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August 11, 2007

bookofjoe MoneyMaker™: Start your own hedge fund — in the privacy of your own home or cubicle

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Everything I know about small scale arbitrage I learned in Elaine Hughes's eye-opening article in the July 31, 2007 USA Today.

Long story short: You buy stuff in bulk when it's onsale at stores like Target or Wal-Mart, then turn around and sell it for triple the price on eBay.

The sweet part that makes it arbitrage and you a hedge fund artist: You can take whatever doesn't sell back to the store within 90 days and get your money back.

Is this a great country or what?

Here's the USA Today piece.

    Online resales worry retailers

    Triss Budoff [top] of Houston spent about $1,000 on 25 Rafe handbags that were available for a limited time at Target. But Budoff didn't use the purses. Instead, she posted 10 of them on eBay and earned about $750 in profit.

    "I viewed it as a low-risk investment," Budoff says. "Anything I didn't sell I could return to the store within 90 days and get my money back."

    More than a million people like Budoff make a portion of their income from selling products on eBay. And that has some retailers worried. To protect their businesses and their brands, they are taking steps to curtail customers who are buying products for resale.

    Retailers are especially concerned about reselling of clothing and accessories, a category that has grown 73% on auction website eBay the past two years.

    For retailers, "Jewelry and handbag sales are especially hurt by e-commerce," says Ken Nisch, chairman of retail consulting firm JGA. "More of these items sell online because people don't have to worry about clothing sizes."

    Luxury leather goods maker Coach sends letters telling people that they can't shop at its stores if they are found selling Coach products on eBay. "Unauthorized distributors lack the proper commitment to the Coach product," says Andrea Resnick, the company's spokeswoman.

    Companies often can spot potential resellers by their purchasing habits even before they get to the Web. EBay users are more likely to buy identical products in bulk because it makes selling them on the Internet easier. Selling 50 shirts of different colors would require making 50 posts on eBay, but 50 shirts of the same color can be sold on a single posting. "It increases productivity, and it's just easier," says Donna Klein of Birmingham, Mich., who sells plus-size and bridal lingerie on eBay.

    Because of this, many stores limit the amount of merchandise a person can purchase at one time. Gymboree, a clothing store for kids, won't allow customers to buy more than five of the same item.

    "We need to protect our image," says Jamie Falkowski, Gymboree's director of public relations and advertising. "We can't ensure a product's quality on eBay, and we don't want people to think we're selling things on eBay."

    Target limits a small number of collectibles and special promotional products. The company cautions consumers about the quality of products on resale sites. "This is a largely unregulated marketplace where stolen and fraudulent goods have appeared," Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear says.

    Besides purchasing limits, retailers can do little to prevent their products from being resold on Internet auctions, says John Devlin, an attorney who represents retailers such as Nordstrom, Home Depot and Nike.

    "EBay is like a modern-day yard sale," says Devlin, who works for the firm Lane Powell in Seattle. "The Internet just allows people to reach a larger audience."

    The top-searched clothing labels include Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch and Nike along with high-end designers such as Prada, Gucci and Marc Jacobs, eBay says. The most popular fashion items are dresses, shoes and handbags.

    Some eBay sellers make huge profits on sales, especially for items available in limited quantities. An Anya Hindmarch white canvas bag printed with "I am not a plastic bag" sold in stores such as Whole Foods for $15. But quantities were limited, and buzz about the bags drew long lines of customers, many of whom were left empty-handed. So when the bags showed up on eBay, they fetched as much as $450.

    A blue silk Proenza Schouler designer top that sold in limited quantities in the spring at Target for a bargain-basement $34.99 sold on eBay for $255.

    Budoff monitors eBay sales and plans to sell the other 15 Rafe bags she has when buyers are willing to pay top dollar.

    Why do people pay more for the products? Often, they have limited access to stores or limited time to shop, says Constance White, eBay's style director. "Plus, they're still getting designer items at a good price, even with the markup."

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Funny — I always thought the one true test of whether or not you own something is if you can sell it.

It would appear there are those who would demur.

August 11, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Portable Powered Massaging Seat Cushion

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First-class even when you're crammed into coach.

From the website:
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Massaging Seat Cushion

'Alternating Pressure Point Technology Protects Long-Haul Travelers From DVT'

Wheelchair users have relied on this technology for years.

Here's the first use of the same deep vein thrombosis protection technology for travelers.

Patented seat uses a state-of-the-art microprocessor-controlled pump and valve system that alternates air pressure within its chambers to "lift and shift" the points where your body comes in contact with the airplane seat, so your circulation is continually enhanced.

Internal batteries for the tiny built-in pump last 50 hours before needing a recharge (dual-voltage charger included).

Far more comfortable than any air or gel cushion — you'll arrive at your destination without ever having said, "I'm tired of sitting!"

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Folds for easy carrying.

18" x 18" open.
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$225.

August 11, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ghost Signs — Episode 2: London Fields

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Known as "brickads" in London, England, ghost signs are evidence of businesses and companies of the past painted on the sides of their now repurposed buildings.

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Sam Roberts, my London correspondent, commenting on July 17, 2007 on Episode 1, a November 7, 2005 post entitled "The 'Ghost Signs' of New York," wrote, "Really interesting research, I must get over to New York sometime! I write about these signs regularly at www.ghostsigns.co.uk. Also, some research on preservation/protection can be found at brickads.blogspot.com/search/label/Protection."

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Duly noted.

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Above, brickads from Sam's collection.

August 11, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Socket Pocket

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From the website:

    Socket Pocket

    Turn an ordinary outlet cover into a charging station

    Finally — a convenient place for charging your cellphone, PDA or iPod.

    Just replace the cover on an easy-to-reach outlet with the Socket Pocket caddy.

    You won't need to drape a cord from the outlet to a bedside table, crawl under a desk to reach an outlet or, worse yet, put your phone, PDA or iPod on the floor.

    When not charging one of your electronic devices, use it to hold keys, pens or a notepad.

    White or Tan.

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Two for $11.95.

August 11, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Bibliotherapy

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Long story short: If you're down, reading certain self-help books can be surprisingly helpful.

Kevin Helliker's "Health Journal" column in the July 31, 2007 Wall Street Journal explored this avenue.

From my point of view, it's win/no lose: you won't end up any worse by reading and you might well feel better.

That's the kind of bet I like.

Here's his piece.

    Bibliotherapy: Reading Your Way To Mental Health

    A growing number of therapists are recommending something surprising for depressed and anxious patients: Read a book.

    The treatment is called bibliotherapy, and it is gaining force from a spate of research showing that some self-help books can measurably improve mental health. In May alone, the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy published two studies demonstrating the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in patients with depression or other mood disorders. The national health system in Britain this year is prescribing self-help books for tens of thousands of people seeking medical attention for mood disorders.

    Decades after the emergence of the self-help book, it remains one of publishing's hottest categories. This year, U.S. revenue for the category will exceed $600 million, a single-digit jump from 2006, says Simba Information, a market research firm in Stamford, Conn.

    Here's a look at the books prescribed in Denbighshire County, in Wales, for patients seeking nonemergency mental-health services via the U.K.'s national health system. Selecting a category of symptoms will lead to the recommended books.

    Yet this category is reminiscent of the market for elixirs, oils and pills before the advent of federal regulation. Despite the growth in research, fewer than 5% of the tens of thousands of self-help books on the market have been subjected to randomized clinical trials. And authors with no scientific credentials are just as likely to hit the jackpot as are renowned physicians. "When the book cover announces that it's a bestseller, that means nothing," says John Norcross, a University of Scranton professor of psychology and researcher on the effectiveness of self-help books.

    Now, mental-health professionals in the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere are determined to distinguish the most proven offerings. The aim is to recommend books that have been shown to be successful in published trials conducted by reputable, independent researchers. Trials are conducted much the way drug research is done, comparing patients' depressive symptoms before and after treatment, compared with patients who didn't undergo the treatment. For instance numerous clinical trials have shown that "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy," a 1980 tome by Stanford University psychiatrist David Burns, reduces depressive symptoms in large numbers of readers.

    In the U.K., where the wait for professional treatment can stretch six months, the national health system has embraced bibliotherapy as the first line of treatment for non-emergency cases. The program varies but in most parts of the country, health officials have approved a list of about 35 books that have been stocked at local libraries. Seekers of non-emergency mental-health services receive a prescription enabling them to check out a book without a library card and for 12 weeks, four times longer than other books.

    In a small but significant percentage of cases, bibliotherapy reduces symptoms sufficiently that the sufferers no longer seek additional treatment, says Neil Frude, a Cardiff University psychology professor who helped develop the U.K. program.

    In the U.S., no official list of bibliotherapy treatments exists. But thousands of mental-health professionals have contributed to a self-help manual that Dr. Norcross — co-author himself of a self-help book, "Changing For Good" — has been updating since 2000. "The Authoritative Guide To Self-Help Resources in Mental Health," available from many commercial booksellers, ranks more than 1,000 self-help books according to their effectiveness, based on clinical trials and on the clinical experience of professionals.

    Bibliotherapy works best on mild to moderate symptoms, and isn't regarded as a replacement for conventional treatments. A 2003 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology reviewed the published research on bibliotherapy and concluded that it could successfully treat depression, mild alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders, but was less effective with smoking addiction and severe alcohol abuse.

    Most research suggests that bibliotherapy is most effective when used in conjunction with conventional therapy or while waiting for conventional therapy to begin.

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Here's a link to the books prescribed in Denbighshire County in Wales (U.K.) for patients seeking nonemergency mental health services.

It's important to know that if you're absolutely at the end of your tether and can't begin to find the energy to explore any of the resources noted above, John McManamy's mcmanweb.com offers one last secure handhold.

Go there.

August 11, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

PoachPod

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From the website:
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PoachPod

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Poaching is one of the healthiest ways to prepare eggs, since it doesn’t use butter or oil, but it surely isn’t the easiest — until now.

The PoachPod suspends the egg like a lily in a lily pond.

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Simply crack egg into the PoachPod floating in boiling water.

When it's done, pop out a perfectly poached, perfectly shaped egg!

Silicone ensures quick, easy, clean release.

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3½" X 2¼".
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Two for $9.99.

August 11, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Notes From a Nonexistent Himalayan Expedition — by Wislawa Szymborska

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So these are the Himalayas.
Mountains racing to the moon.
The moment of their start recorded
on the startling, ripped canvas of the sky.
Holes punched in a desert of clouds.
Thrust into nothing.
Echo—a white mute.
Quiet.

Yeti, down there we've got Wednesday,
bread and alphabets.
Two times two is four.
Roses are red there,
and violets are blue.

Yeti, crime is not all
we're up to down there.
Yeti, not every sentence there
means death.

We've inherited hope —
the gift of forgetting.
You'll see how we give
birth among the ruins.

Yeti, we've got Shakespeare there.
Yeti, we play solitaire
and violin. At nightfall,
we turn lights on, Yeti.

Up here it's neither moon nor earth.
Tears freeze.
Oh Yeti, semi-moonman,
turn back, think again!

I called this to the Yeti
inside four walls of avalanche,
stomping my feet for warmth
on the everlasting
snow.
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August 11, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Puzzle Erasers

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From the website:

    Puzzle Erasers

    If you like solving problems than you will love these mini puzzle erasers.

    Each puzzle in the set of three is different and comes in its own small box.

    The puzzles are made of different sized and shaped erasers.

    It looks fairly simple, but you will find it fun and challenging to take apart and reassemble each cube.

    A great desk accessory, these cube puzzles will not only erase stray pencil marks but will entertain you while you sit in your own cube.

    Color varies with difficulty level: White (Easy); Red (Medium); Black (Difficult).

    Each cube: 1.31" L x 1.31" W.

    Ages 3 and up.

    Rubber.

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"Ages 3 and up?"

Sweet — everyone in the pool.

$20.

August 11, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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