Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Christmas In The Bag

ENTRY 0022

Okay.  Currently, I don't have anything active on Ebay.  So while I'm familiarizing myself with my new toy (see previous entry), I'll go back to something I mentioned a couple of entries ago.

As I said at the time, with one notable exception, I didn't do any of my Christmas shopping on Ebay.  Using Ebay might work if I actually knew ahead of time what I was going to get everyone on my list.  But since I generally don't know what I'm going to get until I see something on the shelf of some store, it's much easier for me to go into combat mode and brave the crowds at the mall.

(I'm not kidding about the combat mode thing.  I realized a long time ago that Christmas shopping should be treated as a full-contact sport.  I navigate the mall as though I were a bulldozer competing in the Indianapolis 500.  Get in my way at your peril.)

That one exception to my avoidance of Ebay really doesn't even count as the actual present.  Make that presents, plural.  It all stems from one itsy bitsy thing.  The one thing I really dislike about Christmas -- other than "Silent Night."  I dislike wrapping gifts, probably because I really, really suck at giftwrapping.  Obviously, if I am presented with an opportunity to reduce the number of gifts I have to wrap, this is a good thing.  and I will take full advantage of the opportunity.

For instance, a few years ago, I was shopping in Walmart just after the big back to school rush.  At one particular display, I observed that the store had a variety of backpacks and similar items marked for clearance.  Among the items in the display were some messenger bags by Eastsport, and I suddenly had the bright idea of getting a couple of these bags, and using them as the "giftwrap" for the presents I would be giving my niece and nephew.  (Keep in mind that this was mid-September, and I wouldn't be doing any other Christmas shopping for another couple of months.)

It turned out to be a pretty good decision.  A few months after that Christmas, I asked my sister-in-law if the kids had liked their bags.  Short version -- yeah, they did.

Okay, getting back to this past Christmas.  Back in October, I had another, similar lightbulb moment.  I was doing some browsing on Ebay, and the lightbulb went on as I was looking at some vintage TWA flight bags.

I picked up one of these TWA flight bags for myself many years ago.  It's tan with red lettering that says "TWA Getaway Vacations."  (From what I can tell, these were given to passengers who booked certain vacation packages on TWA, and they date back to the 1970s.)  It measures about 12"x14"x6", and it has one large zippered main compartment, an outside pocket, and an adjustable shoulder strap.  The shoulder strap could be a little longer, but that's my personal preference.  It holds several books quite nicely, which is the original reason I acquired it.  In recent years, though, I've used it mainly for carrying CDs when I go on a road trip.

I don't have any photos, but if you're curious as to what it looks like, just go to Ebay, and type "twa bag" in the Search box.  The number of search results will vary, but you should see at least a dozen or so of the style I just described being offered at any one time.  (This will not be the only style to show up in the search results, but it won't be hard to miss.  It's the only tan flight bag I've ever seen from TWA.)

During this particular search, I encountered a seller who was offering two of these bags in a single listing.  And at what I considered a bargain price -- $4.95 for the pair.  I decided that since the kids liked the last bags that I used as "giftwrap," they would probably enjoy these as well.  And after all, inside the bags would be their real Christmas presents.  Most important of all, this would mean that there would be two Christmas presents that I wouldn't have to wrap.

I saved the listing in my Watch List, and I sent my usual inquiry to the seller.  In other words, "Do you accept money orders?"  The reply came back in the affirmative, and I wasted no time placing a bid.  Surprisingly, mine was the only bid, especially considering that I placed my bid on the last day of the listing.

As soon as I won the auction, I got the seller's mailing address, got the money order, and mailed the payment.  A few days later, I knew he had received the payment when I saw the feedback left for me.  And about a week or so after that, when I went by the post office, there was a key in my mailbox.  Inside the locker, of course, was the package.  (Also of course, I promptly left feedback at the next opportunity.)

As I suspected, my niece and nephew thought the bags were pretty cool.  And if I'm not too terribly mistaken, the flight bags gave them somewhere to put all (or at least most) of their presents in one place.  That probably made my brother and sister-in-law happy.


Monday, April 02, 2012

Brand New Toy

ENTRY 0021

Over the weekend, I picked up a new "toy."  It was WordPerfect Office X5 (which I think is their way of saying version 15).  I had been needing to upgrade for some time now.  I was previously using WordPerfect 9.  The computer I originally installed it on ran Windows 95.

The main reason I finally decided that it was time to upgrade was QuattroPro.  A few months ago, for some reason, whenever I opened QuattroPro, I would get a message that said something like, "QuattroPro 9 has stopped working."  A few seconds later, it would close.  I uninstalled QuattroPro, then reinstalled it.  It would work for a while, and suddenly I would be faced with the same message.  I even uninstalled and reinstalled the entire Corel package.  The same thing happened.  Let's just say that I was starting to get a little annoyed at having to do this over and over again.

This past week, one of the weekly specials at Staples was WordPerfect Office X5.  They had it for half of its regular price.  I also had about $9.00 in rewards coupons that I needed to use right away.  I had been thinking about upgrading for some time, and this was as good a time as any to do it, so I finally bought a copy.

Installation was easy, and I've spent a few hours getting acquainted with the new software.  There's some cosmetic differences between the versions, but X5 works the same as 9 did.  I opened files in both WordPerfect and QuattroPro, and the information looked the same as before.  I had burned a CD backup of the spreadsheets for the library, and it might have been around that the time that my problems started.  But there doesn't appear to be any problems with the new software.  At this point, though, I have had it on my computer maybe 72 hours at the most.

I've been taking various written notes.  The next order of business is to start integrating everything into the library records.  And I need to figure out how often I need to burn a backup CD.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm Still Here

ENTRY 0020

Yes, I've been a little quiet for a couple of months.  There have been a few reasons.  First and foremost among those was Christmas shopping.  With one little exception, I did all of my Christmas shopping in the real world.  I'm not going to trust finding the right present for any of my family members to the vagaries of Ebay.  I found what I wanted at different stores, and believe it or not, I enjoy going to the mall.  You just have to approach Christmas shopping with the attitude that it's a full-contact sport.

I've also been working on the records for my library.  In addition to the spreadsheet file I mentioned in a previous entry, I have pages of handwritten records that, for one reason or another, I never got around to turning into Quattro Pro files.  Most likely, it's most likely because I would have needed to use another floppy disk to store these files.  At the moment, the main spreadsheet file is just under 800 KB -- still quite a bit less than the 1.44 MB capacity of a floppy disk, but as I said, I could see where it would eventually use all of that capacity and more.  Even with the relatively small 2 GB capacity of the flash drive which I use solely for the library's record-keeping, worrying about running of storage space is no longer a problem.

Both of the new files deal with the tracking of my acquisitions.  Trying to go into more detail than that would probably require using a sheet or two as an example.  And I'm not particularly interested in doing that; not the least of which is because I know that most of you would be asking, "Why are you doing this?"  Remember I said that I was more than a little OCD?  That would be why I'm doing it.

Creating the first sheet in each of the files is usually the most time-consuming.  Once that first sheet has been formatted to my satisfaction, I can copy and paste the formatting to the second and subsequent sheets.  When the sheet has been formatted, it's simply a matter of punching in the numbers, and double-checking them with the handwritten pages to be certain I entered everything correctly.

Now, it's more a matter of finding a few minutes here and there to transfer the information.  Yes, I'm certain I could finish it within an hour or so if I focused solely on that specific task.  Most of the time, though, I'm thinking about it when I'm also thinking about doing three or four other things at the same time.  And this task requires one's full concentration -- multi-tasking doesn't work as well when handling all of these numbers.

I should be able to transfer all of the information to the spreadsheet files in another week or two.  I'm not sure what I will be doing after that in the way of records.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Belated Birthday Present

ENTRY 0019

As I mentioned in my last entry, my birthday present to myself was an item I won on Ebay -- a promotional item for the TV series Eureka that the Sci-Fi Channel produced in 2007 for the San Diego Comic-Con.  As soon as I knew I won the auction, I sent the seller the usual request for the total amount due.

As I mentioned, my birthday was on Sunday this year, so I still had to wait until the next day before mailing the payment.  And once I mailed the payment, I settled into my usual waiting mode.

This time, the wait was a little longer than usual.  The seller sent me a message a few days ago, apologizing for the delay.  It was one of those things where a couple of unanticipated surprises got in the way.  In any event, the package had been shipped.

When I checked Ebay later that day, I noticed that a tracking number for the package appeared on my Purchase History page.  I kept checking it the past few days.  When I checked yesterday, it said that the package had been delivered to my mailbox.

Today, I went to the post office.  When I checked my mailbox, there was a key inside, just as I had anticipated.  And in the locker was the promo "catalog," securely packed.

Once I had the chance to go online, I logged on to Ebay, and left the appropriate feedback.  I also sent a message to the seller letting him/her know that I had received the package.  And while I already gave the item a cursory inspection when I first got it, I plan to give it a more thorough look later this evening.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me

ENTRY 0018

Occasionally, some of my acquisitions are items that completely surprise me.  Seeing the first issue of a magazine at the newsstand.  Discovering something like Sci-Fox or The DRINK on the freebie table at a convention.

This was another serendipitous incident.  My collection includes a number of items relating to the Sci-Fi Channel, and not too long ago, I did a search using "sci fi channel" as the parameters.  As I was looking through the results, I came across a promotional item that the channel did for the San Diego Comic-Con in 2007.  The item was a "catalog" of different items appearing in the series Eureka.  (I have a similar fake catalog that was produced a few years earlier for the series Invisible Man.)

I put the item on my Watch List while I made the usual inquiry of the seller.  In other words, "Do you take money orders?"  He said yes, and three days ago, I placed my bid.

The auction ended today, and I was online when it ended.  That last hour was just a little nerve-wracking.  Even though no one else had placed a bid, I am always more than a little worried that someone would swoop in at the last second to steal it from me.  But those last seconds ticked away without any other activity.

Once I confirmed that I was the winner, I quickly sent a request for the total amount, and I received an invoice not too long ago.  Of course, with today being Sunday, I won't be mailing the payment until tomorrow.

Today is also my birthday, so this ended up being a nice little present to myself.  If only all auctions would end this easily.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Last Of The Easy Gaps

ENTRY 0017

I went to the post office this afternoon.  I didn't know with any certainty that I would have something waiting for me, but I just had this feeling.

As Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Luke Skywalker, "Trust your feelings."  As it turned out, I was right to do so.  Inside my mailbox was a key.  In the locker was the copy of Angel Scriptbook #5.  (Incidentally, the episode script featured in this issue was "Five By Five.")

Well, it couldn't have been anything else; that was the only package that I was anticipating.  (And at the moment, I don't have anything else in the pipeline from an Ebay auction or listing.)

I went from there to the library, and I logged on to Ebay to leave feedback.  I quickly discovered that the seller had left feedback for me since last night, because my feedback rating was up to 238.

Unfortunately, I think this was the last of the easy gaps in my collection for me to fill.  I still have gaps; it's just that it's going to be more than picking up just one or two issues from here.  I'll have to check the spreadsheet file to be certain.

But then, that's what makes the whole pursuit of acquisition fun, right?


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feedback Returned

ENTRY 0016

As I hinted at the end of yesterday's entry, once I posted the entry, I logged onto Ebay.  Well, I first left an email message to one of the sellers informing them that I had received their item.  I left a message with the other through Ebay, because I didn't have the email address.  Once I left the messages, I left feedback for the items.

You know, it's kind of hard trying to think of a different way of saying something nice every time.  Personally, I don't want to sound like I'm leaving a stock message with every auction.  And the fact that Ebay only gives you an 80-character limit doesn't make things any easier.  In any event, I left the feedback for all of the items.

Earlier today, when I checked Ebay, I saw that my feedback rating was now 237.  It looks like the other seller had been waiting for me to leave feedback before doing the same.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Another Double Shot

ENTRY #0015

I went to the post office this afternoon.  I figured that I should have received Comics Spotlight #4 by today, and I wanted to get my hands on it as quickly as possible.

As I anticipated, when I opened my mailbox, I found a key inside.  I went to the locker designated on the key, and was pleasantly surprised when I gave the key a twist.  Inside the locker was not one, but two packages.

One of the packages was indeed Comics Spotlight #4.  The other package contained the two issues of Charmed; #15 and #21.  And both shipments were quite securely packed, which I'm always glad to see.

I did make a cursory check of the shipments at the time, but a more lengthy examination will take place later this evening.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go leave some feedback.


Friday, September 09, 2011

An "On The Way" Sign

ENTRY 0014

After I wrote yesterday's entry, I signed in to Ebay.  I received a bit of good news.  I noticed that my feedback rating was now 236.  I checked my feedback page, and discovered that the seller of Comics Spotlight #4 had left the usual nice words for me.

To me, this is a good sign.  It means that they have received my payment, and that sometime early next week, I should find a key waiting in my mailbox when I check my mail.

[EDIT:  Oh, I also checked my email a little later; specifically, the account dedicated to Ebay.  There were several messages from both the seller and Ebay informing me that the magazine had been shipped, confirming what I had already suspected.]

As Carly Simon once sang, "Anticipation . . . anticipa-a-a-tion . . . is making me wait . . . "


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Another Gap Closed

ENTRY 0013

Over the weekend, I filled in one more gap in my collection.  The acquisition target this time was an issue of Angel Scriptbook.  This was published by IDW Comics in 2006.  Each issue ran the shooting script from an episode of the TV series Angel.  Given enough time, I feel certain that they probably would have covered the entire series, but only seven issues came out before the title was cancelled.

The issue I was missing was #5.  Like Comics Spotlight #4, it never appeared at any of the local comics stores I frequent.  Or, given that the stores didn't order that many copies of any one issue, it's entirely possible in both instances that both Angel Scriptbook #5 and Comics Spotlight #4 did appear here in Louisville, but they sold out before I made it to The Great Escape or Comic Book World on the particular Wednesday in question.

Whatever the reason, I missed the issue, and now I found myself turning to Ebay to rectify the situation.  The search parameter was easy enough -- "angel scriptbook 5."  There were several listings, and I began sending the usual inquiry as to whether or not a seller accepted money orders.  As luck would have it, the first seller I queried replied in the affirmative, so I put that listing on my Watch List.

I waited until Sunday to make my move.  At that point, there was only about a day or so before the listing expired.  I decided that I had waited long enough, so I clicked the Buy It Now button.  Once that was confirmed, I sent the seller a message asking for the address where I should mail the payment.

Of course, Monday was Labor Day, and I suspect the holiday was the reason it took a little longer for me to get a response.  I got a reply yesterday, picked up the money order, and got everything in the mail.

And once again, I am now in waiting mode.


Saturday, September 03, 2011

Filling More Gaps

ENTRY 0012

I actually filled two more gaps in my library last weekend.  Because I was busy writing on a couple of other subjects, though, I didn't think about writing about them until now.

First on my list was an issue of Comics Spotlight.  This was a short-lived magazine -- only five issues were published -- that came out in 2002-2003.  The issue that I was missing was #4, which for some reason never made an appearance at any of the comic stores in Louisville.

Second were two issues of the Charmed magazine published by Titan Magazines.  The issues I missed were #15 and #21, and for the standard reason -- I waited too long, and #16 and #22 were on the stands before I realized it.

I did the usual searching on Ebay, and I found all three.  Good news for me, one dealer had both of the Charmed issues, and the listings said he was willing to combine multiple listings into one shipment.  Even better, when I made my usual inquiries, both sellers said that they accepted money orders.

I put all three items on my Watch List.  And this time, I proceeded to wait.  I waited until there was only a day or two left before clicking the Buy It Now button.  I sent the usual requests for where to send payment, and since it was the weekend, I had to wait a day or so for a reply.  Once I had the reply, I picked up the money orders and mailed them.

And now, we are back to waiting.  I'm hoping that Hurricane Irene won't be a problem; one of the sellers is in Pennsylvania, and Ebay sent a message that there may be a possibility of some delay or disruption.  The other one is in Denver, which to the best of my knowledge, has never had problems with hurricanes.

So far, though, I have not heard anything since I let the sellers know that the payment was on the way.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Keeping Track

ENTRY 0011

As far as I know, I'm the only one reading this blog at the moment.  So I don't have what might be called "Frequently Asked Questions" just yet.  At this point, it might be more likely to call them Frequently Anticipated Questions, because sooner or later, someone is likely to ask them.

In any event, I suspect that if anyone does stumble across this, I have a good idea what the first thing they would ask might be:

How do you know you're not picking up something that you already have?

Or to  put it another way, How do you what items you're missing?

The answer is really quite easy.  I keep records.  I keep lists.  I keep a spreadsheet.

I'm just a little bit on the OCD side.  That might be just a little more than self-evident, considering the very reason for this particular blog's existence.  And I've mentioned in at least a couple of entries, I'm something of a completist.  Many years ago, I decided that I needed some way to keep track of everything in my library.  And a card catalog didn't sound like the right way to go about it.

The first version of my record keeping was decidedly low-tech.  I picked up some extra checkbook registers from my bank, and I noted in those registers the titles of the various books and magazines in my (at the time) small collection.  This was a haphazard system at best -- if you could even call it a system.  I had filled one register, and was about to fill a second, when I realized that I needed something better.

That second version was slightly more advanced.  I had discovered accountants' pads.  I think they are technically called analysis pads or columnar pads.  They are loose-leaf versions of pages from a ledger book.  This proved to be more organized.  I used one sheet for each title in my collection -- for instance, Starlog or Omni -- and listed each issue of a magazine on subsequent lines on the sheet.  I recorded the cover price in the dollars-and-cents column.  If I missed an issue for some reason, I would list the issue number, but leave the cover price on that line blank until I acquired a copy.

I used my typewriter to make the listings nice and legible.  And since they were loose-leaf sheets, I organized them in a binder.  Of course, my own particular method of organization might seem a little unusual, but I have found that it works.

Eventually, the computer came along, and with it, the spreadsheet program.  Since my word processing software of choice is WordPerfect, the spreadsheet program with which I am most comfortable is Corel's Quattro Pro.  (Yes, I am familiar with Excel.  I just prefer using Quattro Pro.)

The switchover from the columnar pads was a gradual one.  I would enter information from the columnar pages to  Quattro Pro a few pages at a time, usually on the weekends.  And I would print out the sheets as I finished.  For a while, I remember that the binder had an interesting mixture of pages -- green sheets from the columnar pads mixed with the plain white paper from my printer.

For a long time, I stored the file on floppy disk.  Make that disks, plural, as I usually had at least one backup disk on hand should something happen.  And on at least a couple of occasions, I did have to resort to using one of my backup disks and the binder to recreate everything.  Recently, though, I transferred the file on the floppy drive to a flash drive.  It was a case of necessity -- the file was quickly approaching the 1.44 MB capacity of the floppy disk.  I plan on using this flash drive exclusively for matters relating to my collection.  It's only a 2 GB flash drive, but I don't foresee running out of space anytime soon.

I suspect there will still be the need for making backup copies.  I am a firm believer in Murphy's Law, after all.  But now, I will probably be burning the files to a CD to make the backups.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Doubled Down

ENTRY 0010

I don't go by the post office every day.  Usually, once or twice a week is sufficient.  And it can be depressing to stop by the post office a week after the last visit, just to be staring into an empty mailbox.

I didn't know if anything would be waiting for me.  I was hoping that at least one of my recent Ebay purchases would be waiting for me.  When I opened the door, I found a key waiting for me.  Good sign.

I walked over to the lockers, found the match for the key, and gave the key a twist.  Much to my surprise and delight, both of the items I was waiting to receive were inside the locker.

Once I found a place where I would be undisturbed for a few minutes, I opened the packages for my usual quick inspection.  Both were securely packed, and took a little careful maneuvering with my knife to get them opened.  Not that I'm complaining; to me, that means that it's less likely that anything was damaged in transit.

First up was the copy of Dreamwatch #16.  It was in great condition, and everything looked just as it was described in the listing.

Then came the copy of the July 1997 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.  This particular auction turned out to be an even better deal for me than I originally thought.  When I sent the seller a message asking for the mailing information, I mentioned that I was also looking for the August 1997 issue.  Just as a longshot, I asked if he had a copy of the August issue, and if so, when he might be listing it.  He said that he did have a copy, and told me how much it would cost.  So when I sent the payment, I was paying for both issues.

The issues of Asimov's were probably in better condition than the copies I had lost a few weeks ago.  (Long story; don't ask.)  And I was definitely relieved that I had been able to replace what I thought would be the most difficult items of the bunch.

It took a few hours before I could get online.  As soon as I could, though, I left messages that I had received the packages, then went to Ebay to leave feedback.  My feedback rating was still at 233, but as soon as I posted feedback for each item, feedback was left for me, upping my rating to 235.

Yes, later this evening, I will be taking some time to enjoy my new acquisitions.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Arrival

ENTRY 0009

Okay, I have probably gone overboard with the "First" titles.  On the other hand, I have probably run out of reasons to do another entry with "First" in the title after this.

When I saw the increase in my feedback score on Sunday, I took that as a sign that I would be receiving at least one of my my purchases this week.  The only question remaining was how soon that would be.

Yesterday, I went to the post office.  I thought the chances were marginal, but I wanted to see if the package had arrived.  I inserted my mailbox key in the lock, opened, the door, and looked inside.  Along with a few assorted pieces of mail, there was a key -- a sign that I had a package too big to fit into my mailbox.

My post office -- probably most post office branches, now that I think about it -- has a bank of lockers for large items.  If a mailbox customer receives something that will not fit in their mailbox (and believe me, the people at the post office will do everything humanly possible to put it in there if they can), they put the item in one of the lockers, and put the key in the mailbox.  I have to admit, seeing a key in my mailbox gives me the same sort of thrill that waking up Christmas morning did when I was a kid.

I took everything out, closed and locked the door, then went to the lockers, checking to see which locker matched the key.  I inserted the key, gave it a twist, and opened the door.  Inside was a large Priority Mail envelope, which I suspected (quite correctly) had been reinforced by a piece of stiff cardboard.  (This of course, was done to ensure that the postal employees would not ignore the large red "Please Do Not Bend" sticker on the envelope.

Inside were the issues of SciFi Now and Doctor Who Insider that I mentioned purchasing in Entry 0006.  I didn't do much more than give the items a cursory inspection.  I made sure that the correct items were sent, and that they were as advertised in the listings.  (The more detailed inspections came later, when I got home.)

Sometime later that afternoon, I went to the library to use one of their computers.  I sent an email to the seller, and I signed on to Ebay to leave feedback on the transaction(s).

I'm satisfied with the way things turned out.  One slight gap was filled in (SciFi Now still has a big gap; more on that in another entry), and I have a replacement for one of the items that I lost last month.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Feedback Firsts

ENTRY #0008

If you have bought anything on Ebay, you're familiar with feedback ratings -- that little number in parentheses that appears next to a user ID.  It's always something of a welcome surprise when I sign in to Ebay, and discover that my rating has increased.  If nothing else, it's a definite sign that a seller has received payment from me, and I can look forward to finding that item in my mailbox soon.

I would have to say that there have been a few times when receiving feedback has brought a special thrill.  Getting that very first feedback, of course.  Getting my first feedback star -- the yellow star -- once my feedback rating reached 10.  Seeing my star change from yellow to turquoise when my feedback rating reached 100.  (No, I didn't get the blue star, which is awarded at a feedback rating of 50.  By the time Ebay introduced that star, my rating was already above 100, so I missed it.)

When my account was reinstated a few weeks ago, my feedback rating was 232.  When I signed in yesterday, though, the number had jumped to 233.  The seller of the issues of Doctor Who Insider and Sci-Fi Now had received my payment, and left feedback, along with some nice things to say about me.

All of which means that I have something to look forward to when I go to the post office sometime this week.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Gap Filled

ENTRY 0007

At the time I purchased that issue of Asimov's that I mentioned in Entry 0005, I also filled in the first true gap in my collection.  For reasons that shall be soon revealed, I haven't been able to write about it until now.

This missing item was an issue of Dreamwatch.  Now, this was not the long-running British magazine, but a US edition published by the same publisher (Titan Magazines) beginning in 2004.  As I recall, the US edition ran for 24 or 25 issues before Titan discontinued both the British and American editions and turned the magazine into a website.

The issue that I was missing was Dreamwatch #16, the February 2006 issue.  There is nothing particularly unusual about my missing the issue.  I saw it when it was on the stands.  I merely miscalculated when Dreamwatch #17 would be going on sale.  Most of the time, when I see a new issue going on sale, and I have not picked up the previous issue, I can usually find it at another outlet, because not all stores put out their new magazines at the same time.  This was not the case with Dreamwatch #16, though.  It was one of those rare occasions when every place that normally carried Dreamwatch had issue #17 out before I could acquire issue #16.  (This, by the way, is the usual reason for most of the gaps in my collection -- not paying attention.)

As I have mentioned, I started back on Ebay by doing a number of searches.  Dreamwatch #16 was among those searches.  I contacted one of the sellers, asking the usual question of whether or not she accepted money orders.  She did, and I put the item on my watch list.

A little over a week ago, I decided that I had watched the item long enough, and I clicked the Buy It Now button.  I also sent a message to the seller, asking where I should mail payment.  There was just one little snag.  I got an automated message saying that the seller was a couple of days, and would be contacting me once she returned home.

I already knew what the total amount would be, so I picked up a money order for that amount.  And I waited for a couple of days.  I finally heard from her Friday, and I quickly got the payment ready to mail, and in the mail.

Now, it's a matter of waiting again.  But I have filled one gap completely -- that was the only issue of Dreamwatch that I was missing.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Now, Insider

ENTRY 0006

I've actually had a few successful conclusions in rapid succession.  I've just been a little busy with other matters to write about them until now.

The issues of Asimov's weren't the only magazines that needed to be replaced.  Fortunately for me, these would be a little easier to replace, since they were more recent magazines.  One of those was the first issue of Doctor Who Insider, a magazine that premiered earlier this year.  (As of this writing, issue #5 is the current issue on the stands.)

My first thought was to contact the publisher to see if they had back issues available.  But while DWI is geared toward an American audience, the publisher is in England, so acquiring another copy of DWI #1 that way was not the best option.  Once again, Ebay proved to be the better option. Searching "doctor who insider" yielded an abundance of results, and several of those were of the first issue.

At the same time, I was also doing a few searches for issue #50 of the British magazine Sci Fi Now.  I had missed the issue when it appeared on the stands a few months ago.  Oh, I had seen it; I had just miscalculated when issue #51 would be on the stands to replace it.  (I've done that with more than a few magazine issues, hence the need to fill in a few gaps here and there.)  I did some double-checking, and I found one seller who was selling both magazines.  The good news -- he was willing to combine purchases into one package to save on shipping.  The better news -- when I asked if he accepted payment other than PayPal, he said yes.  He also had multiple copies of both magazines.

I waited another day or two, and decided that I wasn't going to find a better opportunity.  So, I clicked the "Buy It Now" button for both items, and sent a message asking for the combined total and mailing address.  He sent the information, I got the money order, and it went in the mail.

And once again, it's a matter of waiting.  I have a feeling that over the next week or two, I shall be quite pleased when I go to the post office to check my mailbox.


Monday, August 15, 2011

First Success

ENTRY 0005

I finally got tired of auction stalking.  Yesterday, I finally made my move, and took the first steps in filling some of the gaps in my collection.

First, though, a little bit of exposition is required.  There was one very big reason I decided to get my account on Ebay reinstated.  Several weeks ago -- July 19, to be precise -- I lost a backpack.  Or it was stolen; I'm not certain which.  All I do know is that I know that I had it at one point, and suddenly discovered that I didn't have it at another.  I retraced my steps, and tried everything I could to find the backpack, all without success.

There wasn't anything particularly valuable in the pack -- at least, probably nothing of value to anyone but me.  But I did have a few magazines in the pack that I am now trying to replace.  Among those were a couple of old issues of Asimov's Science Fiction; the July 1997 and August 1997 issues, to be precise.  I had a feeling that Ebay would probably be the most likely place for me to find replacement copies.

Once my reinstatement was in place, I started running a number of searches on Ebay.  In this particular case, the search was "asimov's magazine 1997."  Lady Luck was on my side; there was a listing for the July 1997 issue.  I sent the seller a message, asking him if he accepted forms of payment besides PayPal.  I don't have a PayPal account, and to be quite frank, I don't see any particular reason or advantage in getting one.  At least, I don't see any at the moment.

The seller replied, saying that he did accept money orders, which is my preferred method of payment.  And so I began waiting.  I put the listing on my watch list, and waited.  Now, I'm not particularly certain why I was waiting.  This listing was a "Buy It Now" listing, meaning that anyone could have swooped in and snatched it out of my eager hands at any time.

Last night, I decided that I had waited long enough.  The time left on the listing had ticked down to under 10 days, and I decided that I was pressing my luck just a little too much.  So, I clicked on the "Buy It Now" button, confirmed that I wanted to buy the item, and sent a message to the seller asking where I should mail the payment.

I received a reply earlier today.  I wrote a very businesslike letter, restating what I had purchased, and that payment was enclosed.  I purchased a money order, filled it out, put everything in an envelope, and went to the post office to mail the letter.

Now, all I have to do is wait.  And at this point, I can be patient.  That is how I'm going to fill in all of the gaps in my collection, after all.  Just taking things one at a time.

One gap filled . . . more than a few left to fill.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Argument For Confidence

ENTRY 0004

In my last entry, I mentioned one item that still proves to be most elusive.  On the face of it, finding a copy of The DRINK #3 would seem to be an impossible dream.  But there is a part of me that is confident that I will be able to find a copy somewhere.

Why am I confident?  Well, it's mainly because I tracked down something similarly elusive once before.

In this case, the item was another newsletter.  The title was Sci-Fox, and it was produced by 20th Century Fox to publicize their science fiction films.  Sci-Fox not only had articles on upcoming releases (such as Independence Day), but also covered some of their classic SF films, such as Planet Of The Apes and Star Wars.  The latter was covered in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of its release.

Sci-Fox ran for six issues, in 1996 and 1997.  I'm guessing that someone at 20th Century Fox decided that whatever money was being budgeted for it could be better used elsewhere in the publicity department.  I mean, it was a really nice newsletter -- full color, and lots of photos.

My first encounter with Sci-Fox was at LACon III.  The second issue was on the freebie table, and I picked up a copy, or more likely two or three, to pass out to friends when I got back home.  There was a form in the issue for signing up to get on the mailing list.  Once I got back to Louisville, I photocopied the page, filled out the form, and I mailed it to 20th Century Fox.  I also added a letter asking if they still had any copies of issue #1.  Unfortunately, this time, I was not as successful.  a few weeks later, they sent me a very nice letter saying, "Sorry, but we no longer have any copies of that issue."

Sci-Fox was published quarterly.  I know I found issues on the freebie tables at other conventions.  I quite distinctly remember seeing Sci-Fox #2 again a couple of months after LACon III, at Windycon.  But I also received all the other issues in the mail -- until it ceased publication after issue #6.

I honestly thought that the chances of acquiring a copy of Sci-Fox #1, like The DRINK #3, would be astronomical, to say the least.  But then Ebay came along.  I don't even know why I did it, but one day I tried a search for "sci fox."  Oh, I got plenty of results -- most of them having to do with the Back To The Future movies.  (Those listings mentioned both "sci-fi" and "Michael J. Fox," which of course is what the search algorithm picked up.)  But much to my surprise, someone was offering a copy of Sci-Fox #1 for a low minimum bid.  The minimum bid was $1, and as it turned out, I was the only bidder.  Once the auction ended, I contacted the seller, did the usual where-do-I-send-payment thing, and about two or three weeks later, it was in my mailbox.

Unfortunately, my attempts to do a search for The DRINK on Ebay have not been as successful.  There would be references to it in listings for books published by Del Rey, but I haven't seen anything beyond that.  As I said, though, I am not going to give up.  Finding Sci-Fox #1 had to be something of a miracle, and I am more than willing to believe that a miracle is perfectly capable of happening again.


Monday, August 08, 2011

A Most Elusive Search

ENTRY 0003

Last time, I said that I wouldn't be mentioning the specifics of any current auctions, for what I think are fairly obvious reasons.  This time, though, I will be talking about an item I have been trying to find for more than a few years.  The problem for me is that it is proving to be a most elusive search, and there is a part of me that thinks that this may be the most difficult item that I will ever acquire -- if I do indeed acquire it.

The item in question is an issue of The DRINK.  This was a promotional newsletter that Del Rey Books produced for a few years in the mid-1990s.  The newsletter's title stood for "Del Rey INK."  It came out three times a year -- the issues were January-April, May-August, and September-December.  Each issue gave a brief rundown of what new releases would be forthcoming from Del Rey during the next four months, and featured a brief interview or two.

I once asked someone who worked for Del Rey why they only published every four months, instead of a more logical (at least to me) quarterly schedule.  From what I was told, the publishing industry had three major release cycles during the year, and The DRINK's publishing schedule reflected that.  Okay, I suppose that made some sense out of the rather unusual schedule.

As I recall, I picked up a copy of the second issue of The DRINK in 1995, at Dragon*Con/NASFIC in Atlanta.  Del Rey had a booth at the convention, and they were passing out copies of The DRINK, as well as free books.  Obviously, I picked up a copy of The DRINK #2, and I decided that I wanted to get issue #1 as well.

When I returned home from the convention, I filled out a survey form that was in the issue.  (Now that I think about it, that survey form was in every issue.)  Filling out the survey would put you on the mailing list for The DRINK.  I photocopied the form, filled it out, and mailed it.  Along with the form, I also sent a letter, asking if they still had any copies of issue #1, and requesting one if they did.  Luck was with me that time -- a couple of weeks later, I received a copy of The DRINK #1.

[EDIT:  I've been looking through my copies of The DRINK, and I was slightly mistaken.  As it turns out, the first two issues did not have the survey form.  They still had the address for Del Rey Books, so that had to be where I mailed my inquiry.]

Fast forward several months, to LACon III, the 1996  Worldcon.  Once again, Del Rey had a booth at the convention, and once again, they had copies of a new issue of The DRINK.  The problem (from my perspective, anyway) was that this was issue #4 -- and for some reason, I had never received a copy of issue #3.  When I returned to Louisville following the convention, I wrote Del Rey, requesting a copy of The DRINK #3.  This time, however, I was not so fortunate, as they did not have any more copies.

So that is the object of this particular Elusive Search.  I'm looking for a copy of The DRINK #3.  Based on the cover dates of issues #2 and #4, the cover date for The DRINK #3 would be January-April 1996.

Yes, I know that the information in that particular issue is long out of date.  I'm interesting in acquiring a copy because I am a completist, not to mention more than a little OCD.  The DRINK ran for a total of 13 issues, and I did get the other 12, whether at a convention or in the mail.  I would love to find that missing issue, just so I can have a complete set.

I would say that this particular search is bordering on the impossible.  But there have been other times that I found something when I thought the chances of doing so were almost impossible.  I have had unusual luck before; I'm hoping for a repeat.

Of course, if there is actually anyone reading this, and by some strange chance has a copy of The DRINK #3, leave me a comment.  Maybe we can do business.


Friday, August 05, 2011

Surveying The Battleground

ENTRY 0002

I may be officially active again on Ebay, but I haven't rushed into bidding.  I've decided that I want to be methodical about how I fill in the gaps, and not run in every direction.  Focusing on one or two items at a time would seem to be the best strategy to take.

So at the moment, I'm just searching.  I don't think I mentioned this last time, but I think I at least implied it.  When it comes to magazines, I know where the gaps are.  I have a list.  Make that lists, plural.  And I'm conducting a few searches based on those lists.

No, I will not be divulging what I might be searching.  And once I start bidding, I won't be mentioning any auction until it ends.  If by some chance anyone is reading this, I don't want someone swooping in at the last minute and outbidding me.  That rather defeats the whole purpose of trying to acquire . . . well, whatever I might currently be trying to acquire, whether it's something for my library or anything else.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I Have To Start Somewhere

ENTRY 0001

A few days ago, I finally got around to getting my Ebay account reinstated.  It had been suspended a few years ago because the email address I used when I signed up with Ebay had become invalid.  I tried to change email addresses, but I ended up making a mess of things, hence the suspension.

Once I was reinstated, I tried to change the email address.  I already had a Gmail address that was the same as my Ebay username, and my plan was to use that address.  Ebay wouldn't let me do that.  So, I transposed a couple of the elements in my username, signed up for a new Gmail address, then tried changing the email address at Ebay again.

This time, success!

And since this new Gmail address (or Google account, if you prefer) also provides a Blogger account, I thought I would use it for something a little different.

Hi, my name is Johnny Carruthers.

I am a science fiction fan (among other things), and like many of my fellows, I have managed to amass a respectable-sized library over the years.  But I admit, there are a few gaps here and there in my collection.  Books and magazines (and other things) that I have been unable to acquire, for one reason or another.  I have managed to fill in some of the gaps, but of course, more appear.

I'm planning to use this blog to document the process of my acquiring missing items, whether I find them on Ebay, in the dealers room at a science fiction convention, or wherever my luck takes me.

Acquiring new items is always fun -- but sometimes, the pursuit of acquisition can be just as enjoyable.