MINOU’S PREDICTION

The Adirondack Northway is one of America’s spectacular highways. I’ve driven it many times between New York City and Canada, usually en route to a ski vacation in the North Country.

It winds its way along the foothills of the High Peaks region. If you look over your left shoulder while driving north, you can make out the pyramid-shaped summit of Mt. Marcy looming in the distance, just as Mt. Everest (or Chomolungma, “Goddess Mother of the Mountains” to Mujibhar and his family in Nepal) towers over surrounding peaks on the other side of the world. Eventually, you arrive at the border, where I have already given advice on negotiating customs and border formalities.

Before most remaining gaps in the interstate highway were plugged in the 1960s, if you wanted to drive to Montréal from New York (or Weehawken, for that matter) in the 1950s, you would follow an older (obviously) 2 lane highway called US Route 9 as directed on your foldable Esso highway map (the one that said ‘Happy Motoring’ next to the tiger).

Advertisements

THE CLICK OF MY CAR SEAT BUCKLE

Today’s guest post is written by another grandchild of Bernard Olcott, Grant.  In his essay, Grant sends the entire family up the Highway to Hell, seemingly always on yet another road-trip.  When not working as an investment analyst at Investure, Grant is a college student at Middlebury College.

I love cars. Well, I should rephrase that. I don’t know all the parts or mechanics of the automobile. I can’t say I have a clear picture of the new Ford Fusion in my mind. I’ve never been to a car show, and I’m only starting to understand the difference between a BMW and a Benz.

So why do I love cars? I love being inside them. I love the warm intimacy such an enclosed space creates between two people. I love the thrill of reaching a destination, the fighting over the radio station, the comfort of drifting in and out of a drowsy sleep in the back seat, and, especially, the long meandering talks, spur-of-the-moment debates, and random lectures shared among the four seats that draw my family closer and closer together with each click of the odometer.

ENVIABLE PATENTS

As discussed in the comments section last time, the problem with my Mom’s and Grandmother’s “invention” back in the late 1980s was that it wasn’t an invention. It was just an idea, which cannot be patented.

All patents start with one, of course.

Dog waste on the streets of any big city, like New York, is a very special problem in the summer time, when the city becomes a tropical “paradise,” albeit with world-class dining and entertainment, together with daily bus tours.  Before the “pick up after your pooch” laws were enacted some 15 years ago, the heat could “cook” the waste, rendering the streets virtually unpassable to pedestrians. Except for real New Yorkers, of course!

As one reader, or expert, commented two weeks ago, dog waste will naturally decay into dust. But this process can take weeks, which would seem like centuries to New Yorkers. The public interest is to get rid of it instantly. It would be possible, for example, to torch it with flame throwers, but this could introduce new, stranger, potentially unsafe possibilities.

PATENTS, MANAGEMENT, AND PROJECTS

(Not necessarily in that order.)

One day in 1993, my Dad came downstairs to the “computer department” at Olcott International somewhat agitated. He was upset that a function called “Prior Art” was not included in the patent management software. There were plenty of blank looks all around. “Prior Art? What’s that?” and “Why didn’t we know about this before?” were suddenly questions that hung in the air like old party balloons.

“You dumb bastards!” Dad shouted at the programmers. “You don’t know anything about patents!” At least not like him; after all, he was a high priest, a “made” patent attorney.

Bob Gerhardt took a shot at resolving the problem. “Bern,” he grunted as he worked that wad of gum in his mouth, “We can add Prior Art information in the header text field.” Reasonable, that.

Dad shot back, “Is it labelled ‘Prior Art’?” Although his knowledge of software was surprisingly spotty, he knew full well the answer to that question.

Bob grunted again, softer this time, “no.” He was beaten, again.

BOUNCE!

Photo above by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Policy Development and Research – Creating Defensible Space, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=803832

To all creatures great and small, anything, and everything, the solution to all of mankind’s issues, questions, traumas, and broken sump pumps was simply “August the 18th (1986).” Up to that date, work had been a long, worrisome slog at Olcott International with CEO Bernard Olcott.

Not only CEO, but also inventor of an entire industry!

Not only CEO, but my Dad who had brought me to the world’s most interesting places!

Not only CEO, but a real employer and engine of economic growth. A killer business! The embodiment of the great promise of small family owned enterprises in the USA!!

Yet an unparalleled brilliance without core beliefs — impossible to follow without getting whipsawed. Even in his personal life. Especially there! A lone eagle who had displayed lots of evidence that he was unwilling to work with anybody.

Someone increasingly distracted by side ventures to the detriment of that main engine of economic growth.  A quick and impatient mind more content to re-shuffle the deck than to manage, guide, dispense real wisdom, and evolve.

A guy who even returned condoms to the Shop Rite Pharmacy because they were too small or “made for midgets.”

BUSINESS PARTNERS

The events in my last post, “TWO RABBITS, ONE DEAD,” recount the events of one bleak day in January 1995.

Everyone is entitled to a bad day once in a while.  If those events of 21 years ago had represented just one isolated blip in the story of a triumphal family saga, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

Sadly, it wasn’t just a one-off but was part of a frequently distressing pattern.

It didn’t start off that way, of course, when I began my career at Olcott International a different January a dozen years before that, in 1983.

As I have written in various posts like “SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, PARTS 1 AND 2” and “HEARTBREAKER,” Dad wanted me to join the family business even though various warning signs made me ambivalent toward the idea.  After all, you should always know who your business partners are.  If they’re your parents, you don’t need to do a background check to find out.

As an example, I can perform due diligence in my case by asking a few questions:

TWO RABBITS, ONE DEAD

So after glory on trips away, say in London as described last week in my post “ODD THINGS ABOUT TRIPS,” what was life like back in the office in Weehawken?

The following story sums it up.

One day in January¹ 1995, my Dad and Olcott International CEO Bernard Olcott came down to the second floor, where I was working at the time and insisted to Steve², the lead computer programmer that a granted European Patent be placed in a list (actually, a test database) of payable items as an “EPO item.”  Now, please bear with me on the details that follow; they are important.

The problem was, once a European patent is granted and “goes national,” it is no longer payable as an “EPO item” – it becomes payable at each national patent office, like UK, France, or Germany as a British, French, German item or patent.  Only as a pending application in the European Patent Office is it payable as an “EPO item.”

Just the kind of distinction Dad loved to make.  He prided himself immensely on his profound, perhaps photographic, recall of such details for patent renewals among countries.  After all, he wrote the book on patent renewals!

In this case, though, he was oddly off.  It was unusual, bordering on the weird.