Tuesday, January 27, 2015
There are a lot of people legitimately upset that they’re not going to be able to buy some candy that they like.
Hershey’s, which holds the exclusive rights to KitKat, Cadbury and Rolo in the United States, defended their trademark against LBB Imports (based in NJ) and Posh Nosh (based in CA) who were bringing in the UK versions of those bars. KitKat and Rolo are made by Nestle and Cadbury is now owned by Kraft/Mondelez. The importers have now agreed to stop selling those products in the US.
The items under contention include:
Fans of their favorite candy bars are vowing to #BoycottHershey. But it’s clear that they preferred something else before, that they were eschewing the US version of Cadbury chocolate for the UK version, so the threat is a little hollow. (Here’s my comparison of the two chocolates.)
The thing about trademark is that it has to be defended in order to be maintained. Unlike copyright, which you can selectively choose to defend, but it still applies, all trademark violations must be defended in order for the trademark to remain valid. Otherwise another company can point to a small infraction that the trademark holder ignored and say “why was that okay and this isn’t?” And Hershey’s did pretty much look the other way with the novelty flavor KitKat bars from around the world, even though they sell KitKat here in the United States.
Hershey’s successfully defended itself against a company in Colorado that was making marijuana-enhanced confections with novelty names similar to existing candy bars. In that case it could be that not only would Hershey’s be harmed by the perceived association with marijuana but also any instance of a child or less-than-sharp adult ingesting the candy might make Hershey’s culpable. It’s easy to make fun of it, if you look at the labels and say “no one would mistake those,” but it happens, I’ve grabbed the wrong candy bar at the store ... and I’m a candy blogger!
So, in order to win those cases, Hershey’s has to show that it has not abandoned its trademarks by defending them in all cases that come to its attention.
But Hershey’s is taking a pretty broad brush to this, and as I’ve pointed out before with their Malteser/Maltesers issue, I think some of it is pretty slimy.
Hershey’s has a clearly defined deal with Kraft/Mondelez to be the exclusive maker and seller of Cadbury in the United States. I think some of that is ignored for specialty items that have no like product. I see the Cadbury Roses at some import shops, which is probably against that deal, but does Hershey’s no harm because it doesn’t poach any existing sales of Hershey’s-made chocolate roses ... because Hershey’s doesn’t make any chocolate roses. But Hershey’s does sell Cadbury Creme Eggs. And for the record, the chocolate on the American Cadbury Creme eggs has no vegetable oil fillers in it. The UK version does (or did, I haven’t seen the new one).
Hershey’s also has a long-standing contract with Nestle (the deal was made with Rowntree-Mackintosh back in 1969 for Rolo and KitKat in 1970) to exclusively make the candy in the United States.
It’s easy to get all up in arms about Hershey’s and their lack of quality or decline in quality and then say that the stuff that they’re preventing from being imported is better. Honestly, I’ve had most of it and it’s all marginally decent stuff. The UK tends to use more cacao in their milk chocolate but then they allow up to 5% vegetable oil and sometimes whey. American milk chocolate often uses less cacao but all cocoa butter with no extra whey fillers. Some of Hershey’s items do use mockolate, but in the list of items under contention, they’re all real chocolate items. Do any taste great? That’s up to you. But calling Hershey’s mockokate when Cadbury’s also qualifies for the same moniker, well, that’s just silly.
It’s not silly to miss your favorite candy bar.
All these confectionery giants need to realize it’s a global economy and they can no longer keep the rest of the world out. America is not an island and if Hershey wants to be a world player in confectionery, it needs to play a internationally-focused branding game. Yorkie and the York Peppermint Pattie are completely different products and no one will confuse them. The KitKat bars, well, that’s a sticky wicket that should be worked out between Hershey’s and Nestle. The Mars Malteser and Hershey’s Maltesers problem is pretty thorny as well.
Consumers are caught in the middle. And there’s not likely to be a resolution until we have one global candy company ... which isn’t something I wish for. So, in the mean time, just go back to candy swaps.
So, do I hate Hershey’s for their behavior? No (except for the Maltesers thing.)
Will I miss those import products? Probably not. No offense, none of them were that good, but this is coming from someone who didn’t grow up with them. I understand that there’s a difference between good and comforting and comforting can be just as good as good.
Do I think the marketplace should be opened up? Yes, but that’s a far bigger problem than just a few competing candy bars and 50 year old licensing agreements.
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.)
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.
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.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
”Freestyle Snowmobile is like dressage with elephants.”
Photo: Trevor Brown, Jr. via X-Games
Thursday, January 10, 2008
I don’t know what sort of proof they want. Will they just take me at my word? Will I have to click something else later? How often will they check in with me.
If I check that, will facebook tell other people that I said that it was true?
This facebook world frightens and confused me .
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Twenty years ago this month I bought my first computer. It was a Tandy, model 1420LT. It was a laptop. It cost $1,600. Which was a lot of money back in 1987. A lot for me ... considering that I lived on about $5,000 a year while in college.
It wasn’t a great computer, but it served me well for five or six years. I ran a bootlegged copy of WordStar and wrote at least fifteen plays on it and my graduate thesis.
It was supposedly a laptop, but it rarely left my desk. It weighed 14.7 pounds.
Since that time I’ve had two other computers that I’ve purchased for myself. My desktop, which was a refurb from Dell, and then five years ago I bought my second laptop, they one I’m typing this on right now.
Today I bought a new laptop online at Dell. The model? 1420. Yes, twenty years later and I’ve stumbled onto the same model number as my first laptop.
The biggest thing I did when purchasing this computer was opt for some style. My laptop has become an accessory, and since it is often found on my lap, I thought it should look good. I opted for an upgrade and chose a colored case ... “Espresso Brown”, which I’m hoping I can tell people is called “70% Cacao.”
Where my first laptop had 640K of ram (and only a dual disk drive, no hard drive), this one has 2 gigs of ram. These sorts of advances don’t make my writing any better, but it sure helps with the digital photos. And of course I’m not bootlegging my software any longer.
Oh, and the price this time ... $1,600 (give or take a few). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I can’t tell you what sort of bullshit this is, but I’m going to try:
MySpace has removed all hotlinked photos and slideshows (delivered in flash) hosted at Photobucket because they contain (sometimes) paid advertising. The advertising in question is a teaser campaign from Spiderman III. Here’s a bit of the story from PCWorld:
Basically, only MySpace can junk up its pages with gratuitious advertising. MySpacers aren’t allowed to advertise other things. Well, they’re allowed to solicit sex and promote their albums and movies ... but they’re not allowed to hotlink to other advertisements.
My issue is that MySpace has been letting its users abuse my site for years. Yes, I’ve contacted them. I’ve contacted them. I’ve emailed them. I’ve even talked to folks I’ve met socially that work there. They don’t give a crap. It’s my problem their users don’t understand hotlinking is like making collect calls.
It turns out that it is possible to selectively block hotlinks from one domain. Halleluiah!
But now I discover that all I’d need to do is employ some .htaccess magic and have those thousands of hotlinked photos (yes, last month was 230,000 hotlink hits, the majority from MySpace according to the IP addresses logged) into some sort of ad that MySpace would feel threatened by. See, all this time I was thinking I had to put P()rn up there. Turns out that’s not what would catch their attention. Ads for, I dunno, something owned by some other media conglomerate might work.
Only problem is I can’t afford to host whatever image that might be (230,000 hits even at 10K each is kind of sizeable).
Wait a second ... I think I’m onto something here ...
I can sell the adspace! I can find someone who’d like their ad served up to 230,000 impressions in one month all over the web (though pretty much on MySpace).
The sale of that might cover the extra bandwidth I’d have to buy on my hosting plan.
So either I get my domain banned and don’t have to worry about bandwidth drains in the future ... or I make money with the ad impressions!
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The battery on my little LG phone has been behaving poorly, and since the phone and the replacement batteries are no longer made, I decided to get a new one. It’s been three years since I signed up with Verizon, so I qualified for their “new every two” program. I picked out a new phone on their website. It was supposed to be $150 but they gave me a $100 credit plus an additional $50 instant rebate.
I put the phone into my cart and went to check out. The total was $0.00.
I confirmed my billing address as my shipping address, gave them a phone number (it’s a fedex delivery) and hit purchase.
Then I got another screen that wanted a credit card. It said that I owed $0.00, but still wanted my credit card. Say what?
And why my credit card anyway, I’ve been paying my bill for three years ... we have a business relationship, they can send me a bill and all that.
I was frustrated. I didn’t want to somehow be charged for something else, and I don’t like putting my credit card into websites for things like “guaranteeing a reservation” or “trial offers.”
So I clicked on the little icon to talk to a Verizon Sales Rep.
Here’s my little ditty (this is the actual transcript I cut and pasted ... all names are real, or at least the ones really assigned within the chat window).
Chat InformationPlease wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!
At the end of the chat, sure enough, a little feedback window popped up. I gave them my comments as Alexander suggested:
So, I get to the end of this tale to say that yes, California does charge sales tax for the RETAIL VALUE of the phone. They say that this phone sells for $288.99 (yeah, right, I wouldn’t pay that much for it!).
I ended up owing some $23.92 bucks in tax. Whatever. The point is, why couldn’t they calculate that BEFORE I had to input my credit card, and why didn’t they mention that’s why they were asking for a credit card on a null total on the ACTUAL PAGE.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So I’m looking at my server stats this month (I’m close to my bandwidth max again). There are a few big bandwidth hogs on my site, one of the startling ones is search engine bots. At least three of them rack up over 1 gig in bandwidth every month. About 7 gigs total among them.
Another sobering thing in my stats are the number of hotlinks to Candy Blog. For March so far the tally is over 370,000 hotlink hits to typetive.com. Yeah, my site is popular, but I DO NOT have 370,000 visitors per month.
I do have an htaccess file that limits hotlinking, so the images don’t show up elsewhere (except for a few permitted sites like bloglines). But I know where my images are going ... they’re going to myspace and forum posts and other blogs.
I know how they get here too, they come via the Google Image Search. I tried a few different ways to foil this but still get the new traffic, but to no avail. Not only is it an issue of hotlinking, but the photos I’ve taken of candy are ending up in all sorts of places. It’s one thing to put a candy photo in your blog post on your site that gets a couple hundred hits a day. It’s another entirely to be an Amazon store or eBay auctioneer and take my photos to sell candy I’m not here for other people to make a profit. I’m not really interested in junking up my pretty photos with watermarks.
So, I’ve now forbidden Google Image Search. It took a while to get it going. I put in the appropriate info in my robots.txt file, but for three weeks I still saw the traffic (about 15-20% of those people who come to typetive.com come for the images). So yesterday I put in a prompt with Google to remove my site from the image search. As of this morning my site traffic is down by 15% and I haven’t noticed any referrers from Google Image Search.
I know it’s going to be a blow to my traffic. But I’m more interested in readers than traffic. I hope my readers feel the same way. I hope my advertisers feel the same way.
Monday, March 26, 2007
People say a lot of things about me. I write a blog and people talk about it sometimes on forums and chats and even other blogs. The say I have too much time on my hands.
It’s not like they say that just about the whole candy blogging thing. I see it in reference to many of the participants who write novels in November.
I see the same thing bandied about when people take on quirky challenges, like walking the full length of a street, like Sunset Blvd. or when they create new and wondrous expressions of art.
“That person looks like they have too much time on their hands!” They chortle, as if it’s an insult.
Of course I don’t have too much time on my hands. I have a full time job. And a couple of part time jobs. And volunteer gigs. And blogs. I still manage to watch the FDA recommended doses of television. I travel. I have friends. I brush my teeth and manage my personal hygiene. In fact, I have a huge list of things I want to do!
I don’t know if this statement of other people “having too much time on their hands” is somehow supposed to make that person feel better about their lack of productivity or to make us sit down and stop being active and provocative. Yes, some of the stuff I create with my productiveness is useless and probably even counterproductive. But I’m exploring my world. I’m living in it. I’m not sitting around commenting on the worthiness of other people’s pursuits. (Unless their pursuit happens to be going around declaring how much time on ones hands is too much.)
Friday, January 26, 2007
I just thought I’d share my latest experience with Candy Blog content being “stolen.”
I found, purely by accident, that Candy Blog posts were being republished in their entirety on another blog called simply “World Food” (I’m not going to give you the URL). My posts were in there among other food blogger posts about things like fruit, recipes and personal food experiences. I counted three other victims of this scraper blog.
The amalgam blog had no contact info, no advertising, no real purpose as far as I could tell, expect perhaps to buoy the entire domain in some way with content that search engine bots would find.
I did a domain search and located the owner of the domain and sent an email. Surprise, it bounced.
So I did a search for who hosted the domain and sent an email to the host at the “abuse” email address listed on the lame-ass site. That bounced. So I sent another set of emails to all the other email addresses listed on the site (sales! support! tech! help!). No response, but at least no bounces.
I also contacted Feedburner, who burns the Candy Blog feed with their service (basically they take my single feed and convert it to just about all the common feed formats). They said they were unable to discretely block a single user even if we knew what IP they were from.
After no response I started doing some more digging and came across the excellent blog resource called PlagiarismToday.com. Jonathan just so happened to be writing about Feedburner feeds.
With some more digging and some assistance from him we tracked down the actual host (the host I contacted was actually a reseller of hosting plans) and I sent out some more emails. No response so with Jonathan’s help I also sent out official DMCA notices to the host via email and fax.
Lo and behold a few days later I got a brief email back from the host saying that they removed the domain from their servers.
I know some people say that I should be flattered that people are taking my content. But I don’t think I should be flattered. They’re not taking it becuase it’s good or they like it, they’re taking it because it fills up their site with content with lots of keywords that people search for. There are lots of sites that republish digests of my feed and I have no problem with that. But when they take the whole thing (including photos) with no link back to the site, claim they wrote it and are republishing it under a CC free-for-all license, I have a problem.
Now if I could just solve my hotlinking problem.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
GreenLAGirl tagged me with this meme: 5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me.
As I’m not sure who reads FastFiction, I’ll just go with some obscure things:
1. My nickname in my family when I was a kid was Bill.
2. I rode a camel once, in Tunisia.
3. I haven’t ridden a horse since I was thrown when I was six.
4. I had only three wisdom teeth, not the usual four. All have been removed.
5. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 11 years old, but three years later I joined the high school swim team when I was a freshman.
I’m not tagging anyone.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
When I was pulling my FAQ for Candy Blog together, it seemed that some of my readers think that I’m a top blogger and I might have some authority on the subject.
Well, I’m not so sure about that, but I’ve certainly learned a lot through trial and error over the years, enough to share some of that with others. So here are a few of my thoughts in a series that I’ll post over the next week or so.
Stake out a Little Corner
The following are some technology basics that you should keep in mind when setting up your blog.
Next week I’ll talk about Layout and Templates.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
So last night I was sitting on the couch enjoying some Prik King from Rambutan Thai and watching the premiere of 30 Rock.
My laptop was on the dining room table, plugged in, but with the battery removed.
We’re watching TV and the damn thing made that loud pop again! The battery isn’t even in the same room, so it’s not the battery. Something’s seriously wrong with it. It still works, doesn’t feel unusually warm to the touch. But a loud pop is not a good sound.
I don’t know if it’s going to make it through this NaNoWriMo and the sad thing is that even my desktop computer isn’t working anymore (no strange sounds of that because I can’t even get it to boot). I’m in bad shape. Bad, bad shape.
(See previously Not a sound you want to hear from your computer.)
Friday, September 22, 2006
I was reading Wil Wheaton earlier about meeting Larry Niven (author of Ringworld). It got me to thinking (which I commented there about) that I’ve always thought that the whole super powers thing is all wrong.
A really powerful superhero would have special powers like the power to make people laugh.
Think about the different in how much work it takes to hurt someone ... any old schmo can do it. It doesn’t even take a weapon or super powers. Sure, you can hurt someone MORE with more power, but really, how much hurtin’ does one person need?
Then think how rare and powerful laughter is.
Or the power to make someone feel good about themselves.
The power of pleasure.
The power of contentment.
The power of just seeing someone else’s side for a moment.
The sad thing is that most of these are not super powers, just rare powers. Undervalued powers.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
So, today I decided to tackle the stains on the upholstery in the living room. We have a little carpet cleaner thingy that we got when we adopted Becky which works well for cleaning up all sorts of her messes. So I went to work with the noisy machine on her chair, to make it at least acceptable for company.
While I’m cleaning away, I glance over at the dog, who looks most unhappy about me taking over her chair and making it all fresh smelling. As I back up to examine my progress, I look down at her feet and see what she’s unhappy about. Three different piles of fresh vomit on the living room rug.
Being an optomistic person, I think that this is my lucky day! I can suck that sick right up! No worries about that leaving a stain.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Last night I bought a bike.
Part of my hesitation about biking in LA is that I’m afraid of being hit by a car. But the new trendiness of biking, I think, is helping to increase awareness of bikers as part of the normal flow of traffic.
The other thing that’s kept me from buying a bike is that freakishly steep hill that I live on. So, as a compromise, I bought a starter bike. If it doesn’t work out, you might see a craigslist link posted here very soon. But if it does work out, you also might see a craigslist post here very soon as I upgrade!
Actually, if this one works out okay I’ll probably trick it out with some fenders (since I’ll be commuting), a pannier or saddlebags, a kickstand (because I don’t like leaning my bike on stuff) and maybe one of those tall flags (I can get it custom printed with the candy blog logo!).
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Contrary to what many googlers must think, Candy Blog is not a store.
I do not sell anything.
I am not a candy company.
I do not have a catalog.
Please don’t send me your address.
Please do not try to place orders.
Please don’t ask me about gluten or manfucturing procedures.
While we’re at it, I have no need for your tin manufacturing facilities in China nor your wonderful processed coconut products from Thailand.
I know that this series of statements may cut down on the amount of email I get ... well, so be it.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
I wasn’t planning on doing a top ten list or any resolutions.
But here’s a review of the great things that happened (or I made happen) in 2005:
• I saw a blue whale, the largest animal on earth.
• I saw thousands of common dolphins off of the Southern California Coast
• I saw a dozen Pacific Gray Whales
• I saw Elephant Seals in San Simeon (okay, I’ve seen those before, but they were very active this time)
• I went to three weddings (okay, one was a reception): Will & Susan, Laura & Frank and Laura & Terry
• I visited three candy factories: Jelly Belly, Scharffen Berger & Harry London Chocolates
• I had Jury Duty at Los Angeles Superior Court. I served my one day where I was put on one panel and was dismissed when they got what they needed then dismissed at the end of the day when I didn’t make it on any other panels.
• I wrote my fifth novel (I’ve now written over 250,000 words of fiction in the past five years)
• I took over 10,000 photos, probably 5,000 of them of candy (but only about 500 of them were good)
• I started a new play based on my 2004 novel, An Alphabetical Order. It still needs work and a third act, but it’s the first new thing I’ve started in over five years, so it’s progress.
• I started a new blog and have reviewed over 250 candies.
• I moved FastFiction and am starting a subsite for my playwriting.
Next year I plan to travel more, Chicago for the All Candy Expo, a trip to New York City, a vacation or two, a visit to the family back east and of course more whalewatching trips. Another novel, finish the current play maybe write a non-fiction book about candy (well, you knew that was coming, right?). It’s an exciting time.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I had a dream last night with George Clooney in it.
It’s not what you think (unless you have an imagination as strange as my dreams).
I was at work. Not the place I work now, someplace with a long rambling building that was very white and bright and had lots of cubicles.
I was visited by Mr. Clooney, who said he was filling in at the HR department and that he wanted to talk to me about my 401k plans and any rollovers I might make should I change companies. We talked a bit about the options and he decided that I was handling my portfolio well and was happy to hear that I was taking full advantage of the company benefits pacakge.
Then I asked him why he was working for the HR department, and he said it was something he liked to do every once in a while. Then he gave me his card, which looked like something he fished out of the trash and was for a tire store. But he took it back and wrote in his real contact info and said, “I go by the name Lori, just so you know.”
He handed the card back to me, which I put in a drawer and then thanked him.
The dream went on. But that was the most interesting part. If you could call it that.
Friday, October 14, 2005
I guess there are some accepted principles in blogging. One is that you don’t change your posts, but rather add to them or show changes. I do this (though if I just published, and haven’t pinged, I will make changes and if I find that an image messes up the layout, I’ll move it, but that doesn’t change the content).
The second is you don’t delete valid comments. It’s odd but the only place I’ve been tempted to delete comments (besides blogging.la) is on Candy Blog when I’ve had a few WTF? comments that were out of line (after all, it’s candy, not politics). Of course Fast Fiction is hardly visited let alone well traveled.
Here’s where things have suddenly gone off the deep end:
If you read my previous post about Steve Almond’s piece on Salon about his encounter with literary blogger Mark Sarvas, then you may have visited Mark’s post in response.
When I first saw his post, it had 6 comments. I went to bed, the next day it had 20 comments and the commenting had been closed, because Mark said that he was not willing to moderate comments during Yom Kippur (totally cool, in my book, you can always unlock comments later). But now ALL COMMENTS have disappeared. They were there yesterday, including the 20th comment which was Mark’s point by point refutation of Steve’s article.
Okay, I know it’s Mark’s blog, but there’s a contract that you make with your readers. That if you have comments then you accept comments under whatever terms you set up. (Yeah, yeah, no spam, no off topic, no linking to porn, whatever you want your rules to be.) You can close them, I really don’t think it was out of line, but deleting is just plain heresy. This reeks of inexperience or worse, fear. I hope that Mark made some mistake during his blog maintanence and deleted the comment thread instead of actually pulling all of them, including his own. The rule is if you say it, stand behind it. If you want to retract it, don’t erase it.
But here I am, dispensing blog advice. The girl with the blog that gets barely 30 hits a day. But I’d hope that should I end up with a thousand-fold of hits and comments, I’d still behave the same way.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I was reading Salon.com this evening and saw the most fascinating article featured on the front.
What gets the story into true weirdness-mode is the blogger he’s referring to in the article ... Mark Sarvas. You know, the guy who writes The Elegant Variation. Okay, you may not read his blog. Actually, I don’t read his blog. He has one of those blogs that as a writer I feel like I should be reading, but I just can’t. It’s not that I don’t read much fiction, but I can’t stand his writing style. The imperial we, the distancing ... gah.
When I worked in development (not the money raising kind, the reading scripts for movies kind) I read a lot of screenplays and a goodly number of novels, manuscripts and plays. I also met a lot of writers. Eventually I found that I could tell how mentally stable a person was by their text, even their neuroses if I read more than one work.
I’m not saying that Mark Sarvas is nuts, because I don’t think he is. He’s actually very sweet. I met him before he started his literary blog, back in ‘03 when we were ramping up for National Novel Writing Month. He and I exchanged emails and he came to our kick-off party and though he wasn’t going to be noveling with us, he donated three functional laptops to the cause.
But something has always put me at a distance from his writing, so I might look at the blog, but I rarely read it, because I can’t.
Anyway, back to the article - it’s basically about Steve and Mark finding themselves on the same reading panel at the Writer’s Faire. And of course Steve documents all the intricacies of his devilish mind, because that’s what writers do, they open themselves up to us, whether as themselves or through their characters. It’s risky business and neither Mark nor Steve look like sweet-smelling roses at the end of this. But I was able to read Steve’s account of it and enjoy it. Mark’s ... well, not so much. I see Mark has already posted a response.
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.