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The Past, the Present, and Future: Toward a sustainably active blog


Arachnofest

Arachnofest

Good morning. I hope that the current run of fiction pieces over the last week or so has proven interesting for you, and if not, that’s okay too — as with the fractal image posts for many of you, not everyone enjoys that sort of thing.

An active blog is an acceptable one, and this site has been active since starting day 1 of December 28 of 2008.

The site has had its ups and downs, and it was most active in 2010, getting some 40,000 pageviews and at least a comment each day that year. My active time spent online and very frequent posting schedule was largely responsible for that, but reality intruded, and I soon discovered that I could not do other things and still keep up that pace.

That was also the year I began building a wider online social network presence, through such sites as Twitter, Facebook, and the paid service blog aggregator BlogSurfer. Then reality intruded, and I discovered the interest to ‘complete’ my education, or at least to come as close as can be done given the years I have left…

…no, I’m not dying any more quickly than most, mind you, but even a long life is brief and precious. I’ve been through 49 complete trips on spacecraft Earth around our stellar primary, and counting.

I discovered the value of lifelong learning, first through introductory college-level courses published by the Teaching Company, and then from other online sources. There was also the use here and elsewhere for the first time of personally-generated fractal art, originally intended only to spice up the other entries on the site but quickly becoming something more.

During the site’s first two years, I’ve posted things that showed poor netizenship on my part, and which today make me cringe a bit upon seeing them clicked on at the stats page when they surface during web searches leading to this site.

But I will keep all of those on the site, as deleting posts doesn’t feel right to me — it seems a not-so-wee bit shady going into this blog’s 5th year and quickly approaching its 2000th comment.

Things got complicated. The bloggosphere got less interesting when my favorite sites disappeared from the web forever, and fellow bloggers burned out and quit blogging. In my own life, educational commitments and new people came into online interactions. My blogging changed, with the decline, some of it recently, of regularly scheduled entries on this site. Many of the regular tools and features now on the site’s admin pages weren’t yet standard WordPress features, and others used then fell by the wayside on constant system upgrades of the servers hosting this blog.

I don’t make a pence from the pageviews this site gets, and I will not if I can help it. Thus, I’ve bought off ads being shown on the site and don’t care nearly as much about pageviews as I once did. I’ve learned that pageviews are less important given my needs, and overconcern for them is irrational and unskeptical.

Sure. Traffic is good to a degree, but online discussion is much more so.

While working on the fiction pieces, a few ideas have presented themselves for this blog’s continued activity, until I migrate over to a different platform for continued posting sometime next year. In the interests of positivity, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and only afterward, what won’t be done even if and when it has been:

First, I’d like to put out a call for contributing writers for the site, any who might be interested in offering their time for regular or occassional posting on this blog at their option, who will be given full access to this blog’s admin page.

I’m also putting out a call for any parties interested in contributing guest-posts on the site, which I’d definitely like to see more of.

I’m going to reblog posts more often, with permission when required from the original author, of course, as I’ve slacked off on that in the past year or so.

For those on my personal mailing list, by the time this post comes online, I’ll be back to posting links to the week’s entries on a regular weekly schedule, starting now and continuing from then on each Sunday to the hour noted on my ‘to do’ list.

I’m cutting down on reposting onsite items except where necessary, or unless the item has been properly and accurately updated and expanded with newer and better information.

I’ll be bringing back posts once used as regular features, keeping those elements that work and adding new features not found in earlier installments. Some of those will be posted on specific days of the week, like the upcoming return of the series ‘Caturday’s Astronomy Pix,’ and others, though posted semi-regularly.

I’ll be posting material with appropriate commentary when needed on skeptical, artistic, science, and mental illness topics. I’m interested in all to a degree, and have a personal interest in the latter.

There shall be more book reviews and reviews of online and digital media courses I take, more so than has been done.

I’ll also post more on skeptical activist topics, critical thinking, logic, and on skeptical software tools I come across, but not on Atheism+ or the hubbub going on about it, as I don’t think myself knowledgeable enough to comment on it, nor do I care to get involved. That’s not my kerfuffle.

Since I’ve already done so in earlier posts, and have nothing new to add, I’ll no longer post on anti-theistic topics, including activist atheism, or critiques of religious apologists and their arguments.

I’ll no longer post direct attacks on religions, religious belief, politics, or religious faith, as I’ve been there and done that, thank you. Existing posts will be retained. ‘Nothing here to see, citizen…Move along.’

Only when specific empirically testable religious, political, or other ideological claims intersect or interfere with science will I post on them.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of you absolutely fantastic people who over the years have commented on, critiqued, ‘liked,’ shared, retweeted, and otherwise interacted, both on this blog and across many other social media…

…because you all have made this experience what it was, is, and will be. YOU make it worth keeping at.

Thank you, and Talotaa frang*

Troythulu

*”Stay strong, stay well, and be brilliant as the stars” translated from Old High Kai’Siri

We are verbs.


I’ve decided to update my bios on various venues on the web at some point, since most of them are simplistic.

Too simplistic. Convenient, but still too simplistic.

Why?

Because people are not nouns. We are not collections of simple one-or-two syllable terms. Human beings can never be adequately defined and described by simple static descriptors.

We are what we are, but nothing about us can be fully captured in the space of a few brief words. We do things, we perform actions.

We are verbs, not nouns.

We are not just artists, nor writers, nor believers, nor nonbelievers, nor followers, nor leaders, nor students, nor teachers, nor are we just collections of the countless other descriptive labels, though these are a useful shorthand when we are in a hurry, or constrained by space limitations on a blogpost or a brief biographical description on a personal website.

The problem is that over-reliance on these leads to stereotyping, because language is not neutral, and the meaning that the writer of the blogpost or bio-page puts into them very often isn’t the same as the meaning that the reader supplies to them.

Ask a religious nonbeliever what ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ or ‘humanist’ or ‘secularist’ or ‘rationalist’ or ‘freethinker’ or ‘antitheist’ means and ask the same of any randomly selected self-described religious or spiritual practitioner, and very, very often you will get two very different answers.

The content and meaning of these answers will diverge greatly, depending on the differences in culture, worldview, education, and personal background.

Ask someone who practices analytical thinking skills, has a fair level of scientific literacy, a healthy level of suspicion for questionable claims, and who values the use of reason in argument what a ‘skeptic’ is, and you will very likely get a completely different answer from that of, say, a New Age practitioner of crystal healing and Reiki.

The point is, again, that few people, save those with compatible perspectives, are likely to attribute the same meaning to the same nouns, so labels can cause difficulties.

They lead, for one thing, to stereotyping, though as long as one keeps in mind that the stereotype is just a schematic and not a literal representation of reality, all is well.

The problems result from the fact that few of us do this. We tend to be lazy thinkers, even the smartest of us, using cognitive shortcuts to reach closure on a matter quickly, and while this is efficient and usually works in ordinary usage, it is hardly adequate for scenarios we are not prepared for, that may require deeper levels of problem solving skills.

When we see a stereotype and confuse it for the literal reality of what or who it seems to apply to, not just a schematic or an abstraction, we commit a hasty generalization — reaching closure on something from an insufficient number of instances (or too low a sample size in statistical lingo) — and this can lead to bigoted thinking.

I am not a skeptic, nor a fractal artist, nor a blogger, nor a cat person, nor any other collection of nouns, though I’ve used these as a convenient shorthand, not that it hasn’t caused confusion in a number of instances…

Better still, from a verbal perspective…

I practice and seek to develop clearer thinking skills, to hone the edges of my reasoning and argumentation ability, improve my level of education and science savviness, to protect myself and others from scammery and flim-flam artists, to look into the claims of cranks and quacks, and generally help support good science education.

I make fractal artwork as a pastime with the intent to develop it to professional levels. I think that cats are some of the most awesome animals on the planet, and not just in internet memes (though I confess some bias there).

I post on a number of blogs and internet social media like Facebook and Twitter, and through these I’ve come in contact with and interact with some of the coolest people my species has ever produced.

Like anyone else, there are countless things I do daily, weekly, monthly and over spans of years, even the most ordinary tasks, that cannot possibly be adequately captured in just a few words on a Twitter bio or Facebook page.

People are far too nuanced than that, and that includes anyone reading this post.

So consider thinking of people in terms of verbs, not static nouns, as intelligent causal agents who do things, rather than just simple clusters of tags and labels. The world may seem a lot more complex if you do, but it will also be a lot more interesting as well.

Try it.

The Gnuz and Lynx Roundup for Caturday, 2013/03/23


English: Profile Photo of Kylie Sturgess

English: Profile Photo of Kylie Sturgess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

G’day, peeps! This Caturday marks the first time in a bit that I’m on my own even with my evil feline masters pulling my puppet strings…

There’s a family gathering up north, and I’ve opted to stay home to take care of the plants, my own cats, and to feed the little furry beggars that stop by for kibble and cheeseburger or the equivalent thereof. Study has come along nicely, and I’ve plans to sign up for online courses at a local college during the summer.

I expect that I should do well, though it’ll be a bit before I decide on a major and get into a full-fledged Uni. Blog-hopping has seen a few changes, with my favorite Token Skeptic, Kylie Sturgess relocating to Patheos blogs this week, and I plan on keeping up with her posts on a regular basis. Hmmm, I’ll have to update all bookmarks linked to her old site to the new venue, but that shouldn’t be a worry.

I’ve been getting a bit more personable on Twitter, which is a good sign, as I’m no social beast and don’t chat up easily, but I need to build and maintain regular interaction with other rationalists, my nonbeliever and skeptic friends, book bloggers and writers, and those more prominent members of the online rationalist community I keep up on. Most of my tweeting I now do on Tweet Deck, and I have been making heavy use of Facebook, which somewhat less activity on Pinterest and Tumblr.

———–Bloggy Lynx———–

———Others’ Bloggies———

————-Odd & Doubtful Stuff————-

———-Bloggy Stats———-

  • 125,214 steely gazes cast here since 2008/12/28m
  • 1821 comments approved – Please keep them coming!
  • 2032 posts, including this one,
  • 188 WordPress subscribers – Thank you…You make this blog worth posting on!
  • 1969 Twitter fellows,
  • 19 likes on Facebook… Much appreciated!

———-The Randi Show – Coincidence———-

I’m on Twitter hiatus for a bit. I’ll be back.


Lately, I’ve been taking home study courses to improve my academic skills, and just for the sheer fun of making myself a better student and reader, and found it necessary to devote more of my time to study and reading. I’ve also been spending time on Twitter, at least until the last couple of days, since I’ve found myself too given to distraction, and I need to focus on learning.

So, I’m taking a break from Twitter, at least for a week, maybe more, though I’ll keep in contact with my tweeps through direct messaging when not forbidden, through Facebook, and through regular email.

But, no tweeting, at least, no live tweeting, just autotweets from my WordPress blogs and Tumblr page, and when I decide to set things up for it, my Facebook posts. But no tweets directly by being logged into my Twitter account.

I’ve noticed that my tweets were beginning to get a bit stale…something was missing…I simply wasn’t allowing myself time to come up with anything interesting, and the minute-by-minute status updates get a bit old after almost three years. There’s a lot of ‘noise’ on Twitter, which is what one would expect for the enormous volume of information coursing through it’s millions of accounts, and that noise can be difficult to sort out from the important posts, from useful information.

Twitter is a great way to keep in contact with people I’ve met online, and those friends I’ve met there are very dear to me, but I need to get away from the volume of noise and data for a bit, sort things out, figure out what I really want to accomplish in social networking. I have some very interesting people following my account, many very well-known in some circles, better known than a nobody like yours truly. Sometimes I chat with them, people continents away, and I’ve even chatted with those people not following my tweets, prominent figures in the rationalist community who’ll remain unnamed.

I also follow lots of interesting people, over 1865 at last count, though that varies depending on whatever issues the server is undergoing. There’s been a glitch in Twitter’s software that causes the server to randomly follow or unfollow people without warning for an account, though it’s been worse in the past, and caused a lot of unnecessary acrimony.

I’m in the process of training myself to better manage distraction, and that should smooth out my interaction on the site, make it easier for me to keep in contact with people and avoid the errors caused by data overload and burnout, while also being more relaxed online and thus less prone to miss important things through over-focusing. Also pending is improvement in my ‘people skills,’ which have lately been somewhat deficient.

I’ve no interest in cutting ties with people on Twitter…I’ve met very few trolls, save the infamous Dennis Markuze and very few others. Yes, “I’ve been Mabused.”

Meh. Sounds like a disease…

Once this break is over, I’ll be making better, more effective, efficient, and enjoyable use of my social networking time, but for now, it’s time out for Troythulu.

Until I’m back, my cosmic and brilliant tweeps, carry on and keep the unfaith. You will anyway.

To Ring in a New Year on the Call…


Frank Discussions With Dr. Novella

Frank Discussions With Dr. Novella (Photo credit: DaveFayram)

I’ve decided to tweak this blog’s look for 2013, updating the background image and header text color with something just a bit less garish than previously, and I may do this again within the week to get things just right, and not too dark or bright for the skeptical scrutiny of browsing eyes.

During the past year, one of the biggest single referrers for links and steely gazes cast on this blog was the James Randi Educational Foundation for a video post on a talk that Steven Novella gave at TAM 6, so many thanks, JREF. The other referrers were social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, and thanks go out to all those who’ve shared or tweeted this blog’s content in 2012 — This blog couldn’t have been as active as it has without that. Also much appreciated was referrals to this site by my fellow bloggers from their own sites, and the discussions with them via comment threads both here and elsewhere online.

Strictures on commenting have been relaxed a bit, but nota bene the warning in the prompt just above the commenting box — attempting to promote your propaganda or advertise for your latest bestseller or porn site will not be tolerated — there are plenty of other places online to do that besides this blog. Free speech must be tempered with responsibility and honesty, not corrupted by bullshit.

I’m open to suggestions by any of this blog’s readers on good skeptical and sciencey topics for posting this year, and any ideas that may be used to make this site a tad more appealing in layout and artwork. I’m going to be reducing my posting of strictly atheist material, and focus instead on those areas and matters where it converges with science and skepticism.

For those of you new to this blog, be informed that this site is biased — it is unequivocally biased in favor of science and I fully support a scientific consensus unless and until it is shown wrong by the same process of evidence and thinking that led to it. — it will do no good to try debunking science by arguing from a religious, political, economic, or other ideological position, since that just shows a profound failure to understand the scientific process — again with attempts to promote your agenda in the guise of free speech.

No.

On this I agree with Grumpy Cat.

Have a wonderful remaining Tuesday, and a very happy New Year. I know what my resolutions are for this year, and may all of you fulfill yours in the months to come! Thank you for your participation in this blog’s online community.

 

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