Saturday 31 March 2012

Escaped Melanistic F1 Savannah in Scotland?

There might be an escaped F1 melanistic Savannah cat roaming around Scotland, near St. Andrews. I'll tell you why it is a possibility.

The local press is talking about a black "big cat" on the loose (see Fife Today). The word "big cat" is used loosely to! Because a father and son were out for a walk near St. Andrews when from a distance of 35 feet (fairly close so the sighting was good) they saw "a big black cat". It was the size of a small Labrador they added.

There is a difference between a "big black cat" and a "black big cat"! Big cats are usually one of the top four biggest wildcats: jaguar, leopard, lion and tiger.

A genuine black big cat is likely to be a melanistic leopard or jaguar (euphemistically called black panthers). These are large animals considerably larger than a normal or large labrador.

Labradors vary in size but at the shoulder a small Labrador might be about 21 inches tall. The world's tallest domestic cat was at one time Magic, an F1 Savannah cat that was 17.1 inches at the shoulder. The male serval, the father of an F1 Savannah cat is considerably bigger but smaller than the leopard or jaguar.

There is at least one Savannah cat breeder in Scotland: Wild Cat Breeder. They don't say where they are on their website. However, servals and Savannah cats are able to escape. Melanism can occur at anytime. It is a genetic mutation that affects the coat and nothing else.

We are not talking about big cats in the conventional sense. Newspapers like to talk things up. But the observations of a large black cat roaming around St. Andrews, if the observations are faithful, might be sightings of a melanistic F1 Savannah cat or perhaps a serval as both these cats are in Scotland, albeit in captivity. They are the correct size based on the best sighting referred to above.

See also Big Cats in the UK.

RSPCA Squeezed From All Directions

March 31st 2012: The RSPCA in Great Britain is being squeezed from all directions. In difficult times animals should not be forgotten. These are the factors that are affecting the RSPCA at this time:
  1. Reduced donations due to the weak economy and recession. The British people are very generous but the weakened economy is the most serious for a long time.
  2. An increase in the number of abandoned animals due to people suffering difficulties financially. Personally, I think that on a lot of occasions people need not abandon their companion animal when things get tight financially. These people keep their cars and TVs etc. The cat goes before the car no doubt. Some people use the recession as an excuse to get rid of a companion animal that they want to get rid of anyway. Sorry if that sounds cynical. Calls to the RSPCA about abandoned animals have risen from 21,481 (2007) to 28,162 (2011).
  3. Increased vet bills. This is something we all know about in the UK.
  4. Increased fuel bills. Same again. Brits pay by far the most tax on fuel in the EU as far as I am aware.
  5. A requirement because of the above to reduce the number of staff working at the RSPCA by 130. This will obviously impact animal welfare further.
I am sure similar stories are being played out in other countries. I wonder if the RSPCA in Australia have the same problem?

Friday 30 March 2012

The Sociable Domestic Cat

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Russian President and Wife Own a Nevsky Masquerade

The press say the President lost his purebred cat (March 2012). There may be a little bit of truth in that but President Medvedev says that his cat is just fine. Perhaps there was a temporary moment when this beautiful purebred cat went walkabout in the Moscow suburb where Medvedev lives. I don't know.

What is sure is that the Nevsky Masquerade or Neva Masquerade is a pointed Siberian cat. What better cat for the president of Russia? The Siberian cat hails from Russia, of course, and is a very popular triple coated purebred cat of distinction that may have the same origins as the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest Cat. It is one of the great Russian exports (first exported June 28th 1990)!

"Masquerade" refers to the pointed face and "Neva" to the river from whence this cat came. The river Neva is in northwestern Russia. "Nevsky" is a reference to Alexander Nevsky a proclaimed Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, named after the river Neva.

The pointed version is quite rare, I would have thought. Dani Roseboom in the Netherlands lives with a most beautiful Neva Masquerade (this is not Medvedev's cat!):

Neva Masquarade - Hime Amélie du Palais d'Hiver - "Amélie"
Siberian cat - neutered female. Photo copyright protected.

Hime Amélie du Palais d'Hiver appears to be a lynx pointed Siberian cat.

Apparently, the president's cat cost $1,000 in 2003. That is about the going rate. I am sure that his wife, Svetlana Vladimirovna Medvedeva chose this purebred cat.

The blue eyes go with the pointing. Medvedev's cat had blue eyes. The Neva Masquerade is a natural cross with the traditional Siamese, apparently. 

The famous, former president Mikhail Gorbachev also kept a Siberian cat.

Bird Lobby Still Conspiring Against Cats

Every now and again the bird lobby produce some study that supports their objectives. They use it to promote their objectives one of which is to get rid of the cat from the outdoors anyway possible. The bird lobby people say cats slaughter birds and exterminate species of birds. They tend to exaggerate and to disseminate misrepresentations to further their cause. (see also: Domestic Cats Do Not Decimate Bird Populations). There is a battle between cat lobbyists and cat lovers. I feel a need to provide some counter arguments in defense of the cat.

A recent example is quoting a study by Shannon E. Grubbs and Paul R. Krausman called "Observations of Coyote–Cat Interactions". The abstract (summary) for this study states that in tracking 8 coyotes (yes just 8) they observed over a period of 790 hours the coyotes interacting with cats on 36 occasions. On 19 of these 36 occasions the cat was killed by the coyote. 790 hours by the way is 33 days. So, on average about one coyote over a period of about one month killed 2 cats.

The scientists say that of the 45 instances that they saw the coyotes feeding they were feeding on cats 42% of the time. That comes from the American Bird Conservancy website in quoting the study. The immediate question is how many other instances of feeding in total were there over the 33 days? And what did the coyote eat on those other occasions?

On the basis that this is an accurate representation of the hunting and feeding activities of the coyote the American Bird Conservancy say that cats should be kept in to protect cats and birds. They also argue that TNR is a failure and that is supports the decimation of birds. TNR can work if conducted widely. It really needs a large scale approach.

However, other studies conflict with the one conducted by Shannon E. Grubbs and Paul R. Krausman and used by the American Bird Conservancy.

Studies by Gerht 2006,  Gerht and Riley 2010 and Morey et al. 2007 concluded that the feral and domestic cat made up 1-2% of the coyote diet. In some studies about 8% of coyote scats (feces) contained cat remains. It is probably fair to say that these other studies are more accurate as the sample size in the Grubbs and Krausman study is very small, I would argue.

Also it has to be pointed out that the coyote will eat birds and attack ground nesting birds. What percentage of the coyote's diet is birds? It would be interesting to make a comparison with cats. Also it may be the case that the coyote attacks cats when preferred prey is absent. The absence of some prey may be due to human activity. If that is the case the bird lobbyists' arguments are self-serving and distortions of what is really happening.

The American Bird Conservancy don't mention these things. They give the impression that the cat is the prime prey for the coyote when this is far from the truth. Rabbits and rodents probably top the list of prey items.

There is no doubt that the domestic and feral cat is at risk of being killed by a coyote in the USA. This must be a factor for the cat's caretaker. A secure outdoor enclosure is probably the best compromise.

However, the bird lobby really should try and strike a more balanced approach to promoting its cause. They will not achieve much by exaggerating and misrepresenting information.

See also: Can a cat escape a coyote attack? And How Feral Cats Affect Wildlife.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Serval Kills 4,000 Rodents A Year

The servals of the Serengeti kill 4,000 rodents, 260 snakes and 130 birds each year on average. Servals on average make 0.8 kills per hour in the daytime and 0.5 kills per hour during nighttime (or 1 kill every 2 hours).

They do this hunting/killing while covering the territory at 2.5 kills for every kilometer travelled during the day and at 1.9 kills for every kilometer travelled at night. Young servals (juveniles) kill more frequently at 4.2 kills per kilometer.

Obviously servals don't kill in a routine manner so there will be extended periods when kills do not take place.

The study of kill rates is part of "hunting energetics". Energetics is the study of the transformation of energy. In this instance the amount of energy needed in the form of consumed prey to sustain the serval in his activities including hunting.

By comparison the lynx in the north of Sweden make 1.2 kills every 24 hours. That is much less than the serval.  It is less in the south at 0.6 kills/24 hours and even lower in the east at 0.3 kills/24 hours.

I wonder how many rodents a year the feral cat kills? If there are 80 million feral cats in the USA and each one kills 500 rodents per year that makes 40 billion rodents killed by feral cats yearly. That's a bit of a thought.

Source: page 90 of The Natural History of the Wild Cats by Andrew Kitchener. ISBN 0-8014-8498-7

New Species of Leopard?

March 28th 2012: Apparently a leopard with a distinctly different appearance has been spotted in the well known Sunderbans National Park that is situated in West Bengal, India. The Sunderbans (also spelled, "Sundarbans") is well known as one of the better Bengal tiger reserves.

The key question is whether the cat that was seen was in fact a mutated version of an existing species rather than a new species. It would be surprising if a new species of leopard was discovered at this stage. Classic examples of wild cats that are mutations of existing species and not therefore a new species are white tigers and black leopards. Other black wildcats such as the serval are simply melanistic cats with almost black coats and ghost patterns.

The number of wild cat species is settled (we think) at 36. This is a slimmed down number from 100 years ago when, based on appearance, there was a tendency to assess wild cats as different species when they were not, at least by modern scientific standards.

We will await further news with interest. Let's hope that the cat is safe as there are a lot of people in the Sunderbans and you do get human/wildcat conflicts that almost invariable result in the cat ultimately being killed.

Update: it is melanistic - unsurprisingly. And apparently smaller than a leopard. There is talk of it being a melanistic leopard cat. Leopard cats (Asian leopard cats) are small cats the size of a domestic cat so this story is scrambled. Probably just press hype. I think the story originated in the Times of India.

See: leopard subspecies.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Google Fails To Find the Best Content

Despite Google having dozens if not hundreds of Ph.D. educated boffins working on their mysterious and precious algorithm they continue to make the most fundamental of mistakes in finding the best content on the internet which must be the basic requirement of a search engine.

I'll just give one simple example. The search term is:

"how many cats die a day"

God Bless Good 'Ole Google. It finds Wiki Answers:

The above is the top search result. The answer is complete mumbo jumbo. The idiotic author says that "584 million a year" die from abuse alone.  That is more than the entire world population of domestic and feral cats so the figure is obviously ridiculous. If it were true there would be no domestic, stray and feral cats in the world after a few years.

My answer is not the finest but it is at least is based on a modicum of common sense and science:

It comes about halfway down the first page of search results. That is good but Google should not be putting it below Wiki Silly Answers. Wiki Answers is a joke of a website and Google promotes it.

Monday 26 March 2012

Facebook friendship can be our enemy

Facebook does a great job of connecting people. We know that. It has changed the idea of what socialization means to us.  There are two broad categories of people who use Facebook:
  1. People who simply want to socialise and
  2. People who want to use Facebook for some purpose. One prominent purpose is to promote a website to enhance the visitor rate.
The upsides of Facebook are obvious. The downsides are not so obvious but include:
  1. An addictive necessity to be in the loop so as not to miss something. There is a lot of "needy" activity on the internet. Text messaging is another example. You see young people furiously texting, endlessly seeking reassurance. It is painful to see it. This sort of needy behavior can become burdensome to the participant. Eventually some decide to get out as the downside of the process outweighs the upside.
  2. Privacy. There is a lot of talk about the big brother nature of Google and Facebook. They collect data on us and sell it. People are waking up to this and don't like it.
  3. A manic, mindless motivation for website owners to connect up with Facebook and drag Facebook visitors to their site. I guess Facebook accept this as it gets more visitors to their site. It is a tug of war. Website owners have got to have a mile long series of buttons on every page of their site through which visitors can express their liking of the page or share it with "friends" that they have never met and don't even know. It is totally artificial and it has got out of hand.
It is time for website owners to stop being so dependent on Facebook and Twitter. It is a kind of parasitic activity. We should stand on our own feet. And it is time people met more in person, in the real world. It is more healthy that way. Facebook is feeding on our insecurity.

Trolling a window on our mind and society

Trolling is the thing that trolls do. Trolls are people who disrupt online comments and dialogue with foul language and comments that are hate filled. They are written assaults on people. It is internet bullying.

It is common and widespread and website managers don't deal with it properly because there is so much of it that they can't keep track of it especially on the large social media sites.

I know that trolling hurts people. The old adage "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is incorrect. The written word directed at a particular person, who is decent yet vulnerable, will be upset and indeed may become fearful for his or her safety.

Trolling is more than just casual written violence it is a window on an increasingly impolite and angry world. It is not simply impoliteness. Trolls are a kind of sociopath. They fail to understand that combative and rude comments are hurtful.

People in public normally contain their feelings and anger. For polite people it is polite to do this. For impolite people it is necessary to contain their anger as they could get into trouble with the law if they expressed it in public, in person.

But in the ether of the internet trolls feel protected and free to express their anger. They are set free to show us their lack of politeness and sociopathic tendencies. It is similar to the protection, distance and anonymity that people feel when in a car. Road rage is similar to trolling.

There is a lot of anger and fear out there and the internet is a window on it. It is being exposed by the internet. Trolling happens on my website Not that often, thankfully. I like to give people freedom to express themselves. I don't like censoring as it stunts freedom of expression. However, true trolls are banned and their comments deleted.

Fortunately the police are finally catching up with the idea that it is a crime to harass people on the internet. Trolls are realising that they aren't as protected or as anonymous as they thought. IP addresses are one element that helps to catch trolls. An IP address is a unique number assigned to a device. Big brother is watching.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Google Fusion Tables For Heavy Mapping Tasks

Google Fusion Tables are a great way to map large amounts of information. I won't go over the method in detail. It is fun to explore the process. In essence for people like me, who don't know much HTML code and are not that bothered about learning, Google Fusion Tables is about converting information that has been entered onto a spreadsheet, to a map.

The required spreadsheet is very simple. It might have three columns. The first column (A) might be the name of an organisation. Column B would be the address and column C the telephone number or website URL.

The spreadsheet that I use on an Apple Mac is Open Office. It creates an ".ocd" file. You can also use Google Docs spreadsheet and lots of others if you wish.

Once you have created your spreadsheet, that might have 1000 rows for example, you upload the information from within the Google Fusion Tables application which is part of Google Docs.

Thereafter you simply follow instructions. You can alter the way the information is presented on the place markers using HTML code in a CSS fashion. Even I can do that! You can also ensure that photographs and link are presented in the place marker properly with simple commands.

Google Fusion Tables is able to map 5,000 locations in about 5 mins or less (dependent on broadband and computer speed). The crucial point is to make sure that Google recognises the addresses that you have entered into the spreadsheet. I would therefore do a test for the first dozen or so and check that they are mapped accurately.

If the addresses are of a similar calibre you can safely make the presumption that Google will map the remainder accurately. You must enter good addresses otherwise you will be mapping rubbish. This is automated mapping. It is very dependent on what information goes in to the application as you can't check it if there are 5,000 locations to be mapped. You'll be checking from here to Christmas.

Google Fusion Tables accepts other forms of data to locate an address. These other methods are more accurate but we (or I should say I) don't have access to the information.

I would recommend Google Fusion Tables for large amounts of information as it is much faster to map this way than by hand using Google My Maps. But check for accuracy. I have seen some inaccuracies with Google Fusion Tables and inaccurate mapping is worse than no mapping at all.

See also: New ways to present information on the internet.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Why More Women Are Depressed Than Men

Nancy Schimelpfening of the large website says that "it has been widely documented that women suffer from major depression about twice as often as men..."

She gives the reasons as:
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Nutrition
  • Medical illness
  • Drugs
  • Stress
All but the top two could apply to men.  One reason she omits and which has hardly ever been mentioned is this..

Women live in a man's world. Men create the environment under which we all live. The world is managed by the male of the species.

The subjugation of the female is most apparent in certain countries and cultures but is worldwide. The Muslim faith comes to mind with a prejudice against women that is sometimes distasteful. I am thinking of so called "honour killings" - highly sexist and prejudicial male behavior.

It must be inherently difficult on occasions and even intolerable on other occasions for women to live in the male world.  Common sense suggests that this must predispose some women to stress and depression (better described as unhappiness or a lack of contentment - "depression" is an overused word).

It is, after all, pretty difficult for most men as well because the world is managed by the alpha type male of the species of which there are relatively few.  Alpha males tend to use all other people to their benefit.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Apple Market Valuation Statistics

At 20th March 2012, Apple is worth an estimated $550 billion (USD). It just went up $50 billion in the last few weeks! It must have been the success of the third generation iPad with the fantastic screen.  The company has cash in the bank of about $100 billion. This is far more than the US government has. How will they spend it? There is one thing they can do and no one has mentioned this: improve the lives of people living near the Chinese factories that make the products (if the allegations are true) - see below.

Here are some surprising statistics that compare the current market valuation of Apple with aspects of the US and the world economy (source: Huff Post).
  1. Apple is worth more than the "entire USA retail sector".
  2. Apple is worth more than the combined GDPs of Iraq, North Korea, Vietnam, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand.
  3. The world's entire illegal drug trade valued at $314.7 billion is worth $200 billion less than Apple.
  4. The combined worth of Google and Microsoft ($202 billion and $275.3 billion, respectively) is less than that of Apple. 
  5. Apple's revenue in the most recent quarter of $46.3 billion is worth more than that of Microsoft, Google (x2) and Yahoo (x3).
  6. Apple is worth the equivalent of 321 Endeavour space shuttles (at $1.7 billion each).
  7. The entire Apollo Space Program at a cost of $170 billion cost less than half Apple's value.
  8. 526 NFL football teams = Apple's market capitalisation. There are currently 32 teams.
  9. Apple is worth $141.41 billion more than Exxon.
  10.  8 Bill Gates = 1 Apple.
  11. 31 Mark Zuckerberg's (Facebook founder) = 1 Apple.
Spending the cash mountain

I'd love to be an Apple employee as there are probably generous employee stock options that are making many employees multimillionaires! It reminds me of the multimillionaire Google employees only Apple is putting Google in the shade.

Apple have said that they will pay dividends to share holders and of course reinvest in innovation. They must continue to innovate as the whole cash mountain and market capitalisation is built on that.

They are also buying back shares. I think the intention is to prevent diluting the value of shares due to issuing shares to employees under stock option agreements. I am not sure of the details.

One aspect has been overlooked. The invisible worker in China making the components. All the talk is about the American employee. What about the employees of Apple's partners in this gigantically successful process? And also what about the people who live near the factories that make the products. If the stories are correct these people should be paid compensation and medical treatment and the manufacturing process cleaned up. This should be done voluntarily by Apple without admission of liability. Apple have a clean public image. They need to spend some of their wealth on maintaining that precious image and doing the morally right thing.

Monday 19 March 2012

The Veterinarian's Disease

The veterinarian's client is our companion animal not us. As guardian's of our animal companions we need to be vigilant for the greedy veterinarian who has a tendency to over treat an animal for financial profit. There are many great veterinarians, mine is one of them. The best vets just do what is right for the client. That brings the client's guardian (us) back again and again. That is where the profit is.

The poorer vets let their motivation for financial profit get the better of them. They think short term. They will find ways to get you back to the clinic for "check ups" or for booster vaccinations even though your cat is full-time indoors and 14 years of age!

One veterinary clinic, American Animal Hospital, 8135 Mira Mesa Boulevard San Diego, CA 92126(858) 586-7387, appears to have fallen into the habit of prioritizing their income over their client's health. This assessment comes from the comments left by disgruntled animal guardians. The vet referred to on more than one occasion is Dr. Gill. Things may have changed as the comments are fairly old. If so, so much the better.

"Veterinarian's disease" affects the brain. It turns a good, caring vet into a greedy vet. I think they catch it from the toxoplasmosis gondii protozoan which is currently in the news as affecting the human brain causing a change in a person's character! A greedy vet will never be a good vet. Neither will a vet who declaws cats, as declawing is a very clear sign that the vet puts financial profit before the client's health.

The difficulty in trying to be vigilant is that you are possibly a bit stressed at a veterinary clinic as is your companion animal and you might not have sufficient knowledge to gently challenge the vet. Most people tend to take what a vet says on face value. They will agree with him or her automatically. They are pillars of society aren't they? Think about that for a bit.

One obvious sign of overselling is when a vet starts to behave like a shoe salesman, offering you products or treatments for sale that you had never considered. Automatically question the need for continued booster vaccinations or regular checkups, the bread and butter earners for Mr Veterinarian.

Questioning does no harm and puts the vet on the alert that you are not a pushover. In fact any single question by you that has merit will help to put the brakes on the vet who suffers "veterinarian's disease".

Sunday 18 March 2012

Internet Chat or Internet Crap?

They are very similar sounding words that mean very different things. However, on the internet, they often have the same meaning. Virtually the whole of Twitter is founded on crap....sorry I mean chat. There are some pearls in there somewhere but you have to do a ton of diving to find them.  At October 2011 there were 250 million tweets per day. I wonder many useful ones there were? Tweets are a blizzard of verbal internet confetti.

A lot of money is made from this. I suppose that should not surprise us. It was always thus. You know the old north of England saying, "where there's muck there's brass". Maybe it applies to social media.

Some people almost move their entire website onto Facebook. I don't see the point unless you have shares in Facebook Inc.. Don't website owners want their visitors to spend time on their site and not support the already super rich social media sites? You can use Facebook to generate hits but you have to be careful that you don't simply transport your visitors from your site to Facebook or some other social media site.

The only way I use Twitter is by feeding posts to Twitter using Feedbburner. Every post I make goes out in a feed to god knows where. I do know, though, that Feedburner generates a Twitter post. I get about one new follower every two months! It'll take me about 20 billion years to get the same number of followers as Lady Gaga (she has over 20 million followers  - March 2012).

If you build and manage your site on your own as I do it is impossible to spend a lot of time promoting your site on Twitter and Facebook as the "experts" say you should. Unless you work 17 hour days, 24/7. Some people do this. One successful internet entrepreneur developed RSI (repetitive strain injury - to the hands) and had to start dictating her posts as she was writing so much.

99% of websites fail in the sense that the creator had the idea that they would make money, even a living, on the internet and failed to achieve that goal or anything near it.

There comes a time in website building on your own when you have to consider employing someone to expand the business and to take it to the next level. An individual working alone will struggle to compete with websites manged by more than one person.

The second person can spend some time creating some internet crap...I mean chat.

iPad 3 screen crackles and pops

18th March 2012 - Went to the Apple White City store last Friday and having avoided the long queues had a nice chat with an Apple employee and played with the new third generation iPad. You should see this device first hand because it has impact. It changes your perception of what it is like to look at things on a computer screen. This screen crackles and pops. I have never seen images and video on the internet look like this.

HD video looks like a high definition film. It makes any website look better because it makes the whole internet look better. If you spend a lot of time on the internet it makes your world look better!

Apple call it a "retina display". It has a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels (3.1 million pixels on the screen), which is higher than 1080 HD televisions. And it shows.

For me it is the quality of the display that is selling the new iPad because it really is a game changer. You have never seen stuff on the internet look like this before. Other featured improvements are faster wireless connection and a 5 megapixel camera that also allows 1080p HD video recording.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Cons of Animal Testing

One objective of animal testing is to establish clinical procedures that are of benefit to humans. What if it was found that in the course of 20 reviews of animal testing, in general, only two of those reviews concluded that animal models (as opposed to alternative methods of testing) led to clinical procedures that met the objective.

Animal testing
Animal testing. Photo: Pixabay.

In other words what if it was established that animal testing had a success rate of 10% in respect of this objective. If that were the case even hardened pro-animal testers would have to question the morality and ethics of the process because even people who are in favour of it must see that it is at the very least borderline acceptable from an ethical and moral standpoint.

The only justification for animal testing is that it has a substantial positive impact on the health of people.

Well, it does not. The fact is that in only 10% of the reviews did the authors of the review consider that animal testing had served its purpose and met its objectives in respect of clinical procedures beneficial to people. That information comes from the most comprehensive review by Andrew Knight in his book: The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments - ISBN-10: 0230243924.

Armed with that information it is difficult to justify it on a simple cost effectiveness basis forgetting about the dubious morality. There are better ways to improve clinical procedures that are more cost effective. In respect of product testing, apparently, the differences in physiology between the animals tested upon and that of humans is sufficient to make the results less than reliable on many occasions - it is inefficient and sometimes ineffective.

If you are anti-animal testing you would not need to argue so fine a point. To us it is simply immoral and unethical to cause pain, suffering and death to animals for our benefit. After all we are human animals and we are becoming more aware that the differences between the human animal and other animals are not as great as we first thought. They can feel pain and emotion and we are discovering they might be self-conscious. Some animals show startlingly high levels of intelligence.

The testing of animals is probably still practised because it is cheaper than using, for example, computer simulations. It might be cheaper to carry out but its inefficiency makes it more expensive.

If you weighed the pain and suffering of all the 9.9 million "instances of animal use" in the countries of the European Union in 2008, would it be in balance with the health benefits to Europeans? I suspect the pain side of the scale would be much heavier.

Note: the quote is from Jane Goodhall's article in the Times of March 17th 2012.

See also cosmetics animal testing and animal testing statistics.

Making a living from a website

Date: March 2012: Having done it myself,  I can confirm that someone totally new to website building can make a living in America (USA) from a single content website, working alone. How much do you have to earn to make living in the US? It depends what your demands are. You can live cheap and have no children or have five kids and send them to expensive schools etc.. Anyway, we are told that a living wage is about $4,000 per month. I am sure you can live off less.

Update June 2014. I earn less (about half) these days from my site because it is impossible to compete after 7 years or so. Also you run out of content. You exhaust the subject matter. You have to evolve as well which is hard. It takes money. I give away all the money earned these days or pay writers with it.

You can make $4,000 per month from a single website within about 2 years of starting from scratch without any prior knowledge of how to build a website or make money from it. As I said, I know because I did it. However, there are a number of big caveats...

It is not easy. Why should it be? In fact it is tricky and hard work. There is an element of luck as well. There are no set formulae for success either. It is no easier making money on the Internet than it is making it somewhere else. The advantages of Internet work are that you can do it whenever you like and wherever you like. And you are your own boss. A lot of people would like that.

I now earn less than $4,000 due to competition, copyright infringements, Google changing its algorithm etc.. That is the nature of the beast. I am endeavouring to come back though!

There are a lot of failures. Expectations should be realistic. It is getting harder for an individual to make money on the Internet working alone as competition grows. It has even changed substantially since I started about 4.5 years ago.

You have to continually build the site because that is what the search engines demand. I think the sort person who has a good chance of being successful making a living in America from a content site is:
  • suited to website building work - meaning he or she likes building websites and likes researching information.
  • reasonably intelligent;
  • hard working;
  • a stayer - has stamina;
  • at least proficient in writing good English and is...
  • committed and
  • able to take some risks and be willing to learn by mistakes.
Note 1 : if you have commitment, stamina and an inquiring mind you can do without the rest because you can learn as you go.  Don't be put off by the list. But to summarize, it will not be an easy journey. Why should it be?

Note 2: A suitable person for making a living from a website is someone who likes and is good at:
  1. science (html coding)
  2. art (illustrations)
  3. design (layout)
  4. writing (text)
....these are ideals. The more of the above the better. Writing skills must be decent. I think that you have to be a good allrounder if you work alone and initially you almost certainly will work alone.

Note 3: There are other ways of making money on the internet. This article deals with building the classic content website. This is the way anyone can make money using advertising on the site such as Google AdSense.

I don't have the figures, but it is probable that about one in 100 attempts to make a living from the internet are successful (1%). However, there are some inspiring stories. One person comes to mind. She is the owner/creator of She is certainly one of the most successful individual internet entrepreneurs - meaning working on the site as an individual rather than a team effort. She says she developed RSI (repetitive strain injury) in her hands and now dictates some of her content. That gives a clue as to the amount of work that you need to put in. She earns big though (I often dictate my articles now too).

Website Hosting

I would recommend SiteSell, Wordpress and Google Blogger. SiteSell charge but they provide you with the chance to learn as you build so you can get off the ground quickly. This motivates as you can see results more quickly. It can be very demotivating if nothing happens for months and nothing will happen for months normally.

Important update: I now reject SiteSell. They kicked forced me to move my website. Here is the story

You can make good money using free Google Blogger without even having a custom domain name. However, Google might not like it. You can customise the domain with Google Blogger.


AdSense, Casale Media, Infolinks, Custom advertising. These are the simple ways I make money. There are many other ways including selling products as an affiliate. You act as an agent by advertising your partner's products on your site and get a commission. I tend to avoid these because of the management needed to control the business. That is a personal choice.

Friday 16 March 2012

Valuing A Website

The only true and certain way to value your website is to receive a genuine offer that you agree. The agreed price would be the market value to you at the time of the agreement. The way a website builder feels about his or her site has a major effect on its value. A valuation is not an objective process.

If you treat website building as an enjoyable hobby keeping you occupied and making some money along the way, you won't be inclined to sell it unless the price is high; higher in fact than a conventional valuation. Buyers don't pay over the odds for a site so in practice you wouldn't sell it. If you are fed up with your site you will be inclined to sell it cheaply. This is mainly because you will stop building pages and when than happens the site is not being maintained and it will lose value gradually. "Maintaining" a website it not tinkering with it from time to time but actively building it day in, day out.

You can value your website online. The range of values that valuation websites throw up is so wide as to be almost meaningless. I can only conclude that the formulae used are often inaccurate or the data used is very variable. I have just used four valuation websites to value my site: and the valuations ranged from $67 to $123,000. It was pretty much a pointless exercise. The major criteria for valuing a site must be the kind of data collected by Alexa: pageviews, unique views, Alexa ranking and estimated revenues. The current and projected revenue must be the key factor.Clearly, as at 2012, the valuing of websites is not that refined.

As it happens I have been approached on several occasions by buyers and they have offered prices varying between $28,000 to $100,000. Armed with that information I am able to make some sense out of the online valuations. My guess is that I could possibly get about $80,000 for the site. The valuations online don't, as far as I know, include subdomains and this subdomain has 1,500 pages and has a value in itself which should be added on.

Incidentally, I realise that people have approached me to buy my site because they believe that they can make more money from it than I am making. They are correct. In other words, they hope that they can buy it cheaply as the current market valuation is low because the revenue is lower than is should be. A site that has maximised its revenue will therefore be more valuable but less saleable.

The value of my site (and I am sure this applies to other sites) does not come near to its value as a reflection of the effort put in. For the average webmaster, if you divided the site's value by the hours put in to build it, you would shocked at the low hourly rate. Website building is not an easy or very fruitful way of making money in my experience, although there are exceptions, of course. The site makes about $2,000 per month as mentioned on the page about maximising AdSense revenue.

For me a simple way of valuing a website is to compare its revenue with invested funds. $100,000 invested at say 6% will earn $6,000 per year.  A site making $6,000 per year net would be worth $100,000 less a sum to account for the work required to maintain it, say $40k. The resultant figure is $60k - too high a figure. I think the disparity between my simplistic method and the online figure or the offered figures is reflected in the poor value of websites generally (as an asset) except for the top end sites.

I have just learnt that, a tech and social media blog said to be one the world's best and with an Alexa ranking of about 200 is said to be worth $200 million (USD). CNN wish to buy it off the person who started it. He is set to make about $100 m. He has a staff of about 40.

I think you will find that the value of websites climbs rapidly towards the top end but is relatively flat and cheap at the bottom end. As an asset, your website may have a disappointing value. However, its value is not just as an asset on the open market. For retired people it is something that keeps them occupied and brings in an income that can be much better than a financial investment (March 2012).

Thursday 15 March 2012

New ways to present information on the internet

We need to look for new ways to present information on the internet. We needn't be stuck in the rut of simply writing about it. I am referring to mapping on this occasion. Google Maps have advanced quite dramatically, recently. We (independent website builders) owe it to ourselves to use Google's free software to our advantage as we are so painfully dependent on this internet giant that dominates us. And it might not be free indefinitely.

Almost any information can be presented on a map because almost all information can be referenced to a place. Take cats, my pet subject! I have mapped USA animal rescue, UK animal rescue sanctuaries, tiger reserves and more. A lot of information can be presented more effectively on a map and there are hidden SEO benefits as well, which I touch on below.

The map below shows animal rescue sanctuaries in the UK:

There are a lot of directory websites that list businesses and other organisations. Some of them provide directions to the listed business. And some provide a map below the address. The mapping and directions are secondary to the written information - the address etc. We can turn that upside down and make the location the primary information and the other details secondary. Where the location of a business is of primary importance this is a better way of presenting the information. Google maps allows us to do that.

An example, in the world of cats, is boarding catteries (cat hotels). The location of the cattery is very important. You need to minimise travel time to the place (to reduce stress for you and your cat) and you need to see the place beforehand. Information about boarding catteries is best presented on a map. This principle applies to many different sorts of information. You can use your own imagination.


There is an unexpected SEO benefit from web pages that contain an embedded Google map. Visitors will stay on the site longer as they explore the map, zooming in and out and clicking on the place markers to see the information contained inside the markers. The Alexa website ranking is based on a number of criteria one of which is the amount of time spent on the site. You will probably find that your Alexa ranking will improve if you have some prominent and well produced maps on your site.

Mapping as a way of presenting information is an emerging trend and I recommend that you join the trend now to get ahead.

Google Maps - ways to map

There are essentially two ways to use Google maps that I know of:
  1. Manual input. You find the location using Google maps or by yourself and then you place the marker at that location and add the details.
  2. Automatic input using Google fusion tables. This is a beta program in development. You create a spreadsheet containing information in columns. One column contains information that allows Google to map the organisation that you have listed. A good address can suffice. Google allows other source information to be used. Using fusion tables you have to trust Google to map accurately so it is important to provide good information so as to not mislead or confuse Google maps. Fusion tables is the only way to map large amounts of information as  manual mapping of say 4,000 businesses would take about 6 months full-time!

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Google Adsense Revenue Maximized

I'll tell you how I maximise Google Adsense for western sites reading left to right. Firstly though, you should know that I don't build my website to make money! I do it to keep myself occupied and to have a goal in life. You will understand, therefore, why I like to keep the process of making money from my website as simple as possible so that I can concentrate on achieving my goal; attracting visitors and having fun building the site. That is also a good starting point to make money.

On that basis, what I am going to say is simple and based on common sense assessments that are confirmed by Google Adsense specialist trainers whom I have met when attending Google run Adsense seminars.

The basic model for me in respect of Adsense is as follows:

(1) To let Google decide what adverts to present on my site. They are the experts. I can modify Google's choice and sometimes I feel inclined to do so. For example, I sense that adverts for charities such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are not the best earners but as I give some money to charity from the site I feel obliged to support charities. I therefore accept these adverts. Also, it may the case that the WWF have decided to place ads on my site. I don't want to disappoint them.


(2) To place the Adsense units in the most prominent places on each page. Where are these places? Commonsense dictates that the reader's eye starts at the top left of the page in the region of the title, and then soon afterward just below it. Most people on the Internet skim and speed read the first bit of text and then tail off. If they like what they see they stay around and read more and digest it. The adverts should reflect this behavior. The Adsense ads must be high up and, in your face, (above the fold as the experts call it).

When you create carefully produced copy it can be difficult to decide to "spoil it" with adverts right at the beginning. I would resist that obstacle and put it where the eye falls. Be commercial. Internet surfers are used to seeing ads on the page so aren't put off. When they are ready to move on, they might click on an Adsense advert. If they are ready soon after visiting, they will click on the top ads and if they have read the article, they might click on the Adsense at the base of the page. It is said that Adsense does not drive visitors off the site. It just gives them an option when they are ready to leave.

Here is a diagram showing the hotspots as I see it (four are listed but only three are allowed as you know):

The red=hot. The blue=cold. Often you see websites with a banner on top of the site. We are told that this is not a good place for Adsense. It is out of the eye-line for visitors who read the text of an article. Perhaps the website creators who place Adsense above the website are using it as a branding tool. Google ads look good and can actually improve a site's appearance.

Why are the Adsense adverts on this page where they are? Because Google automatically puts them there and the choices for change are limited. This site is a Google Blogger hosted subsomain. The Adsense units are both outside the area of text. I prefer adverts inside the text as it forces readers to see it. Note: the advert top left inside the text is a Casale Media advert in an iframe tag.

Text and Image

Text and image ads are best. Let Google present both from the same Adsense script.


Use the largest size you can. I use a thin line of links immediately above the title. That is more or less the only place I use a thin line of links. The reason is because when I received one-to-one advice from a charming Google employee she recommended that I place this Adsense unit in this position. It has worked well and earns about £80 - £100 per month by itself.


As each page or each website is different the above suggestions are generalizations.

Adsense colour etc.

I used to mess around with colours etc. I saw no difference. I prefer the standard Google format because people recognise these as adverts. I believe that is a positive thing. This leads to the question whether you should blend in ads and place them where the navigation bar is. To me this looks dishonest and it colors my assessment of the website negatively.


I am a relatively small time player (Alexa 114k at 14th March 2012 - it used to be 50k). I earn about $2,000 (USD) per month from Adsense. The site used to make quite a bit more but Google's algorithm, copyright infringements and intense competition changed that. I also make some Adsense revenue from YouTube videos (about $400 per month).

Monday 12 March 2012

Visiting Google In London

As a person who manages his own websites and being dependent to large extent on what Google does in respect of its search engine algorithm, it was nice to be invited to attend a seminar on how to improve AdSense revenue. For a website builder it was like being invited to visit God! I have visited three times now and I'd like to briefly write about the experience as it might interest some people who would like to know what it is like inside Google's offices.
Complimentary gift that Google generously gave me.
This is a really nice Italian made note pad.

I'll tell you right away that it is not the kind of place I worked in all my working life. In fact, Google offices are startlingly different to the conventional office environment.

I have a lot of experience working in offices in England as a lawyer. I would have given my right arm to have had the opportunity to work for Google when I was younger. Google didn't exist when I was younger! But hypothetically speaking you get the message.


The Google office space in their London, Victoria offices and the ones near Tottenham Court Road are extremely pleasant work environments. The outside of the buildings are modern and you know that Google occupies the building as there are bright, modern Google colors outside. This is especially the case at the 1-13 St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8AG offices near Tottenham Court Road.  The Google street view image below shows the offices being built.

View Larger Map

There is a very relaxed feeling about the place. They don't seem like work places; more like a big club. There are canteen areas dotted around the building brimming with food and drink and what seem to be brainstorming areas in glass walled rooms. There is an open feeling.

The colour schemes are modern, bright, colourful and a bit funky. I guess the idea is to encourage employees to think out of the box and creatively.

One slightly unpleasant aspect of visiting Google that I experienced last time was "reception". In the Victoria, London offices nearest Victoria station there is what appears to be a large reception desk. I went up to it and announced my arrival for the seminar. This was not a reception desk, I discovered. The two women behind the very long counter were security only. They were unhelpful and simply said that I must know the name of the person who I was visiting before they would let me in. They could not ring up to the Google offices. They had no means to do that. They were a complete brick wall. I was about to go home when one of them mentioned that there were other offices down the road. I figured I was in the wrong place but the general mood at the massive entrance hall was cool, unwelcoming and unhelpful. This problem of visiting the wrong office (the other one being near by) must have happened before and you would have thought the people at the counter would have been trained to deal with it pleasantly.

There was another security guard near the lifts. I presume that this office building did not receive Joe Public but only Mr Businessman.
Another generous Google gift. Thank you Google.
Culture and Employees

All the employees that I met and saw were young and there were lots of females. I don't know if the people that I met were a representative group but young/female would describe them. Perhaps women are more often employed in communicating with the public - people like me. They were international ladies; women whose first language was not English. They were multilingual. I use the word "lady" deliberately. They were nice intelligent people. That gives a clue as to the type of employee Google seeks.

On the downside, I really feel that Google has become a bit flabby in its culture and mentality. I think this is because of the large profits that roll in without the usual effort (in my opinion) and they are a monopoly almost.

Without wishing to be over critical, the time keeping and organisation by Google employees was not first class and neither were the presentations. And I expected first class from a company that produces first class free software (usually). You wonder how hard they were trying.

I enjoyed my visits and I thank Google for inviting me. However, I think Google should tighten up a bit and put a bit of rigour back into their workplace. It has got too easy at Google. It is not the real working world. Not from my perspective in any case.

Cat Photography For All

Good cat photography is not limited to gorgeous show cats and tons of high end equipment.  They do help if you know what you are doing but you can get a very decent shot with average equipment and your moggie. What you can't do without is your photographic eye.

When you have your camera in your hand, the trick is to look at the world photographically. By that I mean you need to really look with an open mind at the shape, form, composition and color of what is before you. In fact you should be able to switch to this mode of looking at short notice as it allows you to spot the unexpected photograph that quickly develops in front of you.

Most of the time our minds are closed to what is in front of us. Alternatively, our mind filters what our eyes see. It is a modified and personalized world.

Open your mind and eyes and you might see a good photograph. About 15 minutes ago I saw this:

Charlie in the sun

I am not saying that it is a world better. It is not. But it both gives pleasure to the photographer, captures a scene from day to day life for the photo album and you can bung it up to Flickr for others to share and discuss.

This is a picture of Charlie. He has three legs. He was coming in from the garden and I walked past him. I had no camera but saw the potential. I quickly got the camera and just before he moved, I captured the image. It was a matter of a spit second. I captured a single image. I knew that I would be lucky to get something because cats move when you don't want them to. They aren't the most cooperative subject.

As it happens I have a decent camera (Canon 7D). Your camera should assist you in capturing a fleeting moment. And good photographs are often fleeting.

The framing for the photograph was created using Picasa on my computer. This is free Google software (Note: the drop shadow around the dark frame is Google Blogger. I am not sure that I like it in this instance).

Here is another picture of a Maine Coon purebred cat that I took in America. His name is Zak:

Ken and Helmi Flick's Maine Coon Cat - ZAK

The key to good casual photography is to (a) have a camera to hand and (b) to use your eyes and be open and ready for the fleeting image that will present itself to you from time to time.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Tiger parts are as profitable as Apple products

Tiger steak washed down with the best tiger bone wine is definitely on the menu in restaurants throughout China. The raw meat might start its journey in tiger farms in China or perhaps in Bangkok, Thailand. Tigers are treated like livestock in many parts of Asia. Half a ton of tiger meat was recently unearthed in Bangkok with bones (for the wine) all destined I suspect for the major restaurants of Shanghai where clients believe it will improve their virility especially if they eat a $6,000 (USD) tiger penis. Man that really does make you feel superhuman....The bones of the tiger's forelimbs are prized too. It is all completely senseless.

Burma is a major trader and so are Malaysia and Vietnam. The business, built on corrupt officials, pathetic enforcement of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and mafia masterminds, is worth billions of bucks. And you know what? As the tiger becomes rarer and rarer as a result of this senseless slaughter, the tiger parts become more and more desirable and expensive and so the profit margins go up. It is self generating. Until it is all over.

In Asia it seems that everyone is abusing the tiger, which is fast becoming extinct in the wild. It is a shame that the tiger's range or distribution is in Asia. That is not a racist remark. It is a simple fact that countries like Burma and China are horribly corrupt and have a disregard for animal welfare.  The illegal trade in tiger parts would not exist but for the corruption of officials. In India the Bengal tiger is often poached from tiger reserves with the assistance of corrupt wardens (I allege this).

For example, some of the so called "private zoos" in Thailand are in fact tiger farms or wildlife farms. Documents are falsified and inspections evaded or officials collude in the illegal trade.

I haven't mentioned traditional Chinese medicine. Did I say "medicine"? I shouldn't because it isn't. It is, though, the single biggest contributor to the extirpation of the tiger on the planet.

What chance does the tiger have in the wild? Pretty much a zero chance of survival. It will all be over in about 20 years and we can then stop bemoaning the tiger's gradual extinction on the planet and move on. We will be left with generic tigers (hybrids or moggie tigers) in farm cages or zoos and that will be that.

A tiger's body is worth £215,000 in China (2008 and going up). Here are some more prices:

Tiger ProductPrice $ USD per KgPlaceDate
Boneup to 300Russia2002
Bone140-370South Korea, Taiwan2009
Penis Soup320Taiwan2009
Humerus boneup to 3190Seoul2009
Eyes (2)170Taiwan2009
Src: and Sunquists

China is a CITES contracting party.  See also Bengal tiger facts.

Stripping away the Facebook mask

Do you understand Facebook? I don't. I don't understand the opaque navigation, how to switch things on and off, the difference between a group and a community and so on. Nor do I understand the privacy policy. One reason, in fact the major reason, why I don't understand is because I can't be bothered to try and understand. All I want to do is connect with someone from time to time. And that is precisely what 90% of Facebook users want to do as well. It is meant to be social media not an obstacle course for geeks. Facebook use this human trait to make money. Perhaps the entire wealth producing model of Facebook is based on our apathy towards detail and complicated, time consuming things that we consider irrelevant.

The new Google Plus One button works in a similar way. They changed their search process, the core of their business, in a fairly quiet way by providing a personalised search as a default. This is a completely different way of searching, but did the man on top of the Clapham omnibus notice the change? You can turn off this customised search that is based on your personal profile, your likes and dislikes, your habits etc. But do you turn it off? Do you know where and how to turn it off, and more importantly can you be bothered to do it? Do you want a neutral search of the Internet or be spoon fed by big brother!

The banks work in the same way and make billions from our lack of concern. They create this lack of concern by making the rules complicated and opaque. We don't have the time, inclination, brain power or desire to wade through terms and conditions of bank agreements. For that reason, in the UK, they were able to mislead millions of people by selling them mortgage protection insurance without them being aware of it. These unfortunate people paid for the insurance premiums by a surcharge on the mortgage payments. Over the lifetime of the mortgage this amounted to thousands of pounds.

The insurance companies use our lack of understanding and apathy in the same way in selling poor policies and investments that just don't perform. Endowment policies are a classic example. The telephone companies have very complicated "tariffs" for the same reason - to baffle us. I won't go on.

We are told that Facebook is worth about $100 billion (one thousand million USD). That is what the financial boys call the IPO - initial public offering - shares offered to the public based on a valuation by "experts".

This valuation is based on the wealth of the personal information on the 800+ million Facebook members (March 2012) that is stored on FB's servers. This information is valuable to business. It is certainly by far the greatest repository of information about humankind ever compiled. We have given Facebook that information initially and throughout our use of the site. It seems that the almost invisible advertising revenue is very secondary.

You can delete your Facebook account "permanently" (see full data use policy). What does the word "account" mean? Does it include all your inputted information and all the information that you left on Facebook in a trail of activity while interacting with others? I am sure it does not, which means some information is not deleted. It can take 90 days to delete an account. What happens between day one and day 90 at Facebook with respect to that information?

When big business confuses us it uses us.

Friday 9 March 2012

Pure Apple tainted by a poison

It could be said that the famous Apple logo is a symbol of the current manufacturing dilemma facing this mighty company, the world's biggest by market capitalisation as at March 2012 (over $500 billion).

You know how the Apple logo came about don't you? The partly eaten apple represents the way Alan Mathison Turing is said to have committed suicide by biting on an apple that had been injected with cyanide. Turing, an English scientist, is considered to have been "the father of computer science".  Also the idea of 'biting' fits nicely with computer language - the word 'byte'. This is one reason, perhaps the main reason, why Apple's founders decided on this logo.

It is said that Apple components are manufactured in China and that the manufacturing process is poisoning the local environment so profoundly that the river runs black and people are dying of unexplained cancer.

There is a nice symmetry in the current situation with the origins of the Apple logo. Both entail poisoning. Things have come full circle.

The village that so unhappily finds itself on the doorstep of mass manufacturing using heavy metals and other toxins is Tongxin. It is near the east coast, quite near Shanghai we are told (note: my research shows that there is another town of the same name that is in central China).

Apple have admitted that one of its major suppliers is Pegatron a Taiwanese company. A Chinese subsidiary of Pegatron is a company called Kaedar Electronics.  Zhu Guifen, a 64 year old resident (and shop owner) of Tongxin, points to the Kaedar Electronics factory when she explains why too many people in Tongxin are dying of cancer. She herself suffers from stomach and liver tumours. She is convinced that the high levels of cancer in the village have been caused by pollution from the factories.  At one time she used the local river (the Lou Xia Bang) to wash the rice.  Children swam in it.

In March 2012, the river is dead and the people are dying.

Apple presents a squeaky clean image inline with their sheer products. They say they care about all the workers in their enormous supply chain. They say that they insist that their suppliers use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes. Can we really believe that? And should this story change our perception of Apple?

Apple products are such good value considering the quality and features. Is this because China does not regulate manufacturing sufficiently to protect the environment and its people? We hear lots of stories of discontent of the common man in China who is walked over by unregulated big business and corrupt officials. The Chinese government say they are entitled to pollute the environment for the sake of commercial expediency because they have to catch up with the West and in any case the West polluted and still pollute to keep prices down.

Source: Times Newspaper March 8th 2012 page 32.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Facebook, the fragile pot of gold

Facebook is worth about $100 billion. It must be one of the most valuable businesses in the world. For example Apple is valued at $500 billion but Apple is truly an exception being worth more than Poland!

When you think that Facebook exists in the ether, in the form of electrons or whatever you call them it makes you think. Facebook is not tangible. The equipment that stores the website is tangible but Facebook in not tangible in the same way that the stock and equipment at Apple is or the manufacturing base at Apple is.

The entirety of the core assets of Facebook are invisible. Without the website there would be no Facebook. All the staff would have to be laid off. The company would have near zero value.

As we gradually evolve from hard information on paper to digital information worldwide we are in danger of losing a lot more, a lot more quickly if things go wrong.

Apparently there have been complaints about the integrity of Facebook's API. "API" stands for 'application programming interface', whatever that means! Let's just say that the hour or so of downtime yesterday 7th March 2012 was due to faulty programming. The engineers were forced to turn off the Facebook website in order to fix the problem. That was a drastic and dramatic step to take and the worst position that Facebook has been in for four years.

It must be a kind of a nightmare keeping all the balls in the air at Facebook as it has expanded so rapidly. The hardware involved must be massive. Apparently they have thousands of engineers.

The point is that never has so much money be tied up in so little in the way of actual tangible asset. I wonder if the recent downtime has brought that home to the people who value internet businesses?

Analysing the Egyptian Mau

The Egyptian Mau is one of the ancient cat breeds it is thought. The history is interesting and it spans the four thousand years or so from the time when Egyptians first domesticated the wildcat to the present day in the feral Egyptian Maus wandering the streets of Egypt. How pure are the feral Egyptian Maus and are they similar to the ancient Maus?

An interesting concept is that the feral Egyptian Mau in Egypt today are more purebred that the finest purebred Egyptian Maus in the United States and Europe.

Moataz Ahmed Abd Elghaffar is a young Egyptian scientist who has a keen interest in answering some fundamental questions about the Egyptian Mau. In a proposed study his objectives are to:
  • Prove that native Maus in modern Egypt are similar to the ancient Maus;
  • Prove that Maus in Egypt are purer than overseas Maus and to
  • Establish the differences and similarities between native Maus and overseas Maus.
The good thing is that he lives and works in Egypt. He has first hand experience of relating to the modern Egyptian Mau living in Egypt.

He intends to analyze:
  • The overseas Mau in Texas, USA 
  • Native Mau in Cairo, Egypt and the 
  • Mummified Cats of Ancient Egypt.
Moataz's proedure will be to take two check swabs of living Maus and a hair sample of a mummified Egyptian cat. The first sample one will be taken from a native Mau, the second will be taken from American Maus and the third sample will be taken from a mummified Egyptian Mau. Then DNA will be extracted from the swabs followed by a test on the DNA.

In outline the procedure for testing the hair of a mummified Eyptian Mau is as follows:
  • Cut 10- 15 hair roots about 0.5 cm into a 1.5ml eppendorf tube.
  • Use 50 ul of the following lysis buffer: 10mM Tris pH 8.3, 50mM KCL, 0.5% Tween
  • Also add 10ul of 20ug/ml solution of Proteinase K in 10mM Tris-HCL (pH 7.5)
  • Vortex for 30 seconds. 
  • Ultracentrifuge at 13000 rpmfor 1 second.
  • Incubate overnight in a 56 - 60oC waterbath.
  • Incubate for 10 minutes at 94oC ( to denature the proteinase K  I presume)
  • Cool down to room temperature.
  • Ultracentrifuge at 13000 rpm for 1 second.
  • Ready DNA for your PCR
Cheek swabs will be taken of the feral and USA Maus.

I look forward to hearing about the results. It is said that there is no trace of the original Persian cat in the modern Persian cat. It is likely that there is no trace of the original British cats in the modern British Shorthair and American Shorthair. Selective breeding has seen to that.  I wonder how original any of the modern cat breeds are.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Is Facebook Vulnerable To Terrorism?

Today 7th March 2012 at around 7 am GMT Facebook (FB) was down for about 30 minutes or more. I have no idea why. There are only a few possibilities: maintenance, accident, sabotage, terrorism.

The first reason will nearly always be the reason. But what if it was the last reason: terrorism? Sounds extraordinary, I know. And I am not saying that this FB downtime was due to terrorism.

All I am saying is that it must be worth considering whether FB is vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

How secure are their servers (servers are computers serving large numbers of people)? Are there guards and such-like outside the building? Where are their servers? The location must be an important factor in terms of security. I am talking about physical security. Terrorism could take several forms, hacking or physically damaging the FB computers are the two obvious possibilities.

I don't know whether FB has considered the possibility of a terrorist attack on their servers. But it seems to me that the FB servers make a nice target for terrorists.

To extremists, FB might represent all that is decadent in Western society. Endless chat about nothing. FB is the physical world in the ether of the internet. And FB was created by an American. It is an American product. The extremists in Asia won't like it although I am sure millions of them use it!

The thing is this, if a terrorist brought down Facebook it would be a successful attack at the heart of the Western way of life. Isn't that what Islamic terrorists want?

There is also the matter of all the personal information stored on the FB servers. This information is worth billions of dollars and is probably valuable to terrorists. Terrorist hacking of FB would seem to be a possibility.

FB has become a bit of a monster. It has become too big and too important. It has become more than just a social media website. This is bad for the world.

Facebook Down March 7th at 7 am GMT?!

Is the Facebook website down at this time? Seems that way to me. The Facebook button stopped working so I checked the Facebook website where you get the button code and could not access the site. So I tried the main website and could not access that either. It is not a browser problem my end as everything else works. The time is about 7 am on 7th March 2012 (London, UK).

Update: 8:02 am - FB is back up! LOL

This is probably just a maintenance session but it is strange that the whole site cannot be accessed. 

You would have thought that they could maintain the site piecemeal without interrupting service to 800 million people!

Maybe it is available in different countries or different places. I don't know. So many people rely on Facebook that if it is down for even a short time, people will become upset.

It is a kind of a monster, actually. Think what would happen if Twitter shut down for a day. There would be rioting in the streets! LOL.

The only other reason why it is down is sabotage or terrorism. I have always thought that a very good target for terrorists would be the servers at Facebook or Twitter. If the computers were blown up it would have a very big impact on Western life. That would please the Islamist terrorists as they see the Western lifestyle as decadent.

Is the FB website back up and running yet? Nope. Just checked. Chaos....Personally, I am sort of pleased because FB has become as I said a kind of monster. I don't think it actually benefits society anymore. It takes people away from living in the real world and people need to live in the real world to put it right.

You can't fix fundamental problems in the ether of the internet. All you can do is talk about them. We have too much chatter and not enough action.

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