Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Plant lust. .
I have tended for some reason to concentrate on the backyard when it comes to flowers, letting the low maintenance shrubbery and trees take care of the front yard. But quite a bit of space has been cleared in the construction of the front steps and porch and in installing a new yard and sprinkler system.
So this year I decided I would like to add a little color.
I intended to buy annuals along the driveway, for color, but decided instead on blue and pink forget-me-nots ( a perennial). Even though I love the immediate color of petunias and geraniums -- I just can't see spending money on one-ups....
So I started loading up on colorful perennials. (I'd intended to buy plants in stages over the season, so that I didn't have all early spring blooming plants, but that sort of went out the window.)
Plant greed. Pure and simple plant lust.
I had a budget in mind when I went -- about 200.00 for the whole garden. I'm embarrassed to say how much I actually spent. I bought some boxwood shrubs for the back, which we really need to frame the patio, and those were expensive. I decided I needed a load of compost and topsoil.
But really, it was the flowers. I went crazy.
But you know what? People spend thousands -- tens of thousands --on home improvement projects. And this, to me, is the same thing. Only I save about 2/3rds of the cost by doing all the labor myself.
Besides, I think this will probably do me for the next ten or twenty years. A few new plants here and there. Otherwise, I'll probably just subdivide and transplant.
Unless I go near a nursery again.
I don't think I can trust myself near a nursery.
A real man would move a dumptruck load.
I'd just bought four cubic yards of dirt/compost. Ideally, I would have loved to have it inside the back fence, but we couldn't reach it. So the only real option was the gravel in front and to the left of the gate, or on the driveway itself.
"It would be easier to clean up on the driveway," the guy said.
"O.K. Let's do that." My car was in the garage, and I wasn't going to get it out unless I cleared away the dirt.
He backed up and started to pour the dirt, but I got one look at the size of the load and said -- "Whow. Hang on. I've changed my mind -- let's put it on the gravel."
"Are you sure? If you get it all done today, it won't be a problem...."
See -- I'm still not sure if he as kidding me. Calling out my manhood. But I started visualize how much dirt I was dealing with. (Later in the afternoon, after I did about 20 wheelbarrow loads full, I figured out that I was looking at about 20 shovel fulls of dirt per load, and about 75 loads altogether. Or 1500 shovel fulls.)
"Uh. I want to be able to, like you know, MOVE my body, tomorrow...."
Now that I'd seen what a cubic yard looked like, I thought to myself that I'd just buy a couple of cubic yards of gravel when I'm done, since the gravel has gotten pretty thin over the years. (By the way, I hate gravel as a solution, but I hate having to dig it all up even more...)
In the end, I managed to do move about a third of the dumpload, yesterday. I needed to not only move the soil, but also work it into the ground -- another bunch of shovel fulls -- and then put in the plants.
(I'm a great believer that you do one task at a time, and finish it....so you don't have a bunch of leftover refuse to deal with later. It's always more difficult to deal with later...)
Took me several hours -- but I covered the front garden beds with the new soil. I didn't work it into the soil as much as I probably should have, but I did dig it into the soil where I planted the flowers.
Sure enough, I could barely move last night. I'd get up from the couch -- or start to get up from the couch -- and groan and fall back. Then gather myself under myself and stand up.
I decided this year that I'd do no more than 3 or 4 hours of heavy lifting in any one day -- instead of burning myself out for weeks at a time. So that has worked really well -- it's enough time to get things accomplished and still be ready to do it again the next day.
I don't care if the guy thought I was a wimp. I woke up this morning just a little sore but also willing to tackle the rest of the dumpload.
(By the way, I realized this morning that the ideal solution would've been to move my car outside the load of dirt....duh. Damn.)
Monday, May 30, 2011
Forget about it. Go garden.
There are five long articles about bank heists over on Slate which are fascinating to me.
The jewelry heist in Bend?
I have a customer who is a policeman, and he seemed insulted when I said, "That's the kind of crime worth doing. Grab the jewelry and run."
"It's a major crime," he intoned.
Hell, I go the speed limit and stop at every light.
The Affordable Housing Fee?
Despite my skepticism, in the end I think I would continue it. I buy the "leverage" argument; the matching funds from the feds.
And I like the irony of builders being put to work with this money, after it was the builders who complained about it.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
I liked it, but it was slightly less believable than Thor.
"Initiatives Look to Create a Business-Friendly Bend."
This sounds good, except I'm not sure the way the article is phrased as to whether they are actually making Bend more business-friendly or looking for ways to make Bend SEEM more business-friendly.
It's like everyone thinks that all problems can be solved by public relations.
"...revamp it's image..." "...no longer wants to be perceived..." "...wants to appear more friendly to businesses..." "...create more jobs...in part by marketing it as a good place to do business..."
But the substance of the changes seem pretty minimal. Hiring yet another consultant. Changing the format of an 'advisory' board.
Somehow it doesn't seem to add up to real change.
Just more spending or spending differently.
The sun shines -- until I put on my gardening clothes. I gotta stop doing that!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Nothing but tomatoes.
Mostly nerd sites. Nothing stays 100%.
Or is that true?
Just looked up American Film Institutes Top Ten Films of all time (2207 list) and compared them to Rotten Tomatoes...
10. Wizard of Oz. 100%
9. Vertigo. 98%.
8. Schindler's List. 97%.
7. Lawrence of Arabia. 98%
6. Gone with the Wind. 95%.
5. Singin' in the Rain. 100%
4. Raging Bull. 98%.
3. Casablanca. 97%.
2. Godfather. 100%
1. Citizen Kane. 100%.
So, obviously, some movies do get 100%.
First of all, what doofus gives a negative review to ANY of these movies? Then again, how do any of the 100% escape the doofuses?
(I really don't think Schindler's List belongs in the top ten. I thought it was great, but flawed by the final speech. If it was me, I'd do Star Wars or Maltese Falcon.)
A monkey walks into Walmart.
I know, it's no surprise. We're just monkeys.
But it still drives me crazy.
I've mentioned before the rather constant irrational pursuit of saving a buck -- at the expense of time, energy and space. People taking hours and driving miles to save 1.00 or 2.00 or 5.00 or even $10.00
But buying from corporate entities is also illogical.
How do you profit by making everyone else earn less? Do people think they are disconnected from the process?
If you own a service business in Bend -- say, an electrician or plumber -- EVERY DIME you earn will come from locals.
And yet the same electrician and plumber will send the vast bulk of his earnings out of town, to corporate entities who can never return the dollar by hiring them back.
The thinking is so short sighted, it's maddening.
I've always had a fantasy that I could take the 6 biggest card manufacturers in a room in 1990 (only one who is still in business) and say, "What the hell do you think you're doing? Do you understand that the card shops are the golden goose? Don't you see how your sales started skyrocketing after the establishment of card shops? That the mass market is only interested because the market has already taken off?"
Or, I'd ask my card shop competitors -- "Why are you buying from Walmart? Don't you see how every dollar you spend there is going on Walmart's books and Topps is looking at who is buying?"
"Oh, I can't afford not to save money," was (and is) the response.
Which to me is like saying, "Look, I'll hand you a 100,000.00 today. But in five years from now, I'll be back to put a bullet through your brain."
"Gee, mister. That sounds great!"
You can get any book in print, just about, from a local independent bookstore IN ONE DAY! Ingram's happens to be in Roseburg and is a one day ship. ONE DAY! It isn't possible for Amazon to be any faster than that.
We ship jobs overseas so we can get cheaper goods so that we can have stagnant wages and lost jobs so that we need cheaper goods.
But getting great swathes of cheap crap doesn't improve your life folks, any more than buying smaller amounts of higher priced goods ruins your life.
I suspect that I wouldn't feel any richer if I was buying from mass markets instead of locally. Or that I feel any poorer because I buy locally. In other words, in the daily scheme of things it really doesn't seem to matter. I don't sit around thinking about the price of a book I'm enjoying.
Why is that?
Big Box stores are so last year.
Which raises the same question I always have to this supposed solution: isn't a smaller big box store just another store?
If the advantages of a big box store aren't advantages, why go there in the first place?
I know people think I'm exaggerating by calling the big box model a Ponzi scheme, but think about it.
How can you turn a profit? By selling more and keeping your overhead low.
Building a big box store only accomplishes the first of those goals, at the cost of the second of those goals.
If you truly wanted a big profit in the face of an expanding economy, you would squeeze more sales out of a smaller space.
But if your goal is to have constantly expanding sales, the building big box stores makes sense.
Why would you build constantly expanding stores instead of making more profit out of existing stores?
I can think of one legitimate reason and one reason that is illegitimate. And I suspect the illegitimate reason is the real reason: Stock prices.
Constantly increasing sales helps sell stock, creating bonuses for executives. The idea that sometime in the future you might have decreasing sales -- and way too much capacity, never enters into such short term thinking. But I would submit that planning for such a future is prudent and wise.
Oh, no! Sales are decreasing? Close the stores! Make them smaller!!!
The second reason I can see for pursuing ever expanding sales level is to increase or protect market share.
Everyone else is doing it, so we have to do it too.
Of course, this is assuming that nothing else will come along to eat into your market share. Oh, something strange -- something called the internet.
In this case, it was the internet. But not planning for an unexpected competitor is as stupid as thinking that sales would increase forever as long as you keep building stores.
After 30 years, I've come to the conclusion that corporate America is fad driven; big box stores were the last fad.
Mostly $#^#$% Cloudy. ^#%#% Chance of ^^%#% Rain Showers.
I'm not sure if the problem is that people don't know about Pegasus Books, or that they don't care, or that they don't care that they don't know....
As far as the store being packed -- well, that's just it. It seems to work. I'm pretty sure that I sometimes hit my minimum sales BECAUSE I'm over packed.
So the Bend City Budget (today's Bulletin story) is basically --- close your eyes, cross your fingers, and hope nothing goes wrong.
Not a peep about the myriad ways that the city councilors have blown 10's of millions on over- reaching projects.
I get the overall feeling that everyone in the local government is just trying to hold on until things turn around again. But things will never be the same. And even a modest upturn isn't for certain in the next few years...
A real comment (got this from Comics Reporter): 'I would like to get it all for free, otherwise you will not get my business.'
Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers.
Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers.
Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers.
Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers.
Mostly clou-----WHACK!!! SKIPPPP.....
.....Mostly cloudy. Chance o rain showers.
Friday, May 27, 2011
How about being a bookstore?
"...he asked customers to help buy "as many of your books, CDs and DVDs from Outwrite as possible"; buy e-books from the store online; visit the coffeehouse; use the coffeehouse lounge for free for meetings of companies, businesses or organizations; volunteer to help the store in web design, bookkeeping, finance, banking, retail management, retail sales, collections and legal services; and tell others about the store."
Holy Cow. How about running a, you know, bookstore? That's something a single human CAN DO!
In my opinion, it's these NEW kinds of stores that are failing because they are trying to mimic the online and big box aspects without having the same cost structures.
For instance, when a national chain buys or leases a plot of land on the outskirts of town and creates 100's of thousands of sq. ft., the cost of planning for a few thousand sq. ft. for tables and chairs is relatively cheap.
However, if you are an independent bookstore, chances are you are renting or buying an existing space -- and that that space is much smaller. The cost of the per sq. ft. space you are using for tables and chairs is much much higher under that scenario.
If you have a big box, you can have a full-time web designer, legal help, bookkeeping, etc. etc.
If you are small independent, you best figure you are going to do more of that yourself.
The percentage of the total sales that go into these extra services is huge for a small store compared to a big store. For instance, and accountant is going to cost a minimum whether you have a store that is doing 500.00 a day or a store that is doing 10,000.00 a day.
And yet, it is these very types of stores that are constantly used as examples that we should be following.
My guess is that most viable stores are focused on selling books; with some extra's in service and labor, whatever can be afforded. I would submit that a decent book-bookstore has a chance of surviving, as long as they don't get too far ahead of themselves.
What always amazes me about these bookstore "call for help"s is how little it usually is about the books.
Everything but books, it seems like.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
It's the end of the world.
I'm talking CNN and CNBC and MSNBC.
I caught a bit of the day coverage of the tornadoes in the midwest.
What a bunch of henny pennys. What a bunch of drama queens (and I'm not just talking about Anderson Cooper.)
Hey, it's a rain drop, head for the shelters! Don't worry folks, we're in a safe place! Did you hear a I siren? I thought I heard a siren!!!
Hey, is the head dead yet?
What a monster 24 cable news is.
Thank god we have Fox covering the real news: The Casey Anthony trial.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Non-sexy reasons for business longevity.
Trial and error.
You try things out and they work and you do more of it.
You try things out and they don't work, and you do less of it.
Last long enough, and you gather a whole bunch of more winning strategies, and shed a whole bunch of losing strategies.
Except it doesn't take very many losing strategies to negate your winners.
What really works against newcomers is that so many of the so-called experts recommend what -- to me -- are losing strategies.
Right off the bat, most new businesses spend too much on overhead -- to many new shiny fixtures and gadgets, too many employees.
Right off the bat, most new businesses spend too much on advertising and promotion, and not enough on inventory. It's appearance versus substance -- and in the long run, substance will wins every time.
In a way, this blog has related a whole series of discoveries about what works and what doesn't. It's possible these discoveries are unique to my store but I don't really think so.
Often these trial and errors are by accident. Something happens by coincidence that unexpectedly works, and you try it again.
As you know, I've been ordering "sale" product heavily for a number of years now. By "sale" product, I mean stuff that is just a little too early or a little too late, or just a little less popular character toys in a popular series --- stuff that is just a little off of the beaten track. Much of it is what I call "mid-list" product; stuff you order when it first comes out and then fades.
If I can save half as much by carrying them, I can take twice as long or sell half as much as usual.
In the meantime, though, I always make sure I carry the "evergreens"; the constantly in demand product. (Which I know because of trial and error...)
Twice this year, I had a circumstance where I happened to ordered a large amount of sale product before I ordered the evergreens.
Then had a precipitous drop in sales for a few weeks which made it hard to do the evergreen order.
I didn't do this on purpose. It so happened that the sale product was offered in such a way that I had to order it then. The evergreen I can order at any time.
What was unexpected is, after the initial drop (which had nothing to do with inventory) sales pretty much stabilized -- even without the evergreens for a few weeks. Then I made enough money to go ahead and get the evergreens.
The eye-opener here was that I'm pretty sure the opposite wouldn't have happened. If I had just ordered the evergreen and waited for the sale product, I think it's more than possible sales would've declined, or that I wouldn't have had the money to make the sale orders.
I think it's because of the volume. I can get two, three, or even four times as much product in the door with the sale product as I can with the evergreen product. And meanwhile, I still have plenty of evergreen product in stock.
This is counter-intuitive, and I only stumbled across it, and since I discovered it, I've been very careful to order on every sale that comes along. And I've been able to order the evergreens as well.
Trial and error.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Housing-retail link. Duh.
Sometimes, I think this link is obscured by the tourism element of retail. But, insofar as it affects the local economy, I think tourism only keeps us afloat. We are going to need for the housing market to recover before the Bend economy will.
And that seems to be a long ways away.
This article (The Housing - Retail Link) is about the Australian economy, but it applies to all of us (and I've substituted WE and OUR for Australian):
"Wealth effect - the process of rising (falling) asset prices leading to rising (falling) consumer confidence, borrowing, household expenditure and employment."
".... consumer spending and employment growth appears to have stalled now that house prices have flat-lined. (We) ".... have, instead, begun reducing consumption and repaying debt…
The golden era for retailing that was 2000 to 2008 is now over and the age of frugality has begun."
I especially like the following statement, because it points out a problem with the premise I see in most news stories about a possible recovery-- that increased spending will increase employment. To me, it's obvious the opposite is happening and will continue to happen:
"It’s easy to dismiss the common misconception that unemployment would need to rise before home values would fall. Rather, ... (falling) home prices tends to lead ...(increases) in unemployment simply because of the wealth effects described above. Put simply, as long as..." (our) "... housing values remain stagnant or falling, consumption expenditure, credit growth and job creation will remain subdued..."
I'll repeat that: "falling home prices tends to lead to increases in unemployment."
In other words, we can't "spend" our way out of trouble. We need housing to stabilize first. And even then, I think we'll have along, long lag before it affects our bottomline.
We'll probably see a recovery about the same time as we've given up looking for a recovery.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Hello, blank page my old friend.
I have gone to my study, closed the door, and am waiting for inspiration.
Hoping for inspiration. I know it doesn't always, or even usually, work that way, but sometimes it does and when it does, the imaginative quality is usually better.
But most times, I have to slog it out. Make a start.
So...I want to have a 2nd chapter ready by Tuesday, and I have a few pages yet to go, so I'm still waiting....
So far today, I drank coffee and read the Bulletin.
Went to the store and wrote out some checks and dropped off some books.
Came home and mowed the lawns.
Finished off the monthly comic orders.
Read off some sections of the New York Today.
So far today, I have NOT written any fiction...
Finally, around 5:00, I had a kernel of an idea. Which turned into a page of fiction. Just before bed, I added one more paragraph.
So I'm 2 pages into the second chapter, and I want at least 4 pages ready for writer's group, which is on Tuesday.
This is too slow a pace, really. But I want it to "feel" right, so I'll accept this pace. Otherwise, I'll force the issue by writing Something, Anything.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Mean old men.
You have to take them with a grain of salt. A recent one, about Marriott, was interesting in what it didn't say; the sons were interviewed, and the first time on film they talk about what a "taskmaster" their father was; the second time, they repeat that, and then a third time, and then a fourth, and you get the message; the old man was a monster.
That seems to be a common refrain in the biographies. The old founders were monsters; a string of broken promises, lawsuits, shed partners, broken families.
Marriott started his hotel chain at the age of 58. That kind of ambition is just inexplicable to me. My guess is that these guys have such a huge reservoir of anger and resentment that it fuels them all the way to their deathbeds, whereupon they mutter the words "Rosebud" leaving their demoralized families to wonder what that was all about....
(Rich demoralized families...)
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Wait. I thought our economy was a information economy.
Wait? You want that information for free?
Why do I have a sinking feeling...?
Trying to argue with techies is like trying to argue religion.
"MRI Shows Apple Stimulates Fan's Brains Like Religion." (The Consumerist.)
"When he was looking at Apple stuff, the areas of his brain lit up in the same way as religious people's do when shown faith-based imagery.
"This suggests that the big tech brands have harnessed, or exploit, the brain areas that have evolved to process religion," says one of the scientists."I wonder sometimes if these techies realize that MOST of the world is just not as into it as they think. Most of the world is still reading books, for instance; e-books are still a very thin slice.
Look -- you can't can't get much more dominant in an industry than the video game industry is -- and yet, I can continue to sell RPG's and Boardgames.
I think the same thing will happen with books. Sports cards are probably selling 1/100th as well as at the peak, but I still sell a chunk each month. And so on.
I will also say -- straight out -- that every industry that I have been involved in selling has collapsed when it moves to the online world.
That is -- it hasn't just been bad for the small retailers -- it's been bad for everyone, including ultimately, the consumer whose choices dwindle and inconvenience increases. Manga, anime, sports cards....
Who cares if the stores don't make money? Who cares if the publishers don't make money? Who cares as long as I can get mine?
One question. Who gets paid? And how do you find them? And how do you know they're any good? And ....
I don't know. I have a bad feeling about this.
Sons of Gondor!
- A day may come when this blog fails, when we forsake our daily writing and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we write! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you write! Men of the West.
(Um....does a meta reference to not having anything to write count?)
Friday, May 20, 2011
A little sidebar in the business section that "Home sales decline, confidence dips." This is like the real story, but never mind. There has been a full court press of positive news about the economy lately, but I ain't buying it.
Not much worse, not much better. At least from what I can see in my store.
"Airport Plans Stuck On Taxiway."
Big plans -- like all of Central Oregon organizations. We like our plans big.
Not just a big hotel, but it must be a "three or four stars" hotel.
Um, I not sure that designation is up to you.
"LinkedIn Shares soar...."
Whatever. Tech bubble anyone?
"Treasury Support for Small-Business Lending Yet to Begin."
They should get going around the same time the recession is ending. Heh.
On the same page is a "SBA" Financing ad. I applied for one these once, and got back a stack 3 inches thick of red tape.
"Amazon Selling More E-Books Than Print Books."
Get back to me when Amazon is making more MONEY in E-Books than Print....
"County OK's Additional Prosecutor."
Frankly, it sounds like the new district attorney is less than organized. Can't we at least ask him to be organized?
"Redmond Looks to Spur Affordable Housing...."
At the same time, the Bulletin editorial expresses doubt about the fees in Bend for these projects. I think they left out the most ridiculous one; the condo's above the parking garage, that were more expensive than the average home around here.
I wish they would use these funds to help out current homeowners and or prospective buyers, rather than building new housing.
"Police Say They Couldn't Stop Hit-Run Suspect..."
I'm not buying it.
Couldn't they have arrested him for....(ah, hem ignore that sound of breaking glass, ah, hem)...a broken tail light? Something? Anything?
I'm pretty sure they could have. I think they just thought they had discouraged the guy....
"Support for Bend Zip Line Slackens."
Thank god, we still have the water park.
Ummmm....we still do have the water park, don't we?
The picture of Bend's city population sign in 1977. 17, 300 peeps. Less than Redmond, currently. It was such a nice town....
Bwana says get your ass out here for a picture.
The picture in the local section of the Bulletin of the Typhoon staff is -- well, less than convincing. It doesn't prove one thing or the other, it just looks rather odd.
At the center of the group is the Typhoon Manager, hands on hips, big smile, looking confident and in charge. Arrayed behind him, literally in the shadows, are the crew, with a few tentative smiles and a couple of doubtful looks.
As a publicity picture, this doesn't work.
So, I watched my stock in Barnes & Noble go up about 15%, then drop in half, and yesterday it had inched back up to within 10% below my original purchase price.
Today, it's shot up to 10% higher, because there is an offer to buy the company on the table, one that wants Riggio to stay so probably has a chance to succeed.
I told myself if the stock went up 20%, I'd sell.
What to do. What to do.
"In a hole in the sidewalk, behind a parking meter, there lived a Kobbit."
This was not a dry, comfortable hole like those of his country cousins --no, this was a wet, slimy, smelly hole."
I have started a new story, and this one I'm going to finish. I don't know how much I'll talk about it here, but I'm pretty committed to actually seeing it through to the end. I've got a work schedule worked out; a plan of attack. I'm conscious after so many false starts of the pitfalls. I'm trying not to underestimate the difficulties.
On the other hand, after the last few months of dabbling, I think it can be done. I'm more or less financially secure, the store is stable, I have the time, energy and health. The creative juices seem to be there, under the surface.
All I really need is the Commitment. My life has to be given over to the project entirely. Like a marriage or a good job, I can't enter into it lightly, thinking "I'll see what happens." It is going to turn parts of my life upside down, so I need to be absolutely certain I'll see it through.
What's changed is, that I now have an outlet that I can be certain will be used -- online.
So if you run into me, and I seem sort of absentminded or distracted, it's because my head is in the story. If I go on about it here on the blog, forgive me. If I jump into a project fully, I can get pretty intense.
I'm not really sure, though, that I will in fact talk about it here.
For one thing, I've come to realize that I need be nearer to the end of the novel, than the beginning, before I start posting it, because things that happen later in the story can completely change things earlier.
It's not like a blog entry, complete in itself.
It's more like a big, messy jigsaw, always incomplete and changeable.
Actually, I probably will talk about it here, but I probably won't post much of the story until I'm certain I've got a firm outline.
Wish me luck.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Downtown Comings and Goings
Which is good, because smaller spaces tend to rent out quicker to newer businesses.
Haven't heard if anyone is moving into their old premises.
NEW BUSINESSES DOWNTOWN
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
**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
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Bend Burger Company
(Fall, 2008 or so).
River Bend Art Gallery, Bond St., 5/5/11.
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
***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
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Pella Doors and Windows
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
(Fall, 2008 or so.)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I have to get to work tomorrow 3 hours early to let the cable guys in the door to change my internet and phone service.
Bendbroadband was in the door almost immediately after I posted my dissatisfaction with Qwest.
I'm thinking that it's probably going to end up costing me about the same -- except I'll have a dedicated phone line, and I'll pay for long distance by the minute.
Got one of those great but rare moments of Up Yours.
"Hi. Are you the person I talked to about the Qwest rate change?"
"You mean the rate increase? Yes. But it's too late. I've already decided to make a change."
"May I ask why?"
Bellylaugh. "Because you raised the rate."
"It's a good thing I caught you before...."
"Too late, I've already made the change." Click.
I suspect he was about to make an offer. Thing is, he could have made that offer when he called me the first time, but obviously didn't believe I would change.
This landline phone companies don't appear to fully understand they are in no position to make demands.
The Good Wife finale was fantastic. Best show on T.V., bar none.
The Killing is great, but seems to keep shifting ground every week. Not sure it's really settled into a theme, and the shows almost over.
The Game of Thrones. I had almost forgotten the sense of doom that settles over this story as the Starks are ensnared by politics and their own sense of rectitude.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I believe one white bison is a sign of the apocalypse, so we are Tripply Doomed!
Borders can't get new terms. It can't find a buyer. It is losing money.
But other than that, it's doing great!
Ursala Le Guin's favorite S.F. author is .... Virginia Woolf. (!?)
That's it....she's lost me.
I used to like Le Guin's early novels, (you know, when she was 'merely' a S.F. author). Now I think she's a ginormous snooty twit.
Castle announced last night on the show that there was a new graphic novel based on his characters. Woke up this morning to find that -- there really is a graphic novel coming out from Marvel.
Schwarzenegger fathers a child out of wedlock.
What bothers me most about these situations, including Clinton and this IMF guy, is that
these 'victims' are underlings. It's seems to be a power thing.
Jon Stewart had a guy last night who has written a book about psychopath's --who says the power elite are riddled with psycho's.
Which explains a lot.
Walmart is a Ponzi.
If you were a hedge fund, and you were only making money from new clients; that is, you were losing money with old clients, but paying off the bills with new clients -- what would you call that?
And yet, that is exactly the position that Walmart is in. It has lost money in existing stores for 8 straight quarters -- but, is still turning a profit from 'new' stores overseas.
Same is true of Home Depot and Lowes and, I suspect in the long run, every other chain whose model it is to open new stores. Bigger stores.
They are trying to get around this by building smaller stores -- but, a smaller big box store is just a "Store" and loses the supposed big box advantages. In other words, they have to compete on the same terms.
But that isn't the point, I think. The point is that a new store will always earn more at first. (As long as you don't have to account for the cost of paying for the infrastructure.) Meanwhile, you stress the old stores by raising 'productivity' -- that is, getting more work out of fewer workers. Which is a great short term strategy, but a lousy long-term strategy if you are trying to satisfy the customers.
But it can continually be short term, as long as you keep opening stores. More stores. Don't look at that ten year old store.
It seems all phony to me. As if you put together two money losing operations and claim, "Look, our sales just doubled!"
I was just watching a documentary on Sears; and it showed how 70 years or so ago, they bought corner lots on the outskirts of towns and created huge growth for themselves as the towns grew up around them. 50 years later, these stores were old and tired and supplanted by a new chain of stores who got the bright idea of buying corner lots on the outskirts of towns....
Monday, May 16, 2011
East, West, whatever....
Pretense seems to be the right word. There is s snobbish quality to the "West is Best" claims that puts me off. (I live in the Williamson Park neighborhood of Bend -- nice big lots, nice homes, nicely maintained.)
So I was all ready to argue with the map of "two cities" that the Bulletin published this morning.
But those red colors saturating the east side would seem to be hard to argue with.
But...is it really a meaningful measure? Land values compared to property tax values?
It seems to me the real measure of pain is whether the house buyer can afford the house he or she lives in. In other words, the foreclosure rate would seem a more accurate gauge. And the last time I saw a foreclosure map, it was spread pretty evenly.
As someone said in the article, values are "neighborhood" specific. For instance, I noticed that the most expensive part of all Bend -- the northwest hills, was saturated with almost as much pink and red as the east side.
Is it painful to the average homeowner that "vacant" lots on the east side have dropped significantly?
Like I said, I'm just not sure how it matters to the average homeowner whether the assessed value of his home has dropped.
It matters whether he can pay for it.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
"I'll keep looking...."
The guy works for Barnes and Noble, so his perspective comes from that angle.
One of his principle complaints is the new phenomenon of dealing with customers who want a specific book, but who don't have the information they need to find it.
So the bookseller plays 20 questions, trying to figure out what book they are talking about. Only to find at the end of the process that the customer: A.) Wants it now. B.) Wants it cheap. Or C.) says, "Thank you very much. I'll buy it from Amazon."
His point being that you can't play 20 questions with Amazon. It's a big computer. Garbage in, garbage out.
He talks about how he has to grin and bear it. (His characterization of this type of customer is right on -- but he's anonymous and can say it....) :)
This problem is compounded when you sell both new and used books.
I too have noticed the ONE BOOK and ONE BOOK ONLY type of customer. The difference between me and Rocket Bomber is that I know I probably won't be able to satisfy the customer. I immediately say, "You're most likely the find that online."
Often, I'll have the ONE BOOK and ONE BOOK ONLY in the new books section, but not the used book section.
But I've figured out that the ONE BOOK and ONE BOOK ONLY customer -- who wants it now, who wants it cheap -- well, really isn't a customer. That is, if you added up all the sales to all these customers, they wouldn't amount to a hill of beans. (To clarify -- the customer who buys one book is great; it's the person who comes in only looking for one book who doesn't add up to much.)
It's like a grocery store trying to survive on a customer who only comes in for one flavor of sauce, and the leaves. If the customers don't grab a shopping cart and fill it up, most grocery stores wouldn't survive.
The real customers -- the customers who keep you alive -- read BOOKS, not BOOK.
Oh, I take the time to answer their 20 questions, mostly because I think I'm really good at it. And looking it up on Google takes but a minute (begging the question as to why the customer doesn't do it himself.)
Most often, the ONE BOOK and ONE BOOK ONLY is asking because: 1.) He's been looking everywhere and looking for years. In which case his best bet is obviously the internet. Or 2.) Someone who is looking for something he heard about on T.V. In which case, his best bet is the mass market, who probably has stacks of books and has them at discount.
So, I'm usually willing to look for the customer, BUT -- I also try to tell him the truth. Based on watching the books that come in my wife's much bigger bookstore, month after month, year after year.
"You aren't likely to find that book used, right now," I tell them. Because either it's in HUGE demand -- or because it's really pretty rare. Or both.
The thing that bothers me isn't the same thing as Rocket Bomber. The thing that bothers me, is THEY DON'T BELIEVE ME! They'll walk off, convinced I've tried to pull a fast one, certain they'll find the book at the next bookstore they go to.
Instant karma. Because, they probably won't.
For example: Atlas Shrugged.
Here's a true and accurate answer.
If you were looking 3 years ago, you would've found it in most good used bookstores.
If you begin looking in another 3 years from today, you'll find multiple copies in any used bookstore.
Right now? Probably in one out of ten used bookstores.
I have a new copy for 8.99. A used copy would probably cost you around 4.00 to 5.00. You have a one in ten chance of finding it if you leave....
90% will leave. (Which says something about Atlas Shrugged customers ...:).
No, really. You'll probably have to spend another hour looking for the book -- even if you're successful!
Do the math, people!
Or, a customer comes in and asks for Hornblower books. Now -- I haven't seen a used Hornblower book in years -- the old paperbacks and old hardcovers are long, long out of print.
BUT -- they do have nice new tradepaperbacks, which I have taken the time to buy and stock. Over a dozen Hornblower books, including the first four or five. And they cost all of 12.00 each.
"Oh, I'll keep looking...."
Yes. Yes, you will.
I have a long list of authors and titles that are rare in the used book market; but readily available in the new book market. But people who would be insulted if I offered them a job at 9.00 an hour, will spend hours looking for authors and titles which are difficult to find used, but readily available new.
I've decided there is a fundamental disconnect between people's perception of books availability -- and the sheer number of books.
If I were to just order the Highly Recommended book on the site Shelf Awareness -- my store would be bursting at the seams in a very short time.
And the ONE BOOK and ONE BOOK ONLY people seem to have the least knowledge of books, and are therefore surprised and insulted they don't have the ONE BOOK! and what's wrong with you anyway?
I always used the Unicorn example I sell Unicorns online -- but not in my store. Because, you know, if you are in my store, you can demand to see the Unicorn. But online -- well, I guess you just have to take my word for it.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Shooting the cougar.
A word of advice for animal lovers. If you don't want this kind of thing to happen, don't feed the deer.
Actually I'm going to shout that: DON'T FEED THE FRACKIN' DEER!
I've decided to vote for the bond measure, just so they'll build 5 more roundabouts. I want Bend to have a new nickname:
Better than "Poverty with a View" though it may amount to the same thing. Come to town, twirl around, and leave.
Heroin deal downtown? Really? What 23 year old wakes up some morning and says, "I'm going to get hooked on heroin!"
Or meth, for that matter.
It's not like no one knows the consequences...
"Recovery Seen In Use of Credit Cards" Bulletin, 5/14/11.
This is couched as though it's a 'good' thing. You know, "The dust is slowly coming off the credit cards."
The reasoning is, "...income is slowly making a comeback right now."
"Economists now are cautiously forecasting a turnaround in spending."
Yes, on the spending.
Proof that income is making a comeback? Seems like the opposite to me -- borrowing more money would imply that income is NOT making a comeback.
You know -- debt.
Versus having actually money to spend. (I never actually believed that Americans had given up on their credit cards -- more like, credit cards had given up on them...)
But I guess I don't think like an "expert" in the economy...
I'm shocked -- SHOCKED! -- I tell you that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook would try to "smear" Google despite their goal of being "transparent."
Hmmm.....did any of you journalists actually see that movie last year?
Friday, May 13, 2011
Today's Bulletin news of the weird.
Blogger was down for almost a full day. (Blogs from Thursday are still missing....) Makes me a little nervous. I have lots of my fiction stored in the blogger cloud, as well a my posted blog.
Makes me realize that while the internet may be forever, internet sites and services may not be.
Does it seem to anyone else that the hackers are winning some battles lately?
Some Bulletin stories amused me today. Big stories, like the brave deputy who is hunting the cougar south of town.
Personally, I'm rooting for the cougar.
"HE WENT out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He's the all American bullet-headed saxon mother's son.
All the children sing
"Hey Bungalow Bill
What did you kill
Then there was the headline: "Prineville trucker cited for heavy load."
I've always figured most truckers are overweight. (Their trucks, not them....)
But my favorite headline was; "Tronos sue former landlords for deposit."
Basically, the landlords evicted the Trono's for spilling blood on the carpets and blistering the walls with bullet holes...
The Tronos' want their deposit back.
People are petty in the weirdest ways...
Thursday, May 12, 2011
There was one other prediction that I remember making: I don't need to look it up, because I remember it exactly.
Back then, the average cycle of a housing downturn was seven years, top to bottom back to top. (Based on bubbles in California and Texas, there had never been a national downturn in housing, as was mentioned repeatedly during the bubble because you know, cause it's never happened before must mean it will never happen....)
So my expectation was that it would be seven years or more. Probably more, since this was the mother of all bubbles.
The economy, I think, has followed housing in it's ups and downs. (That and no jobs -- which, at least locally, is also connected to housing.)
Anyway, I think what's been happening since that first year or two of significant declines is that we have been bumping along the bottom. I think small downturns are continuing, at least in my business, but the smaller declines could be due to other factors -- like comics not selling, or my not spending oodles of money on establishing new inventory lines (things always sell better when you're building inventory, because -- well, you're spending more money than you're making.)
So...I expect we'll bump along the bottom for a while longer. Especially in Bend. We avoided Armageddon but we are living in a dysfunctional economy.
Bend continues to draw newcomers, and lose oldtimers, and wobble back and forth as to whether we are a hot place to live, or yesterday's news.
The longer we wobble, the more likely I think we'll come back. As long as we don't get a loser reputation.
On one hand, I expect we'll get more of the type of rational decisions made by the Redmond Airport candidate who decided that his wife had little opportunity for a teaching job in Redmond.
On the other hand, I continually see newcomers who come in the store and say, "Whoooeee! We're starting a new business!" (And, as always, it drives me nuts that there is no way to get accurate information about how other retailers are doing, other than the opening and closing of stores....)
So, at some point over the next two or three years, I expect to start beating last year. Not by much, but a little. And then a long slow climb back up to my "goal." I don't know if we'll get to previous sales levels -- I suppose inflation will eventually get us there. But I'm only 20% from where I want to be, and I think I'll probably get there within a couple more years, maybe three years, maybe four....maybe.....
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
What do YOU know?
Then he complains that new comics are too dark. (Actually, he says that he's 'heard' that the Watchmen is pretty dark...)
Really. What other medium would suffer such indignities?
I look forward to the next insightful article about movies from someone who hasn't been to a movie in 45 years; I'm sure he will object that nothing today is as good as the Doris Day and Rock Hudson comedies used to be. He's pretty sure. He hasn't actually been to a movie, but that's what he's heard.
Or someone who hasn't watched a television show in 45 years, and is dismayed that all the sitcoms aren't like "Leave it to Beaver" anymore.
You know -- true lovers and experts of the medium.
You know, even though he can't be bothered to actually be involved since 1965.
The simple stuff.
There can't be but a handful of comic shops in this world that can show the full cover of every comic.
So, whenever a publisher puts their title at the bottom of the comic, and/or on the far right margin, they almost guarantee their comic won't sell.
What a waste.
So, you know, books pretty much come in standard sizes (well, there are tons of variations, but a majority of books are standard sizes.) So to conserve room, we stack like-sized books with like-sized books.
But customers simply don't see it. They throw any old book with any old book-- but a stack of 11" books don't collate well with a few 14" covers mixed in, and so on.
I don't know.
It seems simple to me.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Building a levee.
I have a total in mind that is an optimized number at Pegasus Books; that is, I can do my job without stress. Pay the bills, pay myself, and keep the store up.
We are running around 20% below that number on the slow months; about 10% overall averaged throughout the year.
The 20% below number is where the flood waters are lapping at the top of the levee. I watch carefully, but it sort of just threatens to surmount the top, and then recedes.
This lower number is enough to do my job; keep employees, pay the bills, and pay myself enough to get by.
Anyway, the point of this blog is to say that I decided this year to continue to shore up the levee, even though it is costing me money in the short run. My extra inventory is like sandbags on top of the levee -- keeping the store a little safer, but at a little extra cost.
Much of the cost is absorbed by savings -- on postage and discount levels. But some of it is also coming from spending money, and hoping that the new product will pay for itself.
If I can extend the analogy just a little more. My thinking is -- if the levee were to ever break, it would take months, maybe years to rebuild it. A little spending now, and I might be able to save myself from that time and expense.
I have more or less decided to PUSH for the optimized number -- even though trends are working against me. I have the second half of this year to keep trying to push those numbers up, and a good chance of -- at the least -- covering the cost.
It's almost a matter of willpower. But also of intent -- that is, by setting that goal, and constantly adjusting how and when and what I buy in product, I'm betting I can push that sales total to the optimized level.
Building a levee, if you will, that is strong and high.
Monday, May 9, 2011
More predictions from 2007.
My mind keeps circling back to the comment by the real estate agent in yesterday's Bulletin article on downtown condo's.
Let's quote it in all it's brazen glory:
"The urbanization we are seeing here is so unique to the community this size, I think we're just going to have to see more inventory and see how that goes before we'll really know.
"No guts, no glory."
This is the very definition of speculation; let's build more and see if they sell."
I'm beginning to recall that much of the predicting me and others were doing was in direct contradiction to what we were hearing from real estate and developers. They were pretty shameless, in hindsight. Yet they were continually quoted by the Bulletin and other local media.
March 6, 2007.
Here's a prediction I had wrong: thinking comic stores would be immune to a slowdown. Wishful thinking:
The media seems to be full of bad economic news; meanwhile, Pegasus isn't feeling it much. Not sure it would in any case; comics shops often do well in bad economic times. My sales tend to go up or down due to trends in my particular and peculiar part of the world, rather than because of overall economic conditions. The major exception, of course, was the depression that Bend went through in the early 80's. Still, I think it's early in the cycle, especially for Bend. The pain signals haven't reached the brain yet.
March 14, 2007.
An interesting comment on the prevailing mindset back then. I'm posting this because anyone reading this is going to go, "Well, of course we had a bubble. Of course, we were going to see a bust." But that isn't the way people were thinking back then. Being a contrarian was truly rare back then, though few will admit it now:
"Interestingly, whenever the subject comes up in the store, not only do customers not agree that there is a slowdown, or even a potential slowdown, but they seem surprised that anyone would think so.
Oh, I don't know. Anyone who reads the news? "
Another post that reflects the mindset exactly four years ago, today. April 9, 2007:
"We had an old family friend join the table yesterday. She was thinking about selling her house. So I told her, I thought she should try to sell this spring and not wait until summer or fall. The brother in law who lives in Bend, chipped in, saying he thought that Bend was going to continue booming, that we were a baby boomer mecca.
Interestingly, our old friend seemed very receptive to what I said. I think because she had already been looking into the situation, and seemed aware of some of the developing dynamics. But what was interesting to me was that my B-in-L hasn't changed his opinion about Bend's growth whatsoever."
On April 6, 2007, I have a long blog about how I think there is still a moment of "grace" where it might still be possible to escape the coming downturn if you act NOW:
I think I'll post it in full, because it turned out to be pretty correct.
"In every bubble I've experienced, there is a period of grace at the end, when it is still possible to get your affairs in order. To escape. You have to be paying attention, you need to trust your instincts, but that moment is there.
I do believe it's possible Bend is at that moment.
A couple of days ago, there were three positive economic news items on the front page of the Bulletin. I then turned to my U.S.A. Today, and there were four negative economic news items on the front page.
It's spring, and if houses are ever going to start selling, it is now. But if they aren't selling, we aren't going to really hear about it for another few months. It's still a positive moment in time.
We are the second fastest growing urban area in America. But that information is from last year. You can ride that wave of positive news, but paddling out to sea expecting another big wave is more questionable. There will be plenty of people who will look at the improved sales this spring, and the positive news in the newspaper, and think the lull is over, good times will continue. That's what gives you your opportunity. You have a period of grace.
And if it should happen that they're right, and you're wrong, you don't look back. You at least got out while it was still possible to get out. You at least didn't lose money, and you have removed the distinct possibility that you could be the last fool.
It appears to me that the fundamentals just aren't on the side of the optimists. Reality has a way of reasserting itself. But there is always that moment when the optimists are still in charge, but the pessimists are right. There is no proof, no one knows for sure, but that's the way it feels to me. Feelings can be wrong, but if you wait for the evidence, it's usually too late.
God knows, I could be completely wrong. And I don't have a house for sale, which would color my thinking. And to be honest, I'm kind of in the middle in my own business between the expansion of the last few years, and the cutting back in fear of a downturn. I'm sort of maintaining the momentum. But this feeling I'm having, that this is the period of grace, is very nostalgic and very strong. As usual, I'll wait to take action when there is a bit more evidence, and as usual that may be a little too late. I'm no different than anyone else.
That's the way of a bubble. Everyone tries to play it a little too cute."
Predictions from early 2007.
The first one I can find is on January 7th, 2007, more than 4 years ago:
"I don't believe there is going to be sudden collapse in the retail environment downtown. Lots of change, yes. Challenges and retreats; surges and lulls. I think downtown is at such a fever pitch, that it would take a complete disaster to bring it down. And if that happens, downtown occupancy rates will be the least of our worries."
This has pretty much been dead on; and I'm proud of it, because my only example was the early 80's when downtown had a compete collapse, so I predicted against that experience because I felt circumstances had changed.
Lots of turnover downtown, to be sure, but the vacancy rate has remained low.
On February 16, 2007, is the first reference to what local house sellers were predicting:
"I always get such a kick out of when Realtors' talk about how the housing prices have hit bottom and will rebound in the spring.
Let me give you a hint. NEVER listen to the maker-- or seller-- of ANY product when they prognosticate. Most them have convinced themselves that things are great, and some are hoping for the best, and the rest-- hopefully the minority -- are cynical liars."
Harsh. But not to anyone who listened to these bozo's...
I don't fully address the housing slowdown until February 18th, 2007. (I was making plenty of comments over on BendBubble2). It's hard to remember now that there was ever any doubt that housing was headed for a long fall. The comments are correct, but still have a tone of speculation:
"I've thought some more about the housing bubble. It seems to me that Bendites were much more vigilant six months or a year ago, when the national statistics first started coming in and it first became apparent the boom was slowing, than we are now. So now we think we've internalized the fact that there is a slowdown, but nothing seems to have really changed. We aren't really feeling it.
I compare it to the moment in the horror film, when the character is certain that there is something dangerous out there, the tension builds.....and a cat leaps out. Of course, the character relaxes. And THAT'S when the monster jumps out."
Later on in the same blog, I say:
"I haven't been paying much attention to the Bubble Blog 2, or the Bend Economy Board. Read a bunch of it last night.
Well, that was bracing! I'd almost forgotten what a terrible state we're in.
No, really. I do believe we have been undergoing a bubble, and I do believe that we are in danger of collapsing housing prices. Once that psychology changes to negative we're in for a long haul.
But here's the thing; you just can't put your life on hold because everything may go south tomorrow. The older I get, the more I realize that you can't keep putting stuff off forever.
So I'm torn. On one hand, I'm convinced that there is indeed a bubble popping. If nothing else, just the steepness of the graph tells me that something is wrong. And I've had long experience with bubbles and fads."
This turned out to be my strategy over the last four years: full acknowledgment of the crash, while trying the maintain the store at a high level.
One last post from February, 2007, because it reveals how when these downturns start, things are still a little murky. This was over 4 years ago, and a good 5 months before Bears Stearns went belly up, but I was paying heed to the danger signs, even then.
"I think we are in the very dangerous moment. I know this intellectually, while emotionally, I'm not quite ready to accept it. Everything I see and read leads me to believe that we are in the same place as sports cards in 1988. The slide has already begun, but not enough information has been released, those in charge of the information are still able to distract us with words; with smoke and mirrors, and we aren't feeling any pain yet. No one we know has lost their job, though a few people have had their hours cut. It just doesn't seem all that bad.
But I can look at the slowdown in housing starts, the lack of good paying jobs, the fact that some of my major customers are in the building business, that prices have gotten so high that we are pushing our luck with out-of-towners, that other places in the country that used to be growing as fast as us (Florida and Las Vegas) are hurting, and that the prices are starting to soften. On a scale of 1 to 10, we are at an 8 in warning signs. We're probably already hurting, but the pain hasn't quite reached our brains yet.
O.K. I think I've convinced myself. Because that's what it takes. The prevailing mood is almost impossible to break through, which is why these booms keep going long after everyone knows its a bit crazy, and why the downturns are so painful and hard to turn around. I can't emphasize the importance of psychology in all this. It may become difficult to sell a house at ANY price, and at some point, prices will stabilize but sales may stay stagnant. I shudder to think of all the real estate, builders, loan companies, title companies, etc. etc. employees we have around here. I cringe at the number of businesses that I think are being supported by the boom town mentality (either as equity businesses, or as businesses that cater to the boom).
And all those rich folk who think Bend is so great? Given the slightest smell of desperation, and they'll move along, with all those people who cater to them.
It may not happen. I think it will. I hope I'm wrong. "
Supposedly, the recession didn't start until December 2007, but in retrospect it was already starting almost a year earlier, and those of us who were paying attention were already getting prepared.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Did I say promotions don't work?
We had a bigger than normal day, yesterday, but if I add in the costs of extra labor and the cost of the "free" books to the store, it was probably a break even.
A break-even with the promotional rosy glow.
I would join in on Free Comic Book Day even if we lost money, because the rest of the industry does it and I want to be part of that.
It is kind of a fun idea.
I might be able to get a bigger result if I actually made more effort, but take out the costs of that effort, and we probably -- again-- break even. I've made very big efforts some years, and other years just kind of went with the flow.
Anyway, this is a successful promotion because it it well thought out, has developed a tradition (first Saturday of May, which is helped by the opening of summer movies), and --above all -- has the magic words FREE.
Spent 3 hours in the garden yesterday. 3 hours seems like the magic number; long enough to get something done, but not so long as to burn me out. If I try do this every day off, I should have the garden in shape for summer.
I was thinking that I was farther along this year, because it hasn't gotten hot yet. Then I look at the calendar. Hell, I remember the bulk of my Mom's gardening being done by now. She usually eased off by late July...
Having the new lawns and sprinkler system helps. Still a bit raw. Need more plants.
If I was really patient, I would buy a truck load of dirt and another of manure and work up the soil before I proceed any farther. Which means another year of getting ready to actually have a full garden...
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Free Comic Book Day is Here!
Good stuff -- Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, Star Wars...
I'm under no obligation here to be (Quote) "Fair" (Unquote). It's my blog.
On the other hand, I want this blog reflect business reality as I see it. I want people to trust what I say.
So with that in mind: I'd intended to compare Thursday's total -- with street closure-- to the day before -- without street closure. Both middle of the week days, both nice weather.
I would have posted it if the difference was extreme, so it's only fair that I report that the difference was minimal.
I will say that I had fewer 'regulars' in than usual, and that at least a couple complained. But apparently, they were substituted by non-regulars.
Last I heard, the city of Bend was trying to decide how to allocate their "general funds."
Hell. That's easy.
Our county too. And our local college. And since we're calling in outside counsel, our state too.
Apparently, county official Mark Pilliod, who supposedly isn't saying anything has said a lot: "A monumental waste of resources...."
What a bunch of winners....er, whiners....
Ultimately, it's we -- the voters -- fault. We let ideological leanings overcome common sense, and have put into office petty (county) and/or clueless (city) officials.
So Al Queda has admitted Ben Laden is dead. Now the only people who don't believe that are Republicans...
(I know, I know. Cheap shot. Most DO believe it, but hey...)
I have nothing I have to do today but dink around in the garden and read comics. Life is good.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Bladerunner won't happen.
Anyway, somewhat startling to realize it was placed in the year 2019.
Eight years away.
Where are the hovercrafts? The human robots? The Mars colonies?
Did that all seem likely when the future was 40 years away?
I feel cheated.
Ass. Students of COCC.
Meanwhile, only bringing in 35K in student fees?
Whoever made these decisions has a great future as a downtown business owner.
Or better yet, a Bend city councilperson.
Free Comic Book Day tomorrow.
These are high quality comics that are created for the event. I'm going to start with letting each customer take 3 comics.
Come on in! I think most of my guys are planning to be there, so it should be a party.
I had a woman complain that it was interfering with Mother's Day.
"The gall!" she said.
"But....but....Mothers read comics too!" I objected. "Besides, you have that wonderful Mother's Day movie....Thor."
Thursday, May 5, 2011
#12 is about an 'Old West' show, which the outlaw Sweet visits, and the reckoning, thereof. 14 and 15 start a new storyline, jumping all the way to WWII.
Neonomicon #1-4: It's Alan Moore, exploring the sexual elements of Lovecraft.
Crossed: This is Walking Dead, only sick and twisted.
Sweet Tooth: Still my first read, each month. Deceptively simple, but affecting.
When a rule isn't a rule.
"Event's Weekday Traffic Closure a First For Bend."
"An all new Cinco de Mayo event will close a section of Wall Street through downtown Bend today."
"On Wednesday, the Bend City Council approved a change to the city's coade governing downtown street closures. The city will continue to maintain an official limit of three closures per month in July and August and two for all other months, but the council will now have the authority to approve exceptions for additional events."
"The change comes in response to a request from Deschutes Brewery for the "Sagebrush Street Fare."
I give up.
Two new events in one fell swoop.
Let me rephrase this announcement:
"The city will continue to continue to maintain the official (wink, wink....official.....ha,ha) limit....but the council will now have the authority to approve exceptions (that is, anyone with any idea whatsoever as long as they show up to present it will be approved....)
So, basically, we are back to closing the streets every weekend of the summer, the very thing that I fought so hard ten years ago. Back then, we had a couple of retailers on the city council who actually saw the wisdom of limitations.....
I know you all think I have been overreacting to these closures -- but I'm telling you, they won't be satisfied until they drive away all the regular customers. The only thing I can think is that none of these other businesses HAVE regular customers....
Come on. Let retailers be retailers. Let customers be customers. Believe me, we get PLENTY of foot traffic in the summer. This actually pulls them AWAY from actual shopping.
I more and more am inclined to look to buy a location where neither the landlords or the bureaucrats or other retailers who have neither the experience (or, I'm just going to say it -- the savvy) can interfere with my business.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
I shouldn't have to write this twice.
Hit some combination of keys and blamm! Gone!
So, I'll just put a couple of things I remember saying. I had a lot more, ....ah, well.
Notice how it's gone from: "It isn't torture!" To: "See! Torture works!"
So the administration is like the crazy aunt who has adventures but can't help but embellish.
I see other people have noticed how the younger generation seems more jazzed by Bin Laden's demise than even the rest of us.
Unexpected results. Emotionally, politically.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Ducks in Lust.
Seems to me:
If you didn't find anything, announce you did, and hope you get the bad guys scrambling.
If you did find something, announce you didn't, and make sure they stay in place.
Or...maybe you did find something, but want the bad guys to believe you didn't, so you make a big deal about having found something....
Another 3 hour session in the garden.
It seems like I get a different weed infestation every year, and they are a different weeds than I remember in my mom's garden.
When I first came back to Bend after college, I was trying to be a 'full -time' author. So of course, I was earning my money from gardening. Mowing lawns, but also doing quite a bit of weeding and planting. My mom was a well known gardener, so people assumed I knew what I was doing. (Well, I did have a resident expert.)
As I was gardening, yesterday, I heard loud peals of quacking in the distance, rising and falling.
Back when I was a full time writer, one of my gardening clients was Ruth Stover (and her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimers at the time). They had operated the two theaters in town, (the Tower and Liberty (?), and later a clothing store.
They owned a wonderful house down on Mirror Pond. Ruth was a funny lady, and I'll always remember her telling me, as ducks were quacking loudly and chasing each other around, "Those ducks are in lust! It's disgusting!" she'd say, in mock horror.
Anyway, I was hearing Ducks in Lust yesterday as I was gardening, even though I'm on the east side. There must be pond nearby.
(I may have told this story before, but ducks in lust show up every year...)
One last comment on Osama.
You'd think a million dollars would buy more house in Pakistan....
I was batching it last weekend -- Linda was at a women's retreat on the coast -- so I thought I'd drink some brew and turn up my records really loud.
I was at the grocery store, and noticed one of those "energy" drinks with high alcohol content. Called, Tilt. I thought I experiment just once, to see what it was like.
Well, it went down easy. Too easy. Almost hiding the alcohol content. It had the equivalent kick of nearly 4 regular beers.
Also unexpectedly, I kind of liked the effect. I was kind of scared of the caffeine and sugar mixed with alcoholic, but it was nice. Too nice. I felt very alert and bouncy -- but when I tried to type the above section last night, every other word was misspelled.
I worry about these -- for 2.00, you get drunk quick and easy.
I think that may not be a good thing.
(And yes, all you horrified brew folk -- I'm a barbarian. O.K.? Besides, it was an experiment...)
Monday, May 2, 2011
Life -- and Death.
This is one of those instances where I feel I have to address the news of the day -- and yet, just about everything I might want to say has been said.
Al-zawahiri. Did you just feel that target get etched on your forehead?
I'm not sure dancing on the grave is the right response. Oh, hell with it. Dance away.
But it shows, we're no different.
Burial at sea?
Like I said; conspiracies, ready, set, go.
On T.V. just now, Obama is giving to Medals of Honor. Covered by all the cable news.
Bully pulpit, folks.
Ah, the gnashing of teeth on Fox. Trying to spin blame onto Pakistan -- but unfortunately for them, all the other networks were saying the same thing.
They just couldn't spin it.
You can just feel their dilemma. They want to patriotically celebrate, but they are afraid of giving Obama too much credit. So they act like pikers.
Is Obama really good? Or just lucky?
First he brings out his birth certificate, followed by the Correspondent's dinner where he makes fun of Trump, then he pre-empts The Apprentice last night.
First he announces the elimination of Bin-Laden, then the next day awards Medals of Honor in a patriotic ceremony covered by all the networks.
I guarantee that as soon as the glow wears off, he'll be accused of "timing" it.
I think the way it works is:
Reagan's failure, due to Carter.
G.H.Bush's successes, due to Reagan. Opps.
Clintin's successes due to Reagan.
Bush's failures, due to Clinton.
Obama's successes, due to Bush.
I wasted two hours watching the celebrations. I'm pretty sure there was a cheerleading squad popping cute girls onto shoulders; and I wondered where the booze was coming from.
Why am I not more satisfied? Yes, I'm glad we got the son of a bitch.
Part of me wants even more Justice (revenge) part of me says, "We won! Bring the troops home!"
Sunday, May 1, 2011
If I'm going to write a novel....
1.) I have to be fully, utterly committed. I will start and I will do a good job and I will finish. No dabbling.
2.) I have to take charge of the book; take responsibility for it, look for no outside help, and truly wrestle it into shape. It is my job and no one elses. It's a bit like building an incredibly intricate model that, perhaps, no one will ever see. I have to be all right with that.
3.) It's about the book, stupid. I can't worry about who it might sell to, or when, or how, or for how much. In writing the book, the goal is to write the book. It doesn't matter whether other books are better or worse, I can only work on the book I'm working on.
4.) The work process is at least as important as the creative process. It has to be written in such a way that I can carry on my life, but still make steady progress on the novel. For instance, I need to be sure I don't make my usual mistake of over-correcting while writing the book, and then not doing enough rewriting when I finish the book.
5.) None of the above means I shouldn't take a good hard look at what I intend to write. For me, at least, books take on an eventual form and that's the book. It's hard to change the premise of a book. So once I commit, I have to finish the book whether I think it has flaws or problems; or more to the point, I need to try to fix the flaws or problems.
This last point has been what has probably held me in Writer's Block for the last 25 years.
I'll have to make a decision and then stick to it.
It would also be a perfectly rational decision to not write a book. It's something I've thought long and hard about over the last 25 years.
What has changed?
1.) The possibility of putting it on the internet, instead of sending it into the VOID. Or letting it molder in a trunk.
2.) I have more time.
3.) This blog. Which has proved that I'm still full of the blarney.
4.) It would be interesting to see what kind of novel emerges, now that I have 25 years of life experience behind me.
Sorry to go all Hamlet on you, again. To write or not to write. But it's similar to the process I went through with Star Axe. I worked on it for awhile, then laid off, then again, and then dabbled in other stuff.
Finally, I just said to myself, finish the damn book, already!
What this possibility of publishing online has done, has made me face the difficulties of my writing a novel.
After 25 years, and after the ease with which this blog is produced, I think I may have forgotten how hard it is for me.
The following is not to put myself down: I think it's more a realistic appraisal of my abilities.
Simply put, I find it hard to write a book good enough to be published. Oh, I can get most of the way there, but that last boost of quality, which makes it good enough to be bought and read, that was always hard. I felt like I was barely making it over the finish line.
Now...I always thought the 'great' idea would come along, a burst of inspiration, and more and more experience, along with good work habits -- and create another publishable book. And maybe another.
But I need to be realistic about the time and energy it will take.
This whole examination has made me remember just how hard it is -- and reminded me why I concentrated on running Pegasus Books instead.
100 Orphaned Beginnings.
Well, the answer is, I can. I'm pretty sure I could write as many fictional words a day as I can blog words.
In fact, over the last 25 years, since I stopped writing fiction full-time, I've probably started 100 different stories, maybe more. Most of them may only go a page or two. Some are a full chapter -- I'd be willing to bet I've started at least 25 stories and gotten 3 or 4 chapters in. Maybe 8 or 10 that I've gotten even further.
None of them seemed strong enough to continue. There comes that moment when I can't just do it off the top of my head, anymore. That it requires what I used to have when I was writing full time -- the space and time and energy to really dwell in the fictional world and let my subconscious work out the problems.
A blog is a transitory thing. I go back and read past entries, and I find stupid mistakes and/or ways I could have said it better. But it's gone, like yesterday's news.
A novel -- or fictional story -- while it may be transitory to the average reader, for the writer needs to stand the test of time.
I can't know if the stories I started would have resulted in a good book -- I can't probably know until I'm halfway through.
So what really stopped me from fully committing, was the process of publishing itself. I got really tired of waiting a year for every submission. I got really tired of just missing because of timing, or because of my subject isn't in style, of my style isn't in style, or.....
It started to seem a little too arbitrary. A little too much hit and miss, luck, who you know.
I know, I know. The excuse of a writer who hasn't had enough gumption to keep trying.
But I've decided to try to pick up the pace of fictional writing -- and see if it leads anywhere. Maybe I'll start a blog and post them all; I'll call it:
100 Orphaned Stories.