Thursday, July 06, 2006

Idea #2: Slugs - a fortune at our feet

Never one to pass up the prospect of fame and fortune, Omnivorist has been investigating an unlikely source of nature's bounty - slugs and snails.

I hear shouts of "Why not include puppy dogs' tails, while you're at it?"

To which I can only reply, "Don't be ridiculous. If you're not going to take this seriously I'll stop right now."

No - the first inkling of this vast untapped economic resource first occurred to me while walking in the mountains of Northern Spain. At a certain point in my route, while passing through a sheltered valley, I noticed the path was alive with enormous slugs - the colour and size of bananas.

"If one were to harvest these", I thought. "You could slice them thinly and flash fry them in olive oil. They'd make a delicious, organic alternative to crisps."

What to call them - that was the main problem. Slug Slices had the virtue of accuracy but seemed - in some indefinable way - to be not quite right. It was when a friend ventured the suggestion: Nature Bites that we knew we were onto a winner.

But fate was to snatch good fortune from my grasp; I could never find my way back to that valley. Despite wandering the mountain passes for months on end, my quest was to prove hopeless.

Back home once again, I found myself pondering the potential of our common or garden slug, but it was no use, however hard I tried to persuade myself, they were too small to make the kind of snack I had in mind.

I had been toying absentmindedly with 2 or 3 larger specimens and was washing my hands when the thought struck me:

"This stuff must be more slippery than just about anything else in the world and what's more - it takes some getting off."

What better illustration of how, in the presence of genius, the dull commonplace can be transformed - as if by magic - into shining inspiration.

Slug slime is the perfect lubricant.

Initial trials have proved extremely promising and I even have a name for the final product - Glide.

It should only be a matter of weeks before you see it in your local pharmacy.

(This piece was first published in the Horsley Village magazine - Over the Wall)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Idea #1: Get-Up Grenade

This is an idea for a simple gadget designed to appeal to parents of teenage children. The get-up grenade is the size and shape of a small ball and can be charged either by connecting to a transformer or by winding-up an internal spring. Once armed in this way it is triggered by pressing a small button flush with the surface

When the time comes to get ready for school, the busy parent simply opens the teenager's bedroom door and tosses in a get-up grenade - preferably rolling it under the bed or similar, awkward location. After a short delay (5 seconds seems about right) the grenade goes off with a loud, high-pitched sound which can be stopped by a second press of the button.

For parents with several children, we envisage the product being offered as a set of five, together with an attractive, purpose-made bandolier.

This idea may be freely exploited without restriction (see earlier posting)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Intellectual Property 1

Intellectual property - it's an appealing concept. You have a brilliant idea for an invention, you patent it, to protect it from being stolen and then try to persuade others - backers and investors - to lend you the money to bring it to market. After that, it's a matter of waiting for the millions to roll in.

Except, of course, it's not quite as easy as that. Even if you have the resources and persistence to patent your invention, it does not prevent it from being exploited by determined competitors. And unless you are willing to devote your entire time to seeing your invention brought to realisation and defending it against infringement, the patent itself will prove to be of little value.

For large corporations it is a different matter, of course. With the resources to hire armies of skilled patent agents and lawyers, companies - and technology companies in particular - commonly patent everything in sight. The principle of intellectual property has become a weapon in big wars fought for very high stakes.

But there's a twist. A patent cannot be granted if the idea has been disclosed prior to the application. If you - as the originator of an invention - place details in the public domain, it renders the invention unpatentable. (I am not a lawyer, and I can imagine there are those of you who will want to dispute this point). Nevertheless, this is my current belief - that, by openly disclosing your idea, you not only forgo the right to patent it yourself but also prevent others from doing so.

But why would anyone want to do such a thing when it seems unlikely to bring them any benefit? In response, I suggest you only have to look at the case of the free software phenomenon.

In this information-saturated culture the simple ability to attract attention has become a valuable asset in itself. And what better way to generate attention than to develop a reputation for freely distributing interesting and potentially valuable ideas, open to anyone to take and exploit?

Such a project holds out the more distant prospect of encouraging a truly free ideas domain - in contrast to the stultifying ambitions of large corporations.

In order to back my words with actions, I intend to publish some of my own ideas in future posts. These are things I have been sitting on for some time and which - it is suddenly clear - I will never get round to exploiting by other means.

Of course, for the Source of Ideas (tm) (only joking) to take off in a big way, it will be necessary to nurture a wide community of contributors. And in this context, I am happy to announce that the Omnivorist Institute is willing to devote it's modest resources to this end - provided, of course, that someone doesn't exploit this idea first.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tate St Ives

Despite having visited the Tate gallery in St Ives at least 5 times, it is only recently that I have come to the conclusion that it is a really poor piece of architecture.

It is a conclusion reached with some reluctance as it is clear that this is a building one is meant to like and admire. What is admirable is the vision to locate an important gallery at the furthest extremity of the British Isles, the homage paid to the freshness and vitality of the St Ives artistic tradition and the boldness in siting the building in one of the town's most sensitive and beautiful locations.

In recognition of these successes, thousands of visitors take time off from the beaches and gift-shops to spend an hour or two in wondering and reverential comtemplation of Art. One has to ask oneself however: just how well are they served by this building?

Tate St Ives is not a building that is content to step modestly aside and let the art take the limelight. Quite the opposite seems the case. After passing through the grand entrance loggia, ticket office, mall and rotunda, the Art appears, if anything, further away than ever. It is only after having ascended two storeys (passing the shop and various invitations to 'interact') that one arrives at the somewhat disappointing series of small galleries. Here the Architecture is forced -somewhat reluctantly - to concede a corner or two to the lesser arts.

On every one of my visits I have been overtaken, at this point, by a profound sense of disorientation. I never quite seem to know where the sea is anymore. Is it over in that direction - or exactly opposite?

It is as if (but surely this can't have been the architects' intention), in order to prepare the Mind for Art, it is necessary to effect a complete disassociation from the world outside. The only gallery to contradict this impression - and the clear favourite of photographers - is gallery 2, with its spectacular view of Porthmeor beach.

The cafeteria terrace is unhabitable. Dazzingly bright in the sun and unprotected from the rain, people have abandoned it and surrendered it to the seagulls - who use it as a toilet.

I suppose its only to be expected that - given the high profile of the place - it should win commendations from the Royal Fine Art Commission and English Heritage. Open-minded visitors will make up their own minds.

Here was a unique and wonderful opportunity lost. It is a great pity.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What's all this omnivorist stuff ?

omni'vorist n. one who subscribes to the practice of omni'vorism.

omni'vorism n. An enthusiasm for pattern, nature and invention with only secondary regard to their practical utility, significance or potential for profit.

A delight in things for themselves.

A fascination for soap bubbles, wood-joints, the properties of slime, systems of taxonony, the geometry of clouds, number theory, pigments, styles of rigging, paper-folding, automata, Tibetan mandalas, flotsam, packaging, maps of cities, modes of failure, insect flight, hearing in birds, journeys, systems of jurisprudence, mechanical linkages, the categorisation of snowflakes, barnacles, burrs ......... or none of the above.