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Archive for January, 2009

Very early this morning someone from Australia hit on my blog by searching for the blog name in quotes followed by the word “brat” which wasn’t in quotes but is now because I added them. A closer look at my stats told me this was actually the person’s second visit to my site this morning after spending nearly eight minutes reading posts I’ve labeled as pertaining to my daughter. So the person spent time here reading about my child and decided to enter that particular search string to see if it brought him/her back here. I guess congratulations are in order to Sherlock Holmes for being able to surmise that my child can be a brat sometimes.

This visitor made me curious. From all appearances he/she hit on me initially by simply typing in my blog URL. I know stats trackers aren’t 100% reliable when it comes to finding out how people find you, but if this person found me the second time by typing in the aforementioned search string, then it stands to reason the initial search string would have registered as well. That tells me this person didn’t need a search engine to find me in the first place because she (let’s just use “she,” shall we?) already knew where to find me.

Oh, but there’s more. During this person’s second visit she searched the site for my daughter’s name, the world “bitch” and the word “annoying.” What the hell, Australia? I happen to like Baz Luhrmann movies and think Hugh Jackman’s native accent only second in sexiness to Christian Bale’s, so don’t start making me nervous with your questionable intentions.

Of course I have no idea who this is and can’t exactly start drafting that nastygram to the suspected guilty party, but I think this incident is impetus enough to provide the non-blogging Web 2.0 public a primer on what we bloggers see when we look at our traffic stats. I’ve actually wanted to write this post for some time but could never figure out how to broach the subject without painting a vivid picture of myself as some crazy hag hunched over her computer stalking the very folks who care enough to pay a visit. I’ll go ahead and give it a try anyway.

Every blogger wants traffic.  We’d like to be able to judge our traffic through the comments we get on our posts, but unfortunately only a small percentage of readers actually comment.  And that’s cool.  I read a lot of blogs and only comment on a few so I can’t complain that my subscriber count is a lot higher than the number of comments I receive.  That would be why a lot of bloggers use a stats tracking program to view their actual traffic.

If you start with a hosted blog on WordPress or Blogger, both platforms are kind enough to let you insert a bit of HTML code into your blog from a third-party stats tracking service such as Sitemeter or StatCounter. Both of these services are free and provide the blog owner with a semi-detailed report about their visitors; how they found you, what search strings they used to find you, their IP addresses, how long they stayed and what links they clicked (if any) when they left your site.

I run a self-hosted blog through a web hosting service using WordPress. I’ve used Sitemeter for as long as I’ve had the blog but last year decided to upgrade my monitoring capabilities and invested in a license for Mint. I won’t go into all the things Mint can do. You can click on the link and check it out at your leisure, but I will say Mint gives me a much more detailed report than Sitemeter, which I continue to use for the occasional quick and dirty stats check. I get whole IP addresses with Mint where Sitemeter provides only the partial IP. With Mint I’m able to practically recreate someone’s visit, especially if they spend a significant time on my site like Australia did this morning. It tells me what pages she visited while she was here, how long she spent on each page and the search words she used while she was here.

The last thing I want anyone to take away from this is that I’m keeping Big Brother-ish tabs on them when they visit. I know it probably sounds like I am and I’d be lying if I said I don’t pay close attention to who’s visiting. I get very little traffic so it’s easy to pay close attention, but I do it because I need to protect myself and my child.  If I get even a whiff that you might be a threat, you can bet your fuzzy koala I’m going to do something about it.

Keeping that in mind, if any of you self-hosted blog owners out there need to know how to block a particular IP address from making that return visit, let me know in the comments and I’ll hook you up.

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The other day someone asked me how long I plan to keep writing here.  That’s a good question and I’m not sure I have an answer.  I suppose I’ll keep the blog going until I’m either out of creative ideas or until I’m a constant embarrassment to my daughter.  You know, whichever comes first.  Sort of like a new car warranty.

A few times this past year I actually thought about ending it.  The blog, that is.  I’m not a new mom anymore and wondered how much more mileage I can get out of anecdotes involving my child expelling bodily fluids in public places.  I also struggled with issues of privacy, mine and Autumn’s, and wondered how much the internet really needs to know about us.

Then there was an incident a few months ago during which I was outed as a blogger at work.  It happened one morning a couple of days after I had written a short, though poorly executed, post about something work-related.  A former co-worker with a bug up her butt and nothing better to do had visited the blog the night before, read the post and before I knew it the link to my blog was spreading from computer to computer like a virus.

I received several hits from local IP addresses following that incident, all I suspect belonging to office mates surfing from home.  I felt violated somehow because I could tell from their selected readings on the site that they were looking for dirt.  It was kind of creepy knowing that people, some of whom I rarely even speak to, were coming here to read up on my life.  I didnt’ like it, but I felt silly complaining about the activity because I was the one who chose to put it all out here in the first place.

So I guess that’s the big question.  Should I have a reasonable expectation to privacy or have I forfeited it by submitting my life to the online community?  Personal blogs like this one don’t offer a service or information of any value.  It’s just a running commentary of my life, one that I’m amazed interests anyone, but don’t I have a right to protect it?  Is it even possible for me to protect it?

So stop blogging, you say.  If you’re so concerned about who reads your blog just say your goodbyes and be done with it, you say.  Yeah, I’ve thought about it.  I’ve thought about all the time I’d free up and how much more sleep I’d get if I wasn’t always writing here.  But if I stop writing here I’m pretty sure I’d stop writing altogether because there’s just something about this place, my place, that keeps me coming back.  Nathan once told me if I didn’t have the blog I’d go crazy and I can’t disagree with him.  This place keeps me sane, so hell yeah I’m going to protect it any way I can.

I’m going to have to wrap this up because it’s getting late, but I’d love to hear what others have to say about the privacy issue.  Sometimes I see a password protected post on a blog and wonder why a person would bother posting it at all if it’s not meant for everyone’s eyes.  That’s what private journals are for, right?  Or not?

Let’s discuss.

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Seven-year itch

Yesterday I received an e-mail from an office-mate thanking me for helping her out with some of her work. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I’ve felt this buried!” she added, though in the e-mail she included a lot more exclamation points.

I hit the reply button and typed “You’re welcome! I wish I could say you’ll eventually get a break but…” I stopped and looked at what I had written and then pressed the backspace key until nothing remained but the first two words I had typed.

“You’re welcome!”

This woman, the one who sent me the e-mail, is a newer employee and reminds me of myself way back when I first started working for the university seven years ago. She’s pleasant, eager to learn and has a great sense of humor. She cares about the job, loves being constantly busy and has forged positive relationships with the people around her. Who am I to poop on her rainbows?

While I’m very happy to have a well-paying job, the truth of the matter is that I am bored. I’m no longer the person full of fresh ideas and a desire for change. There’s no discovery, no delight in the new and no content exhaustion at the end of the day. I miss that and I miss the person I was when I had that.

Working a job in which you’re not fulfilled is not unique to the few. Millions of us do it every day because it’s what we have to do to put food on the table. Our jobs and our passions, the things we’d love to be doing if we didn’t have to work, are all too often separate entities. I can’t think of anyone in my life who has successfully combined the two.

I know, right? Let me just pass you the vodka and vicodin so you can be done with it.

Sorry. I didn’t mean to poop on your rainbows either so what do you say we try to turn this thing around? It’s going to call for a little audience participation, but I’m game if you are.

To begin, tell me the first job you ever held in which you received a paycheck and if you liked that job.

Then tell me the worst job you ever had and the best job you’ve ever had and what made each job horrible/great.

Then tell me what your dream job would be if you had the time/energy/gumption to pursue it. What would you do for a living if you didn’t have to work for a living?

Finally, tell me why you aren’t doing it.

I’ll start.

The first job I held in which I received a paycheck was at an ice cream parlor the summer after my freshman year of high school. I loved it.

The worst job I’ve ever had has to be the one I held after the ice cream parlor. It was at a national fast food chain that required me to wear a burgundy polyester uniform. The managers there were tools and on more than one occasion I was sent home within a half hour of starting my shift because they were overstaffed. I was there for three months.

The best job I’ve ever had was the factory. The people there were great, my contribution was appreciated and I was actually viewed as an intelligent being who could handle additional responsibilities.

I would write if I didn’t have to pay off so much debt. I’d extend myself beyond this blog and finally start the freelance career I’ve been dreaming of for years.

And why am I not doing that? Because I’m chicken shit. And broke. That’s a bad combination, but I’m taking baby steps toward getting rid of the debt and the fear.

Now it’s your turn. Have some fun with it.

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A life full of decadance

If I ever become a woman of leisure I know exactly how I’m going to spend my time. I’m going to sit down and work on every project showcased over at the Cake Journal website.

I actually found Cake Journal through Cake Wrecks as part of CW’s “Sunday Sweets” section. I immediately subscribed to the blog because I love me some cake, especially when it’s really pretty cake. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make pretty cakes, but it’s one of those things that requires time and money, two things I have in short supply right now.

Louise, the creator of Cake Journal, offers many tutorials and recipes on how to make your own scrumptious creations. Just looking at how easily she makes her cookie lollies makes me want to quit my job and open up shop as a creative baker. I’m guessing someone with only one Elmo cake under her belt isn’t going to drum up much business, but I’m nothing if not a dreamer.

Everything on Louise’s site is a treat for the eyes and the site itself is very pretty. There is, however, one thing I don’t like; Louise lives in Copenhagen so there’s very little chance we yanks will ever be able to sample one of her creations.

What do you say, Louise? Care to test the entrepreneurial waters of a mail-order business? I’m just asking.

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Vlogging at Oak Hollow

I’ve never had much incentive to post a vlog entry before, but Angie over at BlogCoach is offering a chance at a $15 iTunes gift card to any one of her readers who posts a vlog entry between now and Valentines Day.  I thought what the hell, I can’t really embarrass myself much further.  I found time to squeeze this sucker in after eight hours of work and before one of the most hellish toddler bath experiences to date.  Autumn freaked out so badly she wound up with a gushing bloody nose.  But that’s another story for another day.

For the record these aches and pains we’ve been a little conerned about were nothing.  She’s just a little drama queen who knows exactly how to push her parents’ buttons.  The bloody nose is part dry house and part hereditary.  I used to get them all the time when I was a kid.

We should get a humidifier.  And a better webcam.  You know, one that makes me look like Rachel McAdams.

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The last time I drove to Chicago was to retrieve a car that had broken down there.  The whole experience was a nightmare from start to finish and wound up costing us a mint in car rental fees.  I never felt as helpless as I did the day my transmission gave out on me in an unfamiliar city, and as Nathan and I returned two weeks later to retrieve our repaired Chrysler, I vowed to never again to drive back to Chicago of my own volition.

Back then I couldn’t imagine anything drawing me back to Chicago.  We took the train down there several years ago, reenacted the epic shootout scene from The Untouchables at Union Station and walked out to Navy Pier.  But we took the train then and didn’t have to worry about Chicago traffic and shady repair shops run by guys named Sal.  Then BlogHer announced this year’s conference at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

So here I am breaking my vow of never driving back to Chicago so I can attend a freaking huge conference full of geek women (and a few men) and their computers.  But that’s not the best part.  The best part is that I’m finally going to meet Meg from Sleepy New Mommy!

 Meg and I hooked up online through our blogs nearly three years ago, back when we were both new moms with little experience and tons of questions.  Over the years we’ve shared stories of our lives with one another and the rest of the internet and continue to spill our guts to an unsuspecting handful of readers on a fairly regular basis.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to graduate from being “virtual” friends with this lovely lady to actually being in the same time zone as her.  I’ve wanted to meet her for so long and can’t wait to see her, squeal and give her a big hug.

Speaking of BlogHer and all that, Meg and I are planning on shacking up for the duration of the conference and are looking for two more adventurous souls willing to room with us to help keep costs to a minimum.  Feel free to contact me through this site or send me a direct message via Twitter (@heathernoah) if you think you might be interested.

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Slip sliding away

This morning the roads were really bad and I wound up sliding into a Chevy truck on my way to work. He was turning left and started sliding. I tried to stop but the road was too slick and I rammed right into him. And just in case my husband is reading this, I did pump my brakes. I pumped and pumped those suckers until my leg cramped up.

Nobody was hurt, but as soon as I hit the guy I knew I had done some damage because some part of my car somewhere flew up and hit my windshield. An ominous “cha-ching” rang in my ears as I contemplated having to pay for body work on a thirteen year-old car, but it turns out I just busted the brakelamp on the driver’s side. It looks like an easy fix and I’ve already ordered the part from an online auto parts store.

As I was trading information with the guy I hit, I learned he’s a newly-graduated teacher at a nearby high school and that this was his first accident. I wanted to say, “Man, this ain’t nothin’” but instead said “congratulations” because I was pumped full of adrenaline and feeling like a fool for ramming into someone for the second year in a row. Man, I do sometimes hate living in Michigan.

I’ve said before how much I love my crappy little Contour, but that baby has proven to me yet again how good it is. It’s still running strong in spite of being woefully neglected. I haven’t changed the oil in months, the check engine light as been lit for well over a year (my mechanic tells me it’s a senor issue and not an engine issue) and continue to park under the pines at work even though I know the sap drips from them and stains my hood.

This March I’ll have had that car for ten years and I’m hoping to squeeze five more out of it just because it’s the first car I’ve ever owned that really, truly took care of me. Even though I probably don’t deserve a car that great, I’m pretty glad to have it.

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