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Righters of Roadside Wrongs

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Righters of Roadside Wrongs

What is it that appeals to us in advertising? We like to think the answer is…nothing. Not true. When we don’t feel pitched to, we respond with positive feelings towards advertising. Righters of Roadside Wrongs AAA has a new membership recruitment program that includes the following taglines: Righters of roadside wrongs Defenders of distressed drivers Sworn enemies of stalled engines Accompanying the lines (which I first saw on a Metro bus) are images of beer-bellied superheroes. There are a few things that appeal here. The alliteration in the lines The overblown importance of the role depicted The images of superheroes as regular guys or vice versa Alliteration, the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words, appeals to our auditory sense of balance and harmony. It makes things very easy to remember. Mnemonics often use alliteration. Our ears have fun with these sounds and the semblance of order they evoke. A sworn enemy is a very serious thing. But of course, the subject of the ad campaign is not terribly serious. Yes, we love having someone get us out of a jam but most of the time, it’s jumping a battery or changing a tire. The inflated importance suggested in the ad makes us smile, perhaps even chuckle. Anytime an advertiser can make us smile or laugh, they disarm our natural suspicion about them and we’re more open to the pitch. Occasionally, the men and women who show up for AAA are daily heroes. At least it feels that way when you’re on the receiving end of a rescue. In the image above, we see someone who could not be more ordinary. An ample waistline protrudes beneath his muscular arms. His stance implies, “Here and no further.” It’s a defenders stance. And finally, his international-orange highway vest streams out behind him like a cape. It’s a very clever bit of composition altogether. The words and images capture in shorthand a message that we understand immediately and makes us smile. This is very, very difficult to do. Its simplicity belies the effort behind the campaign. Undoubtedly the taglines preceded the images but the writers may have had concept images in mind (a virtual certainty). As a writer, I have a great appreciation for this...

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Harleys to Howard Carter

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Harleys to Howard Carter

I really meant to write more about all of the 8,000+ miles I put on The Boss (my Harley) this year but got caught up in … life. My 92-year-old dad has had health problems, I was attempting to fulfill a promise to myself to start writing a book I want to complete, and in all that, I took a left turn. I did get to work on schedule in September, working on an extensive outline for the book and getting more than 10,000 words of a first draft down on the page. As I worked on that, I started investigating the technical aspects of self-publishing, and creating and marketing eBooks. It occurred to me that one way to get savvy about e-publishing would be to—publish an eBook. I looked at the 300-something physical books on my shelves and realized that many of them, especially the rare and out-of-print ones, would be of interest to others and would make a good test case. One day while I was driving, it hit me like a thunderbolt to wonder if anyone had ever done an eBook of Howard Carter’s The Tomb of Tut.Ankh.Amen. This three-volume set has been published many times and was the book that got me interested in Egypt as a young boy. To my astonishment, I not only found out that there was no eBook, I discovered the book is in the public domain. As you can see by the image above, the past two months have been spent starting a new business: BIG BYTE BOOKS. This has been a really great learning experience and very fulfilling. Volumes I and II of Carter’s great work are now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble at very affordable prices. Anyone with a Kindle, Nook, or a smartphone can download them.     There are many other titles that I want to make available. Most of them would cost anywhere from $25 to a few hundred dollars or more in paper. The eBooks will be available for anywhere from $.99 to $9.99. This is going to be fun and I hope you find something of interest on the website in the coming months....

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All That Glitters is not Chrome

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All That Glitters is not Chrome

Daoud (motorcycle buddy) knows me too well. When I had coffee with him last Saturday, he chuckled and noted that I’d already washed the Harley after getting home from my Missoula trip two days earlier. I love shiny things. But I’m ahead of myself. Let’s back up to 12 July. I left Goldendale, WA and headed into the Columbia River gorge. I was backtracking along Lewis & Clark’s final passage on their way to the Pacific in 1804. In the rising heat of my second day on the road, I stopped in Hat Rock State Park for a break. Lewis & Clark described this odd landscape feature, something like a mini Devil’s Tower. The lovely little park is very well maintained, shady, and has interesting signage about L&C and Native Americans of the area. As you roll along the arid expanse of eastern Washington and Oregon, the roads cut through some of the deepest lava flows on earth. Into that basalt, the mighty Columbia has carved a massive gorge that defines a substantial portion of the border between the two states. A stark and fascinating feature of eastern Washington is the Scablands. This unique landscape was formed by the torrent of water released by the drainage (multiple times) of ice-age Lake Missoula. While researching the route for my trip, I stumbled upon a photo of Palouse Falls, which I’d never heard of. I decided to see it, as it cascades over cliffs that are part of the scablands. Out of Walla Walla, I followed Hwy 12 through the pastoral valleys that lead through the small towns of Waitsburg and Dayton. I then turned onto smaller Hwy 261 for 20 miles (32 km) before getting to the cutoff for the falls. This was a two-mile-long gravel road off of what was already a tiny road out in the middle of nowhere. But the park itself was lovely. Very few people were in the park. The Palouse River drops 200 feet (61 m) over the basalt cliffs before continuing towards a confluence with the Snake River downstream. One can easily see that a much larger falls once thundered across here. This plaque was also in the park. Having done archaeology, I’d love to see the sites this plaque refers to: The heat at the falls was intense but it got hotter as I continued on to my destination for the night. When I reached Clarkston/Lewiston around 5:00 pm, it was over 100 degrees (over 37.7 C) and I was still in leathers. I was also near switching to my reserve gas setting for the second time in the day. But I wanted to try an experiment. I let the gas gauge go all the way to the stops in the red and kept motoring. I wanted to see how far I could go before switching to reserve. I’ve done this by accident before and it’s easy to switch to reserve while moving. I got more than five miles along to a gas station without going to reserve so I still don’t know when it would have started coughing. I put over four gallons in the tank and the capacity is five, so the reserve must be a gallon. That means at 70 mph, I could get 40 miles on reserve. This...

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Motorcycle Metrics & Seeking Sophos

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Motorcycle Metrics & Seeking Sophos

The sum of any journey must be more than miles or else what’s the point of going? My recent trip on the Harley was taken to see friends, put miles on two wheels and, as I repeatedly said, to “clear my head.” Funny thing. My head came along for the ride. More on that shortly. Motorcycle metrics Vehicle: 2003 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic Route: As shown below Distance: 1493.3 miles (2403.2 km) Fuel burn: 37.432 gallons (141.7 liters) Average MPG: 40 Most expensive fuel: $4.099/gallon in Bellevue The Heritage is an extremely comfortable ride. I’ve ridden it for over six hours in a day with little fatigue. The thing that gets the most tired for me is my throttle wrist. For a 700-lbs (317.5 kg) vehicle, it’s also responsive in all five gears, even if it’s not a crotch rocket. Harley Davidson is my religion, given that I have no religion. Seeking sophos Sophos (or sophia) means “wise” or “wisdom” and originally was used to describe anyone with expertise in a specific domain of knowledge or craft. Even a charioteer could be a sophoi. A charioteer I’m not but a dedicated rider I am, forever trying to describe a better curve. But that’s a joy for me. Not like the search for sophos that goes on in my head, which is eternally more problematic. This was apparent the first day out, when instead of clearing my head, it was full of more chatter than usual. View July 2012 in a larger map Some of the chatter involved my choice of route, as in “This route was a stupid choice.” Goldendale, WA, my first stop, is not a 5-Star destination (or even 2-Star). I’d only expected to spend the first night there but I found its rural-small-town desertion a bit depressing. Still, no choice of route can truly be stupid. That’s absurd. Only thinking makes it so; no less true for Goldendale than Denmark. After dinner I decided to ride. The young woman at the Quality Inn told me that the Columbia River was only ten minutes away and that I could ride down to “Stonehedge.” I didn’t correct her. After all, the one on the Columbia is not a Neolithic earthwork but a concrete war memorial that could as easily be called a “hedge” as a “henge.” The Maryhill Stonehenge is a full-size, astronomically-aligned replica of Stonehenge located in Maryhill, Washington (Wikipedia). It’s impressive, as was Samuel Hill’s motivation for building it. Each day of the trip brought its own gifts and challenges. I’ll post more about that in the coming days along with more pictures. However, I’m about to set out again this week so I don’t know if I’ll get this trip fully reported before the next starts. I love not having a...

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Women Riders: Guest Post

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Women Riders: Guest Post

It’s kind of weird looking back. I never had any real interest in motorcycles growing up. My only real tie to motorcycles was through my dad. He rode a motorcycle throughout college for its economic value but eventually sold it because winters in Pennsylvania were not conducive to riding a motorcycle, nor safe for that matter. It was probably when I saw the Yamaha VMax Cruiser, pictured on the left, that I really developed the drive to ride. Its design is beautiful and elegant, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted it one day. Once I decided to ride, it was a matter of learning. I knew I needed to take a class, or perhaps a series of classes, to learn to ride. My first step was to take a course that taught me the basics of riding, including what to wear, how to operate the bike, and the safety precautions I needed to understand and utilize. Once I felt comfortable with the basics and general riding, I got my license. I eventually bought a “naked” bike, also known as a standard. I did a lot of research before buying it. Based on my research, I found that a naked bike is best for beginners because they’re: Easier to learn to ride. Maneuvering a standard bike involves less skill than other motorcycles. Generally minimalistic. There are fewer things to damage if the bike falls. Generally less expensive. I also bought all of the protective gear I’d need, i.e. a DOT approved helmet and a riding jacket; I learned in my safety course that I needed to always wear pants, full coverage shoes, and gloves that would protect me if I fell. Once I started riding, I took it slow at first; I didn’t jump on a highway immediately or any other fast paced environments. After my safety course, I really realized how dangerous motorcycles could be; they don’t have the external protection passenger vehicles do and, many times, other motorists don’t see us. The Motorist to Motorcyclist Transformation There was little resistance when I began riding; as I said, my father rode, so my family was generally okay with the idea from a non-safety aspect. In terms of safety, though, they were a bit hesitant when I first told them I wanted to be a motorcyclist. And when I first began riding, I understood why. Learning something new is always challenging, but riding a motorcycle around others as a beginner was certainly eye opening. It’s not that I was ever in immediate danger; it was just the feeling of vulnerability. I didn’t feel experienced or comfortable, because I wasn’t, just like any other person who learns to do something. But motorcycles are different. I knew that if I made a mistake and fell, a vehicle behind me could accidently strike me. And the fear of making a mistake hasn’t necessary ceased, nor do I think it ever should. That feeling certainly ebbed as I began to gain experience and feel more comfortable a few months into riding, but that fear is still there; after all, even the most experienced of humans make mistakes. The difference is that if you make one on a motorcycle, you don’t have much protection. Riding Now Years later, I...

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SEO Mastery

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I’ve had clients ask if they could pay for an hour or two of SEO lessons. I laugh. Not to them. Silently. To myself. Then, I cry. SEO is not something you can learn by reading a book, not even a good one like Danny Dover’s Search Engine Optimization Secrets. Why? Because SEO is something learned by the doing. It is hardly rocket science but it is a massive ocean liner ever moving, with millions of moving parts, submerged icebergs in its path, other ships to distract from its being viewed from shore, and a regulatory body (Google) setting constantly-changing rules that must be inferred rather than read. While someone with a mind that cannot but analyze everything all day long finds this fascinating and even at times exciting, if you dread the kind of detail that can reduce an accountant to tears, run away. You’ll think you’ve done everything you know to move needles in rankings only to find a one-line error in a file somewhere has tripped you up. Or you get a client with reasonable rankings whose host service company has sworn they’ve redirected the clients old web pages only to find they never set up the redirects and your client’s sole source of income, their e-commerce website, tanks in the rankings for having lost nearly every shred of their backlink juice. So you set up the redirects and wait. There are no real secrets to SEO work. Yes, Google has secrets about its algorithms but the work of optimization is not a dark art. It’s just a lot of work and no businessperson who is spending the time to run their business can take on SEO as a hobby. N-o-t possible. Like hiring a good real estate agent to sell your home, hiring a good SEO agency or specialist is worth every penny, because SEO should provide a measurable return on your investment. It should bring targeted traffic to your site. And your website design should convert that traffic into leads and sales. Otherwise, all you have on the web is a pretty calling...

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Local Activist Harassed by City of Seattle DPD

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Local Activist Harassed by City of Seattle DPD

Rita Zawaideh is one of my dearest friends and has been recognized locally and nationally as an activist, humanitarian, and businessperson. There is almost no one in Washington politics, from the Governor, our two Senators, and our congresspeople who does not know her on a first name basis. And she’s been harassed by the city of Seattle this year in a very un-American way. She gives tirelessly of herself to aid immigrants by holding fundraisers, including garage sales. If she can be targeted in this way, so can any of us. Please distribute this widely, and follow-up with two actions: 1. Call and email Seattle DPD Director Diane Sugimura: 206-233-3882,  diane.sugimura@seattle.gov 2. Call and email Mayor McGinn: 206-684-4000,   http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/citizen_response.htm (For more info see Real Change News article ) Laws of Invention: Seattle DPD and Creative Enforcement by Howard J. Gale The City of Seattle Department of Planing and Development (DPD), welcomes people to its website with a message from Director Diane Sugimura stating the DPD’s “commitment to making our services accessible and understandable. Our primary goal is to provide you with quality service as we carry out our mission–managing growth and development within Seattle in a way that enhances quality of life.” Rita Zawaideh’s recent experience with the DPD trying to quash her now famous charity garage sales in Wallingford (at Bridge Way N & N 38th St), looks at first glance like a case of one individual who ran afoul of city red tape. Further investigation into the DPD’s actions has revealed some serious issues of accountability lurking behind the DPD’s citizen friendly facade. I reviewed dozens of records from the DPD, obtained under Washington State’s Public Disclosure Act, to investigate what was behind DPD’s zealous prosecution of Zawaideh. A review of what I’ve learned over the last three months reveals impropriety and bias. While the source and nature of the bias remains unclear (dislike of Arabs, immigrants, activists, or just people who have garage sales?), the information at a minimum documents DPD favoritism, selective enforcement, defensiveness bordering on the paranoid, and an undue fascination with the background of people who might complain about DPD actions. The information I’ve seen indicates an irrational unwillingness on the part of Sugimura, as director of the DPD, to respond to citizen complaints in a constructive fashion. Unusual speed of response: Less than 24 hours after a single complaint was filed concerning Zawaideh’s garage sale, the DPD telephoned the person who complained and then promptly issued a “Service Request” (the first step in investigating a suspected violation). A site “inspection” followed in four business days — an unusually speedy response from the DPD for a potential violation that does not involve any conceivable risks to health or safety. My investigation of DPD records revealed that the person who complained about Zawaideh’s garage sale had help from a friend who knew a person who worked at the DPD. This connection almost certainly expedited the DPD’s response to the complaint and appears to have lowered their standard for evidence (see next item). Lack of evidence: When the DPD inspector, Tom Bradrick, went to Zawaideh’s home on June 1st to investigate the complaint there was no garage sale in progress, nor were there signs indicating any sales. There were no people anywhere to be seen buying or selling anything. There...

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SEO Copywriter Basics

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I’ve learned in my time as an SEO consultant, SEO technician, and SEO copywriter, that there is no learning substitute for hands on work. SEO is not something that I’m sure can even be taught all that well because there’s a certain level of intellectual curiosity and engagement you have to have to stay with it. It takes so many hours to learn to do good SEO work and a lot of it is trial and error. Let me show you what I mean. The Real Work of SEO I have a client I picked up a few months ago who was doing fairly well in rankings for certain keywords. The client does large architecture and construction projects. Looking at their Google Analytics, I saw that they were getting found mostly on keyword variations of their company name. That’s not bad but if most of the keywords in your Analytics account are variations of your company name, you’re mostly getting Googled by people who already know about you. I see this so often when I first look at a client’s Analytics. Most clients don’t stop to think about the fact that if their company name is not generic, they’re probably going to rank well for their business name. Keyword Krazyness When I first started SEO, I would have been at a loss to know what to optimize for to replace, for example, the Title tags that had little more than the client’s company name. I would have been guessing or I might use Wordtracker but I didn’t have a solid sense about what I should be using for keywords. My keyword strategy evolved quickly out of necessity but, my god, it took a lot of experimenting and then trying the keywords out on the pages. And it took a lot of experimenting to find out what worked in terms of changing tags, body copy, creating certain kinds of links, registering with directories, article marketing. Your SEO Toolbox is Unique So over time, you end up with a set of tools that are unique to you as an SEO. Someone else might use similar tools but I find that my process is unique in the way I analyze and execute an SEO strategy for any specific website. For me, that’s a lot of the fun and this is where the intellectual engagement comes in. When I find a new way to do something, I get very excited to duplicate it across several websites to see the effect. When it moves the ranking needle, it’s very exciting (and fun to tell clients about). What Was I Talking About? But back to the SEO copywriting aspect. I’ve really discovered there is no such thing. Copywriting alone is not enough to move the needle very far. And I say this as a very long-time writer and someone who started out thinking SEO copywriting could be enough. Copy CAN help with conversion; turning traffic into leads and sales. No. It’s a bigger nut to crack than that. And pretty much every website is different. It’s no longer at all difficult for me to sell SEO Campaigns since I no longer believe that a one-time optimization of a site is going to get you far in the long run. For one thing, the search engines keep...

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Dateline Cairo: Tuesday, February 01, 2011

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Cairo, Egypt Tuesday, February 1, 2011 “I used to call them the spoiled brats of the internet,” one Cairo woman confessed. “Now I kiss their feet,” she said, referring to young men who broke the Egyptians long record of endurance under a dictatorial regime. Today, the seventh day of the revolt against President Mubarak and for democracy in Egypt, 2 million people are said protesting in Cairo.  Some have estimated 8 million nationwide; that’s 10% of the population and that, technically speaking, is a revolution. In Alexandria, the people are standing shoulder to shoulder from one end of that long city to the other. It’s not the usual protestors; everyone knows them – like the Kifaya party (Enough) and the April 6 movement people. No. This is everyone: we see huge clusters of women in their bright colored scarf’s – like a meadow in spring – and the men don’t even flirt with them because the ethic of protest is respect. Crowds open up for people in wheelchairs and assist those walking with canes. The people, once assured that the Army’s interest was in protecting them, fell into easy cooperation.  Troops and people parade side by side,  Egyptian flags raised.  They work together to check people for weapons. People who live near Tahrir Square cook for the protestors.  In Helwan, south of the city, supplies of cooking gas ran out.  Some of the young men in the area located supplies in a neighboring area and delivered them back to Helwan, door-to-door. In the upsurge of pride, some protesters have pulled framed photos of Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt from 1954 to , off the walls of their homes and wave them above the heads of crowd – reminding their fellow Egyptians of the last time, during the pan-Arab movement, when they felt such self-respect and promise. Everyone uses the same words of protest.  Everyone is on message. There is no doubt that Mubarak is leaving. Power of the Army. It’s true that the army has tremendous economic power in Egypt and that they may be thinking of their own interests as well as those of the people in allying with the protesters.  But, in this country, the army is highly respected; it’s considered the institution of last resort and so far, they are deserving of that respect. Furthermore, from a realistic standpoint, a revolution without their blessing wouldn’t succeed, if only because they hold that tremendous economic power. Muslim Brotherhood, not. The Brotherhood will not assume leadership.  Contrary to what many westerners believe, they don’t have that influence – fact seriously distorted by President Mubarak, who wanted to keep his US allies nervous. Amr Moussa interim leader? Amr Moussa, whose term as head of the Arab League ends on Wednesday, could be the best choice for an interim leader. He’s 73, has spoken for the people for decades and has been treated accordingly by the regime. The people know him and respect him.  During the Africa Cup finals, President Mubarak appeared on the big screen to take credit from the players’ success. The crowds turned their flags down. When Moussa appeared, the flags flipped up. America not looking good. America is not looking good on the streets.  If Secretary of State Clinton has spoken one day earlier, it...

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Dateline: Cairo, Egypt January 30, 2011

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This is a post from an Egyptian-American psychologist friend in Cairo who sent this to Rita Zawaideh for sharing. Cairo, Egypt Sunday: 9:30pm Today, the fourth day of what must now be called an Egyptian revolution, 100,000 people showed up in Tahrir Square, the political center of the people’s protest against President Hosni Mubarak and his government and for democracy and government respect of the people. Not a bare spot was to be found. The size of the gathering was unaffected by the government’s shutdown of the internet and cell phone services. Nor the fact that it shut down Al Jazeera in Arabic, the county’s main source of news. That fact is, that in spite of the tremendously rapid growth in internet and cell phone use in Egypt, the major pathways for news are mosques—whose messages sound throughout the city each day and which provide public gathering places for the people, and word of mouth. Neighborhood are extremely tight-knit; people help each other—lending money, bartering for services, adjudicating quarrels, offering aid and spreading news. Since very few move house, the ties are long, complex and meaningful.  Neighborhoods tie the country together.  Word travels efficiently. Mohamed al-Baradei At some point, Mohamed al-Baradei, former Nobel Peace Prize winner and spokesman for authentic democracy in Egypt, announced that he would be willing to form an interim unity government. The people’s opinion of al-Baradie is mixed. He’s been out of the country for decades, most recently as head of the IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and many see him as an interloper and there are others with long established reputations for leadership and opposition to the government. Still, in my opinion, it’s important now that a titular leader emerge. The people will get tired; they need people to replace those who were in positions of power and who are leaving the country in droves. Among many others, President Mubarak’s son, Gamal, often mentioned as a likely successor to his father—much to the peoples’ disgust—is said to be in London with his brother and their respective wives. Meanwhile, the police have returned to the streets and  protesters keep the pressure on one of main sites of oppression, like the Ministry of Interior (known locally as the Ministry of Torture). Today shots were heard from inside the building and there are rumors that the Minister abandoned the country. F-16s over Cairo Early this evening, my apartment rattled violently. Two F-16 fighter jet coming in low to buzz Tahrir Square. The people shout louder. In a phrase which rhymes in Arabic, they yell “You fly; we stay.” Army tanks rolls toward square while rumors spread that they had been ordered to use live ammunition and that they had refused. I suspect that’s true. In Egypt, the army is thought of being on the side of the people. It would simply be “un-Egyptian” of them to shoot Egyptian’s distaste for violence People here are terribly upset by the violence. They genuinely hate to see people being hurt. They avoid confrontation. In fact, a major turning point in the revolt was provoked by government violence. In the beginning, the protest was mostly young middle-class men; but when the police started bruising, bloodying and in some cases killing, the lower classes joined up en masse. And now, as...

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