Friday, February 24, 2006

Definitions: scrap, junk, and WASTE

In my world, "Scrap" is any bit of cutoff raw material that is too small to safely work on with power tools. Which explains why I have boxes of plastic, wood, and metal cutoffs. Those cutoffs just get used, reused, abused, and re-reused until there is nothing left.

Junk is anything that can't become reshaped into useful scrap. Dead computer motherboards, burned out power supplies, iron pipe that I've torn out of the house in the ongoing process of restoring its bones from 2 apartments (happened in 1932) back into a functional maintainable single-family home. Happily, most junk does not go to the landfill, it goes into one recycling stream or another. (Though I have not found a recycling stream that will accept crumbled 130 year-old plaster.)

And Waste?

Waste is a verb. Waste is stashing your previous computer in the back of the closet or on an office shelf. Where it lingers over the period of time where it might be useful, to somebody else, in another role. If enough time passes, it becomes junk, and is only useful as parts to be separated for recycling.

So BRING OUT YOUR DEAD! ( be continued)

Friday, February 03, 2006

e-Show Stopper: Usurious Handling Fees

Some would have you believe that online purchasing raises efficiencies and lowers purchase prices. I'm sure that there's some truth in that, but there is a Big Lie hiding beneath the surface - usurious shipping, -excuse me- HANDLING charges.

Let's take a simple case. Our lab wants to order 2 (two) six-foot S-video cables, to connect video cameras to VCRs. We are encouraged to order from one of several "approved" vendors, one of which is . OK, the website lists item #4763195 at a modest and reasonable price of $4.18, so into the shopping cart it goes. We'll take two, in fact, to have one for a spare. Eight bucks well spent for better use of researcher time.

Ah, but then we proceed to the checkout process, and see that shipping and handling will be ... $16.49 ?!?!?!?! Huh? A USPS flat-rate envelope would cost just $4.05! I know we live in a time of "overnight expectations", but this is ridiculous! Why can't a well-oiled machine like the mammoth XxxConnection conglomerate offer a reasonably cheap shipping channel, rather than force you to take a next-day express service as the lowest-cost option? (Don't even get me started about Ebay sellers who list an item at $0.99 and a "standard" shipping cost of $25.)

Without a doubt, e-commerce and its fabulous long tail is a wonderful thing, but we're burning a lot of diesel fuel to make it happen, and the big-margin winner looks like the transportation company moving all those wee little boxes around. Either them or the makers of -their- fuel... Wasn't somebody talking about oil addiction the other day? Some oil guy?