Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Buying Things: II. Saving Money

Here are some things I've bought via the internet.

First, the big stuff. My Miata, and before that my Isuzu pickup truck, both on eBay. There were so many high-resolution photos of each there was no way I couldn't see just what I was getting, and a one-month warranty on mechanical components and Paypal's protection against fraud made the purchases easy. I paid $2300 for the truck and drove it for five years before the camshaft snapped. I paid just over $2600 for the Miata, and I've had it for more than three years.

Next, medium-sized stuff. I bought my vintage 1972 Honda CL70 motorcycle on eBay for $900, and it's a beauty. I also bought on eBay a 1981 Honda CX500 for about $800. It was in perfect condition except for a squeaky speedometer cable, which I fixed with an application of graphite. I kept it for a year and sold it to pay my property taxes. I wish I still had it.

In 1978 I bought a pair of Quantum 3 loudspeakers by Infinity. I still have them. They're served well, needing only refoaming of the woofers because the rubber surrounds eventually disintegrated due to polutants in the air and a new midrange, the old one having been blown by a roommate who turned the volume on my amplifier all the way to 11 and then went shopping. And finally, my kitchen sink. I was talking to a co-worker one day, explaining eBay. "You can buy everything except the kitchen sink," I said, and searched kitchen sink. And there it was, my kitchen sink.

I bought my Canon Digital Rebel  SLR camera used on eBay, and lenses and filters, a remote control, a flash, and a strap, and put it all in a case I picked up at the eBags site. On eBay I found replacements for the Canon mini-DV video recorder and Maxxum 35mm SLR film camera that had been stolen. I also picked up the room divider that rests in my living room. I found my laptop online, too, at NewEgg.

It's mostly, however, the small stuff that has been important. When I needed a new battery for my cell phone, instead of paying twenty-five bucks at the mall, I found it for $2.15 on eBay-- with free shipping! When one of the tabs on the phone's back cover wore down, making it necessary to hold it in place with Scotch tape, I found the correct replacement on Amazon for $7.95. When I bought my iPod three years ago I found a website that sells inexpensive accessories for portable devices and bought an armband, an external battery, and extra power cords and earrphones-- all for a pittance. Most recently I purchased the hand-held event counter pictured above. I use it for counting laps at the wellness center. It feels good in the hand, but I was unable to find one anywhere. It was so inexpensive-- $1.70 with free shipping-- that I bought one for my friend Rena, as well. It was ridiculously inexpensive. And when I read (on the internet, of course) how easy it was to make vanilla extract, I bought vanilla beans from Amazon. In all my years of shopping, in hundreds of grocery and specialty stores, I had never seen a vanilla bean.

I realize a lot of the things I've purchased have come from China or elsewhere in Asia-- but then so does most of the merchandise in the big box stores. I buy American when it makes sense-- but when that American-made adjustable wrench costs $79.95 and Harbor Freight Tools has a set of three for $14.99, it just doesn't make sense.

I've had no problem with the quality of goods made in China. I bought my 14.4-volt cordless drill more than a dozen years ago and it still works fine.If I were a carpenter I might spend a couple of hundred dollars for a DeWalt, but I use my drill only a few times per month, so spending so much money for a DeWalt drill that was probably also made in Asia also just wasn't logical-- especially since I bought mine for ten bucks with a battery.

 I still like to browse bookstores and thrift shops, and I like to shop for groceries-- but when I can order groceries online I'm sure I will.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Buying Things: I. Access

When I was seven or so I discovered a marvelous book in the only bookcase in the house-- Killers in Africa by Alexander Lake. It was a Book of the Month selection, so perhaps my parents had once been members.

Lake was a safari guide and big game hunter in Africa in the first couple of decades of the XXth century. Killers in Africa was filled with adventure, but what I really liked about it was Lake's descriptions of  the behavior of Africa's big game animals. He knew and respected them. At the time I thought it ironic, since he made his living helping his clients kill them. Today I suspect a lot of the early professional hunters felt the same way.

Every couple of years I would I re-read Lake's book. That wasn't lost upon my mother, yet she handed it down not to me, but to one of my siblings. None of the three had ever expressed any interest in it.

Due to its BOMC status, many copies of Killers in Africa were printed. It couldn't have been scarce, yet in twenty years of scouring bookstores I never turned up a copy. After a decade or so I came across Lake's other book about Africa, Hunter's Choice, but Killers in Africa eluded me even though I asked booksellers to keep an eye out for me and even advertised on occasion in their trade magazines.

These days I can locate copies in an instant on eBay, at Advanced Book Exchange, or on  both the original 1953 edition and the edition reprinted by Mike Resnick.

The internet has allowed me to find the lost toys of my youth and locate toys I wanted but never got. As I write this, a jar of sea monkey eggs is incubating in a Ball jar on my kitchen island. It's all one click and a five day wait away.

I no longer have to drive all over town looking for a product. I don't have to spend the time, and I don't have to buy the gas, and best of all, I don't have to settle for something that only vaguely resembles what I'm looking for. I think it's great.

Pine Lake at Sunset

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another Aerial Photo from the 1930s

Here's another aerial photo. This one was taken a few years after the shot I recently posted and, like the first, looks northward over the city-- probably around 1937. Note the roads on the flower side of the lake have been laid in. There are quite a few houses now. Memorial Drive can be seen in the upper middle, with Hambrick intersecting from the north. None of the roads seem to be paved.

The chapel (now City Hall) and beach house have not yet been built. The clubhouse is just out of view at lower right; we know it's there because it was present the early aerial shot. Check out the dock  at the base of Spring Street.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mystery Ballot Box Opened!

Shortly after Kathie DeNobriga became mayor of Pine Lake, she found this locked ballot box in a storeroom..

No one seemed to know how old the box was, or why it was locked, or how it had come to be there.

On Monday night, just before the City Council convened for a meeting, Kathie had the lock cut. City employee Matt Wells wielded the implement of destruction.

What was inside? Materials from a 1993 election.

Before the council meeting started, Kathie announced the start of a season of remembrances in celebration of Pine Lake's 75th anniversary. That's right; we're 75 years old!

Pine Lake from the Air, 1930s

Above is an aerial photo of Pine Lake, taken sometime before 1936. The year and photographer are unknown, but I imagine developer Carl Shaub hired an aeronaut. Imagine a Stearman biplane or a WWI-surplus Curtss Jenny making a pass over what would one day be our fair city.

The view looks northward at a newly-laid-out grid of mostly empty roads. That's Rockbridge Road running horizontally in the foreground.

Click on the photo to blow it up or download it to your desktop and magnify it with your file viewer.