Inside Hartwell Tavern on the "Battle Road" from Lexington to Concord.   Hard Cider was the drink of choice here in the 1770s and one can only imagine the conversations as local farmers plotted … the American Revolution.

Hartwell Tavern

MinuteMan National Historical Park – Patriot Days!


Hanging out here in lovely Concord, MA with my most excellent old Pal Tom and his wife Diane. They live just down the street from Minuteman NHP where in many ways the Revolutionary War began.

This weekend and Monday the town celebrates "Patriot Days" with historical reenactments all over the area. Here at Hartwell Tavern on the Battle road Minutemen fought with retreating British troops.

MinuteMen

HUZZAH!

Liberal Agendas + Republican Politicians = innovation?


It'll be very interesting to see if Gov Romney (Republican of Massachusetts) has come up with a solution to some of the biggest challenges in US health care. Clinton likes it and I think we'll see that the MA approach, which blends fiscal responsibility and quality care for all, may be just the shot in the arm our ailing health care system desparately needs.

Meanwhile Gov Schwartzenegger (Republican of Caleeeforneea) is coming up with some innovative ideas and a strong environmental agenda (his Humvee fetish excepted?).

And then there is presidential hopeful, in many ways the Republican "front runner", John McCain who is anything but a traditional conservative.

It would sure be nice to see a new breed of politician cut in the mold of progressive, penny pinching reformers. Americans are tired of the old, tired, wasteful, and ineffective ideas of both traditional liberals who are stuck in the anti-business big-government mode and traditional conservatives who are stuck fighting for military imperialism and cultural norms that are no longer relevant to the changing and growing American experience.

Travel Tip – Hotel and Airline prices


Over at WebmasterWorld a member was suggesting that contacting hotels directly leads to the lowest price for a room. Not true. There's no magic bullet site online for cheap rates, you need to surf around and may often find a "consolidator" that is cheaper than the hotel itself. Hotels.com, Travelocity, and Expedia are major consolidators and there are hundreds of smaller ones. In Europe, for example, Venere may find you a cheap room.

Example: Last week I used a small flight consolidator called cheapseats.com to book Delta to Boston and paid about $100 less than the cheapest fare Delta had online at the same time.

This situation is common in travel because pricing is very market driven and surprisingly inconsistent both for flights and hotels.

As a travel publishing guy I know how some of the deals are cut and it's a very sloppy and counter-intuitive process where some consolidators will force properties to sell them blocks of rooms far below rack rate in exchange for a guarantee of selling those rooms. Hotels.com is notoriously unpopular as the top consolidator because they tend to squeeze great deals from properties in exchange for guaranteed volume and lots of bookings. Good for consumer, somewhat hard on profit margin for the properties.

If, at the last minute, the consolidator has a lot of rooms left they may sell them at rates far below what the hotel will charge if you call them. You especially see this in places like Vegas and big cities with Hotels.com. During a November Vegas trip I got the Hilton through (Travelocity I think) for about $55 which I think was under their own website rate, though during a March trip I found the best price for Oriental Palace at their own site – a fantastic $65 nightly for a nice room in the middle of the strip plus some buffets.

All that said I think the hotels are getting smarter and some provide a low price guarantee at their own websites, so you are certainly right that you should check the hotel site as well as other places.

Golfing…in space


A Russian astronaut may get to drive a golf ball out into space as he orbits in a space station.   It is likely the ball would stay in orbit around the earth for some time, meaning the drive could measure hundreds of thousands of miles – maybe millions of miles.

If you'd suggested this to golfers back in 1900 I'd guessing they would have said you were insane.  

What unusual things wil we be up to in 2100?

Learning curves


What if most task learning takes place very early in the learning process, with refinements and “expertise” coming later and at much greater cost in time involved in the task?

For example what if most of our driving skills come from the first 50-100 hours of driving? Interestingly this is the amount if driving time required to get a license in Oregon so the state seems to feel it’s “enough time” to drive safely, I’d agree and suggest this is the case for most task learning.

IF TRUE across many tasks, then I’d suggest we should be spending a lot LESS time teaching people refined skills because the return on that time investment goes way down as we continue. Rather we should be *introducing* kids to more things so they can choose which to pursue in depth later in life. This is done to some extent – I think more than in the 1950s – but I see little reason to push calculus on students who often lack basic investment math skills UNLESS they’ve chosen a career where calculus is important. There are not many of those, and you hardly close doors by substituting practical life skills for advanced math (or science, or literature) studies.

As adults we should focus on learning new approaches and information rather than refining our expertise in very restricted areas *unless* our life depends on that expertise. Though I’m not even sure in this latter case that broader learning won’t trump specialized learning in terms of producing a well rounded intellect capable of handling the varied and sundry tasks of the modern world.

American Idol


Yes, I’m a fan of this silly show. I’m also fascinated by what appears to be one of the top – if not THE top – online community created by American Idol. I’ve been tracking users online as reported by fox and have seen numbers approaching 800,000 users. This would even top Myspace for the (short) periods of high American Idol community participation, which seem to peak the evenings of the shows, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Alexa graphs are interesting for this, the top TV show in the USA. The spike is remarkable.

My top choices for the eventual American Idol winner are Chris Daughtry and Kellie Pickler.

guns or butter?


This clever site offers some insight into the cost of the Iraq War in dollar terms.   Human costs are of course ultimately more important than money, but most people simply refuse to recognize that when you are talking about things like war and hunger the *human costs* often boil down to dollar costs.

You can save  LOT of people in the developing world by allocating a relatively small number of dollars, especially if they are spent on famine or health items. More about that later as politically and emotionally motivated spending is a fascinating examination of human irrationality.

The human death toll in Iraq (or even the total global WAR death TOLL) simply pales in comparison to the global hunger OR health tolls.   It's a factor of many thousands of preventable hunger deaths for every ONE (arguably NON-preventable) Iraq war death. 

Unlike most fiscal conservatives I simply stagger from the failures of the neocons when it comes to intelligent budgeting and ROI.    McCain, very much to his credit, was talking about this years ago and is talking about it now.  

v7ndotcom elursrebmem rears it’s ugly alien head at the house of Cutts


Over at Matt's blog we be talking about the V7ndotcom elursrebmem contest. I'm reproducing here because I think it's an interesting dialog about what constitutes spam and about the vagueness of the Google guidelines, AND it's an opportunity to link to my Alien Astronaut evidence for the existence of V7ndotcom elursrebmem

  1. Michael Martinez Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 8:45 am

    I think Matt is manually reviewing every listing for v7ndotcom elursrebmem to make sure he knows who all the spammers are.

    After all, v7ndotcom elursrebmem is a “Come and get it!” call to spammers. Why not take advantage of their audacity and track them down, one by one.

    Maybe John Scott is on Google’s payroll, serving as an industrial spy, enticing the black hats to come out with the v7ndotcom elursrebmem contest so that Google can finally track them all down and nuke them.

    Frankly, I’m not entirely sure we can trust Matt to be our advocate at Google any longer. He may actually be putting their interests first, since he is a stockholder.

  2. Joseph Hunkins Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 9:08 am

    Michael the V7Ndotcom elursrebmem contest is NOT a call only to spammers – it’s a reasonable and fascinating experimental approach to figuring out how ranking works. I’m restraining myself from saying how PISSED OFF I get when people suggest that simply trying to figure out Google’s definition of “relevancy” is the province of cheats and liars which it’s NOT. I have huge respect for Matt and his spam team, and for the fact they must deal with a lot of crap, but I’m not going to ignore information about ranking or not run any experiments. I’m think Matt would agree that ranking experiments that stay within the Google webmaster guidelines are a reasonable use of electrons. V7N as a *concept* is within the guidelines though I’m sure some people are using spammy methods to rank.

  3. Ryan Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 10:23 am

    within the guidelines?
    what about guideline number 3:

    Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

    how is a page that ranks for a nonsense term useful or information rich?

    Doesn’t information have to involve real words?

  4. Michael Martinez Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

    ” I’m restraining myself from saying how PISSED OFF I get when people suggest that simply trying to figure out Google’s definition of “relevancy” is the province of cheats and liars which it’s NOT.”

    Then you have no reason to be pissed off at me. I wonder how you feel about people putting words into other people’s mouths, though, and deliberately misrepresenting and misconstruing what those other people say.

    Nonetheless, the v7ndotcom contest reveals nothing about relevancy, and is little more than a call to spammers to have some fun and earn some money. Legitimate people may have gotten involved in it, but that doesn’t change the fact that the results have been spammed to death (with 6 milllion+ raw hits).

    A much more reliable SEO contest would not use the cattle call approach. It would require independent judging by panels and evaluation of live projects (with full non-disclosure agreements to ensure contestants’ contracts were not violated or compromised).

  5. Joseph Hunkins Said,

    April 11, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    Michael –

    1. I apologize. I didn’t mean YOU piss me off, rather the idea in general, but it did look attack-like from my response and that was bad by me.

    2. I also agree with you that V7dotcom is probably inferior to the type of study you suggest. Interesting though that the V7 listings do appear to be propagating much like “normal” ones. Google prefers to avoid manual intervention and I’m guessing they’ll avoid it here as well.

    Ryan – Maybe I’m splitting hairs a bit but you are doing what people should NOT do and that’s starting to accept Google’s most restrictive interpretation of their rules as the “correct” one. In the traditions of early Google I say they/we should use less restrictive interpretations of the guidelines. But even with restrictive use I’d say that the V7 contest does meet the criteria you cite above as follows:

    Useful – V7 sites are useful to many both as experiments and as a big SEO news item.

    Info rich – look at all the listings! Most have LOTS of relevant, real information about the contest. Those that do not don’t rank well. hmmmmmm

    Accurately describe your content: Again, most do this while those like the “hotel” site (hi DaveN) create a fiction and make it clear it’s a fiction.

    The more I watch the contest the more convinced I am it’s fun, educational, and legitimate. I wish Matt would weigh in but I think he can’t cuz it’s an “Algorithmic item”.

Oh yes – here is the V7ndotcom elursrebmem Alien Astronaut evidence

People Always Love It Only


I've found a new table tennis rubber sheet I really like with one of those funny, malapropesque Chinese names.    It's the "PALIO" CJ 8000 tension model.    PALIO means "People always love it only".  The numbers and other stuff might make some sense – I don't know.

But I do love my PALIO sheets and have ordered more.  At about 10.00 per sheet they are a third the cost of comparable German or Japanese rubber and so far feel about the same as the German equivalent.

I've GOT to get to China – both to see the changes, internet buzz, and to play some great table tennis with my Palio!