Sunday, February 23, 2014

My First Week of AdSense

It's been a week now.  How has AdSense done for me so far?  (You can read Parts 1 and 2 by clicking on the links.)

I'll come out and say it: very disappointing.  Over the first week of having AdSense turned on, I've only received two clicks for a total of $1.28.

Though, an average of 60 cents a click really isn't that bad.

I've decided to step it up a bit.  I'm going to try adding an AdSense widget under my main post.  (Hopefully it won't show up on my RSS feeds ... I don't want these ads to be too annoying).  Right now it's showing up blank, but I think after a couple of days, it'll be approved, and I'll be in business.

Also, I must report an annoyance.  There was this one T-shirt ad that kept popping up.  It wasn't anything terrible, but it didn't seem to match my blog.  So, I attempted to block that specific ad.  However, I found that to be nearly impossible.  I tried to find the brand name of T-shirts to block, but I came to realize that the advertisers are listed, and not the brands being advertised.  And I have no way to know who the advertiser is.

What would be very helpful is this: Since the blogger isn't allowed to click on his own ads (so as to produce income for himself) ... it would be nice to program the interface so that if the blogger does click on the ad, it opens up a list of options: "Block This Ad" and other options bloggers may be interested in.  This would be a lot more useful than "do a Google search on the key words of the ad to figure out who the advertiser is."  (I hope I don't ever have to go searching for an offensive topic just to block that ad.  Who knows what the NSA might think about me?)

I had to ultimately decide to block ALL shirt ads.  The good are going out with the bad!

Oh well, this has been fun.  This is not going to be a big source of income, but at least it's fun!  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Monuments Men - An Okay Movie

As a movie, The Monuments Men had some issues.  It had slow pacing in parts.  Some scenes were confusing.  It relied heavily on sometimes painful cliches.  Even the music was cliche.  But still, I was able to watch and enjoy learning about this part of history I had never heard before.

Seven men (four Americans, one Englishman, one Frenchman, and one German) are sent to save works of art during World War II--the time period immediately following D-Day.

At first, the seven men feel a lot like placeholders--pawns moving on a board without character or history.  But as the story progresses, we finally see some interaction, and I was able to start caring about these guys.

The movie attempts to play with a little humor.  I went in expecting Ocean's Eleven meets The Dirty Dozen.  However, the humor was very light and not very funny.  Though, I never found this "humor" detracting.  Rather, it was like regular army guys grilling themselves (like the scene in the attached trailer when Matt Damon steps on a land mine).

Evidently, a lot of what happened in the movie was true.  Though, a lot was dramatized.  In actuality, there were 345 Monuments Men, which was reduced to 7 in this movie.  Well--the movie does show other men helping out in some scenes, but I have no idea where they came from.

George Clooney did well in this I'm-doing-everything movie, though it comes across as an indie movie.  It makes for a good date night movie.  It's a good story to be told, and I highly recommend watching when it comes out on DVD.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Working with AdSense - Part 2

Yeah!  My blog has been approved for showing AdSense ads.  Though, I'm a little confused at the email I received.  It says ads will start appearing at this URL:

This is my post and not my blog.  I'm sure it's nothing.  I've checked other posts, and the ads are appearing there, so I assume any post in this blog is now "monetized."

I've already seen two different ads: #1) Something about slow macs; and #2) Something about Adwords (a Google tool).  But I'm not clicking on them.  It's against the rules!

The email also provides a link to where I can follow the performance of the ads. Let's check it out...

Okay, first there's an Online Terms and Services page.  Blah blah blah.  Lots of legal speak.  Section 5 is about payments.  I'll receive payments each month as long as I meet a threshold.  $100 is the threshold. Though it seems if I make any earnings less than $100, I still need to report those on taxes.  And if I cancel before earning $100 and if I make more than $10, then they will pay me whatever balance they owe.  Hmm ... can I make $100 in the first year?  That seems like a lot of clicks!

After $10, they'll send me a PIN to my home address, and then I can set up steps toward getting paid.  Payments appear to be by electronic transfer or by checks.  I don't see any PayPal.  Interesting stuff.

The rest is boring stuff that I can read later should any strange event occur.  They have to cover their butts.  Okay, I've read the agreement ... continuing ...

Hey, I'm at the dashboard.  It says I've earned $0.00!  Awesome!  I've caught the stats before anyone has even clicked on any of the ads!  Hopefully this will be a rare event.  Will I make a penny on the first day?

Here's a screenshot:

Zeroes are pretty!

Okay ... up at the top, there's "My ads."  I'll click on that.  This gives me a list of all my ad units.  I only have one ... the one off to the right side of this blog.  Here I can control different aspects of the ads like font color, background colors, etc.

Under "Allow & block ads" I can choose what ads to allow and block.  I can even give specific URL's if I find them particularly annoying.  For example, I really don't want scantily-clad women dancing next to my writing blog, or iffy gambling sites. I'll have to watch (and please let me know if you see any ads that seem out of place with my blog).

I can also allow or block categories.  Okay ... sensitive categories: Gambling & Betting is already blocked.  I can't even turn that one on unless I mark my blog as being 18+.  I see a couple of sex-related categories: off and off.  Get Rich Quick? Give me a break!  Off.  Black Magic & Astrology?  Sounds interesting, but I don't use that stuff in my sci-fi.  Hmmm ... or do I?

Oooh ... I can reject specific ad networks.  And there's something called "Ad review center" that isn't quite turned on yet, but says it'll be available within an hour.

Okay.  This has all been fun.  In the time I've written the last few paragraphs, I've had a 4th page view, but still no revenue.  I'll check back later.  We'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Experimenting with AdSense

Every now and then when I log into my Blogger Dashboard, I see this advertisement for AdSense. It's a way to add an ad or two to your blog and earn a few cents on the side.

I figured ... what the heck? I'll give it a try. It's consistent with this year's goal of making a dollar's profit.

Doing some quick research, I see several bloggers who advise against using AdSense, as it can distract from the blog, or somehow send people away from your blog. However, I'm not really selling anything at this time. (First I have to get published.) So, what do I have to lose? Hopefully I can place a non-obstrusive ad off to the side to the right, and people will keep reading my blog.

If it doesn't work out, I can remove it. I just want to experiment and go through the experience. I'll let you know how it turns out, and if it's really worth it.

Here's what it's like to sign up.

First, I have to read all the fine print. "Don't do bad stuff on your blog." Gotcha. Also, I'm not allowed to click on the ads on my own site, and I can't encourage anyone else to click. Makes sense. I figure most of my clicks will come from random people who happen to stumble on my blog.

I click the "Get Started" button and away we go. First, I choose the Google account to link with. Then I must identify the webpage that will get the ads. Paste that URL in there!

Uh oh ... I get an error message saying: "Please register for AdSense directly from" Heh ... that's how I thought I approached AdSense. Okay, let's try this again ...

Go to the Dashboard. Click on "The Word of Mel." Click on "Earnings." Click the button that says "Sign up for AdSense." And it looks like where I was before.

#1) Yes ... use this Google Account.
#2) Oh, this is different. My blog URL is already selected. Continue.
#3) Now it asks for personal information. They ask for my full name as it appears on my bank account, but don't ask any other information about the account itself. I suppose I can worry about that later...

Then "Submit my application."

Okay, now I got a window that says, "The AdSense widget has been added to your blog template." Now to customize...

But wait ... the next page says, "Your AdSense account is awaiting approval." So it seems a human will have to go over the application. (More readers for my blog, right?) At least I'm able to choose where to display ads. I choose "Display ads in my sidebar." Save Settings ... and that's all I can do for now.

Well, that was fun! It was relatively painless except for that one hiccup near the beginning.

If you've had your own experiences with AdSense, feel free to leave comments. I'd like to hear from you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Midnight Showing Logic?

The night before a movie's released, it's customary to show a "midnight" showing.  This is the big premiere.  If you're a die hard fan, this is the showing you must see.  If you're a really die hard fan, then you must even dress up like one of the characters.  And why?  Because everyone else who shares your same desires for that movie is going to be there!  Imagine the energy and the fun and the hangover from staying up so late!

Why midnight?  I think it has something to do with some rule that you can't show a movie before the calendar date it's supposed to be released.  So, 12:01 it is.

However, it seems that ever since the Batman shooting in Colorado, this rule has been relaxed.  Now the customary "midnight" showing is at 10:00.  Sometimes it's even as early as 8:00.

I just had to point out a couple of lapses in judgment, though.

#1) Ender's Game.  It was released on Friday, November 1, 2013.  So, the "midnight" showing fell on Halloween night.  For some strange reason, the decision was made to show the movie at 8:00, supposedly to attract kids, the target audience.  However, at 8:00, these kids were still wrapping up their Halloween candy collection or counting their booty.  And while the kids were busy, the parents couldn't go, either.  I think they would have gotten more ticket sales that first night if they had gone with 10:00 instead.  Ooops!

#2) The LEGO Movie.  It was released today, so the "midnight" showing was last night.  If anything, this movie is targeted to even younger children than with Ender's Game.  But this time, they went with a 10:00 showing?  As it was, I had to force my boys (who really wanted to go) to take a nap before we went.  And this is what happened ...

We had the whole theater to ourselves!!  Boo-yah!  We were able to laugh it up pretty good (and it was pretty funny--watch out for an upcoming guest review of the movie sometime next week).

I can't help thinking that if they had shown this at 8:00 instead of 10:00, there would have been more ticket sales.

Is it just me?  Or are these really two cases of no-brainers gone bad?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

12 Years A Slave - Review

I seldom like to watch Rated R movies unless there's a reason to watch it. By far, most movies that earn this rating do so with gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity that add very little to the actual story at hand. Some movies rise above this annoying formula and provide Rated R material only because the story demands it: Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist, The Godfather (I and II).

I would add 12 Years a Slave to this list. I had no idea that slaves were stripped naked when sold off like in a meat market. I had no idea that lashings could cause so much damage. This movie provides several terrible images that will permanently remain etched in my memory--a testament as to how horrible weak-minded people can become.

Solomon Northup is a free man from New York. Tricked by human trafficking thieves, he is kidnapped and sent down south (Georgia, I think, judging by the cicadas and accent). For 12 years, he serves at a few different plantations.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a mostly benevolent Christian master who turns a blind eye. Paul Dano and Michael Fassbender convincingly play despicable lowlifes that get a high off of ruling over those unfortunate to be under them--while at the same time having no real power in life outside of their precious plantations.

Chiwetel Ejiofor nails down the conflicted protoganist. I would really like to see this relatively unknown actor beat the other big names at the Oscars. (Well ... he did play that one dude in 2012, but we won't hold that against him, right?)

Brad Pitt was the only weak actor. His role is only a cameo--an Alfred Hitchcock-like insertion of himself into his own movie. Unfortunately, his delivery was not very convincing. If only he could return to his glory acting days (12 Monkeys).

The movie literally tears apart all hope. Several times, I wanted it all to end. It's very hard to imagine being subject to all these horrors every day with no hope of deliverance. Only the fact that we know he'll be rescued in twelve years gives the hope to continue watching. And when it comes, it's almost hard to believe.

The movie is nearly perfect, except I found a few of the cuts to be a little confusing. For example, Northup is sent to this one plantation and five minutes later, he's back at the really bad one, and I didn't understand what had happened. Also, when Northup is finally rescued, it didn't feel as if twelve years had passed. Maybe a year or two. It also felt that there was much more to the story, and the screenplay was holding back.

Then comes the best part. It turns out in the end (according to the written blurb at the very end) that the ones who kidnapped Northup get off scott free. But then you know what the real Northup did? He wrote a book. He immortalized the sins of these despicable people. Their names are forever tarnished, and they will only be remembered for the horrors they propagated, and for the smallness of their minds.

Yes, Northup got the last laugh.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Movie Reviews: Thor, Hunger Games

Over the past couple of months, I've been busy watching movies. Now to do some catch up work ... I saw these movies back in December.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Isn't it interesting how people say they like the first book the most, but the second movie outshines them all?  They say it's better than the book.  It's better than the first movie.  I'd have to agree on one point: the movie is done well, and yes ... it may be better than the book.

As I've stated before, I enjoyed the second book more than the first.  Now that world building is out of the way, Catching Fire is able to give us much more character development and action.  All of the characters become more human.

The acting is good.  Evidently, Jennifer Lawrence's recent successes have yet to go to her head and get in the way of her acting.  The music is good.  The book adaptation is excellent, where minor plot omissions actually help the plot move faster and cleaner.

The only thing I didn't like was the very ending (what comes next is a minor spoiler) -- a strange uncharacteristic look by Jennifer Lawrence, followed by a strange CGI animation of the Catching Fire logo morphing into the Mockingjay logo.  Yes, I realize the movie ends right where the book ends, and that doesn't work well with a movie, but this choice in directing (in my opinion) did not smooth over the issues.  Rather, it seemed to confuse the audience.  Even my kids were like: "What the heck was that?"

I look forward to the third movie (which is rumored to be split into two ... <groan>).  Even though many say they hate the third book the most, I predict that the masses will love what's coming next, which should lend itself very well to the screen.

Thor: The Dark World

I went in expecting more, but Thor: The Dark World gave me a lot of empty action with very little actual story.  Well, it did have a story, but it wasn't very interesting.  It was very predictable and formulaic.

The movie was still well done.  The action was a fun roller coaster ride.  The visuals were outstanding (I didn't see it in 3-D as it wasn't shot in 3-D).  The acting was believable.  It's just that I've seen this all before.  The movie didn't provide anything new.  I didn't feel anything when any of the characters died.

I was a little disappointed, especially given that I enjoyed the first movie so much.  I suppose Michael Straczynski can't write every Thor story!  (I can just picture him on an online dating video ... "I love movies.  I wish I could write them all.")

I should also mention the dangerous life-threatening anomalies that plague the Earth in this movie, and yet, NOBODY DIES from them -- that is, no civilians were killed in the making of this movie.  This isn't a deal breaker, but still pretty funny.

In general, this show has some of the strangest science I've ever seen, but then again this is the last place to be looking for "good" science.  As far as I can tell, Phil Plait has yet to write one of his science analyses on this movie.  Breaking the laws of science only comes across as cool in this movie.

And one last bit ... does anyone else see any striking similarities between this movie and the recent Season 2 of The Legend of Korra?

This movie didn't seem to last too long in the theaters, but it may still be at the $2 theaters.  If you haven't seen it yet, it's still worth watching in the theater to at least see all the cool effects and action, but don't expect a very memorable story.