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Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's Raining Flags On My Blog!

I thought I would start this week with some pretty astonishing news about my blog rather the usual prattling about my work. And the astonishing news is that my lowly blog attracted visitors from 3 more countries this week! I had given the blog very little chance of breaking the 100 barrier in terms of number flags, but things have stayed pretty busy so far.

My blog has now had visitors from 106 different countries. OK, the Flagcounter website calls them countries, but actually I should refer to them more as "internet domains" rather than countries. For instance, one of the new flags I got this week was from the Isle of Man. I am not sure anybody considers the Isle of Man a separate country. But they have their own 2-letter internet domain, and that is what Flagcounter goes by. So, my blog has had visits from 106 different 2-letter internet domains.

The 3 new flags I got this week are Isle of Man, Maldives and Panama. You can see the geographic reach of the visitors to my blog from this graphic, made possible by the Flag Map page of Flagcounter.

flag map of blog visitors
I am not saying that my blog will be very popular in China otherwise, but at least I know why there has not been a single visitor to my blog from mainland China: I was told by a Chinese blogger on an online forum that the great firewall of China prohibits Chinese computers from accessing domains. That is the biggest hole in my map at this point, and it looks like it is not likely to get filled any time soon!

My top countries so far have been:

US 53%
India 11%
United Kingdom 7%
Canada 4%
Germany 2%

Apart from the excitement about my Flagcounter widget, though, this week was a bit stressful on the blogging front. Some of it was caused by myself (I simply ran out material, or made silly mistakes), and some of it was caused by the Blogger platform.

On the content front, I have always struggled to find stuff to put up on my blog. It is not as if I live an exciting life on a daily basis. In fact, a good year for me is when anything vaguely exciting happens in the whole year. So, I fill up space with posts on Access, mathematics, funny signs, etc. But you eventually run out of stuff to say in those areas too! And then you have to work harder and harder just to get the most basic stuff done on the blog!

As I mentioned in my roundup last week, I got no time to work on any blog posts for this week because of various reasons. So, come Monday morning, I had nothing to put up in my weekly Access Tips & Tricks post. I had to scramble to find something that I thought would be useful and wrote it up on the morning of Monday for immediate posting on my blog. Luckily, the post on parameter queries did the trick and I could heave a sigh of relief.

Then came Tuesday. I had racked my brain for a good story to post on my blog, but I couldn't think of anything that I could develop into a decent story in day or two. So, I cheated - I took a story my daughter had written for a story-writing competition a while back, and I posted it on my blog (with my daughter's permission). My daughter is a much better writer than me anyways, so, hopefully this only increased the quality of my blog, not detracted from it!

On Tuesday night, I wrote up my post on Vedic Mathematics for publication the next day. As luck would have it, one of my algebraic derivations had a mistake in it, causing me to stay awake until well past midnight, correcting the mistake and producing the complete post. Lack of preparation always leads to problems in mathematics! Luckily, I did catch the mistake myself rather than it being pointed out to me by some reader! But if I had been embarrassed that way, it would have been par for the course as far as this week was concerned, as you will see!!

And for Thursday, I had prepared a nice post on funny-looking weird computer mice. I had formatted it nicely into a two-column table with pictures of more than 2 dozen mice of various odd shapes. But Blogger can sometimes be a royal pain in the you-know-what. For some reason, tables are one thing that Blogger really seems to dislike for some reason. The first problem with the post when I looked at it after it was published was that there was a big gap between the content of the post outside the table and the table itself. There was no such gap in the HTML of my post, so I simply could not figure it out.

But, even worse, the formatting of the contents inside the table cells was completely off between what I could see when I composed the post and what I saw on publication. Why a technologically advanced company like Google can't provide a wysiwyg editor for its Blogger platform, so that I can see what I am going to publish before I embarrass myself publishing something that looks like junk, is beyond me. I had to spend more than 2 hours completely reformatting that post. I had to remove the tables, put all the pictures one below the other instead of in two columns, and because of that, to keep the post to reasonable length, I had to remove some of the pictures to a later post. The only good thing that came out of this stupid waste of time is that now I have at least one post ready and standing by for the coming week!

And then, I embarrassed myself once again while working on another post (yes, it is raining embarrassment on my blog this week too, in addition to flags!). I accidentally put in a date of 2/30/10 for the publication date while scheduling the post. Obviously, such a date does not exist. Does Blogger, therefore, check with me about what I really intended? Of course not, it just ignores the date and publishes the post right away! So, until I quickly caught the post and turned it back into a draft (yes, once a post is published, changing its date even to a valid future date does not make it go away from your blog, it will just sport this future date as the publication date, and will stay on top of your blog until later posts make it go down the page. To make it go away, you have to turn the post into a draft), my blog sported a post that was a jumble of images with no text or even a title.

This is the same company that comes up with ideas like "Mail Goggles" to prevent you from sending out embarrassing emails when you are drunk, by asking you to solve math problems if you try to send email late at night, but they don't have enough intelligence built into Blogger to prevent this kind of mishap from embarrassing the poster. And is it really too much to ask for a visual editor for Blogger that shows me what my post will look like (in my chosen template) when I actually publish the post? If I took the technological standard of Blogger to be representative of Google as a whole, I sure wouldn't want to touch their Google Docs product with a barge pole! Google, are you listening?!! Maybe Google simply does not care about Blogger the way they care about their other properties.

Oh well, anyways, I managed to get a post out every day of the week, much to my surprise given my lack of preparation at the end of last week. In addition to the posts on parameter queries in Access, and the story by my daughter, I put up a post on Quadratic Equations on Wednesday (hopefully free of any mathematical errors). I published, and then republished, and then re-republished my post on weird mice on Thursday thanks to Blogger problems. Friday, I did a post about a bunch of confusing, mis-spelt and/or mistranslated signs.

I found a new and interesting piece of software to amuse myself with called Mousepath. I did a post about this software on Saturday to round out the week in blogging. It is quite neat (at least until the novelty wears off). I would encourage you to give it a try, just to see if your mouse tracks are similar to mine in terms of the parts of the screen most frequently visited, etc.

As for work, nothing interesting happened this week. All my requests for data, documentation etc., went unanswered, so I spent the week trying to cajole people into giving me what I need, to move my project along. But, ultimately, at the end of the week, I still have nothing to show for it. It is unfair that my department makes me stick to my deadlines while other departments pretend as if there are no deadlines. I run myself ragged trying to get things done, and others just ignore me!

Things were calm and quiet at home too. My younger daughter came down with a bad cold and had to miss a day of school. I seem to have picked up the cold from her and I have been sniffling and sneezing through my days for the past few days. When I was young, I didn't care if I got a cold because all it caused was a blocked and/or runny nose. But my body has changed as I have aged. Now, I get a sore throat that makes it difficult to even swallow my own spit. And I develop a hacking cough until the cold goes away. And sometimes the cough sticks around for a while after the cold is gone too. I don't think anyone over the age of 40 ever looked for the key to eternal life! I know I will probably politely decline if someone offered it to me right now!!

In spite of the protestations of my body, I did attend my karate class this week. I taught the new students more new moves and techniques. My sensei emphasizes teaching as a big part of graduating with a black belt from his dojo. And I can appreciate that he does. Teaching clarifies things in your mind. You may be doing stuff automatically because of years of practice, but until you teach it to someone else, you may not have thought about the true mechanics of what you do and why you do it. Only when you teach someone to do what you do, do you actually break down the action into manageable chunks and it goes a long way towards sharpening your technique. You also think about why you do something the way you do it when you are trying to explain the logic behind doing something one way versus another way.

Now it is time to start getting ready for another week of work, among other things. I also have to do the laundry, wash the dishes, help one of my daughters with her homework, etc., etc. Before I leave though, here are a couple of pictures of my mouse movements during the time I was writing this post (one without dots and one with them). Obviously, I was also checking my email, surfing the web and doing other stuff on the computer while I typed up various paragraphs of this post!
mousepath imagemousepath image


jamesq said...

The Isle of Man is indeed a separate country so nice that you have a flag on your blog. It's also got the world's oldest continuous parliament dating back to Viking times so a rich and varied history. Worth checking out on Wikipedia.

Blogannath said...

Thank you for that interesting and useful geography lesson. I did look up Isle Of Man based on your comment. It is indeed a separate country, so I stand corrected. I had always thought it was part of the UK, but now I know better! And the details of the legislature, Tynwald, are fascinating too. Thanks for visiting my blog from such an interesting place!!

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