Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Internet Conference

We received an invitation to a conference on Internet marketing. The conference was to be held at an upscale hotel downtown. Because Kit is trying an eBay business, we were interested. Besides that, they offered a free lunch.

Our fellow conference attendees were generally not the type likely to pickup “Internet for Dummies” from the library or Google up any of dozens of free website setup programs. Quite a few raised their hands to indicate “no computer experience”. Some of them looked mostly interested in the free lunch.

Turned out that the conference was a live infomercial for a set of products and services so that, “Anybody could make money on the internet.” The pitchman almost immediately dismissed eBay type of businesses. That let us out. Rather “drop shipping” was the way he advised to make money. To use “drop shipping”, you use various strategies to lure customers to your web site for products. Your computer automatically relays the orders to the manufacturer or a wholesaler who does the messy detail work of managing inventory, packing, and shipping. Profits are electronically routed to your bank account. You have no expensive overhead, or limit on products. This supposedly gives you an advantage over competitors such as WalMart.

The pitchman used every emotional trigger; family, security, even patriotism. Then success stories were shared. A single mother working three jobs had no computer experience. It took her six months to get her “drop shipping” business going. Now, she only works at home on her Internet site for about 15 hours a week and has money and time for her kids. An older couple, unemployed and without any income (like Kit and I), got started more quickly. Now they have plenty of money to travel and for their grandkids.

The initial information package was only $30 and the monthly service charge $24.95. The “invaluable set” of optional resources in which the customer luring strategies are explained would be $3,600. But, only the most qualified users would be given access to them.

By 2:00 PM the organizers were starting another session for those who had purchased the initial package. No free lunch was in sight. So, we drifted away. That’s probably what they expected. We’ll hit a lot of dead ends as we explore our new post employment life. This was one.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Free Range Organic Catfish

Our friends from Albania caught a nice catfish. Oak Meadows includes an acre of pond. Bass, bluegills, and catfish have been stocked. We are managing the pond carefully for sustainable fishing, especially for our guests. Olive green water with suspended algae has a healthy ecosystem and food chain. If you can see items 18 inches under the surface, the water needs nutrients. In the beginning we used chemical fertilizers. Now the fish and wild waterfowl fertilize the water organically.

The fish mostly feed themselves and each other in the food chain. But, we also supplement feeding. Catfish in particular are 3X more efficient than beef or pork at converting vegetable products into protein. Although catfish have an “eat anything” reputation, they are not garbage eaters. Mostly they catch and eat live fish. We also give our catfish soybean based products like dry dog food. The catfish are even wily and elusive. Catch one catfish and the others disappear.

Contrast catfish with the highly esteemed idiot fish called largemouth bass. We supplement their feed with chicken offal. I saw one of our greedy bass eat a little turtle. A small water snake on the pond doesn’t have a chance. Once I accidentally dropped a rock into the water. A bass aggressively swallowed it. And bass aren’t at all wily. They apparently don’t notice that their companion was yanked out of the water after grabbing that shiny object. We catch some of the stupid bass over and over. Bass aren’t elusive either. When I work in the pond, maybe repairing the bridge, bass hover nearby watching. Trying to decide if they can eat me, would be my guess.

In order to enhance the fishing experience of our guests, we let our catfish grow to 15-20 pounds. Until we started supplying tackle, a lot of guests left with broken lines. But, catfish bigger than about 5 pounds aren’t the best for eating. We’ve tried a lot of ways to cook the large catfish. Baked or grilled catfish fillets are rubbery. The best ways to prepare large (or small) catfish follow:

Catfish fingers

Make a mixture of dry corn meal and flour.
Cut the fillets into finger sized pieces
Dry the pieces carefully with a paper towel.
(Drying prevents excessive coating that would absorb oil.)
Shake the pieces in a bag with the mixture.
Fry the pieces in canola oil until crisp.
Drain carefully on paper towels. (You’ll be surprised at how light and healthy this “fried” food is.)

Catfish chowder

Cut a pound of the fillets into grape sized pieces.
Saute the pieces lightly in butter or vegetable oil.
Add a cup of water
Add a can of canned clam strips including the stock
(The clams add flavor. Catfish makes the substance.)
Add a cup of cubed potatoes and ½ cup of carrots.
Add ¼ cup of diced pepperoni (or fried bacon)

Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are soft.
Then add a cup of milk (Half-and-half is even better.)
Season to taste with salt, pepper, thyme