Wednesday, March 5, 2008

still haven't found what i'm looking for

Search engines have grown more sophisticated since I first learned about them. For one thing, you cannot trick them by putting the dictionary into a meta tag of keywords. Google is a bit more discerning than that, and there is an entire industry built around improving your visibility to Google. I was thinking of spending Will's college fund and Annie's dowry on a search-engine consulting service, but then I realized that I wasn't making any money from my websites, so I decided it wouldn't be worth it. Instead I spent the money on a candy bar for Joie. As a result, I'm just tossing my webpage out there and seeing if anyone finds it accidentally.

By the way, a little bit of trivia for you: AltaVista, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves, and Lycos are all still up and running. Whoda thought? Google is probably maintaining them in order to avoid the legal frustrations of a monopoly. In the four years since I've heard of any of them, AltaVista has found a new aerodynamic logo and Jeeves has disappeared entirely. Now it's just "Ask". The people who still use sites like these are probably the same people who listen to vinyl records (or eight-tracks or cassette tapes) and play Atari and wish they had an El Camino. Because it's a cryin' shame to see it die.

I have put sitemeter hit counters onto my blog and my math webpage. Officially, it is a way to make sweeping generalizations about the unfortunates who stumble into my little corner of the wide world web, so that I can cater to their probable interests. (Thus far I have learned that most of them are my relatives, so I will continue to write boring things about my life, because relatives enjoy that sort of thing.) More realistically, it is yet another way to waste time between visits to and, (a twice-weekly webcomic and a weekly hometown newspaper that are each updated monthly, but I check them multiple times per day to make sure). These fits occur sometimes when my brain is too fried to grade the next math test. That happens a lot lately.

The sitemeter allows me to see how many people have recently been disappointed to find that I have or have not written today. It also allows me to see the referring URL if they came from a search page, and that brings me to the purpose of this post. Okay, so 'purpose' is a bit strong in this context. People searching for these things have found my blog:

"why a d in calculus"
"every day at my job i do the same thing"
"nerdy jokes"
"bleach gunpowder"

They--you--my gracious readers--also find my page by searching for less entertaining phrases like "nate burchell", but the four mentioned above caught my eye. Thankfully, I do not have access to any measurement of their satisfaction with my page.

I enjoy the first two, which suggest that a few desperates are finding my scrawlings in their search for an uplifting moment at the hands of an anonymous internet junkie. I fear that I likely inspired two derisive snorts, an "I was right, calculus IS for losers", and a "Well, at least I'm not a math teacher!" But in my better moments, I just smile and imagine making a difference to a couple of people. Then I go to see if the Independent Register has posted the bird-watching column or the police reports.

For some reason, my blog shows up on Google as the 10th result of about 532,000 for "nerdy jokes". I don't really spend all of my time checking this sort of thing. It's research. Anyway, I doubt anyone has ever found this page by searching for "cool jokes". As one of the desks in my classroom used to say, "math teachers tell stupid jokes". Yes we do.

The last of those searches, "bleach gunpowder", was a chilling little sight that makes me wonder if I am an accessory to a crime or a revolution of some sort.

For reasons that are unclear to me, my Geometer's Sketchpad website is never found by Google, though sites which talk about my site can be found on Google. My strategy for getting people to see it is word-of-mouth. So if you know any math teachers, please tell them it's there.


  1. wow! google's #1 result for search "bleach gunpowder"...

    no revolution here... just a relative

  2. I have a friend whose blog can be found by searching for "Ways to kill my husband." Bleach gunpowder isn't quite as frightening after that i would think ...

    Also, for the record, I'm not a relative and I didn't stumble upon your blog by accident. I read it intentionally, because it amuses me. =D

  3. Math teachers might tell stupid jokes, but we sure luv em!! (the math teacher, I mean)
    Thanks for doing your blog. A little glimpse into YOU.
    give those babies big hugs!!!

  4. You make me laugh. Justin is more attached to the good ol' IR than I am right now. I hope your day is going well - yesterday one of my students asked me to tell a North American joke and I couldn't think of anything except my old standby, "Look at that S car go!"

  5. Really, the 'S car go' joke is old. I stop her early on when she starts to tell it, and I also cut her off when she talks about this dog named Crowbar...

    I too check the IR, mostly to giggle at the police reports (much more detailed than Stevens Point's). It's a Saturday morning ritual to read that section and then ask Sarah if she knows so-and-so.

    I read your blog for entertainment purposes usually, and the occasional math humor.

    Math teacher-in-law

  6. I didn't use any of those searches. I just typed "burchell blog" because that's my last name and I wanted to see how far down the list my own blog was on google.
    No offense, but I hate math, even though I got into the math honor society in high school. On the other hand, I'm a substitute teacher while working on a Master of Divinity degree, so occasionally I laugh my head off because I'm called to sub for a math class. Don't worry I try not to do anything to corrupt the kids' learning, though I confess I am little help when they have questions.

    Well, since somewhere between Adam and today we're most likely related, I pray all's well with you.

    harry l. burchell, III
    see my blog at