First annual state of the blog address

This blog is one year old today.  So happy birthday, blog!  Some bloggy statistics, courtesy of WordPress:

  • I’ve written 325 posts.  I had a vague idea of posting once a day, but that obviously I came up about 10% short.  I was worried that I wouldn’t have much to say, but that sure hasn’t been the problem.  The problem, as always, is time.
  • I’ve had page views from 78 different countries.  That’s kind of cool, although obviously a lot of people land here and quickly realize that they’ve made a terrible mistake. So far today, for example, I’ve gotten two search hits for “yikes etymology.”  Yikes!  I’ve never blogged about that!
  • Most of my page views come from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.  Makes sense.  But they are followed by India, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. Go figure. What can I do to get hits from China and Greenland, I wonder.  Those are the two big areas that aren’t filled in on the WordPress map.
  • My most popular posts have to do with writing.  It’s pretty clear that no one cares what I have to say about Mitt Romney.

The blog has fulfilled my initial purpose for it, which was to get me onto the first page of Google hits for “Richard Bowker,” past all the other undoubtedly very fine Richard Bowkers that the world has produced. This is supposed to make it easier for folks to find my books.  My other, related goal was to get all my books out in ebook format.  I have one left, Marlborough Street, which is pretty much ready to go in January.

Here are some resolutions for my second year of blogging:

  • Make my posts shorter.  Five-hundred-word essays are too long for the world’s current attention span.
  • Add more photos and graphics.  The world likes pictures.
  • Spend more time looking at the blogs of the folks who have liked my posts or commented on them.  I really appreciate your interest!
  • Say nothing about Mitt Romney.  Unfortunately, I may have to start doing more Scott Brown blogging, now that we face another senatorial election here in Massachusetts.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has stopped by!  Now I need to shut up before your attention wanders.

Self-plagiarism: mortal sin, venial sin, or huh?–who cares?

Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker has been caught recycling old material for his new blog Frontal Cortex. The New Yorker has had to add editor’s notes to all the blog entries in which they “regret the duplication of material.”

I haven’t read Lehrer’s books, but his blog shows him to be a fine writer working the Malcolm Gladwell vein — giving an entertaining layman’s spin on findings from social psychology, neuroscience, and the like.  Good stuff!

The Slate writer seems to have put his finger on at least part of Lehrer’s problem: it’s just to hard to keep coming up with new material.

Given that continuous cycle of creation and reuse, blogging seems to have been a bad idea for Jonah Lehrer. A blog is merciless, requiring constant bursts of insight. In populating his New Yorker blog with large swaths of his old work, Lehrer didn’t just break a rule of journalism. By repurposing an old post on why we don’t believe in science, he also unscrewed the cap on his brain, revealing that it’s currently running on the fumes emitted by back issues of Wired. For Lehrer and The New Yorker, the best prescription is to shut down Frontal Cortex and give him some time to come up with some fresh ideas. The man’s brain clearly needs a break.

That sounds about right.  Between June 5 (when the blog apparently started) and June 13, Lehrer put up five blog posts — each of which was the equivalent of a nicely crafted magazine-quality column.  It’s not surprising that he cut some corners.

Part of the problem has to be that Lehrer is trying to make a living from his blog (among other things).  Blogs have no deadlines (unless the New Yorker imposes them), but there are expectations associated with them.  There are plenty of blogs that I don’t frequent any more because the author updates them too infrequently.  If you want traffic, you need content.  Lehrer was trying to feed the beast and decided he needed to use leftovers.

And what kind of sin has Lehrer committed?  Mostly a sin of stupidity, I’d say.  You can’t expect to get away with self-plagiarism on the Internet, and you can’t expect some people not to gloat at a misstep from a young hotshot.  A little note at the end of each post saying what the editor’s note now says at the top of the post would have sufficed, I think.

But wait!  This blog is about me, not Jonah Lehrer!  Please note that today is my six-month blogging anniversary, and I haven’t been caught self-plagiarizing once! (I’ve quoted extensively from my novels, but I believe blogging etiquette allows this.)  I’ve tried to follow my own writerly advice and make blogging a habit, so I’ve averaged about a post a day — although, granted, some of them consisted mainly of YouTube videos.  I guess I cut corners, too.

Anyway, advice about how to improve the blog would be gratefully received.

Blogs to follow: Moths to a Flame

This blog about dating misadventures is pretty darn funny, if not particularly relevant to my situation in life.  Here’s a taste:

In the summer of 2010, I met CircleGlasses at The Princeton Club’s weekly live rooftop music program in mid-town Manhattan.  I arrived early to snag a high top table in the center of the patio.  It was the perfect anchor location for people to drop by, mix, mingle, and move on. While I was seat-dancing / shoulder-bopping to a little jazz, CircleGlasses came over.  He briefly chatted us and then got my number before leaving.  He was what I call “old world adorable” because he was wearing a dinner jacket and circular glasses at a casual evening event – in any other season we can safely assume an ascot would be fashioned around this neck.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was no longer the 18th century.


CircleGlasses and I texted over the weekend and set a date for Monday.  But there was just one thing I had missed…

You see, my physical dimensions make me the human equivalent of an IKEA flatpack: 6′ long, 20″ wide, 6″ deep.  Combine my natural height with the extra inches from my requisite heels and I stand no less than 6’3″ on any given day. Basically, I dwarf the Williams sisters.  I have had a number of life experiences that made me feel like extreme height was normal. In my elementary school I was in a combined 4th-6th grade classroom, so the inches I had over my fellow 4th graders were not noticeable in comparison to the 6th graders.  In my very Scandinavian Minnesota high school, my Viking-descended classmates were all fairly tall, so I fit in just fine.  After high school, I walked the runway a few times and everyone around also was a lanky slyph.  Even now, with my Danish/Swedish family, I look squat at the Thanksgiving gathering since the shortest of my three cousins is 6’5″.   When I met CircleGlasses while sitting down, I forget that I missed out on comparing the compatibility of our heights.

We had arranged to meet in the Flat Iron district for cocktails and dinner.  As I approached him on the sidewalk, I noticed for the first time that CircleGlasses stood a diminutive 5’6″.  When we met, it was like the scene when Glinda the Good Witch presents the lolli-pop guild.  I was hovering far above the ground and in a herky jerky motion he stuck out his arm for a strong handshake.  It was awkward…  We needed to get to a seated situation STAT. It’s just too bad that the gods were having a laugh that day.  The place where we scheduled cocktails was closed for a private party; the backup location was closed on Mondays; the bar at our dinner locale was standing room only.

For 30 minutes I contorted my back into scoliosis-inducing curves, bent my knees like I was doing wall sits, and rocked sideways off my heels trying to lose some inches.  When a person feels self-conscious because of appearance there’s usually a fix. Got a zit bubbling up?  Slap on some concealer, you’ll be fine.  B.O. wafting away? put those ‘pits on lock down.  Weird cowlick happening in your bangs?  Work those angles, girl.  I can usually use my surroundings for an advantage, but in this case there was no help for the shoulder-hunching.  Finally, we sat for dinner at one of the restaurant’s elevated tables. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure his feet were swinging from the high chairs.