My Top Ten Search Terms

My favourite thing about WordPress Stats is the list of search terms that have brought people to my blog.  Of course, most of them are “unknown” but most days there is at least one phrase in there that shows how people arrived at Pict in PA from an internet search engine.  A conversation with Ellen Hawley on her excellent blog, Notes from the UK, prompted me to start logging these phrases which are surprisingly more often wacky, weird and perplexing than they are sensible.  I am often mystified as to how that particular search term brought someone to my blog.  I guess that is the magic and wonder of the internet.  Therefore, for my end of year blog review, I am going to share with you my Top Ten of the most mind-boggling search terms that brought visitors to my blog.

#10 = “18 year art paint”

I am sharing these search terms exactly as they were written.  It is interesting to note how few people ever use upper case letters or punctuation.  Apparently some people also forego syntax and word order, hence this example, a jumble of words that fail to combine to create a coherent, understandable phrase.  Was this person after a painting by an 18 year old artist?  A painting that was 18 years old? Or painted in the 18th Century?  Were they looking for paint that was 18 years old?  Or eighteen years’ worth of paint?  A quick google yields the probability that the searcher ended up on my post regarding teaching my kids about Modigliani.  I am pretty confident that is not what the searcher was looking for.  Sorry to disappoint.  Maybe try an actual sentence next time.

#9  = “dryad pict nude”

Clearly the word “pict” was critical in dumping this searcher on the doorstep of my blog.  I do not, however, think they were looking for a website about an ancient tribe indigenous to Scotland.  Deploying my meagre Sherlock skills, I think the word “nude” might indicate that this person was after a nude picture but was too lazy to type three more letters into the search bar.  So they wanted a picture of a nude dryad.  Interesting.  Sexual peccadillo or an appreciation for classical mythology?  Whatever their motive, they no doubt happened upon my watercolour painting of an Autumn Dryad.  No bared breasts or genitals on show, I’m afraid.  Sorry about that.

#8 = “take a pict with my name in your hands”

Obviously the word “pict” is what brought this searcher to my blog.  What baffled me was why they were prepared to write a long phrase in the search bar yet omitted the final letters of “picture” which presumably would have yielded much more focused results.  Well, unless they really were intending to offer someone a small Scottish person holding a name plate.  It’s the internet: anything is possible.  What was it this searcher wanted anyway?  Were they looking for a photo of some hands holding their specific name?  Or were they looking for someone to hire for the job of holding the required name in their hands?  Quite peculiar.  Some investigative googling leads me to understand they would have landed up on my blog post about sketching in the Philadelphia Museum of Art where I neither held a name in my hands nor, as a wee Pictish person, was I given to any other person.

#7 = “redneck Britain”

This one gets a mention not because I cannot fathom why someone arrived at my blog but just because I am rather intrigued by the search.  The blog post this searcher would have chanced upon would be my account of visiting a Redneck Festival in Pennsylvania.  I have not, thus far, written about “redneck Britain” and I must admit this search term set me to pondering whether such a thing exists.  “Redneck” isn’t a term used in Britain but certainly we have equivalent derogatory terms and no doubt there is some equivalent pocket of culture that people might deem “redneck”, some rural culture considered to be unsophisticated.  Exploring the differences might make for an interesting blog post but probably not written by me.  Perhaps one of my readers would like to take up that baton and go forth to research and write.

#6 = “do walrus poop”

This search term made my children and me chuckle.  Puerile humour always does.  Why on earth was someone searching for the answer to this question?  Of course, walrus poop!  A more difficult question to answer is whether the plural of walrus is walrus or walruses.  The web proclaims it can be either.  But whether they are walrus or walruses or even walri, they most certainly defecate because all mammals do.  I am not even going to google just to double check.  That is how obvious the answer is.  Do they poop in the water or on land?  Maybe both.  I don’t know because I am not going to google it and find out.  I imagine a huge hulking walrus with its punk attitude tusks will poop wherever the heck it feels like pooping.  Until this search term cropped up, I had totally forgotten that I had written a very early blog post entitled ‘Walrus Poop’ which was actually not about the feces of marine mammals at all but was a bit of a moan and a contrast to unicorn farts apparently.  It must have been very disappointing for that searcher.

#5 = “dr. inky reading pa”

What on earth was this person searching for?  Is there a medical professional out there named Dr Inky?  Does he reside in Reading, PA or does he like reading in PA or even reading to his pa?  Googling turns up the fact that the Urban Dictionary claims that “Dr Inky” is a term for “drinkies”, the quaffing of alcohol with chums, but does not reveal any Dr with the surname Inky.  I hope the searcher who landed up on my blog was not experiencing a medical emergency.  My best guess for what blog post they landed up on is The Four Boys Questions simply because it was the top result when I searched for “Dr”.

#4 = “old pa nude”

Why was someone searching the corners of the internet for an old pa nude?  Did the old male have to be a pa?  Would lack of fatherhood have disqualified him?  How old is old in this case too?  Would a middle aged man in his birthday suit have been too young for this searcher?  While an older gentleman does feature in a selection of my life drawings over on my art blog, Pict Ink, this searcher would have been disappointed by what they likely found on Pict in PA, which is a post about teaching kids about Botticelli that happens to feature my ink drawing of a nude but a nude who is neither old nor a pa.

#3 = “mr creepy bugs goliath”

In third place, we have another head scratcher: who or what is Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath?  It sounds like the first draft name for the Babadook movie character or maybe a Tim Burton screenplay or a slightly offbeat kids’ picture book.  Maybe I will draw Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath some time.  Was the searcher looking for information about Goliath Beetles?  Or maybe a chap named Mr Creepy who was really bugging Goliath before he set off to have a tussle with David?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I am not even sure what blog post of mine they might have chanced upon.  It could be one about catching fireflies (not creepy) or about my encounters with Black Widow Spiders (more creepy) or maybe our visit to the Insectarium in Philly.

#2 = “friendly kids corner mr cone head”

This search term had me at a loss for a long time.  It came hot on the heels of Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath which led me to think that Mr Cone Head was his sidekick, lurking in corners being friendly to kids perhaps.  Judder.  A bit of googling for the purposes of writing this post, however, revealed that the chain restaurant Friendly’s serves a dessert named the Cone Head.  The penny dropped.  I had written a post about eating in a Friendly’s when we Picts vacationed in Massachusetts with my parents in July 2014.  The word “cone” did indeed feature in that post.  So did the words “kids”, “Mr” and “Friendlys”.  I guess that was enough for the search engine algorithm.  I am all disappointed now.  I rather liked the idea of it being much more sinister.

#1 = “dr grunther does postmortems with live mammals”

And so we come to my number one most bizarre search term, the weirdest of the weird, and I think you will agree that it was quite the contender and would have been difficult to beat.  First of all, how does one perform postmortems on live mammals?  The very word postmortem indicates that the animal has to be dead prior to the dissection taking place.  So, whoever Dr Grunther is or was, he certainly was not performing postmortems on live mammals.  Nevertheless, the search term as written suggests that Dr Grunther might need to attend the same support group as Mr Creepy Bugs Goliath and Mr Cone Head who lurks in corners.  Googling revealed a surprising number of physicians and PhDs with the surname Grunther and even a pathologist named the close enough Dr Gunther.  Then some cobwebs cleared from the shelves of my memory and I had a tiny wee epiphany.  Clearly the searcher was looking for information about Dr Gunther Von Hagens, a pioneer in a plastination process so that the biological systems of various once living organisms can be observed.  Two of my kids and I had seen an exhibition of his plastinated animal carcasses at the Franklin Institute.  That was what had brought someone to my blog, despite the odds being stacked against them given the oddness of their search terms and their getting his name wrong.  Unless there really is a Dr Grunther out there who is somehow autopsying still breathing critters.

That concludes my retrospective of blogging in 2015 and some of the weird and wonderful ways that people have happened upon my blog.  Of course, very many more people found my blog through search terms that were less obscure and which would have led them to blog posts that were at least potentially of interest to them but those search terms were not nearly as entertaining or thought-provoking.  I rather think I might collect 2016’s oddball, wingnut, what-the-heck search terms too.

Happy New Year!  Here’s to a wonderful 2016!

Christmas Shopping

This is less a blog entry about the differences between America and Scotland and is more about the differences in experiences between living in a rural town in Scotland and living in the suburbs of a city that has a population as large as the whole of Scotland. Life can be lived quite differently as a result.

This year I did not even start Christmas shopping until late November.  We obviously could not import any new items with us, either in person or in our shipping, which meant my usual habit of starting to buy Christmas gifts in the summer – if not earlier – was not feasible.  Then we had a “bedding in” period during which time I almost forgot that Christmas was just a few weeks away.  It was a trip around Toys R Us – just for browsing purposes – that snapped me back into present buying mode as my kids mentioned a few things they would like to pop on their Santa lists.

Living where I used to, leaving it so late to embark on buying gifts for four children would have had me hyperventilating.  We had a few really lovely gift shops in town but none of them really stocked much in the way of toys, certainly not many for kids above preschool age.  It was, therefore, necessary to travel to the nearest large town – which was over an hour away on boke-inducing roads and still a bit limited – or the nearest city – which was a five hour round trip.  As both excursions required me to take my children with me, it was all a bit stressful, not least because of having to somehow make secretive purchases with them by my side.  In recent years, therefore, I had resorted to using the internet to buy gifts.  However, the internet only really works effectively and efficiently if you know what it is you are buying. If the children had asked Santa for a specific toy or book then the internet worked like a charm for price comparisons and ordering and delivering, all without me having to venture outside the house.  Doing it that way also made it very easy to keep on track of the budget and number of gifts being bought as all the “receipts” filed into my email inbox.  Of course, the downside of all this delivery of packages was that some companies liked to charge additional shipping costs because of our postcode.  Sometimes the premium was pretty steep.  We might have been just over two hours from Scotland’s largest city but those companies would make  it seem as if their parcels were having to go through acts of derring do and explore the hinterland of civilization just to make it to us.  More than once I had to have an argument with someone on the phone who claimed they were going to place an additional charge on our delivery fee because we “lived on an island”.  That was news to me.  Also more than once I would suggest they look at a map, follow the route and tell me when it was they thought the delivery was going to cross a large body of water.  Ridiculousness.  In any case, the internet could indeed work like a charm for Christmas shopping unless the children were not asking for anything specific or had only asked for one thing when more than one gift was required.  The need for search terms to input into the websites means that browsing in search of inspiration can be a long, wasteful and frustrating enterprise.  I estimate that last year I accomplished as much as 90% of my gift shopping online but that was only possible because I started in May.

So this year was very different.  The advantage of not making a start until late November was that it coincided with the Black Friday sales.  My boys happened to be asking for a fair few new and popular toys and, by jings, they turned up thick and fast in the online sales which made life easier and cheaper for me.  Everything I bought them during the sales period was 50% or more reduced.  Kerching!  Once that period was over, I still needed a few odds and ends for them, stocking stuffers and the like.  In previous years, I would have cruised sites like ebay to find some funny wee bargain items.  This year, however, I could mooch around the local malls and find lots of cool bits and bobs for them.  And, what’s more, I could do all of that completely child-free since – living a few minutes away from stores – I could fit it all in while the biggest three boys were in school and the little one was in preschool.

There is a downside to this ability to shop locally, however, and that was that the novelty of it may have got the better of me.  In an effort to make their first Christmas in America really memorable and special, I may just have gone a teensy wee bit overboard on the present buying front.  It was all a very good price so I’ve not burst my budget but my understairs cupboard does look a bit like Aladdin’s cave.  And I had to wrap it all.  I.  Loathe.  Wrapping.  Nothing sucks the Christmas spirit out of me faster than having to sit on the floor for hours cutting patterned paper, getting trapped by unruly sticky tape and trying to figure out the engineering required to neatly wrap all those bizarrely shaped boxes.  Which is one of the reasons I love buying lego for the kids.  Nice rectangular boxes.  It took me several nights and a bottle of wine to get it done, but as of last night all of my gift wrapping is also at an end.

Now I can sit back and let the festive mirth and holiday fun begin.  Except I can’t because my house still looks like a warehouse and I still have a third of the shipping boxes to empty once I can figure out where on earth I am going to place their contents.

At least I don’t have to gift wrap those boxes!