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Archive for August, 2007

Fun Facts about Fun Facts

Who doesn’t like fun facts? They are… well… fun. And factual. And for some reason they are popular.

Here on Quixo, we have of course, completely exploited them. We have Fun Facts About Spain, Fun Facts About Peru and even a tongue-in-cheek Fun Facts About Global Warming.

Early on we noticed that “fun facts” is a frequently searched phrase. But it has very little competition. There is a good reason for that. People searching for “fun facts” are not getting ready to spend money. So they aren’t worth anything to web publishers. They don’t generate ad clicks and they sure don’t sell product. But they are kinda like Top 10 lists — they are enticing to read and for some reason, even though they are always cheesy, people search for them.

Here is a Fun Fact about Fun Facts. They are absolutely tied to the school year. Check out this Fun Facts graph from Google Trends. I haven’t done any scientific research on this (yet) but I’m guessing kids need fun facts for reports. And teachers need fun facts for their lesson plans. And look, ‘animals’ and ‘geography’ follow the same pattern. Ooh, and check out the similar search trends for cliff notes, book report and bullies.

And here is another Fun Fact: Fun Facts do not pay off for webmasters. Before all you web content providers rush out to exploit this popular phrase, note that you won’t make any money off of it. Both the students and the teachers are searching, probably at the last minute for a class the next day. They aren’t about to spend money. They aren’t even gonna buy books because they don’t have time to get them delivered.

And one more Fun Fact about Fun Facts search trends. “Trivia” is much more popular than “Fun Facts.” And trivia and fun facts seem to trend inversely. I guess people are really into trivia during the holidays and slightly more into to it over the summer. And it must be more lucrative than fun facts — there is a lot of ad competition for that phrase in internet advertising programs like Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing. I bet websites sell all kinds of books and games related to trivia.

So get ready for the Fun Facts season, here it comes. And remember, here at Quixo, when we offer you Fun Facts (and Top 10 lists), we know we are completely pandering. And we also know we won’t make a dime off them.

August 29th, 2007

Crafty Goods for Kids

I’ve fallen in love with a website for hand-crafted kid stuff. Well it is more like a crush, I’ve only known about the site for a few days, but I just dig the whole hand-crafted movement, the beautiful design of the site and the idea of one-of-a-kind toys that are not plastic and were not made in China.

Mahar Dry Goods is a Santa Monica based web store with clothes, toys and other paraphernalia for kids. The site and brand are reminiscent something by retro comic hero Chris Ware. It is a wonderful world to visit where you can buy hand made objects or just check out the blog for the latest on hand crafted toy food or inspiring crafty art.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a bunch of the best toys that were our favorites when my kids were small. It was a few years ago that we struggled in our search for more obscure and natural toys. I even designed a bunch of odd custom stuffed toys for babies and almost even finished sewing one (hey, twin babies are a little time consuming). And now it seems like there are tons of crafts people making brilliant original toys. (We also used to, by the way, search long and hard for cool, interesting or punk toddler clothes, and now you can’t open a trendy magazine without getting them crammed down your throat — hello, it is not cute any more. And toddlers shouldn’t have ‘juicy’ on their butts.) Anyway…
What I really enjoy about Mahar Dry Goods is that there seems to be a movement of people creating craft that is art and is still new and modern and is anything but mass produced. And the latest internet mumbo jumbo makes it possible for online communities to develop and share these very low-tech pleasures. It helps me understand a little better my appreciation and enjoyment of pottery. We are hooked into and inspired by this digital world, but there is still a place for tangible objects that are made from the earth and show the imprint of the person who made them.

1 comment August 26th, 2007

The Crows are Back

Well they’re back, whoopin’ it up at dusk in huge numbers in the local trees. I refuse to believe summer is over, but the flocks of crows that like to party around here have started their antics. Last month it was a very very loud mocking bird making some kind mating call through the warm summer nights. Now it looks like the crows are getting together for some nice fall roosting.

For a few years I had wondered about the raucous crow festivities here in LA, so in January I asked asked Kimball L. Garrett of the Natural History Museum a few questions about crows in Los Angeles. He has some insights into crow behavior and some perspective on why they seem to take over urban areas. Basically, we’ve replaced the native scrub habitat with crow-friendly trees. And we don’t shoot them like farmers do (it is against the law, so don’t try). Read the article to learn more.

And I’m sure we’ll hear more complaints about the flocking crows this year. I’m still betting that someone here in Santa Monica will come up with a bazillion dollar crow birth control program. So stay tuned for that….

August 26th, 2007

Peru Earthquake Relief: How to Help

The folks here at Quixo have been busy communicating with friends in Peru about the devastating 8.0 earthquake that hit last Wednesday.  We’ll be posting some more travel information soon, but in the meantime, please help any way you can.  Donations to any organization with folks already on the ground there can make a difference.  These include the Red Cross, the Embassy of Peru, and many others, including many religious organizations.

(Our friends at the Peru Food blog have some moving pictures and more earthquake news.)

More very soon -CC

August 23rd, 2007

Quixo Finally Hits MySpace to do some designing

Quixo on MyspaceWell I finally got myself on flippin’ MySpace. Yea, I know, I hear you saying I’m too old for that crap, it is a complete waste of time and, besides, it is sooo last year. You know what I say? Like, whatever.
MySpace actually keeps growing, especially for musicians, film makers and non-profit organizations who want to connect and to have a place where it is easy to post updates, music and videos. In fact, the new non-profit/issues section, “Impact,” is getting revised and improved as we speak. I just keep bumping into people who need professional design for MySpace pages. Thought I might as well join on in.

Myspace was not originally written to be customized or used for anything but personal profiles. And for some reason they refuse to change that. Much whining has been blogged over this. So customizing is a bit limited and takes some ugly code. Still, within those restrictions one can find comfort and there there is plenty you can do (especially if you know a little css and html). And show some restraint. And more restraint. Like anything basic design principles apply — pick a limited cohesive pallet of colors and type faces. Line stuff up. Sketch and mock it up before you try to force it to appear in myspace. Oh, and there are massively helpful css hacking tutorials like this.
So I have some custom pages coming up and I’ll share them when they are ready. And till then, you can stop by my custom Myspace page and befriend me.

August 20th, 2007

Eva Zeisel exhibition comes to Los Angeles

Eva Zeisel’s body of work will be on display in Los Angeles in celebration of the industrial designer’s 100th birthday. The exhibition will run from September 9 to December 30, 2007 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Museum Row at 5814 Wilshire Blvd between Fairfax and La Brea. The show is coming from a run at San Diego’s Mingei Museum of Folk Art.

Eva Zeisel Book, Designer for IndustryZeisel is an industrial designer who, throughout the last century, has produced ceramic dinnerware for mass production. Approaching her 101st birthday, she continues to work from her studio in New York. Her strikingly simple organic shapes are so unique and personal, they are being presented at the Folk Art museums (unusual for mass produced items). In addition to dinnerware, Zeisel designs furniture and decorative pieces, crystal and tea pots, many on view at the exhibition.

I’ve come to admire Eva Zeisel’s work through my parents whose collection appears in the exhibition. Years ago they fell in love with some everyday china that had been used in the family in the 1950s. They got curious and, just a little naively oblivious to the fact that Eva Zeisel was already an icon in industrial design, contacted and befriended her. After years of crawling Ebay, thrift stores and estate sales they’ve amassed an extensive collection of her work and a brilliant network of Eva enthusiasts. They even started the Eva Zeisel Forum (formerly the Eva Zeisel Collector’s Club). (They have a Forum site and a site where they post their latest Eva collectibles up for sale).
There are some excellent books on Eva Zeisel. Eva Zeisel, designer for industry is a beautifully produced book with amazing photography. It is out of print but available through Amazon sometimes, so grab it if you can. Eva Zeisel by Lucie Young is a lighter read with a good amount of biographical information. It is a much smaller book but fun. If you want to hear it straight from the designer’s mouth, Eva Zeisel On Design is a much deeper look at the craft of industrial design, presented through various essays and articles by Eva Zeisel herself.

Eva Zeisel Nambe BowlYea, she’d an icon, she’s in museums and she is producing some very high end work that nobody can afford. But you can still buy her latest work. Nambe is currently selling a very sheik line including polished metal bowls, vases and various wine glasses and goblets. You can see them here.

The one I’m gonna pick up for is the Eva Teakettle, mostly because I really need a tea kettle.

Eva attended the opening in San Diego (which I missed) so I’m hoping she’ll make the LA event!

2 comments August 13th, 2007

Commission Junction Shuts Down!

WTF? Commission Junction was becoming one of my favorite affiliate service providers. Then suddenly today the site totally choked. I’m lucky I have a little site I run for fun. But many businesses, including Commission Junction, are gonna lose thousands of dollars.

It appears these guys in the UK tried contacting them.

What happens is this: websites like mine who have affiliate links have big hole in their pages where ad banner images used to be, like on my cheap airfare website page. And then if someone clicks the hole where the ad used to be, the get nothing. The servers that forward the link clicks are down too. And the reporting servers as well. It is impossible to see the main Commission Junction site or any of the reporting and management pages.

Many pro sites build code into their ad serving so that if one network does not show ads, another network is pulled up. I bet many more sites will be implementing this now!

For my part I still hope Commission Junction can build their affiliate offerings. They do a pretty good job and provide a nice alternative to Link Share. Seems like a good thing to have both options available at this point!

UPDATE: as of 3 PM Pacific Time CJ seems to be up and serving ads! Hopefully they’ll have some kind of information about what happened.

August 11th, 2007

DVDs Make Your Babies Dumb

It is just so hilarious and sad to read this article in yesterday’s LA Times – educational videos reduce the vocabulary of babies. When I wrote up my best toys for toddlers article a couple of weeks ago I included a mini-rant against dvds for babies and toddlers and Baby Einstein in particular. I think it is pretty self-evident to anyone who has actually watched these videos that they are crap.

If you haven’t seen them, they go something like this: Bad music (the kind that some annoying toys play so you let the batteries wear out), very bad puppetry (the kind you could do yourself, only worse, and without the benefit of seeing a real, loving human), bad video clip (often blurry and poorly edited), repeat, repeat, repeat.

Baby Einstein clearly doesn’t offer anything truly innovative or stimulating and the horrible production value should be a tip off. Nobody spent too much effort making them. “Heck they’re just for babies they won’t know the difference,” evil laugh, sound of carting off bundles of money. These videos are just a mind numbing distractions that a parent can justify because they are well marketed.

And I guess they pulled it off. Disney bought up Baby Einstein. Then, the poster child for reduced vocabulary, President Bush, in one of those ridiculous staged moments of his 2007 State of the Union address, pointed to Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark to celebrate her enterprising spirit. Yea, for selling that crap business for $200 million. Go America!

I actually like TV and think it is a powerful educator. Especially when kids get older and can really learn from it. And I can even imagine videos that could be properly researched and well executed so that they stimulated the minds of babies and toddlers. I suggest a video of the kids’ caretaker talking to them and playing with them. But Babies and toddlers can find so much more in the real world like playing with their feet, looking out the window and shaking rattles. Anything.

Anyway, the point is, don’t force your kids to watch this crap. If you just can’t help yourself, show them videos of actual people talking or singing or playing real, good music. Or better yet, give them toys and spend actual time interacting with them.

August 8th, 2007

Betty Lou’s Spirulina-Ginseng Balls are the Best

Betty Lou's Spirulina Ginseng Balls from AmazonBetty Lou bakes bountiful bundles of satisfying Spirulina-Ginseng Balls, so when you are buying Spirulina-Ginseng Balls, be sure to buy Betty Lou’s Spirulina-Ginseng Balls. They’re the best. I know Betty Lou makes all kinds of healthy organic sugar-free healthy snacks including lots of vegan items. And she has many other treats like Almond Butter Balls, Coconut Macadamia Balls and Fudgie Filbert Balls. And not just balls, she also makes all kinds of bars. I just thought it was kinda funny to find Amazon selling, of all things, Spirulina Ginseng Balls. But then I remembered they just started the new Amazon Grocery Store. And it looks like their store has a much wider health food section than say, Costco. You might not be able to do all of your shopping through Amazon Grocery — they only offer non perishable items. But it can be a good alternative, especially when you are looking for the cheapest prices on items you know and love. Oh, and it is covered under Amazon Prime! (Do you know Amazon Prime yet? It is completely worth it! Quick free shipping on all of your orders. I easily pay for it on a couple of last minute birthday gift orders a year. And you can share your membership with people in your household.) While you are at it you can order some Ka-Me Satay Noodles in a Microwavable Box — man those peanut satay noodles are good. Yea. From Amazon.

August 6th, 2007

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