Sunday, February 28, 2010

Magnificent Sleaziness

Go, Spartacus, Go!

Let it all hang out!

At first, I assumed they would tone down the violence, nudity and sex, once they got our attention.

But, no, arm-loppings and beheadings continue apace.

Every crowd scene has gratuitous boobies, many many boobies, in pairs.

Never a sentence spoken that a f#@k can't be jammed in.

Last night, a major character met his demise, not with one penetration of a sword, but three or four, with blood spraying and cries of anguish, topped off by a vivid throat cutting. (And I do say penetration in the most sexual of ways -- the character just having had several make-out scenes with a member of the same sex...)

There was a orgy scene. They weren't satisfied with a few couples onscreen, no, they had wall to wall sex, of every combination, undulating and swaying. I mean, I don't actually think there are that many gladiators in the show, just in this sweaty scene. A couple of dozen girls, apparently the whores of Rome were all stunningly beautiful.


Let's replay that.

And then there was the scene of the gladiator school owner casually grabbing a buxom servant girl and screwing her while he has a business conversation with his wife, Xena, while she sits naked in a bath with two other buxom servants.

As he grunts and flushes, the camera focuses on the grimaces of the servant girl, and I'm thinking to myself, "This probably this young actress's big break. She probably called home to Mum and Pops, who are watching this."

And yet....

The story is actually pretty interesting. I've noticed that the actors aren't quite as awkward with the swear words as they were earlier. The actors have definitively gotten much better with the sword play.

The guy who plays the head of the school has turned into a conniving, cut-throating bastard, after seeming kind of weak in the first few episodes, even worse than his wife, Xena, who at least has the ability to look dismayed for a moment at his actions, and then gets a pleased look all over her gorgeous face.

If you were trying to make an analogy between old, rotten Rome and what we'll accept today, well, I think we've got it.

The show is starting to develop it's own style, if anything, bloodier and more graphic than the 300. I'm sticking with it, if for no other reason to see how much they can get away see how many times per night I say,

"I can't believe they did that!"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The store with everything.

I think I was permanently scarred by comments early in my career from customers: "Is this ALL you got?"

I don't get that remark much, these days. Well, once in a while, but some people simply can't be pleased.

Anyway, I've always wanted a store that had everything in it that I wanted.

Recently, I've almost reached that goal. Without meaning to, without making a conscious decision, I've more or less reinvested in the store. Put capital in. Which is a shift in strategy.

Almost all my buying for the last 10 years or so has been cash-flow buying. I pay as I go. Every six months or so, I might buy 'extra' product if there is a particularly good deal or a one time chance to get something or because I want to save on postage.

I then proceed to pay that off that 'temporary' debt within the cash flow of the next couple of months.

This year, I've decided to push sales; to see if I can get sales higher.

With six months in a row coming in at above the previous years sales, (an average of 10% growth, which is the perfect sustainable number), I decided this month to completely stock the store, from top to bottom, filling every nook and cranny.

I make some orders only once a year. For instance, specialty dice. I can get dice made out of metals and precious stones; and they sell, slowly but surely. I order stand-ups only once or twice a year, because of postage and because I want to sell down as much as possible. I order from book liquidators only twice a year, because it takes that long for enough good books to accumulate in the backlist. Once a year, I order from an online art site which sells only retail, but which has enough good deals to give me a small profit margin.

These are the cream on top of my regular orders. The stuff I'd like to have, but usually can't afford.

Inventory level has always been a compromise, for me. When I started, I realized I basically needed an entire store's worth of inventory. It isn't simply a case of buying all the inventory; because I'd sell down on some of it, and have to reorder, and pay for the original stock, and so on.

Like I've said, you basically have to sell an item 4 or 5 times to get full retail and still have the item in stock.

It was a moot point, though. I've never had the kind of money it took to inventory a store from top to bottom. For the first 10 years I was scrambling just to keep up with sales -- I'd take pretty big risks on inventory, and STILL run out; and then bigger risks, and STILL run out; and then bigger risks.

You can see where this is going, and how it ended. One day, I turned around, and I had entire store worth of inventory NOT selling, and two more store's worth coming in the door and demanding to be paid.

Which I pulled out my credit cards and did.

And then struggled with that debt level for another 10 years.

Looking back on it, I can see that I was probably a little conservative early in the cycle, and then a little too reckless later in the cycle; if I could've turned that around, I'd have been better off. (And indeed, when it came to later bubbles; pogs, beanie babies, pokemon, I did exactly that.)
But one feels one's way, at first. One becomes slowly accustomed to risk....

At one point, pre-millennium, I had no credit, no money, and no terms with my suppliers.

So, for the past ten years, I've been slowly building and building.

Usually I pick a product line -- say, new books -- and I concentrate on using most of the 'extra' cash flow on it, maybe even take a little advance risk on it. Then I'd usually have a couple of other product lines I make incremental improvements on; and then a couple of others that I keep even; and a couple of others I purposely run down.

But I am careful to try to pay within cash flow; and back in the day when I had no credit or cash or terms, I simply HAD TO PAY WITHIN CASH FLOW.

Don't get me wrong, I took plenty of risk during those lean years, because I had no choice. I had to have inventory, and often it wasn't clear I could pay for it, and I'd take a leap once in a while because I had no choice.

But taking risk on by choice, that I haven't done in years.

I should probably make it clear. I'm not taking on dangerous risk. It's more that I'm willing to expend any capital at all, that's different. I'm like a riverboat gambler who's been surviving on his wit for years, and suddenly someone hands him a bankroll. He's got the experience, and if he doesn't change the way he plays, he should be able to come out ahead.

I've got 30 years experience of what sells, now. Everything I'm buying fits within that criteria.

I've only slowly come back to the idea of it. The Great Recession struck just as I was finally at the point where I could've taken risk; and thus, I retreated and spent the last two and half years being very careful.

It's paid off. In terms of real profit, the last three years have been the best years in my career.

Strange that.

As things have slowly improved, I've begun to feel more comfortable spending money again.

Mostly, I've been buying up bargains.

Because I carry 8 to 10 product lines, there is usually at least one of them which is unloading decent product for sale prices. All I have to do is sit back and be opportunistic. Buy when they are offered.

More often than not, this product is just as good as anything else I'm selling; apparently, the wholesalers just have a different dynamic than me; they want to unload everything, and I'm willing to take that product on and give it some life.

It seems to me, that just about everything I carry sells -- eventually.

Of course, it's impossible to have everything. It wouldn't take much searching to find truckloads more stuff. But I currently have everything in the store, that I'm currently aware that I think I should have. Oh, there are a few pricey items I'm still hesitating on: Absolute editions of graphic novels that cost 100.00 each; the Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which I'd have to try to sell for full retail when my customers can usually get it for half price; that sort of thing.

Even though my store is already incredibly full, it turns out that the 'nook and cranny' stuff still amounts to a large amount of money; more an investment than a cash-flow purchase.

I've made deal with myself to pay it off by July 1, thus giving me several extra months than is normal to carry debt.

It's a bit of an experiment. First, because I can afford it and because I haven't made such a move in years so it's time to find out if I'm missing anything. Secondly, because I really want to see if I can make some strides forward while everyone else is retreating, which the hope that I'll be rewarded for my boldness in the long run. And third, well, it's just fun.

I really like having a store that has everything I think it should have. I never really thought it would happen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Downtown Openings and Closings.

I have been waiting for at least two new entries for every new post. But the rate of change downtown has slowed so much, that I'll probably post every time I hear anything.

Was told that yesterday was Home Hardware's last day. (Home Style Hardware? I was never completely sure of the name, sorry. On Minnesota Ave.)

My understanding is that he's going to sell online for a few months, and then hoping to open a new space on Wall St.


River Bend Fine Art, Bond St. (Kebanu space) 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota St. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota St. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota, 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe 11/5/09 25 N.W. Minnesota, Suite #7.
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Bend Home Hardware, Minn. Ave, 2/25/10
Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Just some newspaper fodder response today. What would I do without the Bulletin and the Source? I wouldn't be able to blog everyday, that's for sure.

"Aryans like John Day, but the feeling isn't mutual."

What caught my attention was the quote: " needs revitalization." Now I can't speak for John Dayan's, but I suspect the whole point of living in J.D. is to be left alone. Take your 'revitaliztion' and shove it, would seem the most likely response.


"Facebook Data Center Critic Isn't Entirely Green Either."

This seems like a non-story to me. Is Facebook really threatened by Greenpeace? Does the Bulletin really need to do an advocacy 'article'?

I can't believe anything less than a very active local resistance would dissuade Facebook, and that doesn't seem likely.

Seems like something Fox News would do. Take the outlier, and give it equal weight to the consensus.


"Sales of new homes hit a low in January."

"...the housing market should be doing better. Prices have fallen substantially in the past three years, mortgage rates are very low"..."and the government is giving all sorts of buyers a cash bonus. ("all sorts of buyers??)

"This should be an ideal time for people to buy"...."and yet they're hesitating."

Oh? I wonder why. Here's what I think:

The sucker pool has dried up.

Everyone else is broke.

Or scared.

Or canny enough realized they'll get houses even cheaper if they wait.


All these local gas taxes.

Do these city officials really think they have a snowflakes chance in hell of passing?


Tried reading The Source this week, but it was impenetrable.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Flea bite.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me.

I read today's big headlines about a 'controversy' with Judy Steigler's picture and went, "Oh, Oh, the Bulletin's going after our Democratic representative again."

But you read the article, and she has almost nothing to do with the 'pay cut' or the restoration thereof. Other than being married to a prosecutor. In fact, she voted FOR the pay cut.

Frankly, I doubt her political ethics are really challenged by a 5k cut in pay; and she has yet to vote the second time.

But if you were a casual browser of the paper, like so many people are, you might put the two together; Stiegler = Controversy.

Like I said, maybe I'm reading too much into it.

One things for sure. H. Bruce Miller's column in the Source, and my little blog, hasn't seemed to chasten the Bulletin.

Or, in the case of my blog, my little flea bite on their butt didn't even make them itch....

The Power of Postive.....Action.

Following up on the "Positive Thinking" post.

I've always thought the Power of Positive Thinkers have it exactly backward.

To me, positive feelings come from positive results which come from positive actions. Thus:


To me, the following equation, peddled by Self-Help guru's, is exactly backward:


If you want to bear with me, I have a little history here.

Starting in my senior year in high school and continuing into my late twenties, I had a severe bout of clinical depression. (No worries....I've been good now for about 33 years.)

Anyway, for the first couple years I tried to 'willpower' my way out of it. Gut it out. Put on a happy face. I read innumerable "Self-Help" books. Not only didn't they help, I think they exacerbated my condition.

I kept thinking I was going to revert back to my old self, that everything would just go away. I just had to find the right formula: it was magical thinking. But it wasn't until I realized that I was going to have to rebuild my self-esteem from scratch that I started the road to recovery.

Toward the end, my shrink gave me a book called Reality Therapy, which I more or less distilled into the following equation:


That may be reductive and simplistic, but as a formula, I submit it's a whole lot more useful than trying to make things happen without doing the work and making the right choices.

It isn't the formula, after all, which creates the change. It's the hard work of the change itself, which tranforms the mood.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Once you carry it, you always carry it.

My usual reaction to a failing product line isn't to give up, but to try to do it better. To try to figure out what I'm doing wrong. The figure out an angle that make it works, at least marginally.

Often, I let a fair amount of time go by once I realize a product isn't working. I'll sell down on the product, giving it marginal support, giving people deals when I get the chance. Sometimes I'll shrink down the amount of space I give to it. This can actually take a year or two. Since I already paid for the product, and am not replacing it, the profits are high enough to keep going.

So I don't get rid of it, at first.

Sports cards, once again, are the best example. For a long time, I could sell enough packs to continue carrying the product. Boxes pretty much stopped selling, sets pretty much stopped selling, singles (both stars and common, old or new) stopped selling. So I let those parts of the hobby fade. I stopped buying and trading singles, boxes, sets....

But I kept carrying just enough new brands opened for packs sales to keep it alive.

I was visiting another store in another state, and they had an interesting stack of boxes. A Stack of Wax, if you will. It looked impressive, and I wondered if I could maybe do the same thing.

My intent was to go ahead and make another try at making cards work. My intent was to keep the pack sales going, but to try to leap forward by ordering enough extra boxes of new product to create the Stack of Wax. I would price the boxes high enough to actually earn a decent profit if they sold, but slightly cheaper than I could've got selling them by the pack. Figured I win either way.

Instead of buying one box, selling through the packs, and buying another, I would buy two or three boxes, put one out for sale for packs, and stack the other two. I knew it would take awhile to create a Stack of Wax, so I was willing to break even while it was happening. Packs would pay for boxes.

An interesting thing happened. Without realizing it, my packs hadn't been selling all that well. What had been happening was, I was selling down half a box before they'd slow to a trickle. But since at the same time, I'd also been busting enough random packs to sell singles, I hadn't realized how slow the packs were selling.

With the new strategy of buying full boxes of cards, I decided I would forgo singles altogether, since I knew they weren't profitable. So the packs started slowing down, and spaces didn't develop for boxes to be opened, and the Stack of Wax grew quickly.

And then --- the boxes started selling. Sometimes I'd have a single customer buying them, sometimes two or three, and on really good months I'd have four or five. I was more or less making a small amount with two buyers, and when you blended in all the other sales, sports cards were profitable again.

My margins were in the secondary tier of margins -- about 20% less than I get for comics and books, but about the same as I get for toys and dvd's.

The amount of work involved in ordering and selling boxes is much less than singles. The amount of space a Stack of Wax takes up isn't a very big footprint -- a winning attribute in my crammed store.

So, on the verge of giving up on Sports Cards altogether, I stumbled upon a way to make them work.

Right now, I've been letting my anime and my manga sell down. I've been cutting back on the space I've been giving them.

But I'm not yet ready to give up. I think I'll keep shrinking them down to a manageable footprint, and then....order and keep in stock the ten bestselling series in both categories. If that doesn't work, it will be back to the drawing board.

Of course, sometimes there really isn't anything I can do. I gave up on non-sport card singles and sets, though I still sell packs. The other day, I was taking a break downstairs and I started eyeballing the non-sport singles.

What would happen, I thought, if I packaged my Beatles singles or my Star Wars singles or my Marvel Masterpiece singles in batches of 20 and sold them for a dollar? Hmmmmmmm....

Truth is, I just don't have time for that. But some day.

Like I said, there has got to be a way.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

You know, it gets old constantly pointing out how the real estate market is still screwed, our city frittered away the boom and is now going to be constantly short of cash to pay basic services, that CACB's glory years were encased in bubble wrap.

So, I try not to talk about it all the time.

It gets old.

Slowly, but surely, the apologists, the white washers inch their way back; real estate blogs proclaiming the bottom, Cascade bank announcing that 'help is on the way', the city sweeping Juniper Ridge under the rug and blaming the short fall on other things....

So, here I am again, pointing out that these problems were of our own making. And they aren't going to go away simply by wishing them away.

It's so obvious, it feels like shooting fish in a barrel. But, damn, those fish are slippery.


Coincidentally, there is an article up on Le Monde, (English edition) about the Power of Positive Thinking. The first two paragraphs give you a gist.

Wishing it don’t make it so

Author Barbara Ehrenreich keeps questioning US business, social and psychological orthodoxies, especially in her latest book on the power of positive thinking: she doesn’t believe it has any power and tells us why
by George Miller

A few odd facts: George W Bush was head football cheerleader in his senior year at prep school. The total US market for “self-improvement products” in 2005 was estimated at $9.6bn (1). The most popular course offered by Harvard University in 2006 was positive psychology. Last month, during the Haitian earthquake, the top international story on (which publishes only good news) was “Prince William attracts crowd in New Zealand”. There are at least four different species of breast cancer awareness teddy bears. Sales of the self-help book The Secret (“the secret gives you anything you want: happiness, health and wealth”) by former Melbourne TV producer Rhonda Byrne, published in 2006, exceed seven million.

In isolation, each of these facts may cause no more than mild disquiet, a sense that the harsher realities of life are being brushed aside. In fact, as US journalist and campaigner Barbara Ehrenreich has discovered, they are all manifestations of the ubiquity of positive thinking in the United States. When she began to put the pieces together, they revealed a nation in the grip of a collective delusion that does damage to people’s lives all the way from corporate boardrooms to those struggling with house repossessions and poverty.

Downtown Openings and Closings.

Again, the real news is no news. Downtown appears to be incredibly stable right now.

I've heard rumor of a couple of places leaving, but nothing I can confirm.

Meanwhile, I noticed that an art gallery has been announced for Wall St. to open in May, which is a fair amount of time away...

It's called River Bend Fine Art.

Not to be confused with Wild River Gallery, in the Cascade Village.

At least one of these is actually near the river.


River Bend Fine Art, 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota St. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota St. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota, 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe 11/5/09 25 N.W. Minnesota, Suite #7.
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday buffet.

I have been known, in the past, to sort of semi-mock some of these 'Tourist Studies."

People come here for the outdoor recreations? "Who'd have thunk?"

They stay with family or friends or at a hotel? "Really?"

They stay over the weekend? "How about that?"

And so on and so on.

Still, I did take something from this last survey that was useful; that the typical tourist is female, upper middle class, presumably middle-aged, and likes to shop downtown Bend.

You couldn't describe a customer profile that was more of an antithesis to my store's make-up. That is, Ten Years Ago.


Now I feel like I have a better chance of selling something to the 'typical' tourist -- the well-off middle aged woman -- than I do to a teenage boy.

So really, without any mockery at all:

"Who would've ever guessed?"

When I re-upped my lease in the middle of the boom, I was a little concerned. Rent was pretty high, so high that most of my neighbors bailed. But I felt that I had 25 years existence in the same location and that was valuable.

I also had the sense that my little corner of downtown was rapidly changing. I was already seeing signs of increased foot-traffic; it wouldn't take a whole lot more of that to at least pay for the extra rent in real terms, if not in break-even terms. (Breakeven: cost divided by margin = sales to cover.)

I started to morph my store more toward books and mainstream (euro) games. I took one whole side of the front of my store and put nothing but books into the display. I made the entry way almost entirely books and games. I came up with the phrase: "Used books are half the cover price, and are in the front of the store over there. New books on this side..."

And so on.

Now, the tourists seem comfortable enough in my store that even when they run into a pretty solid block of 'pop culture' weirdness they seem to go with the flow. Like good sports, you know -- everyone has a nerd in the family...

I will be continuing this mainstreaming of the store over the next lease -- while at the same time not cutting into the half of my business that caters to regulars.


How the world has changed.

2005: Should we do granite or tile?

2010: Should we do bankruptcy or foreclosure?


I always pay attention to Central Oregon building permits.

There was quite the jump in January. But there was a rather suspicious surge -- from one to 20-- in Redmond. Sounds like someone started a 20 unit project. I suppose it counts, but if I was keeping score in my store I would put an asterisk next to it as an anomaly.

Without those 20, the number of building starts would be 18 versus 20 last year...


I don't usually comment on the political leanings of the Bulletin, except to note that I'm considerably more liberal.

But I thought the front page article on Judy Stiegler was pretty blatantly politically slanted against her. Both in context and where it was placed. Seemed like an ad for her opponent.

Of course, followed up by the 'actual' editorial on the editorial page: "Stiegler's district needs a centrist."

Hey, Bulletin. Central Oregon needs a centrist paper, too. Think you could provide that?

Ironically, John Costa's column this week was titled: "News That Belongs on Page 1." heh.


Seems apropos that the biggest traffic argument we've had in Bend recently is about "WIMP WAY."


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Parking Blowback.

The blowback on Chuck Arnold has been more severe than I would've expected. A couple of the downtowners are calling for his resignation.

You have to wonder if there was a little nucleus of group-think that made him go forward with his initiative. While just about every other business owner would've told him it was a bad idea.

I really cringed to watch one of the local T.V. channels talk about "Charging for Downtown Parking!!" without making it clear that it was one parking lot -- just one. But I think this is what happens when you open a can of worms.

There does seem to be a pattern of over-reaction. Like trying to put a surveillance camera on every corner because of vandalism and graffitti.

I think Chuck is energetic and involved, and deserves a fair hearing. The parking situation, itself, is far enough away from my store that I don't think it affects me -- except in the PERCEPTION that parking is bad downtown.

I'm a block away from the "half-empty" parking garage, and am puzzled why more people don't use it. Though -- I did predict it. I'm willing to admit that I was wrong about the garage, though my 'native Bendite' instincts were that both the bus system and the garage would be under utilized.

I'll say it again, and say it every time: give the downtown minimum wage employees the second from the top level Free. Yes, Free. It aint' bein' used, anyway.


Is the blond actress in Past Life, Trauma, Fringe, Cold Case, etc. etc. the same actress? Do they have some sort of template they use? Just wondering.


Bank of the Cascades "has a plan." Appears to be the same plan that fell through last year, when they decided not to make a public offering. So now they're going to approach 'private' investors.

I have the same question I had last time -- why would you buy into a plan where two owners end up with 25% of the bank each, simply by 'pledging' to match YOUR money. No risk, really, on their part. They walk off with half the value, but only if the plan succeeds. Sounds...inequitable, somehow.

It would be interesting to know if these two owners hold the same level of stock they had at the beginning, or whether they've been hedging their bets by selling off....


Ostracism dreams over this last week. Last night, I was being called into the office and losing my job. It's been thirty years since I had a boss. But it was still traumatic. Makes me all the more sympathetic to all the folk who have lost their jobs. I think, sometimes, that I've been so tenacious in my business because I'm terrified of the possibility -- though logically, opening a business may not have been the most sensiblel solution....


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Geniuses at the T.V. Networks.

Here's a business model that ought to work!

1.) Change my hours willy nilly depending on what my competition does.

2.) Stop selling some product completely, if the competition is doing something particularly strong.

3.) Either not buy new product or try to sell something completely different than the customer came in for.

Do this at random.

Then I'd be as smart as the geniuses at the networks....

Apparently, the Olympics beat Idol in the ratings. First time Idol has lost it's time period in years.

Oh, oh. Oh, dear. Oh, my....

The head of programming at Fox's brains just splattered all over the control room. And every other programmer at every other network just let out a blood-curdling scream.....

I'm sure that's just going to accentuate a trend that's been going on for several years now.

Every time there is a major event; the Oscars, the Olympics, Christmas, Halloween, Lent........whatever...., the network programmers go fluttering and squealing into the night......

And we get reruns. Lots of annoying reruns. (Usually, not in order, which might actually be useful...)

Holidays = reruns.

Oscars = reruns.

Superbowl = reruns.

ANY unusual event = reruns.

Ironically, Summer, which always used to = reruns, now has 'new' shows.

Cable's even worst -- I have no clue anymore what their "seasons" are supposed to be. They seem to be nearly arbitrary.

Now, you have to understand, I'm a pretty consistent schedule browser. I'm a person who actually checks to see.

Even so, I miss stuff on a constant basis. It has to be a damn good show on cable, anymore, for me to even try -- like Battlestar Galactica, and even then I missed some of them.

It used to be, the networks were to only stable place left. You could count on C.S.I. Las Vegas being on at 9:00 on Thursday. You still can......

.....unless it isn't. Unless it's been pre-empted. Unless......arrrrggghhhh!!!!.... it's a rerun.

So what will American Idol do the next time there is a 'Big Event'? Somehow I doubt they'll schedule a new episode of Idol. (I don't watch Idol, just saying that this is only going to make this little squealing girl behavior worse...) No, the programmer who made that ghastly mistake, has crawled to his superiors and begged for forgiveness and slithered off to throw some patsy of a program into the breach next time.

Ironically, it seems to me that just makes the Big Event even bigger. I mean, if your choice of programs is the Super Bowl or the Doggy Bowl,( well, bad example, actually I'd watch the Doggy Bowl for 10 minutes for light relief, then back to the game) the Super Bowl is going to get all the viewers. But....really, if you remove all the competition the other guys wins without a fight. You're MAKING me watch the 'Big Event.' more and more I'm doing, avoiding it altogether, Tivo-ing what I want to watch; then reading or going to the movies or playing games, and watching what I want to watch at my leisure.

That is, if I can find what I want to Tivo.... Which makes me have to search, which still makes it a problem. Oh, sure. I can hear you tech savvy guys. I can program it. But Granny can't and neither can Uncle Louie, and, you know? They may be the networks last viewers. And you've just made watching television the equivalent of programming a microwave or formatting the the answering machine -- tasks which totally stymie Grannie and Uncle Louie.

Anyway, the one thing I think networks could and should provide is a consistent schedule of shows at a consistent time period for a consistent season -- no matter what else is going on.

Anything less than that, and screw them. They are just one more part of the jumble of 100's of confusing channels and time slots and reruns -- and nothing to watch.

So I'll just repeat this for the geniuses at the networks.

"Provide a consistent schedule of new shows at a consistent time period for a consistent season!!!!!!!!!"


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The carrot or an atom bomb.

Another bruhaha about parking. I didn't get approached for the petition, probably was off work, but I probably would've signed it.

As I said before, I was surprised the Chuck tried to push this through again. I had assumed he'd lined up enough support. Surprising that he has such a tin ear about this subject.

If it's true that the parking garage is always "half-full", here's a suggestion: Give the second from the top level to employees for free or for a very very modest fee.

Then fine them a Million Dollars for parking violations.

A carrot and an atom bomb.

Even that won't work for some dufuses, but you have to ask yourself if ANYTHING would.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

F aux non-profit.

Or, if you will, F aux profit.

There seem to be two types of these.

#1.) A stated "non-profit" that nonetheless pays the employees wages, it's executives sometimes very high wages, and yet depends on contributions and volunteerism.

I'll never forget the day I learned the Blue Cross executives were being paid in the millions at a time when their 'non-profit' was losing business. Since my experience with Blue Cross was that I would sign up for health insurance at a reasonable level, and five years later I would have to drop the coverage as it went up 30 to 50% EVERY YEAR! This happened twice in my lifetime.

Non-profit my ass.

I've been somewhat skeptical of the words "non-profit" every since.

#2.) A "for-profit" business that nevertheless wraps itself in the banner of being "for the community." Often the owners profess that they aren't Trying to Make Money, or that They are Doing It for the KIDS. (How can you be against doing it for the kids?)

Unfortunately, my experience here has also been somewhat disillusioning. More often than not when you actually observe their practices, they're phonies. They close when it becomes more work than it's worth. Turns out they really were trying to make money after all, and the whole "public" sensitivity was more a public relations ploy than anything.

Before I go any further and start using some harsh words, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not referring to anyone currently or indeed in the recent past in Bend. Most of the examples I'm talking about happened in my first decade of business, when comics and cards and games were "hot" . Many of them were in other towns.

Comics and Cards and Games used to especially attract the Charlatans that were pretending to "Do it for the Public" and "Not Trying to Make a Profit."

Maybe Charlatan is too harsh a word. I do think that many, maybe even most, of these businesses start off with the intention of being about "the collector" or "the kid" but that they quickly find themselves in trouble.

I've often said -- I TRY to make a profit, and half the time don't succeed. If you start off NOT TRYING to make a profit, I can almost guarantee you'll lose money.

Ironically, once they started to struggle, they were often the most lax with their ethical standards. I suppose because they were wrapping themselves in the cloak of virtue, they felt it was O.K. to bend to rules or cut corners.

Let me tell you, no business stays in business very long doing those things. Word gets out. But the "I'm doing it for you, not me" type businesses would often get away with it for far too long.

The more they professed the lack of profits and the more they maintained they were doing it for everyone else, the more I distrusted them. Especially since they would often act all holier than thou. Especially when they drained money from legitimate for-profit businesses that -- in the long run-- by surviving and trying to gain customers -- may actually have provided a larger public service.

I make no bones that I'm trying to earn a profit. Nothing wrong with that. I figure that doing a good job and providing a public service often end up being the same thing. Nothing like the "profit motive" to get things done.

Which brings me to:

#3.) I suppose a third kind of non-profit is the store that tries valiantly to make money but fails.

If you think about it, this third group includes the majority of all businesses that ever existed...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


One of the racks came off the wall at the store. Which, upon thinking about it, was inevitable. I just keep adding and adding, and recently I started to double up the face out graphic novels, which probably added yet ten more pounds.

So I guess my carpenter friend was right when he told me 15 years ago "it'll never work...."


Ethics -- in particular, business ethics -- are an endlessly fascinating subject to me, in no small part because they often aren't clear.


I've now had two weekends in a row with two days off in a row. Which, believe it or not, is very rare for me. Usually, I have a day off, and then a work day, and then a day off.

I can really tell the difference in how rested I feel.


Was telling a friend in the store how annoyed I was that my new MacBook didn't have a solitaire game; none of the ones I've tried to download really work well, and none are as good as the Microsoft version that comes with every PC. (Never thought you'd hear that, huh.)

He laughed. He said that was one of the most common complaints they get at the Apple call center here in Bend.

You'd think somebody would've figured that out how to adapt that game by now. I mean, the old timey game elements can't be copyrighted, right?


Finally saw Night Watch, the Russian vampire movie, with sub-titles. What an odd movie. I think I liked it, but I know I liked that it was different.

Linda mentioned it was the first Russian film she'd ever seen. "What! You've never seen The Battleship Potemkin?"

"Uh, no."

I saw several Russian films in college film class: Aleksanr Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, for instance, and I remember the thunderous music and battles and gothic make-up. Oh, and the slaughter on the steps -- because the professor ran it over and over again in slow motion.


My one resolution this new year was to try to read one book a week. I find that I need to boost my reading rate every few years, or it starts to dwindle a little too much. Once I increase the pace, it become comfortable.

Just need to stay offline a little more, and turn off the T.V. a little earlier.

As of today, I've started to fall behind.

The biggest problem is that I fall asleep reading. I can 'read' an entire page over and over again without comprehending it. Bleh...


I've mentioned before that Upper Deck is my least favorite card company.

Karma is definitely catching up to them.

They just settled a lawsuit from the makers of Yugi oh for big bucks (counterfeiting). They've lost the rights to make baseball and basketball cards. They are losing the World of Warcraft cards. Word is, they owe money to MLB, ( 2.4 million) etc. etc.

They tried to get around Major League Baseball by signing an agreement with the Players Association, but apparently the cards are rife with team logo's, etc. So MLB is suing them.

I've been advising my customers not to buy U.D, because I think they're toast and bogus --

and it couldn't happen to a 'nicer' bunch of guys.

Really, you have to have lived through the boom and bust years of sports cards to understand some of my bitterness toward Upper Deck. But I'm telling you, in my mind they exemplify everything that's wrong with big business...


Went on a comic reading binge, yesterday. About 50 comics, including Seige #1. Almost all the rest were crime or horror titles...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Care for a grape? They're a bit sour....

I thought I'd compare this weekend's sales to my average weekend's sales, to see if the Winterfest had a negative impact by NOT being downtown anymore.

It's not like we could fit this event into our narrow streets anymore anyway, right?

But...I just don't miss it.

Don't miss the traffic. Don't miss the crowds. I like my regulars and the tourist flow on a normal weekend. Daily business, doing it daily, thank you very much.

So we'll compare this weekend to the last three or four and see what we come up with. At end of this post.

Meanwhile, I was talking to another downtown merchant who felt that losing the Winterfest was not a good thing. He was worried about losing all our events.

I told him I thought that was very unlikely. For me, the real danger is that we keep adding events willy nilly until every 'peak weekend' is full, not allowing me to be just a regular store during the busiest months.

That's just it, he said. We could use this event this time of year

. I agreed with that -- mostly -- but mentioned that I thought we still get tons of foot traffic. We're pretty vibrant.

That can change, he said.

Again, I agreed. But mentioned that I thought we'd have plenty of warning signs. I watched the Mt. View Mall diminish for years -- and even when I had decided it was fully and totally burnt black toast, there were still merchants in denial. But we are nothing like that. Take away the decrease, if any, of foot traffic from the second biggest downturn in the economy in this century, and our foot traffic is pretty damn good.

Besides where else are new stores going to go?

He said one last thing, which I didn't argue with and is probably true: his business (a restaurant) benefits from these events. Fair enough.

Anyway, on to the final results....................:

We did exactly 33% better than the average of the previous four weekends (Fr., Sat. Sun.).

It may be coincidence. Still, I think it would be hard to argue that not having Winterfest hurt sales.

In fact, it wouldn't be all that unreasonable to suggest that it might have helped sales.

If someone were to say that Winterfest brought people into the general vicinity, well all the better. That way we get most of the benefits, without most of the hassles.

Just saying...

I also should mention that Linda and I dropped by the store after closing on Sunday; and the streets were packed. "It's hard to imagine it being much busier than this on a winter Sunday, " I said to her.

No worries.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Tina McGeary 'Inventor-prise'

My sister's (Tina McGeary's) obituary ran in today's paper.

This afternoon, I got a call from Ed LaChapelle from Bend Research.

Apparently, in 1992, my sister volunteered for a seminar put on by the Jacob Javitts Foundation, for education/business partnerships.

This committee created a contest, called "Inventorprise", which was sponsored by Bend Research, which would yearly present a science problem to be solved. And that Tina was very involved in the creation of this idea. It was for grades K through High School, with prizes given out.

Apparently, Tina and Ed were the two original committee members who were still involved every year, and that the good folk at Bend Research had decided they should name a prize after Tina.

He thought it would probably be the Middle School prize, because it had been Tina's idea that something (like a ski pass to Bachelor) be given out since entries had begun dwindling. Since then, they were getting plenty of entries.

All of which made me feel really good. I knew that Tina volunteered in many different ways. And I'm happy that it was noticed.

They haven't finalized it, but they wanted to know if it was "all right" with the family.

Um....yeah. Hell, yeah.

In the same conversation, he talked about how Bend Research sponsored 5th grade classes to the Bend Science Station. Something like 30 classes, which would involve a class almost every week of the year, coordinating between the Bus Barn and the classes and the Station.

When Ed called Tina, she said, "Oh, I'll take care of that."

I can just hear the cheerful tone Tina would say that, and then follow through without further ado.

And apparently, through her position as office manager at Marshall school, she's done that for the last 8 years.

I knew Tina volunteered in many things, but she didn't really talk about it much. I just knew that she was doing it.

I just thought that was kinda cool.

Easy Money.

Whether or not the Summit 1031 Exchange debacle will turn into a criminal case (and my reading of it, is that it will....) it was hugely unethical from the beginning.

Several times during the boom, I had conversations with 'high rollers' that just had me shaking my head. Two things --

1.) That the money was easy.

2.) Nobody was going to get caught.
(Implied, was that some shady things were going on, minimally with taxes, but other things as well.)

These were very superficial conversations, based on the other's misunderstanding of my financial situation (I own a business, therefore I must have money) and never went anywhere.

But I knew in my gut that, whether or not illegal things were going on, there were some things that would make me squeamish over the risk, and uncomfortable with the lack of ethical standards.

One thing I've learned to mistrust over the years: Easy Money.

It's almost always based on one of three things.

1.) A temporary competitive advantage.

Say you start selling a product and nobody else is. This never lasts for long, or as I always say, "Supply always catches up to Demand."

2.) A bubble.

Well, we all know how those end. I'm actually uncomfortable with growth rates of more than 10% a year, because they are rarely sustainable, and you often give more back at the end than you made at the beginning.

3.) Cutting corners.
Doing things that maximize profits at the expense of ethics.

And of course, in real life, it's usually some combination of all three.

There are always temptations in business, and in my opinion you must always try to resist. Always try to take the high road. I've often said, burnout is as much a danger in business as lack of money. Burnout happens when you no longer like what you're doing, and you probably won't like what you're doing if you're making too many ethical concessions.

Besides, I think making less money in the short run by being ethical, is a long-term business survival.

Don't jump all in on a bubble -- like CACB, you'll look like a genius at first, but in the end you'll be the goat.

UNLESS -- and unfortunately in this highly movable and short memory society, it's very common -- you don't care what happens in the long run, and can run away with the short term profits. You see this in the big guys, who guide their companies into long-term ruin, but have already moved on.

And you see this in the little guys, hence the term "Fly by Night": businesses who have no intention but to take advantage of short-term 'Easy Money' and don't worry about long-term consequences.

Finally, a word about what I mean by ethics. I realized early on that small business was full of gray areas; where you had to make a decision based on limited information, and you had to decide what was the proper ethical choice.

It isn't always clear.

You have to have a good internal foundation, I believe, and an awareness of consequences. I guess, in the end, you have to ask yourself if it's the right thing to do. You'll know it -- feel it in your gut and when you go to sleep at night -- if it isn't.

And I can tell you, no matter how this Summit thing turns out, you can be sure that if any of the owners had a conscience, they knew they were doing wrong very early on.

And did it anyway.

POSTSCRIPT: After reading the full article, my last two paragraphs are just silly.

These guys were out and out looting the funds, and a 'ponzi scheme' barely covers it...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Loaded Dice.

Had a guy come in who was looking at dice. He picked up one of the Big dice and said, (as his wife muttered 'You're crazy...') "Did you know that if you tilt this dice just a certain way, that you can feel this little weight inside it?"

"Really," I said. "Whatever...."


"Well, it's not as if we're playing for money...."

They laughed, and as they left, I said, "Don't play with any loaded dice!"

Really, though. What would be the point of me either buying or selling loaded dice? Like the manufacturer would just slip those by me?


"Tax Breaks Could Be Bend's Way to Attract Business" Bulletin, 2/14/10.

One comment really caught my eye:

"Before the recession, Bend didn't need assistance in bringing business and jobs to the area, said City Manager Eric King."

I have to wonder about that. We got jobs, yes, in the minimum wage industries of tourism and retirement. And we got a ton of jobs

But did we really get the kind of long term, steady, well-paying jobs we needed?

Seems to me that we took for granted all the easy jobs, and over-reached for the higher end jobs by sinking all our efforts and money into Juniper Ridge with hopes of a 'high-tech' district and a 'four year college.'

In the article, Juniper Ridge is more or less dismissed as so stagnant that isn't worth including in the 'enterprise' zones.

In other words, we didn't do the middle part -- good, solid jobs that aren't sexy but also aren't minimum wage.

In my own business, I know that I can -- to some extent -- count on a certain level of business on what I would call the easy stuff; and I always have a category or two that looks like something I want to pursue. But it's the solid middle, which I'm careful to continually support, that I fall back on when times are tough.

We didn't pursue 'enterprise zones' when things were booming, but I'd submit that that's exactly when a prudent planner should have been looking at enterprise zones.

I've said before, I'm surprised that we weren't doing the basics when we had the chance.


I feel McGrath's pain. Too much expansion, too fast, and on the foundation of an economic bubble. In a much smaller way, (four stores), I've been there. Later on, I applied the 'Peter Principle' to it: A owner will expand to his level of incompetence.

I'm talking about myself, here, and not making a judgment about McGrath's. Just saying to all new business owners that the temptation and the impulse is to keep growing, whether it's in your own best interest or not.


"Web of Words, Red Flags." Bulletin, 2/14/10.

Here's the kind of in depth story that I can't imagine a blog doing. And why we still need local papers....

With reporters who are paid to dig up, and who have access to, the information needed in this kind of expose.

I'm going to free up some time to read it in full.


Eat the rich.

It sure would be nice if someone could present some CURRENT estimates of population growth in Bend and Deschutes County. All these plans for new UGB's and new schools and such would seem to be based on projections that aren't valid anymore...

At worst, we should have a moratorium on expansions until it becomes clearer....


Interesting that the revoking of the two hour parking for Mirror Pond lot is being pushed through by Chuck Arnold. Last time he tried to do this, there was an uproar and a petition that was signed by nearly every downtown retailer.

It appears that Chuck just hadn't quite lined up the support he needed, yet. Persistent fellow.


I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the 'sales' statistics that show both Nov. 2009 and Jan. 2010 as being higher than December.

That just doesn't compute.

I'm missing something.


'Economic gardening.'

I'm not sure about this. Seems to me that I've known several local businesses that situated their businesses in particular locations after doing "studies." Didn't keep them from going out of business.

I think this is one of those "seat of the pants" decisions that can't be delegated to stats.

Not saying you shouldn't have as much information as possible: In fact, I've thought it probably necessary to actually live in a town for a few years to really make a good decision.

Not to say you couldn't get lucky. Or use just basic common sense -- i.e. locating a high foot traffic dependent store in downtown, or a high car traffic store on 3rd St.

I just don't think studies can quite capture the nuances of retail.

Of course, I realize that McDonald's and Burger King and probably most other big mass stores do extensive studies, and gauging customer flow probably helps them.

But for us smaller types, just making an informed guess is probably as valuable.


I'm not outraged that The Loft had the clout the get their liquor licenses by getting the law changed about 'private' clubs. I doubt it's going to make or break them.

I just don't care.

You couldn't pay me 2000.00 and 200.00 a month to join. (Well I'd take the money and never show up, I suppose.)

I'm just opposed to all the 'gated' communities and private clubs and exclusivity and such. Screw them. I subscribe to the Groucho Marx bon mot: "I wouldn't join a club that would have ME as a member."


I seem to have lost all interest in the Olympics. My Dad used to watch them from beginning to end. But many years ago I got really tired of the 'upbeat' back stories, and tuned out. They look like mostly made up events, anymore.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Nothing ventured.

I started this store on a shoestring, and was cash challenged all the way through the first three or four years. I finally borrowed money from the bank, after going up to the small business program at C.O.C.C. and creating a business plan.

By then the growth of sports cards was so spectacular that I could never quite catch up.

Then it all crashed, and I spent the next 10 or 15 years just trying to stabilize into a living wage.

(Boy does that reduce the first two/thirds of my career to a few sentences....but you've all heard it before...)

Anyway, about 10 years ago, I sat down and did the math and arrived at a daily sales total, and a margin, that I thought if I could just achieve it, would do everything I needed.

1.) Pay the overhead.

2.) Pay myself a living wage.

3.) Fully stock the store.

At the time, I was only about 60% of the way there.

It's tough on the little guy.

10 years later, I'm pretty much hovering at that figure, and I still think it's about right. However, if I was paying full wholesale for all my product, which is how I computed my plans back then, I'd need more than the original estimates because of the increases in costs.

What's happened is, as I reached and exceeded and then slid back down to my target figure, is that my store has become so full of inventory of so many different types, that I can be very selective in my buying. I can buy the best. I can buy some of the rest. And best of all, I can sit back and pick off bargains as they are offered.

Almost every week, there is a batch of good stuff that I can scoop up. I can do this because my cash-flow is finally able to accommodate this. I have enough in savings to stretch the budget when the opportunity arises. I can even, occasionally for very big offers, use credit.

It's a prime example of the concept that it takes money to make money. I have a funny feeling that much bigger stores than mine, who can buy direct from publishers, probably do even better.

But I'm finally big enough that it works for me, too. I save with volume discounts. I save with minimum free shipping. Because I sell 8 or 10 product lines, I have that many more chances of finding a deal in at least one of them.

My point?

I've always wondered if this would've happened years ago if I'd just been sufficiently capitalized.

But you know what?

I hate to say it.

I'm pretty sure, I would've made so many mistakes, the money wouldn't have helped. I would've pissed it away.

Some of this may come across as self-congratulatory, but it's not meant to be. It's offered as a lesson learned. The hard way. By doing.

If I was a venture capitalist, I think what I'd be looking for is a smart guy, who made tons of mistakes early, recovered from them, and has at least gotten back to square one. That's the guy who both needs the money and can probably do something useful with it.

(I want to make it clear, I'm not looking for investment. I'm not that ambitious. Saw a documentary about Colonel Sanders last night; he was broke at 65, and started his franchise around then. He sold the company for Two Million Dollars!!! --the company then sold to another company a few years later for 218 million, and is now worth billions.....)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

1 million dollars!! revisited.

So if I've got this right, we spent 23k on a study that tells us that this year was exactly like last year, (another 23K) when it comes to tourism.

So we've spent, say 46k on two studies? So we've spent 4.6% of the total 1 million spent by bikers to document that bikers spent money?

Question. How much did we spend in increased services? Police? Traffic control? etc. etc.

Not against events, mind you, just wondering....

Never mind, I'm still stunned by the 1 million figure. I think I was supposed to be impressed.

And I how dinky it was.


So am saying I'm against promotional events? Not at all. Just pointing out that they are often Emperor's Without Clothes.

But let me make it clear, I thoroughly enjoy parades with naked leaders. I think they should happen all the time. They are highly entertaining, depending on the physical attributes of the particular sovereign.

Punting the football.

The article on KTVZ about the surge in student loans at C.O.C.C., makes me wonder how many people are fending off disaster by borrowing from the future. Credit cards, drawing down on cash reserves, taking side jobs, etc. etc.

People can be pretty resourceful.

I try as a matter of principle to deal with today's problems with today's resources, though that's not always possible. But the thing I ask myself is: "If I can't afford it now, what makes me think I can afford it in the future?" Especially with added cost...


Housing prices have kept dropping so consistently, I think I lost track. I'm pretty sure our house (2003 prices) is currently worth about what we paid for it. I noticed early on, that we were just below the median prices -- so assuming that's still true, our house might be worth 'slightly' more than we paid, especially since we put in some major improvements.

Doesn't matter. Our payments are reasonable, and we've paid down the principle considerably. We like our house and intend to live here for the rest of our active lives....


Interesting that there is an article on 'disability insurance' in the Bulletin, today. This is something I never even thought about doing, but Linda took it upon herself to set up. We have the example of my sister, Tina, who was helped by such a policy. Seems kind of iffy to me, but Linda has fit it into her budget.


Brother Mike won't be visiting because of the snows in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, bright blue skies outside, hereabouts.


Was talking to employee Cameron, who was telling me that he had been drawing a diagram on the blackboard at school of the connections between werewolves, vampires and zombies. He had quite a list; but he left one out.

"What about sex?"

"True," he says. " with zombies?"

" know, werewolves and

"I suppose," Cameron mused. "It isn't necrophilia if they're still moving...."

He had a further joke about trying to hold down a zombie while putting on a condom, but I won't go there.....



So this person is charged with embezzling from St.Charles, and while charges are pending, she gets a job in Michigan, and does exactly the same thing?

You almost has to think that the second company is more at fault.

"Listen up, hens and chicks! We want you to meet our new accountant, Ms. Fox, who will be in charge of keeping count. See, ya!"


Speaking of embarrassing. The "Hot" issue of the Source. Really? You really want to go there?
Maybe I'm just an old fuddyduddy, but....that just seems cringey. It's so Paris Hilton-y; for that matter, it's so Perez Hilton-y. If they had come to take my picture, I would've said, no way. didn't they ask to take my picture?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When is a bookstore a bookstore?

Interesting snippet I found on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

"As independent bookstores struggle to compete with online booksellers and digital reading devices such as Kindle, Maine's largest music, movies, and video game retailer (Bull Moose) announced today that it will enter the book business."

Actually, I think this is going to be the new model of bookstores. And it's something similar to what, in a smaller way, I'm doing.

1.) Books, as hard as they are, I think are probably actually easier to sell than music, movies, and video games. Or for that matter, comics and games and cards. Retailers who have survived and thrived in the trenches of those industries aren't going to be as intimidated by books and will be willing to make changes to the model that old-line bookstores won't. The margins on books are actually pretty good, compared with most products, and there are return privileges, and -- best of all-- a huge backlog of proven sellers.

For someone like me, who has been trying to sell 'dated' material (comics and games) , or had horrible margins (cards and movies), books are somewhat refreshing, frankly.

2.) Bookstores have become hidebound in their approach. They think diversity means selling knick-knacks, or adding a coffee bar, or selling books online.

Well just about everyone sells product online, so that's not much of a competitive advantage anymore. Coffee bars in my opinion are more trouble than they're worth. But mostly, the product they are pursuing, best-sellers, Oprah books, etc. put them in direct competition to Barnes and Nobles, and to Walmart for that matter.

Meanwhile, used bookstores are stuck with outmoded trading policies, or the idea of 'rare' and 'valuable' and haven't (most of them) transitioned to the idea that books are a commodity, thus make the mistake of restricting the flow of books into the store. (You can always sell the 'rare' and 'valuable' books online.) Every time a bookstore turns away a customer because it already has too many John Grisham books or Tom Clancy books, is a lost opportunity, yet that seems to be the norm.

I believe the getting half-cash and half trade with every sale is the only reasonable policy, especially with the glut of books in the world. Strictly trading books for books, in a world of thrift stores, will simply bury you). But I believe that a minority of bookstores are trying for half cash -- though the percentage is rising every day, as the oldtime "book exchanges" die off.

And, in a mirror image, I think new bookstores are too resistant to Used Books, often, and that seems the minimum level of diversification.

3.) Real diversification is going to be what keeps all these media alive. While doing nothing but new books, or video games, or comics, or games, or cards, or movies, or music, or....any other specialty is going to get tougher and tougher, a combination of some of the above may actually be possible for the foreseeable future. If nothing else, carrying three or four full lines of specialization, gives you the opportunity to change.

Diversity allows for synergy. After all, people who like books, also like movies, who also like video games, etc.

Sure, by carrying more than one product line, you are going to be forced to be more selective in your purchasing, but that may actually help. Selling the best 20% of 6 product lines, for instance, theoretically would produce more sales than 100% of one specialty.

I stumbled across my mix, because my section of downtown transformed into a high foot traffic area instead of destination only. So, I try to have my anchor specialty --graphic novels and comics--, which pulls in my 'regulars', as well as product that will sell to browsers -- new books and games.

The other product, cards, toys and card games, are a mix of both.

I also stumbled into my mix because I could see that the Book Barn was leaving, and thought maybe I could sell the very 'best' books I could find. And when Gambit left, I thought I'd try to sell boardgames.

4.) I think this is a reproducible formula. An anchor specialty, 4 or 5 other strong specialties, a heavy foot-traffic area.

Or maybe we're unique.....

Unique is probably going to be what it takes-- whichever form that takes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Lonely Independent.

I was talking to a longtime comics publisher yesterday.

I'd gotten an e-mail, offering a significant sale, and mentioning that yes, they were a bit desperate to raise short-term cash.

So I talked to him about that. He's feeling discouraged, after being a major player for decades, and is ready to do something else. I told him to hang in there.

Thing is, he publishes two of the bestselling independent books I have, and I keep a couple of his series in stock, in full, in comic form, which is extremely rare. In other words, if anyone was going to succeed in the independent market, it's this company. (At one point, he carried a third bestseller, but that author got a major deal out of a major publisher, and deserted the ship.)

He informed me that he thought only about 50 to 100 comic shops consistently pre-order his product, and that it's less now than ever, despite all the media attention. I answered, that while I felt my brethren were wrong not to carry independents, as a small town store I understood their concerns. I have the advantage of tourism, and by constantly looking for opportunities, I've been able to stock my store to the point where it actually works to carry them. But it wasn't easy.

He said, he got tired of hearing that independents don't sell, but he appreciated what I was saying.

I also mentioned, from my perspective, that I was kind of hurt by the ill-will that some independents supporters seemed to have toward local comic shops, and how their wishing for the mass market to take over was both wrong-headed and short-sighted, and he sort of agreed.

I informed him that I carry all his books, as well as a strong selection of Top Shelf, Oni, Drawn and Quarterly, and Fantagraphics, and many others. But I admitted to him, that much of that stock was acquired by being very diligent about buying discounted stock whenever possible. I'm not sure how that helps him, except that I'm an independent comics carrier....

I asked him why, since he had some really great titles, no one was willing to invest in his company, or if he wanted someone to invest in his company.

He allowed as he might like that, but that "they just be buying me, and my expertise." He continued that he'd made a fundamental mistake in the beginning, by not taking partial ownership in the titles. "I'm just the publisher. The guy who did it right, who I should have been watching, was Mike Richardson."

We talked about Mike for awhile, and about all the great licenses that were floating around that no one was doing. (Mobieus?)

"All you need is for so-and-so to produce another work." I was referring to the bestselling author, who I sell the hell out of, but who has only produced a total of 2 books, and 3 small pamphlets. He laughed, dryly. "Yeah, I've been saying that for years. I think I feel fortunate that he's stuck with me at all."

I told him that --despite all the news about how hard it was for booksellers -- that from my perspective, having done both, that bookselling was twice as easy as comic selling. "You just can't get around that 1% of the populous reading comics..."

Anyway, it was interesting to talk to a longtime publisher about the difficulties of producing quality work and making it pay.

Sorry, no can do.

My main supplier back east has been knocked out by the snow storms. I have no access to their website.

I'll be getting my regular shipments, but my usual weekly re-order isn't going to happen this week.

It's always been strange to me, that I feel a small relief when I can't re-order. I don't spend money, and a penny saved is a penny earned.

Usually, I feel pressure to re-order best-selling product, and even more pressure to re-order special requests. And yet, if the product isn't in stock, or isn't available through acts of god, I'm perfectly O.K. with that. In fact, as I said, I feel a small relief.

I suppose it's because the responsibility is lifted off my shoulders.

You'd think I could internalize that difference -- just pretend that I can't get the stuff and then not order; but I get all itchy and twitchy.

I've gone weeks, months, even years without re-orders, but it's never been a good feeling. I've always felt like I was falling down on the job. At the same time, I've always made my best profits when I've resisted re-ordering; it focuses me on the most important product, and I tend to let the marginal product go, thus increasing my cash.

I've been able, over the years, to hold back re-orders when I had important bills to pay, such as taxes. But it has always felt like going on a diet, and everything I see seems to be something I think the store needs.

And yet, when Diamond decided on a skip week after Christmas this year, I welcomed it as a respite from spending.

Weird that.

Both things are true: Reordering increases sales and makes my store better which helps keep it strong in the long run.

Not reordering increases my profits.

I just have to figure out how to do both, huh? Impossible as that is.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Genius on vinyl.

Well, maybe even more of a genius on CD.

But vinyl is what I have, for so many of my favorites for the first 30+ years of my life. You know, I wish I'd stuck to vinyl and skipped the cassettes. CD's have their advantages, obviously. But vinyl sounds amazing.

By buying our big screen T.V., we cleared out our entertainment center. I had a CD player downstairs, but it was a bit wobbly (which has now happened several times.)

At some point, I had bought a funky antique-y looking record player, with CD and cassette elements. Little speakers; which still sound better than that old 'stereo' system that I spent a year saving up for in high school.

So I installed my funky record player next to my desk, and all the old albums are on the bottom shelf of the bookcase (well, maybe half of a previously half winnowed collection.)

Bob Dylan
Jimi Hendrix
Elvis Costello
Led Zeppelin
Joan Baez
Bruce Springsteen
Jefferson Airplane
The Doors
The Who
Dozens of Broadway plays (Mom and Dad's)
Beethoven and Mozart and many others (Mom and Dad's)
Folk albums (big brother and big sister)
Motown (Linda's)

and on and on. Up to about 1971 or so, got many of those old classic albums. Beat up, scratchy, but still listenable. More varied after 1971, pretty much skipped 1972-75; boy bands era; diva era; etc.

And I'm finding that it's easy to get up from my chair and flip the record.

I feel like I dug up a treasure.

Really, CACB?

Really, CACB?

A SuperBowl ad (local)? Is that really the best use of your money?

As of this writing, 12:30, Monday, you've hit a new low, .52.

You may need that money for moving vans....

I know, know...kicking them when they're down. I'm ashamed of myself.


How to watch the Super Bowl. (Also the Oscars.)

Go to a movie.

Tape the game.

Went to see Crazy Heart at 2:55, yesterday. Told Linda to turn off the radio, made sure I was on a non-news channel when the T.V. came back on.

Then enjoyed the movie.

Jeff Bridges is every bit as good as all the reviews say. How it feels to be an alcoholic. You can almost smell the sweat and booze and smoke reeking off the guy. Flawless.

I saw Waylon Jennings in a concert once. I'm pretty sure he was snockered.

The movie crowd was mostly older, and the theater was half full, which you'd have to say is pretty good for a Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. At the end, they were playing a song all the way through, and all but a few couples stayed through the credits. Long time -- maybe the only time -- since I've seen that.

Came back to the house, and started up the game.

Fast-forwarded all the annoying promo's -- though, for once, I watched most of the ads. The ad that really made me laugh was the ninja Doritos one. Even with watching all the ads and all the game, I think I cut a full hour off the process.

The Who had a nice light show.

Good game.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ad's suck. What am I, Unamerican?


It's your fault.

Double dip recession.

Damn you Greece!!!!!!


I've been pounding the "Sales" lists so hard, my Overall margin came in at 10% higher than normal this week (stuff ordered several weeks ago when the offerings were strong.) . I was starting to have my doubts about buying so much, but the last week of offers were pretty meager, so I probably timed it right.

Strike when it's cold.

Thing about liquidations; they are usually timed when you can least afford them.

That's why they're being offered.


Wow. Talk about your dated material. The Federal Economic Census of 2007 might as well be from the year 2020, for all the relevance it has. A curiosity.


Meanwhile, the Bulletin's BIKE EVENTS PROVE WORTH, was a well reasoned and data-supported argument.

I'm still not convinced.

I'm not arguing with the reasoning or the data. Just not impressed by the numbers.


Here's where I get in trouble.

But it seems to me that nobody else is willing to be the doubter. (Or maybe I'm the only doubter, I don't know.)

I could put an event on in my store every month, which would spike my numbers. Why don't I? Because I'm not convinced that the results are worth the effort, frankly. You ever notice how a new store will have myriad events early on, in their bright-eyed, frisky tail phase? And how the events diminish over time? Why do you suppose that is?

But if people are willing to put in the work and effort, I don't suppose it hurts any.

Let me insert here. I think there are indeed businesses who benefit from promotions and advertising. There is also a huge lobby for these things; the media, the organizational people whose jobs depend on creating such events, the people who sell at these events, the hotel and restaurants, and of course, the biggest constituency, the people who attend these events.

What am I, against fun?

No. I'm just saying that not every event is effective, and I'd argue that none of them are quite as effective as most people seem to think. This isn't all black and white, all or nothing.

But I don't actively oppose them. I'm willing to go along with them.

No, I'm trying for a nuanced appreciation of the costs and benefits. Like I've argued against having an event at every Peak Weekend of the year (summer and Christmas) and letting us stores have a few busy tourist weekends where we can do regular business. I'm not against all events, just TOO many events. O.K.?

So there's my not so hidden agenda: Not all events are cost effective, not all events are equally effective, not all stores benefit equally, and sometimes -- gasp -- it's best to just let a store be a store.

I'll just say, I've been skeptical of advertising and promotions for years, because it seemed like my money and effort were mostly wasted.

And, hey, I'm still here, and doing better than ever.

Promotions are all well and good. But it's your day to day business that counts. The same energy and money you put into 'events' could be put into better inventory, for instance. So instead of an immediate 10 or 20% spike in sales that lasts a week or two, you get an on going 2 or 3% that lasts.

It used to drive me nuts when I'd see Downtowners who were totally into constant promotion, and yet closed at 5:00, who weren't open on Sundays, who seemed not to want to work their own stores. Take care of the basics first, instead of spending all your efforts on "Second Tuesday Madness White Sale and Bike Race!!!!) I admit, this problem is less nowadays, as Sundays are much more active.

I actually have many examples in my own store history of "Events" that brought in what would have to be considered "Successful" levels of audience: and in the end, faded to nothing because they weren't focused on real interest.

I used to have huge crowds for Pokemon. Hoards of people for Beanie Babies. They were waiting in lines at the door for Pogs. They were banging down the door for Sportscards. (Ditto non-sportscards, comics, magic, etc. etc.)

And when all those people were gone, they were gone.

So you might argue that those were fads, and of course they were gone. But think of these as promotional activities -- I not only reached large numbers of people, they actually came in and spent money!

Turns out, that doesn't mean much. In my business, at least. I'll repeat that, "Not in My Business."

To me, promotions are just advertising, paid for by WORK and money instead of just money. I apply myself to my business, I expend my work and money on the contents of my business. My guess is that anyone TRULY interested in what I have to offer will check Google or the Yellow Pages; anyone who doesn't know I was here after 5 years, isn't TRULY interested.

My wife's business continues to garner new customers with every month that passes. She hasn't advertised a dime in 6 years, hasn't had a balloon filled, glittery event, she doesn't serve coffee and pastries, there are no festivals or hullabaloos.

She just shows up regularly every day, keeps her store comfortable and attractive and organized and clean; takes in used books, gives people credit, cleans the books, is knowledgable and friendly, and puts them out on the shelves at less than half the overall price of retail. She's located centrally, and on a busy corner.

Seems to work.

I'd rather have 5 new solid customers, than 50 people who were attracted by free wine, or people in spandex riding in circles...

But some of those 50 people might become customers!


Not so's I've noticed.

When I walked out of the store Friday night, the streets were absolutely jammed with people at the Art Hop.

Yesterday was one of the slowest foot traffic days I've seen in years.


On a related note. I was somewhat insulted over the last 5 to 10 years when a customer would say, "I didn't know you were here!" and they had been in town for 5 years or longer.

I'm still mystified how a Bend resident cannot be aware of my wife's store, which sits on the busiest traffic corner in town -- but it proves that people see what they want to see and they come in when they want to come in.

Anyway, I'm now seeing this differently. I'm now seeing this as proof that we still have plenty of potential customers.

How sad would it be if Everyone knew I was here, and the business I was doing was the business I would always do?

(Yes, I'm aware of the contradiction of complaining about not everyone knowing me or my wife's stores are here, and at the same time arguing against promotions and advertising. Just goes to prove, I really don't believe they are effective, because I have the need, but don't think those are the solutions....)



Of course not!

They're just anti-FUNDING of schools....


Ditto for the Jail measure.

Strong law and order themes in the Bulletin, week after week.

But as a letter to the Bulletin argued -- the solution seems to be to just take the miscreants into the desert and feed them bread and water.

I'm not saying I have a solution. I'm not saying that the unions might not be over- reaching.

I'm just saying, I don't understand how you can argue against any way of funding, and at the same time call for increased law and order and increased educational effectiveness.

The waste argument seems like a phantom.

That said: didn't we just build a new jail?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Middle Ground can't be Found.

I can't seem to find a middle ground in my business. I'm fine with an aggressive growth strategy; and I'm equally fine with a hunker down strategy.

With the growth strategy, I'm engaged in the business, having fun, buying product and moving things around, experimenting, testing, pushing the sales levels and then scrambling the cover the short falls. It's a voyage of discovery. Finding unexpected bestsellers, taking satisfaction in having that item that no one else has. Gathering compliments from out-of-towners who realize how good the store is.

What I'm not doing, is making money. I make my wages, and pay my bills. But all the rest goes toward improving the business.

When I'm hunkering down, I'm a bit disengaged, my real struggle is to stay patient, to wait for the right moment, to watch every expense like a hawk. I'm either doing without new product, or making the most of the product I have, or looking to squeeze more profit out of less. I keep up with the essentials, but more often buy an off item after a request, instead of having it in stock in the off chance I get a request.

And I make money. Real money. The store is still better than most stores, and during times of difficulty, I can take pride in earning a good profit. There is a certain satisfaction in making do, in butchering the old buffalo and using every bit; the horn, the skin, the meat. But....basically, it's a waiting game. I can't wait to go back to my growth strategy.

Why on earth wouldn't I take the Make Money route? I'm in business, aren't I?

Well, there is also the little matter of enjoying and taking pride in what I do everyday. Everyone who has a job probably knows all kinds of ways to cut corners. Some do, some don't. Every craftsman probably know tricks to shorten the process, or use inferior products.

In a sense, I believe what corporate has figured out, in a very cold-blooded way, is to squeeze for every dollar, and throw a few bucks for promotion to convince everyone the "the customer is always right" or that their 'associates' are the best they can be. But it's really about economy of scale, isn't it? If you can save a few cents on every item but sell millions and millions of them, you're really talking big money. The impulse to make the item a little better by spending a few extra cents just isn't there.

I repeat this, because I think it's really, really important: For the chainstores "the impulse to make an item a little better by spending a few extra cents just isn't there."

It isn't all altruistic, though. How else am I going to distinguish myself from the big guys? And who knows, maybe the extra really does in the end help me stay in business -- and you don't make any profit if you don't stay in business.

Can't prove a negative. I've had to hunker down a couple of times in my career. The first time, because I had no savings and no credit and was deep in debt and simply couldn't take any chances. And sure enough, after about 3 years of watching every dime, my sales were the lowest they've ever been. Fortunately, that was the bottom, and I was able to start a growth strategy around the same time.

Perhaps I've survived the ups and downs of business because I was always trying to improve the store, so that where one thing would stop working I'd have another thing in the wings to take it's place.

Over the last couple years, I realized that I simply didn't have any retirement, that even living modestly, it was going to be difficult to get by on just social security. That I was going to have to keep working full-time. There was still a chance I could get there, if I tried very hard to save for the next 10 years.

The recession hit at about the same time as I was ready to go into this mode. So I was prepared. I not only haven't lost money, I've gained some ground. Paid off the debts, put some money in savings.

This last year, I hunkered down a bit more. I chose to work everyday, instead of cutting back. But I wasn't pushing the envelope, either. As I've mentioned before, my inventory is the best it's ever been, despite the recession.

But I wouldn't mind filling in the little gaps, getting more books and games, getting second copies of best-sellers, and so on.

With sales now being up for five consecutive months, I'm starting to feel more comfortable about going for the growth strategy. The biggest factor is, that I'm not as worried about retirement, now. As long as I keep the income at about current levels, we'll be fine. I can afford a little help, and I can afford to take some chances. (Trust me, not foolish chances....I never want to be in the hole again.)

So it's onward and upward, hopefully.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Life in the weeds.

"Purpose In Life."

The article in the Bulletin about local artist Francisco Cristich caught my eye.

Way back in the early 80's, downtown Bend was pretty Bohemian, and we were all just scraping by. Francisco had a small gallery in a nook near where Toomie's is now. There's almost no one left from that original crew. (Joyce down at the Curiosity Shop is another survivor.)

Art (or small business, for that matter) just isn't a way to get rich, usually.

What's really admirable about him, is he's stuck to it. Doing his art. Living the lifestyle. He is genuinely devoted to doing his art, come hell or high water.

As implied in the article, and true in my case as well, sometimes longevity is due to simply not knowing what else to do, or the inability to give up, the sticking to what we know and trying to do it better, and finding meaning in the struggle.


I've been waiting for Crazy Heart to get to town for weeks. Weeks, I tell you!! The slow rollout strategy drives me crazy -- though my eagerness to see the movie sort of proves it works....

In Deschutes, About 1 in 10 Mortgages Is Delinquent, Report says:
By Andrew Moore / The Bulletin
February 05. 2010

One paragraph in the story really caught my eye:

"The county’s December mortgage delinquency rate of 10.22 percent was not nearly as high as other areas of the nation. Las Vegas had a mortgage delinquency rate of 21.08 percent in December 2009, and Stockton, Calif., had a mortgage delinquency rate of 17.63 percent..."

As usual, I feel it necessary to add the word -- YET. We are running a year or two behind Las Vegas and Stockton and we may yet get to their levels. If you'll allow the analogy: the hurricane has leveled the towns close to the coast and is heading inland.


We need to build more jails for all the cell-phone/ driving abusers...

They seem as prevalent as ever. I notice them, because they're the ones who are usually driving erratically.


So much for timing my retirement investment. I pulled out of cash and into mutual funds about 4 days ago. The stock market immediately plunged....


Store owner muttering to himself: "Why can't I get that? Why are they promoting it so heavily when it isn't available?"

The bane of a small store's existence is not being able to get saleable product. Mutter, mutter, darn publishers....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"I'm NOT Spartacus!"

Caught an episode of SPARTACUS last night.

The main character keeps insisting his name isn't Spartacus, which I think is an inside joke, though there isn't any other evidence of humor on this show.

I assumed this was a regular cable show, like Highlander or something. Mediocre and Lame.

Instead, this is a cross between Deadwood and The 300.

Lots of gratuitous nudity, sex, violence, and foul language.

Though, come to think of it, any amount of violence probably isn't gratuitous in a show about gladiators.

Lots of boobies. And I do mean boobies in the teenage fascination with boobies sense of the word. For the ladies, there is full frontal male nudity, as well. (Wait....a show featuring body-builders and full frontal nudity and close in wrastling....maybe it isn't so much for the ladies....)

First scene was a sex scene featuring Xena, Warrior Princess. She's still got the boobies, let me tell you.

The Deadwood part of the show was the absolutely filthy language. Which I didn't mind in Deadwood, because the actors were able to incorporate the sound seamlessly. In Spartacus, you can just feel the actors struggling to make the layering of Sh#$, and Fu%* and Cu*#'s and not really pulling it off.

Though my understanding of Romans were they were pretty damn crude about bodily functions.

Linda's only comment: "Did the Roman's have steroids, too?"