Meta Update 2
For thagh men ben mery in mynde quen thay han mayn drynk,
a yere yernes ful yerne and yeldes never lyke;
the forme to the fynisment foldes ful selden.
Though people are cheerful when they’ve all been drinking,
a year passes quickly and changes its moods;
the end rarely matches the spirit it starts in.
– Author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
It has now been a year (on the day) since I published my introductory post. A hearty thanks to those of you who have come, stuck it out or left and returned.
I have published 63 posts so far, amounting to over 105,000 words, though the pace has slowed to about one post per week ever since I started working full-time just over three months ago. I have written some good ones and some not so good ones. Here are the ten most widely viewed posts:
- The American Style of Quotation Mark Punctuation Makes No Sense
- Setting Up Gmail in Doom Emacs using mbsync and mu4e
- Can a Vegan Diet Be Healthy? A Literature Review
- Using Scheme to Find the Median of Two Sorted Integer Lists
- Four Ways of Not Writing Software Bugs
- Utilitarianism Expressed in Julia
- Animal Testing Is Exploitative and Largely Ineffective
- Does It Smell like Pollocks in Here?
- Interview with Christine M. Korsgaard: Animal Ethics, Kantianism, Utilitarianism
- The Devastating Power and Heartbreaking Pain of Truly Changing Minds
It is no coincidence that fully half (if you count the first one) of these have to do with programming. That is because of Hacker News. Six of them (1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7) reached the Hacker News front page; three of those (1, 3 and 7) spent time in the top slot. These were not necessarily my strongest posts; I just don’t have any good avenues for sharing the non-tech-related posts with large, enthusiastic and potentially interested audiences.
I think The Devastating Power and Heartbreaking Pain of Truly Changing Minds is the finest post I have written so far. It’s pretty long; I wrote it over a one-week holiday in October. It is about apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what Julia Galef calls scout mindset. I think it is factually sound, well-written and important and recommend reading it.
I also made four interviews with really talented people: the Kantian philosopher Christine M. Korsgaard, the effective altruist Lucia Coulter, the futurologist Olle Häggström and the composer Corentin Boissier. Together, they’d make quite the posse. I haven’t had time to do any more during the fall, but look forward to doing so again in future.
Among the less widely read posts, I wrote a few good ones that haven’t received the audience that in my opinion they deserve:
- Networks of Meaning argues, paraphrasing Gerald Murnane, that meaning is connection, that a thing has meaning if it’s connected with another thing, and dives into some related research from psychology;
- How Can One Tell What Is Beautiful? asks whether art is subjective or objective, or both, or neither;
- Mysteries of the Unknown and the Unknowable makes a distinction between two kinds of mystery – the one of Arthur Conan Doyle and the one of Teresa of Ávila – and argues that H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu draws its power from both kinds; and
- Moral Standing Is Not Moral Agency makes another distinction, this one moral, that people often fail to observe, especially when it comes to debates about animal ethics.
Okay, enough congratulations. I also wrote some posts that I think were pretty weak. A Contradiction at the Heart of Stallman’s Free Software Argument did not make sufficiently clear that Richard Stallman’s position isn’t necessarily self-contradictory if utilitarianism is true. The AstraZeneca Vaccine Will Save Lives was fundamentally sound but made one very bad prediction. The Kingdom of Tamego was a work of fiction, a kind of fable which didn’t really find an audience. It Did Not Take Matt Bruenig and Jon White Two Days to Make a Good Child Tax Credit Website is perhaps a little bit pedantic and combative. A couple of posts on politics, Permanent Suspension of Reason and Everybody Is Vulnerable, Nobody Is Powerful, were not bad or untrue, I think, but pretty much superfluous; Freddie deBoer does it better, anyway.
So, one year. I am celebrating this anniversary with a new sidebar image (don’t be confused if you don’t see a sidebar – there isn’t one on mobile), a painting, of which I am the happy owner, taken from an NFT collection created by my wife:
It replaces the painting by Auguste Louis Lepère, which served me well over the past year. That’s all for now. Here’s to a 2022 with lots of time and quiet for reading and writing!
O’Donoghue, B. (2000). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. ↩︎