Coping/Disruptive Thinking: Windows are History

imageSo this is how I spent my weekend: 

A couple of years ago, we decided there was too much glare coming into the north end of the house from the 10 X 20-foot deck that we’d built.  So, as a partial-fix I put on a roof to provide some shade.

By Thursday of last week, I’d decided to finish off the deck covering, and, as long as we’re at it, why not just cover the whole thing and turn it into additional living space?

One of the joys of living in rural East Texas is that it’s not too difficult to do such a thing – turning a deck into an additional 200 square feet of living space.  There is no “code” enforcers about to red-flag the project.  And there’s no architect wanting 10%, no project managers, no environmental impact statement.  You just pick up your tools and get to work.

After a full day of work (8-hours with one coffee break and a 10-minute lunch) worth, the wall outlines were in place and the trusses had all be sawn and assembled, and lifted into place – and in an hour, or so, they will be tilted up, attached with right-angle iron, and 2 by 4’s will be in place.  After that comes the installation of metal roofing and first thing you know, there will be a real roof over the place.

Which gets us to the windows part.

A few windows make sense.  After all, reasonable fenestration is required for good ventilation.  But, what we talked about at some length last night was the matter of building square footage that makes sense in light of current trends.

One of these trends, which we explored in some detail (with floor plans, and such) for our subscribers (scroll down to “Nature of the Invention”, the June 1, 2013 issue here for subsc.) and what’s described are windowless virtual housing units with extremely limited outside windows.

No, we’re in no hurry to put the Pella folks out of business.  But we do have some unique sight-line issues at the far end of this room because our house is on the gentle slope of a hill.  Admittedly, calling the modest hills around here The Concorde Mountains is absurd.

How a 623 foot “peak” can be a mountain in Texas, when the vertical rise from surrounding land is somewhere on the order of 450 feet is beyond me.  A colleague/client/friends out in California have a house in the East Bay area (near Walnut Creek) which has a vertical rise on their 80-acres of something like 1,300 feet and they modestly call that “the hill”.”  They’ve never been to Texas, apparently, or those would be the California Himalayas, for sure.

Back to this window thing, however:  Because of the slope, you have to look up a bit to see the garden, especially from the kitchen of “San Francisco” room of the house – which is dominated by a 6 X 12 mural we commissioned back in ‘09.  And Elaine doesn’t want to look from the kitchen into the lawn…when she’s become rather spoiled by watching the deer parade through the garden.

Admittedly, it’s a cool view  But to retain the view, we’d have to install a “glass wall” and the only way to do that on an economical basis would be to recycle some windows which we took out of our house two years ago, and upgraded to double-glazed, low-E, energy efficient windows.  So how this new room would work with the old (wasteful) windows is without a doubt poorly.

And remember this, especially if you have some time before retirement ahead:  When you get to a certain age in Life, the objective is to reduce your operating expenses to the smallest possible number.  Even with taxes and utilities, thanks to the solar panels, we figure we average about $350 per month of housing expenses (not counting communications costs) for taxes, water, and power. 

What’s the alternative to a window?

Well, how about a couple of large (70-inch class, or better) LED TV’s? 

With these, we could install a steerable (pan, zoom, tilt) camera, plus,. as a bonus, unlike a conventional window which looks black at night, the PZT cameras nowadays also include night vision capabilities.

Oh – and you can mount them anywhere, which certainly opens up a whole reality of new ways of “looking outside”

So, not only do you get superior visuals of the property, and something for night time enjoyment, but you can put in additional cameras elsewhere to effectively put the room “experience” somewhere that it couldn’t possibly be in real life. 

As an example, I could put one of these cameras up on top of the ham radio tower…and with two such cameras, although it would cost a bloody fortune it displays (at least right now) what we could easily achieve would be a view of the regional countryside that would be about what you’d expect from a 60-foot high fire tower.

What I didn’t tell Elaine is that I recently (when no one was watching) picked up a 43-foot self-supporting ham radio vertical antenna. Now, picture putting that on top of the tower which would put the eye-level about 100-feet up.  Now that gets to be pretty impressive viewing – until the lightning hits, of course.

Oh, and even if we don’t do that, we could undoubtedly find some streaming video web cameras which could be piped in…so that when we’re having Chinese stir-fry for dinner, why not pick up some San Francisco streams – or better – what about Beijing streamed live with the dim sum?

You following me here?  Windows are obsolete…its just that most people haven’t figured it out yet.

Oh…and there are a couple of “tricks” to make such a “window” (replacement) look very much more like a conventional window:  Set it back a foot or two and frame it in, and set the screen so you can’t see the edges from most angles.  That’s how you get that 3D sense of “outside”.  As any game designer worth their runtimes knows, 3d is just having the foreground run faster than the background, right?

So when doing a screen like this, a visual break in the foreground, especially with no apparent edge to the screen, is what tricks the eye.

No, we don’t have enough spare change laying around to spend $6-grand on the final product yet.  But, we will place the “conventional” windows in such a way that when we do save up enough dough for the Big Screens and Cameras, we’ll be able to run one of these “alternate reality” places.  We’ll still open them to air the place out, too.

Imagine walking into one room of your house (set the heating and cooling zone to cold) and be on top of a mountain somewhere.  Or, be in this virtual fire watch tower.  Or, be somewhere like the NYSE floor, or wherever you can get a feed from…

Don’t mean to fish for Pella or some other window company to be a client.  But the handwriting is already on the wall.  And since Google Glass has pushed out the future of optics, it shouldn’t be too long now before the real-world starts to evolve down this windowless kind of avenue.

You can also see the trend popping out from those running videos that you can play off a DVD onto a TV and pretend you’re running somewhere that isn’t inside a building…

imageYeah, sure, ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, I’ll grant you that.  But for about $100,000 now, a personal can have a micro-home with some incredibly different aspects to it that “real life” homes simply can’t match because housing (as far as it has been developed so far) is location specific.

OK, sure, to keep the cost contained, you’d have to do some of the work yourself but framing and roofing ain’t exactly rocket science.  And, so far as I know, no one has done the necessary software to take the 3- 90” class screens envisioned in the plans above, and sorted out the software vector graphics to keep the scene looking liquid and all in perspective, based on room-user eye point. Although that is just a matter of code and a few sensors in the room to estimate eye location and pipe it into the software…

Are you kidding me?  Why not engage in a little bit of “possibility thinking” and virtualize the home location? I mean isn’t that what lambdas on the desktop make possible?  It’s also why all those long train ride videos on YouTube are so hugely popular:  It takes a living room and turns it into a …train!  Extra sensory deception…come and get it!

I wouldn’t want to be the owner of a window company when large numbers of people besides Ures truly begin to figure this out.  This is precisely the kind of “disruptive thinking” that makes getting up and back to work on a project so much fun around here…It should only be a matter of time until IMAX figures out they can slice up views and sell “location packs” as software for the location-independent housing modules.

Remember where you heard it first.  And you’re only five months behind the Peoplenomics readers…

Disruptive Idiocy

There is a flip side to disruptive thinking:L  You’ll notice that my little disruptive technology idea involves (mostly) off the shelf stuff. 

But sometimes, when a new technology comes along, like 3D printing for example, we really do seem to drop back into our baser instincts.  You know the kind?  Like the invention of fire of gunpowder. 

It’s almost like watching sci-fi to read how the “First metal 3D printed fun is cable of filing 50 shots” and it’s modeled on the venerable Model 1911.

Yes sir, it’s about like dropping a keyboard into a troop of monkeys the way we handle breakthrough technologies.  .Instead of printing up some previously impossible to build medical device, or elevating human consciousness we build…..more guns?  WTF is wrong with people?

Most disappointing and a serious mis-use of brainpower.  Unlike my virtual windows, this “invention” merely spends tons of dough to make a pretty much useless (limited use) device.

Monday at the Wujo

Another skeptic has been converted to our way of thinking that reality does have some Swiss cheese-like holes in it from time to time.  Consider this reader’s report…

“Okay, I’m a believer. Strange, unbelievable things DO happen under otherwise ordinary circumstances.

Fact: My son-in-law died unexpectedly three years ago at the age of 40 of a rare form of cancer. My daughter is raising her two young daughters by herself. The wife and I live about a half-hour away so I stop by occasionally to see how she’s doing. I stopped to see them earlier this week.

Fact: She had someone out in the yard cleaning up all the leaves. At one point during the visit I walked out to my car to get something and he was over by his truck so I says to him, “Hi. I’m the father-in-law.”  Going back in the house, I mention to daughter, “gee, that was  strange, why did I kind of introduce myself as father-in in-law? I’m your father, last time I looked.” Oh well, age must be getting to me.

So a little later I say good-by and leave. Walking across the driveway to get in my car, I look down and right here I was standing when I spoke to the worker there’s a really weather-beaten house key laying there. Hmmm, maybe one of the kids dropped it, I pick it up return  to the house, try it in the back door as I go in. The key fits, but won’t turn the lock so I simply take in into the kitchen, toss it on the counter  and tell daughter I found one of her old keys on the driveway.

Later —  I’m a slow thinker, I realize, but HEY, this doesn’t add up. Fact: Daughter had changed the key lock inserts three years ago after  her husband died. Fact: That old, weather-beaten key (from the old key sets?) could not have been laying in the driveway, right in front of  the garage doors for any period of time as daughter and kids go back and forth there dozens of times a day and would have seen it. And,  the key was lying exactly where I mentioned to the worker earlier that I was the father-in-law (he was over on the far side of the drive and  had no reason to be cleaning or carrying debris in front of the garage doors so he couldn’t have dropped it).

Miss-speak? Found, old house key in same exact spot? Identical make of key to current ones? AND, son-in-law died “exactly” three years ago this week. Did I have a visit?


Well, one doesn’t have to be brilliant to figure something’s out of kilter in these events…keep an eye on that key and let us know if it goes missing one of these days.  That would seem like the next move of the real world’s Adjustment Bureau.

Reader’s Writes

Gotta love this one:


You should submit your write-up on Dodd Frank to the WSJ.

On Obamacare, if you want insurance only for catastrophic coverage the best play is to NOT sign up for insurance, pay the penalty, then if something bad happens buy the Gold plan under must-issue.  I think this works.  When people figure this out, most will not buy insurance and the system will implode.

I could save $10k a year dropping my existing family policy, put that in a IRA, etc.


You and a few million other people, Bob,  are going to figure this out, I’m afraid…

The road to hell is littered with poor legislation.

More tomorrow…write when you break even, or sooner…