The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for July, 2008

Ebaying for Beginners

Posted by Exile on July 28, 2008

Having a hobby is one thing. Financing it is another. I have a couple of simple harmless interests that keep me out of trouble and afford me some pleasure at a reasonable cost. I go fishing once or twice a year. The license isn’t expensive and it means I can sneak off to the beach and catch dinner once in a while. I collect good scotch whisky, but only buy it when I go abroad and can pick up a bottle tax free. My real passion, if one could call it that, is my pipes. Smoking them, caring for them, and inevitably, building my collection. Which isn’t cheap. So I do it slowly and with care. I know what I like and when I do see a pipe I want, I tend to go for it. Lately, I have discovered that most of the classic models, at some point or another, come up for sale on Ebay. I just had to try.

gavel My first attempt at Ebaying involved registering as a buyer on the auction. One has to register and give certain information about oneself. Reasonable enough I suppose, both for the site administration and for those who sell there. So having done that, I went deeper into the electronic jungle auction. I saw lots of stuff I wanted. Much of it was going for a song but one has to be careful. Finding a pipe I liked and wanted, I made a tentative bid. To my surprise, I was suddenly the leading bidder on a fine little pipe. It remained so for a few days and then I was outbid. Determined to have my way, I bid again. Once more in the lead, I kept returning to the site to see how it was going. (Actually, Ebay will send you emails telling you if you get outbid on an item.) This was going well. It went well right up to the last minute, literally, when some swine somewhere placed a bid right at the point of my wining the auction and I never had the chance to bid again. The auction closed two seconds after the bid changed in his favour. Damn. I watched all this unfold before me on my computer screen. I felt cheated.
Since then, I have won the same model pipe in a different auction. Probably a better pipe than I first bid on. And cheaper.

One learns as one goes. I have learned to bid higher than I expect to have to pay. This discourages those last minute bidders, or defeats them at the last minute. Gazumping my bid by one dollar or pound or whatever at the final seconds of the auction won’t happen again unless whoever is bidding against me really wants the item.. I make my mind up about what I will pay for an item and that is my maximum bid. I don’t buy at any cost. What would be the point? I could buy new if that was the case. I read the descriptions of items thoroughly before I decide to bid. I check to see if the seller will send the item to me. Some insist that they will only ship to their resident country and not abroad. I am picky about what I want to buy. I expect certain standards of condition and appearance.

Since my early attempts, I have won three items on this auction. Two were great successes, one was not. The item was as it was described, it just wasn’t as good as I thought it should have been. Luckily I didn’t pay much for it. I can take the hit at six dollars.

The next and most obvious thing to do, is to start selling on Ebay. I have a few pipes that I don’t smoke and yet can’t bring myself to throw away. These pipes are all in good condition but merely don’t suit me for one reason or another. That could be shape, size or finish. Either way, I could perhaps offset my buying with a little selling.

Maybe I just found a new hobby?

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Griller Warfare

Posted by Exile on July 14, 2008

Anyone that knows me also knows that I like my food. My stomach is lined with galvanised iron and I can eat just about anything with no bad side affects. I am fond of meat. All meat. Beef, pork, lamb, goat, rabbit, chicken, in fact if you can name it as a domestic animal, I’ve probably eaten it, with the exception of dog. I have once eaten cat. It’s a long story and I won’t go into the details of cat fricassee here. It isn’t a pretty tale.

25_man_cooking_with_a_charcoal_grill One of the best ways to spoil a piece of meat, in my opinion, is to barbeque it. Man gave up roasting meat over open fires when he moved out of the caves and into modern accommodation and invented the oven. And the frying pan. Or at least, he should have given it up. My wife thinks otherwise. She loves the idea of barbequed food. So she bought a barbeque. In pieces. One has to build it with the aid of a drawing which was done by a moron who never had to assemble the damn thing himself. If he had, he would have taken the time to include a little detail. Alas, no. An exploded view of the contraption is all you get, very small and totally incomprehensible. There is no way to see how you are supposed to assemble the thing. The instruction slip says “Read the instructions carefully”. I asked, “What bloody instructions?”. There are none.

Well, there isn’t much I can’t do with the aid of a Swiss army knife and a good deal of foul language, blood, sweat and a few tears, so I got started. Optimism and invention are the two greatest traits in my character. The thing looks like a beer keg that has been sawed in half from top to bottom. There are several holes in both halves. Some are for legs, some are for hinges, some are for handles. You have to make guesses at which are which. OK, putting the legs on was easy.

The handles went relatively well too. One on each side and one for┬áthe top. Now, on to the hinges. These are the strangest construction imaginable to man. There are four pieces of stamped out metal strip. All cut at weird angles and with holes drilled through them for screws to pass through. Supposedly, there are two pieces for each hinge assembly. There are still several holes in the barbeque shell, so guess what goes where. I did. I put it together. Didn’t work. I stripped it out and tried again. No. Try again. No.. Finally I threw a temper tantrum. This is ridiculous. Why can’t it just be a simple folding hinge like every other damn hinge in the world? Why does it have to be made up of four pieces of tin with no relevant instructions to follow? Who designed this piece of recalcitrant crap? What moron of an engineer was too proud to make it simple? Finally, after an hour of sulking and a pipe to steady the concentration, it was done. One barbeque grill, ready to fly, complete with legs, handles and some bloody amazing hinges.

I filled the miracle of modern engineering with good old fashioned charcoal. I lit the damn thing. It got warm. I waited for the coals to go gray. Ready, I thought. No, no said my dear wife, it isn’t hot enough. You need more coals. “No I don’t”, “Yes you do.” This exchange of culinary opinion went on for quite a while. Finally I gave in. She’s the cook. I’m just the boiler maker. And chief stoker. Besides that, she was holding all the kitchen tools and they started looking dangerous. All I had was a box of matches and a fire lighter. Not much use against a huge meat fork and a steel kitchen spatula of gargantuan proportions. Deciding that I was outgunned, I went to the shed. I collected wood chips from the wood pile. This will have it running in no time, I thought. Throwing on the wood chips and adding more coals, I closed the lid of the grill and stalked off to my armchair. I realised that I might have overdone it when I saw the neighbour peering over the hedge to see where all the smoke was coming from. Reassuring him that the house was not on fire, I called the long haired one to see how she felt about the temperature now. Placing a skewer with meat and mushrooms and the like on the steel net, it gave a satisfactory sizzle. OK, she said, let’s barbeque.

And barbeque we did. We placed all manner of food over the 1300 degree bonfire and waited. The skewers were OK, the steak dried out but was definitely cooked through and the sausages were absolutely great. I couldn’t help thinking though; all that effort for something that I could have produced in the kitchen in a quarter of the time and probably at next to no cost. No wonder we invented the gas oven and the electric grill. Oh well, that’s progress for you. We got affluent and then took a step backwards.

I might have beaten the barbie, but I still ain’t convinced!

Black steak, anyone? They’re real hot!

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »