Words of the Day – Gray/Black/Brown Thursday and Green Monday

Things change, including where people buy stuff that people want. From downtown shops to the strip mall. Strip mall to indoor mall. Indoor mall to big box store. Big box store to online store.

People not only change where they shop, but when. Besides Black Friday and Cyber Monday there are new super dooper holiday sales days. I knew about Gray Thursday from my wife. She took our oldest daughter out to shop at 8 PM Thanksgiving night and didn’t come back until 3:00 AM.

In recent years, retailers have been trending towards opening on Black Thursday, occurring Thanksgiving evening. In 2011, Walmart began its holiday sale at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the first time. In 2012, Walmart began its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. the day before on Thanksgiving; stores that are normally open 24 hours a day on a regular basis started their sales at this time, while stores that do not have round-the-clock shopping hours opened at 8 p.m. Competitors Sears and Kmart will also be opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, while Target and Toys “R” Us will be opening at 9 p.m.

A number of media sources began referring to this instead by either the name Gray Thursday[55][56] or Brown Thursday.[57]

Green Monday on the other hand was a new one on me until the news started covering it this morning.

Green Monday is an online retail industry term similar to Cyber Monday. The term was coined[1] by eBay to describe its best sales day in December,[2] usually the second Monday of December. Green Monday is defined more specifically by business research organization comScore as the Monday with at least 10 days prior to Christmas. In 2009, $854 million was spent online in the US on Green Monday,[3] with sales in 2011 reaching $1.133 billion.[4] In 2012, Green Monday topped out at $1.27 billion, up 13% from 2011 and the third heaviest online sales day for the season behind Cyber Monday and, randomly, Dec. 4, 2012, according to comScore.[5]

Here’s a fine infographic on Cyber Monday. Thanks, Roger.

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Star Wars, Nothing But Star Wars*

Stuff I’ve been posting on my Facebook. I remember the days when posting this stuff to a website you owned made you a blogger. Good times.

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*

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Spoiler Alert Fails

Google for “sons or anarchy recap.” I wonder if anyone died in this week’s episode?

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OK, sure. Now I know who died. But who killed him is still a mystery, right?

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That’s some mighty fine spoiler alertin’ there, Cletus.

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Natalie with Wet Hair and Mommy’s Glasses

Natalie with Wet Hair Wearing Mommy's Glasses

No time to blog about the news, so here’s a nice pic of Natalie. For a long time I’ve been been doing the conventional thing of chasing sharpness. Now I’m playing around with soft focus.

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Former Federal Reserve Official Apologizes for Quantative Easing

CNBC:

“My argument is not that QE was not at all useful,” he said on CNBC’s “Fast Money.”

“I believe that at the time, it was just one more tool that the Fed introduced to try to help the economy,” he said. “My point, ultimately, is the idea that very quickly into QE, it started becoming obvious that it wasn’t working in the way that it was supposed to.”

The article quotes someone from Rutgers Business School, who wonders what the end game for QE is going to be. The stock market – particularly the banks buying stock – is addicted to the easy money of QE. When can the Fed withdraw the money without crashing the markets?

One other point from the article – the rise in the stock market mostly benefited the already wealthy, including the banks. That was the indirect transfer of wealth.

Other transfers were more direct. The Fed bought up hundreds of billions in the banks’ bad mortgages (as opposed to underwater mortgages from the little guy). The Fed loaned money to banks at a low rate and banks used the money to buy Treasuries that paid a higher rate of interest. Some of that may have been by design, to repair the damage done by years of bad lending, but the net result was moral hazard and a massive transfer of wealth to the wealthiest.

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Conversation about Opposite Day

7 YEAR OLD NATALIE: Can I?
ME: Nope. Sorry.
7 YEAR OLD NATALIE: Can I pleeease?
ME: Nope.
7 YEAR OLD NATALIE: Today is Opposite Day. If you say I can’t, that means I can.
ME: It’s Opposite Day?
7 YEAR OLD NATALIE: Uh huh.
ME: If it’s Opposite Day then if you say it’s Opposite Day that means it isn’t Opposite Day.
7 YEAR OLD NATALIE: That’s not fair.

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QoTD – James Baldwin

“Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.”
  — James Baldwin

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Meet the Beatles

Nine year old Katie has discovered the Beatles. Now she can listen to my Beatles albums and we can talk about those together. Beatlemania sure beats the heck out of Bieber Fever.

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Cloudflare Update Week 2

Last week saw a 17% increase in page speed compared to the control period before using Cloudflare. I had a feeling I wasn’t seeing the full speed boost. Because lesjones.com has so many pages and images, it seemed likely that Cloudflare hadn’t seen them yet, so it hadn’t cached them.

To solve that problem I ran a linkchecker that accessed every linked page and embedded image on the site. That seems to have helped. Compared to the control period, performance has improved 34%. For my site that’s an average load time that’s about 2.3 seconds faster. Not bad at all considering it took almost no effort.

 

Cloudflare Results in Google Analytics

One thing that concerns me is that the page load sample for last week was extremely small – just seven pages compared to 24 for the control period. For various reasons Google Analytics can’t* and doesn’t** collect page timings for all pages.

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Both of those page load samples are very small as a percentage of traffic – just 0.45 for last week. At work the number is about 16%. I’m really not sure why the sample here is so small, but I’m going to continue the test for another week to be sure the results aren’t a fluke.

* From Google Analytics Help: “Site speed tracking occurs only for visits from those browsers that support the HTML5 Navigation Timing interface or have the Google Toolbar installed. Typically this includes: Chrome, Firefox 7 and above, Internet Explorer 9 and above, Android 4.0 browser and above, as well as earlier versions of Internet Explorer with the Google Toolbar installed.”

** That same help section says that “By default, a fixed 1% sampling of your site visitors make up the data pool from which the page timing metrics are derived.” However, that doesn’t match the numbers on this site or the one I manage at work.

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Word of the Day – Brigantine (Sailing)

From Wikipedia:


In sailing, a brigantine or hermaphrodite brig is a vessel with two masts, only the forward of which is square rigged.

Origins of the term

Originally the brigantine was a small ship carrying both oars and sails. It was a favorite of Mediterranean pirates and its name comes from the Italian word brigantino, meaning brigand, and applied by extension to his ship. By the 17th century the term meant a two-masted ship.[1] In the late 17th century, the Royal Navy used the term brigantine to refer to small two-masted vessels designed to be rowed as well as sailed, rigged with square rigs on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigging on the mainmast.

By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a ship type name, but rather to a particular type of rigging: square rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged on the mainmast.[Note 1] The word “brig” is an 18th-century shortening of the word brigantine, which came to mean a vessel square-rigged on both masts.[1] The early Oxford English Dictionary (with citations from 1720 to 1854) still defined brig as being either identical to a brigantine, or alternatively, a vessel of similar sail plan to a modern brig. By the middle of the 19th century modern meanings had more or less stabilised, although purists continue to debate the exact differences, or lack of them, between brig, brigantine, and hermaphrodite brig in both English and American usage.


I ran across this one  in the lyrics of The Stone Roses’ “Waterfall.”

Previous WOTDImage Macro

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Cloudflare One Week Update

Last week I routed the lesjones.com domain through Cloudflare. Their service serves as a content delivery network (CDN). They have locations around the world and can deliver files faster than my one location.

When a browser requests a file, Cloudflare fetch the file from my site and caches it. The next time the file is requested it comes from Cloudflare instead of my site. Their servers and Internet connectivity are faster than mine, so visitors get the file faster. The caching also reduces the number of requests my website has to handle, which should increase the speed of the website for other tasks.

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One week later, total page transfer time (the page plus the images) across the entire site is a little faster, about 17%. Roughly the entire 1 second load time speed up looks to be the average server response time.

Question is, is the change in page load time a fluke not related to the CDN/Cloudflare change? Or did relieving my website from serving all of those files free it up to serve out pages faster? It’s hard to say. I’m going to keep running Cloudflare for a few weeks to get a better idea.

Cache misses

I’m going to try something to see if I can improve the performance. I’ve got a big site with a lot of posts and images. Many of them may not have been requested yet. Cloudflare probably has just a fraction of the images cached. When those files are requested, Cloudflare doesn’t have them (what’s called a cache miss) meaning they’re still having to download them from the website for the first time.

To get all of the files  in the cache I’m running a link check this morning. The linkchecker will access all of the links and embedded images on the site, which will prime the cache.

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This Is Your Train on Drugs – Sydney and Minnesota Zoos Mothball Monorails

WiredAnother ‘Outdated’ Monorail Bites the Dust:

First, the pylons of Sydney’s monorail came tumbling down. Now, the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, MN has shuttered its aging monorail for good.

The troubled traincars took their last loop around the zoo campus on September 2, and now the zoo has announced the line won’t run ever again.

“It was an outdated system that had reached the end of its useful life,” spokeswoman Kelly Lessard told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Back in 2011, the train stalled, leaving passengers stranded 18 feet above ground. Firefighters rescued them with ladders when they couldn’t get the monorail running again.

Maintenance on a 34-year-old system was certainly an issue. But the biggest problem with the zoo monorail was that it didn’t have any stops along its route. Instead, it looped around the zoo, and those on board could only catch glimpses of animals as it drove past.

That’s the problem with trains. They stop at a fixed number of places which are set in stone when the train is built.

Meanwhile, buses can stop at any number of places and their routes and stops can be changed as demands change. Buses good. Trains bad.

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45 year old spoiler alert!

45 year old spoiler alert! Charlton Heston didn’t land on an alien planet. It’s really Earth after apes have taken over.

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Turning on Cloudflare

Speed is good – there are plenty of studies linking server speed and sales conversions on e-commerce sites. I’ve set a goal of getting our average page load time below three seconds as measured by Google Analytics.

One way to speed up a website is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDNs use a number of techniques to speed up content delivery.

CDNs have locations around the world, hence the network part of the name. When a file is requested the CDN determines the quickest path to get the file to the user, based on their location and network path. CDNs also tend to be lightning fast in terms of DNS response, redirect time, server response time, and Internet connection speed.

I’ve been making baby steps towards using a CDN at the e-commerce website I manage. With just some small changes the speed difference has been tremendous. The CDN is delivering static files like images, JavaScripts, and CSS files two, three, four times faster than we can. Besides delivering files faster, the CDN is offloading those requests from our server and Internet connection to theirs. That should make the server respond better to the requests it’s still handling, such as dynamic pages.

Right now we’re just using the CDN to serve out header and footer template images – things like the logo, navigation buttons, and CSS and Javascripts that are common to most pages. To really take advantage of the CDN we need to use it to serve product images, of which we have many thousands and which account for the majority of our downloads. The challenge is that as new products are created and new product images are uploaded, we’d need some way to make sure the new images are synced with the CDN.

One way to sync them is to select a CDN that supports caching reverse proxy. We upload the image. Our e-commerce system will put it in the right directories on our servers, such as/images/product/image.jpg. We change our templates to call the images from the CDN instead of our server using the same directory path, such as http://www.cdn.com/images/product/image.jpg. The first time the file is requested from the CDN it will realize it doesn’t have it, then look for the file on our website in the same directory. From then on the CDN caches the file and serves the file from its own servers.

Another way to move all of the images to the CDN is CloudFlare. Instead of changing URLs and uploading files, you just change your domain records to point your domain’s IP address to CloudFlare. All requests for anything on your site goes through CloudFlare. They cache the content that comes from your site and then serve it out over their CDN the next time it’s requested. All of your URLs stay exactly the same. The basic plan is free. Paid plans add some interesting features, like DDoS protection, additional speed enhancements, and mobile optimization.

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GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN DAY 4

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN DAY 4 – Lord Humongous and his motorcycle horde reign terror on the wastelands, seizing what precious little gasoline remains.

Judicial Watch Files FOIA for Information Related to Closing of WWII Memorial

McDonald’s Employee Admits Being Paid $15 to Protest WW2 Veterans

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