Quick Roundup 356

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Despite the summer traffic doldrums and a decline in traffic caused by my decision a few months ago to move to one post a day most of the time, my blog saw its 200,000th visitor around lunchtime on Monday.

Summer doldrums? Yes. Each year, I have noticed a small decrease in blog traffic during the summer months. I suspect that it is due to college being out of session.

It is flattering to have had enough site visits to populate a small city over the course of just a few years. Thank you for stopping by!

Shelving Herself

Miss Maple, whose dark coat makes it easy to miss her when she decides to camp out in shadows or on dark rugs, and whose mass made me trip and fall one night after I'd done so, seems to have figured out how to avoid being kicked by her oafish servant.

Or has she, under the guise of helping with the move, merely decided to camp out on a shelf in the hopes of being placed into a nice, comfy cardboard box?

The Social Pathology of the Purposeless

Jennifer Snow pointed to it a while ago, but I just got to this very perceptive essay on high school popularity this morning. Among the many interesting connections it makes is this one:

In outline, it was the same at the schools I went to. The most important thing was to stay on the premises. While there, the authorities fed you, prevented overt violence, and made some effort to teach you something. But beyond that they didn't want to have too much to do with the kids. Like prison wardens, the teachers mostly left us to ourselves. And, like prisoners, the culture we created was barbaric.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it's populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don't think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow. [bold added]
This is long, but definitely worth spending the time to read. Paul Graham's later comments on how he developed a mistrust of certain abstract concepts that such an environment grossly mangled is illuminating, too.

I was very lucky. My parents sent me to the superior Catholic school system despite the fact that they did not make a lot of money. There were still popularity contests and ugliness, but aside from a couple of particularly selfless boys (one of whom I eventually punched in the face, as I was reminded at my last class reunion), I never got picked on that much and never really felt persecuted, although I was hardly popular. (And no, I am not tall or particularly strong. This is what made my punching this larger guy so memorable.)

Some Olympic Commentary

In the process of spending too much of my free time job hunting and getting ready to move, I haven't followed the Olympics very closely, although I made damned sure to watch Michael Phelps collect his eighth gold medal. Like a commenter on HBL, was thrilled for once not to hear one peep about God in the interview immediately afterwards.

Fortunately, Alexander Marriott has paid closer attention, and he offers some apt commentary on the fact that a police state is, once again, hosting the Olympics:
Despite the evil that is the state based in Beijing and the ugly ineptitude that is the compromising and clueless American press, these Olympics have still provided glorious moments in athletic competition. Michael Phelps's utter domination of the swimming pool is something to behold. Nastia Liukin's triumph in the women's gymnastics all around competition over her Chinese opponents was enough to make one stand and cheer. Bela Karolyi's lovable foil to Bob Costas's annoying Chinese front man during gymnastics coverage is classic television. Who knows, maybe we'll even see a courageous Chinese man or woman refuse to be used as a pawn for the glory of the slave regime which abducts them at early ages to have their lives forfeited to a purpose they may or may not have ever pursued independently, but I'm not counting on it. If the American press willingly drinks the koolaid without complaint, why should we expect the far more courageous act of will it would take to ensure spiritual independence at the cost of everything else? Because it's the Olympics and that's what they are ultimately all about. That's why we love them and it is proper that we do.
Along the lines of the American media playing lapdog to the Chi-Comms, the sports section of today's Houston Chronicle carried a story about hutongs, a vanishing type of housing in Beijing. It offended on two levels. First, it idealized collectivist aspect of the lack of privacy inherent to such dwellings. Second, it mentioned in passing -- almost as if it were normal for governments to push people around -- that many times, the residents of such houses are forcibly relocated to make way for new development.

Are you spending too much time surfing the Internet?

If your cursor catches fire, perhaps you are! (HT: Mom)

-- CAV


Dismuke said...

The drop in summer traffic is pretty much standard across the Internet. Radio Dismuke listenership drops every year during the warm weather months and then begins to pick back up during the fall. Some years you can also expect a bit of a dip around Christmas time. I usually have good traffic numbers in February and March but things start to level off in April and drop like a rock about the time school gets out.

I have also noticed the phenomenon on message boards as well - there is usually a decline in posting activity during those months.

I also think it has to do with the fact that with warmer weather and longer daylight hours, more people are also doing outdoors type stuff. Also a lot of people are away on vacation. That is one thing that I guess the "old media" had figured out a long time ago - which is why television networks go into reruns during the summer and back in the day the radio networks ran replacement programing.

This year, at least for my online endeavors and based on my off-the-cuff feel for the message boards I follow, the drop does not seem to be as sharp as it usually is. I wonder if that might have something to do with high gas prices. People might be spending more time at home to save money on gas and on entertainment expenses.

Gus Van Horn said...

"I also think it has to do with the fact that with warmer weather and longer daylight hours, more people are also doing outdoors type stuff."

What?!?! When they couldbe reading my blog instead?


z said...

Re: how your cat sees things. I'd be careful if I were you. I won't post it here because of the length, but if you really want to know what cats think, Google "cat diary". What you find may be shocking, but not surprising. Be careful.

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! She could have written some of this stuff!

Jim May said...

That essay about high school hits every target, and strikes deep. I've so been there. The writer even notes that while the life of the nerd can be hell, they usually are not willing to trade away being smarter in order to be more popular.

Her parallels between high school and prison are DEAD ON... I made that connection frequently back then, and still do now.

In my case, I knew I was different, but held two paradoxical views of that difference.

One, was that I lacked something they all had, which is why they had friends etc. while I didn't (actually I did, but didn't really see it until it was too late). The flip side of that was that I was somehow superior to them because I was not vulnerable to the stupid things teenagers do to conform.

The upshot of that paradox was that I came to the conclusion that whatever it was that I needed to do to "belong", would cost me my soul (via conformity) -- and I refused. I refused to the point of walking out of high school in ninth grade and never looking back. (How I managed that in the era of mandatory schooling is another, long story).

The experience colors my personality to this day; I am still too quick to get combative if I pick up any kind of intimidation vibe coming from anyone, anywhere... rather like Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" with the word "chicken" :)

Gus Van Horn said...

I also felt different then, but I suspect that the small class size, combined with having instructors who cared more about what they were doing than the average public school teacher helped by providing another source of approval than other kids as well as a more constructive way of gaining it.

But life wasn't a bed of roses. School was full of kids better off than I was, and the popular preppy brands weren't affordable, so I felt a little self-conscious about that, for example.

And I found pep rallies and other such mass activities completely pointless.

To this day, I look askance at fads and almost anything that is popular for no apparent reason. Fads seemed somehow wrong then, and they seem silly now.

Rory said...

I want to hear the punching story! :D


Gus Van Horn said...

It's a good story, but I'm writing under a pseudonym and it'd blow my cover, which I intend to keep unless I'm elected President or something like that!