Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Santorum Explosion

The Timblog blew up this weekend.

Here are the daily number of hits I got near the end of last week:

Aug 24: 24
Aug 25: 80
Aug 26: 98
Aug 27: 201
Aug 28: 225
Aug 29: 220

Here's what that looks like in a graph:

My previous record had been 44 in a day. That record almost doubled on Friday, then doubled again on Saturday. I had three days in a row of 200+ page views.


People are suddenly flocking to the Timpage. WTF?

Thanks to blogger's detailed stats, I was able to surmise that it's just one post that's getting all the attention: a post titled Evolution of Marriage I wrote in defense of same-sex marriage in February 2010. In the past week alone that one post has received 697 page views. Holy shit! That blows away the previous record for one post, the one about hair, which received 345 hits over an entire year.

I also know from Blogger stats where those new page views are coming from. A famous blog, Spreading Santorum, has sent hordes of readers my way. It's all coming from one particular post: http://blog.spreadingsantorum.com/2011/08/its-hard-to-clean-up-santorum.html. But why?

The post itself does not mention me or my blog anywhere. I couldn't find any links to my Timpage anywhere in the text or comments or blog rolls. All I could find was that they use an image that I had used in my Evolution of Marriage post.

If you click on that image on the spreadingsantorum blog post, instead of just opening the image, it opens up my "Evolution of Marriage" post.

I don't own this image. In fact, I just stole it off the interwebs. (After some investigation, it appears to have been created by a graphic artist named Ariah Fine: http://tumblr.tryingtofollow.com/post/60574427/traditional-marriage-a-timeline-poster-prints.) I assume the writer of the spreadingsantorum blog found it from my blog through a google image search. But instead of just stealing it without attribution, like everyone else does on the interwebs, they "credit" me by linking back to my blog.


Although I'm flattered that Spreading Santorum, a blog associated with one of my writing heroes, Dan Savage, has noticed little ol' me, I'm not thrilled by the jump in numbers. These aren't people flocking to read my blog. They're people following a link from an image. Ninety percent of them will immediately see they've stumbled on some boring personal navel-gazing blog and go away, like a driver who's found she's made a wrong turn into a private lot.

I may pick up a few new readers, but is it worth the skew in numbers? I'll be happy when my page hits calm down to a more accurate number, and I know that the numbers are not artificially inflated.

My page views for August are at 1,549, shattering the old monthly record of 635.

Even before the santorum hit the blog, I was headed toward a record month. But now it feels like the record is tainted, and there's no way I'll ever be able to beat it without another blow up-- without getting santorum all over me.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A month from today something terrible is going to happen.

It's something I don't like to talk about, think about, or tell people about.

It's my secret shame. I try to hide it from people, because when I tell them, I know they will look at me differently, think of me differently, and put me in a different category.

A month from today I turn 40.


Ever since my divorce three years ago, I've been reluctant to tell people my age. When they ask me how old I am, I turn it around and ask, "How old do you think I am?" Thankfully, they usually guess much younger than I am, sometimes as much as 10 years younger.

Can you believe Dick Clark is 106?

I don't look or act my age, and most of the friends I've made in the past three years have been in their early 30's. It's actually uncanny how I'll make a new friend and then later discover they are between 30 and 32. That must be the demographic that I have the most in common with.


People say age is just a number, but it's a number other people will judge you for. I may not look my age, but when people discover that number, I can feel their judgy gaze. What's this geezer doing hanging out with us?

And if it's someone I'm trying to date, it's often a dealbreaker. Especially on online dating sites, where they filter you out based on a number, 40 can be a death knell. (What's a "death knell" anyway? Why not a "death gong?") I defended myself to one woman on a dating site, explaining that I was in great shape, immature, and I only read at a 32-year-old level. She thought that was funny, but she still rejected me just the same.

(I don't only try to date younger people. I'd love to date someone my own age. It's just harder to find them.)


It's not so much being 40 that bothers me. It's the boolean combination of being 40 AND single.

A venn diagram of a boolean search.

I never wanted to be single this late in my life. Dating in your late 30's sucks, and I imagine it only gets worse in your 40's. Dating in general sucks, but at least in your 20's you can convince yourself you have plenty of time. Now I'm getting too old to date most graduate students, which used to be my biggest pool of potentials.

Forty is that age when people start to panic and compromise. Whenever young single people make a backup pact, it always starts with, "If neither one of married by the time we're 40..."

Well, I AM 40.



Perhaps that "almost" is the worst part. The anticipation of turning 40 may be worse than the actual thing. In a way, the last month of being 39 may be the hardest part of being 40.

Here's a story to illustrate my point.

When I lived in Germany I traveled over the winter break. I was in Prague for Christmas, so my friend and I went to midnight mass at the huge and beautiful Prague cathedral.

That cathedral was packed more full of people than any place I've ever seen. We stood in the back, squished together in standing room only. The mass was in Czech and we didn't understand much, so after about 10 minutes we decided to leave. But as we tried to get out, there were so many people it was a huge bottleneck at the door. It took us a full 10 minutes just to get out, and at the point where we squeezed through the door, I almost got crushed from the bottleneck. It was actually quite a terrifying moment.

But I managed to wiggle through the door. Once outside in the cold Czech winter night, it felt good to out in the air where I could breathe.

Right now I feel all this pressure to enjoy the last of my 30's. As I get closer to turning over my odometer, I'm going to get more panicky, until I'll almost be crushed by anxiety. But maybe once I get past it, I'll feel relieved to be on the other side of it, out in the cool air of middle age.

That's what I hope turning 40 will be like.


My 20's were better than my teens. My 30's were better than my 20's. There's no reason to believe that my 40's won't continue that trend. As I get older and more experienced, I have more resources, tools, and knowledge to deal with life. I'd even venture to say that, thanks to tennis, organic cooking & eating, and healthier habits, in some ways I'll be in better physical shape at 40 than I was at 30.

But that doesn't mean that the big Four-Oh-- the portal to middle age-- isn't a big ol' scary place.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mug Shot

When I was in Denver this summer for my nephew's bar mitzvah, my mom, her husband, and I rented a car to get around in.

On our way from the airport to the hotel, we drove through busy Denver traffic on a Friday afternoon. I drove and my mom navigated, based on directions she'd printed out from Mapquest or Googlemaps or something. (I don't do GPS. (Long story.)) I don't like driving in metropolitan traffic, so I wasn't the most relaxed driver.

Near the end of our journey, we were on a highway-like road with exits, and as we neared our exit for the hotel, I needed to speed up to pass someone on the right so that I could make the exit.

To add to the excitement, we were in a construction zone, so the speed limit was something ridiculous like 25.

As I sped up to pass this annoying car who was in my way, I saw a flash from the side of the road. A camera flash? It seemed to come from a vehicle parked on the shoulder.

Uh-oh, I thought. I think they may have used their new-fangled pict-o-scope image thingies to catch me speeding. I planned to mention it to my brother and ask if that's how they caught speeders out here in CO, but then I got distracted by the fun family weekend.


About a month later I got a letter from the rental car company. The car I had been driving had been ticketed for a moving violation, or something like that, from the Sheridan police department. They'd forwarded my information on to the police, so they would be banging down my door and roughing me up soon. And just to rub it in, the rental company tacked on an extra $15 fee.

About a month after that I got a letter from the Sheridan police. I'd been nabbed going 51 in a 40 zone, 11 mph over the limit. Thankfully, the fine was only $80. (In Illinois, speeding in a construction zone is $375.)

I have to admit the Sheridan police department has an efficient convenient online payment website, so it was relatively easy and painless to pay with my credit card.

And just to make sure I didn't try to weasel out of the fine, they included that very picture from the moment I saw that camera flash. The photo was in the letter they sent me and on the payment website.

Yep, that's me, in my granny driving shades, with my mom beside me and her husband in the back.

Not my proudest moment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Name Dropping

So I was hanging out with my tennis hero, Roger Federer, the other day and he said something funny.

Well, I imagine it was something funny. He didn't actually say it to me, but to Stanislas Wawrinka, his countryman and practice partner. They were sitting next to each other during a break in their hitting session. I was about 20 yards away from them and I couldn't actually hear them, so I don't even know what language they were speaking. Was it Swiss German? French? English?

Actual photo of me watching Roger by my friend Laura. I am just out of the picture, to the left and behind that throng of people. See me?


Roger wasn't the only tennis superstar that I was within water-cannon-range of last weekend. Even if you don't follow tennis, you've maybe heard of Rafa Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, and James Blake.

Sharapova. All photos by Laura.

Tennis fans might also recognize the names John Isner, Andy Murray, Francesca Schiavone, Nikolay Davydenko, Juergen Melzer, Mikhail Youzhny, Ana Ivanovic, David Ferrer, Caroline Wozniacki, Juan Martin del Potro, Fernando Verdasco, Li Na, Marcos Baghdatis, Jie Zheng.

I saw all of these people in person and "larger than life," at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. It had almost all the best players in the world. It's like a mini U.S. Open, but at a more convenient location that's less crowded. The tournament press said that nine individual grand slam champions were there. There were so many famous names in the draw, I didn't even get to see all the people I wanted to.

Francesca Schiavone: French Open champion

I say the players were "larger than life" because, even though I saw them live, the only experience I'd had with these people up to then had been on TV. And in person, these people are huge. They're taller, leaner, and more built than they look on the small screen. Andy Roddick, for example, was like a walking mountain of lean muscle.

When you think about it, it makes sense that they would be taller in person. When you see them on TV, 95% of the time the camera is looking down at them on the court. But when I walked past them, they were life-sized and I was looking up at them.


The way I was able to get so close to so many of them was on the practice courts. They each had an hour or so scheduled on any of a dozen different practice courts. Some of them, like Nadal and Sharapova, even had practice time scheduled on one of the big stadium courts. (While we were waiting for Nadal to show up for his practice time, I went to the bathroom. On my way back, I almost ran into Nadal's entourage walking toward the court. It took me a while to figure out that in the middle of that pack that almost ran me over was one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.)

Nadal practicing on the Grandstand court.

On the practice courts, you can sit 20 feet away from them as they hit with their coach, hitting partner, or another famous player. Federer practiced with his friend and countryman Wawrinka, but it was also weird to see people like Andy Murray (of Great Britain) playing practice points against David Ferrer (of Spain.) Just two top ten players in the world hitting the ball around. No big thang.

Nikolay Davydenko, once ranked as high as 3rd in the world, practiced with his coach and his wife (not the same person.) His wife tried to feed him balls but kept mis-hitting them. I got the impression he was teasing her for this, but my Russian is limited to "goodbye," "please," and "kiss me," so I don't know what he actually said.

Davydenko. Great action shot by Laura. And hey! He's balder than me!

Federer was scheduled to be on court #8 at noon, so at about 11:45 the modest metal stands next to the court were packed with people. It was standing room only. I waited with intense anticipation, under a hot sun surrounded by annoying other people, as the clock ticked by. 12:05, no Federer. 12:10... 12:15... no Federer. Metal bleachers full of people staring at an empty practice court. People made jokes: "Those are some really impressive lines on that court."

12:20... 12:30... no Federer. People complained about how unprofessional and disrespectful Roger was being. How could he make us wait like that? Although I was profoundly annoyed, impatient, and disappointed, I didn't blame Federer.

These guys are world-class athletes, and in the end, when they step out onto the court, they're just entertainers. But can we expect them to entertain us during their practices? Do they owe us fans practice time? We didn't buy a ticket to the practice. For all we know Federer signed up for the practice court, or it was assigned to him, but that doesn't mean he has to use the whole time.

It is an interesting study in celebrity. He's basically going to work, doing those mundane menial tasks that we all do at work, and throngs of people wait for hours to watch him do it. Other, real matches were going on at the same time, but we missed those for a possible chance to watch the great Roger Federer warm up his forehand. It was a little ridiculous, actually. It would be like me arriving for work and having my Reference Desk surrounded by people who couldn't wait to admire me looking stuff up in a library database. Who are these people?

Well, I was one of those people. After waiting an hour, I was restless and starving, so I took a walk to check out the real match on the main court, and then got some ice cream. As I made my way back to practice court #8, I noticed that the crowd has swelled to its largest size yet. There was a buzz.

I went back to where my friend sat, but there was no room anymore. Roger and Stan were warming up. And the frustrating thing was, everyone was standing up. So I couldn't see over people.

This was a study in selfishness. If the people in the front row would have sat down, the people behind them could have sat down, and so on and so on, until the people standing in the back could have seen. Instead, the selfish people in the front row insisted on standing up, and therefore, even though I was 30 feet away, I could only see snippets of Roger. People suck.

The other interesting thing was that Roger practiced with Stan Wawrinka, the 14th-best singles player in the world. He's an Olympic champion, having won the Gold in doubles with Roger in 2008. And not a single eye was on poor Stan. He might was well have been the water boy. I guess fame is relative.


There were also actual matches going on at this tennis tournament. We saw parts of about eight matches, but because there was so much going on at once, there were only two matches we saw from start to finish. One was a doubles match with John Isner and James Blake playing two other Americans I didn't know. (They lost.) It was a good match, but the most amazing thing was seeing Isner in person. He's huge, 6'9", I believe, and when he stands next to the net, it only comes up to his thigh. Imagine playing tennis on a net as high as your thigh. (True fact: Isner grew up in Greensboro, NC, and went to Page High School, the big rival of my high school, Grimsley.)

Isner and Blake at the net

The very last match we saw was a women's singles contest late in the day between two unseeded young ladies on a side court. A 19-year-old American, Christina McHale, was playing Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. These are both women I've seen playing on TV, but they're not exactly household names.

In fact, they are so much not household names that we were able to sit in the second row court-side. It wasn't after we sat down that I realized that we were in the "player's box." That is to say, I think McHale's mom and sister were right next to me.

I base this on the fact that after every big point, she would look right over to them, like many of the players do with their coaches and families. Also, the ladies next to me would call her nicknames like "Chris" and hugged after the match was over. They obviously knew her. So that was pretty cool.

View of McHale from her player's box. I like her skirt.

McHale won a really long and exciting three-set match.

Later, after we got home, I found out that McHale upset the #1 player in the world, Caroline Wozniacki, in the next round. She's going to be the Next Big Thing! And we were close enough to catch her sweat!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Deep Fried Dissatisfied

The second stop on Tim's Summer Tour II '11 was Indianapolis, where I went to the Indiana State Fair.

There I saw cows, a bull with huge hanging testicles, the world's largest boar, eleventy different kinds of roosters, bunnies, and baby ducklings. I also saw a Lego model of the Indianapolis 500.

Not the world's largest "bore," although he didn't seem to do much.

But the thing that left the biggest impression on me, literally, was the food. I ate a fried corn dog, fried vegetables, a deep fried Twinkie on a stick, and a fried elephant ear. Most of it was crap, and didn't even taste good.

Could it be that I've outgrown eating fried stuff on a stick? That all the cooking and eating organic, local stuff over the past year has altered my tastes?

All I know is that I felt like bloated bag of fried crap the rest of the day and never wanted to eat anything else ever again, ever.

Until dinner.


I really wasn't very hungry, but it was dinner time and some of us were hungry. So we went to an Ethiopian place in some strip mall in Indianapolis, which may be the strip mall capital of the world.

Abyssinia: The actual place we went

I'd only had Ethiopian food one other time, in Greenwich Village in NYC about two years ago. I'd enjoyed it and was eager to try it again.

It appears that Ethiopian cuisine is the perfect antidote to fried fair food on a stick. The two styles of food may be as far apart from each other as possible. The only similarity is that in both cases, you don't use any utensils.

What I love about Ethiopian food:
  • The whole table shares one massive plate, piled with lots of little dishes.
  • You take this awesome spongy, sour bread and use it to pick up the food.
  • The sour bread is the perfect contrast to spicy beef, lamb, chicken, spinach, potato, bean, veggies, and other little dishes.
  • All the food itself sits on a piece of the bread on a platter, so that when you're done you just eat the bread that's been soaking up all the spicy juices.
  • What can I say? It just tasted really, really good. How do you explain that?
The bread is called injera, and it looks like the foam you put under carpet. But it tastes divine.

Maybe it was the contrast to the fair food I'd had earlier, but it was the best meal I'd had all week. Maybe all month, and possibly even all year. Certainly in the top ten this year.

I think I've found a new favorite ethnic food.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Solo Tourist

An acquaintance of mine told me she's going to Portland (OR) on vacation. She's traveling by herself, not meeting anyone there nor attending any specific event.

I've heard great things about Portland, and someday I'd like to visit it if I have an occasion to be there. But I couldn't imagine flying across the country just to see the city itself. I know it's a cool green hippie city and all, but what would a tourist actually do there?

Portland Tourists?

In our discussion about my friend's vacation, I thought about how I've never vacationed alone.

I've traveled alone. A lot. It started when I was 17 and drove six hours by myself to visit my brother on spring break. Ever since then, I've had no trouble driving, flying, walking places by myself. I take solo road trips all the time. I've flown solo to Germany and back multiple times.

But in all those cases there was always someone else at my destination that I planned to meet. I never planned an entire trip alone where no one I knew was a part of it in some way.

Then I remembered my cruise. D'oh! That was something I did entirely by myself. That was just six months ago. How could I have forgotten about it already?


The day trip that I took to Chicago this week couldn't really be characterized as solo, since the main reason for the trip was to meet someone. Someone I'd never met before, but that I already knew pretty well.

It was my first IRL (in-real-life) meeting with one of my blogfriends. Over the past few years I have made dozens of new friends and pen-pals from across the country and the world. We write, we chat, we friend on FB. But I've never met any of them IRL.

So my friend, who lives in Germany but is from Chicago, was home to visit family. I took the train up to Chicago to meet her and her husband.

The meeting went great. I liked them both a lot and there was no awkwardness or weirdness. It was like we were old friends, which, in a way, we were.


But aside from a long lunch in the suburbs with my German blogfriends, it was mostly a solo trip. I traveled on the train alone. I walked around Chicago alone. I took the Metra alone. My train home didn't leave til 8:00 pm, so when I found myself back downtown at 4:00, I had about four hours to kill in the Big City.

I decided to walk to Navy Pier, since I'd never been there before.

I love walking around big cities. I love the energy, the people-watching, the funky arty sculptures, the architecture and the skyline, which is as beautiful to me as a mountain range. I love the geometry of walking between the canyons of tall buildings lining a street.

For some reason, I can walk for miles and miles in the city and not notice the distance the way I would at home. I'd never think to walk the two miles from my home to downtown Champaign, (not to mention the 3.3 miles all the way to downtown Urbana), but in Chicago that distance doesn't faze me.

So I set about to walk to Navy Pier, with no idea how far it was or even where it was located exactly. I knew it was near downtown, and obviously on the water (it's a pier), so I just started walking east toward the lake. Several times I walked into pedestrian dead-ends and had to retrace my steps to go back to a suitable place to cross. So I ended up walking a lot further than just a straight line between the two points.

Then it started raining. At first the rain wasn't so bad, just a light drizzle. It wasn't until I got to Navy Pier that it really started to come down hard.

Luckily (or not), Navy Pier is mostly like an indoor mall and covered shops, stalls, and other stuff to spend money on. So it was nice to be in out of the rain, but I was stuck there, in a commercial shopping mecca that's not really my thing. I walked the entire length of it, which itself is about half a mile long.


After waiting an hour for the rain to stop, I decided I was just going to have to get wet. I couldn't miss my train. So I started the long trek back to the train station. It was raining really hard now. I had brought my cap along for the day to protect me from the sun. What I didn't realize was that it would serve an entirely different purpose: to keep my head dry and the rain out of my eyes.

I walked and walked and walked in a hard rain. Since it was raining, it was hard to look up at all the buildings, so I mostly had to keep my head down. The bill of my hat dripped, and my shorts and t-shirt got soaked.

Since the train station is right next to the Sears Tower*, and I was about 2 hours early for my train, I bought a ticket to the Skydeck so that I could go up to the top of one of the world's tallest buildings.

* I know it's called Willis Tower now. But to me it will always be the Sears Tower.

"One adult" I said to the ticket person, surrounded by families and couples. I was by myself doing one of the most touristy things you can do in Chicago. I was also wet: wet shirt, wet shorts, wet shoes and wet socks. And I was freezing because they had the air conditioning on.

Luckily, I had brought a change of clothes in my backpack: a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve flannel shirt, because I knew I might get cold inside air-conditioned buildings. So once I got up to the Skydeck, I went into the bathroom and changed into dry clothes. I'd never changed clothes in a bathroom on the 103rd floor before! Unfortunately, I didn't have any dry socks, so I had to put my wet socks and shoes back on.

[No picture available. Incidentally, if you want to see a lot of porn, do a Google image search for "changing clothes." Or the word "wet."]


At the train station I got a crappy sandwich for dinner. I also looked in all the souvenir shops for new dry socks. Maybe there were some novelty Chicago socks? Nope. It would be wet socks for the rest of my trip.
Not at the train station

While I was waiting in line to board the train, I looked at a map of the city that was on the wall. I counted the blocks I'd walked that day, and estimated that it was about 31 blocks from Union Station to Navy Pier. So there and back would have been 62 blocks. I'd once heard that a city block is approximately 1/10 of a mile, so that would have made it a 6-mile hike through the urban jungle.

When I came home and had access to the interwebs again, I checked Google Maps. From the train station to the end of Navy Pier is 2.9 miles, it said. Which would have made my hike 5.8 miles total. I'm sure it was more than that, with all the times I ran into dead-ends and had to backtrack. But still, I'm impressed that my estimate was so close.

I walked that whole way. Half of it in the rain.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stats and Searches

I love Blogger Stats. It tells me how many hits my blog gets-- per month, per day, even per hour. It tells me which of my individual posts get the most hits, and where my visitors come from. It gives me pretty graphs and maps for visual illustration. It's the perfect tool for a numbers nerd like me to geek out on.

I check it almost every day, just to see how the blue graph has changed.

Since July, 2010, when Blogger started keeping track-- and this wonderful feature appeared on my dashboard-- I've had 4,790 hits. It's not very much, only about 12 hits per day. By comparison, the super secret anonymous blog I retired earlier this year was getting as many as 100-150 hits a day. But lately there has been a sharp uptick in activity.

Since April of this year, hits on the Timblog have been climbing.

April: 311
May: 349
June: 410
July: 635

It sort of exploded in July, partly because I wrote more posts that month than ever before.

The only problem with these stats is that I don't know how many people actually read the blog, and how many people just stumble upon it. One of the coolest things Blogger Stats gives me is Search Keywords people used to find my blog:

librarians in love
be my friend
college wrestler penis
boats churning in the sea
are blogs dead
wrestling haircuts
pictures of capuchin monkey with candle
zojiv [WTF?]
boys hair cut bowl

For some of these, it's easy to figure out how they lead to my blog. For others it's very puzzling. But that's a discussion for another day. The weird thing about this list is it keeps changing. I saved a bunch of these phrases about a month ago because I wanted to write about them, and half of them don't even appear in the stats anymore. And new ones keep replacing them, like:

pooper scoopers
demotivational such an occasion
raping goblins

Anyway, my point is, I'd say at least half of the hits on my blog have nothing to do with loyal readers. It's people doing Google searches for things like "be my friend" and finding my post from last year about annoying auto dealerships who want to be my friend.

By far the most popular post in the history of this blog was when I wrote about my hair. (It's in first place with 335 pageviews. Second place only has 136.) Obviously people are looking for things about haircuts and stumbling upon my hairy navel-gazing.

So I don't know if I'm actually gaining new readers, or if I'm just becoming more findable in the searchiverse. One thing I do know is that it used to be that if I googled "timblog," it didn't even appear on the first page of results. Now it's the second result. So I guess that's progress.