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Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Week Of Fruitful Research

A lot of this week was spent doing research on my summer vacation travel plans. As I mentioned before, I have already decided on the destination, but how to get to the destination, and what to see once we are there still need research. Having some time to do that research made this week somewhat different. As my wife will tell you, I am excited by travel of any sort, and being able to do research on a travel plan always puts me in a good mood!

In addition to my family vacation, I am going to take an elderly relative of mine on another separate trip. This relative (actually she is related to me through my wife) is an avid traveler, and has visited most parts of the world. But she has missed some parts of it, and that has proven to be quite fortunate for me.

This person and her husband have grown old and frail over the years, so they are not able to travel as independently as they once did. So, for the past 10 years, every summer, I have taken them on various vacations, covering parts of the US they have not been to before. I have taken them through Colorado and Utah, the upper midwest, the northeast (Acadia National Park, etc.), and various other places.

This year, though, I may be taking that relative on our first international trip together. The destination has been picked, only the research needed to be done. So, this week was spent doing some research on that upcoming trip also. Given the amount of vacation time I get at work, it is a good thing because without a few such trips, I would end up having to spend my vacation time just sitting at home, doing nothing!

The dates for this trip are not yet finalized though, so I still have some research to do, deciding on the best dates for the trip. The main problem is that I may have to attend a work-related conference in the summer (it is only a remote chance since my company does not send people to conferences in most years because of some problem or the other), so I have to make sure that I am not on vacation if they want me to attend this conference. Hopefully, I will enjoy myself doing some more research for another week or so, and then make the final decisions and bookings. Half the thrill of a vacation is getting there. And half the thrill of getting there is making the arrangements for it!

In spite of the misgivings I expressed last week about my blog publishing, I did reasonably well this week. I found something to write about when it came to Access tips and tricks on Monday. Then on Tuesday, I published an old story that appeared on PCWorld about the origins of certain GUI features in Windows, and whether they were copied from Mac OS. On Wednesday, I continued my series of lessons on finding square roots.

While reading some news articles on the web on Tuesday, I ran across a very funny comment on a news article. I was so tickled by the comment that I wrote it up in a second post on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, a week of being stumped on a work-related problem ended up becoming a blog post of desperation. The problem was regarding a technique in operations research called linear programming. I wrote up the problem and asked people for suggestions to solve it, but with no luck so far. I also submitted the problem to an online community called Reddit. There was a lot of back and forth on the topic, but ultimately, no solution emerged from it. Which also means that I have to think of an alternative to solve this work problem.

On Saturday, I published a post about a page of unusual articles on Wikipedia. This page has already provided me with many hours of informative entertainment already, and I hope to get many many more hours of such entertainment from it in the future too!

This week was also very fruitful in terms of new visitors to my blog. I had new visitors from 4 different countries this week. The 4 countries were Nepal, Lebanon, Albania and Bermuda. Nepal has an unusual flag in that it is not rectangular. It may well be the only non-rectangular flag in the world. It is made up of one large right triangle below a smaller right triangle, with the left side of the flag and the base of the flag forming the right angle.

Albania has a flag that is unusual in its own way. It is one of the most complex flags I have seen. The symbol on the flag is more suitable for a coat of arms than for a flag. I wonder how school-children in Albania draw the flag when even adults would find it difficult if not impossible to do so accurately!

In any case, with the addition of those 4 flags, my flagcounter widget now sports 122 flags. My top 5 countries are now the US, India, UK, Canada and Australia. The percentages of visitors from the top 5 countries have also changed a bit since my last detailed report. The US now accounts for 58% of visitors, India for 8%, the UK for 7%, Canada for 5% and Australia for 2%.

In another piece of good news (hopefully) for my blog, it has moved up in the Google page-ranking system also. It had a google page-rank of 2 ever since I started keeping track of it. Last week it moved up to a page-rank of 3. I use a widget from mypagerank.net to keep track of all this information on my blog. In addition to the google page-rank, this widget also lets me know where I stand in terms of the number of pages on my blog indexed by each of the three major search engines, the number of links back to my pages at other websites, my Alexa traffic ranking, etc. Mypagerank.net also provides widgets that track when my pages were last accessed by the Googlebot indexing engine. I would recommend the widget for your website whole-heartedly, whether you have a blog, like me, or any other type of website. You can find these widgets from mypagerank.net on the left side-bar of my blog under the heading "Website Tracking and Monitoring".

Now, as always, it is time for me to get other stuff at home taken care of. And if I want to get anything added to my blog in the coming week, it is time for me to think about that and get something written up for that too!

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