Pity the poor folk whose job it is to market Hot Pockets, those ubiquitous microwaveable turnovers filled with one or more types of cheese, meat, or vegetables.

For years, Hot Pockets were a staple of comedian Jim Gaffigan’s standup routine (see above), in which he effectively ensured that a generation of consumers would associate the food item with indigestion, diarrhea and a variety of other ailments.

There’s likely no amount of money or promotional effort that Nestle, which produces Hot Pockets, could ever come up with to overcome the effectiveness of Gaffigan’s biting ridicule, and now the company is facing another PR nightmare.

Nestle is voluntarily recalling an unspecified number of “Philly Steak” and “Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese” Hot Pockets because they could contain meat that is unfit for human consumption, according to the USDA.

Gaffigan’s gag, of course, is that they were never fit for human consumption in the first place.

Anyhoo, nearly 9 million pounds of beef products were recalled last week by Rancho Feeding Corp. after regulators said it processed diseased and unsound animals without a full inspection, according to the Associated Press.

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first world problems

(HT: Miss Jordan Sims via Pintrest)

santa logo2Brand Books are often used by corporations and other large entities to highlight inside details, goals and marketing techniques.

Created to help bring consistency to the way a brand is communicated, the goal, to paraphrase one Brand Book, is to provide the necessary tools to present the brand correctly and consistently in any and all forms of communication.

They feature a collection of the brand elements and a detailed description of “the brand.”

Brand Books influence every marketing campaign, communication and product. By covering every aspect of the brand from mission statement and logos to color palettes and typography guidelines, it serves as a strategic guideline.

Brand Books are often, but not always, created by advertising firms, and, not surprisingly, tend to be riddled with ad jargon.

To that end, United Kingdom communication consultants The Quiet Room has spoofed its own profession by creating a Brand Book for Santa Claus, defining Father Christmas’s “entire being as if he were dreamt up by a team of obsessive brand ‘experts,’’ according to PSFK.com.

“The result is the *Santa* Brand Book, which spoofs branding strategies used by companies all around the globe. Some prime examples you can find within the book include a meaningless mission statement, acronyms, excessive jargon, obligatory diagrams, and official style guides for the Santa ‘brand,’” adds the PSFK site.

As the *Santa* Brand Book’s cover states: “*Santa* is a Concept, not an idea,” adding, “It begins with the Hiss of Power and ends with the Ah of Surprise.”

You can view the entire *Santa* “Brand Book” here. It’s not only good for a few laughs, but offers an interesting and instructive insight into how major advertising agencies operate.

(Above: Page taken from *Santa* Brand Book, a spoof created by The Quiet Room, a UK advertising agency. Click to embiggen.)

sorghum field

The burgeoning US-China agriculture-trade relationship was evident late last week when the first-ever bulk shipment of American grain sorghum reached the Asian nation.

The 2.36 million bushel shipment, the first of several scheduled for China this year, reached the port city of Guangzhou, the south China city historically known as Canton, on Oct. 18.

The cargo is designated for animal feed and demonstrates the continued modernization of China’s feed industry, according to Bryan Lohmar, US Grains Council director in China.

“The Council believes US sorghum has significant potential to become a regular feed ingredient in China,” he said. “Sorghum imports from the United States can help keep food prices low and improve China’s overall food security.”

Sorghum, a grain, is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. It is known as a high-energy, drought tolerant crop, according to the National Sorghum Producers.

Sorghum was planted on approximately 6.2 million US acres in 2012, with Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Dakota the top five-Sorghum producing states.

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stupid free newspapers

As large daily newspapers continue to gasp for life like oversized carp thrashing in ever-shrinking pools of muddy water, an interesting phenomenon has occurred:

Free weekly publications appear to be thriving across the US.

These “newspapers” are usually little more than a whole mess of advertising wrapped around a handful of inane drivel – often about the advertisers themselves – which is passed off as news.

Unfortunately, the modus operandi of these publications is to carpet bomb as many homes as possible with papers in order to boost circulation numbers.

The higher the circulation, the more publications can charge for advertising. As a result, the companies behind these papers tend to deliver to anything that looks even remotely like a home: run-down trailers, dog houses, tool sheds, etc.

Of course, what is undisclosed is how many or, more accurately, how few people actually read the publication. Also undisclosed is the anger that tends to build up when those that receive the unsolicited publications are unable to end delivery.

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thank you

In my neck of the woods, one of the highlights of being a dad is being asked to make an appearance at “Career Day” when your child is in 4th grade. I was fortunate enough to be invited by my youngest to speak to her class recently, and, as always, it was a treat.

The favorite part of this year’s appearance, however, were the Thank Yous I received afterward.

The notes were decorated elaborately; many in a variety of colors and inks, and all with the unguarded sweet words of appreciation that seemingly only a child can muster.

It’s important to note that I work for a state banking association – a job I thoroughly enjoy, but not exactly what most 9- or 10-year olds would consider a glamorous position, or even one many at that age can comprehend.

As a result I opted to skip planned discussions on the Federal Reserve System and Quantitative Easing, and a proposed Q&A breakout session on the merits of returning to a bimetallic monetary standard.

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low micronaire cotton

Low-grade unprocessed cotton could prove an effective cleanup tool following oil spills at sea, according to recent research.

A study published in the most recent issue of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research reveals that one pound of low-micronaire cotton can absorb more than 30 pounds of dense crude oil, according to research conducted at Texas Tech’s Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory.

In addition, the natural waxiness of raw, unprocessed cotton fiber keeps water out, making cotton an efficient and effective material for addressing ocean-based oil spills, according to the publication, published by the American Chemical Society.

“The new study includes some of the first scientific data on unprocessed cotton’s use as a crude oil sorbent,” according to Southeast Farm Press.

About 10 percent of the cotton grown in West Texas is low micronaire, according to Seshadri Ramkumar, lead author of the study and manager of the Nonwovens and Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech.

“It doesn’t take a dye well, so it has little value as a textile fiber. However, because it is less mature, more of it can be packed into a given area,” he said. “We show through sophisticated testing that low-micronaire cotton is much finer and can pick up more crude oil.

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About all that stands out in TopGear.com’s review of the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S is the end of the second sentence – “ … it’s more powerful than ever, and it’s louder” – along with the accompanying photos of the stylish sports car.

But, then again, power, noise and flashy pics can do much to mask muddled writing.

Yes, for the vast majority of us plebeians, dreaming of owning an Aston Martin is akin to window shopping on Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive – except, perhaps, you might get something a little more tangible for your money.

Perhaps that’s why TopGear loaded its review of the V12 Vantage S with jargon that makes it practically incomprehensible at first glance.

For example:

Following on from the Rapide S revealed earlier this year, the new Vantage S replaces the old V12 Vantage, and sports Aston’s new AM28 6-litre V12 engine, producing the same figures as the Vanquish. So you’re looking at 565bhp – up from 510bhp – 457lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 205mph. The old car did a piffling 183mph; positively pedestrian.

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t rex wedding photo

I make no apologies for my disdain for weddings.

It’s hard to respect an event which costs, on average, nearly $28,000, turns (relatively) sane people into selfish boors and generally highlights all the deplorable excesses of society in a single day.

Worse, far too many brides focus months or sometimes years of attention on their wedding day, rather than the fact that, if things go well, this will be the person they’ll be spending their next 50 or so years with, while too many grooms see their wedding as just another opportunity to get their high school or college buddies together for one more booze-fueled festival of inanity.

And there are plenty of companies all too happy to exploit this ever-increasing celebration of the individual, rather than what it’s meant to be: The joining of a couple.

Weddings provide an interesting barometer for just how far off the deep end a sizeable proportion of society has tumbled.

As columnist Alexandra Gekas wrote not too long ago, “I really think a lot of people put more thought into their wedding than into whether or not they are marrying the right person. … They act like finding and catching that man is a victory of some sort and as if getting married is an accomplishment in itself, for which the reward is a big, gaudy party. Newsflash: Getting married is not an accomplishment, staying married is.”

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That a Frederick, Md., brewery recently bottled its first batch of beer from a Civil War-era recipe and is now distributing is testament to the creativity of American business. What better time to recreate an alcoholic beverage from the 1860s than the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, right?

What’s troubling is the apparent lack of respect the Moncacy Brewing Co. is showing for the event to which it’s tying its product.

The first of nine ales to be released by Monocacy in commemoration of the 1861-65 conflict is called “Antietam Ale” and marks the Sept. 17, 1862, battle near Sharpsburg, Md., that resulted in 23,000 casualties.

According to the label of Antietam Ale:

“The Battle of Antietam changed the course of the Civil War, helped free over 4 million Americans and still ranks as the bloodiest single day in American history.”

In reality, only that last of those three statements is true. While Antietam is still the bloodiest single day in US history, it didn’t change the course of the war nor did it help free more than 4 million enslaved blacks.

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