Back in the good old days, there was basically only one way to get rich.

You invented something. And then you sold it for money.


"Invent something" is pretty loosely defined here. Image by Hempdiddy.

But guess what, kiddos? There's a brand new way of cashing in that's taking America by storm. And the best part is, you don't even have to, like, invent anything.

Just apply for some super-vague patents!

Patents are basically copyrights on ideas. You can also get them for things you can hold in your hand, but patents on things you can actually hold in your hand is so 20th century!

Now, for this to work, you have to make sure your patents are super-broad and vague so that they encompass pretty much anything you can think of.

Did you do it? Nope. Vaguer. Vaguer. OK, good.

Now sue the pants off the people who actually invent things that could potentially kinda sorta be covered by your super-vague patents but are too poor and/or skittish to fight you in court!

It's called "patent trolling."

You may have heard John Oliver talk about it on his show.

While Oliver makes some fantastic points about how ordinary people and small businesses get railroaded by companies that make their living suing people for patent infringement, he leaves one big thing out.

Threatening innovators with huge lawsuits and hoping they settle out of fear isn't just one of the shadiest ways of doing business imaginable.

It's also a huge roadblock to technological and economic progress.

Remember how in 1875, we didn't have cars? Or planes? Or mass-produced electric lightbulbs? And then, within 30 years, we had all those things?

Also zeppelins. How could I forget zeppelins? Photo by U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command.

That was because people thought, "Hey! Why don't I invent this really cool thing that doesn't exist already so that I can make a ton of money."

But now, all the people who would otherwise be inventing all the cool stuff are saying to themselves, "Hey! Why don't I not invent anything because if I do, I'm just going to get sued by someone who claims to hold the patent on it already."

Don't take it from me. Take it from this super-dense paragraph about how, despite a booming market and high demand, companies have stopped developing software for storing medical images.

"Why, precisely when the market for their product had just taken off, would companies stop innovating? An explanation comes from Catherine Tucker, an economist at MIT who has studied the medical IT sector. In an unpublished study, she shows that the slowdown in R&D occurred as a result of litigation by a company whose primary reason for existing is to acquire the rights to others' inventions and file patent claims against producers of related products — a patent troll. Tucker's study is, to date, one of the best pieces of quantitative evidence of the broken state of America's patent system, a critical concern not just for improving health care but for encouraging the innovation that's needed to ensure future economic prosperity." — Ray Fisman, Slate, April 9, 2012

Or this one, about how companies named in a patent infringement lawsuit are more likely to limit research and development spending.

"Researchers from Harvard and the University of Texas recently examined R&D spending of publicly listed firms that had been sued by patent trolls. They compared firms where the suit was dismissed, representing a clear win for the defendant, to those where the suit was settled or went to final adjudication (typically much more costly). As in the previous paper, this comparison helped them isolate the effect of lawsuits from other factors. They found that when lawsuits were not dismissed, firms reduced their R&D spending by $211 million and reduced their patenting significantly in subsequent years. The reduction in R&D spending represents a 48% decline." — James Bessen, Harvard Business Review, Nov. 2014

There's a bill currently kicking around Congress that seeks to limit this. And shockingly, it has support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Honestly, we're too bored to fight over this one. Image by Chuck Kennedy.

But delays have stacked up and opposition has grown, due in large part to pressure from lobbyists for trial lawyers.

If this whole terrible thing gets you steamed up and you'd like to translate your anger into productivity instead of deep self-loathing at your own powerlessness, what are you waiting for? You have a senator!

Call that guy or lady right now and tell them to vote for this thing.

I would link their number for you, but only you know where you live. So go Google it!

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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