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September 29, 2004

Feeding the Birds

Most of the vacation down in Tybee was spent watching the Weather Channel and going outside occasionally to be sandblasted on the beach. But on Monday while Atlanta was getting drenched by Hurricane Jeanne, the weather was clearing up on Tybee.

That afternoon we were watching as the seagulls would fly in the 20-30 mph winds. By making small adjustments they could stay over one spot on the ground, but if they made a small adjustment they were immediately blown sideways at high speed downwind.

Someone decided we should throw breadcrumbs to some of the birds outside our fourth floor balcony. Although the birds were nearly motionless in relation to the balcony, when you threw a piece of bread from the sheltered balcony it was immediately whipped away by the wind. Sometimes the birds would catch it but more often it went to the ground. Some birds were close enough to the balcony you could throw the bread right at them and have a decent chance of them getting it. So Grant, Jeb, and I stood there throwing bread crumbs for a while (Dad would have no part in this since he (correctly) figured we needed the bread to make sandwiches the next day).

The birds were so close I figured I could just hold out a piece of bread and they could get it from my hand. I leaned over the rail and held a piece of bread as far out as I could and the birds immediately started trying for it. In the strong wind this had to be very difficult, but within a few seconds one had snatched the bread away without biting me. I tried a few more times with similar results.

There were some starlings (?) mixed in with the gulls as well. They were a little smaller and did a lot more flapping than the gulls, but they were more nimble and braver. They could come right up and grab a piece of bread while I held it 40 feet above the ground. Jeb said it looked like they landed on my hand for an instant while they picked the piece up. It was pretty interesting and shows you how well animals can adapt to almost any conditions. Pretty soon the birds lost interest as some other people on the second floor threw more bread crumbs from their balcony. Unfortunately nobody brought a camera so we didn't get any pictures but you can ask anybody who was there and they will tell you this really happened.

September 22, 2004

Katie's Triumphant Return

This weekend Susan was out of town so Beacon and Belle were staying over. With Martti only working Monday thru Friday I asked him if he'd like to go to Red Top Mountain for a dog hike on Sunday (I don't see how I could handle all 4 dogs by myself). Katie hadn't been since last fall and the subsequent knee surgery. We had been to Stone Mountain where she has been enjoying swimming after sticks (even Clio is getting to be a good swimmer) and she hasn't shown any problems with her leg, but I was still worried about Red Top because it is more strenuous.

Once again we managed to get behind the main group of hikers and dogs within minutes of the start. But at least this time it wasn't from being out of shape (they rerouted the beginning of the trail and made it easier) but because we somehow lost Beacon in the initial confusion. We went back to look for her and found her eventually. Then we continued on, taking a shortcut that I hoped would get us caught up. We found a couple of other people with their dogs who I thought might be stragglers as well, but they said they had taken the same shortcut and the main group wasn't there yet.

The water was very high from Hurricane Ivan, well up into the woods. So swimming around trees and over limbs wasn't easy for my dogs. But Lucy and her owner, Matt, were there and Lucy displayed her fearless and enthusiastic swimming. Also one dog chased after a stick and got it confused with the branch of submerged fallen tree that was sticking out and tried over and over to bring the whole tree back pulling on the branch (someone said if all the dogs worked together maybe they could have done it).

Anyway, although Katie looked like she was limping a little at times, she turned out to be just fine. I get scared when I see her running really fast or tumbling around with another dog, but it seems like she has made a 100% recovery.

The saga continues two years later with Katie's Other Knee.

September 17, 2004

My Web Stats

A while ago I wrote about my web page counter Site Meter and again about dabbling with Ad Sense, Google's service to provide ads on web pages and pay the owners of the websites for people who follow those ads.

Lately I've been getting nearly 100 clicks on my website a day. This is a lot for a personal page, I think (and more than the Covered Bridge and Sidney Lanier websites got combined though I only had counters on their home pages). I can track which web pages on my site get the most visits. Hands down, as I have written before, it is the DeJumbler page that has a MS Word document that unscrambles words for you. I have no way of knowing if people are really using it or not, but I do notice some frequent returns by fairly unique domains like www.stgenevievek-8.com.

Another thing the meter does is tell me what the web address of the site that referred them to me. For instance sometimes mac.fiveforks.com will show up since I have links to my site on my blog. But more often the referring URL is a web search engine like Ask Jeeves or Google. Even better, the URL includes additional information like what search terms people were using when Google or Ask Jeeves gave them my website. For instance, this might be the referring page:


What you can get out of that is that the person used two words in their search "word" and "unscrambler". If you follow the link you will see my page shows up about eighth on that page. If they change the search term to "letter" and "unscrambler" then I show up first.

It used to be that I never got hits from Google at all, just Ask Jeeves. For whatever reason, Google hadn't found my site. That changed when I decided to put some Google advertisements on my DeJumbler page. Soon thereafter I started getting hits from Google. And of course Google is used by a lot more people than Ask Jeeves so when that happened visits to my site went up by several fold from 20 a day to 100 a day. This works to Google's advantage to send people to websites where Google's ads live. It works to my advantage too because one out 100 or so visitors will click on an ad so now I get a click almost every day (about 3 cents a click; so far I've made $4.67). I also went ahead and added advertisements to my iPod battery pack page which seemed to be getting more traffic lately.

For a few weeks I dropped off of Google's radar and my page visits dropped back down. But then recently I've come back with a vengeance. Now I am getting referrals to more of the pages on my website (see statistics for pages visited or referrals). There are tons of statistics. You can also see how many pages a particular visit views. Paydirt would be if they visit more than one page, otherwise it might just mean that they aren't finding what they are looking for. From time to time I'll see someone who really stays for a while, but not that often.

It's very interesting to watch, almost as interesting as watching Delta stock go up and down (mostly down). But I think the most amazing and maybe conspiratorial part of the whole thing is watching how Google seems to be steering people to my website because I have Google ads there.

September 15, 2004

One Down

Time continues to draw down. After working very hard all summer and earning some sales awards, Madis finished delivering his books ahead of schedule and has left Atlanta. He went to Nashville where the company is located to close out and then will stop by for a party in Gatlinburg to celebrate the end of the sales season before catching a bus up to New York and then home.

Meanwhile, the books for Martti and Arni still haven't arrived. Arni is helping another team deliver books using his van. Since he has been staying with them I haven't seen him much in the past week. Martti continues to work at Kroger even though their classes back in Estonia have already started and they will have to catch up when they get back. Because Martti wanted to work a lot of hours at Kroger he would work until they told him to go home. He wound up earning a few hours of overtime which they then got mad at him for. If he eats lunch at the store he doesn't have to clock out for lunch so he works eight hours straight from 8 to 4 Monday thru Friday. He walks a couple of miles to the store which takes about 30 minutes. In Atlanta a 30-minute commute really isn't that bad.

One day Martti showed me an envelope he had gotten from the Selective Service Board. I said "Don't worry about that, I don't think they can draft you" and told him all about the draft and how 18-year-olds just have to register. But upon closer examination the card within said "Thank you for registering". I told him Congratulations! You'll be in Iraq in no time and they can really use you. Apparently part of the application process at Kroger triggered him to automatically register for the draft. Looking closer still, there was something on the back of the card that said if he had gotten this in error that he could send in a copy of his visa and they would remove his name. He didn't waste any time sending that back.

A couple of weeks ago I told the guys I would like to take them out to dinner before they go back and they chose this last Sunday. Since Arni was away working, Madis took his rental car to go pick him up (not sure why Arni couldn't use the van . . .). On the way back the car started having trouble but they made it back to the house. That night Madis said he wanted to take Arni back but wasn't real confident in the rental car, asking if they could borrow my car. Since it seemed like a crunch and we'd had a good dinner I figured it would be okay. Madis said that rather than leave so late at night (and having had one beer at dinner) they would get up very early and get the car back to me before I needed to go to work. The next morning they headed out but a little after 8:00 they called and said that due to the traffic on the way over they wouldn't be able to get back to the house in time. I was a little ticked, but it's not a bad walk to the MARTA station. When I walked home that evening my car was in the driveway undamaged but Madis asked me if my car was always really hard to start. Uh-oh. I said you're probably not doing something right and went out to the car. I put the key in the ignition and tried to start the car and just got clicking. I was pretty mad that after driving the rental into the ground they had done the same to my car which had been working fine for me the day before. I asked if Arni had driven the car and Madis said he had. "How fast?" I asked. I said Arni needed to come over and help me start the car but Susan was able to come by and we jumpstarted the car and took it to the Honda repair place nearby. The car is six years old and it appears that the battery just picked the day when Estonians were driving to give out. When I got the car out of the shop I told Madis everything was okay. That was nice to get that resolved because he felt really bad about it and was leaving that same day (and Madis' car really was in bad shape; it died on his way back to the rental car agency).

The guys were trying to figure out how to get back. Their round-trip tickets were from Estonia to New York's JFK airport and back. They asked about taking a bus since that is how the company had gotten them from New York to orientation in Nashville. The bus fare was $70 and took 22 hours. I said they should fly and we looked up some fares. Airtran doesn't go to JFK, but Delta matches their New York fares anyway and a ticket was only $110 (I checked Amtrak too, but it was about the same price and took 18 hours). Martti wasn't so sure he wanted to spend the extra money. I pointed out that if he took the bus he would still need ground transportation to the airport, plus the bus could be so late he would miss his flight. Dad pointed out that with a 22-hour trip he would also have to buy a couple of meals. Still, he wanted to think about it some more. Madis was faced with a similar dilemma. We checked air prices from Nashville to New York and they were $500. I think he is going to be taking the bus. Martti asked what would happen if he bought the ticket on Delta and they went bankrupt? I said no problem, American airlines go bankrupt all the time and keep flying. I told him just don't loan Delta any money. So Martti has decided he will fly Delta with a two-hour layover in New York. I even called Delta to make sure he could check his baggage all the way through in Atlanta.

A week or so ago Madis hurt his finger in a car door or something. He talked to me about it and said it wasn't getting any better. It was swollen and a little purple. I'm an engineer, not a doctor, but I told him it would be okay. He kept thinking he should go see a doctor. But I didn't think a guy who would take a 22-hour bus trip instead of a 2-hour plane flight to save $40 needed to be going to the doctor for a hurt finger. He finally went and they said it had gotten infected. So they put him on antibiotics and prescribed some 800 mg ibuprofen. I think his mother is a nurse and she said that US doctors give too much medicine: in Estonia half that amount of medicine would work just fine. I thought that was interesting and probably true (and I'm glad he didn't sue me for malpractice).

Last Saturday, Susan's company had rented Zoo Atlanta for a company picnic. Since Martti wasn't doing anything and nobody else was home we asked him if he wanted to go with us. It was a great chance to see the zoo without too many people there plus they had extra feedings and plenty of staff to talk about the animals. It was the first time I had seen the kangaroos there plus they had a display in the reptile house with bats. Some of the animals get more active as the evening comes on and the lion was walking around and roaring. They also had barbecue for dinner and free beer. At dinner we were standing in the food line and I went to get a beer, asking Martti if he wanted one. He said yes. Afterwards they had free fortune tellers, palm readers, and a guy who analyzes handwriting on hand. Martti stood in line and did all three. On the way home I asked Martti what he liked best about the evening. He said the beer.

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