Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blue Whale Adventure

Dolphins!The Condor Express left a little late on July 26th, a calm Saturday morning. We waited about 10 minutes for the last pair of passengers that called ahead to say that they were running late. And run they did, across the parking lot of the Santa Barbara Marina to join the eager passengers already itching to get out to sea.

The water was calm and glassy as we left the harbor. It also seemed oddly empty. Besides the half a dozen California Sea Lions on the buoy, there were no bottlenose dolphins near the sand bar as have often sent us off on our deep channel voyages.

So we pressed on, heading straight towards Santa Cruz island and the famed Painted Cave.

Sure enough about 30 minutes into the trip with the continued glass calm waters were some common dolphins. It didn’t look like much of a group, perhaps 20 dolphins that appeared to be feeding. But as soon as we stopped, it became apparent that they were only a small part of a larger pod feeding in that area. About 300 or so, surfacing, milling about, diving and splashing. There were a few that we could spot zipping around near the boat, chasing fish up and out of the water on several occasions.

Mama and baby dolphinOthers were cow/calf pairs. Some of the babies (sometimes called footballs) weren’t more than a week or two old, still almost all gray and with slack skin that needed filling out with rich milk.

After delighting and interacting with them for at least a half an hour or literally running circles around them, we pushed on towards Santa Cruz Island.

As we could see the land off in the distance, I was talking to Bernardo Alps and we both turned to see a Minke Whale surfacing nearby. In my experience with Minkes (and one in nearly the same location last year) I figured that’d probably be the only look we’d get.

Instead this Minke surfaced again and again, in regular succession. Then turned back towards our boat, coming about thirty feet from us and turned upside down, pushed with its strong flukes and came up and out of the water for a moment. It looked a lot like those common dolphins chasing down bait fish earlier - only instead of being six feet long this one was about sixteen. (Still a very small specimen.) We got a good look at his white belly, striped flipper and even the narrow and pointy chin as he lifted it out when surfacing.

After a few more cycles another Minke surfaced nearby, much larger, and possibly the mother of our unusually exuberant one.

Whale Watchers aboard the Condor ExpressWe continued to spot dolphins for pretty much the rest of the voyage, sometimes stopping for a few minutes to enjoy them.

We pushed on to Santa Cruz Island to have a look at Painted Cave. It’s an interesting opportunity to look at the sea birds that skim the waters near the rocks and perch there.

Part of the reason for the early look at Painted Cave was the hope that the fog would burn off out in the Channel. Alas, little luck with that, so we pushed on, into the fog to see what we could see.

After putting a photographer on a research vessel from the University of Oregon, they told us of a blue whale in the area. Even though visibility was poor, probably not more than fifty feet, Captain Mat slowed the boat and ran in wide circles. Eventually someone heard one of the blows and there it was a huge blue whale. It was strong and much meatier/fatter than ones I’ve seen in past years.

Blue Whale TailFor the next three or four hours the fog slowly fizzled away and we saw more and more blue whales. Most were in pairs and often we’d have four or five in view at any given moment. The UoO vessel was in sight most of the time as well, though we were rarely on the same whales.

Unfortunately I had a bout of motion sickness about the time we spotted the first whale which lasted for pretty much the whole afternoon. This leads to a lot of internal admonishments about bringing medicine or maybe just not going on the full day trips in the future. As the wind picked up though and the air cleared I felt much better and enjoyed our last few sightings. (Though I took fewer pictures towards the end.)

What’s become clear is that the Santa Barbara Channel has become host to a vigorous group of Blue Whales and the prospect of seeing other creatures like Minke and Humpback (none this time) and of course the many species of dolphins makes this a world class destination. Just 90 minutes from my house. Now I just need to conquer sea-sickness.
More photos here.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:32 am     Whale Watching

Monday, March 24, 2008

Really, I don’t make this candy

As is always the way after a major candy holiday, the emails have started.

Most are complaints or specific comments about products:

I purchased four 375 g containers of the Hazelnut Chocolate for my kids for Easter. Two of the containers had 30 chocolates & two had 29.

Is this normal?

I don’t even know what that is!

I’m not a store, I’m not a factory. I’ll do my best to help you, but please be specific. (“Can I still get the coconut creme eggs?” is not specific enough when that’s the entire email.)

It’s not just me, there’s a good article at the Washington Post about the guy who owns donotreply.com.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:53 pm    

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My favorite thought of the day

imageFreestyle Snowmobile is like dressage with elephants.

Photo: Trevor Brown, Jr. via X-Games

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:52 pm     Curious News

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Please Confirm


I don’t know what sort of proof they want. Will they just take me at my word? Will I have to click something else later? How often will they check in with me.

If I check that, will facebook tell other people that I said that it was true?

This facebook world frightens and confused me [1].

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:58 am     Curious News

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fundraising for NaNoWriMo

I’ve never actually talked much about the financing aspect of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I donate every year (even though I work for them, too), but I’ve never made an appeal on my blogs for others to donate.

DSC04267rFor those of you not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo challenges ordinary mortals to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. No experience necessary! Tens of thousands of writers have not only participated since 1999 but dozens have also been published. The goal isn’t necessarily to get a book out in front of the public, but to start by getting it out of your head. 2007 marks my seventh year participating and will be my seventh novel.

Why do I do it? It’s a great writing exercise. I’m always surprised at what I can come up with when an absurd deadline is put in front of me. I enjoy the socializing on the forums (which I moderate) and I love the thrill of watching other writers find out what they had inside them. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the website. Yes, those crazy internet people ended up being really nice in person!

Here it is ... my appeal:

Please support me in my goal to raise $500 for National Novel Writing Month by November 17th ... that’s the night of our first write-a-thon, called The Night of Writing Dangerously.

You can donate by going to my fundraising page at FirstGiving, which operates as an intermediary to track donations made in my name. The money goes towards the program which is not only the website for adults to tackle that novel they’ve always wanted to write but also the Young Writers Project which creates in-school programs for students to tackle free-writing as part of their curriculum.

For every $5 you donate via my FirstGiving page, I’ll enter you in my Limited Edition Candy Drawing! Just leave a comment here and I’ll hook it up with that drawing.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:59 am     NaNoWriMo

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A tale of two laptops

Twenty years ago this month I bought my first computer. It was a Tandy, model 1420LT. It was a laptop. It cost $1,600. Which was a lot of money back in 1987. A lot for me ... considering that I lived on about $5,000 a year while in college.

It wasn’t a great computer, but it served me well for five or six years. I ran a bootlegged copy of WordStar and wrote at least fifteen plays on it and my graduate thesis.

It was supposedly a laptop, but it rarely left my desk. It weighed 14.7 pounds.

imageSince that time I’ve had two other computers that I’ve purchased for myself. My desktop, which was a refurb from Dell, and then five years ago I bought my second laptop, they one I’m typing this on right now.

Today I bought a new laptop online at Dell. The model? 1420. Yes, twenty years later and I’ve stumbled onto the same model number as my first laptop.

The biggest thing I did when purchasing this computer was opt for some style. My laptop has become an accessory, and since it is often found on my lap, I thought it should look good. I opted for an upgrade and chose a colored case ... “Espresso Brown”, which I’m hoping I can tell people is called “70% Cacao.”

Where my first laptop had 640K of ram (and only a dual disk drive, no hard drive), this one has 2 gigs of ram. These sorts of advances don’t make my writing any better, but it sure helps with the digital photos. And of course I’m not bootlegging my software any longer.

Oh, and the price this time ... $1,600 (give or take a few). The more things change, the more they stay the same.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:02 am     Curious News

Monday, July 30, 2007

Blue Whales in Santa Barbara

This was a fabulous trip for several reasons. We had lots of company (The Man’s brother, nephew and his girlfriend from Florida plus two friends from LA joined us). And of course the weather cooperated and we got to see some whales!

First thing we saw were several small pods of Long Beaked Common Dolphins. What fun, they came along and swam with the boat for a while.

The morning was rather gray and I was hoping it would burn off quickly. It was certainly not as dim as the previous trip, but still, as we got out to the prime Blue Whale zone, visibility at times wasn’t more than 500 yards.

We did come upon a pair of blue whales though and this time in addition to taking photos, I tried for a little video (mostly because I think that’s the only way you can get the scale of these creatures).

Later Captain Mat excited threw on the boat brakes to have a look at this. It’s a Basking Shark. The sharks themselves are probably rather common, but seeing them off of Santa Barbara and close to the surface like this is quite rare. The video isn’t that impressive, really, the distance between the dorsal fin and the waggling tail fin is probably 6-8 feet, so the shark is probably only about 12-16 feet. (They can grow to be 30 feet.)

Most importantly we saw the blue whales so clearly, following along with the first pair for quite a while.

Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Common Dolphins Short Beaked Common Dolphins Short Beaked Common Dolphin Basking Shark Basking Shark Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Blue Whale Common Dolphin out of the water Short Beaked Common Dolphin

I was very, very tired when we were done, but of course I want to do it again. No new species to add to my list of cetaceans, but the basking shark was certainly special.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:57 pm     Whale Watching

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I’ve got an idea forming in my head

I haven’t been working very hard on coming up with something for Script Frenzy. I know I don’t usually work very hard at NaNoWriMo, but with plays I actually think A LOT about what it’s going to be ahead of time.

At first I was going to do my tornado/miracle play. (Don’t ask.) It’s not really a work in progress, as I’ve never typed any of it up, just a few notes I wrote to myself on an airplane a few years ago in a notebook I don’t think I have any longer.

This play is inspired by this article in the NY Times: Victim of Climate Change, a Town Seeks a Lifeline by William Yardley.

But that’s just what inspired it. I have no idea what it’s going to be about, I just thought there was a whole play right here:

“I don’t want to live in permafrost no more,” said Frank Tommy, 47, standing beside gutted geese and seal meat drying on a wooden rack outside his mother’s house. “It’s too muddy. Everything is crooked around here.”

I’m planning on setting the play in another village that was just mentioned in the article called Shishmaref because it’s on the Chukchi sea, which is the summer ground of the Gray Whale. (See how all these things come together?)

I’m starting on Saturday!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:04 pm     ScriptFrenzy

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Santa Barbara for Whale Watching

imageAs tired as I’ve been from work the past few weeks, I still managed to get my butt up at 4:30 AM yesterday to get to Santa Barbara for an 8 AM cast off at Condor Express. The American Cetacean Society had their first full-day Humpback Whalewatching Trip of the year.

We tried something new, kind of geotagging the adventure. The photos aren’t precisely located on this map, but I don’t suppose anyone can argue with me since they’re within about a half a mile or so. (Maybe ... I have no clue.) You can see my whole set of photos grouped by where they were shot.

Here’s a brief chronlogy of our adventure.

4:30 AM - Wake, shower and make lunch.
5:30 AM - Depart for Santa Barbara
6:10 AM - Stop for coffee in Westlake Village
7:45 AM - We boarded the Condor Express. The trip included a continental breakfast, so I had some coffee and a half of a naked bagel.
8:05 AM - Depart the dock - conditions were calm, but a very thick marine layer kept it rather dark and didn’t give us great shooting conditions.
8:35 AM - Encountered a small but active and agreeable pod of Dall’s Porpoise. They were certainly zipping around, but kept circling back and seemed to be involved in feeding (probably deeper than we could see, as we didn’t see their prey).
9:35 AM - Encountered our first two whales of the morning. They were feeding rather deep (Captain Mat made mention of bait fish at the 300 foot level). They came up and displayed flukes quite faithfully. As I was standing there watching the second cycle I caught sight of a good size pod of dolphins directly behind the boat. I called to the naturalists and they confirmed them. After a few minutes the boat was underway to intercept the dolphins about a half a mile away.
DSC011319:45 AM - We caught up with the pod of about 100-150 Pacific White Sided Dolphins. They were circling around, also in a feeding mode. White Sided are rather common dolphins, though not as common in the Santa Barbara Channel normally. However the water temperature was 54 degrees, just inside their range. The past two trips I’ve taken in the SB Channel I’ve seen Common Dolphins, so this was a treat. The sassy black and white is of course rather similar to the Dall’s Porpoise, though more muted along the sides of their bodies. After about 15 minutes with the group we were still within sight of our other pair of whales and we went back to them.
DSC0123810:40 AM - Another pair of whales, this time it was a Humpback female and a young calf. The behavior, while interesting to watch, wasn’t so much to photograph. What was remarkable was the difference in size betwen the two. The wide mother and the narrow and short calf displayed quite a bit of back, with the baby breathing three times for every two the mother did. Mom fluked a couple of times and stayed down for a while. They stayed in the same area as well, leading us to believe that she was feeding while the calf stayed closer to the surface. We watched them for nearly a half an hour before heading off to the deeper parts of the Channel in search of the large masses of whales sighted earlier in the week.
DSC0115211:30 AM - While we zipped along, The Man and I had a little lunch. I made hummus and chicken wraps on lavash bread. The seem to do really well as a picnic lunch. Some pretzels and a bit of water to wash it down.
12:10 PM - Another pair of whales, but they were really long period, down for over four minutes, so we moved along to find better “behaviors” that we could observe.
1:30 PM - Another pair, this was a mother and calf again. She had similar markings - white inside an otherwise all black fluke, but even less white (so we knew it wasn’t the same pair). We watched for a while and then moved along to tuck in close to Santa Cruz Island.
2:20 PM - Watched another whale (long diving) for a bit closer to Santa Cruz Island.
2:35 PM - We tugged along close to the shore and then had a close look at Painted Cave. There were lots of birds hanging around, including Oyster Catchers and Pigeon Guillemots.
3:10 PM - We stopped at Prisoner’s Harbor to pick up some campers. That took about 10 minutes so we were all looking sharp to see if we could spot the Bald Eagles that have colonized the island. No luck. We saw pelicans though ... yeah, quite notable.
3:20 PM - I saw something that looked like a huge dolphin off the port and called out to the naturalists. It was quite close to the boat, about 30 yards, so we swung around and I pointed out the position. By my description, Alisa determined that it was a Minke whale. I’d never seen one before. They’re known for not swimming in a straight line and sure enough, we saw it three more times but it was vexing, even doubling back once. I never got a decent look at it beyond its dorsal fin, smooth back and then it was down again. No perceivable blow. We were due back at the dock at 4 PM and we were 12 miles away, so the Captain turned us back towards the mainland.
DSC013074:10 PM - There was another pair of whales straight ahead so we stopped to watch them. Strange whales. They came up, dove with flukes, then came up pretty much in the same spot and just sat there. They’d come up, sink down a little bit, bob up and blow then sink a little, but still their back was showing. This went on for about three minutes, then they went down and we were off for home.

I was fabulously tired and about five miles from shore we finally got some sun. But at least there wasn’t much wind or waves. Good trip. Good trip. I want to do it again later this summer.

We got good looks at about 12 whales and saw about 18 total (if you count distant blows). I can tick two species off my list - Dall’s Porpoise and Minke Whale (though I wouldn’t mind getting a better view).

See all photos on Flickr in my set and of course check out The Man’s.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:02 pm     Whale Watching

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Join the Frenzy

I’m planning on writing a play, start to finish next month.

This comes as no surprise to anyone, as I do this kind of stuff all the time.

But I’m asking you to join me.

Join ScriptFrenzy and write a screenplay or a stageplay in 30 days.


Just like with NaNoWriMo I’m heading up the forums and community building there. And just like with NaNoWriMo I’ll be copiously documenting my wordcount and progress right here.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:17 am     ScriptFrenzy

Thursday, April 12, 2007

MySpace Bans Photobucket (but can I get them to ban me?)

I can’t tell you what sort of bullshit this is, but I’m going to try:

MySpace has removed all hotlinked photos and slideshows (delivered in flash) hosted at Photobucket because they contain (sometimes) paid advertising. The advertising in question is a teaser campaign from Spiderman III. Here’s a bit of the story from PCWorld:

The block came in response to an ad-sponsored slideshow that Photobucket recently began running and that it encouraged MySpace users to post in their profiles, violating MySpace’s terms of service, the social networking site said in a statement.

Basically, only MySpace can junk up its pages with gratuitious advertising. MySpacers aren’t allowed to advertise other things. Well, they’re allowed to solicit sex and promote their albums and movies ... but they’re not allowed to hotlink to other advertisements.


My issue is that MySpace has been letting its users abuse my site for years. Yes, I’ve contacted them. I’ve contacted them. I’ve emailed them. I’ve even talked to folks I’ve met socially that work there. They don’t give a crap. It’s my problem their users don’t understand hotlinking is like making collect calls.

It turns out that it is possible to selectively block hotlinks from one domain. Halleluiah!

But now I discover that all I’d need to do is employ some .htaccess magic and have those thousands of hotlinked photos (yes, last month was 230,000 hotlink hits, the majority from MySpace according to the IP addresses logged) into some sort of ad that MySpace would feel threatened by. See, all this time I was thinking I had to put P()rn up there. Turns out that’s not what would catch their attention. Ads for, I dunno, something owned by some other media conglomerate might work.

Only problem is I can’t afford to host whatever image that might be (230,000 hits even at 10K each is kind of sizeable).

Wait a second ... I think I’m onto something here ...

I can sell the adspace! I can find someone who’d like their ad served up to 230,000 impressions in one month all over the web (though pretty much on MySpace).

The sale of that might cover the extra bandwidth I’d have to buy on my hosting plan.

So either I get my domain banned and don’t have to worry about bandwidth drains in the future ... or I make money with the ad impressions!

Here’s a bunch of articles:
Los Angeles Times

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:02 pm     Curious News

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sperm Whales Run Deep

I have a Google News alert set up for Whale (and one for Dolphins, but I get a lot of sports news on that one).

Today’s report featured news that there was a Sperm Whale that washed ashore in Santa Barbara.

Here’s my favorite quote:

Sperm whales are the deepest divers of their species and can descend to more than 3,000 feet. Experts said it’s unusual to find sperm whales close to the coast.

Yeah. So anyone else see anything wrong with the first sentence? It’s not like there are a lot of different kinds of Sperm Whales out there, like dolphins.

I’d say the second sentence is kind of funny, too. Yes, it’s very unusual to find whales up on the beach. Except, you know, when they beach themselves or wash ashore.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:26 pm     Whale Watching

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

a friendly chat with verizon

The battery on my little LG phone has been behaving poorly, and since the phone and the replacement batteries are no longer made, I decided to get a new one. It’s been three years since I signed up with Verizon, so I qualified for their “new every two” program. I picked out a new phone on their website. It was supposed to be $150 but they gave me a $100 credit plus an additional $50 instant rebate.

I put the phone into my cart and went to check out. The total was $0.00.

I confirmed my billing address as my shipping address, gave them a phone number (it’s a fedex delivery) and hit purchase.

Then I got another screen that wanted a credit card. It said that I owed $0.00, but still wanted my credit card. Say what?

And why my credit card anyway, I’ve been paying my bill for three years ... we have a business relationship, they can send me a bill and all that.

I was frustrated. I didn’t want to somehow be charged for something else, and I don’t like putting my credit card into websites for things like “guaranteeing a reservation” or “trial offers.”

So I clicked on the little icon to talk to a Verizon Sales Rep.

Here’s my little ditty (this is the actual transcript I cut and pasted ... all names are real, or at least the ones really assigned within the chat window).

Chat InformationPlease wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!
Chat InformationA Verizon Wireless online pre-sales specialist has joined the chat. You are now chatting with Alexander

Alexander: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. May I help you with your order today?
Alexander: Good afternoon, how can I assist you today?
You: I’m getting my “new every two” phone today
You: and I selected one that’s free
You: but the site is asking for my credit card info at checkout ... even tho there’s no balance due
Alexander: Okay, congratulations on your new every 2, are you curious why you need a card?
You: yes, why do I have to enter it?
Alexander: This will clear things up, please read the following:
Alexander: The checkout page requires a credit card even if you have a zero balance. After you enter your billing address on the checkout page, your state may bill you for taxes based on the full retail price of the phone. After you enter your credit card information, the next page will show you if any taxes are due before your order is processed.
You: why can’t you just bill me on my, um, what’s it called? bill?
Alexander: Unfortunately, in order to purchase online and to take advantage of the discounts you must use a credit card, I have no control over this I apologize.
You: who does have control over this? I went into the store to get this phone ... would I have walked out of there without showing them a credit card?
Alexander: I am not sure as their policies differ from ours.
Alexander: Would you like the number to customer care?
You: can I get this phone over the phone without giving a credit card and still get it for free?
Alexander: I am not sure, as they will most likely not be the same prices and discounts that are available on line.
You: so, it’s a gamble
You: just as giving you my credit card info is a gamble should there be a security breach
Alexander: Our site is heavily protected, so only you and verizon will have that information.
You: So, if there is a breach ... ever ever with any of the data centers that Verizon has, I can come and talk to you?
You: Even though you have no control over whether or not I need to submit this card info for a total of nothing
Alexander: Sure.
Alexander: Does your state not charge taxes for online purchases?
You: You are the site that sells things, shouldn’t you know that?
You: Perhaps you could tell me if California does.
Alexander: I actually do not, I am here to help navigate through the checkout process and answer your questions and direct you if needed.
You: You don’t have access to information about states sales tax charges, but know (ephemerally) that they exist?
Alexander: Yes, I do.
You: How would I find this information out?
Alexander: Once you enter in your credit card information it will notify you if your state does and how much the taxes will be and you will have the option to continue and cancel the order.
You: but then you’ll have my credit card information
You: you already know where I live
You: why isn’t the site programmed to recognize this charge BEFORE I complete the checkout procedure
Alexander: No, I actually won’t as I can’t see what you are entering and I don’t have access to your account.
You: I mean “you” as in “verizon”
Alexander: Okay, what would you like me to do?
You: I’d like the site to be reprogrammed to be more intuitive
You: can you pass that along?
You: you have big meetings where they ask you, how can we make the customer’s experience better, right?
Alexander: That is correct, and if you would like that to be sent straight to them I would actually recommend leaving a comment on the site after this chat has ended as there will be a survey.
You: I’d appreciate the help from your end.
You: Thanks for the info
Alexander: But I will also let my boss know of your concern.
You: thank you
Alexander: And apologize for any inconvenience, and your welcome and I will.
Alexander: Would you like to complete your order or would you like the customer care number?
You: I’ll complete the order and take my chances, I’ve come this far!
Alexander: Alright I understand, do you need any additional help?
You: nope - thanks for covering it all
Alexander: Your welcome and have a nice day!
You: you too!
Alexander: Thank you for visiting Verizon Wireless, I look forward to speaking with you again. Have a great day!
Chat InformationYour chat session has been ended by your Verizon Wireless online agent.

At the end of the chat, sure enough, a little feedback window popped up. I gave them my comments as Alexander suggested:

My issue today is with being asked for my credit card information BEFORE my total is available. When selecting a “new every two phone” I was under the impression that it was going to be free. The page where it asked for my credit card DID NOT MENTION that I “might” be charged sales tax.

An improvement to the site might be to have the Sales Tax calculated BEFORE asking for the credit card info, after all, you don’t need the card info if the balance is zero.

I like the credit card to be the LAST thing I enter on online orders, not the middle thing.

It would have helped if the online chat helper could have definitively said that my state DOES have a sales tax charge even for free devices ... it shouldn’t be that hard to provide that info to them, should it?

Thanks for your help.

So, I get to the end of this tale to say that yes, California does charge sales tax for the RETAIL VALUE of the phone. They say that this phone sells for $288.99 (yeah, right, I wouldn’t pay that much for it!).

I ended up owing some $23.92 bucks in tax. Whatever. The point is, why couldn’t they calculate that BEFORE I had to input my credit card, and why didn’t they mention that’s why they were asking for a credit card on a null total on the ACTUAL PAGE.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:02 pm     Curious News

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Go Away Hotlinkers!

So I’m looking at my server stats this month (I’m close to my bandwidth max again). There are a few big bandwidth hogs on my site, one of the startling ones is search engine bots. At least three of them rack up over 1 gig in bandwidth every month. About 7 gigs total among them.

Another sobering thing in my stats are the number of hotlinks to Candy Blog. For March so far the tally is over 370,000 hotlink hits to typetive.com. Yeah, my site is popular, but I DO NOT have 370,000 visitors per month.

I do have an htaccess file that limits hotlinking, so the images don’t show up elsewhere (except for a few permitted sites like bloglines). But I know where my images are going ... they’re going to myspace and forum posts and other blogs.

I know how they get here too, they come via the Google Image Search. I tried a few different ways to foil this but still get the new traffic, but to no avail. Not only is it an issue of hotlinking, but the photos I’ve taken of candy are ending up in all sorts of places. It’s one thing to put a candy photo in your blog post on your site that gets a couple hundred hits a day. It’s another entirely to be an Amazon store or eBay auctioneer and take my photos to sell candy I’m not here for other people to make a profit. I’m not really interested in junking up my pretty photos with watermarks.

So, I’ve now forbidden Google Image Search. It took a while to get it going. I put in the appropriate info in my robots.txt file, but for three weeks I still saw the traffic (about 15-20% of those people who come to typetive.com come for the images). So yesterday I put in a prompt with Google to remove my site from the image search. As of this morning my site traffic is down by 15% and I haven’t noticed any referrers from Google Image Search.

I know it’s going to be a blow to my traffic. But I’m more interested in readers than traffic. I hope my readers feel the same way. I hope my advertisers feel the same way.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:11 am     Curious News

Monday, March 26, 2007

Never Enough Time

People say a lot of things about me. I write a blog and people talk about it sometimes on forums and chats and even other blogs. The say I have too much time on my hands.

It’s not like they say that just about the whole candy blogging thing. I see it in reference to many of the participants who write novels in November.

I see the same thing bandied about when people take on quirky challenges, like walking the full length of a street, like Sunset Blvd. or when they create new and wondrous expressions of art.

“That person looks like they have too much time on their hands!” They chortle, as if it’s an insult.

Of course I don’t have too much time on my hands. I have a full time job. And a couple of part time jobs. And volunteer gigs. And blogs. I still manage to watch the FDA recommended doses of television. I travel. I have friends. I brush my teeth and manage my personal hygiene. In fact, I have a huge list of things I want to do!

I don’t know if this statement of other people “having too much time on their hands” is somehow supposed to make that person feel better about their lack of productivity or to make us sit down and stop being active and provocative. Yes, some of the stuff I create with my productiveness is useless and probably even counterproductive. But I’m exploring my world. I’m living in it. I’m not sitting around commenting on the worthiness of other people’s pursuits. (Unless their pursuit happens to be going around declaring how much time on ones hands is too much.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:32 pm     Curious News

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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.