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Good ideas, great ideas, bad ideas

Good ideas, great ideas, bad ideas

There is a tendency to forget that there are a lot of good ideas out there, and a lot of different ways to do things. With innovation, the whole paradigm can be changed. As an example, by the 16th century the sonnet was pretty much an antique poetic form, with there being the general feeling that all the sonnets that could be written had been written. Then came Shakespeare…. And, in fact, there are lots of good ideas to be seen, many of them, after the fact both clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of.

The Dyson vacuum cleaner

As an example, the Dyson vacuum cleaner (http://www.dyson.com/). As you know from seeing his ads, instead of filtering out the dust, he spins the dust- laden air so fast that centrifugal force whips the dust to the side. Where it falls into a container, obviating the need for a filter. Clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of.

Thurman Multi-Dimensional Sound Ports

One of the difficulties with classical guitar – with any non-electric guitar – is that the dynamic range is rather limited, making it a difficult instrument to fit into an orchestra. A step in dealing with this has been Roger Thurman’s innovative sound ports, U.S. Patent #5,952,591 (http://members.aol.com/rogluthier/index2.html).

While many luthiers have played with ports, often one or two golf ball sized holes on the side of the neck, Thurman’s ports are wildly different, angling out at 45 degrees. The structure of these ports would lead us to expect the spread of sound to the player’s left, as well as the ability of the player to hear what is being played (sound is coming directly to the player’s ear, rather than totally from the sound hole), as well as the fact that they make it easier to reach the upper frets.

Less obviously to be expected, but clearly revealed and quantified in tests conducted by Audio Technica, is the effect of the ports on (in audio speak) the cabinet. The measurements indicated that wavelengths too long and too short to be useful were mysteriously (to us, at least) re-equalized to the midrange where we have most of our hearing, with the end result being that these ports increased sound production by an astonishing 2 decibels (a 3 decibel increase doubles the sound). This means that the Thurman Multi- Dimensional Sound Ports represent a significant new option for a luthier.

In retrospect the increased spread, and the better monitoring for the sound by the guitarist, and the easier reach – and perhaps even the increased volume – are clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of.

ebay

Another example is ebay (http://www.ebay.com/), which takes a tiny piece out of each sale. A small piece, but they more than make it up in volume. The idea of being middleman via the Internet is terrific and, after the fact, obvious. Ebay provides the computer power and structure, while others deal with the merchandise. Clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of. They prudently developed a process patent on the idea and defended it zealously.

Specialize sports clubs

Many sports leading potentially to the Olympics are pretty demanding on the participant, their parents, and their parents’ wallets. We are given to understand that the proud parents are likely to be spending something on the order of $25,000 a year on their teenagers’ hobby if they plan to compete seriously. One parent considered opening his own club, which reminded us somewhat of James Garner’s character Henry Tyroon in the 1963 movie The Wheeler Dealers. The logic, however, is that if you live in a large city, and can get together with a handful of other parents whose children share the same passion, you can chip in and hire the best coach in the world for$100,000 a year. You will, combined, use only a small amount of the coach’s time, and the rest will be available for the use of the club. You might even make a profit (other than from your child’s college scholarship) from this tax write-off. Clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of.

Power in Motion

One of the great curses of life can be pain. If any of you suffer from chronic pain you will understand what we mean when we say that the best curative option sometimes seems to be suicide.

We have a close friend that was in a crippling automobile accident, and was suffering horribly. There were no medical treatments that seemed to be available, pain clinics did not help, and heavy medication did not provide sufficient relief, either. Although we have no way of knowing for sure, we suspect their life was starting to be at risk.

They ended up at Power in Motion (http://www.power-in-motion.com/), a rehabilitative clinic in Libertyville, Illinois, only because a sibling happened to hear Roma on Chicago’s WLS Don and Roma morning show raving about how Power in Motion had helped the broadcaster with an untreatable 30 year old injury.

Now, on the surface it would seem unlikely that a group of physical therapists, even physical therapists that were willing to incorporate alternative approaches to health issues, would be able to step in where doctors and pain clinics had failed. But, sometimes, unlikely things do happen, and this was one of those cases. And a bit of investigation revealed that this was not a fluke case: They really do have the better mousetrap!

So if you know someone in pain who has been told that there is no hope, or that there is no resolution, or that they will just have to learn to live with the pain, you might want to refer them to Power in Motion. Worst case you will be their hero for life. Best case you will save their life. And we are willing to bet that, in retrospect, you will find that what they do is clever and obvious, yet hitherto un-thought-of.

The New York Jets Stadium

An idea whose innovative virtue we can’t put our finger on is the NY Jets Stadium. Start by understanding that in New York City all is not always what it seems. As an example, the City recently sold a major developer the square block between 41st and 42nd street, running between Dyer Avenue (the exit from the Lincoln tunnel, halfway between Ninth and Tenth Avenue) and Tenth Avenue. The developer paid $100,000 for the block, on which he plans to build a sixty story building. This is a good deal – a GREAT deal!!! – for the developer, as condos in the area probably sell for $850 a square foot! The same folk who sold this plot of land have come up with the idea of putting a 75,000 fan football stadium for the NY Jets on top of the last piece of developable land on the Hudson River in midtown Manhattan, the west side railroad yards. The area itself has remained blighted for many years because it is zoned for industrial use, and, at $850 a square foot, people don’t build factories there.

While something does need to be done to the area, on the surface a stadium doesn’t seem to be a reasonable part of the development mix for a number of reasons. First is the fact that while the stadium is being done off-budget, so that the City Council and the voters don’t have input. In simplistic terms, the Jets will pay $800 million for the stadium, with about $600 million coming from City and State bonds, the proceeds of which will be given to the Jets to give to give back to the City and State, which will then use the money to pay off the bonds. Based on estimate overruns on construction, bringing the cost to 1.4 billion, most of the cost will eventually be born by the taxpayers when it perforce goes on-budget.

In addition, if you do some quick research on the benefit to communities of sports stadiums, you will find that virtually all of the studies say that the public benefit is somewhere between negligible to actually negative. And if you think of the neighborhoods surrounding most stadiums, you will notice that they are not swell. Oh, and you will also find the study by the Jets saying the benefits will be great.

In addition, there is the environmental impact. While events taking place at Madison Square Garden, which sits on top of Penn Station and several subway and other train connections, reputedly has 20% of its customers arriving by public transport, the estimate for the stadium is that 80% of its customers will take public transport. We would guess that, realistically, 25,000 cars would drive in for each game. This will be interesting, as no public parking associated with the facility is being included, since, after all, 80% of attendees will come by public transport….

In addition, the proposed stadium is to be dual-use, with conventions too large for the Javits Center being held there. There are a number of stadiums associated with convention centers, so the idea is not new, and based on the experience of other similar facilities, there will likely be only of these events 15 events per year. None of these dual-use facilities do well. In one case a stadium is being torn down and replaced by an expanded convention center.

This is surprising, because the others are not doing markedly better, and we would have assumed that they, too, would be replaced. The bottom line is that if the Jets play fifteen games a year there, and it is used for other events fifteen days a year, for over ten months of the year it will be an empty hulk, as compared with the activity associated with building residential and commercial property on the site.

Finally, the stadium is supposed to be an important part of New York’s bid for they Olympics. Unfortunately, while this stadium is large enough for the Jets, it is reportedly too small for either soccer or the Olympics, and would require an additional $200 million to be expanded to be usable for the Games.

There is also the impact on the neighborhood itself. Imagine you were buying an apartment. How eager would you be to live next to any stadium you have ever attended when there are 75,000 people trying to get in and out? How about when it is empty for weeks at a time?

We suspect that while there is enough profit potentially being made on this that there is compelling high-level political pressure in its favor, it will not get built. But in the unlikely event that the stadium were to be built, we would hope to be involved in the subsequent investigations of fraud, misfeasance, and malfeasance.

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