*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Monday, 3 December 2012

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses..."

Just never pay retail.
Yes, I have referred to my frustrations shopping, previously.  The marketeers simply do not know how to get my money.  Is everyone else stupid enough to keep going to the mall, not find what they want, pay too much for second best and return for more?  Yes.
That the Internet has not killed 'bricks and mortar' retailing is both a personification of 'Sturgeon's Law', and validation of the fallacies latent in 'free' market economics.  I'm done with store fronts.  It isn't just online shopping that should have killed store fronts, but information.  Before I make a significant purchase I research it.  While researching, I lose any impulse I had, so make the decision to buy quite a bit more rationally.  On several sites where I shop I have 'wish lists' where items may stay up as long as a year, or as short as overnight - but never less. I save money both by not impulse-buying something I will under-use  and by finding the best and cheapest option for my needs.

Besides getting clothes to fit me from the US, while in Japan, I also buy a lot of bicycle parts and some electronics.  Going to a mall in Japan for the clothing is pointless; going to a store for bicycle parts just a little less.  Nobody has the stock I can find online, nor will I get as much information from more points of view than 'buy this so I get paid'.

Canada's bike shops are no better.  I wanted an Alfine 8 wheel to retrofit a bike.  The link shows me I can get the wheel, shifter and small parts for about $450 US ($600 US once I ship it to Canada: post, tax and duties).  Since Shimano parts are cheaper in Japan, $425 US if I take it across the border myself.  In Canada?  I sent a shop an email and got a piece by piece quote that came to $750 US for the one wheel...  He didn't have the guts to write the total, but I can add.

I wanted some baby shampoo for my son, and for me, because some makes me break out and I cannot differentiate the Japanese brands.  I made a trip to a Lalaport's Body Shop, and they had none in stock; nor the soap I wanted.  Cursing my own stupidity I went home, found it online, and it is now en route.

I will happily pay for a premium product that meets specific needs, such as this crank, otherwise do not bother calling it 'premium' when it was made in China with everything else, and there are a dozen cranks that will do the same job, and one of them I will find cheaper.

Electronics?  The market is flooded with options, which is why I have never bought an Apple product.  My wife and are were looking at tablets, but since we had no intention of rolling into a store and getting sucked in, we still haven't bought.  We have researched and I have quizzed my friends in IT.  All I do online is read, email, maintain my blogs, and Facebook (which I may quit). More to the point, I want to be able to read lots of English books easily in Japan.  And I want to be able to hold it with one hand, stuck standing on the train, without too much worry about the cost of dropping it.  I read books on trains up to 2hrs/day.  I am not going to pay for another cell service just to get Internet on a tablet in Japan, nor bother with tethering.  Probably getting the Kindle Paperwhite, mainly for the long battery life and eInk, and also because if I can access Internet even on my commute, I'll never read books anymore, and that is bad.

Sigh... This is why I don't buy anything. I want perfection, and am not easily seduced. I want eInk, and colour, and Internet, and lightweight, and cheap...  I am buying less and less tech, and using it less, as it gets 'better'.  I am tired of upgrades that promise much, and deliver little more than before.  The point of upgraded devices is to encourage us to buy shit we'll hardly use.  The only really great development in IT lately is the cheapness and miniaturization of Flash storage.  There is less nostalgia for IT as it improves more quickly, if there ever was. Things like furniture, buildings, bicycles and engines from the past you can get excited about, but not IT. Maybe that time will come once we have reached the limits of optimization of IT.

I want all my data and capability in just one place, no 'cloud', with a readable screen, and a battery that never dies, but fits in a pocket, and cheap. Make me a laptop the size of a phone, for the price of a good dinner, and I'll get excited again. Like this:
That standard marketing is aimed at convincing people to upgrade when they don't need to, buy things that are not ideal for them, waste time among the other zombies at the mall and to believe the hype, only means that it works.  Humans enslave themselves.


  1. Awesome rant-post. Really. Once more people realize that it's not about the technology but the information, the upgrade game is up. Once we really learn how to learn again, this time with access to the information and a good set of directions (which used to be a rarity)... once people are really turned on by learning in a way that stimulates the brain instead of just staring into the box... once that happens, it's party time.

    Second hand stores are the way to go, really. If you don't mind cannibalizing stuff (that's half the fun) and have a bit of an imagination that hasn't been spoon fed, there are some morsels to be got at them recycle shops.

    Any if you're into growing stuff... just think of the possibilities! Admittedly, sometimes is helps to start small.

    1. I have an interest in bikes, and a bit of mechanical skill, so I do most of my own wrenching. I achieve success before frustration: what I lack in knowledge compared to a good shop-wrench, I make up with research, patience, and care for my own machines.

      I have a friend who has the same attitude to his computers: a Linux geek. On the other hand I have several friends in IT who should know better, but are happy to throw money at Apple, even though sai products are designed not even to allow you to upgrade memory or change batteries. Batteries are the weakest link, and even a Luddite like myself has upgraded memory and changed batteries.

      It is sometimes worth paying someone else to do the work, and to throw money at a solution, but it more often isn't. Like my wrenching, the more you do the less you need anyone's paid help.

  2. I encourage you in getting rid of Facebook. I just did it and it's actually less painful that anticipated. One downside is commercial business have a Facebook page that you have to 'Like' in order to view. That makes me angry, I refuse to be forced into things just for the sake of acquiring data that I can find elsewhere with a little deeper digging.

    Also, shopping is the devil. I too research items until the cows come home. It's better to know before you buy.

    1. "Shopping is the devil" would be a great blog title: much less overweening than 'conspicuous consumption', which I have been known to use...

  3. There is so much "hipness" involved with IT. Because it's so cool to get sucked into whatever some huge corporation is telling you to buy!

    The "cloud" pisses me off. If you buy kindle books from Amazon, you don't actually own the books and they can take them back at any time. That is fucked up. Did you read about the chick who got everything wiped by Amazon? Plus I've been doing some stuff on google drive atm and it's driving me mad.

    1. I am wary of the 'cloud' too. People never had their Internet connection fail? Seen a website disappear? Not heard of identity-hacking? Plus the arbitrariness of copyright enforcement against downloads, and after Syria getting cut from the Internet and all of the 20th C's bloody history we shouldn't presume too much about our infrastructure or governments.

    2. It doesn't even sound stable. It's a freaken cloud. If I have important/sensitive info, I don't want it in a little, fluffy "cloud", I want it in a fortress.

      Or anything that has me paranoid at the moment - these sites where instead of creating a log in you can use facebook. I do it because I'm lazy then I realised it's just more info about me that they can sell.

  4. My dear younger brother is all Linux, whoa that's the benefit of getting born 4 years later. OK, he missed out on ABBA and disco and... Get rid of Facebook, and all others that want you to be "friends" with people you don't really like. And rant on :)