Sunday, November 07, 2010
Screen Name, a short novel for NaNoWriMo 2010.
Synopsis: Dana finally gets a big break, a studio commissions one of her movie pitches, but she’s already overwhelmed with a staff writing job at a Spanish-language daytime drama. She knows if she doesn’t meet her deadline she’ll never get hired again, but she also can’t abandon the job she has.
She finds her solution online with a “paper writing service” to create her first draft. When the actual script turns out to be better than anything she could have written herself, she decides to track down the talented writer behind the screen name.
Update 11/16/2010: after hitting 25,000 words I decided to change the title to Screen Name, which I think fits better. Though I was also toying with Screen Name/Screen Credit as the full title.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
For years I’ve had Google Alerts set up for many key words related to candy and chocolate. (As well as some related to whales & dolphins.) I find a lot of great coverage via these that I wouldn’t ordinarily find and I probably wouldn’t go to Google News and just search there regularly. I find candy reviews as conducted by web-only content providers such as The Village Voice or Associated Content but never ones from those whom I consider my candy blogging peers (the blogroll) and of course none from Candy Blog.
I’ve submitted Candy Blog to Google News many times. Here are the reasons that Candy Blog has not been included as a Google News source:
I can understand the position of not using “singular voice” websites as news sources, but Candy Blog is an opinion site for the most part. Sure I throw facts in for context, but for the most part it’s about a first hand experience with a product.
My argument all along is that a review for a candy product is the same as the review for an album, a TV show, a movie, a book or a vacation spot. It’s news because it’s relevant to everyday life because Americans are consumers. Candy is a $30 Billion industry in the United States alone, few other American food review blogs have had the consistency of content that Candy Blog has and just because it’s about candy doesn’t mean that it’s trifling or should be shuttled off with the “advice columns” as entertainment. The content on Candy Blog is 99% original (I say it’s not 100% because I do quote from press releases & packaging plus I use candy company photos for the Candy Tease features), there are few newspapers who can say that.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Beckett liked to “get the moth” which was, in her limited vocabulary, the word for any insect. If it was a particularly large moth, she’d kill it and take it to the center of the rug in the living room and roll on it.
Beckett once ate a whole bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. This was followed by a visit to the vet. When my brother picked her up at the vet, he was offered a little container with the aforementioned RPBCs. He took the dog and left.
In Beckett’s early years with us she had a problem with vomiting, a lasting effect from distemper. To treat her long episodes, I’d give her a small dose of Pepto-Bismol. It’d administer it in a little syringe, made for babies. One day I came home from work and found the syringe chewed up and stuffed under the fridge.
Beckett really liked to look out for us when we were away. For the most part she kept watch in the living room window. However, if the balcony door was open, she was known to squeeze under the railing and go out onto the peak of the roof to stand watch for our return. (We first found this out via a note left in our mailbox by a neighbor that simply said, “you know your dog was on your roof.”)
Beckett was mostly uninterested in food. At least her own, unless you were interested in it, and then she’d at least be territorial.
Beckett had a weird toe that stuck up on her left front paws. She was also afraid of opening doors. In my fiction of our dog’s past, I imagined that she broke that paw as a pup by a door.
Beckett always wore a harness in the car, she was buckled into the center of the back seat.
Beckett was very soft, softer than you’d imagine a beagle mutt would be (I always thought she had some sort of spaniel in her). She also shed more than three normal dogs combined.
We bought our furniture and carpeting to go with this dog hair.
Beckett acted more like a cat than a dog. She would walk up to me and rub her head on my legs and often do the same sort of cat-like snuggling on the couch.
Beckett did not like to wear hats.
Beckett loved to zoom. In the early days when we would let her off leash to play fetch at the dead end of our street, sometimes she would tear off, up the stairs. Even in the house she would go so fast racing around the house she’d bank off the walls.
Beckett was once stung by a bee, I think she was trying to eat it (see the above “get the moth”). It stung her on the inside of her mouth. At first I thought she’d stuffed a tennis ball in her mouth. For several days her cheek was swollen up like she was hoarding nuts.
I don’t have enough photos of Beckett.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The week of February 15th, I reviewed a set of four candy bars on Candy Blog from the company called Go Max Go Foods: Mahalo, Buccaneer, Twilight & Jokerz. They’re vegan versions of popular candy bars - no dairy, no hydrogenated oils, no animal products and all natural. I bought them at Whole Foods back in January and took photos of them and posted them within the review. (I also reviewed two other vegan candy bars - one before and one after that set - it was an unofficial vegan week.)
Some I liked and some I didn’t. I took issue with the use of palm oil instead of real cocoa butter, the fact that they were three times the price of a regular candy bar, and the taste profile was overall too sweet. The review results ranged from 4 out of 10 to 6 out of 10.
I reviewed them at the request of a reader. I like to make sure I have something to offer all my readers - especially those with special dietary restrictions. The posts didn’t get much traffic or comments, no biggie.
On Friday, February 26th. someone identified as “susan” left a comment on the review of the Jokerz Bar (a vegan version of a Snickers):
The email address associated with the comment (visible only to me as the blog owner) was from the domain of the candy maker itself. My commenting policy clearly states that sock puppets are not tolerated and will be outed. As I was responding to that comment, susan left similar comments on all the reviews.
(Link to Mahalo review.)
I didn’t want to assume that it was a sock puppet, since a commenter can leave any address, there’s no verification process. First, I tried to respond to the email address to verify that she was a representative of the company - what I learned while waiting for a response was that she had also twittered from the official account of the company:
I considered that verification that this was a true representative and published my response calling her out in my comments area of the site. I responded there with a Tweet to my followers pointing to her Tweet to me:
Within that time she posted two more times on Twitter, this time not replies but original tweets with links to my reviews:
It’s not the first time I’ve had a sock puppet on the blog. Heck, it’s not even the 10th time. I’ve had candy makers themselves comment on my posts as well - on both the raves and the pans. (I don’t consider giving a candy a 6 out of 10 a pan, I consider it a good candy, just not one I personally plan to keep buying but likely to be someone’s favorite.) But this was definitely a first for me where the company tried to rally support for the their product after a perceived bad review. (Candy Blog has been around longer than Twitter or the use of Facebook by companies.) The comments that followed, some apparently arriving via her tweet link, were clear, cogent and both positive about the product itself and negative. Some were from regular readers of my blog, some were not people who had commented before.
As if the comments and the initial posts on Twitter weren’t bad enough, the train wreck continued as she engaged the Candy Blog followers.
You can reread the whole thing here as a screengrab of the Twitter conversations.
My followers started checking out what @GoMaxGoFoods was saying and replied. @GoMaxGoFoods started replying to them, often insulting them and ranting about how someone who doesn’t like fake fur or fake meat shouldn’t be reviewing vegan candy.
And this one:
And the last one of note:
The strange part is that @GoMaxGoFoods had some interesting points hidden in those tweets and the comments.
I took issue with the use of mockolate (replacing cocoa butter with palm oil) for two reasons. One, mockolate doesn’t taste good. Two, palm oil isn’t forest-friendly - which is apparently something important to people who are vegans because they don’t believe in harming animals. (I don’t know how the health vegans feel.) Eventually she said that they used sustainably grown palm oil and that real chocolate made with rice milk was not stable enough to be used to cover candy bars. (I pointed out that if its sustainable palm oil, that should be noted on the website at the very least. She agreed.)
I did a little more reading on the company, most of what I found out that wasn’t quotes from their official website on blogs or webstores was from this article from the Daily Vanguard from November 2009. The founders of the company are noted as Scott Ostrander and Susan Francovig. The article says:
I guess she changed her mind about the nonvegans.
The stupid part was how fixated she was on my statement that I didn’t like faux fur or fake meat. I can only assume that she thought that meant that actually liked the real thing - which is quite clear to regular readers. I haven’t eaten red meat in 23 years. (No I am not currently a vegan, mostly because I like gummi bears and real cream caramels too much).
For the record, I’ve reviewed hundreds of candies that are considered vegan. I don’t treat them any different because they have special rules.
UPDATE 11/30/2012: Go Max Go is currently under recall in Canada due to some labeling issues. They use shared equipment with dairy products, yet advertise their products as dairy free. (More from Vancouver’s Straight.com.) The Go Max Go Twitter feed is again saying abusive things, this time to a customer (Meagan H) who said she had a reaction.
UPDATE 4/24/2013: The FDA announced a voluntary recall by Go Max Go for labeling issues.
Bars include: Snap!, Cleo’s, Jokerz, Twilight, Buccaneer, Mahalo and Thumbs Up.
The issue comes down to the front of package saying that the products are dairy free, but the actual products are made on shared equipment with dairy products, so it is possible they could contain traces of dairy. That is labeled on the back of the package underneath the ingredients list, at least the ones that I’ve seen.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I’ve been cruising around old issues of Life Magazine in search of confectionery-themed morsels that might give me a glimpse into how candy was regarded in our culture in the past. I found this one and thought I’d share it.
The Licorice Lira Problem by Dora Jane Hamblin from LIFE magazine November 26, 1971
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Here are the nuts I prefer, based on eating them whole or in other foods. (Nut butters are a whole other thing.) I’ve included seeds and legumes as well.
(I’m allergic to Walnuts.)
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I don’t often worry about my perparedness in an emergency. I think I could live for at least a week off of what’s in my office.
Here’s what’s on my desk (not in my desk, just on the surface):
1. Cheez-It (with special offer for Star Trek Captain’s Tee)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Here’s how I use Twitter. No, this isn’t a guide on how everyone uses it, or what it was designed for, but here’s what I’m doing:
If you follow me you’ll find that I update about three to four times a day. I try to make a mix of personal stuff such as new candy I’ve picked up, whale watch results, photo shoot updates, other oddities along with links I’d like to recommend and any official Candy Blog status updates. (Here’s the most recent Follow Cost - at this writing I’m an awesome mix of replies, not too many tweets and full tweets.)
What you won’t find is an auto-feed of new blog posts. I don’t do that. If you want a notification of a new post on Candy Blog, just use the RSS feed.
I follow what interests me. I don’t follow you just because you follow me, just like I don’t read the blog of every Candy Blog visitor. No offense, but I have a pretty narrow (but eclectic) bunch of interests. I’d like to keep Twitter relevant to those. And I’d like to be a good follower to those whom I follow.
I do look at everyone who follows me and it’s entirely possible that I’ve added you to my feed reader based on you following me ... at the very least I visited your site based on your follow.
For the most part, I see all replies (though that all depends on Twitter showing them to me). I don’t always respond, but please know that I read them and probably enjoyed them. By the same token, if I reply to you, I don’t need a special reply back unless it’s necessary by the conversation.
I don’t follow auto feeds of new blog posts if that’s all the Twitter timeline reflects. (Chances are I’m already following your RSS - I have about a thousand in my various readers & notifiers and if they’re not in there I also get keyword notifiers from Google & Technorati for those times when you blog about something I am interested in.)
I don’t follow people who update too often. I know it sounds weird, but I use Twitter exclusively via the web. I don’t want to come to the page and see it dominated by one person. I go to Twitter for little droplets, not a stream.
When I read I start at the most recent post and go backwards until I reach the spot where I last visited.
I don’t follow people who use serial posts like they’re paragraphs in a blog post. If your thought takes more than two consecutive Twitters, please make a blog post & put up a link to it.
I don’t follow people whose streams are requests for me to retweet everything they say or requests for my help in getting them followers. I see no point in following a person who offers nothing but empty promotion (when the entire stream is nothing but follower building without offering any content worthy of reading).
I don’t follow people who live-Twitter events. I know Twitter is great for telling your friends what seat you’re in at that seminar, or letting us all know how you feel about a TV show as it’s broadcast, but I’ll probably unfollow you, at least for the duration of the event.
I follow & unfollow some people, as the above dictates apply and then don’t. Some people I never follow, only view their page via the web ... I just can’t handle the load (which explains how I might be retweeting (RT) or responding to you).
Don’t follow me just so I’ll follow you back. I don’t think Twitter is that kind of social media. Either you’re interested in me & what’s going on behind the scenes at Candy Blog, or you’re not. It’s not that big of a deal to me. I’m not out here to be the most popular ... I’m just out here being my real self, I’m not trying to prove anything.
You might want to fill in your profile and make a few posts before following others. If I come to your page and there’s nothing there, well, I’m not much of a gambler and I won’t follow. However, I might give it another look-see if I get a reply on something I’ve posted or catch a RT.
I rarely request to follow people who have a private Twitter feed unless I know them in real life. You might have something interesting in there, but part of me respects your privacy.
I don’t believe in publicly shaming people or calling them out on the their Twitter habits. It’s a tool. Some folks use blog software for stuff that isn’t blogs, I’ve seen some amazing uses for blenders that don’t involve food ... some people use Twitter for stuff that isn’t really Twitter-like. Sometimes I wish the whole stats feature of Twitter wasn’t front and center on everyone’s profile so people could simply enjoy the actual content that flows before them.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Back in June I was contacted by Norm Kern. He’d read The Redeemer (via Playscripts) and was interested in producing it as an audio play.
Oddly enough I’d often thought about how well this particular play of mine would do as a radio play. And the play has always been very well recieved in readings. It plays with the imagination, that so much of it has to take place in the audience’s head that it was ideal.
It all happened very quickly. A week of rehearsal in July and then the full day of recording. A month or more of post production with full sound design and original music. I went back for the final mix and to record a talk with the author (hey, there are two CDs, may was well fill them up!).
It’s available now directly through Crazy Dream Sound (you can listen to the first scene as a sample).
Directed by Norman Kern, starring Anna Bullard and Darren Bridgett.
Produced by Aifen Wang, original score by G.D. French & Norman Kern. Production assistants were Stephen Gozza and Deborah Taylor Barrera.
Original painting by Sally Ann Rodriguez & package design by Eric Akeson.
This production is the first of many that Crazy Dream Sound is planning and I think this is a fabulous direction for American theatre to go. There’s been a huge resurgence in interest in audio, and this sort of top quality production is going to set the bar very high.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Yeah, it’s that time of year again! That time of year where I post idiotic lists of numbers in an attempt to quantify the perfect writing conditions. This is the fifth year of my 15 minute record of my writing.
The novel at the moment is called The Retaining Wall and is based loosely on some of the events in The Redeemer, my play. I’m hoping that this work will either inform the next play I’m going to write, or just become a decent novel by the end of the month.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The traffic on Candy Blog doubled.
My web host handled the increase in web traffic admirably.
I got many nice emails & comments.
I was interviewed by my “hometown newspaper”. The story became the front page story on the following day.
I got at least a dozen emails suggesting I try alternative chocolate products. Nine of those suggestions were for the same product, which makes it sound like there are some very passionate people out there about high-antioxidant chocolate.
Strangers now know how to pronounce my name.
The sweater I bought to wear for the piece is now known as The Purple Today Show Sweater.
(I was honestly in a bit of a panic about it after I did the interview. Perhaps I watch too much of The Daily Show & Colbert Report, but I could see how they could edit the piece together to make me look like some obsessed nutjob.)
Friday, September 05, 2008
Earlier this year I tried to do a cute story for Candy Blog on the presidential candidates’ favorite candies. I contacted all the candidates (via email for the most part) through their press contacts and requested the information. Yes, I approached them not as a supporter but as a person doing a story.
In some instances I got a reply. In other instances I was subscribed to email newsletters as if I was interested in voting for them or donating money. The worst was the Obama campaign, which not only had trouble getting me off their email lists, they also started calling me. (I gave them my cell number, because, well, I was contacting their press office and thought that my question was legitimate - not something they’d just filter into their fundraising queue.)
The oddest part was last night, however, when I got an email from John McCain that said that he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president. (And asked me to donate ... maybe some other stuff, I didn’t read it, I just skipped to the bottom to unsubscribe.)
I am a McCain Supporter but don’t wish to be contacted until closer to the election.
I am a McCain Supporter but I am receiving too many emails. Please only send me newsletters and urgent alerts.
I am a McCain Supporter but do not wish to receive email any longer.
I am no longer a McCain Supporter and want to be taken off the email list.
Two of those aren’t even unsubscribe options, they’re “less subscribe” options.
Anyway, as I was never a McCain Supporter (and never opted into their email system) I didn’t pick from the list, merely stated in the optional comments box that I never subscribed to this list and hit unsubscribe.
The form bounced back with a red error message: Reason Required (go ahead and make jokes about politics and how reason is even present in much of the presidential race).
How can I tell the man who might be president a lie just to get off of an email list? I am not and have never been a McCain Supporter ... how can I select a reason from their list that’s accurate? I want to unsubscribe because I’m not a McCain supporter. Not only that, I never subscribed and I don’t have to give a reason for requesting to be removed.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I sent Hershey’s an email via their web request form on Monday looking for the ingredients for the Krackel Bar, which is part of the Miniatures assortment. (They stopped making the full sized bars in 2006.)
I emailed them because I didn’t really want to transcribe the list on the phone. Let them do the typing.
Instead of sending it to me in the response, they replied with a case number and told me to call them during business hours (9-4 Eastern) to get my answers.
Okay, I called this morning and gave the representative my case number and she read back my request: What are the ingredients in the Krackel bar. The ingredients list on the Miniatures bag lists them all together and I want to know just what’s in that bar.
She asked me why I want to know.
I stammered that I wanted to know what I’m eating.
She asked if it was an allergy issue.
I replied that I wanted to know what was in that bar. If I ate only that bar, what would I be eating? (The package does say “something for everyone” so Hershey’s understands that sometimes people just pick through and eat only one variety.)
She said she did not have that information. It doesn’t exist in her records. If she wanted she could escalate me to a supervisor, but they had only the same info that she does.
That seemed pretty useless.
She asked if I wanted to be transfered. I said no, if they were comfortable with me publishing that they are unable to give me the ingredients for that bar, then I think we were done.
So there it is, no way for you to know what’s in a Krackel. Well, there’s a long list on the back of the package of what could be in a Krackel. So as long as you’re comfortable with some combination of those ingredients, go ahead and enjoy.
UPDATE 8/22/2008: I got another email from Hershey’s and it said this:
However, if you read the ingredients on the Hershey’s Miniatures package, it includes the ingredients for all four mini bars combined. It goes like this:
Based on what I know of the Mr. Goodbar’s ingredients, which is also a mockolate bar (Sugar, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, salt, vanillin.) and the last known ingredients of the true Krackel I’ve extrapolated the following as the likely ingredients of Krackel:
If you’re going to give someone a bag of candy with the motto of “A Little Something For Everyone” you should be prepared that folks are not only going to have a favorite, but they might actually eat ONLY that one and they might want to know what’s in just that individually wrapped candy. That candy that says on the wrapper nutrition information 1-800-468-1714 ... which they also cannot provide separately.
But really I don’t think that it’s because the “recipe is proprietary” (believe me, I don’t wanna make these at home), it’s because they’re ashamed.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
I got my car washed yesterday, mostly in an attempt to get rid of the bird crap crusted on the front of the car from the Santa Barbara trip. (Note to self: while parking under a tree might seem like a good idea at the marina, it’s really just a roosting place for gulls.)
Since there was a line, I sat at the little input system long enough to really look at it this time.
The price of all washes ends in 99 cents. I pay at the pump with my gas purchase, so I just input my little code and go. But if you decide to purchase the wash here you have the choice of inputting only 1 or 5 dollar bills or quarters ... in any combination. Now I’m no math whiz but I can tell that there is no way to put in $6.99 with those as your sources. Not only that, the machine will not give change and doesn’t take cards of any kind.
So if you want to pay cash right there, let’s call it a one penny convenience fee. (I think the more convenient thing to do is to price the washes at $7.00, $8.00, $9.00 and $10.00 and have a clear conscience about your pinching of pennies.)
Oh, and the bird poop ... not really gone.
The Condor Express left a little late on July 26th, a calm Saturday morning. We waited about 10 minutes for the last pair of passengers that called ahead to say that they were running late. And run they did, across the parking lot of the Santa Barbara Marina to join the eager passengers already itching to get out to sea.
The water was calm and glassy as we left the harbor. It also seemed oddly empty. Besides the half a dozen California Sea Lions on the buoy, there were no bottlenose dolphins near the sand bar as have often sent us off on our deep channel voyages.
So we pressed on, heading straight towards Santa Cruz island and the famed Painted Cave.
Sure enough about 30 minutes into the trip with the continued glass calm waters were some common dolphins. It didn’t look like much of a group, perhaps 20 dolphins that appeared to be feeding. But as soon as we stopped, it became apparent that they were only a small part of a larger pod feeding in that area. About 300 or so, surfacing, milling about, diving and splashing. There were a few that we could spot zipping around near the boat, chasing fish up and out of the water on several occasions.
After delighting and interacting with them for at least a half an hour or literally running circles around them, we pushed on towards Santa Cruz Island.
As we could see the land off in the distance, I was talking to Bernardo Alps and we both turned to see a Minke Whale surfacing nearby. In my experience with Minkes (and one in nearly the same location last year) I figured that’d probably be the only look we’d get.
Instead this Minke surfaced again and again, in regular succession. Then turned back towards our boat, coming about thirty feet from us and turned upside down, pushed with its strong flukes and came up and out of the water for a moment. It looked a lot like those common dolphins chasing down bait fish earlier - only instead of being six feet long this one was about sixteen. (Still a very small specimen.) We got a good look at his white belly, striped flipper and even the narrow and pointy chin as he lifted it out when surfacing.
After a few more cycles another Minke surfaced nearby, much larger, and possibly the mother of our unusually exuberant one.
We pushed on to Santa Cruz Island to have a look at Painted Cave. It’s an interesting opportunity to look at the sea birds that skim the waters near the rocks and perch there.
Part of the reason for the early look at Painted Cave was the hope that the fog would burn off out in the Channel. Alas, little luck with that, so we pushed on, into the fog to see what we could see.
After putting a photographer on a research vessel from the University of Oregon, they told us of a blue whale in the area. Even though visibility was poor, probably not more than fifty feet, Captain Mat slowed the boat and ran in wide circles. Eventually someone heard one of the blows and there it was a huge blue whale. It was strong and much meatier/fatter than ones I’ve seen in past years.
For the next three or four hours the fog slowly fizzled away and we saw more and more blue whales. Most were in pairs and often we’d have four or five in view at any given moment. The UoO vessel was in sight most of the time as well, though we were rarely on the same whales.
Unfortunately I had a bout of motion sickness about the time we spotted the first whale which lasted for pretty much the whole afternoon. This leads to a lot of internal admonishments about bringing medicine or maybe just not going on the full day trips in the future. As the wind picked up though and the air cleared I felt much better and enjoyed our last few sightings. (Though I took fewer pictures towards the end.)
What’s become clear is that the Santa Barbara Channel has become host to a vigorous group of Blue Whales and the prospect of seeing other creatures like Minke and Humpback (none this time) and of course the many species of dolphins makes this a world class destination. Just 90 minutes from my house. Now I just need to conquer sea-sickness.
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.