Category Archives: stories

The dangers of running a specialty shop

Yesterday my wife and I drove some distance to visit a specialty supply store.  It’s the kind of place which I used to visit in Manhattan in the 1960s, but what with the way the world is now we visit them on the Internet or as in this case in the depressed atmosphere of an abandoned town across the street from an decaying falling water mill.  As we became friendly with the woman helping her she related a story which as is my tendency I’ve over generalized.

If you run a store that serves the needs of some esoteric old craft you will attract down upon your shoulders a particular kind of frustrating event like the one she told us about.  From time to time an innocent soul will wander into your store carrying a box and they will say “I bought this for 5 dollars at a yard sale.” or “I found this clearing out my mother’s attic.”  and of course “I’d like to try my hand at …”    They will then open the box and inside will be the tool.  It was made in the 19th century.  It’s better than any tool you can buy today.  It has a hand made wooden box, with brass fittings.  And you, working in the store have wanted one for years if not decades.  And here is this damn amateur with no idea what they have got!

She paused possibly savoring the bittersweet slightly nostalgic self pity and then she brightened up and said.  “Thank god for ebay.”  So I guess she has one now.

Dutch Baby

Having gotten back into making popovers has lead to remembering there is a variant that even easier; where you make them in a cast iron frying pan or dutch oven. It’s also pretty amazing as it comes out of the oven. Same recipe as popovers. We always called these David Eyre’s Pancakes when I was a kid. They it must be a very old dish with many names, for example Yorkshire Puddling, but my favorite is Dutch Baby.


This article is totally weird.  To begin: “scheduled pipeline maintenance in Colorado reduced the system’s capacity to export out of the Rocky Mountain region”.  So then what happened? “gas supplier Colorado Interstate Gas dropped the price”  I have no idea why they did that.  And there were buyers, in particular the city owned utility in Colorado Springs.    Now this stuff “normally trades at $3 to $4” but the utility did pretty well: “2.6 cents”.    Sadly most of their storage was already full; so they only managed to save a few million dollars.  Too weird.

Like Things

Here’s an interesting game: find a book on Amazon who’s “also viewed” relatives are particularly diverse and distinctive from the first book. In this example a book on the Challenger disaster (i.e. it looks into the question was the Nasa culture embracing increasing risk over time) that is paired with a book on how the law treats the economic under currents of intimate relationships (for example does a Husband have rights to his patents granted to his wife), a book on story telling’s role in political movements, and finally a book that looks into what pleasures a criminal finds in his craft.

My first reaction when I saw this set what WTF, but actually it makes sense. These would all make fine selections for a geeky Social Sciences book of the month club. Which isn’t a bad first approximation of what I’m into these days.

Link-in breaks the social contract

I find this extremely obnoxious. Link-in is sending marketing to it’s customers and using my name in the subject lines. Obviously they are doing this to increase the chance people will read, rather than just discard the junk mail. Social network hosts should be very careful about this kind of thing. I wonder what the hell their product management was thinking. Presumably this indicates that Link-in’s days are numbered.

From: LinkedIn Updates
Date: March 30, 2006 1:06:05 PM EST
To: ...
Subject: Find the people that you and Ben Hyde know in common

LinkedIn Updates
Dear ...

Thank you for using LinkedIn! Did you know that you may not be connected to people you know and trust? We would like to help you connect with your trusted contacts and get more value from LinkedIn.

It's easy to find people that you and your trusted connections like Ben Hyde both know. See someone you recognize? Just click on that person's name to view the profile. From there, click "Invite to connect" to send an invitation.

Check to see who is in Ben Hyde's network.


Of course the joke is on them. Any of my aquantances immediately hit the delete upon seeing my name!

Hand delivered

This is amusing. I have here an email from Amazon dated March 21st, 2006 stating that they have shipped my new windshield wipers. Further down it says that the estimated delivery date is April 26th. Over a month! Too late for April showers. I assume this means that Jeff Bezos has set out walking from Seattle to hand deliver them, that’s nice.

Cool innovation in search engine optimization

When I was a kid there was a TV show where three contestents would occationally be given an ethically questionable goal: appear in the local newspaper before the week was out. This caused me no end of puzzlement since they were required to appear in the paper legitimately. That seemed to me that this just invited the audience to engage in endless lawyering about what would be a legitimate way of sneaking into the paper. I guess that was the point.

But now!

Why didn’t anybody think of this before?

Want to get more links to your site? Pump up your search engine rankings! Sue google! Why everybody will link to you then. Damn, if only I’d patented this idea! Too late now.

Amazon price drop policy; let the games begin.

Another one for my pile of stories about pricing games.

I read this posting about Amazon’s price drop policy and squirrel’d it away in for the next time I bought something pricy at Amazon.

My wife bought a camera a bit back and so from time to time I’ve been checking to see if the price had dropped at Amazon and yesterday I noticed that it had. So I dug out the posting, logged in as my wife and followed the directions. The directions suggest that you look at your old orders and click thru from them to the item’s you think might now have lower prices; so I did that.

What a surprise. The price my shown when logged in as my wife is the price she paid. The price shown logged in as me is the a lower price. Actually, having played these pricing games for so long I’m not surprised; but still. It didn’t matter how I navigated to the item after my first visit – it sill showed the price she paid.

We asked for the price adjustment anyway and Amazon quickly granted it; so I guess that’s a good thing.

Typing Injury.

I’d not seen this before.

JWZ’s essay on RSI, or typing injury. “… it terrified me. … my career being over”

I have one of my own written years and years ago. “… a friend who lost the ability to pick up a piece of paper …”

And I see that Bill Clementson recently joined this miserable club.

It’s a puzzle how until it happens one isn’t particularly interested; and even if you were interested getting advise isn’t straight forward. The advice is largely the wisdom of crowds. I.e. it’s hearsay, rumor, and stories like the ones above. The best you can hope for is to pick out the better of the old wive’s tails. It’s not often you get to refer to JWZ as an old wife! There is very little hard science and what exists seems to me to be very lame and often self serving.

It amazes me that an industry that has generated so much wealth hasn’t found a way to fund some substantial research into the affliction that forces the retirement of it’s most productive labor. Of course all minority groups have trouble getting attention for their problems. But in this case the minority group has actually got money. Still, it says something about who captures the wealth.