Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Spring

Today's balmy 70+ degree weather motivated First Daughter to make a new banner for the blog. Peonies are perhaps my favorite spring flower. She intends to post more peony graphics on her computer graphics blog.

If you have a blog and would like a really, really inexpensive banner, let us know. She'd be happy to make one.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Using bookselling skills to find healthy reads

There is no shortage of health and diet books at library sales. Most aren't worth selling, of course. I like reading these kind of books, however, and use bookselling skills to find the worthwhile books.

I found out about The Doctor's Heart Cure by Al Sears from a newsletter. It caught my attention because it's actually written by a physician. Heart disease is the number one killer of women so I was interested in reading more about heart disease prevention. Before buying the book I first checked the Amazon sales rank and resale value. It was published four years ago and has a sales rank of 10,749. Pretty impressive. The resale value is $10.00 for a $16.00 paperback. Not bad. It has held its value and is still a strong seller so the content is probably decent, I concluded. The customer reviews were favorable, too.

Like Dr. Fatkins Dr. Atkins, he emphasizes protein. He says that the animal protein must come from grass-fed beef and dairy, however. The strength of this book is that he describes in detail how grass-fed beef has nutrients and enzymes like CoQ10 that help with heart disease prevention; corn fed beef lacks these important nutrients. He also describes an interval training exercise regime that only takes 15-20 minutes and is better for your heart than long punishing workouts. But of course I had no difficulty embracing that idea. (By the way, he met Dr. Atkins a few weeks before his fatal fall on the ice and said he wasn't very overweight. It was the steroids that he was given after his accident that puffed him up.)

Protein Power Lifeplan is also written by a physician and it also emphasizes protein and interval exercising. Good. More affirmation for short workout sessions. Resale value of $3.45 for an $8.99 paperback and a sales rank of 46,014. Not bad for a book published six years ago.

The authors say that most heart attacks occur during sudden bursts of activity, such as lifting a heavy box or shoveling snow. Sudden bursts of activity are not uncommon in our daily life. Unless you are Audrey Hepburn being chased by Cary Grant in the movie Charade, your daily life isn't likely to ever require long stretches of strenuous activity. This is why marathon runners get heart attacks. Their hearts are efficient for endurance exercise but their hearts aren't any stronger than a sedentary person's for handling those sudden bursts. The best part of the book is the protein chart. It tells you which foods, or combination of foods, will give you 20 grams, 27 grams, 34 grams, 40 grams, and 46 grams of protein.

Body for Life by Bill Phillips was published in 1999 and continues to sell, sell, sell. Even though there are over 400 used copies for sale, a used copy with a dust jacket will fetch $4-5 and sell before the end of the day because the sales rank is 345, even after all these years.

Why? The photos are the books greatest asset, perhaps. There are before and after photos. And photos of the exercises. He, too, gives specific details of interval training in short sessions. Interval training means that you vary the pace of your workout. For the first 2-3 minutes you walk a moderate pace. Then you sprint or walk hard at an incline or some other extreme exercise for up to a minute. And so on. The point is for your heart rate to go up and down (within a range of 120-180) for the duration of the exercise, thereby strengthening your heart so it can handle those short bursts of exercise that our daily life sometimes requires. He also has a chart for simple meals but I like the Protein Power chart the best.

Thanks to these books I've been doing interval training since January. I can only sprint for 30 seconds at a time and I do five sprints during an 18 minute workout (if you want 30 seconds to feel like a really, really, really long time then you should sprint). I hope to gradually progress to one minute sprints. It's not like I'm ever going to be chased by Cary Grant so what the heck.
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Friday, March 02, 2007

But sometimes e-mails are like this. Alas.

Sometimes I wish e-mail programs had a "courtesy word" check in addition to spell check. That is, it would scan for courtesy words such as "please," "thank you," "appreciate," "sorry," "have a good day," and prompt the user to use at least one if there were no courtesy words found in the e-mail.

On Wednesday I had an unpleasant e-mail exchange with a website owner. I've played Scrabble at a certain site with a friend for several years. In recent weeks our games would sometimes disappear before they were finished. I sent a polite inquiry to the owner of the site. He told me that made up words "debases my intelligence" and "abuses my game."

Well. Yes, sometimes we use made up words because it's a fun and creative thing to do. I did not appreciate his tone so I wrote back and gave him a mini lesson about how to communicate with customers. He completely ignored my lesson and used the phrase "heaps of rubbish" in regards to made up words and once again informed me that I had been "abusing" his site. There wasn't a single courtesy word in his three e-mails.

How hard would it have been for him to instead write: "I can appreciate how made up words add to your fun but I kindly ask that you refrain from doing so as it taxes the site's resources. As always, I appreciate your patronage. Thank you and have a good day."

It's easy to forget that our customers are, well, customers, as this man did. Sometimes we view them as irritants instead of as people who help pay the bills. When I receive an e-mail from a potential customer asking me a question about a book that requires that I actually get up from the computer and walk to the shelves to retrieve the book I sigh. Work! Ugh! Or when a customer orders a book and sends it back because he changes his mind and I have to spend several minutes crediting his account, reshelving it, relisting it, etc. I grumble inside. But I do take care to make sure my e-mails never ever reflect this irritation.

It's a two way street. Buyers need to use courtesy words too. The worse customer e-mail I received was from someone who purchased a Miles Davis jazz CD from me on This CD was an earlier pressing, from the 1980's, and not the recent digitally remixed version. I made this very clear in my description. His e-mail was laden with typos and abbreviations and went something like this: "why U send me this piece of crap CD from 1987. U suck." Talk about "heap of rubbish" and "debases my intelligence." This e-mail certainly scored on both of those counts.

In a situation like this I intentionally use more courtesy words than I normally would, to stifle my frustration. I immediately refunded his money and told him he need not bother returning the CD. "Obviously you are a jazz aficionado," I said. He wrote back and this time there was some semblance of grammar. I think he even used the courtesy word "thanks." Eventually he even gave me positive feedback.

Customer e-mails have the power to literally make or break a person's day. Put some thought into them. Read Strunk & White's The Elements of Style if writing and grammar isn't your forte. (When I find that book at sales I always pick it up so that we have several copies readily on hand at home.) Above all, please use courtesy words, as they are so powerful they can even cover over a multitude of typos and grammar mistakes. Thank you and I hope you have a good day.
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