In search of a dorky bike helmet.

Today is the day I finally pay off the bicycle I am purchasing in an attempt to engage in some exercise that I won’t hate doing on a regular basis. The bike itself is made by a company called Felt Bicycles, which I’ve never heard of before, and the bike itself is called The Bixby and has a bit of a retro feel to it. This is it here:

Now I’m all set to go to the sock hop on my cool new ride.

Single speed, crank backwards to brake, no frills, but able to hold up my fat ass as I endanger the local wildlife and neighborhood children while barrelling down the street at speeds no one my size and shape should be legally allowed to attain.

I’m going to look like a complete dork.

I may as well embrace that fact and find an appropriately dorky bike helmet to go with this bike. The folks at Sweet Bikes in Canton, MI already have something in mind for me when I go in today, but on the off-chance it’s not dorktaculous enough I did a Google search to see what I could find that would fit the bill. As it turns out, a lot of bike helmet designs seem to lean heavily on the “alien egg sucking on your head” philosophy such as these examples:

Those are all vaguely cool-ish looking and a little dorky in their own right, but not properly dorky. Not like, say, a watermelon helmet:

Or how about one that will match my favorite choice in shirts:

Both of those last two come from the folks at Nutcase Helmets and they’ve got a range of nicely dorky bike helmets to choose from including a Space Cats option that has me SERIOUSLY tempted because I love ALL things Space Cats.

These are all pretty dorky, but can we get even dorkier? I think we can. What about one that has built-in turn and brake signals?

Yeah, that one is $180 which is over half the price of my bike so I think we’ll skip that one for now.

Sadly, some of the absolute best dorky helmets are only available for kids. Things like these light up mohawk helmets:

Or this awesome T-rex eating your head helmet:

I’m bummed that this Lego Hair by Danish design firm MOEF bike helmet is just a prototype and not actually available:

Better than my actual hair.

Of course there’s nothing more dorky than a bike helmet trying NOT to be dorky:

Ha ha ha! We’re TOTALLY wearing bike helmets, but YOU think we’re just uber-stylish hipsters risking serious brain injury!

What is surprising is just how expensive some of these bike helmets can be. The ones from Nut Case that I’m tempted by are $70 or so, but I suppose that’s a small price to pay to keep your skull intact.

For now, we’ll see what the folks at Sweet Bikes have in mind, but I may just break down and get that Space Cats helmet in the not too distant future. That theme is one of my weaknesses. What about you guys? Got any suggestions for super-dorky bike helmets I should consider?

Looking for gift ideas? Why not Laurel Moon Jewelry?

I don’t normally do posts that are straight-up advertisements, but Lauren is an old friend of mine and she’s been hand making some pretty damned nifty jewelry for a long time. She just recently got a new website up and running and I thought there may be some among you who would like to check it out.

If you’re so inclined, swing by Laurel Moon Jewelry and take a look around. She’s got bracelets and earrings and necklaces and stuff with different themes and even some steampunky stuff. Definitely worth checking out especially if you’re looking for something unique for someone this holiday.

Laurel Moon Jewelry

All manner of bangles and baubles.

Which is better: A 33% discount on price or 33% more for the same cost?

At least I’m good enough at math to recognize this for the awesome deal that it is.

The answer to that question seems counter-intuitive to me, but then I’m not great at math. A problem that is shared by many other people it seems:

Beware of Discounts: How Being Bad at Math Costs Consumers | Moneyland | TIME.com.

The Economist sums up the results of a new study published in the Journal of Marketing, which reveals that most consumers view these options as essentially the same proposition. But they’re not. The discount is by far the better deal. As the Economist puts it, because most shoppers are “useless at fractions,” they don’t realize that, for instance, a “50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price.”

In one part of the study, Akshay Rao, the General Mills Chair in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, asked undergraduate students to evaluate two deals on loose coffee beans — one with 33% more beans for free, the other at 33% off the price. The students viewed the offers as six of one, half a dozen of the other.

But let’s do the math, using some easy round numbers for the sake of simplicity. Say the initial price is $10 for 10 oz. of coffee beans. Hopefully, it’s obvious that the unit price is therefore $1 per oz. An extra 33% more “free” beans would bring the total up to 13.3 oz. for $10. That $10 divided by 13.3 oz. give us a unit price of $0.75 per oz. With a 33% discount off the initial offer, though, the proposition becomes $6.67 for 10 oz., for a unit price of $0.67 per oz.

Once it’s spelled out the difference becomes obvious. According to the article it’s not just that most of us are bad at math, but also the allure of the word “free” that leads us towards bad decision making. In my case, it certainly doesn’t help having things expressed as percentages which I’ve always had a hard time figuring out unless it’s multiples of 10, and even then I don’t tend to trust my calculative abilities.

Of course the marketers all know this which is why more often than not you’ll see products touted as offering some percentage more “for free!” than some sort of discount. In fact I can’t think of a single example of a product being offered either for X% discount or the same price with X% more at the same time. So I guess it’s a moot point. If you really only have one offer to consider then getting a bit more at the same price is still better than no deal at all.

Lots of stupid people go nuts for new Air Jordan sneakers and end up being maced.

Pic of crazed shoppers.

It's gotta be the shoes!

I admit that I have no sense of fashion so it probably comes as a surprise to no one that I can’t envision ever spending $175 on a pair of sneakers. Or, for that matter, camping out in a line to be the first to buy them.

But apparently there are a lot of other people who can:

MESQUITE, Texas – Mesquite police early Thursday used pepper spray to control an unruly crowd of sneaker shoppers.

The incident happened at Towne East Mall, where dozens of people had lined up top buy Nike’s new Air Jordan 11 Retro, which went on sale at 6 a.m.

Sisters Laurie and Lorraine Martinez, who said they had been in line since 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, described the scene as frightening and chaotic.

“Nothing like I’ve ever experienced before,” Lorraine Martinez said. “I got pushed in a corner and we all got maced. And if it wasn’t for my sister covering my face, I think my face would have ended up worse … our noses are burning.”

Apparently some of the people who hadn’t gotten there early decided their best chance at getting the coveted footwear was to ignore all the early birds and try to move to the front of the line:

“At 4:30 the people at the back of line decided to bum rush and run to the doors … As much as we tried to tell people to move, they wouldn’t. So [police] started macing,” Laurie Martinez said.

She also said some people in the crowd were able to force open a door to the shoe store and get inside, although the sisters were not able to enter.

“I still haven’t gotten my Jordans,” Laurie Martinez said. “I’ll never do this again. It was my first time. I’ve never done it before but I’ll never do it again.”

All of this is pretty stunningly stupid to begin with, but the cherry that tops off this sundae of suck is who the sisters quoted in this news article feel is to blame for the fiasco:

The sisters blame the mall and the store for the melee, calling the event disorganized. They said customers should have received numbers securing their places in line.

“So that this doesn’t happen. And this store, they just let everyone bum rush and act like crazy animals. And then everybody has to pay,” Lauire Martinez said.

That’s right. It’s not the fault of the assholes that things got out of hand, it’s the fault of the mall and the store. Apparently the fact that some people are so obsessed over sneakers that they felt the need to line up to be the first to buy them and were willing to act like rabid animals in a bid to get them doesn’t register as a twisted sense of priorities for these two.

For fuck’s sake, people. They’re just sneakers. They’ll make more. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to waste your money on them in the days to come. It’s not like having them is going to turn you into Michael Jordan so calm the fuck down.

Apparently, I don’t understand cheese mathematics…

Pic of Kraft American Singles

We'll charge you double for 1/4 more of our product!

The wife asked me to drop by the store this evening and pick up a gallon of milk and some cheese slices, the latter for the hamburgers she plans to cook tomorrow.  So I hobbled my way into the store — my knee surgery was only a week ago and the knee is still pretty weak, but I’m managing to get around — and when I reached the fridge with the Kraft American Singles in it I had to decide if I wanted 16 slices or 24. Now this is pretty basic cheese we’re dealing with and the only difference between the two packages was the number of slices with one having an extra 8 in it. There’s not a lot else to base the purchase decision on.

Or so I thought.

Turns out there was one other thing to consider and that was the price. There’s quite a difference in cost between 16 and 24 slices of Kraft American Singles. You see, the price for 16 slices was $2.49 and the price for 24 slices is $4.89. That’s nearly a doubling of the cost for only half as much extra cheese. If I were to buy two 16 packs I’d spend $4.98 and I’d have 32 slices of cheese so why was the 24 slice package priced a mere 9¢ cheaper?

Was there something particularly amazing about those extra eight slices that justified nearly doubling the price over the 16 slice package? Had they been hand dipped in cognac or cocaine prior to packaging? Did they come with a secret decoder ring? Were they simply more cheesier than the first 16 slices? What the fucking fuck?

My guess is they were counting on folks to look more closely at the number of slices than at the cost of the slices themselves. At $2.49 for 16 slices you’re paying around 16¢ a slice and at $4.89 for 24 slices that price per slice jumps to 20¢. Ah, but you only have to carry one item to have 24 instead of two items to have 32. I guess that 4¢ difference in the cost of slices was for the convenience factor.

It probably says something that I sat down and calculated all of that out. Or that it was obvious enough to me while standing in the store that I paused long enough to be boggled by the audacity of it. I don’t often notice such things, but when I do I’m always amazed by it.

The agony of being older and wiser.

I’ve been thinking I need to buy a new laptop. I have two laptops at home already, but they are so old that they are painfully slow to use with Windows XP. Running Linux on them helps to speed them up a bit so long as I either use a very old distro or one so pared down that finding drivers for the wireless cards is akin to pulling fingernails out with pliers. The battery life on both of them is next to nothing and one of them I loaned out for a bit and the person, who shall not be named, put a boot up password on it which they can no longer recall. Being that it’s a Dell Latitude CPi the only method I’ve found for resetting the damned thing is to rip it apart and short out a particular chip, which is something I’ve just not been motivated to do despite the fact that it’s arguably the faster of the two laptops. I tried calling Dell, but seeing as I’m like the fourth person to own this laptop they’re not willing to give me a master password that would let me in because I am not the original owner. So I’m thinking I need to buy a new laptop. Something with wireless and perhaps a webcam built-in. Ideally I’d like to plunk down the cash for a good gaming laptop, but I don’t really have the cash to plunk down. I have a little money left over from the Pell grant I got for school and school is part of the reason I’m thinking of getting one so I’ve been leaning towards using that, but Anne would prefer I put the left over money in our savings account. I could finance something, but the budget is tight as it is so adding another monthly bill is probably not a good idea.

It’s probably one of the signs that I’ve gotten older and wiser that I’m sitting around debating the issue at all. There’s a certainly level of ‘want’ behind all of this thinking, but there’s also a small level of justifiable ‘need’ to factor in. Or at least there’s a small amount of ‘need’ that I’ve been able to rationalize to myself. It says something that I can recognize the fact that I’m rationalizing at all. The truth is I’ve survived school thus far without a laptop and could probably continue to do so, but it would make life a bit easier if I had one. Not to mention all the other uses I could put it to. That’s not really a ‘need’ in the true sense of the word, though. I don’t really NEED a laptop to do well in school. And then there’s the fact that there are a dozen other things I could use the money for such as car repairs. It all makes for a bit of a mental maelstrom roaring away in my head that’s really kind of pointless because deep down I know I’m not going to buy a laptop anytime soon.

Being older and wiser kind of sucks at times. When I was younger I would’ve impulsively used the money to buy myself a laptop and rationalized it away as being a good idea because I’m in college and, thusly, have a need for it. That’s ignoring the fact that you couldn’t get a laptop for less than a grand back when I was younger; unlike today where you can get them for as little as $300 putting them tantalizingly within reach. Now my older, wiser self will eventually convince my impulsive side that it’s not a good idea and I don’t really need it and eventually the impulses will weaken and die pathetically in the dark recesses of my mind.

It seems to me that I was a lot happier back when I was more impulsive. Sure I sometimes got myself into trouble, but there’s a certain joy to be had in convincing yourself you really need that new… thing… and then buying it. Stupid? Probably, but happy. In comparison there’s no joy in being a responsible adult. Yes it’s absolutely the right thing to do to save the money and put it towards things that are more important, but I get no joy out of that. Smart? Yes, but not happy. To make things even worse when I finally do get in a position where I have the money to spend and Anne agrees it’s a good idea to do so I still end up feeling guilty for doing it and thus not as happy as I should be.

Like when I finally got to buy myself a PS3. I really wanted a PS3 for a long time and Anne had been putting a little money aside every month so I could eventually get one and after receiving some birthday money to add to the total I was finally able to buy one. We went to the store and I stood there in front of the box on the shelf and just agonized endlessly over the decision to actually buy it. My brain went nuts listing off all the other shit I should be spending the money on. I should have been happy as hell, but I was wracked with guilt. It confused the hell out of Anne because she expected me to be bouncing off the walls in joy and here I was at points on the verge of tears over it. I almost didn’t buy one. I feel much better about it these days because it’s been useful as more than just a game machine what with the Blu-Ray and the ability to stream media from my PC, but I still feel the occasional pang of guilt when I play it.

I use to love to go window shopping at the mall. As I walked along I’d fantasize about the stuff I saw that I’d like to buy someday and often that would be enough to curb any impulses to spend money I might have had. These days I can’t stand window shopping. It just depresses me because I know there’s about 15 billion other things I’ll have to spend the money on before I can even begin to fantasize about spending money on the stuff that I really want. I’m way more responsible than I used to be, but I’m less happy as a result.

Actually, let me restate that: I’m more responsible than I used to be, but my life has fewer moments of pure unadulterated joy as a result. Perhaps that’s a sign of how shallow I am as a person that I used to take so much pleasure from buying stuff, but I miss those carefree moments. Shopping used to be fun, now it’s just another chore I’d rather not think about.

Walmart employee trampled to death by Black Friday shoppers.

News stories like this one are what prompted SEB’s tag line. Jdimytai Damour was hired as seasonal help at a Long Island Walmart only to perish under the feet of deal-crazed shoppers this past Friday:

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Wal-Mart worker Jimmy Overby, 43.

“They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me.

“They took me down, too … I didn’t know if I was going to live through it. I literally had to fight people off my back,” Overby said.

Damour, a temporary maintenance worker from Jamaica, Queens, was gasping for air as shoppers continued to surge into the store after its 5 a.m. opening, witnesses said.

Even officers who arrived to perform CPR on the trampled worker were stepped on by wild-eyed shoppers streaming inside, a cop at the scene said.

“They pushed him down and walked all over him,” Damour’s sobbing sister, Danielle, 41, said. “How could these people do that?

“He was such a young man with a good heart, full of life. He didn’t deserve that.”

What the fuck is wrong with you people in Long Island? I love a good deal as much as the next guy, but how you could trample someone to death trying to get a good deal is beyond me. That pic on the left (click to embiggen) is what the scene looked like as the doors opened. They have a whole gallery of pics from this tragedy that shows just how stupid people can be.

Roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Wal-Mart’s doors in the predawn darkness.

Chanting “push the doors in,” the crowd pressed against the glass as the clock ticked down to the 5 a.m. opening.

Sensing catastrophe, nervous employees formed a human chain inside the entrance to slow down the mass of shoppers.

It didn’t work.

The mob barreled in and overwhelmed workers.

“They were jumping over the barricades and breaking down the door,” said Pat Alexander, 53, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “Everyone was screaming. You just had to keep walking on your toes to keep from falling over.”

After the throng toppled Damour, his fellow employees had to fight through the crowd to help him, police said.

Witness Kimberly Cribbs said shoppers acted like “savages.”

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been on line since Friday morning!’” Cribbs said. “They kept shopping.”

Seriously, what the fuck? Even after you’ve crushed a man to death you insist on shopping? Have you no empathy at all? Are you so bereft of concern for your fellow man that killing him in the mad rush for a deal isn’t enough to give you pause? Couldn’t some of you have stopped and helped this poor man to his feet before he had the life stomped out of him? Help me to understand the insanity of this event, please.

Hat tip to ***Dave who has some choice words of his own.

Deal News.com - Black Friday is no longer a day, it’s a season.

Even though I rarely have extra cash laying around these days I still make a habit of keeping up with various websites such as Deal News.com which specialize in finding and promoting deals (natch). In addition to finding literally hundreds of deals every day they occasionally have an article about shopping such as the following discussing how Black Friday is expanding:

Black Friday Is No Longer a Day, It’s a Season

When most people think of Black Friday, they think of the day after Thanksgiving. But the fact is, over the past several years, the idea of “Black Friday” has been expanding.

In previous years, Black Friday had become a two-day event, since many Black Friday sales are available online on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, however, Wal-Mart upped the ante with its “Secret Sale” promotion. That sale started exactly three weeks before Black Friday. It featured a high-definition DVD player (HD-DVD) for $99, Acer laptop for $348, and 50” plasma TV for $999, prices that are still aggressive a year later. Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart received millions of dollars worth of free PR for its “Secret Sale” (a misnomer if ever there was one). Importantly, Best Buy beat Wal-Mart’s price on the HD-DVD player that day, showing a willingness to compete with its own loss leader and getting its own free PR.

Wal-Mart’s goal was to extend the halo from Black Friday into multiple high-buzz sales events throughout November. You’re likely to see the same game plan this year from Wal-Mart, which enters this holiday season much healthier than its competitors. And where Wal-Mart goes, Best Buy, Target, and the others must follow. It’s a live-or-die holiday season for many stores this year. Retailers can’t ignore the power of huge, “Black Friday”-like sales events on the run up to Thanksgiving.

And if a retailer is thinking about not competing, it had better think twice. Four years ago, Wal-Mart skipped Black Friday entirely, with no major ad push and no “doorbusters.” The result was the worst after-Thanksgiving sales weekend for Wal-Mart in years. Retailers who don’t want to compete with Wal-Mart by expanding Black Friday into a month-long event run the risk of having bad sales for an entire month, a death knell for most.

The article goes on to talk about how a lot of stores have to borrow in order to purchase their merchandise and then hope they make enough off the sales to pay off the loan and turn a profit, but with the current credit crunch, thanks to the assholes on Wall Street, that business model is a very difficult one to maintain. Banks are being very stingy with credit and the fact that the banks know consumers are cutting back on unnecessary purchases makes them even less open to giving out credit to retailers. Combine that with the fact that many retailers are struggling and things could get bloody:

Every year, a few struggling retailers file for bankruptcy (or go out of business entirely) after Christmas. It’s a normal cycle. However, that’s changing. Last season, CompUSA started liquidating its stores in early December, and it was completely gone by January. (The new CompUSA is now run by TigerDirect.)

This year, things have gotten worse. Linens ‘n Things is already bankrupt. It’s liquidating its stock online and in stores before closing shop. Circuit City is trying to avert bankruptcy by closing over 100 stores and laying off thousands of employees. Mervyns is closing all 175 stores. JC Penney is in trouble. Sears is closing yet more stores. And it’s just October.

Make no mistake: Thousands of jobs are at stake, and so many stores going out of business is bad over the long-term. But in the short term, these stores must liquidate their inventory. Consumers benefit from liquidation sales. Plus, you’ll soon see more closeouts at stores like Buy.com, Woot, Fry’s Electronics, TigerDirect, and others that resell distressed inventory.

Which means, ironically enough, there’s some excellent deals about to come down the pike. Deal News.com is estimating that the deals we’ll see this season will be the best since the days of the first dot.com bubble (2001):

It’s a perfect storm: Consumers have cut back spending. Stores must slash prices to drive traffic to their stores. Competition and reduced margins will drive struggling stores into bankruptcy. The credit crisis will hammer bankrupt stores, forcing them to auction off their inventory to those liquidators that still have access to cash. And finally, a $2,000 HDTV pops up on Buy.com for $1,199.

I knew I should’ve held off on buying a new LCD TV until the fall. Of course that’d have meant no TV or movie watching for three or so months so I suppose it works out in the wash.

If you’ve got any spare money this year, assuming you’re not in the same boat I am, then it’s going to be a great time to shop. If you’re a retailer, though, then things are going to be very rough.

Meanwhile the Obamas discuss their status as Fashion Icons.

In light of the entry I posted yesterday in which I bitched about how Sarah “I’m Just Like You” Palin puts the lie to her nickname by having the RNC spend $150,000 on her wardrobe, the following video clip from Access Hollywood about the Obama’s status as fashion icons stands in stark contrast:

Michelle Obama does a lot of her shopping at the GAP. The dress she’s wearing in the interview cost a mere $30. Barack resoles his shoes and is wearing pants he’s had for 10 years. Who do you think is going to be more fiscally responsible?

Found over at The Huffington Post.

Sarah Palin is “just like you” except she has a $150K wardrobe.

She keeps saying she’s just a normal hockey mom and she’s like like us normal people who are struggling to make ends meet, but that didn’t stop her campaign from spending some serious cash on her outfits:

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

I don’t know about you people, but I could pay off every single debt me and my wife have and have plenty left over with a spare $150,000. In fact when I play the lotto I’m not so much hoping to hit the big jackpot (though that would be nice) as much as just five numbers as the $250,000 that would bring it would be a big help in these tough times. I’m willing to let the $8,000 a month John McCain spends on makeup slide only because he’s not up there trying to convince me he’s just like me and thusly better able to relate to what I’m going through. And I’m sure Obama and Biden are spending equally ridiculous amounts on clothes and makeup, but, just as with McCain, they don’t keep trying to sell themselves as just normal folk.

Sarah Palin is no closer to “Joe Six Pack” than Obama is and even if she were that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing in a Vice President.