Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
March 23rd, 2007

Lighten Up!

The last few posts were way too heavy, so here’s a change in pace.

I just finished Robert B. Parker’s book Small Vices on tape. I like the Spenser novels, but I really liked this one. I buy these for my Mom, who loves mystery novels. Since her cataract operation she has gotten hooked on books on tape. I get to listen to the good ones first, though. This one is a real thriller. I like the characters Spenser, Hawk, Susan and Pearl, and I like the relaxed almost offhand way that he writes.

The plot of this one is that Spenser must prove a bad guy, who is in jail, was framed. The bad guy is very nasty sort who abuses women and everyone agrees that he should be behind bars. The only problem is that the real killer paid for a cover-up and he is now free. There are some good scenes and the character of the gray hit-man is very scary. It kept me on the edge of the seat while I was driving.

Over the weekend, I was coming down Sickletown Road and a guy pulled out from a side street without looking. I pulled over and stopped, but he kept on coming and side-swiped me anyway. I was STOPPED for chrisake. I popped in the Parker tape while waiting for the cops to come and fill out an accident report. It was lucky that I had it, because I wanted to punch the guy, and I needed a distraction.

If your ever see a Robert B. Parker book or tape at a garage sale, buy it. It is not Science Fiction, but one needs to cleanse the palette once in a while. (I tried to listen to Jane Austin’s Emma, but it was talk-talk-talk-talk-talk and nothing much interesting happened and I didn’t make it though the first tape. Mom liked it, though.)

March 22nd, 2007

Fun with Global Warming

Jim Shannon has been making some interesting arguments in the comments to a post that I did a little earlier. I thought that I would bring it up to the top with another post so Jim, J, and I could continue the debate. The chart below is a longer scale chart that shows a natural 100,000-125,000 year cycle of ice ages and warm periods. This chart is the one that critics point to when they try to debunk global warming. Critics of global warming claim that the current warming trend is part of this cycle.

My contention is that the cycle in this chart is 100,000 years. We are talking about a local and radical change with a span of under 100 years that doesn’t even show up on the scale of this chart. In other words the critics are trying to say there are no apples by pointing to the oranges. OSC’s criticism of the slanted statistics of Global Warming, that Shannon linked to, are not a critique of the science so much as a critique of the scientists. It reeks of Ad Hominem arguments. Card argues the politics of Global Warming and knows nothing about the science. (how’s that for ad hominem!)

I think it is common sense to think that the huge amount of greenhouse gases that industries pour into the atmosphere combined with the drastic losses of the rain forests and die-backs of ocean plankton has an impact on the earth. The degree of impact is the question that is under argument and the overwhelming majority of climatologists feel that global warming is real and dangerous. The vocal minority of dissidents are usually arguing politics rather than science.

Temperature and CO2 concentration in the atmosphere since 400 000 years

Notes: This post references Jim Shannon’s Blog, J Alan Erwine’s Blog, Neal Asher’s Blog and an entry on Orson Scott Card’s blog. Let’s here it guys!

March 22nd, 2007

Getting hits: The Mechanics of Creating Quality Traffic

The way to get traffic is to have quality inbound links to your websites. If your site has original and interesting content, you don’t have to do anything, The links will find you. The spiders will cover your site and gobble up your valuable keywords and spit them out as good placement in the search engines.
There are some purely mechanical things that you can do to increase inbound links. There are various ways to manipulate the web to get traffic, but I have found that link farms, pay-for-links, and free-for-all links are useless and can even have a negative impact. Getting quality links is an art. Here are a few things that I’ve be using that work for me.

Natural Links:
These are links from other websites that you deserve to get. You have content that some webmaster thinks is important. These would be mentions in blogs, forum postings, or from the links pages of sites similar to yours. These are the best links. People click these links and Google places a high value on these links. These are the links that you want.
If your are a resource, you can get listed in resource sites (like Ralans and SpiceyGreenIguana if you are a spec-fic publisher). If they haven’t listed your site, suggest that that they should. If you have a zine, getting all of your writers to link back to you from their home pages is a good idea. Ask them to link to the website main page a well as individual articles.
You can write for other websites and make sure that they include a link to your home page at the end of the article or story.

Link Exchanges:
You can contact other websites like yours and ask for reciprocal links. You should have a links page where you add all of your friendly competitors and then they can create a similar page with a link back to you. This is less effective than natural links, because Google takes away a little Mojo from interlocking links. The idea is that the links have less value if you are patting the back of the guy who is patting your back. The clicks that you get directly from these are good surfers who will bookmark your site and come back for more.

Webrings are interlocking links of similar websites. There are webrings for most everything and most of my sites belong to at least one webring. I have even started a Spec Fic Bloggers webring. The links in webrings are JavaScript so that Google can’t see them, but Google spiders the webring’s home sites and a link from a webring site is good link. Most webrings are moderated and good ringmasters don’t allow off topic websites to sneak into their rings. Join a few webrings or start one of your own at webring.com.

Blog Carnivals:
I just found out about these. A blog carnival is a regular blog consisting of links to other people’s blog entries. It is a blog of blogs. The idea is that people use blog carnivals to read about tightly focused subjects written by a variety of authors. Most Blog Carnivals have tools where bloggers can suggest their blog entries to the blog carnival blogmaster. These are good links. I have been trying them out on a few specific subjects. I am also working on some tools and I will create a few blog carnivals of my own. I am guessing that Google spiders these and gives appropriate weight to the link. I did notice a modest increase in traffic coming from them and I will keep testing.
From now on, whenever I make a blog entry that I think might have some general appeal, I am going out to the blog carnival sites and see if I can submit the link somewhere. This article, longer than I usually write, was designed to check out the blog carnivals to see how well they work.

A listing in DMOZ.org is at the heart of getting hits from search engines. Almost all of the search engines pull their default description of your site from DMOZ. If it can’t find it on DMOZ it uses the description meta tag in your web pages and if it can’t find that it grabs some random words from your web page. A listing in DMOZ guarantees that you get a decent place in the search engines (not just Google) when people look for specific data on your site.
An entry in DMOZ is a very good thing for traffic, even if the traffic doesn’t come directly from DMOZ.
Similar to DMOZ is the Librarians Internet Index, LII.org. This is a harder to get in than DMOZ, but every search engine takes the sites listed in LII seriously.

RSS Aggregators:
If your site doesn’t have an RSS feed (most blogs do), see if you can create one. Keep it updated when you make changes to your site. Register it with FeedBurner.com and some other RSS Feed Aggregators. Every website needs a feed even it hardly ever changes. There is a whole world out there that doesn’t surf, the web, they surf RSS. Get yourself listed and you can tap into these RSS-ers. The Aggregators create a good deal of traffic and it is good quality traffic consisting of readers who will keep coming back.

Digg, Del.icio.us and other bookmark sites:
Digg.com lets you put a little icon which allows surfers to rate your site. Del.icio.us is bookmark service. StumbleUpon.com lets users look at sites that they are likely to enjoy based on their surfing history. These sites produce quite a bit of traffic because they are a compilation of human opinions and not the result of an algorithm. Getting Digged (Dugg?) or bookmarked in Del.icio.us or getting a positive rating in Stumbleupon produces a steady flow of traffic. Register with all of these and put the icons on your site.

Writing Free Articles:
If you have a specific skill you should write about it. You need to create articles from 500 to 2000 words that you don’t mind giving away free. There are a variety of sites that will offer these articles to the public. Websites that need content will then either buy them (you might even get a royalty payment) or most likely use them with a link back to the author. The link back is often more important than a few pennies royalty.
I haven’t used this, but I understand that an good article can be worth a few hundred back links.
Very technical articles with MBA action keywords like Managing, Publishing, Programming, Installing, Creating, Coping, and Generating, seem to be the ones that people want. (don’t forget Free!)

Google Sitemaps:
Create a sitemap of your site and register it with Google Sitemaps. This almost guarantees your web pages get listed in Google almost as soon as you create them. I suspect that a site with a good sitemap has a good chance of getting links from Google.

Google Adsense:
I suspect that a site with Adsense ads has more inbound clicks from Google than a page with no ads on it. Google makes money by directing people to a site with Adsense ads on it – it would be logical if they gave the Adsense ads preference. Google denies this, but I don’t believe them.
You’re crazy if you don’t have Adsense ads on your site anyway. It’s free money. There is also some evidence that your site is spidered faster if you have adsense ads.

Google Adwords:
If you want to pay for clicks, use Adwords or possibly Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN). You can pay as little as a nickel per click and budget yourself so that you don’t have to pay much a month. Clicks coming in through these ads are often good clicks from potential new friends who will bookmark your site and stop by again.
I only use Adwords for websites where I sell something. I can see traffic coming in and I use Google Analytics to see if it pays and so far, it always has.

Shelf Space:
Use lots of pages. Divide long pages into multiple linked pages. An ideal page has 250 to 500 words of good content (not counting links, ads and repeated information). If you have one website that covers a variety of subjects, break it up and spread it out over different domains. Link pages together with descriptive links and put a site map link on every page.
The more pages that you have in a website with good content on them, the more likely that one (or more) of those pages will appear in a web search and hook a surfer.

Put keywords in Bold or Italic. Use keywords as the name of named anchors on your site and use links on the page to jump to these named anchors. Try to figure ways to call attention to your keywords, like putting them in headings and links. Put keywords in the title of your page. Make sure that the name of your page is not something like page2.htm. It should include keywords like Creating_Traffic.htm. Put similar pages in directories and the name of the directory should be keywords, not an abbreviation, but a verbose set of keywords.
Use the word Free somewhere in your site. Put it in an H1 tag, but use a css style to bring it back to ordinary size text. Everyone is searching for free stuff so they if they search for Free Quality Traffic they will be more likely to find you. If you are bold, use the word Porn in conjunction with free. Free Porn is the still, by far, the highest rated search phrase, even if the traffic you get from these freebie hunting voyeurs is not that good.

Don’t use banner exchanges, link farms, automated link exchanges, free-for-all links, pay-for-links or anyone who guarantees a certain number of clicks. You need natural quality links, not links from flashy animated gifs or sites that force surfers to click in return for something.

Measure the results:
Register with MyBlogLog.com and Google Analytics and watch your website traffic. The free version of MyBlogLog gives you great information about who is surfing your site, where they came from, what pages they look at, and where they go when they leave.
Unlike raw web log analysis, MyBlogLog and Google Analytics don’t show you spider traffic or hits on graphics, css and other files. It shows you real traffic by people who have JavaScript and are looking at your website. Yahoo bought MyBlogLog and they have a lot of community features and I actually get some traffic back from their website.

None of these mechanical methods for building inbound links will replace a good site with useful information. Surfers are looking for a payoff. They won’t come to your site unless you promise them something. You have to pay the surfer when he gets to your site or he will never come back. You can promise the world, but if there is no payoff, the surfer click the back button before the page has finished rendering. Natural links are gold, search engine links are your bread and butter, but a link from a surfer who has bookmarked your site is money in the bank.

March 21st, 2007

CO2 concentrations, 1000-2100

One picture is worth 1100 years.

CO2 concentrations, 1000-2100

I found this in a political argument in alt.music.amplifiers of all places. Global warming? Look at the graph and tell me what you think.

Here’s another graph from the same site.

March 21st, 2007

Martian Wave Test Feed

Over lunch, I was waiting for someone at Rye Playland to call be back about an issue in their accounting software. Never one to waste the gift of free time, I wrote an RSS generator that can be used for zines. I created a feed for three stories at The Martian Wave and I used feedburner to create one of their animated widgets. Here is what I got:

The Martian Wave Test RSS

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

All that I have to do is clean up the code and publish the link. There is quite a bit that can go wrong, though. I have a huge problem with non-roman characters and there’s the old garbage-in garbage-out thing. If people start trying to include html tags or large amounts of data it will break. It is also up to the webmaster of a zine to create a new rss.xml file with the same name each time the zine changes. Feedburner expects the new file to be in the same place with the same name.

March 21st, 2007

John Backus Died

John W. Backus, the man who developed the FORTRAN computer language, died last Saturday. FORTRAN is the first computer language that I learned and I owe a lifetime of job security to this man. Learning FORTRAN was like remembering something that I already knew. It was natural, easy, orderly and made so much sense to me that I never thought about doing anything else with my life. Thanks, John!

You need the willingness to fail all the time, You have to generate many ideas and then you have to work very hard only to discover that they don’t work. And you keep doing that over and over until you find one that does work. – John W. Backus

March 19th, 2007

Unexpected New Traffic

I don’t monetize this blog. I don’t actively promote it. The blog is, after all, for people who know me or have some other relationship with me. I don’t write much for the random surfer who winds up here by accident. That doesn’t mean that I don’t welcome new people to the KG Wanderings Community.

I recently signed up with feedburner.com after reading an article about simple things that you can do to a blog to make it more interesting and “sticky”. (Sticky means that people explore your web pages and come back for more.)

FeedBurner.com is a set of tools that make subscribing to rss feeds easier. It turns out the many more people prefer to read websites as rss feeds than I would have ever guessed. MyAOL, MyYahoo and a bunch of other portal type websites allow you to put feeds on the home page. It is possible to read the latest “KG Wandering” on your MyAOL page. If I ever have a magazine again, I will make an rss feed for it so people can subscribe to it this way.

Blogger creates an rss feed, even if you are not aware of it.

was easy to configure. Feedburner has a page for creating links so people can subscribe to your page easily. I made a whole slew of them that you can see on your left and a little down. I have been averaging 9 or 10 NEW feed subscribers a day on my various websites. They are subscribing via Yahoo, AOL, Google and Roho (whom I had never heard of before). All of my blogs now have sign up links.

I added Digg.com “digg-it” links to all of my individual blog entries. Digg is supposed to be one of those communities that people trust more than a search engine. I am hoping that people will start Digg-ing my posts and I will get hits back that way.

I signed up for a Del.icio.us account and bookmarked all of my sites. I was amazed to find that most of them already have bookmarks by people that I’ve never heard of. Del.icio.us is one of those sites that is an alternative to search engines and if you get on the popular list, you get millions of hits.

I get quite a few hits to FreeNameAStar.com from www.Stumbleupon.com. Even this blog gets hits from stumbleupon from time to time. You have to join stumbleupon and install their browser plugin and use that to rate sites that you like. Use it to rate your own sites and ask other people to do the same and eventually people will star stumbling in.

I added MyBlogLog.com code to my blogs a long time ago and since Yahoo bought them out I have been adding the code to all of my sites. They have some neat features, including a myspace style community of surfers. You can list the images of other MyBlogLog members who have visited your page, which is cool. They also keep link statistics on outgoing links so you can see when people link off your page where they are going.

Use Technorati.com or Google blog search to make you pages more accessible. Add the “search status” firefox plugin to your page and keep track of your Alexa rank and your Google page rank. These stats will help you monitor how users find your page.

I’ve tried a few other widgets, with little luck. If you want to see all of them in action, go to Katheryn Cramer’s blog. She has so much crap on her pages that it takes a couple of minutes to load, sometimes. She is a widget collector. Right click and view source and you can see a whole bunch of these little JavaScript-lets on her page. Her web page is like the little girl with the curl.

There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
When she was good, she was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid.

As a result, I have seen a 10 percent jump in readership over the last few days at all of my sites. The JavaScript widgets and the rss subscriptions from feedburner seem to account for this. I am surprised that it was this easy. I expect that the growth will continue for a while. I am always happy to welcome new readers.

March 19th, 2007

Dropping Smeerp and Wapfiction

I am letting several domains expire. They don’t pay their way. I have copied the code at Smeerp.com to Strangetales.net/smeerp and Wapfiction.com is going away completely. Smeerp has half a dozen zines using it and a hundred or so users, but nobody was ever interested in my wapfiction idea of getting stories on your cell phones as WML pages. At the end of the month Smeerp.com and Wapfiction.com will expire forever and some domain sniper will park them and try to make money off of the traffic. Smeerp had a page rank of 3, which means it gets a small amount of random traffic from the search engines.

Smeerp users will still be able to use the slush management at www.strangetales.net/smeerp.

This saves me 18 bucks a year. Fumets.com and the Astounding series all expire next fall. That will save me another 50 bucks a year.

March 14th, 2007

SF Writers Rejected

Rudy Rucker and John Shirley, two of my favorite spec-fic writers are having a hissy fit for being snubbed by a new Cyberpunk short story anthology. These guys practically invented the sub-genre of Cyberpunk (along with Bruce Sterling and William Gibson) and made it popular. They deserve to be included in any new Cyberpunk anthology and I might agree with their annoyance, except for one thing. I don’t know if they were even asked to submit, but if they were, I don’t know if the stories that they submitted were any good.

These guys are capable of writing a crappy short story. They are better at their craft than the rest of us, but what if the stories that they sent in for consideration just really sucked, or weren’t right for the anthology? Rudy has been off in math-land lately, writing stories not really intended for the rest of us and John has been making money writing film treatments and horror novels that seem like they should be heavily illustrated in a manja style. Have these former gods of Cyberpunk wandered too far from the true path?

It seems to me that you need a thicker skin if you want to be in the spec-fic market. There isn’t much money to go around. Anthologies make pennies, even the ones that sell. Both of these guys admit that they are over-reacting, and seem to be having fun with their outrage. Rudy’s blog entry is funny, but I don’t think that it was a good decision to write it.

The image of the cow magically appeared in my blog when I hit my Blog This! button. I don’t know what it means, but I left it in. It was on Rudy Rucker’s blog and he didn’t explain what it means, either.

March 14th, 2007

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop

NASA runs the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for writers who want to know a more about astronomy.

It runs for a week in July in Laramie, Wyoming, and it is FREE! You need to pay for the hotel, of course and get yourself out there, somehow.

If I had the cash for a plane ticket, I’d go. There are only a couple of seats left and they will be sold out soon, so sign up now! I am book-markng this and maybe next year or the year after – who knows?

Launch Pad is a free, NASA-funded workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for twelve attendees in modern astronomy science through workshops, guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s two large telescopes.

This year’s guest instructor is Jerry Oltion, amateur astronomer and science fiction author. Other lecturers include University of Wyoming professors Michael S. Brotherton, PhD and Jim Verley.

March 14th, 2007

Super Capacitors – Future stuff

WIMA has announced a new breed of super capacitors. Let me tell you why this is cool.

I am interested in large capacitors because I like to repair and refurbish old vacuum tube amplifiers and one component that goes bad is the large capacitors. These act a little like batteries in that they store electricity for a short time until the circuit needs it. They dry out and get old and have to be replaced.

Recently, I have thought about capacitors and hybrid vehicles. I have been doing the math and a conventional battery can be replaced by an array of capacitors. The caps are cheaper than a battery and they don’t wear out as fast. They are lighter. The limitation is that they don’t quite have the storage of a chemical battery.

So today I read a press release from WIMA about their new capacitor. The principle that they use was actually discovered in 1856 by Helmholtz, but is just now starting to build up steam. The higher the voltage, the more you can store in a capacitor. The storage goes up with the square of the voltage so if you make a cap that can take 10 volts instead of 1 volt it has 100 times as much power storage. High voltage capacitors are difficult to handle and hard to make. WIMA gets around this by putting a 100 million low voltage caps in a small box. A capacitor that weighs 90 grams or about 3 ounces can store about 900 joules (a joule, as my physics professor once said, is the energy used by a mosquito to do a push-up). 900 joules is not much, but the things are tiny and you can put quite a lot them in a car in the unused spaces in doors and ceilings and behind seats, or even where the engine used to be.

50 pounds of WIMA SuperCaps can store 1.1 million joules. This is a good chunk of power and is the same as 30 kilowatt-hours. The average daily usage of electricity for a house is about 30 Kilowatt-hours per day, so 50 pounds of WIMA caps can power a house for a day. In a car you use .37 kilowatt-hours worth of gas to go a mile. If you could charge up 50 pounds of WIMA capacitor array you could go 81 miles at 1/3 the cost of gas. If you use braking action to recapture energy, you can make this well over 100 miles. If you want to go hybrid, you can put in a small, efficient gas engine to charge the caps while you are away from a wall outlet.

If you pack in 400 pounds of SuperCaps into the space where the engine used to be, you get over 600 miles to a charge.

I am guessing that the cost of the capacitors is a little prohibitive right now. I can’t find pricing on these SuperCaps (if you have to ask, you can’t afford it). I predict, though, that they will be selling for 1/10 the price in a few years as they production costs go down and competition kicks in. In 10 years these caps will be very cost effective.

Why aren’t the automobile companies all over this? Beats the hell out of me. Are the gas companies paying them off to stick to conventional engines? Why are the Japanese 10 years ahead of us on building hybrid cars? These capacitors are going to get cheaper and smaller very fast. If you are looking to put a few thousand into a long shot, I would invest it in companies like WIMA. Either that, or sell short on GM.

March 13th, 2007

Video Hosting

Over the weekend I went to mark Hummel’s harmonica blowout featuring my heroes Charlie Musslewhite and Kim Wilson. Kim Wilson is the reason that I took up harmonica playing. I took some pictures with Justine’s camera. The fancy Kodak takes movies so I took some video of Linda Geiger playing drums in the big finale. Linda is a blues drummer and I met her at one of the local jams. She plays drums for my brother’s band when she can schedule it. It turns out that she knew all the famous harp players at the blowout and they called her up on stage at the end.

The video was 106 megs and therefore too big for YouTube.com. I could not get the google video beta to work at all. I tried several other video hosting solutions and I got Grouper.com to work, but my favorite is Vimeo.com. Grouper did a good enough job, but they put a grouper watermark on the video. Vimeo was much faster and I think I’ll use vimeo as a better choice over Youtube or Grouper.

It’s too bad that the finale was such an uninteresting song. Kim tried to liven it up, but the song dragged in spite of Linda, guitar player Rusty Zinn, and Kim Wilson trying to kick it from time to time.
I will have more video and lots of pictures of me annoying the talent on jt30.com and harpamps.com. I had a good long conversation with Kim Wilson about various microphone topics. He uses a t-3 modified by Dennis Gruenling. I like Dennis, but I do a better job on the T-3′s.

March 12th, 2007

Why a career in computer programming sucks

I found this entry and I have to admit that most of it is true. I have been a programmer for 30 years or so and the field has kept me fed and stimulated (until recently), but being a programmer does have some drawbacks. Work Conditions Suck, is one point that has bothered me in my present job. I don’t like sitting at a table in the middle of a busy traffic pattern when I need to concentrate on my projects. Their #1 reason why programming sucks, Temporary nature of knowledge capital, is actually one of the things I like about the job. I like learning the new languages and programming styles (I still think that Rational programming is a stupid waste of time, but that is another issue).

Why a career in computer programming sucks

March 6th, 2007

Michael Z. Williamson

Michael Z. Williamson is an SF writer who stopped by my site and took umbrage with the Clichés page. People don’t like seeing some of their favorite plots in the list. Just because it is a good plot or idea or image, doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been used-to-death. Clichés are unavoidable because so many writers have been writing for so long. It is hardly likely that you will come up with a completely new plot, character or idea. I attempted to make my calm level-headed explanation,as though explaining to a small child, what is meant by Cliché.

He refuses, though, absolutely refuses to give up Nazis. I think that Nazis have no place in any literature. They are a lazy writers way of creating a villain. Just like serial killers, psychotic killers, and multiple personality disorders are cheap ways of making someone bad. It is much harder to show a villain as a disturbed character in need of help, than to paint them as essentially evil. Anyway, I am not much of a believer in evil people, only evil acts.

In any case, we very rarely encounter Nazis or Psychopaths and other evil people, so write what you know should be the whole of the law.

Just thinking back though, my barber (about 30 years ago) was a Nazi and once while shaving me, he whispered: “Hitler had the right idea.” into my ear. He had a straight razor in his hand, so I let the matter ride.

My piano teacher molested a small boy and did prison time.

When I was 10 my friend’s stepfather shot his mother with a shotgun and then turned it on himself.

In my life, I have known at least five murderers, before and after the fact.

None of these people were essentially evil, just sick, or desperate, or very confused. However, thinking back, the barber was pretty scary.