Saturday, 23 July 2011

10:45 – My poor FedEx guy must hate me. Yesterday, he delivered several large boxes that contained a couple thousand polyethylene dropper bottles in different capacities and a hundred laboratory splash goggles. I’ll use the dropper bottles to build prototypes and initial inventory for the biology kit that goes with the home biology lab book I’m working on now, as well as in a future forensics kit and possibly some others. The goggles are included in all kits.


In all of the discussion about the Euro crisis, the UK hasn’t gotten much attention other than in that country’s newspapers. From what I’ve read in UK newspapers ranging across the political spectrum, I think it’s safe to say that there’s been a sea change in the attitudes of UK subjects. Previously, a substantial majority were in favor of the UK’s membership in the EU, and the electorate was roughly equally divided pro and con on adopting the Euro. The current numbers are dramatically different. A large majority now opposes joining the Euro–no surprise there given recent events–but the really significant change is that UK voters are now about 3:2 in favor of withdrawing from the EU itself.

They rightly perceive the course of the EU shifting even more strongly toward a fiscal and political union, neither of which is acceptable to a large majority of Brits. Ideally, most Brits would prefer to return to the original common market concept, where trade barriers were minimal but each country retained its own currency and full sovereignty. Even in the absence of full fiscal and political union, Britain has found, as Thatcher warned, that the obvious benefits of EU membership are far outweighed by the hidden drawbacks. Despite the fact that the UK is not a member of the Euro, British taxpayers subsidize other Euro members. For example, a significant percentage of the €50 billion in annual agricultural subsidies paid to French farmers comes out of British pockets. Nor are all the economic costs so obvious. For example, fishing rights have for years been a bone of contention between the UK and the EU.

When all is totaled up, it’s clear that the UK is suffering economically from its membership in the EU, with the economic benefits far, far outweighed by the direct and indirect economic costs. If the EU fractures, as I expect, into one group of wealthier northern nations and a second group of poorer southern nations, I expect to see the UK join the northern group, if indeed it chooses to join any union at all.


12:14 – The morning paper had an article about people flocking to the local Borders for its going-out-of-business sale. The store is advertising “up to 40% off”, which really isn’t much of a deal, even if it applied to most things. One woman quoted in the article mentioned that she’d bought several books at 10% to 20% off list price, which is no deal at all, particularly since all sales are final. As she said, she could have gotten them cheaper at Amazon.

Given the very limited selection at Borders–many publishers stopped sending them new books months ago–they’d have to be offering at least 60% off list on paperbacks and 70% off on hardbacks to temp me in there, and even at that I might not bother. Most of what I’d be looking for is fiction, and most of that I can get for $2.99 or less for my Kindle. And since my Kindle TBR stack is currently at something like 300 titles, I really don’t need any more fiction anyway.

5 thoughts on “Saturday, 23 July 2011”

  1. Your Fedex shipment sounds like several large lightweight boxes. That doesn’t sound that bad to me. Several years ago a friend owned a hobby shop, and the UPS guy delivered a very heavy box. The UPS guy made the mistake of asking if it was a box full of rocks. My friend of course said yes. Actually, to be technical, it was a box full of model railroad ballast, but still it was a box of (very tiny) rocks.

  2. Yeah, the individual box weights were in the 4 kilo to 15 kilo range. What he hates isn’t the mass but the fact that the boxes are large enough that he has to make multiple trips to put them on the porch.

    On the other hand, UPS delivered some stuff the other day, including a box with a bunch of 9V transistor batteries. That box was small, but it had the approximate density of a brick.

    Back years ago, when USPS book rate was an incredible deal, some people used it literally to ship household goods when they were moving to a new house. You could ship a large, heavy box for something like a buck and change. I remember ordering 100 pounds of bullet casting metal, which is mostly lead. The guy I ordered it from shipped it to me book-rate, which was completely legal the way he did it. He actually sent me a (free) old paperback book, which he carefully surrounded with a whole bunch of packing material, which just happened to be bullet casting metal.

    Which reminds me of Henry Ford ordering components for the model T. He specified the shipping container extremely precisely, including the dimensions and type and quality of wood and the type of screws to be used in the packing crate. He then recycled the packing crate wood into floorboards for the Model T.

  3. My wife self publishes her book. We order it in lots of 3,000 from a small publisher who ships them to us UPS Ground. That’s about 51 boxes at 44 pounds each. They are sent “signature required”, so if no one is home, they have to take them back to the warehouse for redelivery. Needless to say, the driver in our area has my cell phone on speed dial since he has to personally load/unload them at the warehouse. One time he delivered at 11:30pm. I think he was stalking me in the big brown truck.

    We sell mostly to schools who buy in lots of 500.

  4. I went by Borders a couple of times this last week to pick up stuff for my nephew, visiting us, who reads like a man in the desert drinks (which is very cool). I went by on Friday morning, at the opening, by accident as I had just dropped him off at camp and wanted to have a book for him to read when I picked him up later that afternoon. It wasn’t mobbed but, for 9am on a Friday, it was pretty full. The cafe was closed, which was annoying, and the mood of the employees was, understandably, pretty poor.

    It turned out he finished the book I bought by dinner, so we stopped by after getting a yogurt and I couldn’t believe it – the place was completely overwhelmed. The line stretched to the back on the left side of the store and it looked like they only had two fairly grumpy and unenthusiastic (again, who can blame them) checkout staff. The rest of the store was a free for all with people, books and stuff moving to and fro at a bizarre rate.

    Now this is the funny part: most books were only discounted 10%. Which, as you say, is nothing. I looked at a couple of books on my first trip thinking, “I’d like to read this” only to see that they were $6.99 and realized that’s really 7 books. However, the reaction of the public seems to have been that these were amazing deals. It’s almost as if Border’s making news reminded people they like books. Otherwise, I can’t explain it.

    Needless to say, we didn’t stick around to fight the crowd, instead heading over to Edward McKay and picking him up four good books (and me a nice one) for $4. Without fighting a line and with a conversation with the checkout dude about the books.

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