Category Archives: shopping

My Solstice Tradition: ASK ROGER ANYTHING!

I’m trying, really trying, to get into the spirit of the season. I’ve been checking out Polite Scott’s Advent Calendar Comic Book Cover Countdowns and Jaquandor’s Daily Dose of Christmas and Tegan’s LEGO Advent Calendar, the Tournament of Carols (Bing will definitely win) and most of all, Fred Hembeck’s The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces of Santa Claus!

Yet, I’m still felling the seasonal stress. Sunday, in particular, made me very…grumpy. Sunday, I was Christmas shopping. There IS a correlation, though shopping wasn’t the only frustration that day. The neck is sore, for some reason. And my left heel has a cut on it, probably from chafing while wearing some boots when it snowed a couple weeks ago. (But NOT this past weekend, as it turns out.) The one thing that did make me laugh was an e-mail from some cruise line that had the heading, ” There’s Still Time to Give the Gift of Cruising!”

So, to cheer me up, it is your opportunity to Ask Roger Anything. Anything at all; nothing is off limits. These are the exciting rules:
1. You can ask Roger anything.
2. He must answer.
3. He must stop referring to himself in the third person.
4. My answers must be true. Now it can be the truth without being the WHOLE truth, but the discerning questioner will pick up on this.

And starting on Sunday, I will answer your questions. If you want me to answer a question or three, you can leave a comment – I love comments – or you can find my e-mail on the sidebar and you can e-mail it to me.


V is for Values

When I was pondering the notion of “value”, this came unbidden into my head:
When the values go up, up, up
And the prices go down, down, down.
Robert Hall this season
Will show you the reason
High quality! Economy!

music by Leon Mitchell; words by Charles A. Gaston; original version (c) 1946

When I was growing up in Binghamton, NY in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Robert Hall was THE place to go for back-to-school clothing. The clothing was inexpensive but solidly made, the kind of place a working-class family wanted to shop for their children’s apparel.

The secret of the stores’ success was told in this 1949 TIME magazine article. But what sold me were the nifty ads, sometimes with the lyrics slightly altered, which you may be able to hear here and/or here.

But the more pervasive meaning of the word “values” involves the “set of emotional rules people follow to help make the right decisions in life.” Or the wrong ones, I suppose. In a large country such as the Unites States, not to mention a vast planet, one hopes for commonality in values, but certainly cannot expect unanimity.

Yet some groups have successfully seemed to have hijacked the term “values”. There is a group of “values voters”, for instance, who are in the right wing of American politics. Based on their recent summit, they are concerned about the “silenced” Christians, the evil of “Obamacare” (health care), “defending marriage”, and in general, the “vast left wing conspiracy.”

While I support differing points of view, I’m troubled by the notion that only those people of a particular political persuasion are the only ones with “values”. It’s similar to the notion that “Christian” only represents a certain political POV.

As a “liberal” and a Christian, my values are just as legitimate. Oh, and I vote, too.


Christmas Shopping QUESTIONS

Are you a Black Friday shopper? Or even a Thanksgiving day shopper? I’m not. I HATE shopping on Black Friday, with something approaching religious fervor. More accurately, the one time I went out there in the big box stores, I felt like an atheist at a tent revival.

Actually, there was a Black Friday a few years ago that wasn’t so bad. We went shopping in a little town called Delhi, NY. It was no more crowded than a normal shopping day. It was relaxed and pleasant.

Are you a Cyber Monday shopper? I have been, and would have been this year, save for the fact that I had a sick child who was not so ill that we couldn’t play the usual coterie of games (Sorry, Uno and Candyland) over and over, plus reading to her.

For years, I used to have a tradition before online shopping got so easy. I’d take off a weekday from work around December 17 and do all my shopping in one day. It was early enough that if it didn’t pan out, I still had the weekend, but close enough to create urgency in me without anxiety.

What kind of Christmas shopper are you?


Thanksgiving: turkey

The wife and I got a Thanksgiving e-card last week, one of those Jacquie Lawson things in which the pumpkin’s scooped out to make a pumpkin pie; it gets baked, and a slice with whipped cream is available. And on the top a message saying, “Happy thanksgiving!

Well, you can’t really read much of the enclosed message, only three lines at a time. This one says:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Both because we’ll be busy over the next few weeks,
and because i am not sure how frequently everyone
on the list checks their email, I am sending this out

As we approach Thanksgiving we realize that we are
very thankful that some of the ancesters of all of
our Jewish friends had refused to acknowledge and
accept that Jesus Christ was, is and always will be
the Messiah – our Lord and Savior. By their denial,
we gentiles were invited ‘in’.What incredible mercy
and grace to know that we will now not perish
whenever the world as we know it ends, but that as
long as we have admitted we are sinners, asked for
forgiveness; repented and continue to be believe on the
Lord Jesus Christ, that we will be saved from the
firey lake…when the judgment day comes. We are
thankful to them – and to Him.
Much Love to all,

(The spelling is in the original.)

I was floored. Not only was it amazingly, and almost gleefully, anti-Semitic, it was also theologically daft. In the Bible I read, Jesus came, was crucified and was resurrected so that everyone, Jew and Gentile, could follow. Whether or not Jews 1900 years ago accepted or didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah is utterly irrelevant.

This would be less problematic if it didn’t come from people we need to deal with on a regular basis. Oy.
I went food shopping for Thanksgiving on Saturday with the daughter. There were only a couple little wrinkles:
1. I lost the shopping list. Must have set it down when I put on my hat, as I found it as soon as I got home. So I forgot about a third of the items on the list, by count but not by cost.
2. I forgot the discount card from the store. This is not insignificant, as it cut the cost of the turkey in half. So I kept on shopping and counted on the kindness of strangers, in particular, one stranger in front of me in line, to use HIS card, and that worked.
And the third problem, this one not entirely of my making.
3. I had one of those personal metal shopping carts to wield the food home. Unfortunately, one of the wheels came off in the parking lot. This had happened before and was fixed, but evidently, not adequately. Thus I’m holding up the cart where the wheel should be, and three days later, my back is STILL aching from the trip. I should note that the daughter had another cart, and she was very helpful.


The Concert Suit

As much as as I hate buying clothes generally, I REALLY hate buying suits. All that measuring, especially when the body trends poorly compared with the previous time I bought a suit, which it did. The harsh lights and the three-sided, full-length mirrors don’t help.

The other bad thing about buying a suit is that I end up spending too much. I’ve gotten myself to the place, and I’m buying one (expensive) suit; why not two, especially when the second is free, except for the alterations? And while I’m at it, how about some new shirts, which are buy one, get one at 50% off? Oh, and new ties to go along with them? And I DO need a better coat for winter. At the end of the excursion, I experience massive sticker shock and don’t buy any suits, or much of anything else clothing-wise for the next two or three years.

The initiation of this shopping spree is this event:

We received information about the dress code for the performance a week ago Sunday. And I own ZERO black suits, and only one white shirt that’s probably too tight. So this past Saturday evening, the wife, the daughter and I went shopping.

And I’ve felt lousy ever since.

Initially, I thought it was just exhaustion that sent me to bed at 8:30 Saturday night, but now I’m thinking it’s some sort of sinusitis and/or allergies flaring up. But what caused the truly horrific insomnia I got Sunday night, so much so that my eyes burned on Monday morning? Probably consuming the cheese and crackers I ate after the Sunday night rehearsal.

But more basically, I think it was a week without riding the bicycle or playing racquetball. When I got to do both on Monday, I got surges of energy that I’d been lacking lately, though I was more stuffed up yesterday.

So no, I can’t blame any of it on shopping for suits, unfortunately.
Monday night, I did go to the marriage equality rally. The State Senate was supposed to take up the legislation the next day. So the chant was, “What do we want?” “Marriage equality!” “When do we want it?” “Tomorrow!” Tomorrow? I mean, yes, literally, the next day when the vote was due, but “tomorrow” has such lousy scansion; having been to lots of rallies, I’m a big fan of “NOW!”

In any case, the state legislature didn’t vote on much of anything Tuesday, and they won’t be meeting again until next week. I DO think that the position of at least Republican state senator I saw on TV Tuesday night – that the government can’t deal with ANYTHING else until it deals with the budget deficit – is totally bogus. Truth is, balancing the budget will be a long, arduous process that may take weeks; gay marriage can be achieved with one vote in one house, as the State Assembly has already passed a bill. Twice.

Speaking of which: Via Mark Evanier – Shelly Goldstein on stupid, callous, homophobic hateful legislation. Julie Andrews couldn’t do any better.
I found out in Hispanic Business, of all places, that Glenn Beck Lost His Lawsuit Over A Controversial Domain Name
Fox TV host Glenn Beck has lost a suit he filed against the creator of a satirical Web site spreading a rumor that even the site itself admitted was false: Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990. Although he lost the case, Beck still received the domain name he sought, but not because the arbitrator awarded it to him. Rather, the man who established the site gave it to Beck himself — but not without getting in a good parting shot. And the REAL kicker is that the guy has kept the CONTENT of the site up at That’s GB, as in Glenn Beck, 1990 (dot) com.

It’s a nasty little site, but then again, Glenn Beck is a nasty little man. It is also one of those First Amendment issues people love to hate. My reactions is a mix of mild discomfort with a whole lot of schadenfreude.
Chances Are Profanity Was Intentionally Encoded in Text of Schwarzenegger’s Veto. As though you had any doubt.


QUESTIONS about Shopping

It’s oft quoted that consumer spending is the lifeblood of the American economy, comprising of 2/3s or 70%, depending on who you ask, of the economy. It’s also well established that the Christmas season time of the year when retailers and services historically expect to make it into the black.

Will you spend more, less, or just as much on Christmas as you did last year?

Has your shopping been affected by social concerns such as trying to buy locally or buying fair trade items, such as the toys at Green Living?

Do you worry about buying gift cards that will be worthless if the company folds?

Are you concerned about too much stuff?

My answers: less, yes, yes and yes.
If you’re interested in equine-related stuff, you might want to check out Silver Horse Studios; not only is it local to me (Catskill, NY), it’s the business of Eileen and Mario Bruni. Mario was the eweell-done but ultimately ill-fated Mars attacks mini comics that FantaCo put out in the late 1980s.

The niece’s next gig – niece on the right.


What are YOU doing on Thanksgiving?

From the BLS: What activities do you have planned for this Thanksgiving? Perhaps cooking and enjoying a meal with family or friends, playing sports or watching sports on television, doing volunteer work, or shopping? Here’s a look at some BLS data behind those Thanksgiving scenes.

For me:
Cooking? Perhaps a little, but I’m at my in-laws, so it’ll mostly be table setting and clean up.
Meal – yes, most definitely. I don’t know why I don’t have turkey at other times of the year. I LIKE turkey.
Watching sports – maybe; if my father-in-law is, then I am.
Doing volunteer work – actually I had planned on having done that already by helping move furniture around the church on Monday for the EQUINOX Thanksgiving dinner in Albany, but then my daughter got sick with pink eye, the scourge of day care centers everywhere, and that plan went out the window.
Shopping – not if I can help it. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day should be limited to buying forgotten cranberry sauce. And NO ONE loathes shopping on Black Friday more than I do. Though online shopping is not out of the question.

The American Farm Bureau Federation tells us that the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner is Still Affordable. For those of us lucky enough to still have jobs, I suppose. For which I AM thankful.
The presidential cookie poll.



So how are you doing with that Christmas shopping? I happen not to be fond of shopping at any time of the year, but particularly now. If he didn’t live 800 miles away in Louisville, I’d probably hire Eddie to do my shopping for me, assuming he worked cheaply enough.

It doesn’t help that after watching The Story of Stuff!, a down-to-earth story of production, consumption and our future on the planet, I’m wary of buying much of anything.

1. What percentage of your shopping is done? Mine’s about 45% finished.

2. Where do you shop?

In box stores? Well, not in THE big box store, and generally I tend to avoid big stores like the plague.

At the mall? Rarely at Colonie Center. Never at the Pyramid Corporation’s Crossgates, even before this debacle that briefly made the national news:
The first Crossgates Mall Peace Walk was in 2002 when a group of folks from various groups entered the mall wearing shirts that said: Drop Toys Not Bombs, Don’t Attack Iraq and Peace on Earth! They were rounded up and escorted off the property under threat of arrest. Steve and Roger Downs heard about this and went into the mall to see if it could possibly be true. The rest is history. From Wikipedia: “At the dawn of the Iraq War in March 2003, the mall (Crossgates) became the center of a free speech controversy when Selkirk resident Stephen Downs was arrested refusing to take off an anti-war t-shirt that he had purchased in the mall. After many objections, the mall dropped the charges. Shortly thereafter, a large protest was held at the mall where many people came wearing anti-war attire.”
BTW: this year’s WEAR YOUR PEACE TEE SHIRTS Crossgates event will be Thursday, December 20
5:15 pm – press conference in the parking lot of the Cinema 18
5:45 pm – in the food court to hook up and to to meander and “shop”
6:15 pm – converge at the food court again to sing

I’ll go to the non-chains – in this area, today is Buy Local Day.

But I’m generally inclined to use mail order.

3. Are you spending more or less than last year? I think I’ll end up spending slightly less, but I’m not sure yet.
I called to get my renewed credit card authorized using the automated system yesterday morning. After approving it, it asked if I wanted a PIN number – OK. But then it told me I couldn’t get a pin number at that time and that I needed to speak to a customer service rep. I gave my name to the human. THEN he tried to sell me some damn service I didn’t want. I told him that I needed to catch a bus in eight minutes, which happened to be true. Grrr!!
Getting into the holiday spirit.
From the Shake That Brain! Newsletter


I recently took out $100 from my bank’s cash machine. Only when I got home I discovered that my cash card was missing. I called the bank and they explained that the cash machine had taken it back.
Taken it BACK???
Turns out that the bank was having problems with people using fraudulent bank cards. So they rigged the system to keep the card for 60 seconds while the inside optics scanned it for authenticity. Great solution? No. Because that same machine is designed to spit out your cash in less than 30 seconds. So what happens to a lot of people? They take their cash and leave their card behind — like me.
“No warning bell? No buzzer to let you know to not leave without your card?”
“Why would anyone need that? People know to wait for their cards.”
“Tell me: How many cards does each machine ‘take back’ on a daily basis?”
“Two or three.”
“So you solved the problem of fraudulent cash cards?”
“And that other problem your solution created?”
“What problem is that?”
LESSON NOT LEARNED? When you “solve” a problem make sure your solution doesn’t leave a NEW problem in its place. In the case of my former bank, this is the difference between: “It’s all about me” and “It’s all about our customers.”


When Black Friday Comes…

Got this e-mail this week:

This is of utmost important to our communities.

Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, It is the day that most retailers make enough money put them in the Black for the whole year. We as Black People are consistently getting the bad end of the stick. Our children are being terrorized each and everyday by the police across the country. Nooses are being hung around everywhere. We are being disrespected in all places. Our men and children are being killed by police, stopped and searched, new prisons are being built for our children, there is big business in investing in private prisons and they must keep them filled up. We are terrorized on our jobs with constant threats of being written up and fired, losing our livelihood, our homes and just feeding and taking care of our children. We are treated in a dehumanizing manor on these jobs. So many of our people who have worked for the city for decades are being pushed out with trumped up charges, criminalized, degraded, insulted and threaten and some are even losing their pensions.

Brothers and Sisters we must act! It will visits your door, it is coming! We must stand together to say NO JUSTICE! NO PROFIT! This has got to be the new battle cry of our people. Our elders stood together during the Montgomery bus boycott in order to get some form of justice for our people. We must do it again!

If we stand together and sacrifice one day Friday November 23, 2007 and DO NOT SHOP! DON”T BUY ANYTHING ON THAT DAY! We will send out a message. Things will have to change. Let this country feel what it feels like to not have our dollars. If you buy something, buy from your own people. Please pass this message to everyone on you e-mail list. No Justice! No Profit! If you do not know what I am talking about remember:
Noose Epidemic
Racist Mob Attacks
14 yr old stripped and left in swamp by police
5 yr old hand cuffed
Va. woman kidnapped, stabbed, raped, made to eat vomit, blood, feces
35 students arrested for attending funeral of classmate, who had parents permission
6 month pregnant Principal stopped by police and made to lie face down on ground in front of her small children
Jena 6
Police Terrorism
Michael & Evelyn Warren attorneys assaulted by terrorist cops
Sonny Carson Avenue
Viola Plummer
Sean Bell
Health Care Crisis
Land Grab of the Black Community
The list goes on and on and on


My reaction: Eh. I don’t know how this particular boycott – and I’m in favor of strategic boycotts – has any effect on the issues mentioned.

Last year, I got e-mails that led me to Buy Nothing Day, A 24 hour moratorium on consumer spending – participate by not participating.

Here’s the real deal: I’m not buying anything today, not because of some political agenda – I happen to think, if anything, that people should be out supporting SMALL businesses today, and every day. I’m not shopping today because I HATE shopping today.

One year this century, I got talked into doing the 5 a.m. thing. At the end of the three hours, I was exhausted, not from getting up early, but from that crush of humanity. In fact, the only time I ever enjoyed shopping on Black Friday, it was at a department store in a little town called Delhi, NY, probably the size of two Wal-Mart departments; it was warm and friendly and not crowded at all.

Oh, I heard on NPR this morning two things. One was that the shopping season will be “soft:”, so that time for other bargains will likely pop up. The second is that one should avoid SUI, shopping under the influence; otherwise, you might bring home that dancing Santa you REALLY don’t need.
The lyrics to some Steely Dan song.