Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I admire people with drive and ingenuity. When I saw that someone invented a gizmo to screw on to the top of a mason jar that will turn it into a travel mug, I thought, “That’s really clever.” So I ordered one online. When I showed it to my husband, he snorted and said “you can’t drink hot things out of a mason jar, it’ll burn your hand.”

He’s right, of course. But the people who came up with this idea are brilliant, anyway. So I insist on using the gizmo to drink extremely hot things out of mason jars, even though we have a cupboard full of unused travel mugs that we got as public radio membership premiums. I do it to honor the spirit of invention and also to stick a heat-blistered finger in my husband’s eye for pooh-poohing such a cool product.
Oh, the things I endure to preserve my dignity.

That got me thinking that I could market something called “The Travail Mug”. Cool, huh?

“The Travail Mug” would be this line of designer insulated mugs, each one bearing witness to a burden you have to bear in silence. You know, like one would read “Mean People Say I’m Stupid” and another would say “Nobody Gets My Brilliant Ideas” or “My Spirit Gets Crushed Every Day.”

I just made those up as random samples of the sort of travail anybody could relate to.

When I mentioned this to my husband, he said the idea was “idiotic”. “First of all, everybody’s got too many travel mugs,” he said. And then he added this – “The whole concept is a thin joke built around a play on words. Where do you think you live? What century? Most Americans don’t know what ‘travail’ means, and they don’t care. Wordplay is a game for people who think they’re smart, and Americans don’t like smartypants. So what if ‘travail’ sounds like ‘travel’? It also sounds French. This idea is guaranteed to fail. Give up now.”

Dr. Babooner, I know he’s right. But why does it bother me so much? Is the idea of selling “Travail Mugs” really so disastrous? And do you think having to live with a grouchy spouse is enough of a travail to print on the new cups? It is definitely the heaviest burden I bear.

Sincerely,
Lovable Mug

I told Lovable Mug that her husband is a bully, but he’s actually doing her a favor by raining so constantly on her parade. If her brainstorm can’t stand up to harsh criticism, it will never succeed in the marketplace of ideas because the history of innovation has been written by people who were told over and over again that their inspired concept was ridiculous. Some of them never lost faith and proved their critics wrong! And a whole bunch of others spent the rest of their lives fruitlessly pushing impractical notions that really were not very well thought out. But that’s not the point! If you don’t love your ideas, who will?

But that’s just one opinion. What do you, think, Dr. Babooner?

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67 thoughts on “Ask Dr. Babooner”

  1. Hey, lady, you’re channeling my mother! It was her theory that she was doing her children a favor by raining on their parade. Look what a mess I turned out; so you’re wrong’ Pu that in your pipe and smoke, as they woman used to say.

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  2. I think the fact that most people wouldn’t appreciate a travail mug adds to the charm of the idea. You could make it even more charming by printing the travails in a foreign language, like French or German. Only a few people would get it, but the ones that got it would laugh really hard.

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  3. Middle English, from Anglo-French, from travailler to torment, labor, journey, from Vulgar Latin *trepaliare to torture, from Late Latin trepalium instrument of torture, from Latin tripalis having three stakes, from tri- + palus stak

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  4. Lovable Mug, your inventive mind is what is most beautiful and precious about you. Treasure it. Please go on inventing clever mugs, t-shirts or other stuff. Don’t make the mistake of assuming the marketplace is smart enough to appreciate your creativity. That is, if your inventions don’t sell, don’t be discouraged. You live in a time when it is possible to create your own t-shirts, mugs and other products for your own enjoyment. And don’t let that stick-in-the-mud husband grind you down. What the heck does he know?

    Have a wonderful Saturday baboons!

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  5. i can see it now…. travail mugs .com
    my husband is my burden. the rotten s.o.b.
    it would bring a smile to your face with every sip. 14.95 for a smile every time you take a sip. you would have a word of mouth following in no time.
    my boss is an ass
    pass that one around the workplace and take orders.
    my pain is nothing compared to spending more time with …fill in the blank.
    i think you might be on to something here lm. dont let the sun catch you crying
    do you know the way to san jose. dead skunk in the middle of the raod. ah the messages are endless. maybe offer a special on a 7 pack. one for every day of the week. for only 3 monthly payments of 33.33 you can make your mornings brighter and put that anchor in the proper perspective.
    can you visualize shut the hell up on your mug?
    i like it

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  6. Beth-Ann CAUSES TRAVAIL FOR BABOONS

    After that lovely weekend we spent calling each other Sweetheart I was unable to find a way to enter the lyric contest on behalf of other baboons. Still ,I’d hate if the world missed out on a chance to benefit from the creativity of the Trail.
    Please enter your own lyrics found here http://daleconnelly.com/2012/01/28/let-me-call-you-sweetheart/ or ones you’ve written in the interim by clicking on this form http://mnsings.com/lyric-contest-form.html or by emailing them to mnsings@gmail.com The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Sunday February 12th.

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  7. It’s ideas like this that are meant for places like cafepress.com. Or ThinkGeek (computer programmers love a good “script” pun and nerdy plays on words). Or go for the etsy.com angle and start knitting little sleeve/cozies for mason jars (to go with the lid like you bought) with your sayings knitted in (or embroider them on as a second step). Travail mugs are truly an idea well positioned for the long tail, do-it-yourself world of the internet.

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    1. anybody else want in on this. travailmugs.com is available for 9.99
      when you punch in the name travail mugs .com another company comes up with aluminum or white ceramic mugs with your saying on it for 19.99 or 12 99 for ceramic. i think it is a managabel idea we could put anna and jacque in charge. what do you say gang. lets put on a show…
      dale gets a cut for the idea. or maybe we put it in a trail baboon fund and sponsor vacations to teddy roosevelt or hawaii depending how successful we are.

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      1. we now own travailmug.com
        i have a guy who can do mugs shall we offer tshirts hats other stuff also or just begin with mugs?
        this will be fun
        maybe pj heads it up and delegates …ok with everyone?
        i think this is right up your alley pj

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      2. Hey, not so fast, time, I’m retired! Seriously, I think this could be great fun, but I don’t know the first thing about selling. Ask husband, he’ll tell you I couldn’t sell ice cream in the desert. But I’d love to get together to brainstorm about this.

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      3. I like it — count me in. I know of a couple web site companies that might make it easier to market. Site Build-It I believe is one that helps you market your site/products, get better search results, etc., as well as provide templates for designing your site. 1 and 1 is also a good one that provides templates. I like the idea of Site Build-It better, though. Anna, do you have expertise in this?

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      4. I am out of my depth when it comes to a from-scratch e-commerce site. I have done some stuff with e-commerce, but my knowledge is limited (e.g., I can hook up a PayPal button, but if you want a whole “add to cart” with multiple items added to the cart and have that do math for taxes and shipping and then get the right amount fed to PayPal, I am definitely not your gal). Same with flexible content management and web development tools like Drupal – they’re really cool and can do all sorts of neat stuff, but I am no expert, only a bumbler. WordPress is easy, that one I know – straight html, yah, that I can handle…beyond that, um, probably not. :( If you can find a decent tool that will create an e-commerce site, it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work. I’m sure there are some decent tools out there that can do what you need.

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    2. Last night, I watched the movie “The Social Network”, the true story of Mark Zuckerberg’s amazing success in creating Facebook. He’s the youngest billionaire in the world and, in my humble opinion, one of the most arrogant, non-compassionate models of the 21st. century. Perhaps my distaste for this self-made genius lies in the fact that I’m sadly technology-challenged or perhaps it’s witnessing the mind-boggling complexities of such a successful “invention”. All I know is that I can’t even figure out basic functions of a plain (as opposed to a smart) cell phone, a camera, or a GPS the kids bought me.

      During a 5-hour layover last week end, I purchased the highly-touted Steve Jobs biography. All 730 pages of it. I then filled in the time with People Magazine and a Long Island Tea.

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  8. Good morning to all. LM, I hear you saying that you thought you had a good idea and now you don’t know how to proceed, is that right? You had a plan which seemed right to you and now, after hearing from your husband, you are less sure that it is right, is that it? I feel your pain, but I would feel a little pain myself if you market those mugs and someone buys one of them for me as a gift.

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    1. Okay, from the comments above I can see that LM’s idea for Travail Mugs sounds good to some of you. I don’t want to be a kill joy. However, maybe some of you are not loaded down with way too much stuff like that which needs to be sort out before moving to a new home where you hope to avoid accumulating that kind of clutter.

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  9. I would be happy to enter for everybody but since the entry requires last name, phone number, and email address I would face serious travail in trying to enter for the rest of the congress SORRY!

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    1. I entered mine way back when we were first discussing. I had a sense it would be too much for one person. Thanks B-A for all your efforts to ‘splain this to us.

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  10. I seriously considered buying one of the above mentioned “gizmos” for my husband who has been drinking from Mason jars since I gave up canning back in the ’90s. He works with hot glass and has hands of steel, so he could take a pass on a knitted cozy. I’d be all in if it included a device (similar to mitten strings or clips, perhaps) that would keep him from setting the jar down & leaving it everywhere he goes or forgetting it on top of his car as he drives off. There’s a trail of forgotten & shattered jars left in his wake that spans 2 decades and too many states to count! At $8 a pop for the gizmo, I did wonder if I could hit up a fast food joint or gas station and make a raid on their to-go cup lids and have those work just as well. Stay warm everyone!

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  11. Travail mugs would have sold like hotcakes in my town yesterday, what with the university scandal and the Dean’s suicide. By the end of the day my husband and I were exhausted. It was strangely unsettling to evacuate our building and leave the campus. All we had been told was that there was a distraught and armed individual associated with the college who was potentially dangerous and who was missing. The police were scouring the campus for him. No other information could be given, so we who were at work on Friday afternoon left en masse, staying out of the stairwells and taking the elevator, looking around carefully as we got into our vehicles and drove home. We are not used to being frightened or threatened. Then we found out who it was who died, someone we knew of but who we didn’t know personally, and who lives only a few blocks from us and who shot himself at a park very close to our house. Last night we listened to Christmas music, of all things, sung by New York Polyphony, a male vocal quartet. It was very comforting. Steve asked last evening if this would affect us personally. It will, only in the sense that we know lots of staff, students, and faculty at the university who will be very grieved and shamed by all this, and their grief and distress is visible and painful to us who see it. It was also hard to hear our daughter’s reactions to it. She views yesterday’s events, along with the fallout from the oil boom, as further evidence that the town she grew up in is gone forever and that she would never want to raise a family here. We are taking it easy today.

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    1. Thanks for the update Renee. While you are not directly impacted, these events create an unfortunate legacy that will haunt everyone related to the college for a long time. It is interesting the way economic boom times and all that comes with them can make the “old” sleepy world look more attractive than it did when you were living in it.

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    2. Renee – that sort of thing in a small town is traumatizing for everyone — how very sad. A good day to find comfort in your home and family.

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      1. Renee, it all sounds so sad and unfortunate. That you were able to handle it with Christmas music shows your grace under pressure I say. Tough times indeed.

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      2. I have not — thought of trying it just to see, but I think the red quinoa is more expensive, so I have not tried it yet. I don’t know if there’s a taste difference. Try it and let us know. The red might be more nutritious, however.

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      3. Oh dear! I didn’t want to sound so cavalier and dismissive of all the concerns and support you all have expressed! A query about quinoa was kind of, well, weird on my part. I am kind of out of sync.

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  12. Greetings! Well, Lovable Mug, there certainly are worse ideas than yours. And don’t let dream killers discourage you (and they usually come in the form of loved ones). I definitely like Travail Mugs, though I may not buy one — but I’d like to be a part of the business (can I do it from home?). It may be a niche, but there’s probably lots of people who buy that sort of thing — you just have to find them. With the right marketing and targeted advertising, I bet it could work. I think those types of things do well as joke gifts for birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, etc., especially if they can be personalized, are high quality ceramic and nicely designed. I’m on board — but I don’t have any money to invest — just me!

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    1. joanne give me your people for the websight and i have the guy with the mugs. im thinking hats and t shirts too. pithy sayings r us. if you want it its available as we speak. i think it wil be a blast.

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  13. Edith – missed your birthday. It was utterly eclipsed by the sheer size of Durante’s nose. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. Was it a good one? Birthday, that is?

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      1. We don’t know for a fact that her name is really Edith; could be a stolen identity with a falsified Social Security number.

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  14. Happy Birthday, Edith! By the way, with regard to red vs white quinoa, I’d say it was about a horse apiece. Both are good and I couldn’t taste that one was better than the other.

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  15. Happy (belated) Birthday, Edith. When was it?

    Renee – may the trauma in your town ease, and esp. may the people close to the deceased have enough support…

    L.M. Keep loving your ideas, and if you have enough drive, it will take you somewhere. It’s not always a straight line, though.

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