Bad Comic Panels #6: General Fang two-in-one

I could have stretched this one into two separate posts, but since they would both concern the very same character (again, much like Karl Kort, never seen again after this story, sadly), and are from the same story, I chose to do a “two-in-one” with the best / worst two panels featuring this fascinating “yellow peril” villain, General Fang, featured in The Incredible Hulk #5, from 1962.

The first is after the Hulk, disguised as the Abominable Snowman (don’t ask), had destroyed a few of Fang’s tanks and weapons. Naturally, his men are worried:

General Fang: "He dared to advise ME! To the FIRING SQUAD with him!"
Most leaders, even actual dictators, typically have advisors. But not Fang. Nosiree. He is far above that.

But Fang, reminding me of a couple of bosses I had in the past, knows how to deal with those pesky outside contributions. I bet the other guy, the one with the simian look and the ridiculous huge bowl with a star, will not ever think, in the future, of offering the slightest suggestion to his most glorious general!

The next panel comes a bit later in the story, after Fang has ordered the launch of his missiles into the peaceful neighboring country of “Llhasa”, which is of course not meant to be Tibet (whose real-life capital is “Lhasa”, with just one “L”), perish the thought.

General Fang: "It's time for the hordes of General Fang to strike terror to those who were foolish enough to survive my missile attack!"
Would YOU be foolish enough to survive his missile attack? Come on, spit it out. Would you?

As the caption in the panel says, the Hulk stops the missiles, but Fang doesn’t know that yet, and so he orders his cavalry (just the right choice for attacking snow-covered mountains, I guess) to attack, and to “strike terror to those who were foolish enough to survive (his) missile attack“.

Because, when General Fang attacks your country, to even survive is but mere foolishness. Makes sense. 🙂 I must use this phrase more often…

The Hobbit (ZX Spectrum, 1982), and how a kid became a geek

Note: this post is expanded from one in my old blog, The Games of My Life.

Back in time, to a 1982 game I played in 1983, on my first computer (well, technically my father’s), a 48K ZX Spectrum: Melbourne House’s The Hobbit.

The Hobbit -- starting location
The Hobbit -- starting location

This game… well, it has a story, and I’m not talking about the “Bilbo, Gandalf and a bunch of dwarves go on a quest to retrieve a dragon’s treasure” one. I mean a personal story. I guess I could say that this game changed my life — as much as anything can change one’s life, I guess.

So you’ll have to bear with me — or, of course, skip this post. Because this one is as much about “why I’m the way I am” as it is about the game — perhaps more. And it’s a long one. 🙂 More after the break…

Continue reading The Hobbit (ZX Spectrum, 1982), and how a kid became a geek

Bad Comic Panels #5: “You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!”

You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!
Source: Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #53, 2008

No, I won’t go into detail about this panel, or the… story… behind that infamous phrase. For that, I refer you to an article titled, quite informatively, The Stark, Existential Horror of Tarot #53. Mostly safe for work, but you’ll probably wish to take a shower after reading it… and it’s not the blog author’s fault, believe me.

As to the comic itself, Tarot is a pile of contradictions. The stories themselves are a mix of “so bad it’s good” and “so bad it’s bad“, but, on the other hand, the comic is done very professionally, usually with great art, coloring and all that, and the author (Jim Balent) is clearly having fun with it and just doing what he wants (and he can do that, since he owns the publishing company). I also suspect that Balent isn’t above making fun of himself from time to time — there’s no way ((we can only hope)) that he wrote the panel above for drama. 🙂

The comic currently has more than 60 issues published, and it’s still going, so I guess it sells… though I bet that virtually no one buys it for the plots; it’s probably a mixture of enjoying the “so bad it’s good-ness” and, well, the beautiful naked women ((no, there isn’t a black rectangle in the actual comic. I’m trying to keep this a relatively “family-friendly” blog, at least for the moment.)).

Anyway, this one is relatively well known, but I had to include it in the Bad Comic Panels series; otherwise, when this blog becomes insanely popular ((any day now)), people would then ask me about it all the time. 🙂

Bad Comic Panels #4: “a pretty young lady can always be of help — just by keeping the men’s morale up!”

"A pretty young lady can ALWAYS be of help -- just by keeping the men's MORALE up!
Source: Fantastic Four #12 (1963)

Yes, if your sense of humor is anything near mine, you may be grinning already, after reading the dialog above. 🙂 But, for the full effect, this entry in the Bad Comic Panels series requires a little more background.

So, Fantastic Four #12, which we’ve already seen before, was, I believe, Marvel’s first “crossover” ever; until then, all of its characters stayed in their books. The Hulk (whose identity wasn’t publicly known at the time) was being suspected of sabotaging some missile installations in a military base, and the FF were asked to help capture him. After a page where the three male members of the Fantastic Four boast, very childishly (yes, even Reed Richards) about how each of them will use his own powers to capture the Hulk, the Invisible Girl, Sue Storm (she hadn’t married Reed yet), says that she probably won’t be of much help (this was before she developed her force field / turn other stuff invisible powers; at the time, her only power was to turn herself invisible, nothing more), and General Ross, without realizing how his words could be interpreted in a later, more cynical age, implies that that’s not a problem, as:

… a pretty young lady can always be of help — just by keeping the men’s morale up!

“Morale”? That’s what they called it those days? 😀

Of course, arguably the best part is yet to come, as Reed — Sue’s boyfriend, and eventual husband — agrees with Ross:

That’s just the way we feel about Sue, general!

In other words, agreeing that her girlfriend — and, by extension, all women — aren’t much good for anything… but that’s OK, because the only thing they need to do is look good. Ah, early Marvel comics. 🙂

AWStats tip: removing ‘chromebar’ from search keyphrases

Being still less than a month old, it’s normal that I keep looking at this blog‘s stats quite often, and one of the most interesting bits — especially if you care about SEO — is the top search keyphrases list. I use both AWStats and Google Analytics for this site, and, concerning the former, I had been curious for a while about why the top search leading people to my blog was apparently for “chromebar“.

Now, I’m pretty sure I had never mentioned that term on this blog, so I thought AWStats might have been doing something wrong. A quick grep on my logs, and where “chromebar” came from became obvious: it’s from the StumbleUpon add-on for Google Chrome. The whole combination was necessary; StumbleUpon users with other browsers weren’t triggering anything like this.

Now, here’s what the “referrer” part of a hit from StumbleUpon, using Chrome with the SU add-on, looks like:


While a hit’s referrer from SU with another browser looks like this:


See the difference? The Chrome version has a query string: ?device=chromebar&version=chromebar% , while the other one doesn’t. And “chromebar” appears at the beginning of that query string.

Now, StumbleUpon is listed as a “search engine” in AWStats, in a file called lib/ , and that file optionally specifies which part of a query string (e.g. “q=“) from the referrer is the actual search. For some search engines, however, no such part is specified — meaning that they don’t provide it in the “referrer” part of the hit. Such is the case with StumbleUpon, where the query string part is an empty string.

But there seems to be a bug (or maybe it’s an intended feature?) in AWStats here: if no part of a query string is specified, and yet there is a query string, AWStats seems to use the first part it catches. As you can see above, that was ?device= , and it was always set to chromebar.

The easiest way around this problem (I don’t know if the AWStats authors will consider this a bug or not; I’ll try to report the problem in the near future) is to edit lib/ and add a non-existing query string part to StumbleUpon. Open that file with a text editor and look for this line:


and change it to:


Presto! No more “chromebar” entries in your stats in the future. (It won’t delete current entries, though, unless you clear your AWStats cache files for that month and generate new stats.)

Bad Comic Panels #3: “It’s a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization!”

It's a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization! That means -- Karl Kort must be -- A RED!
Source: Fantastic Four #12, 1963

Comics, like all forms of art, are a product of their times. In the early 60s, American mentality was still mostly based on the 50s, with their sexism ((and there’s an even better one in this very issue, but I didn’t want to go after the same theme twice in a row, so you’ll have to wait for a future installment of Bad Comic Panels.)), and a huge dose of paranoia, especially in relation to Communism and the Soviet Union. At those times, many people really thought that a Soviet invasion was imminent, and that America was already full of Communist spies and sympathizers. If you read the first year of, say, Iron Man, the Avengers, or the Hulk, you’ll find a lot of “red menace” stories, with “commie” villains so obviously evil that, in a way, it negates the paranoia — there would be no fear of Communist spies if they were so easy to spot. 🙂

The example above is one I always found funny, ever since I read it a couple of decades ago. Obviously, Rick Jones’ dialog is great (“That means — Karl Kort must be — A RED!”), but there’s also that other little morsel: that a Communist spy kept his membership card in his wallet! 😛 Rick’s description of the organization Kort belongs to is also unintentionally humorous, and I have always found it funny to imagine that the card itself read something like:

(hammer and sickle)  RED MENACE  (hammer and sickle)
Subversive Communist-front Organization
Member name: Karl Kort

After all, “subversive” and “Communist-front” weren’t terms that the average teenager was likely to use, were they? So, maybe Rick was in fact reading from the card! 🙂 Anyway, sadly, this colorful and interesting villain, filled with intelligent and original motivations, didn’t ever appear again. Who knows what interesting, innovative stories featuring Karl Kort, and the organization he was a member of, could have been written…

More on Google vs. Bing, and the “7-day-long Bing trial”

After my last couple of posts looking at the comparative hits between Google and Bing and investigating the reasons for the huge discrepancy (Bing bringing me a puny 2-3% of Google’s hits), I’m still curious about this subject. So far, it appears that Bing brings me 2-3% of what Google brings because it has 2-3% of the users Google has… which seems too low a number to me. Yes, “google” as a verb has entered everyday language (“I’ve just googled for it”), and it’s the default browser on most non-Microsoft browsers (though I’ve heard that a couple of them changed their defaults to Bing recently), but, well, Internet Explorer is still widely used (unfortunately), and it certainly defaults to Bing.

Further investigation may be in order, but, unless both companies reveal their search volume, there’s no way to know with certainty. We can look at other statistics such as Alexa, which are certainly far from definitive, and which lists as #1 worldwide (and remember that there are many other “international” Googles), and Bing as #20 worldwide (#14 in the US). Google (again, just the “.com” version) is listed as having a “reach” of 49.05000, while Bing supposedly has a “reach” of 4.77600. This puts Bing as 9% of Google, but if you add in the international Googles, the 2-3% actually sound like a plausible result.

Still, all of this, and we haven’t actually asked an important question: how good actually is Bing, for users? Are people — even Internet Explorer users — using Google out of habit / popularity, or is Bing in fact a worse search engine — say, providing worse, less relevant search results, giving you exactly what you want at the #1 position less often, or not even finding something that exists when Google does? Only one way to find out: my 7-day-long Bing trial. (Actually, 8-day-long, since I started it yesterday, but I think that ending on a Saturday is nicer than on a Friday).

Until April 2, I’m going to be using Bing as the default search engine on my main browser (Firefox 4), and I’ll post my impressions after that time. If you’re interested in SEO, or simply curious, I’d suggest you try the same — learning is always good, isn’t it? 🙂 To do it in Firefox:

  • for the search engine box (typically on the right), it’s easy: just click on the little “down arrow” in the box, and choose Bing.
  • for the URL box (typically on the left), go to about:config, accept the so-called “risk” if it’s your first time doing so, search for keyword.URL, and change it to ““, without the quotes. Yes, it ends with an equal sign. To switch back to Google, change it to“. I believe this is unchanged if you’re using Firefox 3.x instead of 4 (though you really ought to upgrade, Firefox 4 is great).

Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 2: positions)

In my previous post, Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 1), I showed how three of my sites — a recent US-hosted blog in English, a popular Portugal-hosted forum in Portuguese, and a search engine-weak US-hosted aggregator in English — had a much greater proportion of search engine hits from Google than from Bing — about 100 Google hits for each 2-3 Bing hits. Naturally, the next step would be to investigate whether this is just a matter of quantity — in other words, Bing has 2-3% of the users Google has –, or whether there are other factors affecting this, such as the three sites having better rankings in Google than in Bing. This, then, is the subject of this post.

The method I’ll be using is the following: for each of the same three sites used in the last post, I’ll be searching for a number of phrases that I think should, reasonably, lead a user to the site. I won’t look at my stats to get the top phrases from there; as most hits come from Google, I’d just be using phrases that I already know work for that engine. And, for each phrase, I’ll note the position my site came in — it at all.

Remember that a lower number is better. Also, a caveat: I am not really testing how “good” each search engine is, only how good it is at sending people to my sites from appropriate queries. I have, however, avoided “gaming the system”; the queries are reasonable and not “custom-designed” to lead people to where I want, and the pages / sites are relevant to them.

Note: all queries were as written below; i.e. without quotes.



For this very blog, I searched for things I know I posted about — but not the exact titles. Instead, I tried strings that I myself would use if searching for those subjects:

wasp room full of menN/A (1)1
chaos spectrum43
penetrator spectrum22
awstats mrtgN/A (1)2
awstats static pagesN/A (1)1
nudity art pornN/A (2)6


For that MyBB forum with mostly Brazilian and Portuguese users, I didn’t go for particular posts, just some strings that a Portuguese-speaking person could possibly use, and I counted the first forum post that appeared. I tried to diversify; hence the “dragonball”, “dragon ball” and “dbz”. I also tried both and, which seem to prioritize pages differently (perhaps because that site is hosted in Portugal);, however, was exactly the same as in terms of results, only with the user interface in Portuguese.

fórum dragonball311
dragonball portugal422011
dragonball português6314
dbz português10132
dragon ball episódios714

Planet Atheism:

And, finally, my FeedWordPress-based blog aggregator. As I explained in the previous post, PA doesn’t ever show posts individually; there are only the main page (and, page 2, page 3, etc.), author pages, and archives by date. On all of these, the post links go to the original blog posts; therefore, search engines treat all of PA as non-original content (and this is by design); because of that, searching for something in a particular post is mostly useless. My alternative was to search for more general terms:

atheism blog327
atheist blog3N/A (2)
atheism40N/A (2)

(1) category pages that included the post were indexed, but not the post itself
(2) not in the first 100 results, at least


For Winterdrake, Bing was a pleasant surprise, winning 5.5-0.5. Not only did it apparently index every post in the site, even some very recent ones, but it also returned a first page result for everything I threw at it — including two “number ones” that Google doesn’t even seem to currently index, for some reason. Therefore, a Bing user actually has a greater chance of getting to Winterdrake — assuming he or she is interested in something on it — than a Google user. In other words, Bing wins on “quality” — but still only sends me 3% of the users Google does. Are there really so few people using Bing? I had figured something like a 10-20% market share, not 2-3%…

As for the few non-indexed posts on Google, when the category pages have been indexed after the posts were written, I assume the reason for that is the fact that Winterdrake is still very new, and has almost no incoming links. In a couple of months, I expect that new posts will be quickly indexed by Google, as Bing already does. Still, there’s currently an advantage for Bing here.

DragonBall-PT gets mixed results. Compared to, Bing wins 3-2. Compared to, however, Bing loses 1.5-3.5, meaning that “which” of the Googles people use is an important factor. Still, if we assume that most people use “their” national Google (I don’t, but I’m weird…), Google wins this time, and that was reflected in the results on the last post: Bing sent me only 2% of the people Google (all of them put together) did.

Finally, for Planet Atheism, Bing is a big disappointment, losing 0-3 to Google. 🙁 Either because it “hates” non-original content to a much greater degree that Google does, or because it is less “intelligent” in adapting to / understanding similar terms, it failed to show PA in the first 100 results for two thirds of the search strings I used, while Google did great with two of them, and even had a reasonably decent result for an incredibly competitive, 1-word term such as “atheism”.

Another thing I noticed is that most of the first couple of results pages in Bing for my atheism-related queries actually showed anti-atheism blogs (“atheism sucks”, “stop atheism”, and several others). That’s like searching for “democratic party” and getting mostly Republican propaganda pages. 🙂 I don’t want to sound paranoid… it’s probably just an algorithmic thing, instead of there being a less-than-honest religious programmer at Microsoft… 😉

EDIT: I’ve just noticed that the three tables above look quite bad on the RSS feed. If you want them more readable, please see the original blog post. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Search engine hits: Google vs. Bing (part 1)

Having been interested in SEO for a long time, one of the things I naturally do is look at how many people are coming from the several search engines. While many people seem to care only about hits from Google, I think that 1) monopolies are bad, and 2) precisely because so many people optimize only for Google, there may be an “untapped market” of people who use other search engines. So, I’ve been doing a little investigating, and here’s what I found. Today, I will only be comparing Google with Microsoft’s Bing; I may look at Yahoo! or some other time.

So, let’s begin with this very blog, Winterdrake. Hosted in the US, it’s a very young site, having only launched on March 3, 2011… which means that it’s just 22 days old today. Naturally, one shouldn’t expect a lot of search engine hits on such a recent site (and there aren’t), but it allows us to look at yet another interesting factor: which search engine is quicker to index and send hits to new sites? Let’s look at a (terrible-looking; I’m no graphic designer, and it shows) chart:

Winterdrake - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Winterdrake - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 3.36% of Google hits

Not very good in terms of Bing hits, is it? Let’s look at another, more popular and established site: DragonBall-PT, a Portuguese-language forum, hosted in Portugal, launched in 2007, with mostly Brazilian and Portuguese users, which has a few thousand hits per day:

DragonBall-PT - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
DragonBall-PT - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 2.12% of Google hits

As you can see, while, as an absolute number, there are a lot more hits from Bing (a little below 2000), the proportion in relation to Google is even worse.

This can be explained in several ways. First, Bing seems to be more optimized for the US and/or English language sites, while Google appears to be more “international”. Another possibility, of course, is that almost no one in Portugal or Brazil uses Bing. But, to discount the “optimized for the US/English” factor, let’s look at a third site, one that is 1) relatively old, and 2) in English, and hosted in the US.

Planet Atheism is the world’s top aggregator of atheism-related blogs. It’s (by design) not good for search engines, as all its content is duplicated from the member blogs (and every member either asked to join or accepted an invitation; no one is aggregated there without permission), and PA doesn’t show individual posts ever. Click on a post title, and you are taken to the post on the original blog. In other words, PA is by design “below” every single one of its blogs in terms of search engine positions; most hits come from people who actually search for PA itself, or for “atheist blog(s)” or something like that.

On the other hand, it’s an established site (launched in 2006), hosted in the US, and in English. Let’s see how it looks like:

Planet Atheism - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Planet Atheism - Google vs. Bing hits, March 2011
Bing hits: 2.20% of Google hits

Ouch. Not very good for Bing, is it?

So, we’ve shown that Bing is sending about 2-3 hits for every 100 sent by Google, a very small percentage. But now for the million dollar question: why? Logically, there are two possibilities:

  1. Bing is performing “worse”: that is, either doesn’t index sites as well as Google, or it is giving them worse positions — possibly out of the first page for results Google shows in the first 10 results; or
  2. Bing is actually performing “as well” as Google (or possibly even better), but it has only about 2-3% of the users Google has.

Note that, in either case, Google has a lot more users; the question is whether, for the same number of users, Bing is performing worse, better, or the same. And I think we can find out… but this post is getting a bit long, so I’ll leave that for Part 2.

When is nudity “art”, and when is it porn?

“Yeah, but…” Fred Colon hesitated here. He knew in his heart that spinning upside down around a pole wearing a costume you could floss with definitely was not Art, and being painted lying on a bed wearing nothing but a smile and a small bunch of grapes was good solid Art, but putting your finger on why this was the case was a bit tricky.

“No urns,” he said at last.

“What urns?” said Nobby.

“Nude women are only Art if there’s an urn in it,” said Fred Colon. This sounded weak even to him, so he added: “or a plinth ((no, I didn’t know that one either until today.)). Both is best, o’course. It’s a secret sign, see, that they put in to say that it’s Art and okay to look at.”

“What about a potted plant?”

“That’s okay if it’s in an urn.”

“What about if it’s not got an urn or a plinth or a potted plant?” said Nobby.

“Have you got one in mind, Nobby?” said Colon suspiciously.

“Yes, The Goddess Anoia ((Anoia is the Ankh-Morpork Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers.)) Arising from the Cutlery,” said Nobby. “They’ve got it here. It was painted by a bloke with three i‘s in his name, which sounds pretty artistic to me.”

“The number of i‘s is important, Nobby,” said Sergeant Colon gravely, “but in these situations you have to ask yourself: ‘Where’s the cherub? If there’s a little pink fat kid holding a mirror or a fan or similar, then it’s still okay. Even if he’s grinning. Obviously you can’t get urns everywhere.”

— Terry Pratchett, Thud!, 2005

So, you see, it’s easy. 🙂