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Saturday, June 27th, 2009

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5:30p
Another ...
OK, so I was sort of mocking the “for dummies” books the last time I reviewed one, but here I am again, with another awaiting review! Frankly, I pretty much ordered Jerri Ledford's Google AdSense for Dummies by mistake … I have some projects where I'll be using Google's Ad Manager but the specific terminology was not set in my head when I went looking for something to get me up to speed with that, and saw books on Google's AdWords and this one on AdSense and figured this was the one I was looking for, only realizing after it arrived that it wasn't the “manual” that I was hoping to be reading. However, AdSense is a product that I'm likely to use at some point or another, so I figured “what the heck”, and launched into it. This wasn't quite a quick a read as the Ning book (which I plowed through on one afternoon/evening), but that's because it wasn't something that was really holding my interest in the way that something that I was actually working with would have.

I don't generally read other reviews of a book before I write about it, but in this case I took a peek at the Amazon scribes and found very mixed reviews of it, some folks savaging it for perceived inaccuracies, some raving that it was a very useful introduction to the Google program. Having no functional experience with AdSense, I really couldn't speak to the accuracy of the book, but I found it informative, if a bit irritating in parts (the author appears to be some sort of religious fanatic and almost all her “examples” eventually got around to preachy sites).

Of course, the sine qua non of the “For Dummies” books is their ability to take the reader from total cluelessness to the ability to at least reasonably function in a program. Judged by this standard (and with the caveat that I haven't tried anything outlined in the book), I suspect that this fulfills its purpose, as I believe I have a pretty good sense of what's involved in running an AdSense campaign.

The most interesting parts of the book for me were on the “general website coaching” side of things … recommendations of how to keep stuff fresh, how to incorporate profitable “key words” into your pages, and how to stay on the good side of Google (despite the many temptations out there that would lead you to the exile of the banned).

While I have had many web sites and blogs over the years (obviously, my main blogging platform is LiveJournal which does not offer ad options, so it's never been something I've thought at looking into except at the far end of having to make a massive content move to another service!), this at least gave me a context of what one might be able to produce off of one's sites. Honestly, none of my personal sites have ever had the sort of traffic that would make the effort involved (and resulting page clutter) worth the pennies that it might generate via a program like this, but this at least gives me some context from which to discuss the option with others whose sites I may be working on.

As is frequently the case, I got this via the new/used vendors on Amazon, with this running me a relatively high $8.42 (plus shipping) for a “new” copy, still a good discount from the $24.99 cover price and Amazon's own 34% discount. Given that the author has "tainted" the book with her religion (where it hardly belongs!), I'd wholeheartedly recommend getting this though the “used” channels (heck, the same vendor I got this from now has a "new" copy for just $3.79!) to deny her the revenue … something that I usually feel genuinely bad about when pointing out the after-market option. I do feel, however, that this is a useful introduction if you're looking to make some change on your web sites.


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7:20p
A Classic?
I'm surprised that I hadn't read this one “back in the day” as this was the sort of book that would have easily fit into my late '70s and early '80s reading. I'd certainly been familiar with the name, but had never gotten around to picking up a copy until I encountered one at last summer's Newberry Library Book Fair.

The first thing that stands out about The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ is its attribution simply “by Levi”, which (with a little bit of Googling) turns out to be one Levi H. Dowling (1844-1911). When encountering “oddly named” authors one has to wonder what the story of the name is (some are simply fruitcakes, of course). In this case, I believe the author was at least trying to flag the book as having been “channeled”. I had gotten about 20% into the book (which is set up like a Bible, with two columns a page of small sections, collected into larger sections, all numbered, etc.) and had one of those “what the heck is with this?” moments and went off to the Internet to fish up info.

It turns out that Mr. Dowling was a sort of fringe preacher who was enamored of (and I guess at least somewhat connected with) the Theosophists. I found this amusing, as my first thought was how much this sounded like Blavatsky's stuff from a similar period. However, rather than showing up in stacks of crayon-scrawled papers in the morning, Dowling directly set himself a program of “visualizations” which he claimed enabled him to “travel in time” and see the events of the past, in this case the life of Jesus.

The Aquarian Gospel is probably best known for “filling in the missing years” of Jesus' history, that big gap that the Bible doesn't bother much with between “miraculous birth” and “ministry & death”. According to Dowling, this information has now been “transcribed from the Akashic Records” … good for us, eh?

The book is more-or-less in two parts … the early years of John, Jesus' family, and “Jesus' travels”, and then the standard New Testament stuff, retold. Frankly, the second half of the book is a real drag, as everybody knows the story, and Levi isn't adding much, just “spinning” things differently (notably, going out of his way to make Pontius Pilate look like a great guy) from the “usual version”. The early part of the book is “the good stuff”, with various teachers of John, Mary, other relatives, Jesus, etc., including transmuting “Abrahamic” religion into the “religion of Brahm”, and relating that to various Persian and Indian (ala Brahma) cults and thence into Buddhism.

Eventually, Jesus “hits the road” and first spends a lot of time bouncing around India and interacting with the Hindu teachers ... inevitably, he gets on the wrong side of the priesthood and has to flee to Nepal, working with Buddhists, then to Tibet, and then back to India. From there he goes to Persia, Assyria, Chaldea, and Babylon before headed home just long enough for his mother to put on a big dinner for him and (I'm extrapolating here) do his laundry. The next stop is Greece, where he briefly hangs out with a guy called Apollo, and heaps tons on praise on the Greeks who weep when he leaves.

After Greece it's time for some schoolin' and the Aquarian Jesus is off to Egypt to study with the big boys … the “Sacred Brotherhood” at the temple of Heliopolis. Here he passes through seven specific challenges, the last of which gives him the title of “The Christ”. Passing this degree appears to have “changed the age” and the next thing is a meeting of “the seven sages of the world”, conveniently all folks that Jesus was hanging out with in his various travels (who'da thunk?), in Alexandria.

Following this, the “standard” tale picks up again, albeit strongly flavored with Theosophical doctrine. The focus moves to John, then Jesus' early ministry, assembling his posse, and endearing himself to the mob while pissing off all sacred and temporal authority. You know the rest. The spin gets heavy after he's crucified, with a lot of “sacred brotherhood” stuff worthy of red and blue crayon, then dips back into the traditional story for Pentecost, and the book ends.

Frankly, as I struggled through the last half of the book, I wondered why this book didn't end up creating a cult of its own … after all, this is “more canonical” than the Book of Mormon, and certainly no less wacky than Dianetics ... how come those went big-time and this stayed (while still in print a hundred years since its publication) on the sidelines? Must be not having a “huckster” to be pushing it … Dowling died within 3 years of penning this, while Joseph Smith and L.Ron Hubbard were able to market the heck out of their books!

Anyway, as noted, this is still in print more than a century down the road, but, because of its vintage, it's also available free on the web … so if you want to check it out, it's only a few clicks away. Used copies (I got mine for $1.50 on “half-price Sunday” at Newberry), are available for as little as a buck forty-five in “good” condition via the Amazon new/used guys, so if you want a dead-tree version you might consider that, were this little bit of channeling something that you felt you couldn't go without.


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