Thursday, August 24, 2006

Failing Eyesight

Failing Eyesight.

2006 August 24 Thursday

In the last week, my eyesight started to drop off alarmingly in the evenings, this trend becoming noticeable in the course of only a very few days.

The reason for this was not some dreadful medical contingency but, rather, the failure of the light of the world itself: the seasonal decline of the sun.

By the time I get to the daycare center in time to uplift my daughter by 1800, the world is dimming into shadows, the evenings of late summer noisy with the racket of cicadas, the cicadas which will soon die.

The route from the daycare center to home is poorly lit, the streetlighting as bad as that in Devonport, back in New Zealand. Toward the end of the homeward course, we traverse streets which, like ours, are in private ownership, and are lit frugally by only the occasional neon tube perched up on top of a utility pole.

To counter the challenge of the encroaching dark, I this week resorted to American technology, that wonderful technology which is always there to bring death and democracy to the world wherever it is needed: Iraq yesterday, Lebanon today, and, quite possibly, Iran tomorrow.

The technology I resorted to was a Maglite torch, a nicely balanced weapon which holds four cells which, as far as America is concerned, are C cells, but which, in Japan, are size 2 batteries.

I bought this torch at Yamada Denki when I happened to be passing by on my way to the Midorigaoka library, one of the libraries in the Meguro library system.

The nice thing about Yamada Denki is that they have plenty of staff, and there was a cheerful guy waiting at the entrance to greet incoming customers, and he immediately led me to the torches after I had explained my mission, supplementing my Japanese language skills with a little sketch done on a bit of paper.

As soon as I had unpacked my American flashlight and had loaded it up with its four batteries, I felt an immediate urge to go and bash someone with it. However, when I was recently attacked by someone at the daycare center, I did not bash them.

There were two reasons for this.

First, on the occasion on which one of the widgets came running up to me and gleefully went into piranha mode, biting through my jeans and sinking its sharp white grinning teeth into the tender flesh of my thigh, I had not yet purchased my American-made people basher.

Second, the widget which had attacked me was one of my blood relations. My daughter, in fact.

My response to being bitten left her in no doubt that biting was unacceptable. Or should have left her understanding that. Though, later, a couple of days on, she made as if to go and bite her mother. But was checked before carrying out the action.

So who taught her to bite?

I remember my wife, quite some time back, talking about a bad baby which had gone and bitten Cornucopia, back in the days when
Cornucopia was a baby herself rather than the two-year-old girl which she has become. So maybe biting is something that she has learnt at the daycare.

She has also learn to sing at least one hymn in Japanese. My wife heard Cornucopia singing the hymn and told me it was about how children are made by God. To which I responded that, if so, then it would be nice to see more godly qualities manifesting themselves in the vigorous young barbarian.

Having used the Maglite, I have come to the conclusion that this is a spectacularly successful piece of American technology, unlike, say, the M16 rifle, or Windows XP Professional, which, for my money, is the worst operating system ever created in the history of the human race ... the OS which, to my sorrow, I am currently using.

The first time I trialed the Maglite torch on an evening's venture to the daycare center, I was, as indicated above, very pleased with the result. One option is to pinpoint the light into spotlight mode, and, used in this way, it makes an excellent daughter-spotting tool if the daughter has been liberated from her push chair.

She routinely asks to walk once we get to the top of the hill and are into the maze of largely traffic-free cul de sacs which leads us to home.

I went to Midorigaoka library to return some books and, once there, I borrowed two more volumes. I don't have time for much reading, however. And what time I have is more often spent on the Internet rather than with my nose in the pages of a book.

I am trying to build up my website, with, so far, not much in the way of success.

At one stage I was getting over 2,000 unique visitors a day, and the number was growing, slowly but steadily, but then Google went and changed the rules to measure something called "Google relevance," and my stats dropped right off, and are now barely above the 400 level.

So, to try to repair this situation, I've been spending a lot of my spare time writing HTML code. And, earlier this year, I put in a major effort on trying to crack the secret of Google relevance, but all this effort was for nothing, because the experiments that I ran were based on a false premise.

I had installed Google Desktop Search on my computer, Google's free indexing software which allows you to search your own hard drive, and I observed that it gives you two options, one "sort by relevance" and the other "sort by date."

Naively, I assumed that the "sort by relevance" option would in fact sort by relevance. If so, then I could run a series of experiments on my own computer and, by trial and error, could crack the secret of whatever algorithm is used to determine Google relevance.

But I found that this does not work.

Currently, I have 10,104 files on my computer which contain the word "Japan". The top in "sort by date" is the file I am writing right now, the most recent.

If I "sort by relevance" then I get an entirely different order.

However, if I now go and make a copy of any one of the files which features the word "japan" then that copy pops right to the top of the search which is supposedly for relevance.

In other words, the freshness of the file trumps all the other design features in determining Google relevance, at least as far as Google Desktop Search is concerned, so you cannot crack the secret of Google's algorithm by trial and error.

I ran a number of experiments which demonstrated that this is so, that datestamping is a key factor which overrides other design elements.

Consequently, I've renewed my focus on link popularity, which, as we all know, Google uses to rank pages for search terms.

Some time back, I read that some mischievous person had persuaded the world to point the word "failure" at the White House biography of George W. Bush, so that if you now do a Google search for "failure" that page pops to the top.

I did the search some time ago and, yes, it was so.

This week, investigating link popularity further, I again did a Google search for "failure" and found, again, that the number one site was:

"George W. Bush
Biography of the 43rd President of the United States."

The direct link to the George W. biography, if you are interested, is:


Google notes the existence of "about" 488,000,000 pages featuring the word "failure" but George W. tops the list.

So how many people actually pointed the word "failure" at his biography?

I fed the direct link into Google search and chose the "links" option. A total of "about" 2,760 pages link to the biography. At a maximum, then, only 2,760 people pointed "failure" at the biography.

From this I conclude that link popularity is not strongly contested.

With this idea in mind, I did an experimental search for "text stories," and found that this led to a sex site:

which bills itself as "Alt Sex Stories Text Repository."

If you were wondering where all the sex stories were hiding out online, well, here is the answer. Or a large chunk of the answer, at any rate.

The search term "text stories" is fiercely competitive, with a total of "about" 279,000,000 pages featuring this term.

So how many pages actually link to the sex stories site?

Answer: "about" 208.

I then went ego surfing for "hughcook" and "hugh cook," which are two different searches.

The number one result for "Hugh Cook" was the Wikipedia entry about me. So how many pages linked to that? Answer: only about seven.

The number two "Hugh Cook" site was for the Hague-born Christian writer who is the author of CRACKED WHEAT AND OTHER STORIES, and who is not me.

How many pages link to that site?

Answer: "about" three.

I did a bunch of other searches and decided that it would be worth pursuing link popularity to get top billing for search terms that I am particularly interested in, such as "Hugh Cook."

I already have a bunch of websites, including, and, additionally, a small website created in ten megabytes of space provided by our local cable TV company, Netyou.

Plus, some years back, I made some free websites, including one with an outfit called Bravepages and one with Tripod, and these sites are still up and running. I made them for free and they have stood the test of time, and I can always make more.

So I anticipated writing more HTML code and, at the very least, getting top billing for the "Hugh Cook" search before the year, trumping the guy from the Hague and the "Hugh Cook" who is an asbestos lawyer and all those other unwelcome doppelgangers of mine.

While ego surfing I was surprised to find that the Internet police are on my trail, sniffing to see if I have any spyware or the like on my site

At the moment, the direct link to the cop site is:

This page advises that McAfee SiteAdvisor (which I assume is associated with anti-virus software) has queued for a safety check, looking for spyware and the like.

So they're checking up.

But it's futile to think that you can control what happens on the Internet, even if you have outfits like McAfee invigilating sites.

In my own case, I have two domain names which I bought from, which offers two deals, a cheap one and an expensive one. For the cheap one, which I opted to use for, you point the domain name at your hosting company's namesevers.

For the expensive deal, however, you log on at and then point the domain name at any site you want, whether this is, for example, or the George W. Bush biography.

Easydns then redirects traffic to whatever site you are pointing your domain name at.

In my case, at one stage I had pointed at a site in Japan,

But now, for the sake of simplicity, I have pointed at, so both URLs go to the same place.

So if McAfee does give me a clean bill of health then I can simply redirect back to the Netyou site and, once there, having been cleared by McAfee, I can continue my criminal career, stealing credit card numbers or whatever.

Before I unleash myself to go and wreak mayhem on the Internet, however, I have an Internet task to do locally, which is to make a password for myself on the site run by the Yokohama library.

As I mentioned earlier, the Meguro library system, which I have joined, requires a password in "half sized" numbers, which you cannot reproduce with an English-language operating system. Plus the site is all in Japanese.

But my wife, having done some Internet surfing herself, reports that the Yokohama site has an English-language option. And, given that we drop by at the local library about once a week, and that it's just ten minutes or so on foot, down near the supermarket which we generally visit every weekend, this looks like the library that I will probably end up using the most.


Anonymous Steve said...

When I do a search for "hugh cook" through, your site comes up first.

Then two wikipedia articles, and then Cracked Wheat Hugh Cook.

My site is 19th ...

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... has lost its index page ...

I'm also confused when you say that you need to enter 'half sized numbers'.

The login page for meguro library ( is encoded in Shift-JIS, which consists of ascii plus the following characters ( and some annoying codes to shift between the two.

Your US keyboard should make single-width digits without any problem. If you need double-width digits, then it shouldn't be too hard to translate those by hand.

Anyhow, if you get stuck, you can give me the password and I'll figure out how to make it work.

Btw, you might find (

9:55 PM  
Blogger kenrolston said...

I am a great fan of your work. I will be re-reading your WOMEN AND THE WARLORDS for inspiration tomorrow on my flight to SF. And I will continue to read and re-read your books over and over again, for inspiration and pure pleasure. Thank you for all your written.

ken rolston

1:56 AM  

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