Saturday, December 26, 2015

Blog Post #100

Where Have I Been?

This blog is now about 6 years old. Thanks to irregular gaps between my posting articles, this is only blog post #100.

My apologies for the long gap between my most recent article on this blog and this one. It's been well more than a year since I last posted an article here. Such laxity needs an explanation.... Last year my wife succumbed to her 2nd heart attack and died in her sleep one Sunday night. Needless to say, that was a huge emotional setback for me. Also last year I developed a severe infection in the middle toe of my right foot. Despite doctor's care, antibiotics and so forth, the infection moved into the bone and the doctor's concluded that the toe had to immediately come off. The result was I was in the hospital for much of December and was sent home on the evening of Christmas day.

Medical adventures continued through the next couple of months with nightly treatments in a hyperbaric chamber at Winthrop hospital to accelerate the healing. It worked. The nicest thing about laying in the the hyperbaric chamber for a couple of hours each evening is you get to watch your choice of movies (from their large DVD collection), so I caught up on a lot of semi-recent movies that I'd otherwise missed seeing. Down side is it's very tight space and they have a rule that you can't bring a date (or even popcorn) into the tube with you. ;-)

Unrelated to my foot problems, by late summer 2015, I found my vision was fading to the extent I was no longer able to read. I cranked up the font size on my PC screen to try to get by, but the wretchedness of my typing accuracy with little ability to proofread was depressing and certainly discouraged any attempts to type up an article for the blog. So I went to an ophthalmologist and learned I had developed cataracts in the lenses of both my eyes. 10/29 they operated on the right eye (which was the worse of the 2 eyes, by far) and 11/13 they operated on the left eye. I was a bit disappointed that things weren't instantly better after the surgery, but apparently the surgery causes inflammation in the eye. It takes a few weeks for the swelling to go down and the vision to clear up.

I've needed eye glasses for distance since the 4th grade in elementary school. Now, thanks to the plastic lenses they implanted in place of the murky lenses they removed, my distance vision is fine without glasses. I can read the newspaper without glasses too, but do admit to having problems with reading fine print and reading in dim light is still more difficult then I'd like. I have an appointment with the Ophthalmologist this week to get fitted for reading glasses, so maybe the fine print of EULA's will become legible to me again soon.

My daughter insists the plastic lenses are just phase 1 of a secret plan to make me "bionic". Clearly she's watched too many cable TV re-runs of old shows.

Modern surgery for cataracts is pretty amazing. The ophthalmologist describes it as a 10 minute procedure per eye, but that's from his perspective. The day of the surgery you have to be there early and go through various check-in reviews of your meds, and transportation arrangements. It is an absolute requirement that you have someone available to escort you home. I believe the local taxi company could have done fine, but the eye surgicenter insisted that wouldn't do. As a non-driver, I use the local taxi company a lot. Often when I get into one of their cabs the driver just asks me if I want to go home and needs only a "yes" to get me to the right place. Fortunately, there's a company called the Fairy Godmothers of Long Island that provides people to escort patients home from surgery. My daughter hooked me up with them when she couldn't get to the suburbs to escort me herself. (Oh, great! Wait until word gets around that my daughter fixed me up with an escort service. :-). The Fairy Godmothers took me to the surgicenter and then waited for me to be released from the recovery room, they then took me home and made sure i got the door unlocked and was safely home. Heck, I've had taxi rides home from Walmart where the taxi driver even helped me carry my purchases into the house. Fairy Godmothers was a valuable service for me in that I needed them to satisfy the surgicenter people, but I'm still convinced the taxi company could have done just as well.

So that's more like 4 hours per eye. Oh, and for a week prior to the surgery and for weeks afterward there were eyedrops to apply. At it's worst there were 3 different eyedrops 3 times/day. You need at least 5 minutes between drops so you don't just wash out the previous medicine with the next one, so it felt like all eye drops all the time each day. And the day after the surgery you need to see the ophthalmologist to get the eye patch off, and a couple more weekly appointments to make sure the vision is coming into focus the way it should. And by then it's time for the surgery on the other eye. A "10 minute procedure" started feeling like a couple of months lost to working on the eyes. The good news is things apparently worked out fine.

The Stats By Country for the Blog as of this post

So, enough with the excuses for my recent level of posting inactivity on the blog. It has been close to 3 years since "Blog Post #50". Readership on the blog has picked up nicely in those 3 years. As of Blog post #50 I'd had a total of 2600 page views from 2009-2013. My total page view count as of today is up to 33,370 over the life of this blog. That's not even close to passing for viral among YouTube videos, and I certainly don't need to dream yet about how to monetize my page views, You'll notice I don't put any advertising on my pages or even a "please contribute" tip jar button.

Google reports the top 10 countries for page views. The biggest readership by far is still in the US with 15,172 page views over the life of this blog. I wish that was broken down by state, but blogspot.com doesn't slice the data that finely. Russia remains in 2nd place. Germany dropped from 3rd to 4th place as France moved up from 7th place to 3rd place. As before, India finished just behind Germany. New to the list is Ukraine, which finished just behind India. China dropped from 5th to 9th on the list. (Blame the Great Fire Wall of China, which I'm told officially bars access to blogspot.com sites from China?). Slovenia dropped from 6th to below 10th place, so it's vanished from this table. United Kingdom moved from the 8th place slot to the 7th place slot. Canada is newly on the top-10 list, just behind the United Kingdom. The Netherlands dropped from 9th to below 10th, so it's vanished from this table. Poland remains in the 10th place slot, just behind China.

United States 15172
Russia 1632
France 1380
Germany 1248
India 1235
Ukraine 1229
United Kingdom 990
Canada 418
China 283
Poland 224

Origin of pageviews by country

And of course the data has a long tail that blogspot.com doesn't show me. I know that from time to time I've had readers from Australia and Brazil. I think that I've even had occasional clicks from somewhere in Africa, but evidently not enough to be anywhere but in the invisible long tail of the data.

Top 10 articles by page-views

Actual code - C vs. Python for a small problem 1731
What's the fuss about parallel programming? 1537
Pythonic Python - Writing Python code that fits the language's idioms 1471
Python Generators 1449
Is the Udacity CS101 course watered down? 1442
Python and Parallel Processing 566
Linus Torvalds on Teaching Children to Program 451
Cornell Hydraulics Lab 433
Literate Programming 379
Home Networking with FiOS - Don't Cross the Streams 365

Top 10 articles by pageviews

I'm pleased to say that some serious articles have at last edged out the dumb humor articles from the most-viewed list.

The "Python Generators" article seems to owe its popularity by it being referenced with a link in another person's Python-oriented blog.

How the readers access the blog

blogspot.com reports the breakdown by browser. Over the life of this blog, the most used browser to access my blog was Chrome (39%), followed by Firefox (32%). Internet Explorer (or Internet Exploder as I tend to refer to it) was a distant 3rd at 16%. Annoyingly, the stats don't distinguish Internet Explorer versions. It would be nice to see if IE6 is at least fading though I hear it is still about 10% of the browser views in the world. I also notice that some of the IE accesses are likely "fakes" as they come in rapid bursts of >100 page views in a short interval of less than an hour, with none of the views attributed to any particular blog article. (Page scraping in the name of IE?). 4th place went to Apple's Safari browser at 7%. 5th place was a tie of Mobile Safari and Opera at 1% each. The tail with < 1% each included Instapaper, "CriOS", "Mobile", and "OS; FBSV".

Here's the breakdown by operating system of the pageviews: Windows (56%), Macintosh (17%), Linux (11%), Android (8%), Other UNIX (2%), iPhone (1%), iPad (1%), UNIX (< 1%), iPod (<1%), Windows NT 6.1 (<1%), Funny that they break out just one ancient version of Windows and don't mention Windows XT, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows Vista, ... which presumably are all lumped into "Windows" 56%. Your guess is as good as mine as to the categories UNIX and Other UNIX. SunOS, Sun Solaris, SGI Irix, IBM AIX, BSD UNIX?

Complaint Department

In blog Post #50 I lamented that contrary to what all the hype about "Web 2.0" would have you expect, that the vast majority of my readers are silent. That is, there are disappointingly few comments and feedback about the articles. As I put it in Blog Post #50:
What does it take to get people to post comments on the articles? 50 articles and I've only had 12 comments all together. And 6 of those were on one article about Education and Technology. Begging for comments doesn't seem to work. Do I need to write about more incendiary topics to get any kind of reaction? Heck, even feedback like "that's kind of obvious", and "here's another web page that says that better than you did" would be useful feedback to me. Didn't everybody get the memo about Web 2.0 being interactive? It isn't supposed to be read-only.

For the most part that is still true, but I did finally have one article that got relatively heavy response. 139 comments on "Actual code - C vs. Python for a small program". This surfaced a new problem. blogspot.com does a relatively poor job of organizing the comments in a clear accessible way when there are a significant volume of comments. The comment mechanism also is little help for contributing complex data (e.g. source code, data tables) in comments.

A distant 2nd place for number of comments went to "Marketing the Importance of Programming Education" with 27 comments after only 214 page views. That's a volume of comments that the blogspot.com comments mechanism seems comfortable with displaying. (Well, it displays them without complaint, but much beyond a couple of dozen comments, it is difficult to unravel who was replying to what).

Other complaints are mentioned elsewhere in this article: Lack of breakdown of varieties of IE browsers, lack of breakdown of varieties of Windows, lack of clarity of breakdown of versions of UNIX, lack of breakdown of US into finer locations (e.g. by state), lack of access to the long tail of the stats (e.g. countries that didn't make the top 10 over all time). Distinguishing real page views from bots accessing the blog.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

GMO Labeling - Even a Kid Can Understand Why.

Last July in Danger Lurking in the Plastic Packaging of our Food? I wandered away from that article's title topic and took a light poke at the government for not insisting that GMO ingredients in food should be labeled as such.

GMO ingredients still aren't labeled, and here's a TED talk from a 15 year old that makes clear why they ought to be. 15 year old explains why GMO's ought to be labeled, It's only a 13 minute talk. Made sense to me. Is your congress-person as smart as a 15-year old? Honest enough to do what's right?

Not sure who represents you in the federal House of Representatives and Senate? Well, if you know your zip code, visit Find Your Senators and Representatives to find out who represents you. Now that you're armed with that information, you can visit Contacting the congress to actually contact them and make your opinion known. Isn't even going to cost you a stamp as they tend to have web forms or e-mail to receive your communications.

My apologies to my non-U.S. readers, but please work out how to let your government know of the need for GMO labeling.

Blogs aren't meant to be read-only. Please take a moment to comment on this article and re-share it with your friends. Even if you just give me a comment lifted from the GEICO commercial: "Everybody knows that!", I'll still be glad to hear from you.