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The Strategy of Acquisition

Posted on November 29th, 2016

Dave!Yesterday I talked about the regret I have in accumulating so much "stuff" in my life. There's just entirely too much crap piled around my home, and most of it... the majority of it... I really could have done without ever buying in the first place.

And yet there's still stuff I have to buy. Even in the middle of culling my possessions. Which is kind of counterproductive... and a a bummer. But not nearly as big a bummer as having to shop for the stuff. Because I really, really don't like shopping.

Which is why I hold off as much shopping as possibly for Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Because the only thing I love more than not shopping is a bargain. And this year I found a lot of bargains. Just ask my credit card. Which probably won't be paid off until February. :-(

Still, it's all stuff I needed. And it was pretty great that I ended up paying half (actually less than half) of what I would have paid any other time of year for the same stuff...

  • Tools. I got an amazing deal on a telescoping ladder ($90 regular $160!). I've never owned a ladder before, having always borrowed them when I needed one. I never intended to buy my own, but it was the "telescoping" feature that made me pull the trigger. I've got a stairwell that I want to hang things in, and I couldn't manage it with a traditional ladder. This one makes it a snap. Plus it's compact when condensed, so it fits easily in my garage. Plus it's easy to move around. Plus I have a ladder whenever I need one now. Probably my favorite purchase. And the most useful.
  • Storage. I loathe to spend money on containers and stuff like that when you can get cardboard boxes for free, but the boxes I've been using to store the crap I'm going to keep are falling apart and I needed something more permanent. Storage bins were on sale for ridiculous prices, so I snapped some up. They're much nicer for keeping things organized. I also bought a second Milwaukee Jobsite Organizer, which I got on sale at Home Depot for $20... the first one I bought has been one of the handiest purchases ever, but it's gotten full.
  • Music/Movies/Games. I buy most everything digitally from the iTunes Music Store, so I leapt at the chance to get some gift cards for 20% off. I also picked up LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for cheap... and found Guardians of the Galaxy on 3D Blu-Ray for $12! I don't much care for 3D in the theater, but I am really digging it at home for some reason.
  • Tech. Amazon had the Echo Dot on sale for $39 down from $49... and you got a credit for $10 if you ordered through Echo. $29 to extend Alexa upstairs seemed like a heck of a bargain. And so very cool.
  • Luggage. My small carry-on that I use for 1-3 day trips was pretty much shredded, so I took advantage of a 50% off sale at Samsonite to get a new one at a great price. Probably my most-needed purchase.
  • Furniture. I needed a nice chair for my guest room but could never afford it because whenever I found one I liked it was $250... minimum! Finally found one on Black Friday closeout for a crazy $80.
  • Travel. Alaska Airlines always has really good Cyber Monday sales... if you can be flexible in your travel. I managed to get a trip from my small-town airport for less than I usually get the same trip out of Seattle... which is fantastic savings.
  • Clothes. I hate spending money on clothes. Which is why I pretty much shop for them only when they're on sale. Black Friday is the best time for this, and I put aside money all year long just to shop the sales. This year I bought jeans, shirts, hats, and underwear... all at really great prices. I was particularly happy to get some new Boston Red Sox hats from '47 Brand at 30% off. Mine are about worn out.

And there you have it. More crap to clutter my life.

How much of it will I be wanting to throw out five years from now? Probably all of it.

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Categories: DaveLife 2016Click To It: Permalink  10 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

In Blackest Friday…

Posted on November 25th, 2016

Dave!There is no amount of savings that would encourage me to shop retail today. None. Even if they were giving shit away for FREE, I'd still be going into work then hiding at home the rest of the day. Buddhism has taught me not to get caught up in "stuff" and focus on more important things, so fighting over a bunch of "stuff" is about the last thing I'm inclined to do.

That does not, however, mean I won't be shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales online.

Every month I put aside $50, which comes out to $600 of funds that I spend on clothes come Black Friday. With careful shopping, you can easily turn that $600 into $1200 (or more!) worth of buying power, and 90% of my clothes for the entire year are bought during this time. I especially love that I can buy pricey brands that I could never afford otherwise.

$100 denim being sold for $40? Yes please.

$80 shirts for $25? I'll take 'em.

All underwear is Buy One Get One Free? Alrighty then.

Jackets half-price? I could use that.

Nothing quite like getting a pile of designer clothes at cheap-ass prices. This is literally the only time I enjoy shopping. This year I actually went overboard... spending closer to $700 than the $600 I had saved... but I lost some weight and ended up needing smaller sizes, so it was still a bargain.

This is the time of year I always take my spare change jar to a CoinStar machine, so I'll probably make up that $100 in no time to stay on budget (last year I had accumulated $136 in coinage!).

Which is good, because I also found Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Wii U on sale for $17 (Regular $39.99)...

Sense Antennae Breakout Box.

Doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Black Friday, everybody!

   

JC Penney

Posted on January 26th, 2015

Dave!"No."

"We can't do that."

"There's nothing we can do."

"No."

"We can't help you with that."

   

Reasons I won't shop my local JC Penney ever again.

   

And, believe it or not, this was all while I was trying to PAY THEM MONEY on behalf of somebody who is no longer able to handle their finances for medical reasons. Very sad medical reasons. I even have a Power of Attorney document in my hand which allows me to take care of things like this when needed. Like now. But they don't give a shit. "YOU HAVE CALL THE NUMBER ON THE BACK OF THE CARD!!!"

But I don't have the card. And they won't even go get me the number so I CAN call.

Needless to say, I'm fuming.

What kind of customer service is that? If your damn job is to help customers, then get off your ass and help the customer! Had somebody come to me with a horrible situation like this, I would have done everything I could to help them. Need to pay a bill for somebody who is medically unable? I'm sorry I can't help you with that... but let's go find somebody who can place a call for you. You drove all the way down here, so let's get this taken care of, okay?

But no.

I get sent away with literally nothing.

I tried web-chat at the JC Penney website, but they tell me billing issues must be handled by phone. Okay. At least the chat agent actually GIVES ME THE FRICKIN' PHONE NUMBER.

So then I try to call customer service. But you can't get through to a REAL PERSON without an account number or social security number for the card holder. Well, I don't have any of that, and the automated answering system provides no way to explain the situation. I kept saying "help" and "customer service" and pressing "0"... but the phone robot goes in a loop and insists that I give the information it wants. After eight minutes (I checked!) of trying every option available, I manage to confuse the system enough that an operator finally picked up.

Who treats a customer like this?

JC Penney, apparently.

I managed to keep my cool while explaining the situation to the very nice phone agent, but it's rough. The guy apologizes for all I've been though and seems sincere, so I pay the bill, thank him, then hang up the phone.

How in the hell has customer relations degraded to this sorry state?

I became a JC Penney fan when the company made a big effort to be inclusive in both their philosophy and advertising. Who can say no to Ellen DeGeneres? Not me. I started shopping at Penney's because I support companies who embrace diversity, treat all people with kindness, and want their customers to feel good about supporting them with their hard-earned money.

Now I don't give a shit if the local JC Penney burns to the ground.

Boy, it sure doesn't take much for a company to turn a good customer into a bitter enemy now-a-days, does it?

Oh well. It's not like there aren't other places to spend my money.

   

Stuff

Posted on November 28th, 2014

Dave!Annnnnd... just bought all my clothes for 2015.

For the past four years I shop for clothing only on Black Friday online sales so I can purchase stuff I ordinarily could not afford (Lucky Brand, Banana Republic, etc.) or to get double the amount of stuff I would normally get (American Eagle, iTunes Cards, etc.). Amazing how putting aside $50 a month nets $600 that has buying power of $1000 to $1200 this one time of year.

Unlike the many, many people who profess to despise Black Friday as a blight on the holiday season and humanity in general... I am happy to publicly embrace this celebration of consumerism gone amuck. Not because I have some vendetta against the holidays (or whatever), but because I like to save piles of money.

Not that I would ever step foot in an actual store today.

I prefer the relative safety of my web browser to the madness of full-contact shopping...

Black Friday is also the time that I cash in all the pocket change I save up the rest of the year (so I have even more cash to spend on deals). It always adds up to a lot more than I'd expect...

Coinstar Machine!

ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO DOLLARS AND SIXTY-SEVEN CENTS?! How do I accumulate that much coinage?

Fair warning... CoinStar does not accept foreign monies (or penis salad buttons) as legal tender...

Coinstar Machine!

Annnnnd... now that I've spent all my money, I suppose it's time to get back to work.

So I can earn money for next year.

It's a viscious circle, yo.

   

Baggage

Posted on August 14th, 2014

Dave!I loathe shopping.

I've never enjoyed it. If given the choice between going to the mall or getting water-boarded, I'd probably take the water-boarding. Especially during the holidays (at least the first time... as I've read that being water-boarded is seriously no fun at all). Now-a-days I rarely go to a mall or physical store to shop, I buy everything on the internet. And while I still loathe shopping, at least with online shopping I don't have to put pants on.

But that's not the only difference.

The biggest difference to me is that online shopping comes with customer reviews. When shopping at Amazon (my online store of choice) I have immediate access to the opinions of other people who have purchased the item I'm looking at. This can be a big plus. Except sometimes the reviews are paid or planted to make a product sound better than it is, in which case it's a huge detriment. They can also be sabotaged by people with nothing better to do than trash perfectly good products for petty reasons. But, overall, I trust reviews to even out and paint an accurate picture of what you'll be getting.

And, for the most part, this trust is not misplaced.

But what happens when it does?

I really like my current camera bag, a Tamrac Velocity 7x, but it's now too small to hold all my equipment and it screams "I'M A CAMERA BAG!!!" which probably acts like a beacon to thieves looking for an easy score. So I decided to buy something new. Which isn't an easy feat because no photographer I know has found the perfect bag. But this doesn't stop them from battling to the death in promoting the bag they prefer while brutally cutting up bags they don't. As you can imagine, this makes researching which bag to buy incredibly difficult. But I put in the time anyway and eventually landed on one which looked perfect for me.

Enter "The Brixton" by Ona Bags...

The Brixton Camera Bag by Ona
Photo from Ona Bags featuring photographer Colin Hughes

First of all, it's one of the best-looking camera bags I've ever seen. It looks like a high-end messenger bag and doesn't say "I'm a camera bag" at all. Sure, for the sake of the cows that died to make it, I wish it didn't have leather accents, but at least those poor animals can rest in peace knowing that their hide was used to make something so beautiful.

But, when it comes to baggage, I'll take functionality over beauty any day, so how well does it work as a camera bag?

Well, according to all the reviews I read, it was the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Honestly, I had a hard time finding anything bad that was said about it. Photographers loved the thing. So I did my best to ignore the TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLAR PRICE TAG, and placed my order with B&H Photo.

I was so thrilled to have finally found the most perfect camera bag ever made that I was walking on air for days.

And then it arrived.

Yes, it is indeed beautiful... but holy shit is it a cluster-fuck of disasters...

  • The wax coating on the canvas scratches very easily. Just removing my bag from the box resulted in some hefty crease marks on every surface. This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker for me... I'm sure eventually it will have an old weathered look I'll like... but, seriously, why couldn't they just use a standard spray coating? The thing looks beat to shit and I've had it for two days. Two days of doing practically nothing! Heaven only know what it will look like after two weeks of travel!
  • The Brixton has an unremovable strap(!) with very little padding on a shoulder piece that slides all over. It doesn't even have a rubberized coating to keep it from sliding on YOU. This is pathetic and unforgivable for a bag that costs TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS!
  • The handle on top is off-center and off-balance, making it uncomfortable and pretty useless. Why they couldn't have gone dual-handle to make it carry well is a mystery.
  • There is a pocket in the back that's kept closed by magnets, which is nifty. What's not so nifty is that it has no cover-flap and doesn't seal tight, which means water and dust are just going to pour into the thing when you're trekking into nature's wild abandon. The smart thing to do would be to seal it shut with silicone... but... well, it's a pocket. I do love my pockets. There are also two wide-open, unprotected pockets on each side. =sigh=
  • There are two pockets in the front right under the bag's cover flap. They are roomy and deep, which is great... BUT THAT'S ALL THE INTERNAL POCKETS YOU GET?!? Absolutely no provision whatsoever for organizing all the tiny crap that photographers seem to accumulate. This is a horrible problem. My Tamrac spoiled the crap out of me with all the useful little places to organize things. This is awful. I mean, holy crap... NOT EVEN A PENCIL POCKET?!?
  • There is a divider inside so that you can slide in a small (13-inch or less) laptop. This is a welcome addition, but it's attached FLAT with velcro so it's more of a slot than a pocket. That's great for a very thin computer (like the MacBook Air) but just plain wacky for anything else because it distorts the back wall of the main compartment. Why not at least attempt to add some depth there... especially if the whole thing is removable if the customer doesn't want it taking up space! And would it kill Ona to put a piece of rigid plastic at the back of the bag to keep your computer from bending in half as it bends around your body?
  • The internal dividers are way too short. Sure you can stick them higher in the bag, but then small lenses and other items aren't contained as they should be.
  • The brass latches Ona uses to keep the bag closed are kind of a hassle. They slide latched so easily sometimes, but require multiple tries to latch other times. I don't know why... maybe it's because you have to have them lined up perfectly straight? Regardless, anything this finicky has NO place on a camera bag, and they really should have used an alternative.
  • The adjustable buckles on the closure straps are UP-SIDE DOWN and probably the stupidest fucking design flaw I've seen on any piece of luggage. Ever.

That last bullet requires some explanation...

The Brixton Camera Bag Buckle FAIL!!!

As you can see, instead of pointing down, the buckle prong faces upwards. This means the damn thing is pointing out ALL THE TIME! The first time I noticed this, it was because I squeezed by a $1000 wood filing cabinet only to see that The Brixton left an ugly gash in the finish. The next time I noticed it, I dropped my arm to my side where the bag was resting and got punctured (no blood, but it left a mark and hurt like a m#th@f#c%er).

This is a huge, major, massive design flaw.

BUT IT WAS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN ANY REVIEW I READ! NOT ONCE! What the fuck?!?

Did I perhaps get a defective product or something? I jumped to Ona's own website to see if I could find out. Sure enough, right there in their own marketing photos, the little buckle prong is sticking out all over the place!

The Brixton Camera Bag Buckle FAIL!!!
Photo from Ona Bags

Did nobody at any point during product testing notice this problem? Nobody?! I'm the only one who has been poked and left gashes in furniture? Seriously?!

I just don't get it.

There's a lot of things to like about this bag, but it's so deeply flawed that I just can't comprehend the universal praise it's getting. In order to make it work for me, I'm going to have to...

  • Use some shrink-tubing over the buckles so they're not poking people and fucking up the furniture. This will also (hopefully) dampen the "CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!" you hear when you're walking along with the bag unlatched.
  • Use some kind of small plastic box with dividers for all the small stuff so there's a way to keep it organized and not just sitting in the bottom of a deep pocket in a lump.
  • Pull the velcro dividers out of my other camera bags so I have useable-height dividers in the Ona bag.
  • Wrap anything kept in exterior pockets in plastic bags to keep them clean and dry.
  • Cut off the shoulder strap and replace it with something that's worth a shit.
  • Consider adding a rigid piece of plastic with a felt cover to the back of the bag to better protect my MacBook Air from bending.

My regret is not that I have to modify this bag so that I can use it effectively. That's bound to happen with something as varied and subjective as photography gear. It's that I paid TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE DOLLARS for something that didn't have a lot of thought put into it. Or maybe it did, and the designers made bad choices. I dunno. It's just maddening that no reviewer mentioned any of the shortcomings that come with owning Ona's "The Brixton."

Oh well. Eventually, with modification, it should be a good bag for me. I sure like the way it looks. And it could have been worse.

I could have paid $430 for the all-leather version.

I hate shopping.

   

Bullet Sunday 359

Posted on December 15th, 2013

Dave!Oh my stars and garters! Hold on to your shorts... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• Pass. This Saturday & Sunday was declared "SteetPass Weekend" by Nintendo. "StreetPass" allows you to have limited interaction with other Nintendo 3DS users you happen to pass on the street when you both have your 3DS sleeping in your pocket. But you can also interact with users via "StreetPass Relay Points." Visit a Relay Point (at places like McDonalds and Starbucks) and you can have limited interaction with the last six users to have been there. However... during "Street Pass Weekend" the six users you interact with are randomly pulled from Relay Points around the world! This is kind of nifty, because you'll get the chance to meet Mii characters you'd likely otherwise never meet. Very cool, and I tried my best to make the most of it. Sadly, countries in South America (plus Mexico!) I got don't have maps in my 3DS, which is kind of crappy. Why is that? I'll have to see if there's a way to download them.

   
• Theft? My first stop on a dreaded shopping run today was at Costco to pick up some things for my grandmother. Once I had unloaded her purchases into my trunk, I wheeled my cart across the parking lot to return it. As I was walking back to my car... I SAW A WOMAN TRYING TO BUMP MY TRUNK OPEN! It took me a second to process what I was seeing, but I finally managed to say "HEY! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY CAR BEFORE YOU GET FUCKING SHOT!" (it's an easy threat to make here in Redneckistan, because most people are packing). She said "Oh! I thought this was my car!" and awkwardly scrambled off. Which was so, so stupid. It was painfully obvious that she watched me load my trunk, then tried to break in and steal stuff the minute I walked away. I'm not shocked that there are people out there breaking into cars... it's just how brazen they are about it. I was right there!

   
• Mickey Dees. I stopped at McDonalds for "StreetPass Weekend" and to get some fries and a Hi-C Orange Drink. After I got my food and was headed to a table, I ran across a group of people talking in the aisle, completely blocking it. I said "excuse me" and tried to get by, only to have them completely ignore me... THEN MOVE TO BLOCK ME FURTHER. Which was apparently high-larious to them. Rather than unleash a string of expletives in the middle of a kid-friendly restaurant, I decided to backtrack and go around them. What IS it with people? These were not some punk kids... these were adults! Adults still living in high school, apparently. I weep for the future.

   
• Starbucks. Another "StreetPass Weekend" stop... and this time I decided to order up some yummy peppermint cocoa, since I don't drink coffee. I ordered a "medium" and got a "grande" which looks like it's actually a large? What I apparently wanted was a "tall" which is a step up from a "small" and two steps down from a "venti." But since the "small" is not actually on the menu, everything shifts up a size. Starbucks is confusing. I think they up-size their sizes so they can trick unsuspecting people into paying big money for more beverage than they need. My cocoa cost FOUR DOLLARS!! Which is crazy. I can get blown for that kind of money! I guess now I know why Starbucks racks up billions in profits every year. I would have been happier with a 20¢ packet of Swiss Miss and a cup of boiling water from my microwave.

   
• StarBIGbucks. SERIOUSLY?!? FOUR DOLLARS for a cup of cocoa?

   
• Home Despot. Before I left for Wenatchee, I checked the hours of all the stores I needed to visit so I could form a plan of attack. Home Depot had the latest closing time of 8:00, so I put it last on my list because I have to return an item. I arrived in plenty of time, walking up to their front doors at 6:05pm. Only to find it wouldn't open. I doubled-checked the hours on the door and, sure enough, they don't close until 8:00. So I try pushing on the door to see if it will open... it refused to budge. So I triple-check the hours. And then... then... I happen to notice another sign all the way across the door from the hours...

Home DepotClosed Trickery

Home DepotClosed Trickery

This one says "Fuck you... but we're closing at 6:00 today! Sorry for the inconvenience! Oh... and Happy Holidays, SUCKER!" Except, no, they're not really sorry or else they would have put it on their website so their customers wouldn't waste their time. As I was taking the above photos, a woman came up to the door and I had to tell her the bad news. "But... I came all the way from Quincy!" Yikes. That's a 45-minute drive. If I had traveled all that way, I would have burned the mutha down. I can only hope that the reason they closed early was for something important... and not some kind of lame company Christmas party or something.

   
• Ten. The latest meme? "10 Books That Have Stayed with You." Not the "best books you've ever read'... but instead books that have stuck with you for one reason or another. Interesting. That's a very different thing then, isn't it? My picks...

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (life... In 127 pages)
  • Illusions by Richard Bach (living... in 192 pages)
  • Noble House by James Clavell (how fictional history should be written)
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (funny sci-fi classic)
  • Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams (endangered animals funny? yes)
  • A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ultimate sci-fi yarn)
  • Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ultimate adventure yarn)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (flawless science fiction world-building)
  • Lightning by Dean Koontz (one of the quickest reads I've ever had)
  • Watchmen by Moore & Gibbons (visual storytelling at its best)

Bah! Just as I finished this list, a dozen more books popped into my head. I guess I love books way too much.

   
• MIKE HUCKABEE: AGENT OF SATAN!!! And so there I was, running through my Facebook timeline, enjoying all the funtime activities of my friends, when I run across an ad for Governor Mike Huckabee's FREE Bible Story Cartoons DVD! I love Bible stories! I love cartoons! I even love DVDs (even though I buy everything digital now-a-days)! So I was absolutely going to claim my freebie! And then, just as I was going to comment my appreciation to the Governor, I saw that the number of comments left before me was 666... THE MARK OF THE BEAST!

Huckabee is Satan?

ZOMG! CLEARLY THIS IS A SIGN FROM GOD WARNING ME THAT MIKE HUCKABEE IS AN AGENT OF SATAN! S-A-T-A-N-!!! Mike Huckabee must be indoctrinating children into the devil's army with these DVDs! And clearly he is an agent of SATAN since he charges $5 shipping and handling for this "free" DVD... and, as if that weren't proof enough of his allegiance to Hell, anybody ordering the "free" DVD is automatically enrolled in a subscription for even more devil-indocrinating DVDs... at $12 plus $5 shipping and handling! Praise be that I saw the sign that God provided me and was able to steer clear of this evil, EVIL minion of The Dark Lord!

Oh... wait a second... I've actually READ THE BIBLE! And The Bible clearly states that interpreting something as a "sign from God" is AN ABOMINATION TO THE LORD! It says so right there in Deuteronomy! And Leviticus! And a dozen other places in scripture! What was I thinking? I guess I must just get caught up in all these evil sorcerers like PAT ROBERTSON and MICHELE BACHMANN who are constantly seeing "signs from God" that support their evil, godless plans to tempt people into the service of SATAN!

So, my apologies, Governor. Turns out you're just an unscrupulous businessman who tricks people into buying your shitty DVDs. You're not an agent of SATAN after all! OR ARE YOU?!? Using "free" DVDs to scam people into buying your crap certainly SOUNDS like something the devil would orchestrate... hmmm?

   
Annnnd... I'm shootin' blanks. Until next week!

   

Sears

Posted on May 1st, 2013

Dave!Our local Sears store is closing.

I am not entirely surprised by the news, but I am a bit saddened. For the longest time during my childhood, Sears was the place to shop in our valley. There wasn't much competition, and the internet wasn't a Thing yet, so you went to Sears. My first computer, an Atari 800, was bought at that Sears. All the software I saved my allowance to buy came from Sears (mostly INFOCOM games like Zork). Appliances and tools all came from Sears. Clothing came from Sears too. And if there was something Sears didn't have that you needed, you could order it from their catalog.

So yeah, I have fond memories of Sears and it seems strange to think about it closing.

I haven't shopped there in years, of course.

The last thing I bought at Sears was a Kenmore washer and dryer... or maybe it was some Craftsman tools... but that was at least a decade ago. I feel bad about that, but they just don't have anything I want to buy. Not any more...

Atari 800 Illustration
   
I drew this Atari 800 for the cover of Kevin Savetz's terrific book, Terrible Nerd!

   
And now I think I'll have a beer and reminisce about the good ol' days when I was a kid and the Sears Christmas Catalog was my world.

Much like Apple.com is now.

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