Business

Posts related to business, but not marketing.

They Must Not Have Liked Ruffles

If you put “Latin for ruffles” into Google, you get some interesting options:

Horrifico
Agito
Turbo

Me thinks they do not like ruffles!

So I gathered…

The Collapse Of Google’s Business Model

In case you have not noticed, Google is no longer a Search Engine.

They have become a full on, Paid Directory.

This means they NEVER give you the search results you are looking for. They give you the results from their paid advertisers, with about 3 higher ranked unpaid results (they may give you more if it is a nearly vacated search term).

They made their reputation on SERPs. They no longer have them in any way that matters. (That’s Search Engine Rank Position in case you are not an SEO guru.)

They have consistently DESTROYED their reputation in the last 10 years.

So we know what to do about that, right?

Don’t use them.

Only problem is, Google is now the only game in town, and they SET IT UP like that. Yahoo, Bing, DogPile, DuckDuckGo, and everyone else, PAYS Google for the search engine listings (only a few, do NOT pay… Google still needs them on board). And when they had EVERY OTHER SEARCH ENGINE paying THEM to supply the search results, they moved in for the kill.

And kill they did.

They are responsible for the deaths of countless small businesses, who rely on Organic Search to keep afloat.

Google does not OWE them anything. Google makes money BECAUSE businesses DON’T pay for listings. That brings the WORLD into Google Search Results, and THAT is what made their PPC so valuable.

It is like a Mall. You don’t go to a Mall to buy anything unless the Mall has LOTS of shops. When it is empty, you don’t even go there for a specialty item. So Search Engine Users don’t go when the results are limited.

Google is losing traffic by the freeway full. ‘Cause they’re STOOOPID.

So now, the only way you can get USABLE Google referrals is by paying for them,.. Theoretically, anyway.

Don’t pay for them.

Google cheats you.

In fact, every PPC system I’ve ever used cheated people. When you have 100 clicks coming into your site, and EVERY ONE OF THEM is a BOUNCE, you know you are being cheated. At least 4% or more should LOOK AROUND a little.

But I know that Google cheats the advertisers, because they cheat the publishers. If they’ll cheat on AdSense, they’ll cheat on AdWords.

There are statistical averages in the web world. According to PPC “experts”, Pay Per Click advertising is as good in quality as Organic Search results.

I have never been able to prove that PPC was effective in ANY WAY AT ALL. But I COULD prove that 1 in 200 visitors coming in from other sources (including Organic Search) would make a purchase in the average small business. In a high end (high trust or high dollar) industry, 1 in 400 would make a purchase.

PPC landed a resounding ZERO for results.

And that was when it was actually higher quality, and it is far less now.

Big companies have very low accountability for their advertising budgets. As long as people are still buying, they’ll pour out money on things that don’t work, because they think they have it to spend. And in a way, they do.

If you have a marketing budget that is 0.01% of your non-budgeted revenue, you may have $3 to spend on advertising.

A large company may have $300, or $3,000. They have momentum going for them already. They may or may not feel the need to track the results of that $3,000, or $30,000.

Just how the money shakes out.

But Google is smarter than to just let them pay endlessly for PPC. After all, they HAVE to have “Organic” results as well. So if you PAY for PPC, they will ALSO put you higher in the SERPs. Ever notice that the first 3 pages of Google are filled with the SAME links and brands as the Advertisements? Think that is coincidence?

Of course, they will also put AdSense websites higher in the SERPs, but only a little. If they cannot get those ads SEEN, they cannot CHARGE people for the clicks on them. (This in no way suggests that Google wants to help you make money – it just means that THEY need your site to get a little traffic.)

There are things that tell you that Google is not doing its job.

  1. Traffic that never grows in spite of SEO PLUS backlinks, PLUS growing quality content, PLUS viral marketing, PLUS high quality blog linking, and other known effective methods. You DO THE WORK, and what worked 10 years ago falls flat.
  2. Traffic that is made up of ALL foreign traffic, none from your own country.
  3. Search terms in your stats, that are NOWHERE in your site. You never have RELEVANT search terms reported in your Stats.
  4. Kittens on the Keys search terms in your stats. This means you’ve been Google Bit, and they are no longer sending you any kind of relevant traffic. (Google Bit means they are actively PUNISHING you, and it is NEVER for bad SEO. This is more malicious, because your site is not BANNED, your results are just Quirked.)

Google no longer has a Workable Business Model. Because “Squeeze ‘Em Harder, Pancks!” is NOT EVER an effective business model. It ALWAYS burns out.

Can you smell the smoke and hear the screaming engines yet?

They may be the only game in town for search, but people use them less and less, and the value for advertisers is lower and lower, AND THEY KNOW IT.

And Bing, and Yahoo have hitched their wagons to a falling star. They are HARMED by Google’s skewed SERPs. They are too Corporatized to realize that once you give away your OWN production, and rely on someone else to create the product for you, you enslave yourself. You leave yourself open to being utterly SHUT DOWN by someone else’s choices.

So there’s no use going to them, they are just props to the death machine.

Shame on you, Bing, and you too Yahoo. Shame on all of you who think that you can pay a corrupt competitor to do your fundamental work!

I think Google could pull out. I think they COULD go back to being the best. But I don’t see signs of ANY progress now, only a worsening. It’s like gangrene. If you’d just clean up, and administer some good medicine, you could clear it up before the stink and festering drives you to having to cut off body parts as the infection swarms through the body. (Then again, I think there are parts Google SHOULD cut off, because they’ll never be anything BUT a corrupt and festering stench.)

People used to talk up Google. Now they roll their eyes.

And we don’t even want to get INTO the security issues of All Things Google that are not Google Search.

Another Note About Bing And Yahoo: If a search company has to buy their search results from another company, they DO NOT have an original business model. They don’t have anything to offer that Google does not. All they are, is a faked alternative for Google haters. They don’t offer anything that differentiates them, and in the business world, that is the chimes of death.

At one time, Bing had a successful business model. They were simply an open directory without as much restrictive algorithm as Google. Their search results were NOT AS GOOD in one respect, and that is, they were LESS focused on ORIGINAL content. They would LET the SEO Scammers through.

But on the other hand, when you NEEDED results that were DIFFERENT than Google (and that IS the only reason for needing more than one search engine), Bing had it.  Until they started to buy Google SERPs. They faked originality by a minor reshuffling, and by placing their OWN paid ads above Google’s. But purchasing Google SERPs was the death throes.

Yahoo failed as a paid directory, and they failed as a free directory. They succeeded wildly as a broad spectrum publishing platform with their paid ads distributed through it. As that crashed, they passed through the balance of free directory and free search engine, with paid ads and paid placements in the directory. They HAD a successful business model until Google tanked them by freaking them out and making them react badly in the wrong direction. And then they began to buy Google SERPs, and everything Yahoo declined from that day.

The day you hire someone who says, “We don’t need to make this. We can just resell that.” is the day you let thieves and rogues take over your company. Because the person who says that does not understand business. They understand laziness. They make a living off laziness, and false information. They’ll also make a living off fraud, and let others do that off your business. Your employees will cart your business and profits off, piece by piece.

And you asked for it.

Business Cards? Who Uses Business Cards?

Business cards are still a useful business tool. We don’t care WHAT Millennials tell us about marketing, just because they are disconnected, doesn’t mean the entire business world marches to their whims.

Business cards are still a standard, and good for so many things.

  1. Carry them on you, and hand them out when you get into a conversation that leads toward what you do. I’ve handed them out in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  2. Any time you set up a display for your business, carry them, and make sure they are available. If you bring other promos, let the Lookie Lous have the business cards. Hand out the more costly promos ONLY to those who seem like good prospects, if you get into a good conversation with someone. Don’t let the kids come buy and take them all, that doesn’t do you any good.
  3. If you beat the streets hunting work, a business card is essential, but that’s not the only thing we use them for.
  4. You can write a note on the back, when you get a question from someone, so they have the answer on a business card.
  5. Use them to share your phone number when the person does not have a phone – Yeah, there ARE people who don’t!
  6. Use them with a discount code on them, and write “pass this to a friend”. Drop them into every package you mail.
  7. Instead of printing a brochure or catalog, put a reference to it on your business card so they can access your website or a download link for a catalog.
  8. You can even set up a PDF of a sheet of your pass along discount card for your prospects to download and print.
  9. There are novel business card types, and various types of items you can sub for business cards to get attention, but be warned, they are ALL EXPENSIVE.

Business cards are not dead at all. They are still one of the FIRST Things you can create to promote your business, even if you have an online business.

If your business needs a boost, it just might be worth downloading a free copy of Serif Page Plus SE to whip out some snazzy new cards.

I’m Still Hot Stuff, I’ve Just Been On The Back Burner

All of our associates and clients knew when we scaled our business down. We kept only a few select clients, and we rerouted our efforts into other lines, Fermenta Cap being the most notable. I’ve also written and published more than twenty books including web and business instructions, small farm and garden instructions, pickling instructions, short stories, fairy tales, and novels.

In that time, I’m still building websites. I’m still maintaining them. I’m still troubleshooting them. Just not as much.

Our Web Services site is live again, and I have all kinds of associates who used to use us for troubleshooting, and who referred people to us now and again, but who won’t anymore. We are no longer on their radar.

Same with prospective clients. Even if they find us, they wonder if we’ve still got it. I guess they’ll have to work that one out for themselves.

I tried to list the things I have the skills to do. I could not list them all.

I could not list all the web software I know how to install, configure, use, and troubleshoot.

I could not list all the desktop software I can competently use, not even the ones I know expert tips for.

I keep coming up with more things. And I can’t begin to describe them in terms that even my associates grasp, let alone ones that my prospective clients will comprehend.

Coming back is harder than starting out ever was.

The web is older, and it is not as friendly.

Marketing is harder. Exponentially harder. All the good venues are gone, and we are left trying to pretend that Facebook actually helps us in our business.

People are different. They don’t want to network, and they don’t want to learn badly enough to try to search for resources in the way they used to. They really want even the hardest answers to fit into a text on their phone.

I’m not just indulging in a grumble, just observing, in case anyone else is also here, that the playing field has changed, and there are now rocks and holes where it used to be grassy or sandy.

But I’m still bubbling. I’ve added water, and scraped off a few scorched bits.

Time to give it a good hard stir, and turn up the heat, I guess.

Are Web Designers REALLY This DUMB? (What Happened to Website Functionality?)

I put my website back together. I was ready to go back to work. Unfortunately, I do not have the images I need for it. So it looks kinda unfinished.

Understand. When you offer certain types of services, it is HARD HARD HARD to find “speaking” images. When you offer training, it is nearly impossible to find anything that conveys the process of learning or teaching. So the lack of images is not incompetency on my part, and I cannot just go get them at BigStockPhoto either. They don’t HAVE them.

I did what all good business people do. I went to see what the competition had, to see if I might be able to fake it like they do!

Their sites are worse than mine!

Oh, they HAVE images. Not good ones, but they HAVE them. They just have BIG images.

In fact, that is ALL they have!

They are VERY contemporary. And really STOOOPID.

The prevalent design seems to be totally dysfunctional.

One big image.

Three words.

One button.

For some, that is ALL THEY HAVE.

Perhaps, in a few, some indecipherably small menu links across the top. Not more than 5. Filled with teeny tiny text that blurs together it is so small. I don’t have the best eyesight right now (stopped wearing glasses when my eyesight was worse WITH them than without), and it wasn’t that! NOBODY could read them!

The one big image does not tell me what they do.

The three words tell me what they want me to want from them. But not NEARLY enough to tell me whether they HAVE what I want.

The one button gives me TWO choices only. One is to “START HERE”. The other is to LEAVE.

Why do I want to START HERE?

Start WHAT?

You have not let me get READY to START HERE. I am not ready to start something I have not CHOSEN to do with YOU. And you have not LET me investigate. You have, in fact, SHUT DOWN every opportunity to investigate!

So I click START HERE. I have no other choice if I want to know whether I can see WHAT THEY OFFER.

I then am presented with another ACT OR LEAVE choice. Not a good idea when you just met someone!

The page shows a SIGNUP FORM.

I don’t even know if I WANT what you offer, and I have to SIGN UP in order to find out if you offer something I even want to INVESTIGATE.

I’m in INVESTIGATIVE MODE, and you force me to COMMIT!

I don’t know WHAT YOU WANT ME TO COMMIT TO! Or what it will COST me!

So I exercise the only other option they give me.

I leave.

If I am not going to sign up with a store just to see whether I MIGHT want to buy from them, I am not going to sign up with YOU just to see what you offer. You are just another Zulilly and I’m no sucker.

Under the teeny tiny menu links of another almost IDENTICAL site, I discover a page of product listings. Each product listing has a list of features, and a price. NO IMAGES!!!

Ok, so I don’t mind that so much, but so far they’ve not shown me ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of the nifty thing they said they could do for me, and now they are expecting me to click the BUY button! A fairly EXPENSIVE buy button at that!

They do not let me SEE what I might be able to buy. They only offer me the choice of BUY, or go away!

I went away.

Another similar site HAS IMAGES!!! They have a Flash Rotator.

Aparently they LOVE their Flash Rotator.

They have 12 of them.

All in rows.

You cannot see all of the rows at once. There are TWO rotators PER ROW, and they scroll down, down, down.

I can see TWO ROWS at a time.

That is FOUR images that keep changing. Fairly rapidly. ALL AT ONCE!

After 10 seconds my eyeballs want to fall out of my head and keep on bouncing. Everything is moving.

It is like having to document every move of 12 toddlers. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

It didn’t matter anyway.

EVERY SINGLE IMAGE WAS THE SAME!

They just had different pictures behind them. Other than that, they were identical. They were all just as dysfunctional as the website they were displayed on.

Honestly folks, a SINGLE ROTATOR would have done! Heck, a SINGLE IMAGE would have done, they are all the same thing!

I sighed. This stuff is just so dumb.

And I’m still stuck with a site that looks half finished.

I know just ONE THING.

I am NOT going to finish it like those websites!

It Isn’t Worth It, Google

Every time I login to my Google AdSense account, I am greeted by dire warnings that if I don’t put an ads.txt file in every one of my AdSense sites, that my earnings will be at risk.

At risk of what, Google?

Going down?

You already did that!

You already did that so hard that nobody makes more than a few dollars where they used to make a hundred. Or a thousand.

You already annihilated the income of literally millions of small business owners who partnered with you, to make YOU rich, and to make them financially stable.

They kept their part of the bargain. Why didn’t you?

I don’t see how my earnings could be more at risk than they already are! You’ll punish me whether I put the thing in or not.

And then there’s the robots.txt file that Google notoriously ignores. This tells us that if we DO put one in, and you ever give us a reason to actually want to use the thing, that you’ll ignore it also. (‘Cause the reason you give me to put one in is really silly, and a waste of my time, since if someone DOES rogue my ads, they aren’t going to be stopped by THAT, any more than YOU are stopped by a robots.txt file.)

Not worth the effort, really.

Someone suggested to me that Google may penalize my account for having written this.

Seriously?

Would I honestly NOTICE?

‘Cause Google has just about run out of leverage when it comes to withdrawing any benefit to the browser, the publisher, or the advertiser.

And we won’t even get into the two-way usage terms which WE have to abide by, but which THEY will not!

And Then I Lost My Appetite

Shared with me today:

The girl behind the counter was wearing a mask. This being a restaurant, I asked if she was sick. She said not really, but she had a runny nose, from the heat and her allergies, and her boss said she had to mask and glove up. I wondered immediately if she needed to perform surgery on my sandwich.

I told her, helpfully, “Sucks to be you!”. She sighed, and looked discouraged, and said, “Why does everybody keep saying that to me?”.

I can always find something positive in a situation, so I told her, “At least it keeps your nose from dripping in the food.” She looked up and replied, “Well, yes, but sometimes I have to lift my mask.” She turned her back to me and did just that. She lifted the mask, wiped her dripping nose with her gloved hand, and went back to the cash register with an expectant look. Surely I was ready to order NOW!

This restaurant had two cash registers, on opposite sides of the dining room, one for one popular brand, one for the other, along with two kitchens, one for each brand.

The large “Eat Safely” sign persuaded me that a psychotic was probably running this chain, because it instructed customers to maintain a 6 ft distance, wear a mask if they were sick, and to never accept food from someone who appeared sick. But this masked and gloved girl was rendered safe to serve food by a paper mask and a pair of gloves with a hole in one finger. The manager in the back is assembling food, periodically coughing, no gloves, no mask, and the occasional scratch to his nose. He also had to stop periodically to pull his pants up in back, with the hand he was using to assemble the food. I am a practicing physician, and I am not afraid of the common cold, no matter how many lies some of my colleagues tell about it to milk the government cash cow, but this was beyond believable in an eating establishment.

I looked hard at her and said, “I’ll just order from the other side.” I left the counter, and walked to the other order counter in the nearly deserted restaurant. She left her cash register, and walked around behind and came over to the cash register I now stood in front of. “Can I help you?” she asked, just as the cook with the sagging pants walked around from the kitchen he was working in, to the other. I already knew my quest for food here was probably hopeless.

“Do you always wear a mask?” I asked. She sighed again and said, “Why do people always keep asking me that? I mean, like, aren’t you afraid you’ll get sick?”.

“Yes. I think I really am.” I said, and turned and left the restaurant, just as she said to the man behind me, “YES! I always wear a mask!”, and he replied, “Sucks to be you!”.

We are still looking for a place, two hours later, who will just SERVE US A MEAL, without contaminating it in the process with their novel “COVID-19 Response Policies”.

Pity the Orange and Purple

If a person is yellow
He may be a good fellow
If someone is red
They can still earn their bread
If a child is green
They may be scrubbed clean
If a friend is blue
They may still love you
If a cousin is pink
They may still learn to think
But pity the man who is orange
Or the woman who is purple

 

This is a joke. Some people will not get it.

Stouffer’s, Did You Pee In My Chicken?

I run a family safe blog, so my deepest apologies to those people who did not need to hear the “P” word here today. There was just no other way to say it.

We loved Stouffer’s Chicken Alfredo meal. We had watched the quality of their lasagna decline until I could not really eat it anymore (No meat, no cheese, just noodles and sauce.), but we bought a few other dishes every few weeks to alternate with other once or twice a week shortcut meals. The Chicken Alfredo was actually good.

A few months ago we brought home a large size Chicken Alfredo (and yes, it WAS Stouffer’s, the stores we shop at don’t carry any other brand of Chicken Alfredo). A few days later I opened it up and flipped it onto a cookie sheet, and then flipped it again into a metal baking dish – we don’t do plastic and paper in the oven here I’m too allergic to plastic – and I popped it into the oven, and we went off to do livestock chores (this is a pompous way of saying “feeding the chickens”).

When we came in, I pulled the Alfredo out of the oven, and noticed it smelled different. Not strongly so, but THERE. I dished it up anyway, and we sat down to eat. The first bite of chicken and I KNEW something was REALLY WRONG. It tasted so foul that I could not eat any of the chicken… I picked it out and got some of the noodles down, but could not even eat much more of that. We ended up tossing out most of the dish, which should have lasted more than one meal.

We have never bought it again.

It was a day or so after that disaster that I realized the smell in the dish was Ammonia.

The Tyson Chicken we put in the oven a few weeks later was simpler to identify. When the oven door opened at the timer beep, a cloud of urine smell rose from the chicken to assault my nose. If you overcook it, the smell dies down enough that you can gag it down, but you find yourself NOT wanting to eat any leftovers, or cook any more of it!

A short time before the Chicken Alfredo went off, I stopped buying Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage. The flavor was so disgusting I could not finish a hotdog sized sausage.

NOTE: Somewhere around the beginning of 2021 I took a risk and bought a large 3 pack of the big loop sausages – Hillshire Farms Smoked Beef Sausage. I cook them well, and they are ok again. They seem a little lacking in salt and flavor, but they do not gross me out or make me sick. I do not know about the smaller ones, I’ve not tried them again, yet.

How can you eat food like that? How can manufacturers SELL food like that?

The problem with all of these foods is Ammonia. This is a LOT MORE than just using ammonia on the processing line, they have so much you know they PUT IT INTO THE FOOD.

Now, let me make this absolutely clear…

There is NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON to put AMMONIA into food! If you do, it is not FOOD anymore! It is POISON.

Ammonia is difficult for kidneys and liver to clear from your system. And excess ammonia in the body is known to be neurotoxic, and to cause a form of degenerative dementia (resembling Alzheimer’s in many cases), and a condition that is similar to dopamine resistant Parkinson’s, as well as neurotransmitter deficient seizures, an increased risk of several types of cancers, and various forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Ammonia in food is deadly.

Short term, or long term, it kills.

So watch out, folks. There’s a distinct YUCKY flavor to this stuff, and much of it smells of urine, which is the smell of Ammonia. Many kinds of processed meats not mentioned here have this in it, as do many processed meals.

There are a number of other products I have to warn you about, and they maye Ammonia or some other contaminant in them, I can only GUESS what they’ve done, by flavor, and tendency to vomit after consumption.

The first blew us away when we discovered that Nesquik had changed their recipe in the bottled chocolate milk.

It was readily apparent that whatever it was flavored with, it WAS NOT CHOCOLATE. It tasted more like a blend of burnt soybeans and burnt carob. NASTY. It was also apparent that whatever was flavored with the Not-Chocolate, was NOT MILK! The underlying flavor of soy, and the thin and watery consistency of it clearly indicated that a cow had nothing to do with the new recipe – I admit I may actually be wrong here, they COULD have thrown in a miniscule amount of powdered milk, but if they did, they held out enough that you can’t actually say they did! There is a chemically sweet unnatural flavor that is so scary to find in food that we are pretty certain that it is contaminated with other nasty things. We can TASTE that the ingredients listed on the label (which did not change), are NOT ACTUALLY IN the end product! Finishing the 16 oz bottle was NOT possible!

Watch out… It DOES cause stomach upset. Some people vomit from it. Too bad Wal-Mart stopped carrying Promised Land Chocolate Milk. That stuff is the ultimate in chocolate milk, and my husband’s life long love affair with Nesquik was utterly shattered by Promised Land Midnight Chocolate Milk. No more bottled Nesquik for him, but he’s aching for a pre-mixed option that he can get locally now that Nesquik is undrinkable.

Red Button Triple Chocolate Chunk ice cream (which says “Old Fashioned Creamery” on the label) also gets panned here, it has the SAME flavor as the new bottled Nesquik, and by the time you get into the second scoop, you just know you will never want another bowl of whatever THAT was! Ice cream hides the nastiness better, because of the chill, but it does not hide the belly-ache that follows. Somehow I suspect that if any old fashioned creameries made anything like this, they were not on the end of town where one goes to buy the good stuff.

The next one disappointed us also, and is a bit of a tragedy for my husband, who used to love Chef Boyardee Ravioli for a quick lunch. His enjoyment had lessened, year by year, as they pronounced meat to be outdated, and extolled the virtues of soy, one of which they apparently believe is that you will never be able to tell they put it in instead of real meat!

We noticed. The fact that it was on sale did not entice us to purchase more.

The latest change though, like Nesquik, is so major that their label should have changed to reflect a change of ingredients, and it did not. I do not even know how to describe the changes.

The ravioli are stiff and the pasta is almost toughly crumbly, and does not have a clean pasta flavor – the color is dark and dirty looking. You WILL notice if you attempt to eat them. You can’t really finish a can of them, or even a half can, if you have any sense of TASTE at all!

The sauce is thin, and the flavor is off. That kind of nauseating “off” that makes you wonder whether the can was properly sealed, or whether it came in contact with animal waste products prior to distribution. Very yucky!

I don’t know if it is Ammonia in the token bit of meat they may still be putting in, or melamine in the flour, or some other nasty thing. What I can say unequivocally is, that SOMETHING IN THEM IS NOT FOOD.

The next major issue I had was that the last box of anything Hostess that I purchased almost a year ago was inedible also. The Zingers, which should have tasted of chocolate and that mysterious white greasy sweet stuff they put in the middle, tasted instead of Chocolate Engine Oil. And I’m pretty sure that is a product that is NOT made for use in food! It as such a strong flavor that you could not mistake it, and I was not able to eat them. Engine Oil is not a smell or taste you should find in FOOD!

Food Club brand Orange Juice is something I bought ONE TIME. The carton. The flavor is sorta scary sweet, washed out, and weirdly wrong. You don’t figure out there is really something wrong for a couple of days if you have one glass a day. But this orange juice toxed me in the same way heavy air fresheners do (you know, the neurotoxic kind that gives you insomnia and microseizures?). Something in this is a thing that should NEVER be consumed as a beverage, let alone a healthful one! That thing that happens when you take a drink and say, “Well… I suppose it does have some orange flavor… but how odd… is that sweet natural?”. That thing. That is the only warning you get with this one. Three days in, you start to get sick, and you don’t get better until the orange juice goes away.

I also have to add in Simply Orange Juice, purchased at Arby’s some two years after the writing of this original post. It had SOMETHING in it that WAS NOT FOOD. I took a swig, and swallowed, and my mouth was filled with cologne. Seriously! A chemical astringent base with PERFUME over the top. You could still taste the orange juice, but whatever else was in there just rose up as soon as you swallowed, and overpowered the orange. It was so bad I could not drink any more, and threw away a nearly full bottle. How can a company known for good juice sink so low?

I absolutely LOVE Santa Cruz Organic Apple Juice (can’t vouch for whether it is still as good as it was or not, they are not the one that messed me up). I cannot get it anymore, but I loved the stuff. One day I could not get it, and Knudsen’s Organic Apple Juice was there instead. The three quart bottle. Both are a pressed cider type product, not a steamed juice type product, which is what I wanted.

I bought it. I regretted it.

I opened the bottle, and I could smell the chlorine in it – it produces a distinct chemical smell, that takes a bit to identify because of how it interacts with the apple juice, but it is identifiable because it is SO strong. I could not drink it. Chlorine overload gives me raging headaches and causes a flare of IBS (and if I am not careful, will lead to Crohn’s again), and if I ignore that set of symptoms (or cannot avoid the chlorine), it will precipitate an allergic crisis which ends in anaphylactic shock. Not somewhere I can go.

Shame on you, Knudsen’s, for adding chlorine to a pressed apple cider type product! There was NO CAUSE to add water to it, and NO CAUSE to have chlorine in the product at all! This seriously disappointed me, and their brand instantly became one that I cannot trust.

They just keep coming, and I find I am needing to add to the list now and again.

Marie Calendar, how could you? So much for home cooked goodness. The breaded chicken in your freezer dinners is only edible if you have a craving for textured soy imitation meat. EYOOO. The Orange Chicken was hard to think of as chicken. It tasted like about half Chicken TVP. Not what I wanted to find in one of the more expensive meals! Even Banquet does better than this!

The Homestyle Breaded Chicken Breast Tenders are so obviously stamped out in a chicken molding machine that I have not been able to even contemplate microwaving the package to see if maybe they forgot and put some real chicken in them.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT make breaded chicken tenders at home by chopping up the leftovers of the butchered chicken, adding soy flour, and pressing them into a pseudo-chicken tender shape! You should at least change the name of them if you intend to go on passing this substance off as chicken!

Huge Disappointment, for sure. But also a dangerous thing. I am a recovered Crohn’s patient, and I am still sensitive to the things that gave it to me in the first place. Soy is one of those things. Kids with peanut allergies also have a high rate of soy allergy reactions, and individuals with acquired metabolic damage (this is a damaging world we live in, this is a large percentage of the population) cannot digest soy (or other beans, tuna, peanuts, eggs, and several other types of proteins and partial proteins). You just can’t put that stuff in there and call it “meat”, there are too many people with problems with it!

Stewart’s Sodas have also gone rogue. I had a Key Lime Soda yesterday, and it was ok. It was not wonderful. Stewart’s Key Lime is WONDERFUL soda. Stewart’s Sodas are PREMIUM sodas. The expensive stuff. And you know it when you drink it. The Key Lime is mellow, the Orange Cream is rich, and the Cream Soda is sweetly gentle. And this was not. But it WAS ok. The Cream Soda was NOT OK at ALL. I’m not sure what they flavored that with, but I can tell you it was NOT Vanilla! An added bonus is that it leaves an artificial flavor lingering on your palate, to warn you not to take that next sip too soon. I could not finish the bottle. I kept thinking maybe I could, but by the third sip, it was clear that I was NOT going to be able to trick myself into believing that it was Cream Soda, nor any other drinkable soft drink. I wasn’t even thinking ENJOYABLE, just SWALLOWABLE. And this is not.

Now I know what was wrong with the Key Lime. The vanilla flavor was NOT vanilla. How dumb do you have to be to substitute something for vanillin? I mean, vanillin is a substitute for vanilla. We can deal with that. Vanillin is CHEAP. And you use VERY LITTLE of it. How much, really, could you save by subbing something else that MIGHT be a few pennies cheaper per pound? It doesn’t even change the price of the soda! This is how corporations commit suicide. By COLLOSSALLY DUMB decisions that compromise their entire product appeal.

This is not just soda, it is EXPENSIVE soda. It was on sale. I got lots. Now I know why it was on sale. (Gotta watch that, it is a new trend. Thing goes on sale, it is a new recipe nobody liked. Can’t trust anything on sale anymore!)

Shame on you, Stewart’s. We will miss you.

Colossally disgusting. Completely inedible. Dangerously contaminated.

Call it what you will, these companies deserve to go under. They deserve to have America (and anywhere else where these products are sold) turn away and refuse to buy. They deserve to be held accountable.

I sincerely hope that somewhere in here there is a fluke. Just a single time error on the line. Because the food was entirely inedible, and I no longer trust any of these companies, and cannot buy ANYTHING that they produce.

NOTE: These were my honest experiences with these foods. If these companies wish to refute, they will have to do so with edible food that replaces the products that are inedible. I sincerely hope others have had better experiences, but I did not.

Rumpled Skin and the Queen’s Stilts, A Historic Fairy Tale With Sarcasm

Once upon a time, in a land we hope does not actually exist, there lived a King. It is always a King, it has to be… Occasionally a Prince, but we know he HAS to grow up to be a King. Otherwise it would not be a fairy tale.

This King, like all Kings, needed clothing. And the clothing MUST be fine! If it were not fine, he would cease to be King, and look like all the other sad relics in his oppressed Kingdom. (Of course they were oppressed! He’s a King after all!)

 

And so begins the fairy tale… I’ve taken down the entire story, and left only the very beginning.

You really CAN spin straw into gold.

Watch for the eBook on Amazon, for Kindle, or in our bookstore, at http://firelightheritagefarm.com

When Hearts Fail

I don’t know if I can ever publish this (note: apparently I can). But I’ll try to write it.

I don’t talk anymore. My kids have their lives, and call to see if we are ok. And I have nothing to say. I want to. But it is not there. A combination of lack of interesting things in my life, and deeply private processing of thoughts and circumstances that one only shares fully with God.

The last eight years have been the most brutal of my entire life. Family, work, health. All exquisitely painful so much of the time that there were days I could barely breathe with the hurt of it.

I knew absolutely before this that I wanted a long life. I wanted another 50 years. I wanted more of the work, the laughter, and I’d endure the discomforts and disruptions to get it.

When I got it, it was not anything like a continuation of life. It was a slow descent into the borders of Hell that left me feeling like Remi standing in front of the hardware store, crying, “You’re telling me life can only be more of THIS???”. Crying to Heavenly Father that if it were 50 more years of the last several, it really wasn’t what I’d asked for more of.

Other than the obvious that our close friends know about, the worst has been the uselessness. Purposelessness. I live. I do things. I write about them. I have a husband who loves me, and he is often my motivation to keep going. But there is so little meaningful activity in my life at times that I look ahead toward the stretching years, thinking that if they contain nothing but this, that they are bleak beyond enduring. Trapped in every way, and unable to make the changes we knew we SHOULD have been able to, but lacking the resources to even plan a way out. All I could do, and all I can do now, is strive to determine what God wants of me, and to try to do it, even when I cannot. It keeps me breathing, and once in a while, it hands me something to do that puts a little spark of interest back into my life again.

But it still isn’t the kind of thing you can talk about.

I learned to forage for wild mushrooms, and gathered a collection of around 100 edible types, and dried enough that I can have pretty much any kind I want whenever I want them. Not being a great mushroom eater, I still cannot explain to anyone why I am so fascinated by mycology, but it is certain that the bin of mushrooms that I collected will probably last us a decade or two (they are dehydrated).

I learned to can some things I had not known how to can, and I discovered that if you had the right pressure canner that it did not have to be a terrible sentence to have to babysit it, because it did not require constant vigilance, simply being able to HEAR it.

You see? How many people in the world really get excited because you discovered that you could actually can your own pork and beans that tasted pretty close to actual pork and beans? The average person, their eyes glaze over… And my family and friends are no exception!

I bought some plants, and explored some possibilities with container gardening, grew some herbs, learned to use them effectively. And I wrote about it. This took two whole years. The rest of the world remained largely oblivious to my efforts, and likely will stay that way, even if I do get the pictures to finish the book about it. No conversation starters there.

This winter, in a series of events that were so discouraging and personally grieving, our living circumstances changed. The events involved several other individuals, and little good would come from detailing who did what to whom, but they were the catalyst for another set of challenges, with obstacles we simply cannot overcome in spite of doing all the right things to do so.

When the commotion subsided, I found myself with a bag of Mohair. I’ve told the story elsewhere, and intend this to be quite a bit shorter, because I’m not taking this account in the same direction.

A kind friend gave me a drop spindle. I wanted to skippy-do right there, but my feet don’t move that nimbly right now. So I inadequately expressed my thanks, and went home to fret. It was Sunday, and I had not yet realized spinning is actually a good Sunday activity. I took it up on Monday, and my life changed in a way so small that the onlooker would not comprehend the significance.

There are events in your life that you know saved it. I don’t mean saved me from suicide, I’m not the type. I don’t mean saved me from physical decline, I was actually getting better. I mean, saved me by giving me something interesting to do.

I never thought SPINNING would be interesting. It has been far more than that. It has been educational, thought provoking, metaphorical, peaceful, comforting, and physically easier than I thought it would be. It has also evolved, from “how you are supposed to do this”, to “how you can do this better”.

I made all my equipment except that first gifted drop spindle, and a wire dog brush that I got to use as a flick carder.

I also learned old ways of doing the whole wool to yarn process, that do not require so many tools, and which are far simpler than what I’d been taught. I was taught that many things were NECESSARY that were not, and that some things were NOT necessary that ARE the majority of the time. I LEARNED rules for when they are and are not necessary, and the process of spinning is so simple compared to what I was told it had to be.

I learned that it need not be painful, though sometimes my hands or arm does get sore from working at it a lot during a single day.

When I say I made most of the equipment, I don’t mean that I looked on Pinterest, or Googled Spinning Wheel designs and went to the shop to craft an heirloom.

I mean that I went into the back yard where the elms and wild cherry were turning into thickets, and pruned branches, and made spindles, yarn blockers, a nostepinne, and a loom, from small branches.  Doing that lead to learning a way to spin with a drop spindle that did not hurt my back.

I now have a REALLY neat collection of sticks. They work for this or that in the process of getting fiber to a ball of 2-ply yarn. But they are really just a bunch of sticks. People just don’t get what I’m even talking about!

Spinning has surprised me. It is that easy thing to do, that does not require much thought, that keeps the hands busy, while your mind is engaged elsewhere. It is the thing you can do when you HAVE to sit down, but feel guilty if you are not working.

I didn’t expect to love it. I didn’t expect to learn so much about fibers and history. I have not yet persuaded Kevin to take up the Kingly art, but it feels like one of those skills you learn, and that you keep, because there is a PLACE for it

I like that it is part of a chain of activities, from raising an animal, to creating a knitted, crocheted, or woven item. It seems to complete other skills that I have already. It also involves a series of skills with itself that have been interesting to learn.

But this is still not something I can talk about. “I learned to spin.”. “Oh… that’s… Nice?” You see?

It gives time to think, and I’ve been able to process many of the events that have been so hard to understand. The personal revelations are so mind expanding, and sacredly private, that words are not adequate, even if I did have the need to share it.

I still have nothing to say that is not so difficult that other people turn away. And I cannot bear that either.

But if I have something to do… ANYTHING honorable that I CAN do, it makes things bearable, even when things are so difficult in other ways.

And I CAN spin. I can spin sheep wool, Alpaca, Mohair, and silk. Silk is my favorite, it just FEELS more fun to spin. Eventually I’ll try flax and Cotton. I just want to KNOW.

I’m also learning to weave.

And it’s no great conversation starter.

Just Wish It Was Not DISNEY

So we did a dumb thing. We joined the Disney Movie Club. We purchased additional movies at the time of joining which reduced the membership commitment from 5 to 3. One later. So we had 2 to go when our income tanked.

Fast forward to the end. Letter lets us know we have two to go. Ok, so we file that in the back of our minds, no ability to do it today.

Second letter comes. Not only are they telling us that we need to finish, they tell us they’ll bill us $98 plus change if we don’t comply by such and such a date. But they let us know (kindly, I’m sure) at the bottom that we can fulfill the commitment before *this* date, to head off disaster, by purchasing any two movies with a NON-discounted price of $9.95 or more. I repeat, NINE DOLLARS AND NINETY FIVE CENTS. I checked it three times before I placed the final order.

Letter also says that our commitment status will update when the payment is made for the last two items.

So I went into the site to try to place an order that qualified. Everything is discounted! I can’t tell it to charge full price in the cart! Finally dig around and find the “Offers” link, which has the option to Turn Off Discounts site-wide. It defaults to a discount, so you have to actually turn it off to meet your membership requirements.

We purchase two movies. Both are $9.95.

Commitment status does not update. Payment is made.

We wait a few days, just to be sure.

Then I call.

They assure me that it WILL update just as soon as we have purchased two movies with a non-discounted price of $19.95 or more.

I tell them the letter we received said $9.95.

They assure me this could not be so – it is $19.95, always has been, always will be, never has been written otherwise.

They ask me for a copy of the letter. Of course, Kevin has tossed it by now. After all, we placed the order!

Now, on this point I am dead certain of the price listed in the letter. Because I checked it several times. And because I don’t lie.

I also know that if WE received it, it is a standard boilerplate letter. It goes out to EVERYONE who has not bought enough. Customer service KNOWS THIS.

They assure me this is the first they have ever heard of such a thing (several customer service people said EXACTLY the same words – “this is the first I’ve heard of this!!!”, and they repeat those exact words each time they try to explain their surprise at my complaint – if the words were different, I might believe that three people were offering repeated sincere assurances, but since they are repeated verbatim, I am not buying it).

I am not playing ball. This is not right!

They make an offer – They will do me a favor and OVERPRICE the two movies we bought, with an extra $10 each, so that we will meet the commitment.

I’m not happy. I cannot afford that.

Now if the letter had said $19.95 to begin with, I’d have purchased two movies at that price – in fact I tried to, before I checked the letter (again), and realized it said $9.95. Money being tight, I went for the lower cost option!

They pass me to a supervisor, who goes through the same thing, same offer, same assurance that this is the first SHE has ever heard of this problem (she tells me this several times). I ask if I am going to have to sue in court to get them to do the right thing, and she quickly offers to do us a favor and settle it with the two we purchased as fulfilling the commitment.

She tells me repeatedly that I may be assured that this WILL happen, and that her word is good. I can’t even nod and smile, I’m way past that!

Then she says she cannot send an email to confirm the agreement. But… she can take down my number so someone can call me back, and I can then request an email to confirm!

I am not going to have a Sears experience again… And frankly, the fact that the supervisor had a Middle Eastern accent WAS unsettling, especially after our experiences with Sears. But today I’m not trusting anyone to call back, or to do as they said, without SOMETHING in writing, and email is the best I can do.

I ask her to transfer me rather than a call-back. She expresses doubt as to whether someone is there to answer, but finally does this.

Customer service also assures me that they’ve NEVER heard of this problem, but she leaves to confirm the agreement with the supervisor. Finally comes back and sends the requested email – we have that on file now. She also offers to remove our CC data from their database, and assures me she has done so, and that this may prevent the company billing us before the status change can go through.

I’m still not happy.

I mean this is DISNEY! If you can’t trust Disney, the world is pretty well fracked.

Our customer service experience wasn’t a mistake on their part. This is part of their SYSTEM. I work with websites, and businesses, and I know full well if a boilerplate letter went out (and that is what ours was), that the template has the details all there, just as I read them on ours. And if that happened, the lower price is STANDARD, OR, it is an ERROR that was perpetuated across thousands of accounts, which they are fully aware of, and have a policy to deal with.

In either case, THEY WERE WRONG, and THEY WERE LYING. And they are still giving us grief about it, acting like WE are the ones that did not follow the rules!

I am pretty sure that someone in accounting has done the math, and that they’ve realized that it is better to let someone fulfill an overdue commitment with $9.95 movies, and keep them a customer (they’ll purchase more later, even if they are almost broke, since they can purchase discounted), than it is to bill them a penalty and lose them.  But somewhere along the line, the website is not in the loop, and customer service is yanking people around over it. Maybe another case of “the left hand knoweth not what the right hand doeth”, but I’m suspicious because of the behaviors of their customer service people. You don’t just all end up giving the same line over and over again without variation when the situation IS an unexpected one – they were REHEARSED on that one!

It is bad enough that the quality of their movies is such that I won’t even WATCH some of what they’ve produced lately. But to have them messing around with customer accounts in a way that really casts a negative light on their honesty is an unexpected twist for us.

Disney, you really disappoint me.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.