Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fight Night - 8 Count Productions


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Boxing Event in Chicago

My childhood best friend's husband is a fight promoter so I occasionally make it to their events. On Friday night, we went to their boxing event at the UIC Pavilion, the crowd was lively and the stadium was almost full, a vivacious crowd makes for a better event. Generally, the closer you get to the boxing ring, you will see what you would typical expect to see - fat dudes with women that look like hookers. So great people watching.

Fight Night at UIC Pavillion

boxing match


If you've never been to a boxing event, you should really try to make it to one. Good seats are essential (we were on the main floor about 10 rows back). Generally when I tell people they should go to a boxing match, they say "I don't like boxing". Do you think I like boxing? It is not like I sit around watching boxing on television, I don't even like sports, but I do love live boxing.

Boxer from Skokie, Illinois


The best fight I saw on Friday night was the kid from Skokie, I cannot remember his name. He was a young boxer and he was pretty much getting his ass beat for the first half of the fight. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the kid just got this crazy burst of energy and started throwing some great punches. The crowd went wild, and before we knew it, the fight was over. The kid from Skokie won!

Winning Fighter Announced


That evening there were one or two fights with Russian fighters, and unbeknownst to us, we happened to be seated in the Russian section. We were sandwiched in between three rows of Russians who chanted "Roos-ki-ya" as the fights went on. After one of the fights was over, a young fighter got cleaned up and sat in the row behind us. I believe he was a welterweight, he was so little, it looked like I could take him in a fight. Here is an article in the Chicago Tribune that talks about the fights.

We left just after David Diaz fought. @diablo_guapo was hungry and we were heading over to Three Aces before the kitchen closed. Next fight is on March 18th and I intend to get a group together for that fight. The tickets that we were seated in are normally $125 and my friends are going to give us dramatically discounted pricing so stay tuned for details.

Before we go, I thought I'd leave you with a picture of the ring card girl.

Ring Card Girl

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Best Dates I've Ever Been On


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Keeping With The Dating Theme

Earlier this week, while I was in my grammar class, I was thinking about this blog. I always write stories about negative experiences (because I think they're funny), in class I made a silent declaration to put a positive spin on a blog post for a change. In keeping with the dating theme, I decided to write about my best dates ever!

The Kid
Some time ago, I dated someone significantly younger than me. My friends and I had many nicknames for him (Research and Development, Tragic Yet Beautiful) but my favorite was "The Kid". The Kid and I started dating secretly, mostly because I was embarrassed about our age difference, but also because we worked together.

The Kid wanted to do something special for me. I normally planned everything and he wanted an opportunity to do something for me, create a special evening.

He made a reservation at Lula Cafe. When we arrived, the restaurant was packed, but luckily, I happened to know the bartender. After just a few minutes, we were seated at the table in the picture window. We had two bottles of wine and an amazing dinner. Throughout dinner, The Kid held my hand under the table and gazed longingly into my eyes. Normally, those things annoy me to no end, but oddly, on this night, I enjoyed the attention.

Our romantic dinner went on and on until we closed the restaurant. Next stop - The Green Mill. A Chicago treasure.

Green Mill, 2


Very much like Lula Cafe, the Green Mill also felt magical. We found a fantastic table, he ordered a Makers on the rocks and I a Basil Hayden's on the rocks. Bourbon drinkers rule.

After The Green Mill, we went back to his apartment. This made him very happy because I often complained about how crappy his apartment was and refused to go there. The Kid had painted his bathroom in honor of my visit. I was moved.

As I type this, I realize it doesn't really sound like the best date ever, but when I was trying to think of excellent dates, this was the first one that came to mind. I am finding that I am unable put it into words, but the whole night was dreamy, it felt as if we were in a love haze. The Kid hit a homerun with his date night.

My Surprise Date to Las Vegas
Quite the opposite of The Kid, most of my adult life I dated men older than me. When I was 24, my boyfriend was 12 years older and I used to call him Boss. I am trying not to give away who these people are because they're all in relationships and I don't want to be tacky, just trying to paint a picture.

Boss and I dated for two and a half years, in fact, he remains the best boyfriend I've ever had. Not my favorite, but the best - there is a difference.

One year for his birthday, Boss planned a huge night out. We rented a limo so Boss would not have to drive, we made dinner plans, made plans with his friends, my friends, etc. It was starting early and we planned to go out all night! I was thrilled (because I was 25 and drinking for 7 or 8 hours appealed to me at the time).

SUV Limos


Boss picked me up from my apartment in the limo and off we were for our extravagant night! We were heading to a new restaurant in the south suburbs that he really wanted to try. I had not heard of the restaurant, and I found it odd that we were going to the suburbs, but it was his birthday so I did not question the choice. Our friends were meeting us after dinner at a bar back downtown and from there we were going to a club - I was ready to let the good times roll!

We got on I-55 going south and there was a lot of traffic, Boss started to get anxious. As traffic worsened, our driver was also becoming nervous. The anxiety in the car did not make sense to me, why was it was such a big deal if we were a little late for our dinner reservation?

Even as we got off the highway and headed south down Cicero, I still did not get it. As we pulled into Midway airport, I still did not get it. As our driver opened the door of my limousine and Boss urged me to get out of the car, I was STILL confused. I thought we were going to dinner?

Boss was taking me to Las Vegas for his birthday and I failed to see any of the signs. I protested at first! What about dinner? What about our friends? What about my job?

The details had already been taken care of. All of my friends knew, no one was meeting us anywhere, they had all kept it from me. Boss had even arranged with my friends from work and taken days off for me from both my day job at the advertising agency and from my weekend job.

And off we went, to Las Vegas! It was the best date because I had NO clue. And, it wasn't even MY birthday but I still got the surprise.

Puppet
Puppet is someone I dated for a long time...a long time ago. Puppet was my nickname for him and it was also his nickname for me. Confusing if you were in our company.

Our first date was our best date. Both of our first dates were our best dates but I prefer the actual first date. (I count our first two dates as our "first date" because we didn't think a lunch date counted as a real date.)

I met Puppet out one night while I was with my girlfriends and he was out with his friends. We met at a hotel bar, everyone had a few drinks, then everyone left to move to a secondary location. On the way, there was a high speed chase, almost a big fight, rumors of a gun, the police showed up, tossing of contraband took place, and finally everyone arrived safely in Wicker Park for more drinks.

I gave Puppet my number the night we met and demanded he call me again - and I was NOT kidding. The problem was, we met the Thursday before Christmas, and with the hectic holiday schedule we were both committed to, arranging a time to meet proved nearly impossible. I remained hopeful that he would call and waited anxiously by the phone (did I mention, I don't call men). The first couple days, Puppet did not call. Finally, on day three, Puppet called. Rejoice!

Generally, I am not a pushy girl when it comes to dating, but when Puppet called, I insisted we meet even though he had plans. I did not want to wait until after the New Year because I knew we would lose the momentum, or even worse, I would lose interest.

We met for lunch the day after Christmas, it had to be lunch because he had plans with his family that evening. He picked me up at my apartment and we went to RL for lunch. The date went quite well.

RL


From the moment Puppet and I met, it was as if we had known each other our whole lives. It felt natural almost instantaneously. The day went over so well, that after our long lunch, we decided to take a stroll down Michigan Avenue. From there, we decided to go to Starbucks to talk. From there, he invited me to dinner with his entire family.

That was when I had to draw the line. I did not want to meet his entire family on our first date. I went home and we saw each other again the next day and pretty much every day after that for the next few years. Let's just leave it at...It was a good first date.

Related Readings:
  • Four Steps To Floor Your Dream Girl On Your First Date - Or Your Money Back!



  • Graham Elliot - Great Date Place!



  • Peninsula Chicago - Chocolate Bar Another great date place!
  • Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Dating Follies by Leyla


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    Dating Follies by Leyla

    It is late on a Friday night and I am not quite ready for bed. In the coming weeks, Sunday Morning Soliloquy will revert back to my "personal" blog and I will start a new blog to talk specifically about work-related events and learnings. This is a good thing because I truly miss just talking about myself and silly things.

    I was thinking about all the ridiculous things that have happened to me on dates, so I thought I would go through some of them here.


    The Guy Who Hasn't Been Into Me for a Decade


    We all have that guy who calls every three months and says, "God, we need to get together soon for drinks" and never sets up a date. Well, I have a guy like that who has been calling for a decade.

    I'm being very literal here, I met PJ in the late 90s, we met at a party and started to chat a bit. He asked if I wanted to leave the party and go to a secondary location. The secondary location was in close proximity to my apartment so I agreed. We had one drink at Le Colonial and I walked home (one block).

    Our first "official" date was supposed to be a week later, but I had a photography class and I wasn't really that into him, so I was looking for an excuse. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer so I agreed to go out with him after my photography class got out at 9PM.

    During the class, I received a text about a new lounge opening and decided to text PJ and tell him that I was sick and couldn't make it. Instead, I went to the new lounge with my friend Heather. About an hour into the night, I ran into PJ at the same lounge. I pretended not to see him.

    Surprisingly, PJ asked me out a few more times but we never connected. I met someone else, dated him for two and a half years, PJ met someone else, moved to LA and got married.

    Fast forward to two years ago. I noticed that PJ had moved back to Chicago but did my best to not run into him. Then one afternoon, in the parking garage of Whole Foods, our eyes met as I looked into the rear view mirror of BMW SUV. PJ got out of his BMW and walked over to my BMW blocking all the incoming traffic into the Whole Foods garage. Due to PJ insisting to talk to me, he ignored the traffic building in the garage for an inexcusable amount of time and I finally gave him my card.

    BMW Z3 Roadster


    This was one year ago. Since that time, PJ has called every couple of weeks and has tried to set up a date but has never closed the deal. He doesn't really want to go out with me, I think he just wants to stroke his own ego because I still take his call.


    The Gay Donny


    I met the Gay Donny around '00. I called him that because he looked like someone I know named Donny (who is already at the top end of metrosexual list), this guy was even more feminine, therefore we called him "The Gay Donny". But he was not really gay, I don't think.

    The Gay Donny didn't like me either, I was never sure why he wasted his time. On our second date he confessed that all of his front teeth were caps. When I inquired about this, he said, "I used to be a terrible drug addict, I was on meth and I fell asleep and clenched my teeth to the point where my top four teeth crumbled." I'm not sure how someone on meth falls asleep either but I did not spend too much time thinking about it.

    That was the end of The Gay Donny.


    Jay, The Guy Who Sent Me Five Dozen Roses the Week After We Met

    I know I am one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I really am, and you may be thinking I am a horrible person by this point. But think about it, who sends a girl five dozen white roses the week after they meet?

    I met Jay around Christmas, we went on one date, maybe two. New Year's Eve was approaching and Jay was going on a ski trip. He felt bad that we couldn't spend the New Year together, I was indifferent because I barely knew him. On December 30th, my doorman phoned me and said I needed to get to the building ASAP because they couldn't accept a delivery of flowers. I was angry with my doorman because I didn't see what the big deal was...until I saw the flower delivery.

    Jay had ordered five dozen roses from a flower farm in Central America. They were wholesale, long stem, white roses. You've likely never seen what a delivery of five dozen, long stem roses straight off the flower farm look like, so I will tell you - THEY ARE HUGE. The stems are almost four feet long and they arrived in large Federal Express boxes.

    White Rose


    It took me easily a half day to take the uncut roses (all with thorns) out of the boxes and tear the leaves off and cut them down to a size where they would fit into a vase. And then I had to giveaway at least 1/2 of the roses since I lived in a studio apartment.

    I wish I could say that this was the only ODD thing Jay did but it wasn't. In fact, Jay did so many crazy things that I dated him for months for one reason and one reason only - I couldn't wait to see what insane thing he'd do next.

    I could literally write a blog and dedicate it to Jay, that's how crazy it was dating him. He had an obscene addiction to Starbucks, he'd forget his wallet and we'd have to drive to his friends' homes so he could borrow money, he once lived in a hotel for six months, in his early 20s he had to declare bankruptcy for going into tremendous debt and his boss managed all of his finances, he had a severe Oedipus complex and he drove a Mazda Miata that he called "baby". It keeps going on and on and on.

    I do wonder where Jay is today. We lost touch after my 29th birthday party.


    Last summer, The Dude.


    I will leave you with this disgusting picture. I met a guy who I will call "The Dude" because he was such a dude. We met on eHarmony.com and he said he was 44 but I think he was really 47 (when I cyber-stalked him, I found an abandoned FB profile with a different age). This was the same summer I dated the 27 year old - so, technically, I dated a boomer and a Gen Y'er in the same summer...but that is another story.

    The Dude lived in Wicker Park, he was an original from the early 90s who never married or moved on. He was still a big partier, he was pushing 50 and could not see that the opportunities in life that were available to him a decade ago were long since past. I felt sorry for The Dude because he was a nice guy but he was such a dude that I could not imagine him connecting with any woman.

    On our third date, he asked if I wanted to meet at his place and have a drink and we could go to dinner from there. I agreed. He threw back three vodka sodas and then we went to dinner down the street. It was a perfect summer night, we finished dinner by 10pm, and The Dude asked if I wanted to go back to his loft and grab another drink on the rooftop deck. I thought it sounded like a good idea so I said, "Yes."

    We arrive at The Dude's place and he immediately announces that he has to go to the bathroom. I thought the instant announcement was odd, but whatever. After he returned from the bathroom, we grabbed our drinks and headed up to the roof. He wanted to smoke a cigarette, so he lit one. About half way through his cigarette, he got a look on his face like he was a 6 year old boy in a panic. The Dude then announces "I've got to take a s**t" and quickly runs back downstairs.

    I waited for The Dude to return from the facilities but headed home minutes later. The Dude and I didn't last more than two or three more dates. If you're a guy reading this and you're not entirely too sure what is wrong with the picture I painted above, perhaps you need to read The Relationship Handbook

    A very surprised Adam

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Monetizing Niche Content - Notes from Affiliate Summit West Coast


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    Monetizing Niche Content


    The Panel Consisted of:
    • Tricia Meyer, Sunshine Rewards, @SunshineTricia
    • Kim Rowley, Kim Marketing @KimMarketing own about 150 domains, trying to do less and narrow down to 10 sites
    • James Keating, VP of Marketing and International at ShopWiki, @JamesKeating
    • Lisa Picarille, Consultant LisaPicarille.com The moderator @lisaP

    Montizing Niche Content was a panel at Affiliate Summit West Coast that took place in Las Vegas the second week of January. It was the biggest Affiliate Summit to date and I was able to capture some highlights from this panel for your reading pleasure (along with some of my own commentary).

    This was my second Affiliate Summit and I’ve heard both Tricia and Kim speak in the past, Tricia at Affiliate Summit East Coast in '10 and Kim at BlogWorld ’09. I find both of them to be really inspirational – I believe they are both single moms (Not sure about Tricia), they have both been in the affiliate space for about a decade (maybe more) and they both have digital marketing expertise that is quite enviable.

    I was able to chat with Kim at the shareasale.com party on Sunday night and I told her how I remembered her at BlogWorld ’09, when I was very wet behind the ears, I was building HotBachelorette.com at the time. I built it in Joomla and Kim told me – “Stop, build it in WordPress” and I didn’t listen. I am in the process of moving HotBachelorette.com to a WordPress theme – I should have listened to Kim!

    At this session, there was more Q&A and less structured conversation from the panelists (which was a good thing), therefore my notes, an in turn this blog post, will be a bit scattered - but with lots of useful information.

    Tricia started out with the topic of monetizing niche content. She mentioned that she likes to watch for trends and purchases domains when news is released. For example, if she knows there is going to be a new The Twilight Saga book, she will purchase a domain (without infringing on copyrights) that correlates with the The Twilight Saga movie. She knows the movie will likely come out a year after the book so a domain that relates with that particular The Twilight Saga book will likely be available.

    For SEO purposes, be sure to add your trend in my domain name. For example, if your trend were music, you would want to include the name of that band in the domain name. Or, like the example above, if the trend is a movie or a TV show, include the name of the product in the domain name. Kim Rowley added that if the product or show is referred to by a nickname, purchase the domain name (and focus on keywords) by the nickname versus the brand name. This will also help alleviate any trademarking issues.

    An example of the above mentioned, I had pretty good success with my site HalloweenCostumesChicago.com. I still get OK traffic on that site, but the three weeks leading up to Halloween, I received about 4000 unique visitors. Yes, I own a bunch of sites like that, many of them I still have to build. Patience Daniel-san, patience.

    The question came up if anyone had ever had take any content down and Kim said she once received a cease and desist order, and she simply took the site down. This was actually a commonly asked question throughout the Affiliate Summit . When you’re in the business of trying to get your site to rank higher than the actual advertisers site, tactics regarding SEO and SEM and whether the practices you are using are ethical or not, can get a little blurred. Of the affiliates I’ve met, I believe people’s intent is good, it is just that sometimes things are not clearly defined in the digital space. As I mentioned in another post, the Affiliate Space is like the Wild West.

    On the subject of populating sites:

    • Original content is best, whether you have to pay for it or not
    • Using interns to get your content, college students, pay them $5 - $20 an article
    • Sometimes merchants give you content to put on the site but it isn’t always a a good idea because you will always rank below the original site where the info is located
    • What I do with merchant content – I use it and I manipulate it, I add keywords and I change the descriptions so that I am not publishing duplicate content
    • Outsource to India was brought up and James Keating from ShopWiki said not to do it – and I agree with him
    • Tricia tends to write a lot of her own content and product reviews
    • I currently write almost all my own content, I also have friends who help write content Although I don’t pay them, I often buy them a drink here and there when I can afford to

    Facebook Ads to help promote your niche content

    • Start a fan group (such as the Facebook Fan page for HotBachelorette.com)
    • Set your ads so they are ONLY shown to fans of people who are already fans, cheaper and higher sign up rate – according to Kim Rowley
    • Set your RSS so your newsfeed goes out to your fans

    Datafeeds

    This is a bit more complex and it took me over a year of working with affiliate marketing to “get” what a datafeed was – it was not until I started going to Affliate MeetUps, and working with Jason Rubacky from shareasale.com, that I learned how to do this. Check the ShareASale Blog for more info on datafeeds.

    Here is what the panelists had to say about Datafeeds:
    • Some sites, I pull in one merchant and populate an entire site with one merchant
    • On sites, where I pull from 4 or 5 thousand merchants, I use Popshops – Tricia
    • You can use your own datafeed, create it in PHP, and customize it
    • Affilistore – has a downloadable script that you can use to populate your site
    • Write content with a mutual point of view and then direct to merchant site

    Ways to monetize your niche content:

    • Adsense
    • Shopsense is an affiliate for fashion (CPA)
    • Chitika – I believe this is similar to Adsense, only shown to search engine traffic
    • There was one more mentioned that I cannot find, so instead, I am going to include a list of CPMs. Click HERE for a list of CPM's (alternatives to Adsense) from Problogger (however, this was published in '08, I am certain there is a better list out there if you look)

    Other Things To Consider When Marketing Your Niche Content

    Think about whether or not your audience is going to recognize the sellers. Because you’re in the space and you know the advertisers, the reader might not. Pay attention to the types of ads you put on your site. If it is a rich media or a banner ad, be sure that the creative is something that your readers will know and understand. Otherwise, stick to text links that make more sense for your target – like keywords or product over advertisers they may not know.

    Some other tools, tips and tricks used by the panel
    Skimlinks – put their javascript code on your site. They will auto-redirect your links to their network; a sub-affiliate network.
    • If you don’t have a lot of time and generate a lot of content, i.e., they add the link for you if you simply type the URL of the merchant
    • Works especially well if you’re not approved by certain merchant

    GoldenCan.com – heard about them years ago but I've never used the product
    • On niche sites when you don’t want to build out whole coupon sections
    • You can have a coupon section for your site – and you can generate code PHP to include just for coupon page without having to add coupons yourself all the time

    PopShops
    • PHP – included for SEO benefit
    • You have to know who you’re affiliated with (which merchants have approved you) when working with Pop Shops, it doesn’t tell you

    • You can build stores on Wordpress in about 15 minutes with PopShops – check out the Christmas Store I put up in literally an hour or two (this includes installing WordPress, signing up for PopShops, figuring it out, figuring out which merchants were mine, etc.)

    Newsletter
    • Put text ads in your newsletter
    • For those who sign up for newsletter, you can set it up so it pulls from your blog – an email RSS feed from your blog posts

    Q&A From The Audience

    Do you use links that are non-affiliate links for SEO purposes?
    • Yes, James Keating. His good content (most of the stuff on his first page) is free of affiliate links and then he has internal links to pages that have affiliate links.
    • I went onto ShopWiki.com and tested this, the particular category I chose, I had to navigate to four pages, or four clicks) before I was redirected to the affiliate site. In my opinion, this was too many. But what do I know, they’re a multi-million dollar company and I am just one girl.
    How would you know if there are merchants out there for your blogging?
    • It takes time and you have to spend time with your Networks looking at their merchants and understanding what is available
    What percentage of your traffic is free?
    • Most of the panel said their traffic was mostly free, SEO organic traffic
    • Some of the panel uses Google ads, or has in the past, but they mostly recommend working hard to get the traffic on your own
    How do you rank higher than the original merchants?
    • Tricia said she stays “ahead of the curve,” and “starts to write about stuff very quickly”
    • Follows news and trends and write your posts as quickly as you possibly can so that your post hits first
    More Points:
    • Google toolbar doesn’t actively tell you how your page ranks anymore. You don’t need a lot of links to make something pop, you need one or two good links and compelling content.
    For email:
    • Aweber and Pro Sender were mentioned
    • As everyone knows, I use MadMimi
    Google Adwords
      There are certain words you cannot buy, you should look those up and write your posts with those words in them. You will rank higher because you know others cannot buy those keywords.
    Where do you get your images?
    • Using images from people.com or some other source, give attribution for the photos
    • Wireimage – free account for celeb photos
    • I use Flickr and use photos from the Creative Commons and give attribution
    • I also take A TON of my own photos and save the in my flickr account for future use (I have over 5000 photos of my own)
    I asked about bounce rate:
    • You want a high bounce rate with affiliate sites, the key is to drive them OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE in hopes that they make a sale - this was James Keating from ShopWiki who answered this question.

    I hope this was helpful because it took me all day SATURDAY TO WRITE!