Apr 302008

Despite all of the “common wisdom” out there that says people gain weight when they quit smoking I decided to reisk my forward (or is that downward?) momentum on my weight loss goal by quitting smoking as well. It’s now been 10 days without a cigarette (wow! I actually had to look that up 😀 ) and in that time I’ve lost another 6 pounds! WooHoo!

Yep, I’m finally under the 230 mark . Just barely, but I’m under. Considering I decided to lose weight when I was at 250, got stuck at 240, and somehow shot up to 253 a mere five weeks ago, I must say I’m pretty darn pleased with myself. 229 pounds still isn’t even halfway to my target weight, but if I take the stated goal literally (“lose 50 pounds”), then I’ve accomplished that handily 😉

I’m not trying to say that quitting smoking allowed me to lose the weight. I’m sure it’s all the walking and sticking to my Subway diet 5 days a week that has really made the difference. However, I was really expecting to bounce back up once the smokes were gone and I’m glad to say that hasn’t been the case.

Apr 302008

I’m still experimenting with StumbleUpon, trying to figure out how to get any kind of consistent return from this social bookmarking site. When I received a bonus for one of my recent blog posts I decided to try buying some stumbles directly from SU themselves to promote that very post – essentially giving the advertiser a bonus as well. At $0.05 each I figured it would be well worth it and signed up to have 100 Stumblers visit my post today. Besides I was hoping that some of these Stumblers would also thumbs up or review the post, leading even more Stumblers to it.

I did take note of the following disclaimer in the StumbleUpon Advertiser Faq-

My Google Analytics / Urchin stats don’t match. Why the difference?
Analytics packages like Google Analytics, Urchin, Webtrends, etc., use javascript to track traffic. You may see a difference between the traffic reported by these services and the traffic reported by StumbleUpon.

A large portion of our Firefox users have added the NoScript add-on to their browser. This is one of the top-10 most popular extensions for Firefox. This extension blocks any javascript calls that the user doesn’t approve of. Blocking javascript causes Urchin, Google Analytics, Webtrends, etc to not work. These tracking services never see the traffic because NoScipt blocks it.

You may see a larger difference in reported traffic than with other advertising services because StumbleUpon has a much higher proportion of Firefox users — and in particular, a much larger proportion of people who use browser extensions — than a typical audience. In essence, StumbleUpon’s early-adopter user-base is much more privacy and security conscious than the typical internet user, and they block tracking services as a result.

I was actually very much aware of the issues with using a javascript web analytics program prior to reading this disclaimer, but I’ve never seen anything close to this type of discrepancy before-

Wow, 37 reporting as received out of 100 sent. That’s almost $0.14 per visitor or nearly 3 times what I was expecting to pay. 35 of these 37 only remained on my site for 5 seconds, so I assume that some of those missing visitors didn’t even hang around that long. Of the two who actually clicked onto something else one spent 14 seconds and the other 27 seconds. Considering the post I was advertising contains nearly 1,000 words I don’t see how any of these users actually read any sizable portion of the article.

Is it any surprise then that not a single one of the 37-100 people that StumbleUpon charged me to deliver to my site bothered to give a thumbs up, much less a review? The “My Campaigns” page at SU shows that I had a 50% feedback rate (anything over 70% is considered successful by SU), yet the post’s StumbleUpon page still shows only a single review or Thumbs Up and that’s from the person who submitted it to SU hours before I started the advertising campaign.

So, is it worth buying stumbles from StumbleUpon? Right now I’d have to say no, but I’ve still got money in my account, so more experiments will be undertaken in the near future. If you’ve ever purchased a campaign from StumbleUpon and have any tips (or can point me to any online articles) a comment would be very much appreciated.

Apr 292008

I keep trying to explain to Z that if she wants to live free in today’s society she needs only one thing: money.  Sad but true.  She keeps insisting in return that she’s too young to earn her own money.  Enter Aaron Kindley, the genius behind MakeMeLookHot.com.  Consumers simply submit their photographs to the site along with a $7 fee, Aaron uses Photoshop to touch them up then returns the pictures with the people in it looking oh so much better.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with my 12 year old daughter being “unable” to earn her money.  Well, Aaron Kindley is only 11 years old.  From Toronto On Tech

He and his dad were watching weight loss ads on TV and they decided everyone wants to be better looking. They realized more and more people were putting their pictures on the internet and looking for new friends, old friends and romance. A lot of these people seemed to be choosing pictures that had problems.

Why don’t they just take another picture? Aaron didn’t understand it. They decided that people often have a picture of themselves that they like for some reasons and not for others. What if we had a service to fix a few small problems
with the pictures?

A few months later, MakeMeLookHot.com was born. People liked it right away. They could get their picture fixed in one day or in three days and it didn’t cost much. At just $7, why bother shooting a new photo? Just fix the one you almost like and post it.

Just goes to show that, when it comes to freedom, where there’s a will there is always a way…

Apr 292008

Z and I are still trying to work out the plans for our summer road trip. If gas keeps going up at its current rate we’re probably going to have to limit both the amount of time and the miles logged. But if it can hold or (never gonna happen) decrease then we’re still hoping to head all the way to Texas by way of the Grand Canyon and Four Corners.

Should we make it all the way to Texas then we may have to go later than planned so that our trip can coincide with the 115th anniversary of the W.H. Stark House in Orange, Texas on June 29th.  Well, at least that’s the anniversary of the date that William Henry Stark purchased the land on which the house rests.

Although this 14,000 square foot Victorian era masterpiece is much smaller than the 24,000 square foot Winchester Mystery House which has so enthralled Z, the fact that the house was closed up upon Mrs. Stark’s death in 1936, and went through a 1-year restoration process it should still prove both fascinating and educational.  The W.H. Stark House stands in strong contrast to our own local Victorian mansion since it was designed and built by much more traditional architects.  Beside, the Winchester Mystery House could probably never survive 125 mile per hour winds like the ones the W.H. Stark House survived when Hurricane Rita blew through Orange, TX in 2005.  Luckily the damage done to the house was repairable and the house was quickly restored (once again) to its former glory.

Add in the extensive collection of 18th and 19th century art that both Mr. and Mrs. Stark compiled over their years together in the house and it is no wonder that so many people trek so far to view and tour this long standing example of the Queen Anne architectural style.  With more than 100 years of history, the obvious dedication of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation and the fact that the home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission I doubt it’s going anywhere soon.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after touring back and forth across our great nation it’s that you can never count on anything still being where you left it.

Apr 292008

I guess I should say ‘young woman’ at this point, but she’ll always be my little girl. I don’t want to go into too many details because I know some of her friends like to keep up with everything here at Philaahzophy (you know who you are 😉 ), but Z did something yesterday and today that made me proud beyond belief.

She showed real guts, poise and self-confidence yesterday in a way that so very, very few of her peer group would ever be willing to do. And if that wasn’t enough…
Today she stood up to a bullyish/bratish “Heather”-type who was idiotic enough to claim that Z’s actions were “immature” and “so kindergarten” when the exact opposite is true. And I’m not just saying that as her father. What she did took guts as well as maturity. Not to mention that even though things didn’t go exactly as planned she still had the confidence to not only accept the reality of what happened without getting all whiny, but to stand up for herself and her actions.

That’s my girl!