Digital receipts for paperless living

In trying to live a relatively paperless lifestyle, I notice what options stores and restaurants offer for providing electronic receipts instead of paper ones.

My favorite kind is where you use a credit card or mobile payment method that some lower level of infrastructure already knows about and you automatically get an email receipt without further prompting. Square has a great implementation of this.

Slightly less awesome but still great is the version where you use a digital payment method and then have to enter your email address manually, even if you've used the same payment and receipt delivery method at the same location before (I'm looking at you, most American chain restaurants that have the little mini-computer waiting at the booth when people sit down). A bit annoying, but still paperless.

Then there's everywhere else where printing a receipt is probably the only option. Especially at the grocery store, where the receipt and personalized coupons are several miles long, requiring their own bag to carry out. And look, there I am a few days later, awkwardly holding a crumpled piece of paper up next to the networked super-computer on my desk, manually typing in some details that some other networked computer somewhere else already knows about.

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Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

There's an interesting and sad article in today's Palladium-Item, Main Street struggles for survival.  Articles like it are being written about struggling downtown areas across the country, so of course it's nothing new in "this economy," but because it's about the downtown in my community, I take special notice.

The article contains some interviews with downtown business owners, some perspective on the history of the Main Street organization there, and some talk of renewed activity from merchants and business owners (myself among them) in helping make the area thrive.  But there's something missing from the picture the article paints.

Continue reading Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

Fireplaces, kitchen supplies and Indian food, oh my

What a pretty ceramic thing that is!This weekend I had the opportunity to sample three local/regional shopping destinations that were all new to me:

1) The Fireplace Shop at 1000 North F Street in Richmond is an amazing little brick complex that showcases all that can be done with wood and other heat sources. From traditional fireplaces to wood burning stoves to corn pellet stoves to crazy other conflagrant configurations, it was quite a wonderland of temperature control. With the added bits of atmosphere like lazy cats sprawled across warm surfaces, fireplace and chimney sweep nostalgia everywhere, and the hustle-bustle of workers in workshops catering to the demands of the cold season, it was a nice place just to be and observe. The store also adjoins a ceramic tile store (which sells the locally made Terra Green Ceramics line) and a brick/stone store, so you can knock out quite a bit of home improvement planning in one place. I can't imagine there's one of these in every community these days, and I'm certainly grateful to have one here. Continue reading Fireplaces, kitchen supplies and Indian food, oh my

Review of Ready Made magazine

Ready Made Magazine coverThe "do it yourself" (DIY) movement is sometimes talked about as a new or emerging phenomenon, but when you reduce it to its essence - "people creating or repairing things for themselves without the aid of paid professionals" - it's clear that DIY is just a new label for a way of living that is as old as human existence itself.

Our culture likes to take the old and repackage it as the new so it's more exciting and engaging. I don't have any problem with that per se - there can be something creative and innovative in finding different ways to present ideas, world-views, ways of living so that they're more accessible to more people. We all go through different kinds of personal discovery about what we're capable of, so why not have a "new movement" that helps support and nurture that for folks who are in that place right now?

This is what I thought I was being pitched when I got an invitation to subscribe to Ready Made magazine, which presents itself as "the only do-it-yourself (DIY)/lifestyle magazine for young people. It entertains and informs through DIY projects for fast-evolving lifestyles." It sounded like a good support resource for learning more about self-sufficient living. I showed the invite to Anna Lisa and we both agreed that it looked like it would be useful, AND that we were excited such a publication existed at all. But when the first issue arrived, it only took me a few hours before I knew we'd be canceling the subscription. Here's why:

Continue reading Review of Ready Made magazine

Buy Local press conference - at the mall?

It's not April first yet, so I couldn't really stop my jaw from dropping to the ground on this one: The Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon to promote buying local - to be held at the mall, which is predominantly occupied by chain stores.

It seems like QUITE an unfortunate juxtaposition to me to have this kind of announcement in that kind of setting.

Malls like the Richmond Square Mall certainly provide great shopping opportunities, but tend to be populated by businesses that are not locally owned and that give less back to the local economy and community over the long run than businesses that are locally owned. In most "buy local" campaigns across the country, one of the primary goals is to get shoppers to expand their notion of shopping opportunities beyond "the mall" to once again consider what small business districts and downtowns have to offer.

If Richmond residents think that buying local just means going to a shop within city limits, the potential impact of the buy-local message is diluted as their dollars leave the community for corporate headquarters elsewhere.

I asked the Chamber and Mayor's office to reconsider the venue - feel free to do the same if you're so inclined.

A $3 Trillion Shopping Spree

GunsWe all love to splurge a little once in a while. Save up some money and do something nice with it, really go a little beyond our normal spending - maybe it's a vacation, maybe it's a nice gift for a friend, or maybe it's buying universal healthcare for 300 million Americans.

Huh?

Oh yeah, universal health care was one of the things I bought on my $3 Trillion Shopping Spree. I did it at the website 3trillion.org, which asks the question: "The occupation of Iraq will cost $3 trillion...can YOU spend that money better?" It's an interesting exercise, and a great way to put the costs of the U.S. presence in Iraq into perspective.

Here is the full list of purchases I put in my cart:
Continue reading A $3 Trillion Shopping Spree

The Cheapest Pine Nuts In Town

IMG_2356.JPG Recently, the Summersault staff was eating together at the Golden Corral here in Richmond. They were out of the feed buckets that you just strap onto your head and tilt up, so we ended up having a conversation. We noted that they have pine nuts on their all-you-can-eat salad bar in large quantities.

Pine nuts are an essential ingredient in good pesto; my recipe is available to qualified persons on request. They are also excellent in salads, lightly toasted.

A to-go lunch buffet for one person at the Golden Corral costs $6.69 (no drink), and they give you a container that I estimate could hold around 3 to 5 pounds of pine nuts, depending on what kinds of spill-prevention mechanisms you're able to install on the fly (a small bread bag from your pocket should be fine). Pine nuts generally cost quite a bit at the grocery store or your local food cooperative, and even if you buy them in bulk or from discounted online dealers, they can cost as much as $11.99 per pound.

So, is it safe to say that the best deal on pine nuts in town, and perhaps globally, is to fill up your to-go container with them at the Golden Corral in Richmond Indiana? Beautiful.