Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Evil Ways of Shinichi Suzuki [insert ominous laugh]


Robert has reached the abyss, and it is unclear what will happen next.

Book #1 of the Suzuki violin method includes 17 songs for the beginning violin player to learn.  These are exercises that help the young player explore very basic violin fingering and bowing techniques.  For generations, many six-year-old children have learned these songs on their way to becoming intermediate or even advanced students of the violin.

Death Zone

But with delicious cruelty, Dr. Suzuki laid a trap in song #17, Gavotte, by François-Joseph Gossec.  In the very last song, sadly, with the end of the book in sight, many aspiring children have encountered this most hideous of obstacles.  They have stumbled and never gotten up.

I speak of the the dreaded sixteenth-note strings beginning in the song’s 28th measure.  Robert can see the bodies lying around him as he has now arrived at this most dangerous, and demoralizing, passage.  Like the Ice Fall sector of the climb up Everest, only the strongest can continue. Will he survive this challenge? Only time will tell . . .

Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror

This is an excellent article at the NYT.


BAMAKO, Mali — The cash filled three suitcases: 5 million euros.

The German official charged with delivering this cargo arrived here aboard a nearly empty military plane and was whisked away to a secret meeting with the president of Mali, who had offered Europe a face-saving solution to a vexing problem.

Officially, Germany had budgeted the money as humanitarian aid for the poor, landlocked nation of Mali.

The suitcases were loaded onto pickup trucks and driven hundreds of miles north into the Sahara, where the bearded fighters, who would soon become an official arm of Al Qaeda, counted the money on a blanket thrown on the sand. The 2003 episode was a learning experience for both sides. Eleven years later, the handoff in Bamako has become a well-rehearsed ritual, one of dozens of such transactions repeated all over the world.

While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.

In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.

These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.


As some of the readers of this blog know, Robert is a beginning violin student.  He does not really know why is trying to learn this most difficult of musical instruments.  In some vague way it is for the kids.  Also, it gives him a much better appreciation for things like this . . .

Website Analytics

Business has been a little slow lately, so it is a good time for Robert to work on marketing his law practice.  He’s spent a little time this week tuning his professional website’s analytics dashboard.  Perhaps some of this blog’s dedicated readers may be interested in hearing about that.

Any website owner is interested in knowing how his/her site is viewed and used by the public.  This is where web analytics platforms come in.  For example, Google offers a free* web analytics platform that any website owner can use to understand who is coming to the site and how users interact with the site once they get there. [* caveat: As everyone knows, when the software (or software service) is free, it’s the user that’s being sold.]

Robert’s professional website is not very fancy, and it is not terribly interactive. It is not an ecommerce site.  It is primarily an online brochure that explains his business.  He can send people a link to his site if they want to understand the services he provides.  His site is not something that people often find with a search service, for example, Google Search.  But sometimes they do come across his site after searching on Google, and it is nice for Robert to know more about what search terms are used to find his site.

Here’s an image of the dashboard Robert uses to analyze traffic to his site.

Image Dashboard

This report covers only the traffic occurring during the last two days.  Since Robert’s website is not often visited, the numbers are pretty low.

You can see that there were only 4 visitors (sessions) to the site during that period.  You can see that 1 session was initiated by a computer in Berlin, Germany, 1 in Corte Madera,California, and 1 in Durham, North Carolina.  You can also see that one session occurred in an unidentified city.

You can also see that one session occurred through a network identified as “apple inc.”  This is interesting.  Robert went to the Apple store in Corte Madera yesterday and they took his email address which uses the same domain as his website.  I looks like they automatically scraped his website for information about him as a customer. Presumably so they can know more about him  and sell him more stuff.

Another visitor came in from a network identified as Crome Architecture.  Robert happens to know who this is.  His friend Scott Myers works at Crome Architecture. Robert’s dashboard tells him someone at Crome Architecture, probably Scott, visited Robert’s site and viewed 13 of its pages.

The other networks used to visit Robert’s site were Emerson Electric (which Robert discovered is located in Durham, North Carolina).  Robert does not know why someone at a company named Emerson Electric would be viewing his site.  But he used the analytics platform to discover that the page of his website that that visitor “landed” on (i.e., the landing page of the visit) was his blog page.  So, apparently, someone at that company searched the web and stumbled upon one of his very informative blog posts. He does not know which one.

It looks like the visit from the unidentified city discussed above was probably in Latin America, because the name of the network domain where the visitor was located is named “net servios de comunicao s.a.”  This is probably an Argentine or Brazilian visitor, as the site has had some traffic from those countries lately.

For the most part, looking at the analytics reports for Robert’s website is not especially helpful to his business. It is largely just an exercise in curiosity.  Sometimes something interesting is discovered. For example, Robert knows that his resume went out recently to a company looking to hire a General Counsel.  By looking at his dashboard, he knows that someone on that company’s network was poking around his website.  Presumably to understand his qualifications.

The bottom line is that we should all have some understanding of information about our visits to websites are tracked by website owners.  Website owners like Robert.

Snobbiest Small Cities in the US

Woo Hoo!  #4

As in our Snobbiest Mid-Sized Cities list, California reigns supreme in the elitism department, but that’s hardly surprising. It is a pretty wonderful place, after all, and Californians know it. If you want to see where your hometown ranked, you can check the 50 snobbiest cities at the bottom of the list. So, what is that certain je ne sais quoi that makes a place considered snooty? Why, it’s simply obvious if you look at it the right way.

How We Created This Ranking

When creating this ranking, we had to refine our search a little, as well as our tastes. Still, we kept this by the numbers, as we do with all our Big Deal Lists.

We first made a list of places in the U.S. with populations between 65,000 and 45,000 people. Then, we collected data from the 2010 U.S. Census and business listings in criteria that many consider snobby (think Frasier and Niles Crane):

  • Median home price (the higher the better)
  • Median household income (the higher the better)
  • Percent of population with a college degree (the higher the better)
  • Private schools per capita (the more the better)
  • Performing arts per capita (the more the better)
  • Art galleries per capita (the more the better)
  • Fast food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)

We omitted any places that we could not get the data for, and that left us with 309 places. Then, we ranked each place in each category from one to 309, with scores closer to one being better and more snobby. Once we had that, we averaged each place’s rankings into one Big Deal Score. The place with the number closest to one for that score became our snobbiest place.

Now, as we said earlier, “snobby” doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Most of these are wealthy communities with many opportunities for work, education, and culture. Heck, we’d probably be pleased as punch to live in any one of these. However, with all that culture, wealth, and exclusivity comes people who have simply the most rigid of standards that must always be met. These 10 places cater more to those sorts of people.

Let’s look more in depth at why each of these simply devine locales ranked where they did in our rigid standards then, shall we?

Long Weekend

Robert and Mira spent the weekend at parties.  On Friday and Saturday they celebrated in St. Helena at the wedding of David Salesin and Sylvia Fong.  On Sunday it was Robert Sr.’s 80th birthday party in El Sobrante.  Whew!robert-mira-by-frank-lee (edit1)