Opus 500: And Time For A Break

This post is the 500th I’ve made since I fired up this blog back in 2015, during which time there hasn’t been a single week without a post of one kind or another. It’s been great fun, and if anything I have more ideas for posts now than I’ve ever had, but this seems like a suitable moment at which to declare a hiatus—with apologies to the person who subscribed to the blog last week!

I’ve other projects I want to get into, and they’re of a nature that even I can’t turn into a blog post—though they may feed into posts at a later date. And there’s the “problem” that the posts have, over the years, becoming increasing long-form, because I’m fundamentally a long-form kind of guy. They take more writing and editing, and the illustrations take more work, all of which is pleasant enough but cramps my space for other endeavours. And the website itself, after eight years of posts, now occupies 3.5GB on a server somewhere in California, and needs a bit of maintenance work under the bonnet. So there’s going to be a gap for a while, and then a more sporadic approach to posting thereafter.

I’ve just taken a look at the various categories and subject tags assigned to the last 499 posts. My top five categories have been Reading (115), Walking (109), Words (101), Phenomena (81) and Building (70). The top ten tags are Hills (95), Etymology (83), Science Fiction (64), Spaceflight (52), Aviation (44), History (37), Astronomy (30), Apollo (25), Physics (23) and Optics (23). That all feels about right, in terms of my preoccupations since the blog started, though I’m vaguely surprised that I’ve only inflicted 25 posts about the Apollo missions on my Loyal Readers.

Phenomena is the category that has diverged most from what I’d originally imagined. Originally planned to concentrate mainly on natural phenomena in the outdoors, it quickly branched out to include topics relating to animal vision, calendar reform, special relativity, orbital mechanics, and what would happen if you fell down a tunnel through the centre of the Earth. It has also been the category that has generated the most communication—from scientists, artists, space buffs, and people with interesting photographs to share.

Words started off being about obscure and interesting words, but mutated to cover “words in the news” (who, in the last few years, didn’t wonder about prorogation, impeach, and corona?), letters from foreign alphabets, and puzzling phrases like “begging the question”. In terms of visits from Google searches, the surprising winners in this category have been my little series of posts about Latin plural nouns in English.

On the topic of web-search hits, I’m mildly irked that some of my simplest images get the most traffic. Two images that get multiple hits every day are my annotated galaxy map, knocked off in a few minutes as a joke, and my extended table of SI unit prefixes.

Location of our sun in Milky Way galaxy
Click to enlarge
Base map: NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)
SI prefixes table, 2022
Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, the pretty, time-consuming and unusual stuff, like my detailed charts of blue moons and supermoons, languish relatively unclicked. Sigh.

As well as helping me organize my thoughts on a variety of topics, the blog has been mentioned by various other bloggers, from the philosophical to the flaky; cited by Wikipedia; translated into French (well, one page); quoted as a blurb for Greg Egan’s novel Dichronauts; referenced in the textbook Maths for Chemistry (though on a topic that has nothing to do with maths or chemistry); and has attracted the attention of one conspiracy theorist (though not, as you might expect, a believer in the “Apollo Hoax”).

And it has also attracted a steady trickle of contact from old friends and colleagues, all of whom have been entirely unsurprised to find me still expatiating on obscure topics for my own entertainment. It’s been nice to hear from them, and some of them may even still be reading some of what I have to say.

To them, and to the couple of hundred other folk who have subscribed to the blog, and to those who just drop by from time to time to see what I’m on about this week, I’d like to say thanks for your attention and indulgence over the years.

’Bye for now, for a while—see you later.

24 thoughts on “Opus 500: And Time For A Break”

  1. Hi Grant, having just discovered your writings last year, I hope you have a lovely break, but come back to inform us in the not too distant future.
    Kenneth Barker (Raigmore)

  2. There are many of us old colleagues who lurk on this blog and look forward to reading it – we’ll miss you! ‘Til the next one.

    1. Thanks, Lesley. I confess to being vaguely spooked by the idea of all those old colleagues lurking around the place, invisibly.

  3. Thanks for your efforts over the last few years. I hope that your hiatus lets you achieve what you desire and that one day you will return with even more interesting blog posts.

    1. Thanks, Neil. No great effort involved. This blogging business is fairly self-indulgent, as I believe we’ve discussed before. I like to understand things, and one of the best ways of doing that, for me, is to try to write it down as an organized presentation. And then, a couple of years later, if things begin to get a bit vague in memory, I can refer back to what I wrote and find all the references I used. Doing all that in public just adds the bonus of hearing from people with similar interests to mine.

  4. Congratulations on your 500th. . A wonderful , informative , very interesting series. .Enjoy the break ..
    Go raibh cead mile maith agat.

    1. Thanks, Jacquie. That’s a nice poetic turn of phrase in Irish. I haven’t run into a similar version of “thank you” in Scottish Gaelic, though we do say ceud mìle fàilte, “a hundred thousand welcomes”, which has the same idea.

  5. Hi, I am the one who subscribed last week! I found your blog while looking for for comments on ‘The Dichronauts’ and was amazed to discover that so many of your interests fit mine, however eclectic they might be.
    It is tough that the first email I get announces you are taking a break.
    However I have many articles to read before I catch up with you. I sure will enjoy them.

    1. Sorry about that. I hope you turn up something interesting in the back catalogue to keep you amused until I get going again.

  6. Sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner than this. I was recovering from another misadventure with gravity…

    I will miss this place. But have fun sir! You’ve earned it! May we meet while we’re still both in the flesh!

    So go stare at whatever horizons refreshen you. I’m sure there’s a genius loci out there somewhere that misses your company. Some seldom trodden bit of land awaiting your regard. I wish you fare winds and following seas Dr. Hutchinson.

    (One of the few people I know who can make use of them.)

    And please give the Boon Companion my goodbyes as well!

    Illegitimi non carborundum!!

  7. Hi Don. Watch out for that gravity, it’ll get you every time.

    Right back at you with the good wishes, and the Boon Companion concurs.

  8. As someone who only dips into your blog whenever I feel the desire to walk in the hills vicariously, or to indulge my fancy for etymology, I have only just discovered that you are taking a break and now want to say THANK YOU. A lot of your blog went over my head but I’m convinced that it is hugely valuable (especially the experiments with map creation with the help of OGIS) and a real credit to Scotland. If the folk at the National Library of Scotland have any sense, they’ll take over the upkeep of the 3.5 GB and consider themselves very lucky. Enjoy your breather and happy oikofuging!

  9. Well, that explains a lot.
    Seems that in my last argument with gravity, gravity broke one of my ischium. (Though not displaced.)
    Standing and sitting down, plus coughing, have been spectacularly unpleasant for the last several weeks. Only just getting better this week.
    My doctors are mad at me…

  10. Yes sir, I am. Now it’s only noticiable during the actual act of sitting or standing. Standing, walking and lying down are perfectly fine. Sitting becomes problematic after an hour or so though. Probably still taking down the cartiloginous scaffolding.

    I do have a language question for you, if you don’t mind. (You’re so good at them.)

    Why is it “eleven” and “twelve” and not oneteen and twoteen? I’m guessing the French, if I had to guess for money.

    1. Glad you’re improving.

      You might equally wonder why we don’t say “onety-one” and “onety-two”—all the teens break that pattern.

      Eleven and twelve are actually Old English, ainlif and twalif, which mean “one left” and “two left”. That is, if you take away ten, you have one or two left over, respectively. Probably they got special treatment because people were used to counting on their fingers, but also counted things in dozens, so this hybrid treatment of numbers between 10 and 12 was common, and therefore got cemented into the language.

  11. Doc, there is an anecdote I’d like to relate, to you and the more politer half of the ‘net, of a fool’s errand I read about a young family man making. I read it and thought I could do better. The task? Trying to circuvent the imagination of preteen children!

    So back in ’84 or so I was at my mother’s house reading a Reader’s Digest, to which she was a life long subscriber. In it was a story of a man, who had an eight year old son and had welcomed a new daughter into the world. He decided to name her Amber. Partly because it he thought it would be difficult for other children to make fun of the name.

    Yeah, that didn’t work.

    The very first time her older brother saw her she was cheerfully greeted with, “Hello Amberger!”.

    Me? what did I do? I did the ol’ “Hold my beer!” thing. Took nearly 20 years in the making! Failed spectacularly, I did.

    So ten years later I, myself, became a father. And two years after that I was blessed again! And the whole time there was a compartment of my brain holding onto the above story.

    And I named them Julia and Michelle, not entirely for the above reasons, but the reason was there none the less!

    And then one day, when they were about 10 and 8 respectively, I heard them in a positively ferocious argument and peeked in on them in time to hear the insults “Juliyuck” and “Michelliphant” go whizzing by and some part of my mind was immediately deflated!

    (Both are happily married now with the oldest a veternarian’s assistant and the youngest an engineer who works full time with C and C machines AND owns her own manufacturing business. She’s trying very hard to be wealthy.)

    Personally, I think the only thing to do that makes sense is to try again…

  12. And it another positive note…
    Just when things were looking emotionally rather bleak for me, I was informed last night that sometime in early January…I’m going to be a grandfather!

    My oldest is eight weeks along now!

    I’m so happy! I’ve been wanting this for over a decade and a half! I surely missed having small children in my life!

    (Now I have to repopulate my terrariums. They should be ready by the time the new arrival gets interested in little critters as anything but an experimental snack.)

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