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May 13, 2005

Short URL's

Some time ago, Jeb wrote a post about TinyURL, a web service that takes a long web URL and gives you a tiny one. This is useful for e-mailing someone a URL because if you just give them the whole URL it will be broken onto two lines and no longer work. Though I knew about TinyURL for a while, for some reason I didn't use it for a long work web address and I would get people who would say it didn't work because the very last letter had wrapped to the next line. I sent out an e-mail yesterday and got three comments about the links not working so I decided it was time.

I entered in the long address and TinyURL, as always, gave me a very short link that takes people to their website before instantly forwarding them to my site. The shortcut always starts http://tinyurl.com/ (not even a www, which shows how serious they are about short URL's) and then has five (used to be four) random numbers and letters.

Well, the shortcut it gave me ended with 3 letters of a 4-letter word I would rather not repeat here. Being a smart guy I thought I would just enter it again and get a new TinyURL. But TinyURL, being even smarter than me, spit back the exact same nearly indecent URL.

I figured TinyURL was such a great idea that somebody had proably copied it. I searched for an alternative and soon found URL123. They have essentially the same service (except one less letter!) and I wound up with the much more pleasant:


May 12, 2005


For my trip to Denver in June I was tasked to come up with a hotel reservation for the first two nights (the Peace Corps Reunion is only 3 nights and we'll be there a week). I have no idea about Denver but I wanted to stay downtown near all the stuff. A friend at work had recommended Priceline, so I decided to try them out.

I found a site Bidding for Travel that posts people's Priceline bid results so you can make a good guess at what a successful bid can be. After studying that, I went back to Priceline. When you are there you pick a certain level of quality and a certain area and bid some amount and they try and find a place. First I picked 4 stars out of 4 for $75 downtown and got nothing (not real surprising; people were paying about $100 for that). Then I picked 3 stars downtown for $50 and it came up empty again although some people had luck at that price in the past. I upped it to $55 but they don't let you just up the price a little without making you wait 3 days. So I decided to add the Southeast suburbs of Denver to see what would happen (that makes it a different bid so you don't have to wait 3 days). I got a room, but right away realized that I made a mistake in not going back to see what that area was going for. I could have bid less in that area.

So I kind of blew it. I wound up somewhere other than where I wanted to be at a higher price then I really should have paid, but still about 40% less than this hotel's normal rate of $89.

Priceline by itself is kind of iffy and they prevent you from getting the lowest possible price by not allowing you to work your way up from an unsuccessful bid (there is a 3-day waiting period before you try to bid again for the same thing you were rejected for once). But when you can work from the experience at www.biddingfortravel.com it can be really effective. You still risk getting a 2-star hotel that Priceline considers 3-star and you can't pinpoint your location or smoking preferences. But the savings can be significant.

WARNING: After all of this I went back to register at Bidding for Travel and tell people about my results. The bulletin board they use is called EZboard and at the end of the registration process it asks you to submit yourself to be the target of marketing by one of four companies. I picked No on each one and clicked Submit and it said I had to click on at least one. I thought this was one of the terms of membership, but it turned out it was an option and I didn't need to click Submit at all.

May 10, 2005


Happy Birthday, Grant!

I track visits to my website via Site Meter and I've talked about it again and again. Lately I'm up to 200-300 visits per day. And still almost all of the visitors go to the Dejumbler or to the iPod battery pack page where I put AdSense ads. Because so few people visit the other pages I didn't see any point in putting ads there. My pages about my trip to the Gulf of California rank very high at Yahoo (10th if you search for the words Gulf of California) for whatever reason resulting in a visit or so a day, and some people visit all of the pages. (I think my page rankings are helped because I link to those pages from this blog which is also indexed pretty well.)

But I also have hundreds of movie reviews that rarely, if ever, get visits. In fact, about the only time I get visits is when I have misspelled someone's name and someone searches for that misspelt name. There was news today that Renee Zellweger got married and about 5 people visited my review of "Nurse Betty" which included me misspelling her name Zellwiger no less than 3 times.

So when I see a visit to a movie review, I look at the search terms the visitor used and then look up the correct spelling. Then I correct the spelling and post the updated page. By improving the page in this way, the result is no one will ever visit that page again. It makes me think that you could generate a lot of traffic by knowing how people will misspell search terms and count on them not seeing that Google or whatever other search engine is asking them if they used the correct spelling (a great feature that saves me all the time).

May 9, 2005

First Hatching

Previous Entry

On Saturday (or so) the first robin hatched (May 7). I saw the mother come back with some kind of worm or bug in her mouth. She didn't seem sure what to do with it. When she left again I got out the ladder and climbed up to take a look and could see why. There was a tiny fuzzy blob in there that seemed barely able to keep breathing, let alone ingest a worm. Three of the eggs were still unhatched so I thought this one must have just come a little early or been the first egg laid.

On Monday (May 9) I took another look and the baby had gotten a lot bigger with an obvious bird shape and prominent beak. But the other eggs were still unhatched so those may not make it. Even if they do, their older sibling may just eat them or kick them out. So I don't have my hopes up.

As I was up there I looked around to see if I could see the mother and I did see a robin on a branch not far away. I went back down, but she didn't come back right away. A few minutes later I took another look and she was back standing on the edge of the nest. There was a beak sticking straight up from the nest to greet her.

Taken on May 15 a few days before flying away. The feathers are all in place. I don't see how this bird could grow that fast because by the 19th the bird was gone. It could be that it was born earlier than I thought.

May 8, 2005


Wow, look what happened when I went on Who Keeps Taking My Letters! Apparently some kid lost his frog and thought people visiting that site might know where it is.

May 1, 2005

Robin's Nest

A robin built a nest outside my back door about a week ago. At first she wasn't there much but then she started spending almost all of her time there.

While I was mowing the lawn I noticed she was gone. So I got the ladder out and I could barely make out the very tops of two beautiful blue eggs in the nest. Nests are amazing pieces of construction and there isn't just pinestraw but a lot of mud in there holding it all together on top of a light fixture on the corner of the house near the drainpipe.

I wondered how many eggs she really had in there, but I couldn't get my head under the eave and above the nest since there were only a couple of inches between the two. I needed a mirror. Fortunately Susan gave me a small and very expensive mirror that worked perfectly. 4 eggs!

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