Stephanie Owens has a pet peeve, one that many women can identify with: men who leave the toilet seat up.
After reading letters to Dear Abby and watching a TV sitcom in which a couple argued about the toilet seat, Owens wracked her brain and came up with the Happy Hopper.When offenders leave the toilet seat up, a vinyl-covered, postage-stamp-size alarm plays a tune politely reminding them to put it down.
"You could get different tunes - the `Bonanza' theme maybe, or `Let Me Call You Sweetheart,' " she said.
Owens, of Bradenton, Fla., was among the vendors displaying 1,500 products last week at INPEX, the Invention-New Product Exposition held annually in this Pittsburgh suburb since 1982.
Billed as the world's largest trade show for inventors, the convention attracts would-be Thomas Edisons offering everything from the practical to the ridiculous.
Some, like Australian veterinarian John Steinfort, tried to solve problems that arose in their professional lives.
Years of treating milk fever, a condition common to dairy cows, led Steinfort to invent the Cow Jack. Milk fever weakens a cow's hindquarters - they fall and have trouble getting up.
The Cow Jack is a steel frame that supports up to 40 percent of a bovine's weight. As the cow is braced, its muscles can be rehabilitated.
Peter Michalos, an eye surgeon from New York City, demonstrated his On Target Eye Drop Delivery System - a set of black wraparound goggles designed to help squeamish patients administer their own eye drops. A bottle can be screwed to the middle of each lens, and when it's squeezed, the drop goes through a pinhole and into the eye.
"With this, you can never poke yourself in the eye," Michalos said. "And the other thing is, because it's dark, you never see the drop coming."
Most vendors are looking for manufacturers and distributors, but hardly anyone expects to become a millionaire.