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.
“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:
- From the Far Side (6648)
- My Grandfather’s Ax (5459)
- Deflection and Projection (3889)
- Rick O’Shay (3617)
- Sideband #17: Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille (3547)
- Santa: Man or Woman? (3343)
- God is an Iron (2770)
- Bushido Code (2390)
- Madam Secretary & Scorpion (1368)
- Why I Hated The Holodeck (1354)
- BB #27: Far Less (1312)
- Hawkeye & Margaret (1200)
- Elephant Story (1197)
- Barrel of Wine; Barrel of Sewage (1195)
- Here Today; Pi Tomorrow (1041)
- Assassin Movies (1000)
- CNN Is Dead To Me (961)
- Abacus and Slide Rule (956)
- Transcendental Territory (892)
- 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:
- From the Far Side (1793)
- My Grandfather’s Ax (1293)
- Abacus and Slide Rule (764)
- Rick O’Shay (459)
- Sideband #17: Ready when you are, Mr. DeMille (415)
- God is an Iron (374)
- Deflection and Projection (297)
- Greg Egan: Quarantine (297)
- Gibbs’ Rules (185)
- Movies: Grand Canyon (184)
- CNN Is Dead To Me (155)
- The Imitation Game (135)
- Transcendental Territory (133)
- Octopus Brains (111)
- Westworld: Questions! (109)
- Why I Hated The Holodeck (96)
- Barrel of Wine; Barrel of Sewage (72)
- Infinity is Funny (47)
- Leon Wieseltier (44)
- 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.