In which I try new things


I downloaded a new WordPress app yesterday for the iPad, because the stock app is clunky and annoying.  I appear to have gone the other way with this one; this new app, BlogPad Pro, appears to be able to keep track of every single damn thing under the sun but as of right now is impressively complicated.  Plus I don’t think I’m getting WYSIWYG when I add images– unless the text on this post is going to be insanely tiny or the picture is way bigger than I think it’s going to be, it’s scaling the pictures much bigger than I think it’s going to be on the actual website.

I am also considering a new Twitter app.  I know, I’m a rebel.  

Right, the picture:  On account of the aforementioned sick baby I’ve got in the house, all renovation work has been put on hold, which didn’t keep me from getting a couple of things done during nap time yesterday.  I went through my clothes and got rid of a bunch of stuff that I haven’t worn all year.  Neat trick: flip your hangers backwards at the beginning of the year; as you wear and wash clothes, turn the hangers the right way.  At the end of the year, toss anything that is still on a backwards hanger, because you haven’t worn it in a year.  Got rid of about a quarter of my shirts, believe it or not; there are two bags of clothes and such in my car to take to Goodwill and I’m probably going to be trying to get some old electronics out of the house one way or another sometime soon too.

I’m hoping to finish going through my comic books today, finally; we’ll see if that gets done because there are thousands of them and it’s a big job.  Apparently “declutter” is also a plan for the new year. 

We have no plans for New Year’s tonight, which should not be surprising to anyone; my wife and I are both old people now and we have a two year old and plus it’s bloody Tuesday night, which is not exactly optimal party time for anybody.  Tuesday might literally be the worst day for a major holiday.  Maybe I’ll get really crazy and have a glass of wine at 10:15 before bed. We’ll see.  

Go do something crazy tonight and blame it on me, ‘k?

Stuff what I wanna do in 2014

I don’t do resolutions. Resolutions are promises; promises get broken. That doesn’t say that I don’t have projects and goals; sometimes I get to them, sometimes I don’t. Last year I did a post like this at the previous incarnation of this blog over at Xanga; I’ve got that post archived somewhere, I think, but I remember the two big ones were to write more and to cook more often. Both of those goals were definitely achieved; I write just about every damn day here and I’m a much better cook than I was at the beginning of the year.

So what’s on deck for 2014?

Keep writing. This ought not to be a problem; getting back into regular blogging again was one of the best things about 2013; I’m just flat-out happier when I’m writing a lot. As always, I want to bend more toward fiction, but I always want to write more fiction. That’s not new.

Still a writing goal, but a bit more specific:

Self-publish Skylights officially. This book is already written although it could probably use one more editing pass. Technically it’s available on Lulu– I put it there so I could have them print one author’s copy and buy it for myself– but I want it on Amazon. Plans are in the works to commission a local artist friend to do the cover if I get the teacher creativity grant I applied for earlier this year. I may suck it up and do that anyway. Even if I don’t get the grant, I want this book available on Amazon by the end of the year.

Finish the bathroom renovation in a timely fashion. The boy’s home sick with me right now, which has slowed us down a bit, but I still think we can get the tub done by the end of break. The fear is that once that’s done the rest of the stuff will just sit in the damn living room for months because of the amount of work to be done and the lack of several contiguous days off of work. I’m going to DC over Spring Break with my kids, so it’s not like I can even back it up to that. MLK weekend is gonna be real busy around here.

Read big books. Spending last year trying to read 200 books led to me focusing on shorter fiction. I miss nonfiction a lot right now, and I’ve got a lot of stuff built up that’s gonna take me a while– for example, a 2600-page no-that-is-not-a-typo biography of Abraham Lincoln that is so big I can’t figure out how to read it in a physical sense– ie, how to hold the book while I read it. I’m reading it this year. I’m about 60% through Gone with the Wind right now, which is over a thousand. I also want to read through the Wheel of Time books; there are something like twelve or thirteen of them and they’re all close to or over a thousand pages each. I read about half the series before realizing how much Jordan had left to write and then bailed– and then Jordan died, and Brandon Sanderson took over, but now that they’re finally all written I can actually finish reading them.

Other reading goals: 1) Read every Stephen King book, in order (I’ve already started this, but The Stand is next, which is– again– a million pages long, so I put it off; and 2) I’m 1/3 of the way through The List and I want to be much closer to finishing that by the end of the year. That oughtta keep me busy.

(Have I talked about The List on here? I don’t remember. I’ll fill y’all in later if you want to know.)

Make it to Bloomington for a weekend sometime this summer. Also, Louisville, where I have some friends who I haven’t seen in forever. I haven’t been to Bloomington since 2005; it’s one of my favorite cities and it’s crazy that it’s been that long since I’ve been there. In addition, I’d like to go somewhere– and I’ll leave that generic– that I’ve never been to before. The boy’s old enough now that we can travel with him. Just come up with a place and go. (NOTE: This is the least likely of all goals thus far to actually happen. Overcoming my own inertia is insanely challenging.)

Buy a decent telescope, finally. Use it.

Learn piano, or at least learn a few songs I’m comfortable with. This is more achievable than it sounds because we actually own a piano; my wife plays. I failed spectacularly at learning ukulele this year, but I have some reason to believe that achieving at least moderate competence on piano will be easier.

Be a better teacher during the second half of the school year than I was during the first. Blah blah blah teaching sucks because reasons. Stop whining; do better anyway.

Watch less Sesame Street. Because gaaaah.

I’ll likely add to this as the day goes on. Feel free to check back ceaselessly if you like.

In which I can’t believe that worked

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 6.32.08 PM

A quick touch of context– everything I post here gets cross-posted to Facebook, right?  I’ve probably got half my friends blocking me by now.  I have a friend who is Norwegian, both in the ethnic and the “lives there now” sense.   She read today’s post and commented over on Facebook that the lack of Finland was probably because, at least compared to Norwegians and Swedes, Finnish people generally aren’t as likely to be English speakers.

Which is how the last post happened, because I commented– initially as a joke and then I decided to actually do it, because why the hell not– that clearly what was going to be necessary was for me to literally write a post in Finnish and then tag it appropriately.

And then the Internet threw in Iceland as a bonus.  Which is hilarious.  Which country should I do next?  Is Greenlandish a language?

Jossa olen houkuttelevia

Terveisiä ystäviä Suomessa! En kielivalikoima mutta haluaisin joillekin teistä vierailla blogissani. Nauti tämä kaunis Englanti laulun maasi.  Kiitos käsittelyssä!  Myös Suomi on suurin kieli koskaan. Mitään sitä käyttävät monet skandit on kieli Haluan oppia. Toivon, että Google kääntää tämän järkevällä tavalla.

(Translated through Google Translate, which means this is probably a recipe for chicken tikka masala:  IN WHICH I ENTICE:  Greetings friends from Finland!  I do not speak your language but I would like for some of you to visit my blog.  Enjoy this lovely English song about your country. Thank you for reading! Also, Finnish is the greatest language ever.  Anything that uses that many umlauts is a language I want to learn.   I hope that Google translates this in a way that makes sense.)

Because I’m just curious enough to see if it works.  🙂

In which I am ignorant: also, blogwanking


As of today I’m halfway through Winter Break.  Thus far I’m not– at least as far as I know– making myself or anyone else crazy, which is a good thing, because I’m bad at vacations.  On the other hand, other than the big renovation project, you may have noticed that I’m kiiiinda starting to run low on viable interesting blog topics since all I’m doing with my life lately is lazing about my house with a book in my hand and occasionally whacking something with a hammer or a saw.  I went to work yesterday; it was the first time I’d left the house for longer than two minutes since Christmas.

So, uh, let’s talk about… geography?  Sure.

I am, as I’ve already discussed this week, a data nerd.  I’m a math teacher in the real world, remember, and apparently I come by that shit honestly.  One of the unexpected fun bonuses of running a blog is that it provides me with a never-ending sea of data to play with:  how many hits did I get today?  Followers?  Likes?  What’s the ratio of unique visitors to page views today?  Have I set any records lately? I posted a comment on that site, it brought me over a dozen visitors!

Stuff, in other words, that is entirely meaningless in any real-world fashion but is fun for me to play with in my head. While I wouldn’t mind more detail, WordPress does a decent job of giving me my site statistics in a nicely visual, manipulable way and I spend more time than I probably should each day staring at my stats.

Way more time, if I’m being honest.  Way, way more time.

I said I was a nerd; shuddup.

That said, looky here:

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 10.21.33 AMAnybody with a WordPress blog reading this has seen this map already; it’s how WordPress shows you where your traffic is coming from.  I’m fascinated by this, and days where I get a new country (six hits from Guernsey today!  Finally picked up Thailand yesterday!) never fail to give me a little thrill in my jibbly parts.  WordPress is kinda weird about how they determine what is a country or not.  For example, I have no hits from China, which does not surprise me given China’s policy on censoring the internet.  I do, however, have a number of hits from Taiwan and Hong Kong, which are both part of China, so apparently WordPress is distinguishing the mainland from former territories, or something; I’m not sure.   Similarly, to use today’s example, from looking at Wikipedia I get the impression that no one from Guernsey would assert that Guernsey is its own country– yet there it is in my “countries” list.

Some interesting (to me) facts about my traffic:

  • The biggest countries are entirely unsurprising: the United States, followed by the other three English-speaking democracies:  the UK, Canada, and Australia.  Fourth and fifth place are Norway and Switzerland.
  • I have no traffic whatsoever from anywhere in Central America.  Not one damn country.
  • Most of Europe is represented except for some bits of Eastern Europe, mostly former Soviet republics and, annoyingly, Finland.  I don’t know why not having a hit from Finland annoys me except for the fact that Sweden and Norway are so well represented.  I know Finland was Soviet-dominated to a degree that Norway and Sweden never were, and all of the rest of the European countries I’m missing are former Soviet Union or at least Soviet bloc countries; that might have something to do with it but I’m not sure what.
  • Way more African countries are represented than I might have expected:  Sudan, for instance, which is probably the single most surprising country I’ve gotten traffic from.  Ethiopia, also.
  • Macedonia shows up as “Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic.”  Its official name according to the UN is “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”  I’m sure that there’s some history behind that that I’m currently ignorant of (mental note: research) but it seems rrrreeeallly weird.  That said I may start a movement to rename the US as The Former British and French and Spanish Colony and Before That Indigenous Peoples-Occupied Land of the United States of America.  Sounds more fun that way.
  • I really want someone from Greenland to visit my blog, because Greenland is so damn big.  🙂

One thing that all this has brought to mind is that my geography isn’t what it used to be.  I had a teacher in seventh grade who insisted that every kid who passed his class memorize the globe.  Which I did, happily.  The problem is that that means my geography froze in about 1988– and the Soviet Union didn’t fall apart until 1991.  My Eastern Europe and Asia geography is therefore not nearly as good as I want it to be.

Don’t get me wrong:  the classical stereotype of Americans ignorant about geography is that they “can’t find XXX on a map.”  So long as we’re talking about countries, at least, there’s no place on Earth I can’t find on a map within a few seconds, and I suspect I’d do pretty damn well with capitals and major cities even if I hadn’t heard of them beforehand; I know enough about what languages sound like to be able to pin most places down to a region quickly and after that it won’t take long.  What I’m talking about is handing me a blank map and asking me to fill it in.  I’m not as good at that as I want to be, and I’ve been reminded of it enough lately (Slovenia!  Latvia!  Which ones are those, again?) that I need to fix it.

That’ll give me something to do over the next week or so while I’m not pounding on things, right?