Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hamburgers or Hot Dogs? What's your 4th of July favorite?

As I was driving to work this morning, I was reminded on the radio that today is the Nathan's Famous Forth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest to be held at City Hall in New York City.

But, I'm not a huge hot dog fan (because they always repeat on me and have an after-taste).

Hamburgers or hot dogs? (from http://www.roadfood.com)
Instead, I would rather eat a good hamburger or cheeseburger. My favorites are fresh hand-pressed patties (1/3 to 1/2 pound), with a little salt & pepper seasoning and cooked medium rare on a barbecue grill. These seem to retain the juices much better than the store processed thin patties, and they do not burn or dry out. I like the 80% mixture, because there is enough fat to melt throughout and keep the meat moist.

Two of my best friends like hot dogs better. One of them will eat a dog wherever they are offered, on the street, in a fancy restaurant, or at home. Whenever we are entertained by these two, they always cook a dozen or more at a time. They don't mind that only half are eaten because they eat the rest as leftovers (even for breakfast).

With tomorrow being the 4th of July, we will be spending it with my brother-in-law, who also loves hot dogs. I'll eat a couple just to be polite.

That left me wondering whether other people preferred hamburgers or hot dogs. 

If you get a chance, please drop a comment and let me know. I'd love to know what other bloggers and readers like better.

 And with that,

 I want to wish everyone a wonderful 4th of July !!! 

Happy 4th of July (from http://www.4thofjulyimages.com)

 JL .........

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recovering from an Unnatural Links Penalty - A Real Life Example

Many website and blog posts written as guides to help someone recover from an unnatural links penalty only describe generic actions that one may take. Unfortunately, as most have found, these articles rarely deal with specific actions, and leave the violators at a loss for resolving the underlying issue.

This post describes a real experience of how a fellow blogger removed an unnatural links penalty violation and restored his PageRank.

Background
In mid-August, I received a message from a blogging friend stating that he had received a notice from Google in Webmaster Tools indicating that his blog violated Google's quality quidelines. As a result, his blog may or may not appear in search results, or not place as highly in the results. In addition, Google provided him with a specific post.

This type of violation is commonly referred to as an:

"Unnatural Links Penalty".

His blog is hosted on Blogger, is 7 years old, has over 1,000 posts, and enjoyed a PageRank of 3. (Note that out of respect for his privacy, I will not list his name or blog URL).
Google gets tough on link sellers with PageRank penalty (from venturebeat.com)

At the time I was contacted, his PageRank had dropped to 0, but the blog was still appearing in search results. Prior to contacting me, the blogger attempted to fix this violation by searching the web and asking for help in the google forums. To that extent, he had received a couple of good suggestions which he followed. However, these actions did not resolve the problem.

Primarily, my friend's blog is a personal blog, consisting of a variety of stories, opinions, and observations. However, in his attempt to generate revenue, he enrolled in a few "Sponsored Pay per Review" programs and began writing sponsored posts. Thinking that these posts were causing the problem, he changed the included URL's to "nofollow" and asked for reconsideration. That did not help. Further, people told him that it appeared his site was "just selling links" and did not have a consistant theme. These comments were frustrating and disappointing to the blogger.

My Review
The first course of action that I took was to understand what steps had already been taken. After learning this, I realized that the penalty was "blog" related and not "post" specific.

So, I began looking at all the widgets and links he had on his sidebar and footings. There, I recommended that he remove all the "Sponsored Post" links and images. Next, I found a link to a gambling site that needed to be removed. Still, the penalty remained.

Finally, I followed the remaining widgets that he placed on the blog. At the bottom was a link to a "Book Review" site. When I visited that site, I saw 2 reviews. Both were reviews of individual posts on his blog with links back to the posts.  I realized that this created a "circular" link from his blog, to that site, and back to his blog. Clearly, that was unnatural.

He then removed that advertising widget from his blog and he asked for reconsideration. Within days, he received a message from Google saying that the violation was removed and the penalty would be lifted. At last, the problem was discovered!  By the end of the following day, the blog's page rank was restored back to 3 again and all is now well.

Lessons learned - Things to Avoid
Very often, unnatural links can be created out of ignorance. Many times, a blogger or webmaster is simply trying to take advantage of the tools available. This is particularily true for seasoned and experienced authors. However, some blogs and websites are created the with malicious intent to boost their PageRanks and earn a quick buck. While Google can distinguish between the age of the sites, it cannot always tell what the motivation is. Thus, play it safe and try to maintain a clean enviromnent.

From this experience and my previous encounters, my friend and I learned a few important lessons.
  1. Try to avoid penalties by refraining from violating guidelines entirely. Always err on the side of caution.
  2. Refrain from writing Sponsored Posts. However, if you do this, make sure that: you begin by saying that you are being paid for the content of the post; and be sure to set each link in that post as "no follow".
  3. Do Not place links to your blog or website on other websites or blogs. This includes comments.
  4. Do Not place links to gambling (i.e. those where you can actually gamble or practice gambling) or other prohibited site.
  5. Enroll your blog or website on Google's Webmaster Tools. By doing this, you can be alerted to violations, rather that operating in the dark. 
  6. Do Not link sub-domains together or to your site. Sub-domains are considered to be unique URLs. When you use and reference sub-domains, you are effectively creating fake circular links.
Removing a violation
If you do receive an unnatural links penalty notice, first read and understand Google's content guidelines. Then, follow the advice of this post. You have to think back and remember at all your actions and question everything that you have done. For example: Did you leave your links in comments just to get a backlink?, Did you write Sponsored posts and not indicate it?, Are you using sub-domains?, etc.

An Exception
One exception to "circular" unnatural links are those you would list in a "Links to My Other Sites" section. These should only be links to other sites that you own, and the heading should be labeled clearly.

Summary
Whenever you question one of your links or widgets, flag them as "no follow" or remove them entirely. If you are hesitant to make these type of changes to restore your credibility, then perhaps the violation was intended rather than accidental; and thus, a penalty is warranted.

JL..........

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to add Mathematical Formulas to a Blog or Webpage

I've recently been working on a mathematical derivation of the Poisson Distribution and am nearing its completion. As I am planning to document this information, I realized that the simplest explanation is to illustrate the underlying formulas.

Through my browsing, I found a couple of webpages that include various formulas. By accident, I happened to "right click" on one of them and was presented with a pop-up menu from MathJax.

Following the links, I learned that MathJax is exactly what I need.

For example, the Poisson distribution formula is:

`P(X)=(e^-mu mu^x)/(x!)`

To get this to display correctly in Blogger or a webpage, two things must first be done.

First: The template must be edited and a CDN link to MathJax must be added. The line to be added is:

<script src="http://cdn.mathjax.org/mathjax/latest/MathJax.js?config=AM_HTMLorMML-full" type="text/javascript">

and it should be placed just before the </head> tag. Once you have added this line, make sure you save the blog template or webpage. This only has to be done once in each blog or webpage where you want to display formulas.

Second: Now that this is complete, you may now enter formulas.  This should always be done in raw HTML mode (but this is not necessary in Blogger).

The syntax for MathJax is very similar to mathematical expressions when using ASCII Math notation. The html code for the above Poisson formula is:
`P(X)=(e^-mu mu^x)/(x!)`
The formula will remain in this format when you are editing the webpage or blog post. But, when you display it after it is published and viewed in a browser, the MathJax script will translate the HTML syntax into the corresponding  mathematical formula.

Additional Helpful Links


Friday, May 3, 2013

One reason college graduates and the unemployed cannot find jobs

May and June are graduation months. During this period, between 1.5 and 2.2 million students will be graduating from college with associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.

In addition, between 6 and 8 million college age students will  be looking for summer employment.

At the same time, the politicians and news media are trying to paint a rosy picture of how the economy is improving. They cite that an average of 200,000 new jobs are being created monthly. This translates into 2.4 million new jobs per year.

But, when we compare the number of graduates who will be entering the workforce to the number of jobs being created, we find a net difference of only 200,000 to 900,000 new jobs over the year.

The problem facing young graduates is the pure size of  those graduating all at once. Of the total 1.5 to 2.2 million looking for work, only 200,000 jobs will be available in any one month. That leaves a large number who will not be employed right away. A Townhall article cites that only 16% of those graduating from college this year have already landed a job. That translates into 240,000 to 352,000 with jobs, which represents between 1 and 2 months of employment gain.

Making matters worse for the new graduates, is the fact that there is approximately 8 times more people who are currently unemployed and competing for new jobs (i.e. 10 to 12 million people).

Thus, at a time when jobs are hard to find, the new graduates only compound the unemployment situation. Using the current economic growth rate, it will take more than 10 years before everyone is absorbed into the workforce.

But, there are certain things that college graduates and others can do to improve their chances of finding a job. First, and foremost, is to consider moving to a region of the country where jobs are available. Several states where unemployment is lower than the national average are: Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Kansas, Hawaii, Vermont, New Hampshire, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas.

While many graduates and their parents want their sons and daughters to remain home, very often there are not too many jobs available for those with your education. However, if you are willing to move, you may find that your specialty is in need somewhere else.

Now is the time for young graduates to make the move. Think of it as travel, an adventure. As a young person, you may not be tied down with a spouse or children. Second, you have a chance to get away. Third, if it doesn't work out, you can always move back home again.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas…Except the Unemployment Rate
Best of luck and congratulations to all!


Sources:

Friday, March 8, 2013

2 Ravens (or Crows) attack a squirrel and carry it away

When I left work two weeks ago, I saw my first robin pecking at the ground. Ah, "Spring is here" I thought. The temperatures were warming up and most of the snow had melted.

The next morning, I was home, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out at the early Saturday morning sun.

A squirrel was in a tree building a nest in a nearby tree. Yes I thought, indeed "Spring is here".

The nest was quite large, about 2 feet in diameter (I guess) and was located in the crock of two branches about 20 feet above the ground. The squirrel would run and jump to adjacent branches, nibble off a twig, and then insert it into the nest. Every so often, the squirrel entered the nest and appeared to push everything into place.


After I watched the squirrel jump off to another branch, a big black bird landed about a foot away from the nest. It stood there, cocking its head, looking at the nest. At first I thought it was a crow, but it looked awfully large. So, I decided it must be a Raven.

As the squirrel returned to the nest, the raven hopped away. But when the squirrel ran off to get another twig, the raven boldly hopped over to the nest and looked into it. Then the squirrel returned and the raven backed away.

I thought it was odd that the squirrel ignored the bird, but it must not have felt threatened.


When the squirrel left the nest again, a second raven landed on an adjacent branch. "Two against one", I thought. But the both birds just stood on the branches, watching the busy squirrel.

When the squirrel returned one more time, and entered the nest, the two ravens attacked. With open wings, they hopped onto the nest. The first raven grabbed the squirrel by the neck, and the second raven took the tail. Then they flew off together with the squirrel trying to get free. I watched them fly until they disappeared over the trees.

"Wow" I thought! I didn't know that crows or ravens would attack a living squirrel. I knew they were scavengers and would eat a dead carcass, but I didn't know that they would hunt in pairs and kill their prey.


I told this story to my mother-in-law who is 85 years old. She grew up on a farm and told me "Oh yes, they do attack animals". She said that when she was young, her mother told her to watch the chickens and chase away any birds that would land. But, as she was watching, a big crow (or raven perhaps), swooped down from the sky, grabbed a small chicken, and flew away with it. Just like that!

So now when I look out my window and see that unfinished nest, I think about the poor squirrel who was just trying to make a summer home for itself and live in harmony with all the wild creatures. I guess "Spring is really here"!

Read more:
I found a very similar story titled: Wild Bird Wednesday

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why the U.S. economy will not improve under President Obama - Part I

People do what they know best. They also tend to stay away from topics (or subjects) about which they are least comfortable.

Thus, it is logical that President Obama promotes research and education, yet avoids economics and the mathematical fundamentals of stimulating the economy.


To best understand his positioning, one need only to listen to his campaign style speeches or read his past State of the Union addresses. In all, he continually promotes the need for more research and education for all. He repeatedly says that economic growth will be derived from an educated society and that research will lead to technological advances which will fuel future manufacturing demands.

This is all true. But unfortunately, the current state of the economy borders on another recession and GDP is at or below 0%. And since the benefits of education and research may not be realized for years, one may ask: Why does the President continue to promote these as cures to our faltering economy?

The answer to this question is found in Mr. Obama's own higher education. His undergraduate degree was a major in political science with an international relations focus. He then attended law school and earned a J.D.  Neither of these degrees are mathematically oriented which is important in understanding the fundamentals of economics.

Most people learn early in their education careers that they are better in either mathematics or in English. Those who are good in math tend to study engineering, economics, math, the sciences, or medicine. Those who are good in English tend to study English, history, political science, law. Rarely do students excel in both math and English.

Mr. Obama was good in English, and therefore gravitated to law. He is an excellent speaker and reads the teleprompter flawlessly.


However, he does not seem to be very good at mathematics. Thus he stays away from hard economic issues of how business influences economic growth which then translates into increased taxable income. But, he does focus on broad social issues and simply relies on raising taxes as the means of government income.

Mr. Obama does comprehend the important need for more governmental revenue in order to pay for the social programs he promotes.

But, he is not mathematically smart enough nor creative enough to think about how to raise governmental income. This is why President Obama's only solution is to raise taxes.

As long as the President maintains this singular solution, the U.S. economy will continue to sputter because the real problem of stimulating business growth has not been addressed.

In our upcoming future posts, we will discuss:
  • Why it is wrong for the President to continually promote the "Middle Class",
  • How Mr. Obama's education policy affects the unemployment problem, and
  • Why Mr. Obama does not like the oil companies.

Sources:

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Dynamic View Experience using Google's Blogger

We've heard the politicians tell us that the U.S. economy is recovering and that a lot of jobs are being created. But, every time we read the newspapers, watch TV, or listen to the radio, we hear about a major layoffs in various companies.

So, last December, I decided to start a new blog recording the major layoffs occurring in the United States that I've read or heard about. I figured that by doing this, it would be easier to judge whether the politicians were right or wrong.

Thus, I launched the blog US Corporate Layoffs using Blogger's Dynamic View template as shown below.

When using Dynamic Views, the visitor is offered a choice of views by which they can see your site. However, the author must choose a default, or master, view. I chose the Classic view template because it is more like the other standard Blogger templates in that it simply presents all the blog posts in single scrollable format.


I had several reasons for using the Dynamic View template. First, I just think it looks "cool". Second, a user can change the display format by himself, and see just Thumbnails, or lists of posts at a glance. Third, because of the nature of the content, I thought that a simple, uncluttered, structure would be the most appropriate.

Lastly, I thought that because Dynamic Views were nearly 2 years old, Google would have most of the bugs corrected.

However, I was wrong about Google's performance and found a few frustrating features inherent in Dynamic Views.
  • Often, when the blog is initially loaded, the CSS heading and sidebar links fail to load. When this occurs, the selected color scheme is gone as well. The visitor is required to refresh the page 1 or more times in order to see the site properly.
  • When writing and pressing the Preview button 2 times or more time, the resulting Preview often displays the wrong post and loses the s resultse CSS formatting.
  • After the post Preview is shown, the overlay "Preview" banner in the upper left corner doesn't display. This leads to confusion as to whether the post has been published or not.
  • When adding and placing images in a post, the published image placement may not be placed exactly where it shows in the post editor or the preview window. This then results in other formatting problems that may be seen in the published post.
  • Embedded post images do not become Thumbnails display in the Flipcard, Magazine, Mosiac, Snapshot, or Timeslide views unless they (the images) were uploaded directly into the post. (They cannot be and not hosted by a 3rd party).
  • Changing the blog default color scheme doesn't work unless you use IE browser.
  • 3rd Party widgets such as nRelate, Feedjit, will not display.  
Below are samples of alternate layouts. The first is the Flipcard. As you will see, only one post has an image Thumbnail. The others only contain the post Title text. The reason for this is because I only embedded an image into the first post. All the others are links to other 3rd party locations.


The second layout  shows the Timeslide format. Again, because only the first post image is embedded, it is the only Thumbnail shown in the display. While all the other posts contain graphic images, they do not display as Thumbnails.


In summary, although I find some of the Dynamic View features lacking, I think that the overall effect of using Dynamic Views for this blog is most appropriate. However, if you are considering using Blogger's Dynamic Views, be fully aware of its limitations before beginning to use these templates.
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