Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, November 1, 2010

How fast can you write a blog?

I've been asked how hard it is to blog about math.

Is it Hard? or Not Hard?

My daily blogging can take from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Most of the time, it's not as hard as writing math curriculum!

First I have to come up with an idea. A concept. It could be a family or group of concepts, such as fractions, ratios, division, etc. This is blog 311 for me and I haven't run out of ideas yet. It's best to think 3-4 days in advance but I seldom do that unless I am going on vacation or a business trip and have to write many blogs in one day.

Last Friday it was "How many gallons of water have we put down this sink in the last 60 years?  (which made the drainpipe get so clogged up!)"

Today the topic "How Fast ..." is my alternate, because the primary topic got stalled (more on this later).

After I have an idea I start writing. Full speed, straight out. I start throwing words at the screen. This is the easiest part of the job for me. I have been writing daily at work and home, for over 40 years. I hope it shows.

I think a lot about the illustrations, which are very important in my blogs. In many cases I take the pictures myself, so I may be wandering around our offices or the streets, looking for good subjects.

Photo: Here's a typical photo I took with a tripod and timer. I'm wearing the cat face; my wife is the goat (not dog). This was used to show the range of colors that your eyes can distinguish. Naturally we had to get the shirts, the background set up, the photo in focus, etc. I have taken about 50,000 photos, and they're all on my hard drive:

Clip Art: Here's an image assembled from clip art from my publishing archives. I have licensed the use of 750,000 images in order to have the raw material to make something like this - a man gazing into a crystal ball and seeing old ladies in the future. His mom, or wife perhaps?

Mixed Media: This is a compilation of a photo taken of a blueprint and a ruler taped to my whiteboard. It  demonstrates how scale drawings work. In hindsight, it's boring.

Here's another compilation of text and graphics to help show how fuel economy calculations vary from country to country.

Permissions: As you can imagine, it takes time to find and construct graphics. It would be nice to just be able to think of a picture and have it appear on my page. That's sometimes possible using a source like Wikimedia that generally allows reuse, but in most cases it's considered bad form to borrow art without asking for permission. There are lots of exceptions but it is better to ask than to reuse (steal) artwork.

(This is why I have an alternate blog topic today - I want to use some art for another topic but I need to wait for a reply to my request for permission.)

After the blog is written I have to make sure it looks good and it's grammatically and mathematically correct. This is sometimes difficult, as I write and edit most of my own material. My wife reads it every night so there may be midnight corrections at times!

If you are using a browser like Firefox or Safari, I have checked its appearance for you. If you read this with an RSS feed, then most of my layout work is discarded (sigh!) and you see text with art without much formatting.

For example the headings in this post are bold and red. I do this formatting stuff last. If the post is going to contain multi-colum tables, animated GIFs, embedded YouTube videos, etc. I have to be careful and it takes much longer to make sure all the HTML coding works. Yes, there is code in this. It's a computer!

I use Blogger to write, post and host this blog. Blogger is fairly reliable. A couple months ago Blogger started NOT working with Firefox and I was unable to determine why. Not wanting to mess up all my other inter-related accounts with Google, I switched to Safari to write all the blogs. In the last week, Firefox seems to be working again. Today I am using Safari.

Finally I post the blog and read it. Unlike artists who perform a song then never listen to their own albums, I like to read what I write. What fun would it be to create something you don't enjoy?

Believe it or not the "blog in the clouds" is not invulnerable. We have to back up our own work. I download the whole blog every couple months and save it on my drive and to an optical disk.

Here I am with Janice Raymond, who created the Excel Math concept and founded the company.
Janice and I have written virtually everything that has ever appeared in Excel Math.

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