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Alfa Omega Tax Services….. a Change in Your Finances
|| 9/20/2009 || 10:55 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Following up yesterday’s entry about having my name in Greek, I came across this photo I took a couple weeks ago in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. I took it because, well, umm, I like the way the sign looks chiseled, old, and how the creator used the Greek letter DELTA instead of ALPHA (err, Alfa) in their spelling. Thus the sign should read, Delta & Omega Tax Services— I guess they are not about the beginning and ending of fiscal matters, but the change thereof.



5 More Random Banners Now ‘Greek’ Visitors
|| 9/19/2009 || 3:47 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Banner Graphic Featuring I-35W Bridge Quilt #2

New banner graphic featuring my name written in Greek over I-35W Bridge Quilt #2

About a month ago I had a random friend request on Facebook from a woman named Athina who lives in Greece. Opting to inflate my friend count over potential security fears, I added her without question. A couple weeks later I visited her Facebook page and noticed that she has a blog that was written completely in the Greek language. I had just posted my latest batch of banners using the Cyrillic alphabet, so I sent her an e-mail asking if she’d be interested in translating my name into Greek. She obliged and today I made 5 more banners to be randomly displayed.

Greek is one of the languages I’ve always wanted to learn. I spent some time in high school taking Latin, which I have since found to be an invaluable contribution to my continued exploration of history. But Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean around the time of the birth of Christ, has always fascinated me. The Septuagint, a 3rd century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, used this dialect of the language. And while modern Greek is considerably different in many aspects from it’s thousand+ year-old counterpart, I would still like to learn both or at least start getting my mind around the alphabet.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t return the cultural exchange for my friend Athina who did the translation for me. She owns a yacht charter company called Stamatis Yachting, which offers a wide variety of yachts that can take you & your friends around the various Greek islands. They also have skippers that can be contracted so you don’t have to know how to sail in order to experience the joys of sailing on the Mediterranean. If you are planning on a trip to Greece in the near future, please do not hesitate to contact her about chartering one of their yachts.

Below are the rest of the new banner graphics hyperlinked to their original blog entries:

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A Digital Dérive Through On-Line Advertising
|| 9/18/2009 || 2:57 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

A screen grab from my entry titled: You Are Probably Not Here, which is a different type of Dérive

A dérive is defined as an attempt at analyze the totality of everyday life, through the passive movement through space. In the late 1950’s French writer Guy Debord first theorized this concept in his studies of architecture. Combined with another Debord term, psychogeography, which is “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals,” the dérive is a means for people to haphazardly explore and learn about their environment through random or pseudo-random methods. Examples of a dérives include exploring the urban environment with a predefined set of arbitrary rules, such as strolling down the street (a Flâneur) and taking only right turns when you see someone a walking a dog or making left hand turns only when you pass by houses that are painted white.

As Guy DeBord wrote in “Theory of the Dérive” in 1958, “In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” In essence, the dérive is both an objective and subjective means to view the urban environment.

Fast forward to the present day. The urban environments still exist, and in most cases, these cities have grown substantially over the last 50 years, but there is also a new type of environment that exists today that did not fully exist in DeBord’s time: the digital environment.

Today computer users conduct their own strolls on the internet. They are loosely guided by search strings and mouse clicks. They surf through webpage after webpage seeking knowledge, entertainment, and connections through a medium that is not defined or limited to the physical space in which they live. Buildings become blogs and flâneurs become link lemmings, following the hyperlinks of their blind curiosity.

While some still myopically place the dérive as a strictly urban activity, the digital environment, both manifesting itself on the internet and in computer games, are akin to megalopolises, cities, towns, and villages in their own right. Examples would be the vast digital expanse of games like The Sims, World of Warcraft, or Second Life, which feature digital environments where thousands upon thousands of people from around the world interact within the constructs of the respective games, while never needing to physically meet each other in person. Another example would be those that comment on blog posts or message boards, where the website itself becomes the city, and the articles, blog postings and forum topics become the streets, and the users are the flâneurs, strolling and trolling through ever-increasing content.

However, combined together these participants do not always take part in a de-facto dérive, but rather are merely present within this complex digital environment and may take it upon themselves to conduct a dérive. And that is what I am writing about today.

For quite a few years I eschewed the presence of advertisements on websites. I found them to be visual clutter, like an architectural eye sore of a blighted city. Over time, however, I grew bored of my blog’s layout and I felt that my little digital city (errr, scrapbook) needed some urban planning and ideally, more citizens (visitors, errr, I guess they’d technically be immigrants?). So on a whim, I decided to start serving Google AdSense ads on my website. At first I reverted back to my original reaction, where I thought that my new urban design was tacky and had failed, but then something changed.

As a god of this alternative reality, I was only seeing that which I had coded and created myself. Like looking at a vast sea of sameness, day in & day out, I began to warm up towards these visual invasions that were created in someone else’s digital environment. I began to see that they offered a welcomed distraction. In fact, it is this very type of distraction from the spectacle of reality that first Debord spoke of many years ago. Why does this spectacle exist? What website lies beyond that ad? What is at this animated exit on my digital highway? And why was it so important that someone is actually paying money for the ad to be shown?

Thus began my own digital dérive into on-line advertising.

Since I cannot legally click on my own ads (Google considers that fraud), I went to my friend’s blog, which has a small text ad at the top. Out of genuine curiosity, I clicked on that ad. The resulting page also had an advertisement on it. I clicked on that ad, whereupon I discovered that the resulting page also had ads on it. So click on that ad as well…

The premise of this digital dérive through on-line advertising is quite simple. Explore the internet only through pages with advertisements. Where do you end up? How many ads do you click on before you hit the dead end of the digital alley? Before you jackknife on the information superhighway? What observations can be made through this type of stroll through the internet? Do you end up in digital city or a dark alley of get-rich-quick schemes?

To many people, time is money. But to many others, so are clicks on ads. Depending on where this digital dérive begins and ends someone is making money and someone is also theoretically losing money (unless of course, the act of taking part in the dérive benefits the person paying for the ad, as in, you discover something meaningful on the website of the ad you clicked on). Like the construction costs of the buildings (not to mention their monthly rent) in Paris that Debord strolled through, few things are really free. It takes time to click on ads, just like it takes time to walk down the street looking for houses that are painted white. But unlike construction costs or rent in a building, a digital dérive can be conducted in the comfort of one’s own home and with minimal resources- without the need for shoes or even clothes- only a computer connected to the internet, which over the last decade has become extremely inexpensive. Or completely free if you go to the library.

In essence, a digital dérive can be done in private, while the dérive of Debord’s day was done in public. But if no one sees you walking down the street and you don’t write about it or share the experience with others, did the dérive actually take place? Paradoxically, while a digital dérive can be experienced in private, where no one sees you in person, your journey does leave a trace– in the form of the websites logs. Your IP address will show up on each of your stops in your digital dérive and while it does not leave an exact size 10 shoe footprint, it contains its own geographic markers of where your IP address resolves to. But its a footprint that is scattered across the internet instead of sequentially left in the dust & mud of city streets. It’s a solitary footprint that webmasters cannot immediately tell that a dérive had even taken place. Similarly, people walking down the street participating in a dérive do not nessesarilly have signs saying “we are conducting a dérive,” but they can be see by others in the urban environment.

On-line advertisers want you to see them. They want you to purchase their product & services or be influenced by their very existence. But the digital dérive outlined in this entry is not for them to exploit. It’s for you. Its a means of self-discovery through external stimulation. A method to understand the vastness of the digital environment through a single conduit: advertisements. It doesn’t have to be solitary- two people can sit in front of a computer and choose which ads they think will beget more ads. Moreover, this dérive doesn’t have to be as I directed above, instead you can take turns clicking on ads and clicking on regular links simply to see where the path leads you. The rules are not hard and fast, but rather they are up to the flâneur. Its merely a form of digital exploration that might yield it’s own rewards for you, while paradoxically adding a couple cents to someone’s coffers and removing a couple cents from someone else’s coffers. In essence its a postmodern example of psychogeographical exploration, but without predefined borders; where the environment is wholly located on your computer screen, at a specific location on the surface of the earth, and you are the flâneur strolling from one disparate location to another, without a passport or a map, just strolling, strolling, strolling.


The image at the beginning of this entry is from my entry titled “ Postmodern Cartography: You Are Probably Not Here.”



Removal of the Competitive Ad Filter [Selling Out Part Two]
|| 9/17/2009 || 11:34 pm || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

My previous entry about seeing an advertisement related the very organization I was mocking struck a chord with me. Why fight the tide? As in, why take issue with competing ideas?

Since I added Google AdSense earlier this year, every time I found an advertisement that I didn’t want showing on my website, I would log on to Google AdSense, and add the URL to my Competitive Ad Filter. But who was I competing against? Were the ads merely competing against my own ideology?

Was I saying, “Hey Nikolas, you don’t want your visitors to think you tacitly support [insert company]?” or “Do I want some organization that advocates beliefs contrary to my own showing up here?” And I came to a two-fold realization….

First, by limiting the competition for ads on my website, I was earning less money each time someone clicked on an ad. The way Google AdSense works is that companies bid on keywords and these keywords are triggered by content on my website. When there is less competition for these keywords, other companies pay less for the ads to show up on my website. So why earn less, when I could just as easily remove ALL the ads entirely? Why continue to log into AdSense and add to the Competitive Ad Filter each time I found an ad contrary to my ideology? I began to view this practice as a futile effort, akin to swimming in quicksand.

Second, I actually enjoy seeing something different each time I view my blog. As someone who has spent years compiling this content, I know exactly what I am going to see (within a certain degree) every time I visit. But the ads are somewhat random and this makes the experience more engaging on my end (and maybe yours as well?). I can’t say the same for those people who happen to stumble upon my website for the first time and think they look tacky (sorry!). But I can say that they bring a certain amount of personal entertainment that goes beyond the authorship of this content. They show who is paying for words— and words retain a certain degree of power. Thus I can see who was fighting and winning the war of words right on the top of my website– in real time.


Earlier today I removed all of the websites that I was blocking in my Competitive Ad Filter. As the title of this entry suggests, I have, to some degree, completely sold out. The Part One related to the title of this entry is about the removal of the robots exclusion protocol that blocked web crawlers from accessing the content of my website a year & a half ago. By selling out then, I began a radically new direction (paradoxically, a direction most people automatically start at) and this entry highlights a subtle change of course. The moment I opened the floodgates to web crawlers, every personal opinion, every word, every image, every map, EVERYTHING that I had spent years creating and documenting was placed within reach of a simple google query. Before that moment, it was reserved only to those who knew me or knew of me. While this might seam contrary to the nature of the internet, I did it all on purpose and I have zero regret.

Nonetheless, as Part Two begins manifests itself, I expect to see more ads that go against my ideology, but now I fully welcome them. I welcome these contrasting viewpoints in order to strengthen my own. And maybe, just maybe, earn a few bucks to pay for my hosting and domain names.



Thinking About An Ideological Ad Filter For Google AdSense
|| || 12:45 am || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

Screen capture of this blog showing advertisements from an organization that I was mocking

Talk about having a postmodern moment!

This screen grab of my blog entry features an ad from one of the organizations that I was mocking…..



Did you notice? I switched over to FeedBurner. Eh.
|| 9/16/2009 || 9:03 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

FeedBurner is a blog feed management provider that was originally launched in 2004 and purchased by Google in 2007. It provides custom RSS feeds and management tools to bloggers, podcasters, and other web-based content publishers. Unlike the old system of scattered RSS feeds emanating from this website, by switching over to FeedBurner I can accurately see more information about who is reading my blog entries and possibly make a couple bucks by having Google AdSense ads served alongside my content.

I had thought about switching over to FeedBurner last year, but at the time I hadn’t signed up for AdSense and thought it was just a waste of time fooling with my RSS feeds. However, I was really curious to see exactly how many readers I had obtained over the years and this was the only option that I was aware of that provided this information. I know, for example, that my website receives hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors each day and most of them simply transverse the archives and go on their merry way. But what about those who currently view my newest content through RSS and never visit my website? That is where FeedBurner comes in….

Last week I spent about 5 hours one evening trying to figure out a way to synch ALL of the feeds on this blog (each category used to have its own feed) with FeedBurner. After reading various blog entries about how other webmasters were able to manually edit their .htaccess code to redirect all of their RSS feeds to FeedBurner and was unable to get my mod rewrite to synch ALL the feeds properly, I gave up. But, alas, I didn’t fully give up, instead I just went with the basic WordPress Plugin that FeedBurner offers and it appears to have done the trick. I should have just gone the plugin route from the beginning, but eh, I wanted to see my own coding capabilities.

By testing the different available feeds in Google Reader, it appears that no matter what format readers were already subscribed to (RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, ATOM etc.) the feeds have properly synched with FeedBurner. This just means that if some day in the future I decide to not use FeedBurner, there will be little overall change to the current subscribers. Instead, only those who subscribed to FeedBurner itself will need to change their subscription method and all others will not really see much of a change (probably just no ads).

Nonetheless, if you haven’t yet, please adjust your RSS reader to be subscribed to:
https://feeds.feedburner.com/thedailyrender
Or you can just keep your subscription the same…..



YouTube Video of Teabaggers Having A Rally On Astroturf
|| || 6:43 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||


[Watch on YouTube]

Last Friday, on the evening before the Taxpayer March On Washington, a large group of teabaggers, patriots, small-government conservatives, and libertarians staged a rally at CityCenterDC, the site of the old Washington, DC Convention center. Little did they know they were standing on Astroturf.

Astroturfing is a word that describes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns which seek to create the impression of being spontaneous “grassroots” behavior. Being that the Taxpayer March on Washington was promoted heavily by Fox News and other conversation media organizations, it was far from being a grassroots mobilization. So when I realized the demonstrators were actually standing on astroturf, I decided to make this short video to highlight the irony of the spectacle.


Related Taxpayers March on Washington, DC Entries:
Photographs of Friday’s Opening Rally of the Taxpayers March on DC at CityCenterDC
Photographs of Friday’s Opening Rally of the Taxpayers March on DC at CityCenterDC
Photographs of the Taxpayers March on Washington [PART ONE]
Photographs of the Taxpayers March on Washington [PART TWO]
Photographs of the Taxpayers March on Washington [PART THREE]



As predicted, Russia Today continues to promote 9/11 Conspiracy Theories on the 8th Anniversary of 9/11
|| 9/14/2009 || 11:09 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

As I predicted last week, Russia Today continued their somewhat unusual promotion of the 9/11 Truth Movement during the 8th anniversary of 9/11. Instead of producing one or two news reports, which I expected (specifically one about the Van Jones resignation), the news organization produced no less than seven in the last week. On the flip side, there wasn’t many other articles or videos produced by any of the major news organizations in the same period that address the questions surrounding the world changing event. As I posited last week, I am still curious as to why Russia Today continues to be the only news organization covering this contentious topic. Does the Russian government believe in the conspiracy theory? Does the Russian government hope to destabilize America by producing propaganda that makes American’s question the official story? I still don’t know, but I think its important to understand why no other news organization, privately owned or state sponsored, is aggressively reporting this issue as much as Russia Today.

Below are the YouTube videos Russia Today produced in the last week:

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Three Photographs of Cara Ober’s exhibit “Love Letters” at Civilian Art Projects
|| 9/13/2009 || 9:26 am || + Render A Comment || ||

Photographs of Cara Ober's exhibit Love Letters at Civilian Art Projects

After I went to Friday’s Opening Rally of the Taxpayers March on DC at CityCenterDC, I rode my bike to the gallery opening at Civilian Art Projects.

From the Civilian Art Projects website:

Love Letters is Baltimore-based artist Cara Ober’s first solo exhibition with Civilian Art Projects. Ober layers drawing, painting, and printmaking into mixed media works that examine and reinterpret sentimental imagery. Intricate and funny, Love Letters explores the relationship of the artist to image, word, and personal meaning found in the exploration of secret fantasy and expressive interlude.

The exhibition will be up until October 17th, 2009.

View the two other photographs I took:

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  • thank you,
    come again!