Monday, October 30, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Part of our delicious dinner at Chiso in the Fremont District of Seattle.
This has been one of my better culinary trips, by surprise.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Google News: Todd Skinner, the consummate free-climber, passed away in a freak fall while practicing a new ascent of Leaning Tower in Yosemite.
His belay loop (the strongest part of a climbing harness) gave way during a rappel and he fell 500 feet to the rocks below. The SF Chronicle story has a good wrap up of what happened.
I can't even count the number of times I just hung out way up high in mid-air by nothing more than my belay loop, confident nothing would happen (and it never did). Spooky
Dave leads the discussion panel, and tells us to take a look at the Yahoo webmaster help page and Google's webmaster resources to see exactly what they tell you to do to increase your search results. This is all white hat (acceptable to the search engines) stuff. The black hat (unacceptable) stuff will get you blacklisted, a fate as good as death.
1. Keyword research pays dividends - spend time understanding how folks search for the keywords around your product (your blog). You want seven keywords to match your stuff, not one. Maximize the chance they'll find your stuff!
- WordTracker - pretty expensive, but their free demo is pretty darn good to help
- Yahoo Search Marketing (also known as Overture)
- Google AdWords - you can sign up for the account and poke around the Google database
Don't write like this: I really like this thing, and it's cool. You shoud buy one of these, you should visit this place, you should send your business to these guys. (what are your keywords?)
Or like this: I really like free concert tickets and by going to free concert tickets to buy my Who tickets, I got great seats! Yep, free concert tickets really rocks. (this is spammy)
The key is somewhere in between. (that's the art part)
3. The Secret of inbound links
The way to get inbound links? Give outbound links. Be careful, because you bleed visitors every time you link.
4. SEO Best Practices
- Good titles (what appears in the browser title bar -- this is critical!)
- Good headlines
- Reasonable Keyword Density
- Occasionally emphasize a keyword with bold or italics, as appropriate
- Good category names (do keyword searches on these categories, too)
(making a note here that I changed the title of my blog from the cryptic "HVY TK" to what it is today thanks to this panel)
John's answer: a developer tool that allows them (developers) to easily mashup RSS feeds into products.
If I'm looking for a list of hotel rooms on the I-40 corridor that are family-friendly and accept big dogs as guests, the info's already out there on the web, it just needs to be mashed into one query answer.
So, it makes sense (to me).
RSS seems like it'll always be a geeky phenomenon, and most folks likely won't deign to correctly configure their aggregators (why aren't they simply called "feed eaters?"). I've seen way too many folks click on the RSS badge instead of control-click-copy-link-location as should be done.
Maybe the tool's already out there? If so, where?
The archetypal flash fiction is attributed to Ernest Hemingway in the brilliant little ditty:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.Maybe I need to cut down on the length of my posts here.
- Blog because you want to ... it'll show through in your writing.
- Read other blogs ... know who's out there and know how to find the thing that'll distinguish you from everyone else.
- Pick a niche you can own (be different) ... and it doesn't matter if you're "late to the game" (see TechCrunch, a latecomer) if you're good.
- Link to other blogs ... the reason it works is that it shows others have your attention (and paves the way in kind).
- Admit mistakes ... people will keep piling on until you take the time to admit your mistake. Short-circuit the (usually profanity-laced) cycle earlier than later.
- Write good headlines ... don't be cute, be relevant. It'll pay off in the search results and RSS aggregators.
- Use other media ... it's no longer just about text. Add in photos, or a podcast or a video blog. Again, another great differentiator. (people read online 30% slower than on paper, and pictures help break up the rivers of text).
- Have a voice ... let people see you as a human, not just a "facts, ma'am" delivery of content.
- Get outside the blogosphere ... yes, connecting online is nice, but it's NEVER enough. The relationships you see online likely were started (or stoked) offline.
- Market yourself ... don't link to the web site, link to the blog.
- Write well ... before you publish, read it again, check your spelling, check your state of mind, check your state of heart, make sure you really want to hit "publish" so the rest of the world can see. Write short paragraphs, put the most important info up front.
- Expose yourself ... (not that way, unless you really want that kind of traffic).
- Help other people blog ... get them into the tools, teach them the metaphor, share what you've learned and build the community.
- Engage with commenters ... participate in the conversation, not just on your own blog, but elsewhere (remember it's not all about you).
- Keep your integrity ... you are what you appear to be. Disclose your influences. Don't try to hide what you are or who you are.
Came across a cool list of config tweaks over on Life Hacker, and what's been great is now even better.
Like many good restaurants I've come to love, you'd drive right by it and wouldn't know to look there without address in hand. The location was rather nondescript: at the edge of a retail block tucked amidst houses and apartments and townhomes. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought we were somewhere in Northwest DC.
The restaurant itself is quite small, at least as far as seating is concerned. There's a copper bar overlooking the cooking area and it's long enough to seat 12 patrons on stools, and there are three small four-top bistro tables in front of the picture windows looking out. Downstairs (where I didn't go) there's a private dining/wine cellar that can seat up to 28 people, according to the head chef Johnny.
Needless to say, there was a wait to get a seat. 50 minutes of waiting, to be exact. In hindsight, I'd have waited twice as long.
We sat at the bar (the best seat in the house, imho) where we could watch the chefs crank out tapa dish after tapa dish in a well choreographed dance around the small cooking space. The printed-that-day menu offered about 30 different cold and warm tapas, and I was at a loss as to where to start. Luckily, we'd sat down right next to a couple (Lisa and Michael) who were regulars. In fact, Lisa's been coming to Vine Harvest every week for two years. Who better to take recommendations from?
(her inside scoop: there's nothing less than "great!" on the menu)
While exchanging pleasantries with Lisa, the amuse bouche arrived which was a matchbook-sized piece toasted bread with a wonderful pureed garbanzo bean concoction on top. A great taste of things to come.
I didn't feel like analyzing the wine list for the best bottle (the whole list looked very good AND very reasonable, btw) and instead chose to have the same bottle of Rioja that Lisa and Michael were drinking: a bottle of Viña Alberdi Reserva, La Rioja Alta 2000. Over the course of the meal, the wine opened up from a tight burst of plums and cherries to a smooth, earthy rich red that was a perfect accompaniment for the chocolate dessert.
So, wine in hand, and at Lisa's urging, we got the Plato de Chacineria (cold plate of cured meats), and Totadas de Foie (foie gras and a chantrelle mushroom on top of toast points). After the cold plates, we moved on to the Vieiras (scallops pan-fried to perfection and perched atop a wonderful carmelized onion dollop), and Perca (pan-fried sea bass served with brussel sprouts) and ended the savory part of our meal with Venado (venison cooked "a point" and served on a short tower of mushrooms).
We wanted to try the lamb loin, but as our waiter Juan Carlos explained, "the lamb, she is no more." Laughingly, I thought, "wow, talk about fresh ingredients!" The "is-no-more" became the running joke of the meal.
Each plate was presented beautifully: The Plato on a large white round platter that framed the round cuts of meats perfectly, the Tostadas on a small square plate just barely containing the food. The four Vieiras were spaced out evenly along a long narrow plate, and the Perca was in a shallow bowl just big enough to contain the fish and sprouts and hold a delightfully aromatic jamon stock that had been brought to a furious boil moments before it was drizzled over the fish and veggies. Johnny and Joey were great artists with their sauces and the basil oil they used to paint the finishing touches on each plate.
So glad I was at the bar to overlook this all.
By this time, the restaurant was emptying (the doors were locked so no one else could enter), and Lisa and Michael said their goodbyes. We ordered our desert of Profiteroles and Pudding de Pan (because the flan, "she is no more") , and I watched as the chef who normally worked at the cold prep table entered the kitchen to make the staff meal of Chicken Katsu with a cabbage salad and rice.
It's not often I'm inspired for my next meal while finishing the dessert of the current one, but it was mesmerizing to see his knife skills turn a head of cabbage, a green apple, a carrot and roasted red peppers into a wonderful mix of deep colors for the salad base. He then created an oil and vinegar emulsion to toss the veggies in. The breasts of chicken (pounded flat and dredged in flour and bread crumbs) were quick-fried in the pot of oil on the stove and then popped in the oven to finish cooking through. Nine plates were prepped with the salad, the Katsu sauce and white rice. When the breasts were done, he sliced each of them up (with a satisfying crunch through the crust) and laid them out atop the beds of rice.
If not for the fact that our taxi had arrived to take us back to the hotel, I'd have tried to find room to try this staff-only chicken katsu. You can bet I'll be coming back to Vine Harvest again and again. Glad to see they share recipes so I can try to duplicate things at home.
If you decide to go to Harvest Vine: make sure you sit at the bar to watch it all come together on your plate. You won't be sorry.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The link metrics used to weigh bloggers' influence, and why the counts differ from service to service:
- Technorati: counts of all inbound link sources for last 6 months
- Bloglines: the count of all links for all time and the subscription counts
- Sphere: uses links plus other weights for relevance
- Feedburner: counts subscribers (but only for owners of those feeds)
How subscription metrics can differ:
Example based on BoingBoing traffic in August 2005:
- measured in Bloglines: 26,856 subscribers
- measured in Feedburner, 1.2 million subscribers to feed
- why the difference? Feedburner shows all subscriptions whereas Bloglines just those results of who subscribes to the feed using Bloglines
- inbound links: to a specific post URL
- inbound links: to the blog's URL
- comments to posts
- frequency of blogging a topic
- subscribers to RSS feeds and blogs
- incoming traffic links
- outbound blogroll
- tagged URLs (like those captured in del.icio.us)
- read posts, comments and follow conversations
- find communities of self-tagged bloggers in Technorati by topic
- find communities of sphere lists
- look for the link and subscription counts of those who link to you, BUT high numbers are indications of popularity (not authority, don't confuse the two)
- look for key word and tag references to photos, blog posts, URLs and to you...
- posting frequency (assuming compelling, well-written posts): higher frequency posting leads to higher quantity traffic. Multiple times a day is better than once a day is better than once a week is better than once a month, etc.
- do blogrolls matter? not in sending folks your way, no. They're great to show your friends you like them, but they're no good for linky love.
- comments: don't bank on comments as a traffic indicator... you can be popular and not have many comments on your blog
- pinging: if you ping, they will come. This is how you let the search engines know you're new. Keep training them you update often, but proactively ping to get indexed on your time, not theirs.
- HITS: How Idiots Track Success... it means nothing as far as success. "I had 50,000 hits" says nothing about your traffic success. It measures how hard the server has to work to display your page.
- Server Tools are tailored to those hosting sites and can show you your bandwidth used, your files most frequently requested, etc. They're daunting and scary at first because there's so much info, but if you can brave your way into them, they're a goldmine. Good news: if you buy your hosting from a big web hosting company, you have these available to you. Sample tools: AWStats, Urchin, Analog, ClickTracks, HitTail.com
- Java tools are typically tailored to bloggers and are visually appealing and show the trends, even across multiple blogs without changing web sites. Google Analytics, MeasureMap, BlogBeat, MyBlogLog.
- Blog Traffic Tools like Technorati, Feedster, PubSub, Alexa (unreliable), BlogJuice all miss pieces of correct measurment, but suing all of them you can fill the holes. Armed with these, you can say "I had X number of mentions in the blogosphere last week."
- RSS Metrics Tools: FeedBurner is a start (Pay for ProStats, it's worth it), but not the whole picture. Use Bloglines subscriptions info: is about 20% of traffic and is easy to get your subscriptions numbers, Google Reader may or may not have accurate RSS info in it.
One caution for those who use Sitemeter, if you use SiteMeter in the clear, anyone can see your metrics. Many folks think it's "none of your business" to know the stats because potential competitors might find out their blog sucks and swoop in.
And, don't forget to look into the community gathering around your blog. If someone links to you, send an email thank you!
If you're running Google AdSense, you can run the report, and it shows your impressions (you know Google has scrubbed them of duplicates, etc) and that name recognition is gold eith your advertisers (potential or real).
There are two things that really bother me, though, and I'll try documenting progress toward solving the two:
1) I have a 2005 BMW 325i with the communications option package. What this means is that there's an SOS/breakdown button on my rearview mirror that I can push and via cell technology, I'm connected with the BMW assist folks who'll send an ambulance or a tow truck (or both) depending on my needs at the moment the button is pushed. On my steering wheel, I've got phone controls that allow me to use a bluetooth-enabled phone paired with the car to make phone calls using the car's mic and speaker system.
Enter: Verizon Treo 650. The phone pairs with the car just fine (yay!) but whenever I try to initiate a call, Verizon re-boots the phone (dropping the call) because Verizon has decided not to support this feature. BMW says its a Verizon issue. Verizon says its a Treo issue. Palm says its a Verizon issue. Since folks with Treo 650s on Cingular are able to use their phones with the same model car, I have to think it's a Verizon issue.
Now that the spiffy Treo 700s are out (Windows and Palm versions) there's diddly squat on the Verizon support site on how to workaround the cripple. And BMW shrugs their collective shoulders while pointing out if I'd like to upgrade to the 2006 version of my car, things would work like a charm. right.
Still looking for a solution, and when I find it, I'll post it here. Any tips out there in reader land?
2) Issue number two: my Treo 650 memory seems to fill up awfully quick. I have a 1GB media card to which I save all my photos and videos, but the 25Mb baked into the phone itself gives me fits, especially as I've got these mysterious "application files" that propagate to fill up the space. They're cryptically named s01, s02, s03, etc. and each is about 250Kb or so in size. Fine if there's one or two, but they just keep propagating and crippling the other features (like web browsing) on my phone. I've taken to deleting them (starting with the lowest-numbered file first) and don't seem to notice any difference in my Treo experience, but I don't know how thin the ice is on which I'm skating. I *think* they have to do with Snapper Mail, but can't find anything to support this.
Google searches have come up empty so far, but I'll let you know if I find any info.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I'm navigating around the WSJ.com home page today using the oh-so-spiffy new Firefox 2.0 browser. What appears below the market ticker list? A jobs ad for the Central Intelligence Agency.
As Hannah would say, "now that's something you don't see every day."
Curious as to who they're trying to woo, I clicked through and was directed here, a page that, for all intents and purposes tells you that the page you were looking for has moved.
On the one (clever) hand, this could just be some covert campaign to lure folks to the CIA who like the challenge of a good puzzle: why did you advertise on the front page of the WSJ yet send me to a "we've moved" page? Is this the start of a puzzle I must solve to find the appropriate CIA position hidden somewhere on the new encrypted site?
Or is it on the other (more likely) hand, that the ad agency engaged by the CIA has botched the ad placement and we're witnessing yet more waste of tax dollars in the execution?
No time to wait for you answer, I'm busy trying to figure out where they moved the jobs to!
He does a great job of describing how folks (and their brains) cope with communicating anyway. Some can sing, but not speak normally. Some can speak on stage to an audience but can't speak 1-on-1. Fascinating that Adams found out he can speak in the context of rhyme!
The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.
I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.
My brain remapped.
My speech returned.
Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.
The latent linguist in me (and my dust-covered degree) are totally geeking out to this news. Makes me want to go back and dust off all the experiments I designed as an assistant in the Laboratory for Linguistic and Cognitive Studies.
Great tips on SEO stuff for blogs and how to train them to look at your blog more and more often, or to ping them (the "secret weapon" of blogging) pro-actively to come index what's just been published. He mentioned Pingomatic as a service that automates this activity, and at first glance looks simple enough to do.
What I really appreciated was his recommended reading list (of which I'm half-way through already thanks to #1 and #3). From the sounds of it, reading Cialdini's Influence will change my life (go figure).
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
In a way, it's nice to see even the NYTimes falls prey to the faux spell-checker-fix-all on this front-page blurb (twice, no less!). More fuel for the fire when folks demand a spell-checker to help save their souls when a quick glance back would do a better job.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I like the actors, the writing, the production, even the music. It's witty, fast-paced, believable and gorgeous.
It's not often I've felt a show hit on all cylinders with me, and that's why I'm already missing Studio 60. It's too good to go on like this. One week I'll check my DVR and find some repeat of Law & Order: DOA in its place.
While there seem to be another 8.4 million viewers like me who tuned in last week, I'm not sure we're enough to convince NBC to go the whole season with us. What with saving $750M and all, we're getting teed up for another "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" deluge, only this time it'll be Howie's "NO DEAL!" shouting at us nightly from 8-11p.
The last time I looked forward to the weekly episodes of a show, it was Sports Night (another Aaron Sorkin show, back in the days before TiVo), and that ended prematurely, too.
Now that I've come to terms with the show's early demise, I'll stop deleting them off the DVR, so I'll at least have something to hold onto as I wait for the abbreviated (unedited!) series to come out on DVD.
I'll put it on the shelf next to Sports Night as my homage to Sorkin.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
- Signed up for HD programming and an HD DVR from DirecTV. The install was seamless, if a bit late in the day (service window: 1-5pm, after a courtesy call to say they were running late, installers showed up at 5:45pm). Rave: The HD programming is amazing and, in my mind, justifies the cost of this whole setup. Rant: the DirecTV HR20 receiver/DVR is by no means a TiVo. Still getting used to the setup (and is plenty of fodder for a post unto itself). From the reviews, it looks like I'm not alone in my dissatisfaction. Hopefully with enough software updates they'll squash enough of the bugs so that I can actually watch the shows I've asked it to record. Amazing to see how all these years of time-shifting have spoiled me. grade: B-
- Plasma as Mac Mini monitor. The DVI-HDMI cable works like a charm. Since I only had room to run a single HDMI cable up the wall to the TV, I've got a manual HDMI switcher to go back and forth between the Mac and the DirecTV feed. The signal was perfectly clear with the Mac Mini feeding into switcher port 1. When I moved the Mini's HDMI to switcher port 2 (and put DirecTV on port 1), the Mac's image output got pixelated. I'm still working to figure that out, but I need to get a wireless keyboard/mouse for the Mini to do any serious diagnostics. The borrowed keyboard/mouse from our Tangerine iMac is just too frustrating to use in the new setup. grade: incomplete
- Mac Mini as music source. I tried using my Belkin optical audio to connect the Mac Mini to the AV Receiver, but it didn't work. I took the RCA out instead, and it works sufficiently (but nowhere near as good as the optical, I'm told). I've got a new (Harman Kardon) AV receiver on the way, and will post again once it's here and hooked up. grade: incomplete
- Mac Mini as DVD player. To test the DVD capabilities of the Mac Mini, we popped in Ice Age. Our jaws dropped at the detail and 75 minutes later the test was over to much satisfaction. grade: A+
Overall, it's a nice clean setup with just the three pieces (AV/DirecTV/Mac) in the entertainment center. In retrospect, I'm very glad we mounted the TV on the wall. In addition to cleaning up the look of the whole thing (no dangling wires), I don't worry about anxious little hands accidentally knocking the Plasma set over.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Today I learned of a very inspired response from the environmental movement that can be found at ronaldmchummer.com. It's a play on the church sign widget that allows folks to put their own message on a MickeyD's sign.
On the site, you can even vote on your favorite among the 132,000 signs already created. Really cool demonstration of turning over the power of crafting the message to the folks who aren't professional PR folks.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, they're allowed to use these images and marks thanks to their being satire.
UPDATE: and to pile it on to the Hummer brand, this (profanely titled) FUH2.com site allows folks submit their pics giving the one-finger salute to Hummer H2 vehicles. Interesting to see the site go sustainable via selling the montage poster they've created using the photos submitted by users.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I decided to pay the $18.38 owed to Comcast and be done with it. The collections group offered to take payment online (instead of via a check mailed to them), but when I got to the part of their online payment form that asked for credit card info, I saw I'd be billed an additional $5 service fee for using my credit card.
I instead closed the browser window and paid $0.37 for a stamp to send in the check and use up at least $5 of their resources opening my mail, endorsing the check, crediting my account and depositing my check.
It continues to amaze me how bass-ackwards the fee system for conducting business online is at some places. Shouldn't the cost savings for the automated process be passed on to those of us who are not taking up the time of some accounts receivable clerk to process paper-based payments?
Perhaps in another life time.
In any case, good bye, Comcast. And good riddance.
Monday, October 02, 2006
It would seem there's a bet being placed from someone in his camp that the capital-P Public will be less revulsed by an alcoholic pedaphile than we will a sober predator of young boys.
In a statement released by his attorney, Foley says:
Given Foley's very public stance and authority against the very private behavior that was his own undoing, I wonder if seeking help for his suddenly public alcoholism problem isn't a prelude to a forthcoming "I was drunk at the time and didn't know what I was doing."
"I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems... I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused."
Let it be known I'll call bullshit on the so-drunk-I-didn't-know excuse the moment it comes out.
And if folks knew what he was doing for months before ABC news got wind of it, why didn't they urge rehab for his drinking problems earlier if they knew he seemed to get over-friendly with the kids after a few sips?