Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Plague of "Technical Difficulties......"

Those readers of ours who have followed us for years (since 2009 for some) are well aware that our frequency of posting in recent years has fallen way off.  There was a time when we were good for two, three, maybe even five or six posts per week, depending on what was going on and what sparked our fevered literary synapses.  What ever the hell that means.

As we've told you before, we never posted out of any sense of having to do so regularly.  We simply generated posts when ever the spirit filled our mind with thoughts we could only expunge by writing them down in what we hoped would be a useful manner.  At times we were writing away for hours every day.

Eventually this took it's toll; we sort of tired of it.  At the same time, life interrupted and we found ourselves interested in other pursuits.  Before you knew it, we had lost our habit and had gotten out of shape for reacting quickly.

Well here we are wanting to publish a number of items, only to find the digital domain in which blogs operate is not as friendly and intuitive to us as it used to be.

For the first several years of Other Side's existence, we composed our commentaries on Microsoft Live Writer, which was a convenient and intuitively obvious no-cost authoring application.  Several years ago, Microsoft more or less abandoned it to the "open source" universe of computer applications.  There were some hiccups in the transition, but some motivated digit-heads took up its care and feeding.

It sufficed for some time, albeit with little glitches that eventually surfaced.  You should know that the actual blog is published via Blogger, owned by Google, and they own the domain of blogger.com and blogspot.com where our blog is published.

At this point, the Open Source Live Writer application seems to have been more or less abandoned by those who adopted it, and is of little real use to us in what we do.  This is unsettling; it's like suddenly having to do our thing in a different world.  Things we counted on and editing techniques we used as second nature are lost to us.

The blogger.com site has it's own "authoring" component, but it was never as easy to use as Live Writer.  Once you composed on Live Writer, you simply sent the result to blogger for publishing on our blog web site (http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/).

Blogger is also the site that controls the various appearance components of the blog...the layout if you will, along with various bells and whistles like gadgets, lists, etc.  What most consider "the look and feel."

Well, now that we've decided we'd like to write and publish a number of items for your consumption, we've learned that things in the blogger domain have gone awry.  The authoring component on blogger still seems to work as it did, but the layout feature, where we set up the various features appearing on the blog site, and their look and feel and design, seems to have lost much if not most of its functionality.  We feel as if we've lost control of our own blog.  Some would say that's what google wants, we suppose.

Even worse, the "feed" mechanism that we used to notify readers who had signed up on the web page when a new post had been published also seems to have shut down, and we haven't been able to find out how we can remedy this situation.

This leaves us to believe that the handful of new posts we've published in recent months have not made it to your inbox.  You'd only know they were there if you jogged on over to our blog site as a matter of daily routine, and given we've more or less gone dormant as to publishing rate, we can hardly be surprised if you gave up on doing so.

So for the time being, what we will do is send you a personal email letting you know that a new post has been published.  In the mean time, we'll research how we can get the automated feed mechanism working again.

Sorry for the difficulties.  They are disconcerting to us after all these years.  We'll do our best to resolve them as best we can, and in the best interests of our loyal readers.  Please bare with us as we do, and we hope you will check in on your own from time to time to see if we've been busy.

Best regards to you all.  If you have friends and acquaintances who would likely be unknown to me but whom you believe follow Other Side, please contact them to let them know of the recent posts, and of our intent to resume a more active publishing routine.

"Dollars to Donuts" just won't cut it anymore.....

As readers know, Side's time on this orb is considerable; enough to qualify us as a "senior" by just about any measure.

So many of you who showed up after us may not be familiar with the expression "I'll bet you dollars to donuts that blah blah blah, etc."  But we sure are.

We're guessing it derived from times long ago when a dollar would buy 10 or more donuts; in an era when they cost ten cents each or less.  Maybe much less.  So putting up a dollar against a donut was an expression that meant the challenger was so sure of his belief that he would offer long odds to draw in "a mark."

You better sit down before you read the rest of this.  You may be shocked, shocked we say, to learn that those days are long gone.

To give some context, we first became a customer of Frostys in Brunswick about 20 years or so ago.  Best we can remember, donuts were 60 cents then, and a dozen was $5, or perhaps even less -- say $4.50.

Fast forward to our latest experiences. We assume many of you are aware of Tony's Donuts on outer Congress St in Portland.

We have no idea how long they have been in business, but it surely has been for a long time; the place gives off all the vibes of an established neighborhood favorite.  Their donuts are good, but of a wholly different style and mix than what Frostys in Brunswick offers.

We tend to stop by Tony's twice a year when we have an appointment in the nearby area.  Before heading home, we stop by for coffee and a donut or two.  We don't keep a log of the prices, but in December, we ordered a donut and a small (very small!!) coffee, and were shocked when the cost was four dollars and change.  Last we remembered, we thought the price was about $1.25 for a donut, so we were kind of shocked.  In our mind, they always seemed less than what Frostys charged.

As we noshed away, we saw the prices listed way up high above the counter.  $2 per donut, and $20 per dozen!  Plus tax, of 7.5%, we suppose.  So a dozen will cost you near $22!  That is not an inconsiderable sum, and we're guessing that will begin to cut into their regular business in quantity of donuts sold; but who knows.

When we arrived home, we told Mrs. Side, and she was verklempt over it.  Life moved on.

As for Frostys, we rarely stop in for a single donut and coffee anymore.  In recent years, we've generally bought a dozen for an upcoming visit with grandchildren, etc.  And for a long time, we'd buy a half dozen to give to the crew at Big Top Deli as we were on our way to lunch, usually for $5.  That came to an end when a half dozen moved up to $7 or $8.

Frostys variety has always been the best as we see it; cake style, raised style, filled style, and those world famous, irresistible twists.  There nothing else like them on the market in our view.  Unfortunately everything changes over time, especially prices, and those things that are discretionary treats are more subject to budgetary second thoughts, even though one can easily afford them.  At some point, an item price just goes from reasonable to unreasonable.  When that happens, it's easy to feel like you're being taken advantage of.

Our grand-kids are mostly grown and we don't see them much anymore.  So the last remaining business we've had with Frosty's is taking several dozen to a monthly meeting in Augusta that we attend.  We've been doing that for 5 or 6 years, and we began with 4 dozen, which used to cost under $45 with tax.  Prices gradually increased, as one might expect, and in January, 3 dozen cost right around $45 with tax.  They were $13.50 a dozen each, plus tax.

So imagine our surprise when we picked up our order for the February meeting and discovered the price had risen to $16.50 per dozen, plus tax.  That's a 22% price increase in one swell foop!  And individual donuts are now $1.80, or call it $2 with tax.

We grew up loving our bakery items of nearly any sort; we have a habit of having a cup of coffee and some sort of baked goods instead of lunch on most weekdays.  Many who know us would even say it shows.  We've been totally partial to Frostys over the years, bragging on Brunswick's originals any chance we got.  But we think the price has now crossed the line between a quick bite and a luxury.  Especially if you have a tyke who might eat half and them leave the rest on the tray.

But then we can't believe smokers regularly pay $7 or so for a pack of cigs.

Oh, and one final note.  We were in Hannafords the other day, and decided to see what the Frostys they sell were going for.  Would you believe 2 for $3.00?  How's that!  they're cheaper after a middleman takes their cut than they are at the home shop that does the baking!

Inevitably, such changes make you ponder on what the owner thinking is, because there is clearly a pricing curve that determines quantity sold vis-a-vis net profit.  If you double the profit per item by raising prices, but quantity sold goes down by one third, earnings go up but work and staff required goes down.  Real trade-offs are involved.

The current owners rescued the business from the original owners who were simply running out of gas, and they recharged and renovated the whole operation, and very successfully.  At one point they had four "stores," an off-site central baking location, and a number of vans for making deliveries to those stores and resellers like Bow St. Market and Hannafords.

We have no doubt they may have analyzed several years of expanding ownership and volume, along with the work entailed on their part, and re-evaluated their strategy for carrying on the business.  Perhaps even with an eye towards cashing out not too far downstream, and maximizing the attractiveness to new ownership prospects.

That's clearly their business, and they have the right to deal with those variables anyway they see fit for their own desires.

And we clearly have the right to deal with the variables anyway we see fit as well.  Even if it means that our years as Frostys fanatics are coming to an end.

If our wallets won't benefit, our waistlines likely will.