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How Do We Feel About Google Carousel Results?

A couple days ago The Google moved its local search "carousel" to desktop computers (previously it was only showing up on tablets). While I think the overall concept is neat – when performing searches for local bars & restaurants, you get a carousel of images at the top of your SERP – it's also something that'll need to be fine-tuned and honed before people jump on board.

For example, in reading about a test of people trying it out for the first time (study done by Nifty Marketing), the term "Chicago restaurants" was chosen. If you watch even just the first video of the person seeing the carousel for the first time, she's confused as to what certain aspects of it mean – most notably the "number" system ("what does 27 mean?").

Also, I must say that the carousel "results" for Chicago restaurants look pretty good: nice, tidy, good-looking photos, etc.

Now, on the other hand...what if we do a search a tad closer to home? For example, "restaurants in Brooklyn Center MN" (it's on the brain since I have a family dinner up there tonight). Results in the Google carousel are...well, somewhat lacking:

Okay. So let's be more fair...I then did a search for bars in Minneapolis:

Hang on, wait. Why is there a photo of a SHOOTER in a list of restaurants???

What is going on here, Google? Why have you included this in your carousel for my restaurant search?

Well, because Nye's is a very popular Minneapolis bar. But, why is there a wretched, scary picture that makes me NOT want to go to Nye's....why?

Well, because that's the only picture on Nye's Polonaise Room's Google+ Page:

So, evidently we know two things: 

  1. The photos within Google's local carousel results are pulled from Google+ pages. 
  2. Nye's Polonaise Room either doesn't know it has a Google+ page, or would like to be known as a gangster bar.

I mean, you'd expect this type of thing to show up in some sort of search for New York City restaurants, but not Minneapolis :)

As to the question of what the numbers mean within the carousel listings: they're Zagat scores. The reviews are coming from Google reviews. We still don't know how The Google is choosing which restaurants to show in the carousel. I'm sure if this carousel bandwagon takes off we'll learn more about how Google's "ranking" the carousel results...but right now it doesn't seem to be by number of reviews or even Zagat score...and it's definitely not by judging the quality of the Google+ photos :)

Spring Girls Ride 2013

For the past 30 years or so, a group of ladies has convened at Pillsbury State Forest (near Pillager,
Minnesota) on Mothers' Day weekend for camping, horseback riding and camaraderie. My mother is one of these women. And, once my sister and I turned 21, we were able to go, too.

In the 13 years since I've been old enough to go, I haven't missed a single occurrence. I came close in 2011 – I only made it for the last ride on Sunday – but as long as I'm physically able this is a permanent weekend on my calendar.

This past spring the group was quite small – Minnesota weather hasn't been very cooperative this year – but we had fun nonetheless.

We come from all over the state – I drive up from St. Paul, some ladies come from Bemidji, some from Brainerd and Nisswa, and my sister (when she can make it)
comes from the west side of the metro. Most people come for Friday through Sunday afternoon, but Mom and I get there on Thursday.

Temperature: cloudy, in the 50s.
I met Mom at the campground around noon to help set up camp. Mom got her choice of camping spots and we unloaded the horses (Joon, Will & Murphy). Then we set about putting out the "lawn," attaching the clamps on the picket lines, putting up the awning, etc.

A bit later my Mom's friend Laurie got there and we headed out for an hour-and-a-half ride. While Murphy has been to Pillager once before – last fall for a day-ride – I was pleased at how well he did in a "new" place with strange sounds (there's a gun range about a ½ mile away and someone was not only using a semi-automatic, but periodically shooting off what sounded like a cannon).

Mom's friend Patty came that afternoon with her camper and her poodle (Teddy) to hang with us. Laurie had cooked dinner for us: yummy chili and cornbread. Right when we were ready to dish up my bestie from high school showed up with her two kids to hang out with the horses and have a beer. I don't get to see her very often anymore, so it was great to catch up a bit and give her horse-crazy daughter some
much-needed equine time :)

Joon was perfect with the kids – calm and quiet – and taught them how to give a horse a treat. She's so polite and no matter how many goodies she gets fed, always takes them with her lips very gently. Murphy, on the other hand...well, let's just say I found out it's better not to give him any treats. Naughty!

After some pictures and chatting, she and the kids headed out and we ate our hot chili. Then we got the horses settled for the evening – winter blankets, grain, fresh hay bags and a drink of water – and I wandered over to one of the other campsites to talk to a fellow horse-lover while Mom, Patty & Laurie played Mah Jongg.

Said fellow had a big leopard appaloosa and a HUGE male German shepherd named Blackie. He said he's always had shepherds and after he named the first one "Blackie" he liked the name so much every dog since then has borne the same.

He's an interesting guy with lots of stories – he travels a lot with his horse, his dog, his camper and his 4-wheel buggy. He switches off riding & driving the horse, who seems solid as a rock. He also showed me the app's favorite trick: retrieving his hat. It was a fun evening hanging
out with him!

After that, I hung out in the camper with the Mah Jongg ladies for a bit, but was too sleepy to last long...I was in bed by 9pm, I think!

Temperature: when I got up at 6:30, there was a bit of frost on my blanket and ice on all the water buckets. It warmed up quickly and turned out to be a sunny day in the 50s.
I cleaned the stalls, watered and fed the horses, then took Zada & Tesa for a 2-mile hike along the dirt road. Max arrived early in the morning (8am-ish, I believe) and Mom's friend MFS wasn't far behind. After some (more) coffee and chit-chatting, we saddled up and headed out for our morning ride.

For some reason or other, as we were heading out Max looked over and said, "where does THAT trail go?" Mom says, "Hmm...I don't know!" Keep in mind Mom has been riding in this state forest for 30 years. No clue how we'd missed this "new" trail but we took it and had a lovely 2-hour ride.

At one point we were in some pretty thick mud and the horses were a tad stumbly over some fallen logs – not sure if that's where it happened or not, but Murphy ended up a tad lame. A couple times in the last half hour I thought he seemed tender-footed but couldn't quite tell (we were on a grass trail) but as soon as we got back to the dirt road I knew something was wrong, he was definitely favoring a front foot...yup, he'd lost a shoe. Good ol' Murphy's Law!

I hopped off and walked him the rest of the way (only about a mile) and was pretty bummed – would I be able to ride at all the rest of the weekend?

Back at camp, Mom pulled out her emergency (horse) boot, but we realized it's more of a medicinal/soaking boot; not something to be worn for any length of time...then MFS came to the rescue: she loaned me her Easyboot Glove. We tried it on Murphy and while it wasn't a perfect fit, we vet-wrapped over the velcro to
ensure it'd stay firmly in place.

After lunch, we headed out for another hour and a half ride. I was wary about the Easyboot, and for the first 45 minutes kept looking down to make sure it was still on – it was. Not only that; we ended up on a portion of trail that they'd logged but not cleared, so while we fumbled about in the clear cut area, trying to find our way back to the trail, the horses were essentially walking on downed trees and logs. Not only did the boot stay on Murphy's foot; Murphy himself went where I asked him to go, calmly and without hesitation. My pride soared :)

Around the time we got back it was time for happy hour...and guess who showed up? Grandma Madge! She surprised us all by joining us. Patty had built a nice fire so we sat around it and had munchies and wine (sweet bitch!). Mom & Patty treated us to a lovely dinner: Swiss chicken and sweet Italian pasta. Max made a fresh salad that was much-needed to balance all the carbs and meat we'd been consuming!

After dinner, Grandma Madge & Laurie left (Max's sister was supposed to come for the rest of the weekend to ride Will). Put the horses to bed and then ourselves...everyone was tired!

The night didn't feel as cold as the previous one but the ice on the buckets this morning was VERY thick – I had to use the handle of the pitchfork to break through. Ended up sunny but only in the 40s and VERY windy.
Got up a bit later today (7am, I think), did chores and took the dogs for a quick constitutional. Then it was time for a mug of steaming hot coffee (with Reddi Whip, of course) to warm up.

Laurie came back with a trailer to bring Will back home, since Max's sister was a no-show. That way Mom wouldn't have to pony him along the trail. Also, another gal (Judy) came to join us that morning with her 5-year-old Quarter horse (Bob).

Put the boot back on Murphy and we headed out for a ride. While it wasn't too bad in the woods and the horses were good, it was so incredibly windy we could barely hear each other and had to yell to be heard. Out in the open the wind was so forceful and brisk it was hard to do anything but burrow into our warm coats.

I unsaddled Murph when we got back to camp – I wasn't crazy about heading out again in the afternoon
with that wind. After lunch Mom's farrier Ricky came to put a new shoe on Murphy...I was SO grateful he could make a special trip out to do that for me. He wasn't going to charge me but I gave him a check anyway.

Turns out no one wanted to go out for another ride so we blanketed the horses and gave them some extra hay to munch while we chatted inside the motor home. I got a tad antsy after a while and decided it was time to take the dogs for a long hike (I needed to burn some calories!). I brought along my SLR to get some shots.

I ended up taking the same trail my sister did years ago when she wanted to take her dog for a 45-minute hike one trip...earning the trail her namesake (Dad put up the sign just last year, I think). Turns out I was gone for about 2½ hours! We figured I probably went for about a 10-mile hike...let me tell you, both the dogs and
I were pooped.

Of course, when I got back the ladies were still happily ensconced within the warm camper, just chatting away. Frankly, I don't think they noticed how long I was gone. I told Mom where I'd gone, and of course after the 1st turn she said, "Sariah, you should've taken a RIGHT there; not a LEFT!" I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well, I was following the dogs...I knew they'd eventually lead me back to camp!"

Which they did, of course...they just took the route we take when we're on horseback and we WANT to be out for a couple of hours :)

That night it was my turn to provide dinner: pulled pork sandwiches with homemade coleslaw. I asked Max's advice on the dressing and after mixing it to her approval we were ready to eat. We ate in the motor home that evening; it was still pretty chilly.

After dinner MFS told us she was going to head home to her family...we were sad to see her go – she'd been a great addition to our ride!

Got the horses all tucked in and turned in to read for a bit before lights out.

Not nearly as cold overnight – no ice on the buckets this morning. Ended up being sunny, in the 50s and no wind. PERFECT day for riding!
Up early for chores and a quick dog walk. Then breakfast and was so beautiful out we were rarin' to go out for our morning ride.

We rode for about 2 hours in the morning and came back for lunch. Judy left after we ate and then it was just Mom, Max and I. We headed back out on the trail for another couple of hours and had another wonderful ride. Good horses, happy dogs, good chats.

It was sad to unsaddle for the last time; all good things must come to an end. We packed up camp with the sunshine on our shoulders – we could finally wear t-shirts! – and headed home. We all had a great weekend of riding and I was so proud of how my Murphy had performed...just like an old champ.

It'll be another year until the spring version of Girls' Ride, but we've got a fall
version, too. I'm looking forward to that AND to our Out West trip (Medora). More horsey adventures to come :)