Trois Idees Peu 

Pour votre l'Xmasse

Got a little something for you. Three little somethings, actually. Stocking stuffers, they are. Nothing huge. In fact, they're just ideas. Three little ideas I've had in recent weeks. In their present form, they take up no room at all, so don't even worry about putting up an extra stocking. If you wish to turn them into something more substantial, that's up to you. I believe two of them have a potential for marketability, but making that happen would take a different sort of ambition than I've ever had. So if you want to do what it takes to turn them into a salable commodity, have at it. (But if I were you, I'd wait until after the 21st. You know ... just in case.)

Idea No. 1: Ideas 1 and 2 came to me while contemplating the annual leaf-cleanup chore. I live in a neighborhood filled with trees. Big ones, not those puny bonsai they're planting these days. I must deal not only with the litter from my own towering maples, but oak leaves courtesy of Mr. So&So next door, and sycamore leaves that sail in from Mr. Whosit's yard from across the street. The result: At the peak of the season, I put together a pile of leaves that you could hide a Hummer under, should you be so inclined.

The problem is what to do with them. Many of you simply bag your leaves and put them out for the Republic Services guys. In the past, I too did that. In other years, I've filled the family pickup truck and carted them to the dump myself. But one thing I've never tried is to suck them all up with my leaf-blower's vacuum attachment. It was far too tedious a method of leaf removal owing to those dinky collection bags that come as standard equipment with the machines.

But this fall, as I watched a neighbor sucking up leaves and having to empty the bag every three or four heartbeats, I got to wondering if there might be a way to send the chopped-up leaves directly into the garbage bin we rent from the corporate trash lords.

And there is. Here's how: If you have a blower (if you don't, an electric cheapie can run as little as $40), blow all the leaves into big piles. Then run down to a home improvement hangar and buy a 10-foot section of 4-inch flexible foundation drainage conduit (less than $6), a corner piece that fits it (another $6), three bungie chords and a small tarp to cover the bin so you don't smother in leaf dust.

One bungie holds the delivery end of the pipe in the bin, and the other two attach the receiving end to the blower. You can figure out how, I'm sure. I did, so you can, too. Just enter into the adventure confident that it works, because I told you so. The machine mulches the leaves down to a fraction of their original volume (I'm guessing about one-fifth or one-sixth, though some machines advertise one-tenth), so much larger portions of your over-all leaf burden get taken away every time the garbage is picked up.

Idea No. 2: Unfortunately, garbage is picked up only once a week, so if you have as many leaves as I do, it can take a while to chew through them--unless you want to pay for extra bins, and who wants to do that?

But wait. Most of us are paying for an extra bin, aren't we? In Meridian, it's the one with the red lid instead of the green lid. In Boise, I understand it's the blue one. The one they empty every other week instead of every week. The recycling bin.

And wouldn't it be loverly if that recycling bin could be converted into a non-recycling bin during it's off week? (Interchangeable lids was my original thought, though there's likely a simpler way.) It would allow us 50 percent more disposal capacity during those times when we really need it, like when the leaves come down, or when our grass is growing so quickly we can't keep up. The next week, it goes back to recyclables--which could be held back in one of those old trash cans we hang onto even though they became obsolete the minute our trash companies went to the new system.

Could work, right? At the least, it's something a few thousand of us might want to discuss with our trash service providers.

Idea No. 3: This was inspired by that wizard of crossword magic, Will Shortz. Weeks ago, a crossword ran within these very pages that incorporated French words in the tricky answers. It made me wonder if anyone had ever designed puzzles where the clues were all in the native tongue, and the answers were in a specific foreign tongue. Spanish, say. German. Whatever.

I would understand if some of you thought this was a stupid, stupid idea--especially those who never do crossword puzzles or who have never yearned to learn another language. But for those who love crosswording, they already know there is something about that puzzle-solving process that imprints a word in one's brain like no other method I've ever come across. Now, imagine if those words being etched into your little gray cells were all from a language you wished to learn.

Obviously, there would be a progression from easy to hard, with the easiest puzzles peppered with foreign words familiar to us--e.g., amigo, dachshund, parlez-vous Francais, etc. Then, as your vocabulary expands, you move on to harder puzzles that build upon the new words you've learned. Get it?

Of course, knowing written words and knowing how to speak those words are not the same thing. But you can't pronounce a vocabulary you don't have, and is this not an immensely more enjoyable way to accumulate a vocabulary than by the old rote route?

: Now, assuming we're still around after Mayan D-Day, have a happy holiday.
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