Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sat stats.

Sorry about the Shakespeare laden blog yesterday.

I googled to get one quote, and instead found quote after quote.

That Shakespeare is a pretty good writer. (I know, none of this is exactly a revelation.)

What kills me, is that so many of his best lines weren't created for the big "To be or not to be" type speeches, but are throwaway lines.

I suspect most modern writers would kill to have just one throwaway line become classic.

Maybe it's time to actually sit down and read Shakespeare straight through. Maybe I'm old enough to appreciate him. The language doesn't scare me as much as it used to. Maybe at 58 years old, I'm becoming about as smart as a smart 30 year old....maybe....


Been gardening in 3 hour stretches. Which still make me more sore than I used to get. Mighty sore. (By the way, we got Mighty Thor #1 in this week, heh.)

As always, I'm amazed how much can be accomplished in that time span, once I get to work.

My plan this year was to start subdividing existing plants, and filling in the blank spots. Many of the original plants were placed too close to each other and need to be moved around anyway.

But, looking at some of the empty spaces, I think I need to let them lie fallow one more year so that I can be absolutely sure I've eliminated the weeds. I probably need more plants in the back, and I think I need more shrubs in front. And I need soil.

Some of the refuse piles I started a few years ago have become dirt, but not enough of it. I probably should just get a dumpload of dirt and another of manure. Put them over the current refuse pile, and kill two birds. (Speaking of birds, I'll have to make sure there isn't a quails nest -- I don't really want to KILL two birds.)

The architecture of my lot is such that I could have a spectacular garden someday. Little by little.


I still have today to go, but it looks like this won't be the slowest month for Pegasus Books since the Great Recession started, but probably the second or third. The slowest was this January. So the trendlines aren't great.

But I'm talking about very small percentages, here. Less than 5% one way or the other.

What I find encouraging is that there seems to be a pretty solid floor, which is at or slightly above the baseline total I need to do a good job. I could survive at lower numbers, but it would be harder to have the kind of store I want.

My ideal total would be about 20% more than it is now. This was the goal I strove for throughout the 00's, and the store was well above it before the crash.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty good about it. The second half of the year is going to be better -- by failsafe.

Summer and Christmas.

The best thing I did was to lock into an automatic withdrawal for my savings -- so once I take care of that, all I need do is break even. This works so much better than the old idea of trying to save whatever was left over at the end of the month-- because of the way I spend, there was NEVER anything left over at the end of the month...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hamlet : Tis a fault to heaven

"The devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.2

I couldn't help it. The deals were too good. I had too much time on my hands.

The head is not more native to the heart."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.2

I'll just count it as part of summer budget -- summer is coming, right?

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.3

Like I said, in the previous post, it takes a constant flow of cheaper material to make the cheaper material work.

And it just makes the store better.

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.3

Hey, I'm showing faith in the store, and this was material that I needed for my store eventually.

"By indirections find directions out."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.1

Even though this may be just about the slowest month of the recession.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 2.2

But from now on, I shall order on best-selling material!

We go to gain a little patch of ground,
That hath in it no profit but the name."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 4.4

Hamlet-y anguish.

With great Hamlet-y anguish, I have forgone the last three major bargains of the month.

The distributors, especially Diamond, have been hitting me with one deal after another. I don't mind stretching my budget, because my theory is -- if I keep buying at lower discounts, then eventually the lower discounts start having a real effect.

If I back off at any point, then that thread might get broken.

But I stretched and stretched the budget this month, and I cry uncle.

I assume that the pace of offers might slow down a bit, but I doubt they'll go away anytime soon.

So I'm preserving my budget in the last few days to see what we get offered next.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upcoming flicks.

Was checking out Rotten Tomatoes and am amazed by the positive reviews some movies are getting.

Fast Five. 82%. --- Not really my kind of thing, except -- I like a good action flick and the reviews make this sound like something other than -- just -- noise.

Thor. 93% -- Well, the Australians really like this movie, so I guess we'll see if Americans like the same kind of movies...

The Beaver. 80%. -- I had no intention of watching this. It looked ridiculous. But apparently Gibson and Foster have pulled it off. Still have no intention of watching this.

Hobo with a Shotgun. 87%, -- A Snakes on a Plane title. But it sounds like gruesome fun.
I'll have to talk my wife into going. "No, really, honey. I'm sure it's a heartwarming drama.
The shotgun is probably just a metaphor...."

I think you might get away with this explanation once. After that, you'd be 'The boy who cried metaphor.'

Cave of Forgotten Dreams. 94%. -- If I had my druthers, this is the movie I'd see first. In 3-D.
I've always been fascinated by cave drawings. I had a print of a bison in my room when I was growing up. This really looks like a cool movie. But...foreign director; documentary. I hope it comes to Bend.

Dylan Dog. No reviews. -- Since it's opening this weekend, that's not a good sign. The trailers look pretty lame, which is a shame because it's based on a Euro comic.

Hey, you're a newspaper not a ticker....

The current Top 3 news stories on USA TODAY:

"Dozens of tornadoes kill 215 in in South."

"Dozens of tornadoes kill more than 250 in South."

"Dozens of tornadoes kill up nearly 250 in South."

As I was writing this, one of them changed to "nearly 270."

NOW you make this move?

So the latest news is that Barnes and Noble is supposed to start carrying monthly comics in a big way in June. (They've been carrying graphic novels for years now.)

This is obviously an attempt to piggyback on "Superhero Summer." Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men First Class, and Captain America are on schedule, to be followed by Avengers.

This assumes, of course, that the public will be inclined to buy comics because of the movies -- which is sort of doubtful. But I'm sure there will be some curious people, and there are people who would never wander into a comic store on a bet.

So the bright side of this is exposure.

Of which, I'm am doubtful as usual. Exposure doesn't mean a whole lot without intent or interest. But it's better than nothing.

Anyway, what I've always said is; comic are the one product that the mass market has never figured out how to sell. It's so specialized, that it's hard to know what numbers to order.

If -- and it's a big IF--they ever figured out HOW to sell monthly comics, the mass market could be a danger to us -- just as they have been in toys, games, cards, records, books, etc. etc.

As far as I can tell, they haven't actually figured out HOW to do it, but are just throwing comics on the wall. Much will depend on what kind of terms they got. If they can order tons of copies and return the unsold ones, then that could be a problem for me. I can't afford to over-order, because what I buy, I keep. It doesn't take a whole lot of extra comics to kill you. So -- I'm actually attempting to sell out every month on most comics.

Perfect ordering would be to have just enough to last the month on the popular titles, and maybe have one or two left. Perfect ordering would be to have just enough mid-list titles to sell out on the last day of the month. Perfect ordering would be getting just enough of the slower titles to satisfy demand.

The problem with Barnes and Noble's inevitable over-ordering will be that they'll have comics in stock past what most normal comic stores would dare. It may kill off their comic section, eventually, they may be bleeding money, but the customers don't know that.

If B & N get bailed out by Marvel or DC or Diamond, or whoever they have arrangements with, this could have an impact.

The other comic retailers over on the Comic Book Industry Alliance are almost completely dismissing the threat.

I'm not so sanguine. Like I said -- just ask indy bookstores or indy record stores if the mass market was a challenging competitor.

One retailer assured me that comic publishers were "too smart" to allows returns. That allowing returns would kill them. Well, we don't really know how "smart" they are, or maybe, how desperate. They may be willing to take the gamble. They may think they have figured out safeguards. (For instance, adjusting the discount rate.)

I guess after watching the smart MBA grads at the book publishers and game producers and card makers make one stupid, short-sighted decision after another, I don't have quite as much faith in the "smartness" of ANY corporate entity.

One thing's for sure -- SOMEONE is going to eat a bunch of extra and damaged comics.

I used to go into Waldenbooks, and the comics would be thrashed. They'd be in the corner, and it was obvious that no one cared about them. Customers pick up that attitude.

But we don't know that that will happen this time. Maybe they are under instructions to put comics front and center. Maybe they have a new genius ordering manager. Or some new algorithm that has totally sussed it out.

So, I'll be keeping a wary eye.

I think, like I said at the beginning, that this is an attempt to tap into the popular consciousness. The problem with that, is that once ensconced, comics may stay there. (I've noticed that no matter how bad a something declines, once in the mass market, they tend to stay there...)

It may even be a sign of desperation on the part of B & N.

I'm surprised, actually, that both the publishers and the mass market decided that now was the time to try this.

We'll see.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Qwest ain't the best.

Way back when I first connected to the internet at my store, Qwest had an offer of: "Sign up now and get this price forever."

I was told a couple of years ago, by a customer, that almost no one had that service anymore.

Yesterday I got a call from a Qwest guy. After hanging up on him, as usual, he called back and told me he wasn't trying to sell me anything.

"That's what they all say." But since he took the step of calling back, which never happens, I listened.

Turns out they were canceling my service because they "no longer had a contract with the company."

"Yes, but you have a contract with ME. And the agreement was that I would get this service at this price as long as I needed it."

"I can't do anything about that," he said. "Do you want the new service or not?"

"Do you know you work for a scumbag company?"

End of conversation.

So I may not have internet service as of the first of May at the store. I'll get something new, I suppose, but I'm so sick of the companies unilaterally pulling the rug out from under me that I can't even think about it.

Of course, the new service will cost more.

The Balls.

I really do try to stay away from politics.

But the balls of the following statement (from USA TODAY) had me spitting up my coffee.

"Meanwhile, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus called the issue "a distraction" but seemed to blame Obama for the furor. "Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy."

Oh, yeah. It was Obama's "talk about birth certificates."

Have these people no shame?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peaceful blogging.

I have to admit, I've been a little surprised that I've not been attacked more often. I've heard many horror stories from other bloggers. So either I have a thicker skin than others, or I've escaped the worst.

I post something everyday. I'm pretty sure not everyone likes what I'm saying. I've gotten the impression that some Downtowners don't like my blog -- but I've also got the feeling that those not liking my blog often haven't actually read it. (A strange phenomenon that; I've seen it in my business over the years -- people believe what someone says instead of coming in and checking it out themselves.)

Anyway, I learned early on, that I need to stick to a subject -- and not personalities. I have to remember that if I post a name, there is a chance that the owner of that name will find out and read what I say. This blog has taught me that I don't have all the information to make judgments, so my opinions are always couched in the language of "I could be wrong about this, but this is what I think..."

I have no desire to make people feel bad.

So I try to stick to issues, not personalities.

I've tried to stay away from politics, except in the most general way.

I'll state that I'm a pragmatic liberal; and some of my best friends are conservative. But I don't think I can change anyone's political leanings one way or the other.

I don't respond to what mild attacks and disparagement's I have received, but instead try to deflect them.

Even when I'm feeling outraged, I find that using over-the-top language, while fun and attention getting, tends to lose the point of the argument. In other words, if you say something in a reasoned and un-attacking tone, just about anything can be addressed.

Because it's my blog, I figure if anyone becomes too aggressive or nasty, I can delete and ignore. I haven't had to do this but a handful of times.

Usually -- you know who. Buster amuses me, and he does say some very pertinent things. I try not to take offense -- but I wish he wouldn't personally attack others. I've let some attacks against Bruce, and Hollern, and Moss, and so on go; with a bit of a cringe, and thinking they are big boys and girls, and hoping they don't think it's me agreeing with those things.

I've tried not to comment on other people's blogs. I think everyone and anyone should able to say anything and everything they want. I may not be as intrigued and interested in Basset hounds, for instance, as some other blogger, but that's neither here nor there.

There is no reason why a blog can't be pertinent and pointed -- but at the same time calm and reasoned.

By the way, this entry isn't an invitation to start attacking. Just a kind of gratitude that that hasn't happened much.

Downtown Comings and Goings.

Hey, I like scooping the news as much as the next guy. I new about the new yogurt place last week, however all I could glean from my 'scout' was Bend Frozen Yogurt, and I knew that couldn't be right.

Anyway, according to the Bulletin this morning, it's called Bend Yogurt Factory. It's going into the Di Lusso Bakery space.


Bend Yogurt Factory, Franklin/Bond, 4/26/11.
High Desert Lotus, Bond St. , 4/4/11.
Tryst, Franklin Ave., 3/11/11. (Formerly Maryjanes, **Moved**).
D'Vine, Wall St. , 2/9/11.
Let it Ride!, Bond St., 1/29/11.
Gatsby's Brasserie Bar, Minnesota Ave., 1/8/11
Tres Jolie, Wall St., 12/20/10.
Caldera Grill, Bond St., 12/7/10
Bond Street Grill, 12/7/10.
Perspective(s), Minnesota Ave., 11/20/10
Toth Art Collective, Bond St. 11/20/10
Boken, Breezeway, 11/20/10
Dalia and Emilia, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Antiquarian Books, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Giddyup, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
The Closet, Minnesota Ave., 8/11/10.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Ave., 8/11/10,
Red Chair Art Gallery, Oregon Ave. 7/13/10.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 7/12/10.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 6/2910
Common Table, Oregon Ave. , 6/29/10.
Looney Bean Coffee, Brooks St. , 6/29/10.
Bourbon Street, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
Feather's Edge, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
The BLVD., Wall St. , 6/13/10.
Volt, Minnesota Ave. 6/1/10.
Tart, Minnesota Ave. , 5/13/10
Olivia Hunter, Wall St. 4/5/10.
Tres Chic, Bond St. 4/5/10
Blue Star Salon, Wall St. 4/1/10.
Lululemon, Bond St. 3/31/10.
Diana's Jewel Box, Minnesota Ave., 3/25/10.
Amalia's, Wall St. (Ciao Mambo space), 3/12/10
River Bend Fine Art, Bond St. (Kebanu space) 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota Ave. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota Ave. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota Ave., 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe, 25 N.W. Minnesota Ave, Suite #7. 11/5/09
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09 (**Moved, Wall St.**)
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 (*Moved to Oregon Ave. 4/5/10.)
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
(Fall, 2008 or so).


Donner's Flowers, Wall St. 3/11/11. (**Moved out of downtown**)
Maryjanes, Wall St. , 3/11/11. (new name, Tryst, moved to Franklin.).
Di Lusso, Franklin/Bond, 2/9/11.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 1/2/11
Marz Bistro, Minnesota Av., 12/20/10.
The Decoy, Bond St., 12/7/10.
Giuseppe's, Bond St., 12/1/10.
Ina Louise, Minnesota Ave., 11/3/10.
Laughing Girl Studios, 10/21/10
Dolce Vita, Bond St, 10/21/10
Diana's Jewell Box, Minnesota Ave., 10/15/10.
Lola's, Breezeway, 10/8/10.
Oxygen Tattoo, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Great Outdoor Clothing, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Volcano Vineyards, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
Subway Sandwiches, Bond St. 9/2/10.
Old Bend Distillery, Brooks St., 6/19/10.
Staccato, Minnesota Ave. 6/18/10.
Showcase Hats, Minnesota Ave., 6/1/10 (Moved to Oregon Ave., 8/10/11.)
Cork, Oregon Ave., 5/27/10.
Wall Street Gifts, 5/26/10
Microsphere, Wall St. , 5/17/10.
Singing Sparrow, Franklin and Bond, 5/15/10
28, Minnesota Ave. and Bond, 5/13/10.
Glass Symphony, Wall St., 3/25/10
Bend Home Hardware, Minnesota 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
(Fall, 2008 or so.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

5-year cycle?

I think there is like a five year institutional memory around here; new reporters, new city officials, new businesses, new customers.

New residents. The Bulletin published a truly astonishing stat about mid-way through the bubble, that 75% of the population of Bend had been here less than five years.

I've often said; I think the first couple of waves of immigrants to Bend adapted to Bend culture, took a look around before trying to change it all -- there were the occasional big shots who came to town to "Show Us" local yokels how it should be done, but they almost always crashed and burned. But most of them moved here because they liked the way it was, and settled in.

The last and biggest wave --was a whole nother breed. They seemed intent on changing Bend into what they had escaped. "OH, thank God, we FINALLY have a Pier One!"

Plus, they had no problem trying to change Bend without understanding the underpinnings. We aren't Portland, or even Eugene or Salem or Medford. We're isolated, we don't have a true 4 year college, we don't have an interstate, and we don't have a surviving native industry --

We have tourism, which is "the minimum wage" for most workers.

It also explained why my longevity in business didn't count for much, and why I would constantly get the remark "I didn't know you existed."

Ironically, about mid-1995, just about every local seemed to know about us -- and 15 years later, very few did.

Pardon me, if I feel the fault is on the part of the newcomers for not looking around. Not settling in. Trying to "improve" everything, without understanding anything.

They liked Bend, and then they changed it.

I could wish they hadn't been so -- I don't know, arrogant. I wish they had just settled in.

Instead of just stomping on the local ethos.

Green Madness.

Here we go again.

Like clockwork, every five years or so someone gets the brilliant idea of closing off the downtown streets.

Hell, I remember my best friend in high school, Wes Hare, who is now city manager of Albany, being part of a study that looked at a "downtown mall" idea back around 1970! (They concluded, if I remember rightly, that it might not be a great idea.)

Around 1985, just after I bought Pegasus Books, there was another sustained movement to close the streets. The "old reprobates" as I called them -- the shoe repair shop next to me, the barber shop across the street --- thought this was a horrible idea. I didn't know. It sounded kind of cool, except I remembered what Wes had said. Again, it didn't happen.

Eugene and Coos Bay both struggled with downtown malls.

As the years went by, not only did I conclude this would be horrible idea -- but I began to dislike even the weekend street closures, for festivals and such. It always seemed to hurt my business, and I saw NO evidence it created future customers. I just don't buy the notion anymore.

What happens, I think, is that you have a strong lobby for street closure -- the event planners, the media, a few stores who benefit, the vendors, the downtown organization whose reason for being is to create such events, and most importantly, the public itself.

Against that, you have a very weak opposition. You've got a downtown full of one third newbies, one third paying no attention, and the last third split between the few retailers who actively dislike these events and those who love these events.

At one point, the city council passed a limit -- but like all limits, there have been a number of loopholes and exceptions. Night events become all day events (Twilight Criterion); informal parades become official parades (Earth Day) and so on. Plus, since there are a limited number of events, they began to cluster around the "Core Weekends", as I call them; the busiest weekends of summer (which ironically would be packed with customers if left alone...)

I've given up, except for what H.Bruce Miller calls my "yearly rant" on this blog. The idea of closing streets sounds like a great idea -- on the surface.

So, today's Bulletin: "Downtown Bend, But Better." Another street closure idea, this time in service to the "Green."

Better for who? I can say right now, it wouldn't be better for my business. In fact, I wouldn't stick around. Period.

You know all those difficulties they have down by the river park? Just multiply that for the rest of downtown. You know that sense of busyness you get when you go downtown? That would be replaced by a few pedestrians -- who even if they equaled the actual number of shoppers would FEEL like much, much less.

It would be a pretty but static picture, when we need an interactive video game. (Cars create a sense of movement, folks. Parking, bustling. Don't underestimate it.)

Parking? Come on. The parking garage is almost never full-- in fact, if you're willing to walk one or two levels, NEVER full. It's no further to walk than most malls. But even there -- if people are balking at parking in the garage now, isn't that just a warning to all of us as to what would happen if they forced people to park outside the zone? Too busy? Isn't that like what Yogi Berra said about a restaurant? "No one goes there anymore, it's too busy...."

I want casual shoppers, people who drop by for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes. Not people who make a day trip of it.

On my travels, the best downtowns I've seen are Ashland and Bend, and neither have closed off the streets. I've seen dead downtowns which were turned into very pretty but very stale and sterile cityscapes.

This is like very expensive and dangerous plastic surgery, that could turn out very badly.

Downtown Bend is vibrant. It has very low vacancy rates. Don't mess with what works, dammit.

I don't suppose I really have much to worry about -- where's the money? Nor could they put these plans in place before I finish my career. (Greenwood closed off? Mercy me.)

I think these people need to look at some of the more recent studies of vibrant downtowns. I believe there is a consensus now that having a mix of businesses is best, having arteries is best.
Having a few older buildings isn't all bad. Having a few funky businesses just adds to the flavor.

It's like, since Juniper Ridge has been such a roaring success, they've decided that more pie in the sky plans are needed. More millions spent.

Hell, they can't even fix the potholes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Contemplating the N.Y. Times again.

I don't know why I feel guilty when I spend the better part of the afternoon reading the New York Times.

It's surplus info, really.

Maybe it's sitting on the couch, on a nice day; I can hear my Mom's voice -- "Get outside and do something!"


Speaking of guilty, they published some spring poems, each of which had a line I underlined:

"pride greed wrath sloth lust a list compiled by a parent always needing something to forgive you for..." Privet Hedge, Ellen Bryant Voigt.

Or this, about allergies:

"Riven & sweltering & swelling, they come into the body's sad lake, its blue bag of steam."
Allergenesis, Kiki Petrosino

And this, about a songbird:

"And he wouldn't work harder at his song,
if all the world prized it,
nor temper what sounds like ardor
if a public though him wrong."
The Word From His Song, Li-Young Lee


I've noticed, I read the first section of the N.Y. Times last, because it seem the least useful to me these days.

The first section is mostly topical news.


I get most of that news online, these days.

The newspaper really serves as more of magazine; more in-depth article and stories.


The Times also has more than it's share of puff pieces. The fashion news mostly leaves me cold, except to look quizzically at the bizarre clothing that no human would wear outside of 5th Avenue.

The Business section always has a couple of interview-the-C.E.O. columns which are totally useless. (I don't think any C.E.O. knows how to talk anything but useless generalities, jargon, and New-age businessspeak. Candor? Revealing? Forget about it.)


Strangely, it's the only newspaper sports page I'm currently reading. Probably because it is more like the above mentioned magazine, than a simple recording of games and results.


Even applying myself, I can't read the whole paper in one day, so I hold back my favorites; the Book Review and the Magazine, to savor later.


Hey, if I'm going to spend hours reading the damn thing, it has to be blog fodder!

The Bicycle Pub and other oddities.

Have you seen the Bicycle Pub?

Weird looking thing. Those people are really peddling away.

Really working for their beer. They look a little like galley slaves.

It seems totally unappealing to me.

I doubt the wisdom of it.

Last time I exercised and drank at the same time, I threw up.


Put the book "SALE" table out on the sidewalk. .50 for paperbacks, 1.00 for hardcovers.

I can already see that it is pulling people into the store.

Need to remind my employees to point out the other used books inside the store to these people...


Did my first gardening yesterday.

I want to ease into it this year, so I don't burn out, so I did only a couple hours. As I was coming in, my cat was going out.

So I went back out and did another hour outside while she meandered around the garden and Panga and I bumped heads. She loves it when we're outside.

Saw a quail pair acting peculiarly around the brush pile. I suspect they have a nest, but I didn't go look. I'm pretty sure they'll be safer there than they were in the front of the house a couple years ago.


5 "Most Popular" stories this morning on USA TODAY:

1.) Was Emma Watson Bullied out of Brown?
2.) Kate Hudson Hates Her New Big Breasts.
3.) Lindsay Lohan Released From Jail.
4.) They're Not Guys; New Gear For Female Soldiers.
5.) Pattinson's No Longer In the Twilight Zone.

We are a shallow people.

Only one of those stories really seems to matter.

Yep, Kate Hudson's Hateful Big New Breasts.


Super Hero Summer.

I just now beginning to realize how much I'm going to be talking about Super Hero's this summer.

Green Lantern.
Captain America.

I feel like I'm missing one.

Anyway, most everyone in the door will be wanting to talk about these movies -- which I can understand, but boy, it'll start repeating itself pretty quickly.

Oh, well. Maybe a few new customers will pick up a graphic novel.

I've got a huge stack of Thor graphic novels, and a stack of Green Lantern, but none of them are one to one with the movies. There isn't a "Go To" storyline, as there was with The Watchmen, or Scott Pilgrim, or Hellboy.

I'm going to try to be open, but realistic.

I once figured out if like one half of 1% of the opening weekend movie goers bought that month's comic, sales would double...


Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Putting on the Clown Suit."

There is an extensive interview of three comic retailers over on Comic Book Resources , in which one of the retailers says about digital comics: "Only a fool ignores a tsunami."



I don't quite believe it. I think it is vast overstatement.

Especially this comment:

"It’s the difference between radio and television. And it’s here. Think about that. Print comics are radio. Digital comics are TV."

Oh, come on.

I just deep down don't buy the idea. In fact, I've been arguing the opposite. That digital can't replace the tactile experience of reading books and comics. (I won't go into all the reasons here; I've stated them over and over again.)

But with the realization that I could be wrong -- with the understanding that I have been wrong in the past with the advent of new technology...well......

...if I'm wrong, I'm near enough to the end of my career, that I can bail if I need to. ( A nice luxury that.)

Personally, I think there will be room for the old-fashioned bookstore, and the old-fashioned comic store, and the old-fashioned game store, and the old-fashioned record store --- not a whole lot of them but maybe one per town. And ironically, that one store may survive because the big boys -- the Blockbusters and the Borders and the Barnes & Nobles and the Best Buys crumble, leaving the field to those who remain faithful.

I mean to be that one store.

I call it "Making a virtue of necessity."

I've been hearing the opposite thing for the last 10 to 15 years. The internet is the answer. Having promotions is the answer. Outreach, advertising, special events....any and every harebrained idea, everything but, you know........... being a store.

A store. Selling product. (Book-books). Displaying and servicing and being knowledgeable about product. You know, all that boring stuff.

Take care of the basics. Have the product. Have enough, but not too much of the product. Display it nicely. Make sure you buy at as cheap of prices as possible, and sell for the best price possible. Know your product. Interact with the customer. Greet them when they come in the store. Make sure you keep regular hours. And so on.

No, we're doomed if we don't have a circus in front of our store every summer weekend.

I call it "Putting on the Clown Suit."

Hey, you know that girl with the guitar sign on the corner of 3rd Street and Wilson? It may be that all her dancing is effective -- but, really, is it worth it?

So I will reside in my dignity and look people in the eye and say, "We sell books. We sell comics. We sell games and toys and cards and DVD's. We don't discount. We don't sell online. We don't sell coffee and no, you can't sit at a table and play games all day, or lay on the couch and snore with a opened book over your eyes...."

We don't do anything but be a store. A real store, you know, with product....

I'm pretty used to the fact that the vast, vast majority of people don't know about my store. Despite having been in the same damn location for nearly 30 years. Despite having the same smiley (?) face behind the counter. Despite diligently doing my job.

I'm used to the fact that the vast, vast majority of people walk past my store.

I'm used to the fact that of those who do wander in my store, most don't buy much if anything.

So what else is new?

What I don't buy is that "Putting on the Clown Suit" will change the fundamental nature of that fact.

Here's what's kind of funny to me.

Most of those store owners who ARE interviewed about "Putting one the Clown Suit" appear to be way more worried about the future than I am. And what is also funny is all the stores that have come and gone in the last decade or so proclaiming to the high heavens that the way to survive is to promote, promote, promote.

And most of them are gone. Gone....and I'll bet you anything, they are still thinking probably that they didn't promote enough...

Maybe not funny. More sad.

I'd love for more people to know about my store.

I'd love for more people to walk into my store.

I'd love for more people to buy once they are in my store.

But I don't believe that "Putting on the Clown Suit" will accomplish that.

My longevity and viability and satisfaction in my store, bear that out, I think.

And like I said, I'm near enough to the end of my career that I can bail out if I have to. But I really believe that won't be necessary. I'll watch the circus outside my store and on the internet and shake my head and just keep on doing my thing...

So I will reside in my dignity and look people in the eye and say, "We sell books."

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Oh I used to be disgusted..."

"Oh i used to be disgusted
And now i try to be amused.
But since their wings have got rusted,
You know, the angels wanna wear my red shoes."

I totally have a hankering for Elvis Costello, My Aim is True era. And London Calling , The Clash. I wonder if Ranch Records has them in stock as CD's?

Called them, and they had both. Gave them my credit card number and asked them to deliver.

Hey, it's only a block away, you know. Shop local. Get it now. See the smile.


My friend Clint came in to the store yesterday, and had a list of comics he had downloaded from a site called Turns out, they have short fan reviews, and comments on each title, and it made him interested in several he hadn't tried before.

After he left, I got to thinking. This is the KIND of promotion I wish I could do if I was more tech savvy and had more time.

Then again, why reinvent the wheel?

I'm sure both ifanboy and I would benefit if I tried pointing all my customers in that direction. The site doesn't seem too obnoxious about selling comics; though they do have ads from Amazon. Then again, I don't think Amazon or online buying is a secret nowadays, and I figure my customers are comfortable buying comics from me. So I'll chance it.

I think I'm going to try to make a point of telling every single regular about the site. Hell, it would be better than me doing it, because a third party always has more credibility.

So going to try that.

I'll leave the "Weekly Review" page on my store computer to show people, and then give them each a Pegasus Books business card, with the website address on the back. So's I won't sound obnoxious and repeat myself too much, I'll reach for the card and say, "Have I given you my business card yet?" If they say no, then I'll tell them about

Thing that has always been difficult here, it getting people aware of the new comics -- they mostly feel overwhelmed, so when I try to show them, they usually back away. This would be less threatening, I think.

And if each customer got interested in just a couple of new titles on average, it would have a dramatic effect on sales.

(Further refinement, write my blog title on the back of each card, and tell people about it, and tell them they can connect to my Pegasus Books site as well. Simple stuff I haven't done.)


Whenever I get an idea like this -- or something new needs to happen at the store-- or I need to remind my employees of something, it's been a difficult task to know what I told to who.

So I've started writing these down on a piece of paper, with the names of Matt, Jasper and Cameron on the top. And as each is told, I put a checkmark next to their name. A simple thing, that seems to be working.

These are the kinds of refinements to business that I simply wasn't doing over the last decade because most of my attention and focus was on getting inventory in the store, and debt out of my bank accounts. Now that that is done, I feel more comfortable trying to work on things like efficiency and saving on discount levels and postage and stuff like that.

I dont' want to complicate things, though. I feel it's important to be simple and focused on the task of selling product to customers. I've seen too many small businesses get distracted by procedural stuff, the stuff that happens BEHIND the counter instead of IN FRONT of the counter.

So, as long as it's simple and effective, I'll be trying some of these things.


The Human Cost.

The Bulletin this morning had a startling statistic: there were four suicides last month in Bend.

Now, I don't know how many of these suicides can be attributed to the economy, but chances are -- it doesn't help to be young and unemployed and hopeless or old and unemployed and losing your house.

We know that the horrible murder/suicide lately in the news might be traced back to day trading and the loss of the retirement nest-egg.

Compare that the high flying stock market, and multi-million dollar bonuses, and the upbeat news, and the hopeful new businesses and you'd think we were pulling out of this thing.

Yesterday's article in the Bulletin about housing starts, trumpeted a 45% increase in the first quarter of 2010. Which, if you read a little closer, is an increase of 31. Total building works out to about 33 per month -- which is still a bare fraction of the number during the housing boom.

I appreciated that the article included the caveats that I always try to point out: "Much of the recent home building has occurred in developments under way when the economy imploded in late 2008. Permits, or plans, for some had previously been approved..."

I know in my own business that it isn't always the best plan in the face of a downturn to keep cutting and cutting -- sometimes you have to buy and improve just to show you're still in the game, to make a point, to try to interest people in the "new."

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't easier to sell a newly built house than a new house that has been sitting on the market for over a year. (Sort of like, I suspect it's easier for a newly unemployed person to find a job than one who has been sitting on the couch for over a year.)

It's as much psychology as it is real need for more houses. That and finishing up the job that you've already paid and been approved for...

I was talking to an older man from Sisters who had lost his house. He had bought at the absolute peak, but figured he could always get his money back "even if the house drops in half." (Boy, does that sound familiar -- it was my constant refrain during the first couple of business bubbles -- "We'll be all right, even if it drops in half.")

This man had been a professional, and had earned a good income through his life, and it was all gone.

Both Linda and I have had pretty slow months. It just doesn't feel like people are in the mood to spend money right now. I've got some hopes for summer, which is getting closer and closer, because I do believe other parts of the state and country are doing better than we are, and tourists might be willing to spend money.

Anyway, my overall feeling is -- despite all you hear or read, that Bend hasn't really started a recovery yet. We're really lucky that people still want to move here and still want to start businesses -- but that is only making the hole smaller, not disappearing the hole.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday threads.

Real snow on April 21. I expect a Bend Sux column today.

To newcomers to the area: this can be a dangerous time of year. When my son was in college, two of his friends asked him to go hiking with him. He couldn't go with them. The two got caught in a sudden blizzard and one of them died from hypothermia.


In a tangential way, Sandy Meyers sounds like another victim of the economy. Her husband was involved in "day trading" and had "substantial" losses. But it's on his head. Money is only money.

I think the police are trying to cover their asses about the body location. The family members found the body through information "given to them by police."


Cause the police would never think to check the backyard.


This is so apropos to my comments about fantasy and comics credibility, that I have to post. N.Y. Time Sunday Magazine, 4/18/11:

"Every would-be writer needs comic books. I certainly did. I can still vividly recall my discovery of comic books, followed closely by the revelation that this reading stuff was actually good for something. Because comics had it all over Readers. Comic books had pictures, and so did Readers, bu in comic-book pictures somebody was flying or punching somebody, while in my Reader little Sally was crying about her little read boat.

Even in my prepubescent days I had this vague feeling that Wonder Woman had it all over Jane, although I couldn't put my finger on the reason. I did know that watching Spot run was a real drag, when I could watch Krypto the Superdog fly instead. And I knew that if they ever met, Krypto would bite Spot's head off.

So I read every comic I could get my hands on, and my reading got better and better. My teachers soon began to marvel that I read with such "expression," while the read of my class I knew the reason. You need a lot more expression for, "Aha, Superman, now my red kryptonite will turn you into a BOILED EGG!" than you do for "See Spot run. Run, Spot, run." So the schools don't do it.

Remember comic books. Maybe your kid won't be as quick as I was, and regular comic books won't do, but even that's no problem in this day and age. There's always the undergrounds. "Tales of the Leather Nun" should do it every time.

"Adapted from a speech delivered by George R.R. Martin at Ambercon 3 in Wichita, Kan., on May 31, 1981."


I've decided not to say anything about our new esteemed district attorney. He sounds like the kind of guy who might decide to retaliate.

But I will say this. To the Bulletin:

Couldn't you have come up with all this revealing information BEFORE the election? Instead of spending the previous years tearing down Dugan and then giving him a lukewarm endorsement?


I hope Utterly Boring won't mind me stealing his blog entry yesterday in it's entirety. Too funny to pass up:

Was This A Cow Suicide Mission?

Was the cow out there fighting back, or was this just an accident? You be the judge:

MADRAS, Ore. -- A truck hauling frozen beef struck and killed a cow on Highway 97 north of Madras Tuesday night, triggering a fiery crash that caused no injuries but destroyed the rig, damaged the trailer, sideswiped another truck and shut the road for four hours, Oregon State Police reported.
The cow's mission wasn't accomplished, as the frozen beef was moved to another trailer.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A visit from a rep. Finally.

After 20 years, I finally got a visit from a Diamond rep.

Heck, I understood why they had never visited. A three and half hour drive over the mountains, and then a three and half hour drive back -- or even further in this case to the next store.

Tim e-mailed me he was coming, and said, "I've always wanted to visit Southwest Oregon."

Well, that stopped me. I wondered if he knew just how bloody big eastern Oregon is, far it was from S.E. Or.

" realize that Bend is in Eastern Oregon, right? Toward the Central part of the state?"

"Oh...right... Well, after visiting your store, I'm heading south to Klamath Falls and Grants Pass and on to Ashland and then to North Bend."

I thought to myself, I hope he realizes that's a mammoth drive.

Anyway, he showed up right on time on Tuesday. And I gave him an extensive tour of my store.

I'm very proud of my store, and I don't get a chance to show it to people who have seen lots of other stores and can give me an appraisal.

Diamond has a feature on their website called, "From the Road," where they do a short interview with the owner and show six pictures of each profiled store. ( I'm not sure if the feature is available to guests.) One of the questions was, "How big is the store?" and when I told him it was 1000 sq. ft., he said, "NO.....that can't be right. Wow. You really have packed in the merchandise...."

I bought some pizza slices from Pizza Mondo for me and Cameron and Tim, and we had a nice long talk. He said is wife had been jealous that he was coming to Bend, because she had heard good things about it. "But since she just got back from Jamaica, I didn't feel too sorry for her..."

Tim had analyzed my orders, and had a list of suggestions. Plus product that was on Sale. I ordered some stuff, because I think this rep program is important. Diamond really needs some people out there on the ground to observe what's happening....

Turns out, he was going to stay overnight in Klamath Falls before he continued his trip.

Anyway, it was a pleasant visit and I think he was impressed. "People ask me all the time what my favorite stores are, and I have a new one to add to my list."

Awwww. I bet he says that to all the stores.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A kingdom for a pencil.

Two sets of dreams, last night.

In the first, there is a very important vote, and I'm supposed to write six names on a piece of paper and put it in the ballot box.

Except every time I try to write, something goes wrong. The paper is two small, or it breaks up, or it's too dirty, the pencil breaks, the pens run out of ink, on and on.

And I'm also forgetting the names, and having to ask the other guys again and again for the names, and I memorize them, but when I try to vote the same things happen and I start forgetting......

The second dream is, I'm an intern for a very prestigious organization. It's starts off good, but then I start making mistake after mistake after mistake, and the other members are starting to draw away from me and I can tell the boss is ignoring me.

I finally realize, I don't have to stay in a doomed enterprise, and I leave.

I wake up and toss and turn for an hour. Apparently, my subconscious is not convinced of my competence. I call these "ostracism" dreams, and they are very common for me.

Thing is, I used to wake up from these dreams and think: why did I stay and take all that abuse? So me actually walking away from the bad scene is an improvement.

When I finally fall back to sleep, I have another dream where I'm telling the big boss from the above dream why I had messed up. I'm telling him how much better off I am when I'm doing things myself, instead of as part of a group. Everything is cool.

Reflecting back, I think these dreams came from the HOUSE episode last night, combined with watching THE SOURCECODE.

Don't know how it relates to my own life, except to reinforce my lone wolfishness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday mopes.

There was a sample four questions in the N.Y. Times for a college entrance test: 3 of the questions were liberal arts or social science questions, and I was pretty sure I knew the answers. The fourth question was a math question, and I felt like I knew the right answer.

So I got all four right.

Except, I can't tell you why I got the math question right. I just intuited the answer.

Sure it could be luck, but I had the same experience back when I was younger and taking these tests -- I'd do much better on math than I had any right to.

Because I don't know WHY I got the right answers.

If you don't know WHY you get the right answer, did you really get the right answer? If you can't explain it? If you just puzzled it out, using a bit of logic and counting on your fingers and drawing crude pictures?

Just wondering.

Later: took the more extended sentence completion and reading comprehension samples, and they seemed easy. Am I getting smarter in my old age?


Went to see The Lincoln Lawyer, which was surprising good.

It was also surprisingly faithful to the original novel. Which just confirms my long held belief that the closer a movie sticks to the source material, the better it is.

But I also wonder why, with all the great mystery and thriller writers out there, so few of them become movies. Lee Childs, James Lee Burke, John Sandford, John Connelly, and on an on.

Some of them have one movie made out of a major character, and that's it. Most don't even seem to get that one movie.

Just wondering.


I spent several hours building a book order, until it was over 100 books. They were all good books. Books I think I can sell. They were cheap.

But I deleted the order.

I never do this.

But I came back from the store, where I looked around and realized that no matter how good the books, I didn't have any place to PUT THEM.

So, I'll spend about the same amount of money on fewer books, that I absolutely need in stock, but which are full wholesale price. The evergreens -- and restocking Game of Thrones.


Speaking of Game of Thrones.

I liked it, O.K. I wish they had done two hours.

Like all fantasy, when it is actually visualized, it brings it a bit down to earth. Some visual elements, like the ice wall, were impressive. Others, like the White Stalkers were kind of disappointing...

I loved Tyrion. One of the reviewers was calling Peter Dinklage the "Jack Nicholson of dwarf actors" which I think is right on. Forgot what rotters the Lannisters were (except for Tyrian, who along with Arya, are two of my favorite characters) -- hard to imagine that Martin actually makes some of them more sympathetic (?) later in the series. Or that the Starks "nobility" becomes annoying later in the series. Nice trick.


What happens to Bran is like the "original sin" of the series, from which the rest of the plot flows. No matter how insufferable the Starks become, and how sympathetic the Lannisters, it's hard to forgive that act.

You end up almost cheering for the Targaryen's, who in most fantasies would be the bad guys, to sweep on in with their fire-breathing dragons and clean up the freaking mess that the royal families have made of it.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Read every other review except the N.Y. Times about Game of Thrones.

Sadly, the Bulletin ran the N.Y.Times review which has garnered quite a bit of controversy online for it's cluelessness.

Read the critique of this review on Salon for a more balanced view.

Ridiculous review.

I often say, I wish that comics could gain the same kind of credibility as S.F. and fantasy.

Well, spoke too soon. This review shows we still have a fair distance to go to get any genre treated credibly.

Sunday snips.

I'm not surprised that Mark Zuckerberg's visit to Prineville was news in Central Oregon. (Actually, I was surprised it wasn't more in the news -- seems to me the Bulletin mostly missed it.)

But that it was news nationwide -- in the USA Today and Huff Post?

Even then, I wonder if the nationals really understand how much in the middle of nowhere Prineville is: sorry, Prineville, I love you but you know it's true...


Wow. I really am knocked out by the complete lack of notice on the part of the comic retailers over the demise of Tokyo Pop. There isn't a peep out of the Comic Book Industry Alliance -- nothing, no alarm, no sadness, not even the small of amount of schadenfreude I expressed.

The complete dismissal of the subject tells volumes....about how we weren't selling volumes...


The comic publisher Boom has apparently lost its right's to Disney titles.

One of those outcomes you knew was coming once Disney bought Marvel, despite the usual protestations that nothing would change.

I've been buying as many Disney comics on the liquidation lists as possible, and I'll probably up that for awhile until I see if Marvel is going to follow through...

I always like to have a stack of Uncle Scrooge and Walt Disney's Comics and Stories around.


Linda and I watched Splice last night. This was an effectively creepy movie not so much because of the 'monster' girl, but because of the behavior of the humans. Deeply flawed and believable and unsettling.


Blog reader and game customer was commenting on my "tax the rich" sentiments. He mentioned Atlas Shrugged.

"What happens if they leave the country and take their innovation and jobs with them?" he asked, (which is pretty much the theme of the movie...).

"I just don't think that would happen," I said. "Besides, they've been doing a bang up job of creating jobs, haven't they?"

Anyway, we agreed to disagree, but as he was leaving he made another dig, and I shouted out in revolutionary fervor "Eat the Rich!"

"Eat the rich? What if YOU become rich."

"Why....I don't think that is going to happen. But....if it did. Umm...........I'd have to leave the country to avoid taxes..."

I have another customer that assures me that Atlas Shrugged was the best movie since Gone with the Wind and was going to be a huge hit. It currently has a 5% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- or, as it happens, one positive review out of 22 which if you read it, is actually a negative review. (Just checked, it's bumped up to 10% positive, but still...)

It seems to me that his conservative views are equally delusional...

I don't understand why so many of my favorite customers are so damn conservative...


Saturday, April 16, 2011

I speak Angry Bird.

Linda is hooked on Angry Birds.

I have to admit, the sound effects are great.

I speak Angry Bird.

Girr, girrrrr........rrrarrr...raarrrr........weeeeee!.........Crash! Thaa hurrrr....Heh,heh,heh...

Wherrrr,wwwibble,wibble.....Uh?....weeeeee! CRASH! Heehhhh, heeehhh, hehhh...

Caveman professional...

Way back in caveman days, there was a guy or gal who was such a good storyteller and singer around the campfire, that his tribe said to him:

-- "Stay in the cave and create some more of those great stories and songs. Don't worry we'll do all the hunting and gathering."

Thus was created the world's (second) oldest profession.

You can't get professional work for free.

The word for free labor is "amateur." You get amateur work for free...

Way back in caveman days, they invented the wheel.

Oh, wait.

We're not trying to reinvent that....

Bootlegging a ticket to the Titantic.

Tokyo Pop is no more.

At one point, this company was the biggest publisher of manga in the U.S.A. It was responsible for introducing Sailor Moon, the first really big hit. They made popular the original flip format, (reading the book backward), and the easy price-point, $9.99.

Borders was an early adopter of Tokyo Pop manga, filling their aisles.

And we comic shops were pounded by the internet 'experts' for being too stupid to buy a ticket on this wonderful new ocean liner called manga, which was indestructible, and would leave us stupid comic shops left floundering on shore.

We missed the boat, was the common wisdom.

I am one of the comic shops who actually did bring in vast amounts of manga and anime. I was a little doubtful -- I thought the demographic was a lot like the fans of music 'boy groups' and it was possible it was nothing but a fad.

Well, it was a bit of a fad. But more importantly, it was the group of customers who seemed to completely adopt the "free" form of downloading material. (otherwise known as pirating...)

I cut my losses --

I reorder only the top ten series, now.

A few years ago, two biggest entities in the U.S. manga world were Borders and Tokyo Pop. Both are toast.

So maybe comic shops were right to be skeptical of this ship. ( I noticed that there hasn't been even a comment so far on the Comic Book Industry Alliance.)

Some of the disdain that I saw from manga and anime customers toward the business of producing, distributing and selling this product, is the same disdain I now am seeing toward the business of producing, distributing and selling books.

And I expect I'll hear the same dismay when the structure falls apart.

See, there are these things called "books" and if the publisher who owns the rights to these "books" isn't around, they don't get produced -- at all.

You can't pirate what isn't produced.

Not to sound like an economist....

Sales: Bookstore Sales Up 9.3% in February

February bookstore sales rose 9.3%, to $1.107 billion, compared to February 2010, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have slipped 0.5% to $3.289 billion. (Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.)

Shelf Awareness, 4/14/11.

Ah, hem. Bookstores are down only .5% for the year, despite the huge increase in e-book sales.

Not quite the end of the world, yet.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grumpy grump.

If you're looking for something cheerful, I'd advise you to go away.

This crappy month continues. Car won't start. Computer won't start. Last minute picky tax details. Pretty rotten sales.

I have nightmares. Last night's nightmare was an end of the world one. We finally found some other surivivors, who are better off than we are but still welcoming, and we're having a celebration in an old house and a fire starts and everyone but me dies.

I woke up with heart pounding, and had a weird insight. End of the world stories are really about your own death. Every death is an end of the world.

Oh, and I have a nasty hangnail.

Told you not to read.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, these are more annoyances than problems. But what's a blog if not a place to vent?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our little Peyton Place...

"Bend Doctor Suspended for Relations With Patient." Bulletin, 4/14/11.

Dr. David Redwine "has been reprimanded and placed on one month's suspension..."

"...he was involved in a sexual relationship with a patient and improperly prescribed drugs to her and members of her family."

This is the same guy who sued Tami Sawyer after investing and losing money with her company.

The patient he had "relations" with?

Yep. Tami Sawyer.

Let's see: Sex. Drugs. Alleged theft.

Bad judgment all around.

Maybe there's a lesson here: don't invest money with someone who is cheating with you.

And don't take investment money from someone who is cheating with you, and prescribing drugs.

Just a suggestion.


I ordered an equal number of the George R.R. Martin Songs of Fire and Ice books, and sold all of Clash of Kings. Did everyone suddenly decide they needed to read the second book in the series? Weird.


Never fear, the Fear Itself comic is here. A week late, but it's here.


Whenever I'm out of town, I consistently have fewer readers than when I'm in town, even though the messages I post seem to me to be exactly the same kind.

Same thing happens at the store: I decide to start cutting back on something, and even before whatever I'm doing can have any possible effect on inventory, sales drop.

It's got to be subtle signals that are so subtle as to be almost E.S.P.


Finally! Obama speaks to me!

Yes, tax the rich.



On the coast.

Wrote this last weekend:

Linda and I are in Astoria for the weekend.

We had planned on staying with our son Todd in Portland, but there is a tad bit of family drama going on with him and his girlfriend, so we decided to just drop by and give him a hug and a talk, and be on our way.

We really enjoyed our last visit to Astoria --which is now more than 4 years ago!

We had dinner at a place called Baked Alaska. I asked for a private booth or some other private place , but where we could see the ocean. "You can see the river and about two feet of ocean," she says, obviously having been asked a million times.

They placed us very near the entrance. I never know if we are being shunted aside or what. Turned out to be directly across from the pilot boat ramp, so watched them come and go out to the big freighters.

"Are these ships actually unloading here in Astoria?"

"Most are waiting to either go up the river, or through the mouth of the Columbia. But, really, for most of them it's just Free Parking.'

The dining location turned out to be fine.

I passed on the clam chowder until I saw my wife's arrive, and I immediately ordered some for myself. The meal was great. (Being on the coast, we ordered steaks. In Bend, of course, we would order seafood. heh.) I do believe the servers are always a tad bit taken back by my gusto.

"How's the meal?"

"It tastes wonderful!" I say in a totally enthusiastic and genuine way.

Had a Baked Alaskan desert, and Linda says dubiously, "Is that alcohol?"

"Um, I believe it has to be 100 proof to ignite," I say. "But don't worry, it ALL burns away."

At the center, I got a pure dose of unburned alcohol and so I suspect did Linda, but I didn't want to spoil it so didn't say anything.

"I think I'm actually starting to get used to this eating out thing. We could do this every week!"
I say.

"More like every month," Linda says, as she eyes the bill. I glance at the amount and gulp.

I had a couple of Deschutes Brewery on tap, and totally felt them. Fell asleep a full hour before normal,(listening to the bellowing of sea lions) and slept a full hour later than normal -- 9.5 hours. Quiet hotel. (Comfort Inn, this time) Nice.

Linda is off visiting church friends this morning, and I'm going to laze around and read and write, and go for a walk along the Columbia River. I don't know why, but I feel totally relaxed in these motels. No pressure.

Read for awhile, (FIDELITY, Thomas Perry, good book), watched the Masters for awhile. Tiger wasn't going anywhere (Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, I thought, poor 'ol Tiger...)

Why am I in my motel room on the coast?

Went walking, east as far as the river trail went. About an hour. It was drizzly, which is fine since it's the coast, and I'm visiting and then it rained a little, which was fine since I had a hood. Only thing that got sopping wet are my shoes.

Farther I went from civilization, the more relaxed I felt. Stress dropping away like layers of clothing.

Counted 12 freighters parked, almost counted my steps, but resisted. Obsessive - compulsive and a control freak? 58 years old and still figuring things out about myself... (I don't really think I'm obsessive-compulsive -- maybe a little twinge.)

Got back to the motel and Tiger is in the lead through nine wholes, made up 7 shots. (Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, good 'ol Tiger. heh.)

When Tiger falls out of contention, will go visit the comic shop here in town, and go to a movie -- then back to watch the killing. Yep, we had to drive 250 miles to watch a movie and golf and t.v.

And baked alaska!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednedsay's WTF's

Dark Horse comics laid off some folks, and sent a scare through the comic community.

There are always those who pop up and say, "Good! If we kill the patient, we'll cure the disease!"

Comics will survive, they say, without the direct market, without publishers, without comic shops, without distributors.

Well, sure. The artform will survive. I suppose.


Turns out the young tsunami victim from Oregon washed up in Astoria on the weekend Linda and I were visiting. (We didn't hear about it until we got home.)

I always wonder if these young people have been in my store when I read about them -- chances are good. Both Linda and I always comment about how familiar they always look.

On our visit, we went up to Long Beach, Washington. It was sort of joke for Linda and me, because we took a wrong turn last time we were there and could never find it. As we drove along the highway, I kept seeing Tsunami Route signs.

They pointed in the opposite direction from the beach, which of course I -- never -- would have figured out without the signs....


While on the coast, Linda and I went to see HANNA.


I usually try to judge a movie by what it is, not by what it isn't. And by those standards the movie was fun to watch, with some good action sequences.

But I really feel like they missed a bet -- they could have really explored the nature versus nurture theme, the savagery of kids, the meaning of empathy, etc.

The movie really didn't have the courage of it's own convictions. There is a family that helps Hanna along the way, and they are captured by the bad guys.

But we never really find out what happens to them. Which I think was a copout. They probably weren't let go, which would've negated the evilness we'd see up to then by the bad guys. But we don't see them killed either.

The movie was trying to have it both ways.

Why was the experiment stopped?

What happens to Hanna now? (Sequel! Linda says.)

I'm just saying, the movie had seeds of a much deeper movie, and they instead went for thriller status.


Back to comics and business.

Apparently, comics have had a very rough time in the last year or so.

I sort of just expected drops of 10% or even more, because of the local and national economy. I factored it in.

But I do worry about the industry as a whole. Especially Diamond Comics. My rep has been difficult to get a hold of, and I've had to wait long periods of time to get an answer. They closed the west coast warehouse. What's going on behind the scenes?


We could always get rid of the grocery stores, the distributors and all that.

Food will survive.

We can always go back to subsistence farming, and hunting and gathering.

Population will have to drop a little.

And they can draw comics on cave walls.


People seem to be misunderstanding the very nature of modern civilization -- how interconnected it all is.

We could go back to free music, free art, free writing, I suppose.

If we don't mind Amateur. We can sit around the campfire and tell stories and play crude instruments, and draw pictures on rocks from the charcoal we create. (Actually, I suspect there were professional "artists" very early in our development -- who were excused from hunting and gathering so they could learn their skills...)

Because the very definition of a professional, is being PAID.

And the infrastructure of culture was created so that work could be PAID FOR...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Catching up on the news.

Back from our trip to the coast, and working my way through 3 days of newspapers.

I was going to let the article about home sales "...climbing closer to pre-recession levels..." pass, except this caught my eye: "Home sale s in Sisters have gone beyond recovery..."

"...beyond recovery..." ?!

Let's look at the money: Those 15 houses in 2007 sold for a 415,000 average. The 26 houses sold for 173,000. So roughly 60% more houses sold, at an average of roughly 60% less. Some recovery.

As a parallel: I'm going to give away more free comics on Free Comic Book Day than I sold in the previous month.

Of course, I won't make any money.

Chances are, those house sold for cost of goods, or less. No one made money.


Bend has possibly racked up another 12 million in debt. (Court judgment in favor of Juniper Utility.)

We had better hope there is a "recovery" soon.


Here's some stats I found over on the Bend Economy Bulletin Board which seem more telling:

Single-family new house construction building permits:

1996: 381 buildings, average cost: $114,400
1997: 563 buildings, average cost: $117,200
1998: 560 buildings, average cost: $142,300
1999: 824 buildings, average cost: $139,000
2000: 829 buildings, average cost: $137,200
2001: 944 buildings, average cost: $142,600
2002: 1195 buildings, average cost: $136,100
2003: 1156 buildings, average cost: $151,100
2004: 1663 buildings, average cost: $190,100
2005: 2050 buildings, average cost: $221,800
2006: 1517 buildings, average cost: $230,300
2007: 759 buildings, average cost: $224,200
2008: 276 buildings, average cost: $237,900
2009: 159 buildings, average cost: $228,300

It's the actual building of houses that creates jobs, and new revenue, not selling houses for a loss. I'll believe in a recovery when we have permits in the 400 range, or about 15 years ago....


The Bulletin seems to be having a full-court press this spring to convince us we're on the road to recovery.

There's a national article:

"Primed for Renovation" -- in Florida's "rubble." (Despite the upbeat tone, they just couldn't resist using the word "rubble" and "bubble" in the same article...)

Locally, I think the Bulletin just assigns the new-to-town reporters to the 'Upbeat' Beat. Probably because they aren't jaded by the reality of realty.

"Signs of Life."

Basically, the people quoted in the article seem to be saying, "Well, yeah. There isn't any evidence of a recovery, but it's coming! I can't tell you why, but it is on it's way!"

Yep, I see that body twitching.


Then again, kudo's for the Bulletin for telling us that 1 out of 5 residents are on food stamps in Central Oregon.

If you take the upbeat articles as real (which I don't, quite) then what has been revealed is that Central Oregon is split between those who have money and those who don't. Like everywhere else, but more so...

Sounds so easy.

This article (Shelf Awareness) caught my attention. It's about Indigo Books, which is Canada's B & N, only with an even larger share of the market (50%).

First of all, the figure that 40% of the books sales are going to disappear is a firmer figure than I've ever heard before.

Secondly, there is this assumption I'm seeing that bookstores can just add "Other" product to make up for the loss.

Really? "Tableware?" "Tote Bags?"

As someone who has been diversifying my store for the last 20 years, I can assure you it ain't that easy. No product is out there that hasn't been picked up by someone else -- no product immediately sells just because you begin carrying it. Every new product has consequence in the time, energy, space and money you expend.

And most product takes time to develop.

You know, if it was that easy to add income, why wouldn't they have kept the same model and just added the new product -- in bigger stores, maybe? I'll tell you why. Because it wouldn't have worked. It would have either taken away from the product they were carrying or not added enough to pay for the extra space.

These kinds of solutions are more in the way of a Hail Mary pass, I think.

We are going to see all kinds of hybrid stores for awhile. Many of them won't work.

"In the book industry, when you are in a situation where you know that 40% of your business is going to go digital--you need to change," she said. In addition to having a "toehold in the digital books business," Reisman's vision of Indigo as a "cultural department store" means "betting more than ever on other categories. Indigo is stepping up its offerings of tableware, toys and tote bags--

Her goal over the next two or three years is to increase non-book sales from 15% to 40% of the company’s business to replace lost book revenues. "The only way to stay in the book business is to find the ability to marry our book offerings with other products that our customer would value," she said. "I think of that as affordable items with intrinsic value."

A rare and pertinent thing...

Now here's something that's rare.

A business article that actually speaks to me. That actually addresses my small business concerns. That is actually something I've thought long and hard about, but never seen anyone else write about.

A new piece of info. Something that might actually make me change the way I do things.


"Clutter In The Aisle? It's There To Get You To Spend." Bulletin, 4/8/11.

Actually, I'm probably already doing what they talk about here -- through sheer accumulation of stuff, some of it is spilling over onto the floor. Just a little, mind you.

But maybe I should lighten up a little about the straightening up. Both Linda and my stores try really hard to square everything away. My feeling is, we have so much material, that things will quickly degenerate if we don't keep up.

On our trips, you've heard me complain about how "messy" other bookstores are. How easy it would be for them to straighten up.

But maybe those other stores have been benefiting from that clutter. Maybe, they instinctively know that they need to have a bit of mess to intrigue people.

I know this will be a hard sell to Linda. She hates clutter in her business (her office at home is a whole nother thing...).


Later: I wrote the proceeding at home, after reading the article.

Ummmm....walked in the door of my store, and immediately thought, no problem. Clutter is not ever going to be something I need to strive for.

Basically, my current "Fight the Entropy" strategy is correct, because no matter how hard I try, things are going to be misplaced, set back in the wrong spot, knocked askew.


" turns out that lots and lots of stuff piled onto shelves or stacked in the middle of store aisles can coax a shopper to buy more..."

Describe my store, why don't you?

I once had a neighbor from across the street complain that my window was "too cluttered." (This from a woman who had spiky pink hair and day-glow letters in her windows...).

But see, I had learned that a nice, artistic window looked good -- and did nothing for business. Whereas a window that had a sampling of all the different types of product I carried, pulled people in.

"They loved the experience," says the article about Walmart's makeover into a sleeker look. "They just bought less. And that generally is not a good long-term strategy."


You have to watch what customers Do, not what they Say. They'll always say they want neat, tidy, wide, and artistically designed aisles. Always. But that doesn't always translate into sales.

My instinct has always been to fit as much merchandise in my 1000 ft. sq. space as is humanly possible. Not only do I have more merchandise to sell, but it gives the consumer the message that I'm thriving, that I'm engaged, that I'm really, really into my store merchandise.

I ain't stinting. I ain't scraping.

And I've always HATED the question: "Is this all you got?" I think I was permanently scarred by being asked that in my first few years of business when I had limited inventory and even more limited money to buy inventory.

In fact, the history of my store has been a constant leveraging of my resources to get more material -- which left me constantly vulnerable to downturns. One of the reasons that my store is more stable now is that I finally got to a point where I need only to bring in replacement product and make incremental improvements -- which is a much easier thing to do.

"As it turns out, the messier and more confusing a store looks, the better the deals it projects. 'Historically, the more a store is packed, the more people think of it as value...'"

Well, I don't know about messy or confusing -- but I do think that having tons of product intrigues the customer.

"One of the ways to improve productivity is to get more things out on the floor and to show the product in a better way...."

I have to constantly remind the employees at the Bookmark that we want as many books out on the floor as possible, and not in the back room. Fit them in!

The article makesthe case that because they aren't expanding anymore, the chainstores are putting more product into the existing stores. Well, that's also a decision I made long ago.

"Think of shelf heights as air rights, if yo will -- it's easier to raise the shelf height than expand the footprint of the store."

Again, in my store, the merchandise starts on floor level and goes to the ceiling. I have so far left the ceiling alone, though I joke about it...


O.K. Not all clutter is bad.

But not all clutter is good. Not when it reaches the level of messiness and chaos.

I think maybe the trick is to be casually, and artistically, cluttered. Which requires a certain "design" sense --which I doubt the mass market can learn to do, or can be done by fiat. I suspect it will tip one direction or the other too much.

One of the advantages of a small store is the owner can constantly monitor the look and feel of his store from an aesthetic viewpoint. Hard to see how chainstores will be able to mandate that.


Interesting that the chainstores are coming around to my way of thinking: I think they were expanding so fast and so crazy it was all about footprint growth. What I've always thought of as a Ponzi scheme.

Having expanding into four stores and seen my sales soar into unexpected heights -- and making no money from the experience, I'm not too surprised that the mass market is learning some of the same painful lessons.

But...if they retreat into smaller stores, or quit expanding, that just makes them Stores. Store---Stores, like the rest of us. That's a different challenge -- and I'll bet there are some painful lessons for them to learn.

And doesn't having a Store -- Store just make the same as the rest of us? They'll have to compete on the same playing field -- instead of just being so overwhelming big they squash us. You know, things like knowledge and service. Maybe even -- if their Ponzi schemes are finally coming to an end -- maybe even PRICE!

I welcome the challenge.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Who's got the money?

Reading the New York Times continues to be an interesting change of view.

The amount of wealth represented by the ads and articles in the New York Times is astounding.

I guess it makes sense -- the top 5% richest people are most likely subscribers.

But I can't figure out who buys those Castles in Spain.

Now that my income and net worth more nearly approaches the supposed "averages" in the U.S.A., I think I'm even more confused by what I see around me than before.

Before, when I was operating on minimum wage, the big cars and fancy restaurants and Euro vacations were so far beyond me, that I took it for granted, somewhat, that those who were partaking of these luxuries could afford it. (Of course, I also suspected that people were living beyond their means, on credit...)

But now that I am presumably closer in income to those I see living that way -- it STILL seems mostly out of reach, except in very, very moderate steps.

So what accounts for this discrepancy?

1.) A few years of near "average" income do not catch me and Linda up. Lots of backfill going on.

2.) We are having to put way more into retirement late in our career, whereas other people have pensions or higher social security payouts or have saved money longer.

3.) I'm overestimating the spending by others. Maybe they're Leasing those big S.U.V.'s not buying. Going out to dinner once or twice a month, not once or twice a week. Bought their big houses when they weren't so expensive, or turned over a bigger house in California.

4.) I'm just too cheap and conservative. (But if that was true, wouldn't I have money left over at the end of the month?)

5.) Family money. They aren't living just off their income, but from other means. Living off the fat they accumulated earlier in their career.

6.) People are incredibly smart in getting deals; on vacations, on meals, on all kinds of stuff. Coupon clippers, mileage accumulators, wheeler dealers...

7.) People are going big time into debt.

8.) People are not saving for the future at all. Eat, drink and be merry!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A sweet spot.

I think we're in a sweet spot at the store with employees, where they are still enthused about working there, and have worked long enough to do a really good job. This learning process actually takes longer in my store than most stores, probably, because of the complexity of the product. Eventually it will become old hat to them -- just another job.

This equilibrium never lasts forever, unfortunately, mostly because this a temporary job for most of them, and because eventually the newness wears off.

But because they are all working relatively few hours, the chances of them being jaded seem slim for now.

So this sweet spot is something to take advantage of, and I'm taking even more time off than usual.


Since I got slightly ahead over the first quarter, I've decided to use this month to make small changes that will probably cost me money in the short run, but may end up helping the store in the long run.

I need to work out shipping and timing issues, which have been caused by Diamond's new policies.

I have to test the waters. Order on different days, see when stuff shows up.

Also, as I mentioned above, I'm very happy with the way the employees are running the store right now, so I'm taking more time off than usual.

This is strictly on purpose.

I want to see how long sales stay at good levels without me always being there to goose it.

I want my store to operate on a high level with or without me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mixed Bag.

For last week's article on E-Books, I was pressed by the reporter to say whether sales were down because of the new technology.

I can never make one to one correlations on sales. Is it the national economy? The local economy? The industries I'm in? The weather? Negative ions?

It's always unclear. It's always in the gray areas. It's always muddled.

In my constant monitoring of the media, it has become a real mixed bag as far as optimists versus pessimists.

Financial Armageddon is as negative as ever -- but I think that's his world view. Big Picture is much more hedgy, and much more willing to tack with the current prevailing winds -- if he invests in the market, it's because he thinks the market will go up for whatever period of time, not that he believe the economy is coming around. Calculated Risk isn't quite a relentlessly negative. Salon and Slate both seems to have political reasons to believe the job situation is getting better.

Locally, it's even more muddy. Bend or Bust, one of the more negative blogs in town, just wrote a blog about U-Haul anecdotal evidence that people are moving to Bend. Say it ain't so, B.O.B.!

Downtown Bend continues to quietly lose businesses and attract new businesses.

My own sense is that this is just the usual spring push toward optimism -- but Bend still remains mired in the Mother of All Housing Slumps. A new overlay of people coming to town, who can make fresh starts? Is that what's happening?

I'm not convinced that all the much has really changed.

I will remain cautious and hunkered down.

Friday, April 8, 2011


"So how did the family reunion go?"

"It was weird. We were all so.....mellow."


Speaking of mellow, was a time I would have gone ballistic about the parking dividers, the missing comics and the stupid Visa machine.

I have often felt that you have to get somewhat aggressive to accomplish anything. I have to have enough ire to actually want to change something and pursue it, but not get so upset I'm ineffective.

Getting the dividers removed would require enough anger to actually do something, but a enough management of the anger to effect change.

I called twice to see about the "Emergency Shipment" of the missing comics, and they assured me they were on the way -- but they are still sitting there like a lump at the shipping center. Me thinks Diamond Shipping and me have different interpretations of the words "emergency" and "shipment" and "on the way."

(I was talking to Scott who owns More Fun Comics in Ashland, and he didn't think Fear Itself was a big deal, so maybe it won't be such a big problem.)

The Visa machine was the most important problem to be solved, but again, rather than yell and stomp, I tried to enlist the sympathy of the people on the phone. being mellow, I corrected one out of three problems, but it was the most important one.


Spending an hour on the phone trying to correct the comic shortage, and not being able to talk to my own rep, and not getting a call back from the supervisor, and getting inaccurate answers from reps who are not my reps --

I'm glad that Diamond is saving money on manpower.

They just sort of shifted the manpower and labor onto MY shoulders.

Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. I'm sure Diamond (and other corporations who are getting more profitable by being more productive) will pass along the savings.


"Productive:" Getting more work out of fewer, newer and cheaper employees, and shifting time and labor onto their customers. And giving management big bonuses.

Deep breath. Mellow out, dude.

(By the way, Diamond is a monopoly, so there isn't a damn thing I can do about it...)

Forgot one.

I neglected to post the following, which I wrote a couple of days ago.

To follow up what it talks about, I managed to get the Visa machine going after about one day.

I had a couple people come back and buy the stuff they left, but mostly not.


I tried to close an old merchant services processing I once used -- it was the old fashioned paper and call-in version which I used at places like conventions, and as emergency backup, but which more recently, I have been paying for each month with little or no usage.

Instead, they closed my current machine.

Which scared the bejesus out of me.

The majority of my money comes through cards these days...

I think I have it resolved, and hopefully I'll only miss half a day or so....hopefully.

I think it happened because I wasn't precise:

I handed in the form yesterday, and asked the clerk to give it to woman who had helped me before. "Oh I can fax this in right away!" she said.

"Oh, no hurry."

Unfortunately, I didn't say: "Don't. I want to make sure the right numbers are put in..."

At least in the course of this emergency, I think I may have gotten the right numbers to call, and the right numbers of the current accounts...


Monday was my run around and get things done day -- which happens really rarely, these days. Most things can by done by phone or online or by surrogates.

But transferring money, closing accounts (see above), talking to the accountant, buying stamps and grocery bags, that kind of thing has to be done in person.

As a result, I let these things pile up until they are almost too late, and then do them all at once.

Anyway, at the end of the running around, I turned to Linda and said, "Wow. That went smoothly and quickly."

I woke up this morning -- really -- and thought, "I shouldn't have said that..."

I'm both really good at these official things and really bad. I'm sloppy, but when things go wrong, I usually can cut to the solution pretty fast.

It helps not to get mad, and to try to get the reps to try to help you with your problem.

But it's also the problems that gets me to avoid most changes of policies, unless the benefits are large and obvious.


Later: from the material left over under the counter for people who would "come back" and the people who walked away -- I figure I lost 100.00 or so (on my slowest day of the week). If I can't get it up and running tomorrow, this could really run into some bucks.

Meanwhile, I put away comics tonight (Tuesday), and I was missing FEAR ITSELF, the biggest title of the year, the most I've ordered in probably a couple of years. Basically, it's like the biggest movie of the year not showing up at a theater on opening night.

How does this happen?

I'm a bit suspicious that there are people at the warehouse who abscond with these titles -- and the rep will probably have the same suspicions of me -- and with the credit card machine not working, it's the last thing I need.

Once things go off track, they go off track in every direction.

Murphy's Law.