Sunday, February 24, 2008

Get rid of your junk...make some $$$

Having a yard sale is quaint, but if are a packrat like me, you need the help of the internet to move your stuff.

After years of moving around books in the attic, I discovered that I could list them on Amazon for free. Unfortunately you will see that the novels and bestsellers you purchased for real money will be offered for 99 cents.
I don't understand how this is profitable to the seller. Amazon lists the book with your description and your condition rating and adds a postage rate. When the sale is complete the buyer rates the transaction and the seller gets the money and postage minus Amazon's take. It's quite easy and I had one great sale of a $50 book on image processing that ended up going to an image processing business. Everybody won in that transaction.

If you have some big (unable to mail) stuff like a used car, old roof racks that only fit cars or vans with rain gutters, hiking boots that don't fit, the ubiquitous exercise bike that you are using as a coat rack then I would suggest Craigslist. Once again the posting is free but you need to arrange for the transaction. This is more prone to scams and weird emails so you need to be a little more careful. However I was able to sell a used car, those uncomfortable boots,
the roof racks and a mosquito magnet device that was completely ignored by New Hampshire mosquitoes. In full disclosure, I explained this to the couple that bought it but they were willing to give it a try (but I sold it for cheap!). Selling on Craigslist is a bit like having a yard sale. You let the folks know via email where you live so you need to be careful before releasing any information. I got one questionable email from Florida about someone who was going to send an agent because they had been waiting all their life to purchase a run down car. Usually people in the salt-belt of New England want to buy "Southern Cars". I could imagine getting a "bank" check made out for too much and being asked to "refund" the difference or some other creative scam. I ignored this one.

We had a couch that ended up in the landfill (which cost me $25). I tried everything to unload this. First I listed it on Craiglist, then I offered it for FREE on Freecycle. There were many interested buyers but the problem always came back to transportation. Freecycle is a great resource for getting rid of items that are still usable but really not saleable. I had a pile of classical music vinyl records that I "rescued" at the dump. I intended to digitize them. Digitizing vinyl in real time was never going to happen. A nice couple arrived and took them away. They used to have a radio show. I kept music out of the landfill. This is very fulfilling.

Finally for valuable stuff (like my pile of film cameras) there is the grandaddy of selling sites eBay. I was able to sell one of the cameras for more than I expected. Ebay offers extensive help on the selling process and I was happy with my experience. They take their cut but the site is probably the most well known (and visited) of the one's I have listed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Watch out for falling Hydrazine

The US Navy launched a MODIFIED missle from the USS Lake Erie to destroy a defective spy satellite that was going to fall from orbit on March 6th 2008.

The rationale for this action was presumably to protect the public from any danger (a large tank of toxic Hydrazine). I'm glad to see that our defense department is protecting us but I have been "musing" over this story. The missle used was modified to reach the higher altitude of the satellite. Although we did tell the Chinese about the test, I think this is a not-so-subtle way to demonstrate to the world that we can knock out satellites if we want to. We squawked a bit when the Chinese shot down one of their satellites so I guess we had to prove we still have the "right stuff". I'm guessing our GPS satellites are being targeted.

I'm glad we have the same (or a superior) level of technology as our potential adversaries, but I really do not want to see an arms race for the "High Frontier".
We haven't even cleaned up the mess of our nuclear arms race yet, with "loose nukes" and missing plutonium . Hopefully we'll use our cleverness to tackle some of the other challenges that mankind faces.

Sigh, When will we ever learn?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Leave me alone! Enough already...

In the 5th episode of Seinfeld in the 9th season, Kramer tries to stop the flow of junk mail. He is especially incensed at all the "Pottery Barn" catalogs. Eventually he goes too far and ends up being threatened by Wilfred Brimley playing the Postmaster General.

I'm amazed at the number of catalogs, credit card offers and yes"Pottery Barn" catalogs and their ilk that we receive weekly. We neither read or order from these, we simply cart them off to the dump for recycling. Presumably they are shredded, processed and reprinted with more exciting "offers".

This useless paper cycle cannot be good for the environment. I cannot imagine how much fuel is consumed delivering this stuff and carting it away for reprocessing. I read that the average family gets approximately 41 pounds a year.

I'm taking some concrete measures to stop this nonsense. Our local paper had a number of web sites devoted to ways to opt out and get off the grid. One surprise was that I had to enter a credit card for the Direct mailing association.

web site:

They gave this as an explanation:

"There is no charge to register for the Mail Preference Service online. Consumers will be asked for a credit card number only to validate their identity and mailing address when registering. The credit card number will be used to authenticate and validate the consumer's identity through a no-charge transaction. As with many credit card verification programs, consumers may see an authorization pending for 3-7 days, and no charge will be issued to the monthly bill."

This seemed a little fishy to me, but I decided to take a chance. The benefit of no more "Antique Restoration" catalogs is just too tempting. I'll monitor this carefully and report back on this posting.

Another free site is

This site has a search field that allows you to search for catalogs by name. I found Pottery barn in a matter of seconds, Kramer would have been ecstatic.

Finally there is the issue of the unsolicited credit card offers and those "courtesy" checks made out for substantial amounts, guaranteeing years of debt.

The web site is
It's free to opt out for 5 years, a charge if you opt out forever ... why would you?

If you need to be part of a movement against junk mail and want to save the planet you can join this organization for dues of $41 for 5 years.

The website is

Good luck.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are you driving in stealth mode? Please don't!

Finally a break in the winter cycle of ice and snow then snow and ice and cold.

The temperature broke 50 degrees here in New Hampshire with a light drizzle. The combination of warm humid air and a snow cover has produced pockets of dense fog.

I was out on a rare shopping excursion and was amazed at the number of cars and trucks that are driving around without turning their headlights on. They are absolutely invisible. A number of these vehicles are "fog colored".. muted grays and white. Many states have a "wipers on, headlights on" law. New Hampshire with it's motto of "Live Free or Die" does not have this law. I love this state but sometimes the motto seems to be "Live Free AND Die". Isn't it common sense to make your vehicle as visible as possible to prevent other's from running into you?

I am going to label this post as "Common Sense" because part of my role as an elder is to dispense wisdom. "Common Sense" is a misnomer, it is actually accumulated wisdom gained by a multitude of spectactular mishaps.

In the meantime, please turn on your lights when it's foggy or you need to use the wipers. Remember to turn them off when you leave the vehicle if your car is so badly designed that it doesn't have an alarm (idea: engineering design flaws are a good subject for a posting).

I want to keep you around, I can use the readership for this drivel.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Greeting from Nature

Tabblo: Happy Valentine's Day

I believe that this is an epiphyllum. I don't know because this plant has no history. A friend was closing a greenhouse and realizing that I have an affinity for plants, she offered the ones that had been left for on their own for some time. I was happy to take the older desert cactus which were in wonderful shape but I noticed several sunburnt and neglected "orchid cactus". I believe these are plants native to central america and although they are cactus, they do not thrive under full sunshine and little water. They are large ungainly plants and although I really don't have the room I didn't want to see them discarded. I put them in our cold and uninviting basement under fluorescent lights and much to my surprise I was greeted with a flower display in time for Valentine's day. ... See my Tabblo>

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Think it's easy being me? read on!

I attended a nice party of a former co-worker last saturday. The party was located about an hour and half from home. I brought along my reading glasses in case in needed to read anything. I always bring along to be prepared. It was a wise decision because the hostess had hired a piano player and we had a sing along. All the time I made a conscious effort to NOT put the glasses down on a table or counter with the full realization that I would leave without them (are glasses plural or singular?). Early this morning back at home I have no idea where they are. An isolated incident? NOPE!

I 'm always losing track of car keys, my wallet and all the accouterments of modern life. I follow routines, try to put items in the same place so I can find them. It is hopeless. I have bought so many tape measures because I can't find the 3 I already own. I only can find phillips head screwdrives when I have a slotted screw and vice-versa. I think I'm a bit mad.

Thankfully my sister had spent her life diagnosing me. At first she realized that I had Attention Deficit Disorder because she was reading a book about it. She leant me the book but I had a lot of other distractions and never got around to reading it. After that she did some more research and realized that I suffered from Asperger's Syndrome. I have to agree with this diagnosis because it helps me bond with her son (my nephew). I'm looking forward to reading the book she has on this, if I can concentrate long enough. What does this have to do with the missing glasses? Nothing of course.

It's not easy being me, but it is especially tough on my wife and friends. I have to admire their great patience and tolerance. When I misplace the glasses, keys and tape measures I roam around the house and rant endlessly about my fate. Thankfully my wife implores Saint Francis and he usually comes through in his role as patron saint of missing objects. I also tend to draw these patient folks into my decision making process, this is a role that understandably they would like to avoid.... but that is a subject for another posting

Friday, February 8, 2008

Is John McCain a "true" conservative?

Is John McCain a conservative? I think he is and in a good way. I should know, I'm a bleeding heart liberal who is a tree hugger who thinks government can help people. With all the noise from the "pundits" on the TV political shows the term "conservative" has been bandied about by everyone including McCain himself. I felt the definition of a conservative as one who espouses personal responsibility and government policies that promote moral behavior seemed to fit my own idea of what their philosophy encompasses. There is also a strong feeling that government should stay out of the way. All the Republican candidates talked so much about Reagan that I expected him to be channeled right into the debates. Funny they didn't mention the "compassionate conservative" George W Bush. I wonder why?
I would define Conservatism as "maintaining the current order." I don't draw a distinction between this political definition and my tree hugging sensibilities especially when it comes to the environment. McCain has broken with his party over some important issues such as drilling in the Artic, bet that annoyed Cheney and Bush, the oilmen. He is also been very vocal on global warming. A maverick in the best sense.
During the New Hampshire primary season I remember watching Mitt Romney flail around about the torture debate and waterboarding. He was completely unable to comprehend that simulated drowning might constitute torture. He was going to ask the "experts" whoever they may be (Marquis de Sade?). McCain to my great delight is very articulate on this matter after enduring torture for 5 years. This is not a popular position to take for the republicans.
So who is criticizing McCain? Who are these stalwarts of Conservativism? Rush Limbaugh (recovering Drug Addict), Ann Coulter (always fashionable in a black cocktail dresses), Tom Delay (my all time favorite smiling mug shot photo), and "family values" experts like James Dobson. Also a collection of radio and TV personalities who see "Nuking" Iraq as a thoughtful foreign policy.
I'd vote for the guy but the 100 years in Iraq and total victory (whatever that means) does not sit well with me. Obama is my candidate and hopefully the democratic machine will realize that he is the only candidate that can win against a man like McCain. I have reasons for supporting Obama, but I'll save that for another posting.

How did the Polar Bear end up in Tunisia?

I've been "musing" about this for some time. I'm upset that we are only going to get 8 episodes of "Lost" this season due to the writer's strike. Anyone who is addicted to this series as our family is knows that it filled with unanswered questions. In the second episode of the fourth season, a skeleton of a polar bear is discovered in the Tunisian desert. Okay, this is fairly common for this show. A collar is discovered nearby with a symbol of one of the Dharma Initiative Stations. I thought it was a palm tree, my daughter thought it was "The Flame Station". Thankfully we have the internet with it's myriad of resources (people with lots of time on their hands). I found this nice write up on Wikipedia. It doesn't explain much but we still have 5 episodes to go... sigh

Station ?: The Hydra
The Hydra is a zoological research station located on another island which is about twice the size of Alcatraz Island, two miles off the island the survivors are on.
It has a section above ground on the coast and another section underwater. The Hydra facility has cages outside the station in the jungle. An underwater complex was once used as an aquarium, which housed sharks and dolphins. This underwater complex may be linked with the shark with the Dharma logo on its rear fin seen in the season 2 episode, Adrift. There is also a quarry somewhere on the Hydra island where Kate and Sawyer were forced to work. It is later revealed that they were helping to construct a runway, although this is presumably Juliet just joking with Sawyer, as she remarks later it was for the aliens to land.
The polar bears which the survivors encounter could possibly have been caged in the Hydra as Tom had said to Sawyer that the bears were able to solve the feeding mechanism of the cage with ease. Charlie had stated that the polar bears were the Einsteins of the bear community.
In the second episode of the fourth season, a leather collar bearing the Dharma Hydra symbol is found near a polar bear skeleton in the Tunisian desert.