Finally, summer’s here! Have some Switchel.

You may be wanting to know exactly what switchel is.   Basically, it’s a mix of water, ginger, vinegar, and sugar.  Sometimes fruit juice is added.

When I first encountered this beverage, I thought it tasted strange. However, the more I drank it, the better I liked it. I learned that it was a common hot weather beverage in Early America, and that intrigued me. I’ll write more about its history later but first, here’s how to make it.

Switchel is simple to make. You start with cold water and add apple cider vinegar, sweetener of some kind, and fresh ginger. It’s refreshing, replenishes your potassium, and helps your digestion. It’s a great recovery drink for after a work out. Though the spicy, sweet and sour flavor may be a bit odd at first, it’s certainly well worth getting used to!

Here’s a good recipe to start with.

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons brown sugar, 10 ounces cold water, and minced fresh ginger to taste.  

Variations:

Make ginger tea and add the vinegar and sugar.

Use honey.

Use maple syrup.

Add a splash of fruit juice, such as blueberry or cherry.

Sometimes I will make a strong ginger tea and chill that to make my base with. Other times I’ll simply add chopped ginger to my vinegar-sugar-water mix. Or, as mentioned in the recipe, I might add some fruit juice for variety. I’ve even drunk it warm! Your choice of sweeteners affects the taste. So far I like pure maple syrup or plain white sugar the best. You could also use honey, molasses, or stevia. You may want to limit your sweetener, though I wouldn’t recommend eliminating it at first. Personally, I plan to keep a big jug of it in the fridge this summer, especially during the hot, sticky monsoon months.

Personal experiences:

I have found it to have an energizing effect, somewhat like a mild energy drink. I usually digest things better after I’ve had some, too. I have some digestive issues and the ginger helps the muscles in my stomach and gut move a bit more slowly (link) so I digest things more thoroughly. Plain ginger tea does the same, particularly when I eat the chopped ginger as well as drinking the liquid. My body seems to crave the vitamins that are found in the apple cider vinegar. I tend to like {this brand}, though you can buy it at your local grocery store. If possible, buy it organic with the “mother” still included, though I’ve had great results even with the purified, pasteurized variety.

The history of Swtichel:

As mentioned before, this was a farmer’s drink in early America, but many people liked it. It was believed that the ginger had a warming effect that would lessen the shocking effect of cold water on the stomach, while the sugar and vinegar were there for flavor. It was basically an early sports drink.

Since it’s so easy to make, why not try some today?

If something more traditional is more to your liking, here is how to make a simple ginger beer.

First, start with ginger tea. That’s easy to make – steep chopped ginger in hot water for five minutes or so. Make it nice and strong.

Mix the tea with sugar to taste. Perhaps a cup of sugar for a gallon of ginger beer.

Once it’s cooled to body temperature, add a half teaspoon of yeast. Simple baking yeast is fine.

Evenly divide the mixture into two clean 2 liter soda bottles. Put a slice or two of ginger in each one to strengthen the flavor. Fill the rest of the way with plain water. Leave an inch or so of space at the top of the bottle for “head room.” Cap the bottles tightly.

Leave the ginger beer in the fridge overnight, or until the bottles feel hard. The yeast will carbonate the sweet ginger tea and make it into a simple ginger ale, without building up enough to form alcohol. This makes a great cold drink for a hot day!

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Final

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Temporary Profit – an open letter to department stores

Many of you are rightfully concerned by online competition. Retailers such as Amazon have taken a lot of your market share. So I have a suggestion to increase your profitability in a way that will endure.

Instead of doing more of what you already do, or engaging in progressively more intrusive and annoying advertising, how about capitalizing on your strengths? The strength of a local store is responsiveness. Workers at a store can answer questions, find things for customers, and set up orders for things not in stock. Knowledgeable, personable employees are the difference between a successful business and a faceless set of walls and aisles.

Central planning is the bane of many shoppers’ existence. How many shoppers have gone into a store to buy something and discovered that it wasn’t available in the style they liked because Corporate didn’t carry it? Usually, that just sends shoppers online because comment cards and suggestion boxes do nothing to put the goods they want in the store.

As a business, why not put the human touch back into the department store and be truly responsive to customers? Then they will have a reason not to send all their money to online retailers.  Engage your workers, encourage them to become experts about what they sell, and encourage them to order what customers actually ask for.   The result may be a slightly lower, but more enduring profit, and more importantly, customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty can be all too temporary when they aren’t getting what they need.  Move with the times and with customer demand, and your future will be secure.

 

via Daily Prompt: Temporary

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Two Weeks to Resignation – and a new Lifestyle

Some say your life flashes before your eyes when you are about to die. I don’t know if that’s true, but as my time of resigning draws nearer, little memories of this job keep coming up. That time my coworkers did something sweet, or something funny a team lead said. Little things. How hopeful I was when I was hired, how happy I was to have a job. My frustrations with upper management. Things I’ve learned, both large and small. My ecstasy when I saw a friend come back who nearly died twice, my overflowing joy as I hugged him back into the fold.

This hasn’t been an easy decision. I’ve weighed so many different factors. Distance from home, atmosphere, opportunities for advancement, pay, friendships. I’ve been thinking about it for months. When I finally was offered a good position, I thought it might vanish away like smoke. I even dreamed about it. Yet, it was real, and now only two weeks away. I find myself clearing up loose ends, planning my end. I clean up my work station, decide what saved information I’ll bequeath to my friends, decide where my locker loot will go. It’s like a death. I think I’ll bake something for my friends, including bringing something for the diabetics, to show them how much they’ve meant to me. I’ve spent a lot of time here, after all, and sometimes they feel like a second family.

As I tell people of my decision, they are happy for me but sad to see me go. I feel the same. I will miss so many people. Even though I feel anger at injustice from on high, still I’ve had so many intangible gifts. I tell each person with warmth and regret. I wish management could have improved things, if they had, I would have stayed. But their goals are my goals and mine are mine, and it’s time to go. I intend to make these last days good ones, working hard to serve my callers and train those who will follow me.

I know that someday my memories of this place will fade, I’ll learn new halls and doorways, and new faces will start looking like my family. I’ll be over the rocky ridge and back again in familiar country, but it’s going to take a bit of walking across barren ground, looking for landmarks. For me, nearly seven and a half years is a long time, the longest time I’ve worked in one place.

On my last day I’ll leave with head held high, wishing well to all I leave behind. Right now, I am trying to leave a legacy of helpfulness and good will. And there are two weeks to go.

 

Postscript:

There was another, somewhat unexpected fruit to that job – inspiration for my book, How to P!ss Off the Customers, which will be made into a second edition soon.  It’s a lighthearted look at the perils of working Customer Service, and available for sale on my Books page. 

 

via Daily Prompt: Lifestyle

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None will be spared from safety features

I love my car. It’s battered, it has 163,000 miles on it, and it was built in 2006. It’s put up with minimal maintenance, a paper route, a drive across the country while carrying heavy loads, and done it all with minimal breakdowns. It’s a Hyundai Elantra with a standard transmission. Even as old as it is, it can still go from zero to sixty in six or seven seconds.

Driving around in my responsive little car, the windows open to the world, I notice big differences between my car and others around me. I see the newer cars, with their higher stances, their taller doors, their smaller windows, their wide doorposts. My car is fairly low to the ground with big windows. It makes situational awareness easy. There is no navigation system, just a radio/cd player, and that leads to far less distraction.

I drove a rental a couple years ago. It was some kind of compact Chevy. Driving it, I felt so insulated from the road. It was harder to see my blind spots, and the thick door posts were also difficult to see around. The high doors, caused by the side impact airbags, further reduced visibility. The suspension system made the road hard to feel. I felt insulated – which is good, if you aren’t hurtling down the road at forty five miles an hour in heavy traffic.

Ironically, “safety features” cause most of these problems. In fancier cars, there are also lane warning systems, backup alarms, camera systems, GPS of course, and many other distractions. There are also automatic braking systems. As much as I love technology, I don’t trust a computer to know when to brake better than I do, or know when I should or shouldn’t change lanes. Do I need an alarm beeping at me, when I’m already in a crisis? No, I don’t.

The more control a vehicle takes from you, the more dulled your skills become. The harder it is to see and hear the world around you, the less situationally aware you are. I’ve seen enough traffic accidents to know that improved situational awareness would save many lives every year. For example, knowing that I have somewhat bad eyesight, I purposely avoid distraction when driving – not using the phone or texting – to give me more brainpower to devote to looking around me. I have avoided so many accidents that way!

The key to being a good driver is improving your ability, not relying on a bunch of safety features that may or may not work. Modern cars often give up real safety in exchange for increasing the driver’s perception of safety. So if a government ever tries to force me into a modern vehicle with all the bells and whistles, then I’ll develop a sudden interest in historical pieces, or build my own!

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via Daily Prompt: None

Ownership versus Right to Use

I remember what it was like when everyone was used to owning things. Increasingly, the trend is to pay for the use of something, but it’s not really yours. We rent houses and apartments, lease cars, and buy computers that lock us out from changing anything.

I remember a time when you could do what you wanted with what you bought. You controlled what you paid your hard earned money for. You could modify it, upgrade it, get rid of it, or fix it over and over. No warranty stickers to dissuade you, no secret wiring diagrams not available to the general public, and it was all put together so it could be taken apart again.

If you bought a computer, for example, you could get into the BIOS and change basic settings. You could upgrade or downgrade the operating system as you chose. And when you bought a piece of software, you bought it. You could use it for as long as you wanted. Ownership IS control.

Now, increasingly there are Windows chipsets that try to lock you in to one operating system. They stop working if you change it. Certain operating systems won’t even let you revert to earlier versions unless you want to completely wipe your hard drive. If you own something that doesn’t let you change it or alter it, can you really say you own it? Control is taken away from you, the buyer.

Software is also becoming a pay for use type service. You pay a yearly fee to use your software, even after buying it in the first place!  Then, companies reserve the right to mine your information if you’re connected to the internet, just like certain modern OS’s like Windows 10. Once again, you don’t truly own it, you just pay to use it, and the people who own the software get most of the benefit.

If you lease a car, you don’t really own it either.  Even if you own one, many modern cars aren’t serviceable by the owner, so if something goes wrong you have to bring it to a dealership or an expensive certified mechanic. You are forced to pay for services. Your vehicle becomes just another way for manufacturers to siphon money from you, and keep on siphoning it from you in the future.

That’s why I won’t buy a brand new car. That’s also why I won’t use Windows 10. I’ll use Windows 7, or Linux, but I demand the ability to adjust or fix what I own. I am interested in creating and producing, not being a cash cow for someone else. That’s also why I use ad blockers – so I won’t be data-mined so easily. I’m tired of giving up control. I won’t use subscription software, except for one program which is the best spyware and virus blocker I’ve yet found, and only costs $15 a year. I use open source software like LibreOffice and GIMP. I don’t use Mac products.

I vote with my dollars.

I hope others will too.

 

 

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via Daily Prompt: Control