Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. I hope you’re doing well. The sunrise photo above is from 20 Dec 2023 taken at Finkbine Golf Course.
In this month’s newsletter, I am sharing some past successes and positive stories with a hope of similar outcomes in the future. The overall message of these stories is to demonstrate effective ways to achieve desired outcomes.
Small House Movement
About 20 years ago, early on in the development of the small house movement, an investor contacted me about a business plan that would franchise the small house movement in a way that could make a lot of money. It would have been something like creating the Walmart of small house manufacturing and distribution.
I didn’t want to have copyrights, patents, and trademarks hinder the spread of the movement. I turned down the offer and increased my efforts to organically spread the movement to what would become thousands of independent builders and designers around the world. I believe the outcome has been better than if the movement became commercialized.
Greg Vs Apple
In April 2003, Apple announced they would begin selling songs for 99-cents each through the iTunes Store. The song “American Pie” by Don McLean was one of the first songs I wanted to download. Instead of 99-cents, the song would cost me $10 because purchase of the entire album was required. It was clear to me that Apple was engaged in false advertising and perhaps a bit of bait-and-switch. This would inevitably result in a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
I find such lawsuits to be a waste of everyone’s time and money, so I contacted the legal department at Apple and directly negotiated with them to correct the problem. After multiple phone calls and exchanges with a lawyer at Apple, I was able to have the price lowered from $10 to 99-cents as advertised. When we take a step back and consider what, specifically, is the grievance, and what specifically would be a direct remedy to the problem, the answer is fairly simple to arrive at.
The 99-cent per song pricing was simple from a marketing standpoint. Greatest hits albums with several or many good tracks might produce $10 in revenue. For the consumer, an excellent compilation album with 15 tracks or album with music from different artists, sometimes as many as 18 tracks or more could be purchased for the $10 album price. So, overall, it was possible for consumers to build a music collection for less cost (and less clutter) than buying CDs.
The problem with the 99-cent pricing is that some classical music does not have the typical 15 to 20 tracks per album. Other music genres have longer songs. So, selling those longer songs at 99-cents each would result in a financial loss.
I didn’t receive any reward, monetary or other, for my negotiation with Apple, but I did get the satisfaction of feeling I had a successful negotiation with one of the biggest companies in the world.
In 2012, I wrote a short story (“Rezifp Dawn“) that included (in Chapter 4) the introduction of the topic of glucose management through diet. I was echoing some unconventional, but reliable, medical advice that was novel at the time. I studied the topic from 2012 to 2014. In my newsletter for Nov 2014, I wrote about an approach to blood glucose management that I was developing. By 2015, I was studying glucose monitoring with my own DIY “continuous glucose monitor” (CGM) system. I put that in quotes because it was a manual finger-prick system. I wrote about that in my newsletter for March 2015.
At the start of 2015, with test strips costing about $1.50 each, testing every 30 minutes would cost about $1,400 per month ($48 per day). Shortly into 2015, without any advance notice, a popular pharmacy (CVS) began selling test strips for 20-cents each. A pack of 100 strips was $20 instead of $150. Apparently a 700% markup wasn’t necessary. This brought the cost of testing down to $192 per month — a savings of over $1,200 per month, or $14,000 per year. This assumes 16 hours of testing per day every 30 minutes. Adjusted testing times, by testing before and after key events like exercise or eating, can bring that cost down to under $100 per month. I wrote about this low-cost approach to glucose monitoring in my newsletter for March 2015.
I presented my findings to several doctors. I was told that glucose levels naturally fluctuate during the day, and that additional glucose data in any given day would be meaningless. In summary, I was told it was a waste of time. I was told that only a morning fasting test was useful. I continued writing about glucose monitoring and noticed website visitors from around the world were reading my articles and the short story.
Fast forward eight years, and now continuous glucose monitoring is a multi-billion dollar business with many companies offering CGM devices, not just for those with diabetes, but also for athletes and those trying to lose weight. Nutrisense is designed as CGM to offer nutrition and wellness insights.
It’s satisfying to see some idea or initiative that I’ve proposed gain traction. I wasn’t aware of any other work being done, but I presume the discoveries and revelations I’ve had will no doubt be simultaneously discovered by other people who look at the same set of challenges.
As a result of the evolution of CGM devices, I’m able to use a commercially available CGM device that has great features. Of all the devices available, I chose this one for the features and accuracy it offers.
I grew up watching the show Star Trek and noticed in the show how most of the time the command was issued to “Set phasers to stun” when encountering hostile enemies. It made sense that self-defense would stun rather than kill.
In 2016, I wrote an article describing a method to create a non-lethal gun. It would basically be a gun that fires blanks and then progresses from blanks to successively impactful rubber bullets to deter a would-be attacker. The sound of the blanks would deter most people, and avoid fatalities in non-planned firing of guns. It was a simple and practical solution using existing technologies.
The idea was met with much resistance and criticism. All I could do was present the idea. It could not be adopted widely if it were ridiculed and rejected by gun culture influencers. The web stats for my article showed readers from locations all over the world. It was popular, but I didn’t have any sense that anyone was interested in implementing the idea.
Fast forward 7 years, and today the non-lethal (or less-lethal) self defense industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with companies trading on the NYSE. Something very similar to the weapon I described has become one of the top self-defense weapons of choice. Gun store owners are promoting them, gun enthusiasts are buying them, and police departments are using these weapons.
There are several reason for the popularity of these non-lethal weapons: (1) In some states, cities, or venues, it is illegal to carry lethal firearms. (2) If you severely injure or kill someone, even in what seemed to be self-defense, you could end up going to prison if it’s determined you used unnecessary excessive force. (3) Innocent people can get harmed or killed from gun accidents or misuse. According to members of law enforcement and gun enthusiasts, lethal weapons really aren’t needed 99 percent of the time. We’re seeing an increase in fatalities from road rage or disputes over fast food orders. Non-lethal weapons help reduce these incidents.
Any other consumer product with the hazards that guns present would be recalled, but the 2nd Amendment protection of guns and the entire industry allows relatively untethered production, sale, and ownership.
Countries with many more guns per capita than the Unites States have far fewer gun-related injuries and deaths. This is partly due to reasonable gun ownership laws, and also due to a culture that promotes tolerance and discourse over amped-up violent responses to disagreements. The increase in uneducated, irrational, and violent people in the United States creates conditions for a growing crisis.
Even if we replace all guns with non-lethal self-defense weapons, there’s still a problem with other acts of violence by those using rocks, knives, and cars. To adapt to our increasingly unhinged violent culture we would really need to outlaw all sharp objects. Certain knots have already been outlawed (the decorative monkey fist knot) because the knot could contain a rock or metal object that could harm someone.
The problem isn’t only due to unsafe products. In addition to removing unsafe objects from society, we also need to work on restoring compassion, understanding, and kindness to predominance in our society.
A company at the forefront of making non-lethal self-defense weapons is Byrna. I describe Byrna in my 2023 report on Gun Safety and Gun Rights and also in a dedicated article about Byrna from 6 Aug 2022. The Byrna product is called a “launcher” and it’s described as being less-lethal (I presume for legal reasons). Watching the product evolve and become more popular has been an interesting learning opportunity.
I don’t imagine that what I described many years ago influenced the work of Byrna, but it’s inspiring to see that the concept evolved into something far above and beyond what I had originally envisioned. They offer the option for various types of ammunition designed to avoid seriously harming or injuring anyone — including eco-friendly biodegradable projectiles. This is a benefit to the gun (launcher) owner to protect them and others from being seriously injured or killed by their own weapon. It also helps protect the owner from ending up in prison.
Byrna goes beyond just producing a product. They provide educational videos about the benefits of non-lethal defense. Their videos feature gun shop owners and gun enthusiasts who acknowledge that lethal force is rarely, if ever, needed. It’s a message about gun safety from gun owners to gun owners. In recent months, their videos have featured Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Judge Jeanine Pirro — these are well-known pundits on the “right” who have many followers. This is probably one of the most important developments toward a society less likely to turn to lethal responses. What Byrna has accomplished could have never been achieved by people immersed in the anti-gun culture because the answers need to be what gun enthusiasts will respond positively to. It’s counter-intuitive, but reducing gun violence needs to begin with gun enthusiasts willing to have honest discussions about gun safety.
COVID Contact Tracing
On 13 Mar 2020, the COVID pandemic was declared a national emergency causing many non-essential services and businesses to close. [Source] On 23 March 2020, I wrote an article describing how contact tracing could be used to combat the spread of COVID. [Source] To avoid attention, I credited a company as having the existing technology that could be modified to provide contact tracing. That was only partly true — I just didn’t want to seem to be grasping for credit. I wanted to expedite the adoption of the idea.
I wrote to Google and Apple with a link to the article, and within hours saw visits to the article from Mountain View and Cupertino. A few weeks later, it was reported in the news that a Google-Apple partnership would develop a contact tracing capability. In the months to follow, Google and Apple began offering contact tracing as a way to alert people to COVID exposure.
I assume there were other people thinking creatively about how to stop the spread of COVID, and probably others had a similar revelation about using smartphones to let people know if they’d been in close contact with anyone self-reporting a COVID infection. So, I don’t claim to be the sole source of the idea, but at least I feel like I was part of assisting in promoting it.
This is another example of where an innovative solution may be better discretely handed off to some agency or business to have broader and more successful dissemination — rather than trying to figure out how to profit from an idea and prevent others from participating.
From Concept to Creation
Taking an idea from concept to creation, and then to a marketable product, and over time to something evolved and improved based on customer feedback, is a process that takes many years and big investments of time and money.
Occasionally I’ll think of some innovative products or processes, and I like to document the evolution of such ideas to describe how I thought of the solution and improved on what might be a workable implementation. However, I don’t pursue having inventions patented. In my mind, what most benefits everyone is the unrestrained development and refinement of products.
Companies wanting to inspire creative thinking are known for creating work spaces with bean bag chairs, interesting architecture, table games, and a relaxing environment. Nature paths and gardens are part of the workplace.
The creative mindset required to innovate is different than the administrative mindset required to implement and follow-through. It’s the partnership of these two personality types that can produce great results.
I think we have a shortage of inventors and problem solvers because there’s not a way to equitably monetize creative thinking. Creators and innovators might be on the payroll somewhere, or perhaps volunteer their ideas, but can’t get sucked into the legal and administrative weeds required to see something through to multiple years of sustained marketability and improvements. The profits and rewards should really be distributed to those who labor over the entire lifespan of products or services.
I like to document these stories because it helps for my ongoing writing to have the sources and development timeline. I like to retain the freedom to write about topics by demonstrating I am an originator (or at least an co-creator) of the original idea.
I continue to expand on the topic reports found on the Resources For Life dot com website. The list can be found on the What’s New Page. Adding incrementally takes very little time since the post and related context are already present.
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Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.
Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 23 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]