It is the height of blogging clichés to lead with “Welp, it’s been a while since my last post . . .”
But in this case my hiatus has lasted so long — five years, in fact — that I hope you’ll forgive me a bit of metaphorical throat-clearing.
Where the hell have you been?
Let me answer that question with a photo:
Aww . . . those yours?
Yes. They’re mine. You can’t have them.
Actually, you can totally have them. They may be cute, but they deprive me of sleep, make my back and legs hurt, and spew powerful viruses directly into my mouth and nasal cavities. And they make it hard to find time to write.
But wouldn’t you rather have two cute kids than an active blog?
Yeah, you’re right. You can’t have them after all.
Seriously, though, why are you (re)launching a blog now, in 2020? Blogs belong to the era of LiveJournal, the Lord of the Rings franchise, the Dave Matthews Band and Homestar Runner. Shouldn’t you be on TikTok or something?
Look, I know that “content creators” are supposed to “optimize their engagement” across “multiple platforms” to “build their brand” and become a “thinkfluencer” or whatever we’re calling it now.
But lately I’ve come around to the idea that maybe this whole social media thing was a mistake. In various ways, all the platforms seem exploitative of their users, and their algorithms seem to incentivize the inflammatory content over all else. People distort themselves on social media. They become addicted to it, and they engage in lots of stuff they wouldn’t otherwise do. All of it rubs me the wrong way.
It’s true that blogs belong to an earlier era, but because of that they are closer to being their own thing than whatever the internet has become since. And that thing is closer to what I want to do right now.
For better or worse, this website is mine. I built it (with help), I pay for it, and I am responsible for what it contains. This is my little corner of the internet, and I want it to live or die on its own terms.
Fair enough, but why post your writing for free on the internet? Shouldn’t you be pitching your stuff more established publications? Ones that might pay you money even?
Getting paid to write is great, and I have been lucky enough to be able to do that for a while now.
But sometimes I get an idea for a thing that I’m not really sure what it is. It’s not a story, or an essay with a well-defined argument. It’s more a thing, or perhaps several related somethings, that I have recently learned, and have been unable to stop thinking about. They are personal, but at the same time I feel that if I write them down, other people might enjoy them too.
What the hell are you talking about?
Lemme try again: in journalism there is a big recency bias — it’s called “the news” after all. In science, that usually means focusing on freshly published papers, like I did with the previous iteration of this blog. The holy grail is a breakthrough, a point where established ideas are upset or overthrown by exciting new findings.
But genuine scientific breakthroughs are vanishingly rare, and even when they do happen, they aren’t usually recognized as such until some time has passed. Science is slow and plodding, a gradual accumulation of evidence that eventually produces a consensus.
The scientific process has produced plenty of knowledge that is well-established, but which is not widely known. There are plenty of science-y facts that are uncontroversial, and yet they still blow my mind and maybe yours too. Those are the kinds of things I want to write about more, and you can think of this re-launched blog as an experiment in doing that.
So, like fun facts? Trivia? Are you trying to write a trivia book?
I mean, there are lots of trivia books out there already. But if Richard Feynman was right when he said that “everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough,” then there is no reason not to make more.
For now, part of what I want to write about is my own experience of discovering the thing, including the wrong turns I took along the way. That personal element is why I’m starting with a blog. Maybe it will become something else someday, but I’m not there yet.
I am still having a hard time picturing what you’re talking about. Can you give me an example?
Future posts may include:
- How I learned that a zebra is not a stripy horse
- Why I think I might be related to Genghis Khan
- Bees can totally fly, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a damned liar
- Secret sounds and hidden letters that you are probably already using
A question about tone: your previous posts were pretty straight-ahead, but now your style seems to be much more first-person, to the point of becoming a Q and A with a hypothetical, somewhat hostile interlocutor. What exactly are you playing at?
That’s why this is a blog — I can do whatever I like.
. . . and you think that someone will actually want to read it?
Hope springs eternal.