Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's a great idea, now I just need someone to buy it

I wish I was better at marketing things.
And by better, I mean I wish I had even the slightest idea of how to market things.
The Missus and myself have come up with some awesome inventions over the years, but we have no clue what to do with the idea after it forms in our collective craniums.
Many years ago, we came up with the idea for the “air bra.”
The concept was simple: you place a tiny hand pump in a specially designed bra and should the need arise to em, er, enhance things a little, well problem solved.
All the wearer has to do is squeeze the pump a few times and voila. No medical procedures are needed, the changes would be immediate and if you put in too much air and things are growing a little too much, just release some of the pressure and things go back to normal.
Of course the trick would be to make sure both sides inflate evenly for obvious reasons.
Dumb idea you say? Probably, but several years after we came up with the idea, we saw an ad by a major clothing company for – that's right – an air bra.
You don't hear much about them nowadays so they must not have taken off, but it was still an idea good enough for a major corporation to give it a shot.
A friend of mine suggested we make air underwear for men, so they could um, er, enhance a certain area of their physicality.
Hey, if women can do it, why can't men?” was his argument.
I think I will leave that marketing campaign to someone else actually.
A few years after the bra inflator idea, we were driving down the road with our two dogs in the backseat when another idea came upon us: doggie seatbelts.
Our mutts would bounce around back there - jumping from window to window - and if I had to hit the brakes really hard they would always slam into the back of our seats.
Once, the littlest dog actually made it all the way to the front seat.
And that is where the doggie seatbelt idea was born.
We had it all figured out. It would be like a harness that snapped into the regular seatbelt clip. No more risk of Fido becoming a projectile in the event of hard breaking or a collision.
We talked about it for a while, but due to our complete and total lack of salesmanship or marketing abilities, the idea faded.
Until a few years later when we saw an ad for, that's right, a doggie seatbelt.
The design was similar to ours and we were wondering if perhaps we were being spied upon.
While the air bra was kind of a silly concept, doggie seatbelts are a great idea and had we been smart enough to market them, there is a chance I would be writing this column from my yacht in the Bahamas.
It would be a small yacht, but a yacht none the less.
But alas, I have no marketing or sales skills.
I do have all sorts of ideas that are sure to make a small fortune should they ever make it to mainstream society.
If the Pet Rock – which was absolutely brilliant by the way – can make its inventor rich, then there has to be other silliness out there that can do the same for yours truly.
I just don't know what they are yet, and when I do know it still won't help because I won't know how to market them.
OK, I will admit, there are a few holes in my get-rich plan, but at least I have a plan.
Anybody looking for an ideas man with no marketing skills?

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 24, 2015

Trying to figure out these new fangled gadgets

It's happening and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
Time is leaving me in the dust. Well, more accurately modern times are leaving me in the dust and I find myself turning into one of those “grumpy old people” who complain about kids these days and start many a sentence with, “When I was your age...” or something similar.
The biggest area of struggle to keep up with is technology.
While I am hardly a computer genius, I can use the infernal contraptions with some level of poficiency.
Hey, a low level is still a level.
I have a smart phone, FaceBook account, Twitter account and a blog, but my techo-prowess pales in comparison to anything my kids are doing.
“Can I borrow your phone for a minute. I want to go on Snapchat,” said teen daughter the other day.
Appearantly, Snapchat is an online photo sharing thingy where you can post a pic or video to a select group of people.
The picture then disappears after a short period of time.
OK, the thrill eludes me, but I am not a teen – not by a long shot.
There are all sorts of new gizmos, techo-gadgets and devices coming out faster than I can possibly keep track of.
Watches with more computer power than the original moon landing craft are commonplace and I can only imagine what the electro-techno world will birth over the coming years.
The leaps and bounds in technology and how it is benefitting (and hurting) mankind have been nothing short of astounding.
When I was a youngster (see, there it is) there was no such thing as the Internet, but my kids have never known life without it.
They never had to skim through an encyclopedia to get the information they were looking for. Instead they searched for it online.
Just type in a phrase or word and what you are looking for magically appears on your screen.
Sometimes the search turns up milions of options – which is kind of like saying we found what you are looking for, it's on planet Earth – but you can refine your search and narrow it down to the information you are looking for.
I must admit, the whole online thing is way faster and provides a lot more information than those funny-smelling books that weighed seven pounds each and were out of date months after they arrived at the library.
Today, you don't even need a computer to search for something on the World Wide Web. You can do it from your phone, your iPad, and yes, even from a watch.
I may not be at the top of the tech game, but I sure find all the different things you can do nowadays impressive.
When I was a kid (see, there I go again) I was amazed when I saw my first wireless remote for the TV.
What kind of sorcery was this? You don't have to get up to change the channel? To increase the volume? Not even to turn the idiot box off?
I am convinced those days marked the beginning of the Fat Ages, when having to get up and walk seven feet to your TV was too much effort.
I try to keep up on the latest Interweb trends, but some of this stuff is beyond me.
And a lot of the stuff out there doesn't interest me.
But it is highly unlikely any of this technology is going to go away any time soon, so I do what little I can (and believe me, it is little) to try and stay abreast of the latest and greatest crazes and trends.
I try, but I know I do not succeed. Things are just changing too fast for a 50-year-old geezer like me to stay on top of.
But I will do my best to maintain some sort of techno-prowess, even if I don't know what the hell is going on half the time.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Youthful stupidity was often disguised as bravado

Firefighters in Small Town, U.S.A. had to be called to get a five-year-old boy out of a tree.
The youngster had climbed more than 10 metres up the tree to check out a squirrel nest.
That is absolutely classic. Only the curiosity of a young boy could prompt him to climb almost three stories up a tree.
Once up there, however, the lad got nervous about climbing down and had to be 'rescued' by the fire department.
No one was angry at the boy and the fire chief commented the youngster will have a great story to tell his dad when he got home.
What young boy has not climbed a tree, mountain or whatever on a quest of curiosity?
I loved exploring when I was younger and I loved climbing trees.
When I was around 10, I can remember climbing so far up a pine tree the branches were starting to break under my weight because they were so thin, and I did not weigh very much.
Of course, if I tried it now the lower branches would groan and break before I even got my feet off the ground.
But on that day, I was at least 15 meters from the ground. However, it was not curiosity that got me to climb to the heavens, it was bravado.
I had to prove I was braver than everybody else by climbing higher up the tree than those scardey cats could.
And I did.
I was too young to realize I was risking my life for the sake of bragging rights, but I did know I had those bragging rights when I went higher than anyone else.
And when you are 10, bragging rights are a very important thing and I never once thought of falling to the jagged rocks below.
All that mattered was besting my buddies. Just like all that mattered for the squirrel-smitten lad was checking out where the adorable little rodent lived.
But as I grew older my brain kicked into gear and I came to realized some of the stuff I was doing in the name of fun and bravado was pretty darn stupid.
Problem is, that really didn't happen until I was in my mid-20s.
All through the teen years my friends and I did some very stupid stuff and, by the grace of God, we all not only survived, but did so with only minor injuries.
Sure I have a few scars – badges of honour as we used to call them – but there was never a life-threatening injury.
There were injuries of course, and I am paying for those brazen younger days in my older days, but at the time it was all about the adventure and even if an 'old person' had told me I was going to creak and crackle and pop when I am older because of the stupid stuff I was doing when I was younger, I wouldn't have listened.
From climbing to the top of trees to tearing down a hill as fast as possible on peddle bikes to racing each other on dirtbikes, the younger years were a blur of thrills and several spills.
Nowadays, when young men and women do crazy stuff they film it and put it on the Internet. And had there been an Internet when I was younger, I am pretty sure we would have done the same thing.
I don't recall why it was so important to do crazy stuff, why we always had to one up each other and why we would put ourselves in mortal danger just for the thrill of doing so.
But I guess that's the answer: the thrill.
Young men are full of bravado, and empty of common sense. I am no longer a young man, bravado is but a memory (like my hair) and I am blessed with an abundance of common sense.
I also have an abundance of aches and pains to remind me I am no longer the young whippersnapper I once was.

Copyright 2015 Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 10, 2015

I'm not going to be stumped by this challenge

I have a new nemesis.
It is not an evil villain type of nemsis or even a human nemesis: it is a tree stump nemesis.
When we bought our home 15 years ago it had five crab apple trees, which, in my opinion, are the most worthless trees in the world because you can't eat the fruit. I guess you an make jam out of it, but who wants to?
And those millions of tiny little apples mean the tree has to be sprayed as if it were a real fruit tree, which is a pain in the posterior.
It also pains me to spend good money on something as worthless as a crap, er, I mean crab tree.
So within the first year, three of the infernal wooded growths fell to the chainsaw, but the other two I left in.
I spent years pruning the one in the backyard to grow along our fence line so it will block out the school that is directly behind my house and I am happy to say I succeeded quite well.
It is still a stupid crab tree, but at least it serves a purpose.
Sitting in the front yard of my humble home was another crab apple tree. True, it looked beautiful when in full bloom, but that only last a couple weeks and then it is just a useless, growing lawn ornament.
I left it in for all these years because my kids and their friends liked to clumb on it and who am I to deny a youngster the age-old thrill of climbing a tree.
However, the kids are older now and have no interest in climbing the tree, so I finally had the chance to convert it into firewood.
That left a stump in the yard from what was once a 30-year-old apple tree.
No problem, I have pulled many stumps in the past. Growing up, my parents had two acres with lots of trees and I can remember spending the better part of a summer digging out five poplar trees that were at least 50 years old.
That meant they had massive roots, so I spent hours digging with a shovel and chopping with an axe. Digging, chopping, digging, chopping...
My dad always warned me to wear leather boots for such work, but one day (when he was not home) I decided running shoes would do just fine. I took a mighty swing with the axe only to have it bounce off the root and sink into my foot.
I froze and waited for the pain. I waited...and waited but no pain came. I pulled out the axe and realized the blade had gone perfectly between my toes and embedded into the sole of my shoe.
After that, I always wore my work boots.
Anyway, the stump I am dealing with now is just as evil, with roots the size of an elephants leg. Well, maybe not quite that big, but those are some very large roots.
Junior needed gas money (what teen doesn't) so I traded him some money for a bit of time hacking away at the stump.
He quickly learned digging out a stump sucks.
He worked hard on it for a couple of hours, but the stump would not even wobble let alone fall over.
It is good for a young lad to do some old-fashioned physical labour and it is even better for dad to let him do it.
Having earned his gas money, he vacated the job mumbling something about a chainsaw and couple sticks of dynamite, which meant it was once again my turn to tackle the  stump from hell.
A lot of hacking, digging and the occasional bad word has gone into removing this stump, but so far it refuses to release its grip on Mother Earth.
But I am stubborn and will not stop until the stump and its evil root system are vanquished.
It is me or the stump and the yard ain't big enough for both of us.

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 3, 2015

Keys lead to dopey adventure

As the crow flies is a great way to get around – if you are a crow that is.
But for us non-winged beasts, it is not quite so simple.
The age-old term basically means going from point A to point B in a straight line. In other words, birds can fly from here to there, soaring over any impeding obstacles.
Many years ago, I locked my keys in my truck. The Missus was working, cellphones were a thing of the future and I had no access to a spare key, so I weighed my options.
I could smash the side window, retrieve my keys and then come up with a really good excuse as to why I smashed the window, or I could walk to where my wife worked and get her keys so I could get my keys.
I opted for plan B.
It was a warm summer's day and while feeling foolish for having locked my keys in the truck, I was still rather chipper as I headed out on my quest.
A couple blocks into my voyage I could see where my wife was working – it was only a kilomter or so away – if you were a crow that is.
I would have to go down a very steep ravine, cross the valley floor and then back up another steep incline, but from where I was standing it did not look that bad.
Besides, it would save a lot of walking over the conventional way of following surface streets so I opted for the route of adventure.
I snuck between a couple of houses and came to the ravine's edge.
Hmmm, it looked a little steeper close up, but I had spent a lot of time climbing mountains in my childhood so I figured I could handle one little clay cliff (of about 150 meters).
The second step I took down the slope resulted in me sliding about five feet. Perhaps getting to the bottom was going to be a lot faster than I thought – good news indeed.
So for the next few minutes I stepped and slid my way down the clay incline, feeling pretty darn happy with my progress, until...
Until I reached the bottom of the ravine and the mass of dried, prickly weeds and shrubbery that looked so small from up above were actually over my head.
OK, that is not so good.
They were also a lot deeper up close than they looked from above as well and I had at least 10 meters of thick, prickly, bug and snake-infested, 10-foot-tall weeds to get through.
There was no way around as the weeds extended as far as I could see in either direction. Going back up the way I came would be near impossible, so I decided to charge ahead. I located the narrowest area and took a running leap into the mass of weeds. I penetrated the tangled mess about eight inches and was stopped cold.
I then pushed, pulled, wiggled, squirmed and in general forced my way through the mass of prickles. I emerged from the other side covered in small cuts, thorns and pieces of plant, but I made it.
I then looked up at the hillside I had to climb and realized this little adventure was far from over. While not as steep as the other side, it was hardly a walk in the park.
I trudged my way to the top and emerged at the back of the building where the Missus worked.
I tracked her down and the look on her face said it all. I looked like I had been run over by a herd of raging wildebeasts with an attitude problem.
To say I look disheveled was to say Elvis had a couple of hits.
I explained what happened to my wife and she looked at me and asked why I didn't just climb through the canopy of our truck and get into the cab through the rear sliding window that didn't latch.
I, um, er, ah...well, you see I um, er, ah...
What else can you say?

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh