma mater deserves better.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 16 Mar 2007 No Comments

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