How August 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog


And to interrupt all my other writing is the usual review of my readership the past month. I keep this up in confident hope that someday I will learn something that helps me write better. So far what I’ve learned is that posting stuff more often gets me read more often. But this requires me writing more, so plainly that’s out of the question.

Still. In August I posted 13 essays, most of them Reading the Comics and a few that were appeals for A to Z topics. That’s the greatest number of posts I’ve had since March. What did it do for my readership?

There were 1,523 page views recorded here in August. That’s comfortably above the twelve-month running average of 1,355.4. These views came from 993 logged unique visitors, which is also above the twelve-month running average, in this case of 839.3. Don’t think it doesn’t burn me up seven more visitors didn’t come around.

Box chart showing the generally increasing trend of readership over the last four and a half years.
I’m not positive but I think this bar chart has reproduced the skyline of Philadelphia.

There were 70 things liked over the course of August. This, too, was above the twelve-month running average, of 62.9 likes. The number of comments was down, though, with only ten received over the month. The twelve-month running average was 22.5. And it’s oddly low since the start of an A to Z sequence usually brings out comments from people who hope I can explain elliptic integrals or something like that.

There were 117.2 views recorded per posting in August. This is not only of things that got published in August. I can sort of see how to calculate that average but it seems like a great bother to do. My working hypothesis is that my publishing anything encourages my pages to be read. Or viewed, which is as much as anyone makes promises for anymore. 117.2 is above the twelve-month average of 98.3 views per post, anyway. There were 76.4 unique visitors per posting, which is also above the twelve-month average of 62.2. And this worked out to 5.4 likes per posting, above the average of 4.4. The year-to-date average has been 4.5 likes per posting. The comments were dire, with only 0.8 comments per posting on average, about half of the 1.5 comments per posting twelve-month average. The year-to-date average has been 1.7 comments per posting.

` So what was popular around here in August? … One essay that always is, and one that often is. And then some recent posts, to my gratification. … Incidentally there doesn’t seem to be a way to find which posts got the greatest number of likes, as opposed to page views. So I will decide not to worry about those for now. The most popular essays in August were:

Those bottom three were all August postings. There were 231 pages that got at least one view in August, counting the home page which draws the vast majority of views. There were 128 pages that got only a single view. One of them was a page linked to by that check-in on the roller coaster, so, hrm. All right. I won’t take that personally, I tell myself.

WordPress tells me 65 countries or things like countries sent me any readers in August. There’d been 64 in July and 54 in June. 19 of them were single-viewer countries. There were 17 single-view countries the previous two months. And what were they all?

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States in dark red, the Philippines and India in slightly less dark red, and then a wide swath of hte world, including much of the Americas, most of Europe and Pacific Asia, in light pink.
That’s me: as popular in Spain as I am in Malaysia.
Country Readers
United States 901
Philippines 176
India 61
Canada 48
United Kingdom 33
Brazil 27
Australia 24
Denmark 23
South Africa 19
Sweden 18
European Union 14
Singapore 13
Germany 12
France 10
United Arab Emirates 10
Norway 9
Thailand 8
Poland 7
Kenya 6
Indonesia 5
Malaysia 5
Pakistan 5
Russia 5
Spain 5
Greece 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Italy 4
Netherlands 4
New Zealand 4
Belgium 3
Colombia 3
Mexico 3
South Korea 3
Switzerland 3
Taiwan 3
Argentina 2
Armenia 2
Austria 2
Croatia 2
Finland 2
Japan 2
Lebanon 2
Morocco 2
Nigeria 2
Puerto Rico 2
Slovenia 2
Chile 1
China 1
Egypt 1 (**)
Estonia 1
Hungary 1
Ireland 1
Israel 1 (*)
Macedonia 1
Panama 1
Portugal 1
Saudi Arabia 1 (*)
Sint Maarten 1
Slovakia 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Turkey 1
Turks & Caicos Islands 1
Ukraine 1
Vietnam 1 (***)
Zimbabwe 1

Israel and Saudi Arabia were single-view countries last month too. Egypt’s been a single-view country three months running. Vietnam’s been a single-view country for four months. And once again somehow the Philippines is the country sending me the second greatest number of readers.


As of the start of September I’d published 92 things in the year. That had 87,448 words in total however WordPress calculates that. That’s 10,340 words published in August, or an average 795.4 words in each of the thirteen posts. I like this trend: my average post for the year, to date, has been 951 words per post.

From this blog’s start, sometime three weeks before the invention of dirt, through the start of September I’ve posted 1,294 things here. They attracted a total 82,747 page views from a recorded 42,752 unique visitors. But the first couple years WordPress was too primitive to record unique visitors.

I’d like to have you as a regular reader. You can read posts on any RSS reader through the feed https://nebusresearch.wordpress.com/feed/. If you haven’t got an RSS reader, it turns out that Livejournal still exists and will let you add RSS feeds as friends pages. Dreamwidth does that too. If you like reading through WordPress, and thus giving me statistics to read, you can use the “Follow Nebusresearch” button at the upper right corner of this page.

Historically, I’ve been on Twitter as @Nebusj and announce every post there. But a couple weeks ago Twitter decided it had better things to do than let me connect to it. And I’ve had better things to do than deal with this by, like, logging in using a different web browser or something. I’m still getting announcements posted, since I can see my recent Twitter feed as one of the columns on the right-hand-side of the page here. I don’t know when that will break. But this is your chance to watch and see when it happens! Please someone tell me when it does. Not on Twitter.

I hope tomorrow to be back to the A to Z posts, and to get back to the comics for Sunday.

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I Got Arithmetic Wrong, And Learned Something About Writing


I’ll get to the comics soon enough. Interesting me right now is that I made a mistake in my review of the July reading statistics around here. Naturally I want to fix my mistake. But I also thought some about why I thought this an interesting mistake to make. This got me to think a bit about story.

I had made a spreadsheet to work out twelve-month running averages. This for things like the number of page views, number of comments, and number of posts, and all that. Since it was easy to calculate, I also worked out the number of page views per posting. I’m convinced that the number of things I post is the factor I can most control in how well my stuff gets read. And then went on to the number of unique visitors per posting, comments per posting, and number of likes per posting. Fine enough, but I set up the spreadsheet wrong. Instead of dividing the number of unique visitors by the number-of-posts column, it divided by the views-per-post column. And the likes-per-post column divided the number of likes by the number of unique-visitors-per-post. And so on.

I’d like to say I noticed this failed a sanity check. 870 unique visitors for 11 posts, and I claim this to be 7.1 unique visitors per post? Not likely. And then left it in to see if anybody noticed, which of course they did not. No, I didn’t do that; I don’t do that sort of stunt except as a marked joke. Or after warning my class that the story problems might contain unreliable data and they’re expected to ask questions. I did notice the numbers made no sense while writing the statistics-review post for my humor blog, though.

So what do I find interesting about this? Not that I made the mistake. Everyone who works makes mistakes. That I did not notice the mistake is interesting. I can make excuses which of course I find reasonable and justifiable. They all amount to that I chose to do things besides think about what numbers I should expect, and that I did not edit my copy enough before publishing.

Why did nobody notice the mistake? One answer is that nobody read the post, which is plausible enough. WordPress claims the page has gotten 17 views (as of my writing this). My home page, which has the article at its top, has gotten 42 views as well. But a view and perusal are different things. Even if people read my outstanding prose for comprehension, were they reading the numbers? Close enough to notice the claimed numbers didn’t make sense?

My guess is they didn’t. I know when I read for pleasure I tend to accept numbers as things which are present but which don’t need my immediate attention. If the presented argument needs the numbers, I’ll go back and pay attention to whether they’re 7.1 or 79.1. I suspect many people are the same way.

Elmore Leonard famously offered the writing advice to leave out the parts people skip. But people seem to skip these numbers. One might say I skipped them too and I wrote them. This did not make the post unpopular, though. I don’t know why the WordPress readership blog is always a popular post, but it is.

It’s easy to suppose the post would be more popular if it had no numbers. But a readership statistics post without readership statistics? That’s obviously daft. Maybe the box charts and map of countries would be appreciated. Pictures are the other thing besides number of posts that’s within my control and that brings readers.

I think there’s something in the nature of stories going on here. A (nonfiction) narrative builds on facts. If you have none, you may have some fine writing, but you have no story. But a mere fact? We have a word for a bare fact isolated from any narrative, any story about its value: trivia. No one could ever care about the average number of unique viewers per posting around here over the past twelve months. Someone could care about whether this viewers-per-posting is rising or falling, or how fast. The exact numbers, the trivia, are nothing. And we notice this in reading, and accept that we will never care about them. It is the story which uses them that’s of interest, and that people are happy to see. It’s easy, even for a pop mathematics writer, to think that of course numbers are what matters. And they matter, but only a tiny bit. The numbers are there so that the words around them have something to be about. It’s a neat lesson to myself about what mathematics writing means to do.


The correct calculations by the way change the story a little. Not much. This seems weird at first. It supports my contention that the number of page views and unique visitors and comments and likes all scale with the number of posts made, though. A month with twice as many posts probably got about twice as many unique visitors.

I had thought the number of unique visitors per posting rose slightly. Not too much. This is right in kind, but wrong in scale. The twelve-month running average was 60.2 unique visitors per posting and in July there were 79.1. That’s above average enough to matter. I had thought the number of likes per posting went from a twelve-month average of 8.8 down to 6.4. In fact the average was 4.4 and it drifted down to 4.1, still a decline but less sharp of one. One that might not be significant at all. The number of comments per posting I thought had dropped from 3.6 on average to 3.3. In fact the average number of comments per posting had been 1.5, and in July it rose to 1.9. This is the only change in direction of any of these trends. But my suspicion is this is so slight a change that it’s indistinguishable from random fluctuations. Noise, as they say.

How July 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog


If I had regular readers, one might notice it’s pretty late in the month without my having reviewed readership around here for the past month. This is so. There’s good reason: the first week of August was mostly wiped out by my attending Pinburgh, the world’s largest pinball tournament, and related activities. This included four(!) amusement park visits in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, for some reason, has many amusement parks and they’re all worth a visit.

That’s all time-consuming stuff, though. And it’s not stuff that I can write ahead of time. This offends me, since so much of the structure of these reviews is imposed by the list of what data I have available. I suppose I could do a fill-in-the-blanks template but … why?

Well, here’s the most basic stuff: how many things got views, and how many people came around, in July 2019?

Bar chart showing monthly readership for the last three and a half years. After several months of decline the views has leapt up again.
I know it’s dangerous for me to start making spreadsheets, but I’m confident it will be all right. There are times I’ve gotten over some statistic or other. For example, do you ever see me going on about views per visitor these days? I mean apart from this, right here. I’m sure I have better things to worry about, probably.

That’s … surprising. I had 11 posts in July, most of them Reading the Comics pieces. But this brought 1,356 page views, above a thousand for the first time since April, and the greatest number of page views since March. It’s even slightly above the twelve-month running average of 1330.6 views per month. There were 870 unique visitors in July, which is almost more than the total number of pages viewed in June. The 870 unique visitors are a fair bit above the twelve-month running average of 822.4 unique visitors per month. By the way, I put together a spreadsheet so I can more easily track twelve-month running averages, as well as averages-per-post.

This offers some information I find interesting. By this I mean it’s information I don’t know how to understand. In July there were 11 posts and, on average, 123.3 views per posting. This is not to say each July post got viewed, on average, 123.3 times. It’s that, roughly, every three days there were about 123 pages viewed from my whole catalogue. This average is in line with the twelve-month running average of 121.0 views per posting. It works out to an average 7.1 unique visitors per posting. That’s probably not significantly greater than the 6.7 unique visitors per posting over the previous twelve months.

There were 45 likes given to things in July. That’s down from the previous twelve-month average of 62.3 per month. There were 21 comments in July, basically the twelve-month average of 23.1 comments per month. This is 6.4 likes per posting, compared to the twelve-month average of 8.8. It’s also 3.3 comments per posting, which is basically the twelve-month average of 3.6. Incidentally, my twelve-month average had been 14.3 posts per month. This is helped by some A to Z sequences, which I haven’t yet done this year.

There may be something else helping my readership. Because of scheduling needs I’d put some of my big Reading the Comics posts to publish on Tuesday, rather than Sunday. I did read a site claiming that WordPress posts got the most readership when posted Tuesday through Thursday. I do not know the methodology of this research. Nor whether it’s still valid, since the post also talked about when Google+ posts were most effective. But this is the only thing I did all that different in July. Maybe I’ll keep that going another month or two and see if it makes a noticeable difference.

192 different posts got at least one page view in July. That’s up from the 158 in June and 163 in May. I don’t have twelve-month running averages for this. But here were the most popular posts:

I’d had 99 posts get a single view each, by the way.

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States in darkest red, and pink regions for most of North America, Europe, and South Asia, plus Australia and a about half of South America.
I admit I’m disappointed to not have any Iceland readers, but since my dad visited Iceland in June and not July I suppose that’s to be expected.

WordPress tells me that 64 countries or country-like entities sent me at least a single reader in July. 54 had in June and 61 in May. There were 17 single-reader countries for the second month in a row. There had been 16 in May. The roster of countries? It’s this:

Country Readers
United States 791
Philippines 103
United Kingdom 75
India 64
Canada 37
Australia 34
Italy 18
Brazil 16
Germany 16
Singapore 15
South Africa 15
France 10
Hong Kong SAR China 9
Malaysia 9
Denmark 8
Colombia 7
Ireland 7
Hungary 6
Mexico 6
Pakistan 6
Taiwan 6
Thailand 6
Argentina 5
Spain 5
Sweden 5
Puerto Rico 4
Switzerland 4
United Arab Emirates 4
Finland 3
Greece 3
Kenya 3
Netherlands 3
Nigeria 3
Poland 3
Russia 3
Slovenia 3
Tanzania 3
Ukraine 3
Bangladesh 2
Belgium 2
Ethiopia 2
Japan 2
Norway 2
Slovakia 2
South Korea 2
Sri Lanka 2
Turkey 2
Botswana 1
Burundi 1
China 1
Costa Rica 1
Czech Republic 1
Egypt 1 (*)
European Union 1
Fiji 1
Guam 1
Israel 1 (*)
Latvia 1
Macedonia 1
Nepal 1
New Zealand 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1
Vietnam 1 (**)

Egypt and Israel were single-reader countries in June. Vietnam’s been a single-reader country two months running. I’m surprised to have so few New Zealand readers. And I continue to wonder if the Philippines aren’t reading me by some mistake. Again, I’m not one to turn away readers. It’s just that I write a blog here that’s very steeped in contemporary United States culture and I’m surprised anyone else would me relevant.


By the start of August I had published 79 posts on the year, with a total of 77,108 words. 9,656 of those words were published in July. That’s an average of 878 words per post in July. It’s an average 976 words per post for all of 2019 so far. At the start of July my average post for the year had been 992 words.

For 2019 through the start of August I’d recorded 348 likes, an average of 4.4 likes per posting. That’s slightly down from the start of July’s 4.5 likes per posting. There’d been 136 comments recorded, an average of 1.7 comments per posting. That’s an increase from the average 1.5 comments per posting logged at the start of July. But that count includes some pingbacks, the bits where one post refers to another.

As of the start of August I’ve posted 1,281 things to this blog. They had recorded 81,223 page views, from a logged 41,759 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader I’d be glad to have you. There’s a “Follow Nebusresearch” button in the upper right corner of this page. Clicking it will add my posts to your WordPress Reader. If you don’t want to read through WordPress, you can use any RSS reader you like. The feed is https://nebusresearch.wordpress.com/feed/ and please use it.

I’m @nebusj on Twitter, and each post gets an announcement there. It also gets announcements of my humor blog’s posts. Those might not be to your taste, but, you don’t know for sure until you read some. And I do at least try to start the month with rabbit pictures.

How June 2019 Treated My Mathematics Blog


The amazing thing to consider is that anyone had anything to do with my mathematics blog in June. Apart from last month’s review-of-my-readership and a post pointing out some stuff I’d written about counting goldfish, all my posts were Reading the Comics. Those are fine, of course. They’re popular and they keep me writing even when I’m feeling burned out. But they’re also reactive pieces; I feel a certain passivity when I write them. What I’m saying is I’m gathering the energies to do a new A To Z sequence and so I’ll be bothering my art supplier soon for some fresh banners and the like.

So in June 2019 I posted nine things, my lowest in a long while. I’m of the unshakable belief that the number of things I post is the biggest factor I can control regarding how much anyone reads my writings. So how did that affect my readership?

Bar chart showing slightly over four years of monthly readership totals, which were generally growing above a thousand readers per month until the last three months when things started declining.
I’m glad I worked out how to look at several years’ worth of statistics at one time, rather than the maybe two years WordPress wants to show by default. It gives such a greater sense of the sweep of history of readership around here, which encourages me to panic that my most popular days are behind me and all I have to look forward to is burnout and the evaporation of my few remaining intersted readers.

911 page views for June, from a reported 595 unique visitors. This is down from May’s 981 page views and 721 visitors for ten posts. And April’s 1,020 views and 668 visitors for twelve posts. This actually implies a slightly improved view-per-post ratio as I publish less stuff. I think this is an artifact of my having a couple things in the back catalogue that always get read, though, regardless of any new material I have.

Still, this is appreciably below the twelve-month average of 1344.4 views. And way below the twelve-month average of 829.6 unique visitors. It’s a bit above the mean views-per-post, at least. Also the mean viewers-per-post. That’s, again, probably an artifact of older posts.

Because, after all, look at what the most popular posts were in June. This includes a three-way-tie for the fifth-most-popular post:

There were 40 ‘likes’ given in June, down from May’s 43 and back to April’s 40. It’s below the twelve-month average of 66.8, though. It’s even below the twelve-month average of likes-per-posting, too. There were eleven comments in June, under May’s twelve and April’s 14. The twelve-month average is 24.7, so, there we go. At least an A To Z offering typically gets people eager to suggest topics.

Incidentally there were 158 posts that got at least one view in June. This apart from the front page which is what the greatest number of people or people-like Internet objects look at. There were 163 posts that got at least one view in May.

54 countries or things like countries. 61 did in May. In June? 57. So that all seems to be holding steady. There were 17 single-reader countries in June, one more than in April and in May. Which all countries were they? These all:

Mercator-style map of the world with the United States in the darkest red, reflecting my readership being greatest in that country. Most of the Americas and Western Europe are in a lighter red, as are India, New Zealand, and Australia. Plus Russia and Japan, somehow, as well as a smattering of other nations.
Victoria II challenge: create this sphere of influence for the United States. Expert level: by 1870.
Country Readers
United States 551
India 50
Philippines 39
United Kingdom 38
Canada 30
Australia 16
Germany 14
Netherlands 14
Singapore 11
Hong Kong SAR China 10
Brazil 9
Malaysia 9
France 7
Italy 7
Finland 6
Spain 6
Sweden 6
Switzerland 6
Denmark 5
Norway 5
Pakistan 5
South Africa 5
Japan 4
Nepal 4
Estonia 3
Indonesia 3
New Zealand 3
Poland 3
Puerto Rico 3
Greece 2
Guam 2
Hungary 2
Ireland 2
Mexico 2
Peru 2
Portugal 2
Russia 2
Slovenia 2
Turkey 2
Ukraine 2
Argentina 1
Bangladesh 1 (*)
Belize 1
Bermuda 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Chile 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Czech Republic 1
Egypt 1
Iraq 1
Israel 1
Mongolia 1
Sri Lanka 1
Taiwan 1 (*)
United Arab Emirates 1
Venezuela 1
Vietnam 1 (*)

Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Venezuela were single-reader countries in May. No other place is on a single-reader streak like that. I seem to be back to being ignored by Scandinavian countries.

The start of July saw my having made 68 posts here this year, for a collective 67,452 words. This is an average of 992 words per post. This was 9,581 words in June. I’m averaging, so far this year, 992 words per post. At the start of June my average was 981 words per post. My average was 953 words per post at the start of May. I, too, would be interested when this implies my average post will exceed all finite numbers of words. I’m not figuring that mess out.

Through the start of July there’ve been a total of 304 likes, an average of 4.5 likes per posting this year. That’s the same number of average likes per posting as the last two months had seen. There were a total of 105 comments recorded, an average of 1.5 comments per posting, once again the same as at the start of June and of May. This means the Insight panel tells me there were 14 comments on the month, while the statistics panel claims there were 11. There was a similar discrepancy in May, when one panel claimed I had 17 comments and another claimed 12. I think this has to reflect pingbacks, one post referencing another.

As of the start of July I’ve posted 1,270 items to this blog. They’ve attracted a total 79,855 page views — I just passed 80,000 hours ago — from 40,879 acknowledged unique visitors. There are probably more unique visitors, but WordPress did not gather those statistics for us the first years of this blog.

If you’d like to be a regular reader of my writings, please add my blog to your RSS reader. Your reading won’t show up in any data I’m able to track. If you would like to follow my writing in a way that I know happens, use the “Follow Nebusresearch” button at the upper right corner of this page.

And on Twitter I’m @Nebusj, and there I post links to every new essay as it gets published. Also I try at the start of each month to post pairs of rabbit pictures. It’s not much of a thing, but it is a thing. I think that well explains what to expect from me as a writer.

What I Learned Doing My 2018 Mathematics A To Z


I have a tradition at the end of an A To Z sequence of looking back and considering what I learned doing it. Sometimes this is mathematics I’ve learned. At the risk of spoiling the magic, I don’t know as much as I present myself as knowing. I’ll often take an essay topic and study up before writing, and hope that I look competent enough that nobody seriously questions me. Yes, I thought I was a pretty good student journalist back in the day, and harbored fantasies of doing that for a career. This before I went on to fantasize about doing mathematics. Still; I also learn things about writing in doing a big writing project like this. And now I’ve had some breathing space to sit and think. I can try finding out what I thought.

Cartoon of a thinking coati (it's a raccoon-like animal from Latin America); beside him are spelled out on Scrabble titles, 'MATHEMATICS A TO Z', on a starry background. Various arithmetic symbols are constellations in the background.
Art by Thomas K Dye, creator of the web comics Newshounds, Something Happens, and Infinity Refugees. His current project is Projection Edge. And you can get Projection Edge six months ahead of public publication by subscribing to his Patreon. And he’s on Twitter as @Newshoundscomic.

The major differences between this A To Z and those of past years was scheduling. Through 2017 I’d done A To Z’s posted three days a week. This is a thrilling schedule. It makes it easy to have full weeks, even full months, with some original posting every day. I can tell myself that the number of posts doesn’t matter. It’s the quality that does. It doesn’t work. I tend toward compulsive behavior and a-post-a-day is so gratifying.

But I also knew that the last quarter of 2018 would be busy and I had to cut something down. Some of that is Reading the Comics posts. Including pictures of each comic I discuss adds considerably to the production time. This is not least because I feel I can’t reasonably claim Fair Use of the comics without writing something of more substance. Moving files around and writing alt-text for the images also takes time. But the time can be worth it. Doing that has sometimes made me think longer, or even better, about the comics.

So switching to two-a-week seemed the thing to do. It would spread the A To Z over three months, but that’s not bad. I figured to prove out whether that schedule worked. If I could find one that let me do possibly several A To Z sequences in a year that’d be wonderful too. I’ve only done that once, so far, in 2016, but I think the exercise is always good if exhausting for me.

This completely failed to save time. I had fewer things to write, but somehow, I only wrote more. All my writing’s getting longer as I go on, yes. Last year my average post exceeded a thousand words, though, and that counts Reading the Comics and pointers to things I’ve been reading and all that. There’s a similar steady expansion going on in my humor blog. Possibly having more time between essays encouraged me to write longer for each. Work famously expands to fit the time available, and having as many as three full days to write, rather than one, might be dangerous. For the first time in an A To Z I never got ahead of myself. I would, at best, be researching and making notes for the next essay while waiting for the current one to post. There’s value in dangerous writing. But I don’t like that as a habit.

Another scheduling change was in how I took topic suggestions. In the past I’d thrown the whole alphabet open at once. This time I broke the alphabet into a couple of pieces, and asked for about one-quarter at a time. This, overall, worked. For one, it gave me more chances to talk about the A To Z. Talking about something is one of the non-annoying ways to advertise a thing. And I think it helped a greater variety of people suggest topics. I did have more collisions this time around, letters for which several people suggested different ideas. That’s a happy situation to have. Thinking of what to write is the hard part; going on about a topic someone else named? That’s easy. So I’ll certainly keep that.

I did write some about maybe doing supplementary pieces, based on topics I didn’t use for the main line. Might yet do that, perhaps under rules where I do one a week, or limit myself to 700 words, or something like that. It might be worth doing a couple just to have a buffer against weeks that there’s no comic strips worth discussing. Or to head off gaps next time around, although that would spoil some letters for people.

Also I completely ran out of ‘X’ topics, and went with the 90s alternative of “extreme”. There are plenty of “extreme” things in mathematics I could write about. But that feels a bit chintzy to do too often.

This time around I changed focus on many of my essays. It wasn’t a conscious thing, not to start with. But I got to writing more about the meaning and significance and cultural import of topics, rather than definitions or descriptions of the use of things. This is a natural direction to go for a topic like Fermat’s Last Theorem, or the Infinite Monkey Theorem, or mathematics jokes. I liked the way those pieces turned out, though, and tried doing more of it. This likely helped the essays grow so long. Context demands space, after all. And more thinking. Thinking’s the hard part of writing, but it’s also fun, because when you’re thinking about a subject you aren’t typing any specific words.

But it’s probably a worthwhile shift. For a pop mathematics blog to describe what makes something a “smooth” function is all right. But it’s not a story unless it says why we should care. That’s more about context than about definitions, which anyone could get by typing ‘mathworld smooth’ into DuckDuckGo. For all the trouble this causes me, it’s the way to go.

Every good lesson carries its opposite along, though. One of the requests this time around was about Lord Kelvin. There’s no end of things you can write about him: he did important work in basically every field of science and mathematics as the 19th century knew it. It’s easy to start writing about his work and never stop. I did the opposite, taking one tiny and often-overlooked piece and focusing on that. I’m not sure it alone would convince anyone of Kelvin’s exhaustive greatness. But I don’t imagine anyone interested in reading a single essay on Kelvin would never read a second one. It seems to me a couple narrow-focus essays help in that context. Seeing more of one detail gives scale to the big picture.

I’ve done just the one A To Z the last two years. There’s surely an optimal rate for doing these. The sequences are usually good for my readership. My experience, tracking monthly readership figures, suggests that just posting more often is good for my readership. They’re also the thing I write that most directly solicits reader responses. They’re also exhausting. The last several letters are always a challenge. The weeks after a sequence is completed I collapse into a little recuperative bubble. So I want to do these as much as I can without burning out on the idea. Also without overloading Thomas Dye, who’s been so good as to make the snappy banners for these pieces. He has his own projects, including the web comic Projection Edge, to worry about. More than once a year is probably sustainable. I may also want to stack this with hosting the Playful Mathematics Education Blog Carnival again, if I’m able to this year.

Deep down, though, I think the best moment of my Fall 2018 A To Z might have been in the first. I wrote about asymptotes and realized I could put in ordinary words why they were a thing worth having. If I could have three insights like that a year I’d be a great mathematics writer.

I put a roster of things written up in this A To Z at this page. The Summer 2015 A To Z essays should be here. The essays from the Leap Day 2016 A To Z essays are at this link. The essays from the End 2016 A To Z essays are here. Those from the Summer 2017 A To Z sequence are at this link. And I should keep using the A-To-Z tag, so all of these, and any future A To Z essays, should appear at this link. Thank you for reading along.

How August 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


And with the start of the month it’s my chance to do my usual self-examination. In this I look over what was popular, and how popular, and draw no usable conclusions from this. The month didn’t end as I had hoped, owing to family matters. But then nothing ever does quite go as one hopes. We just have to carry on anyway. But looking over WordPress’s review of readership around here:

August 2018 statistics: 1,421 views. 913 visitors. 1.56 views per visitor. 14 posts published.
I’m a little surprised to have had fourteen posts. I was pulled away from my writing the last week of the month so thought I would just have a gap.

Huh. August was a busy month, with 1,421 recorded page views. The last several months had been 1,058 and 1,077. This is the third-highest number of page views since April of 2016 at least. And that’s from 913 unique visitors, which is the second-highest number of unique visitors I’ve got on record. (March 2018 continues to taunt me with 999 unique visitors.) People found something they liked.

They liked 57 things, which compares to July’s 37 by being larger. It’s still an anemic total, though. June had 94 likes, and even that is way down from a year ago. August 2017 had 147 likes. And there was a time there’d be 345 likes in a month. That time was April 2016. Comments drifted slightly downward, to 27 from July’s 28 or June’s 30. I count that as holding still, anyway. As ever, I need to do better writing things that encourage responses.

The roster of most popular articles suggests that I’m catching on as a reference for the record-groove counting problem. Just under 200 page views were of that alone. The next-most-popular piece had only 67 views. Don’t think I’m not considering studying power-law scaling of my posts. If you have no idea what I’m on about, don’t worry. I may get to it. But here’s the most popular posts for the past month:

I’m still taking nominations for the A-To-Z, by the way, and shall be for a while yet. Also, discussions of fun mathematics which don’t fit the A-To-Z format may yet belong in the Mathematics Blog Carnival, to appear here at the end of September. Please let me know of anything that’s educational or playful or just fun that you’d like to see shared with more people. Can be your own writing; can be something you think more people should know.

What countries of the world, plus the European Union, sent me readers in August? And how many? Here’s the official roster as WordPress make it out.

Country Readers
United States 802
Philippines 232
Canada 52
Turkey 44
India 40
United Kingdom 31
Australia 30
European Union 26
France 18
Germany 12
Bhutan 8
Italy 7
Singapore 7
Belgium 6
Czech Republic 6
Netherlands 6
Peru 6
Puerto Rico 6
Spain 6
Israel 5
Pakistan 5
Sweden 5
Brazil 4
Finland 4
Mexico 4
New Zealand 4
Nigeria 4
Norway 4
Algeria 3
Indonesia 3
South Africa 3
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Denmark 2
Malaysia 2
Vietnam 2
Argentina 1
Austria 1 (*)
Chile 1
Colombia 1
Egypt 1
Estonia 1
Ethiopia 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Ireland 1 (*)
Latvia 1
Luxembourg 1
Panama 1
Portugal 1
Romania 1 (*)
Slovenia 1
Sri Lanka 1

They list 52 countries sending me any readers. This is the same as in July. There were 16 single-reader countries, again the same as in July. I know, I’m worried I made a mistake with the data too. Ah, but here. Austria, Ireland, and Romania are on two-month streaks as single-reader countries. Nobody’s been on the roster more than two months in a row. Serbia just missed the half-year milestone.

The Insights panel would have me believe I started September on 66,380 page views, from 32,601 recorded unique visitors. I’ll go along with that gag. For the year to date, I’ve posted — well, I forgot to take a snapshot of the data before Sunday’s Reading the Comics post published. If we pretend the 2nd of September was part of August, though, then: I’ve had 105 posts so far this year; 14 in August and 15 in the Greater August that included this past Sunday. I’ve accumulated 269 total comments, for an average of 2.6 comments per post. This is the same average I had at the start of August. I gathered a total of 633 likes, for an average of 6.0 likes per post this year. Start of August I’d had 6.4 likes per post. Counting Sunday’s post I had 97,634 total words published so far this year, 14,551 of them in August. In July I had 14,032 words in only twelve posts. My words-per-post average is up to 930. Start of August it had drifted down to 885.3.

If you’d like to read my posts you’ve got options. They all involve reading, though. Maybe having them read to you. But all my posts are available by RSS feed. If you like the WordPress reader, there’s a button at the upper-right corner of the page. And if you’d like to see messages announced on Twitter, I’m @Nebusj there. And yes, I am sniffing around Mathstodon.xyz, the mathematics-themed instance of the Twitter-like social site Mastodon. Just browsing its public feed can be fun. There’s a mix of people sharing neat stuff they ran across, little puzzles that’ve been bothering them, and legitimate current research. I do not have an account there and might not make one at all. But I’m thinking about whether I ought. Will tell you if and when I do.

How May 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


And now the easiest post I write all month: my review of what my readership looked like the past 31 days. I have to admit once more I’m not satisfied with my writership. I didn’t get some projects going that I wanted; but that’s all right. I’ve got five big ideas in mind for the coming several months. Thinking up what to do is always the hard part, other than actually doing it. So that’s my part. Now on to your, the readers’, part. Here I pause while savoring my last moments of not knowing the response was bad.

Oh, how about that. It wasn’t bad. It was even good. Readership was back up in May, rising to 1,274 page views all told. This ties with January for the second-greatest number of readers so far this year. It’s a fair bit up from April’s 1,117. Down from March’s 1,779, but what wouldn’t be? The number of unique visitors rose too, to 837. That’s below March’s tantalizing 999, but up from April’s 731. I did post 12 pieces in May, compared to 11 in April, and 16 in March. I suspect that the number of posts published is the only thing in my control that can influence readership numbers.

A bar chart of readership figures, mostly circling around 1,000 readers per month with a spike two months ago.
Of course the real information is in the Views Per Visitor statistic, but I don’t know what it means.

I can say what people were looking for. The most popular post of the month was, once again, about the number of grooves on a record’s side. I think it’s been getting more popular lately. This shows the power of uploading a better picture of that Buggles album cover, I suppose. The five top posts of the month:

So it’s worth spending some time improving the graphics for my crushingly detailed examination of the area of trapezoids. Writing blogs always say use quality graphics for your articles and it turns out they’re so right.

I struggle still with reader engagement, and I understand that. A lot of what I write is in improv terms hard to advance. I need to be better at writing open things that encourage response. There were a mere 17 comments in May, improved from April’s 13 but still not much at all, especially compared to March’s 53. Which still isn’t great but is something. There were 73 things liked in May, the same number as in April. And way down from March’s 142.

What countries sent me readers? Mostly the United States, as always. But here’s the full roster:

Country Readers
United States 915
Canada 60
India 59
United Kingdom 36
Australia 21
Germany 12
Puerto Rico 11
Denmark 10
Philippines 10
Singapore 10
Malaysia 9
Slovenia 9
Indonesia 8
New Zealand 7
South Africa 7
Israel 6
Spain 6
Brazil 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Italy 5
Switzerland 5
Sweden 4
Vietnam 4
Greece 3
Ireland 3
Norway 3
Russia 3
Albania 2
Belgium 2
Ghana 2
Japan 2
Pakistan 2
Slovakia 2
Thailand 2
Turkey 2
Algeria 1
Austria 1
Brunei 1
Costa Rica 1
Egypt 1
European Union 1
Finland 1 (*)
France 1
Jamaica 1
Kuwait 1
Mauritius 1
Morocco 1
Netherlands 1
Poland 1
Qatar 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1 (**)
South Korea 1
Sri Lanka 1
Saint Kitts & Nevis 1 (*)
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Ukraine 1

That’s 58 countries which sent me readers over the month. That’s three months in a row the total’s been 58 countries so I assume WordPress is just making these numbers up and figures 58 looks about right. Not suspiciously few, not suspiciously many. We’ll see.

There were 22 single-reader countries. That’s different at least; in April there were 14, and in March 15. Finland and Saint Kitts & Nevis were single-reader countries in April also. Serbia’s been single-reader for three months running now.

The Insights panel tells me that for 2018 so far I’ve had 66 posts, and have accumulated a total of 443 likes and 161 comments. There’s 55,677 total words. This means I published 10,836 total words over the month, which is more than I did in April. I thought I was tired. My year’s average right now is 843.6 words per post; at the end of April that was 830.4. My posts for May alone averaged 903 words. The April posts averaged 772. I knew I was getting more verbose. There’s 2.4 comments and 6.7 likes on average for the post. At the end of April this was 3.5 comments and 6.9 likes per post.

The month officially starts with 62,824 pages viewed from a tracked 30,339 unique visitors. I’ve officially got 759 WordPress visitors, who’re following through their Readers page. I’d be glad if you joined them: you can use the button at the upper-right corner of this page to follow via WordPress. You can also see me as @Nebusj on Twitter. And if you’d prefer you can follow the RSS feed for my posts. If you do that I get absolutely no information about what you read or how interesting you find it, and that’s fine by me.

We ended up putting 38 goldfish back in the pond. The reader with long-term memory may remember we brought 52 in. The fish had a hard winter, one afflicted by water quality issues and feeding issues. We’re trying to recover emotionally, and to work out a plan for better fish care next winter.

How March 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


Well, one thing I know to post this week is my review of what my readership was like in March. Let me go see what WordPress will tell me about that.

Huh.

Not at all sure what happened there but it looks like I might’ve just had my best month ever. WordPress tells me there were 1,779 page views in March, way up from February’s 1,062 and January’s 1,274. Also it tells me this came from what I’m sure is a record 999 unique visitors and now that’s going to drive me crazy for like ever. There were 611 unique visitors in February and 670 in January. I am not positive but think my previous records were in March 2016 (1,557 views) and April 2016 (757 visitors). That’s on 16 essays posted, up from the 13 in February and 14 in January.

A bar chart showing the 1,779 page views and 999 visitors from March 2018, and lower numbers for other months going back to November 2015.
Is this self-indulgent? No; I’ve learned that people are much more interested in posts when there’s any picture, however unimportant, attached. This is self-serving, an important difference.

Had 53 comments made around here in March, my best since the glory days of early 2016. February saw 30 and January 39 comments and oh I did my best to keep caught up, but it’s hard. There were 143 things liked over the month; that’s up from February’s 102 and January’s 112. Greatest number since August 2017 and my last round of A To Z work.

I don’t know precisely what drew so many readers in, as in, why many people were looking for this. But I know what they were looking for. The most popular, by far, essay this month drew 279 page views. I have to guess some forum found the answer to years of argument and posted a link to settle the issue. The top five:

Insights for the year tell me that (as of the 3rd of April, anyway) I’ve had 44 total posts, with 120 total comments and 301 total likes. There’s 36,347 words posted so far in the year, and an average of 826 words per post. I’m averaging 2.7 comments per post, and averaging 6.8 likes per post. This is dangerous stuff to consider: at the start of March I averaged 2.8 comments per post, but a mere 6.7 likes. In fairness, there’s some comments I need to respond to and just haven’t had the chance; Easter and a pinball event ate up a lot of time.

So what countries are sending me readers, suspecting or otherwise? This bunch:

Country Readers
United States 1,278
Canada 72
United Kingdom 52
India 42
Philippines 37
Singapore 28
Austria 24
Switzerland 21
Brazil 20
Hong Kong SAR China 20
Sweden 20
South Africa 18
Australia 16
Denmark 14
Romania 11
Italy 7
Norway 7
Germany 5
South Korea 5
Algeria 4
Belgium 4
Ireland 4
Spain 4
Thailand 4
Argentina 3
Czech Republic 3
Malaysia 3
New Zealand 3
Poland 3
Puerto Rico 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Egypt 2
Estonia 2
European Union 2
Finland 2
Kenya 2
Kuwait 2
Netherlands 2
Pakistan 2
Portugal 2
Qatar 2
Russia 2
Turkey 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Belize 1
Croatia 1
Ecuador 1
France 1
Greece 1
Israel 1 (*)
Japan 1
Kyrgyzstan 1
Laos 1
Latvia 1
Lebanon 1
Mexico 1
Serbia 1
Ukraine 1
Venezuela 1

That’s 58 countries, up from February’s 54. There’s 15 single-reader countries, down one from February. Israel’s keeps me from having a clean break in the single-reader country streak; there was just the one reader from there in February too. April starts with a logged 60,445 visits, from an admitted 28,781 unique visitors.

If you’d like to follow NebusResearch regularly, please do. There’s a button at the upper-right of the page to add this to your WordPress Reader page. You can also follow me as @Nebusj on Twitter, where I routinely post announcements of new essays here and on my humor blog. (The humor blog normally posts between 7 and 9 pm Eastern Time; the mathematics blog, typically, between 1 and 3 pm Eastern Time.) If you’d rather use your RSS reader here’s the feed for that.

If you’d like posts e-mailed to you as they’re made … I’m sorry, I can’t take signups for that just now. I noticed a weird and large number of signups from people, from addresses that were a bunch of random words followed by four digits and all from outlook.com. I don’t know what angle they’re working but that’s got to be some spammer nonsense going on. So that’s turned off for a while at least. If you’re one of the nearly four people who’ve taken out e-mail subscriptions hold on to those accounts! They’re sure to be worth something someday. It’s not necessary to bag them in mylar just yet, but feel free to do that if you think it’ll be fun.

How February 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


It was a less riotously popular month here in February than it was in January. I’d like to blame the shortness of February, but that isn’t it. I know. I’ve got statistics.

The big one that I worry excessively over: total page views. 1,062 of them in February, down from January’s 1,274 but up from December 2017’s 899. And hey, anything above a thousand feels gratifying enough. The count of unique visitors dropped to 611. It had been at 670 in January, but then it was at 599 in December. I’m working on stuff that might affect this. We’ll see. I’d wondered if the readership drop might entirely represent February being such a short month. But WordPress’s insights page lets me know the average number of pages viewed per day. 41 in January (part of a three-way tie for third-highest, alongside September 2017 and November 2015). 38 in February. Still, not bad for a month that went by without a major overarching theme to pull people back in.

It was still a pretty likable month: 102 things clicked on over the course of the month. Down from January’s 112, but still, well ahead of December’s 71. It’s still in the range of liked-essays that I haven’t seen since the last A To Z project. There were 30 comments, once more down from January’s total (39) but up from December’s (24). It seems obvious that all these three data points should track together, although I’ve never tested that and maybe I could have some fun rambling about curve-fitting with it.

Oh, for the one data point wholly within my control: I posted 13 things in February. 14 in January. 11 in December, which was an awful month. (We haven’t found our next rabbit yet. I’ve been gently calling this one rescue every couple days to mention how the person fostering a Flemish Giant we find appealing hasn’t called us back to set a time when we might meet. I have a suspicion the person fostering has decided to quietly adopt the rabbit. And that’s fine, but not being told that gets in the emotional way of looking elsewhere.)

So what all was popular? … Pretty much what I would have guessed without knowing anything about the month:

I’m kind of seriously thinking to take some time off this month and just improve the graphics of the Record Grooves and the Trapezoids articles. And I’m always tickled when what amounts to a self-reblog, like the buy-a-theorem post, comes out more popular than the original post it references. I’m also thinking about setting some day aside to just reblog something from my archives.

What countries sent me readers? This bunch, says WordPress.

Country Readers
United States 703
Canada 47
United Kingdom 44
India 42
Philippines 42
Australia 14
Sweden 14
Singapore 12
France 9
Germany 9
Mexico 8
Pakistan 8
Brazil 6
Puerto Rico 6
Slovenia 6
Netherlands 5
Turkey 5
Algeria 4
Hungary 4
Italy 4
Spain 4
Bulgaria 3
Finland 3
Greece 3
Indonesia 3
Nepal 3
New Zealand 3
Portugal 3
South Africa 3
Switzerland 3
Belgium 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Japan 2
Mongolia 2
Romania 2
South Korea 2
Taiwan 2
Uruguay 2
Bahamas 1
Bangladesh 1
Barbados 1
Costa Rica 1
Cyprus 1
Denmark 1
Egypt 1
European Union 1
Ireland 1 (*)
Israel 1
Kenya 1
Lebanon 1
Mozambique 1
Poland 1
Russia 1 (**)
United Arab Emirates 1

That’s 54 countries altogether, if we don’t ask serious questions about the European Union and, for that matter, Hong Kong or Puerto Rico. There’d been 50 countries give or take in January, and 53 in December. There were 16 single-reader countries in February, up from the 14 in January and 15 in December. Ireland was a single-reader country in January too. Russia’s been a single-reader country two months running. And otherwise there’s been a turnover in single-readership countries.

The Insights panel says March started with 58,654 page views here, from an admitted 27,772 unique viewers and aw, isn’t that sweet number? The insights panel is also threatening to ruin me as a person by giving me some new interesting year-to-date statistics. According to these, as of the 5th of March (I didn’t have the chance to check on the 1st, and I don’t know how to find a year-to-specified date) I’ve published 25,359 total words, at an average 845 words per post. 30 posts to date for the year. 207 total likes, 77 total comments. And an average of 2.6 comments and 6.9 likes per post. I just know I’m going to obsess on these, what with how they’re numbers that have decimal points. But this is way more interesting than tracking the most popular day and hour.

If you’d like to be among my readers, congratulations: you’re doing it now. You can follow in your WordPress reader by using the ‘Follow nebusresearch in Reader’ button near the center-right of this page. Or you can get the less-adequately-copy-edited versions delivered in e-mail, using the “follow blog via e-mail” button just underneath that. I’m @Nebusj on Twitter, and I’m closing in on my 10,000th tweet! So this is your chance to be there as it happens. Probably not this month. I’m not that chatty. But sometime.

What 2017 Looked Like To My Mathematics Blog


I do like doing a year-end recap of my readership. And WordPress seems not to be doing its annual little fireworks spectacular animated gif. This is a shame since this year, for the first time, I had two mathematics posts the same day and that would’ve been nice to see animated. (I had messed up the scheduled posting of one of the Summer 2017 A To Z, and had something else already planned to run that day, and it was either bump something too late or go ahead with two things on the same day.)

So what did readership look like for the whole year?

I published 164 posts in 2017, well down from 2016’s 213. 2016 had two A to Z sequences whereas 2017 had just the one. This was a median year for me. In 2015 I’d published 188 posts, and in 2014 a mere 129. In 2013 there were 106. (In 2012 there were 180, but that count is boosted by an experiment in also posting some space-history stuff that just didn’t fit the main content here.)

WordPress.com Traffic record for my blog in 2017. 12,214 views, 76,02 visitors, 1,094 likes, and 301 comments.
I started blogging here in late 2011. Sometime in late 2012 is when WordPress started tracking unique visitors so far as the let us know. 2018 is looking a bit flat but, you know, it’s got some promise of something or other, I like to think.

12,214 pages viewed over the 2017, which is down from 2016’s 12,851. Not very much, though, especially for how much less stuff I published. It’s a bit higher than 2015’s 11,241. I’m not sure what to make of basically flat numbers of page views over three years. Mostly I suspect, deep down, that not being able to easily read the Jumble puzzles, and occasionally include them in Reading the Comics posts, has hurt my readership and my engagement. If you know a good source for them, please, let me know.

The number of unique visitor has risen steadily, though. 2017 had the greatest number of distinct people stopping by, with 7,602 logged. In 2016 they were 7,168 in number, and in 2015 only 5,159. 2014 saw 3,382; 2013, 2,905 unique visitors. That’s a pretty dramatic growth in unique visitors per published post, a statistic that WordPress doesn’t keep and that’s of significance only because I can keep dividing things until I find some sort of trend line. Still, 2013 through 2015 it’s an almost constant 27 unique visitors per post, and then in 2016 that rose to 33 and then to 46.

The number of likes plummeted to 1,094. 2016 had seen 2,163, and 2015 — the first year I did an A to Z — some 3,273 things were liked. Comments similarly plummeted; there were 301 in 2017. 2016 saw 474, and 2015 some 822. I am not sure what I did right that first A to Z that I haven’t quite recaptured, or built upon.

For all that the 2015 through 2017 were the most-read years of my little blog here, the most popular pieces were from before that. The top five most-read posts were … well, three are ones I would have guessed. The other two surprised me:

This at least implies what to do: more polygons and game show riddles. The most popular piece from 2017 was What Would You Like In The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z?, my appealing for enough topics to write about for two months straight. (Blogging is never easier than when someone else gives you topics to write about.)

I got visitors from 113 nations of the world, says WordPress, and here they are:

Country Readers
United States 6973
United Kingdom 784
India 547
Canada 450
Philippines 442
Singapore 243
Australia 194
Austria 187
Germany 172
Turkey 135
Hong Kong SAR China 126
France 108
Spain 108
Brazil 107
Slovenia 104
Italy 93
Puerto Rico 78
Sweden 72
South Africa 63
Netherlands 47
Denmark 43
New Zealand 40
Switzerland 40
Thailand 37
Ireland 36
Argentina 33
Mexico 31
Israel 30
Romania 30
Russia 30
Belgium 29
Indonesia 29
Malaysia 28
Norway 26
South Korea 26
Poland 25
Japan 24
Bangladesh 21
Taiwan 20
Greece 18
Oman 17
US Virgin Islands 17
European Union 15
Finland 15
Portugal 15
Croatia 14
Pakistan 14
Ukraine 14
China 12
Colombia 12
Saudi Arabia 12
Slovakia 12
United Arab Emirates 12
Chile 11
Czech Republic 10
Nigeria 10
Uruguay 10
Bulgaria 9
Hungary 9
Vietnam 9
Kuwait 8
Egypt 7
Estonia 7
Belarus 6
Lebanon 6
Iceland 5
Jamaica 5
Nepal 5
Paraguay 5
Peru 5
Serbia 5
Venezuela 5
Cambodia 4
Costa Rica 4
Iraq 4
Saint Kitts & Nevis 4
Albania 3
Algeria 3
Armenia 3
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3
Cyprus 3
Kenya 3
Lithuania 3
Macedonia 3
Azerbaijan 2
Bahrain 2
Barbados 2
Ecuador 2
Georgia 2
Ghana 2
Jordan 2
Kazakhstan 2
Latvia 2
Luxembourg 2
Morocco 2
Northern Mariana Islands 2
Qatar 2
Sri Lanka 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Angola 1
Bahamas 1
Bermuda 1
Bhutan 1
Cape Verde 1
Ethiopia 1
Guam 1
Madagascar 1
Maldives 1
Malta 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Tunisia 1
Uganda 1
Zimbabwe 1

I understand being more read in countries where English is the primary language. Still seems like I had fewer readers from China than should’ve expected. I remember ages ago someone else (Elke Stangl?) mentioning a curious absence of readers from China and I’m curious whether others have observed this and, if so, what might be going on.

On the insights page WordPress tells me I had a total of 441 comments and 1,043 likes, which does not match what the traffic page was telling me. I wonder if the discrepancy in comments is about whether to count links from one posting to another, which are regarded as comments on the linked page. No idea how to explain the discrepancy in likes, though.

Insights says I got an average of three comments per post in 2017, and an average of six likes per post. At 153,483 words, in total, published that’s 936 words per post, on average. I’m curious what the statistics for earlier years were. I feel like I’m getting more longwinded, at least. (Also with 201,692 words on my humor blog this gives me a bit more than a third of a million words published last year. Not a bad heap of words.)

I am considering getting a proper, individual domain for my blog here. I confess I’ve never quite understood how being off on my own name would encourage more visitors than having a subdomain nestled under the wordpress.com label, but it seems to work for folks like Iva Sallay’s findthefactors.com. (Sallay also has two great hooks, between the puzzles and the lists of factors of whole numbers.) Maybe I just need to poke around it some more until the whole matter becomes irrelevant, and then I can act, wrongly.

How December 2017 Treated My Mathematics Journal


Before I even look at the statistics I can say: December 2017 treated my mathematics journal better than it treated me. A third of the way in, our pet rabbit died, suddenly and unexpectedly. And this was days short of a year from our previous pet rabbit’s death. So that’s the cryptic plan-scrambling stuff I had been talking about, and why my writing productivity dropped. We don’t know when we’ll take in a new rabbit (or rabbits). Possibly this month, although not until late in January at soonest.

And … well, thank you for the condolences that I honestly do not mean to troll for. I can’t say we’re used to the idea that we lost our rabbit so soon. It’s becoming a familiar thought is all.

Our pet rabbit on the beach, nibbling a flower and peering into the camera with one big, round eye.
Don’t let the endearing cast of his eye fool you. Given the chance, he’d steal your heart.

But to the blog contents. How did they, quantifiably, go?

I fell back below a thousand page views. Just under 900, too: 899 page views over the month, from 599 unique visitors, as if both numbers were trying to tease Price Is Right Item-Up-For-Bids offerings. That’s down from the 1,052 page views in November, but only technically down from the 604 unique visitors then. October had 1,069 page views from a basically-equal 614 unique visitors. And it turns out that while I thought I stopped writing stuff, especially after our rabbit’s death, I had 11 posts in the month. That’s low but in the normal range for a month that has no A-to-Z sequence going. Curious.

There were 71 pages liked around here in December. That’s technically up from November’s 70, but not really. It’s less technically up from October’s 64. Still makes me wonder what might have happened if I’d scraped together a 12th post for the month. And the other big measure of reader involvement? 24 comments posted in December, down from November’s 28 but above October’s 12. I may need to start offering bounties for interesting comments. Or, less ridiculously, start some open threads for people who want to recommend good blogs or books or Twitter threads they’ve found.

2018 starts with a total 56,318 page views from 26,491 tracked unique visitors. The numbers don’t look bad, although I keep running across those WordPress blogs that’s, like, someone who started posting an inspirational message once a week two months ago and has just broken a million page views and gets 242 likes on every post and wonder if it’s just me. It’s not.

How about the roster of nations? For that I figure there were 53 countries sending me readers in December, technically down from November’s 56 and technically up from October’s 51. There were 15 single-reader countries, down from November’s 22 but slightly above October’s 13. And who were they? These places:

Country Readers
United States 553
Canada 47
United Kingdom 41
India 35
Ireland 19
Philippines 16
Austria 13
Germany 12
Turkey 12
Australia 11
Sweden 9
Singapore 8
France 7
Italy 7
Slovenia 7
New Zealand 6
Spain 6
Indonesia 5
Norway 5
South Korea 5
Brazil 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Malaysia 4
Poland 4
Belgium 3
Denmark 3
Finland 3
Japan 3
Netherlands 3
Portugal 3
Taiwan 3
Thailand 3
Argentina 2
Colombia 2
Ecuador 2
Serbia 2
Slovakia 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Albania 1
Bangladesh 1
Croatia 1
Egypt 1
Israel 1
Jamaica 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Mexico 1 (*)
Peru 1 (*)
Romania 1 (*)
Russia 1
South Africa 1
Switzerland 1
Uruguay 1
Venezuela 1

Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, and Romania were also single-reader countries on November, and there’s no nation that’s on a three-month single-reader streak.

So what was the roster of popular posts for the month? My perennials, plus Reading the Comics, and some of that Wronski π stuff just squeaks in, tied for fifth place. What people wanted to read here was:

Have I got plans for January 2018? Yes, I have. Besides keeping on Reading the Comics, I hope to get through Wronski’s formula for π. I know there’s readers eager to find out what the punch line is. I know at least one has already worked it out and been surprised. And I’m hoping to work out a question about pinball tournaments that my love set me on. I’ve done a little thinking about the issue, and don’t believe the results, so I’m hoping to think some more and then make my computer do a bunch of simulations. Could be fun.

And I’ll be spending it hoping that you, the reader, are around. If you’re here now there’s a good chance you’re reading this. If you’d like to follow on your WordPress reader, there’s a ‘Follow on WordPress’ button in the upper right corner of the page. If you’d rather get it by e-mail, before I’ve made corrections to things that are only obviously wrong two minutes after publication, there’s the ‘Follow by e-mail’ button near that. And if you’d like to follow me on Twitter, try @Nebusj. I’m currently running only like four weeks behind on responding to follow-up tweets or direct messages, which is practically living a year in the future compared to my e-mail. Thanks for being here.

The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: What I Learned


I’ve in the past done essays about what I’ve taken away from an A to Z project. Please indulge me with this.

Summer 2017 Mathematics A to Z, featuring a coati (it's kind of the Latin American raccoon) looking over alphabet blocks, with a lot of equations in the background.
Art courtesy of Thomas K Dye, creator of the web comic Newshounds. He has a Patreon for those able to support his work. He’s also open for commissions, starting from US$10.

The big thing I learned from the Summer 2017 A To Z, besides that it would have been a little better started two weeks earlier? (I couldn’t have started it two weeks earlier. July was a frightfully busy month. As it was I was writing much too close to deadline. Starting sooner would have been impossible.)

Category theory, mostly. Many of the topics requested had some category theory component. Next would be tensors and tensor-related subjects. This is exciting and dangerous. Neither’s a field I know well. Both are fields I want to know better. It’s a truism that to really learn an advanced subject you have to teach a course in it. That’s how I picked up what I know about signal processing and about numerical quantum mechanics. Still, it’s perilous, especially when I would realize the subject asked-for wasn’t what I faintly remembered had been asked for, and that I’d been composing an essay for in my head for a week already.

Also, scheduling. The past A To Z sequences were relatively low-stress things for me. I could get as many as six essays ahead of what I needed to post. That’s so comfortable a place to be. This time around, I was working much closer to deadline, with some pieces needing major rewriting as few as fifteen hours before my posting hour. More needed minor editing the day of posting. There’s several causes for this. But the biggest is that I wrote much longer this time. Past A To Z sequences could have at least a couple essays that were a few paragraphs. This time around I don’t think any piece came in at under a thousand words, and the default was getting to be around 1500 words. I don’t think I broke 2,000 words, but I came close.

That’s fine, because the essays came out great. This has been the A To Z sequence I’m proudest of, so far. They’re the ones that make me think my father’s ever-supportive assurance that I could put these into a book that people would give me actual money for can be right. Still, the combination of writing about stuff I had to research more first and writing longer pieces made the workload more than I’d figured on. When I get to doing this again — and I will, when the exhaustion’s faded enough from memory — I will need more lead time between asking for topics and starting to write. And will need to freeze topics farther in advance than I did this time. I still suspect my father’s too supportive to say I could get money for this. But it’s a less unrealistic thought than I had figured before.

Also learned: hire an artist! I got a better-banner-than-I-paid-for from Thomas K Dye for this series. His work added a snappy bit of visual appeal to my sentence heaps. I’d also gotten from him a banner for the Why Stuff Can Orbit sequence, which I mean to resume now that I have some more writing time. But the banners give a needed bit of unity to my writing, and the automatically-generated Twitter announcements of these posts, and that’s helped the look of the place. Something like nine-tenths of the people I know online are visual artists of one kind or another. (The rest are writers, my siblings, and my mother.) I should be making reasons to commission them. For example, if I want to describe something too complicated to do in words alone I should turn it over to them. Remember, I don’t do the few-pictures thing because I’m a good writer. It’s because I’m too lazy to make an illustration myself. A bit of money can be as good as effort.

Speaking of effort, between the A To Z essays and Reading the Comics posts, and a couple miscellaneous other pieces, I wrote five to six thousand words per week for two months. That’s probably not sustainable indefinitely, but a slightly lower pace? And for a specific big project? It’s good to know that’s something I can do, albeit possibly by putting this blog on hold.

Learned to my personal everlasting humiliation: I spelled “Klein Bottle” wrong. Fortunately, I only spelled it “Klien” in the title of the essay, so it sits there in my tweet publicizing the post and in the full-length URL to the post, forever. I’ll recover, I hope.

How June 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’m a little behind my usual review of the month’s readership and what’s popular around here, but I have good reason for it: I was busy earlier this week. Expect to be busy next week, too. Really, it’s going to be a bit of a mad month so do please watch this spot next week when I unleash some extra madness on myself. Thank you.

So. Readers in June 2017: how many did I have? Disappointingly few of them, it turns out. Only 878, down from the 1029 in May and 994 in April. Heck, that’s not even close to what I had been running in previous months. Not sure what happened there. Maybe it’s everybody getting out of (US) schools and not needing comic strips read to them anymore. The number of unique visitors fell too, to 542 down from May’s 662 and April’s 696. It’s not a phenomenon related to the number of things posted, either; I had 13 posts in June versus 12 in May, and 13 in April, and 12 in March, which suggests that July I can take relatively easy, come to think of it. I finally had an uptick in the number of likes, at least, with that rising to 99 from the 78 of May and the 90 of April. I don’t think that’s statistically significant a difference, though. The number of comments also rose, but to only 13; that beats May’s 8, but April only had 16. Well, I have a scheme in mind to increase the number of comments too. You’ll know it when you see it. But, wow, a statistics page like that and I worry that I’ve passed my prime here.

The popular stuff around here was about what I’d expected: the count of grooves in a record, and a bunch of Reading the Comics posts. And then one of the supplemental pieces in my Why Stuff Can Orbit series, which was helped by Elke Stangl’s most gracious words about it. The top articles, since there was a three-way tie for fourth place:

Now the roster of the 52 countries that sent me readers in June, and how many each of them did. Spoiler: the United States tops the list.

Country Views
United States 472
Turkey 74
India 52
United Kingdom 40
Canada 38
Austria 23
Puerto Rico 17
Australia 16
Germany 15
Singapore 12
Brazil 11
China 9
France 7
Italy 7
Slovenia 7
Philippines 5
Norway 4
Spain 4
Switzerland 4
Argentina 3
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Israel 3
Netherlands 3
New Zealand 3
Russia 3
Sweden 3
Cambodia 2
Chile 2
Indonesia 2
Kenya 2
Malaysia 2
Poland 2
Saudi Arabia 2
South Africa 2
South Korea 2
Thailand 2
Azerbaijan 1
Bahrain 1
Bangladesh 1
Belgium 1 (*)
Colombia 1 (*)
Estonia 1
Ghana 1
Hungary 1
Ireland 1
Japan 1 (*)
Jordan 1
Macedonia 1
Mexico 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Portugal 1 (***)
Ukraine 1 (*)

I make that out as readers coming from 52 countries, same as in May and slightly more than there were in April. There were 16 single-reader countries in June, down from May’s 21 and up from April’s 10. Belgium, Colombia, Japan, and Ukraine have been single-reader countries for two months running now. Portugal is on a four-month single-reader streak. Hi, person from Portugal. I’m glad you like me a little bit. That’s better than not at all. I have no idea why I’m suddenly popular in Turkey.

The most popular day for posts was Sunday, with 18 percent of page views. That’s marginally up from 16 percent in May, but the same as April’s count. The most popular hour was 4 pm, when 14 percent of my page views came. I rather suspected that would happen; I tried moving the default posting time two hours earlier this past month and sure enough, the readers followed. People stop in here right after something’s posted or not much at all. Hm.

The mathematics blog started the month with 50,125 page views, so hey, finally broke 50,000! Nice. These came from something like 22,754 distinct viewers that WordPress is aware of existing.

WordPress’s report of what search terms people are looking for has collapsed into uselessness. About all it admits to people wanting in June, besides “unknown search terms”, were Jumble — I want it too, but can’t find a good source that just gives me the day’s puzzle in a static picture — and “concept of pythagorean theorem” and “short conversation to explain algebra”. The Pythagorean theorem I can do, but a short conversation to explain algebra? … Well, which kind of algebra? I suppose they don’t want the fun kinds. They never do.

The Insights panel thinks there are 666 WordPress.com followers to start the month. I can accept that. Not all of them seem to visit, but that might just be that they’re following me in their Readers rather than clicking individual links. I’ve given up on leaving a teaser of text out front and hiding the rest behind a click. That stuff might record, but nobody likes it, me included. If you’d like to follow this blog in your WordPress reader, there’s a little blue strip labelled “Follow nebusresearch” in the upper-right corner of the page. If you’d rather follow by e-mail, it’s under “Follow Blog Via Email” and don’t think I want a – in there. And I am on Twitter as well, as @Nebusj. That account sometimes gets into talking about non-mathematical stuff, including my humor blog which is a slightly more popular hangout, since I regularly explain what’s going on in the story strips. So if you looked at Mary Worth the last couple months and couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on, I can tell you: it’s CRUISE SHIPS. Only in more detail.

How May 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog


The big news is that in May my mathematics blog crept back above a thousand page views. It had been a whole month since it had reached this threshold of purely imaginary significance. For what was a slow writing month — only twelve posts — marred by my computer dying and a nasty cold the final week, the numbers aren’t bad.

In May there were 1,029 pages viewed here. That’s up from April’s 994 and March’s 1,026. The number of unique visitors is down for the third month running, though, down to 662 from April’s 696 and March’s 699. The happy implication: people reading more posts as they visit. You know, liking my writing more.

Views and Visitors for my mathematics blog, January 2015 through May 2017 with as much June as there's been so far. It's all been kind of stable, rocking back and forth around 1,000 views and like 650 visitors per month, for the past year or so.
I still feel like trying to rig up some compensation for that bizarre event back in … September 2015, wasn’t it? … when suddenly everybody’s statistics everywhere dropped and we blamed it on them no longer counting mobile devices. But if that were so, surely they’ve put them back? There’s no way the non-mobile-device readership is growing fast enough that these numbers should be about stable.

I’d think, anyway. There were 78 posts liked in May, down from April’s 90 and March’s 85. Not to pout or anything but WordPress does tell me that in June 2015 there were 518 likes around here and I can’t think, gosh, what was different then? … Well, it was one of my A To Z months, with posts 28 days of the month, and that usually encourages cross-reading. The number of comments just cratered, though: there were only 8 all month, down from 16 in April and 15 in May. Clearly I’m failing to encourage conversation and I don’t know how to turn that around.

The low comments count does confirm something for me, though. I switched the way I cross-link to posts here so that I use the full URLs for articles instead of the wp.me tinyURLs. The full URLs create trackback links and are regarded as comments that need approval from me, but they clearly don’t count as comments in the monthly totals. Since I like the trackback links — I fool myself into thinking people use them to learn about related subjects — I’ll stick with that. I had shifted so as not to confound my comment counts on these statistics pages.

According to Insights the most popular day for reading stuff was Thursday, with 16 percent of page views then. In April Sunday was the busiest day again with 16 percent of page views; in March it was 18 percent, on Tuesdays. I may give up on tracking this; obviously, each day is about equally likely to be the most popular. The most popular reading time was the hour of 6 pm, with 11 percent of page views coming before 7 pm. In April the same hour got 11 percent of page views again. In March it got 12 percent. I might experiment with the designated posting hour to find a more popular time, but obviously most people are going to read right after the thing is published.

So what was popular writing around here in April? I don’t want to say I knew this would happen, but one of the top five posts was one for which I wrote eleven words, and which I predicted to myself would be among the motnh’s top posts.

  1. How Many Grooves Are On A Record’s Side? People want simple answers to their questions.
  2. Reading the Comics, May 27, 2017: Panels Edition and I’m surprised this took the lead in the month’s Reading the Comics races, given how little time it had to do it.
  3. How Many Trapezoids I Can Draw as see above comment about people wanting answers
  4. Theorem Thursday: The Jordan Curve Theorem which I was thinking about at the mall on Thursday. Something or other made me think of it and how much I liked my description of how you prove the theorem.
  5. Dabbing and the Pythagorean Theorem which, really, I should do more like given how popular this kind of post is.

Now the roster of the 52 countries that sent me readers in May, and how many each of them did. Spoiler: the United States tops the list.

Country Views
United States 658
Canada 40
United Kingdom 38
Australia 28
Italy 23
India 19
Singapore 15
Slovenia 13
Turkey 13
Spain 12
South Africa 11
Austria 10
Switzerland 10
Denmark 7
Mexico 7
New Zealand 7
Puerto Rico 7
Philippines 6
Brazil 5
Oman 5
Russia 5
Sweden 5
Germany 4
Chile 3
France 3
Netherlands 3
Bangladesh 2
European Union 2
Indonesia 2
Pakistan 2
Peru 2
Argentina 1 (*)
Bahamas 1
Belgium 1
Colombia 1
Czech Republic 1
Finland 1 (**)
Iceland 1
Israel 1
Japan 1
Nigeria 1
Poland 1
Portugal 1 (**)
Saudi Arabia 1
Slovakia 1
Sri Lanka 1
St. Kitts & Nevis 1
Taiwan 1
US Virgin Islands 1
Ukraine 1
Uruguay 1
Venezuela 1

There had been 45 countries sending readers in April and 56 in March. European Union makes its big return.

There were 21 single-reader countries in May, way up from April’s 10 but still down from March’s 26. Argentina was a single-reader country in April also. Finland and Portugal have been single-reader countries for three months.

The month starts with 49,247 page views from some 22,212 logged distinct visitors since WordPress started telling us about those. WordPress tells me also there are 662 followers on WordPress, people who’ve gone and clicked the ‘Follow On WordPress’ button at the top right of the page in the hopes that I’ll follow back and increase their readership count. We all know how the game works.

And then what are popular search terms bringing folks here? What you’d expect given the most popular posts.

  • comics conversation
  • how many grooves are on typical record or cd ? how they are arranged?
  • origin is the gateway to your entire gaming universe.
  • peacetips football prediction
  • only yestetday dividing fractions
  • animated rolling dice 7

Plus some 146 unknown search terms. I’d be interested to know what those are too.

Well, thanks all of you for being around for this. I hope it’s a good month ahead.

You know, the arrangement of CDs is probably an interesting subject. I love that sort of technical-detail stuff too. It’s probably only slightly mathematics but I bet I can find a pretext to include it here. If someone’s interested.

What I Learned Doing The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z


The slightest thing I learned in the most recent set of essays is that I somehow slid from the descriptive “End Of 2016” title to the prescriptive “End 2016” identifier for the series. My unscientific survey suggests that most people would agree that we had too much 2016 and would have been better off doing without it altogether. So it goes.

The most important thing I learned about this is I have to pace things better. The A To Z essays have been creeping up in length. I didn’t keep close track of their lengths but I don’t think any of them came in under a thousand words. 1500 words was more common. And that’s fine enough, but at three per week, plus the Reading the Comics posts, that’s 5500 or 6000 words of mathematics alone. And that before getting to my humor blog, which even on a brief week will be a couple thousand words. I understand in retrospect why November and December felt like I didn’t have any time outside the word mines.

I’m not bothered by writing longer essays, mind. I can apparently go on at any length on any subject. And I like the words I’ve been using. My suspicion is between these A To Zs and the Theorem Thursdays over the summer I’ve found a mode for writing pop mathematics that works for me. It’s just a matter of how to balance workloads. The humor blog has gotten consistently better readership, for the obvious reasons (lately I’ve been trying to explain what the story comics are doing), but the mathematics more satisfying. If I should have to cut back on either it’d be the humor blog that gets the cut first.

Another little discovery is that I can swap out equations and formulas and the like for historical discussion. That’s probably a useful tradeoff for most of my readers. And it plays to my natural tendencies. It is very easy to imagine me having gone into history than into mathematics or science. It makes me aware how mediocre my knowledge of mathematics history is, though. For example, several times in the End 2016 A To Z the Crisis of Foundations came up, directly or in passing. But I’ve never read a proper history, not even a basic essay, about the Crisis. I don’t even know of a good description of this important-to-the-field event. Most mathematics history focuses around biographies of a few figures, often cribbed from Eric Temple Bell’s great but unreliable book, or a couple of famous specific incidents. (Newton versus Leibniz, the bridges of Köningsburg, Cantor’s insanity, Gödel’s citizenship exam.) Plus Bourbaki.

That’s not enough for someone taking the subject seriously, and I do mean to. So if someone has a suggestion for good histories of, for example, how Fourier series affected mathematicians’ understanding of what functions are, I’d love to know it. Maybe I should set that as a standing open request.

In looking over the subjects I wrote about I find a pretty strong mix of group theory and real analysis. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise. Those are two of the maybe three legs that form a mathematics major’s education. So anyone wanting to understand mathematicians would see this stuff and have questions about it. (There are more things mathematics majors learn, but there are a handful of things almost any mathematics major is sure to spend a year being baffled by.)

The third leg, I’d say, is differential equations. That’s a fantastic field, but it’s hard to describe without equations. Also pictures of what the equations imply. I’ve tended towards essays with few equations and pictures. That’s my laziness. Equations are best written in LaTeX, a typesetting tool that might as well be the standard for mathematicians writing papers and books. While WordPress supports a bit of LaTeX it isn’t quite effortless. That comes back around to balancing my workload. I do that a little better and I can explain solving first-order differential equations by integrating factors. (This is a prank. Nobody has ever needed to solve a first-order differential equation by integrating factors except for mathematics majors being taught the method.) But maybe I could make a go of that.

I’m not setting any particular date for the next A-To-Z, or similar, project. I need some time to recuperate. And maybe some time to think of other running projects that would be fun or educational for me. There’ll be something, though.

Reading the Comics, September 3, 2016: Summer Vacation Edition


I quite like doing Reading The Comics posts. I do feel sometimes like I’m repeating myself; how much is there to say about a comic where the student gives a snarky response to a story problem? Or where someone bakes a pie to talk about circles? And sometimes I worry that I’m slacking, since there’s not much to explain in what a spray of algebraic symbols mean, or would mean if they were perfectly rendered.

But I do like the feel of playing to an audience. Cartoonists call out topics and I do my best to say something interesting about them. It means I do not know whether I’ll be saying something about game theory or infinitely large sets or the history of numerals or the ability of birds to count in any given week. I have to be on top of a wide range of topics, or figure a way to get on top quickly. Some weeks it’ll be very busy; some weeks it’ll be quiet. It makes for fun, varied challenges.

This week Comic Strip Master Command sent me nothing. None of the comics I read, from Comics Kingdom, from Gocomics.com, and a couple of other miscellaneous things I read from long habit (like Joe Martin’s comics, or the Jumble puzzle), addressed any mathematics topics. I do not know the last time I had a subject drought like this. Certainly it’s been a while.

Mathematics has gotten a few cameos. Rick Stromoski’s Soup To Nutz almost got on point with a useful mnemonic for remembering which are odd and which are even numbers. Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein’s Daddy’s Home and Mark Tatulli’s Heart of the City both have “mathematics is so hard” as excuses for jokes. But that isn’t really about mathematics. Any subject people hated would do.

Comic strips work under an astounding set of constraints. They have to be incredibly compact, they have to carry their point in text and illustration, and the ones that appear in newspapers have to appeal to a broad audience in a way even television shows barely need to anymore. Given this, some stock jokes might well be essential. I couldn’t fault comic strip artists for using them. Similarly I don’t mind when a cartoonist uses a pile of scribbles for a mathematical concept, or even if they get an idea simplified to the point of being wrong. They’re amazing pieces of art to have at all. If I can make something educational of them that’s great, but that’s my adding to what they do.

So I’m just assuming Comic Strip Master Command wanted me to have a week off and that this doesn’t reflect any hard feelings between me and any cartoonists. We’ll know this time next week if there’s real trouble.

Finally, What I Learned Doing Theorem Thursdays


Here’s the index to the stuff I posted on them.

The biggest thing I learned from my Theorem Thursdays project was: don’t do this for Thursdays. The appeal is obvious. If things were a little different I’d have no problem with Thursdays. But besides being a slightly-read pop-mathematics blogger I’m also a slightly-read humor blogger. And I try to have a major piece, about seven hundred words that are more than simply commentary on how a comic strip’s gone wrong, ready for Thursday evenings my time.

That’s all my doing. It’s a relic of my thinking that the humor blog should run at least a bit like a professional syndicated columnist’s, with a fixed deadline for bigger pieces. While I should be writing more ahead of deadline than this, what I would do is get to Wednesday realizing I have two major things to write in a day. I’d have an idea for one of them, the mathematics thing, since I would pick a topic the previous Thursday. And once I’ve picked an idea the rest is easy. (Part of the process of picking is realizing whether there’s any way to make seven hundred words about something.) But that’s a lot of work for something that’s supposed to be recreational. Plus Wednesdays are, two weeks a month, a pinball league night.

So Thursday is right out, unless I get better about having first drafts of stuff done Monday night. So Thursday is right out. This has problems for future appearances of the gimmick. The alliterative pull is strong. The only remotely compelling alternative is Theorems on the Threes, maybe one the 3rd, 13th, and 23rd of the month. That leaves the 30th and 31st unaccounted for, and room for a good squabble about whether they count in an “on the threes” scheme.

There’s a lot of good stuff to say about the project otherwise. The biggest is that I had fun with it. The Theorem Thursday pieces sprawled into for-me extreme lengths, two to three thousand words. I had space to be chatty and silly and autobiographic in ways that even the A To Z projects don’t allow. Somehow those essays didn’t get nearly as long, possibly because I was writing three of them a week. I didn’t actually write fewer things in July than I did in, say, May. But it was fewer kinds of things; postings were mostly Theorem Thursdays and Reading the Comics posts. Still, overall readership didn’t drop and people seemed to quite like what I did write. It may be fewer but longer-form essays are the way I should go.

Also I found that people like stranger stuff. There’s an understandable temptation in doing pop-mathematics to look for topics that are automatically more accessible. People are afraid enough of mathematics. They have good reason to be terrified of some topic even mathematics majors don’t encounter until their fourth year. So there’s a drive to simpler topics, or topics that have fewer prerequisites, and that’s why every mathematics blogger has an essay about how the square root of two is irrational and how there’s different sizes to infinitely large sets. And that’s produced some excellent writing about topics like those, which are great topics. They have got the power to inspire awe without requiring any warming up. That’s special.

But it also means they’re hard to write anything new or compelling about if you’re like me, and in somewhere like the second hundred billion of mathematics bloggers. I can’t write anything better than what’s already gone about that. Liouville’s Theorem? That’s something I can be a good writer about. With that, I can have a blog personality. It’s like having a real personality but less work.

As I did with the Leap Day 2016 A To Z project, I threw the topics open to requests. I didn’t get many. Possibly the form gave too much freedom. Picking something to match a letter, as in the A to Z, gives a useful structure for choosing something specific. Pick a theorem from anywhere in mathematics? Something from algebra class? Something mentioned in a news report about a major breakthrough the reporter doesn’t understand but had an interesting picture? Something that you overheard the name of once without any context? How should people know what the scope of it is, before they’ve even seen a sample? And possibly people don’t actually remember the names of theorems unless they stay in mathematics or mathematics-related fields. Those folks hardly need explained theorems with names they remember. This is a hard problem to imagine people having, but it’s something I must consider.

So this is what I take away from the two-month project. There’s a lot of fun digging into the higher-level mathematics stuff. There’s an interest in it, even if it means I write longer and therefore fewer pieces. Take requests, but have a structure for taking them that makes it easy to tell what requests should look like. Definitely don’t commit to doing big things for Thursday, not without a better scheme for getting the humor blog pieces done. Free up some time Wednesday and don’t put up an awful score on Demolition Man like I did last time again. Seriously, I had a better score on The Simpsons Pinball Party than I did on Demolition Man and while you personally might not find this amusing there’s at least two people really into pinball who know how hilarious that is. (The games have wildly different point scorings. This like having a basketball score be lower than a hockey score.) That isn’t so important to mathematics blogging but it’s a good lesson to remember anyway.

How July 2016 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’m not unhappy. Of course not; I can find something cheery to say about whatever my readership in a given month was like. But for a month in which I spent nearly two weeks away from my normal Internet routines of visiting blog friends and belatedly answering comments and the like it wasn’t bad at all.

Readership Numbers:

So there were 1,057 page views in July. That’s down from June’s 1,099, but only a touch, and it’s up from May’s 981. And it’s above a thousand which makes me feel secure about being at least tolerated in these parts. The number of unique visitors was down to 585 from June’s 598 and May’s 627. But the June-to-July drop I can’t imagine is significant.

The number of likes rose to 177, from June’s 155 and May’s 133. I can’t hide it: I’m hoping for 199 in August and I don’t know where it’ll go from there. Comments were down a touch to 33, from June’s 39. But some of that is my failing to respond to other people because I was away. My own comments should count, shouldn’t they?

I am considering making one of those big changes and switching away from the theme — “P2 Classic” — that I have. I like its look, especially that it lets comments appear on the front page around here. But I’ve realized that the theme is a disaster on mobile devices. I don’t want to be needlessly difficult.

At the top of my WordPress theme is a box saying, 'Hi, Joseph. Whatcha up to?' encouraging me to make quick little informal posts which I never ever do.
I don’t know, worrying about what I should post? I’m sorry, I can’t use a slangy informal posting mechanism like this. I’m far too pompous. Also you have no idea how disorienting it is to have this image on my page.

Also while it’s got a nice friendly “Whatcha up to?” panel up top for me, to quickly add a post, I have never used it except when I wanted to search for something and the cursor was in the wrong field. If someone knows of an updated P2 Classic that you can read on a hand phone please let me know. I’d be glad for it.

Popular Posts:

To posts! The most popular stuff around here in July was a fair split between Reading the Comics posts and Theorem Thursday posts, plus a note that something I started back in May would too be returning. I hope to get to that soon again, maybe this week. That’s also comforting. They’re the things I put the most effort into and I’m glad people like them and don’t find much terribly wrong about them. The top five articles in July according to WordPress were:

Listing Countries:

What countries like me? … You know what? Bullet lists are so reportedly popular I’ll just try listing everybody and we’ll see what that does for drumming up interest. Readership by country, per WordPress’s data, were:

Country Readers
United States 616
Canada 57
India 52
United Kingdom 36
Philippines 30
Australia 27
Germany 26
Slovenia 22
Singapore 20
Austria 15
Brazil 15
Spain 13
Thailand 11
Pakistan 10
Puerto Rico 7
Indonesia 6
Ireland 6
Italy 6
Croatia 5
France 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
New Zealand 5
Sweden 5
China 4
Mexico 4
South Korea 4
Finland 3
Greece 3
Portugal 3
Russia 3
Venezuela 3
Argentina 2
Czech Republic 2
European Union 2
Jordan 2
Netherlands 2
Norway 2
South Africa 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Belgium 1
Chile 1
Denmark 1
Dominican Republic 1
Ecuador 1
Latvia 1
Lithuania 1
Malaysia 1
Oman 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1
Tunisia 1
Turkey 1
Ukraine 1 (*)

Ukraine is the only country to have been a single-reader country in June too. This is the nearest clean sweep I’ve noticed. The European Union reader, after seven months being alone, found a friend too. I hope they get along.

Search Term Non-Poetry:

Whew. It’s back.

  • origin is the gateway to your entire gaming universe.
  • what is the average number of grooves on one side of an lp record (if “1” doesn’t satisfy you)
  • arithmetic sequences and series joke 48 (the punch line I’d heard was “why did they laugh so much at 15,268?” “Well, you see, we’d never heard that one before!”)
  • example of convergent boundaries komiks stris (honestly now tempted to commission a comic strip artist just to do something about convergent boundaries.)
  • comics about arithmetic sequence / arithmetic sequence comics (probably I should also commission one about sequences)

Counting Readers:

If I have this right August started with the blog having had 39,394 page views — curse that leap second! — and 16,083 unique viewers. (Because the leap second would give time for one more page view, keeping me from 39,393. If there were a leap second, and if it were at the end of July instead of the end of June. Trust me, if you share a long sequence of assumptions with me then it’s funny.)

WordPress reports me as starting with 610 WordPress.com followers, which feels way up from the start of July’s 597. If you want to join me as a WordPress.com follower there ought to be a button in the upper-right corner, a bit below and to the right of my blog name and above the “Or Follow By Way Of RSS” tag. There’s also a Follow Blog Via Email option and don’t think it doesn’t bother me there’s no dash in E-mail there. More reasons to change the theme I suppose.

I’d wondered last month about WordPress reporting the most popular dates and times around here. So that’s why I moved my default posting time from 11 am Eastern to 2 pm Eastern. But just as in July the most popular day is Sunday (22 percent of page views). Comics posts I suppose. The most popular hour remains 3:00 pm (9 percent of page views). It kind of suggests the time of posting doesn’t matter to people. We’ll see, as I start trying 6 am or if I try something really wild like eleventy-q pm.

See you, I expect, tomorrow with comic strips.

What Did I Post On Theorem Thursdays?


Hi again folks. I don’t want you to think I forgot about my little blog here. I’ve just been off for a pretty major competitive-pinball event the past week and that and a visit to the Kennywood amusement park slurped up all my writing time. Should be recovered soon enough.

I’ll be back to posting original stuff soon enough, and to posting links to other people’s stuff. But for now I wanted to gather links to all the Theorem Thursday now that the project’s safely at its pre-announced conclusion. I’ve have thoughts about what it all meant soon, too.

Over June and July I put up rather extended posts about:

I do figure on returning to these long-form explanations of theorems, so that Mean Value Theorem and Fixed Point Theorem stuff shouldn’t be left dangling forever. I don’t know just when I will, though. I’ll discuss why that is in my “what-did-I-learn” post, when I have the chance.

Bourbaki and How To Write Numbers, A Trifle


So my attempt at keeping the Reading the Comics posts to Sunday has crashed and burned again. This time for a good reason. As you might have read between the lines on my humor blog, I spent the past week on holiday and just didn’t have time to write stuff. I barely had time to read my comics. I’ll get around to it this week.

In the meanwhile then I’d like to point people to the MathsByAGirl blog. The blog recently had an essay on Nicolas Bourbaki, who’s among the most famous mathematicians of the 20th century. Bourbaki is also someone with a tremendous and controversial legacy, one that I expect to touch on as I catch up on last week’s comics. If you don’t know the secret of Bourbaki then do go over and learn it. If you do, well, go over and read anyway. The author’s wondering whether to write more about Bourbaki’s mathematics and while I’m all in favor of that more people should say.

And as I promised a trifle, let me point to something from my own humor blog. How To Write Out Numbers is an older trifle based on everyone’s love for copy-editing standards. I had forgotten I wrote it before digging it up for a week of self-glorifying posts last week. I hope folks around here like it too.

Oh, one more thing: it’s the anniversary of the publishing of an admirable but incorrect proof of the four-color map theorem. It would take another century to get right. As I said Thursday, the five-color map theorem is easy. it’s that last color that’s hard.

Vacations are grand but there is always that comfortable day or two once you’re back home.