This evening I’ve been casting about for a post that would tie together the events of 2023 and kind of put this long and tiresome year to bed. In the process I discovered this fun article in the New York Times listing stories from this past year that their editors felt didn’t reach as many readers as they should have. That inspired me, and in this post I’ll go one better: I’ll not only list my least-viewed posts from 2023 but explain why you shouldn’t have missed them. (And if you did read these, this is your chance to feel all smug and validated.)
“Ask a Fitness Dweeb” has so far received the fewest pageviews for January 2023. In fact, by my rough math, if I had ads turned on for this blog, this post wouldn’t have even earned me enough for a cup of coffee. And yet, doesn’t a fitness-themed post seem perfectly timely as readers ponder their New Year’s Resolutions?
Maybe it’s the “Dweeb” part. That was my daughter’s idea. Don’t worry, my persona in this post is no dweebier than ever. This (albeit contrived) advice column is particularly worthy if you check out the bit about gamification, and my description of the international training contest I run every year that is super easy, fun, and effective. (The Q4 contest just wrapped up today with, amazingly, a tie for first place!)
For this month, the most neglected post was “What We Should (and Will) Be Embarrassed By.” Ask yourself: has it ever seemed like people are more shameless than ever? Well, this post can be a useful guide for avoiding that. If you’re tired of the phrase “lean in,” and/or the promotion of cannabis as a “wellness” aid rather than what it is (i.e., a hedonistic drug that dudes like Jeff Spicoli use because they’re young and irresponsible and like to party), and/or you think Vitamin Water should be called “Stupid Water,” this post is for you.
I was pleased to see, in February, how well my (harsh) critiques of ChatGPT did. My two-part series, “A.I. Smackdown – English Major vs. ChatGPT,” garnered gobs of pageviews. I was a bit bothered, though, by a sense that the posts were slightly passive-aggressive, given that I was showcasing A.I.’s failings without exploring the potential upside. This led to curiosity about how ChatGPT would do if I tried to formally teach it, which I tried doing. This was, for me, a fairly fascinating exercise, though also tedious as ChatGPT apologized constantly for its repeated errors. What I discovered is that (as it eventually admitted) it cannot learn in any formal way, by taking instruction from a knowledgeable person. It can only train itself by ingesting vast troves of data from across the Internet.
I’m not sure why this post didn’t do as well as the other ones on this topic. Perhaps three posts in fairly rapid succession was just too much. Suffice to say, if you enjoyed the first two, you should definitely check this one out.
The loss-leader for this month was “Errata.” My jumping-off point was the policy of the Times copping to its various errors over time. Perhaps readers skipped this post because they don’t overmuch care to see my errors corrected, being more laid-back than that. But that would be missing the point: this is just a humor piece. Here’s an excerpt:
In “Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting a Vasectomy - But Were Afraid To Ask,” I wrote, “The nurse arranged towels around my groin until the entire area was reduced to the pink-red scrotum shrouded in white, like a sunburned toad poking out of a field of freshly fallen snow.” Upon reflection I realize that my freshly-shaved scrotum more closely resembled a frog than a toad.
Who doesn’t need a good laugh or two? Check it out!
Speaking of a good laugh, the post “More Tom Swifties” was my most unpopular for May (even though my original “Tom Swifties” post has done quite well). This post offers dozens of easy one-liners that ought to be a pleasant diversion for anyone. For example:
“Man, you really stink!” Tom fumed.
“I’ll just give my boss the finger,” Tom said flippantly.
“How do you feel about gay couples?” Tom queried.
In case you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, this post also puts ChatGPT through its paces creating A.I. Tom Swifties. Spoiler: ChatGPT crashes and burns horribly; for example, “‘I’m terrible at baseball,’” Tom said bat-terly.” Huh?
Why did “Impromptu Commencement Address” do so poorly? Beats me. The premise—what speech would you give a college graduating class if given only twenty minutes to prepare?—seemed like a good one, and I’m frankly pleased with the result. I make fun of myself, of college grads, and of all the hand-wringing and anxiety saturating our culture these days. If nothing else this speech has some good stage directions (e.g., “[Wait for applause or maybe mostly silence, or the generalized murmur of people who have tuned out completely and are chattering away amongst themselves, and/or one or more people yelling things like ‘Get off the stage!’].” I also explore one of the pressing questions of our day: is it true the future is female?
Historically, my bike ride reports do quite well; for example, “Mount Baker (WA) with Brother & Nephew” has garnered over 2,000 pageviews. So why did “Gravel Riding in the Rockies” fizzle? It had the usual attractions: food descriptions, breathtaking landscape photos, and schadenfreude (e.g., “My rented helmet was designed, apparently, for Ernie, from ‘Sesame Street,’ but my head is evidently shaped more like Bert’s, so the helmet slid forward during the bumpy descents, mashing my sunglasses into the bridge of my nose, unless I tightened the bonnet hard enough to threaten a gradual concussion and/or some sanded-off forehead flesh”). So, if you’ve enjoyed my other ride reports, get over to this one and see what you think.
Okay, this next one isn’t just my biggest disappointment of the month, popularity-wise, but of the entire year: “If William Wordsworth Were Writing Today.” I get that Wordsworth is a moldy old British poet, and has likely been labeled “problematic” by modern scholars because he was white, male, etc. But trust me, this post is anything but stuffy. It presents a hypothetical instant-messaging dialogue that might take place if the great poet submitted a new work for review to a modern, sales-obsessed editor. It’s breezy, fun, and one of my shortest posts ever. Check it out!
I wasn’t able to cover the Vuelta a España on albertnet, but I wrote a special post, “Jumbo-Visma & the Kuss Conundrum,” about perhaps the most exciting thing in the race: an American, Sepp Kuss, had a couple of amazing days in the mountains and moved into first place overall, only to have his biggest challenge come from two of his own teammates. This was a major soap opera for anyone following the sport, and though I was perhaps a day or so late covering it, I was surprised how little traction this post got. To this day, YouTube is constantly offering me up more videos on the whole affair, even though I didn’t even use YouTube for my research.
This post advances ten theories on why a professional team would hamper their own star rider when he’s winning for them. My theories range from the quite plausible to the mildly facetious to the outright bogus, all in keeping with my primary goal, which is to entertain. Rereading it now, I think it’s held up well, long after the race itself has been decided.
I guess it’s not really fair to pick on one post in particular for October, since all four of them were on the same topic, that being my weeklong cycling trip in the French Alps. But the last installment, “Epic Trans Alps Cycling Trip – Part VI” has the fewest pageviews and doesn’t seem to be catching up. I guess six posts on the same topic might have pushed my readers’ patience. But if you missed this before, it’s a good one: lots of photos, with the best scenery of my entire trip, and perhaps the most potent Schadenfreude as I completely melted down on the legendary Alpe-d’Huez climb. Give it a whirl!
I am frankly offended by the notion that human beings don’t have free will. You can well imagine, therefore, that I’d be super annoyed when a vainglorious douchebag from Stanford, with a big dumb Karl Marx beard and long hair in ringlets, throws together a crappy book that pretends to prove, via neuroscience, that we don’t have free will. To make matters worse, the book is selling well, and a surprising number of intellectual types are apparently stroking their goatees and saying, “Yes, yes, this is all very compelling.” I bent over backwards with my critique, “Undeterred - A Critique of a Book About Life Without Free Will,” and even got my daughter to do a wonderful drawing of the douchebag in question, the bloviating, preening Robert Sapolksy. Naturally I’m disappointed more people didn’t read this post. Even if you never considered reading Sapolsky’s book, you should read this as a cautionary tale about academic types getting drunk on their own bathwater.
Okay, I’ll grant that it’s a little early to tell which post from this month is underperforming. It’s not like my posts open like Hollywood blockbusters. But I suppose I can feel a bit disappointed that “Cycling Smackdown – Small Cog Tale” hasn’t already gone viral and made me an overnight Internet celebrity, or at least racked up a really solid number of pageviews. This is a ripping yarn about an all-out cycling sprint on a cold, dark, rainy evening, depicting a classic confrontation between robust teenagers and a seasoned but middle-aged coach. I suffered horribly to produce this tale so you might as well honor that with a quick read.
See you next year!
Thank you for visiting albertnet. I look forward to another year of writing about, well, anything that amuses me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.