Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The End of November

The end of another month, and of course this puts me in mind of our eBay sales.  Not so much of the actual sales, but I'm always trying to figure out the why's of it all, and it's not easy.  Although I won't have all the info I need until tomorrow, I have enough info to think about it today, not that it makes a difference.

We mostly sell postcards and antique photos.  The postcards we sell are the standard/chrome and earlier, so from the early 1900's to the 1970s or so.  The antique photos are from the 1860s to 1920s for the most part.  There are always exceptions.  We also sell snapshots, and those may be mid century or later, and we sell Victorian Trade Cards, which date from the 19th century. 

Sales rise and fall from month to month, but over all in 2010, sales have increased since June.   January thru May was at one level, from June on has been at a higher level.

Our sales this month are 20% higher than in October, but about 6% lower than September. (October was a bit slow, for some reason).  Our sales in November were going pretty good until Thanksgiving, then we had very little activity for 3 or 4 days.  It picked right up again Monday - had that period of inactivity not happened, we would have outsold October.  Of course if a toad had wings it's tail wouldn't bump the ground.

I keep a lot of metrics, more than perhaps I should.  And I can run some reports, but I don't really have the means to dig up detailed trends in the world wide postcard and photo collectible market.   We've learned some tricks to (we hope) make our items more visible - paying attention to titles, item specifics and such, and try to provide good pictures and descriptions.

I even know 4 or 5 reasons most people buy postcards - and that's good stuff to know, though there are a million other not so major reasons someone may buy a postcard.   I've learned that some subjects sell better than others, though it's rare that I can look at a card and say with any certainty that it will sell.  Or won't sell for that matter. 

My favorites are the old cards - but I've learned that many people prefer the "newer" cards (newer being 'only' 50 years or so old)

When you get right down to it, I'm surprised we sell so many.  I wish I could get some definite answers as to why.  Or how to sell even more.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Thoughts.

I have glasses now.  For the first time in my life I'm expected to wear glasses all the time in order to see things clearly.  Without glasses I cannot read.  Also, without glasses things don't start looking completely in focus unless it's a large object way out in the distance somewhere.  The moon would be a good example.  I can see the moon clearly, without glasses.    I've had them since Wednesday, they are no-line "progressive" bifocals, and I'm not used to them yet.  Things are better than yesterday, but I've realized to my horror that I have to look directly at something for it to be in focus.  Most of my life I've had very good vision, it'll take me awhile to get used to this.

Had Thanksgiving dinner at some friends house - they have a big chocolate Lab, still a puppy.  Friendly dog, but even though he's still a puppy, he's somewhat calmer than ol' Pickles.  And that's good, 'cause he's a big dog.  Not that Pickles is small, but he's big.  Pickles gets exercise - she's just a high energy dog.  She could go all day and still want to play afterwards.  She's also a very funny dog, if you pay attention.  Some of her dog humor will go over your head if you dont.

I've been to lots of places in my life, but I've never been to the Fiji Islands.  Or Iowa.  Not sure how I missed Iowa.

I like how movie Fred & movie Ginger always seems to work things out.

North Carolina turned a tad cool-ish yesterday evening & this morning.  It was fairly warm up to then.  Of course, cool and warm are, as always, relative terms.  This is what feels cold to me.  50 degrees and breezy.  Almost all the leaves are off the trees now.  It took 'till almost December for that to happen, but finally it has.  That also makes it seem colder.

Now, my first and only generalized observation about women.  They like to move things around.

I dont know where the saying loose as a goose comes from, and I dont know what it means.

Every what the BBC program Hercules Poirot?  Ever seen him in bed asleep?  Ever try to sleep like that?  It's not comfortable.

Time is made up.  It is not real.  Clocks and calendars do not measure time, they're just a standardized measurement of the earth's rotation around the sun, broken down in to agreed upon units.  From seconds to centuries, it's all made up. Just something so humans can wrap their brains around the fact that things change.  And change also is not time.  Change may be entropy, but it's not time.   I'm not sure time exists. 

I am positive that I'm here, right now though.  What I'm not sure about is if I'm also somewhere else, a different universe so to speak, living out the results of a different life choice. 

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thoughts on a threatening voice mail

I'm very good at not answering the telephone.  I can easily not answer the telephone for months or years - we have caller ID, if it's from a toll free number or if I don't know who it is, I don't answer it.  They can leave a message if they wish.  Of course I can't quite remember how to access the messages, but that's another issue.  I have it written down on a post-it note somewhere.

We've had the phone for about 3 years - I wasn't even sure we needed a land-line phone, but when we bought the house and set up TV and internet, it was part of the package.  It's a good back up.

Pretty much from Day 1, we've received calls from debt collectors.  Back in the begining Patti Anne would answer the phone and talk to them, and they'd always be trying to get in touch with someone we never heard of.  In fact, they'd run down a list of names they had associated with our phone number, none of whom we had any clue about.  So the calls died down for awhile, but now they're coming back.

So one of these people left us a very threatening voice mail.  Although when you think about it, the whole thing shows just how impotent the caller really was.  He never identified himself or his company, he never said what it was he was calling about, and he never said what was going to happen if we didn't respond, and I'm not sure, but I think that might be illegal.  He just seemed very angry that we hadn't returned any of his previous calls (which neither of us were even aware of), and said that if we didnt return his call he was going to take some (unspecified, of course) drastic action.

I thought, why bother telling us?  Take you're unspecified drastic action.  We don't have the need to know. 

I'm not stupid, this was a debt collector trying to collect money from somebody who had given this number, most likely at random, as contact information.  And I'm also not threatened. I know that if he had any real ability to collect money from whoever it is he's trying to collect money from, he wouldn't be calling us.  And if someone really was trying to get money from us, they'd send us registered letters, things we'd have to sign for, with written threats and lawyers' names and pending legal actions and such.  That's a much better threat than an angry voice mail.

I'm really very, very good at not answering telephones.  It's part of my nature.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eye Exam

So yesterday, our little routine was interrupted by driving all the way to Rutherford College (3 - 4 miles, give or take) to get an eye exam.  I had not had an eye exam in many, many years.  I actually had a prescription for glasses back in the '90's, and I managed to lose them after 2 months or so.  I've been using over the counter reading glasses ever since.  I could probably exist on them a while longer, but my distance vision is not near as sharp as it used to be, so I figured it was time to bite the bullet. 

It had been so long since I had an eye exam, I had forgotten what was involved.  I had forgotten about all the drops, dilations and bright lights, all the look heres, look theres, all the "which one is better" questions, which at some point become hard to answer.  Part of the exam reminded me of A Clockwork Orange (oh me droogs) where Alex's eyes are forcibly held open during his violence aversion therapy while he is in prison. 

It was not fun, and that is an understatement.  But I have a really neat pair of paper sun glasses now, and a new pair of glasses coming next week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Driving Miss Pickles

This is Pickles the Dog in the front seat of our old truck, keeping a careful eye on my maneuverings.  I took this picture a few days ago, back when the sun was shining.

I bought this truck in November 1994, so this is its 16 year anniversary.  I'm not sure if it has achieved clunker status yet, but it does have a large dent on side, caused some years back by a disagreement in a parking lot apparently.  I never got it fixed, having moved beyond putting a lot money into this particular mode of conveyance.  It is in semi-retired status, rarely being driven further than Morganton, and most times not even that far.

Pickles usually rides with her head out the window, ears flying back, big smile, happy as can be.  But sometimes she sits like this, just watching were we're going, as if she could give directions or advice.  

She's very routine oriented.  We make the trip to the post office everyday, for example, and she'll give me a look if I take a different route back.  Never fails.  She also doesn't like it if I go too fast - apparently it makes her sneeze.  All in all, she seems to like going on rides.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anybody up for some written French?


You don't see many postcards like this anymore. 

I translate the title as "A Tribute from French Artists and Writers to the United States of America".  I don't speak French though, so I could be wrong.  The whole card is an excerpt of something written by Denys Cochin, who was a deputy of the French Academy (of Sciences, I reckon).

Denys Cochin was a writer & politician, and apparently a defender of the Catholic Church in France, which I found interesting.  I'm no expert in French history, but I thought with the exception of a few violent periods, the Catholic church was a dominant institution in France, especially since the time of Louis XIV.   To me defending the Catholic Church in France would be like defending the Communist Party to Josef Stalin. 

OK - I am NOT equating the Catholic Church with communism or anybody or anything to Josef Stalin.  I'm just wondering what he felt it necessary to defend it from.  Of course, we're talking late 19th & early 20th century here, and there were lots of things going on then in Europe.  I'll put this on my list of things to read up on.

I don't know the exact age of this card, but there's a good chance it is pre-WWI.  And it's for sale.  If you're interested, click on the title.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A word about my previous post

In my previous post I wrote about once again dealing with a "Rogueware" caused by a Trojan Horse of some sort.  I just want to clarify a couple of things.

This seemed to happen while I was dropping on blogs via Entrecard.  I don't know that entrecard or the blog I was dropping on had anything to do with my problems, it's just what I was doing when this happened.  I've had this happen 3 times in the last year or so, and at least 2 of those times I was dropping when the problems first showed themselves.

Resident Shield is a valid part of my AVG, but I don't know that what it was displaying (Trojan Horse Dropper.Generic2) was valid.  That whole situation, frankly, is very confusing to me.

Things seem to still be stable, so that's good.  Basically I booted in safe mode, did a system restore & ran  scans.  I don't know if this actually fixed anything or if it is just masking the problem.  There could be stuff lurking out there that nothing is picking up. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trojan Horse Dropper.Generic2 - Hopefully fixed

Dealt with a Trojan Horse infection this evening -  this makes the 3rd one in a year or so, and hopefully I've got it fixed.  At the moment - its been all of 30 minutes, things seem stable.  

Here's what happened:
  •  I was dropping on Entrecard. 
  • After a drop my computer locked up & Windows media launched.  At this point I didn't suspect anything, I just didn't want to watch anything on windows media, so I attempted to close it down.
  • After dealing with Windows media, I left the room
  • Came back after 45 mins or so, and saw the the following messages & displays:
Resident Shield Found Trojan Horse Dropper.Generic2.BPJX  (this message displayed twice)  Located in C:\Documents & Settings\Owner\Local Settings\Application Data\syssvc.exe (Object is inaccessible)

  • Also I noted behind the Resident Shield Display (Resident Shield is part of my AVG anti-virus software) was another display, with a name something like Anti-Virus Pro (I think), and a list of stuff detected.
  • There was a balloon a the bottom task bar saying that my computer was infected, and I needed to run a scan - this was from the Anti-Virus Pro (or whatever - for the life of me I can't remember the name and I didn't write it down).
  • When I clicked on the AVG Icon, nothing happened
The Resident Shield Display was valid.  The Anti-Virus Pro was not.  Anti-Virus Pro (or whatever it's name was) is "Rogueware".

What I did:

  • Shut down the computer.  I did this by pressing and holding in the power off button.
  • Booted up computer in Safe Mode
  • Ran a full "Command Line" AVG Scan. 
  • The scan came back clean (which I did not see as a good thing); also there were a lot of system files and such that were "locked" and weren't tested. None of this gave me confidence.
  • Did a system restore to a previous date, several days ago.  It's possible (nay, even probable) that I should have done the sytem restore before the scan.  Anyway.
  • Restarted computer in normal mode
  • AVG Kicked off a scan automatically.  That was a good thing - normally these trojans more or less disable the anti-virus software.
  • AVG finished, detecting some tracking cookies, but no Trojans
  • Updated & Ran MalwareBytes - full scan
  • MalwareBytes detected "Trojan.Agent", located at C:\Documents and Settings\owner\local settings\temp\pdfupd.exe  (I hate pdf's!!!)
  • Quarantined and deleted file
  • Restarted computer
The last scan ended less than an hour ago.  I've been online since and all seems stable, but I'm never confident about this stuff.  I have no idea if anything is really fixed.  Time will tell I suppose.  I don't like this at all.

So, to sum up:  I shut down the computer, did a system restore, ran scans & things seem stable.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Need help with a 19th Century London Address......

I have a question about a 19th century London address - maybe someone can help me with it. 

This is a CDV of a woman, probably from the 1890s, taken by a W. Wright.  His business address is listed as "83 Bishopsgate ST. Without, E.C.   It may be hard to see, but it's down in the lower right corner.

We've done some research and found out quite a bit about the photographer.  We've also come across addresses listed as Bishopsgate Within, EC. 

We're not 100% positive what the Within, Without & EC mean.

This is what we think - if someone could either verify this or set us straight we'd appreciate it. 

We think "EC" refers to East Central London- kind of like an early postal code.  We also think the "Within" and "Without" refers to the street's location in respect to the 1 square mile (give or take) City of London - part of the street is within that area, and part of it isn't.  I believe the good ol' Romans walled that area off centuries ago. 

Are we on the right track or anywhere close? Sometimes finding out something simple like this is like pulling teeth. I'm sure it's extremely well known to anyone familiar with the area, but to us sitting here in Valdese, NC, it can be confusing. If anyone could help us with this we'd appreciate it.

Oh, and this CDV is for sale if you're interested - just click on the title to go to the listing

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Aint that tweet - an observation

I use twitter, and I like tweetdeck, sort of, because I see tweets in real time even if I'm on another application.  I "watched" a couple world series baseball games like that.

Anyway, I set up columns to follow things I'm interested in, and a couple of things I keep coming back to are the #amwriting & #amreading people.  I assume these are writers and readers.  I like doing both, (but I'm only really semi-good at reading) so I follow them as the mood strikes.

My observation so far (completely non-scientific with no attempt at verification) is that the #amwriting people tweet a LOT more than the #amreading people.  I suppose that's reasonable.