Friday, May 30, 2008

world buzzwords

Foreign people not only make up queer English words, they also have interesting words of their own. Please add any that you know of in the comments. Queer means odd, by the way.

  1. Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time
  2. Taarradhin (Arabic): a way of resolving a problem without anyone losing face (not the same as our concept of a compromise - everyone wins)
  3. Razbliuto (Russian): The vacant feeling you have for someone you once loved, but no longer love.
  4. Meraki (Greek): doing something with soul, creativity, or love
  5. Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways’, referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language:
  6. Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.
  7. Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions
  8. Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbour’s house until there is nothing left
  9. Manqué (French) having failed to become what one might have been
  10. Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
  11. Waldeinsamkeit (German): the feeling of being alone in the woods
  12. Dai Lu Maozi (Chinese) Translates to “He wears the green hat”; Meaning his Wife is sleeping with someone else.
  13. Faire Du Leche-Vitrines (French) Literally, “to lick the windows”; Window Shopping.
  14. Harami (Arabic) An electrical plug adapter that allows more than one plug to be plugged into the same socket. Literally means “thief”
  15. Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favour to be repaid.
  16. Handschuhschneebalwerfer (German) Germans like to smash words together into one. This one translates to “Somebody Who Wears Gloves To Throw Snowballs”, used in general to describe cowards.
  17. Geisterfahrer (Austria) Someone driving the wrong way on the Autobahn. Literally: Ghost Driver.
  18. Shitta (Farsi) Leftover dinner eaten for breakfast.
  19. Schadenfreude (Guess Who) To derive pleasure via someone else’s pain or misfortune
  20. Gorerro (Spanish) Someone who never picks up a check.
  21. Rujuk (Indonesian) To Remarry your ex-wife.
found on MisanthropyToday

Thursday, May 29, 2008

an intelligent protest against copyrights and patents on yoga

This is definitely a great book - for invention enthusiasts as well as for the alternative, new age and yoga world:
Can you patent wisdom? By Suketu Mehta Published: May 7, 2007; International Herald Tribune
I grew up watching my father stand on his head every morning. He was doing sirsasana, a yoga pose that accounts for his youthful looks well into his 60s. Now he might have to pay a royalty to an American patent holder if he teaches the secrets of his good health to others. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories, and 2,315 yoga trademarks. There's big money in those pretzel twists and contortions - $3 billion a year in America alone. It's a mystery to most Indians that anybody can make that much money from the teaching of a knowledge that is not supposed to be bought or sold like sausages. The Indian government is not laughing. It has set up a task force that is cataloging traditional knowledge, including ayurvedic remedies and hundreds of yoga poses, to protect them from being pirated and copyrighted by foreign hucksters. The data will be translated from ancient Sanskrit and Tamil texts, stored digitally, and available in five international languages, so that patent offices in other countries can see that yoga didn't originate in a San Francisco commune. It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly overseas. We know a business opportunity when we see one and have exported generations of gurus skilled in peddling enlightenment for a buck. But as Indians, they ought to know that the very idea of patenting knowledge is a gross violation of the tradition of yoga. In Sanskrit, "yoga" means "union". Indians believe in a universal mind - brahman - of which we are all a part, and which ponders eternally. Everyone has access to this knowledge. Knowledge in ancient India was protected by caste lines, not legal or economic ones. The term "intellectual property" was an oxymoron: the intellect could not be anybody's property. Perhaps it is for this reason that Indians do not feel obligated to pay for knowledge. Pirated copies of my book are openly sold on the Bombay streets, for a fourth of its official price. Many of the plots and the music in Bollywood movies are lifted wholesale from Hollywood. Still, Indians get upset every time they hear reports - often overblown - of Westerners' stealing their age-old wisdom through the mechanism of copyright law. The fears may be exaggerated, but they are widespread and reflect India's mixed experience with globalization. Western pharmaceutical companies make billions on drugs that are often first discovered in developing countries. But herbal remedies like bitter gourd or turmeric, which are known to be effective against everything from diabetes to piles, earn nothing for the country whose sages first isolated their virtues. The Indian government estimates that worldwide, 2,000 patents are issued a year based on traditional Indian medicines. Drugs and hatha yoga have the same aim: to help us lead healthier lives. India has given the world yoga for free. No wonder so many in the country feel that the world should return the favor by making lifesaving drugs available at reduced prices, or at least letting Indian companies make cheap generics. If the lotus position belongs to all mankind, so should the formula for Gleevec, the leukemia drug over whose patent a Swiss pharmaceuticals company is suing the Indian government. For decades, Indian law allowed its pharmaceutical companies to replicate Western-patented drugs and sell them at a lower price to countries too poor to afford them otherwise. In this way, India supplied half of the drugs used by HIV-positive people in the developing world. But in March 2005, the Indian Parliament, under pressure to bring the country into compliance with the World Trade Organization's rules on intellectual property, passed a bill declaring it illegal to make generic copies of patented drugs. This has put life-saving antiretroviral medications out of reach of many of the nearly 6 million Indians who have AIDS. Yet the very international drug companies that so fiercely protect their patents oppose India's attempts to amend World Trade Organization rules to protect its traditional remedies. There's more at stake than just the money. There is also the perception that the world trading system is unfair, that the deck is stacked against developing countries. If the copying of Western drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also intellectual piracy, stood on its head. Suketu Mehta is the author of "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Junk PCs for collectors mean business

Sellam Ismail at runs a fun business. In the first purchase of his collection, Sellam Ismail loaded the trunk of his car with old computers he stumbled upon at a flea market for $5 apiece. Soon he had filled his three-car garage with what others would consider obsolete junk. Years later, his collection of early computers, printers, and related parts is piled high across shelves and in chaotic heaps in a 4,500-square-foot warehouse near Silicon Valley. And it is worth real money. Even as the power and speed of today's computers make their forerunners look ever punier, a growing band of collectors are gathering retro computers, considering them important relics and even good investments. "There has been a real steep upward trend in prices in the last year, year and a half," said Ismail, 38. "It seems it's become like the new collectible to moneyed people. Before it was just nerds and hobbyists." He states his own affiliation clearly: he wears a black T shirt with the word "nerd" on the front. He recently brought a quarter-century old Xerox Star computer back to life to be used as evidence in a patent lawsuit. The pride of his collection is an Apple Lisa, one of the first computers (introduced in 1983) with a now standard graphical interface. Such items sell for more than $10,000.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

to sum up the water panic

To summarize the bottled water vs. tap water vs. other water wars: this subject plays tricks with the impulsive nature of an everyday consumer. More so, it is related to intellectual dishonesty. It is enough to allude to the fact that tap water contains lead, present due to the soldered pipes, and a consumer is heading for the corner convenience store to stock up on a gallon of designer water. Though it is also enough to mention that a bottle of spring water was found to contain more than a minimal level of sodium, or, even more seriously alleged, a trace of pesticide, and the consumer is ready to rationalize that the good ol' tap water is the God's gift to humans.
  • Tap water rules only when it contains lowest amounts of lead and other heavy metals, and the local water authority is certified by an independent lab to produce water having trace metals below EPA limits. It is also important to consider whether the chemical is regulated or non-regulated (see this link Other than that, tap water contains low-to-medium low levels of sodium and iron, which are basic necessities for any person.
  • Bottled water is still a hands-down winner for areas contaminated with industrial pollutants or agricultural chemicals. Just because trace pesticide was found in bottled water out East, there is no reason to start a lemming run.
  • also important to keep in mind: bottled companies often launch smear campaigns against each other (which sometimes backfire when they get out of control), causing a major skew in public perception.
  • but the most important thing to remember for the upcoming summer - if you are planning to do any strenuous work that will cause you to lose electrolytes through seating and urination, you are better off drinking sports drinks.

There is a mathematical formula for perfect beer foam

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A mathematical formula can now predict how the frothy head on a beer changes over time, a finding that may have a wide range of commercial uses beyond pulling the perfect pint, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The formula explains how the tiny bubbles that make up foam grow -- an explanation that could lead to the development of products such as metal shrink wrap.

The possibilities include "the heat treatment of metals or even controlling the head on a pint of beer," Robert MacPherson of Princeton University in New Jersey and David Srolovitz of Yeshiva University in New York report in the journal Nature.

Foam is made up of many tiny bubbles that scientists think of as cells with boundaries. The new formula calculates how these microstructures grow.

These tiny structures or grains are abundant in nature, making up the foam on a beach or the pebble in your shoe. They also can be found in man-made materials such as ceramics or metals.

"What the theory does is it tells you how the size of every single bubble will evolve in time," Srolovitz said in a telephone interview.

David Kinderlehrer, a mathematician at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said the finding will help materials scientists concoct a number of newfangled materials by rearranging the grains in various materials using computer simulation.

"It tells you how an individual grain grows by itself until something happens to it. That is very important for understanding how to process material," Kinderlehrer said in a telephone interview.

In metal, that means striking the right balance.

"The strength of a metal depends on grain size. As you make smaller and smaller grains, the metal gets stronger and stronger but it also gets more brittle," Srolovitz said.

"For a particular application you want the grain size that represents a compromise between as strong as you can get and as brittle as you can live with," Srolovitz said.

Kinderlehrer said new materials now under study are batteries that do not corrode and shrink-wrap metals that could be used to repair nuclear power plants -- without shutting them down.

"A lot of things we can only imagine," said Kinderlehrer, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Million dollar knives, not pages

Portland, OR - Long before holstered cellphones appeared on handymen's belts, another gadget won their hearts and hips: the Leatherman Pocket Survival Tool. Within three months of its first listing in a mail-order catalog, the multifunctional gizmo became essential for thousands of hikers, hunters, and knife enthusiasts. Since then, Leatherman tools have blasted into space with NASA astronauts, severed umbilical cords on newborns, and extracted shrapnel from American troops in Iraq. As founder Tim Leatherman tells it, the idea behind his company grew out of a routine car breakdown. He and his wife spent most of 1975 touring Europe and Asia in a used Fiat. Its hoses leaked and the wiring failed constantly, and Leatherman's generic pocketknife lacked the means to fix them. Inspiration struck: Why not add pliers to a pocketknife? By the time the couple returned to the U.S., Leatherman had sketched out a design. A few weeks later he was using his brother-in-law's machining tools to construct the first prototype. Today the 350-employee Leatherman Tool Group ( sells about 2.5 million units a year of 36 models in 80 countries, from Germany to Mongolia. By December the company plans to introduce five new products. At his headquarters in Portland, Tim Leatherman, 58, sat down with FSB to discuss how he persisted for more than eight years to convince customers that his seven-ounce invention was much more than a glorified Boy Scout knife. My wife and I decided to travel abroad in 1975. We were young-it was one of those budget trips, and we bought an old Fiat in Amsterdam for $300. I was carrying a Boy Scout-type knife and used it for everything, from slicing bread to making adjustments to the car. But I kept wishing I had a pair of pliers! During the trip - it lasted almost nine months - I had a piece of paper in my pocket where I listed ideas for new products, things I might work on back in the U.S. It was in a hotel room in Tehran that I started sketching a pocketknife that contained pliers. Once we got back to Portland, I asked my wife if I could build it - just one for me. I told her it would only take a month, and she got a job to support us. I set up shop in the garage and picked up a file and a hacksaw. (I have a degree in mechanical engineering but knew nothing about machining.) My brother-in-law was a machinist, and what he didn't teach me about metalworking, I had to figure out myself. My month turned into three years. I learned that I'm not a very good inventor. I don't have much foresight. You know Marconi, who built some of the first radios? I've heard that before he picked up a pencil, he had the entire model envisioned in his mind. I'm not that way. It took a few months just to visualize each part of the knife. The first concept was a knife with a pair of regular pliers, and then a separate needle nose would swing over and be driven by the pliers. Then I got really ambitious and decided to add a feature that would lock the pliers, so that once I'd grab onto something, they would stay clamped. I wanted to put in a hacksaw, but they wear out pretty fast. I even tried to put in a can opener, a flat screwdriver, a leather punch, a pair of scissors, and a Phillips screwdriver. Eventually I ended up with two prototypes. At that point I filed for a patent. I was hoping for an easy way out, that someone would pay me a million dollars for the patent rights. I thought my most likely prospects would be knife companies, so I brought my prototype to Gerber (, a Portland, Ore., knife business. They looked it over and said, "This isn't a knife, it's a tool. We're not in the tool business." I still thought it was a knife, so I went to the major knife companies, but they all said no. I eventually got the message, and decided that if it's not a knife, it's a tool. I visited several tool companies, and they all said, "This isn't a tool, it's a gadget. Gadgets don't sell." I found out that the New York Times ran a weekly column about new patents, and I called the writer to give him a heads-up when mine came through. He wrote about it, and I thought, "Wow, I'm going to get so many calls that I'd better go out and get an answering machine." I sat by my phone waiting for it to ring. I got one or two calls from crackpots. Then my wife and I decided I should get a real job. I still had faith that I could sell the tool to some company, but in the off chance I didn't, I knew I'd have to go into business myself to sell it. I knew nothing about business. I had no idea what an invoice was or what accounts receivable were, and I didn't have any sales skills. So I took a welding-sales job I found in the want ads, which turned out to be a really good job for me. By day I sold welding products, and when calling on industrial accounts such as machine shops, I'd bring my product so I could learn more about manufacturing it. By night I was still trying to make contacts, get something going. This went on for about four years. Nothing happened, and I was ready to give up. Steve Berliner, a friend from college, saved me. A business major who was working in his father's metalworking firm, he had tracked me the whole time. We became partners - 75% for me, 25% for Steve. He suggested that we should manufacture the tool ourselves but first find a customer to order a substantial number. His first thought was AT&T (before the breakup), which could use the tool for its fleet of repairmen. AT&T said no. Then we tried the Army, thinking it could ship our tool to every soldier. We sent proposals to 23 government contacts and quickly received two "no's" and one "we acknowledge receiving it and will get back to you in due course." We still haven't heard back from the other 20. Finally, we tried mail-order catalogs. We were so naive! We figured that if we made and sold 4,000 tools in our first year, we would break even and recover the cost of our investment. We would start production when a customer ordered 2,000. We created a mailing list, wrote a cover letter, and sent it to 250 catalogs. We drove up to Seattle to meet with one in person Early Winters. (The company changed its name to Sahalie in 2004.) The buyers looked at the prototype and asked us for a price. I came up with $40. "That means we'd have to sell it for $80," they said. "Sorry, don't think so." But instead of closing the door completely, they asked us what we could to do make it less expensive and helped us brainstorm ideas. Steve and I went to work on a new prototype, taking out the clamping feature and a few other items. When we returned to Early Winters, we quoted the price of our tool at $24. They liked it but wouldn't commit to ordering 2,000. We drove back to Portland and sent another letter out to the catalogs. One responded - Cabela's, the Nebraska hunting and fishing outfitter. It sent us a $12,000 purchase order for 500 tools. Steve and I shifted into production mode. One of the nice things about the mail-order business is the long lead time from when clients commit to the product to when it appears in the catalog. It was May of 1983, and our first order was for late December - plenty of time, we thought. Steve's dad let us use 1,000 square feet of his metal shop, his equipment, and some of his employees. Sometime after May, Early Winters called. It wanted 250 tools. At that point - eight years after my first sketch - we started wondering about exactly who our customer was. If you envision a spectrum of knives and tools, Swiss Army knives sit on one side, and hand tools such as files and pliers sit on the other. Ours fit in the middle, and we named it the Pocket Survival Tool to appeal to the 20,000 survivalists that newspapers were writing about back then. We also targeted knife enthusiasts with ads in knife-trade publications, offering to sell directly to them. A few other orders trickled in, and in late December we got another call from Early Winters asking if its order was ready. We said we would be late-production wasn't quite as easy as we thought. "We need them badly," the buyers said, "because they've all been sold. And put us down for another 500." Three days later they ordered 750 more, and suddenly there was this market of customers calling us, folks who mentioned seeing us in catalogs. We sold about 30,000 tools in 1984 and 69,000 the next year. By 1993 we were selling more than one million units a year. I realized I had gotten lucky-initially, I failed to understand who my customer was. It was the catalogs that brought them to me. Earlier this year I stepped down from my post as president, giving up one of my four positions. I'm still chairman, majority shareholder, and landlord. I think I've done a pretty good job of letting go, but it is important for me to come in every few weeks to meet with the CEO. Back when Steve and I were brainstorming company names, I told him we didn't need to name it after me. But he insisted, and I think he was pretty wise in doing so. Since my name is on every tool we make, I still feel a responsibility for the quality of each one we sell.

Area 52, Burning Man and the way to vacation

Captain Jack Sparrow at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas
More on vacations - one of the most interesting vacations I have had was in Las Vegas. We were on our way back from the Burning Man festival. We and are friends had some spare time and we decided to splurge, but splurge big, and I don't mean on the slot machines.

It was a rather dry and hot drive through the desert, so we took our sweet time to relax and take Jacuzzis, and towards the evening we went exploring. We visited Margaritaville where we played with incredible drinking straws, posed with a man on stilts, and went to an Area 52 bar that is decorated in the theme of UFOs and government secrecy. The most fun-filled bar i have ever seen. The next morning we found out how to get to the hotel which during the 1950's served as the rooftop outlook for watching nuclear test explosions out in the desert. Along the Vegas' main drag there is a spot where we virtually visited more than a dozen countries, all amidst laser-and hologram-lighted fountains, dance, and ride a roller coaster all in one park. One of our friends figured out other things to do in Las Vegas, and in a city where there is no limit to sightseeing opportunities this web site is the source, we had to agree. We also went on sightseeing tours, per our friends' recommendation. We saw celebrities spots, and many other eccentric people's residences, which I don't remember since I am not a celebrity fan. It turns out that Trusted Tours and Attractions has the best selection of opportunities for a vacation. Right now it is the time to sign up for their newsletter to be up to date on all the vacation news, about all their new vacation features to Vegas, and other cities. Things to do in Boston, Orlando, New York, and Chicago are definitely the activities that have already been packaged for the most picky tourist, I see. Trusted Tours and Attractions offers discounted tickets to the best sightseeing tours in 23 cities across America, I found out. It makes sense to planning vacations and looking for ideas on what to do by signing up for the Trusted Travels eNewsletter and also entering to win a $150 iTunes gift card Offer that ends Saturday, May 31st, 2008.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Credit Card Art

Apparently, : Credit card covers wiand artwork mix very well, as Anthony David Adams and Bowen Dwelle of CreditCovers ( proved in 2007 on only $30,000

After working for several Fortune 500 companies as an idea man, 27-year-old Anthony David Adams was tired of making money for other people. He wanted to create an original idea for a product and company that he could profit from directly.

"I was interested in creating something that would reach a large amount of people," says Adams. After just 30 minutes of brainstorming, he had the concept: personalized "skins" for credit cards, with pop art that would make consumers take notice.

Along with CreditCovers co-founder Bowen Dwelle, 38, Adams hammered a business plan together and secured the startup costs, launching the company in January last year. "For a few hundred bucks, I got the prototype done," Adams says. "It wasn't a million-dollar investment."

Adams did the prototype art himself, but he knew that using exclusive original artwork from popular artists would be the key to success. He approached alternative, counterculture illustrators such as comic artist Jim Mahfood and skateboard artist Todd Francis to create the visual aspects of the covers. Mahfood's designs include beautiful women, while Francis created a tongue-in-cheek parody of traditional patriotic credit card designs--a sinister vulture and a logo that reads "Bloodsucking Financial Institution."

The covers were first sold in local clothing and accessories store Sukara Sterling, and word-of-mouth helped the four-person company get a foothold in specialty clothing stores and youth culture boutiques. The business' small size allows Adams and Dwelle to run it from their laptops. CreditCovers, now sold on every continent as well as on, expects sales of more than $1 million this year.

With franchise deals in progress, Adams is keeping his hopes for 2008 modest.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Scientist needs 20 grand to finish his time travel experiment

Found here, it turns out that a Seattle scientist who wants to test a controversial prediction from quantum theory that says light particles can go backward in time, is himself running out of time.

It's not a wormhole or warp in the space-time continuum. The problem is more mundane -- a black hole in the time-and-money continuum spawned by today's increasingly risk-averse, "performance-based" approach to funding research.

"I guess you could say we're now living on borrowed time," wryly joked John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington. "All we need to keep going is maybe $20,000, but nobody seems that interested in funding this project."

It's a project that aims to do a conceptually simple bench-top test for evidence of something Albert Einstein called "spooky action at a distance." The test involves using a crystal to split a photon, a light particle, into two reduced-energy photons that -- through careful manipulation -- Cramer thinks could reveal a flash of time traveling backward.

The UW physicist has applied for funds from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Both agencies have, in the past, funded far-fetched ideas and, on occasion, had big hits -- such as the Internet.

DARPA recently sent out requests for proposals from researchers interested in developing shape-shifting, liquid robots (think Terminator 2) as well as cyborg insects (half robot, half normal bug). NIAC has funded similar projects and first took seriously science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke's idea of a geosynchronous elevator into space. "I've heard that NASA is closing down NIAC so I don't expect to get any funding from them," Cramer said. "And the guy from DARPA decided what I was trying to do was too weird even for DARPA." The military research establishment thinks testing a fundamental paradox in physics is weirder than seeking to build a sci-fi robot they saw in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Still, it is fair to say Cramer, an experimentalist with plenty of scientific "street cred" from his stints at mainstream places such as the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Geneva-based CERN (the world's largest particle physics lab), has gone out on a theoretical limb lately. To begin with, he thinks the celebrated theoretical physicist and author of "A Brief History of Time," Stephen Hawking (who happens to speaking tonight at the Seattle Center's McCaw Hall), is wrong. Not about everything. Just time. "Hawking has this 'arrow of time' idea in which he argues that time can only advance in one direction, forward," Cramer said. It's appealing, elegant and certainly makes sense intuitively, he noted, because this is the only way we experience time. Unfortunately, the one-way notion of time doesn't fit all that well with the mathematical and experimental evidence of quantum theory. This is a highly counter-intuitive branch of physics, also known as quantum mechanics, that describes the bizarre behavior of matter at the atomic and subatomic levels. One of the mysteries of quantum mechanics is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox. Quantum theory predicts two subatomic particles derived from a single particle -- like two photons split from a single photon -- will, if not further influenced by other particles, continue to influence each other's behavior no matter how far apart. This is known as "entanglement." Experiments at the subatomic level tend to support the idea, but there's a conceptual problem. It means the two photons must be able to communicate instantaneously, even if light years apart, which violates the speed of light. "There's been a lot of interest in this problem over the years," Cramer said. In 1986, he proposed a solution to this paradox that he called the "transactional interpretation" of quantum theory. Some of his approach was based on the ideas of such physics luminaries as Richard Feynman and John Wheeler. Basically, Cramer showed how entanglement could be explained -- and how the paradox could be explained away -- by assuming some kind of signal that can travel both forward and backward in time between the two photons. His theory, he says, violates no rules of quantum theory and resolves the mystery. All that's needed now, Cramer said, is some way to provide evidence that it's real. In the basement of the UW's Astronomy and Physics building, the UW physicist and his student, Skander Mzali, are making do with what they can find in the lab. At the business end of an ultraviolet laser is an array of prisms, filters, splitters and other devices aimed at directing or altering the laser light. A camera hooked up to a computer monitor sits at the receiving end. On the PC monitor is a grainy screen displaying an interference pattern of photons. What Cramer hopes to be able to do is split a photon, sending two "entangled" photons down two very different pathways of varying lengths using fiber-optic cables. Photons can exist in either particle or wave forms. The outcome can be manipulated by placement of detectors. Because the photons are entangled, however one is detected (i.e., whether as a particle or a wave) also will determine the form taken by the other. But by running one photon through a 10-kilometer spool of optic cable, the second photon will be delayed 50 microseconds. In short, moving the location of the detector for the delayed photon to change it from wave to particle would also change the first photon -- according to standard quantum theory. For this to happen, some kind of signal has to go backward in time. "In 20 years, nobody has been able to tell me why this can't work," Cramer said. "They just say it can't work like that. It's unacceptable." To really see if they can pull this off, the UW physicist said, he would rather not have to depend upon what kind of scraps they can cobble together. Cramer said they first need a more precise crystal prism and a more sensitive camera. So, time, if not proven yet to sometimes run backward, is running out on the UW experiment seeking evidence of "quantum retrocausality." They will lose the lab space soon if they can't move forward with the project, Cramer said. "We're about to hit the wall if we don't get funding," he said. "It would be a shame because even if this doesn't work, I'm sure we'd learn something from trying."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Scratched CD can make one a multimillionaire

This story is from As an engineering graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1992, Joe Born loved the Clint Black album Killin' Time--but the CD had become scratched, causing it to skip during the song "A Better Man." Born says, "It was like having a stone in my shoe." While pursuing his master's degree, Born worked part-time at an auto body shop. One day, while trying out an industrial paint buffer, he wondered if the same machine could be used to smooth out the scratches that had ruined the Clint Black CD. After all, he knew that CDs are made of the same plastic as eye-glasses--polycarbonate--and that eye-glasses can be buffed. He also knew that the data on a CD resides beneath the outer plastic layer, so the music would be safe. After polishing the damaged CD with the car buffer, he popped it into a boom box, and "A Better Man" played flawlessly. Born received a patent for the idea in 1995. With investments from friends and family, Born spent almost four years perfecting his invention. (An early prototype actually scratched discs while buffing them.) Just after winning the patent, he founded Digital Innovations, in Arlington Heights, Ill., and in 1999 the company released SkipDr, a $30 disc-repair unit that is now available at retailers such as Best Buy, Radio Shack, and Wal-Mart. Today, Digital Innovations markets 50 products that repair and clean CDs, DVDs, videogames, and office equipment. According to the privately held company, 2005 sales were about $25 million.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's time for some tasty golf tees

Yet another wacky yet meaningful business idea from (Tasty Golf Tees, LLC Press Release) After making a putt, while walking to the next hole, many players take a fresh tee out of their bag...and put it in their mouth. What if that tee had some flavor? Tasty Golf Tees are made from all natural uncoated wood, then sanitized and flavored for long-lasting taste. Imagine a golf tee that tasted like mint, cherry, grape, or vanilla? In the future, millions of golfers will be adding some flavor to their game. Players say they enjoy Tasty Golf Tees while riding in the cart…while waiting to tee it up…in the clubhouse…even in the car on the way home. Other players say they’re great for curbing smoking or snacking. One player even said it’s a great way to tell if you’re a little tense on the first tee or on the putting green. Whatever the reason, it is always a good time to enjoy a Tasty Golf Tee. Tasty Golf Tees are currently available in Cherry or Mint flavor, with a variety of new flavors coming soon. Tasty Golf Tees come in 3 1/4” length for those oversized drivers. They play and look just like regular wooden golf tees, except you can enjoy them before you put them in the ground. The Tasty Golf Tee was invented by John Packes and Ramon E. Peralta Jr. John is an inventor and product developer who has filed over 60 patents; Ramon is a Creative Director and inventor at a Fairfield County development company. Together, they have been in product development for over 14 years. John and Ramon would always find themselves with a golf tee in their mouth, while waiting to tee up or waiting for that slow group to get off the fairway (we’ve all been there). Being inventors, problem solvers, and marketers by nature, John once asked, “what if these tees were flavored?” With the prospect of actually creating a tee that would be sanitized and safe to put in your mouth, these two entrepreneurs decided to bring Tasty Golf Tees to life. Early market testing of Tasty Golf Tees has resulted in praise and exceptional pre-market feedback.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Milking business out of abandoned brands

This company deserves a round of applause I remember the advertising slogan: “Fill it to the rim — with Brim!” Those ads haven’t been shown in years, and Brim itself has been off retail shelves since the 1990s. Yet depending on how old you are, there’s a fair chance that there’s some echo of the Brim brand in your brain. That’s no surprise, given that from 1961 to around 1995, General Foods spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to get it there. But General Foods disappeared into the conglomerate now known as Altria, which also acquired Kraft, maker of Maxwell House. With much smaller sales than that megabrand, Brim soon disappeared — except, perhaps, for a vague idea of Brim that lingered, and lingers even now, in the minds of millions of consumers. What’s that worth? A small company in Chicago, called River West Brands, figures that it’s definitely worth something, and possibly quite a lot. The firm did its own research a year or so ago and claims that among people over the age of 25, Brim had 92 percent “aided national awareness.” What this means is that if you ask people anywhere in America if they have ever heard of Brim, about 9 out of 10 will say yes. If true, that’s potentially a big deal. Building that level of recognition for a new brand of coffee — or anything else — from scratch would involve an astronomical amount of money, a great deal of time, or both. Marketers like to talk about something called brand “equity,” a combination of familiarity and positive associations that clearly has some sort of value, even if it’s impossible to measure in a convincing empirical way. Exploiting the equity of dead or dying brands — sometimes called ghost brands, orphan brands or zombie brands — is a topic many consumer-products firms, large and small, have wrestled with for years. River West’s approach is interesting for two reasons. One is that for the most part the equity — the idea — is the only thing the company is interested in owning. River West acquires brands when the products themselves are dead, not merely ailing. Aside from Brim, the brands it acquired in the last few years include Underalls, Salon Selectives, Nuprin and the game maker Coleco, among others. “In most cases we’re dealing with a brand that only exists as intellectual property,” says Paul Earle, River West’s founder. “There’s no retail presence, no product, no distribution, no trucks, no plants. Nothing. All that exists is memory. We’re taking consumers’ memories and starting entire businesses.” The other interesting thing is that when Earle talks about consumer memory, he is factoring in something curious: the faultiness of consumer memory. There is opportunity, he says, not just in what we remember but also in what we misremember. River West is a young company, and few of its ideas have been directly tested in the marketplace. The revival of Brim, for instance, has yet to crystallize into a plan with real manufacturing and distribution partners. But River West is starting to bring some familiar names back into the consumer realm. It is thanks to River West that you can buy Nuprin again at CVS. The firm has also played a role in the return of Eagle Snacks to some grocery-store aisles. In late January, began accepting orders for Salon Selectives, which is also making its way into 10,000 stores, including every Rite Aid in America and grocery chains like Winn-Dixie and Pathmark. And by way of a deal with River West, Phantom, a Canadian hosiery manufacturer, is pushing a new version of Underalls to department-store and boutique clients in the U.S. Whether these brand-reanimation efforts pan out as a successful business strategy or not, they offer an unusual perspective on the relationship between brands and the brain. By and large, examinations of successful branding tend to focus on names like Harley-Davidson, Apple or Converse, which have developed “cult” followings. Such cases are misleading, though, because they are not typical of most of what we buy. A great deal of what happens in the consumer marketplace does not involve brands with zealous loyalists. What determines whether a brand lives or dies (or can even come back to life) is usually a quieter process that has more to do with mental shortcuts and assumptions and memories — and all the imperfections that come along with each of those things. River West’s offices, on the 36th floor of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, are sprinkled with the bric-a-brac of obscure products: a Quisp cereal box, Ipana toothpaste packages, Duz detergent bottles. On a wall of Paul Earle’s office is a framed, five-foot-by-three-foot sheet of uncut “Wacky Packages” stickers — those 1970s trading-card-size brand-parody images that rendered the word Crust in the style of the Crest logo, for example. Earle has a Midwestern everyman quality about him: he’s compact, with a big and friendly let’s-get-along voice and a penchant for deadpan jokes. Only his designer-eyeglass frames deviate from his overall demeanor. Even so, he has set out to make this particular civic mission turn a profit. While he recognizes that a given brand might not be able to survive in the portfolio of a multinational, different sorts of business models might work to sustain it. As surely as the ownership of brands has consolidated through one megamerger after another, the consumer market seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with an individualism-fueled demand for almost unlimited variety. Earle’s theory is that such demand means room for brands like the ones River West owns, and his idea is facing its most significant test to date, by way of the reanimation of Salon Selectives. Helene Curtis began selling this line of shampoos in 1987, and sales shot past the $100 million mark within a year or so. It was, one Wall Street enthusiast claimed at the time, “probably the most successful hair-care launch in the history of the universe.” Heavily advertised, the brand was a pioneer of the sales pitch, now routine, of a “salon” product available for home use. Unilever bought Helene Curtis in 1996, acquiring a new batch of cosmetic, shampoo and deodorant brands that had to be integrated into those the conglomerate already offered. It’s often hard to pin down the exact moment a brand disappears, because a product can linger on retail shelves for quite a while before it’s sold down or otherwise liquidated. But by the early 2000s, Salon Selectives had become a casualty of brand-portfolio consolidation. A few years later, River West acquired what was left of it: intellectual property like the trademarks and the original formulas. River West’s partner in the Salon Selectives effort is called SSB, which has five full-time employees coordinating the efforts of various subcontractors (manufacturers, package-makers) out of River West’s offices. Selective Beauty is run by Gene Zeffren, a former top executive at Helene Curtis with a Ph.D. in chemistry. Earle and Zeffren are partly motivated by the belief that there is a core of Salon Selectives fans out there who miss their product and are eager to buy it again. You would think, then, that the goal would be to give those consumers their old brand back, just as it once was. And sure enough, when I visited Anne West, the chief marketing officer of the new Salon Selectives, there was an array of pink plastic bottle samples in her office, part of an attempt to match the old color as closely as possible. She showed me a video in which a surprising number of randomly confronted Chicagoans, asked if they remembered Salon Selectives, responded by singing the jingle. Then she showed me storyboards for new Salon Selectives ads, which were not much like the original ones at all. She went on to explain that while the bottle color would be the same, its shape would be different. The reintroduced line also includes a number of new products, and the products are now more aggressively marketed as “customizable” (by hair length, thickness, texture, etc.) than they were in the earlier incarnation. Then there’s the apple scent. West said fans of the brand in its heyday frequently cited that signature smell as one of the things they missed most about the shampoos. So the new version will have an apple scent — but even that was being tweaked and “updated.” The bottom line is that Salon Selectives isn’t coming back just as it used to be, but sort of as it used to be. West figures that fans of the brand who are nostalgic for their long-lost product just need to know that it’s back. But the real point now is to attract younger customers who probably never used the stuff. The name “Salon Selectives” might sound familiar to them, so the strategy must balance that familiarity with something that makes the product seem fresh and novel. Later West sent me the new Salon Selectives ads, now running on VH1, Lifetime and other cable networks. The spots do not announce the return of a favorite old brand, or even allude to the fact that Salon Selectives was ever gone. In one, a woman escapes from prison and immediately washes her hair. The cop who confronts her admits that she doesn’t look like an escaped con but (punch line) as if she “just stepped out of a salon.” This is followed by glimpses of the (pink) bottles and a quick “mix and match” pitch and then, at the very last second, a snippet of the familiar old jingle, rerecorded. West calls this snippet a “button,” and it clearly aims to function as the slightest mental nudge: this is something you know about. Among River West’s various projects, this is actually one of the more conservative in testing the boundary between the positive associations of a familiar memory and the attractions of novelty. There’s less room to test that boundary because Salon Selectives hasn’t been “dormant” all that long: At least some fans of the old apple scent are going to have opinions about the “updated” version. Much will depend on specific associations with a product — which is not the same thing as a brand. Brands aren’t quite so tangible, so quantifiable. That’s what’s interesting about them. One of Paul Earle’s professors at Kellogg was John F. Sherry Jr. (now at Notre Dame), who has devoted some study to “retromarketing” and “the revival of brand meaning.” In 2003 he wrote an article (with Stephen Brown of the University of Ulster and Robert V. Kozinets of Kellogg) on the subject for The Journal of Customer Behavior. “Retromarketing is not merely a matter of reviving dormant brands and foisting them on softhearted, dewy-eyed, nostalgia-stricken consumers,” they asserted. “It involves working with consumers to co-create an oasis of authenticity for tired and thirsty travelers through the desert of mass-produced marketing dreck.” I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but Sherry turned out to be more straightforward in conversation. “There’s no real reason that a brand needs to die,” he told me, unless it is attached to a product that “functionally doesn’t work.” That is, as long as a given product can change to meet contemporary performance standards, “your success is really dependent on how skillful you are in managing the brand’s story so that it resonates with meaning that consumers like.” The holy grail example of brand reanimation is the Volkswagen Beetle, which a few years ago rose from dormancy and became a hit all over again in an updated form that was both nostalgic and contemporary. The reintroduced Beetle layered “nostalgic reassurance” over modern functionality. “It’s a brand that’s memorable for a lot of different reasons,” Sherry said. “But largely because it evokes this past that never was — that was morally superior or simpler, an era of better craftsmanship. That kind of thing.” Such abstract notions are much on display at the Licensing International Expo, an annual event at which the owners of cultural properties — TV shows, movies, cartoon characters — meet with makers of things and try to negotiate deals granting them a paid license to use the properties to add meaning and market value to whatever things they make. It is a good place to contemplate the business potential of “the brand” in free-floating form, unmoored to any product or company that may have actually created it. A surprising number of the symbols represented at the expo held last summer in New York were simply brand logos. Spam, for instance, had its own booth. IMC Licensing was there on behalf of its clients Oreo, Altoids, Dole and Oscar Mayer. At one point I encountered a person dressed up as a can of Lysol, which is represented by the Licensing Company. Another firm that represents a number of consumer brands is the Beanstalk Group, which staked out a rather large chunk of floor space at the expo, complete with a coffee bar and about 20 tables. Owned by Omnicom Group, Beanstalk is the licensing firm for a wide range of cultural properties, from Harley-Davidson to Andy Warhol to the United States Army. None of these are dead brands, of course, but Beanstalk’s track record with converting brand meaning into revenue is the reason Paul Earle was at the licensing expo. Beanstalk was exploring strategies to revive the Coleco and Brim brands as, essentially, licensing fodder. Michael Stone, the president and chief executive of Beanstalk, has a refined sense of the licensing business, and how consumer brands fit into it. He knows what many people think the business boils down to: I make plastic lunchboxes and you own the rights to reproduce images of Spider-Man. How about a Spider-Man lunchbox? Stone cheerfully explained to me that this is merely a “decorative” form of licensing, and that’s not his game. As a point of contrast, he told me about Beanstalk’s involvement with Stanley Works, the venerable maker of hand tools. Stanley hired Beanstalk about nine years ago. Stanley conducted “consumer permission research” to try to determine where the Stanley brand could go. “I remember looking through the focus-group tests, and there was a guy who absolutely swore that he had a Stanley ladder in his garage.” Stone paused. “Stanley never made ladders.” This is an excellent example of what “brand equity” really means in the marketplace. In contrast to the fanatical-devotion theory, part of the point of most branding is very specifically to circumvent conscious thought. Psychologists use the word “heuristics” to refer to the mental shortcuts and rules of thumb that allow us to resolve the various routine problems of everyday life without having to make a spreadsheet for every trivial decision. Brand owners want a way into your purchase heuristics. Often it is not so much a matter of, say, a Stanley Works fanatic seeking out all products bearing that trademark; it’s a matter of looking for a product and choosing one with a particular trademark that, for whatever reason, we find acceptable. This is not brand loyalty. It’s brand acquiescence. We’ve all seen the Stanley name, for instance. And by and large, we trust it. We have a general idea of Stanley that fits into our hardware-store purchase heuristics. But there is a great deal of imperfection and vagueness in these thought processes, and that is good news for a licensor. It suggests that there’s potential — or “permission” — for the Stanley name to migrate onto new products. What Beanstalk did not do when it took on Stanley as a client was recommend investing in a ladder-production facility and hiring a bunch of workers, plus a sales force to blitz potential retail channels. Stanley Works, as a company, has actually been moving in the opposite direction, closing factories and outsourcing its manufacturing since the 1980s. Instead, Beanstalk worked out a licensing deal with Werner, which was already the biggest maker and distributor of ladders in the country. “They needed another brand because they couldn’t expand the Werner brand anymore,” Stone said. So Werner started making and selling ladders with the Stanley name on them. This gave Werner a way to get more shelf space, reach more consumers and make more sales. What it gave Stanley was its name on a new product and a licensing fee. Beanstalk has worked out many such deals, hooking up the Stanley brand with manufacturers of work gloves and boots, power generators and a variety of other things that Stanley never made (and does not make now). Too many such deals, or the wrong kinds, can boomerang: this happens with some regularity in the fashion world, when a famous designer name gets spread over so many products, with so little regard to quality, that the entire image of the brand sinks. Still, if you see a ladder made by Stanley, you may well think, Well, there’s a name I can trust. What you’re trusting, though, isn’t Stanley workers in Stanley factories upholding Stanley traditions and values under the watchful eye of Stanley managers. What you’re trusting is Stanley’s recognition that a badly made ladder with the Stanley name on it could be highly damaging to the Stanley brand. You are trusting Stanley’s recognition of the value of its brand and its competence in defending that value. We circled back around to Beanstalk’s ideas for River West’s brands, particularly Brim. Stone mentioned White Cloud. White Cloud is a brand of toilet paper once owned by Procter & Gamble. P.& G. also owned the Charmin franchise, so eventually it let the trademarks on White Cloud expire. These were then acquired by an entrepreneur, who worked out a licensing deal with Wal-Mart to make White Cloud an exclusive Wal-Mart product. It became, essentially, a store brand, but infused with equity of mass-market familiarity. It’s very doubtful that the typical White Cloud buyer is aware that the product is available only at Wal-Mart. It’s also very doubtful that P.& G. (which would surely prefer that its Charmin didn’t have to compete against a brand that P.& G. itself created) will let anything like that happen again if it can possibly help it. This is essentially the situation that River West brokered with the Nuprin brand, which was a dead line of ibuprofen painkillers (once upon a time backed by the widely known “Nupe it” ad campaign). Its trademarks were acquired by River West and sold to CVS, where it is back on the shelves as a stealth store brand. (And presumably enjoying better margins than it would if, like a traditional store brand, it competed solely on low price, not trustworthy-brand familiarity.) My read was that this is what Stone thought should happen to Brim — and that Earle had mixed feelings, believing, perhaps, that Brim could come back as something bigger. Even Stone seemed at least somewhat intrigued with the possibilities of licensing a brand that was familiar but dead. “With Stanley we have to be careful — this is a famous brand; we have to do everything right and mitigate all the risks,” he says. “But with Brim, the risks. . . .” He paused. “There really are no risks.” The relationship between brands and memory (faulty or no) is a specialty of Kathy LaTour, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In one of her most interesting studies, she worked with Elizabeth Loftus, a memory specialist and now a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a third researcher, Rhiannon Ellis, to take the issue to its logical extreme: What if, for example, an advertising campaign “implanted memories into consumers of things that never happened?” Earle says that this imperfection of memory can be used to enhance whatever new Brim he comes up with. This is “a benefit of dormancy,” he says. The brand equity has value on its own, but it can be grafted onto something newer and, perhaps, more innovative. “Consumers remember the kind of high-level essence of the brand,” he says. “They tend to forget the product specifics.” This, he figures, creates an opening: it gives the reintroduced version “permission” to forget that decaf-only limitation as well and morph into a full line of coffee varieties. “ ‘Fill it to the rim with Brim’ stands for full-flavored coffee,” Earle says, with a chuckle. “Fill it to the rim — it’s great stuff!” Finding the deceased brands that consumers are likely to remember — sort of — is a process that can begin, of all places, in the library. Earle spent hours going through old issues of People, Time, Glamour and other magazines, “looking for brand names that sounded familiar but that I hadn’t seen lately.” This results in many, many possibilities that don’t work out for one reason or another. But every so often the process yields an Underalls. Earle was intrigued with Underalls. Produced by Hanes from about 1975 to the mid-1990s, Underalls was once a prominent brand, advertised aggressively. (“O.K. America — show us your Underalls!”) It spawned “flanker” brands like Summeralls, Winteralls and Slenderalls. It was unique and memorable: a good brand. “You see the memorabilia on eBay,” Earle says. “That’s usually a good indicator.” By way of MarketTools, a research company, River West asked 1,000 women ages 25 to 54 to answer an online survey about hosiery brands. About 850 did so, and among these, 72 percent had heard of Underalls. Among those who recognized the brand, about three-quarters remembered the “Show us your Underalls” tagline. Promising. But River West needed a partner to actually manufacture and distribute whatever the new version of Underalls might be. It found that partner in Phantom, a hosiery maker based in Toronto. Phantom’s main product line is called Silks, the dominant hosiery brand in Canada. The company also manufactures a number of store brands. Phantom wanted to get into the crowded U.S. hosiery market, says Svetlana Sturgeon, vice president of sales and marketing for Phantom, and it made a certain amount of sense to leverage a name far more familiar to American consumers than Silks would be. Sturgeon jokes that, at first, she did not want to admit at meetings that she remembered the brand (“I’m much too young for that!”). But she did. The point of the original Underalls was that they combined panties and stockings into one undergarment. (“They were the pioneers in the whole idea of eliminating panty lines,” is how Sturgeon puts this.) In early brainstorming sessions, Phantom and River West tried to come up with “the most expansive but credible definition” of the brand, Earle says. In this case that turned out to be “intimate-apparel solutions,” which means anything you wear under something else that’s “functional and fashion-forward,” Sturgeon says. This includes camisoles and bras and other things the original Underalls never sold. The San Francisco design firm Thinc came up with a new graphic identity and packaging ideas that referenced classic elements of the old ads, but radically updated them. New slogan: “Lovely underneath it all.” With the prototypes complete, Sturgeon has begun the process of meeting with boutique and department-store buyers, in the hope of getting products into stores, at least on a test level, in the fall. Brand familiarity alone guarantees nothing. Sears owns several well-known brand names — Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, the Sears name itself — and is viewed by Wall Street as a basket case. Multinationals routinely go through cycles of acquiring and creating brands and then paring back when, inevitably, some underperform. A tiny number of hard-core loyalists not only doesn’t mean a whole lot when reviving a brand, it might be a problem because those people do remember. A number of the more cultish devotees of the VW Beetle, in fact, forthrightly rejected its reanimated version as a fraud. In that case, those consumers were marginalized by a far wider buying public who weren’t such sticklers. And really, something like the Beetle is actually a special case: it wasn’t just a well-known product, it was a cultural icon on a level that very few products or brands ever achieve. River West is trying to reanimate brands that are sort of familiar but don’t have anything like a VW level of built-in cultural capital to draw on. If there is a cult of Brim out there somewhere, it’s pretty small and very quiet. What River West really wants is to bring back these brands in a way that not only builds on their former popularity but also manages, via the skillful management of what we do remember and what we don’t, to transcend it. This would be quite a trick. A few months after he returned from the licensing expo, Earle more or less dropped the strategy of turning Brim into a glorified store brand. These days he’s talking about finding a “really innovative” coffee-manufacturing partner who could make the Brim brand an umbrella for groundbreaking (but unspecified) coffee advances that would work in the general market, not just one chain. He sounded almost protective of the Brim idea, and possibly a bit frustrated that he hadn’t hit on the way to bring it back. “Brim is, within our company, one of our best-known brands,” he said to me at one point. “In fact it’s our absolutely best-known brand. So expectations are high.” Later he added: “The strength of a dormant brand is we can remake this however we want. The challenge is we can remake this however we want.” Eventually, Earle introduced me at his office to Scott Lazar, chief executive of another River West partner, Reserve Brands, which is overseeing the revivification of Eagle Snacks. I’d never heard of the brand, but I was assured that plenty of Midwesterners knew it. Eagle had once been owned by Anheuser-Busch and was the beer maker’s way into the salty-snack market dominated by Frito-Lay. Its most well known product, it seems, was the honey-roasted peanut, particularly in tiny bags given out as snacks on airlines. Anheuser-Busch eventually pulled the plug, selling its equipment to Frito-Lay and the trademarks to Procter & Gamble in the mid-1990s. Lazar said that while the new Eagle has acquired those trademarks, the new and expanded product line consists largely of snacks that the old Eagle never made, with names like “Poppers!” and “Bursts!” These are rolling out in a variety of grocery stores across the country. Lazar tried to give me about six large bags of samples, but I demurred on account of limited luggage space. I ended up with two bags, which Earle and I took downstairs to the bar at the Ceres Cafe. It was crowded and loud, filled with big Chicago men who in some cases had spent the day screaming on the Chicago Board of Trade floor and who in all cases were not shy. We found a place to sit, plopping the Eagle snacks in front of us. And one man after another leaned into our space and pointed at the bags and boomed, “Eagle!” Big hands reached toward the bags to get a scoop of snacks that the old Eagle had never made, and at the time were not in stores, and big voices declared, “I remember those!”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Aqua TV

Looking for million dollar ideas? Here is one: and startup cost is only about $150,000.

Scott Yen loved his pet fish but hated their tanks. “Fish tanks, by nature, are very ugly,” he says. That’s why the 31-year-old was so interested when a friend brought up the idea of creating a more attractive aquarium a few years ago.

Scott intended to design something that would look like a decorative painting. What he came up with was the Aquavista 500, a 6.6-gallon tank that is roughly 4 inches thick and hangs on a wall, secured by a steel bracket. “The whole concept of the Aquavista brand is to take an everyday product and turn it into a piece of art,” says Scott. Customers can choose from more than 24 inter-changeable frames and eight different backgrounds to customize their hanging aquariums.

This novel idea started taking shape in 2003, when Scott came up with a simple design that he took to a local machine shop, which produced the first rough prototype. Scott and his father, Stephen, 64, used their own funds to finance the creation of the product, and they consulted outside engineers who helped them with the overall design and materials. To make the aquarium easy to maintain, they added a wet-dry filtration system, lights, a small LCD temperature display and a heating system. By 2004, they had filed patents and incorporated the company. By the next year, they had located an overseas manufacturer in China. The aquarium, which is designed for freshwater fish, comes preassembled with all the necessary parts.

In 2006, Scott left his job as an investment banker to work full time on Aquavista. “I didn’t know where this would go,” Scott says. “Something told me this was something special when I saw how people reacted to our product.” The company’s unique aquarium is now sold online and through the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, and Aquavista has distributors in Europe and the Middle East. Scott is also currently in talks with major retailers to carry the product nationwide and projects 2007 sales of more than $1.5 million.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Folding Guitars : Just launched at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt by Swedish start-up the DeVillain Guitar Company, the Centerfold guitar solves a problem that every guitarist has experienced: portability. The folding guitar is a patent-pending product developed by an airline pilot who's also a fervent guitarist. Having a hard time taking his guitar with him everywhere he went, Fredrik Johansson started working on a prototype for the instrument that's now being brought to market. The guitars, which are handmade in Sweden, slip into a small backpack which will have no trouble fitting into an overhead luggage bin. The neck folds down with strings still attached, and if it's in tune when you fold it, it will be in tune when you unfold it. The neck and body are connected with an airplane aluminium bolt that ensures maximal connection. Lefty versions aren't currently available, and DeVillain will only produce 300 guitars this year, for a direct to consumer price of EUR 2,600 or USD 3,370. A folding electric bass is in the works. Since the electric guitar is one of the world's most popular instruments, the potential market for DeVillain's highly innovative product is substantial. Time to snap up local distribution rights? And how about some inflatable drums?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Business based on a ball. A Thumball that is. Mary Pembleton bolted upright in bed with a grand vision. For some time, she had been using a soft mini soccer ball with words on each panel in her special needs classes in Haddon Township elementary schools. Why, she wondered aloud to her husband, Gregg, couldn’t that invention be taken to the masses, not only as an educational tool, but as a marketing device? It took a year to patent the idea, form a company called Answers In Motion, then several months to find a manufacturer and attend toy conventions before Thumball came to fruition. The Maple Shade couple took out a home equity loan to get things started. The concept of the colorful Thumball is simple. In the educational versions, each panel is imprinted with a word, picture or phrase. Players toss the ball, look under their thumb, and answer the question, identify the picture or list a category. They’ve sold about 50,000 of the balls, mostly through their Web site, since the first shipment last September. It’s also been featured on a Philadelphia television station and they got to ask a question and show their product on a recent CNBC episode of “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I found this article (here ) In 2000, Jim Plamondon quit his job at Microsoft and embarked on an obsessive quest to invent a new musical instrument. His brainstorm: an odd keyboard variant with stubby joysticks and a honeycomb of buttons he dubs the Thummer. Among the last new instruments to be widely adopted were the synthesizer and electric guitar more than a half century ago. But Mr. Plamondon believes his Thummer has a shot. One of the instrument's key features is a smarter keyboard that he says makes playing music more intuitive. Mr. Plamondon is part of a subculture of musical inventors all vying to be the next Adolphe Sax (he invented the saxophone). They range from composers, such as an MIT professor who built a high-tech "hypercello" for Yo-Yo Ma, to basement tinkerers, including a piano player in Traverse City, Mich., whose "friction harp" resembles a TV aerial. They demonstrate their instruments at conferences and niche music festivals. They upload videos to YouTube and sites like, which catalogs roughly 10 new instruments a month, including the "symphonic house," a home in Michigan outfitted with walls of resonating strings. Occasionally, their wares are adopted by big stars. Recent concerts by the singer Björk have featured a futuristic device called a "reactable," built by a team in Spain: Players issue eerie electronic tones and rhythms by moving glowing blocks across its table-top surface. The bulk of new instruments rarely get played outside small circles of loyalists or early adopters. One big obstacle is the high cost of producing experimental instruments, which are usually built one at a time. Seasoned musicians who have spent years mastering an instrument also are reluctant to start over with a new one, while beginners gravitate to what they see on stage or in the orchestra pit. And most of the immense repertoire of Western music, from Bach to the Beatles, was composed for traditional instruments. "The hardest thing to do is sell something to someone who doesn't perceive the need for it," says Roger Linn, who is credited with inventing the first digital drum machine in 1979. "I've seen the trail of bodies of inventors who have tried and died." What sets the Thummer apart from other musical inventions, says Mr. Plamondon, isn't the way it sounds but the way it is played. It consists of two keyboards, each about the size of a paperback book. They can be played piano-style on a tabletop or sandwiched together and held aloft. To play a three-note chord, for example, you press a cluster of three buttons. To play the next three-note chord, you keep your fingers in the same shape and move to a different group of buttons. Mr. Plamondon says this design makes the Thummer easier to learn than instruments like the piano, which require players to learn many more chord fingerings. The Thummer doesn't make any noise on its own. It must be plugged into a computer or synthesizer, which uses software to mimic other instruments. To adjust volume and pitch, players thumb a pair of joysticks mounted on the side -- hence the instrument's name. Like the Nintendo Wii controller, it has an internal motion sensor, so players can also adjust the sound by moving the instrument around as they play it. Marc Rossi, a synthesizer specialist and professor of piano and jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, says the Thummer sounds like a good-quality synthesizer. He says the internal motion sensor is what's truly innovative: "That could be a whole new world." While veteran players would have little use for a new keyboard configuration like the Thummer's, Mr. Rossi says, "it could be very useful for kids and for people learning music who want less technical demands than a keyboard." Mr. Plamondon, 47 years old, hasn't played an instrument since quitting the tuba after high school. He studied geology and computer science in college and later sold storm windows over the phone. He spent most of his career in the computer industry, taking on a series of software-writing jobs before landing at Microsoft in 1992, just as the company's Windows operating system was becoming ubiquitous. He spent eight years persuading third-party developers to create software for the Microsoft platform, then left the company to take some time off and later pursue his own projects. He says he exercised his Microsoft options and invested in a portfolio of stocks valued at $2 million. He bought a beachfront home on the southwest tip of Australia and moved there with his wife and two children. Most people designing new instruments are musicians. For Mr. Plamondon, financial need was the mother of invention: Shortly after moving to Australia in 2000, almost half of his assets were wiped out in the dot-com crash. He saw the Thummer as a way to start making money again. After years trying to get his project off the ground, his family is strapped for cash. The two kids have put their college plans on hold, hoping that in a couple of years their father will be able to help pay tuition. The family doesn't have health insurance. Mr. Plamondon says he needs to raise up to $1 million to engineer a final prototype, finalize patents and manufacture a first run of instruments. The idea for the Thummer began when his wife and daughter both quit piano lessons after only six months. His wife, Patti, complained that learning to play separate lines on each hand "was like reading Spanish with one eye and French with the other," she recalls. He began reading up on music theory and researching why piano keys are arranged as they are. He wasn't the first to hunt for an alternative. In the 1880s, Hungarian Paul von Janko patented a configuration that made fingerings identical in any key. A similar idea was developed for the concertina with an 1896 patent by a Swiss inventor, Kaspar Wicki. In the fall of 2003, as Mr. Plamondon was playing the videogame Halo, he says he realized he could use thumb sticks like those on his Xbox controller to shift sound effects. He created a company (Thumtronics), hired an engineer to build prototypes, leased an office above a music shop and brought in nearly $500,000 in a first round of fund raising. In 2005, after outside funding for the Thummer dried up, he mortgaged the family's home for about $1 million. "Things got really tight," says Ms. Plamondon. For a time, she says the family relied partly on the paychecks her then-18-year-old son brought home from his computer-store job. For many on the tech-savvy side of the music world, sweeping change seems overdue. One of the last breakthroughs to catch on in a major way was the saxophone -- invented in the 1840s. During the past century, most inventions have only gained cult followings. The Stick, for example, is a bodiless guitar with strings that players tap instead of strum. Inventor Emmett Chapman has sold about 6,000 of them since 1974. Mr. Linn, the drum-machine designer, calls the Thummer "a very good idea," but stops short of predicting its commercial success. Instead, he groups it into a broader category he calls "new little organisms in the Darwinism of musical instruments." The music-products industry faces a mixed outlook. Retail sales fell in 2006 to $7.5 billion, down 4.2% from a record high the year before, according to the International Music Products Association, a trade group. And while the category of computer music products fared best last year, growing by about 15%, sales of some more traditional instruments suffered, such as pianos, which dropped more than 18%. The Plamondons live in Austin, Texas. They moved there in April from Australia, seeking affordable housing and a music- and tech-friendly city. They bought their home online for less than $200,000, using some cash from the sale of their Australian home as a down payment. In Austin, Mr. Plamondon started over, working up the entrepreneurial food chain at conferences and coffees; networking with think tanks and professors; fishing for endorsement blurbs that he posts on, where he writes a blog to build online buzz. He co-authored a paper on the Thummer that was published in the peer-reviewed Computer Music Journal. The funding hunt has been more of a challenge. He recently targeted a pair of Austin investors, Fito Kahn and David Peterman. On a Thursday afternoon in October, Mr. Plamondon walked into Mr. Peterman's office eager to make a deal. His geek tendencies were on display: He set the alarm on his wristwatch to beep, prompting him to announce when there were 10, five and two minutes remaining. As the three men sat down around a table in straight-backed chairs, Mr. Plamondon eyed the papers in Mr. Kahn's hand. "What's in the folder? Is that a checkbook?" It was -- but it wasn't going to be used on that day. The two potential investors had questions about patents and the prospects of manufacturing the Thummer in China. Mr. Kahn said they also want a sleek new look for the Thummer, in part to make it appealing to a younger audience: "We imagine the Thummer as Guitar Hero, only you're learning an instrument as you play," referring to a popular videogame that uses a guitar-shaped controller to simulate the rock-star experience. Mr. Plamondon left with assurances that a written offer would be ready for their next meeting. Waving as he headed toward the door, Mr. Plamondon said, "I look forward to getting a check from you next time." Following their October meeting, Mr. Kahn emailed a proposal to Mr. Plamondon. Instead of the lump sum Mr. Plamondon sought, the investors offered him $2,000 a month for six months and a promise to cover expenses involved in securing manufacturing deals in China. In exchange, they asked him to set up an advisory board and submit more business plans and other "benchmarks." Just after Thanksgiving, Mr. Plamondon turned them down in an email to Mr. Kahn: "I'm going to wait for a better offer," he wrote. None are currently forthcoming. He recently hit a wall at a local venture-capital firm, Gefinor Ventures. Wes Cole, a principal in the firm, says he was impressed by a video of someone playing "Summertime" on the Thummer, but he has reservations. "This is a market where you've seen no successful investment ventures, that I'm aware of." With a handful of working prototypes, Mr. Plamondon is continuing to search for investors and gain a consumer audience. Taking stock of his savings, he says he has about six months left before he'll have to find a full-time job. At that point the Thummer will be relegated to an evenings-and-weekends enterprise, he says, "and that's the death of a start-up."

Gold Is Back And Learns from Tupperware

I found this article on More on the common street mantra: Oil tops a record $120 a barrel? Bad news. Gold reaches a stunning $1,000 an ounce? Potentially very good news indeed. Especially to Paige Rhodes, 40, of Alexandria, who has heaps of unwanted gold baubles cluttering up her jewelry boxes. Rather than wait for bold gold to come back in fashion  return to the '80s, anyone? women are scrapping their unwanted gewgaws for cash or checks at wine-and-cheese "gold parties." Think Tupperware parties, but instead of buying plastic, guests bring gold (coins, watches, necklaces, teeth) to be assayed (tested) for carat content and weighed. Depending on the ounce-cost of gold that day, guests can walk away with hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The party host pays them with cash or a check, then ships the gold to a refinery, where it is melted down and recycled. The refinery then pays the host  at a price higher than paid out to guests, the host hopes. "Everybody wins," says January Thomas, 29, of Royal Oak, Mich., who started this year shortly after she married into a jewelry-dealing family and found out what she could get for her unwanted gold. (A lot, because by late 2007 prices had tripled since 2001.) In March, with the stock market swooning, oil prices soaring and the dollar falling, gold hit $1,000 an ounce for the first time. Suddenly, gold scrapping for amateurs looked like good business, says Thomas, who has been traveling to promote and preside over gold parties while her website sells gold-party kits for $699 (includes a gold karat-testing machine, a scale, a jeweler's loupe and a how-to book she put together, My Gold Party). Meanwhile, professional gold scrapping is booming, too. The largest gold buyer online,, which is owned by a Florida refinery, Albar Precious Metals, records 25,000 transactions a month, and "it's going up every month," says Albar CEO Jeff Aronson. He attributes most of the increase to the $2 million to $3 million in advertising he spends a month, but he says the steady climb in gold prices has helped. Online entrepreneurs have responded. Besides the many websites that buy unwanted jewelry, there's a new site,, which allows people to sell, trade, auction or give away jewelry from an ex  as long as they share the story of the gift on the site. Still, gold parties can be a fun way to monetize unfashionable jewelry, says president Howard Mosshin. "The economy is in the dumps, the housing market has hurt a lot of people, and people are looking for a way to find liquidity." Thomas says many women don't like going to pawn shops. "At a party, they're less embarrassed about asking how much their jewelry is worth," Thomas says. "Besides, it's a form of recycling and de-cluttering." Rhodes acquired a lot of gold jewelry in the 1980s, "but now I mostly wear silver," she says at a recent gold party here, where Thomas presided. Rhodes brought her doctor husband and a plastic food container rattling with heavy necklaces, bracelets and watches from her own collection and that of her late mother. "We're not sure why she had six gold dolphin stickpins," Rhodes says, chuckling. But they are worth something, Thomas tells her as she tests and weighs and creates little piles of gold jewelry based on karat. Gold is selling at $930 an ounce this day. Rhodes is thrilled to walk away with checks totaling $5,100. "Why not get rid of it if it's just going to sit in my jewelry box for 10 years?" she says triumphantly. Besides, says her husband, Don, 49, "you can always buy new gold things, if it ever comes back."

Friday, May 16, 2008

How To: organized tours and vacations

Last time I went on a vacation to Chicago was the weekend before I had an interview at Willian, Brinks, Olds, Hofer, Gilson & Lion, Ltd., the leading patent firm there. I always do well when I spend time with my friends right before any interview. So that time I thought I might as well take them along on a trip. It was mid-March, and when we left for Chicago it snowed for the last time in the Midwest.
That weekend did turn out to be wild. I remember we stopped at a Rodeway Inn, and there was the famous Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant and a fusion jazz bar nearby. Next morning we were really hungry, wanted a stack of real pancakes. That we could not find. We were directed to Walker Brothers in Highland Park. This was one-of-a-kind experience. I have never seen pancakes this big. Later in the afternoon we went on a lake cruise, and the waves picked up inexplicably, causing the boat to roll like we were int he middle of an ocean. Then we spent the rest of the weekend in drunken stupor. Come Tuesday, my friends already back home, I was bright and ready for the appointment. I did not get the job, lucky for me, since I got a job at a really convenient place back home. Next time I would know better and organize my vacation ahead of time through Internet, like look up and use companies that offer sightseeing tours. I found one, and they are Trusted Tours & Attractions. They offer discounted tickets to the best sightseeing tours in 23 cities across the country. Thus, should I want to vacation in Chicago, I would definitely do many of the activities I found on the Chicago page. I would really plan my vacation thoroughly, and even do such an obvious thing as look for ideas on what to do by signing up for the Trusted Travels eNewsletter and at the same time have chance to win a $150 iTunes gift card offer that ends Saturday, May 31st, 2008. Things to do in New York City is also where I am going to plan my trip to NYC and stay sober.

Writing about Microsoft and ATT: boring

You don't have to agree with me, but just don't be boring when writing about law. The current edition of IP NewMatter, the quarterly publication of the IP Law Section of the California State Bar has the most exquisitely written boring article on the recent Microsoft v. ATT case, written by two lawyers from Klein O'Neill and Singh. The article boringly steps through each section of the decision and relevant statutes, mostly concluding with a discussion on the apparent loophole of 271(f), asking "What to do in the meantime?". But it is hard to know what to do, how to plan legal arguments, given the horrible sludge in the Supreme Court's decision - a decision which gets all of the fundamentals of computer science wrong. And if you get the fundamentals wrong, you can't argue if, or if not, software is a component? Ask a juvenile hacker. Yet nowhere in the article is any discussion of this ongoing scientific illiteracy problem at the Supreme Court. This silence makes the article a token reading for yesmen and interns, and patently BORING.

Ride into the sunset

Just another day a fellow attorney was telling me about his nightmare experience that approximated the Planes, Trains & Automobiles the comedy movie. I almost swore to myself that I would never rent a car again. But then someone else at the office told me about how easy, and free of all the Kafkaesque complexities her experience was with Advantage car rental. Now I want to get away from it all, rent a car, and go for a nice luxurious drive to Palm Springs. I checked it out on their special offers, and, true, the page contained the features that our associate has enjoyed. I am into a nice, within the speed limit drive along a straightaway highway in a comfy and spacious SUV, which I see my coworker has rented. I checked out their Easy Rental service, and that's why it makes sense. My schedule is overloaded as it is, so this is exactly what I need on my precious vacation time - no worries. I have no problem urging others to make it easy on themselves, use Advantage and go for that ride of their dreams, into the Western sunset.

Phishing the phishers

A n enterprising group of fraudsters from Morocco calling themselves Mr-Brain has launched a website that offers easy-to-use phishing site code, email templates and other hacking tools. The website offers phishing kits for many of the most common targets, such as Bank of America, eBay, PayPal and HSBC. The tools and code provided by Mr-Brain are designed to make it extremely easy for other fraudsters to deploy realistic phishing sites. Only a very basic knowledge of programming is required to configure the PHP scripts to send victims' details to the fraudsters' chosen electronic mail address. Deploying one of these fully working kits can be done in as little as one minute – another factor that adds to their appeal.
Phishing the phishers
Mr-Brain's intentions are to encourage as many people as possible to use their phishing kits, for all is not what it seems at first glance. Careful inspection of the configuration script reveals deceptive code that hides the true set of electronic mail addresses that are contacted by the kit – every phisher who uses these kits will unwittingly send a copy of each victim's details back to the Mr-Brain group. The configuration script exploits the case-sensitivity in PHP variable names to disguise Mr-Brain’s electronic mail address as an unrelated but seemingly essential part of the script, encouraging fraudsters not to alter it. The injected electronic mail address is actually contained in a completely separate PHP file, where it is encrypted in a hidden input field named "niarB", or "Brain" backwards. Yet another PHP script reads the value from this input field and decrypts it before supplying it to the configuration script. Most fraudsters are unlikely to notice this level of obfuscation and will assume the script is working normally, as they will also receive a copy of any emails produced by the script. When Netcraft decrypted the contents, the hidden input field revealed one of Mr-Brain's Gmail addresses, which is used to covertly capture details from all of the phishing kits that have been deployed on their behalf by other fraudsters. A comment at the top of one of the scripts aims to deter these fraudsters from examining the script that decrypts the hidden field: Earlier this month, Netcraft also exposed a similar phishing scam targeting Bank of America. This, too, was authored by Mr-Brain and was configured to covertly send harvested credentials to a different Gmail address. Each phishing kit listed on their website is accompanied by a description, showing what kind of information it steals from victims. One page on their website lists a selection of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and PINs under the heading "Free and Freash [sic!] Credit Card". Mr-Brain claims that all of the scam pages offered on its site are undetected by Mozilla, Opera and Internet Explorer. Netcraft blocks these sites when they are detected by the Netcraft Toolbar community, and propagates the block to all companies which licence the Netcraft Phishing Site Feed.

Navajo, O’Keeffe and Kachina dolls, virtually

To get away from the pressurized chaos of high tech and politics, just like a father who takes his family on a trip to the American West, I jumped at the opportunity to go on a virtual vacation to the Stark Museum of Art, in Orange, Texas, one of our most significant collections of American Western art.
Western Art
Western Art collection includes explorer-artists such as George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, John Mix Stanley and Paul Kane, who traveled across the continent and documented American Indians in portraits and scenes of their customs. In the following decades artists such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran painted the mystifying grandeur of the Western landscape. Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell and others created enduring iconic images of the Wild West in their paintings and sculptures portraying cowboy life and Indian imagery at the turn of the last century. The twentieth century artists settled in the region and formed artistic colonies in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Taos Society of Artists included Joseph Henry Sharp, E.L. Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, E.I. Couse, W.H. Dunton, E. Martin Hennings, Oscar Berninghaus, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer and Kenneth Adams. Their art portrays an idyllic West, the Pueblo peoples, Hispanic culture and a landscape affected by atmospheric light. Other artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexandre Hogue, and Allan Houser have brought new, imagistic interpretations to the concept of the West.
Decorative Arts

The collection features glass and porcelain masterpieces from Steuben Glass, including the only complete set of The United States in Crystal, a series of bowls engraved with scenes representing each of the 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the Union. The Steuben Glass Collection includes 76 engraved plates as well as numerous bowls, flasks, and plaques.

A series of porcelain birds by artist Dorothy Doughty is another museum treasure. The Stark Museum of Art collection holds the entire series as well as some duplicates, including unpainted versions. The collection also includes a series of porcelain birds by artist Edward Marshall Boehm.

American Indian Art

The American Indian collection consists of objects created by some of the tribes of the Great Plains, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands and Northwest Coast. The collection includes visually captivating examples of Plains clothing, body ornaments, and beadwork, such as exquisitely beaded moccasins.

The museum also exhibits baskets from major basket-producing cultures in the West: Pueblo pottery, including blackware by the world renowned Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso; kachina dolls of the Zuni and Hopi; and an outstanding collection of Navajo rugs and blankets.

The collection also has an extensive works by Julian Martinez, Tlinquit, Sioux Northern Plains and Navajo.

Rare Books & Manuscripts

The Rare Books and Manuscripts collection includes the famous Birds of America by naturalist John James Audubon. These five double elephant folios, which depict the birds of North America, belonged to the artist's personal collection. This publication is widely regarded as one of the finest illustrated books of all time.

In addition to Audubon’s The Birds of America are letters and journals by Audubon and artist Paul Kane, seven Books of Hours manuscripts, and more rare treasures such as 16-th century illuminated manuscripts.

History of he Museum

The Stark Museum of Art began as a vision of H.J. Lutcher Stark and his mother, Miriam Lutcher Stark, an enthusiastic collector of art, furniture, and decorative items from around the world. Lutcher Stark developed a similar passion for collecting, with a particular interest in nature and art depicting the American West. Both Miriam and Lutcher Stark shared the desire that one day a museum in Orange, Texas, would display the works of art they collected. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Lutcher Stark began building his collection by purchasing works from Texas artists. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he began collecting American Indian objects from New Mexico.

He married Nelda Childers in 1943, and together they continued to build the collection. Each year from 1944 to 1962 they traveled to their ranch in Colorado, stopping along the way in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, to meet with artists. From these visits they built a collection that strongly represents the Taos Society of Artists, a colony of artists drawn to the area for its scenery, culture and inspiration. Inspired by their shared passion, Nelda and Lutcher Stark founded the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in 1961 to enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas through education and the arts. After Lutcher Stark’s passing in 1965, the Stark Foundation, directed by Nelda C. Stark, built the Stark Museum of Art, which opened on November 29, 1978, and continues to acquire new works of art today.

I wish anyone who's weighted down with the our electronic chores would could make a real visit to the museum.