Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Plaza las Americas

Posted in Puerto Rico, Travel by Elliott Back on March 2nd, 2011.

I don’t know why Plaza Las Américas has a 4.5 star rating on yahoo travelguide. It’s a big mall; if you’ve ever been to a 300+ store mall before, there’s nothing new here. If it’s your first time to a city with a big mall, maybe you’d be amazed and love it, but otherwise there’s little to set the Puerto Rico mall apart from a stateside one. The mall has been around for over 40 years, has a fire department and two police stations, and three big outlet anchor stores (JCPenny, Sears, Macy’s).


It’s open 9AM to 9PM every day, and 11 to 7 PM on Sundays.


I did find their animated fountains interesting. They have a turtle and manatee which gyrate in streams of water. Peaceful visitors perch candidly on the ledges surrounding the fountains and chitchat.

Fountain Animated Turtle at Plaza las Americas, Puerto Rico –

There are some cool dangly metal sculptures that hang here and there from the ceiling too:

More Puerto Rico

Check out these other posts in the Puerto Rico travelblog series:

Americans: “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

Posted in Holiday, Jobs, Law by Elliott Back on December 15th, 2010.

I was reading the news today and came across this article, US sues school over denial of Muslim pilgrimage, which details an interesting case of law:

The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion. [...]

Khan wanted to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in a lifetime if they are physically and financially able to. Millions go each year. [...]

Berkeley School District compelled Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, the lawsuit said.

Interesting stuff. As an employer, I believe that you should make every possible effort to strike reasonable work-life balance for your employees. Unpaid time away to get married, look after family, and fulfilling religious obligations are all the sorts of things that you would reasonably expect accommodation for. In more civilized countries, you would be accorded sufficient paid holidays to do much of this. Unfortunately, in the United States, by law, there is no requirement to offer any holidays at all!

Ignoring the religious and racial overtones in this news article, what I found interesting was the comments thread. Check these high-rated gems out:

  • “they want, want, want but don’t want to give. Special treatment! Whatever happened to the (former) American work ethic?”
  • “Contract, obey the rules and live with them or dont sign up”
  • “Whoever hired her should be fired.”
  • “This is a sham on the american way of life”
  • “Seperation of Church and State. Take a Religous Holiday when everyone else does.”
  • ” She signed a contract, then did not like it. Tough. Think I like paying my credit cards? No, but I have a contractual relationship to pay .”
  • “What a bunch of bull. This should not even go to court. She should be denied time off for this. Try this at a real job and they will tell you “no”! Here is why, if you want the time off then use your vacation time. That is what it is for. Your employer is not obligated to give you any more time off then what you have accrued.”

It’s an interesting fact that Americans have the least paid vacation days in the world (0 by law), some of the most mediocre students in the world, the largest wealth-gap between the rich and poor, etc. Yet when confronted by an individual who is trying to improve the American standard of living (by advocating for improved time-off rules), American internet commenters essentially say, “I don’t have this right; why should you?”

I don’t understand this.

Do you want America to suck? You should be cheering this woman and the ALCU on, because they are fighting for your rights. (If you feel like commenting that I’m an elitist foreigner who should shut up and work harder, please don’t even bother to leave a comment.)

Update: It’s nice to see Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want – and it works come out today.

WooRank: A Free Website Analysis Tool

Posted in My Blog, SEO by Elliott Back on January 24th, 2010.

Over on TechCrunch there’s a flattering review of a new Website SEO Analysis tool called Woorank:

WooRank evaluates Web sites based on 50 criteria in an automated fashion, free of charge, and provides helpful SEO and other tips. [...] I gave the tool a spin and generated a report for techcrunch.com – turns out we’re worthy of a WooRank of 82.4. [...] Frankly, that’s a lot of valuable information available free of charge.

I gave it a spin on my homepage, and it gave up some valuable suggestions (as well as a score of 68.2, which isn’t too bad):

Among its suggestions are the following:

  • Add meta-description and meta-keywords to every page
  • Put alt-tags on all images
  • Make sure the site validates
  • Use a 301-redirect on WWW
  • Get listed in the DMOZ/Yahoo directories

While the information it offers up is useful, it’s almost exactly the same as WebsiteGrader, and less detailed on load-time, etc, than . But, the way to go, of course, is to plugin your blog URLs into as many of these cookie-cutter analysis sites as you can, do some thinking on your own, and make a few tweaks. Everyone has their favorite tools, so let me know of other free “SEO Analysis” sites in the comments. If I like them, I’ll update this post.

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