Thursday, July 28, 2011

This is what happened today.

Today some local police asked me to show some identification as I was getting ready to leave the post office.  Interesting.

Patti, Pickles the Dog and I piled into the truck and took our daily eBay mailings down to the post office.  It's a daily tradition - almost every day at some point in the afternoon you'll see us there.  Typically, while the weather is warm, Patti goes into the post office mails the packages, picks up things and goes to the counter if needed.  Today was stamp buying day, so that made a trip to the counter necessary, and some times that can take several minutes, depending on how many people are ahead of you who wish to chat.

Pickles and I walk across the street and sit in a shady area on a small concrete wall near the Waldensian Museum. 

This happens day after day.

Today a few minutes after Pickles and I had settled in, a white Jeep approached us.  As it got near I saw it was an unmarked police vehicle - there were 2 people in it, one in uniform and one in plain clothes.   It passed me up then made a U-turn and parked near end of the post office parking area across the street.  I saw this out of the corner of my eye, didn't think much of it and went on thinking about whatever I was randomly thinking about.  Pickles was busy smelling the grass around her. 

A couple of minutes later they left and drove down St. Germain, but then stopped, two or 3 houses down.  That I found interesting.   I did look at them, but why wouldn't I, it was odd.  They were there for a minute or so, then Patti came out & Pickles an I got off the wall and walked toward our truck.   The police car made a U-Turn on St. Germain, then parked across the street from me.  I was actually in the truck & starting it up when they approached and asked to see some identification.  Pickles started barking at that point, but wasn't as bad as she could have been.  Pore ol' dog doesnt know any better.  I was very polite.

So I gave them my drivers license.  The one in uniform asked what I was doing in the area, so I told him. The other looked in the back of the truck (there's not anything there) then ran my name and license plates, asked me if the address was valid and all that.  Everything checked out so they gave me my drivers license back, said thank you & told me to have a good day.

After that we drove over to the Family Dollar, one of Valdese's premier retail establishments, then headed home. 

They never told me why they were checking me out, and I never asked.  I figured as long as they didn't ask me to step out of the truck or start putting me in cuffs I wouldn't worry about it.  I dont know if I fit a description, or if the truck did, or if for some reason I just looked suspicious to them.  It is possible I looked a tad unkempt to the casual observer.  I suppose I need a hair cut, could use a shave, and certainly was not dressed in my Sunday best.  And technically I suppose I was loitering, sitting there waiting for Patti to come out of the post office. I probably looked out of place.

I suspect they searched the area where I was sitting after I left, but I can't prove it. 

I've lived in enough small towns  to know there is a strong undercurrent of lawlessness about, and Valdese is no different.  There are a lot of people who live on the very edge, people who bend or outright break rules of society, people who mostly are never noticed by the church going white people with enough money and a comfortable place to live.   There are drug abusers, thieves, alcoholics, abusers of wives, husbands & children, sex offenders, convicted felons, shop lifters, robbers, the occasional murderer, violent, unsavory, undesirable people living in Valdese and the immediate area.  They don't make up the majority of the community by any means, not even close, but they are present, and most likely only the police have a good idea of just how present they are.  Most people ignore it, arent affected by it, out of sight, out of mind.  

I've had a lot of experiences in my life, I've lived in a lot of small towns and I am very aware of this seething undercurrent of dregs in polite society.  These days I mostly sequester myself from it.  I don't want anything to do with it.  So I can go for a long period of time with no reminders of it's existence.  But all I have to do is pay attention to realize it's right there.  All anyone has to do is look.

There are a lot of people in Valdese & in Burke County North Carolina living right on the edge.  It is not a wealthy place.

I don't know why these policemen decided they needed to talk to me.  Maybe some tall guy with brown hair lugging around a goofy half hound half retriever robbed a convenience store.  I doubt it.  Most likely they were looking for someone, or perhaps I just looked out of place.  Either way, I can understand.

UPDATE - Aug 2, 2011:

I found out today that someone robbed the BB&T bank on Main Street about 10 minutes before we loped into the post office.  No one hurt, apparently no weapons involved (at least none anyone could see),  but that explains the unusual behavoir of the local constabulary. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

This must be the era of strange dreams for me, I seem to have them every night.

I took my pickup truck in for its North Carolina state inspection today.  There were several other people in the small waiting room chatting with each other.  As I listened I thought this could easily be Kentucky.  Had I been in the same situation in South Dakota, I probably would not have thought that.

Yesterday Ricky Skaggs, John Glenn, Nelson Mandela & I had a birthday (along with about 1 in every 365 people or so on the planet).  I wonder if any of them thought about me, 'cause I thought about them.

If you happen to read this, your life is just that much different that it would have been had you not read it. 

When you're driving and you see other people in other cars, do you ever wonder what their lives are like?

In the same vein, if you go to a restaurant with someone, do you ever wonder how different your perception and experience would be if you had sat where the other one was seated?  In fact it could change the perceptions and experiences of every person in the place.   Maybe just a little, maybe a whole lot.  Who knows?

Pickles the Dog is goofy.  No two ways about it.

Back when my life was spent in a cube, I was prepared to lead a worker's revolt against motivational speakers & writers.  Now I don't care.  Stephen Covey, you're safe.  From me at least.  Good luck to ya.

So ends my Tuesday thoughts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the Behavior of Dogs.......

When we emerged for our daily dog walk, sometime before 9 AM this morning, we were greeted by overcast skies and a temperature of about 75 degrees.  However, it was not the 75 degrees of late autumn, or, around here, of early winter.  It was not a 75 degrees with clear, crisp skies, with a slight breeze that might add just a touch of a refreshing bite.  This was 75 degrees with thick, heavy, humid air, much closer to today's low temperature than what will be today's high.  I knew sweat would be rolling off me before we had travelled very far.

Today is also trash day.  Pickles loves trash day, as long as we dont meet any big, loud trucks.  On the walk, once we got off our property, she fell right into walking mode.  I have her on a leash, but it hangs loose, and she walks along side of me with her head about at my knee.  I was looking around, not really paying attention when I felt a tug on the leash.  Pickles had stopped.  Not only had she stopped but she was rubbing her shoulder and then her whole side into the pavement, in the remnants of some liquefied detritus from a garbage truck.  It was only then that I noticed the smell - aided by the heaviness of the air it was overpowering to me.  But to Pickles the Dog, it was heaven on earth.  A sweet ambrosia.  Eau de Garbazhe.  I paid more attention as the walk continued.

As we approached the railroad tracks across Praley, I heard a dog bark.  That's not unusual, there is a dog up on the corner of St. Germain who frequently barks, but this bark was coming from a slightly different direction - in the same general direction I was planning to walk.  I always pay attention when I think their may be strange dogs about.

Pickles' behavior on a leash is different from her behavior off a leash.  On the leash, we walk past barking dogs (either behind a fence or chained up) and she pays them no mind.  She might look at them, but she doesnt bark at them or go crazy or try to get to them.  She just trots nicely along, giving anyone who notices a misguided impression that she's a good dog.  If we meet another dog walker, and they're on the other side of the road, same thing.  The other dog might be going crazy, but Pickles doesnt even seem to notice.  If a dog is loose and approaches, Pickles wants to play, but she's not too pushy about it. 

Off the leash, it's another story.  We don't routinely let her run loose, but she keeps a good look out in the house.  If another dog, cat or person comes on our property, she goes ballistic.  She can also get very excited if she's riding and we see another dog.  Once when she was a puppy, she jumped out of the window of our truck, while it was moving (slowly, thank heavens) past a neighbor's dog.  They stood there face to face about a foot a part and barked at each other.

So, why is she so docile on a leash, and so excitable when she's not on a leash?  I've had this long standing "dog behind a fence" theory of behavior, which I also apply to humans. My theory is a dog tends to be more aggressive when there is no possibility of physically confronting the object of the aggression.  Or conversely, when there is no possibility of the object of the aggression physically confronting the dog.  Substitute human for dog, for a more general application of the theory.  I don't know if this is true or not, I've done no studies, no dogs have filled out questionnaires.  And obviously this would not apply to dogs who may be sociopaths or psychotic, just your normal goofy tail wagging bone chewing dog.  But I think it's true.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Our eBay month - June 2011

June was a very good month for us.  It was also the end of the 2nd quarter, which causes a fanatical urge to compare quarters so I shall do so, briefly.

We know exactly why June was a very good month. In May we bought 10 cabinet cards of Native American Indians.  We paid a bit more than usual for a group of 10, but they looked very interesting.  The person who sold them didn't know if they were original or reprints.

We couldn't tell for sure either - we do not consider ourselves experts or authorities, but we are gaining quite a bit of experience.  We've sold hundreds of 19th century, early and mid-20th century photographs, so we know what they look like.  There is a big difference between the looks of a snapshot from the 1940's, a gelatin silver photo from the early 20th century and a late 19th century albumen print. I'm talking about he physical characteristics of the photo, not the subject matter.  We've gotten pretty good at estimating the age of a photo with a glance.  The photos we received did not look like 20th century photos to us.  We looked at them pretty closely too.  We scanned them to see if we saw dots or lines, we looked at them under a magnifying glass.  I made my peace with the world and stared at them.  We saw nothing that would absolutely place these photos in the 20th century.

But still, we had no way to absolutely authenticate them, so we do what we always do when we think we have an original but aren't 100% positive or can't prove it:  we took good pictures, and described it to death.  And included our caveat that we weren't sure.  We started these at a fairly low auction starting price - especially if these are originals.   And we weren't going to argue with anyone - if some one didn't like the photo or it wasn't what they thought we'd refund their money, no questions asked.  After we received the item back, of course.

Every one sold, most sold for MUCH more than our asking price & we made a very good profit on them.  This is the reason we had a very good June.  If these were originals, even the ones who paid a lot of money for them got a bargain.  The people who bought them seem to be happy - so far all our feedback for them has been positive, and we haven't received any low dsr marks. 

Our sales of single postcards were down slightly, in fact they were the lowest this year, but not by much.  All in all post card sales continue to remain steady.  As usual it is the photo sales which seem to determine if we have a better than average month or not.  In June, the photos sales were very good.

Our net for the 2nd quarter - after expenses and stuff - was about 9.5% higher than our net for the 1st quarter of this year.  We are doing much better in 2011 than 2010.  Our net for last month alone was almost as much as our total net for the whole 2nd quarter of 2010.   And our net for the 1st quarter of 2011 almost doubled our net for the 1st quarter of 2010.

I doubt July will repeat June, but you never know.  You just keep plugging away at this stuff and sometimes good things happen.

On July 6th eBay is implementing "new lower rates" for sellers and they're also rolling out a shopping-cart.  I've been with eBay long enough to know that when they implement "new lower rates", it always costs sellers more.  Always.  It will this time too.  I made a prediction awhile back that prices on eBay are going to go up overall, maybe by as much as 20%.  I hold to that, though I can't defend it with any hard data. 

As for a shopping cart, that may bring eBay up to industry standards - it's a common thing on most online sites.   Hopefully it'll work with no glitches.  As sellers we shouldn't even be aware of it's existence. 

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