2020 Vision

So. 2020. The start of a new decade. That’s just a bit surreal for me. I can remember wondering if 1984 would turn out anything like the novel. The future did turn out a bit like Orwell’s vision — it just took until 2016 or so to get there. It isn’t so much that Big Brother is watching (although, that too), but how our government corrupts and perverts facts and truth.

Good fiction is insightful about the human condition; good science fiction is insightful about our future. Over time, as advertised, the prescient film Idiocracy goes from SF comedy to anthropological documentary. Many others went from fiction to fact. (Fortunately, at least so far, The Terminator has not.)

Suffice to say, this year will seem surreal in more ways than one.

Another science fiction work many in my generation anticipated comparing to reality was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

If I looked forward to 1984, you can imagine how futuristic 2001 seemed to me at one time. Now I encounter people born after it happened.

Sadly (in this case), 2001 missed the mark rather badly. No easy travel to orbital conference rooms. No serious exploration of the moon. No monolith and no manned expedition to Jupiter.

And no HAL, although we keep working on that one.

On the other hand, Clarke got communications satellites and atomic bombs pretty much right on the money.

(So much so that, at one point very serious men from the US Government asked him very serious questions about just exactly where he’d gotten information about their very seriously Top Secret technologies.)

In any event, I’m hardly the first to complain about the lack of the long-promised flying cars (let alone resort spots on the Moon — I don’t really need a flying car, but I really wanted to stay at the Lunar Hilton).

Our lack of colonizing the Moon (or Antarctica or under the sea) ought to tell us something about the idea of colonizing Mars. Like that it’s a really bad idea. (Mars Mania does seem to be dying down. Culture has moved on to the next new thing.)

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January is named after the Roman god, Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward, one looking backward.

So January is a traditional time of two visions, one of our recent past, another of our coming future. A time of reflection and speculation, of memories and hopes.

Bloggers often use the occasion to review the previous year. Long ago (in internet terms), WordPress sent us annual blog reports in January, but that stopped. Then, for a while they sent a link to automatically generated annual report pages on our site. Haven’t gotten one of those in years, though.

(They don’t do snow in the winter anymore, either. Ah, well, so it goes.)

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Some stats are available, if you know where to look, and it’s possible to generate others using the XML export feature.

With a little Python magic, along with some support from XSLT and MatPlotlib, I can make my charts my way:

Which tells me that, sadly, in terms of page hits my best year was 2015 (although things seem to be picking up a bit again).

I didn’t blog at all in 2017, which explains the dip there, but that doesn’t explain 2016. I didn’t post quite as much that year as I did 2015 (and there were a lot of political posts):

But it is kind of weird how not posting at all in 2017 didn’t reduce the activity to zero.

That gap in 2017 was from dismay that my election fears came true. (There was also that my Minnesota Twins had their worst season ever in 2016.) It was a pretty awful year.

There was a note I threw away recently thinking I’d never manage to work it into a post (and its time was past), but it read something like:

“2016 was a shit cake with vomit icing and warm piss as a beverage. (Fried Filth for an appetizer.)”

A really shitty year, is what I’m saying.

Tragically, politically and socially it hasn’t gotten better — it’s arguably gotten worse — but it’s become normalized, and we’ve gotten used to it.

I deeply hope the year 2020 tries to live up to its implied name and involves at least a modicum of clear vision.

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Anyway, some of my older posts get consistent, albeit low level, interest. I’m not sure if it’s from searchers looking for something (like an image), or if people are actually interested in the blog post.

These days I restrict comments to only the most recent posts (which really cuts down on spam), but even when comments were wide open, comments or Likes were extremely rare (non-existent, really). That makes me suspect most hits are disappointed searchers.

(Based on my own experience: Often when researching a topic, or seeking an image, I visit pages off a search result that turn out to not meet the need, and I just move on to another. I think that’s what’s happening a lot here, especially since I use a lot of images in posts.)

In the stats I can also see how posts with a contentious debate in the comment section get way more hits than my posts typically get. I’m not sure if there’s a lurking audience or if the other party looks at the page a lot.

The WP Reader, and notifications, make constant looking unnecessary, so I do wonder about a silent audience. Or maybe some folks just don’t use those tools.

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The Santa: Man or Woman post, from back in December of 2012, is still my most read post (with 3,316 hits — nearly half of those, 1,466, as a result of being “Freshly Pressed”).

Most of the other hits come from spikes each year around December:

It always bummed me out a little that my most popular post isn’t original material, but, finally, a couple of posts are catching up.

I couldn’t be more pleased that My Grandfather’s Axe (with 3,133 hits) has gotten popular, because I really like that post:

It’s had a lot more activity in a shorter time, which caught it up (plus a couple of big spikes — someone discovered it and shared it with friends, is my guess).

The Deflection and Projection post is another one I’m rather proud of that’s gotten steady traffic (2,834 hits total):

(That looks a little busier than the earlier ones, but note the vertical scale changes in this and following charts. Also, by the way, you can click this for a full-sized version.)

In the #5 slot (with 2,748 hits) is a perennial favorite, the “Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille” post.

I didn’t write the joke, of course, but I did write the post based on the joke. It does get consistent traffic.

Another one I’m very happy gets constant visitors is the Rick O’Shay post (2,736 hits). Obviously others found a cherished memory there:

One post I’ve never understood the traffic for is Madam Secretary & Scorpion. The more recent post, Madam President, doesn’t seem to be getting the same interest, so I’m still mystified about the earlier one.

But at least the traffic is dying down finally. The post ranks #9 overall, but in 2019 it ranked only #28.

Another old post I’m very fond of, Why I Hated the Holodeck, seemed to grow in popularity years after I published it, but has lately been ramping down to lower levels. It ranks #12 overall (with 1,163 hits), but only #25 this past year:

One more, another personal favorite that I’m glad seems to attract visits with some consistency: Hawkeye & Margaret. It ranks #13 overall, with 1,104 hits, and ranked way up at #20 in 2019.

Bottom line, I may not get much traffic (these are pretty paltry numbers — I’ll mention the vertical scale again), but at least some of what I see as my better posts are seeing the light of day. That’s not nothing.

§ §

Turning to the other Janus face, what lies ahead?

More of the same, I suppose. Keep on keeping on.

I keep trying to be more free-form, treating this more as a web log than a publishing platform, but I find it hard. So I’ll keep at that.

I do want to redo the menu structure. No one really seems to use it, perhaps because there’s so much to it. Mobile screens really change the equation. I’ve been thinking of reducing and simplifying.

Or I might just say, “Screw it!” and move on to something else entirely.

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One thing I’ll share that I’ve been playing with is looking into Mandelbrot calculations.

Some Python code I wrote to do arbitrary-length binary multiplication just spent over 13 hours calculating just one pixel.

Which is hideously slow, but [A] Python isn’t a good choice for what I’m doing here, and [B] my numbers have 96 bytes of floating point precision. They print out as 768-digit numbers.

What I should do is re-write the code in C (or even assembler — there’s a technical point I’d like to explore involving MUL operations versus table-driven multiplication).

One goal is charts like this:

Which shows the behavior of the real and “imaginary” parts of variable Z as coordinate C is iterated over (first 600 iterations).

As you see, the real part appears to converge on -0.5 while the imaginary part seems to diverge, presumably to infinity.

Assuming appearances are correct, then eventually Z will “escape” (the combination of its real and imaginary parts will add up to 4.0 or more), which is the expected behavior for the coordinate [-0.75, ±anything].

More about this down the road. I’m thinking Mandelbrot March (or May, depending on how much I accomplish).

§ §

One last thing (for now):

This is post #900. 😀

Welcome to the new decade!

Stay clear-sighted, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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