DreamboatAnnie Boston

Two albums not on the list, but close

by George Taniwaki

My friend Carol tagged me on Facebook asking me to post 10 albums that influenced my musical taste and upbringing. One per day over the next 10 days, no explanation, and to tag one of my friends each day. Being a curmudgeon, I refuse to do it her way. But what are those 10 albums? Let me recall them.

Them Changes, Buddy Miles, 1970

It’s the first album I ever bought with my own money. I got it because my best friend at the time had the middle name Miles and played the drums. Well it’s a reason. I still have the album.


There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly & the Family Stone, 1971

I never owned this album and until today had never listened to it all the way through. (Aren’t streaming music services great?) It makes the list because the first concert I ever went to was Family Stone in 1972. I went with my best friend, the drummer. The concert started two hours late. I later learned this was a common occurrence because Sylvester Stuart was in a constant drug induced haze.


Paranoid, Black Sabbath, 1971

Politically incorrect lyrics from a band who’s lead singer is now more famous for being the doddering patriarch of a reality TV clan.

I saw Black Sabbath in concert on Halloween 1976. Prior to the start of the concert there was a costume contest. One of the judges was Pat Schroeder, who had recently been elected as the House representative for 1st District. One of the contestants was dressed as a giant dildo and hopped around the stage. I’m sure Ms Schroeder regretted participating. There were two opening acts; newly popular bands from the east and west coasts, Boston and Heart (see covers at top of post). Great concert.


The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, Joe Walsh, 1973

Before he was a guitarist for the Eagles, Joe Walsh had a solo career. Of course, growing up in Denver, our favorite song on the album was Rocky Mountain Way.


Quadrophenia, The Who, 1973

One of the best albums of all time, by one of the greatest bands of all time. Enough said.


Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin, 1975

I was introduced to math, physics, Led Zeppelin, and mass consumption of drugs (not in that order) by my classmates at Caltech.

Nearly 20 years later, before I knew what it was about, I immediately knew I would like Richard Linklater’s nostalgic movie, Dazed and Confused, just from its title.


Van Halen, Van Halen, 1978

Another band popular while I was at Caltech. Van Halen was a local band from Pasadena but I never had a chance to see them.


The Wall, Pink Floyd, 1979

If Quadrophenia was great, The Wall was even greater. Apparently, I have an affinity for double albums.


Boy, U2, 1980

A band from Dublin that I call the anti-Beatles. The Beatles started out playing pop music and became more experimental as their success grew. U2’s album Boy is very experimental. But the band’s music became more conventional as they became more popular.

I saw U2 perform songs from this album at the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver.


She’s So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper, 1983

There weren’t very many female composers that I considered favorites in my formative years. Hard rock and alternative are sexist. As an adult, my musical tastes became more balanced.


* * * *

Final thoughts

The popularity of albums is an odd thing. A collection of 8 to 10 songs produced as a unit of recording didn’t exist until the invention of the 33-1/3 rpm vinyl record in 1948. Prior to that, records could only hold a few minutes of music on each side and so people listened to live music as a set but recorded music a single song at a time. CDs replaced vinyl albums and could hold more music, though they usually did not. With the advent of downloadable music and streaming services most people no longer buy and listen to albums. We are back to listening to songs as singles again.

While I was growing up, I listened to my albums over and over. As I listened to an album, when one song was ending, I knew exactly which song was next. Yet I didn’t know the order of the songs on an album. I could only recall them as I was hearing them.

When my wife Sue and I got married, we each had record collections with over 100 albums. We combined our collections and gave away our duplicates. Our taste in music were so different that we only gave away 7 records total, nearly all of them either by the Beatles or Led Zeppelin.


What will we ask our robots to do? Image from The New Yorker

by George Taniwaki

Check out the illustration above by Tom Gauld on the cover of the May 20, 2019 issue of The New Yorker. It’s humorous because on first glance, it seems that it would be a waste if in the future we create robot dogs and robot humans for the sole purpose of having them exchange places.

But on further reflection, I think that response is wrong. Having robot dogs and robot dog walkers could both be solutions for people who like dogs. We dog owners (or previous dog owners, like me, since our beloved Wheatcakes died) like dogs because they get us out of the house. However, we are not home all the time and dogs gets bored and lonely.

For people in the middle-class who spend their day at work and not enough time at home, a robot dog might be the bourgeois solution to keep them active and outdoors. For the very rich, having a live dog and a robot to keep the dog company may be the Veblenesque solution to their desire to own a dog and to assuage their guilt about abandoning it.


Not how the crow flies to get to work each day

by George Taniwaki

I really don’t like to drive to work. I’ll do almost anything to avoid a long commute. For most of my adult life I have either walked or ridden a bus to get to work. Yes, it’s possible. I always chose an apartment to rent or house to buy based on how close it is to my job. And once I’ve found a place to live, I usually reject a new job unless it’s within walking or riding distance. It helps that I like living in big cities.

But I just started a contract assignment in Mountlake Terrace, a suburb of Seattle about 20 miles from where I live as the crow flies (see image above, or not). This isn’t the longest commute in my life, but the first long one in a few decades. And it’s the first long commute where I’m driving alone rather than in a carpool.

Google Maps, initial attempt

The traffic in Seattle is awful. To reduce my commute time, I’ve decided that starting my drive at 6:30 and working from 7:30 to 4:00 will help. Before my first day to the job site, I pull out Google Maps and plot my route (see Fig 1).


Figure 1. My first route to the office, average 42 minutes every morning

For the analysis in this blog post, I split my drive into segments based on type of driving. Segment A consists of surface streets from my house to the highway. B is 17 miles at highway speed driving north, away from the city, C is a slow slog where I double-back and join the commuters coming into town, and D is the final, short segment of surface streets to the office.

The table below shows details of my commute. Most of it is tolerable. But notice that segment C (the red zone) constitute less than one-sixth of my commute distance but over one-third of my commute time.

Map Description



Elapsed Time

A Surface streets from home to SR520




B SR520 to I-405 to I-5




C I-5 to Mountlake Terrace




D Surface streets from I-5 to office








Google Maps, redux

After a couple weeks of following this route, I’ve learned which lanes to use on which segments to slice a few minutes off my commute. But I think I can still do better. I check Google Maps for some alternatives. This time it gives me a completely different, and unexpected, route. It tells me to go a few miles out of my way south to I-90 and drive north through the city on I-5 (see Fig 2).

I-5 in downtown Seattle is one of the most congested highways in the U.S. I get queasy every time I drive it worrying about getting stuck. But maybe it’s not so bad at 6:45 AM, which is about what time I will get there. So I trust Google Maps and try it.


Figure 2. Google Maps’ new suggestion, average time 44 minutes

It works. I try the route on two consecutive days. The table below shows the average results. There is congestion on I-5 between I-90 to Olive Way (Segment C red zone) but it is a shorter segment than my previous commute. However, the route is longer, so it doesn’t save much time. Further, I don’t like this route because it limits my options. If there is an accident or other delay, I will be stuck in traffic with no easy way to avoid it.

Map Description



Elapsed Time

A Surface streets from home to I-90




B I-90 to downtown




C I-5 to Olive Way




D I-5 to Mountlake Terrace




E Surface streets from I-5 to office








Waze to the rescue

Waze is a GPS navigation app originally developed in Israel but quickly went global. It uses traditional digital map data and combines it with real-time location data from users including speed, route, reports of traffic jams, accidents, police speed traps, and gasoline prices at nearby stations. Thus, the more people who use it, the more accurate it becomes.

Waze also shows you the current toll price (Seattle uses variable toll pricing) and lets you avoid tolls, ferries, or highways, if desired, when choosing a route.

Google (now Alphabet) acquired Waze in 2013 but it remains a separate entity from Google Maps. Because Waze collects potentially personally identifiable information (PII), it has a less restrictive user agreement than Google Maps and warns users of that fact. (Though most people never read the agreement and just click “I accept”.)

Generating a route is a highly resource intensive calculation that often involves machine learning. To simplify the work, Google Maps generally limits routes to major arterial streets. Waze combines those calculations with the actual routes users are taking to find the minimum travel time. Thus, Waze often creates routes that run through residential neighborhoods. Of course, the neighbors sometimes complain or even fight back by generating fake route data (Wash Post, Jun 2016).

Figure 3 below shows the route Waze recommends for my commute. It looks just like the original route that Google Maps suggested, except for the last segment. I still take the I-5 cloverleaf, but instead of continuing onto I-5, it has me veer right and use side streets to get to the office.


Figure 3. My new favorite route to work

Map Description



Elapsed Time

A Surface streets from home to SR520




B SR520 to I-405




C Surface streets from I-405 to office








The best part is that I can see I-5 from the I-405 off-ramp. When traffic is light (speed is 30 mph or more), I can veer to the left and take I-5 to the office. When I-5 is congested, I can veer to the right and take surface streets. While on the surface streets, I can continue to see I-5 and confirm whether I made the right decision and improve my choice for future days.

Waze leads me astraze

With my success with Waze in the morning, I decide to use it for my evening commute home as well. As I turn onto I-5, Waze tells me there is road kill ahead. I wonder where. Then suddenly I see a raccoon and am jolted by the thump. It saddens me to know that I’ve squashed an innocent animal under my tires, even if it is already dead.

The rest of the commute home is uneventful until Waze tells me to exit I-405 at NE 85th St in Kirkland (Fig 4b), 4 miles before my usual exit at SR520 (Fig 4a). Gee, that seems like a bad idea. Should I ignore Waze and keep going straight? Or should I take the exit? Maybe there is an accident on my regular route. Or maybe the crowd of Waze users knows a sneak route. Well, Waze has been pretty accurate so far, so I take the exit.

Ugh, what a mistake. Driving east on NE 85th St takes me straight into a huge traffic jam on Redmond Way. Also, there is a giant construction project on the Microsoft campus, so West Lake Sammamish Pkwy is overflowing with drivers avoiding lane closures on 156th Av NE. My commute today is more than 35 minutes longer than usual. I won’t do that again.

CommuteToHomeI405Label CommuteToHomeI405LocalLabel

Figures 4a, b. My normal commute home, Waze suggestion for 11/21/2019


Both Waze and Google Maps show you unexpected options and are likely to give better routes than you could find on your own. Overall, my experience with Waze was better than Google Maps, but both could use improvements.

* * * *

All this talk about commute time has me remembering a brain teaser from my childhood. Let’s say I want my average commute speed to be 40 mph. One day, I get stuck in traffic and cover the first half of the distance to work at an average speed of 20 mph. How fast do I have to drive on the second half to meet my goal? Hint: The answer is not 60 mph or even 80 mph.

NorthGateInside SouthGateInside

New gates seen from the backyard: Left-hand outswing gate on north side of house, Narrower right-hand outswing gate on south side of house

by George Taniwaki

There are two gates between the front and back yards of my mother’s house, one on the north side and one on the south side. In my mom’s neighborhood, all fences have six-foot cedar pickets. All the gates are hung so that their hinges are attached to adjacent 4"x4" posts. The gates swing toward the front yard and the gate hinges and latches face the front yard. Views of the new gates from the backyard are shown above.

Both old gates at my mom’s house are probably three decades old. They are weathered and sag so much that they drag on the ground. Neither was particularly well-designed or was hung properly when new, so the problem has been festering for a while. I finally decided to replace them both. Each new gate took about three days to build and install. (Yes, I’m a really slow woodworker and I could never make a living doing this.)

Why gates fail

Before I begin to build the new gates, I think about why the old gates failed. There seems to be two problems. They were not designed to absorb the forces on them and they were not built using good construction practices.

The main force on the gate is gravity. This force is transferred to the hinges. The gravitational force is spread across the entire width of the gate (Fig 1a). But the hinge support is not. This causes torque which also has to be absorbed by the hinge and the gate frame.

This torque causes stress which can cause the gate to fail. The hinge post can rot or get loose or the screws on hinge can come loose (whole gate tips), the gate can split at the joint between the stiles and rails, or the gate can rack (Fig 1b).

GateStaticForces GateFailureModes

Figure 1a, b. Forces on the gate, Failure modes include failure at hinge, failure at joint between rails and stiles, and racking

Prepare the opening

To reduce the chance of early failure, I want to carefully prepare both the hinge post and the latch post before hanging the new gate. First, ensure the posts are stable and plumb (Fig 2a). Even if the post does not wobble, check if it is attached securely to the fence rails. Remove any nails used to attach rails to the post and replace them with a combination of urethane glue and corrosion resistant lag screws (Fig 2b) to stabilize them. If needed, add pressure-treated 2×4 lumber as blocking to support the gate hinges and latch. If the post is near a building wall, use an angle bracket to anchor the post (Fig 2c).

CheckPlumb LagScrews


Figure 2 a, b, c. Check for plumb, Replace nails with lag screws, Anchor post to wall

Make the frame

There are three common options for making a gate frame. The stiles can be full height, the rails can be full-width, or the corners can be mitered (Fig 3a). Once screwed together, the gate needs support to prevent it from sagging. You can use either pressure-treated lumber to make an angled brace to take compression load or a corrosion resistant cable tightened with a turnbuckle to take tension load (Fig 3b).

The frame of the gate should be made of pressure-treated lumber. To ensure stability, use pocket screws, not nails, to hold the gate frame together. First, drill the pocket screw holes using a jig (Fig 3c). Before installing the screws, measure the diagonals to ensure the frame is square (Fig 3d). I used a cable to support the load (Fig 3e).

Finally, if possible, cut any holes, mortises, or notches needed for the latch hardware now. My gate latch requires a single notch (Fig 3f). More on installing the latch later.

GateFrameOptions GateSupportOptions

DrillPocektHoles CheckDiagonals

AddCable CutLatchMortise

Figure 3a, b, c, d, e, f. Gate frame options (Full-height stiles, Full-width rails, Mitered corners), Support options (Brace, Cable), Drilling pocket screws, Measure the diagonals to ensure square, Add cable, Cut a notch for the latch

Prepare and attach the pickets

The cedar pickets at the store are very rough and not very attractive and need to be cleaned up. I use a random orbit sander to smooth the faces (Fig 4a). Then I use a block plane to smooth the sides (Fig 4b) and to chamfer the edges (Fig 4c). Once all the pickets are ready, use corrosion resistant screws to attach them to the gate frame. I start from the hinge side and align the first picket flush to the edge. Then I insert spacers (pieces of cardboard folded in half) and attach the next picket (Fig 4d). I continue until until only 2 pickets remain. I leave them off. I will attach them after the gate is hung.

If possible, attach the hinges now. Lay the hinges on the gate, place a straight edge (I use a loose picket) on top of the hinges to align them, and screw the hinges into the frame (Fig 4e).

At this point, the gate is ready to stain and varnish, but I did not do this.

SandPickets PlanePickets

EaseEdges AttachPickets


Figure 4a, b, c, d, e. Sand the faces, Plane the sides, Chamfer the edges, Screw the pickets to the frame, Attach the hinges

Hang the gate

I am going the install this gate by myself. To hold it in place temporarily while I screw in the hinges, I make a shim. Place scrap wood (I used pickets from the old gate) at the base of the gate opening and ensure they are level and exactly at the height you want the bottom of the gate. Push dirt around as needed (Fig 5a). Rest the gate on top of the shim, ensure it is plumb, and screw the hinges to the post (Fig 5b). Remove the shim and test that the gate is level, swings freely, and does not bind.

There are three pickets left to install, one on the latch post and two on the gate itself. Measure the width needed to be covered by these three pickets, subtract the width of two spacers. Now divide by three. That will be the width of each picket. Rip the pickets to the correct width (Fig 5c). Use a block plane to joint the pickets (Fig 5d). Attach one picket to the latch post (Fig 5e) and the other two to the gate (Fig 5f). The picket on the gate may overlap the post. This is fine.

TemporaryShim AttachGate

RipPickets FinalMeasure

LastPicketsDetail LastPicketsDetail2

Figure 5a, b, c, d, e, f. A temporary base to hold the gate, Gate is hung, Rip the final pickets to width, Finish with block plane, Attach one picket on latch post, Attach two pickets to gate

Install the latch

I use a low-profile 2-way latch by Fenix. Unfortunately, there is a design flaw in the spring action. The latch bar will bind unless the hole for it in the latch handle is cut slightly larger and at an angle so that the bottom of the hole is wider than the top. I mark the outline for the larger hole using a red marker (Fig 6a) and use a file to enlarge the hole. I cut notches in the pickets in the gate to allow the latch handle through (no photo).

In another design flaw, the screws that come with the Fenix latch are too short to securely attach the latch handle to the gate. I pick two 5mm x 60mm (#8 x 2-1/2") corrosion resistant deck screws, paint the heads black, and use them to attach the latch handle to the gate. I attach the latch keep to the post and adjust its height until the latch opens and shuts smoothly. The gate is done (Fig 6b).



Figure 6a, b. Modifying the latch hardware, The finished north gate


Folding a square sheet of paper

by George Taniwaki

After scribbling notes on a square yellow Post-it note, I folded it in half and was about to put it in my pocket when I made an interesting observation. If I fold a square paper exactly in half while holding an edge toward me, the resulting visible area is a rectangle with an area of one-half the total area (top illustration above). The same is true if rotate the sheet 45 degrees and I fold it along the diagonal to make a triangle (middle illustration above). However, if I fold it in half along any other angle, the area of the top layer is exactly one-half, but two additional triangular ears are visible from under the fold (bottom illustration above).

That made me wonder. What angle produces the maximum area, and what is that area? This is the perfect math question for the origami enthusiast.

Let’s solve it.

Finding the relevant dimensions

The first step in solving this problem is to unfold the sheet, use geometry to find any symmetries, and use trigonometry to calculate the area of the two triangular ears as a function of the rotation angle, θ.


Unfolding the sheet

By unfolding the sheet, I discover a surprising symmetry. The two triangular ears are identical. Let’s call the lengths of the two exterior sides A and B. The area of one triangular ear is A * B / 2 and the area of both ears is A * B.

The length of the interior side, which is the hypotenuse of a right triangle, can be called C. The angles opposite each side can be labeled a, b, and c. (See figure above.)

Using trigonometry, this means A = C * cos(b) and B = C * sin(b).

The angle b is twice the rotation angle or 2θ. Substituting gives

A = C * cos(2θ) and B = C * sin(2θ).

The length of one side of the square = 1, so A + B + C = 1. Substituting and rearranging gives

C * cos(2θ) + C * sin(2θ) + C = 1


C = 1/(cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)

and finally substituting this value of C in our original equations for A, B, and A * B gives

A = cos(2θ) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)
B = sin(2θ) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)
A * B = cos(2θ) * sin(2θ) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)2

Numeric solution

There are two ways to solve for the maximum value of the area A * B and the angle θ. We can solve it numerically and analytically. Let’s start with a numeric solution. In Excel, I create a table of values of θ from 0 to 45 degrees with steps of 1 degree increments. I convert degrees to radians and calculate the associated values of A, B, and A *B. Then I plot them. The maximum value occurs at θ somewhere between 22 and 23 degrees. Thus, it seems 22.5 degrees is the solution.

At 22.5 degrees, A = B = 0.2929 and A * B = 0.08579.


Plot of A, B, and A*B versus θ

Analytic solution

Now let’s prove the numeric solution is correct by using an analytical method. To find the maximum area, I take the derivative of A * B with respect to θ and set to zero. Then solve for θ. The solution uses basic calculus, including a combination of the product rule and chain rule. First, I define A * B as a group of functions as follows:

let f(θ) = cos(2θ)
g(θ) = sin(2θ)
h(θ) = 1 / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)2 = (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)2


A * B = f(θ) * g(θ) * h(θ)

The derivatives are as follows:

f'(θ) = -sin(2θ)*2
g'(θ) = cos(2θ)*2
h'(θ) = -2 * (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)-3 * (-sin(2θ) + cos(2θ)) * 2 = 4 * (sin(2θ) – cos(2θ)) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)3


(A * B)’ = ( f'(θ) * g(θ) * h(θ)) + (g'(θ) * f(θ) * h(θ)) + (h'(θ) * f(θ) * g(θ))

Now I substitute the values of the 3 functions and their derivatives into the last equation.

(A * B)’ = (-sin(2θ)*2 * sin(2θ) * h(θ)) + (cos(2θ)*2 * cos(2θ) * h(θ)) + 4 * (sin(2θ) – cos(2θ)) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)3 * cos(2θ) * sin(2θ))

Simplifying and rearranging gets:

(A * B)’ = (cos2(2θ) – sin2(2θ)) * 2 * h(θ) + (sin(2θ) – cos(2θ)) * 4 * cos(2θ) * sin(2θ) / (cos(2θ) + sin(2θ) + 1)3

The solutions are values of where A * B’ = 0. This is only true when both cos2(2θ) – sin2(2θ) = 0 and sin(2θ) – cos(2θ) = 0. The only angle where this condition is met is 45° or θ = 22.5°. This proves that the maximum that I found numerically is a maximum area.

[Update: Completed the analytic solution section.]


A simple jig lets you make a straight cut on a curved piece

by George Taniwaki

The instructions below show how to create a jig to make a straight cut using a band saw on an irregularly shaped object. The jig is made of modeling clay and is attached with duct tape to a crosscut sled that rides in the miter slot of the band saw.

An important warning. You should not use modeling clay and duct tape to make a jig for a table saw or miter saw. Kickback forces can damage the part or cause injury to you or bystanders.

For this particular project, the jig will hold the parabolic reflector for a recessed light fixture. The reflector is made of plastic with a metalized coating. The reflector is about 100mm (4") in diameter at the bottom, 75mm (3") in diameter at the top, and 125mm (5") tall. I want to cut 25mm (1") off the bottom. (An explanation of why I want to do this at the end of the blog post.)

Make a crosscut sled

The first step in making the jig is to make a reusable crosscut sled. The sled consists of two pieces. The bed is made from 6mm (1/4") plywood. The back is made from 19mm (3/4") plywood that is tall enough to hold any piece that will fed through the band saw. Note the notch in the back to allow the sled to fit under the band saw work light.

The crosscut sled should then be attached to a runner that will fit in the miter slot of the band saw. I simply attached mine to the miter gauge using bolts recessed into the back of the sled.


A band saw crosscut sled

Make a mold

An easy way to make a solid jig for an irregularly shaped object is to use modeling clay to make a mold. You can buy modeling clay at any hobby shop such as Michaels. To keep the modeling clay from sticking to the object, cover the object with thin plastic food wrap such as Glad cling wrap or lightly spray it with oil such as WD-40 to act as a release agent.

Soften the clay by working it in your hands. Press it against the object you want to fit on the crosscut sled. While still soft, add bits of modeling clay to the mold so that it fits squarely against the crosscut sled. Let the modeling clay cool to harden it.

Wrap the finished mold in plastic food wrap so it doesn’t stick to the part. If you only need to make a single cut, you can skip this step.


Modeling clay and the finished mold

Band saw setup

Attach the mold to the crosscut sled using strips of duct tape, aligning it so the line to cut is directly above the edge of the crosscut sled.

Place the object to be cut in the mold on the crosscut sled. Make sure the object is aligned to the band saw blade using a machinist square. Then attach the object to the mold using strips of duct tape. Start up the band saw and slowly push the crosscut sled through.

BandSawSetupBack BandSawSetupSide

Aligning the object to the blade (left); Preparing the push the crosscut bed through the band saw (right)

* * * *

The need for this jig arose because I wanted to replace the GX24 compact fluorescent light bulbs (four pin base) in the kitchen with standard E26 LED bulbs (screw-in base). We remodeled the kitchen in 2008. Back then it was obvious incandescent bulbs were going to become obsolete soon, so we installed ten recessed light fixtures with state-of-the-art CFL bulbs. Now, just over 10 years later, CFLs are obsolete. The problem with GX24 bulbs is that the ballast is part of the fixture, not the bulb. Unlike office lights, kitchen lights are flipped on and off all day long and the ballast eventually burns out with no easy way to replace it.

Replacing the bulbs requires removing the ballast and adding a GX24 to E26 adapter.  The adapter is about an inch long, which is why we need to cut an inch off the reflectors.

LED bulbs should have a life of 20,000 hours. So hopefully we won’t have ever replace the bulbs again. Technology moves too fast for me.


Yard signs that worked (from Kennebec Journal, Sep 2018)

by George Taniwaki

In a July 2019 blog post, I discussed the use of billboards to help publicize your need for a kidney donor. If you can’t afford a billboard, smaller yard signs are a good alternative if you have legal access to to the right-of-way next to a busy road , specifically one with lots of slow moving traffic.

The picture at the top of this blog post shows an excellent example of an effective yard sign. They were designed and installed by Krystal Reardon, a nurse and kidney patient in Augusta, Maine. She has six yard signs, all with black text on a blue background. The signs read “I require a life-saving transplant”, “Kidney”, “Donor”, “Needed”, “Would you consider”, “Ask me how (207) 518-0000 Kidney0000@gmail.com”. The first and last signs are hand painted, while the other four signs are stenciled. Her story was carried by multiple news outlets including Kennebec Journal (Sep 2018) and People (Sep 2018).

Her signs generated a remarkable 30 responses from strangers who have offered to get tested (Fox News, Sep 2018). She received a transplant shortly thereafter. Now she is helping other kidney patients use the same technique to find their own donors. You can see her handiwork for Kenneth Edwards and Rachel LaJoie in the second row of the photographs below.

AngelaYardSign DanYardSign

EricYardSignAUGUSTA, ME - MARCH 26: This photo taken on Tuesday March 26, 2019 shows signs about kidney donation on South Belfast Avenue (Route 105) in Augusta. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer)

AUGUSTA, ME - MARCH 26: This photo taken on Tuesday March 26, 2019 shows signs about kidney donation on South Belfast Avenue (Route 105) in Augusta. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer)


MarkYardSign JimYardSign

Seven examples of kidney campaign yard signs in the news

First row: Angela (from CTV News, Jul 2016), Dan (from WLWT, Aug 2015)

Second row: Joan (from KidneyQuest on Twitter), Kenneth and Rachel (from Press Herald, Mar 2019)

Third row: Mark (from Union Leader, May 2019), Jim (from Café Mom, Jan 2014)

Since the signs are small and most people who see it will be driving fast, you cannot put a lot of text on it. All of the yard signs have the following two features:

1. Headline or call to action – Kidney needed or donor wanted

2. Contact information – phone number, email address, or website

One option to increase awareness and to tell a longer story is to use multiple signs spaced several feet apart, like Ms Reardon did for herself and for her mentees.

Another option, which works in an area that receives plenty of snow and stays cold is to build a seven-foot snow sculpture of a kidney (see last picture in the third row) and plop your sign next to it.

Media attention

As mentioned in my blog post on billboards, another way to expand your search is to get your yard signs covered by the local newspaper or television news. All of the yard signs shown in this blog post were found on news websites.