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Archive for January, 2008

I Won The Harvard Lottery – $2,490,000!!

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Let's see, as Gisele Bündchen, "the world's richest model" once asked, "Can I get that in euros?"

Last time I looked, one euro is worth $1.40 U.S. So, 2,490,000 euros = $3,486,000! Whoo!! Let's hope they honor my request.

The best part? I never even signed up! Just today I received word from Harvard, in the form of an email. Here it is:

From: "Donald Baldwin" <>
Subject: Hello!
To: [Blank]

Dear Winner,

Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) New Year Promo

This is a Re-Notification of your unclaimed winning which we ran on our automated computer ballot of most of our unclaimed winnings.Your e-mail address emerged as a winner in the unclaimed winnings category "Hot Ball: 16" with the following numbers attached Ref Number: PW 9590 ES 9414, Batch Number: 573881545-NL/2006 and Ticket draw Number: 2, 19, 22, 26, 32, You are therefore to receive a cash prize of $2.49 Million Million (TWO MILLION Four Hundred And NINETYThousand United States Dollars) from the total payout.

Your prize award has been insured with your e-mail address and will be transferred to you upon meeting our requirements,statutory obligations, verifications, validations and satisfactory report.

Draw Details:
Ref Number: PW 9590 ES 9414
Batch Number: 573881545-NL/2006
Ticket draw Number: 2, 19, 22, 26, 32,
"Hot Ball: 16" WINNER ONLY
Draw Date: Wed Jan 2 '08

To file in for the processing of your prize winnings, you are advised to contact our accredited claims agent above for immediate processing of your winning with the information below:

Claims Agent:-
Robert Smith

Name In Full,
Address In Full,
Telephone/Fax number In Full,

Yours Faithfully,
Donald Baldwin
Lottery Coordinator.

This advice complies with the Anti-Fraud section 2,sub section (iv) of the procedural manual of the funds disbursementagreement existing between the e-Lottery syndicates, UK Govt. and the EU Gaming Commission.

Congratulations from all members and staffs of this program.
Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) New Year Promo

You'd think Harvard would know better than to send out an email where the words run together at parts, and the only link doesn't even work. If you visit that site, it says, "LotteryUSA page lotteryHLHL_fcur.htmlulations not found." It seems the "ulations" part after the ".html" was likely a portion of a previously typed (or generated) "congratulations."

But I'm rich!

Note for those who don't get the gag: This was a spam email sent in an effort to get my personal information. The "legitimate" Harvard sender tells me to forward all my personal info to some random guy "named" Robert Smith, reachable at a disposable email address ( It didn't mention me by name or email address so that the same message, word for word, could be sent out to many, many others, soliciting their personal information as well. If you get a similar message, or one that sounds too good to be true, always keep in mind the possibility that it is fraud.

Alexa Redirect Is Gone For Good – "Dear Jon" Letter

Monday, January 28th, 2008

A little bit of research and I came across a page on Jon Hughes' blog, "Notes from Phazm" that provides some evidence as to what is going on with the Alexa redirect function.

For those who haven't heard yet, the Alexa redirect now produces a 404 error.

For those who aren't familiar with this subject at all, allow me to explain. The Alexa redirect was a technique used by many to theoretically increase the Alexa rank of their sites. You would slap "" in front of any link to your site, and it was believed that would send all link clickers through Alexa to be counted before proceeding to your site. So basically, the redirect was a trick used to make up for visitors who don't have the Alexa toolbar installed.

However, it turns out Alexa never officially admitted the redirect would do any such thing. In fact, there was apparently no official notice along the lines of, "Now you can use our redirect function." But somehow the technique became a fairly well-known practice on the web. Some people are adamant that it served no purpose, while others claim to have noticed a definite benefit to their ranks from using it.

For whatever reason, Alexa has removed the redirect link functionality. Jon Hughes actually went to the trouble of asking them why, and this is the response he got:

"Dear Jon,
Thank you for your message.
We no longer provide support for the redirect function.

Best regards,
Alexa Internet Customer Service"

How fitting that Alexa sent out a legitimate "Dear Jon" letter to let all us bloggers know it's breaking up with us! (At least as far as the redirect is concerned.)

$1000 RealRank Contest In Feb '08, 4 Winners

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

RealRank is still fairly new, so to build up some buzz they're holding a contest. The owner of the top RealRank-ranked blog for each week of February will receive $1000. It could be you!

All you do is sign up with Izea and put a little piece of javascript on your blog template. Once that code can be seen by the RealRank Robots on every page of your blog, they'll begin collecting data, and you'll be automatically entered in the contest. If you don't mind having spies analyze information regarding your blog and the habits of your visitors, this could be for you. And the best part? You've got four chances to win.

Here's a chunk of the rules:

"The eligible blogger with the highest RealRank for the … weekly entry periods will receive a prize. There will be one (1) winner for each weekly period; a total of four (4) winners throughout the Contest. The winner in any previous week is ineligible for the following week(s). Odds of winning depend on number of bloggers signed up for RealRank, and, as stated above, the weekly winner will be the blogger with the highest RealRank. The RealRank algorithm weights blogs as follows: seventy percent (70%) on daily unique visitors, twenty percent (20%) on daily active inbound links and ten percent (10%) on daily page views as reported by IZEA Toolkit.

All winners will be notified by email on or about seven (7) days after the applicable weekly entry period ends."

So, there are two definite pluses here. First, there likely wouldn't be a $4000 giveaway (split 4 ways) unless Izea thought the appeal of the contest would suck in a whole new group of bloggers. That means new blogs being added to the system every day, with the RealRank code being added to those blogs for mega-tracking purposes. So since odds of winning are dependent on how many competitors there are, and Izea is obviously saying "We need more blogs," a decent blog with a good amount of traffic probably has a fair shot at snagging a thousand bucks.

The second plus is that even if you join in the middle of February, you still qualify for the remaining entry periods.

And if you're the kind of blogger who values privacy of information, and yet still thinks you've got a shot at winning, you could always:

  1. sign up,
  2. install the tracking code,
  3. win in one of the 4 periods,
  4. collect the cash,
  5. and then remove the code.

But that's only for those bloggers John Chow might call… evil!

RealRank vs. PageRank

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

To make money from their blogs, many bloggers have turned to sites like PayPerPost and accepted opportunities that paid them to post information and links about other websites. Google doesn't like this, as the links could be considered paid links. Google feels that paid links are less relevant and worthy for passing PageRank value than organic links, or links that are created due to non-financial reasons. Although Google didn't like it, many people were making a lot of money selling links through programs like PayPerPost and TextLinkAds. The higher your PageRank, the more valuable a link from your site became, so the more money you could make. Google suggested that you shouldn't sell links, but most people weren't persuaded. A couple of months ago, Google took action in an effort to reduce the paid link industry. It erased the PageRank of many blogs and sites known to get paid for links or posts.

So, imagine if you're a blogger with a PageRank of 5, and you are a member of PayPerPost. You get a lot of good-paying opportunities, because your PR of 5 is a lot better than the average blog. Then Google figures out you are selling paid posts, and erases you PR. Now you have a PR of 0, and the advertisers no longer value a paid post from you nearly as much as they did before. So you make less money.

PayPerPost had a system in the works to provide a similar metric as PageRank before Google got busy erasing PR, and it recently went active. It's called Izea RealRank.

Unlike PageRank, RealRank focuses on more than just links. It is like Alexa, in that it's really more a measure of traffic. Also unlike PageRank, RealRank is primarily for bloggers, and requires some javascript code to be placed on your blog.

Izea then calculates your RealRank based on things like unique visitors, page views per day, and visitors coming through links to your site (vs. type-in traffic). RR is to be used as an alternative to PR in the paid post marketplace. An advertiser can now say, "Oh, you've got a PR of 0, eh? Well, let's see what your RealRank is."

Some advertisers couldn't care less about RealRank, as it doesn't represent the link power that is evidenced by PageRank. However, others are more willing to consider a new system, as Google's actions with PageRank have made some people less eager to just accept PR at face value. It seems things are changing on the PageRank front, and although RealRank is considered flawed by some, it's a start in a new direction.

To get your own RealRank, you need some tracking code on your site, which you can get by creating an account at

TurboTax: Free Federal Fun Edition

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I heard on television the other day a message along the lines of, "Get the free, Federal edition of TurboTax at" I thought, "Wow, free?!" So today I hopped on over to, which redirected to, and I saw that the free edition was pretty much bare bones. It provides "Free federal tax preparation for 1040EZ and simple returns," as well as "Free eFile."

Makes sense, right? Offer the bare minimum for free, and when things get more complex, more demanding of "The Box" as one anti-TurboTax commercial puts it, charge more for the software.

A few weeks ago I was intoxicated with the idea of the proposed "Fair Tax," under which new goods and services will be taxed 23%, and that's it. No other taxes to worry about! Just a simple, straightforward sales tax on new stuff. As Wikipedia puts it, "The proposal also calls for a monthly payment to all households of citizens and legal resident aliens (based on family size) as an advance rebate of tax on purchases up to the poverty level." Sounds fantastic.

What I like most about the Fair Tax idea is its potential to save the country the administrative costs that come with putting so much time-consuming effort into reaching the bottom line in a system that is notoriously complex. The simplicity of the Fair Tax would significantly "lighten the load," so to speak.

Still, some say people will find ways around it, ways to "beat the system," and force the little guy to pay more than his fair share of taxes. But isn't that happening already? I think using the argument that the negatives of the current tax system might intrude on the proposed new, simpler system isn't all that compelling.

But here's something else to consider. If we did abolish the current tax code in favor of a simple sales tax, there'd be no need for the whole "Let me do your taxes" industry! TurboTax would become obsolete! I'm sure if that were to happen, there would be other areas that could benefit from the newly freed-up resources of the TurboTax organization.

As it stands now, the tax system just seems like a game we're all playing, and it's overly complex, and it isn't any fun.

Slime Ball TV Advertisers Revealed

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

A friend of mine works at a TV ad agency, and he recently came across some research material describing ad placement techniques during television shows. You know, those annoying, intrusive blocks that obscure your favorite programming? Here's the text:

We have come to the conclusion that there are further steps that need to be taken in order to maximize ad effectiveness during television broadcasts. Seeing as how this is a fairly new market, overlay ads have many options that need to be considered.

Firstly, placement. Our research indicates a pattern which has been holding consistently for the past eighteen months. While most people tend to look away or ignore an ad when the programming area is compressed, and the ad is shown in the new empty space, they have less propensity to do this when the ad is instead placed over the viewing area. To be clear, we should not simply squeeze a television broadcast (i.e., a show) to make room for an ad. That gives the viewer incentive to limit their perception to just the program viewing area, and they completely ignore our advertisement. Instead, we must leave the show on 100% of the screen, and simply lay our ad over a portion of the entertainment content. Testing has produced evidence that the bottom portion is best. We can technically get away with doing this, since at the most we're only obscuring 20% of the viewing area.

In addition to the "where" issue, there is also the matter of "when." When is it best to show an ad? When viewers are paying the most attention. Therefore, researchers should be requisitioned to watch programs and determine when a viewer is more likely to be curious about the area displayed on the bottom of the screen. For example, during an episode of a mystery television show, the detective discovers a note. He reads it silently to himself, displaying it for the audience to see. Most of the text is near the bottom of the screen. In order to get maximum attention, we should allow the audience the "token second" to view the note, and then obscure it with a relevant ad. That way, we've just gotten our share of eyes which would otherwise have avoided us at all costs. But this is only the half of it.

Further tests indicate that there are far more appropriate moments to show advertising, even when the audience isn't looking at the bottom of the screen. This all comes down to the moment of climax. Most television shows and movies all work toward a short, compact moment, where audience focus is at its peak. Viewers watch from the beginning, are taken for a ride, and are eventually made aware that the most important moment of the show or film is going to occur at any given moment. When it does, they are riveted. We have found that ads obscuring show content during these intense climax moments are, on average, clearly perceived up to 300% more often than those overlaid during non-climax moments. What's more, due to the emotional intensity of these moments, the sales message of an ad will tend to last longer in a person's mind if received during the climax. So obviously, obscuring the most dramatic and intense moments with advertising is the way to go.

While these techniques do prove powerful, preliminary polling shows that audience members are becoming increasingly frustrated with having their programming directly obscured by ads, especially during the points of climax. One viewer even went so far as to say, "They ruined the whole show." But we feel that these frustrations will eventually fade, assuming we continue to effectively communicate that there's nothing viewers can do about it. Of course, even if their displeasure continues to grow, our bottom line is what matters most.

[This was handwritten at the bottom:]
If viewers think they can get away with watching content on the internet with the advertising removed, then we must make up for it by shoving our ads down their ungrateful throats.

Just kidding. I wrote the whole thing myself. But I think I captured the general truth of the matter…

Desperate Gold Digger Posts On Craigslist, Shot Down By Millionaire

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

I found this on Chrys Bader's blog, He found it at The cycle continues.

This is an actual post that was found on Craigslist, as well as the response it received:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy.
I’m not from New York . I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 – 250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I’m 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What’s the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows – lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults – I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them – in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 432279810

Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.
Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful”
as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way.
Classic “pump and dump.”
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

January 2008 PageRank Update

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

It seems that some sites have already noticed shifting PageRank values, as early as January 10th.

The last update happened in late October of last year. So maybe we'll be seeing updates continue until the end of the month.

With the changes put into effect to account for paid links, I don't think the update will hold entirely to historical trends. Paid links seem to be pretty widespread, and if every page with at least 1 paid link goes from PR whatever to PR 0, the collective PR of the entire net is likely to be affected.

Of course, going from a PR 0 to a PR 5 is like creating something from nothing. They say the more pages of content your site has, the more PR you've got. So as more pages are added to the net, the net's total PR will increase. But when Google arbitrarily changes the PR prerequisites (no paid links), it's bound to have an effect.

I see two possible outcomes. As some would say, "Paid links are here to stay," and so Google will eventually allow PR on paid link pages. On the other hand, Google is king, so perhaps the paid link, paid post, paid whatever industry will sink its claws into the ground and slowly get dragged toward an inevitable death that few want to believe is already underway.

Alexa Redirect Produces 404 Error

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I've just noticed this today, and maybe it's only a short-term thing. Then again, maybe not.

Theory #1: Alexa for some reason is not performing redirects, but not to worry, as this soon shall pass.

Theory #2: Alexa will never again perform redirects, as it has decided they are a bad idea.

My money's on #1, but this just goes to show you that using an Alexa redirect is indeed risky. If you were to build a redirect into your blog's "Home" link, a user wanting to check out your front page would instead be shown this:

Alexa Redirect 404 Error

In The Growing Political Frenzy, Here's Some Humor

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

On Primary day in one particular state, the reporters surround incoming civilians.

One interviewer singles out a normal-looking voter and approaches him, beckoning a camera crew over.

The cameraman lines up the shot, while the reporter adjusts his mic, and proceeds:

"Who do you plan to vote for?" the reporter asks.

The response:

"I'm voting for Osama… oops, I mean — Hillary Clinton."