Monday, May 2, 2011

New Job, Oh How I Love It

So, I'm a poor college student for those of you that don't know. But thank god, I'm done with classes, so now I'm just working on fixing the poor part of my identity. Specifically, working a full time summer job.

Yes, it's minimum wage. But you know what? It's full time, and appears to be some of the easiest work I'll ever have. I'm working in "Facilities" which is a fancy way of saying glorified janitor. I clean up the universities apartments and dorms essentially. Paint some walls, vacuum floors, dust things, all that fun stuff. It's surprisingly independant work. They basically just drop me off, then make sure everything looks good when me and the guy I work with call in to say it's done. No boss breathing down my neck except for during check-ups. With that said, the boss is picky. But eh, can't have everything. It's a damn laid back job, and it'll cover my rent for the next year. I consider it a win.

How about you guys? What sort of work you have lined up for the summer? (same old job you've done for 10+ years?) Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Getting Around the NYT Paywall

Man, it's been forever since I posted to this. But school is basically out, and I've got some time again. So, here goes a quick tip that I just found useful.

The NYT moved to a paid subscription model a while ago (2nd time), which was unfortunate for me, since I'm poor as hell. But, there's ways around it, which I've just now stumbled across. Here goes:

Clear your cookies.

I was surprised by this one, as it's really simplistic. I would have thought they'd at least use IP addresses.

Stop the Page

Also very simplistic; But it works. Just stop the page from loading before the paywall overlay pops up.

And lastly:

Remove everything past the &gwh= part of the url

There was a bit of javascript you could paste into the url as well, but that didn't seem to work the one time I tried it real quick. Regardless, all 3 of the above methods work perfectly fine. Personally, I'm a bit surprised just how little effort went into securing content. Especially considering that it allegedly cost them $40-50 million to create. I imagine they'll tighten up security eventually, but until then, enjoy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin Teachers, By the Numbers

Most likely, all of you have heard about the union debate in Wisconsin, or should I say; The debate that was. It's currently headed to an assembly, where it is basically certain to pass. The bill removes most collective bargaining rights for all public employees. It's justified by Governor Walker under the idea that it will help eliminate Wisconsin's budget shortfalls. Those against it make allegations of Koch Brothers involvement, and give statements such as:

In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. -Mark Miller (D)

So, lets look at one group of those public workers; The Teachers. Here's some numbers:

Average Wisconsin Teacher Salary: $52,644 (source)
Average Benefits: $20-40,000 (Various sources, take with grain of salt)
Vacation Time: 13-14 weeks (source)
Average Per Capita Income: $25,993(source)
High School Graduation Rate: 85% (40% for blacks, the worst in the nation)(source)

So what are we seeing here? Undoubtedly, you can form your own conclusions. My thoughts are that Wisconsin teachers are doing pretty well. Nothing amazing, but they seem to be making a solid middle class income. Unions are almost certainly responsible for that. These unions are not exactly out of control when compared to the likes of the UAW (~double the average salary for manufacturing sector jobs, $69 an hour including benefits by GM's estimates in 06) Yet, the unions have pushed themselves to a level that is, in my opinion, slightly excessive.

The quality of their work is difficult to ascertain, so it's hard to say whether they deserve the money they make, as it's largely dependent on the individual. This is a major reason why I advocate merit based pay, which unfortunately is hated by many/most unions. (surprise, surprise) One figure really jumps out at me though; That being the vacation time. 13-14 weeks?! Keep in mind, these teachers are making a full time income, for about 25% less time worked. That's where these numbers make you realize that these teachers are not hurting as much as they'd like you to believe.

So, is this "anti-union" bill justified? That's the question I intend to delve into in a series of posts regarding both this specific situation, and unions in general. As always, I'd love to see any comments you guys may have, and may well incorporate them into blog posts if you have a specific figure or interesting opinion that's worth sharing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Minecraft-My Latest Addiction (and How to Make Water Elevators!)

I recently got my hands on Minecraft, and it's left me wondering wtf I was waiting for. This deceptively simple block based game has soaked up loads of my free time these last few days. As I'm sure most of you are familiar with the game, I won't bore you with explanations of what it's about, or pictures of my creations. I'll just share a few neat tricks I've stumbled across on the forums, Youtube, and while playing. These will most likely be a sort of "tip a day" thing, but shared sporadically instead of on a day to day basis.

Today, I'll detail how Water Elevators are made.

There are two ways of doing the water elevator. One is inferior, as it requires a boat, more space, and more effort. The other is superior in every way, EXCEPT that it relies on what is certainly a bug to work. So there's that chance that it will be updated out in a future patch. And some people get squeamish about using what they consider a bug exploit.

Here is a video I hunted down which shows how use the legit method:

Like I said, requires a boat, and takes a decent amount of effort, but nothing terrible. Now for the non-legit, but superior method:

At the time of writing, this method works perfectly. Although, as I said earlier, there are no guarantees that will continue. I personally use this method, as to me, how is it any less realistic than going up a waterfall? Both methods don't necessarily seem intended. Anyways, an explanation is needed as to why it works:

What is believed to be happening here, is what was called an "off by one" error. Basically, minecraft blocks are believed to be 1 pixel wider in two directions. That is why the direction is very important.This may be deliberate, to keep things meshing together more nicely, or it may just be a typing error. We have no way of knowing. Because of this size disparity, physics effects actually bleed through the blocks they are contained in. Thus, the current pulls you in, and therefore up. For a better, more visual explanation, see here.

So, I believe that's it for today. If any of you guys have tips or tricks you think are worth sharing, let me know in the comments and I'll try to cover them in future postings. Hope some of you find this useful!

As a disclaimer, I didn't discover any of these, and all credit for finding them goes to the original posters who detailed the methods.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Back, and Rather Anxious

As promised, here's a Friday posting, perhaps not an interesting one though. I'm finally free from Accounting, having taken the test yesterday. I'm not sure how I did; It seemed easy, but there wasn't many questions, so even messing up just a few could really affect grades...

I'm still waiting on the results, so hence my being anxious. I was supposed to see the professor and find out how I did last afternoon, but she wasn't in her office. And now she also isn't in her office during her scheduled office hours....yay for teachers with my level of attendance. So I'm sitting here killing time, hoping I can find her. This is the last day for class drops, so I really need to know how I did, since I've got 32% of my grade resting on this test.

So yeah, just a little status update. I'll try to get some more interesting content posted up in the next few days. Sit tight. Here's a song I've been enjoying, seems to be the newest from Serj Tankian. (an official remix)

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Temporary Absence

Alright guys, sorry I haven't posted in a while. I have a massively important test coming up this Thursday in one of my classes that I was way behind in. I really need to just focus on that, since I don't have time for much else. I'll be back to regular posting on Friday though, or at least, that's the plan.

Thanks for reading, sorry I left ya hanging.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writing For Me vs. Writing For Others, and the Basics of SEO

Strictly business over at his blog commented on my last post:

"well hopefully you get it man!! but you could also take those same articles that you would write for them and write them for your own blog and just do more marketing and networking for your blog, how about opening a few blogs along different lines of interest to expand your money net."

He has a valid point, but it's one that really is true to any other line of work. If you work on your own, and build up your own "business" (in a sense), you do stand to make more money, as you receive any and all profits. But, it's also much
more difficult to build up. Which brings up the important subject of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. When you start on your own, you have a very low page rank, no backlinks, and all sorts of other issues that frankly, make it difficult to build up your site. Search Engines control the web. Completely. In reality, if you want to start your own successful site, you need a good understanding of all of the SEO techniques, or you'll be buried so far in the results of searches you'll find it very difficult to get noticed, no matter how good your content is. There are entire books written about how to do this perfectly.

On the flip side, if you start with already established websites, you don't have to worry about this nearly as much. You still want to do keyword research, and in the case of Demand Media, you have to if you expect the article to get accepted, but you don't have to worry about page rank so much, as you already have a high page rank. Also, with Demand Media, you're seeing an upfront payment, so you don't really give a shit how much traffic the article receives (unless you use their revenue share option). It's a different business model, and one that provides more upfront benefits.

Now, here's the real trick. If you couple writing for Demand Studios with your own blog, or better yet, a website like Hubpages, then if you get articles rejected for Demand Studios (only allowed one rejection, get rejected again, tough luck), you can simply post your article up on Hubpages. Hubpages does take a cut out of your profits, but it's a modest one. And otherwise, your writing is wasted. This is legit passive income, and there are people making a sizable amount of money every month off the large amount of "hubs" they've written. Of course, for every one guy making money, there are 10 that aren't. But hey, that's life.

So, what do you guys think? Is this interesting at all? Would you want me to maybe explain SEO better? Let me know in the comments.