Saturday, April 2, 2011

Creativity...And Good Food Too!

My first job out of graduate school was at a company that made helmets for riding bicycles and horses. It was a great experience for me because I learned all about product design, manufacturing, and testing while there. Some of the good stuff was that it was casual, we got to ride our mountain bikes on the nearby hills during lunch, and the people who worked there were a diverse and interesting group.

One of those folks was a guy named John who worked in R&D helping with product design, building prototypes, and basically solving problems. John was one of the guys who went on our almost-daily bike rides; he was one of the "fun ones". Over the years I lost touch with him but, through the magic of Facebook, we got back in touch this past year. We wrote to each other a few times and decided that we needed to get together sometime. Finally, about two weeks ago, I headed out to the east side of San Diego to have dinner and catch up with him.

What I remembered about John was that he had a variety of different interests. For example, I knew that he liked to go out to the desert to ride off-road vehicles and that he liked to build "stuff" at his house. Wow. Before my visit, I couldn't even have imagined what I'd find. John's an impressive guy and what you might call somewhat of a mad scientist. He's got a handful of patents for a variety of different products such as this completely weather resistant and flexible solar panel that can be used anywhere power is needed and can be connected with one quick connection:

Yeah, okay, so it turns out that the guy is smart. Lots of people are. So what? Why does this story get anything more than a "I-went-to-dinner" mention in the blog? Well, see, it's not just John who's got the creative gene. Actually, it's the whole family. John's house is like a research and development lab that just happens to have things like beds, a dining room table, and a couch. It's not to say the house isn't nice; they're currently remodeling the whole thing and it seems to be turning out great. No, what I'm talking about is that the whole family is way too smart and creative...and they make great food and serve fantastic wine!!! As an example of one of the current things they're doing, this is a family-tree project that John's wife's working on in the dining room:

John explores lots of ideas for himself but he earns a living doing projects for lots of other people and companies. Everywhere you go with him in the house, he can show you cool things that he's worked on or is working on. When he gets into something, like decorating for Halloween for example, he doesn't just run out to Target to pick up any old thing. Nope. He showed me this eerie head that he made a bunch of to decorate the front of his house. It's not completely clear in the photo but as you move past the head from side to side, it looks like it's following you. It's creeeeeeepy!

As I mentioned, it's not just John and his wife that "have the bug"...they've handed it down to their kids too. Here's a photo of one son's chemistry lab, which also doubles as a laundry room, where he makes his own rockets and rocket fuel. He then goes out to the desert to launch the rockets and other "vehicles". They've even shown up on a Discovery-channel-style TV show!

It was fun to catch up with John and his family again. Unfortunately, it made me feel less smart than I did before (how can I compete?!?) but it did motivate me to pursue some business ideas that I've had floating around in my head. Thanks to John and his family for having me out to the house. I had a great time and can't wait to do it again soon. John's son Tyler had left for the night before I had a chance to take photos with everyone so here's me with John, his wife Leah, and J.P., one of their two sons:

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