Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Waffle on a Stick

Took the family to the local Exhibition today. My wife always complains how cheesy it is compared to say the PNE or the Calgary Stampede, but I grew up in Edmonton when the population was not much larger than Lethbridge is today, and I find the small scale, slightly grubby rides of the second string exhibitors oddly comfortable.

Tigana (my six year old) was obviously thrilled to have the opportunity to spend $4 for the 60 seconds ot took to walk through "the Crystal Palace Hall of Mirrors"; or to slide down the two story slide of "Raiders" (repainted in a Spiderman motif to update a reference the current generation of kids could no longer related to, though the jungle walkways and cave decorations and the lights all still say "Raiders"); or to twirl around in a giant berry as it makes her nearly dizzy enough to throw up. I had not appreciated previously how nostalgic it is for parents to not only watch their kids scream on rides they themselves used to ride (before age and gravity got the upper hand), but to watch the child's disillusionment and disappointment as the realization that one has just spent a week's allowance on a really lame exhibit suddenly sinks in. Oh, to be young and naive again...!

But the highlight of the exhibition for me this year was the new and unique concession of "Stick with Waffles". (The original slogan, the owner/inventor told me, was to have been, "Forget pancakes, stick with waffles" but he had to shorten it for the van/T-Shirt logo.) The concept is frightenly simple and innovative: bake a waffle with a popsicle stick sticking out the side, provide a choice of maple or strawberry butter (to avoid that whole sticky issue of how to handle the syrup) and voila, the perfect midway snack. It is so dumb, it's brilliant, and Tigana ate her's up with great relish, voting it her favorite food of the midway. Sadly, there seemed few other takers for the three hours we were there, and the proprietor told us he was plagued by the general perception that waffles are just for breakfast, but once that prejudice is overcome (as is certainly the case whenever we give Tigana the choice, waffles being her idea of a staple food equalled only by Kraft Dinner) the franchise is obviously going to take off!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ask your Mamma!

This is a new one on me, but looks promising: A meta-search engine called Mamma.

Kasia is now fully mobile...as I discovered when I took her with me to the washroom and watched her crawl away under the stalls...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Word Count

Word Count (http://www.wordcount.org/) is a fascinating site. It lists the 86,000 most popular words in the English language in rank order. (See if you can guess, say, the top ten, before visiting the site.) You can follow the list from #1 using the "next word", or type in a word to find where it ranks.

I figure this site a useful resource for language teachers...if I'm going to help my six year old learn to read, I should probably teach her the top 25 or 50 words by sight, eh? Spelling, too. And it is probably a useful resource for writers, too, especially if their audience is new readers or second language learners.

Speaking of language learning, my 9 month old has started calling "Dada" when I am out of sight, and "Mama" when Mom can't be seen, and both emerged the same week. She is also signing for "hungry", "thirsty", and "up" (as in "lift me up out of this high chair") since we are teaching her baby sign language. So that's five words she knows for sure.

Sleep deprivation continues for my wife and I. My wife forgot pans on the stove long enough to burn, almost long enough to catch fire. (That was my stick with our first child...almost set the house on fire three times in first two months from forgetting bottles sterilizing on the stove...) And I am so tired I keep forgetting where I am supposed to be driving and end up taking the wrong turn. And I can'tremember what I am saying to my students half the time. I'll start saying something, then go blank as I forget the word or name I was going to say next: "guy with a beard? Studied with Hegal? Lived in Germany? Oh, I can see his face so clearly..."

"Do you mean Marx, Sir?"

"Yeah, that's it. So anyway, what Marx said was..."

As with our first child, I figure I lose a word for every word my kid learns one. Keeps the balance in the universe somehow, I guess.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Blogging and Readership

I installed Extreme tracker in May to see how many people were actually reading my blog and why they came.

At first I was very pleased to find that over 700 (to give the current figure) different readers have come to my blog. I thought, "Hey, I'm doing pretty good for a new and infrequent blog!" Then I went to the breakdown for a friend's blog and discovered that he had had over 20,000 unique visitors. Okay I'm still in the minor leagues, I thought, but 700 people! That's still good!

Then I started looking a little closer at those figures and realized that most of those people (80%) were one time visitors coming in response to a particular entry or google search and not regular readers at all. Ok, but that means 20% are reloads, or returning readers, so that's about 180, so that's still okay!

But then I realize that the reloads include each time the person comes 'round, so divide 180 by the number of weeks I've been doing the blog and...well it looks like I might have eight to ten regular readers. *Sigh*

But wait, there are still 700 people who dropped by to read a particular entry, right? Other bloggers must have recommended some insight or comment I'd made that others were dropping by to check out. So I've still reached 700 readers with at least one entry, eh? That's still good!

But then I looked closer and saw that most of my traffic has been arriving by mistake! There were only 84 people referred by other bloggers, the rest came from Google (and similar) searches. For example, one guy typed in "Boring Family Photos" and my site came up because it has "boring" in the title and I have a "Family Photo" in one entry. I mean, maybe he did find what he was looking for, but it's not exactly about reading what I wrote, you know? I get a lot of searches with "Not boring" in them. (Someone needs to be teaching the public better search skills.) So it's not even like people are interested in my topics. Not really.

But it gets worse. When I actually looked at what words were most frequently pulling Google referals, it was "torture", "rape", "castration" and etc. I eventually figured out that these words were coming up in Dem's excellent guest editorial on the Iraq photos, but do I really want the people interested in these topics coming to my site? I mean, if they were looking for an editorial on the Iraq photos, all well and good, but I suspect most of these guys were looking for "rape photos" and got here by mistake. Eek, I suddenly feel creepy and need a shower.

Oh well, new term starts in a couple of weeks and I will get another batch of students, at least some of whom will figure out that reading my blog might give them some insight into where I'm coming from, thus driving up my readership figures....

...always assuming of course that universdity students still read any more...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!

This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs (and aggregation sites) are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).

The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet. (Permalink: http://novaspivack.typepad.com/nova_spivacks_weblog/2004/08/a_sonar_ping_of.html) --- results and comments about the experiment appear at that location.

Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate -- the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

The GUID for this experiment is: as098398298250swg9e (Note: this replaces the longer, original GUID -- listed below -- which didn't format nicely in narrow column layouts. Those sites still using the longer GUID will still be found in the data set).

The above GUID enables anyone to easily search Google or other search engines for all blogs that participate in this experiment, once they have indexed the sites that participate, which may take several days or weeks. To locate the full data set, just search for the any sites that contain either the short GUID (above) or the long GUID (for your reference, the long GUID is a single 72 character string comprised of the following segments put together with the white-spaces removed:
as098398298250swg9e 98929872525389t9987 898tq98wteqtgaq6201 0920352598gawst -- they are listed here as different segments so that they will format better in narrow column layouts.)

Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)


To add your blog to this experiment, copy this entire posting to your blog, and then answer the questions below, substituting your own information, below, where appropriate. Other than answering the questions below, please do not alter the information, layout or format of this post in order to preserve the integrity of the data in this experiment (this will make it easier for searchers and automated bots to find and analyze the results later).

REQUIRED FIELDS (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers)

(1) I found this experiment at URL: http://www.podbaydoor.com/

(2) I found it via "Newsreader Software" or "Browsing the Web" or "Searching the Web" or "An E-Mail Message": Browsing the Web

(3) I posted this experiment at URL: http://runte/blogspot.com/

(4) I posted this on date (day/month/year): 03/09/04

(5) I posted this at time (24 hour time): 04:35

(6) My posting location is (city, state, country): Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

OPTIONAL SURVEY FIELDS (Replace the answers below with your own answers):

(7) My blog is hosted by: Blogger

(8) My age is: 52

(9) My gender is: Male

(10) My occupation is: Associate Professor

(11) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software: none

(12) I use the following software to post to my blog: Blogger

(13) I have been blogging since (day, month, year): 15/01/2003

(14) My web browser is: IE 5.2 for the Mac

(15) My operating system is: MacOS 10.2

Monday, August 02, 2004

I Robot

Guest Review by Den Valdron

My impression of 'I Robot' is that I began to forget it as I was watching it.   It was a teflon coated, industrial robotic production film, so refined and economical, that there was no place for an original idea, or for that matter, an idea of any sort to attach itself.
It's plot and pace functioned with metronomic precision, every beat dictated by formula.  Instead of a heart, it simply had a clockwork mechanism powered by quartz crystal.
What were we talking about again?