Blogging metapost

Google Analytics - Number NerdImage by LollyKnit via FlickrI’ve had this blog for… …holy crap, for four years. In the beginning it was pretty bare, just single-line posts about things I wanted to buy or things I had already used and thought were cool.

In the last few months I’ve tried to flesh my posts out a bit more and post more often, with mixed success.

I’ve come to see it as a sort of game. There’s no opponent (I refuse to compete with the entire rest of the Internet) so it’s a bit of a solitary game. You start the game with a PageRank of 0 and the goal is to get a PageRank of 10. I refuse to resort to any kind of SEO, so it’s all about whether I can produce good enough content to get the attention of the world. So far the answer is “not really”. I have got a PageRank of 3, which is better than I ever thought I’d do, but there’s a long way to go. I don’t really have any really good backlinks, and no RSS subscriptions.

For me, the most fun part of the game is checking how well I’m doing every day. PageRank changes slowly, so that’s no fun, but between Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and Google AdSense, I get some interesting feedback.

When something happens like my Amazon pre-order of GTA IV shipping unexpectedly early, rather than telling someone, my first thought is to blog it. Not because I’m so short of real-life friends or I think there’s anyone out there that cares, but because it gives me some content and I want to see what that’ll do to my standing in the game.

I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago, when the Call of Duty 4 map pack came out and I couldn’t download it because of an Xbox Live error. I blogged about it, and had the biggest spike in my visitor stats because of everyone else having the same error and googling it. Of course my post wouldn’t help any of those people because I don’t know what the error means or what to do about it, so I wouldn’t hold it up as an example of good content. But it did get me a spike.

Another interesting thing is how many visitors I’ve had because of my posts about having invites to private betas (Twine, Xobni, socialthing, EverNote). Again, not the best content, but visit magnets.

It’s interesting that pretty much nobody has ever clicked on the AdSense ads on my blog. I wonder whether that’s because the ads weren’t appropriate (Google’s fault) or whether my readers all run AdBlock (nobody’s fault) or whether ads appropriate to my posts weren’t interesting (my fault)…



GTA IV Pre-Order shipped late

Advertisement for the computer game Grand Theft Auto IV, painted on a wall in New York City's Chinatown District.Image via WikipediaIt seems my previous optimism was unfounded, and Amazon have burned me again. Not quite as badly as previous times – when I didn’t receive the game until a week after the release date – but still…

Let me just state my expectations here – when I pre-order a game, I want it to arrive on the release date. Not ship on the release date.

Come on, GTA IV is the biggest release in a long time – they must have anticipated the rush and shipped copies of the game to retailers in advance. This isn’t an obscure product.

The current shipping status shows it arriving tomorrow. Good enough, I guess.

GTA IV Pre-Order shipped!

Grand Theft Auto IVImage via WikipediaWoo (and dare I say it) hoo! In the past I’ve had one or two disappointing experiences with Amazon pre-orders, but apparently my GTA IV pre-order has shipped! With any luck I’ll actually get it by the release date this time.

As this is a very highly anticipated game, there’s probably no point in re-hashing what we know so far, but after I’ve played it I might do a quick review.

Until GTA IV comes out, Saints Row is the only HD, next gen open-world game. I really enjoyed playing Saints Row, but I’ve played it enough to be bored of it now. Saints Row 2 comes out August-ist, so we’ll see whether I’m bored of GTA IV by then. They’ve taken a very different tack with Saints Row, and I like them both.

Apparently the press is already complaining about GTA and it’s not even out yet. Those guys crack me up. And by “crack me up” I mean “piss me off”.

They call it a murder simulator. Gues what we were doing when we were playing cops & robbers or cowboys & indians in the back yard? Yeah, that’s right, pretending to kill each other.

They call it antisocial. You know what else is antisocial? Reading. Go on national television denouncing the evils of reading, I dare you.

Encyclopaedia Brittanica

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, with Britannica book of the year 2002, with white library labels.Image via WikipediaYou may have seen in the news recently that Encyclopaedia Britannica is actually trying to do something about the fact that they’ve been replaced as a source of information by the Internet in general and Wikipedia in particular. They started to give out a year’s free subscription called WebShare to bloggers.

I applied for a subscription on the off chance that I’d get one – I am a blogger after all. Even though I have barely any readership, no subscriptions and a PageRank of 3, they gave me one. I guess either I’m more notable than I thought or they’re more desperate 🙂

Anyway, let’s try looking up some topics from my recent posts:

  • Twine – No
  • Burn Notice – No
  • Laughing Man – No
  • Skeleton Watches – No
  • Xobni – No
  • Firefly – No
  • Call Of Duty 4 – No
  • Socialthing – No
  • Wicked – No

So based on this sample, it doesn’t look like the Encyclopaedia is going to be much use to me. I seem to always be blogging about recent and pop culture topics, and none of those things seem to have articles in the Encyclopaedia. Maybe if I was blogging about Shakespeare or the loom or something.

I also had a hell of a time getting it to work at all – I think what eventually fixed it was adding to the Google Web Accelerator exclusion list.

I’m also not sure what will happen to those Encyclopaedia links when my one year free subscription is over. If they stop working then it’s really not worth it.

Twine beta invites

Logo Twine

Image by xtof via Flickr

I got into the Twine invite-only beta and I have ten invites to give out – add a comment to this post with your email address if you want one.

I can’t honestly say I really understand what it does – I read the Twine Overview and a very informative blog post, but still…

It seems to be something to do with the semantic web, but whether the users of Twine are making the web semantic by tagging things in Twine or whether Twine is making the web semantic by scraping existing web sites or whether it just organizes the semantic information already out there, I don’t really know.

The Overview mentions social bookmarking, blogging and collaboration, but these seem to be activities that Twine supports rather than the main point of the thing.

I never understood social bookmarking – I don’t mind sharing my bookmarks with people but why would they care? I certainly don’t care what other people bookmark, and that would never be how I discover new websites. I use Google Bookmarks so I can access my bookmarks wherever I am, and that’s all the functionality I need.

So anyway if you understand what Twine does and you want an invite, just add a comment.







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Burn Notice series one re-runs start tonight

Burn Notice

Image by Victor de la Fuente via Flickr

The first season of Burn Notice is on again, starting tonight, and I’m watching it live. Not recording it on the DVR and fast-forwarding past the commercials, but live. If you knew me, you’d understand just how unusual that was. I hate being sold to, especially as 99% of the things they put in commercials are things I’d never buy (I don’t care how great your tampon is – I will never need one). Anyway, I’m actually putting up with the commercials to see this again.

I had worried that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered, but it is. Holy pork, but it is.

Sometimes the truth hurts. In these situations I suggest you lie.

I love those little narration bits.

Gabrielle Anwar‘s Irish accent isn’t as bad as I remembered, and in any case this time around I know that it only lasts one episode.

I had forgotten that Michael Westen kills two bad guys in the first few minutes of the first episode. For censorship purposes they don’t show anything, but it helps establish that he’s a badass early.

Westen is like James Bond – really cool to watch but in real life I think he’d stand out too much to be a real spy.

I’d forgotten that the premiere was an hour and a half long – it’s a strange length, I was expecting one hour or two. And the 11pm to 12:30pm time slot? I didn’t think it was that adult – no swearing, nudity or explicit violence… Although having said that, I think I heard a god damn and I definitely heard a tits.

Jeffrey Donovan has little scars on his face, you can see them in the close-ups. They go well with the Michael Westen character but I wonder how the actor got them. IMDB probably knows but I can’t be bothered to look right now.

Huh, the caretaker in the first episode is Angel Batista (one of the cops) from Dexter – another one of my favorite shows. I don’t understand why the caretaker’s kid is so bloodthirsty. Maybe he’s a stand-in for the audience 🙂

Holy crabs – the rich guy in the first episode is the Devil from Reaper – yet another of my favorite shows! Crossover city.

What’s with Weston’s sunglasses? It’s one of his signature moves – he always puts them on when he’s leaving somewhere and I just noticed that he puts them on when he’s about to lose a tail. No wonder the first part this episode is sponsored by a glasses company. Maybe it’s just to emphasize that it’s bright because it’s set in Miami?

His other signature move is the huge white smile, usually fake. I don’t know why, but it’s cool.

I don’t think I’ll delete this episode when I’ve finished watching it – when my wife gets back from England on Saturday I may not be allowed to watch it over and over but until then… 🙂

Got the midnight munchies – must resist the nummy food… must resist… oh ok, I give in. Food time. Toast and Welch’s Grape Jelly – marvelous. You can not get that stuff in England.

What’s with the AT&T commercial with Meat Loaf? Anyway…

For a job like getting rid of the drug dealer next door, I’ll take a hardware store over a gun any day. Guns make you stupid. Better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape make you smart.

I think that bit was sponsored by a hardware company the first time around 🙂

Oh cool, the bit with the airbag is in the first episode. Here’s a more accurate quote of the narration bit:

Airbags save a lot of lives. But they also put you out long enough to get your hands cable-tied to the steering wheel.

P.S. As soon as I added the words “James Bond” to this post, all of the picture suggestions and most of the article suggestions Zemanta made changed to something relating to him, even though that’s not what the post is about. Still needs work.





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Laughing Man

Laughing Man logo

Laughing Man logo

Having just watched Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I was looking for Tachikoma models. I love those little guys, thay’re so cute, I even named my UMPC after them.

Anyway, in the Amazon “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought” section there was a link to a messenger bag with the Laughing Man logo from the first Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex.

I haven’t watched the first Stand Alone Complex, so I looked up the Laughing Man, and it’s amazing.

The caption on the Laughing Man logo is the first line from a quote from J. D. Salinger‘s Catcher in the Rye:

I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something they’d have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They’d get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then I’d be through with having conversations for the rest of my life.

As an introvert, could I love that quote any more? No, I could not.

I haven’t actually read any Salinger either but because of this I just might have to.

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Skeleton Watches

Stuhrling Winchester

Stuhrling Winchester

I’ve been thinking of getting a new watch – my Timex Expedition Indiglo is great but I’m a bit bored of it.

The big point of choosing the Expedition was that the whole face of the watch is Indiglo, so the whole thing lights up when you push the button. Other watches I’ve had have only had tiny glow-in-the-dark dots, which I’ve always found useless. The other cool thing is that because the illumination is Indiglo it uses a very small amount of power, so although I’ve had it for ages the battery’s still good. However, after owning the Expedition for years I’ve realized that I hardly ever need to know the time in the dark 🙂

So anyway I was browsing for a new watch when I came across the category of skeleton watches, which I’d never heard of before. And I love them! Basically they’re clockwork watches with nothing between the hands and the clockwork so you can see all the little gears and things. Some of them even have glass backs so you can see all the way through the watch!

There are mechanical mechanism skeleton watches, but I don’t want to have to remember to wind my watch every morning. There are also automatic mechanism models, which wind themselves using the energy from the movement of your arm, which makes it even more cool.

There are pocket and wrist skeleton watches but I don’t think I could pull off a pocket watch, no matter much much I like them.

I haven’t found a skeleton watch that’s quite perfect – it has to be silver, but most of them are brass colored. It also has to have a metal watchband and most of them are leather. Finally, a lot of them have extra dials for day of the week etc. which gets in the way of the clockwork, messing up the whole skeleton feature. Also they start at $100 and get more expensive from there…

The one I like the best at the moment is the Stuhrling Original Men’s Lifestyle ‘Winchester’ Skeleton Automatic Watch #165.331554, but the hands are blue, the watchband is leather and I don’t like the numbers. On the up side it is automatic and you can see all the way through it…

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Xobni beta invites

Image representing Xobni as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

In December I got into the Xobni invite-only beta, and I still have five invites left to give out – add a comment to this post with your email address if you want one.

Xobni is an Outlook plug-in that runs statistics on your email and gives you a different perspective on it. For example, there is a lot of information in your email about the people you communicate with and the relationships between them that is usually very hard for you to see. Xobni extracts that information and presents it to you very simply in a little sidebar.

It can automatically extract contact information from emails people have sent you (e.g. in their signature), which means you don’t have to go looking for it or maintain all that information yourself.

It works out what contacts have relationships with what other contacts, to help you easily email a group of related people.

It can help you find files you’ve sent to or received from people – something that’s tricky even with the cool search stuff Microsoft added to Outlook 2007.

It can also help you schedule meetings by examining your calendar and working out when you’re free.

The more email you have, the harder it is to organize. With Xobni, the more email you have the more it can help you.






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My Own Kind of Freedom

Firefly (TV series)Image from WikipediaIn February, Steven Brust published an unauthorized Firefly fanfic novel on the Internet. I’ve only just got around to finishing it.

Let me first of all say that I am a fan of Firefly – and I mean “fan” in its fullest sense, as in short for “fanatic“. As far as I’m concerned Firefly is the best sci-fi TV show ever made. The dialog was amazing, the unsteady-steadicam effects both on set and in CGI (!) were a breath of fresh air, the writing, the realism… The fact that it was cancelled after a single series is a travesty.

I didn’t think the Serenity movie was anywhere near as good as the Firefly series, though I couldn’t say why – it just didn’t feel the same. I wanted it to be good so very much.

I’ve also been a fan of Steven Brust’s Dragaeran series, which I was introduced to, very strangely, by Penny Arcade. He’s not the best author I’ve ever read – there’s an air of wish fulfillment to his books that smells amateurish, but I still bought almost all of the books in the series. I worried about his Firefly fanfic, as fanfic tends to be amateurish and full of wish fulfillment at the best of times.

However I was very pleasantly surprised – I don’t think the novel could have been better if it’d been written by Joss Whedon himself. He’s got the characters to a T – I could imagine all of the characters in the series saying all of the dialog in the book, thinking the same things (even River!) and acting in the same ways. Brust must have done a lot of research, because he even has all of the Chinese swearing and technical jargon down. Separate from the fanfic aspect, as a novel on its own there’s nothing to complain about – the plotting is clean and professional. All in all a good read.

I do now understand why people complain about reading things on computer screens (although I still view people who print out emails with eyebrow raised).