The Ongoing Truth About Telecommuting and Work From Home Jobs

I was referred a few days ago to the Utah Rural Online Initiative, and this editorial is a combination of a generalized overview of the current status of telecommuting and working from home, and a discouraged commentary on the uselessness of the U-ROI.

If you are here for the info in the title of this article, please bear with me. It IS here. I’ve written this though, to help people save time and understand that government intiatives fail in this area because they never isolate the REAL problems with working from home. They NEVER have people with experience working from home full time in the idea pool, and they NEVER try to teach what IS a real work from home JOB, and what is a SCAM, and they simply BELIEVE every single job title that suggests telecommuting, but they do not READ the job posting to see that it is NOT what they think it is.

 

Anyway… To the story…

I’m always a bit skeptical when a government entity sets out to solve a problem. Usually they approach it from the rear, try to bridle the back legs and tail, and then get into the saddle with the reigns facing forward and try to ride the beast with no way to direct the head. This attitude of mine proves founded so many times that I will not excuse myself for the sarcasm that it usually smears across my commentary.

The House Bill that appropriated the funds and stipulated the goals sounded reasonable.

Utah youth move away from rural areas. No jobs. We know this.

 

New residents (except retirees) stay away from rural areas. No jobs. We know this.

 

Existing residents move out of rural areas to find upward career growth. No jobs, no advancement. We know this.

 

Populations in rural areas are declining, except for seniors. Jobs are a factor. We know this.

So in an effort to resolve this, the legislature was persuaded that telecommuting, or freelancing was a good solution.

Now, we must first understand (as they did not), that telecommuting and freelancing are two VERY DIFFERENT THINGS!

Telecommuting, or Work from Home JOBS are jobs that are paid by an employer, sometimes with benefits, and which involve regular hours and steady employment.

 

Freelancing is just self-employment. Yep. You own your own business, you hustle your work from a collection of clients, you work as a subcontractor, and you do your own taxes. No benefits.

This difference is VERY CAREFULLY AND DELIBERATELY cloaked on all of the U-ROI descriptions.

Because people want a JOB.

 

They do NOT WANT A BUSINESS, it is TOO MUCH WORK!

There is some noise in the original HB that funding is also being provided for businesses that are willing to expand with remote workers. (Apparently they have been unable to find any, because there is NO EVIDENCE of this goal in any of the resulting program pages.)

The resulting program provides training for workers. That is all. Just a training program, and NOT for employers.

To make it sound impressive, they made it a CERTIFICATION program.

It is administered by Utah State University. It is clear they have a TOTAL disconnect between the program they are presenting, and the ACTUAL NEED of workers in the state.

The training consists of learning team cooperation, video conferencing, project management software, and time tracking. They do take a swipe at a few other useless modules also.

If you are telecommuting, the training is COMPLETELY USELESS.

 

If you are freelancing, the training is BEYOND USELESS, and doesn’t even come CLOSE to approaching the training you REALLY need.

There is NOTHING for a business that WANTS to allow employees to work from home, and there IS a solution that would open doors for about 1/3 of businseses to allow that in some respect.

 

All of it demonstrates clearly that they have NO IDEA what the jobs are that are ACTUALLY available, or WHY more are not showing up.

The telecommuting world, as a whole, has NOT MOVED FORWARD AT ALL within the last TEN YEARS. Technology has done its utmost, and we are stagnated.

Yet somehow these people think this mostly failed concept is the new doorway to an old problem.

It COULD be PART of a solution. But not unless we acknowledge the current state of affairs.

This is what “telecommuting” is now, and what it has been since its inception:

  1.  The old “envelope stuffing” scam, and all kinds of variations on it. We must acknowledge first and foremost that the phrase “telecommuting” or “work from home” is one of the top scam phrases in the world. And most of what you find under it is outright scam, or something OTHER than what it is presenting to be.
  2. “Outbound leads acquisition”. This is telephone sales, people. Cold calling. And it is so brutal that nobody stays at it long. You spend all day trying to get just ONE PERSON to not hang up on you. And you get paid $2 for a confirmed sale. You can’t make money at this. NOBODY PAYS HOURLY on this!
  3. “Inbound sales”. This MIGHT be calls coming from ads. It might. But if it is, you are in an office, on-site. If you are HOME, it is computerized call transfers. Same thing as cold calling, only you get it partially pre-screened. You can’t make money at this either. It is still $2 per sale.
  4. “Technical Support, Phone or Chat”. Now this is REAL WORK, and it pays HOURLY. But you don’t get to do this unless you are a TOP customer service rep, or TOP TECH. This means you have had 2-4 years ALREADY on-site with the same employer. It is NEVER every day. It is only a few days a week, and usually half days or less. The rest you do IN THE OFFICE. We do NOT HAVE call centers with all the workers in their homes. Supervising them is a nightmare, and completely impractical, and the limited ability they have to do so is inadequate.
  5. All other out of office jobs. This is a wide range. You may be doing graphics, coding, writing, client meetings, outside sales, deliveries, setups, troubleshooting, consulting on-site for the client, and many other jobs.  These generally pay hourly, and ALL OF THEM can usually be done as a freelancer (your own business, as a subcontractor). They NEVER hire someone to do these jobs outside the office unless they have a proven record INSIDE the office (except delivery and worksite-call jobs, and those are NOT work at home jobs). ALL of these may be listed as “telecommuting jobs”. You spend 3-5 years IN THE OFFICE before you get to even take work home and still get paid for it. These are also NOT a job you can work from a rural area, when the company is in a city, because you have to REPORT IN PERSON for a couple of days each week at least, or you pick up at the beginning of the day, and report at the end of day. They require that you LIVE  in the city WHERE YOU WORK.

So, we now understand that either the job is a BAD ONE, or that it requires that you live in the same city as the job does.

And this is why the training is useless.

NONE OF THESE benefit from the training.

 

Either you learn what the U-ROI course teaches ON THE JOB, or you do not NEED it.

They teach three pieces of software, and none of them are industry standards for telecommuting, they are just used to facilitate the training. Software you need for the job is something different, though project management and video conferencing are sometimes used, the ones taught are NOT commonly used.

So what was really needed?

Training for EMPLOYERS, to open the door for REAL working at home. This means both an increase in remote work at home opportunities, and an increase in the use of subcontractors. And the training that is needed is NOT anything like the University is offering, it only needs ONE training module (yeah, I’ve got it, hold your horses… that means the HEAD, not the REAR).

 

Training for WORKERS, to learn to run their own business as a subcontractor. Unfortunately this is fairly extensive training, and the University is TOTALLY unqualified to teach it since they have NO IDEA what is actually involved in making money from a small business (they can only scale down corporate business training, and this is ALL WRONG for a small business) Any other training is useless, since if you are qualified to work in the office, you are qualified to work at home.

The real problem with telecommuting, and the reason that it has not expanded is obvious to every employer who tries it.

You cannot monitor the productivity of your workers.

This is a MASSIVE Problem!  It stops you cold with pretty much every worker that you DO NOT TRUST, and that you cannot see, from work turned in, productivity in your absence.

This is a VALID concern!

So we need to acknowledge three significant truths:

  1. Employees hate to work, and we are in the middle of the biggest employee laziness crisis that the world has ever seen. If you don’t SEE the work, it ISN’T happening, and your business DIES. This is REAL.
  2. If you pay someone by the hour and they are not in your presence, you need to understand average productivity per hour, and know whether EVERY EMPLOYEE is producing at least an average amount of work. (Me, I go for higher standards than that.)
  3. There are only certain kinds of work that can be monitored remotely.

Those that can be remotely monitored through technology (and we’ve tapped that).

Those that can be monitored remotely through work turned in (documentation of work done but not visible is a time waster, so don’t even go there…. oh…. you already did… I’m sorry you are losing your shirt). So the expansion potential for home based work is in WORK TURNED IN.

So what is the real solution?

Flat rate pricing. Also known as Piecework.

This works for Subcontractors, and for standard Employment. With benefits if you wish (determined by work output rather than total hours).

For an Entrepreneur, hourly rates are a trap. If they convert to flat rate pricing, they break the income ceiling, and open up a window for unlimited income growth. This article explains.

For a business owner, paying flat rates to subcontractors or remote employees (or even employees on-site) allows them to pay every employee according to ACTUAL productivity.

Yes, there are problems. But they are solvable.

  1. Tracking production. This works best if you have only one person per task or sets of tasks (or per station). YOU have to be able to verify counts. This makes some types of work suitable, some types less so.
  2. Employee theft. If you have a chaotic shop or office, employees WILL steal each other’s work. Off-site employment pretty much stops that, but separating stations and tasks does this also.
  3. Motivation. If you work your numbers right, a new worker will make LESS than they want to make. As they speed up (watch for quality issues as they do), they’ll realize that they make as much as they work to make, and they’ll get more efficient, and quickly learn to make MORE than they could have by the hour. This is GOOD for the employer, because he only pays for what is produced anyway, and the faster the workers produce, the less the employer pays for in shared overhead per output.
  4. Pricing… This takes experience. Some things run on an average, so sometimes it takes less time, sometimes more, but averages out to a reasonable pay scale.
  5. Lazy workers. Ok, so I said this. But if you pay flat rate, every new worker will complain about low wages, because they haven’t learned that they EARN based on EXPERIENCE, and SPEED. It takes them WEEKS to really grasp that every time they are disappointed in their paycheck they can look at their work and find a way to speed it up.

Implementation of flat rate pricing is simpler than it seems, but does take some judgment calls in the beginning, and then adjustments to the reality. We often see the ideal, or the worst case as being the “norm”, and base our pricing on that, and over a repetition of 20-100 times, we can get a good average production time for a specific task, and come up with a fair price for it.

You start with a generous hourly rate basis. You do NOT start with minimum wage!

Start with a well paid, productive worker. Let’s say somewhere between average and top producer, with the same hourly pay scale.

 

In-office that might mean anywhere between $12 and $35 per hour, depending on industry (though many go higher).

For a subcontractor (they own their own business), you must increase it by 50-100%, depending on industry, overhead, etc. Remember, you SAVE that money in your office, so a subcontractor is WORTH that much more. THEY set their rate, but YOU negotiate, and you have to be able to calculate what it is worth compared to hiring it in-office in many instances.

Next, observe the output for that productive worker. For our offices, that is me. I want to be generous here also, so I don’t calculate my top production rate, I calculate it when I am skilled and have learned one or two rounds of speed increase.

So if I am working comfortably (not pushing it) I can make 20 valves per pour. It takes me 15 minutes to do 1 pour. That’s 80 valves per hour.

 

I can unmold, trim, and cut,  about the same rate per hour comfortably. This is still not pushing it.

 

So I can produce 80 valves in two hours. And this is NOT at my top speed.

 

I pay 50 cents per valve, finished to quality standard.

 

I have calculated my other expenses for the product, and can AFFORD to pay 50 cents per.

 

A competent worker can earn at $20 per hour, once they learn to do the tasks. They will START OUT earning much less. Probably half to begin with, until they are familiar with it.

 

A FAST worker can earn twice as much. A worker who pays attention to detail in the pour, will trim less, and can increase their speed again.

 

Ideally, you want top workers who are innovative enough to be earning $50 per hour or more as subcontractors, or $20 per hour or more as employees, in a similar situation. Many industries would need to have a MUCH HIGHER earning potential.

If your hourly rate basis is fair (this consists of the pay that an average GOOD SKILLED worker would make per hour at the flat rate you pay), and if your employees or subcontractors get the idea of increasing speed without compromising quality, and if you pay attention and start teaching productivity skills, you, as an employer, can reduce your payroll waste, and improve your production.

Yes, I’ve done this with services. It works.

Flat rate piecework pay models are probably the number one overlooked business tactic today, and they are the single most liberating tactic for small businesses to increase pay potential, as well as being a means where many businesses can hire more remote workers.

I’m really disappointed to have to be so negative about a program which has at the root a real possibility for growth. But the way they are doing it is not going to change anything, because they didn’t isolate the problem before throwing a canned solution at it.

The U-ROI doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful in bringing more rural employment. Conversely, all it did is assure a few more jobs on the USU campus. But that may have been their real goal all along anyway.

Yes, our company DOES offer consulting for both small and large businesses for flat rate pricing, subcontracting success, and small business startup and profitability.

And unfortunately, we are NOT hiring in rural areas.

Doing Math With Google AdSense

I used AdSense on a few websites many years ago. I made enough money from it to be worth my time. I sold the sites I had it on after the third or fourth noticeable drop in click revenue in the face of increased traffic. Google was obviously getting more greedy.

When I checked back a few years later, a penny a click was the norm. Gone were the days of being able to actually EARN from AdSense.

Recently I tested it again on some of my websites. It is even worse. I concluded one thing:

Google does not know how to do math.

If you earn 5 cents one day, and that gets added to 2 cents from the day before, and your monthly total was already 35 cents, you’d think that you’d have a new balance of 42 cents, right?

Wrong.

You now have 38 cents.

Now, you may think I am being petty using such low numbers. Or that I’m being silly. Or that my own numbers must be higher. Or that if my numbers are not higher, I’m doing something wrong.

You’d be wrong again. Many people with AdSense don’t even do this well.

I was using GENEROUS numbers.

GENEROUS, PEOPLE!!!

A few days ago I had $2.61.

I earned $1.14 the next day. It was a bumper crop!!!

That gave me a balance of $2.64. Apparently most of the apples were rotten and we just could not see it.

Then I earned 16 cents the next day. All in all, a fair harvest.

I now have a balance of $2.68. By now I’m SURE the pickers are stealing from me.

I’ve seen the monthly balance drop.

I’ve seen EVERY SINGLE DAY that I earn over $1 wiped out at least in part in the monthly balance.

I have NEVER seen more than two or three days in a row without downward adjustments.

I have more than one website with this on it. They are not high traffic, just normal. The kind I used to be able to make $100 per month from with AdSense.

So let’s do the math. Google obviously cannot!

I have en0ugh traffic to get AT LEAST (we are being conservative here) SIXTY CLICKS PER DAY (ok, go ahead and laugh, but I know the clickthrough averages, and I know what my site traffic is for some fairly obscure websites!). Remember I used to make money even with this little traffic!

Even at ONE PENNY PER CLICK, we should be averaging SIXTY CENTS per day!

You can laugh again… But let’s finish this!

They are SUPPOSED to pay you on a percentage. And the lowest a click can cost is (or was) 5 cents… and they DIDN’T lower that number! Most keywords cost WAY more than that! But Google does not seem to pay more than a penny for anything anymore.

Even so, at a penny a click, I should be earning MORE than 1 penny a day, EVERY day. Right?

Because there are SIXTY legit clicks per day average!

That’s $18 per month. Legit clicks. REAL CLICKS!!!

No big deal. But stick with me.

I average $5-9 per month.

This month had particularly good traffic.

The income is $2.68 on the 28th day of the month. I doubt it is going to top $3.

This is the first month since putting the ads back that it has made less than $5 in a single month.

I suspect Google has gone to fractionals anyway, but it is now clear that they are engaging in outright click-fraud.

It is no wonder people are taking down the Googles.

I’m going to run this a little longer, and optimize a little bit. But I expect this is going to be more work than it is worth (I’m a tester of things, and a writer about tested things, so I’ll get my money another way).

Just one more thing that is sounding the death knell for Google. Cost of clicks is UP UP UP, and payment for clicks is DOWN DOWN DOWN, and organic search results are a thing of a bygone era. There are major problems with most of their “free” services, and we don’t even want to talk about Google Labs.

Shame on you, Google.

The Scientific Limitations of Women’s Brains [Sarcastic Editorial]

Being a woman myself, I’ve noticed some interesting things in certain professions regarding the capacity of women to contribute to the industry. I’ve had a few experiences that have suggested to me that under no circumstances will a woman be allowed to propose any kind of challenge to existing knowledge, no matter HOW logical it is. In fact, if a man (one who has a reputation in the industry, or one who is the rankest of careless anateurs, it matters not!) is mulling over two hypotheses, one of which is more logical than the other, and a woman suggests that this is the case, he will immediately take the weaker case, insult the woman for not having the brains to know which is actually true, and when he cannot support his contention with fact, will resort to name calling and personal insults, in a barage of verbal abuse designed only to drive her off. It usually works – at least on one hand. She leaves. But he is still an unthinking idiot.

Don’t get me wrong here – I know many men, who are actually shining examples of rational thought. So not every man does this. But enough do that the pattern is verifiable.

It seems that some men have not moved far from the Middle Ages in their thinking regarding women.

It is apparent that they still believe that since women’s brains are smaller in size, obviously they lack the ability to process certain types of information: Psychology, Mycology, Surgery, Mathematics, Engineering, the knowledge to obtain any PHD, and many other types of “higher” learning.

They assume that because a woman’s brain is smaller than a man’s, that the portion that is “missing” is the part that is responsible for actual thinking, especially the part that is responsible for NEW ideas!

Lest someone think this is actually a sustainable argument, women are smaller in size than men, overall, therefore do not require as large a brain to power the body. A man and a woman of equal size, will have an equal size brain, if all other considerations (genetics, nutrition, use of recreational drugs or medications, etc) are also equal. So the whole “men have bigger brains than women” is a false argument in the first place.

A cleric in Saudi Arabia was recently mocked and publicly humiliated for claining that women should not drive cars because they possessed only half the intellect of men, which made them unsuited to controlling a vehicle. I’m sure some of the men whom I’ve encountered would agree – but most of the thinking world has moved beyond such unsupportable fabrications.

This attitude was widely held in earlier ages of this world. One would think that we could move beyond it, since standardized testing shows unequivocally that women are in fact better students than men, and that they score higher across the board in intellectual achievements.

Having been verbally abused numerous times by men who knew less than I did about the topic at hand, and who exclaimed in outrage that I must be wrong because other “experts” said I must (in the face of evidence to the contrary), I have run out of patience. I have left the scene, boys (and a few girls who cling to the boys but cannot stand on their own to support reality). I am NOT going to stand down just because you have insulted me. I’ll go somewhere else, where YOU are not, and continue my work. I’ll publish where you cannot ban me because I would not be intimidated by your abusive paranoia. And I’ll just continue to prove by evidence what you deny by reason of “he said so”.

What is really happening is nothing more than pure envy. There are still people in many industries that will “review” the work of another scientist or scholar, degrade it violently, and then turn around and publish it as their own work. This reprehensible practice has gone on since the dawn of time, by unprincipled “experts”. You will invariably find that there are more people succeeding at this practice who HAVE a reputation than there are who have not! This is kinda sad, since those are the people that the world thinks drive the industry – when in fact, they are hiring a chauffeur with a gun to his (or her) head, and claiming to have got there under their own steam. Theft is rife in the academic and research world. And this happens with the works of men, as well as the works of women – but a woman is more likely to be slammed and belittled in the process. They’ll deny her the PHD for her writing, and then publish it almost verbatim as their own brilliant idea.

For those men who have adopted the attitude that women have no place in the world of the sciences, I have only this to give you:

“And if a person [interpteted to mean “a man”, since women did not merit the distinction of personhood] lived a good life throughout the due course of his time, he would at the end return to his dwelling place in his companion star, to live a life of happiness that agreed with his character. But if he failed in this, he would be born a second time, now as a woman.” Attributed to Plato – [Needless Commentary: I womder if he thought a woman could ever live so as to aspire to becoming a man? If so, what a horrid after-life it would be – or if he thought there was no afterlife and only reincarnation, what a horrid place a “perfect” world would be, with only men to populate it!]

What IS It About Boys and Sticks?

We actually had to have a RULE in our home (and for our yard), that you could not play with sticks. Cruel, I know! But it was NECESSARY!

Something about a stick, and a boy. Ok, so not just boys, if you have boys, and girls, the girls have this problem also.

Oh look! A stick!

(Picks up stick.)

No fair! He has a stick!

(Grabs other end of stick – notice the yard is full of sticks.)

(Brief wrestling in which both boys cry foul.)

CRACK!

Oh look! We have TWO sticks!

No fair! You have the bigger stick!

(Drops stick, grabs end of other kid’s stick.)

WHACK!

Where’d SHE get THAT stick?!

(Starts over, with all three kids.)

You see, if there is a stick, they HAVE to pick it up! And it is all down hill from there.

If you clear out ALL THE STICKS, they will find something that is LIKE a stick. And you can NEVER clear all of the things out, they will always find one.

They fight over them. They fight with them. They hit things with them. They break them off things, they break things with them. The only thing they do NOT do with them is clean them up after a storm and THROW THEM AWAY.

There is NO safe game you can play with sticks. Trust me. My kids played ALL OF THE GAMES with sticks!

So we HAD to have the rule.

And they still played with sticks. Badly

Turning Down the Unwanted Customer

With recent news regarding the infamous (and I mean it) bakery attack by individuals who cried that their rights were violated because the bakery owner denied their request for a “wedding” cake, I find that there is a commentary that NEEDS to be made. And a strategy that I have used, which is effective.

While the Supreme Court has ruled that it is NOT Constitutional to use the law to punish business owners who have denied service based on personal conviction (including religious conviction), where essential services are NOT an issue, this kind of attack is BOUND to happen again. Those who planned and carried out the first attack will undoubtedly try again, or others with the same agenda will do so, in an effort to find SOME kind of circumstance under which a direct denial based on moral grounds can be challenged, and profited from, through the courts.

I have thought long and hard about this. There is ONE way that I have found that I can REFUSE artistic or literary services (none of which are “essential” to anyone’s survival!), that they CANNOT refute. Because it is absolutely true.

It is this:

  • I do not understand this product well enough to market it effectively.

Their response may be “You can learn.” Counter response:

  • If I take the time to do so, it is not worth my fee.

If the prospect is trying to TRAP you, they may counter with “I will pay a higher fee to compensate.” The truthful response may be:

  • If you pay me more, I still have to move aside other things in my agenda in order to study your target market, marketing messages, product philosophies, and to get inside the head of your prospective customer, and I do not have room in my schedule to do this.

This is perfectly true. I have NO time in my life to learn about the mind of a person who wants to engage in acts I find morally reprehensible. You may or may not wish to be FIRM about your refusal, but DO NOT try to JUSTIFY your reasoning or choice!

  • I CHOOSE not to engage in a contract (or business transaction) with you, for that reason.

My words in this matter are completely truthful. I have used them when I have turned down customers selling addictive substances (legal), artwork that depicted subjects I could not appreciate, media that contained content I could not promote, and a few other prospective clients whose products contradict my personal beliefs.

It may be wise to finish with this, to avoid being accused of unkindness (which the attackers in at least one of this kind of court case tried to suggest of the defendant, who had in fact referred them to another provider):

  • These people may be able to help you FAR better than I can do (referral).

The thing is, a little thought regarding YOUR business, can come up with a completely rational, and DEFENSIBLE reason to deny ANY customer where providing any product service which requires an act of artistic or literary expression. The beauty of this particular response is that it is absolutely true. I simply CANNOT throw my BEST work behind something I cannot comprehend. If they want the BEST work, they do not want it from ME, because I am not the person who can give them the best, at all!

It would be wonderful if our laws allowed us to post and act on the old “We reserve the right to deny service to anyone, for any reason.”, but courts have consistently ruled against SOME reasons, and even NO reason, saying that if you have an establishment offering goods or services to “the public”, that you have to serve ALL of the public. I cannot find that in the Constitution!

I think it is worth posting still, but I think you’d have to post it right at the door, in plain sight, with the following words added: “Your entrance into our establishment constitutes agreement to this policy.”. Legally, if you DO that, under strictest interpretation of precedent, then you are NO LONGER a “public” establishment, but an establishment that ONLY serves those who agree to your terms. The courts may not agree next year, or the year after, though.

You can also simply say, “No. I’m sorry.”, with NO reason given. But if you do, someone may STILL try to claim prejudicial action on your part. And the dumb thing is, there won’t BE any EVIDENCE that you have broken a law, or that you have harmed them in ANY way, but they may still win. That is the thing about such cases that has been contrary to United States law, and case law – no one was harmed. They were merely offended.

If this is likely to be a problem for you, in your line of work, then I challenge you to come up with a statement that you can use, in ALL HONESTY, to deny those for whom you cannot, in good conscience, provide a suitable product or service.

How Men Can Earn Permanent Points From Their Wife

So we’ve all heard the points system. How men and women score points differently. I can’t remember which funny man said this first, and I can’t seem to get Google to cough it up either, so we’re just going to have to pretend I know who to attribute this to, and that everybody already knows what I’m talking about.

Kevin and I joke about points a lot. “Wow! You really did that!”, and he says, “So am I going to end the day with a positive total?”. I’ll tell him maybe! He’s already a point and a half in the right direction! He rolls his eyes and laughs. Sometimes I am flagrantly generous, and award more than one point for a thing also.  There have been occasions, not many, mind you, but some, where he has actually ended the day with five or six points!

(Please laugh, this is done entirely in jest, and if I were really awarding points, I’d lose count pretty easily because he really does rack them up FAST.)

Anyway we have some fun with the whole thing, and there is some truth to the way men’s and women’s brains count up meaningful gestures.

But something men just don’t get. Something the male relationship experts haven’t even figured out.

Women also award permanent points. Points that never go away.

It isn’t for the regular things. He doesn’t get this for complimenting her, or bringing her flowers, or taking her out, or even for doing the dishes one evening.

  • He gets permanent points for getting up in the night when she’s had a hard day, and taking care of the kid that is throwing up.
  • He gets them for hugging her every day when she cries in grief over a loss that he can’t fix, and that makes him feel utterly helpless.
  • He gets them for not expressing irritation at her for an accident that totals HIS car, not hers.
  • He gets them for doing the laundry year after year because the detergent and heat from the dryer makes her so uncomfortable she dreads it.
  • He can even get them when he WRAPS her Christmas presents instead of just handing them to her in a bag!

They aren’t things anyone can really PLAN for. They are the acts that show the depth of character and love right in the middle of the chaos and crisis and frantic coping of real life. Things unexpected, and given just because he COULD, when nobody expected he WOULD.

Permanent points are never forgotten. They don’t disappear at the end of the day. They embed themselves in her heart, and serve as an anchor for love to grow on.

When she’s just HAD it with him, and isn’t sure its worth it, those are the things that she hangs onto, that pull her back.

When her friend says, “Why do you stay if it is that hard?”, she says, “That. That thing, right there!”.

“So what, exactly, IS that thing?”

“I can’t remember. But it was that thing. That one. Right there.”

The things that remind her that he really DOES love her, even when she’s forgotten exactly what it was that he did. A thing that CAN’T be forgotten entirely, even if she can’t remember completely.

Regular points, they reset at the beginning of the day. Usually. Unless he was in REALLY deep. Then they might not COMPLETELY (fair is fair, after all!). But usually they just reset, positive, or negative, he starts fresh each day.

But permanent points stick. Little bits of glue, bonding him to her heart, in spite of the day to day.

Fernbush Tea… Oy!

I’ve been discovering many new herbs and wild foods lately. Out foraging for what we can, I ID new things when possible, or go searching for things I’m already familiar with. It has been kinda fun, and we’ve discovered some real treasures.

Brigham Tea is ok. It needs sugar, but does not taste bad if prepared at very high temp (I pressure it). I went looking for that on purpose. That got me looking at bushes on the side of the road, the majority of which are rabbit brush and sagebrush, in varying tones of gray and gray green.

Then coming home one day I saw a green bush on the side of a back road. NOT sagebrush. Real green. So we came back later to get a better look.

A 2-3 ft bush, with leaf clusters running up each branch, that were beginning to sprout out. Each leaf cluster looked like a little fern plant – six or eight little fern like leaves in this perfect little arrangement.

I broke off a piece to take home and ID it. Once in the car, I noticed the leaves had a kind of nice perfumy smell. Well, on the surface. Very pleasant on first whiff. Running underneath that though, a distinctly yucky smell. Not something I can describe easily, but sort of heavily oily and with an edge of things rotted, and just barely resinous, and yet mellow at the same time.  Odd, really, I’ve never smelled something that had two distinctly different odors about it, but this did.

I looked it up, identified it positively as Fernbush. I mean, how many bushes out there have such a distinctive leaf arrangement, growing in that particular habitat? No doubt about the ID. The descriptions often mentioned that the leaves were “fragrant”.

I then researched edibility (struck out), and medicinal use. Turns out it was traditionally used to make a tea for various purposes, recreational, ritual, and medicinal. Ok, I’ll bite. Some of the medicinal uses sounded like ones that might benefit me.

I made up a syrup (easier to preserve than tea). That resulted in a HEAVY and nauseating emphasis on the yucky smell. The perfumy part was still there, but overpowered and tainted by the other odor.

We tried a little. The taste was inidescribably foul – and yet I have to try. A neutral sweetness from the sugar and a bit of the perfumy at first (like tasting floral perfume), followed by a gagging yuck ending with a hit and run resinous grab at your tonsils, and then nothing. No lingering aftertaste. A small mercy!

This isn’t like Yarrow, or Hops, or even Calendula, where the sharp bitterness and awfulness that the bitterness just seems to encapsulate, where it yanks at your throat and stays there. Not that kind of yuck. Not the kind that turns your face inside out. and makes you cough and grab water.

This was very different. Like the difference between being wrapped up in unwashed coyote fur, compared to being sprayed by a skunk (the fernbush being the coyote fur, the skunk being Yarrow or Hops). This particular awfulness was more something that made you want to regurgitate your tongue. I did not know this particular force of yuck could exist!

I tried it with some vanilla added. And a little butter rum flavoring. Because they seemed like they would possibly dampen the yucky. They enhanced the perfumy side, but didn’t even DENT the icky part. Sort of like putting rotted cod liver oil on top of buttercream frosting, and being able to totally taste both flavors.

Still hoping to use it as a medicinal, I tried it mixed with a few other medicinal syrups. Oddly, when you try to make a good tasting substance out of that bush, you fail. Nothing you add to it seems to overpower the ickyness. But even more oddly, when I mixed it with about three other syrups (none of them any too pleasant, actually, they are all just tolerable to get down), the resulting blend was like most medicinal tea – not pleasant, but not horridly nasty either. Somehow, blending that yucky syrup with several other less than enjoyable flavors, resulted in something that was somewhere in the middle where medicinal experiences go!

I think that it bears experimenting with a little more, I will try the blossoms and see if they produce something more pleasant, and less unpleasant. For now, I can get the mixes down, and should know in a week or so, whether it is helping with the issues I am taking it for.

When I heard that it was sometimes used as a recreational tea, not just a medicinal tea, I somehow thought it would taste better, because I cannot honestly imagine that anyone would want to drink the stuff for fun, unless their noses don’t pick up on that second overpowering awfulness to the same extent that mine does. But Kevin smells it the same way I do, so it can’t just be me!

The cool thing is though, ANYONE can identify this bush, if they see it, wild, or in gardens. Whether or not they want to take a chance on the medicinal tea though, depends on how much they need it!

Opposing the Minimum Wage Based on Reality

Math. Pesky math. Somehow it always wins, in spite of the dogged persistence of some activists and politicians to get it to go away. History too. History is a constant annoyance to those who wish to promote their version of fantasy where things do exactly the opposite of what they actually do in reality.

Minimum wages are counterproductive in solving the problems they purport to solve. Increases in the minimum wages do not work either – in fact, a market driven economy will usually raise starting wages for many businesses long before the minimum wage is increased.

Since Wal-Mart and McDonalds seem to be the stereotypical businesses to bash where minimum wage is concerned, we will use them to represent all businesses. Because they all have to work on the same principles.

Wal-Mart does NOT in fact pay minimum wage, they typically pay at least a little more, and quite a bit more in some areas where there are employee shortages. But we will use Wal-Mart anyway, just because they will be affected along with everyone else.

WalMart occupies a specific niche in the retail world. To be able to keep their prices low, and still maintain a profit margin, they operate on low margins. Their profit margin is ALSO LOW, so don’t go around saying they have plenty to spare and they can absorb the cost of doubling their employee salaries, because they can’t. Their profit margin won’t cover that, the MATH does not add up, and in order for ANY business to stay OPERATING, the math HAS to work.

Cost increases of 25% across ALL areas of their operating expenses CANNOT be absorbed by a 1-2% profit margin. Yeah. Math. CAN’T HAPPEN!

One of the ways they keep prices low is to use loopholes in regulations to keep the cost of regulation lower. Part-time employment is one of the ways they do that, because the law requires benefits for full time employees, but not part time. (This concept applies to mandated benefits like Obamacare also.)

Fast Food and other minimum wage employers do the same thing. WalMart typically pays just a little higher than minimum wage for entry level employees – and everyone who has been there for a while GETS MORE (and they have to, or they won’t stay). In order to stay in business that is what they have to do. Seven years ago, they had more full time employees. The regulatory burden for employers increased at that time, along with a dramatic jump in health care benefit costs. Many of their stores dropped to part-time only at that time (previously most had a set amount of full time and part time positions per store).

There’s a trade-off in going to all part time – the cost of training employees increases dramatically, because there are both more employees to train, and because part time workers have a higher turnover rate – so the ONLY reason an employer will absorb that cost is when the cost of full time employees becomes so high that it is more cost effective to pay the cost of repeated training.

The cost of goods dramatically increases every time mandated increases in the cost of doing business are put in place also. It can’t NOT happen that way.

When the cost of hiring and paying workers increases, YOUR cost at the checkout GOES UP. (This is pretty basic math, by the way, but there are still people who are shocked by this.)

This is how business works – every time the government regulates a change that drives up the cost of doing business, the customers and the employees pay that price. Employers do not even TRY to absorb that cost, because they CANNOT and still stay in business.

The cost of the average full meal at a fast food restaurant will run approximately the same as the current minimum wage, or higher. They may have frugal deals that are lower, but the regular price runs on that rule. Every time the minimum wage increases, the cost of a full meal deal goes UP proportionately. Because the business does not have to absorb ONE cost increase, they have to absorb a cost increase in EVERY ASPECT of business.

They do not plan for the cost of the meal to keep lock step with minimum wage, it just does because that is what it COSTS. Once the affect of wage increases filter down through every layer (and it takes 1-2 years for the full effect of EVERY increase to be felt, which is why governments like to obscure it by incremental increases), the cost of your full fast food meal is predominantly dependent upon the cost of labor at all levels of production.

Stay with me here, because this is where liberals like to let their eyes glaze over and pretend this stuff does not matter. IT MATTERS… This is BASIC MATH, people!

When the cost of labor goes up, it goes up everywhere, for more than just minimum wage. It has to.

The bottom wage increases, and you HAVE to increase ALL THE OTHER wages also, because if you do not, it is NOT FAIR to employees who have worked three, five, and twenty years for your company. It is INHERENTLY UNFAIR to pay an entry level, unskilled worker (which is what minimum wage pays for, and ONLY what minimum wage pays for!) the same wage as someone who has skills, and work experience!

You have to increase ALL SALARIES.

And when the cost of the farmer’s food, seed, equipment, and employees goes up, he charges more for his crops (or he goes under – that happens a lot too, so you have to buy from someone who DID raise their prices), and the cost of transporting that food goes up, and the cost of trimming, washing, packaging it goes up, and the cost of warehousing it, labeling it, and distributing it goes up, and the cost of buying it in your local store does not just go up by the cost of THEIR employee raises, but by the cost of every other employee raise along the way because EVERY COST they have, goes UP.

Within 6 months, the affect of the raise in minimum wage is nullified by increased costs, they STILL cannot afford to live any better than they did two years before, but now they are in a higher income bracket, and may not qualify for some services that they qualified for previously. Within 2 years, the full effect of the increases are completed, and the worker is WORSE off than before!

Did you get that? Did you really understand this? Because if you did not, you are too ignorant to vote! This is critical to understand!

When the cost of minimum wage goes UP, the cost of groceries, utilities, transporation, medical care, housing, and EVERY OTHER COST for BASIC LIVING, goes UP, by AT LEAST the SAME PERCENTAGE, often MORE! So this new salary, that suddenly seems like so much, WON’T BUY ANY MORE THAN THE OLD ONE! It evaporates away under an onslaught of higher prices, and the person that the law was supposed to “help” still struggles just as much!

It is also VITAL that you understand, that the ONLY people making minimum wage, are people who have been on the job less than 6 months, and who have just started a new job that requires NO SKILLS!

Within 6 months, they are no longer making minimum wage. Within 1 year they can get a job somewhere that pays a $1 more per hour than where they are now. If they are smart, and gain SKILLS (either through work experience at a job that provides useful work experience), or through seeking after hours training, there is NO NEED for them to ever work another job that pays minimum wage! THEY control their OWN destiny and their OWN ability to GET OUT OF THE HOLE.

The only people who work minimum wage for more than 6 months of their life are those who REFUSE to better themselves, and are incapable of holding a job for more than 6 months! That is their CHOICE, and the world does not owe them a better rate of pay!

And that is why people who understand math, and people who can THINK rationally, oppose a minimum wage in the first place, and always argue against increases.

All it does is increase costs for everyone. Including YOU who voted for it!

Increases in minimum wage DOES cause a loss of sales for some businesses. Temporary for some, permanent for others.

Where people have a CHOICE, they switch to a lower cost option.

Where they have no choice, they either do without (if it is an optional expense), or find a way to cope if it is not.

So some businesses will lose revenue over it. Some will go out of business over the cost increases, ESPECIALLY when a minimum wage increase is only local, and buyers can go elsewhere to get what they want at a lower price.

Increases in minimum wages ALWAYS cause some job loss. Some of it will recover in time, some will not. So those people who are working minimum wage jobs not only face more of them being cut to part time (so the employer can save on benefit costs), they also face potential closure of their business, or lay-offs due to reduced customer demand for an overpriced product.

Here is the great irony in that….

The FIRST PEOPLE TO BE LAID OFF, are those who are paid MINIMUM WAGE! Because they are the MOST EXPENDABLE employees!

They are the employees who are most recently hired, who have the LEAST SKILLS.

Some businesses will lay off employees and downsize in reaction to minimum wage increases, in order to cut employment costs, but the majority don’t, because it is a dead end to do that unless your sales also decrease. The successful businesses do not lay off employees and downsize (other than making sure all employees are actually vital), because they understand that loss of employees means loss of revenue due to lower production. The only time you cut employees is when you want to reduce production, as a result of loss of sales. The big businesses will simply raise prices and adjust their equations across the board, and go on, as well as implementing other strategies such as higher percentages of part time employees and lower starting wages for businesses that USED to pay more than minimum wage.

Businesses that try to absorb the cost, go out of business. Universally. The costs are TOO BIG to be absorbed. Fewer Jobs. More hungry people. Way to go!

Minimum wage laws HURT EVERYBODY, but they hurt the people they claim to help MORE than they hurt anyone else. Any potential benefit is always so short lived as to be useless in the long term, and MOST businesses that understand MATH, will raise their prices right BEFORE the hikes go into effect, so there is INCREASED financial hardship before the wage increase even occurs.

BTW, history shows that everything stated here is correct. If minimum wages actually worked, the problems they are supposed to solve WOULD BE SOLVED! But instead as soon as the rate is raised, there is a general outcry to raise them again!

Do the math! There is no way the REAL math can be interpreted to support minimum wage increases.

The Contradiction of Self-Sufficiency and Living Tiny

The interpretation can be rather subjective. I find that self-sufficiency often conflicts with the popular notion of “minimalism”.

How can I preserve my own food without the proper tools? Those tools take space.

How can I garden without my shovel and rake? I have learned I do not need more than a shovel, rake, and wheelbarrow, but I DO need those! A hoe, and a trowel are handy also. And the containers for the container garden. and the greenhouse. I’ve already exceeded the “minimalist’s” idea of minimalism, though my list for gardening, even a large garden, is QUITE a bit smaller than that of other people I know, who cannot manage to garden without a tiller, hoe, and other specialized equipment. I also store some seeds year to year, and must have a spot to put them, often in the fridge, which is too small for this in a tiny home.

If I have livestock, I must have buckets and a storage area, and coops and hutches and shelters. I need a cupboard in the house for the assorted vet supplies and herbals for the animals. And I MUST have livestock, my health is so much better when I do.

If I make my own clothing, or mend damaged clothing, a sewing machine is required, along with a mending kit, and fabric, thread, and notions. I do needle work, so my crochet hooks, knitting needles, yarn, crochet thread, pattern books, and storage baskets are necessary. They are necessary for wintry evenings when we catch up on hand work, and for fall when we are preparing for Christmas, and for the rest of the year during those times when I MUST rest, but do not wish to sit idly doing nothing.

My husband’s woodworking tools and automotive repair tools are essential to our ability to provide for ourselves, along with tools and supplies for building cages, fences, and repairing greenhouse and shelter structures. We can live far more frugally when we have supplies of lumber, wire, screws, and various other bits and pieces, bought in a time of our choosing, rather than wherever we happen to be able to get to in an emergency.

Our self-defense equipment and supplies are needed, as well as hunting and butchering equipment and supplies, even though we go pretty basic, these things still take quite a bit of space.

Our library is also an essential element. We have a good library of DVDs, for uplifting entertainment which helps us both unwind and relax, and which helps boost us emotionally, especially in the winter when evenings are long, and there is stuff to do with our hands while we watch something we enjoy. We used to have a large library of books, but we no longer have time for recreational reading (I can watch a story and crochet at the same time, I can’t do that with a book), and though I LOVE reading, it seems the only books we can justify now are instructional books. We have a fairly good increasing collection of DIY and animal husbandry books (we once had a large library of this type, but it was lost in a malicious disaster). The library requires shelves, and a place to put it (around the walls of the house if nothing else).

And then there is the food storage… There will NEVER be enough room for that, nor enough jars, no matter how many we acquire! The food storage that allows us to buy food on sale, and preserve it so we don’t have to pay high prices for everything. The food storage that allows me to preserve foods that are healthy, that I can fix in a matter of minutes, so we do not have to buy commercial quick-fix. And the food storage that sees us through the economic vagaries of the current unpredictable national political climate, with a minimum of hardship. The shelves for jars, the freezer, and the extra fridge that allow us to harvest from our garden, or accept extra from the gardens of family and friends, or take advantage of a sale on produce, or raise our own animals and have a way to store them after butchering, so we are not dependent upon the prices and production methods that are commercially popular, but not so good for the bodies in our household. The shelves to hold the empty jars until they are filled again, and the space to put the dehydrator, the canner, the juicer, the slicer, the grinder, the food mill, and the buckets, bowls, and pots that are required for the processing of the food.

The newspapers we store for cage liners, the boxes we save for shipping product, the shelves and bins for growing fodder or microgreens, the place to put the herbs that we grow indoors, and a place to put the plant starts when spring arrives.

Self-sufficiency takes space, and organization of a large body of belongings. There is no way you CAN do it on a minimalist’s philosophy, fretting over every square inch of space that it takes, fussing over every single object that it requires. Every single person who strives to be self sufficient is constantly battling an insufficiency of space, trying to fit in just one more shelf unit, just one more cupboard, just one more storage bin, rearranging furniture and storage rooms one more time, to see whether there is an un-thought-of arrangement that will allow them to fit just one more piece of equipment into the room. They expand their home, or a kid moves out, and they shout with glee over the spare room (while grieving the expense, or the absence of the child), and within moments of getting to work arranging the extra space, they are already wondering how to fit it all in, and discouraged that there STILL is not enough room! They dream of having a dedicated room for crafts, or canning, or a room large enough to hold ALL THE JARS, or a shop that is large enough for the projects they really want to do. And they never get it.

I could never live “tiny”. Not that I am unwilling to live with little space, I’ve done that many times. But I did so in want. And I did so when our situation required dependency. I cannot do it with full self-sufficiency.

Indeed, a tiny home, by its nature, demands dependency upon frequent shopping, frequent laundry, and almost NO DIY. It works for someone in a city who does not mind shopping every other day, and who does not need nor expect to do anything for themselves that requires tools, equipment, or supplies on hand.

Once you pursue real self-sufficiency though, more space is required, even if it is just a lean-to out back. Pioneers had small cabins, but they also had barns to store the equipment required for daily production. I have a small juicer, they had a large cider press. I can make soap in the kitchen, they did it in the yard, with a large cauldron that was stored in the barn. However you do it, you have to put the supplies SOMEWHERE.

It is a great temporary option to get started, to keep costs down – If you DO keep them down – by minimizing square footage. But most tiny homes aren’t a significant savings either, you can generally find a larger home for far less, due to the expense of miniaturized elements in the home.

If that is your dream, good on you. But if your dream is to homestead, and be truly self-sufficient, a tiny home is not going to be sufficient to get very far, unless you have a lot of additional storage. And then you aren’t REALLY living tiny. You are just doing the VISIBLE part of your living in a tiny environment.

If you have a small house, and a second house with a kitchen and laundry, and a third storage shed to hold all the preservation equipment, and a fourth heated building to hold the food storage, and a fifth shed to hold the rest of the stuff that doesn’t fit, you aren’t really living tiny! You are just living in five houses instead of one!

I already know I am doomed to spend the rest of my life constantly questioning what I can throw out, what I truly need and don’t need, and simultaneously lamenting the lack of space to put the things I DO need to live the life I want to live.

Tiny is cute.

But for us, it just is NOT practical for a long term solution.

Free-Range Chickens and the Bad Neighbor

I hear stories of people free-ranging their chickens, and running into objections from neighbors. I would not feel the need to comment on this, except that I KEEP hearing this. Over and over!

It is usually a variation on this:

“My neighbor is complaining that my chickens poop on their car. How am I supposed to deal with him?”

Or something like this:

“My neighbor’s dog won’t leave my chickens alone. I don’t want to fence them up! What can I do to protect them from the dog?” (And it turns out that the dog is NOT on the property of the chicken owner, but on the neighbor’s property where it belongs.)

FENCE YOUR CHICKENS FOLKS! Really, how rude can you be? Free ranging does NOT mean your chickens can go wherever they want! It means they have a large area over which they can forage! Fence them in!

If you do not contain your chickens and keep them from pooping on your neighbor’s car, eating from your neighbor’s garden, pecking the fruit in your neighbor’s trees, then YOU ARE THE BAD NEIGHBOR! They are not!

And then you top it off by maligning your neighbor because they don’t love your chickens messing up THEIR property!

Why should they put up with your chickens? Will you put up with their dog pooping in your garden? Do you want their cat lunching on your chicks? Will you accept their poultry roaming YOUR property as though they own it? Should they free-range their goats, and let them wander your property eating whatever they can reach? Should we just dispense with livestock fencing entirely and declare the entire neighborhood open range?

If you think your chickens should be able to wander where they please, and do just as they please, regardless of property lines, then you do NOT have “free-range” chickens. You have FERAL chickens, which belong to nobody, whose eggs you won’t find, which are food for every opportunistic predator, and which the neighbors can exterminate on sight. Domesticated chickens require responsible CARE, which includes limiting their range to the safety of YOUR property.

Free range does NOT mean you have some magical license be rude to other people because you are free ranging your chickens! The objective of giving your chickens increased freedom does not give you license to violate property lines and use your neighbor’s land to feed your livestock! It means you have an OBLIGATION to be RESPONSIBLE for assuring that your chickens (ducks, geese, whatever) do NOT mess up other people’s property, and that they STAY on YOUR land.

A fence is NOT an unreasonable confinement, even with a fairly small yard. They are chickens, for pity sake! You would not let your kids run wild over the neighborhood without supervision! Why would you let a brainless bird do so and expect it to stay where you want it to stay? (If you expect them to stay on your land, you have to fence, they require it! If you do not expect them to stay on your land, then you are thoughtless, and inconsiderate, both of your neighbors, and of your chickens.)

Fence your chickens! Put up a high fence they cannot fly over. For THEIR safety!

And then go apologize to your neighbors. Take them some cookies. They deserve it for not dispatching your chickens on sight!

Guinea Fowl for Dinner

Kevin chopped the head off the extra male guinea (with only three hens, we did not need two males). I skinned and gutted it (he helped hold it when things got tricky). Even a year ago I could not have done that. But now, I can. I can, because I must.  We skinned it because plucking is nasty, and until we have a plucker, I’m not doing it again. Had plenty of that as a kid, can’t stand the smell of wet or burnt feathers.

We go the job done on the guinea, and then managed to dispatch one of the chickens we had lined up for the day, before we realized that the chickens must have been doing a rain dance. The heavens opened, and drove us indoors, with only two of the birds finished. The rest earned a reprieve.

Having no fridge space to rest or brine the birds, into the freezer they went. I pulled the guinea out yesterday, just after noon, and popped it frozen into the crock pot. Having never had guinea before, I just lightly sprinkled it with seasoning salt, and put a little water in the bottom to keep it from drying out completely.

The resulting bird was somewhat dry (likely leaving the skin on would have helped, since the skin was very fatty), but VERY tender. Tasted like Turkey, though the white meat is about the color of dark meat on turkey, and the dark meat is more like the dark meat on a duck – distinctive difference in color between the two, just darker. Very good flavor. Did not mess me up like some meats do either, seems to be a good one for me.

The skin that we removed was thick with yellow fat. There was also a lot of yellow abdominal fat, much like duck fat. I managed to salvage just a bit of it, but most was removed in the skinning and gutting processes.

Guinea liver is a little stronger tasting than the wonderful chicken livers I’ve been getting from the chickens we raise. But it is NOT as strong as commercial chicken liver.

If you are raising guineas for food, just think of them like a very small turkey, with a smaller and flatter breast meat. The bulk of the meat is evenly divided between the breast and the thighs. The wings have a little at the top, and the legs do also, not much otherwise. Much shorter meaty parts on the wings and legs than what chickens have. But it seems to be easier to bone out than chicken or turkey.

I’d suggest that this would be good as a substitute for wild game in many recipes, but you can also just sub it for turkey if you are more prosaic. Guinea Salad Sandwiches would be excellent.

I let the carcass go overnight in the crock pot, after adding some water. Keeps it from getting stale tasting like it does in the fridge. Today I boned it out, chopped the meat, and tossed it all in with some celery, carrots, onions, and sweet peppers, sprinkled with a little rosemary and seasoning salt. In a couple of hours, I’ll add some brown rice.

Guinea Rice Soup for dinner. Life is good.

Update: The soup was good. Everybody ate it without complaint, along with some hot biscuits.

Kissing Hostgator Goodbye

We have used Hostgator for hosting for more than 10 years. They were old friends. The best in the industry. Support rocked.

We didn’t just have a hosting account with them. We had a dedicated server. That means not only my personal websites, but all of my client websites were in that space. Our business really does depend on good hosting, more so than most.

Three years ago, support started to take a dive. Then specs dropped. Prices stayed the same, while other competitors began edging down. They started throttling functionality in the background where they thought users would not notice.

I switched servers with them, and it was much more difficult than it had been when we set up our original dedicated server with them. And what we got for the money was nowhere near the same quality or performance as it had been before. And I kept finding things that had been turned off – some during the move. Some after. Months after. Things kept changing. Always for the worse – things that were not SUPPOSED to change when you have a dedicated server.

We struggled on though. Moving a server is a major commitment in time and money, and it is very hard to find a replacement company that is actually better. You don’t do it unless you have to. It is just too risky. And expensive – since you have to pay overlap time while you are transferring.

So what was the thing that made us finally leave?

No Support. This is the thing that made us know we had to move, eventually. Tickets go unanswered, or are dodged so they take too long to resolve (first they dodged, then they simply quit answering). You have to call – and for some issues that is difficult, especially with longer and longer wait times since the poor response on tickets is pushing everyone to phone support.

Support first became so bad I could not get a response on a simple question without them sending an email back saying they have to verify my identity by having me reply to the email (to prove that the email request was coming from a verified email address – when it had been SENT from a verified email address)! Really? That stupid?

My last request was made from the verified email address, and included a second identifying factor which they require on the kind of request I was making. They took FIVE DAYS to respond. And they told me… you guessed it… that I had to supply TWO FORMS of verification (which I had already done) in order to carry out my request. They suggested I might want to try chat (which I hate) or call them (my phone has spotty reception).

Email support now consists principally of having someone send you a canned response to either verify your identity (even if you already did), or with a reply which has nothing to do with the problem you are having – it is obvious they are hiring people who do not want to actually provide support, but who make their money each day by simply sending meaningless replies until the next person comes on shift, at which time you have to explain all over again what it is you needed because they NEVER read the back thread.

They then cut off email support, and required that all support tickets be submitted from inside the client area on their website. Ok… I tried that. They never responded at all when I did.

The thing that made us HAVE to leave is that the security issues have been worse and worse. They set up the new server with things disabled that would have saved us a lot of time – they left off some security features. They have changed settings in my system – no one else had access, and if it were breached the invaders would have done worse, so it has to be coming from Hostgator.

In past years, when things went wrong on our server, they would email us, and disable the offending files. We would clean up the mess, and plug the security holes.

That has now changed. They no longer “monitor” your site for security issues. At least this is what they tell you. Only they DO! Because when they find them, they shut you down – if ONE account on a dedicated server has a problem, they will shut down the ENTIRE server. And they no longer notify you that they have done so. Suddenly your sites do not load, or your control panels cannot be accessed, or your bandwidth is throttled, ftp is blocked, or your email stops working, and they just smugly punish you for something you have no idea is happening. It can take days to resolve the issue with them sufficient to get the functionality turned back on, and in the mean time your business is dead in the water, and so are all your clients.

Worst, the actions they take often REMOVE your ability to even fix the problem they are punishing you for! Not only that, they REFUSE to help you do the things they have stopped you from doing, and REQUIRE that you do it before they will turn anything back on! Beyond moronic!

They will not longer assist with any security issues. They are selling a service listed as “managed server”, but they no longer DO any of the things they used to class as being part of the service. A Managed server costs about $100 per month more than an unmanaged one. I do not know what I am paying for anymore, because they do NOTHING for us now that they would not do for an unmanaged one.

And that is not all… they have decided that not only will they not provide many of the services they used to provide, they refer you to a third party company whom they say will be happy to charge you to provide the services. Their entire server setup process, and support process, is now designed to DRIVE you into using that service. I can’t prove it, but it makes me think that they may be owned by the same umbrella company. The service costs $29 per month… PER WEBSITE. Yeah. 20 websites.

And then there is the password issue. When they have to work on the server, they temporarily switch the password – meaning I cannot access it. They used to do this in the wee hours of the morning, but now they do it whenever, and frequently (though I have no idea what they are doing, because all updates are automatic, and they are not supposed to be messing around with things that require an access password). I will try to access, and find that I am blocked. I will call, they will tell me they are working on the server. Two hours later it will be back. This used to happen maybe once every six months. Now it is far more often. No advanced notice.

Hostgator has sunk to such depths that we cannot function as a business anymore on their service – or lack of it. I simply cannot call and be put on hold for half an hour every time I need to resolve an issue, and I cannot work with a company that shuts down my server and does not tell me, when there is an issue with a single website.

I’ve been patient. I’ve watched it get worse and worse. This is the end. Farewell Hostgator. I can be a loyal customer as long as you hold up your end of things. I will not be a loyal customer when you drop the ball again and again, and especially when you set me up for failure. My business relies on my hosting service. I require reliable partners to help me stay in business. You are no longer a reliable partner.

One more company destroyed by turning into a publicly traded company.

——-

And then there was A Small Orange. The sales guy was great. He said support would assist me with the things I needed. Reviews were mixed. They always are.

It took several months to get to a point where we could afford to move. When we finally did, we gave ourselves plenty of time, but we did still have a deadline. It was 4 weeks away so we thought we had plenty of time.

I had thought Hostgator had sunk to the depths. I did not realize any company could be worse.

It took a week just to get the order processed. It took another week to get the server provisioned. I then submitted a support ticket because the welcome email did not have all of the access info that I needed to configure the server. No reply. Silence.

I tried chat. After an hour (a half an hour after the progress bar said I was the next one up), I gave up and requested a refund. If I cannot even get the info I need to set up the server, I am dead in the water. All this, against a deadline – I am already paying an overlap, the deadline for paying another month on the old server is fast approaching, and I am wondering how in the world I can go forward.

As it would happen, the ducks I ordered never came in. The money I held for them was still in the account, so I used it to try yet another company. The jury is still out, but they did in 24 hours what A Small Orange and Hostgator failed to do in much longer. The server was provisioned, the welcome email sent, and support ticket answered all within 24 hours of paying for the first month. Support is a little sluggish, and less quick about getting actual work done than I’d like, but they are at least DOING something and replying to tickets. This, I can at least work with!

Three days later, A Small Orange informs me that they have processed my refund, but it has not yet shown up in the CC account as a credit. I’ll give them a few days, then complain if it does not show up. (The refund was in my account several days later.)

At least we are moving forward, it appears that we will meet the deadline and that I will be able to do this after all.

Now to get my products ready for the market tomorrow, while I wait on support to move the sites. If all goes well, we should be fully over to the new server early next week.

—————————-

We moved to InMotion Hosting.

It took a little longer than I wanted to get the sites transferred, and then the bugs worked out, but it got done. I can say that while Support at InMotion is not sufficient to cover dedicated server issues – regular support gets lost with it – their Advanced Hosting techs are really good. Not fast, but they know their stuff. Problem there is that they charge for any assistance over the initial setup of the server. So if you need advanced support later, you either wrestle with Support, or pay for something more skilled. I can probably live with it, mostly. I doubt I have a choice, since most other companies leave you without any meaningful support at all.

Since we cannot find a company that offers affordable dedicated hosting that is any better, we will make the best of it.

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