Monday, September 30, 2013

And So It Goes

Life hasn't returned to normal at the Boonedocks, but it is getting closer to what passes for it. My father continues to recover and after seeing the accident scene along with hearing first hand accounts it is obvious he shouldn't have survived. Yet he's up and about, having even attempted a repair call Friday.

I'm behind on things thanks to the events, a screamingly bad back, and little things coming up. Hopefully this week will be different, however it is already looking oddball. As soon as I finish the review of Whisper of the Heart I'm working on, I'll have to move directly into the scary movie theme for Halloween. One rewrite and one new review are all I'm guaranteeing.

Meanwhile, the leaves are turning colors, the winds have cooled, and summer is over without having made much of an appearance. It has simply been a disappointing year in regards to weather and quite a few other things. Good thing that I expected it to be an off year for that has ameliorated the disappointment.

At some point I should do a couple of posts on the two sets of headphones I've recently gotten. One goal for the week is tearing apart the larger Superlux 681 cans to solder in a corrective filter made by chaining resistors and filters. Practice with spare parts will happen first, since I'm a novice at soldering.

Then there are the amazing Noontech Zoro HD portable headphones. No corrective filter needed there, they are simply superb with a neutral bias like studio monitors. I should re-cable them though. For awhile the built in condenser microphone worked with an adapter for PC usage, but then it went into constant static. While it doesn't affect the sound I hear, it makes me wonder about the long term survivability of the cord.

Anyway, I need to get some screen captures for the next review!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spam from Google?!

Just a short report this time around on a strange referral spam that showed up briefly on my Blogger statistics. This time it was http: // dailydeal . de / gutschein-freizeit-ruhrgebiet-alpincenter-ski-tageskarte-060913

 dailydeal spam 01dailydeal spam 02

Checking out the spam in my trusty virtual machine setup revealed a professional site that held up under further scrutiny. A little research revealed Google owns the company which is a typical special offer promoting kind of place. DailyDeal was purchased by Google in 2011 and is based in Germany. Of course I’m not German, so talk about hitting the wrong target!

Now why would a false referral from a Google company show up in the first place?

This is where things get murky and necessarily go into the realm of speculation. My first thought is that the provider of the deal is trying to goose the results by paying a runner of a botnet to spam the listing. However, it is more likely a competitor to the tour outfit is engaging in negative SEO.

What is negative SEO? Search Engine Optimization is the process where a website builds up presence in Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, Yahoo, and other search engines on the Web. Much is done by trickery in the HTML coding of a site, making sure keywords (short matches on content) are present in certain amounts.

The most tricky and dangerous optimization involves link exchanges so that it looks like the site is popular. Google has automated algorithms that periodically hunt down any behavior that looks like that. When a detection is made (real or false) an automated penalty is assessed against the webpage. This is all done by software and appealing to a human to quickly straighten out a false penalty is nearly impossible.

That means you can frame a competitor for building up paid links by purchasing said links. This is part of the “black hat” methods to boost your business on the Net by lowering the rankings in search results of your competitor. They can be dropped many pages in ranks by negative SEO.

While it is speculation, there is a higher probability that this referral link is pushed by someone other than the seller of the ski trips than something they did for themselves. However, they may have paid someone for SEO and that company may have engaged in bad practices.

So there is a mystery here that I won’t see solved. There are other possibilities including Blogger/Google getting the stats system screwed up to the point that an error caused the referral to show up.

At least this isn’t a dangerous or hostile site spreading malware.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Posting Slow Down

Since things continue to fall out from the car accident and need attention, I'll be slowing down a bit as far as posting. In the pipeline is one movie review and another referral spammer, but they get done when they get done.

I'd had grand plans for the month of October to fill it with Halloween appropriate reviews. Those plans are shelved and if I get some scary movie reviews done at all I'll be fortunate. Frankly, the original plan was unrealistic as it was and would have involved a giant gorilla theme. Maybe another time.

My father is doing well and getting more mobile, so that's going well.  Me, I need to get some rest.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Not Even Frankenstein Could Raise It Again

RIP Subaru 06RIP Subaru 04

Friday was going reasonably well until I saw a black and white police SUV come down the driveway. When you live out in the countryside, it means something is very wrong. In this case, it was the bearing of news that my father had rolled the car and seemed to be okay, but was being taken to the hospital.

It turns out he lost control just as he was calling me to let me know he was nearly home and would pick me up to visit an ill member of my church. Those plans were dashed with the need to get a ride to La Crosse ASAP. Fortunately, my neighbor Randy was home and so began a tired night at the hospital.

RIP Subaru 01RIP Subaru 02

Talking to the police officer, I’d heard that the car was airborne for at least twenty feet. Today I got a chance to see where the accident happened and can say it was at least twenty feet and quite an impact coming down. My father is extremely lucky to have survived going off the road in that location.

Back to last night, we got to the ER at Gunderson to find my father finishing up being questioned by a state trooper. Speaking to the trooper I was told that Dad’s cellphone had been destroyed in the crash, which explained the old fashioned method of being notified in person.

RIP Subaru 03RIP Subaru 05

Dad was lucid and alert, so began our entertaining the doctor and nurses involved. It might not be the wisest idea to make a doctor laugh while stitching up lacerations, but that’s what we did anyway. Two areas at the eyebrow level required some stitches and more were needed on the right hand where skin had been peeled away by a deep gouge.

At the time, I guessed the windshield had shattered since it was already weakened by the deer collision in June. Today I discovered otherwise, adding to my testimony of the ruggedness of Suburu products. Amazingly all the doors were able to be opened after the accident.

The wounds were caused by my father’s destroyed glasses and cellphone, which was torn in two by the airbag! This was a ruggedized Samsung, so the power of a deployed airbag is something fierce.

RIP Subaru 07RIP Subaru 08

Observation is required for any head injury, so my father had to stay overnight. He got the all clear this morning and we retrieved him this afternoon after salvaging the contents of the Outback. Brand new tires did not survive the event as the photos show.

An outpouring of support and aid has made this a less traumatic event than it could have been. Friends and acquaintances have helped out with me particularly grateful for people visiting my dad during his brief hospitalization. Food being brought has been most welcome as neither of us feel like doing much ambitious.

RIP Subaru 09

Looking back over the years, it is a minor miracle the Subaru survived this long. Far too many miles and collisions with deer happened, but we managed to somehow keep it going. A new round of repairs were planned, but alas we have lost the best car we ever had.

It will be impossible to replace.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Secret Spam

Everybody loves a secret, or so it is said. So it is no surprise that old marketing gimmick of using “secret” somewhere in the pitch showed up in some referral spam in Blogger stats. That means another chance to fire up a virtual machine and do some investigating. Don’t try this at home, kids.

7secretsearch spam 017secretsearch spam 02

http: // www . 7secretsearch . com / is the latest spam to hit and it promises all sorts of secrets to upping your web traffic. The big come on is a form where you can enter your website URL and find out how much it’s worth. Featuring a slick presentation it is an enticing trap, no doubt.

The wrong sized ads showing up in the right sidebar are another giveaway that this isn’t a really a professionally setup website. Poor placement of the title graphic resulted in a banner text ad overlapping it. But the best has to be more Google +1’s than Facebook likes. That is highly implausible, don’t you think?

7secretsearch spam 03

There was no way I’d put my own website in there, so I decided to click on the Amazon entry. An impressive amount of data comes up including that the site has no threats reported and is “SAFE to browse.” Looks kind of legit, until you notice they are using Bing stats only. Yeah, like Amazon isn’t indexed by Google.

That last oversized ad raised a lot of red flags so I clicked on it.


Anytime something pops on a web page that says you need your system scanned, it is time to get out of there immediately. Systweak has been know to present a download of one program that turns out to be another which grants remote access to your PC. They are bad guys who will take your money and mess your computer up.

What I find amusing is that they had this ad show up when I was using Ubuntu to browse the site. Windows errors on a Linux machine is not logical.

So there are layers of shadiness to what’s showing up at 7secretsearch. Avoid at all costs.

Not Missing the Mark

The following is a talk (sermon) I gave at church last Sunday. I can safely say this had to be the most unorthodox inspiration I’ve ever received for speaking on a spiritual matter.

In talks or lessons you may have heard about looking beyond the mark. Moses once held aloft a metal staff for the Israelite's to look upon and be healed. Many expected something flashier and looked for something amazing behind it. That failure to exercise simple faith cost them dearly.

I'll quote from the Old Testament's Book of Jacob, Chapter 4, verse 14:

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

I was asked to use What Thinks Christ of Me? By Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the April 2012 General Conference for themes to use in this talk. He touches on many things ranging from the decay of society to the power of simple faith. Mostly it is about being a disciple of Christ.

So I went by inspiration that came to me after reading it again and it took me down a path I didn't expect. A sentence in that talk reads as follows:

Jesus’s call “Come, follow me”is not only for those prepared to compete in a spiritual Olympics.

I hope you will bear with me as I begin with an Olympic sporting event that appears to be a contradiction to that statement. There is a sport called the biathlon that is amongst the most challenging in the Winter Olympics.

Now I will invite all of you to use your imagination. Picture yourselves out in the countryside in gently rolling hills covered by white winter snow. It is a very pretty, very alluring world out there that glitters brightly in the sunlight as you cross country ski through. At first it is easy to keep your arms and legs moving, but after awhile the cold air begins to have a bite to it. Still feeling strong you keep moving forward with purpose, for you are in competition with many others to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Blog Layout: Opinions Wanted

One of the mysteries of blogging for me is what layout is the most useful to readers visiting From the Sidelines. As a result, I'm always tinkering with what's presented with only some feedback from trial and error showing vague patterns in analytics. Also a factor is a desire to make the blog load faster on smartphones and tablets.

Since people rarely used the category tags to look for related posts, I used the page function on Blogger to make index pages though it wasn't meant for that usage. It was a rare dramatic success at improving the site and they get used far more than expected.

Over the years, I've eliminated some things such as links to other blogs since nobody ever clicked on them. Right now there are a couple of sidebar items that I'm thinking of axing. One is the Hall of Fame and the other is the Most Read Recently. Both use Blogger widgets that are not accurate thanks to referral spammers.

An example of that distortion is my review of Varan the Unbelievable. According to Blogger, it has 769 pageviews. From StatCounter and Google Analytics, I can tell you it doesn't even have a tenth of that! So there it sits at the top of Most Read Recently at the time of writing at this post and it should not be there.

UPDATED:  They're gone. The ghost hits on Varan got out of control today, so something is seriously wrong with Blogger statistics. Google has really failed badly at making those work correctly which is slightly ridiculous given what their forte is supposed to be.

Because of this, I'm looking for some input from visitors to this blog. What part of the layout here do you look at and use?

I've added a contact form to make it easier to answer if you don't want to publicly post and it can be found at the bottom of the right sidebar. Please feel free to comment here too. I'm very curious about what works and doesn't work for you here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Zombie Spam

I kind of wish the following referral spam had shown up in October so that I could have had a Halloween themed commentary. Instead it arrived in the middle of September. But hey, the undead always show up at the most unwelcome of times – sometimes repeatedly. At the time of writing this, http : // jetsli . de / crawler has shown up fourteen times in my Blogger stats for the day.

jetsli spam 01

Using my trusty virtual machine running Windows XP, I checked out the link safely. Remember kids, don’t try this at home!

What showed up was a classic dead domain, which was mildly disappointing. Since the spammer had let the domain lapse, there wasn’t much evidence of what kind of money making scheme had been involved.

So I clicked on a couple of links anyway.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Varan the Unbelievable (1958) Review

aka Daikaiju Baran

When Toho Studios was approached by an Americans network to make a giant monster TV movie, they turned to the crew who made Gojira and Rodan for the debut of a new kaiju. With a lower budget than the previous monster movies, Varan was meant to combine all the aspects of all the previous kaiju into one monster. That was either going to be biggest success yet or an epic failure. What do you mean you’ve never heard of Varan? He’s unbelievable! That much I’ll agree on…

Varan Title

If you have even heard of Varan, you are probably thinking of the U.S. version that came out four years after the Japanese version. According to what I’ve read, it only has fifteen minutes of footage from this release and is a mess. After watching the origininal three times in a row, I want to say that might be an improvement. Buckle up, this review is going to be a bumpy ride.

Varan Toho Pan Scope

See that above? You’ll never see that on another Toho film. That was a one off marketing gimmick before they settled on Tohoscope for their widescreen movies. It was the fact that Varan the Unbelievable was the first kaiju film to take advantage of the new format that made me want to own it.

Whereas Rodan was the first in color, this lower budget film was commissioned to be in B&W by the U.S. network. A good chunk of the movie was filmed in standard 4:3 before the decision was made by Toho changing over to anamorphic widescreen for a theatrical release domestically. They ended up cropping the early footage to match the anamorphic. So if you think some of the shots vary in quality, your eyes aren’t fooling you.

Alright, enough with the background, let’s get to the story!

Varan RocketVaran Dr Sugimoto

The best part of the movie occurs at the start, which consists of the main title flashing by in front of a scary looking statue before fading into credits scrolling over a matte painting. What’s so great about that, you wonder? The theme. Composed by Akira Ifukube it combines his typically dark sound with chanting to create a sinister sense of urgency that would have fit in a serious horror movie of the period.

Sadly that ends and the movie really begins. Since this is a story about a giant monster, we get treated to the sight of a rocket blasting off. What does it have to do with the story? Absolutely nothing. It’s there just to look cool and take advantage of the space race hoopla beginning.

Next we meet a scientist, the dramatically coiffed Professor Sugimoto (Koreya Senda), lecturing some of his assistants and the audience directly. This partial breaking of the fourth wall does not happen again, just like the rocket launch. Oh and before I forget, the subject was butterflies, I think.

Monday, September 09, 2013

A Dirty Atmosphere

The time had come around to make the annual trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this past Saturday. A somewhat smaller group went on the 2013 trip and while the company was good, the festival was disappointing this time out. More on that at the end and why parents should no longer be taking kids to this event.

 MN RenFest 2013 01

It was a rare hot day with only a few wisps of clouds in the sky in the draught stricken area. After finding our way from the unfamiliar Queen’s parking lot, we emerged near one of the outer rim theaters. An amazing increase in temperature accompanied the emergence and only the occasional breeze floated through to make things bearable.

Only problem is that dust and dirt came with those pale attempts at gusts.

MN RenFest 2013 16MN RenFest 2013 02

We headed straight to a glassware’s shop, Ould Glass. Having gotten lost on the way up as is our tradition, we were a little late for the main attraction, caber tossing. However, a glass blowing and sculpting demonstration was announced, so in we went. While shaded in the back, it wasn’t exactly cool there with the furnace going.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

More Linkbucks Connected Spam

Some more referral spam has shown up on Blogger and one provided an unexpected connection to two earlier ones. The first was reported by commenter Charlotte and arrived as 0288c729 . qqc . co which leads to Linkbucks again like a link that started with ceae2122.

So what do you get if you click on that odd string of numbers and letters?

o288c729 Spam 01o288c729 Spam 02

First up is an ad telling you that you absolutely need to download a download manager. Yeah, like that won’t lead to bad things on your system. Remember kids, don’t try this at home and don’t trust strange links. Never click on anything you don’t already know and that includes things sent by trusted friends.