Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hershey’s Spat with UK Imports

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:
Nestle Toffee Crisp (too close in appearance to the Reese’s Crisp bar wrapper)
Nestle Yorkie Bar (too close in name to the exclusive trademark for York in the US by Hershey’s)
Nestle Rolo (same product as Hershey’s Rolo)
Nestle KitKat (same product as Hershey’s KitKat)
Cadbury Chocolate products (same product brand as Hershey’s exclusive deal to supply Cadbury in the US with Mondelez)
Mars Maltesers (too similar in package and product to Hershey’s Malteser)

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:51 pm     Curious News

Sunday, November 07, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

imageScript Mill

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:57 am     NaNoWriMo

Thursday, April 15, 2010

According to Google, Candy Blog reviews are not news

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:


We reviewed http://www.typetive.com/candyblog  but can’t add it to Google News because we currently only include sites with news articles that report on recent events. We appreciate your suggestion and will log the site for consideration should our guidelines change.


Thank you for your note and for providing us with this information about your site. We’ve reviewed http://www.candyblog.net again but can’t include it in Google News at this time. We don’t include sites that are written and maintained by individuals. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us and will log your site for consideration should our requirements change.


Thank you for your note. We’ve reviewed your site but are unable to include it in Google News at this time. We don’t include sites that are written and maintained by one individual. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us and will log your site for consideration should our requirements change.


Thank you for your note. We reviewed http://www.typetive.com/candyblog  and are unable to include it in Google News at this time. We don’t include sites that are written and maintained by one individual. When we visited your site we were only able to find articles written by one author. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us and will log your site for consideration should our requirements change.


Thank you for your note. We reviewed your site and are unable to include it in Google News at this time. We don’t include sites that are written and maintained by one individual. We currently only include articles from sources that could be considered organizations, generally characterized by multiple writers and editors, availability of organizational information, and accessible contact information. When we reviewed your site we weren’t able to find this evidence of an organization.


We reviewed your site and are unable to include it in Google News at this time. We currently only include sites with news articles that provide timely reporting on recent events. This means we don’t include informational and how-to articles, classified ads, job postings, fictitious content, event announcements or advice columns. We appreciate your suggestion and will log your site for consideration should our guidelines change in the future.

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:40 am     Curious News

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some things about Beckett

beckettBeckett weighed 20 pounds when we got her at the Beagles & Buddies Rescue on Labor Day weekend 1994. For most of the rest of her life she weighed about 40.

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.

DSC04001rIn 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.

DSC09799Beckett loved to go in the car.

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.

beckett003Beckett 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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:41 pm     Curious News

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Go Max Go! Use Twitter to Ruin Your Brand Equity!

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):

success! thousands of VEGANS and NON VEGANS love the bars…your attachment to all things murder (fur, meat, milk) renders your opinion of any vegan product as useless.  i think our vegan community will agree with me when i say “you suck”.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 12:38 pm

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.

how cool! a carnivore who hates everything vegan reviewing our bars. so glad you find them distasteful…we’ll chalk that up to a win. by the by, dark chocolate makes us yawn which is why we went with rice (not mucus milk) chocolate.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 12:55 pm

(link to Buccaneer review.)

how long did it take you to let the candy bars melt, get mashed and mangled, before taking the pix?  by the way…..dark chocolate is as boring as your blog.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 1:16 pm

(link to Twilight review.)

wow! you got both your friends to write comments on your blog. congrats! if you were vegan (or intelligent) you might count, but….meh.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 1:04 pm

(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:

GoMaxGoFoods: @candyblog your reviews are laughable. you hate all things ‘fake’ like mock meat,fur,etc…so does ur review of r bars count? nah. #vegan (permalink)

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:

candyblog: Oh dear, I’ve upset a candy maker. http://twitter.com/GoMaxGoFoods/status/9696262956 (permalink)

Within that time she posted two more times on Twitter, this time not replies but original tweets with links to my reviews:

GoMaxGoFoods: go max go haters! read this & have ur say (p.s. they ain’t vegan) http://www.candyblog.net/blog/category/gomaxgo/ #vegan #dairy free (permalink)

GoMaxGoFoods: anti vegan “wheys” in on go max go: http://www.candyblog.net/blog/category/gomaxgo/ #vegan #vegetarian #dairy free (permalink)

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.

Choice comments:

the_real_k10: @candyblog….sounds like they are a little bitter party of one..

GoMaxGoFoods: @the_real_k10 bitter? hardly. there are thousands of people enjoying a dairyfree, cruelty free product that we created. what have u done?

the_real_k10:  @GoMaxGoFoods…FYI I work with children with Autism everyday so don’t try to get on a pedestal about making candy….

And this one:

phearlez: Wow, does abuse and insult really make people want to do business with @gomaxgofoods? Hard to understand running a business that way.

phearlez: @GoMaxGoFoods resisting the urge to use the word “idiot” is dumbing down 4 dollars? Your mom must be so proud of how polite you turned out

Go Max Go Foods:@phearlez why don’t you take that pot off your head and air out your brain. yes, my mom loves me! sounds like u have some mommy issues tho

And the last one of note:

edenza: @candyblog If it looks bad, tastes bad, has bad packaging… how dare you say it’s bad! ; ) It’s fake chocolate by definition. What dorks.

GoMaxGoFoods: @edenza with an avatar like that you have the nerve to call anyone a dork?

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:

“People have the wrong idea of vegan food, those who haven’t explored it,” Francovig said. “We wanted to show people that we are multilayered just like everyone else. We wanted the bars to have a retro and fun look to attract the nonvegan consumer.”

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.

April 22, 2013 — Go Max Go Foods LLC, announces that it has taken the precautionary measure of voluntarily withdrawing a limited quantity of vegan candy bar products. These products contain the following statement on the front label: “dairy-free”, which may lead to confusion for people who have allergies to milk products. People who have severe sensitivity or allergies to milk may run the risk of a serious or lifethreatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:00 pm     Curious News

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Candy as Currency

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

At the heart of the matter is an acute shortage of the small five- and ten-lira coins needed to make change. It is not a big deal: the five-lira piece is worth about one-third of a U.S. cent, the ten-lira piece about two-thirds. But shopkeepers never seem to have any, and they have evolved a system of handing out candy in lieu of small coins. (The post office has its own system, doling out utterly useless but quite beautiful stamps for change.) A square of hard licorice, hygienically wrapped in its own bit of paper, serves for five lire in most stores, and a creamy caramel or a piece of what tastes and crunches like sweetened limestone does for the ten-lira piece. Really grand stores have big glass bowls of assorted candies, marked clearly with the price per piece, and the customer can take his choice.

Read the whole piece here

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:22 pm     Curious News

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Ranking of Nuts by Preference

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.
Robitaille's Dark Chocolate Turtle
1. Pecans
2. Cashews
3. Hazelnuts
4. Almonds
5. Pistachio
6. Pine Nuts
7. Peanuts
8. Pepitas or Pumpkin Seeds
8. Sesame Seeds
8. Macadamia Nuts
9. Brazil Nuts

(I’m allergic to Walnuts.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:38 am     Curious News

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Consumables on My Desk

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)
2. Tropical Dots
3. Tropical Razzles
4. Tropical Now and Later
5. Island Fruits LifeSavers Gummis
6. Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies
7. Wonka Everlasting Gobstoppers
8. Chewy Sour Extinguishers (Sour Fruits)
9. Chewy Sour Extinguishers (Citrus)
10. York Mints
11. Brach’s Indulge Cookie Nibbles
12. Brach’s Indulge Caramel Almond Escape
13. Brach’s Indulge Coconut Almond Espcape
14. Brach’s Indulge Chocolate Cashew Escape
15. Wonka Sluggles
16. Spearmint Leaves (Generic from Walgreen’s)
17. Gin-Gins Boost
18. Creme de Menthe Altoids
19. One Moser Roth Fine Truffle
20. Two sticks of Beemans gum
21. One Hershey’s Kiss (for reference, not consuming)
22. Jelly Belly Love Potion Jelly Bean Bottle (about eight left)
23. A tub containing 11 different gummi bear brands for the long overdue Gummi Bear Brand Battle

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:47 am    

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Guide for Twitter

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:28 am     Curious News

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Redeemer Available from Crazy Dream Sound

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.

See Theater Dog’s profile of the project.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:06 pm     Playwriting

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The New Novel: First Day

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.

time…...running tally….words…words/minute
6:15 PM…...514….......514…...34.26
6:30 PM…..1,001…......487…...32.47
6:45 PM…..1,526…......525…...35.00
7:00 PM…..2,073…......547…...36.47
7:15 PM…..2,665…......592…...39.47
7:30 PM…..3,361…......696…...46.40
7:45 PM…..4,169…......808…...53.87

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.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:54 pm    

Monday, September 22, 2008

Things that happen after you’re on the the Today show

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.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:20 am     Curious News

Friday, September 05, 2008

I Can’t Deny My Support for McCain (at least not to get off their mailing list)

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 clicked the unsubscribe link and was taken to this page.

  • 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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:50 am     Curious News

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    How Not To Conduct Customer Service

    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:

    Thank you for contacting us about HERSHEY’S MINIATURES chocolate bars and your question regarding the KRACKEL bar which is part of the assortment.

    Our Nutrition Department personnel reviewed your contact and confirmed that all of the ingredients contained in the KRACKEL bar are listed on the label of the HERSHEY’S MINIATURES chocolate bars. The KRACKEL bar is currently not sold individually and is only produced as part of the assortment. The recipe for this bar is proprietary and cannot be shared.

    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:

    Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), crisp rice, contains 2% or less of: lactose, nonfat milk, milk fat, cocoa processed with alkali, whey, soy lecithin, PGPR, salt, malt, vanillin.

    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:

    Sugar, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, crisped rice, salt, malt, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin.

    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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:03 am     Curious News

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    Is not giving change illegal?

    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.)

    Sunset Shell Car Wash - (Sunset & Wilton)

    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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:29 am     Curious News

    Blue Whale Adventure

    Dolphins!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.

    Mama and baby dolphinOthers were cow/calf pairs. Some of the babies (sometimes called footballs) weren’t more than a week or two old, still almost all gray and with slack skin that needed filling out with rich milk.

    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.

    Whale Watchers aboard the Condor ExpressWe continued to spot dolphins for pretty much the rest of the voyage, sometimes stopping for a few minutes to enjoy them.

    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.

    Blue Whale TailFor 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.
    More photos here.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:32 am     Whale Watching

    Monday, March 24, 2008

    Really, I don’t make this candy

    As is always the way after a major candy holiday, the emails have started.

    Most are complaints or specific comments about products:

    I purchased four 375 g containers of the Hazelnut Chocolate for my kids for Easter. Two of the containers had 30 chocolates & two had 29.

    Is this normal?

    I don’t even know what that is!

    I’m not a store, I’m not a factory. I’ll do my best to help you, but please be specific. (“Can I still get the coconut creme eggs?” is not specific enough when that’s the entire email.)

    It’s not just me, there’s a good article at the Washington Post about the guy who owns donotreply.com.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:53 pm    

    Sunday, January 27, 2008

    My favorite thought of the day

    imageFreestyle Snowmobile is like dressage with elephants.

    Photo: Trevor Brown, Jr. via X-Games

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:52 pm     Curious News

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Please Confirm


    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 [1].

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:58 am     Curious News

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Fundraising for NaNoWriMo

    I’ve never actually talked much about the financing aspect of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I donate every year (even though I work for them, too), but I’ve never made an appeal on my blogs for others to donate.

    DSC04267rFor those of you not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo challenges ordinary mortals to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. No experience necessary! Tens of thousands of writers have not only participated since 1999 but dozens have also been published. The goal isn’t necessarily to get a book out in front of the public, but to start by getting it out of your head. 2007 marks my seventh year participating and will be my seventh novel.

    Why do I do it? It’s a great writing exercise. I’m always surprised at what I can come up with when an absurd deadline is put in front of me. I enjoy the socializing on the forums (which I moderate) and I love the thrill of watching other writers find out what they had inside them. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the website. Yes, those crazy internet people ended up being really nice in person!

    Here it is ... my appeal:

    Please support me in my goal to raise $500 for National Novel Writing Month by November 17th ... that’s the night of our first write-a-thon, called The Night of Writing Dangerously.

    You can donate by going to my fundraising page at FirstGiving, which operates as an intermediary to track donations made in my name. The money goes towards the program which is not only the website for adults to tackle that novel they’ve always wanted to write but also the Young Writers Project which creates in-school programs for students to tackle free-writing as part of their curriculum.

    For every $5 you donate via my FirstGiving page, I’ll enter you in my Limited Edition Candy Drawing! Just leave a comment here and I’ll hook it up with that drawing.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:59 am     NaNoWriMo

    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    A tale of two laptops

    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.

    imageSince 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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:02 am     Curious News

    Monday, July 30, 2007

    Blue Whales in Santa Barbara

    This was a fabulous trip for several reasons. We had lots of company (The Man’s brother, nephew and his girlfriend from Florida plus two friends from LA joined us). And of course the weather cooperated and we got to see some whales!

    First thing we saw were several small pods of Long Beaked Common Dolphins. What fun, they came along and swam with the boat for a while.

    The morning was rather gray and I was hoping it would burn off quickly. It was certainly not as dim as the previous trip, but still, as we got out to the prime Blue Whale zone, visibility at times wasn’t more than 500 yards.

    We did come upon a pair of blue whales though and this time in addition to taking photos, I tried for a little video (mostly because I think that’s the only way you can get the scale of these creatures).

    Later Captain Mat excited threw on the boat brakes to have a look at this. It’s a Basking Shark. The sharks themselves are probably rather common, but seeing them off of Santa Barbara and close to the surface like this is quite rare. The video isn’t that impressive, really, the distance between the dorsal fin and the waggling tail fin is probably 6-8 feet, so the shark is probably only about 12-16 feet. (They can grow to be 30 feet.)

    Most importantly we saw the blue whales so clearly, following along with the first pair for quite a while.

    Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Short Beaked Common Dolphins Short Beaked Common Dolphin Basking Shark Basking Shark Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Common Dolphin out of the water Short Beaked Common Dolphin

    I was very, very tired when we were done, but of course I want to do it again. No new species to add to my list of cetaceans, but the basking shark was certainly special.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:57 pm     Whale Watching

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    I’ve got an idea forming in my head

    I haven’t been working very hard on coming up with something for Script Frenzy. I know I don’t usually work very hard at NaNoWriMo, but with plays I actually think A LOT about what it’s going to be ahead of time.

    At first I was going to do my tornado/miracle play. (Don’t ask.) It’s not really a work in progress, as I’ve never typed any of it up, just a few notes I wrote to myself on an airplane a few years ago in a notebook I don’t think I have any longer.

    This play is inspired by this article in the NY Times: Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline by William Yardley.

    But that’s just what inspired it. I have no idea what it’s going to be about, I just thought there was a whole play right here:

    “I don’t want to live in permafrost no more,” said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother’s house. “It’s too muddy. Everything is crooked around here.”

    I’m planning on setting the play in another village that was just mentioned in the article called Shishmaref because it’s on the Chukchi sea, which is the summer ground of the Gray Whale. (See how all these things come together?)

    I’m starting on Saturday!

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:04 pm     ScriptFrenzy

    Sunday, May 27, 2007

    Santa Barbara for Whale Watching

    imageAs tired as I’ve been from work the past few weeks, I still managed to get my butt up at 4:30 AM yesterday to get to Santa Barbara for an 8 AM cast off at Condor Express. The American Cetacean Society had their first full-day Humpback Whalewatching Trip of the year.

    We tried something new, kind of geotagging the adventure. The photos aren’t precisely located on this map, but I don’t suppose anyone can argue with me since they’re within about a half a mile or so. (Maybe ... I have no clue.) You can see my whole set of photos grouped by where they were shot.

    Here’s a brief chronlogy of our adventure.

    4:30 AM - Wake, shower and make lunch.
    5:30 AM - Depart for Santa Barbara
    6:10 AM - Stop for coffee in Westlake Village
    7:45 AM - We boarded the Condor Express. The trip included a continental breakfast, so I had some coffee and a half of a naked bagel.
    8:05 AM - Depart the dock - conditions were calm, but a very thick marine layer kept it rather dark and didn’t give us great shooting conditions.
    8:35 AM - Encountered a small but active and agreeable pod of Dall’s Porpoise. They were certainly zipping around, but kept circling back and seemed to be involved in feeding (probably deeper than we could see, as we didn’t see their prey).
    9:35 AM - Encountered our first two whales of the morning. They were feeding rather deep (Captain Mat made mention of bait fish at the 300 foot level). They came up and displayed flukes quite faithfully. As I was standing there watching the second cycle I caught sight of a good size pod of dolphins directly behind the boat. I called to the naturalists and they confirmed them. After a few minutes the boat was underway to intercept the dolphins about a half a mile away.
    DSC011319:45 AM - We caught up with the pod of about 100-150 Pacific White Sided Dolphins. They were circling around, also in a feeding mode. White Sided are rather common dolphins, though not as common in the Santa Barbara Channel normally. However the water temperature was 54 degrees, just inside their range. The past two trips I’ve taken in the SB Channel I’ve seen Common Dolphins, so this was a treat. The sassy black and white is of course rather similar to the Dall’s Porpoise, though more muted along the sides of their bodies. After about 15 minutes with the group we were still within sight of our other pair of whales and we went back to them.
    DSC0123810:40 AM - Another pair of whales, this time it was a Humpback female and a young calf. The behavior, while interesting to watch, wasn’t so much to photograph. What was remarkable was the difference in size betwen the two. The wide mother and the narrow and short calf displayed quite a bit of back, with the baby breathing three times for every two the mother did. Mom fluked a couple of times and stayed down for a while. They stayed in the same area as well, leading us to believe that she was feeding while the calf stayed closer to the surface. We watched them for nearly a half an hour before heading off to the deeper parts of the Channel in search of the large masses of whales sighted earlier in the week.
    DSC0115211:30 AM - While we zipped along, The Man and I had a little lunch. I made hummus and chicken wraps on lavash bread. The seem to do really well as a picnic lunch. Some pretzels and a bit of water to wash it down.
    12:10 PM - Another pair of whales, but they were really long period, down for over four minutes, so we moved along to find better “behaviors” that we could observe.
    1:30 PM - Another pair, this was a mother and calf again. She had similar markings - white inside an otherwise all black fluke, but even less white (so we knew it wasn’t the same pair). We watched for a while and then moved along to tuck in close to Santa Cruz Island.
    2:20 PM - Watched another whale (long diving) for a bit closer to Santa Cruz Island.
    2:35 PM - We tugged along close to the shore and then had a close look at Painted Cave. There were lots of birds hanging around, including Oyster Catchers and Pigeon Guillemots.
    3:10 PM - We stopped at Prisoner’s Harbor to pick up some campers. That took about 10 minutes so we were all looking sharp to see if we could spot the Bald Eagles that have colonized the island. No luck. We saw pelicans though ... yeah, quite notable.
    3:20 PM - I saw something that looked like a huge dolphin off the port and called out to the naturalists. It was quite close to the boat, about 30 yards, so we swung around and I pointed out the position. By my description, Alisa determined that it was a Minke whale. I’d never seen one before. They’re known for not swimming in a straight line and sure enough, we saw it three more times but it was vexing, even doubling back once. I never got a decent look at it beyond its dorsal fin, smooth back and then it was down again. No perceivable blow. We were due back at the dock at 4 PM and we were 12 miles away, so the Captain turned us back towards the mainland.
    DSC013074:10 PM - There was another pair of whales straight ahead so we stopped to watch them. Strange whales. They came up, dove with flukes, then came up pretty much in the same spot and just sat there. They’d come up, sink down a little bit, bob up and blow then sink a little, but still their back was showing. This went on for about three minutes, then they went down and we were off for home.

    I was fabulously tired and about five miles from shore we finally got some sun. But at least there wasn’t much wind or waves. Good trip. Good trip. I want to do it again later this summer.

    We got good looks at about 12 whales and saw about 18 total (if you count distant blows). I can tick two species off my list - Dall’s Porpoise and Minke Whale (though I wouldn’t mind getting a better view).

    See all photos on Flickr in my set and of course check out The Man’s.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:02 pm     Whale Watching

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Join the Frenzy

    I’m planning on writing a play, start to finish next month.

    This comes as no surprise to anyone, as I do this kind of stuff all the time.

    But I’m asking you to join me.

    Join ScriptFrenzy and write a screenplay or a stageplay in 30 days.


    Just like with NaNoWriMo I’m heading up the forums and community building there. And just like with NaNoWriMo I’ll be copiously documenting my wordcount and progress right here.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:17 am     ScriptFrenzy

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    MySpace Bans Photobucket (but can I get them to ban me?)

    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:

    The block came in response to an ad-sponsored slideshow that Photobucket recently began running and that it encouraged MySpace users to post in their profiles, violating MySpace’s terms of service, the social networking site said in a statement.

    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!

    Here’s a bunch of articles:
    Los Angeles Times

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:02 pm     Curious News

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Sperm Whales Run Deep

    I have a Google News alert set up for Whale (and one for Dolphins, but I get a lot of sports news on that one).

    Today’s report featured news that there was a Sperm Whale that washed ashore in Santa Barbara.

    Here’s my favorite quote:

    Sperm whales are the deepest divers of their species and can descend to more than 3,000 feet. Experts said it’s unusual to find sperm whales close to the coast.

    Yeah. So anyone else see anything wrong with the first sentence? It’s not like there are a lot of different kinds of Sperm Whales out there, like dolphins.

    I’d say the second sentence is kind of funny, too. Yes, it’s very unusual to find whales up on the beach. Except, you know, when they beach themselves or wash ashore.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:26 pm     Whale Watching

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    a friendly chat with verizon

    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!
    Chat InformationA Verizon Wireless online pre-sales specialist has joined the chat. You are now chatting with Alexander

    Alexander: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. May I help you with your order today?
    Alexander: Good afternoon, how can I assist you today?
    You: I’m getting my “new every two” phone today
    You: and I selected one that’s free
    You: but the site is asking for my credit card info at checkout ... even tho there’s no balance due
    Alexander: Okay, congratulations on your new every 2, are you curious why you need a card?
    You: yes, why do I have to enter it?
    Alexander: This will clear things up, please read the following:
    Alexander: The checkout page requires a credit card even if you have a zero balance. After you enter your billing address on the checkout page, your state may bill you for taxes based on the full retail price of the phone. After you enter your credit card information, the next page will show you if any taxes are due before your order is processed.
    You: why can’t you just bill me on my, um, what’s it called? bill?
    Alexander: Unfortunately, in order to purchase online and to take advantage of the discounts you must use a credit card, I have no control over this I apologize.
    You: who does have control over this? I went into the store to get this phone ... would I have walked out of there without showing them a credit card?
    Alexander: I am not sure as their policies differ from ours.
    Alexander: Would you like the number to customer care?
    You: can I get this phone over the phone without giving a credit card and still get it for free?
    Alexander: I am not sure, as they will most likely not be the same prices and discounts that are available on line.
    You: so, it’s a gamble
    You: just as giving you my credit card info is a gamble should there be a security breach
    Alexander: Our site is heavily protected, so only you and verizon will have that information.
    You: So, if there is a breach ... ever ever with any of the data centers that Verizon has, I can come and talk to you?
    You: Even though you have no control over whether or not I need to submit this card info for a total of nothing
    Alexander: Sure.
    Alexander: Does your state not charge taxes for online purchases?
    You: You are the site that sells things, shouldn’t you know that?
    You: Perhaps you could tell me if California does.
    Alexander: I actually do not, I am here to help navigate through the checkout process and answer your questions and direct you if needed.
    You: You don’t have access to information about states sales tax charges, but know (ephemerally) that they exist?
    Alexander: Yes, I do.
    You: How would I find this information out?
    Alexander: Once you enter in your credit card information it will notify you if your state does and how much the taxes will be and you will have the option to continue and cancel the order.
    You: but then you’ll have my credit card information
    You: you already know where I live
    You: why isn’t the site programmed to recognize this charge BEFORE I complete the checkout procedure
    Alexander: No, I actually won’t as I can’t see what you are entering and I don’t have access to your account.
    You: I mean “you” as in “verizon”
    Alexander: Okay, what would you like me to do?
    You: I’d like the site to be reprogrammed to be more intuitive
    You: can you pass that along?
    You: you have big meetings where they ask you, how can we make the customer’s experience better, right?
    Alexander: That is correct, and if you would like that to be sent straight to them I would actually recommend leaving a comment on the site after this chat has ended as there will be a survey.
    You: I’d appreciate the help from your end.
    You: Thanks for the info
    Alexander: But I will also let my boss know of your concern.
    You: thank you
    Alexander: And apologize for any inconvenience, and your welcome and I will.
    Alexander: Would you like to complete your order or would you like the customer care number?
    You: I’ll complete the order and take my chances, I’ve come this far!
    Alexander: Alright I understand, do you need any additional help?
    You: nope - thanks for covering it all
    Alexander: Your welcome and have a nice day!
    You: you too!
    Alexander: Thank you for visiting Verizon Wireless, I look forward to speaking with you again. Have a great day!
    Chat InformationYour chat session has been ended by your Verizon Wireless online agent.

    At the end of the chat, sure enough, a little feedback window popped up. I gave them my comments as Alexander suggested:

    My issue today is with being asked for my credit card information BEFORE my total is available. When selecting a “new every two phone” I was under the impression that it was going to be free. The page where it asked for my credit card DID NOT MENTION that I “might” be charged sales tax.

    An improvement to the site might be to have the Sales Tax calculated BEFORE asking for the credit card info, after all, you don’t need the card info if the balance is zero.

    I like the credit card to be the LAST thing I enter on online orders, not the middle thing.

    It would have helped if the online chat helper could have definitively said that my state DOES have a sales tax charge even for free devices ... it shouldn’t be that hard to provide that info to them, should it?

    Thanks for your help.

    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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:02 pm     Curious News

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    Go Away Hotlinkers!

    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.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:11 am     Curious News

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Never Enough Time

    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.)

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:32 pm     Curious News

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    During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.