Thursday, May 31, 2007

Making sense of my blogs

Er, well, making SOME sense of them. It's taken me a while to figure out what I'm trying to do.
  • I've decided to try applying the 80/20 rule to the rightreading blog and keep it largely related to issues of print and electronic publishing (interpreted very loosely), so I'll limit (but not eliminate) the amount of the political/offbeat stuff there.
  • San Francisciana at Frisco Vista.
  • Mesoamerican material at Buried Mirror.
  • Asian art and culture at 7 Junipers.
  • Free-form blogging at Frozen Kulcha.
  • Personal/family-oriented stuff goes over at LiveJournal.
  • There's also a little photoblog here. (But more of my photos are at flickr.)
  • This blog is essentially dormant (I prefer the WordPress platform). I keep it mainly as an identity for commenting on other blogs that use blogger. I've culled some of the posts since it's basically archival.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007


5ives is a funny site.

Via Splodinvark.

More Global Warming Denial from the Bushies

Screwing our lapdog Blaire, who was expecting at least some pretense of action, the U.S. has revealed it is "fundamentally opposed" to any and all global warming initiatives at te G8 summit in Europe.

This administration never ceases to amaze.

(graph via

Monday, November 27, 2006

Frisco Vista

I've launched a new site devoted to San Francisco travel. It's called Frisco Vista. It might be worth watching. A couple of initial posts have gone up so far.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My new blog, imaginatively titled "," can be found, not surprisingly, at Please check it out -- and leave me a post! ;-)

The foundation of the new blog is WordPress. This enables me to host it myself rather than using an off-site service like this one. WordPress also allows greater customization. For example, I can turn off the no-follow tag on comments, which is locked on with Blogger. No-follow denies link juice to commenters. This is small-minded of Google (part of their anti-spam obsession, which has proven a big failure so far). If I'm moderating comments and someone posts a thoughtful comment with a link in it I think the bots should follow it, and it makes no sense to me to block them. (I use the show non-PR links bookmarklet to see what sites are doing about their comments.)

By the way, at rightreading, check out Gutenberg and the Koreans, an article recently posted that some might find provocative, since I argue that there was more influence from Asia on the early European Renaissance than generally believed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

link building

Some of the tips at SEO Book By Andy Hagans and Aaron Wall might be helpful.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Using the AOL Search data

Okay, enough of the voyeuristic freak-show stuff. The AOL data was released for research, right? So what does it tell us?

Several people have analyzed the data to see what position gets most of the clicks. Not surprisingly -- at least it shouldn't be surprising, although some SEO types had been overthinking this -- the number one position gets more than 42% of the total click-throughs. After that it's a pretty sharp drop down to the last position on the first page (10). Position ten actually does a little better than nine, apparently because searchers suddenly see the second page coming and in a panic will click on anything rather than continue to a second page. Anyway the tenth position gets almost 3% of clicks and then it falls to two-thirds of a percent for position eleven.

I guess that tells you that if you want traffic, beyond those who are really determined to find exactly you, you'd better be willing to scrap and claw your way to page one of the SERPs or else forget about it. And that's gotten harder thanks to the value search engines are now placing on domain age (although one might buy existing domains). Probably better in most cases would be to find some niche that isn't well filled. How to do that? One way would be to analyze the data for searches that get no click-throughs, on the assumption that failure to click through means the search results weren't satisfactory. The ambitious webmaster could then construct sites designed to respond to those searches.

The problem with that is that most searches are very ill-formed, and most searchers appear to have short attention spans. So there is a large random factor in all this. From what I can see there isn't a glaring difference between searches that get click-throughs and those that don't. I assume that this is an area that will be explored in coming weeks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Romance, Hogs, and AOL User 66

In an act of staggering stupidity, yesterday AOL released – to the public! – the results of three months' worth of search queries by some 650,000 of its users. The data provides a glimpse into the collective (and, one might have thought, private) thoughts and desires of the nation -- or at least that percentage of it that subscribes to AOL.

It seems not to have occurred to the AOL employees who published the data on the internet that, although the user names were replaced with random numbers, their identities can often be easily determined when provided with every single thing they searched for over three months’ time.

Or that releasing the data was a gross violation of their confidentiality pledge to the users.

The data has since been removed, and AOL executives are doing the obligatory mea culpas, but the damage has been done. Probably thousands of copies of the data now have been downloaded by marketers, seo types, identity fraud specialists and other scammers and spammers, and so on. Watch for lawsuits soon.

Viewing the data gives a taste of what it must have been like to have been Kenneth Starr during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. A quick look at one portion of the data was about all I could handle.

The first user I encountered in the data was User 66, and I immediately felt a desire to help her fulfill her wishes (as long as I’m not, you know, personally involved). User 66, who searched at least a couple dozen times for information about “hog baying” “hog baying winfields,” and “record hogs” in Florida, is drawn to “sunset pictures” and “romantic photos.”

Yes, romance calls to this hog-loving lass: She was searching for “what men really want,” “falling in love what to do,” and, of course, “how to make him cum.” Finally, putting her interests together toward what I hope will be a happy resolution, she searched repeatedly for “pork roast recipe boston butt.”

But I worry: What if her suitor turns out to be User 927, who has searched dozens of times for variations of “skin mold on humans”? I don’t know how the mold got there, but if you told me it was related to his interests in “dog sex,” “mange,” “hentai pedofilia,” “sex torture,” and “testicle festivals,” I wouldn’t be surprised.

This person, by the way, is a gardener with an interest in asters, azaleas, orchids, camellias, daffodils, carnations, forget-me-nots, gladioli, jonquils, and many more. Don’t be deceived by his floral offerings, hog- and romance-loving User 66! You can do better! Let’s see … Hmmm … I’m afraid we must reject:

User 164526, whose interests include “monkeys for sale,” “showdownmusclecars,” “pokemon cheat codes,” and “hookers in Saint Petersburg,” I just don’t see you as that kind of girl, User 66.

User 163622 does not seem to have the wherewithal to support you in the style you deserve, based on his searches for “chuck e. cheese” and “cost of renting a car.” Besides, he’s too busy looking for jobs for gay teens in kalamazoo.

The less said about User 157816, whose main interest is “women in diapers,” the better.

I hope User 154569, who is interested in who is looking for women who are excessively (to my mind) intimate with dogs, doesn’t have skin mold like User 927, with whom he shares his canine inclinations. Besides, this person is searching quite determinedly for a place to hold a wedding. (With a human, I trust.)

I’m not sure I have the stomach for much more of this.

But wait! Here’s the perfect match for User 66! It’s User 131562! He is a fun-loving guy who likes to play “fulltilt poker,” “holdem,” and “brainsturgeon poker,” is into video games, and is looking to rent some netflix. So you know he’ll have plenty of ways to fill those idle moments. And he’s also searching for “cheap restaurants,” so your boston butt pork roast should be a plus.

Best of all, he’s into “pocket pigs” and “pigs as pets!”

Good luck, User 66, and if User 131562 doesn’t work out, remember, there are a half million more users whose secret thoughts are now public, thanks to the good folks at AOL.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Neanderthal Surrogate Project

Follow this link to apply to the Neaderthal Surrogate Project.

If you would like to be placed on the Surrogate Waiting List, or if you would like to leave a comment, you may do so here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Winged Sphinx

I posted this antiwar essay, originally published in a book edited by Peter Laufer, about a week ago. But I didn't make a link for comments. So this be that.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Some folks are calling for the publisher, executive editor, and some reporters for the New York Times to be tried for treason for revealing government banking investigations. Since GWB himself had announced the program of investigations, I'm confused about the definition of treason.

Say, for example, that the president declared the nation was at war. Now say you had an undercover operative covertly gathering information, and -- oh, I don't know -- suppose some government official exposed her secret status to get back at, well, let's say, her husband, for critical comments he made against some policies of the administration.

So, betraying an operative on a government mission during a time of war: would that be treason?

Monday, June 26, 2006

How to Get a Book Published

This post was the original location where people could comment on my little primer on getting a book published. Since I've moved my blog to my own site, I've also moved these comments to this location. (All of the comments have been saved, they have just been moved.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bureaucrats kill kids

At least, that seems to be the implication of a report by Matier and Ross in today's Chronicle. Three children died in a house fire near where I live. The closest fire station couldn't handle the blaze alone. The second closest station is one right near me. But no trucks rushed to the fire from that station. Why? Because it's in an unincorporated region of the county, and the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County have not been able to come to an agreement about cooperation on resources to fight fires (Richmond was afraid it would spend more on putting out county fires than the county would spend on putting out Richmond fires).

Dead of smoke inhalation are Devieonne Portis, 9, Jerimiah Cradle, 4 and Isis Cradle, 2.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

That's not evil? (check out these links)

I know it seems like I'm on an anti-Google campaign, but I'm not really. After all, this site, blogger, is a G site, and I use G-mail, etc. etc. Often they are good at interface and ease of use.

But because I've been working on getting my website better indexed again I've been doing a lot of reading about search engines, and things come up like this:

Google's informal motto is "Don't be evil."

Yet they have colluded with the Chinese government to censor search engine results in China. An article by John Scott on "Google's Moral Superiority" dramatically demonstrates the results of this. Check out the differences in an image search for "Tiananmen Square" on and


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Security Risks and Search Engines

Another test (see below for a test of relevancy of search results), this time for security of resulting links. Interestingly, this test yields the same order of results for the big four as the other one: MSN is safest, then Yahoo, Ask, and -- again pulling up the rear -- Google.

Relevancy of Search Engine Results Compared

This chart is a summary of results of a test performed by Intralink. Of the big three search engines, Google ranked third for producing relevant results.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Hey, come on, somebody notice my new Yi jing. It's damn fine for divination -- give it a try.

Taking my own advice, about this the Yi jing sez (hexagram 4): "Don't go searching for the fool: he will find you. Asking once is fine; further questions yield nothing."

So ... never mind. Forget I mentioned it.

Thanks, Yi jing.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Page ranks of historical figures

How would Google rank the web pages of Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Carolus Linneaus, Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machievelli, and the Buddha? Rightreading reveals the page ranks of historical figures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Link rot

Link rot is the tendency of links to go bad over time. This can happen pretty quickly, and I've been attacking it tonight. I found a good tool, Xenu's Link Sleuth, a no-frills link analyzer. It's small and simple. I like it better than the couple of others I've tried.

I've also taken down my old links pages (so 1990s!) and instead I'm migrating my links over to I have a tagroll on my website as a visual aid and a link to them.

In a study at the University of Nebraska researchers found that "42.5 percent of dot-com addresses were lost since the study began."

By the way, researchers might benefit from using webcite. It's a free service that creates a snapshot of the citing webpages, similar to the wayback machine. I haven't used it, but it sounds like it could be useful.

To help combat link rot, when pages move the new location should be referenced with a redirect. And webmasters need to take responsibility for checking their links from time to time. Surfers could help by informing webmasters when they find bad links.

I hope the links in this post are still good by the time you read it!

Monday, May 22, 2006

New photo posted at

The millions of regular readers of probably know that I have begun posting featured photos on my photography page. Latest up is a photo of the central garden at the Getty Center.

Speaking of the GC, I've been preparing a new batch of photos of the Getty and will post them to my travel section soon.

Over the years I've experimented with various ways of handling web photo albums, with the result that the presentation of these is inconsistent. I think I'm ready to standardize now (with a bit of tweaking) on a style like the one I used for bouquets to art.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Congratulations, Ellen

Congratulations to Ellen Christensen, winner of the William Stout Prize in Architectural History, offered for the best architectural history paper written at the University of California-Berkeley during the current year. Papers are submitted for the award by the department’s GSIs (graduate student instructors) and then refereed by an outside committee. This year there were around twenty papers that made the pool of finalists.

So Ellen, what do you think about this unexpected honor?

Ellen (surprised): But ... it’s not even my major!

Two more pictures follow.

Erin and Ellen

Ellen on the way to her awards ceremony

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Google Trends

Google announced a new product today, Google Trends.

Google Trends tracks popularity over time by region and language of search terms entered in Google.

A few preliminary results are interesting:

* Firefox has leveled off since rising rapidly throughout 2004. It is especially popular in Germany

* peaked at the end of 2005 but may be recovering. It's especially popular in Southeast Asia.

Result timelines may include landmarks dates: For example:

A After 125 years, ukulele still keeps 'em smiling
Arizona Republic - Apr 21 2004

B Hawaiian musician takes ukulele to stardom
KVUE (subscription) - Aug 26 2004

C Warren Buffett plays ukulele, answers tough questions in packed Berkshire weekend
San Diego Union Tribune - May 2 2005

D Hawaiian ukulele star rockets up charts
Wilkes Barre Times-Leader - Jun 13 2005

E Ukulele shop grew into historic status
Honolulu Star-Bulletin - Jul 17 2005

F Ukulele kids rock in class and after school, travelling the world to perform
Brandon Sun - Feb 18 2006

You can also compare trends. For example:

Yahoo consistly scores higher than Google (because searchers are already at Google?).

Japanese art consistently scores higher than Chinese art (but interest in both is declining, if search queries are an indication).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Attention, Hit Sluts

1. Obsessed with the number of hits your website is getting? Check out McDar's Google Watch Tool. It allows you to compare results from most of Google's data centers.

2. What's up with Google anyway? Webmasters are reporting weird results all over the net. This thread covers the subject pretty thoroughly. (You don't have to log in, just click on "passed url.") It seems to me that Google is doing spring cleaning. I hope so, because my old site,, which has been defunct for almost a year, still ranks higher on some things that my current site,, even though the content is often identical at the new site.

3. THIS IS COOL: What kind of a tree would you be? Check out this remarkable visual representation of the spidering mechanisms of Google, Yahoo, and MSNSearch.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Must-See Video

Stephen Colbert’s gutsy performance at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner.

You can thank him here.

Photo of the Day

Water lilies.

Visions of Geekery

When you start to dream about SEO (search engine optimization) stuff, you know you’ve gone over the line. Besides, most of the techniques that used to work get you penalized now. For my money, Google Blogoscoped is the most entertaining search engine blog (although Google these days is about a lot more than searching). SEO Chat's Google Dance Tool will tell you when the techtonic plates of Google’s ratings start to shift. And at XSEO you can see the history of such changes. (For more, see this introduction to search engines.)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

ISP woes

More internet issues. This seems to be the year for them. On Monday the server of my ISP (Hostik)went down. I didn't get back up until Thursday night. "During a routine backup Plesk [the internet interface] was corrupted," they said. Must have been some corruption. So I'm talking to their tech support guy. "Is this going to happen again?" I ask. "Absolutely not!" he assures me. "What was different this time?" I ask. His answer: "I do not know."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A New Rendering of the Yi Jing

I've made a new rendering of the Yi jing (I Ching) and posted it

Check it out. It has a random flash component that will cast a hexagram for you.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bouquets to Art

I've posted some photos from this year's Bouquets to Art over at This year it was at the de Young again, instead of the Legion.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I've finally got around to putting several things up on the web that I've been intended to post. What's new is listed here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Herd on the Street

Check out this new feature at my companion site,

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bush changes a light bulb

This picture purports to show GWB "pitching in" to change a light fixture in New Orleans.

Me: How many presidents does it take to change a light bulb?

Carol: Forget the light bulb, just change the president.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Still a ways to go, however

Okay, I'm going to shut up about Google now. But first, I want to say that using the "site:" search command I find that Google has information about 126 pages from the site that I turned off more than six months ago, but only 22 pages from the new site with the same (or better) content. (Plus, the old site had 580 links or mentions.) Okay, nothing more about Google. (Unless I change my mind.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Free at last!

Well, I'm back in Google's index, after only a couple weeks of e-mails.

I will give them that they did take care of it finally (good thing I don't live in China). But it's a little scary when a single entity has so much power to conceal or make visible parts of the web. That's one reason why it's a good idea to check out other search engines from time to time. I have some info about this here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gagged by Google!

For some reason Google has decided my website is some sort of scam or spam or something. It's ironic because I have services and stuff I could sell but I've purposely kept the website completely noncommerical.

I noticed that Google wasn't indexing it. (Determined by putting the url in Google's search box.) All other search engines that I've tested do index me. By being persistent, I finally got this response from Google:

"Your page has been blocked from our index because it does not meet the quality standards necessary to assign accurate PageRank. We cannot comment on the individual reasons your page was removed. However, certain actions such as cloaking, writing text in such a way that it can be seen by search engines but not by users, or setting up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search engines may result in permanent removal from our index."

But I haven't done any of those things! What can I do?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Hypothetical President

On Tuesday Mr. Bush announced that the U.S. is "addicted to oil." And he should know -- he's the pusher. After all, what can you expect when you put oil men in the executive office? But that's not the story. That speech made front pages everywhere -- but did this?

"One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent, his energy secretary and national economic advisor said Wednesday the president didn't mean it literally." (Knight Ridder)

See, when he said cut imports he didn't mean, you know, cut imports. He meant, um, something else. It was like a general sort of, er, example.

Hey, how's a guy to govern if people take what he says as if he means it?

It's hard. It's hard work.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

How many megapixels do I need?

The answer is here.

Right Reading RSS feed is now live

Please add my RSS to your feeds by going here.

(The source of the feed is The above link can automate adding the feed through bloglines, and it provides some information about RSS for those who need it.)

The Right Reading feed is more complete and current than the Atom feed that is offered here at this blogger account.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

BluPlusPlus and JAlbum

Got the BPP skin to JAlbum looking more or less the way I like. Made a photo album (really a partial one as I plan to add more slides to it) and posted it here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Tom Conquers the Netherlands

Dear Mr Christensen,

We would like you to collaborate on a publication in a new architecture magazine called Mark--Another Architecture. The idea is to make an international quarterly with a difference. Architecture mags tend to be serious, factual, descriptive and, if you like, boring. So we are trying to make a magazine that's lively and personal, offering another angle on the usual architectural news.

For a feature on the new De Young Museum, which is, as we're told, an amazing accomplishment of Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, would you be interested in telling about your relationship with SF, Golden Gate Park, and the De Young, and having your photographs published in our magazine?

Please let us know what you think!

Best regards,

Robert Thiemann
Editor in Chief
Mark Magazine, Amsterdam

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tom Conquers Russia

Dear Mr. Christensen,

I am applying on behalf of the Kolonna Publications, a Moscow-based publishing house. We are planning to publish Hieroglyphic Tales this Fall; it would be the first Russian translation of the book. We are asking for your permission to use your wonderful preface in a slightly abridged version for our edition.

Kindest regards,
Dmitry Volchek,
Editor, Kolonna Publications

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Over at my credit card expired. So what did my host do? They deleted my site! Which is pretty huge (I need to edit it, but not that drastically.) I had most of it backed up, but still ... If you happen to be over there and notice anything missing or otherwise amiss, please let me know.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Sharper than a hound’s tooth

That describes prosecutors in Bentonville. Arkansas, who subpoened Murphy Smith to testify in the murder trial of Albert K. Smith, after Albert wrote Murphy a letter from prison. When Murphy appeared as called, a deputy refused to let the shih tzu into the court, citing a “no dogs” policy. Prosecutor Robin Green said “The dog was friendly enough and probably would have been a very cooperative witness.”

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Today's Culture Heroes: Gael Garcia Bernal and Jorge Drexler

These guys desserve credit for standing up to the marketing machine that is the Academy Awards. If you saw that show you saw Drexler's pained look as Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas butchered his song from Motorcycle Diaries, "Al Otro Lado del Rio." Santana is Mexican-American and Banderas is Spanish, and neither is at all appropriate to perform the Uruguayan musician's song. When the Academy decided that Drexler wasn't a big enough name (and I guess Beyonce's Spanish must be even worse than her French), Gael Garcia Bernal refused to introduce the song in protest (the always obliging Salma Hayek filled in). When Drexel accepted the award he sang the song -- his version bore scant resemblance whatever it was that Santana and Banderas performed -- and accepted with dignity. Bravo, seƱores!

Photos below.

Jorge Drexler CD cover

Gael Garcia Bernal (foreground) and Rodrigo de la Serna in Motorcycle Diaries

Frozen Coagulated Culture: the launch

Another opening, another show ...

The marketing people will tell you to find a niche and fill it – drive a wedge into the cultural cacophony and gradually expand your slot. But that doesn’t interest me, so here anything goes. Generally though, my interests fall under the catch-all rubric of culture, and therefore the title, which comes from my first book-length translation, back in ancient times when I did technical translation. It’s out of print now, but you’ve probably read it. It was called Frozen Coagulated Cultures in Wine, Cheese, and Sauerkraut Production. You can’t get much sexier than that. Right?

(I expect this to replace my old LiveJournal. And don't forget, on the web since 1994.)