I think I just burst a blood vessel. I don't think I can wait until the Northern Hemisphere Summer!
The act of procuring goods and services in exchange for financial consideration hereinafter known as The Fee.
Al Lewis of Market Watch discussing the alleged stupidity of holiday presents:
But there are some economic inefficiencies to gift cards too. Among them: About 10% of gift-card value is never claimed, Waldfogel wrote, and retailers can’t book the unclaimed cards as revenues for years.
Yeah, people buying slivers of plastic for $50 and not redeeming them must be a real financial burden.
Two unrelated IKEA stories so far this weekend, and as someone obsessed with IKEA I felt I had little choice but to comment.
Found via Slashdot, this article on NeoAcademic was a fascinating look into the so called IKEA Effect where you tend to love things you build yourself.
The IKEA Effect refers to the tendency for people to value things they have created/built themselves more than if made by someone else – in fact, nearly as much as if an expert had created the same item.
I can absolutely relate. I love assembling IKEA furniture for the thrill of having an excuse to use "grown ups Lego", right down to the similar instructions and Allen key infused building blocks, but I also derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from having furniture in my home I've built myself.
I think the argument can also be extended to include computers. Despite using Apple Macs for a significant portion of my day, I still build and maintain my own computers I build myself. While I appreciate all the care and love that has painstakingly been applied to all my Apple hardware, there's also something -- dare I say, magical -- about putting together a computer yourself from parts and having it power up. On an IKEA table I built, no less!
Of far more interest on the Interwebs lately has been the introduction of the Manland amusement area for men at IKEA here in The Sydney. From Ekstra Bladet:
Der er ikke meget, der kan flå energien ud af en mand, som en shoppetur med den bedre halvdel. Til gengæld er der heller ikke noget, der kan stoppe piveriet og genoplade batterierne som lidt sport på tv og konsolspil.
Det har de erkendt hos Ikea i Sydney, hvor de har oprettet et pasningsområde, eller fristed om man vil, hvor mænd kan slappe af med lidt elektronisk underholdning, mens kvinderne går på jagt efter nyt køkkengrej (som de alligevel ikke mangler).
'Manland' er indrettet som en dagligstue med Ikea-møbler, selvfølgelig, hvorefter det hele er blevet piftet op med fladskærme fyldt med sport, bordfodbold, pinball-maskiner, Xbox 360 og ... gratis hotdogs.
This would have been funnier had it been in Swedish not Danish.
Still, while I object to the stereotypical treatment of men as a bunch of shop-hating, sports watching, Xbox 360 players, my primary concern stems from the fact that IKEA is such an engaging and fascinating place to wander around in and of itself, and that such efforts are completely unnecessary. I suppose they've done their market research that shows real men don't like shopping at IKEA, or thought they could get some free publicity from doing this. Touché.
In either case, another blow to my already tenuous masculinity.
Yesterday I finally received shipment of my KDE shirt from FreeWear!
Picture the scene if you will. My resurgent interest in KDE after several years of isolation lead me to desiring some form of KDE advertising device for my laptop. A sticker, for example. Alas, I resigned myself to the fact that anywhere that offered KDE stickers had to charge more for the shipping than the actual merchandise.
Which got me thinking... what could I purchase affordably but could still justify having shipped? The answer came to me in the shower, of all places: a shirt. The question was, where to get it?
The advocacy pages on the KDE website were surprisingly unhelpful, and while I got excited at this article on Dot KDE, I quickly noticed the publication date. Other sites such as Zazzle had people selling KDE shirts, but I couldn't find anywhere on their pages that KDE would see any of their proceeds, which seemed a bit dodgy.
After searching for what seemed like an eternity, I laid eyes on the FreeWear.org site. Enamoured with their delicious pun, I ordered a shirt!
FreeWear had several different KDE shirts, but I'm a sucker for this shade of blue, so I had very little choice but to get this one! Pantone 229 is the second best colour after purple.
The shirt is emblazoned (can I employ heraldic language here?) with white KDE letters and the KDE gear logo along the front right hand side, and with a smaller KDE gear logo on the back. The shirt is in my second favourite colour (after purple of course!) and for something a little different, the collar and ends of the sleeves are white.
The quality is amazing. So often I've bought shirts printed in that fashion that feel like they'll crack up after being folded once or put through the wash, but the silk screening on this shirt is sharp and solid. That was [almost] some pretty spiffy apparel related alliteration there.
As an added bonus, they even shipped me four circular KDE stickers for free! I've had free stickers from sites like Threadless before, but from a small site like this it was a pleasant surprise!
FreeWear.org is a small operation based out of Spain that silk screens prints for various different free/open source projects by hand; they have photos on their site showing how they do it.
Most importantly, some of the proceeds from the sale of each item go towards the project you're choosing to advertise as you walk around. In my case, they made a €3 donation to the KDE e.V. in Germany.
Now all I need to do is wait for the weather to warm up a little so I can wear it to uni and blow the minds of some of those crusty old professors who are probably still on CDE ;D
The super talented and friendly independent musician extraordinaire Marian Call is taking signed preorders for her new album Something Fierce. As a bonus to those who order, you can download several bonus tracks as MP3, AAC and even FLAC files!
I was not paid for this post, just a fan trying to spread the love. I've got my copy, and you should too! :)
I checked "electronic goods", "books", "music" and "other". Was surprised "services" wasn't an option.
For those in Singapore, I'm not referring to the transport company.
After months of silence, Apple Australia managing director Tony King has finally come out and commented on why Australians pay significantly more for Apple products and media on the iTunes store than our friends in the US. Which is to say, he didn't say much!
(Photo of Kallen Stadtfeld holding an Australian credit card application form by... me!)
I can only speak from my own experience, but all electronics in Australia are vastly overpriced. Worse still, optical equipment is so laughably expensive I would never buy any of it here. Last time I checked at a mass market camera chain, my beloved but ageing D60 was the same price as the much higher end D90 was in Singapore, and the markup on lenses is even worse.
Unfortunately, Apple is emblematic of a much larger trend of tech companies seeking to exploit Australian consumers, for one simple reason: they can.
I haven't lived back here long enough to comment on the politics, but it sure is hard to justify Australia's geographic isolation and higher taxes as being the reasons for these steep prices, particularly for online stores that sell digital downloads. The numbers don't add up, and those who claim they do are being disingenuous at best.
It's taking far longer than I thought it would, but the internet is finally helping the public to cast a light on these market practices, to wake up as it were. Wow, two convoluted metaphors in one sentence, forgive me. The point is, people are seeing prices overseas, converting into Australian Dollars, seeing what's charged locally, and asking why. Unsatisfied with the excuses given by folks like Jerry Harvey and his GST red herring, and turn to buying material online.
For the most part I'm a liberal (in the American sense) but unfortunately I don't see the ACCC regulating these industries as being a solution, for two reasons. One, whenever you involve money directly, as is the case with pricing, there are enough loopholes that these companies would quickly make a farce of any such regulation. Two, every industry from publishing to electronics is doing this, for their own reasons. This is a structural problem with our economy.
Oh well, as long as I can bypass this and buy stuff overseas there won't be a problem.
In brief, if you buy an IKEA VÄTE lamp, make sure you buy a narrow bulb to fit it!
(The above photo is of Kotobuki Tsumugi (aka my beloved Mugi-chan!) from K-On, and Tokiha Mai from My HiME. An odd pairing to say the least, but they're the only two I have of the smaller scale. I was trying to create the feeling of a warm bonfire, with obviously mixed results!)
So this afternoon I was with the family to procure some drawers for my sister. She has a lot of junk, and has been using her lack of storage space as her excuse for not having a tidy abode. While I'd be remiss not taking the opportunity to point out that previous rooms she had messed up were awash with drawers and cupboards, in this case I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, it gave me an excuse to visit my favourite shop in the universe, so I wasn't complaining!
Upon arrival in the lamps department -- my favourite department in my favourite shop in the universe -- I noticed the VATE lamps were on special for under $20. Delighted at the thought of revelling in some childhood nostalgia (our old houses in Melbourne and Brisbane before we moved to Singapore were full of these delicate paper and wire lights), I procured said lamp.
In a bold black square (how's that for some brilliant alliteration brilliance?) the box specified the bulb required for the enclosed lamp was an E14. Paroozing the department for a compatible luminary device, I chanced upon a energy saving bulb with E14 printed in friendly letters on its cover.
Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo below (no wait, above), after arriving home and gleefully assembling my toy, I realised the otherwise compatible bulb I'd purchased to provide the light was simply too wide to fit between the wire stand and the lamp base. And not by an inconsequential amount either, the bulb was at least three times that size.
So far I've worked in a Hitchhikers reference and a Zoolander reference. IN THE COMPUTER, you could say.
Fortunately, we were able to locate (read: I stole one from another lamp in the house) another bulb which was narrow enough to fit, and now I have the handsome and fully operational lamp you see in the image above. Well, in the first image above, not in the image immediently above.
As I blogged about in February, Borders had clearly seen better days in Australia and are now in the process of closing down. I headed into their Bondi Junction store today to grab some bargains, and to explore a familiar setting one last time.
Of course, I couldn't have timed my expedition any worse! Bondi Junction is served by the Eastern Suburbs and Illawara line, which CityRail decided to perform track work on this weekend. Unlike most of the industrialised (or developing) worlds where train work is done overnight so as not to inconvenience ticket holders and taxpayers, CityRail regularly performs such work in broad daylight. Worse still, they replace eight double deck carriage consists with single buses that seemed to arrive and leave as they pleased. I've been to Canberra, and if they can operate buses to a fixed schedule, then surely an operation as large as CityRail could!
To their credit the Bus Marshals couldn't have been friendlier, and the one who served us at Central bore an uncanny resemblance to TechTV and TWiT luminary Leo Laporte. They could have been separated at birth, and raised in different countries. But I digress.
For those not from Australia, Bondi Junction is one of these upmarket mega shopping centres you would expect to find on Orchard Road or Jalan Ampang. The Borders itself is located at the end of one of the buildings. At its peak it was operating over two floors, though the top floor was empty by the time I got there.
Much of the stuff had already been sold (including a substantial amount of furniture!) but there was still enough there to occupy my time for a while. A couple of friends from my university and I explored the manga and computer book sections without much success, in the former were series we'd never heard of and plenty of Ken Akamatsu which we've all read but would never admit to (whoops), and in the latter there was almost nothing but thick blue Microsoft training tomes remaining! In year 11 and 12 I had to do several assignments in .NET, so I know of those books all too well!
Walking around with most of the shelves empty, burnt out light bulbs on the storefront sign, carpets askew, posters torn and hanging at weird angles, empty powerboards, hazard tape across entire sections, row after row of boxes... it felt eerily dystopian, like the rapture had happened for real this time.
I left with three manga volumes overall, for $18! That's a tad more that I would spend on a single volume in Kinokuniya or any of the small comic book stores in town! One was a copy of The Star Trek Manga which I disgust myself as a Trekkie for not knowing that it even existed! I don't remember the female characters being quite so... shapely, but the caricatures of Spock and Kirk are eerily accurate!
The other two were the first two volumes of Shakugan no Shana; I absolutely loved the anime with its Rie Kugimiya voiced, ultra cute zettai ryouiki heroine, but as is typically the case I was told by many a fan that the manga was better. Flipping through the books while waiting in the queue I could tell the graphics and art are just gorgeous! :)
Now if only I had arrived there sooner, or had the trains been running as they should have been, perhaps I could have snagged some K-On! I mention this because one of the employees I talked to claimed two people between them had emptied out all the stock of basically every manga volume that Kyoto Animation had since got their hands on. You know the ones of which I'm referring ;).
With our recent move back to Australia it was mighty tempting to purchase some genuine Borders bookshelves or some of the signs that graced them, but money is a little tight for us right now (international moves and taxes are fun!), and given I had to get a CityRail replacement bus home with less space to breathe than a sardine tin, I wouldn't have been able to transport them home even if I wanted to! The only sign I was tempted by was a giant white on black ANIME AND MANGA sign, though some of the letters were scratched up. In hindsight it may have been nice to have anyway, just for nostalgia. I'm a sucker for that you see. Oh well.
Granted it was in their branch at Wheelock Place in Singapore, but I spent a large amount of my childhood exploring Borders. I can still remember when they first opened there with much pomp and celebration, and how crazy my little mind thought it was to have a bistro in a coffee shop! Sure Meg Ryans in Brisbane where we'd lived previously had coffee in the shop, but I had a smoked salmon and sour cream pizza with capers and onion, right next to the non fiction books!
Kinokuniya across the street in Ngee Ann City (the red building with Takashimaya) had a wider selection of books, particularly technical manuals, but Borders felt cozier. I bought (and read!) my first O'Reilly programming books in their computer section, and bumped into my first crush there. When high school came around and much of my cohort were experimenting with nighclubs and alcohol, I was spending my Friday and Saturday nights with my good friend Felix Tanjono exploring until they closed at 11pm. When my mum had those brief breaks from her chemotherapy in the 12 years she was having it, we'd make it a date and wander around there together.
I know it's not politically correct or cool to like chain stores, but Starbucks and Borders and Ikea were where I grew up. I'll be sad to see Borders go.
Normally I'm not one to indulge in retail therapy, but after a hugely stressful [for me!] day I decided to explore IKEA and have some almond cake and coffee in the restaurant!
Given we lived in almost a dozen houses before we finished school, my sister and I spent a disproportionate amount of our childhoods wandering around with our parents at IKEA. Buying new furniture was often cheaper than having movers send existing stuff thousands of kilometres, and the apartments and houses we moved into in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were all different sizes and dimensions which necessitated buying different things to fit.
Going to IKEA now is like a step back into my childhood and that excitement I used to feel as we sketched out our plans for my bedroom using those teeny weeny pencils. That smell of fresh pine and the fact IKEA pretty much looks the same no matter which city or country you're in also brings back memories! Except the ones in Damansara and Tampines, thoes outlets are monsterous!
Now that I'm older I appreciate going there on a different level, I love meandering around this gigantic maze filled with ingeniously designed paraphernalia with cool Swedish names. That a company could make something like furniture accessible and fun to someone with as much design sense as me (read: none!) is no small achievement.
After wandering around for a while and having a free cup of coffee from the restaurant (I'm an "IKEA Family" member!) I got a gigantic string of solar-charged battery LEDs to string across the ceiling of my SOHO, and a candle with what appeared to be cheesecake on it, but made the room smell like pudding. Normally I find such things too sickly sweet, but this one is very mild and inviting, particularly on cold winter nights like this ^_^.
I'd never taken the train to IKEA before, but the swanky upgraded Rhodes station on the Northern line is just a block away, and there's even a dedicated path away from road traffic leading to the entrance.
As is customary, weblog posts typically finish at the end. In this ending, for you entertainment I enclose one picture from a display I saw at IKEA this afternoon. If you have some unfinished/unbuilt IKEA wares in your home, don't worry! Even the professionals sometimes don't get around to it ;).