“You are lounging on a magnificent balcony open to the starry sky, divine music is playing with such exquisite perfection you can hardly stand it, when all of a sudden something terrible occurs: the magical sounds break up into an obscene cacophony. What is happening? Are you dying? You could put it that way. That awful noise is the first scream of an infant: you. You have been born into a human body hardwired with each and every transgression from the last time around, and now you must spend the next seventy years clawing your way back to the music. No wonder we cry.”

— Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett

Who wants to die for a supermarket

Trolley in supermarket, exact date
“The greatest weakness of the West is that it has nothing with which to inspire loyalty except wealth. But what is wealth? Another washing machine, a bigger car, a nicer house to live in? Not much to feed the spirit in all that. What is the West but a gigantic supermarket? And who really wants to die for a supermarket?”

— Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett

Americans can never be defeated by war


“Without a war, America would descend into total confusion and would have to form itself into a police state to survive, because its people no longer have any internal structure. Americans can never be defeated by war. It is peace they find intolerable.”

A line from a novel by John Burdett (2005). As we wind down two wars and crank up the police state in America, Mr. Burdett seems frighteningly prescient.

Secure login

I’m reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. The final book (Larsson died in 2004) featuring Lisbeth Salander, ” the best hacker in Sweden.” I’m not spoiling anything by sharing this passage of what has to be one of the more secure log-in’s:

“She started by going to a website that advertised rather uninteresting pictures by an unknown and not especially skilled amateur photographers named Gil Bates in Jobsville, Pennsylvania. Salander had once checked it out and confirmed that the town of Jobsvile did not exist. Nevertheless, Bates had taken more than 200 photographs of the community and created a gallery of small thumbnails. She scrolled down to image 167 and clicked to enlarge it. It showed the church in Jobsville. She put her cursor on the spire of the church tower and clicked. She instantly got a pop-up dialog box that asked for her ID and password. She took out her stylus and wrote the word Remarkable on the screen as her ID and A(89)Cx#magnolia as the password.

She got a dialog box with the text [Error–you have the wrong password] and a button that said [OK–try again]. Lisbeth knew that if she clicked on [OK–try again] and tried a different password, she would gt the same dialog box again–for years and years, for as long as she kept trying. Instead she clicked on the ‘o’ in Error.

The screen went blank. Then an animated door opened and a Lara Croft-like figure stepped out. A speech bubble materialized with the text [WHO GOES THERE?]. She clicked on the bubble and wrote Wasp. She got the instant reply [PROVE IT–OR ELSE…] as the animated Lara Croft unlocked the safety catch on her gun. Salander knew it was no empty threat. If she entered the wrong password three times in a row the site would shut down and the name Wasp would be struck from the membership list.”

Which reminded me of this password (to the CIA database) from the novel, Bangkok Tattoo:

AQ82860136574X-Halifax nineteen [lowercase] Oklahoma twenty-2 BLUE WHALE [all uppercase] Amerika stop 783

Google Juice: Example #32

I do these from time to time, in spite of how self-serving they seem. That’s never my intention, given the modest traffic through this little alley of the Internet. I’m talking about Google ranking and how well blogs do in this most important metric.

In July of 2006, I posted passage from John Burdett’s second novel, Bangkok Tattoo. The subject –and title of the post– was “Western Concept of Self.”

Today, I happened across the post and decided to Google “western concept of self” (minus the quotation marks). Those are pretty common terms and Goggle returned almost 13 million pages with one or more of them. My little post was number two on that list.


So when clients ask me, how can they get their website to show up on the first page of Google search results, I always tell them the same thing: Start by making your site a blog and update it every day.

“Isn’t there some meta-thingy you can hide on the page that will force my site to the top of the rankings?”

Yeah, maybe. But I’m not your guy for that. I love that Google almost always helps me find what I’m looking for and I’m not keen on helping someone game the system. Even for money. (God, I hope I don’t get hammered by all the SEO experts. Can I just stipulate that you guys are right and I’m wrong?)

One final point and it has to do with blogs vs. newsletters. I’ve posted on this in the past. It came up again recently. The “village elders” of a local organization were unhappy with the blog one of their members maintains for them. They didn’t like having frequent, short items and wanted to go back to their “newsletter” format. Save up any news and post it all, once a month, at the same time.

Nothing wrong with that approach if you’re only interested in reaching the people who are already in the organization and know to go check the website once a month. But if you’re trying to reach more and new people, you want that Google juice. Blogs deliver. Newsletters… not so much.

Western concept of Self

John Burdett’s second novel, Bangkok Tattoo, was as good as his first (Bangkok 8). Both stories are set in (you guessed it) Bangkok, where Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep solves bizarre murders. Sonchai is a devout Buddhist and the plot is laced with Eastern religion. I especially liked this description of the Western concept of Self:

“…a ramshackle collection of coincidences held together by a desperate and irrational clinging, there is no center at all, everything depends on everything else, your body depends on the environment, your thoughts depend on whatever junk floats in from the media, your emotions are largely from the reptilian end of your DNA, your intellect is a chemical computer that can’t add up a zillionth as fast as a pocket calculator, and even your best side is a superficial piece of social programming that will fall apart just as soon as your spouse leaves with the kids and the money in the joint account, or the economy starts to fail and you get the sack, or you get conscripted into some idiot’s war, or they give you the news about your brain tumor.”

Ouch. The wannabe geek in me also enjoyed this password to a CIA online database:

AQ82860136574X-Halifax nineteen [lowercase] Oklahoma twenty-2 BLUE WHALE [all uppercase] Amerika stop 783

Won’t even fit on a Post-It note.