The last post of last year

I keep almost writing a 2021 blogwanking post or a sort of round-up of last year, and then finding excuses not to do it. Not that the bathroom renovation isn’t more interesting (I hope, at least) than endless navel-gazing, but I can only put this off for so long before I just can’t write it any more. So, long story short: traffic last year was way way way down, which doesn’t matter because it’s still plenty high for a personal blog site of a non-famous person in 2021, and y’all are stuck with me here anyway for the foreseeable future. Two things are pretty cool. This is the lifetime map of countries that I’ve had hits from:

That’s … everywhere, basically; that island up at the top is Svalbard island, where less than fifty people live, most of whom are climate researchers, and it’s part of Norway anyway. North Korea. South Sudan. Tajikistan, I think? (EDIT: Nope, that’s Turkmenistan.) These are not heavily populated countries with a lot of infrastructure, in other words. And despite the low numbers of actual hits (down over 20K in hits and about 12K in unique visitors) the geography from last year is pretty gratifying all by itself:

One way or another, the notion that people from literally all over the world have at least popped in over here, if not actually stuck around and hung out, is pretty amazing.

I have to admit something that is, if not a Hot Take, at least not an especially popular opinion: for me personally, and my immediate family, I don’t think last year was that bad of a year. Now, you have to take this in context, where I am pretty sure that I have described every year since 2016 as the worst year of my life, and I remain of the belief that yes, my life really did spiral south for five straight years, culminating in the loss of my mother on January 11, 2020. 2021 was the first year in a long fucking time where I have a few good things to think about when I look back on it. My brother and his wife had their first child. My dad’s doing okay. We’ve done a lot of work on the house. I made more money last year than I’ve ever made before, a feat I should be able to repeat this year, and because I’ve paid off my credit cards, leaving me with no credit card debt for the first time since college, I’ve been able to keep more of that money and use it for more than just paying off interest. My son is happy and healthy and thriving at school. My wife got a promotion and a raise. I, who a few years ago was convinced I’d never see the inside of a classroom again, got nominated for Teacher of the Year again. By the time this school year ends, I’ll not only have paid off my car, but my student loans might be gone.

All in all, on a strictly personal basis, I can actually see some light again. I have reason for at least a guarded level of optimism, which has not been true for quite some time. I mean, the rest of the world is still going to hell, don’t get me wrong. But at least not everything is going to shit.

My one big personal regret right now is that my writing career is, at the least, on a significant pause, and very well might be done. I haven’t written a word of fiction in at least a couple of years, and I’m not missing it much. I mean, it’s not like I was changing the world or anything like that, as much as I tried to take everything seriously, I never managed to make any money at it– every single con I attended lost me money, so it was more of an expensive hobby than anything else. I’m not saying I’ll never release another book, but I’m not in a hurry to.

You never know. Most of my creative energy lately is going here and to the YouTube channel, and maybe eventually that’ll blow up. If not, well, we’ll see what comes next.

Uh-oh.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 8.33.02 PMGo ahead, count ’em.  That there storm system is four states wide, and heading more or less directly toward me.  Like, due east.  The whole damn thing’s gonna pass over us, and it’ll pick up steam when it goes over the lake.

Tomorrow’s gonna be fun.  I don’t think this is going to eat Monday yet, though, because even if, as predicted, it snows for 24 hours straight, the plows ought to have time to keep the roads clear.  I still bet I have to blow off the driveway three times tomorrow.

Whee!

BY REQUEST: Geography blogwanking

countries

Haven’t posted this map in a while either.  There aren’t really any surprises on it, I don’t think, other than the continued refusal of anyone from Kosovo at all ever to come visit my blog.  I swear, guys, I’ve been chasing this one: I have Kosovo as a search term in my Reader and I Like every single post that is tagged “Kosovo” and not one single person from Kosovo has come back to my blog from Kosovo to read my blog in Kosovo.

Kosovo.

Also, Svalbard island, but I’m less annoyed by that because I know no one but polar bears actually lives there.

Most of the rest of the places I haven’t had at least one hit from are either third world countries, theocratic dictatorships, or former Soviet bloc countries with -stan in their names, and frequently they’re more than one of those at the same time.  Oh, and Cuba, which doesn’t quite fit into any of those categories but also doesn’t surprise me too much.

But seriously, Kosovo.  You’re in Europe.  There’s no excuse.  Come say hi.

In which I am ignorant: also, blogwanking

world-map-tattoo

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?