Category Archives: El Rando

Random observations and whatnot.

It’s Official: Yard Sale Season is Upon Us

yard sale sign
Ahoy, there be treasure hidden here.

In the Northeastern US, the yard sale season starts during Memorial Day Weekend and ends over Labor Day weekend. I love yard sales for many reasons:

  • find stuff you need for cheaper
  • keep stuff out of landfills a little longer
  • discover items from your childhood or things you’ve only heard about but never seen in person
  • interact with (mostly) nice folks

Some folks love yardsaling like I do, and others just hate it. And there are those who wonder what it’s all about. For those in the last group, I’ve listed some pointers and guidelines to maximize your yard sale experience.

Finding Yard Sales

I usually grab a copy of the local paper and look in the classifieds for upcoming yard sale listings. For those who live in a more populated area, I’ve heard that craigslist is a pretty good source too. IMO though, stick with the local paper; the local paper probably has a website that lists their classifieds too, and whatever route you create from the local listings will suffice, as you’ll most likely run across unlisted sales, neighbors taking advantage of the free advertising. With the local classifieds in hand, I mark the ones that sound promising (e.g., “electronics” or “old photography” ) and avoid others (e.g., “baby clothes”; baby clothes are everywhere ,  of course except when you actually need to find baby clothes). Then I enter the addresses into Google Map and see where the yard sales are relative to one another, plan a route, and print it out.

Around this time I also email friends if they’re interested in going. In addition to being a lot more fun than yardsaling solo, yardsaling with others also increases your chances of finding something you’re looking for as you have more pair of eyes scanning each sale, improves your negotiation (more on this later), and acts as a reality check (“are you really going to use that scythe to mow the lawn?” True story).

Day of the Sale

Early birds are annoying, but you do want to start your yard saling around the start time, which typically starts at either 8 or 9am. Here’s a list of stuff I recommend having on hand for a yard sale session:

  • small change. Easier to pay for stuff and doesn’t look as bad compared to getting change for a $20 for an item you haggled down to $2.
  • water bottle. Depending on the area you live in, you’ll get dehydrated quickly. Coffee is a common alternative.
  • list of things you would like to get. This helps keep your searches more focused and reduces the chances that you missed something at a yard sale.
  • hand sanitizer. You will be picking up and inspecting a lot of stuff of which you rarely know where it has been. Baby wipes are a good alternative too.

Depending on how big your list is, you’ll want to spend the first couple of minutes at a sale scanning the piles. If your initial impression is that it’s a bunch of crap, leave and get to the next sale. You can always come back if you regret it.

Haggling Guidelines

So you found an item or a couple of items that you’re interested in buying. Here are some guidelines:

  • think whether you will actually use the item. This is where having a list comes in handy because if it’s on the list, you’ve already thought about it.
  • think about what’s the most you would pay for it. Unless you ABSOLUTELY need that item, you should always be willing to walk away from the sale. You may have pangs of regret –I know I have on several occasions– but also know that you saved money and it’s one less item in your place. It also helps that you can usually find the same item at another sale.
  • in general, you can reasonably start at half of the asking price. Anything below that significantly decreases your odds of getting the item and may also insult the seller. Exceptions to this are items that are listed for $1 or less. There’s an alternative to getting a lower price:
  • see if there’s anything else at that particular yard sale that you’re interested in. Sometimes you can get a cheaper price per item if you offer to buy more items, as most sellers are most interested in getting rid of stuff rather than making a profit (more on this in another post on hosting a yard sale). This is where having friends along helps a lot, as you can pool the items that the group is interested in.
  • be nice. (Most) Sellers put a lot of effort into running a yard sale, so be respectful. Even if their stuff is crap and/or the sellers are douchebags, be courteous, at least until you get into the car and drive off.  An aside to this is if you offer a reasonable price (i.e., at least half of the asking price) and they get mad about it, just walk away. It’s not worth it and more power to the seller.

Release the Hounds…

There are many sites that focus on yard sales with a ton of tips and how-to’s, but if you follow the suggestions listed above, you and your friends will have a productive and hopefully enjoyable yard sale experience. And if you do go yardsaling enough, you’ll most likely need to have a yard sale yourself, which I’ll talk about in another post. Until then, happy yardsaling!

Taiwan National Day Rehearsals

Taiwan National Day rehearsal

Coming home on my scooter after watching an opposite-of-upbeat set of animations collectively titled “Abused“, I found that I was not able to take the usual roads home as a policeman was diverting eastbound traffic on Hankou St. to the north. There’s a lot of cops around and some military uniforms, so I get a little nervous and figure there might be something going down in the area. I get closer to Taipei main station, and am then stopped to let some vehicles go by. Military vehicles. Lots of them. Like over 12 or so.

Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal

It turns out (and I figured it out) that this is part of the rehearsal for Taiwan’s National Day celebrations, also known as Double-Ten Day due to its being on October 10th (10/10). According to the great and powerful Wikipedia, this day marks the beginning of the Wuchang Uprising, which led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty(China’s last Imperial dynasty) and the eventual creation of the Republic of China, which most of us simply know as Taiwan nowadays.

Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal

The military show is being criticized a bit due to the fact that military parades on Double-Ten stopped after the end of martial law. This year, the motivation for having a show again seems to be both internationally and domestically political – it’s to show the world that Taiwan is a country, and ready to defend itself if China loses its shit and goes nuts. It’s also to garner votes by showing the Taiwanese people that the politicians are doing their thing to promote Taiwan to the world. For me, it’s kind of like something they don’t really need to do, but it’s neat nonetheless, and Taiwan really needs to communicate itself to the world in ways other than through offbeat news about a man who got his scrotum stuck in a buckle, random fist fights, and food fights in the legislature.

Taiwan National Day rehearsal Taiwan National Day rehearsal

Dyson Airblade – xeroxed innovation with a side of marketing

Dyson - from products that suck to products that blow
Some articles have been popping up about Dyson’s Airblade hand dryer (Gizmodo link). Many people may know Dyson as the company that made the $400 vacuum cleaner somehow acceptable. Hailed as the hand dryer reinvented and impressing some of journalists, the Airblade cuts the hand drying process down to a mere 10 seconds by using powerful twin air jets to blast water off of both sides of your hands. By cutting the time needed to dry hands, and because the air doesn’t need to be heated, the Airblade is a major time and energy saver compared to traditional big button hand dryers. For more details, you can check out this “article“, which looks to be Dyson’s press release ad verbatim.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Dyson wants to make out with Mitsubishi

But wait – Dyson doesn’t actually mention anything about “powerful twin air jets blasting water off of your hands”. Maybe that’s because that came from Mitsubishi’s home page for their Jet Towel hand dryer, which does the exact same thing and came out 7 months ago. (Gizmodo link for that product, also 7 months ago) In fact, I’ve already seen a bunch of them in use around Taiwan in places from restaurants to malls to theme parks. They work the same – you put your hands into the “pit” and slowly pull them out as the air jets push the water off.

Well, why don’t we compare the two?

The Form Factor
Mitsubishi's Jet Towel Dyson's Airblade

The Method
Mitsubishi's method

Dyson's method

In fact, the main thing that differentiates Dyson’s product from the pre-existing one from Mitsubishi is the press release.

Mitsubishi’s release runs 415 words through 8 paragraphs, including 67 words which are used for listing the unit specifications and information on a show it was to be debuted at. The article focuses on product benefits (speed, energy savings, potential cost savings) and describing how the product works. It aims to show how their product offers benefits over current methods. Here’s an excerpt:

Ideal for offices, restaurants, retail stores and hotels, a drying process up to eight times faster than conventional air hand dryers results in a remarkable drying time of 5 seconds (versus up to 40 seconds for competitive products). Laboratories, factories and food processing facilities can benefit from increases in productivity and hygiene while reducing washroom maintenance and waste management services.

Dyson’s release, weighing in at 500 words exactly and 16 paragraphs seems to lean towards scare-mongering and buzzwords. It follows the good ‘ol marketing idea of trying to convince the audience that the current product or method is obsolete or unfashionable then making their own product appear to be the only suitable (or humane) solution. Take this tasty excerpt:

Hygiene: Electric hand dryers use 60 year old technology that relies on evaporation to dry hands. Washroom air, which contains fecal germs and is laden with bacteria, is heated and blown onto people’s shoes, clothes and… freshly washed hands.

Oh crap! You mean I might be blowing hot pooticules onto my hands?! I’ll never use conventional hand dryers again even though I know that I’m already breathing these same fecal germs which is far worse than touching them!

Ironically, Dyson uses a quote from the Royal Institute for Public Health, which these “conventional” hand dryers to be as safe as paper towels in response to a Westminster report condemning hand dryers. The Westminster report was criticized for not considering the fact that while the air blown out of the unit was 50C and not enough to kill germs, they did not mention the fact that the air must first pass through a 90C heating element, which is enough to kill germs. (article here) So heated pooticules are safe, who knew? Dyson’s unit uses a HEPA filter for the air intake, which is also a signal to me that the unit will need replacement of expensive disposable filters at least once or twice a year. Joy!

So, the above quote could also be spun as follows:

Washroom air, which contains fecal germs and is laden with bacteria, is sterilized and blown onto people’s shoes, clothes and… freshly washed hands.

But wait, there’s more!

People rub their hands together to speed up the lengthy drying process but research proves that this actually draws bacteria from deeper skin layers and fingernails.

Damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to cross contaminate than dry hands.

Conventional hand dryers consume a lot of energy and take an eternity to dry hands – if you bother to wait.


Ugh. Marketing tactics aside, I should re-mention the fact that Mitsubishi’s product came out 7 months ago and has already popped up in a bunch of places in at least Japan and Taiwan to my knowledge. The major differences seem to be the HEPA filter for the air intake (big whoop), a system to sterilize and vaporize blown off water (whereas the Jet Towel uses a drainage tank), and the Dyson is more built for withstanding abuse. Other than that, there’s the appearance: Mitsubishi has a clean, white, clinical appearance while Dyson’s looks more like a rounded blob, or something that would act as a giant pair of handcuffs should it clamp shut. From these differences, I can only see the abuse-resistant design as something that really matters. The HEPA filter seems like a joke/replacement catridge scheme and carefully sterilizing and vaporizing the waste water doesn’t seem necessary considering that the water from your just washed hands should be clean to begin with.

As for my experiences with the Jet Towel so far, they’re pretty nice. They won’t get your hands BONE DRY though unless you make another pass. I also found some disadvantages over the classic World Dryer button smacker; if your hands are cold, you can’t warm them up with the dryer. For that matter, you can’t use the dryer as an impromptu heater during the winter either. The “conventional” hand dryer is also useful as a quickie clothes dryer(like if your shirt is wet from being stuck in the rain), something you just can’t do with the Jet Towel. I haven’t seen the Xlerator hand dryer before though, and I’m curious to know how that is. I do know that it’s another super air speed dryer, but this still uses a nozzle and a heating element, and doesn’t look fug like the Dyson. I mention this because this thing sounds like the ultimate instant clothes dryer/T-shirt inflator to me.

If you REALLY want future, how about a gadget that rinses your hands, puts soap on your hands, rinses them again, then dries them? It exists, and I saw it at a Missouri rest stop more than 3 years ago. Yes, the rest stop that had “Dog Sex #1” carved on a toilet seat.

this is space-age Jetson shit right here, folks Can Dyson do THIS?
easy as 1 2 3 Truer words have not been spoken

THIS is the goddamn future, and it’s in a Missouri rest stop bathroom. Who knew?

rubber ducky, you're the one

This duck would be -dark- meat.

Duck Fadar is what you get if George Lucas made out with a wildlife preserve during a 4th of July fireworks celebration, except this has a much lower chance of traumatizing your kids. A floating rubber ducky with beak-fitted breathing apparatus, Duck Fadar also has an internal multicolor LED that cycles through different colors when put in the bathtub(perhaps he swallowed a lightsaber that was stuck on “demo” mode). Nothing helps one relax in the tub more than ambient cycling of primary colors radiated by homicidal waterfowl with parenting issues. Showing his true dark ambitions, Duck Fadar has nonreplaceable batteries, forcing you to add another drake from the dark side to your growing disposable army after 45 hours of discophibious service.

I Rub My Duckie, and My Duckie Rubs Me, OOOOHH YEESSSS He Does

Unfortunately, Duck Fadar lacks a sound module to give you authentic heavy breathing action, so enter the I Rub My Duckie. To your friends and neighbors, it appears to be an ordinary rubber duckie. However, you know that it’s a an epileptic anatidae of ease adrift in your abode. A soothing, swimming samaritan suffering some seizures. Dare I oversimplify and label it a “mighty mallard masseuse”? Two-fisted AA action supplies 3 volts of pampering, pulsating power to this ducky dynamo, which jitters into action with a backrub “click”. A travel version is available for long lonely journeys where you need a companion, as well as an ebony version, so all your envious friends can exclaim “I love your big black duck!”. Look for one slipping into a quack near you.

Collect them all! (for novelty use only)