Blog Clan

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A New Chapter

If you read the blog series I wrote about my father, then you already know he's been a prolific inventor his entire life. During his weeklong visit in February of 2012, we agreed to take one of his most promising designs, the Angle Oar, and submit it for a utility patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

That decision prompted a series of transitions in my own life, including leaving an attractive full-time position with a software company and launching not one, but three new business ventures. I think of them as my immediate, short-term and long-term endeavors. The "immediate" one is a marketing and consulting practice I've named MegAmuse (like this blog). MegAmuse satisfies my craving to be involved in marketing and communications in some capacity, plus it helps bring in an income. I love it. I've created websites for small businesses, helped create a marketing plan for a growing technology company, and written articles for various publications.

The second business, Health Traits, is my "long-term" project. A business partner and I are currently testing a new fitness program model in which clients identify their dominant personality trait and then have a fitness program designed to leverage those traits and corresponding behavioral patterns for maximum effectiveness. Once we've proved the efficacy of the model, the sky's the limit. We can offer the program to personal trainers, individuals, medical offices and health clubs.


The third business, the Angle Oar, is my medium-term business, and the one I'm most passionate about. I'm pleased to say it's moving along nicely. If you visit our Facebook page ( you can see how the oar works. I really believe in my core that this new paddle will revolutionize kayaking as we know it. While that's exciting on it's own, it will also open the sport to thousands of new enthusiasts. Specifically, people with certain physical disabilities who've not been able to kayak before will now be able to do so. That's because the Angle Oar virtually eliminates the strength and energy required to paddle the kayak, unlike its traditional predecessor which requires a lot of upper body and back strength. The oar is mounted on a unit that makes it "weightless," therefore requiring very minimal effort by the user to gently rotate and paddle the kayak.

I am blessed to be in good health, with no physical limitations other than the aches of pains of getting older (and playing too much soccer), however I can imagine how liberating and exciting it would be to have access to a whole new sporting arena if I were to have mobility issues or a paralyzed limb, for instance. The Angle Oar holds that potential. Not only are the strength issues greatly mitigated, but the oar can actually be managed with a single hand or arm. I tried it on my most recent kayak outing. It wasn't without some challenge, but it was definitely doable.

Throughout this transition, the most gratifying part has been that my father is still with us. When he visited a little over a year ago, he was recovering from major surgery. A few months later, he had pneumonia. I honestly didn't think he'd still be with us, but he is. I think the sense of purpose we share in getting the Angle Oar to market is an important part of the reason why, and I am determined to make it successful, not for me, but for him.

If you feel compelled to help in this endeavor, please visit our Facebook page, Like the page, and Cast Your Vote in the naming poll: Is it a paddle or is it an oar.  Thank you!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Ways to Make Your Website Work for You

My marketing business in San Luis Obispo, California, MegAmuse, is off to a great start. I've developed a series of white papers for my clients to help them improve their bottoms lines. This first one describes three basic changes businesses should make to their website to ensure they're not only showcasing their business to its best advantage, but that they're getting web visitors to convert (i.e., transition from prospects to actual paying customers).

Call to Action Button
What is the single most important action you want visitors to take when they find their way to your website? Is it to pick up the phone and call you? Purchase a product? Try a service for the first time? Refer a friend? Read an article?

Then say so. Be very clear on what it is you’d like them to do and ask them to do it. Usually, this will take the form of a Call to Action button or banner. Here are some of the more common CTAs (as they’re called in the marketing biz). Schedule a Free Consultation. Download a White Paper. Register for a Free Trial. 10% Off for First-Time Customers. Take a Free Introductory Class. 
You get the picture. Here’s one piece of advice, though. Ultimately, you probably want them to make a purchase of your products or services. It’s okay to put that as a CTA, too, but recognize that you may need to “warm up” your prospects a bit before they’re ready to buy. That’s where Content Marketing can help.

Content Marketing
Everyone likes to get something for free, especially if it helps them in some way. So whether your customers are individual consumers or other businesses, think about what they might find of value that you have to offer, and then give it to them – for free. 
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a home improvement company. You know how to do a wide range of repairs and you’re probably more up to speed on some of the latest trends or even building regulations. What little tidbit might you know that you could pass on to potential or existing customers to a) delight them in some small way b) remind them that you’re available for hire c) reinforce your credibility as a knowledgeable business?

Let’s say you learned that your state is offering home owners a 100% energy rebate if they install solar paneling and that it will save them hundreds of dollars each year and cost nothing up front. Why not put that in the form of a “tip of the month” and have people subscribe to receive this and other tips? Or maybe one of your most common repairs is replacing old light fixtures with modern ones. Could you find someone to video tape you showing, step by step, how to do this and post the video on your website, blog or Facebook?

The key here is that, while the info is free, you are asking these potential customers to give you their email address or other contact info (i.e., giving you’re their “permission” to contact them). This whole exchange is known by terms like Content Marketing or Permission Marketing, and it’s one of the top marketing trends of 2013 according to Business to Business magazine.

Contact Capture Form
The final component of this marketing trio is finding a way to capture the email addresses or contact information of prospects and customers when they sign up to receive your content. There are many, many tools out there for capturing this data directly from your website. My friends at HealCode offer a website widget that you post on your site and it feeds the contact info directly into your database or relevant software. ConstantContact also has a nice tool that you can post on your Facebook page and when people provide their emails, they’re fed directly into your Constant Contact email marketing database.
But while automation is the goal of nearly every marketing endeavor, you can go “old school” and simply keep a spreadsheet of contact information as those prospects sign up to receive your new content.

For more ideas to boost your revenues and improve you marketing effectiveness, contact MegAmuse for a free consultation.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The End Cap of My Life - Part V (Final)

This is the fifth and final installment in a series.

The balance of my Dad’s visit could not have been more delightful. As I write this last  segment nearly nine months after the fact, its imprint still remains.
Our week continued with excursions to local attractions and many scenic explorations.  We had rented a wheelchair in anticipation of Dad’s visit, in part so that we could take him on a lovely boardwalk hike nearby.  Fortunately, we never had to use it.  The Elfin Forest, as it’s called, is a series of boarded paths atop a large marshy area adjacent to Morro Bay. Its name comes from the small Oak trees that populate the area. (Like the Cave Landing hike, we’ve taken many a family photo at this particular spot.) The end of the path deposits visitors on platform overlooking an inlet filled with water fowl and other sea life.

Another day while I was at work, my husband took Dad and our kids to investigate the quaint downtown area of San Luis Obispo. Our 5-year old daughter was overjoyed when he purchased her, not one, but two star pendant necklaces that she’d been longing for from one of the shops. For our son, he bought a batting tee which served to further energize his interest in baseball. And, to my surprise, he bought a beautiful vase carved out of Mango wood as a gift for me.  (He did always have good taste in gifts!)

One of the highlights of the visit was the evening the entire family sat down and watched videos of my Dad’s inventions.  The four videos – filmed by one of my sisters – featured Dad demonstrating each of four creations. Our 8-year old son, who is predisposed to all things math and engineering, was both intrigued and impressed by what we saw. I could tell my Dad had just gone up a few notches in his estimation.  

On the day before he was to leave, I took the day off of work and the two of us spent time walking the pier at Avila Beach. My Dad has always been an avid fisherman, so he asked the locals lots of questions about the bait they were using and what kinds of fish they were catching. Ironically, that very pier is my “go to” location for calling my Dad for our periodic talks. There’s something about the ocean breeze and the view that makes it such a peaceful place.
I saved perhaps the single most scenic drive in the area for the ride home that day. It starts out as See Canyon Road near Avila Beach, and 13 miles later it empties onto Prefumo Canyon Road back in SLO.  The winding road starts in a country-like environment with lots of trees and small fruit farms. As the elevation slowly increases, it opens to broader vistas of hills and grazing cows, and it’s not uncommon to see deer running about. Each segment of the drive is more beautiful than the last until suddenly, and unexpectedly, you find yourself at the top of the summit where the grandeur and scope of the mountains is like gazing down from heaven itself. In every direction, you peer down into gentle, undulating valleys of grass and across to mountain ranges hundreds of miles away.  As we took in the splendor, I heard him utter, “Thank you, Lord” under his breath. Another unforgettable day.

On the evening his flight was to depart, we settled into another long conversation in the living room. It was during this last talk that I learned the most about my father. He talked about his love for his own father, and how, when he was young, his father saw some of my Dad’s sketches and praised them, encouraging him to pursue his artistic passions. That meant so much to my Dad.
He told me that he’d only ever had one argument with his dad, and that he later apologized and they easily made amends. He said that, while he loved his mother, his father was more emotionally expressive and would give him big hugs after my Dad’s return from business trips. 

We talked for a good two hours before finally heading out the door. As we drove to the airport that night, he said to me, very quietly and introspectively, “Meg, this trip was really the end cap to my life.  I’ve always longed to see the things I saw on this trip—the ocean, the mountains.” 

That hit me hard – with his failing health, this was very likely his last grand adventure on this earth. While deeply saddening, it also brought me comfort and joy – to know that we had experienced it together. That it had been me who brought him here, to this place.

In the airport, I had the overwhelming feeling of being his “little girl” again. I sat right next to him, with my head on his shoulder, feeling the love and comfort and protection of “my daddy.”  I couldn’t help but cry gently. He told me how much he enjoyed his visit, how much he admired my husband and our kids, and that he was happy that I was happy.  The little girl inside me basked in this validation, and yet I still had to ask, timidly, “Do you think I’m a good mom?”  He turned to me, very suddenly, and looked at me and said, “Of course!” His delivery of those words had a certain emphatic, almost angry, tone, and at first I was taken aback, but then I quickly realized that his defiant tone was because he couldn’t believe I didn’t already know this deeply for myself, that it was self-evident.
We hugged and expressed our love one last time before he entered the security area. I couldn’t hold back the flood of tears as I walked to my car. I opened the door and proceeded to wail uncontrollably for the next 15 minutes. So many feelings rose to the surface: why had I waited so long to spend quality time with him; why hadn’t I known his love for me until now; would this be the last time I ever saw him.

I suddenly had to see him one last time; I had to tell him one last time that I loved him.  I ran to the fence surrounding the airstrip and waited for him to appear on the tarmac. Though he was only 150 yards away, the sound of the airplane engines drowned out my calls to him.  “Dad! Dad!  Dad!” I yelled repeatedly.  But he didn’t turn my way, he couldn’t hear me.
Though the desperate part of me needed for him to see me, to hear my calls, the deeper part of me knew that it was okay.  We had said what needed to be said, we had expressed our farewells.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Banging My Drum

Well it has been much, much too long since my last blog. Life has a way of distracting you at times, and mine is no exception. A lot has changed over the few months. My father-in-law, Dan, passed away this summer at the age of 72. He leaves a legacy of humor and writings and complicated relationships.

A few weeks ago, I also left my job of three years--a difficult decision, but one that has freed me up to pursue personal interests for the first time in my life.  I started working in earnest at age 16, frequently working two or more jobs through my 20s and 30s, and haven’t ever had a break since then.  I have several projects I plan to pursue, one of which is getting back into writing again, but for these first few weeks I’m giving myself a chance to unwind and decompress. 

Not surprisingly, I find that now that I have less to do, the less I end up doing. Not a dynamic I want to continue. On the plus side, I have made movement on some new endeavors.  On the comedic front (see Comedienne? What’s that about?), I have roughed out my first skit and taken a monologue class. Now I need to polish the material and practice it before delivering it to my first group of friends (er, guinea pigs).

I’ve also taken the next step in my drumming hobby by buying a djembe.  It has a great tone to it, and I’ve been waking up the last few mornings, putting in my iPod ear buds, and drumming along with some of my favorite workout tunes.  My husband happened to be on the phone with his mom this morning, and after he held up the phone for her to hear my drumming, I heard him say, “You know, mom, there’s a song whose lyrics are ‘I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day’.”  I don’t think that’s where I’m headed, but I won’t rule it out!

Looking forward to seeing where this might all be headed…

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Revelation - Part IV

This is the fourth installment in a series.

I had planned several low key activities for my Dad’s visit.  He, like all of his children, enjoys all things nature: gardening, hiking, hunting or just gazing. We have a killer “go to” outing to which we take all our guests here in California. It starts with a short hike at the top of Cave Landing Road in Avila Beach, which dead-ends with a knockout view of the Pacific Ocean. As you round the last bend, a huge rock formation has created a natural tunnel with a perfect triangle frame. Walking through the tunnel takes you to a sheer cliff, about 150 feet above the crashing waves. We have many a picture of our guests silhouetted in that triangle frame.

The next part of the hike takes guests down a slightly challenging slope onto one of the few nude beaches in the area. Ironically, most of our guests do not fit the profile of people likely to find themselves at a nude beach (i.e., half of them are over 70, very conservative, or children!). Yet invariably, they go with the flow, spending a half hour on the short stretch of beach looking at sea otters and collecting rocks. To leave the beach you either have to backtrack or take the adventurous route, which of course is what we always make our guests do.  (My husband calls it the “Tomboy” test for his 72-year old mom. “If you can successfully complete this test, you’re still a tomboy, mom.” FYI—she still is!)

The locals have rigged a series of ropes and makeshift steps which lets visitors scale straight up the 120 foot rock wall to get to the walking path above. It’s about a “6” in terms of physical challenge and danger, yet given the demographics of many of our guests, it’s an exhilarating feat. After walking the mile back to the parking area, we cap the outing with a short drive to a pier in San Luis harbor. They allow cars to drive to the end and park on this particular pier. Our last surprise for guests is showing them to a set of stairs, at the bottom of which are giant sea lions lounging in the sun. You can get within about 10 feet of them.  It’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

My Dad, being game for all of the above, delighted in each surprise. This was his first time doing anything mildly strenuous since his surgery, so we occasionally paused to rest. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he got that first glimpse of the ocean.  “Praise God. Thank you, Lord,” he said quietly, to himself.  He told me he’d travelled to California on business early in his career, but had never actually spent any time at the ocean. This was his first real experience with it.

 At the end of the pier there are several tanks with fresh, live Dungeon and blue crabs.  We’d seen and played with them many times (you can pick them up with tongs), but never purchased any. We decided to bring some home for dinner, but then learned they steamed them right on the spot.  Fifteen minutes later, we had three huge crabs ready to eat. We drove to a nearby park, found an ocean-side picnic table, and proceeded to crack them open with our bare hands and indulge.  With the sun and wind in our faces, we played with the claws, laughed and took pleasure in this unique experience—a first for each us. It was one of those moments in life that get etched permanently into your memory.  

With an unforgettable day under our belt, my Dad and I settled that evening into one of our first long conversations. We talked of the early days of his career and the events that led to his move to Indiana. I hadn’t known he had actually co-founded his own company while still in Wisconsin – a roll straightening company for the paper industry -- which was fairly successful. He acknowledged that he was never a great businessman, that his forte was really the engineering side. As a result, according to him, his partner made financial decisions that further lined his own pockets while shortchanging my Dad. He eventually agreed to sell his portion of the company to his partner for $35,000, and at this same time his soon-to-be new employer in Indiana gave him a $35,000 signing bonus to work for them.  The year was 1967, and with this sizeable amount of funds, he purchased our beautiful brick home on Hickory Island.  He recalled that the purchase price was around $55,000 and that he placed about $33,000 as a down payment. I was surprised to learn of this early success. Because of it, and even before that time, Dad said he made a decent salary and it wasn’t as tight financially for my parents as I had thought.

Our talk transitioned to his marriage to my mom, were they ever happy?  According to him, my mom “blew up” anytime he wanted to go out with his friends after work and have a drink. Over time, he said, “I knew I’d get yelled at whether I stayed out for one drink or several, so I started staying out for several.” He didn’t provide many details or describe any of the emotional intimacies of the marriage, but did say, “We did have some good times over the years.”   The latter comment led us to recall the times in Indiana, after the older kids were out of the house, that the three of us went cross country skiing in the hills and fields around our house on the handmade skis he had built. “Your mother really loved doing that.”  He went on to tell me about a time the two of them went for a midnight ski outing and got stranded, miles from home, in a marsh.  “Your mother was starting to panic, but I calmed her down and we made it out of the marsh to a nearby road and found our way home a half hour later.”   

This timeframe, roughly 1976 to 1978, was a transition point in all our lives.  My Dad had always wanted to build a home in the country, so we sold our island house and he bought two acres of land about eight miles away in a lovely country setting at a place called Feather Valley Road. There were only a handful of houses on this stretch of road, but also a lovely bird sanctuary adjacent to our property.  The three of us, and my older brother, spent the next several weeks manually removing rocks from the property using only wheel barrels. We also planted 800 trees, ranging from pines to poplars. It was backbreaking work, and though I didn’t mind it at the time, I can imagine my mother couldn’t have been too pleased about this shift from a lake home to an isolated area.  Once the land was readied, we ordered a pre-fabricated home which was delivered in two sections via semi-truck.  For the next two years, my Dad dug a pond, laid a cement driveway, installed a patio, built a small cabin on the upper wooded portion of the property, and continued to make improvements.

1978 was the year my parents split, so I gingerly enquired about this time. According to my father—and I use this wording purposefully, because I had heard a different version from my mother --  he had gone away for a day or two on business, and when he got back my mother had moved out. She had my sister-in-law (her daughter-in-law) and another woman drive her back to Wisconsin, and she had left me to stay with someone else in Indiana. He told me who it was, but for some reason I cannot recall what he said, only that he was livid that she would just leave me in the care of someone else. In recalling these events, I could feel his visceral response, as if it had just happened—distain and disgust permeated his comments. I am struggling to recall the details of what he told me, and though I cannot, I am left with the impression that he felt duped by her. Not only that he didn’t see it coming, but that she did it so secretively.  This is not to say it wasn’t warranted, between his drinking and multiple affairs, I’m sure he had it coming.

What he told me next broke my heart but also mended it. He said, “Meg, I’ve never told a single person this, but I was so angry at your mother for taking you with her to Wisconsin. She never even gave me the option of keeping you. It killed me to have you living so far away.” 


As a parent myself, I know that no parent would willing want to see their child move away, but for him to express it in this way—to convey he loved me so much and really wanted me to be with him—blew me away. I never knew.  I thought he grudgingly accepted that she would take me with her, after all I was the last of six children, most of whom were now young adults, so he had already pretty much completed his parental obligations. How very na├»ve of me.  Some of my older siblings have occasionally commented that I was Dad’s “favorite,” but for some reason I had just chalked it up to being the baby of the family, the youngest and therefore most innocent and agreeable. This revelation has made me reconsider that love. Had I only realized it years ago, it may have caused me to behave differently in my own life, to have more confidence in myself. I’ll never know.

This first real heart-to-heart, while sparse on details, did begin to answer some lifelong questions. I was curious to learn more in the coming days of our visit.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Big Questions - Part III

This is the third installment in a series.

In anticipation of my Dad’s arrival, I’d been giving a lot of thought about the questions I wanted to ask him. We’d had very few conversations of real consequence since I became an adult, and I was curious. This visit was potentially my last opportunity to ask the things I never had, including new questions I’d only formed since getting married and becoming a parent myself. What were his biggest regrets in life? Was there a time in his marriage to my mother that they were happy? If so, what changed?  How difficult was it to raise and support six kids on a single salary? What was his own upbringing like?

I didn’t know if he’d be open to answering my questions. Would he be truthful? Is he self-aware enough to give meaningful replies? Do I really want to know the answers? 

As I’ve already alluded, these are not the types of conversations we had growing up. Children in our family and of my Dad’s generation were seen and not heard. I don’t recall my family ever having an open exchange of feelings or ideas. Everything was kept inside, secret, unspoken. Feelings were repressed, much to the later detriment of nearly every one of my siblings and me. Anger, hurt, questions: they all went unexpressed, unasked. Well that’s not entirely true: there was a good deal of yelling from my mom, and after a few drinks, anger from my dad. Did I mention my Dad was an alcoholic for the better part of 30 years, until he quit for good in the mid-1980s?

Wrapped up in the emotion of these big issues is the fact that my dad is in very poor health.  He’s had vascular problems for years—resulting in several vein-stripping surgeries, one of which happened barely in time to save one of his legs from gangrene. He’s had multiple heart attacks, has diabetes and, for the last three years, has been having severe complications due to a pancreatic growth.  The latter ailment led to a complicated 6-hour surgery about 6 weeks ago in which parts of his bile duct were “rerouted,” so that he wouldn’t continue to need a stent to be replaced every 6 months.  This trip to California was, in part, to give him a pleasant place to recuperate, away from dreary February weather of the Midwest.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked my dad up at the airport. I hadn’t seen him in three years, and every time I have prior to that, there’s a new “look.”  Growing up it was a simple, but professional look for his engineering job: slicked back hair, a dress shirt and trousers. In the 80s, when his motorcycle and sidecars were in frequent use, it tended to be a scruffy leather jacket and chaps. During his “outdoor” phase, it was usually layers of flannel and a signature hat of some sort.  (This was also a phase when having on a clean pair of pants wasn’t a high priority.)  Then, somewhere along the way, he decided not to bother replacing crowns when a few teeth fell out.  “I paid $700 for that damned thing,” he said as he mailed one of the teeth back to the treating dentist.  (Uh huh, you read that right!)  In 2003, on my wedding day, he refused to trim his hair, which he’d let grow past his collar, but to his credit, without me asking, he subtly pinned it up in order to look presentable.  Walking me down the aisle in his rented tux, no one was the wiser!

Our midnight greeting at the airport was a pleasant relief.  He looked surprisingly put together, dare I say fetching?  He had on a pair of khakis, brown leather deck shoes, a casual fall jacket and a canvas baseball cap.  More importantly, although fatigued from a long flight, he didn’t look nearly as frail as I had expected.  (Later in the week my husband actually commented, “Your dad is strong as an ox!”.)

The next day, our visit began in earnest.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Peter Pan, the Mechanical Whiz Kid - Part II

This is the second installment in a series.

Just like when we were young and had his many “toys” to play with, my dad continued to follow whatever fancy suited him.  He had a wide range of ambitions, from building and flying his own Ultralite airplane to living on a houseboat so he could fish anytime he wanted. And that’s exactly what he did, and then some!  It was during this period he invented the first-ever duo-side cars for motorcycles.  (Others had attempted, but never figured out the mechanics of how the cycle could turn with two side cars attached; but my dad did!  Even without the benefit of formal training, my dad has a truly remarkable—borderline genius--mind when it comes to mechanics.)  If you can imagine a grown man, with his wife, young daughter and infant son, travelling hundreds of miles in this getup, then you’re starting to get the picture.

For the next five to 10 years, dad “experimented” with his living arrangements.  He found a plot of land in the country, bought a large, high quality tent, decked out with a generator and propane hot plate, and lived in it for more than a year.  Even through winter.  We called it his Wigwam.

The chronology of these events may be a little off, but about then he met and divorced a third wife. No kids this time. 

Upon meeting his soon-to-be fourth wife, who lived in Canada, he realized his dream of living on a lake for a year.  Not near a lake, mind you; on a lake.  He bought an old pontoon boat, and in typical fashion, re-engineered it for year-round comfort, adding rafting tubes beneath it, sheet metal walls and windows, and a trap door in the middle of the floor—you know, cuz’ if you’re going to live on a boat you need a trap door for fishing out of your living room, of course.   He lived in this manner for a good six months, once again through a cold Canadian winter.

Fortunately, his fourth wife—from whom he has been separated for 10 years but with whom he still remains close—ran a farm in Canada.  Talk about a win-win! What man wouldn’t want to have the space and range of projects that come with a large country farm? Certainly not mine.  He spent the next few years exploring his whims, which included renovating his wife’s fishing cabin, farming the land, and buying and assembling a $10,000 Ultralight Aircraft Kit.

When this marriage faltered, it was on to the next living situation, which in this case meant purchasing a full-size van to live out of. Like his domiciles before this, he pimped it out with a rollaway bed, small sink and stove, and cabinetry.  He was quite content to travel about like this for two years.

Fast forward to about five years ago, and one of my siblings said enough was enough and purchased a small, one-bedroom house for him in Indiana.  He’s done a lot of landscaping during that time, and, as we would expect, some internal reconstruction.  (Why bother walking around a wall to get to the next room when you can knock a hole in that wall instead?) 

If you haven’t gathered by now, my dad never saw a design that couldn’t be improved upon.  I  remember my mother being horrified that my dad decided to cut an 8-inch round hole in the laminate countertop of their brand new breakfast bar, “because it made it easier to slide debris right into the garbage can beneath it.” 

To this day, he continues to be a prolific inventor, with dozens of marketable ideas and prototypes. More on these later.