Amazon Prime Day, Rainbows + Bestseller Lists,

So the book I can’t tell you about on here has now made it (quite a long way) into the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for a third week!! SQUEE I WROTE A GODDAMN BESTSELLER, BITCHES!! (…and my in-laws and assorted relatives still think I’m an unemployed layabout loser working occasional days as a substitute teacher. And I can’t tell them otherwise. They probably wouldn’t believe me if I did. It’s like being a superhero only my secret power is NSFW).

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the money doesn’t get good until you hit the top 5, so no, I’m still poor. This person had a #1 bestseller and still didn’t make anything. And I’m sure some sanctimonious middle class person will try to say “but that’s not why you should write” because you *should* write to be poor (which is fine if you’ve never had to choose between eating or paying rent I suppose), to be unappreciated (which is fine if you believe you’re Van Gogh or something), to be ignored (see prev. re: Van Gogh), because that’s the stereotype we imagine for writers and what we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that some people are spending 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week doing something they actually want to do (yes, I actually do, come hypomania or depression, I work very hard and some days I only write 50 words but it’s 50 more than I had the day before, other days what I write makes no sense, but that’s okay because it clears my brain out, it’s like scraping the gloop out of the sink so you can wash dishes in it, instead of letting that gloop touch your crockery). Like we imagine that all the pretty people are dumb and all ugly people have hidden depths, instead of seeing that some pretty people are clever and some ugly people are very shallow. I will never stop appreciating being able to write. So I will look forward to writing being my full time income one day but obviously, the money I’ll get in several months’ time (bookstores pay s-l-o-w-l-y) is a LOT better than nothing and while it isn’t going to pay all my bills that month, it at least goes a long way towards it and therefore validates my Goddamn life choices. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off this time.* ūüėõ

*I am neither confirming nor denying having done this in the past although I do feel it’s high time my cat** wrote a guest post because it would make interesting reading.

**I don’t have a cat. That’s sort of the point.

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And apparently every year Amazon has some special deals that are only available to Prime subscribers. This year, that’s happening on July 12th. From today up to July 12th, Amazon has loads of special pre-prime day deals to get you in the mood (or something).

My personal opinion? Signing up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, including free shipping and loads of TV shows, makes a lot of sense if you want to do some bargainous shopping. This is a very good month to try Amazon Prime for free, just remember (if you don’t intend to keep it) to cancel before the month is up, and sit back and reap the rewards.

I had Amazon Prime for about a year but I cancelled it in favor of Netflix because they didn’t have such a good range of TV shows. I think I’d consider it again now that the Clarkson Hammond and May show (formerly Top Gear) is on there. Also did you hear about the BBC’s so-called “Top Gear” that they’ve been trying to flog as a replacement to the (not-quite-original but definitely best) Clarkson version? Chris Evans, the show’s main host, and seasoned TV presenting veteran, has just quit. They’re flogging a dead horse, and I’ve been saying since Clarkson got sacked, that nobody in their right mind would sign up to take the place of Clarkson Hammond and May, the audience for that show is too pre-prejudiced against change. They’d have been better off doing a total re-format, since Clarkson invented most of the stuff they did on there anyway. Those of you who know me in person know how much I appreciate Jeremy Clarkson’s contributions to journalism (oh God, the way he can get you from the opening sentence, I wish I could do that), he literally invented new ways to write/talk about cars, and no-one can really replace that. But you can watch Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond messing around in cars IN OCTOBER on Amazon Prime with the 30 day trial in the UK; the BBC was really shitty about copyrights on all the stuff Clarkson came up with while he worked for them, so Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have renamed their new car show “Grand Tour.” I wish I was eligible for another free trial of Amazon Prime now ūüė¶

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Also, this rainbow wig is legit gorgeous I wish I could afford it, its so beautiful, and I wanted to show you all, but WordPress doesn’t allow image links from Amazon. Last time I accidentally pasted the wrong link onto a WordPress post, WordPress actually shut this blog down within seconds, not giving me a chance to fix the problem, and I had to email them 5 or 6 times over 2 days to get them to understand that it was an honest mistake. I totally don’t get the weird and wonderful policies that various blogging sites have regarding their smallprint. I think now I have my own domain I’m allowed to do more advertising, but I look at some of the sites that have come up in reader over the past few months, wall-to-wall advertising, and I simply want to vomit in disgust. The whole marketing model is messed up if they make money from that shit. It’s like those trees falling in the woods and concussing bears who are trying to take a dump.

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Tripod or No Tripod?

In this article, I want to discuss the question: tripod or no tripod? ¬†Should I use a tripod for photography? ¬†The above picture is what happens when you don’t use a tripod on a long exposure.

‚ÄúA photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.‚ÄĚ
–¬†Brigitte Bardot

Tripods are a three legged stand that you can attach your camera to, so it stays put on the tripod. ¬†They are very useful for a range of photography and video situations. ¬†I’ve done several Youtube videos that wouldn’t have been possible without a tripod, because they stray from my usual camera setup, but I rarely use the tripod for photography. ¬†Should I use my tripod more? ¬†It got me thinking about when is an appropriate situation to use a tripod, and when they’re just a faff. ¬†Here I want to share my thoughts about¬†when it’s a good idea to use a tripod, and when it’s better to not bother. ¬†Add your own thoughts in the comments!

Pro’s of using a tripod:

1. They steady the camera.
If getting those horizontal and vertical lines is a challenge for you, then the spirit level on your tripod can be a fantastic tool, because you can just adjust the legs until you get a perfectly level picture. ¬†A lot of lenses these days have image stabilization but nothing beats a good tripod. ¬†I’ve said it before, but if you know how to take a good picture first time, it saves a lot of lost opportunities.
2. Your hands don’t get tired.
Holding a camera in an awkward position while you wait for the subject to get arranged can really tire your hands out – and hand shake is the enemy of a good picture.
3. Essential for longer exposures e.g. astrophotography.
You literally cannot hold a camera still enough to get 30 second photos of space, unless you don’t have a heartbeat.
4. You can spend more time setting up the shot to make sure it’s perfect.
If your camera has a movable viewfinder, you can leave the camera in place and check whether everything you’ve arranged is in-shot.
5. You can learn how to compose the perfect shot.
This will probably¬†improve the quality of your future pictures. ¬†Pictures taken with tripods tend to come out either very static or very dynamic. ¬†There’s no way to really compose the perfect dynamic shot (e.g. sports pictures) because the subject is generally moving independently of the photographer’s control, but for static shots, having a tripod can help you practise framing and using different focus techniques (for example) on the exact same shot to see what works and what doesn’t.
6. You can use the 10 second (or longer) self timer
This enables people to take pictures, and get a good shot without needing anyone to hold the camera, e.g. for family portraits.

Con’s of using a tripod:

1. They add weight to your setup. ¬†Especially the ones that extend enough for you to stand up straight whilst using them – when you add a dolly (wheels) you’re looking at even more weight, and soon you’re going to need a trolley to cart it all around. ¬†There’s a reason cameramen tend to have very strong arms!
2. They add money to your photography expenses. ¬†Granted, you can pick up a tripod for pretty cheap on Amazon, but it’s still another thing to pay for, on top of all the other things you’ve already paid for, and some people simply don’t have the money for a tripod.
3. The ones for outdoor shots tend to be bulky. ¬†The flimsy cheap ones can blow over easily (or get knocked over) if you’re not careful because they’re too top-heavy; would you risk a $1000 (often significantly more) camera and lens combo on a $20 badly made tripod?
4. You can get lazy in your composition
This comes from not snapping pictures whilst holding the camera, and it can lead¬†to poorer quality pictures without the tripod. ¬†Some pro-tripod people don’t even believe it’s possible to get good pictures without using a tripod!

Conclusion:

I have just one tripod, a medium sized one of moderately good build,¬†but I think there’s a time and a place for using it – I generally use it in my house or for astrophotography, as I said. ¬†When it warms up, I’ll start using it for infrared photography as well. ¬†I’ve never taken it up a mountain with me and I’m not sure I ever would (although who knows what the future holds). ¬†I’d like to play around with it more, but the weight is off putting because my camera setup is already fairly hefty.

What do you think? ¬†When do you use your tripod? ¬†Are there any times when you would say it’s essential?

No-One Wants To Know The Real Truth About Parabens

Parabens. It’s seen as a dirty word amongst the “natural beauty” movement and the “mainstream” cosmetics industry is trying its best to ignore it, right? Because of parabens, many people are spending more money than ever on cosmetics and personal care products to avoid those scary-sounding paraben ingredients.

Today I want to step (mostly) aside from the quibble over whose scientific paraben research was more inaccurate, to examine the bigger question; who really benefits from the fears surrounding parabens?

To get at the answer, we need to do some digging. You may have noticed the unbelievable number of very expensive “natural beauty” paraben-free organic natural companies that have sprung up over the past couple of years. They charge you an arm and a leg for beautifully coloured, luxuriously scented containers of goop with names such as “thermal spa minerals bath elixir” “cleansing water mist” and “nourishing body souffle.”

Paraben free products are not necessarily being marketed by ethical companies.

Okay, so some of you are thinking “what is going on? Has she been paid to say this?”

I am an independent researcher, sitting at home writing this, and I look at all the information I can get my hands on and I base my conclusion on the information I find.

Here’s some things you need to know about the people telling you to avoid parabens:

1. The “natural beauty” companies who are selling the paraben free products are operating on a much higher profit margin than conventional companies. It doesn’t cost them more money to avoid putting an ingredient in a product because they’re not replacing parabens with something else that costs more. Here’s an analogy: Think of a cake, if you made a cake without chocolate powder, so it was a plain flavoured cake, would it cost you more to make that cake, or a cake which used chocolate powder? When all the other ingredients stayed the same, the chocolate cake would cost more to make. So why is the plain cake costing so much more to buy? Why are the paraben free products costing up to ten times more than their paraben-containing counterparts? It’s very profitable to make paraben-free products.

2. The “big beauty companies” that some sensationalist self-styled “health journalists” are criticizing? Most of them are benefiting from the paraben myth in some way. Here’s a list of well-known beauty companies who have at least one product that they’re marketing as paraben free:

Clarins, Clinique, Ojon, Pureology (and by extension, L’Oreal), Dead Sea Spa, Aveda, Morrocan Oil, Vaseline, Revlon, Dr Organic, Physician’s Formula, Burt’s Bees, Bare Escentuals (and Bare Minerals), L’Occitane, Origins.

This is where the biggest money behind the anti-paraben hype is overtly coming from, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only people making megabucks from scaring you away from parabens.

3. A lot of the smaller start-up companies (such as all the new startup sellers of natural, paraben-free, organic, very expensive products) don’t have to list their board of directors or key shareholders, particularly if they’re not floated on the stock exchange or aren’t incorporated. This means that, to start a smaller start-up company that makes big bucks from the current “natural beauty” craze, a larger company can finance it for a share of the profits, guide product development and marketing, then step back and let the smaller company turn a profit – who then repay a percentage of that to the larger company. We’ve seen this time and again on Dragon’s Den, you think they’re the only people doing it? Everyone in business with investment capital is doing it! If the smaller company goes bankrupt (such as “organic skincare” company Davina Peace… they had a waiting list of clients when they launched in 2010. You can find Davina Peace halfway down this list of insolvent companies in administration in 2012, along with the date of insolvency), the larger company washes their hands of the whole thing because it was nothing to do with them. If anything, they end up on the list of creditors (people owed money). If and when the current “natural skincare” craze ends, and the consumers start looking for something else, the larger company comes out of this beauty trend totally unscathed, with their reputation in tact when everyone goes back to buying “normal” stuff again. It is impossible to know behind the scenes who is financing and guiding these companies. It is impossible to know if any company is truly independent because corporate accounting strategies are inscrutable. Smaller companies are less accountable than larger ones.

4. You know whose products still contain parabens? The Body Shop! They’re an independent company not affiliated to any others, they are all about “natural” skincare and beauty, but their products are still packed with parabens. Why? Because they want to kill you? Uh, reality check, if cosmetics companies kill their customers, who’s going to be left alive to buy cosmetics? They use parabens because the evidence for the current paraben-noia is flimsy, it all comes from studies where at least one of the same people were involved, they all use very small sample sizes (the latest one, the one that “proves” parabens are dangerous? 40 participants. ¬†All in Britain. That’s 0.0000000006% of the world’s population (or 0.000000012% of the population of America). And the researcher was forced to conclude that parabens are “only part of the bigger picture” which is scientist speak for “I’ve spent nearly a decade of my life barking up the wrong tree.” Why was this conclusion made? Well 7 of the 40 participants didn’t even use any cosmetics in the underarm area, so they weren’t getting any parabens from those products and yet the tissue samples still contained parabens. No deodorant, no body lotion… do you know anyone who doesn’t use any deodorant, any lotion, anything at all under their arms, who ALSO wears face cream or make-up? Who bathes regularly?? I don’t. These things tend to come in groups – people who don’t use deodorant (including natural ones) or body lotion tend not to use other products. Such as shower gel. And that’s if we totally ignore her first study on the effect of parabens, published in January 2004, which had a sample of twenty participants (also in Britain) and didn’t have a control group (a group of people who didn’t have cancer, or who didn’t use parabens, for example, to check if their paraben level was the same), which is the study everyone keeps misquoting.

5. Research is driven by funding. ¬†Without funding, people don’t research things. ¬†Every job in science has to be paid for and accounted for. ¬†Researchers have to justify why they need money in most fields. ¬†By studying parabens, an oncologist (for example) would no longer need to depend on funding from public health bodies (such as the nearly-bankrupt British NHS, Britain being the country where all of the¬†research on parabens was carried out by the same lead author) or charities specialising in cancer research, and instead, that researcher could open up a huge avenue of funding for the university they work for, from cosmetics companies (or subsidiary research institutes funded by straw-man companies funded by cosmetics companies) who stand to gain from the results – if those results mean they can sell more paraben-free products. ¬†Additionally, these big companies don’t require the results to be very rigorous (unlike health organizations) as long as they’re sensational.¬†¬†Just like the beauty blogger who sells her scruples for a free mascara, the researcher claims that “all opinions are my own” although in science-speak, that’s “the research method was robust.” ¬†For good measure, the researcher could get other people they know to peer-review it (everyone in the same field knows each other). ¬†This is sadly how a lot of corporate-relevant scientific research is being done nowadays – fund a university, they can claim they’re independent, the company might even guide the university’s researchers about sharing the results with the world to get maximum impact but because it came from a university lab, we believe every word as infallible. ¬†This is how many people get a PhD these days! ¬†It all depends how financially malleable the researchers are, but there are¬†hints that this¬†happens all over academia, especially in the research areas most relevant to the pharmaceutical, nutritional and cosmetics industries. ¬†If the research had showed parabens were not implicated in cancer, the cosmetics companies would gain less overall. ¬†When was the last time a newspaper ran a story that said “fresh broccoli doesn’t cause cancer” (for example)? ¬†It doesn’t sell products.

Cashing In

So what, exactly am I trying to say, and who do I think I am that I can say this? Just like animal testing, the truth behind these “natural beauty” companies is surrounded by a mystique of obfuscation, corporate financial backing and bad science… which makes them no better than the regular cosmetics companies. I wrote this because I value honesty and I was compelled to show that you don’t need to spend large amounts of money on “paraben free” products. These companies are cashing in on our biggest fears.

I think that in order to really get to the heart of¬†the paraben issue, we’ve got to examine why we react so strongly to allegations that products are dangerous: Fear.

The Role Of Fear

We fear cancer more than anything else because we feel powerless, most of us know someone who has died of cancer. Breast cancer is terrifying because we don’t know why some people get it and others don’t. We don’t know why cancer seems to be getting more common than ever before. Personally, I believe it’s down to processed food; I think there’s something about all those condiments, sauces, ready meals and so on. But that doesn’t net an attention grabbing headline, that’s never going to produce viral content, so nobody writes about it or researches it for long because they can’t get funding. ¬†Research is driven by funding – especially at universities. ¬†Who funds research? ¬†Companies who stand to gain from it!

Look at the recent evidence linking bacon to cancer. What was the public’s response? Oh, I love bacon, I’m never going to stop eating bacon! It hardly made the news for a week before disappearing! These are the same people avoiding cigarettes and parabens! The reason I wanted the world to know what fuels the paraben myth is because people think that if they avoid parabens they get some kind of points, that they can then use to smoke, drink and eat bacon. It doesn’t work like that. The things you eat, drink and smoke are the real culprits here.

Japanese women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than anyone else in the world because of their diet. Tokyo is a very polluted urban environment; have you ever been there? Huge skyscrapers, people’s living space is tiny, ventilation is complicated, and yet those women are getting breast cancer less often than women living in the Great Plains. Do Japanese women use parabens? Of course they do! They may use some “traditional Japanese” products, but when was the last time you used a “traditional” product of your own nationality? The only traditional English beauty product I use is rosewater from the supermarket (the stuff in the beauty shop is full of alcohol – which DOES cause cancer when ingested), and if I’m honest, I don’t use it as often as I should.

By avoiding parabens, consumers are being given a false sense of control, a false sense of security, a false sense of everything’s fine. Clearly, everything is not fine. Vegetarians and meat eaters are getting cancer at similar rates. Natural organic homeopaths are getting cancer at the same rate as people using branded products full of parabens and “chemicals.” The lie is that we are safe if we avoid parabens and other molecules labeled as “nasties.” We are not safe. None of us are. That’s the truth about parabens: You can avoid any ingredient with more than ten letters in the name as much as you like, it’s not going to help you. All this is doing is letting the real culprits get away with murder for longer while the cosmetics companies get even richer than ever from people’s fear.

Cosmetics companies are experts in using fear to sell products – fear of looking old, fear of really being old… those anti-ageing creams are cashing in on people’s fear of mortality. Fear of being ugly, of not looking attractive… make-up cashes in on people’s fear of being alone, people’s fear of rejection. The cosmetics industry has a long track record of subtly using fear to motivate women to buy their products. I’m not telling you to start buying products full of parabens, or to stop buying cosmetics; you should look how you want to, but you need to be aware of the truth about parabens. Avoiding parabens is not going to save you. We will all get old. We will all be alone sometimes. We will all die one day. And that’s the real truth about parabens. ¬†It’s a shame¬†everyone’s so busy being scared of parabens to understand what’s really at play here.

We may experience some technical difficulties

Invoke Delight is moving to http://www.delightandinspire.com

When I started this blog I wanted it to be called inspire delight, but that domain was taken by an online lighting store. ¬†In May 2015, inspire delight was bought up by someone claiming to have been blogging since 2010. ¬†Clearly not, since she has filled out three or four pages (all dated between 19-21 May 2015) then got bored and not bothered again. ¬†But she had time to configure an online shop… go figure.

In the meantime, I bought up invokedelight.com back in November 2014 and had numerous problems with GoDaddy refusing to let me uninstall their really awful “website builder” and connect a WordPress.org plugin instead, including many, many emails back and forth, before I finally capitulated and registered for WordPress.com instead, leaving invokedelight.com as a redirect to this site.

In November 2015, invokedelight.com expired, and I got an email (actually several) telling me that if I didn’t pay renewal to GoDaddy, they were going to de-register it and after that, that it would cost hundreds of dollahs for me to restore my site. ¬†I was looking forward to this happening because then the site would be purged from the domain name, and I could buy it again through WordPress and finally achieve my goal of making this blog invokedelight.com.

It’s the end of January. ¬†GoDaddy claims InvokeDelight.com is owned by someone else. ¬†But the domain registrar lookup claims InvokeDelight.com is owned by GoDaddy.

Registry rules state that an expired site should be held by the registrar (GoDaddy) for 4 weeks plus five days before releasing it back to general sale. ¬†It’s well over that time now – invokedelight.com expired on 17th November 2015 – so I can only assume that GoDaddy are holding onto it because they want me to pay the hundreds of dollahs.

Me being independent and contrary, I decided to brainstorm site names for this site and check what was available.  All the invoke delight -derived names just looked really shit so I checked some inspire delight names (they were all taken in November 2014 but I wanted to see if any had expired).

Delight and Inspire had expired so I aspired to purchase it.

Over the next 72 hours there may be some technical problems as WordPress gets it working, then it should start to redirect. ¬†If you’re subscribed via WordPress (less than 2% of my viewers), it shouldn’t affect you being able to find my site. ¬†If you use Feedly or another RSS reader (I use Feedly) you may have to “add new” and put http://www.delightandinspire.com into your subscriptions so you don’t lose me!

Google and WordPress should handle the re-indexing of the site so all my hard-earned SEO results keep bringing people to the right place.

My Youtube Channel will remain Invoke Delight and so will my Twitter handle @invokedelight and email invokedelight@gmail.com because they don’t let you change such things without signing up for a whole new Gmail and Twitter account.

Once it’s all sorted it’s going to be LEGEN (wait for it… ) … … ¬†… … DARY!

A Little Clarification About My Blog:

1. I don’t get free lipstick and I am not PR friendly (I don’t work with any ¬†brands).

2. I have never published a paid post on my blog.

3. I write about whatever the damn hell I please.  My remit is joy and understanding, these are the purpose of my blog; sometimes other stuff for variety.

4. When that meshes with talking about a product I bought that actually worked to solve a problem I had, I drop an Amazon link so I can get a commission for matching people’s problems with solutions. ¬†It doesn’t affect the price you pay and comes from their profit. ¬†I am a member of Amazon Associates USA, as I have stated in both my “about me” and “contact me” pages, and referred to in a number of posts.¬†¬†I have been using Amazon Associates for 21 days so far, since about 11pm (my time) on New Year’s Eve, and so far it’s netted me about $10 which is about ¬£6. ¬†At the end of February I will re-evaluate whether I feel this has been a successful venture or whether I’m keeping my association with Amazon.

5. I currently ONLY have links to Amazon Associates USA on my four most popular blog posts. ¬†All other links to Amazon (e.g. pictures of rabbit hutches) are just normal links and I don’t earn money from them. ¬†I felt this was ethical. ¬†I never link to a product I haven’t paid for and found useful. ¬†If it doesn’t meet both of these criteria, I don’t link to it.

6. Amazon and Amazon Associates have literally no control over my creative content (I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it) and I do not now, nor have I ever, written posts with the sole purpose of making money from affiliate links. ¬†All the articles that currently have links in them are articles that I wrote many months ago, I wrote them to help people, and they¬†have been here on my site for all that time with NO AFFILIATE LINKS. ¬†Then one day I decided to run an experiment to see how well¬†Amazon Associates USA worked with my current traffic compared to how well it had worked over a sample time period about six¬†months ago (when there were zero clickthroughs i.e. I made absolutely no money) when I had significantly less traffic.

7. I will write an article with my recommendations/otherwise about Amazon Associates USA when I have had enough time to fully evaluate it.  I have no British affiliate links or links for any other country because 97% of my traffic comes from America, from search engine queries (I did some math today).

8. I am planning on¬†charging people to post their links or infographics on my site as of next month, because quite frankly I don’t want to post 99% of the links and infographics people email me about, and I thought this would make people think about whether their link was really appropriate to my blog before contacting me. ¬†I have made this clear on my contact me page. ¬†All links currently on my blog are ones I found myself¬†and I will make it clear if/when I accept payment for any link or infographic. ¬†I will also still be just as selective.

9. I also make money whenever anyone buys a copy of any of my books, although I do not use Amazon Associates affiliate¬†links to promote these as I feel that would be a conflict of interest. ¬†I make money from book sales via royalties paid by my publishers. ¬†As far as I am aware, none of my blog readers have bought copies of any of my books and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

The whole point of yesterday’s article was to try to tell new bloggers, particularly those wanting to start a beauty blog, that there’s another way to blog. ¬†That they don’t have to copy what everyone else does, they don’t have to accept free products in exchange for their integrity.

I want the internet to shift it’s balance in favour of talented and thoughtful content creators instead of people writing any old crap¬†to make a quick buck or get a free lipstick, and I was trying to say that, if you’re creative, you can find other ways to monetize your site, and you can find other definitions of success beyond how much money/how many followers/how much free stuff you get. ¬†The success of helping people or explaining¬†something they didn’t know, or bringing joy to someone else’s life, were specific examples I can think of.

I have since yesterday been contacted by several individuals asking me how I work with PR people, do they tell me what to say etc etc.  I will reiterate:

I have never worked with a PR company or written a post about a product in exchange for either a free product or any sort of payment or discounted product. ¬†I do not let PR companies draw my attention to products either. ¬†I wrote before about why I don’t do this and how I feel it biases the sample (of products being reviewed online) unfairly in favour of companies¬†with the biggest promotional¬†budget.

I hope that clears things up so we can get back to normal because I got a new bunny last night and he is awesome and I wanted to post bunny pictures today but felt I needed to clear this up first.

I would like to also assert that I do not get paid by my rabbits to talk about them.

New bunny timmy1

Sponsored Posts: The Best of The Worst

So as I mentioned in this post, I often get asked to write sponsored posts for companies wanting to improve brand presence. ¬†After a deep moral dilemma, I made it a policy to always turn them down due to my standpoint as a minimalist (although recently I’ve not had a lot of time to respond), but they keep coming. ¬†I do take a look at what they are proposing, particularly when it sounds dreadful, and mostly out of morbid curiosity. For your viewing entertainment (and to fight back against the consumeriarchy), I have included the best of the worst, the factual inaccuracies and old wives tales type information that is all over the internet already, and which people have offered to pay me to perpetuate (which all seem to lead back to consumerism):

1. Quinoa is a good source of protein.  This has to be the most blatant lie; it was followed up with an amount per cup that was a) several times the actual amount of protein in a cup of quinoa and b) still not a great amount of protein.

2. You need to lose weight to get married: ¬†Yep, those “how to lose weight before your wedding posts” you see all over the internet, that are firmly designed to make women hate themselves and feel insecure (so they can sell women more clothes, diet pills, cosmetics, and when all else fails, food) are sponsored. ¬†Do yourself a favour: ¬†Learn to love the size you are before your wedding. ¬†That’s who your future husband/wife fell in love with.

3. People get too much protein in their usual diet, so vegans shouldn’t worry about protein. ¬†This is not only untrue but it’s very dangerous advice. ¬†See my list of sources of nutrients for vegans post (with the amazing spreadsheet of sources for EVERY nutrient) to find out the truth. ¬†It’s especially interesting that this sponsored post wanted to “inform” vegans that they¬†can pay for recipes that don’t contain enough protein, because it makes money from the recipes in the first place, then they’ll get a protein deficiency, and be back supporting the dairy/meat industry in no time. ¬†That’s win-win for paid meat/dairy people. ¬†That’s the result of the “protein myth”-myth. ¬†You need protein to live, and you CAN get it from a vegan diet. ¬†It’s like “big pharma” became “big farmer.”

4. SEO is apparently all about keyword density. ¬†If that was true, a page of “buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online¬†buy computers online…” etc would be at the top of each search result. ¬†Instead of being excluded for being dumb and pointless.

5. If I only BUY a bunch of items from some hitherto unheard of fashion house, they will apparently pay me to write reviews (but only if those reviews are positive – that’s the rules of reviewing things for paid posts in blogging). ¬†Listen up, potential bloggers and those of you who are considering paid reviews, because this is a basic rule of making money: ¬†If you have to spend money to do something that someone asked you to do, the chances of it netting you any cash is minimal, unless you have it in writing that they are going to pay you back (at which point, you’re giving them a loan, so charge them interest). ¬†They like to make you think that they are going to give you a return on any “investment” you make e.g. by buying a product, but at the end of the day, as far as companies like this are concerned, YOU are the customer, and they are making money from bloggers, not any readers (the readers are just icing on the cake for these scams). ¬†This is the consumerist myth, and you do NOT have to spend money to make money unless you have¬†a shop.

6. Am I interested in a free sample of these AMAZING new diet pills which have heretofore been tested on mice, rats, rabbits, giraffes and monkeys, and have helped them all achieve the figure YOU deserve??? This one particularly makes me laugh because I have mentioned time and time again on my blog that I am clinically underweight. ¬†The only time someone my size would say yes to diet pills would be if they had anorexia. ¬†At which point they need a free sample of a cure for anorexia, not diet pills. ¬†The whole concept of diet pills really makes me fume, like we can’t just be the size we are (and yes, I fall into that trap too – sometimes wishing I could put weight on to be the “perfect” weight, because all this crap about weight isn’t just “fat shaming” it’s “non-normal shaming” for a made-up value of “normal” – hey, we’ve felt the results of “non-normal shaming” before in other aspects of life such as mental health). ¬†The lunatic fringe of the pharmaceutical industry had to rear its ugly head, and my big question to all these “supplement” pill companies is, if what you’re selling is so good, why don’t doctors ever recommend it to patients? ¬†They can never answer that.

That was six of the best examples of bad paid-posting proposals; obviously I have left company names out because of legal mumbo-jumbo, but I thought these would be entertaining examples. ¬†A lot of the crap I receive in my inbox is to do with either perpetuating myths (e.g. the “protein myth” myth) or perpetuating the¬†LIE¬†that my readers are inadequate unless they spend money on a specific thing (e.g. a weight loss course, diet pills, beauty products). ¬†I respect my readers so could never flog this crap to you all. ¬†If you are a very furious company reading this, and your company has approached me with one of these pitches, perhaps you should look at what you’re offering and try making/selling a better product. ¬†Content is king.

Content is king.
Content is king.

Wedding Wednesday: The Rings

I struggled to write an introductory paragraph for this post on choosing wedding rings, buying them, etc, but I hope this post is helpful for anyone struggling with decisions such as: “Is it okay to buy a second hand vintage wedding ring?” Or:¬†“Is tungsten carbide a good material for a wedding ring?” The answer is yes to both, by the way.

My ring was ¬£249.99 from a Vintage/2nd hand shop in Bradford. ¬†It is platinum and 1/2 carat diamond (round cut) solitaire in size J, because I have tiny fingers. ¬†It took ages to find because a) A lot of jewellers don’t stock my size b) I was very indecisive.

I looked at a lot of things and I fell in love with an antique 1920s ruby ring that was sadly sold before we could afford to buy it (I’m glad, though, now) and later, I nearly bought an opal and 9 carat yellow gold dress ring (5 opals in a row). ¬†The reason I didn’t (I was literally on the payment screen) was because I realized I have to wear this ring every day. ¬†Every single day. ¬†So I needed it to be fit for purpose. ¬†Opals have a big drawback – their beautiful colours are caused by water trapped under the surface of the stone. ¬†If you get them wet over a period of time, that water comes out and you are left with something that looks like a white plastic bead (I should know, I have a lot of opals in my crystal and mineral collection). ¬†This means I would need to take my ring off like, all the time (I wash my hands a LOT and I do all the cleaning in my house). ¬†That wasn’t what I wanted to have to do with my wedding ring. ¬†Additionally, I wanted something that looked equally at home if I was wearing my ripped denim jacket or my beautiful wedding dress. ¬†I needed something neutral, that looked good all the time. ¬†So I chose a diamond, and I chose a silver metal for travel reasons – if I’m travelling, chances are, people will disregard it as a silver/cubic zirconia ring and not worth stealing. ¬† An advantage of it being second hand is that its recommended retail price is ¬£1700, so someone else absorbed that depreciation, and another advantage is that there’s less pressure on me, as it’s not perfect or pristine, just like me (not that you can tell from glancing at it). ¬†Taking the pressure off the bride was the only way I was going to walk down that aisle, so YAY. ¬†Before this, I had an engagement ring made of white gold, diamond and tanzanite, I got it for about ¬£39.99 from Argos on offer, it went up to over ¬£79.99 and stayed there for years, and I don’t know if they’re still selling it. ¬†We got engaged in 2011.

My future husband chose a tungsten carbide alloy ring with the “One Ring” inscription from Lord Of The Rings. ¬†It’s durable, it was cheap (like, under ¬£10), and he assures me that it is comfortable to wear. ¬†He doesn’t generally wear it; he seems to struggle with rings, and I think a lighter ring would have been easier for him to keep on his finger, but he wanted this one, so most of the time it lives on the mantelpiece in our living room. ¬†His engagement ring was ¬£19.99 from Argos; it was stainless steel with a Greek key pattern on it.

Our wedding rings.
Our wedding rings.  If you squint you can see the inscription on his.

Would you buy a second hand or vintage wedding ring?  Let me know in the comments.