Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just a-waitin' & wonderin' Part Deux

Well, we just received a very nice email from the person who bought the clock. He said he was going to keep the clock & fix it up & he wished us luck.

Maybe I'm the one who's insane.

As far as I was concerned, that was the only reason anyone would buy that clock. In the hands of someone who knew what they were doing, it could be made into a very nice (and pricey) item. It was a mid 19th century shelf clock, with a painted stag on glass, mahogany, and contained original instructions. But it was in nowhere near pristine condition - there was a split in the wood on the back, there was some visible water damage, some of the veneer had broken off, there were some drops of paint on it and so on. All that was documented in the listing and in pictures, and its why we sold it as cheaply as we did.

What raised my suspicion more than anything was that the buyer had purchased insurance on the item, he contacted us to tell us it was damaged, but when we suggested he file a claim he did not want to. I know filing a claim may not be the most fun thing in the world, but it just seemed he was interested in getting some money back and keeping the item. That's what raised a red flag with me.

But he sent us a very nice email. I suppose we'll never be 100% sure of what was going on. We sent him back an email & wished him luck, and asked if he'd send us a picture after he got it fixed up. So I think we parted on good terms.

I never have this issue with postcards.

Just a-waitin' & wonderin'

So we're sitting around wondering when our first negative feedback on eBay will hit. When I say we, I mean me. We've been selling stuff on eBay for about 2 years 5 months and 28 days or so, give or take a day, not that I'm counting. The vast majority of people we deal with are trustworthy, nice, decent and pleasant people. We have developed a cadre of repeat buyers, and we do that by trying to provide the best customer service we can. But one out of 100 buyers or so seem to be insane. Maybe not that high, or maybe its just that these things seem to come in twos or threes.

Right now we're dealing with a buyer who for the life of me appears like he wants to keep the item (an old, non-working clock) we sold him, and have us refund his money. He says it was damaged in shipping. We presented out apologies (and it was sincere, I always worry about shipping, and do my best to package things securely) & said since he bought insurance he can file a claim with the post office. We even gave him instructions on how to do that. He says it will take too long to get his money back. We said, ok, send it back, we'll refund the cost of the item, but not what we charged for shipping, and not what he'd have to pay for shipping it back to us. It's a fairly heavy item, and was not cheap to ship. This was spelled out in the listing - the only time we refund shipping is if we grossly misrepresented an item. In this case we absolutely did not.

The item cost over $42.00, and shipping + insurance was another $15.00 or so. It was too big for a large flat rate priority box, so it was the best we could do. If he sends it back, it will cost him another $15.00 or so, and he'll be out $30.00. It would make more sense just to take it to the post office and file the claim, and get the $42.00 back. That's the reason for the insurance. Assuming it really is damaged, of course.

The buyer has been on eBay for several years, and had a feedback of zero. This immediately raised a red flag with Patti Anne, before he even won the auction - its odd to have no feedback of any kind after 4 years. Maybe it should have raised a red flag with me too, but I just shrugged and said there's got to be a lot weirder things on Planet Earth.

He's got a feedback of 1 now, 'cause he paid quickly so I went ahead left feedback. That is eBay's "best practices" recommendation, a term that makes me want to gag, btw. But eBay in their wisdom has decided that sellers cannot leave negative feedback for buyers, so what difference does it make? He paid, I left positive feedback saying he paid.

We can't be absolutely positive, but it smells like an attempt at a scam to us. We've been the target more than once in the last two years. The most famous one (for us anyway) was a fake 2nd chance offer on an item we bidded on. We were knew to eBay, and I didn't really catch on until the person told us to send an western union money gram to a place in London. Hmmmm, might was well hit me in the head with my Roger Maris baseball bat.

Anyway, since we told him we'd refund the cost of the item but none of the shipping charges if he returned it to us, we haven't heard anything from him. So, I guess we'll find out sooner or later.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for a negative feedback to show up. We've not had one yet, but it's bound to happen someday.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A baby Blue Jay from last spring

This is a picture of a baby Blue Jay who had somehow managed to get out of its nest. It was taken sometime last spring. It was too young to fly, but it could hop and climb trees and that's how it got to where it was. Its parents were very protective - they were always close by, they fed him, and kept an eye out for dangers. They kept a close eye on us, that's for sure. The last I saw the little guy he was hopping toward the forest at the edge of our back yard. His parents were on a couple of low branches just inside the forest making a lot of noise. We like to believe the little guy survived. There were a lot of Blue Jays flying around last summer, and we like to think one of them was him.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Postcards vs Snapshots

We sell a lot of different stuff in our eBay store, though for awhile now we've been concentrating on postcards. It seems to be working, though it was not easy to get to where it was working. Mostly it took paying attention and perseverance. I recently got the idea of adding photographic images to the mix, and seeing how that goes.

I love pictures. I don't know how old I was before I actually read a national geographic article, I would get lost in the details of the pictures. That's one of the things that was appealing to me about postcards, and it is one of the things the reasons I wanted to try selling other photographic images.

But it's not easy. I know about postcards now - I know the terminology, the types, how to rate their condition, I have a notion of how to price them and I have an idea at least, of what people are looking for. Postcards, for the most part, are formal or staged in someway. There is not a whole lot of candidness. But, I deal in somewhat older cards (some quite old), and they frequently document things that no longer exist, or look different now than when the picture was taken. Many have postmarks, and some are from post offices that have been closed - people collect those, and I know it. I don't ask people why they buy a particular postcard from me, though I really would like to know. Some people volunteer the information tho, and most of them are buying it for sentimental reasons - its a place that was important to them. The postcard above is one I listed today, one that I don't find all that interesting, but someone else just might - for more than one reason.

Unlike postcards, most snapshots are not formal things - they are usually taken by people who don't know squat about taking pictures, and the pictures generally mean nothing to anyone except the people who took it or the people who are the subjects of the picture. Some snapshots are of places, but the vast majority seem to be of other people, or other situations. I don't really have a handle on what people who collect snapshots are looking for. I think people who collect snapshots are looking for art (usually unintentional art), or perhaps some statement about the era in which it was taken. It's true there are a lot of postcards of art - but again, its almost always formal. Snapshots (snaps from here on out) are almost always informal.

So, I guess I'll start by looking for things out of the ordinary, maybe a little quirky or unusual, perhaps a feeling or emotion portrayed that the photographer had no clue was being portrayed. As time goes on, I'll learn and become more sophisticated about it (I hope). As of right now, I have to keep in mind that a snap doesn't have to be a good picture for someone to find it interesting. The snapshot above is one I listed today, for no other reason than I found it a little odd.

Later on I'll talk about cabinet photos & cdv's and such. They're a whole different ball game.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No more struggles

I've decided to shut down "My Struggles In The Ether" blog, and will cover those topics in this blog, if and when the mood ever strikes. It should simplify things. I had entrecard on that blog too, but I had very few droppers in common. I just didnt like it as much. It's that whole business thing, I think. I've never warmed up to business. Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Rare 2 Post Day

Two posts in one day? Have I gone daft?

I have another blog "Struggles in the Ether" that's mostly about eBay and related things we do to earn a few bucks. It's the closest thing I do to work these days, and it is fine with me. I'm thinking about shutting that blog down, and covering the things I talk about there in this blog. I don't know. I don't want to lose the quasi-stream of consciousness feel of this blog, but I don't really want to maintain that one any more.

It would mean that I would have occasional "business" related posts. And believe me, I use the term "business" loosely. Not posts for pay mind you - you couldnt pay me to have a paid post on this blog. Or maybe you could, but we'll never find out 'cause I aint gonna do it. But I'd talk about things going on in my very private world of online selling (and buying).

So I'd create a blog for the dog, and shut down the blog for my business. Yep, that sounds about right. I know where my priorities are.

I'm thinking about it. We'll see.

A Valdese Dog

I started a new blog about Pickles the Dog (P. Doggie), mostly documenting dog walks and other thoughts. It is linked to this blog, so check it out if you're interested. It's called "A Valdese Dog". Click on the title to go to it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday Morning

So I'm a day late. Snow seems to be a rare thing in this part of the country - this is only the 2nd snow in two years that I've lived here. So I thought I'd take a picture.

The picture is from a little dirt road just beyond our driveway, looking toward the hills to our south. This is pretty much what we can see out of our kitchen window, and from the back deck.

These mountains are to our south, and known as, ingeniously enough, the South Mountains. There is even a South Mountain State Park not too far away. The moutains to the west and north of us are much higher.

So, anyway, it snowed Monday night & it looked pretty Tuesday morning, so I took a picture.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Maybe It'll Feel Like North Carolina on Monday.....

It's been too cold lately. Way too cold for this part of the country & not near as cold as other parts. But still 7 degrees Fahrenheit, (-14 Celsius) is cold with a capital K. And I cannot find my good winter jacket, which gives an indication of how often I need it.

The portion of my brain that governs posting in blogs does not seem to be functioning at it's normal capacity.

And to top it off, I've discovered it's possible I may be a CURR-mudjun. I don't know how it came to this, because I've never been one before. To my knowledge.

One thing I do have a severe mistrust of is people who write about the business of doing business. And motivational speakers. I can see them sitting around a hotel bar giving each other high fives & saying do you believe we actually make money doing this? These are the people who came up with capability maturity models and PMS9000. (I'm joking, I know it's ISO). Supposedly it was to make corporations more efficient, but I think someone got rich off of it. I know that by in my system engineering days, when beads of blood were streaming down my forehead as I was trying to figure out a fix for some nightmarishly complicated problem ON A SEVERE DEADLINE, I did not appreciate having to track artifacts. Or even trying to figure out what artifacts were. Or justifying every second of my day. These people did me no favors. I don't care where they put their damn cheese.

So anyway here I am. I much prefer to sit around, think about & expound up on my "dog behind the fence" theory of human social interaction. If I had enough initiative, perhaps I could figure out how to apply it to businesses and governments, start "training the trainers", and began collecting my royalties. Then I can join the bald headed freak at the hotel bar with high-fives saying "I can't believe I make money doing this". Sigh, I guess I'd have to write a book.

That would be a lot of work.

Anyway. It's very cold out, but it's supposed to get warmer soon, but not near warm enough. I wish I knew where my coat was. And I'm not a CURR-mudjun.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stuff Around The House #11 - More Cactus

This is a little plant we keep in a shallow tray - one of those things you put under a terra cotta pot to catch water that flows thru when you water a plant. The only name I know it by is "mouse ear" cactus, and I don't know anything else about it. We bought it at a community flea market in Drexel, NC last year. We moved it inside when it began to get cooler, and set it near a sunny window, and suddenly this week it decided to bloom.

Our Christmas cactus is still blooming btw.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nice View

It's rained a lot here the last couple of days. While walking the dog this morning, I saw water standing where I had never seen it before, and water flowing thru drainage ditches that have always been dry.

Then, as happens so often, the rain stopped.

Then, as predictable as anything, the wind began blowing - hard.

Then, right on schedule, the temperature dropped 20 degrees or so.

And that all set the stage for a beautiful view. I can see the mountains from the parking lot of the scariest place in Valdese, the Food Lion supermarket. I can see them from a lot of other places too. The rain and the wind had really cleared the air - it was dry & there was no haze and you could see everything very clearly.

So I looked. And was reminded once again of how big, beautiful, rugged and dangerous the mountains are. I'm always surprised. They are not very far away, but, as anyone who takes a little trip up to Table Rock will attest, it's a completely different world.

Or maybe they won't attest. I can't speak for humanity.

You can see Table Rock clearly from Valdese (as you're heading into town on Praley, just look to the left as you cross St. Germain), but it is a completely different place.

Chew on that, bigfoot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I've seen one too many commercials

I don't really watch that much TV. But I seem to get in a little bit every day & I've noticed something. On television, in commercials especially, people who are very sick are leading a lot fuller & more active lives than I am.

First, I notice everybody does yoga. The diabetic, the person suffering from debilitating bone loss, the Alzheimer's patient, the COPD guy, everybody, apparently, who has a serious, even terminal illness on television does yoga.

The diabetic coaches football. The COPD people walk up flights of stairs, and probably train for marathons, never once explaining how they manage to BREATHE. Even with drugs.

And they all do yoga, 'cause people with serious illnesses are all cool and otherworldly I reckon.

I've known people who were seriously ill, and in most cases, they were not enjoying themselves. They were not working on their abs while being wheeled into the operating room. Or doing squats in between vomiting. Generally, they went thru a ton of misery.

I suppose this is just a continuation with my history of disconnect with television - it goes back to a very young age, before 1st grade even, when I realized that (especially on commercials) the reality depicted did not jive with the reality I knew. People said things and held assumptions that just were not familiar to me and were not a part of the society I lived in. My world was not part of their paradigm and they didnt even know it. Now that I think about it, I knew more about them than they did about me, even though had they been confronted with the fact, they would have swore that it wasnt true. At least I knew there was something called moo-goo-gai-pan, even though I did not have a clue what it was. They had no clue there was anything called Hindman, Kentucky. I'm pretty sure about that.

Anyway, coming back to the present, the reality I'm familiar with is that people who have a hard time breathing frequently have a VERY hard time breathing, and there is no way to sugar coat it. Many diabetics have serious, serious complications that keep them from getting to their yoga classes. People who suffer from bone loss frequently fall and break bones, making it extremely hard for them to keep up with their yoga. Many people who are really ill, don't eat right, don't take care of themselves, don't get enough exercise, and couldn't if they wanted to. That is reality.

I don't know why it disgusts me so much. I don't know why I'd expect anything better from a TV commercial.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

100th Post! How about some more English?

I just noticed this is my 100th post. Cool. So, I thought I'd write about a bit more English.

This lesson will be on the proper usages of the verb 'make like', the expression 'Dey Law' and the word 'slick', as I learned them anyway.

"Make like": This is one Patti Anne used more than I did, but I like it a lot, and I should work it into conversations a bit more often.

"make like" simply means to pretend, and all the connotations the word pretend has.

It can be very innocent, one child to may say to another - "Let's make like we're pirates!" Or whatever kids like to "make like" these days.

It can be more cynical: "Dey Law, he's makin' like he's the second comin' or somethin".

I reckon I should explain "Dey Law".

Dey Law is an expression, or an exclamation. Think of it as something like My Goodness, except much stronger. And it is always, always, drawn out. If it takes you less than 6 or 7 seconds to day "Dey Law", then you've said it too quickly. Deeeeeey Laaaaaaaw! It's related to "Lawsy", which I always thought of as a milder form.

Slick: Slick only had one meaning that I was aware of when I was growing up. It had no connotations (to me anyway) of being sneaky or underhanded.

If it was cold and it had snowed or the creek had frozen, you might hear: "You all be careful now, it's slick out".

Or if you slipped and fell, it might have been because you stepped on something slick, and if you happened to be in the pasture at the time, it probably wasn't good.

I don't think we would have ever said anything like, "That guy's real slick", unless he was covered in lard or something.

I don't think I heard the word "slippery" until my father joined the Air Force and we moved from Kentucky. And then it was those daggone northerners who used it.

Make like, dey law, & slick. One good verb, one good expression, and a pretty nice word.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Snowchief the Cat

None of us are getting any younger. If you don't believe me, just think about yesterday, or last week. You were younger then.
Snowchief the Cat is almost 17 years old now. He'll reach that milestone in April, I believe. Snowchief is not in the least bit introspective, so I doubt he has any kind of notion of how old he is. But I do, and I can't help worrying about it.
Snowchief does all the normal things a cat does. He eats, he drinks, uses the litter, jumps on the couch, tries to eat the plants, and spends a lot of time searching for the warmest place in the house to stretch out for a snooze. He's very good at that.
I'm sure he doesn't realize or remember how much more energy he used to have. I don't remember the last time I saw him on top of the refrigerator. He doesn't seem to jump any higher than chair or bed level now, and I dont know if that's laziness, or if it's hard for him to do that now, or if its just common sense. It's hard to tell with a cat. He does not seem to be in any pain, and I haven't seen him miss any jumps, but he doesn't try the higher ones anymore.
He's loosing weight. The picture is from a couple of years ago, and he's thinner than that now. We're supplementing his regular food with canned food to try to give him some extra calories, but he's thinner than he used to be. It's nothing dramatic or alarming, in my experience, it happens to older cats.
He's had a lot of years, hopefully he'll have a few more. He's very affectionate, even though it may only be because his humans make a nice warm place to sleep, but still.
He doesn't know. I do. And I worry about it sometimes.