Sunday, March 30, 2008

Referrer Blogging Redux

To the ‘Checkers’
I see you. I know you’re out there, and I appreciate you — just in case you’ve ever wondered.

I’m speaking directly to those of you who faithfully check this space for new content; those who consider the things I write to be interesting enough that they would take time from their busy days to look in — often on a once or even twice-daily basis — but whom have never left me a comment or sent me an e-mail.

Yeah, I’ve made posts similar to this one in the past, although not in quite awhile, but I consider this a highly necessary thing to do, if for no other reason than to exercise my only direct means of communicating with those of you who wouldn’t otherwise comment; those who prefer to remain in the background as silent observers.

So how do I know about you? Simple; I check my Sitemeter daily to see who visits. Most of you know how these things work. They record the ISP, location, and IP address of all blog visitors, depending on the level of reporting security that their respective ISPs have set up.

Based upon how people get to my blog — i.e.: the links that they use, be they direct links (bookmarks), search engine results, or comment/blogroll links from other sites — I can usually determine whether or not a person finds their way here on purpose or merely by chance.

These days, it’s far more often the latter, as my diminished post count has made my blog less and less relevant as a daily destination for some of the previously more regular readers. But please, don’t take this as AJ whining about his lack o’ traffic again. I have voluntarily curtailed my output over the past two years for reasons that are well-documented; I don’t need to reiterate them here. I post when I can, and no longer rake myself over the coals for it.

But that being said, I do still feel at least a little bit guilty for the sake of those who find my blog more by happenstance — usually based on a Google search for a subject that one of my stories has hit upon — and then decide read a little more, and so on, and so on. Though they may become habitual reader/visitors for a time, they don’t often become commentors.

Consequently I don’t have the opportunity to experience them on a personal level, as has been the case with so many of my Blogland neighbors from years past; some of whom have become genuine RT friends, and whose presence in my life is and always will be precious to me because our bonds are real; they’re based upon that which is internal rather than merely external.

So with that in mind, there are a few of you that I just wanted to acknowledge — some who have been readers for a long time and one in particular who, more recently, has become a daily ‘checker.’ I know it’s kinda weird of me to go this route, but this is truly the only way I know to reach out to you directly.

So please forgive my calling you out. And don’t worry — what I actually know about you is pretty sketchy. I don’t know and wouldn’t try to find out anything more than what Sitemeter tells me, and I will refer to you only as the associated ‘referrer’ information gives me course.

For example, I don’t know where you live, only where your ISP is located. I don’t know where you work, but I have a pretty good idea, given that most of your visits are during business hours. So, equipped with this gunshot spray of would-be empirical data, I’m going to make a general stab at identifying you just enough so that you’ll know who I’m talking to.

To the reader in Upstate New York (Carthage? Watertown?), who appears to work for a telecom company: You have been one of the more hardcore ‘checkers’ my blog has ever known. I hope to give you more of what I believe you’re looking for soon. Thank you for your daily visits.

To the reader in Montgomery Alabama who appears to work in the surgical health services industry: You may or may not read this, as it’s been awhile since I’ve noticed one of your visits. You were a daily ‘checker’ as I recall, a year or more ago, and ever since your streak of daily visits, I’ve wanted to write a post like this one to acknowledge and thank you as well. Thank you so much for your interest.

There are others of whom I have suspicions, but none that I have enough evidence of to determine whether they are one person or simply a glut of visitors with the same ISP.

Family ‘Outing’
I also wanted to take this opportunity to officially thank another former anonymous ‘checker,’ who is no longer on the down-low: my cousin, Jeanté (she just ‘checked’ my blog earlier this evening as a matter of fact).

Jeanté and I have had an interesting rebirth in our relationship. We hardly knew each other prior to a couple years ago. We were a part of our family’s large clan of Indiana cousins as we all grew up together in the 60s. We parted company when I moved to California in 1969, but really hadn’t spent any considerable time together even prior to that.

However in June of 2006, I stupidly brought a printed copy of one of my blog posts about my brother Alex to our annual Cousin’s Reunion held in Anderson. At that point no one in the family knew I blogged other than my eldest brother, Jack, and I only brought the story at his behest. He thought it would be good to have it available to those wondering about Alex’s condition.

I wasn’t real hip to the idea, but I figured it’d be okay.

Little did I know that cousin ‘Té would not only read through that hard copy, but also glam onto my blog address and proceed to plow her way through my entire archive when she got home that night. She read every last word over the next several days.

Oh, did I mention that Jeanté reads for a living?

At any rate, let’s just say her activities didn’t exactly fly under the Sitemeter radar. I took notice of those twice-to-three-times-daily visits of an hour or more each and wondered who the hell in Indiana could suddenly have so much interest in my blog. I knew it wasn’t Jack. Then my above-average power of guestimation went to work. I began the process of eliminating the likely suspects. When I looked up the ISP from Jeanté’s e-mail address, I knew.

At first I didn’t know what to expect in response to someone reading accounts that I had really never intended to be leaked to the motherland. For all the while, as she read through my blog from stem to stern, nary a comment did she utter.

I had to know what she was thinking, so I blew her mind by blowing her cover in a ‘the jig is up’ kind of e-mail. It was all good however, and although she was a bit embarrassed by my family ‘outing,’ that ice-breaking opportunity led to further e-mail correspondence and several phone conversations. It provided the common ground for us to become real friends for the first time as adults. I now truly treasure our relationship and the closeness we share. I hope she feels the same way.

Oh and BTW, she comments all the time now. I can’t shut the girl up! ;)

So out’cherself already
So I guess the primary purpose for this somewhat disjointed post is my invitation to those of you who have been reading for awhile, but have never talked back, to do just that.

I’d love to hear from you. Besides, I know you’re out there; I hear ya breathin.’

G’head. You know you want to.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Time flies when you're having fu...
uhh...I mean...when you’re busy.

The new house
The new Casa AJ on Closing Day: Thursday, January 24, 2008

The happy new homeowners
Michelle & AJ: The Happy NEW Homeowners
Geeze...Has it really been six weeks?
Just a quick post to celebrate the six week anniversary of our being in the new house. The photos above are courtesy of one half of our real estate agent tag team, Realty Gal Leslie. She was even kind enough to take the first photo (top) and run it through an illustrator-type filter in Photoshop, creating a lovely watercolor-like image that she had nicely printed and framed for us as a housewarming gift. The picture is now proudly displayed in our entryway.

And speaking of housewarming, we're just two weeks-plus away from our official open house gathering of family and friends to celebrate the wonderful fortune that God has granted on our behalf. Yes, this new home is something that we did work very hard for, but in the long run — the way it all came together — we definitely consider it a gift from above. We've made an open invitation to all of our friends to join us and partake of Michelle's luscious cuisine, play pool, hang out, and just have fun on Saturday March 22nd, from 5:00 PM to whenever.

So if you're in town that weekend, do stop on by!

But just remember, you have to let me win at least one game of pool, aiight?

Am I getting warm...yet?
Other than the obvious correlation to the six-week anniversary of being in the new house, I mostly wanted to post the pictures today because I couldn't believe so much time has flown by already. It seems like just last week we were moving in. In fact, it seems like every day is moving day, we’ve got so much crap to unpack, go-through, and install.

Michelle's and my weekday evenings typically consist of the following: if we don’t subsequently have a Predators game to rush off to, we get home from work, usually around 6:00 PM, have dinner while watching one of out fave primetime TeeVee shows, then force ourselves to get up and get busy.

Weekends, same thing, ‘cept it’s all day and all night long.

Like I said previously, I need a vacation.

Michelle has devoted the bulk of her time to making window treatments and decorating, both with the stuff from our old house and with a few new items we've purchased that lend themselves better to our new surroundings. She's the painter in the family, and has already painted one room, and will eventually do two more before the party.

And that's the primary reason we decided to wait nearly two months to have our housewarming; we needed the time, and it still might not be enough.

As for me, I’ve been hanging stuff up on walls, putting up laundry room cabinets, assembling new furniture, and installing additional kitchen and bathroom hardware (towel racks, utility shelves, and the like).

It's all tedious, boring, but necessary stuff that makes a house a home. But some of the chores are less boring than others...

...Like...installing cue racks.

Um...have I told you about my pool table yet?

My coo...I mean...pool table
AJ's coo...I mean...pool table
Oh yes, we got trouble...
With all apologies to The Music Man and Robert Preston, the only trouble I’ve had with my new pool table is trying to pull myself away from it every night (you didn’t think I worked all the time, did you?). But as much as I would like to play, so far I’ve only been able to justify the time to do about a rack or two per evening, unless of course our son Shawn swings by with a six pack of beer (I mean, c’mon, let’s be reasonable). Bottom line is, there’ll never be enough time for me to play as much as I’d like to; that’s just how much I love it.

It's a beautiful eight-foot Ohlhausen Eclipse, a ‘better pool hall-quality’ table with midnight blue felt. It plays like a dream. Mind you, I didn’t say that ‘I’ play all that great — yet. No, I’m attempting to overcome one of my biggest frustrations in life: being a mediocre-to-bad pool player. If there’s one thing that a guy in our culture should never want to admit, it’s that he’s an easy mark in the pool hall.

That's one egregious character flaw I hope to correct.

I’ve loved playing pool my entire life, but haven’t done so often enough to acquire the consistency to be even an average player (in my own estimation). But if there’s one thing that I am, it’s a good loser — especially when it comes to pool. I enjoy the game so much that I can say honestly, I could play it every single day, not win once, and still enjoy myself.

The sad part is how appallingly close to reality that aforementioned scenario is in terms of my competitive billiards experience. I’d like to turn that around, if not 180 degrees, then at least enough to heighten my enjoyment a little more and embarrass myself a little less. That’s why it’s pretty much a dream come true for me to own this wonderful piece of recreational furniture at long last. I now have the ability to practice — something I’ve never truly had the opportunity to do before.

Not only is it something that I’ve wanted to have in our home for years, but Michelle too has always seemed enthusiastic about the idea of owning a pool table. However it was always a ‘one’a these days’ kind of thing — something we wanted, but could never quite afford or justify shoe-horning into the discretionary budget.

Even with the windfall of profit from our previous home’s sale, which gave us the ability to furnish our new abode in ways our typical cash-flow would never allow, the pool table was close to last on our list of priorities when the money we had to work with was finally meted out.

The two things that we wanted but didn’t quite have the cash leftover to purchase were a fence for our dog and a pool table. They were both about the same money, but in the end we decided to go with the pool table. We purchased it on credit — something I never do — but not on a revolving plan like a major credit card. Instead, the billiards retailer offered a six-months-same-as-cash plan, which gives us more than enough time to save up and pay it off. As long as nothing crops up to interfere with that plan, it looks like we’ll be able to have our breaks and eat ‘em too.

Nevertheless I’m still a little bit nervous, as the thought of borrowing money in any amount nauseates me like bad tuna fish. However I’m reasonably certain that between our upcoming tax refund and Uncle Dubya’s tax rebate check, we’ll probably have the sucker knocked out within a couple of months.

Back to Blogging
Although I still feel good about my new policy to never apologize for not posting (especially when there is as good a reason for it as have been my circumstances lately), I am itching to get back and finish up a few series that I started but left idle in January before the move.

Going back chronologically, I think my first priority should be to wrap up this whole Moving Experience deal. That series has about two or three parts left to write, and I will backfill/backdate those posts and announce here when everything’s done.

Then, I’ll re-address the series that I know a lot of folks are anxious to see the conclusion to, the Two Tales of One City saga involving my brother Alex, which will follow shortly thereafter. Again, in order to keep all the parts together in the blog contents list, I will backdate those as well, and offer links to them in a new post at the time they’re ready to view.

Thanks as always to all who continue to hang in there and check this space daily, weekly, and monthly. I see all of you (in my Sitemeter) and deeply appreciate your support and interest in this blog.

Have a great weekend, all.