Friday, September 28, 2012

Postscript - Seamus Heaney

This morning, when I drove through town on my way to work, mists were swirling up over a glassy Whitmore Lake, catching the new sun, burning with light. Swans glided out by the Macs Marina and farther along toward Swanotter, stately, placid. I thought of this Heaney poem:

Be well, my reader, as fall deepens in your city. Love the sun in season, while it lasts.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sting, analytics, and a reader's privacy

We write in hopes of a reader. Yes, I think this is true, at least for me, at least for blogging, though it's different with poetry. One of the interesting dimensions of blogging is that you can see that people are watching. You post a post, the hit counter goes up. Using analytics, you can see what country, even what town people are reading from and where. This is an interesting sort of reverse stalking. I see that someone in El Paso read my blog on Housman, that must be Selena. Today I got a blog hit from Gypsum City, that's Dirk. A fair number, maybe a majority of hits come from google traffic, people I don't know. This is gratifying as well. Ah, I got a hit in Tunisia, now I've had hits from the whole coast of North Africa. Bingo! 

I think there is a problem in this - a reader should be able to be anonymous. The author surrenders this right when he/she publishes, The reader hasn't. A desire to know who's watching has inspired dozens of scams on Facebook (where you can't know who is, say, viewing your photos, reading your posts). But most of us, I think, aren't acting to an empty theater. We post in hopes of a viewer, we update in hopes of a reader. There is something very appealing to vanity if we can know we are being watched and by whom, at least when we choose to be and can control what is being seen.

We are being watched more than we know. Our shopping habits, our clicks, our googles are monitored. But at least that invasion of privacy is at least impersonal. The idea of Big Brother, governmental or corporate, does not bother me as much as that of a real person. Every time I think of that, "Every Breath You Take" pops into my head.

And so I don't check my google analytic account much, as I did when I first blogged. I think now that the reader deserves privacy, the right to read without being read, the right to watch without being watched. After all the author has made the choice to be public/published. But every now and then I log in to see what posts and subjects are popular. Here are some interesting highlights:
  • My post on the bumpit and jeggings net a steady stream of outside hits.
  • People occasionally find my site while looking for sea captain Matt Landrum out of Florida.
  • My analytics shows hits from 51 countries, 29 languages, and 369 cities.
  • Most tantalizingly, I once had a hit from Uganda from someone searching for jeggings.
And so, dear reader, read on in peace. We blog for a reader but readers don't read for a blogger, they read for themselves and deserve some privacy while doing it. So I leave you to it. I won't be looking over your shoulder.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In Defense of Standard Measurement

Three-hundred and thirteen years after the nativity of the metric system in revolutionary France, only three nations stubbornly cling to the old standard system - Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States. Other nations agree to the (quite sensible) subdivision of the time and space into tens, hundredths, thousandths. But I love standard. It's annoying, hard to remember, and makes our tools not work on foreign cars but it is poetic.

It's precisely the precision of the metric system that turns me off. If Robert Frost had said I have promises to keep / and kilometers to go before I sleep / and kilometers to go before I sleep, it wouldn't have conveyed the roadweariness of miles. Kilometers are definite. Miles are indefinite. Poetry is what's lost in metrication. Some examples:

Sigh No More