Archive for Blogs

Twelve Years in The Dark!

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags on September 15, 2020 by telescoper

When I logged onto WordPress today I received a message that it was the 12th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger, which is when I took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008.

I actually wrote my first post on the day I registered but unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there, then – and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually visible to the general public because I hadn’t pressed the right buttons, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive.

If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 13.00 Irish Summer Time Today today, I have published 5197 blog posts posts and have received 4,369,422 hits altogether; I get an average of just under 1000 per day. This varies in a very erratic fashion from day to day, but there has been a bit of a downward trend over the last few years, presumably because I’m getting older and more boring. The largest number of hits I have received in a single day is 8,864 (at the peak of the BICEP2 controversy).

There have been 35,313 comments published on here and 2,672,823 rejected by the spam filters. The vast majority of the rejected comments were from bots, but a small number have been removed for various violations, usually for abuse of some kind. And, yes, I do get to decide what is published: it is my blog!

While I am on the subject of comments, I’ll just repeat here the policy stated on the home page of this blog:

Feel free to comment on any of the posts on this blog but comments may be moderated; anonymous comments and any considered by me to be abusive will not be accepted. I do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with the opinions or statements of any information or other content in the comments on this site and do not in any way guarantee their accuracy or reliability.

It does mean a lot to me to know that there are people who find my ramblings on this `shitty wordpress blog’ interesting enough to look at, or even read, and sometimes even to come back for more, so I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all those who follow this blog and especially those who take the trouble to comment on it in such interesting and unpredictable ways!

The last twelve years have been eventful, to say the least, both personally and professionally. I started blogging not long after I’d moved into my house in Pontcanna, Cardiff. Since then I moved to Sussex, then back to Cardiff, and now to Ireland. More importantly we’ve seen the discovery of the Higgs Boson and gravitational waves, both of which resulted in Nobel Prizes, as did the studies of high-redshift supernovae. The Planck mission mission was launched, did its stuff, and came to a conclusion in this time too. Science has moved forward, even if there are many things in this world that seem to be going backwards.

Eleven Years a-Blogging

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 16, 2019 by telescoper

I received the little graphic above from WordPress yesterday to remind me that today is the 11th Anniversary of my first blog post, on September 16th 2008. If this were a wedding it would be a steel anniversary…

To be precise, the graphic reminded me that that I registered with WordPress on 15th September 2008. I actually wrote my first post on the day I registered but unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually visible to the general public because I hadn’t pressed the right buttons, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive. Anyway, that confusion is the reason why I usually take 16th September as this blog’s real anniversary.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including the Vatican!

To Like and to Like not

Posted in Biographical, Poetry with tags , , , on March 8, 2019 by telescoper

Travelling today, I was reminded that exactly a week ago, WordPress sent me this notification:

I was a bit surprised, to be honest, as that I posted a St David’s Day poem and usually when I post poetry the traffic goes down. Last Friday however it seems all my St David’s Day poetry posts going back years attracted traffic (and ‘likes’), so I was quite pleased.

Some time ago a senior astronomer emailed me to say that he thought that, for a science blog, there was far to much other stuff for his liking. Other stuff presumably including poetry, music, sport and the rest.

Anyway my response was that this isn’t really a science blog. It’s just a personal blog written by someone who happens to be a scientist. I post about science fairly often but I wouldn’t enjoy blogging half as much if I only covered that.

Some people have asked me why I post poetry and music and the rest. The answer is simple: to share things I enjoy. If just one person were to discover a poem they like by reading it here then it makes it all worthwhile!

A Decade In The Dark!

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags on September 16, 2018 by telescoper

When I logged onto WordPress yesterday I received a message that it was the 10th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger, which is when I took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008.

I actually wrote my first post on the day I registered but unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there, then –  and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually visible to the general public because I hadn’t pressed the right buttons, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive. Anyway, that confusion is the reason why I usually take 16th September as this blog’s real anniversary.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including  the Vatican!

If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 14.00 Irish Summer Time Today today, I have published 4,225 blog posts, not counting about 20 that I wrote but have not yet published; I’ll probably save these for my memoirs.. These posts have received 3,688,023 hits altogether; I get an average of about 1200 per day.  This varies in a very erratic fashion from day to day, but the annual average has been fairly constant over the last several years. The greatest number of hits I have received in a single day is 8,864 (at the peak of the BICEP2 controversy). Some of the most popular posts have not been about science at all, including  my rant about Virgin Media and a post about the last episode of Inspector Morse.

There have been 30,372 comments published on here and  2,213,145 rejected by my filters. The vast majority of the rejected comments were from automated spam bots, but a small number have been removed for various violations, usually for abuse of some kind. And, yes, I do get to decide what is published. It is my blog!

While I am on the subject of comments, I’ll just repeat here the policy stated on the home page of this blog:

Feel free to comment on any of the posts on this blog but comments may be moderated; anonymous comments and any considered by me to be abusive will not be accepted. I do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with the opinions or statements of any information or other content in the comments on this site and do not in any way guarantee their accuracy or reliability.

It does mean a lot to me to know that there are people who find my ramblings on this `shitty wordpress blog’ interesting enough to look at, or even read, and sometimes even to come back for more, so I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all those who follow this blog and especially those who take the trouble to comment on it in such interesting and unpredictable ways!

The last decade has been eventful, to say the least, both personally and professionally. I started blogging not long after I’d moved into my house in Pontcanna, Cardiff. Since then I moved to Sussex, and then back to Cardiff, and now to Ireland. More importantly we’ve seen the discovery of the Higgs Boson and gravitational waves, both of which resulted in Nobel Prizes, as did the studies of high-redshift supernovae. The Planck mission mission was launched, did its stuff, and came to a conclusion in this decade too. Science has moved forward, even if there are many things in this world that seem to be going backwards.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep blogging – vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam – but I’ve got no immediate plans to stop.

Nine Years In The Dark!

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags on September 15, 2017 by telescoper

When I logged onto WordPress today  I received a message that it was the 9th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger, which is when I took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008. I actually wrote my first post that day too. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there, then –  and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually visible to the general public because I hadn’t pressed the right buttons, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including one in the Vatican! If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 14.30 BST today, I have published 3,806 blog posts, and have received 3,220,896 hits altogether; I get an average of about 1200 per day, but this varies in a very erratic fashion. The greatest number of hits I have received in a day is 8,864 (at the peak of the BICEP2 controversy). There have been 27,590 comments published on here and  1,705,410 rejected. Most of the rejected comments were from automated spam bots, but a small number have been removed for various violations, usually for abuse of some kind. Yes, I do get to decide what is published. It’s my blog!

While I am on the subject of comments, I’ll just repeat here my comments policy as stated on the home page of this blog:

Feel free to comment on any of the posts on this blog but comments may be moderated; anonymous comments and any considered by me to be abusive will not be accepted. I do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with the opinions or statements of any information or other content in the comments on this site and do not in any way guarantee their accuracy or reliability.

It does mean a lot to me to know that there are people who find my ramblings interesting enough to look at, and sometimes even to come back for more, so I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all those who follow this blog and especially those who take the trouble to comment on it in such interesting and unpredictable ways!

 

Incidentally, I noticed that another auspicious anniversary falls today. It is now thirty years to the day since my second refereed paper was published!  Here’s the front page:

 

Reading through it again now it seems incredibly simplistic and dated. It may not exactly be a classic, but it still gets the odd citation!

Eight Years In The Dark

Posted in Biographical with tags on September 15, 2016 by telescoper

8th-birthday-badge-pink
When I logged onto WordPress today  I received a message that it was the 8th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger, which is when I took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008. I actually wrote my first post that day too. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there, then –  and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually visible to the general public because I hadn’t pressed the right buttons, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including one in the Vatican! If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 14.00 BST today, I have published 3,343 blog posts, and have received 2,853,105 hits altogether; I get an average of about 1200 per day, but this varies in a very erratic fashion. The greatest number of hits I have received in a day is 8,864 (at the peak of the BICEP2 controversy). There have been 24,907 comments published on here and 1,556,259  rejected. Most of the rejected comments were from automated spam bots, but a small number have been removed for various violations, usually for abuse of some kind. Yes, I do get to decide what is published. It’s my blog!

While I am on the subject of comments, I’ll just repeat here my comments policy as stated on the home page of this blog:

Feel free to comment on any of the posts on this blog but comments may be moderated; anonymous comments and any considered by me to be abusive will not be accepted. I do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with the opinions or statements of any information or other content in the comments on this site and do not in any way guarantee their accuracy or reliability.

It does mean a lot to me to know that there are people who find my ramblings interesting enough to look at, and sometimes even to come back for more, so I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes to all those who follow this blog and especially those who take the trouble to comment on it in such interesting and unpredictable ways!

 

 

 

Seven Years In The Dark

Posted in Biographical with tags on September 15, 2015 by telescoper

7th Birthday Badge Superhero

When I logged onto WordPress to write today’s post I received a message that it was the 7th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger and thus took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008. I actually wrote my first post that day too. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there, then –  and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually live, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including one in the Vatican! If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 13.30 today, I have published 2,934 blog posts, and have received 2,460,789 hits altogether; I get an average of about 1300 per day, but this varies in a very erratic fashion. The greatest number of hits I have received in a day is 8,864 (at the peak of the BICEP2 controversy). There have been 22,482 comments published on here and 1,391,901  rejected as spam or abuse; a lot goes on behind the scenes here that you really don’t want to know about!

Anyway, the numbers don’t really matter but it does mean a lot to know that there are people who find my ramblings interesting enough to look at, and sometimes even to come back for more!

 

 

 

Six Years In The Dark

Posted in Biographical with tags on September 16, 2014 by telescoper

When I logged onto WordPress to write yesterday’s post I received a message that it was the 6th anniversary of my registration with them as a blogger and thus took my first step into the blogosphere; that was way back on 15th September 2008. I actually wrote my first post that day too. Here it is, in all its glory:

So here we are then. I’ve finally decided to start writing a blog. I’ve been reading quite a few of them recently and most appeared to consist of a load of ill-informed opinionated drivel. So I thought “I can do that!”. And here we are.

I don’t know who (if anyone) will be reading this or even what I’m going to write, but let’s see how it goes until everyone concerned gets bored with it.

And before I start, I’d like to thank Phil Brown from the British Association for the Advancement of Science for inviting me to set this up. I never would have got around to it if he hadn’t done so.

So blame him!

Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing on my first day at blogging – no change there then –  and I didn’t actually manage to figure out how to publish this earth-shattering piece. It was only after I’d written my second post that I realized that the first one wasn’t actually live, so the two appear in the wrong order in my archive.

I’d like to take this opportunity to send my best wishes, and to thank, everyone who reads this blog, however occasionally. According to the WordPress stats, I’ve got readers from all round the world, including one in the Vatican! If you’re interested in statistics then, as of 9.15 this morning, I have published 2537 blog posts in all, and have received 2,032,090 hits altogether; I get an average of about 1300 per day, but this varies in a very erratic fashion. There have been 20,201 comments published on here and 857,904 rejected as spam or abuse; a lot goes on behind the scenes that you don’t want to know about!

Anyway, the numbers don’t really matter but it does mean a lot to know that there are people who find my ramblings interesting enough to look at, and sometimes even to come back for more! This blog is read by a number of powerful and influential people too, as well as John Womersley….

 

 

 

To Hype or Not to Hype?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 18, 2012 by telescoper

Like many bloggers on this site, I have set up my WordPress account to send a tweet every time I publish a new post. I did have it set up to post to Facebook too, but that mechanism seems no longer to work so I usually post my offerings there by hand. I joined Google+ some time ago, and did likewise, but found it to be a complete waste of time so haven’t logged on for months. Sometimes if a topic comes up that I’ve covered in an old post, I’ll tweet it again, but that’s the extent to which I “pimp” my blog.

However, I have noticed that over the last few months my Twitter feed is increasingly clogged up with multiple copies of blog advertisements from people I follow, often with requests like “Please Retweet”.  I have to say I don’t like this at all. It seems very tacky to me to be constantly screaming for attention in this manner. If people want to retweet or link to my posts then I’m very chuffed, of course, but I don’t think I’d feel the same way if I touted for traffic. Anyone who blogs already runs the risk of being labelled an attention-seeker. That doesn’t bother me, as in my case it’s probably true. But there are limits…

These thoughts came into my head when I stumbled across a couple of posts about self-promotion (here  and here). The author of the first item says:

Whenever I write a blogpost, the extent of my self-promotion is this: tweet my blog-link about 3 or 4 times in the same day it’s published…

I think even that is excessive. I’m very unlikely to read a blog post that’s been rammed down my neck on Twitter four times in a single day, very unlikely to retweet said link,  and indeed very unlikely to read anything further from an author who indulges in such a practice. Call me old-fashioned, but I struggle to keep up with Twitter anyway and I only follow about 100 people. I can do without this unseemly conduct. It’s nearly as bad as the “promoted tweets” (i.e. SPAM) that also plague the Twittersphere. More importantly, people don’t seem to realise that there is such a thing as too much publicity.

The answer is simple. Write interesting stuff, put it out there and people will be interested in it. It’s the same with scientific papers, actually. Write good papers and people will find them and cite them. Simples.

I realise my attitude in this regard is quite unusual and shaped by my own experiences and circumstances. I don’t make any money from this blog – it’s really more of a hobby than anything else – and I don’t particular care how many people read the items I post. If I did I wouldn’t put up things about Jazz or Poetry or Opera, as these have very little popular appeal. I just enjoy writing about such things, and sharing things I come across. I’m not denying that I like it when posts prove popular and/or provoke discussion, of course. But I don’t get upset when others sink without trace, as many do.

Moreover, having more blog hits isn’t going to advance my career one jot. Possibly quite the opposite, actually. I know there are plenty of important and influential people out there who think having a blog is some sort of aberration and in order to keep it going I must be neglecting my duties as an academic (which, incidentally, I don’t), so if anything it probably has a negative overall effect.

I realise that, as an amateur blogger, my attitudes are probably very different from the majority of those who actually earn money from this activity. The Guardian science bloggers, for example, get paid according to the number of page hits they generate. Unfortunately the result is that the Guardian itself repeatedly tweets links to every new post, as does every individual author. The resulting deluge of tedious advertising no doubt generates traffic that helps increase revenue, but its effect on me is that I no longer read any of the posts there.

There. I’ve said it. No doubt there’ll be angry reactions from fellow bloggers. If this post has offended anyone then I’m sorry, but  please remember to retweet it, share on Facebook, Google+, etc.

Blogging about Blogging

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , on July 19, 2010 by telescoper

Last week in London there was an event called Talkfest which was all about Science Blogging. I didn’t know anything about it until I started to see some tweets about it just before it happened. Apparently a few people I know went along and, by all accounts, it was quite an interesting evening. You could have knocked me down with a feather, however, when one of the invited panellists, particle physicist John Butterworth, mentioned this as his favourite “after-dinner” blog. If you don’t believe me here’s the evidence!

John is the chap with the microphone, and that’s my blog behind him. Unfortunately, the fact that I’d picked a Welsh title that day probably means he probably managed to convince the audience that I can speak Welsh which, in turn, probably means I’m going to get sued under the Trades Descriptions Act! I don’t know exactly what was meant by “after-dinner” blog, either. Perhaps its because it should only be read after the watershed. Anyway, it seems like it must have been a fun event judging by the other pictures and some of the chat that went on via Twitter (#talkfest)  afterwards.

I must say I was thrilled to bits to be mentioned in despatches in front of so many people who know a lot more about science blogging than I do. I’m not really plugged into the large online science community. All I do in that vein is write this. Just because I write a blog doesn’t mean I’m not a Luddite at heart! Anyway, I’m both flattered and grateful to Prof. Butterworth for his kind words. At least, I assume they were kind. If I’d been there I would have blushed.

Anyway, John’s own blog is very interesting and he followed up his dubious selection of favourite blog with a post of his own about the whys and wherefores of blogging. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery I thought I’d follow his cue and do something in a similar vein. Actually I’ve been meaning to do something along these lines for a while.

I suppose the main issue to be addressed in  a sermon about blogging is “why?”. Lots of people have asked me why I have a blog and why I apparently spend so much time writing it. Well, for me, there are two answers. The first is just that I enjoy writing. I think because of that I’ve always been able to write stuff quite quickly and developed a little bit of a knack for it. When I started blogging – less than two years ago – I realised that it gave me the chance to write about things quite different from the usual themes I had yet tackled in publications. I’d written scientific papers, textbooks, lecture notes, popular books and newspaper articles before but most had   been quite strictly controlled by editors and were always related to my scientific work. In fact, I’d already written quite a lot of stuff that never made it into publications so as time as gone on and I’ve been short of blog fuel I’ve tended to throw some of these pieces on in addition to bits I write on the spur of the moment.

It was only after I’d been blogging quite a while that I started doing music and poetry items, entirely for my own amusement, like keeping a scrapbook, but if people actually enjoy things that I’ve put up that they’d never seen before then all the better. I know a lot of people think I’m a pretentious twat for posting about Opera and modern jazz – some have said as much to my face, in fact – but that’s what I like. There’s enough blogs about pop music, TV celebrities and computer games already, not that I’d be able to write about them. I’m flattered too by the fact that some of my music and other posts have been linked to wikipedia articles – and, no, I didn’t put them there!

The other reason I had for starting to blog is much more personal. I moved job to Cardiff in 2007, but I got caught up in the credit crunch and was unable to sell my old house for quite a while. I spent far too much time commuting from Nottingham to Cardiff and back for the weekends and got thoroughly depressed, a state of mind not helped by some other issues which I won’t go into. In the middle of this my father died. Though not entirely unexpected, I did have to take some time out to deal with it. He hadn’t left a will, and I had to sort out the legal side of things as well as dispose of his belongings and arrange the funeral. In the aftermath of all that I had pangs of nostalgia for my childhood in Newcastle and an urge to connect with all that through writing down some thoughts and memories. Many of my early posts on here were quite morbidly introspective and probably not much fun for anyone to read, but I found writing them quite cathartic, as indeed I’ve found other posts for different reasons.

Anyway, knowing my tendency to write bits and bobs and then forget about them, quite a few people had encouraged me to start writing a blog but I hadn’t done it because I didn’t know how to go about setting one up. Fortunately after a public talk I’d given, Phil Brown of the British Association for the Advancement of Science gave me a few pointers to getting started writing a blog. After finally managing to sell off the Nottingham house and after relocating fully to Cardiff, I got this thing going about 2 years ago.

So there you are.  That’s some of why and most of how I came to start writing this blog. I wish I could say I had a mission to change the world, but it’s really just partly a big exercise in self-indulgence and partly a piece of occupational therapy. I would add two things in my defence, though. One is that I think that among all the other stuff, I do a bit of public service on here. Any bits of news about funding, exciting or controversial science results and things I think my colleagues in Cardiff and elsewhere might find interesting tend to go on here and I do think that’s a useful thing to do. People in my own School sometimes find things first from reading here, which I think adds a healthy bit of transparency to the otherwise closed world of academic life. The other thing to say is that, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t actually spend a huge amount of time writing the blog. Much of it is recycled and the rest thrown together quite quickly. I’ve just reached 1000 words of this post, for example, and it’s taken me 25 minutes. I know it’s rubbish, but at least its fast…

..which reminds me. Was it Voltaire who apologized for not having time to write a short letter so he was sending a long one instead?

Aside from the other things I’ve mentioned, the comments section is the thing I enjoy best. It’s great when people take the time to correct my numerous errors, whether it’s an incorrect chord sequence from a Charlie Parker track or a mistake in interpretation of a cosmological result. I also enjoy watching the discussion threads veer off at all kinds of unexpected tangents. Of course the comments section does occasionally have its downside, but generally its a lot of fun.

I’ve kept a weather eye on the hit statistics for this blog since I started. Although they are highly erratic, varying between 300 and 3000,  I seem to have a steady baseline average of about 700 unique hits per day. That seems an awful lot to me, but I’ve nothing to compare it with so I don’t know whether it’s a lot for a personal blog. I do know who a few of the readers are, some because they comment regularly on here,  and some because they tell me they read it in emails or face-to-face. I thought at the start that the intersection of jazz, opera and astronomy was a set of very small measure indeed so I’d never get more than a handful of readers. I realise now that I was probably doing the wrong logical operation; I should have been thinking `OR’ rather than `AND’. Judging by the incoming links I probably get quite different people reading the different sorts of items.

I’d be interested to know how people read this and other blogs, actually. I post almost every day, but I’d be surprised if the same people visit every day or read the posts that often.

It’s strange to think that the tentacles of the internet sometimes reach out from the other side of the world, bringing someone here without me ever knowing who they are. Wheoever you are, and however you got here, please feel free to say hello through the comments. I’d love to know who you all are. But if you’d rather not, that’s fine. This blog is delivered in the electronic equivalent of a plain brown envelope.

Anyway, that’s more than enough introspection for one night. Reading it through I realise it sounds like a very long and very boring acceptance speech for some sort of award! Perhaps I should keep it for when I get into Pseud’s Corner. Still, it will have to do. I haven’t got an editor to rewrite it for me…

PS. I would have been great if the picture had featured this post instead of last week’s. That would really have suited the self-reference theme, although it would have violated causality constraints!