eBay never ceases to amaze me

My family and I have the good fortune of living near a quaint and historic Midwest town appropriately named Long Grove, Illinois. The good people from the local chamber of commerce provide us with this remarkably accurate summary from the aforementioned:

This historic village dates back to the early 1800s. The village was founded by German farmers who were reminded of their Saar Valley homeland.

Our open-air “lifestyle” center is as it was long ago but the shopping district still meets the needs of families on the go. Or perhaps you would like to visit for a relaxing day shopping and strolling through this charming historic village. It’s truly like a trip back in time to the 1800s. The buildings have been restored and preserved. The brick sidewalks and covered bridge delight your eye. A homemade bakery, chocolate candy, and fresh brewed coffee beans delight your smell. Let the ice cream at the Apple Haus and the popcorn shoppe tempt your taste and a traditional village tavern fulfill your thirst.

You’ll be delighted by the sights, smells and sounds in this charming village and we’re open all year. Free parking and no admission fees make it perfect for a day trip.

The best part of the description is that it is almost completely accurate. One thing the have failed to mention is that many of the quaint antique shops and have sought more pastoral surroundings, giving way to a great many gift shops that pray on the unsuspecting tourist. On a recent walk through the town on a quiet Sunday with my wife and kids I was drawn into one of the last remaining high quality boutiques. I was pleasantly surprised to see an impressive collection of tasteful oil paintings in high quality frames. This is the sort of thing that my wife and I tend to appreciate since our house is cluttered with antiques, rescued stained glass windows, items evoking rural America, and many other interesting pieces of miscellanea. While I am prone to impulse purchases, the starting price tag of $269 doused a bit of my passion to surprise my wife (at least surprise her in a positive sense).

Fast forward 30 hours to my wife and I sitting on our bed watching the news and catching up on personal email. For some reason remembered the oil painting and browsed my way over to eBay to see what the fine merchants of the largest bazaar on earth were peddling. After choosing a select group of keywords and narrowing the field a bit, I was able to find a lovely selection that appears to be every bit as innocuous as one from my trip to town. Now what really amazed me was the price tag: $19.95 plus $16 shipping & handling. While there have been a great many articles written about how eBay represents the broadest array of potential buyers, little has been said about how eBay also generally represents the lowest average sales price across comparable channels for sellers. I wonder if the spectrum of merchandise has become so incredibly vast that it has created a poverty of those buyers that would consume it. What I do know is that I am 26 minutes and 58 seconds away from being the proud new owner of a lovely oil painting with which I plan on surprising my wife.

Oh cruel irony!

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over two-thirds of the adult US population (133.6 million people) are overweight or obese (BMI equal to, or greater than 25). Of those, over half are technically obese with BMIs greater than or equal to 30. To make matters worse, the percentage of those Americans classified as overweight has increased nearly 50% since 1950 and the prevalence of obesity has increased nearly 200% during the same period. The cost of our portliness stretches well beyond the approximately $95+ billion spent annually by Americans to treat obesity-related medical conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and colon cancer. So with all of these obvious indicators that we are in the midst of medical and lifestyle crises (only 26% of adult Americans engage in any sort of vigorous activity lasting 10 minutes or longer per week), is there any irony more cruel than that depicted in this photo I snapped today?

Incidentally, that’s a Weight Watchers next door to the Cold Stone Creamery.

The impetus for blog creation

Like many people I have read extensively about blogging and its rise to legitimacy within certain circles of journalism. Furthermore, I have been an active member of the online world since the late 1980s and consider myself more than a simple technology enthusiast. Lo, I would have gone as far to self-apply the label “digerati” during the go-go dot-com days of the late 20th century. In fact, I was fortunate enough to appear in Wired Magazine on one occasion thanks to a brief and illuminating online correspondence with Sun Microsystems Co-Founder (and then Chief Scientist) Bill Joy regarding his infamous prophecy titled Why the future doesn’t need us. I have also dabbled in online journalism on more than a few occasions as a function of my professional life with fine publications such as The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Computer Guide, NetChicago, ePrairie, and others.

However, as a productive and reasonably successful member of corporate America and a voracious consumer of mainstream media, I have witnessed more than a few instances of heavy-handed disciplinary activities on the part of employers who have felt it their obligation to police the opinions of those directly or indirectly in their employ. To be fair, there are a great deal of people in the United States who have misinterpreted the key protective principles of The First Amendment and find themselves enjoying other fine governmental benefits, such as unemployment insurance benefits, after particularly foolish journeys into copyright infringement, slander or even hate speech. While I have never possessed a desire to become a raconteur for radical fringe dialog and would be an unlikely poster child for corporate blasphemy, I have also been acutely aware of the fact that the states in which I have found myself employed adhere strongly to an at-will employment doctrine. Therefore, my blogging aspirations have remained in the closet untested and unfulfilled.

Until now.

My change in perspective was very subtle, although significant. I was reading a Reuters article from their “Oddly Enough” section on my Treo titled Royal couple edited own Wikipedia entry. While the article itself is not nearly as interesting as the title may suggest, the fact that someone within the royal household was both interested enough in setting the record straight (if you could call Wikipedia “the record”) and possessed the technological wherewithal to do so is impressive on a few different levels. The fact that governments agencies were also credited with performing the same activities is much less absorbing since “spin control” has become a full-time job for highly compensated professionals masquerading under more innocuous titles such as public relations or political strategy. No, this was something entirely different. It is on par with a member of the monarchy sneaking out of the palace in the dead of the night to mingle with his or her subjects. Long has the Internet been credited for bringing both information to people and people to people, but this was the example that made it real for me.

With that I have spent the better part of the hour considering for the first time “what” I should say on my heretofore fictitious blog rather than “why” I should (or should not) say it.