Change Comes Quick

It was only a few days ago I had read about a new Postmaster General and the "improvements" he was implementing to mail delivery.  And for the first time ever, I see this message on a package I am expecting.

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The clarify that image.  I had earlier gotten emails saying my package was due to be delivered Aug 7.  When it didn’t arrive, I checked the website and saw this message.  Ok, I figured it would be delivered the next day, Saturday.  Nope.  Monday?  Nope.  The fucking package was only 2 hours away from me 5 days ago!  What the hell is happening?

I want to say, I have never seen a message from USPS saying "Arriving Late".  I also want to say that my experience with USPS has been rock solid for as long as I can remember.  When you read news stories about new management and their plan to improve profitability by reducing service levels, and immediately you are impacted, what kind of impression are you supposed to get?

I’ve tried to keep politics out of my blog for a long time, but I feel this gripe would be fair to make under any administration.  It would only seem biased because one party’s beliefs on the topic run counter to my own while the other party would agree.  And so goes politics in the black and white era of America.

Many, many years ago I had the belief that the government should be run like a business.  remember Ross Perot?  That was the era.  And I was in support of Perot for president for that very reason.  Make the government run efficiently like a business.  It was years later that I realized how wrong that perspective is.  And I’m sure there are many people now who felt like I did back then.  Although Perot didn’t get very far, we’re finally getting to test the idea of having a business-type government.  And boy are we going to pay for it.

Here is the reason is a nutshell so you don’t have to read at length:  Government is about helping people, business is about making money.  Those goals are incompatible.  A business will sacrifice anything, especially people, in its goal for profit.  Is that wrong?  No, it’s just its nature.  No hard feelings, it’s just business, ya know?

And at this point, I was going to lay out a bunch of differences, but it also came down to a single reason, one that is overwhelmingly obvious in these times, from the top to the bottom.  It’s all selfishness.

Bastards and Liars

Guess who stopped at my house again?  Spectrum.  This is the third time they have done this.  And boy did I let them hear it.

But the guy didn’t back down.  He stood his ground and as a good salesperson should do, he tried to get me to say something positive, because when you say positive things, your mood becomes more positive.  And additionally, the more you can keep the person talking to you, even if they’re bitching at you, it’s still engagement and there’s still a chance to turn it around.  Smart guy.

But he’s a fucking liar.  I told him the first reason I wasn’t going to switch, as I’ve said here before.  I’m with a company that has caused me no problems and he wants me to switch to a company that I’ve never dealt with.  Then I gave him #2, which is that Spectrum doesn’t offer the speeds that FIOS does.  That’s when he shut me up.

You see, while Spectrum doesn’t offer synchronous upload/download speeds, they do offer speeds that exceed what I currently have.  The one he pitched me was the 400/200 plan.  He said there was another plan, the gigabit option that was, I think 1gig up/500 down.  Well, that’s curious, I’d never heard of those plans before.  But to get that much upload speed must be super expensive, judging by how much the normal lopsided plans were.

He said he would be quick and just give me the numbers and be gone, which I appreciated.  He sidetracked a bit on a cable package, which I wasn’t interested in, but he didn’t care.  So it was about $55/mo for the 400/200 package and $88 for that, plus the cable package.  Huh…

As he was finishing up, I asked him if it was possible to put my house on a do-not-visit list.  He said maybe.  He would put a note in the system, which I doubt has had any effect the previous two times.  He also gave me their customer service number that might be able to do it.  And he left.

After cooling down a little bit, I took his card with the illegible writing on the back and went in search of these internet plans I’d never heard of.  Guess what?  They don’t exist.  The 400/200 plan he was telling me?  It’s 400/20, and it’s priced at $70/mo on their website.  The gigabit plan?  It’s 940/35 and costs $110/mo.  You fucking liar.

Can you imagine if I wasn’t adamant about telling Spectrum to get the fuck off my property?  That he could have convinced me to switch to a 400/200 plan that would be over twice as fast as what I had now?  How, after discovering this lie, what kind of bullshit I’d have to go through to reinstate Frontier?  You fucking bastard.

The Race Intensifies

Still watching the races, much to my dismay and angst.  Last night I had a moment of disbelief.  All those people insanely claiming, "this is all hoax!" and "It’s all fake."  For once, those people almost made sense.  And the reason for that was the pure incredulous of the numbers I was seeing.  I mean, look at this chart:

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You see those tiny bars near the beginning around 6/1?  That’s 1,000 new cases a day.  Back then, that was an unbelievable number.  It had me shaking my head at the stupidity of my fellow residents.  These last few days, what can I say?  Well, we went through multiple 1k days, then multiple 2k days, then 3k days, then 4k days.  And then, things changed.  There was one 5k day, but there wasn’t a 6k or 7k day.  It went straight to 8k.  Then 9k.

What are you supposed to think when something like that happens?  If you follow the drama and opposing viewpoints, right around that time, it is claimed that the numbers are being inflated so that they can be reported lower later on.  But that doesn’t make any sense to me because you still have the record of the shit days.  You can say it’s better, but better relative to the worst?  The worst still happened!

And it just seems like there’s some sort of disinformation campaign going on, just like everything has been in the last three years or so.  But the data is still there and it’s just an argument over how to interpret that data.

While on that topic, in a previous post, I put up an image that I consider misleading.  Let’s revisit that.

Now let’s compare that to how things are right now.

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In that old post, I said the chart was misleading because there was a delay as to when deaths were reported, so the true numbers were at the beginning of the chart and because of the delay, it would always look like the numbers were falling.  Well, look at the chart now.  Looks pretty flat, except for the most recent days, where you can expect less reported deaths.

So what’s going to happen is, as the deaths are reported (later), it’s going to make the chart look like it’s climbing, but the chart only has 30 days to work with.  As long as there is a 2-week delay in death reporting, that should keep the numbers pretty low.  But even if not, it will still look better.  It makes you wonder what a chart longer than 30 days would look like.

Good To Go

As fate would have it, my passport expires this year.  On one hand, who’s going anywhere right now?  On the other hand, who wants to get the fuck out of here right now?

What seems like forever ago, I applied for my passport renewal.  Forever in this case is 4 months ago, to the day.  That would be February, prior to the world hitting the pause button on life.  A month or so into the process, I checked up on the status.  It’s actually kind of nice that you can check the status of your passport application online.  I doubt that feature was around when I first ordered my passport.  As expected, the status was "In progress".

Another nice feature is that you can submit your email to be notified of changes in the status.  Again, things you would take for granted with modern businesses seem completely astonishing when applied to government agencies.  So I submitted an email and waited.  And I kept waiting.  I checked up in another month and the status had not changed, which is consistent with me not getting any emails about a status change.

One thing that was different about the status page when I revisited it was that they said they were on limited staff thanks to COVID and there would be a delay of "several months" in processing applications.  This is fine and not fine.  I’m not going anywhere, but things are getting weird, so what if I did need to go anywhere?  It’s never a good feeling to have an answer of "you can’t", even with your most remote imaginations.  You grow up surrounded with the promises that "you can do anything", until you have a moment where the answer is "no, you can’t" and that’s made even worse by "you could have, but not right now".  Anyway, enough of the dystopia for the moment…

Then about a week ago, I did get an email.  Wow!  It said my application was "in progress".  Oh.  In hindsight, this should have been a good sign, meaning my application has been taken off the pile and into someone’s hands, but I didn’t know this at the time.  I just thought it was more of the same.  I’d been waiting 4 months, what’s another 4?

Today I got another email.  My application status was "approved"!  Yes, finally!  The email stated that when I applied, I chose routine service, so the processing time would be 6-8 weeks.  What?!  But then it said I would get my book around 6/24/2020.  What?  This doesn’t make any sense, but whatever.  I’m getting my passport soon!

I got another email from USPS, with my soon-to-be-in-my-mailbox notifications.  It was already aware of my passport and said it would arrive Monday.  I click on the tracking link and no, it’s going to arrive today – exactly 4 months from the day I mailed the application.

The only regret I have while I was waiting for those months is that I didn’t choose to get both the passport card and book.  I only chose the book.  The reason I want both now is for having a backup.  Of course, being involved in computers, I’m always thinking of backups and redundancy.  The secure plan would be to take both the book and the card on vacation and only travel outside with the card.  Let’s say you’re at a cruise port and you get robbed.  Your wallet is taken with the passport card in it.  In this case, you wouldn’t be able to pass back through security to get to the ship, but you could send someone to get your passport book from your room and recover.

That small regret aside, I mentioned that things are getting weird around here.  It’s actually in the back of my head that depending on how things turn out later this year, my passport might actually be utilized.  It’s a remote chance. but I need the reassurance that if that time comes, "I can".

Stages Part 4.5

In previous posts on this subject, I’d been advancing my home stereo towards some goal of having big, energizing, musical sound.  The "final" step in the process was buying tower speakers for the amplifier.  I’ve come up with a step in between.

I was skeptical of the claims made that putting your bookshelf speakers on stands would improve their sound dramatically.  I was proven wrong.  The change was highly noticeable.  So much so, that it made me wonder if I really needed tower speakers.  At the very least, it would delay their purchase for a while.  The improvements got better when I separated the speakers from the stands with silicone buttons and added the floor spikes to the stands.  Both are things that audio fetishists go crazy over.  Not as much the spikes, but to read about the "isolation" and "decoupling" of the speaker from the stand using (only) sorbothane balls or brass spikes gets a little weary.

And I thought I had taken things about as far as I could with what I had.  One of the improvements I got with my changes was improved bass.  I could hear the bass and slightly feel it, too.  And you know, once you get a taste of something good, you want more.  That was going to be taken care of by the tower speakers, when I bought them.  But I wasn’t ready to buy them yet, because I liked what I had.  Well, I guess I wanted to like what I had more, so I had a choice to make.

That choice was whether to add a subwoofer to the system for the extra bass.  I read a lot of articles.  I researched a lot of products.  I reviewed my budget.  In the end, it felt like a "fuck it" decision anyway, so yeah.  Subwoofer it is.

Here’s the catch.  Based on what I’ve been reading, having a subwoofer is just not enough.  A very well-written article by a generally polarizing individual explained the technical reasons for subwoofer use in the 60’s, 70’s, then 80’s and beyond.  And that article, along with other higher-end articles stated pretty simply: you need multiple subwoofers.  At a minimum, you need stereo subs, because although it’s popular to say sub=bass is mono, it really isn’t.  But as long as you’re entertaining the idea of multiple subwoofers, having four is not out of the question.

Now, four subwoofers was not and would not be my plan.  But, while researching products, the subwoofer model that I settled on (due to price) did not have stereo inputs.  That would mean that I would have to buy a cable to merge the left and right channels to go into the sub.  I’m not a fan of that idea; it just seems wrong.  So the evidence is stacking up for getting two subwoofers.  The budget doubles.  So which one (or which two)?

You can get subwoofers with speaker sizes of 8", 10", 12", 15", or even 18".  I start small, looking at 8".  I need two of them.  The more I look at them, the less I am convinced.  My bookshelf speakers already have 6" drivers, and the tower speakers I was looking at for the future have multiple 6" drivers.  Is an 8" really going to provide the depth I should have?  So, I look at the 10".  That’s about as far as I will go.  There’s no way I can reasonable justify having two 12" or larger subs in my little listening room.  I wouldn’t even have room for them.  I’m already looking at compact subs because of space concerns.  But, if the future means I have a larger room for my listening hobby, then the 10" subs will be able to handle that growth.  If I do go with the tower speakers in stage 5, the subs will complement them as well.

So the retail price difference between 8 and 10-inch is $229 vs $344 – $115 dollars to upgrade to the larger sub with the bigger amp.  Because of sale prices, the prices are now $126 and $189 -  a bigger discount on the bigger sub.  Now, the upgrade cost is $63.  Still, I need two.  And after looking back and forth and back and forth at numbers in both my web browser and in MS Money, I reached the "fuck it" point and bought two 10" subwoofers.

Fortunately, the subs do come with cables, but I did need to buy two splitter cables, to send the low-level output from my pre-amp to both my bookshelf speakers and the subs.  And what have I ended up with?

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Also new in this picture is a switched power strip mounted below the amplifier, which turns all four speakers on and off.  Since all the controls for the subs are on the bottom of the units, and I was getting concerned and also annoyed by pushing the power buttons on the speakers each day, a single switch should help everything.

Now, how does it sound?  I started my test with all knobs set to the minimum and put on Rush – Signals as my first test.  I went through a few tweaks, raising the crossover, raising the input level, lowering the crossover, and back and forth between the different possibilities.  The result was nice, but not earth-shattering, nor room-shaking.  I was underwhelmed.

Then I thought maybe my choice of album wasn’t that great, so I put on Edgar Meyer – Dreams Of Flight.  Holy shit.  Now I was shaking the walls, which was actually hilarious to see the cat repeatedly alerting on the sound of the pictures vibrating on the wall.  With that album, I did a few more tweaks and lowered the levels a little.

The next test was Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever.  Being produced by Jeff Lynne, certainly this album would have a lot of things happening everywhere in it.  And I wasn’t disappointed at all from the results.  My expectations were being tempered by reality.  Where I expected kick drums to hit me in the chest, that’s not how (decent) albums are mixed.  But what I wasn’t expecting was the loss of the shrillness.  When I would turn up the stereo before, I sort of had to grit my teeth and suffer the high end to get any power.  With the subs hooked up, It was like the high end was tamed.  I don’t want to say "lost", because I don’t think it sounded any duller, just less piercing.

The last test was Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.  I didn’t get the sound I expected, but the sound I got was excellent and very engaging.  My ears weren’t ringing at the end either, which was a blessing.  And it seemed like I was able to go louder than before, probably because I wasn’t getting ice picks in the eardrums.

I’m actually thinking there may not be a stage 5 now…

Is Being Old A Liability?

I’m not actually talking about people getting old and the risk that comes with that.  You know there’s plenty of risks for old people, health, financial, mental, and on and on.  Everything is dangerous.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  I am talking about corporations.  Is it now a liability to be old?

Traditionally, it has been a great thing to have a business that’s been running for 50+ years.  Some running for over 100.  Amazing, isn’t it?  To be that ingrained the fabric of America, to have that sort of name recognition, to have seen it all and weathered everything that came along.  That last point: to have seen it all and weathered it.  That is the liability – to have been there.

This train of thought is fairly new for me and is obviously based on current events, but the idea I’m basing it on was actually born quite a while ago.  I was at a Dairy Queen, eating lunch one weekend.  Dairy Queen is one of those long-standing institutions I’m referring to.  I believe them to be generally well-loved, but every business has its detractors for some reason or another.  That’s not important for the moment.  What is important is having a history and being proud of it.

Yes, so Dairy Queen is an old company.  They are quite proud of their early beginnings and how they’ve grown to a massive corporation that is, if not the leader, then the most recognizable company in their field.  So, they want to highlight the humble beginnings of their company to, I don’t know, inspire others?  And I’m sitting there at lunch eating, and on the wall are old black and white photos of early Dairy Queens with the old cars and crowds of people lining up for ice cream.

And as I studied the pictures, my thought was, "That’s a whole lot of white people, there."

Now at the time, things weren’t as crazy as they are now, but race relations were growing tense.  They must have been for me to focus in on that aspect of the pictures.  And further studying showed, yes, no black people present.

Let’s not jump to conclusions here.  There’s lots of reasons why a bunch of photos just all happened to not show a single black person getting ice cream from an old Dairy Queen.  Local demographics is a perfectly valid reason.  BUT.  Racial tensions are not about reason, they are about emotion.  And anything that reinforces a perception… well, it’s not good, regardless of whether the perception can be explained or not.

To cut to the chase, I am wondering if it is worthy of consideration for a company that existed in the less-than-ideal era for black people to simply drop their company, drop their history, and start fresh with a new company.  Radical?  Yes.  Beneficial?  Maybe.  Harmful if not done?  Well, it is leaving an avenue of attack open.

I can foresee the arguments.  Attack?  That’s not fair.  This company did nothing to foster divide or hatred back then and that nonwithstanding, this company is a diverse, fresh, modern company that is committed to blah, blah, blah.  Right.  And you can see how effective a defense that is.  Compare that to:  This company was formed and created in 2020, the year of social change, established right from the beginning with equality, inclusiveness, and equal representation in every level of management and policy.  Blah blah blah.  Both are corporate non-speak, but one has the distinct advantage of no historical baggage.

A company that was around in the 50’s, even if they weren’t actively employing racist policies, was still operating in the norms of the time, which is to say, likely racist.  You would have to be considered extremely progressive, even radical, to have a company back then like companies are today.  If you want a real eye-opener, watch the old movie 9 to 5, from 1980.  At the climax of the movie, the old boss returns to the office and sees handicapped people working there and learns of many employee benefits that have been implemented in his absence.  He’s furious, of course, insisting he will undo everything right away.  Watching the movie now, those major advancements are like the bare minimum today.

So, if you were operating in the 50’s, you were a part of the problem.  Your only excuse is that the social norms at the time didn’t consider it a problem.  And that’s a problem for your company.  You can say how committed you are and how changed and all that happy stuff your company is, but your company has old bones.  And an old brain.  And memories, posted in black and white photos on your walls.  You can’t escape that past, without completely starting over.

Watching The Races

I’ve been keeping an eye on the COVID race for a few months now.  The players I watch are all standout players:  FL, TX, PA, and GA.  Those are the places that have people that I know, so I watch their progress.

I remember when FL was the star, I seem to recall it was in the top 5 for a while.  But PA put forth a massive effort and shot right up the charts.  TX was a slow starter, but it’s been doing pretty well lately.  GA has always been mediocre, which I suppose is a good thing, honestly.  But FL is recently finding its mojo and is climbing in rank again.  Go, FL!  Obviously, no one is going to take the crown from NY, and NJ is probably always going to be second to NY (in everything), so there’s only so far you can go.

For three of my players, I watch their personal progress dashboards.  Two of them, FL and TX, use the same software, so it kind of gives some equal comparison of the numbers.  But in both cases, they use graphs that are misleading.  Well, they aren’t if you understand the data, but for casual observers and those that don’t want to put the minimal effort into understanding, the response could be either, "this isn’t so bad", or "this is great" when the reality is neither of those sentiments.

Take a graph from FLs dashboard:

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Wow, that’s impressive.  Deaths are falling, and dramatically at that!  This is all behind us, let’s go party!

But there is a small disclaimer below the chart, for those that care to read: "Death data often has significant delays in reporting…".  That means that those low numbers in the near term are low because there’s no data yet.  Those numbers will rise as time goes on, but that’s just fine, because there will be newer, lower numbers to report as time goes on as well.

Here’s a graph from TX’s dashboard.

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This is just dumb design: plotting two values, one that will constantly increase, and one that will remain relatively constant on the same scale.  This will have two effects.  First, the number of deaths per day (in blue) looks like a really small value.  And comparing 20 to 1,698 does make 20 seem very small.  But as the total number grows, and it will, every day, the scale is going to eventually have to be adjusted, and the daily value is going to be insignificant.

TX does the same charting with the number of cases, with the same effects.

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Maybe its incompetency that made these charts, but in the current political climate, and judging that these two states have pushed very hard to justify their reopening plans, it might not be a stretch to think this is just propaganda.  The numbers don’t lie, they’re not telling you anything false.  It’s just being presented in a way that looks most favorable.

Stages Part 4

In the previous post on this topic, I discussed the stereo buildup to the point where I had a good listening system.  The next transitional step would be to physically prepare it for the tower speakers, which will be stage 5.  I had made another post about the fortunate timing of my speaker stand purchase, which saved me around $50 or almost a third of what I had budgeted.  So the items have come in and are ready for implementation.

The first piece that came in was the stereo rack.  All black glass and chrome, it allowed each component a shelf of its own, but I still kept the amplifier and equalizer together.  Quality-wise, the stand is a big meh.  I didn’t pay a lot for it, so I can’t be disappointed, but I expect at some point, I’m going to be getting a better rack.

The next day, the speaker stands come in.  Heavy steel plates and posts, which are supposedly the key to keeping bass and separation.  No disappointment here.  We’ll have to see how they perform.

I disassembled my setup and moved the current table out of the way for the new pieces.  While behind the system, I did a little wire management for tidiness sake.  This is what it looked like.

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What did it sound like?  Well, I don’t want to get into all the audio snobbery adjectives, but I will say it sounded better.  Significantly better.  Of course, maybe it’s a placebo effect, I’m not going to rule that out, but I tested out two different CDs, with widely differing musical styles and both sounded more impressive to me than I remembered before.  So I will call it a success.

What’s stage 5 again?  Tower speakers.  Well, that can wait for some time now.  I’m going to have to get tired of this new sound, which could be a little while.

Collection Completion And Expansion

I want to start off by mentioning that CDs are collectables.  There is one irrefutable reason I can make this claim.  That reason is the irrationality of the pricing of any particular CD.  While it shouldn’t be a surprise that any particular thing can be collectable and priced unreasonably high when it becomes scarce, sometimes, the outrageous prices set a particular expectation when researching and shopping.  In this way, I suspect there are a lot of dealers of collectables who will list items at outrageous prices to get people’s expectations set, then actually sell an item (maybe even as a different vendor) at a price less than that expectation, while still being somewhat unreasonable.

So anyway, this is about the last CD in a series that I need for absolute completion.  I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve had so far because those that I have are all of the retail versions out there.  The one I have been missing is a promo-only copy.  Not only a promo-only copy, which could include retail copies with a "Promo, not for resale" sticker or stamp on it, this is a promo-only version.  Obviously far less available and made in much lower quantity.  All this time, there has been one seller of this disc, offering it for $50 plus shipping.  The guy knows the scarcity.

Very recently, a new seller popped up, selling it for $30.  This guy knows, too.  And he’s looking to make a sale based on the one and only one person who has this CD in his wantlist (me).  And you know what, he almost had me.  I was getting ready to buy it when I decided to do a quick sanity check on eBay.  eBay has never had that CD before, but you never know.  And amazingly, it’s on there now.  And only $10.  It’s an immediate buy for me.  Sure, I just paid a decent amount for a used CD, but it’s been unavailable for years and has had an unflinching price of $50.  And now, my collection is absolutely complete.

Do I have other discs in my collection like that?  Yes I do.  Will I be fortunate enough to reap the benefits of scarcity when I sell?  Collectors don’t sell.  That was a trick question.

So, like I said, that completes the collection.  The IRS NoSpeak series is now complete.  The original CD collection that got me into being a completist was the MCA Master Series, which I’ve posted about many times.  Out of curiosity, I did a search to see how much of that series was available for sale on eBay right then.  That would give me an idea of the scarcity of my collection.

I would say it was maybe 50% available and of those, many were double-digit prices, so that’s actually pretty promising, from a value perspective.  But as I was browsing the results, I didn’t have any category filters set, so I was seeing CDs, cassettes, and vinyl.  But there was another product that was in the results – a promotional poster from the record label for the MCA Master Series. 

Well, now.  There’s a product you don’t see very often.  In fact, I’ve never seen one ever, nor heard of it existing.  And that would be understandable.  Posters are given to record stores and other record label contacts, are hung up until they fade or rip (or the label goes out of business), and are discarded.  No one keeps promo material like that.  But here was a surviving example.

I’ve posted before about my big artwork project of scanning, printing, framing, and hanging all of the MCA Master Series album covers as art in my house.  There should not be any doubt whatsoever that this poster must belong to my collection.  And so it became.  I don’t buy a lot of posters.  I don’t really know how much they go for.  But I got this poster for $16 shipped.  Considering the thing is over 30 years old… I don’t think that’s too bad.  It’s a decent size, also:  28" x 26".  I have a place picked out and expect I’m going to spend the big $$$ on a professional framing job.  Once stores open again, of course.

In all, this has been a spendy weekend.  But, a lot of stuff is changing in my music room.  Now stands for stereo speakers and components, a few new CDs are on the way, and a neat poster to hang in there.

It’s Never Been A Better Time To Buy…

…from someone other than Amazon.

It was about a year ago I had made a post about how I’ve wanted to try and reduce my dependency on Amazon.  For the most part, I feel like I’ve been successful.  Sure, there are still things I buy from the empire, usually quick-need things or small trinkets that they’ll ship free where other places couldn’t be bothered with such a small order.  Seriously, I’m buying an electrical wall plate for $2.50 and you’re going to drive it to my house, tomorrow, for free?!  That’s just dumb.  But I’m sure they’re getting it back somehow.

Anyway, since everyone is stuck at home, Amazon is the place for supplies now, right?  And everyone is also trying to scratch their consumer itches, too, so there’s Amazon, again.  But, if you do your research every time, you might just find that there are other options that are just as good and many times better than the empire.  Let me illustrate.

Example 1.  I’ve been without a microwave for quite some time now, maybe 8 months.  How I’ve survived without my dedicated popcorn maker, I don’t know.  But I figured enough is enough.  I want popcorn.  So I went on the hunt for a microwave that was simple and basic-duty.  The options: Amazon, Target, Sears, and Lowes.  Because I’m a brand whore, my preferred brands were Panasonic and Kenmore, which ended up excluding Target and Lowes.  But would you guess?  The winner was Sears.  Sears!  And get this – no free shipping!  But, even including the shipping (a whopping $15), the price was the same as Amazon and I still got it in two days.  Who says only Amazon can do that shit?

Example 2.  I’ve had some stereo speaker stands on my Amazon wish list for some time, just waiting for the right time to make that move.  Today, I decided to make that move.  The stands are made and sold by Monoprice, and sold through Amazon (as well as through their own website).  The stands on Amazon?  $76 each.  The stands on Monoprice?  $55.  Both with free shipping.  I work at a company that sells some product through Amazon and I know it’s not exactly a win-win to make a deal with the devil.  You may gain a lot of eyeballs, but your profit margin is going to suffer greatly from the cut they take. 

And that leads me to example 3.  eBay has become my primary Amazon alternative.  Just some simple hair product purchased today.  $18 at Ulta, $12 at Amazon, and $10 on eBay.  Ok, so I’ll get 3-day instead of 1-day delivery from eBay, but this isn’t a need-now product.  More importantly, I think it’s important to buy from eBay because it’s smaller retailers or even individuals doing a hustle.  You’re more likely to be helping people than a company.  And while eBay is a company and yes, they do take fees for their service, it’s not a egregious as the empire.  Plus there’s the whole flea-market atmosphere which has a slight appeal to me.  There’s less Ai involved, so when you find something you like and a great price, it’s because you’re smart, not because the empire’s computer knows everything (fucking EVERYTHING) about you and tossed you a biscuit.

And speaking of eBay, I need to go now and buy the stereo stand that is also in my Amazon wish list.  Same product, same price (actually 9 cents cheaper on eBay), free shipping.  Why not patronize the little guy?  Make them happy in these bleak days.  Amazon is going to do just fine.