Blog Stats 2021

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful Chillaxmas. Yesterday was the last of the Twelve Days, so now it’s time to wash the dishes, take down the lights, and toss out the tree (or disassemble it, box it, and return it to the attic or basement, whichever applies).

Now it’s time to put on our two-way Janus hats to look backwards at Old Man 2021 as well as forwards at Infant 2022.

It’s also time to indulge (if not wallow) in my lust for data and charts.

My previous post, the last one of 2021, has already done most of the heavy lifting of the look back. There isn’t much more to say. The year seems almost transparent, as if looking back sees all the way to 2020 with little to obstruct the view.

I think we were all catching our breath after the extreme ride of politics from 2016 to 2020. A ride that culminated with a violent and deadly physical attack on our nation’s capitol by an enraged mob of home-grown terrorists. I’m still astonished at how not appalled most are by this. There is no better indication of how insane things got.

Most of us got vaccinated last year and many got boosted (I confess, that’s still on my TODO list). Masks are still a thing, and COVID variants seem likely to be with us for a long time.

It’s hard not to think we broke the world. The Japanese, a culture that has long understood the value of aesthetics, have a word, kintsugi (also known as kintsukuroi) that names an artform involving the repair of broken pottery. As an aesthetic point of view, it’s about how breaking and being repaired is an indelible and important (and potentially beautiful) part of an object’s history.

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Broken bones heal stronger. Many plants benefit from the tiny breakage from wind and passing animals (and, for all I know, from animals passing wind). The plants exposed to this are hardier, more robust, than carefully sheltered ones (so you should fondle your houseplants). In theory the past years could be a learning and growing experience.

Passing so close to the edge could be a wake-up call (if only we weren’t so distracted and asleep at the wheel; we seem more likely to take the Louise option).

At the same time, what was broken can’t always be made right again. I’ve long thought the USA was too big for any kind of unified governance. The interweb shrunk the world, both in virtual size and in nuance of understanding and expression. It’s given a powerful voice to the fringe of society, which is the sharpest two-edged sword we’ve ever created. Perhaps, at long last, it has shown us the error of our size.

I’m captivated by the opening lines of the Yeats poem, The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

“Mere anarchy” seems an appropriate term.

§

We broke it; now we’re buying it. I can only hope in the milder sense of the phrase “buying it.” That cost is high enough.

(While I didn’t care much for the book, one thing FKA USA gets right, I think, is the inevitable fragmentation of the nation formerly known as the US of A. We haven’t really been United in a long time.)

§ §

Anyway, moving on to the austere beauty of stats and charts, it’s clear that 2021 was a good year blog-wise, but not a great one:

Traffic was down in all regards compared to 2020. I’ve never made any attempt to publicize this blog. I don’t even have accounts on Twitter or Facebook (never had the former, deleted the latter many years ago).

After ten+ years and 1201 posts, it’s pretty clear my shit doesn’t interest other people (like, any other people) anywhere near as much as it does me. Story of my life, really, and I’ve always been a bit puzzled why I can’t find more like minds. They seem common as trees in books, but rare as unicorns in real life.

A dip in the number of posts published may account for some of the downturn:

Only 125 posts in 2021, compared to 177 last year and 160 in 2019. It was a bit over 10 posts per month (on average), compared to almost 15 per month last year (and 13+ in 2019). Interestingly (or not), all previous years, except 2015, had lower averages, but not hugely so (roughly 9/month).

I’ve definitely been “off my feed” this year. (Funny, the sense of that expression is increasingly lost behind the modern notion of a feed. The new sense suggests an absence rather than a malaise. I suppose, for me, either sense works.)

One thing those charts make pretty clear is that posting (obviously) leads to views. (Which is why my programming blog, The Hard-Core Coder gets zero traffic. I rarely post there, although I’m trying to change that.) Certainly a correlation here and very likely a cause.

§

Given the low traffic the blog gets, the successful (in terms of views) posts stand out, and I’m fascinated by which ones seem to grab people. Most visitors don’t comment, so I’m never sure why a post is popular compared to others. Perhaps they were seeking an image or a bit of text (such as a quote) and didn’t care about the post itself. It’s actually rare I get a strong sense that readers are here for the post itself.

As an aside, a word I’ve heard often as feedback is “intimidating” — not in the physical sense (I’m no specimen), but in the intellectual sense. It’s awful to me that I would engender that, but I don’t know how to not be me. Everything I’ve tried to be more human seems to fail, to make things worse. (Well, duh! Because I’m being inauthentic.)

[Geeze. My own writing lately is telling me my mind has gotten a bit stuck in a bad place. I really meant this post to be just about stats and charts. On the other hand, venting is good. Anyway, moving on…]

No major surprises in the Top 20 Posts overall:

  1. From the Far Side (6648)
  2. My Grandfather’s Ax (5459)
  3. Deflection and Projection (3889)
  4. Rick O’Shay (3617)
  5. Sideband #17: Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille (3547)
  6. Santa: Man or Woman? (3343)
  7. God is an Iron (2770)
  8. Bushido Code (2390)
  9. Madam Secretary & Scorpion (1368)
  10. Why I Hated The Holodeck (1354)
  11. BB #27: Far Less (1312)
  12. Hawkeye & Margaret (1200)
  13. Elephant Story (1197)
  14. Barrel of Wine; Barrel of Sewage (1195)
  15. Here Today; Pi Tomorrow (1041)
  16. Assassin Movies (1000)
  17. CNN Is Dead To Me (961)
  18. Abacus and Slide Rule (956)
  19. Transcendental Territory (892)
  20. Movies: Grand Canyon (793)

(Numbers in parenthesis are hit counts.) The top ten, in particular, haven’t changed much over the years. Some (#6, #11, #13, #15) earned most of their hits in earlier years, but they earned so many they’ve remained in the top 20. One of them, #18, earned so many hits last year (with a build-up in 2020) that it made the top 20 overall:

I keep hoping to topple #1 from its perch; its popularity, I’m sure, isn’t due to my writing so much as all the Gary Larson images. As you can see, since Larson returned with a new website (that I have yet to even visit), the post has been getting a lot of hits (note that the scales vary on these charts):

I used to love Gary Larson, but I think I’ve moved on. Honestly, I think the world has moved on. He no longer seems relevant (and I like xkcd way better).

I’d like to see #2 in the top spot; I like that post much better. For a while it looked like it would overtake the Larson post, but it fell further and further behind. It seems now to have little hope of catching up, let alone overtaking. But I’m glad it’s popular:

I’m also pleased that #3 has been so popular. I like that one a lot, and I think it says some important and useful things. The traffic for it began increasing in 2016 (because politics), and it saw a big spike halfway through last year. This year traffic has tapered off. I didn’t write the post with Twitler and his racist stormtroopers in mind, but it certainly applies:

Of all the posts listed, one of my personal favorites is #4. Some of my sense of the spiritual came from that comic, and it also tied into my love of nature. Since I posted it, it has gotten steady traffic (rightfully so), and there was a huge spike this past December. I’ve gotten emails from people who loved Rick O’Shay as much as I did. Really one of my most gratifying posts:

That damn Santa post (#6) has been stick in my craw for years. Back when WP did Freshly Pressed (a curated post publicizing mechanism), they included that one, and it got 1400+ hits in a day. The only other time I got that kind of traffic was the other post that made the ranks of Freshly Pressed (#15). Ever since, the Santa post gets a lot of hits in December… until the last few years:

Since that post isn’t original material, I’ve hated that it’s a top post, and I’m happy to see it finally being largely ignored. Speaking of #15, the other Freshly Pressed post, kind of the same story. Ton of hits due to the publicizing and very few thereafter (but enough to keep the post in the top 20):

And, in fact, none in 2021. So it goes. At least this one was original material.

§

That Abacus and Slide Rule post (#18) isn’t the only post that got a lot of hits last year. Here are the Top 20 Posts in 2021:

  1. From the Far Side (1793)
  2. My Grandfather’s Ax (1293)
  3. Abacus and Slide Rule (764)
  4. Rick O’Shay (459)
  5. Sideband #17: Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille (415)
  6. God is an Iron (374)
  7. Deflection and Projection (297)
  8. Greg Egan: Quarantine (297)
  9. Gibbs’ Rules (185)
  10. Movies: Grand Canyon (184)
  11. CNN Is Dead To Me (155)
  12. The Imitation Game (135)
  13. Transcendental Territory (133)
  14. Octopus Brains (111)
  15. Westworld: Questions! (109)
  16. Why I Hated The Holodeck (96)
  17. Barrel of Wine; Barrel of Sewage (72)
  18. Infinity is Funny (47)
  19. Leon Wieseltier (44)
  20. Hawkeye & Margaret (36)

As you see, that Abacus post was #3. The two lists have more in common than I would wish; it says that recent posts aren’t knocking them dead. I can’t quite explain the popularity of some (#12 and #19, for instance, or #11 and #13, for that matter).

One oddball is #8, which, like a fever, spiked big time last January (257 hits) and then rapidly declined in the months following (20, 16, 12, 6, 1, 1). It got zero hits Aug-Dec. I’m guessing the word “quarantine” in the title might have been the draw, although maybe it was a Greg Egan fan who shared the post with a bunch of friends. That would explain the spike and decay nicely:

Due, I’m sure, to Mark Harmon leaving NCIS (and his character retiring to Alaska), there was also a spike in the Gibbs’ Rules page (#9#9#9…). It generally saw more traffic in the last two years than for most of its history:

I don’t suppose there will be any new rules now.

I do like seeing #20 still getting hits (it’s #12 overall), even if traffic has declined in recent years. M*A*S*H remains a very beloved old show, forever one of my all-time favorites. The post is likewise one of my all-time favorites:

Another oddball is #19. I was quite struck by Leon Wieseltier (a clear intellectual unicorn), and I like the post. I haven’t looked into it much, but apparently Wieseltier got in some #MeToo hot water. What’s weird about the post’s traffic is the “September spike” in 2018–2020:

This year there was a tiny spike in October, but whatever drove the September thing (new school year?) seems to have vanished.

Two very old posts continue to do well. They are the seventh and eighth I posted here way back in 2011. They’re on both lists, and both are favorites.

God is an Iron, the seventh post I published, is a brief treatise on irony. It ranks #7 overall and (astonishingly) ranked #6 last year:

Barrel of Wine; Barrel of Sewage, the eighth post published, is about entropy and introduced the CD Library analogy I explored in detail recently (see: Entropy 101 and Entropy 102). It ranks #14 overall and #18 last year:

Not bad for a pair of ancients. (Reminder: the chart scales vary.)

Lastly, speaking of ancients, another favorite, Why I Hated The Holodeck is the 28th post I published here, but I’d originally published it on another social platform (Newsvine) many years earlier. It’s been a popular post, ranking #10 overall and #16 last year:

Had enough charts? Yeah, me, too.

§

In closing I’ll mention my Index page, which lists all my posts except the Sidebands and Brain Bubbles (and the Special Relativity series). In retrospect, I wish I’d listed posts in reverse order because it’s getting to be a pain scrolling to the end of over 1000 posts, but it would be even more of a pain to change now.

§ §

At least this January 6th (at least so far) is a lot calmer than the one a year ago. Last year on this day, as I was writing, I was interrupted by news of the insurrection.

Stay blogging, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

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

37 responses to “Blog Stats 2021

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Longer than planned (as usual), but I don’t expect anyone but me to find much interest in my lowly stats and charts. This is more a post for historical purposes — just documenting the past year.

    Feel free to ignore this one! 🙂

  • Wyrd Smythe

    ATTENTION: The WordPress Reader is a broken piece of junk that ruins the formatting of posts. If you’re reading this in the Reader, I highly recommend and urge you to [A] stop using the Reader and [B] always read blog posts on their website.

    This post is: Blog Stats 2021

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    On being vaccinated, I actually got boosted at the end of November. That third shot packed a wallop. I was down for two days afterward. Worth it though. A lot of people around me are currently getting sick.

    I actually try not to care too much about which posts receive the most traffic. It’s too subject to random internet perturbations, like someone famous sharing a post, or it coming up on some busy reddit. Not that focusing on Likes is that much better, but it seems somewhat less random.

    The post looks okay for me in the Reader. But maybe I looked at it after you did something?

    • Wyrd Smythe

      🤷‍♂️ Oh, what can I say; I wrote’m, they’re my babies, I do care — at least in the sense of finding it interesting how posts do relative to each other (whatever the reason behind it). The popularity of that Abacus post, for example, was a complete surprise. I thought that would be as ignored as my other math-y posts usually are. Another example is that post about Egan’s novel Quarantine — that one was plain weird. Writing the code to produce those charts (which I did years ago) was a fun project. And it’s nice to know that posts I really cared about keep getting hits. That’s a nice feeling. FWIW, it just takes a few hours to scrape the stats and dump them into my machine. A fun hobby project for a retired guy! 🙂

      Likes, on the other hand, I mostly ignore. Too many of them are people trying to attract attention to their blog. (I removed a certain follower prone to flying by and Liking swaths of comments. It results in a mass of pointless notifications I have to sweep up. I’ve been quite pleased since to not have those bird droppings laying around.)

      I use a defensive strategy to prevent the WP Reader from losing my paragraphs, but there’s nothing I can do about how it removes style information. That bit of the Yeats poem should be indented, the paragraph marks should be centered, and the Chillaxmas in the lede should be colorized. It ignores both style tags and CSS assignments. I loath it.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      p.s. Answering a question you asked me weeks ago, with temps sitting in the below zero zone lately, the air has gotten bone dry, so I realized it’s high time I start humidifying the place. The humidifier works fine, at least so far.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Definitely if reviewing the traffic stats is interesting for you, that’s totally cool. I didn’t mean to sound judgmental. Just my take.

        Yeah, Like spam has at times gotten annoying. I’ve actually had to block a couple of people who would come in on large threads and go down the line Liking everything, for exactly the reason you noted, it floods the notification bar and makes finding the meaningful stuff a pain.

        Still, at the post level, it seems like a pretty consistent background hum that doesn’t prevent meaningful comparisons, at least not in most cases. But at the end of the day, no metric is going to be perfect.

        Ah, ok. I was looking at the post expecting to see the paragraphs smashed together and didn’t notice the other issues. Just noticed Tina’s comment, which largely reflects my own attitude. The only time I usually check the Reader is to make sure my own posts show up, and periodically to see what people I only follow through it are posting, or just what’s being posted under particular tags. I seldom read anything in it though, usually preferring to click through to the site.

        Good deal on the humidifier. Might be an issue with the generally higher humidity down here for most of the year. Although even mine started working okay this year.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        As I just mentioned to Tina, I think I get more self-promotion Likes than actual ones. I’ve been tempted to disable the Like button. I do have Likes turned off in comments, but that only applies to posts on the website. The Reader does an end run around that setting. So does the notifications bell dropdown thing. Both allow Liking comments. (Which, in fact, is how I tender that final conversation closing Like.)

        Yeah, not only is no metric perfect, nothing is perfect! 😀 As I just mentioned to Tina elsethread, I’ve read that Navajo rug-weavers and sand-painters deliberately allowed a flaw in their creations to signify human imperfection. I like the notion and have left flaws in my posts for the same reason.

        I keep seeing other bloggers suffer the loss of paragraphs, so I know that bug hasn’t been dealt with. (Our friend Michael’s most recent post suffered it. He went and edited the post, and while that didn’t fix it at first, eventually the post showed up correctly in the Reader. Impossible to say if it self-healed or healed due to his edits.)

        That the Reader strips out style information really infuriates me. It even strips out WP’s own style info — the centering of text, for instance.

        I’m quite hooked on the whole ultrasonic humidifier thing. No pads to mildew, and the cool “steam” (ultrasonic blasted water vapor) it produces is just plain weird. Steam should be hot! 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The thing about disabling the Like button, as you noted, is it doesn’t disable that function in the Reader. And it seems like most if not all of the spam Likes come through the Reader. (I do sometimes turn off the Like button on a particular post, usually one I’d prefer not get escalated into the Popular Post widget. Which ends up giving insight into what’s coming in through the Reader.)

        The only way I’ve found to outright prevent Reader Likes it to block the account. That’s heavy handed, so I’m only going to do it in extreme cases. The couple I’ve done it on appeared to be going through my post history and liking large numbers of comments. They had never left a comment before.

        Yeah, the Reader doing stuff like that, plus the weirdisms that happen in mobile and other RSS interfaces, has caused me to change how I lay out my posts. I used to carefully size the images to wrap the text exactly how I wanted, and fine tune other presentation parameters. Now, if I put in images, they’re going to be centered by themselves without text adjacent to them. In general, things are more linear. It’s a trend I’ve noticed on a lot of web sites. It seems to lead to less ugly surprises.

        Anticipating that my current humidifier would stop working, I actually had ordered another one, which is the ultrasonic type, mainly because I couldn’t find the steam one I usually buy. But my old steam one continuing to work is keeping the new one in its box for now.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s always nice to have a backup. Mine is really too small for the whole place. I should order another for the bedroom, and having two is also a kind of backup. (If I ever fix my Dell, I’ll have two laptops!)

        Long before the Reader issues I largely gave up on including lots of images in my posts. In the early days I’d pepper the post with little “accent” images that went along with the text. They weren’t necessary, just fun extras. But finding them added hours to post writing, and given the blog’s general lack of popularity I decided it wasn’t worthwhile. (If I had a following, it might be different, worth doing, but not doing it is so much simpler.) The more technical posts need illustrations, and I’m more and more inclined to, as you say, just use large centered images (like the charts in this post).

        In some sense, this all ties back to the original intent of the web, that rendering is more a function of the reader than the writer. The goal, as you no doubt recall, was content would contain meta-data providing clues about rendering, but the ultimate decision was up to the reader. But artist and marketers were never happy with that, and the war between the original intent and those who wanted full artistic control was lost long ago. The WP Reader, in a way, is enforcing a weird broken version of that, making all posts from all blogs look more or less the same and allowing the Reader to make all the rendering decisions.

        In the old days I was very much on the original intent side, but over time CSS was just too much fun, and now I want my website and blog to render as I designed them. I especially don’t want the damned Reader making rendering decisions.

        Ah, well, whaddaya gonna do. 🤷‍♂️

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Oh, forgot to mention that I have heard of that Navajo thing before (or something like it). But I’ve never felt the need to leave intentional imperfections. The unintended ones show up enough to take of that need. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha, yeah, indeed. I don’t ever add an intentional flaw, but sometimes don’t fix the ones I spot later. As you say, the unintended ones are more than enough.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        My humidifier is actually only for my bedroom at night. During the day, I usually just drink plenty of fluids (mostly coffee and that ambrosia known as Diet Dr. Pepper, although sometimes I break down and have water).

        Have you had any issues with it being wet around the ultrasonic? It seems like I had one a few years ago and noticed that. It was why I went back to the steam versions, although I might have had a bad model or just a lemon.

        I remember the old guidelines about HTML. Don’t worry about presentation, they said, let the browser handle that. Except, as you noted, it was immediately ignored by everyone. But it seems like presentation has always been a compromise with browsers and other UIs, at least unless you’re Amazon and have the resources to do a version for every permutation. As the ecosystem changes, such as the rise of mobile, it alters the landscape of compromises.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I expected water splatter around the humidifier, just because of how it works, but I haven’t seen a drop. The chimney has a vented cap that allows a (very) slight deflection in the direction of the water vapor stream, but more importantly contains splatter. Take that cap off, and there is some. With it, nada.

        I was a (Diet) Pepper for many years. I used to drink the regular in high school; always loved the flavor. The DDP era was after years of alternating between Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. But I decided to eliminate the phosphate those drinks contain and switched to Diet Mountain Dew, which is basically carbonated orange juice (concentrate) with some caffeine added. I’ve always loved orange juice (and oranges), and used to make “mimosas” with orange juice and 7-Up. Not that any soda gets near coffee or strong tea in terms of caffeine content, but DMD is a bit higher than DDP, IIRC. At least it was always regarded as a precursor to Jolt Cola (which I never got around to trying).

        While I was out shopping just now I realized it’s time to start using Chapstick again. Days of way-below freezing temps really suck the water out of the air. Colder air can’t hold much moisture anyway, and what little there is freezes out. In the winter I have to start using lotion (“it puts the lotion on its skin” — definitely one of the creepiest movies I’ve enjoyed).

        BTW: Finished House of Suns before I went shopping. I can see why you asked about the ending. It’s a bit sudden. That said, he’s like Octavia Butler there. Her novels and short stories often end when it seems as if more could be said, but she’s said there’s no point in writing what is obvious and easily imagined. She puts a lot of faith in the reader that way, and I think perhaps Reynolds does here, too. And he certainly leaves himself good room for a sequel.

        That said, in his case I was a bit surprised. If he’s anything, he’s verbose and detailed. He seems pretty careful to resolve plot points, and I very much enjoy how he doles out information over the course of the story. (Butler is good that way, too.) His storytelling (especially after VanderMeer and “Reed King”) is wonderfully clear and his style is nicely transparent. I’ve been a little ahead of some of his reveals (I figured out the traitor here), and I think that’s due to how internally consistent his storytelling is. Unlike some, he doesn’t go through contortions trying to hide things. Often those contortions are a giveaway about at least where to look.

        Now I have to decide, while waiting for Redemption Ark, whether to read someone else or another of his. The library just notified me that Absolution Gap is available (it was a two-week wait yesterday). Any chance I could read that first?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        You can see the white cap I mentioned:

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks for the humidifier info. The Vicks model I have doesn’t seem to have the deflector thingee. Oh well, we’ll see what happens when the steam one dies.

        I cut back on my DDP consumption years ago, but wasn’t able to get below 3 per day. Maybe I should try Diet Mountain Dew, although the caffeine increase would concern me.

        On House of Suns, yeah, one issue I’ve long had with Reynolds is a lot of his endings are just lacking. Sometimes it’s because he just takes the story farther than he needs to. Other times it just seems to end on a dour note without any good reason.

        What did you think of his solution to the causality issue with wormholes? I wasn’t wild about it when I read it, although it’s an interesting idea.

        On reading Absolution Gap, it all depends on how you feel about spoilers. It will make the end of Redemption Ark pretty obvious. For me, the journey is still fun, so spoilers have never bothered me. But I know they bother most people.

        There are other books in the Revelation Space universe you could check out: Chasm City is excellent. It takes place around Yellowstone before Revelation Space itself during the plague period. And a character from Chasm City actually shows up in Redemption Ark, so it might be worth reading that one first so you get the emotional kick from the cameo. There’s also his short story collection: Galactic North; the stories were written prior to the novels. One introduces Nevil Clavain, a major character in Redemption Ark. (Reynolds is like Marvel in doing a lot of crossovers.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I like the design of my humidifier. The visible water tank impresses me with how much water that thing blasts into the air (several quarts in the 10 hours since I fired it up). And there’s a blue-white LED built into the base that shines up into the water tank making a watery nightlight. Just kind of a neat feature.

        There’s definitely more caffeine in DMD than in DDP, but most sodas have far less than coffee, tea, energy drinks, or even specially caffeinated sodas. I haven’t looked at the numbers in a long time and was inspired to quickly check a couple sites (to make sure they agreed):

        DMD 54 (54)
        DDP 41 (42)
        DC  46 (34)
        DP  35 (38)
        BRB 22

        Numbers in parenthesis are mg of caffeine in the non-diet version. I hadn’t realized they were sometimes different. BTW, the two sites disagreed about (non-diet) Dr. Pepper. One said same as DDP (41 mg), the other said 42 mg. I also hadn’t realized Diet Coke has more caffeine than DDP and way more than Diet Pepsi. The low amount in regular Coke surprised me, too. Only one site listed it, and it might be an error. I included the Barq’s Root Beer because it always blows me away that a brand of root beer has caffeine.

        House of Suns is such a long book, and a very good cliffhanger would have been when Campion entered the wormhole with a whole other book an adventure on the other side. Or even earlier there were some good cliffhanger moments. But I can’t complain. Neal Stephenson, in most of his books, is much worse. His stories often just kind of stop. (I know that, musically, the ending is one of the hardest parts of a song. That’s why so many end with the chorus repeating and just fading out.) Some books, and House of Suns did this, bring out the film student in me. Reynolds, in general, has a visual feel that would be fun to put on film.

        I looked at the descriptions and realized that someone named Clavain was apparently the protagonist in both Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, and that was enough to make me wait, so I added 21 days to the hold. That might end up being longer depending on if it’s checked out at that point, but if so I’m first in line. In my library app (Libby) I’ve got three lists of books: Queue, Want To Read, and Possibles (with quite a few books in each). I went through those and decided to give Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds a try. I’m enjoying it. His writing, whatever else might be said about it, moves along nicely.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        p.s. Regarding the Absence, yeah, that was a little weird to me. A built-in causality protection mechanism? As you say, interesting idea: a space-like path somehow blocks time-like paths to the end points. It would work, I guess. I might try making a spacetime diagram to see what it looks like…

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Coffee typically has about 100 mg per cup, but I usually drink half caff k-cups. I keep an eye on my caffeine intake. To paraphrase David Banner: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m over-caffeinated.” (I once drank about 10 cups of coffee a day. Not a recommended lifestyle.) I did go through a phase of trying Barq’s, but finally decided that its bite wasn’t enough.

        I’ve often thought Reynolds work would make good movies or TV. A couple of his short stories have made it into the Love, Death & Robots series. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tend to stick with the same characters long enough for a long running TV series.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        In my entire life — combining several attempts to drink the stuff — I may have consumed an entire cup of coffee. The weird thing is I love coffee ice cream and coffee candy (and the scent), but just can’t abide the beverage.

        Okay, maybe not a long-running series, but a single season adaptation of House of Suns, say 24 episodes like an anime, could be awesome (if done by the right person (meaning me 😂)).

  • diotimasladder

    I recently learned about that artistic technique for repairing damaged pottery while I was digging around on Amazon for shoe goo (my favorite fixer upper for pretty much everything). Apparently I’ve been into wabi-sabi without knowing it, although my little repairs are nowhere near as beautiful as the cup in your picture. I really am drawn to the aesthetic.

    Had to laugh at: “Many plants benefit from the tiny breakage from wind and passing animals (and, for all I know, from animals passing wind).” If only Trump were nothing more than an animal passing wind…or maybe he is nothing more than an animal passing wind, he just happens to be a very large animal passing a very large wind.

    On blog post popularity, I think it’s funny that my most popular post—apparently an ongoing thing with this particular one—is a very long and frustrated analysis of “Machines Like Me”. I don’t even want to re-read that post. My guess it’s something to do with the last part of the title—”how does it REALLY end?” People probably think they’re gonna get a quick summary of the book so they won’t have to read it for themselves. Must be disappointing for them.

    P.S. I had no idea what you meant by WordPress Reader until I just happened to look in the corner of my screen. I went, “Oh, that thing.” Yeah. Hate it. Not necessarily because of formatting (I’ll have to think about that), but because it just doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems like have to click too many times to get to the content I want to read. Plus it feels too much like a Facebook feed.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Shoe goo! Is that anything like Gorilla Glue? I do like a good glue. 😀

      If you do an image search for “kintsugi” you’ll see many (many) images like the one I used (I spent several minutes deciding which one to use). It’s beautiful just as a skillful art — the philosophical view gives that art a lot more depth. It’s a very attractive notion, that being broken and (skillfully) repaired is a form of beauty.

      I likewise feel the allure of wabi-sabi and, at least in some ways, like you, have been into it a long time. I love symmetry in many things, but equally loving breaking it. My furniture is rarely aligned squarely; I like angles. (Too much symmetry strikes me as overly rigid. Christie’s Poirot character has a passion for, nay, an obsession with, symmetry. He’s uncomfortable if things aren’t precisely aligned. He often straightens his watson’s tie.)

      On a somewhat related note, I’ve read that Navajo rug-weavers and sand-painters intentionally allow a flaw into their work, because nothing human can be perfect. I’ve sometimes left a minor typo or grammar error in a post for exactly that reason. I’m attracted to that notion, too.

      Glad I made you laugh! 😉

      It is funny sometimes how posts do. I went back and re-read your Machines Like Me post. (I didn’t notice the pun the first time. Like as similar or like as positive feelings for.) It’s a good post, why don’t you want to re-read it? At least it’s all you. The popularity of that Santa post (which isn’t my writing at all except for the framing) has been a stick in my craw for ten years! Even the Larson post, I feel, leans too much on something external to me.

      Looking at your post, I take it you’re seeing the same thing I do with popular posts: lots of page hits, but no Likes or Comments, so who knows what the draw was? I suppose most of us don’t bother to comment on the random posts we stumble over for whatever reason (I know I don’t). Plus, I find many seem to use the Like button as a form of self-promotion. I suspect I get more self-promotion Likes than actual ones.

      The extra clicking the Reader requires, yeah, that’s a thing, too. They’ve made it worse lately. Used to be that clicking Followed Sites actually went to that section (or tab or page or whatever it’s called). But now it just opens a dropdown list of the blogs you follow, and you have to make a second click on All to get the section to appear. And in the Conversations section, it takes extra clicks to see the most recent comments. That change really pisses me off. Once I get my Janus posts out of the way (I’m thinking of a looking forward one since I ran out of room on this one), I’ve got a WP Reader hatchet piece I’ve started…

      • diotimasladder

        I think Shoe Goo is actually better than Gorilla Glue. I bought it to repair (build a new heel, actually) for my favorite boots and I was amazed by how well it works. I realized I could use it for all sorts of things—my flimsy flamenco fans, a solar powered water lily light I keep in the fountain, book binding glue for novel drafts—you name it. I think everyone should have this stuff around.

        Funny you mention the Navajo rugs, because I was thinking about that right after I posted my comment. I meant to look it up—wasn’t sure if it was Navajo—but then I forgot.

        On symmetry, what you said about furniture reminded me of House of Cards. White House decor in that show is so starkly symmetrical it’s just…blech. Perfect for the show, however.

        I’m amazed you actually reread that Machines Like Me post. I think I wrote it after arguing with someone at a book club meeting, so I was all charged up, but it hardly seems to matter now. Anyway, I also wondered about the pun when I first saw the title, then I sort of forgot about it until you mentioned it just now. But yeah, that post got lots of hits, few comments. Not surprised about the comments, but I have no idea why it got lots of hits. These things are often a mystery to me. I know almost nothing about search engines and all that. It seems like I often type the wrong words in to look for things, because I frequently end up with results that aren’t what I’m looking for. Close, but no saguaro. (Desert joke.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If it can do shoe heels, it has to be pretty good. (Binding glue. What a great idea.)

        I’ve learned so much about the Navajo from those Tony Hillerman books. It’s amazing how educational a murder mystery series can be. (I learned a lot about Judaism from those Harry Kemelman Rabbi books.) And a surprising amount of my early science education came from (hard) science fiction. Adventure+Education is a great combo!

        Do you like Wes Anderson movies? His signature symmetrical camera setups crack me up. It’s funny because it’s so not what film school teaches. “Make the camera angles interesting! Always put the camera to the side…” Anderson so gleefully breaks that expectation! 😂

        I know what you mean about searching. There is so much content now that finding any one thing can be tough. Finding the answer to a question, or the source of a quote, can be especially tough, I’ve found. The search space is polluted with people guessing at the answer, and the wrong guesses sometimes outweigh the right ones. With your post, I think you might be right about people looking for another opinion about the ending. Once I’ve read a book that tweaked my ponderer or questioner I do sometimes poke around the web seeing what others thought. And I generally don’t want to engage or express an opinion, so I don’t leave comments either.

      • diotimasladder

        I know what you mean about learning from TV. I got some sense of how the tribal police works from Longmire, although I don’t know how much of it is true.

        I had to look up Wes Andersen, and the only one I recall seeing is the Royal Tenenbaums a long time ago. Something about the movie reminded me of Salinger’s Franny and Zooey (if I’m thinking of the right movie). Anyway, I don’t think I noticed the camera angles, but I did sense the quirkiness of it. Symmetry can do that, which is interesting, because it can also be unsettling in a dark way. I’ve noticed while looking for something to watch on Netflix, there’s often an image of two people posing symmetrically and facing the camera directly, which gives us the sense that this movie or show is quirky or comedic. Gotta love those rule breakers…now everyone’s doing it. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Maybe it’s because symmetry seems static and posed? Not that symmetry can’t be dynamic but isn’t the usual sense of it typically still-life and static?

        Go to Google Images and search for [wes anderson symmetry] — you’ll see what immediately what I’m referring to. 🙂

        TV can be very educational. I understand classic Doctor Who was deliberately so (history lessons hiding behind time travel adventure). Some of the older written SF was also very deliberately teaching science (a few authors still do, but it doesn’t seem as common). I know writers often research their topic deeply and present it as factually as possible. “Dramatic license” (or just getting it wrong) always applies, I’m sure.

        It would be nice if one knew how much faith to put in some of it. For me, the early exposure whetted my appetite. When I got into real science reading, I found that much of the SF reading was quite accurate. I can judge how accurate a writer’s technology, science, or math is, but not so much with, say, law, football, or foreign cultures. Sometimes one does wonder how seriously to take apparently serious information. (Still, some of the stuff Perry Mason taught me about court room procedure turned out to be right.)

      • diotimasladder

        I know what you mean about wondering how much to trust fiction, especially when it seems like the show/book is trying to be accurate. Of course, fiction is fiction, so in theory none of it has to be accurate, but there is still some responsibility on the author’s part. Or should be.

        I’m noticing a trend in documentaries of going a bit too far for my taste in their reenactments—if you can even call them that anymore. It used to be non-speaking actors in the background doing something vaguely relevant to the topic while the focus remains on a voice-over narration, but nowadays it feels like the trend is to not only minimize talking heads, but any sort of narration. The result is a lot like a regular movie with dialogue and a full-blown cast. A lot of room for error there, not to mention bad acting.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Some of it is the authors; some get a reputation for deep research and careful accuracy. Authors like that are easier to trust, and sometimes just the feel of the writing suggests authenticity. But one never really knows for sure, and it’s not like you can fault a fictional story for not being real. (Especially science fiction! 😆 Although some of it is written by scientists, and one hopes they’re channeling their science and not just screwing around.)

        I’d never thought about the change in documentaries, but you’re right. The logic, I’m sure, is “bringing history to life”. There does seem some risk in making it too entertainment-like, and certainly, if you’re going to go that direction, for heavens sakes, do it well.

        I suppose there is value in getting people interested “through the back door” so to speak. My early science interest (and knowledge) came from SF, which planted seeds that grew into a major interest in and pursuit of science. For that matter, much of my knowledge of older classic literary works comes only from those Classics Illustrated comics I read as a kid. I’m sure I’d never read books such as Prisoner of Zenda otherwise.

      • diotimasladder

        I think it was Ursula LeGuin who said when giving advice for writers that each story advances its own rules, but then you (as author) have got to abide by those rules. (Don’t ask me where I heard that quote…or if I even got it right.) Anyway, that’s something I agree with. I think a lot of the issues I have with blurring the fact/fiction divide comes from the writer not setting up the rules properly, or violating reader’s expectations. When you think about how mockumentaries work (“Best in Show” for example), they have to be pretty blatantly ridiculous right off the bat, otherwise all the filming techniques usually reserved for documentaries will just confuse or mislead people. I think the same goes for fiction. If you’re reading historical fiction and the author begins with heavily-researched, true-to-history detail, then throws in an anachronism, that’s gonna look like a bad mistake. (Which is why I won’t touch historical fiction…too much responsibility!) I imagine the same is true for hard sci fi. You start out with seriously researched, highly plausible science, you’d better continue in that vein or your readers will start throwing tomatoes at you. (Hard sci fi, there’s another I wouldn’t touch.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        All I can say is that it sounds like the sort of thing Le Guin was known for. I very much agree with her (and you). Bad world-building was part of what made season two of Westworld so dreadful. It’s what usually makes superhero stories for kids — superpowers are inherently problematic for consistent storytelling; they can be hard for adults to take seriously (or at least one would think so). Le Guin did build very rich worlds. So do Stephen R. Donaldson and C.J. Cherryh. You might like their work, if you’re looking for a good read. Both are “literary” writers — very high writing quality.

        Cherryh is, by far, the more accessible one. She’s created some of the best aliens in SF. I sometimes find myself re-reading paragraphs to squeeze out all the juice she packs into them. Donaldson can be a tough read, very dark, no joy in his Mudvilles. But his character, Thomas Covenant, is one of the most annoying, aggravating, disappointing, enraging, engaging, memorable, characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction. (Only some from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stand out more.) ((Although that’s off the top of my head today. Given some thought, I may think of others.)) First time I read the first book, Lord Foul’s Bane, I wanted to throw the book across the room in anger and disgust many times. But, wow, what a story. Very much on par with Lord of the Rings but told from a hugely different point of view.

        In fact, thematically, Tolkien’s underlying idea was that power always corrupts. Donaldson’s idea in the Thomas Covenant series is that maybe it can be wielded as a last resort against insurmountable odds. The first trilogy, I think, is a masterwork and well worth reading. Donaldson wrote a second trilogy and then a pentalogy, and they’re mostly more of the same. I do recommend at least looking into Lord Foul’s Bane (what a title, eh?).

        Oops, went off on a tangent there. Anyway, yes, I think science fiction, in general, is more demanding on world-building. The author has to make stuff up from the whole cloth — create entire new worlds and technologies, not just new characters and stories. Not to repeat myself, but superhero movies and TV shows are especially bad at this. The visual medium is always dream-like, how editing and camera alter reality, but modern visual storytelling too often throws reality out the window thinking the action and CGI makes up for it. Sadly, with many viewers, it does, and so it continues.

        Hard SF often is little more than a tech manual told as fiction, so, yeah, totally, one of the hardest genres to get right. At least historical drama can be researched. Hard SF is purely a product of imagination!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        ((I was just looking back over the thread and noticed how wonderful it is chatting with someone who is ready to tender the phrase “I know what you mean.” Others I chat with here don’t seem to have it in their vocabulary, and I often get my feelings bruised investing myself in a comment and only getting back crickets or the written equivalent of a blank stare. I don’t care about agreement, but what’s the point of chatting if there is no understanding? So, anyway, thank you for being you!))

      • Wyrd Smythe

        p.s. For the New Year, I’ll bring you into the widening circle of skipping the comment Like. The idea is that, among friends and regulars — you, for instance — your comments are always welcome, appreciated, and Liked. Take it as given. The suggestion is to only click Like on a most recent reply in lieu of another comment just to say “I agree” or whatever. It saves us both the exhaustion of constant politeness. It turns a Like into pro forma. In text we sometimes just send a thumbs-up, here the Like button can serve the same purpose.

        So, from now on, a Like just means “thumbs-up, no comment!”

        Or, if I give you one otherwise, you’ll know I really mean it! 😀

  • So Now It’s 2022 | Logos con carne

    […] The look back in the previous post ran longer than I expected, so there was no room for a look forward. Same thing happened last year: one post to look back; one to look forward. Two faces, two posts, seems apt. […]

  • Lady from Manila

    Woohoo! I found a link to your index page! Luck smiled on me today.

    I count on reading to save me once more, Wyrd. I confess to feeling down recently I need to preoccupy myself with activities that always matter to me. I remember many years ago how your blog and a few good others (our wpress blog colleagues, bronxboy, doobster, etc., remember?) had helped me deal with a very difficult time in my life. I’m truly pleased you’re still here.
    Thank you for being you. 🌿

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m glad you find some value in these posts! A lot of those bloggers have moved on. (Two I know of died!) I think a lot of people perceive doing a blog as a great goal, but find they run out of things to say. I think almost no one from when I first started is still around.

      The many links and lists in the site’s top menu might be another reason to use a browser to visit the site directly. In addition to the Main Index there are the Sidebands and Brain Bubbles indexes (whose posts aren’t in the Main Index). Sidebands are mostly very technical, but Brain Bubbles might be interesting. There are also lists of Movie and Book reviews.

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