Monday: 29.January.2007

Modifying Code to Accommodate Google's AdSense Custom Placement Packs

Been working on modifying code as detailed in previous post, regarding Google's new Custom Placement Packs.

From researching this topic, I learned advertisers were unable to target their ads to individual web pages or directories of pages, being limited to entire sites. (Which seems odd, no?)

Google therefore devised a program called Ad Placement, which is designed to allow advertisers to target specific pages & directories (as they *should* be able to).

Google allocates 159 "custom channels" which publishers (such as myself) can use to offer ads on individual pages (such as the one you're reading now), or entire sub-directories (such as all pages contained in the Ghost guide).

Publishers first have to figure how best to allocate their limited quota of custom channels. (One for each guide seems a reasonable strategy.)

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Google wants us-publishers to name and describe each channel you create. Since they limit the number of characters available for use, I created descriptive names such as: RadGhostGuide, and RadEncodingGuide.

The most time-consuming part is describing what each channel represents. Here they offer 255 characters (including spaces). That's about 3 or 4 short sentences.

So the implementation of custom AdSense channels is not particularly complicated, but it *does* require some strategizing, and *is* rather slow-going, especially for a site such as RADIFIED, where there exists many different themes, each of which seems to require its own channel.

To be honest, I'm not that stoked about tweaking ads. I've done it before, several times now. It's tedious work. (Boring as hell.) I'd much rather focus on generating & improving site content .. which offers far more creativity.

Some sites really know how to play the AdSense game, and I guess I should probably spend more time learning the ropes. But I just can't seem to get into it. (Sites focused solely on AdSense earnings seem, uh, slimy.) In fact, I can't wait until this latest round of tweaking is done .. so I can return to focusing on more creative aspects of the site. Gonna put down my head and plow thru it.

I'll let you know if I notice an increase in revenue due to this latest AdSense customizing. I certainly hope I'll see some benefit, but obviously, there's no guarantee my efforts will pay off. If I could realize a 50% increase (like I did last time), I'd be happy.

On another note, have you noticed I converted into blog-pages, many of the posts for January? Hadn't done that since August. It's not particularly difficult, except that the links need to be re-coded. (cuz of the way my blogging software works .. I use MovableType)

And since I tend to employ a generous helping of links ... it can take a while. But it's much easier to reference a previous post when I have a separate blog page (for that day/post). Otherwise I can only reference a monthly archive, which is, uh, inefficient.

The use of blog-pages to accommodate longer (larger) posts also saves space (size) on the home page, which allows for faster loading (better for readers, especially those still with dial-up connections).

End of today's entry. For more along these lines, here's a Google search pre-configured for the query-string: google+adsense+ads+custom+placement+packs

Posted by Rad at Monday: 29January2007

Sunday: 28.January.2007

Custom Placement Packs for Google's AdSense Program

Received an email today from the nice folks at Google. (They really are nice). As you can see, I host their ads, which generates revenue that helps pay the bills. Their note said:

Dear Publisher,

After a recent review of your site, we would like to include radified.com in our custom placement packs program. Custom placement packs are selections of individually-reviewed sites designed for our largest brand advertisers.

We would like to feature your site more frequently in these advertiser packages, but to do so, we need you to place more image and text-enabled medium rectangle ad units (300x250) on your site.

The medium rectangle is the most demanded size among our brand advertisers that utilize these packages for both text and image ads.

These advertisers want to ensure they reach visitors on high quality sites like yours, and are willing to bid more for ads prominently displayed on these sites.

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They require that the units be placed "above the fold" on a page so that the ads are immediately visible to your site's visitors without scrolling down.

If you decide to add medium rectangle units to your site, please notify us by replying to this email so that we can begin featuring your site in more of our advertiser packages.

We also recommend you use the newly launched ad placements feature to define your ad slots to advertisers so they can bid on specific placements on your site. For instructions, see here on how to create these ad placements.

Sincerely,
AdSense Support

The text in that email that really caught my atention was: "These advertisers ... are willing to bid more for ads .. on these sites." Note: I've traditionally used the slightly larger rectagle ad (336x280).

I've briefly reviewed the program and it looks a bit complicated, but that's probably cuz it's getting late & I'm tired (my eyes are burning), and *everything* seems complicated when I'm tired. I'll give it another look in the morning .. when I'm fresh (after an espresso).

It takes a long time to modify the site's ads, cuz I code them into actual text (not an peripheral template), so I must do each page indiviually .. and the site has thousands of pages.

The last time I modified the site's Adsense ads (to "blend" them), it took me ~a week of non-stop coding (tedious, no fun). But maybe I'll earn a few extra pesos. =)

The end. For more along these lines, here's a Google search pre-configured for the query-string: adsense+google+custom+placement+packs

Posted by Rad at Sunday: 28January2007

Wednesday: 24.January.2007

Sidney Sells the Schooner Escape to Frenchman

Long-time Rad readers may recall the days when I was with Wendy (seems like ages have passed since then), back when she was working on her Masters degree in Film Production from USC,...

... the world's best (and oldest) Film school (due primarily to its industry connections, which include the likes of Spielberg & George Lucas, who actually graduated from USC Film school himself).

Today I got a note from her mom (Nancy), saying Sidney (Wendy's step-dad) sold the boat, the Escape, a 45-foot all-wood schooner, built in 1933, during the heart of the Great Depression...

... the most beautiful boat you've ever seen. Here's a picture of Nancy and Sidney aboard the Escape. Did I mention it's all wood?

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The ride of an all-wood boat is much smoother than what you get with today's (lighter) fiberglass boats. They simply don't make 'em like that any more (cuz teak costs a fortune).

A schooner is a sailing ship with (at least) 2 masts, the rear mast being taller than the forward one. At least, that's what Sidney told me.

Sidney has owned the Escape for 50 years. But he's getting old (just turned 80), and those of you who own boats know how much work they require to maintain, especially older ones.

We used to sail to Catalina island every year for a the 4th of July, and spend a week there, departing Long Beach for Catalina a few days before the 4th, & staying a few days after the crowds left, so we could have the island to ourselves.

I have many fond memories of those annual, week-long, mid-summer trips. In fact, after Wendy & I broke up, I was still trying to see if I could somehow invite myself to tag along. Unfortunately, that wasn't happening. =(

While anchored in the harbor at Catalina, people would paddle up in kayaks (like this one) and say things like, "This is the best-looking boat in the whole harbor." .. at a time when there were literally *hundreds* of boats anchored. It was old & battered, but there was something regal about it (and cool).

Sidney, who is normally mild-mannered, becomes a tyrant on the boat, barking orders. Everybody called him, "Captain," and we did whatever he said. An early-riser, he would wake at 6AM every morning, to start the diesel (loud) to charge the battery, and make himself bacon-n-eggs .. banging-n-clanging pots-n-pans in the process.

The boat slept 8 or 10 people, but we usually had 12 or 13 onboard, with some of the kids sleeping topside, under the stars. Amazing how you can sleep thru all that noise. (Lani would sometimes sleep 'til noon.) And bacon never tastes as good as the strips you eat on the boat. Never have figured that out.

Anyway, it's a sad day. Sidney has been talking about selling the boat for years. But he wouldn't sell to just anyone. Tomorrow I'll post Nancy's note, which describes the Frenchman who bought the boat, who started a blog (http://schoonerescape.blogspot.com) which will include it's (long-overdue) transformation and (even longer) journey to France (written in French). Here's a snippet:

He's a lot like Sidney (same birthday) except he's 6'4, a big strapping young Frenchman, a year older than Lani. A maritime engineer, who works for a French Cruise line (works 6 months on, 6 off), a member of the "European Antique Boat association".

He came back in July to look over the boat one more time and complete the sale, then returned in November to get the boat, sail it up to the Ventura Harbor Shipyard, where it's currently undergoing a complete overhaul. By the way, this is the BEST boatyard on the California coast, maybe on the entire West coast.

I read a copy of Hemingway's classic Old Man & the Sea (which won him a Pulitzer in 1953) sitting aboard the Escape while it was anchored at Catalina.

Here's a little ditty I wrote following the return from one of our summer trips to Catalina, titled Sailing to Catalina on the Schooner Escape. There's even a video posted HERE (Real media .. more videos here).

Many good memories .. such as the time the Shore Patrol brought the kids back to the boat at 1AM, for lighting fireworks on shore (dry, fire hazard), after Sidney *explicitly* told them not to .. oh man, was he ever furious. You shoulda heard him yelling at 1AM, "God dammit! I *told* those kids..." He was gonna make 'em walk-the-plank for that (in shark-infested waters).

Sidney (a Scotsman) drinks Glenmorangie scotch (a single-malt, not blended). He swears a glass a day (in the evening), along with 2 strips of bacon (for breakfast) are keys to his longevity.

Posted by Rad at Wednesday: 24January2007

Sunday: 14.January.2007

Rad the Sociopath

Got a call from my brother yesterday, saying, "We got a call from your ex. She claims her therapist has diagnosed you as a sociopath..." [You can't make up this stuff, folks.]

The message went on to say, "I'm not sure exactly why she called, cuz she was vague, talked real fast, and never asked a direct question. But it seems she was looking for dirt on you."

My brother (who lives in Chattanooga) said he asked her, "What exactly do you want from me? Do you want to know if he kicked cats as a kid?" Toward the end, bro said she asked him to keep their conversation confidential, claiming I didn't need to know.

My brother responded, "I told her *absolutely* I was going to tell you. 'He's my brother,' I said. How can you *ask* such a thing? I never even *met* you... [He sounded agitated.] I'm not gonna keep secrets from my brother with someone I never even met." [Told ya: you can't make up this stuff.]

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Bro also told her, "If you're intelligent enough to know what the term sociopath implies, [my bother is a doctor, a surgeon], then you know why this conversation makes me so uncomfortable."

In other words, "If you're really familiar with sociopathic behavior, then you should realize that this phone call is a good example." [Rad translation]

My normally fun-loving brother was obviously irritated. I couldn't help but chuckle while listening to his message. Cuz I've been dealing with this kind of stuff (much worse, actually) for *years*. And she managed to spin him up in less than 5-minutes. (Yeah, she's *that* good.)

Listening to my brother's message (3 of them, actually), I considered how her therapist had never even *met* me. (I don't know if her therapist is male or female. Heck, I didn't even know she *had* a therapist.)

How can you diagnose someone you've never even met? Is she lying to her therapist? And shouldn't they be discussing *her* instead of me? Is her therapist telling her only what she wants to hear?

My strategy for dealing with this craziness is to continue following the advice presented in the co-parenting classes I attended last year.

They advise keeping dialogue to a minimum, focusing on the needs of the child, and avoiding personal topics. All I'll say to her is something like, "Uh, by the way, I think my brother and his wife would appreciate it if you didn't call them anymore."

My position has always been > if she can keep the conversation civil, I'm happy indulge her. (She can be nice when she wants something). But the first hint of complaining or criticism (or threats) is my cue the conversation is over.

"Can you keep this civil?" I ask, when she starts getting nasty. "Apparently not," is my typical response as I turn and walk away, or hang up. (I refuse to be her emotional dumping ground.)

I'm trying to get her to move beyond anger and resentment. Last week, for example, I donated my entire weekend with the bug (including my Friday > that's 3 full days), so she could have him the whole time while her parents were in town. (They'd flown in from Michigan, for the bug's 2nd birthday.)

In return I merely asked to have him for a few hours today .. so I could take him to church this morning, so we could sing some songs together (which he seems to enjoy). She agreed (on Friday). But when I arrived to pick him up this morning (at 9AM), she refused to give him to me.

She claims (speaking thru a crack in the window) to have left a message on my cell, citing reasons for her last-minute change-of-heart, but I never received any such message. Heck, I *still* don't know why she refused to give him to me. (Maybe she doesn't dig my church.)

Sure, I coulda made a stink, but have learned that the airing of grievences rarely does any good. (It only makes matters worse.) So I bid her (and the bug), "Good-bye," and quietly left. I'm patient. I can take him to church next weekend, when I have him.

As you might've gathered, my efforts (to try to get her to move beyond anger & resentment) have met with, uh, limited success. But (for the bug's sake) I keep trying .. to be as pleasant as I possibly can.

If you've read my entry from 18.december (the sociopath, had anything to do with that plan.

My brother (Yale grad) ended his message by saying, "I tried to be nice for long as I could. I can't imagine she'd ever call here again, but if she does, I'll certainly let you know." He has been thru his own messy divorce. The last thing he wants is to get involved in another nasty domestic dispute. (Who can blame him?)

Posted by Rad at Sunday: 14January2007

Saturday: 13.January.2007

The Bug's 2nd Birthday

Cold today. (The kind that blows right thru you.) I hit the club for a sauna .. to warm my bones. Mere days ago I was hiking topless in shorts, and sweating. Now I can't seem to get warm. Weird weather we been having.

The bug had his second birthday this week. I was thinking of taking him to Disneyland, which is a birthday tradition I concocted for myself. But everybody I spoke with felt he's still too young to truly enjoy such an outing. (Note: kids under age 3 get in free.)

We ended up doing practically the polar opposite, and spent most of our time surrounded by nature. I managed to find us some nicely wooded areas (.. tho not quite up to Yosemite standards).

We also hit the beach, where he takes great pleasure in feeding Cheerios to dozens of hungry pigeons & seagulls. When the Cheerios run out, he chases the brazen birds up and down the shore. (Long as he has Cheerios, they chase him.)

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His favorite activity appears to be watching diggers (also called backhoe's) moving around construction sites, digging holes, along with other "toys" of the construction world (dump trucks, cement mixers, forklifts & cranes).

Altho they quickly bore me, we spent quite-some-time this week at a number of such sites scattered around Orange County. (Much construction going on here.)

His appetite for diggers & dump trucks seems unquenchable, .. while hottie-girls who ogle over him are quickly dismissed as boring. (Yeah, I need to work on that with him.)

I tried to be *extra* attentive this week .. fun, playful, accommodating. Dare I say .. festive? (I didn't see him either Christmas or New Years.)

We also logged plenty of birthday-time on the neighbor's trampoline .. including circular rides on the disc-shaped swing, which hangs from a rope tied to a tree-branch far above it .. and visited all his favorite playgrounds. My efforts paid off with laughs and giggles galore.

He stayed over the night of his birthday, so the day was especially sweet. Before dozing off, I ended the day by listening to the sound his breath as he lay fast asleep.

If you ask him how old he is now, he'll tell you, "Two." He can do a gimme five, a high-five, and even knuckles. When I ask him, "Who loves you?" he responds, "Dada loves you." =D

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 13January2007

Tuesday: 09.January.2007

Parental Modeling & Becoming Our Parents

I feel good today. Not just physically, either, but emotionally, too. "Happy," I'd even venture to say. Wonder why. Been laughing again. Making others laugh, too. (I can be funny, at times.) Hope it lasts.

Along those lines (maybe not) .. The Good Shepherd opens with a boy who plays a young version of Matt Damon's character, Edward. Young Edward finds his dad lying in a pool of blood .. moments after he commits suicide (he heard the gunshot come from the upstairs bedroom).

In his dad's hand, young Edward sees a sealed envelope, which he (secretly) slips into his pocket, telling no one. Moments later, his mom arrives on the scene and we never hear of the envelope again .. until .. the end of the movie...

... at which time we see a fully-grown Matt Damon breaking the seal and opening his dad's final message. Inside he finds a letter. A voice-over (by Matt Damon, devoid of emotion) reads aloud its contents .. as we watch him put a match to it.

As the letter burns in the ashtray, we hear the opening line of his father's letter, > "It's true what they say about me..." And by the end, we discover that Edward turned out *just* like his dad.

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This is something that has concerned me (besides things previously mentioned). > We become our parents. Not all of us, but certainly most of us .. even when we try our best not to reproduce their flaws. Such is the power of parental modeling.

As a dad (especially the dad of a boy) I badly want to be a good model. And I'd like my relationship with his mom to be amicable, so his model of a what constitutes a relationship isn't based on anger, resentment, distrust and hostility.

I have friends whose moms were, uh, not very nice, and they now find themselves attracted only to women who, likewise, aren't very nice, either.. not because they want to, but because that's what they're familiar with. Comfortable with. It's sad. They're simply not attracted to nice, sweet girls .. who treat them good.

And what would happen if I weren't there? What would the bug use as a model? And what if his mom found someone new? How much of an influence would that person become? (Probably a big one.)

And what if this person was not very loving toward him? Or what if his mom really did take him back to Michigan? Then what? What does a boy do who has no dad?

I've also been thinking (as his 2nd birthday approaches this week) what advice I might give him, if I had but a minute .. similar to the note Edward's dad left behind. It might read something like:

Be yourself. You are infinitely cooler and more special than you'll ever know. If you're ever tempted to be someone else, remember that any truly unique person got that way by being them self. And to BE yourself, you must first KNOW yourself. -Love always, dad

Monday: 08.January.2007

Blogs & Blogging

I often get mail on the subject blogs and blogging, from readers interested in joining the fray. My thoughts:

I think *everybody* should contribute to the online collection of information we call the web, cuz everybody has an area of expertise, which can help those in need. It's good karma and we all reap what we sow.

But I advise against blogging primarily for profit, cuz you can never be sure that what you write will generate an audience, much less produce an income.

If you have a passion about a certain subject, and want to share what you've learned with others > great! But if you merely want to earn cash, there are usually better options.

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Blogging can be divided into two parts: technical & personal. Writing about technical stuff needs to be done as if *everybody* were reading it. In other words, it needs to be well-researched, well-organized and well-written.

Blogging about personal things, on the other hand, needs to be written as if *nobody* were reading. In other words, you need to feel comfortable sharing your innermost feelings (brutal honesty)...

... which isn't easy, cuz not only will your friends be reading (who will naturally be supportive), but also your enemies (who can use what you write against you). That takes courage. (Yes, things I've posted here have shown up in court.)

Regarding blogging about technical subjects: technology these days is so cool that it's easy for people to get interested. Problem is, there are many people already writing about technology. The field is crowded. Your goal is to find the road less-traveled.

Your best strategy would be to find a niche (such as NightOwl's Guide to Creating Bootable CD/DVDs) and focus on that. NightOwl's guide does surprisingly well, even tho I originally advised against it, thinking he'd find little audience. (I was wrong.)

Blogging about personal things is more touch-n-go. The best personal blogs, I feel, are those written by people who are honest with themselves .. especially about their flaws & fears .. typically those who don't care what others think of them. (I still care, but not nearly as much as I used to.)

I write as a form of therapy, similar to writing in a journal (which I've done), or soaking in a hot-spring (which I've also done). Most of the site's income is generated by the technical articles (the guides, which contain many more pages), so the personal part is all gravy, and I can write about whatever I feel (uh, to a point).

I think it would be difficult to blog about personal things if your livelihood depended on it.

Also, I never write, just to write. Rather I wait until I have something meaningful to say. I'd rather say nothing, than waste my reader's time with empty words. I need to be able to feel what I write. The words need to flow. If I ever have to force them, it's not right and won't work. Normally I have more things to say that time to post them.

Lastly, hyperlinks are what make the 'Net so cool, and if a writer isn't peppering their text with a generous sprinkling, then they aren't taking advantage of blogging's coolest feature. Well-placed hyperlinks give an article depth and show an author has done his homework.

I liked blogging better when there wasn't a word for it .. cuz now you get lumped into a group and labeled. I've been doing this since before there was a word for it, and I much better enjoyed the idea of being a lone wolf. You won't find very many blogs which pre-date Radified.

The best bloggers (I feel) heed the advice of the ancients: Know Thyself, and are willing to share what they've found .. not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly (flaws and fears). I also enjoy reading blogs where I learn something new.

If I were gonna start a blog today, and had my own server, and wanted an easy installation, I'd use WordPress (free). If money were no object and I was not very technically oriented, and didn't have my own server, I'd use TypePad ($50 to $150 per year).

If I were a techie/geek, and enjoyed a challenging installation, and wanted to use the absolute *best* blogging software available on the planet, I'd use MovableType (which I decided upon).

The end. If you need more info on this subject, here's a Google search pre-configured for the query: blog+blogging

Posted by Rad at Monday: 08January2007

Thursday: 04.January.2007

"Dada call milk"

Last night, while I was playing Rad dad here at the ranch,.. the bug's mom called to check and see how the little guy did during the day (thinking he'd be asleep). She was concerned that it was well past his bed time, and he didn't seem tired.

Normally she nurses him to sleep (he's not weaned yet), and well, I don't have the equipment for that. So I must improvise (wear him out .. which takes time).

She volunteers to come over and knock him out, in ways only she can. I say, "Cool, come on over." (noting she has never offered to do this before).

When she called, I put her on speaker-phone, so the bug could hear his mom talking. He heard our entire conversation, and recognized her voice (smiling at times), but seemed reluctant to believe his mom was inside the little phone. (He's not yet two years old).

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Anyway, 10 minutes later, there's a knock. He reaches high to open the door and let her in. While I watched TV, she puts him in a milk coma and tucks him in. Beautiful.

Earlier today (after spending the morning at the Back Bay Interpretive Center in Newport Beach) the bug woke from his afternoon nap and noticed my cell lying on the bed beside him. He scrambled for it .. rather quickly for someone who just woke from a two-hour nap.

I thought he was going to play with it, as he has done many times before (pushing the pretty, illuminated buttons, with his fat little fingers). But instead, he hands me the phone and says (enthusiastically), "Dada call milk." =D

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 04January2007