Hacking the algorithm

When I try to explain the work I do to non technical people, their eyes glaze over very quickly. It’s totally understandable, there’s a lot of jargon and things get complicated very quickly.

However, here’s a really great video by Amy Webb, talking about how she hacked the algorithm for a dating site. It has a lot of parallels with what I do, and I’m sure my fellow SEO people will also enjoy it :)

Toyota FT1 Photos

Photos of the new Toyota FT1 sports car, which was displayed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit MI. I don’t know if my photos will do it justice, but the car really does look good up close and in the flesh. This is supposed to be the replacement for the legendary Toyota Supra. Enjoy the photos, while I continue testing this theme :)

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8667

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8665

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8664

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8663

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8659

2014-01-21 Detroit Car Show-8655

Sunrise Photos

I love photographing the sunrise, the serenity before the day begins and watching the wildlife wake up and get moving is always magical. There are so many colors and moods that can be found during that short window of time. Last weekend I went to Hoover Reservoir in central Ohio to capture some sunrise photos. I got there around 6.15am because I wanted to capture the scene well before the sun came up. A few minutes before sunrise the light changes really quickly and the drama and moodiness fades away within perhaps 5 or 10 minutes. I’ve shot photos at Hoover Reservoir before, but never at this location. When I arrived it was still quite dark so I needed a flashlight to navigate through the terrain.

This shot was taken at 6.36am, 45 minutes before sunrise and required a 30 second exposure at f/16, ISO 200
Before sunrise

When photographing water, a long a exposure will smooth out the waves and ripples into a lovely, soft, smooth surface, reflecting the colors in the sky.

As the sun starts to get close to the horizon, the clouds are alight with yellows, oranges and reds, making the trees on the skyline look like they’re on fire. There’s a lot more light now, so this only required an exposure of 0.8s at f/16 and ISO 200.

trees on fire

This is the time when animals start stirring and moving around, looking for their breakfast. By now the light levels are rising rapidly and the colors are changing as the sunlight takes a more tangential path through the atmosphere. Capturing this gaggle of geese only required 1/80s at f/16 and ISO200.

gaggle of geese

We’re still seeing highly diffused reflected light as it’s bouncing off the clouds, but once the sun breaks the horizon, the direct sunlight casts warm, strong beams providing a lot more contrast between the highlights and deep shadows. This makes metering the scene a bit more difficult for the camera and really starts to stretch its EV range. Fortunately with combination of modern image processing software and recording images in the uncompressed RAW format, the highlights can be tamed and details brought out from the shadows. None of these images were processed using HDR techniques. To be honest I did try with a couple out of curiosity, but wasn’t thrilled with the results for these images.

warm tones, harder light source

This last shot was taken at 1/60s at f/16 and ISO200.

Only one hour passed from the first to the last photo, but it’s such an interesting time of day as there’s such a huge transformation in not only the light but the wildlife and photographic opportunities. Composition is also very different depending on whether the sun is above or below the horizon. If the sun is visible in the sky, shooting towards it will usually create lens flare, which can be used artistically, but most photographers try to avoid it.

If you get the chance, head out to a location before sunrise with your camera, the range of photos you can capture within one hour is amazing. Be sure to head over to my flickr stream as there are a few more photos from this shoot that I didn’t post here.

Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012

Misty Blues Skydiving Team at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012
Misty Blues Skydiving Team at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012
The weather forecast before I left said it was going to feel like 112 degrees. I don’t think I’ve ever felt 112, but it was certainly a lot of degrees, I can tell you. Despite the searing heat I was able to take in some fantastic aviation showmanship at the Vectren Dayton Air Show and even capture some of it with my camera gear. I rented a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens which, coupled with my Nikon, can zoom in and count the barnacles off a sperm whale from the other side of the Atlantic. I also had a monopod with me but found it was better hand holding the big green monster and letting it hang off my black rapid strap between flyovers. A sore back and shoulders were a small price to pay for the enhanced handling.

I had brought enough water and salty snacks to carry me through to September, but I didn’t want to take a chance, since I still had to drive home alone. I’m quite sure I drank enough water that, if I were a camel I would have grown a third hump on my back.

Twin F-16 Fighting Falcons at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012
Twin F-16 Fighting Falcons at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012

The first fast movers to roar by were a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons, driven by some immensely talented gentlemen, then there was the customary barnstorming biplane, piloted by Gene Soucy and another more modern, the Porsche 911 version if you will, flown by Mike Goulian, in his German Extra 330C.

When I was there two years ago I witnessed a mock D-Day attack with B-17s gracefully strolling by, but this year they had something a little more animated for us. In their place were eight Japanese fighters and bombers from the movie Tora Tora Tora. They swooped, circled and dived down for what felt like half the afternoon, while chest pounding pyros were set off sending great plumes of thick chewy smoke into the air. The wind direction ensured that the crowd got a mouthful of it.

Japanese Zeros at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012
Japanese Zeros at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012

There was even a British Sea Harrier flown by Art Nalls, an ex Marine aviator and Harrier test pilot. After success in real estate ended up buying his own, which he keeps in Maryland, near the sea I presume. If you think Land Rover parts are expensive, I can’t imagine the cost of maintaining a Sea Harrier. Perhaps he keeps it in Maryland so he can fly over for an oil change and check up.

What airshow is not complete without the skydiving team? The Misty Blues were to fulfill that obligation, an all women team lead by Cindy Irish who has over 2,100 jumps under her belt. Then as Gene Soucy flew his Grumman Showcat, a perfectly good bi-plane I might add, Theresa Stokes decided to climb out and stand on the top wing and pose. She has to be stark raving mad especially since she wasn’t even wearing a parachute.

More historic aircraft were shown to us, by way of the A-4B Skyhawk, the same plane that John McCain was shot down in, the P-51 mustang and two F-4 Phantoms. The mustang named “Quick Silver” was privately owned and had a special paint job commemorating veterans and paying tribute to various branches of the military. The two Phantoms were actually QF-4s, named so because they were fitted with remote control devices turning them into multi-million dollar RC toys. During the weekends they’re used as part of the Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight, while during the not weekend days they’re used for target practice. We were told, eventually they’d be shot down, probably a fitting end for a fighter aircraft, like a ship’s captain I presume.

Blue Angels Diamond Formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012
Blue Angels Diamond Formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012

Last but not least were the Blue Angels and their amazing precision flying. These guys were so cool I’m sure they could text and fly while eating Klondike with one hand hanging out the window. In close formation there’s a mere 18 inches between the tip of a wing and the canopy of the next guy. If you’re reading this on a laptop, the size of your screen diagonally might be 17 inches, just add one more, then imagine hurtling through the air at over 400 miles an hour trying to maintain that distance, while not getting bonked on the head by the wing on the other side, simply unbelievable.

It was a very hot day, but I was glad to make it back in one piece with no major sunburn or heat stroke, which is probably a first for me. Viewing the photos online really doesn’t do the air show justice because you don’t get to smell the smoke, get deafened by the afterburners, or end up with a crick on your neck, but if you want to see more of my photos, head on over to my Vectren Dayton Air Show 2012 set on flickr.

Videos

I’m helping Manta by giving tips and advice to their audience by way of a series of short videos. In the first one I talk about utilizing the keywords that are available for Manta customers who have a Premium Business Listing.

This one was posted to Youtube on Valentines Day, so free to Like the video, leave a comment and show me some love ;-)

While we already have some ideas for other videos, feel free to leave a comment here and request other topics. I can’t promise they’ll make the cut but they’ll definitely be considered.

Polar Bear Plunge

Reuben Yau - Polar Bear Plunge 2012
This year I’m participating in a fund raiser to support Special Olympics Ohio (donations welcome). On February 18th, I will be doing the Polar Bear Plunge at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I’m told it’s going to be in a open air pool near the Polar Bear Exhibit and not actually in it! While I like Polar Bears, I don’t particularly want to get that close to one, especially since I’ll probably look like an injured albino seal.

This is my first time raising money for Special Olympics Ohio, a great cause helping people with intellectual disabilities train and compete. According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission about 2.5 million people in the US, or around 1% of the population are affected and of those only 31% are employed.

I have no idea how cold the water will be or how long I’ll be in it. It doesn’t really matter to me, this is not about me, it’s about supporting this great organization. I’m going to jump into a pool in the middle of winter, I know you won’t, but you could could offer some support by donating. Check the change in your pocket, perhaps hold off on one latte for this week, you know any contribution is going to be greatly appreciated.

If you visit my donation page, you can also enter a short message which will appear in the scrolling Honor Roll.

UPDATE:
Our group raised over $5000 for Special Olympics Ohio! It was 45 degrees with a light breeze and the water temperature was, well, cold! Our team was the first up on stage, the first three team members went in, then it was our turn. After a short intro by the emcee, we were given the countdown and off we went. Hitting the water was fine, it was when I surfaced that I experienced the full body shudder of OMG it’s cold. I got out and got changed into some dry clothes feeling quite refreshed.

Maps and QR codes

When I need to go to a new place, I will research it on my desktop using one of the typical map sites to get an idea of travel time and where it is. I have a Motorola Atrix which has a nice map app which offers turn by turn directions. I use it a lot, but the problem is that I’ve just performed the search on my desktop and there’s no fast and convenient way to repeat that search on my phone, or even better yet, just transfer the result to my phone.

Google Maps offers print, email and a nice “Link” feature which generates a HTML link which you can copy and paste, unfortunately the clipboard doesn’t span from my desktop to my phone.

Bing Maps has a share button which allows me to share on Facebook, twitter, or email it to myself. Hmm, still not as quick as I’d like and I’d rather not broadcast my map locations to my social connections.

Yahoo Maps also has a Send via email, but again, it’s not convenient enough.

Mapquest has the same options as the search engines, but also two more interesting ones: Send to Mobile and send to Garmin GPS. The first uses SMS messaging, the other is great if you have a Garmin GPS device, but I don’t. So this is a bit better, but I’m not sure I trust the SMS option. I’ve had messages be delayed and as with the other options, it puts me in a position where I’m waiting and relying on an external service.

What I really need is the ability to be in control and initiate the transfer of the map result immediately to my phone.

What I think would be ideal, is if the mapping sites could add another option to print a QR code for that location. That would allow me to instantly transfer it to my smartphone, hopefully the phone would also recognize the URL and automatically open the map app.

What do you think?

RIP Remington

RIP Remington

About a week ago my puppy Remington was diagnosed with cancer. It all started when we noticed he had blood in his urine. He had a course of antibiotics for a UTI but that didn’t do anything. After that was another type of antibiotic for possible prostate infection. When neither worked, we took him in for an ultrasound and a needle biopsy. A couple of days later we learned he had cancer, that was a week ago.

We were referred to the OSU oncology center who performed another ultrasound. The tumors were adjacent to his ureter and around his spleen, which was more than likely the source of the bleeding.

We spoke to the doctors several times over the last few days trying to figure out the next best course of action for him. We spoke to them again this morning and had scheduled a cat scan to get a much better idea of the location of the tumors, prior to a surgical procedure to remove them.

We were out this afternoon and had dinner, when we returned home it was obvious that something was very wrong with Remy. He didn’t come and greet us in his usual goofy way, he just lay in the kitchen, he couldn’t even stand. It was quite clear that the tumors in his abdomen had further attacked his body leaving him unable to function. He was very lethargic, had white gums and was somewhat cool to the touch, he was bleeding inside and we knew he wasn’t going to last the night.

We hung out with him in the kitchen for a while trying to postpone the inevitable. We knew there was nothing we could do to save him.

It was obvious he was in pain and we didn’t want him to suffer any more. We took him to medvet. I wept the entire way there.

It was hard signing the paperwork, very hard. We thought we were going to have many more months with this sweet puppy before this day would arrive.

We spent our last moments with him comforting him as best we could.

Now he is no longer in pain. Very soon he will be running through a forest being goofy, playing with lots of other dogs and his favorite toy.

I will miss you puppy.

RIP Remington 10/22/2009 – 7/1/2011

How big is Manta?

Sometimes when working on a big site for a long time, you get used to the big numbers. It’s easy to talk about hundreds of thousands of these and millions of those and lose perspective of just how many companies are on Manta. For fun today I decided to do some simple math to try and put the volume of companies I work with into perspective by providing references to more familiar items.


Printing

A Dell 5130cdn laser printer [1], touted as one of the fastest laser printers, would take over 2.5 years of nonstop printing to print out all 64 million companies. You’d need 2,836 of these printers running non stop to print them all out during an 8 hour working day.


Length

Once printed I could lay them end to end and form a line about half way around the world [2], about 423 marathon [3] runs end to end. If you ran all those marathons back to back at the fastest pace ever run[4] you would be running for over 36 days without a break.


Height

I could stack them flat to reach a height of about 20,000 feet, which is higher than the maximum altitude of most helicopters. The Boeing Apache AH-64 gunship has a maximum service ceiling of 21,000 feet[5]. Most skydivers bail out between 3,000-13,000 feet [6].

If we took the papers and stood them up end to end, instead of going half way around the globe, they’d go up just over 11,000 miles, almost twice the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere[7]. The space shuttle and space station orbit the Earth between 100-300 miles, while GPS satellites orbit the Earth between 6,000-12,000 miles[8].

The ~24M companies in the US arranged this way would create a line of paper about 22,000 feet high, or 17,600 Empire State buildings[9] stacked ontop of each other.


Area

If we laid all the paper out and taped it all together into a rectangle it would have an area approx 1.5 square miles which would cover 722 football fields[10].


Weight

I would need 128,000 reams of office paper needed to print every company which would weigh about 1,280 tons[11], equivalent to about 640 SUVs[12], or a pod of 116 world record male orcas[13].


Volume

These reams of paper would take up 13,851 cubic feet, so I would need 34 shipping containers[14] to hold them all.


Counting

If each company was a dollar bill and if we used a money counting machine typically used by banks[15], it would take almost 27 days to count them all, not including time to load and unload the machine.


Population

If each piece of paper was held by one person, I would need almost all the people in California, New York and Virginia[16].





References


  1. Dell 5130cdn laser printer prints at 47 pages per minute, single sided
    http://www.dell.com/us/en/highered/peripherals/printer-dell-5130cdn/pd.aspx?refid=printer-dell-5130cdn&cs=RC956904&s=hied

  2. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles
    http://geography.about.com/library/faq/blqzcircumference.htm

  3. A marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon

  4. Fastest marathon ever run is by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya in 2:03:02
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon_world_record_progression

  5. The Boeing Apache AH-64 has a service ceiling of 21,000 feet
    http://www.boeing.com/history/mdc/ah-64.htm

  6. Skydivers jump between 3,000-13,000 feet
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_diving

  7. The Exosphere is the outer layer of the atmosphere at ranges up to 6,213 miles (10,000 km)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth

  8. Satellite orbit altitudes
    http://www.spacetoday.org/Questions/PolarSats.html

  9. The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_State_Building

  10. An American Football field is 120 yards by 53.3 yards
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_football#Field_and_players

  11. Calculations were done using 20lb paper.

  12. Assuming the average weight of an SUV is 4,000 lbs.

  13. The largest known Killer Whale was a male that weighed around 22,000 lbs and was 32 feet long
    http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/KillerWhale/physchkw.html

  14. The volume of a twenty-foot cargo container is 1,360 cubic feet
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-foot_equivalent_unit

  15. The Tay-Chian TC-5500 desktop note counter can process 1500 to 1800 notes per hour, I used an average of 1650 notes/hr for the calculation
    http://www.taychian.com.tw/5500/index.files/5500.HTM

  16. List of populations by State taken from April 2010 census data
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population