Michael Bauser Is Losing His Mind

The revenge of the camera geek.

I used to work as a salesman in a camera store, which was admittedly an odd career choice, because I never had any great facility for cameras or photography before taking the job. In fact, before working there, I'd broken every camera I owned, save one, before finishing the second roll of film. (The sole survivor? The free camera I got in a box of cornflakes. Go figure.) But I needed a job, a friend recommended me, and I somehow ended up working for the world's largest chain of camera stores for eighteen months. I did pretty well, for a guy who had to pick it up as he went. I picked up a new hobby, learned lots of otherswise-useless technical information, kept the store tidy, won some prizes in a couple of sales contests, and got referred to as my right hand man by my favorite manager. All in all, I was doing a pretty good imitation of being a happy camera geek.

After my favorite manager retired, I volunteered to leave my original post in Phoenix and help open a new store in Scottsdale. Although Scottsdale is unquestionably home to a more well-to-do populace than Phoenix, I was the only employee in the company who volunteered to work in the new store. (Sales associates like sure things -- nobody else in the company wanted to take a chance on lowering their commissions as a new location.) All of my co-workers (and the store manager) were hired new to for that store, given some quick training, and dumped into a store so new that the parent company forgot to give it a copy of the employee manual.

[read the rest] Posted at 11:59:06 PM EST on 27 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

Auction Misadventures: Getting paid is a pain in the ass.

Sunday night, my first three eBay auctions sucessfully closed with offers for all three posters I was selling. If I could just get paid for them all, life would be great.

I started all three posters at $1.99, because it sounded like a good number. One poster sold for exactly that because it only got one bid (I think set the postage too high on that auction), one sold for $2.49 because it only got two bids, and the third sold for $7.50 (it was the best poster of the three). Not exactly Antiques Roadshow money, but I got the posters for free, so who am I to complain?

The $7.50 bidder paid me by PayPal within an hour of the auction ending; I shipped his poster on Monday. The $2.49 bidder e-mailed me asking how to pay with a money order (College kids. Sheesh.), which I'm still waiting for. The $1.99 bidder hasn't even responded to my e-mailed invoice. I tell you, it's always the cheap ones who cause trouble.

[read the rest] Posted at 11:18:24 PM EST on 21 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

An idea for saving the Arizona legislature.

I've worked on election campaigns in three states (Arizona, Louisiana, and Michigan) , which I now feel qualifies me to pretend that I'm qualified to diagnose and correct any and all problems with the various states electoral systems. Keeping that in mind, I now feel obligated to pronounce: Arizona needs a jungle primary.

I got this idea after reading an article about Arizona's state legislature in the Phoenix New Times. Long story shortened: Not enough moderates and independents vote in Arizona's primaries, so moderate Republican candidates are getting squeezed out and replaced by wingnuts who win in general elections just because Arizona leans red. The end result is a wingnut legislature that can't get anything significant done because it's too busy panicking about the gay agenda to actually work with the governor. (Based on my experiences in Arizona, I think the New Times underemphasized one contributing problem: Arizona's primary elections are in September, so campaigning for it doesn't start until August, when many casual voters assume commercials will be for the November elections.)

Lousiana on the other hand, uses a system (called the "jungle primary", I take it, because only the strong survive) that struck me as completely insane until today. That state combines the primary with the general election -- both parties can run multiple candidates for each office. If any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, s/he automatically wins. If nobody breaks 50%, the top two vote-getters participate in a run-off election in December. (I volunteered during one of those run-off elections last month, which is the only reason I know this stuff.) I'm thinking that if Arizona used a system like Louisiana's for its state legislature elections, the moderate Republicans would win more often (either in the November election or the December runoff).

Will it ever happen? Probably not. Arizona tried runoff elections once in 1992 and nobody liked the result. That, however, was actually a three-vote cycle (a regular primary, the general election, and a run-off election, which even I agree is too much. Louisiana's system, I think, could work better in getting some moderates (and maybe even some Democrats) into the state legislature.

[link to this] Posted at 11:40:04 PM EST on 20 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

I watched a lot of Battlestar Galactica this week.

A couple of years ago, I stopped by Fry's Electronics to pick up a new keyboard and discovered that the World's Worst Electronic Store had started selling gas masks. 'Cuz you know we're supposed to be stocking survival kits in case of terrorist attack, and Fry's wouldn't want to miss out on that market. I didn't buy one, of course, because I didn't want to trust my post-apocalyptic safety to a store where the return counter was usually busier than the checkout line.

So, anyway, I watched a six-hour marathon of the new Battlestar Galactica on Sci Fi Channel today. Six hours of robot-instigated end-of-civilization angst made me wonder what I'm supposed to put in the survival kit for alien attacks. A space suit, in case of violent decompression? A gun with armor-piercing bullets, to fight the killer robots? A copy of the collected works of Shakespeare, just in case nobody else remembers to save the Western Canon when we're all fleeing the planet?

Ah, who am I kidding? I don't own the collected works of Shakespeare. If the end comes, I'm going to be the weird guy who saves the Dungeon Master's Guide and Coming of Age in Samoa.

[read the rest] Posted at 11:59:00 PM EST on 16 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

Auction Misadventures: I hate postage calculators.

When I was listeding three old posters on eBay Sunday, eBay's postage calculator gave me some really high postage estimates (nine dollars!?) for posters that didn't weigh much. That's been bothering me all week, because I suspect it's scaring bidders away. So far, one poster has one bidder.

I had to go deposit a couple of checks at my bank today, so I decided to just take one of the posters (in a shipping tube) to the post office and ask a real human being what the postage would be. The human being's estimate? A dollar and seventy-five cents. Sheesh.

I was able to change the postage rates on two of the auctions. (eBay won't let me correct auctions that already have bids.) Hopefully that will help. Next time, I should get this stuff figured out before listing things for sale.

[link to this] Posted at 11:13:41 PM EST on 14 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

Auction Misadventures: The Beginning

I've had a lot of stupid jobs over the years: beer guy, camera guy, search engine guy, home security guy, and a few more I don't feel like talking about. In addition to creating a résumé that makes potential employers think I'm a flake, the sucession of junk jobs has saddled me with a lot of useless swag. I'm got posters, keychains, ink pens, t-shirts, baseball caps, and all sorts of other things stamped with the logos of companies I really don't care about. It sits on bookshelves. It hangs in closets. It hides in basements. It's like I'm being physically haunted by all of my dead-end jobs.

So I've decided to get rid of most of it. There are a few things in there that are actually useful. (I can always use another pen, and the Fujifilm luggage tag is handy.) The rest is junk to me. Also, it's been a while since I gave myself a stupid project, so I decided to fix both problems at once: I'm going to figure out this eBay thing if it kills me.

Besides, I'm unemployed and I have less than twenty dollars in my checking account. I could use the money.

[read the rest] Posted at 11:44:13 PM EST on 10 January 2005 from Trenton, MI

Applying for a job shouldn't be this difficult.

Back when I lived in Arizona, I applied for a job as a beer merchandiser at Pearce Beverage Company. A beer mechandiser, in case you're wondering, is the guy who goes around town setting up those suspiciously elaborate displays of alcohol involving dangerously high stacks of beer cases, cardboard supermodels in the aisles, inflatable blimps hanging from the ceiling, entry boxes for pointless sweepstakes, and, if necessary, sticky rebate coupons on every case. They're actually considered a step down from salesmen, because their jobs doesn't involve much paperwork. Frankly, the greatest intellectual challenges of being a merchandiser are figuring out how high one can stack beer without killing customers in an avalanche of cans, and occasionally pulling an past-date case off the shelves.

Now, I want you to keep in mind that I spent three years running the beverage section of badly-run drug/grocery store in my hometown. Since merchandisers don't pay much attention to small-town grocery stores, I was the guy who had figure out how high one can stack beer without killing customers, and the guy who knew how to read the secret expiration dates on forty brands of beer. (In fact, I became the Web's expert in reading the secret expiration dates on beer. I'm one of the people newpapers call for information.) So, I have three years experience at this job. When I saw the newspaper ad for it, I called immediately.

The staffing agency that was doing the pre-screening for Pearce Beverage Company thought I was the man. I had experience, I had expertise, I already had a denim shirt with Miller Lite's logo on it. As far as they were concerned, there was nothing that could stop me. So, the morning after visiting the staffing agency, I go to the address they gave me for the final interview. It's at the distributor's warehouse/office building on the south side of Phoenix -- a large building surrrounded by trucks and other warehouses, with a little sign on the front saying that the building is closed because they've moved to another location.

And you wonder why I'm cynical about corporations?

[read the rest] Posted at 12:59:15 AM EST on 31 December 2004 from Trenton, MI