Anniversary 4 (4 Me): “Life Ends Despite Increasing Energy”

I published my first post on this blog on March 24, 2012. Back then its title and tagline were:

Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything
Physics versus engineering
off-the-wall geek humor versus existential questions
IT versus the real thing
corporate world’s strangeness versus small business entrepreneur’s microcosmos knowledge worker’s connectedness versus striving for independence

… which became

Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything
I mean it

… which became

elkemental Force
Research Notes on Energy, Software, Life, the Universe, and Everything

last November. It seems I have run out of philosophical ideas and said anything I had to say about Life and Work and Culture. Now it’s not Big Ideas that make me publish a new post but my small Big Data. Recent posts on measurement data analysis or on the differential equation of heat transport  are typical for my new editorial policy.

Cartoonist Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) encourages to look for patterns in one’s life, rather than to interpret and theorize – and to be fooled by biases and fallacies. Following this advice and my new policy, I celebrate my 4th blogging anniversary by crunching this blog’s numbers.

No, this does not mean I will show off the humbling statistics of views provided by WordPress 🙂 I am rather interested in my own evolution as a blogger. Having raked my virtual Zen garden two years ago I have manually maintained lists of posts in each main category – these are my menu pages. Now I have processed each page’s HTML code automatically to count posts published per month, quarter, or year in each category. All figures in this post are based on all posts excluding reblogs and the current post.

Since I assigned two categories to some posts, I had to pick one primary category to make the height of one column reflect the total posts per month:Statistics on blog postings: Posts per month in each main category

It seems I had too much time in May 2013. Perhaps I needed creative compensation – indulging in Poetry and pop culture (Web), and – as back then I was writing a master thesis.

I had never missed a single month, but there were two summer breaks in 2012 and 2013 with only 1 post per month. It seems Life and Web gradually have been replaced by Energy, and there was a flash of IT in 2014 which I correlate with both nostalgia but also a professional flashback owing to lots of cryptography-induced deadlines.

But I find it hard to see a trend, and I am not sure about the distortion I made by picking one category.

So I rather group by quarter:

Statistics on blog postings: Posts per quarter in each main category

… which shows that posts per quarter have reached a low right now in Q1 2016, even when I would add the current posting. Most posts now are based on original calculations or data analysis which take more time to create than search term poetry or my autobiographical vignettes. But maybe my anecdotes and opinionated posts had just been easy to write as I was drawing on ‘content’ I had in mind for years before 2012.

In order to spot my ‘paradigm shifts’ I include duplicates in the next diagram: Each post assigned to two categories is counted twice. Since then the total number does not make sense I just depict relative category counts per quarter:

Statistics on blog postings: Posts per quarter in each category, including the assignment of more than one category.

Ultimate wisdom: Life ends, although Energy is increasing. IT is increasing, too, and was just hidden in the other diagram: Recently it is  often the secondary category in posts about energy systems’ data logging. Physics follows an erratic pattern. Quantum Field Theory was accountable for the maximum at the end of 2013, but then replaced by thermodynamics.

Web is also somewhat constant, but the list of posts shows that the most recent Web posts are on average more technical and less about Web and Culture and Everything. There are exceptions.

Those trends are also visible in yearly overviews. The Decline Of Web seems to be more pronounced – so I tag this post with Web.

Statistics on blog postings: Posts per year in each main category

Statistics on blog postings: Posts per year in each category, including the assignment of more than one category.

But perhaps I was cheating. Each category was not as stable as the labels in the diagrams’ legends do imply.

Shortcut categories refer to
1) these category pages: EnergyITLifePhysicsPoetryWeb,
2) and these categories EnergyITLifePhysicsPoetryWeb, respectively, manually kept in sync.

So somehow…

public-key-infrastructure became control-and-it

and

on-writing-blogging-and-indulging-in-web-culture is now simply web

… and should maybe be called nerdy-web-stuff-and-software-development.

In summary, I like my statistics as it confirms my hunches but there is one exception: There was no Poetry in Q1 2016 and I have to do something about this!

________________________________

The Making Of

  • Copy the HTML content of each page with a list to a text editor (I use Notepad2).
  • Find double line breaks (\r\n\r\n) and replace them by a single one (\r\n).
  • Copy the lines to an application that lets you manipulate strings (I use Excel).
  • Tweak strings with formulas / command to cut out date, url, title and comment. Use the HTML tags as markers.
  • Batch-add the page’s category in a new column.
  • Indicate if this is the primary or secondary category in a new column (Find duplicates automatically before so 1 can be assigned automatically to most posts.).
  • Group the list by month, quarter, and year respectively and add the counts to new data tables that will be used for diagrams (e.g. Excel function COUNTIFs, using only the category or category name  + indicator for the primary category as criteria).

It could be automated even better – without having to maintain category pages by simply using the category feeds (like this: https://elkement.wordpress.com/category/physics/feed) or by filtering the full blog feed for categories. I have re-categorized all my posts so that categories matches menu page lists, but I chose to use my lists as

  1. I get not only date and headline, but also my own additional summary / comment that’s not part of the feed. For our German blog, I actually do this in reverse: I create the HTML code of a a sitemap-style overview page on wordpress.com from an Excel list of all posts plus custom comments and then copy the auto-generated code to the HTML view of the respective menu page on the blog.
  2. the feed provided by WordPress.com can have 150 items maximum no matter which higher number you try to configure. So you need to start analyzing before you have published 150 posts.
  3. I can never resist to create a tool that manipulates text files and automates something, however weird.
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17 thoughts on “Anniversary 4 (4 Me): “Life Ends Despite Increasing Energy”

  1. Pingback: The Stages of Blogging – an Empirical Study | elkemental Force

  2. Happy (belated) anniversary. I have to admit that each and every time I get angry about the current stupid path my own province is taking toward energy I am consoled by what you and Sigi are doing. In the face of foolish, often megalomaniac strides toward energy there you two are, intelligently planning, building and perfecting a system that does it all–provides energy, helps the Earth and reduces your own costs. Well done!

    • Thanks, Maurice! We try our best 🙂
      Not that it would be exactly easy right now when electrical power being rather expensive compared to fossil fuel, especually in Germany. It’s is not only the low oil price (which I have to accept in a humbling fashion as a grey swan of international markets) but the fact that costs for electrical power are higher than expected from international markets as they contain a large fraction of taxes and fees – dedicated to ‘drive to the development of renewal energy’ – mostly in the megalomaniac way you mention.
      So the logical thing to do would be investing in such megalomaniac projects or starting yet another pseudo-business living off funded ‘research projects’ … which is the opposite of our approach of taking small steps to improve and opimize a system that is economical without subsidies! So thanks a lot for comment – I am happy somebody noticed 🙂 !!

  3. Happy Anniversary, Elke. Although I can not understand everything, but it is a great pleasure to be a part of your thinking from afar! Come on again!

  4. If you promise not to tell the professors I had in college … some of the recent, and highly mathematical, posts have been a bit beyond my reach. I have, however, enjoyed your recent posts in IT and especially those on Energy … I have learned much from all of these. And, of course, I enjoy the poetry. I’m sorry, however, to have lived through the great extinction of posts about Life and about the Web which, when combined, accounted for nearly 2/3 of your writing back in 2012. Perhaps this simply points to something of your own evolution as a thinker and teacher? Yes, that must be it. Back in 2012 you were simply keeping time while your mind worked out problems of real significance … and this is what we’ve been reading recently. I have always enjoyed everything that you have presented here. You communicate well and especially well in areas that are not trivial or easy. You have always impressed me as being very good at breaking a problem down into its component parts, and to then dissect each of those parts in turn. By the time you’re done, you’ve been able to help me grasp what are often difficult subjects otherwise. Thanks. And, please, please, keep on writing.

    • Thanks a lot Dave – wow, what a feedback 🙂 And thanks a lot for reading my lengthy posts laden with numbers! Re one of our other current discussions on your blog: I know my posts are not neat mainstream posts either 🙂 I had an apt comment once: “Your posts are always stretching the mind – don’t you do cat videos?”

      I think I like to write about things – both ‘philosophical’ and technical – that are ‘complete’. So in 2012 I drew on career and life transitions I had taken and ‘executed’ years before, whereas I started blogging about our heat pump system and renewable energy years after I started those activities. Now I have finally reached a state I can use data that fall into my lap everyday. I have noticed that blogs seem to have a half life: Many new bloggers stop after blogging for 1-2 years. Maybe then your stock of anecdotes (collected and ripened for years before) is used up and you only continue if you have a ‘source’ of ideas that gives you content on a regular basis without additional effort – like your job or a hobby you would pursue also if you did not blog. So maybe my logging data are like your photos 🙂

      I will definitely go on writing, just at a bit slower pace!

  5. I’ve always thought that even your whimsical spam poetry posts were a clever way of reinvigorating the search terms that Google uses to point readers to your site.

    I remember your posts during your thesis writing, and some of the conversations we were having then. One that sticks in mind contained an aside comment from you about the emotional aspects of career change and returning to school. In these past few months I’ve been surprised by the emotions that come with this process, and what has to be tended to. For me, it seems to be a process of clearing away obstacles and making space for something that feels really good to be doing. I suspect this is what has happened for you, as you move ahead?

    • Thanks, Michelle 🙂 Ha – that might give me permission to resume philosophical, self-indulgent posting 🙂 Short version: For me, doing that degree was …
      1) … a tangible sign that I was going to change something; therefore it was important that it was not an online-only course. It was a ritual, and sometimes exhausting – but I think a ritual maybe has to be 🙂 It forced me to inform existing clients and colleagues about the ongoing change.
      2) … exploring another ‘culture’ – engineering / renewable energy, in contrast to IT and physics. Results were interesting and challenging. I enjoyed being among people who don’t check their electronic gadgets every second, but I was grateful (with hindsight) that ‘IT’ had been more open to newcomers 15 years ago. I feel engineering is more about standards and marketing via ‘I have done this 10000 times before’, about traditions. The culture is also different from physics as physics is more about deriving anything from fundamentals whereas engineering is about applying good-enough rules and accepting that you need not solve any differential equation from scratch (not a bad learning experience for somebody who might be too obsessed with re-inventing the wheel too often…).
      My prejudices about governmental funding, pseudo-‘businesses’ focussed on exploiting subsidies were confirmed (…my pet peeve, I think my fellow students got tired about my repeated rants on subsidies over the second glass of wine of our terrific local Blaufränkisch red wine at our dinners in the evenings…;-)) . Interesting nonetheless as I had to rethink and state my own position more clearly. Perhaps it helped me to free myself of any conventional views of how to present our services today – maybe not in the way intended; we had a class on pitching your energy projects to gov agencies :-). It’s still something I think about a lot, and I cannot even claim I think that I am ‘right’; I just smell ‘gamification’ and here I am too much of a Taleb fan not to question such systems. (Interesting I read so much Taleb and related stuff in 2013/2014!!)
      3) … not really a technical / educational pre-requisite for what I am doing now as my business license is based on my degree in applied physics anyway – and no client or prospect ever asked anything about credentials. I think we would not have any chance at all had we not built our demo system, a project started before I started my degree. But on every career change in my life I wanted to prove that I am willing to start from the bottom – even if nobody explicitly asks for that. That was rewarding for its own sake, or maybe an important part of the ritual.
      4) … when it was over and done, I know I have finally paid all my dues in terms of any formal education (I had also done a post-graduate one year management course and IT certifications years ago…) That’s a relief now, as I feel educational systems have become much more bureaucratic and over-managed, albeit more ‘customer-oriented’. The same trend as everywhere…. the curse of ‘quality management’…
      Many people do another degree later in life, and so did I (… having pondering anything from psychology to philosophy for years…), and I enjoyed that I made an unexpected choice. Doing an MBA or the like would have been the more conventional move, but I wanted something hands-on. I said that in an interview with my former university, featuring alumni stories, and they picked this as a tagline to my delight.

      • I relate to so much that you share in your comment. I have always enjoyed all your posts, but I have a particular appreciation for how openly you share your world view. You are a pleasure to get to know–a sentiment which echoes Dave’s comment–and this is where some of those philosophical posts are missed.

        I have found the ritual aspect of returning to the classroom both cleansing (mentally, emotionally) and exhausting, too. But I agree that the energy depletion feels very necessary. Being so tired at times, I feel completely unable to hold on to the point of view I had at the beginning of the process, which I think is the point of the ritual. I constantly feel this process of accumulating knowledge as a “breaking” and restructuring of my knowledge frame works. It’s kind of brutal, really!

        … I had more I wrote in this reply, but it got be so long! Instead, I will try to shape it into a blog post, rather than hijack your data space for my own musings, and post it in the upcoming week or two. For now, I’ll say that I can relate to what you share, and greatly appreciate your insights.

        • I am looking forward to your next post – and I can’t promise that I will hold back my wall-of-text comments on it 🙂

          For me, the exhausting part of the ritual was not the new thing, the classroom etc., but it was rather the void I entered when I consciously walked away from a successful career as a specialist in a sought-after field – something I had built up for more than 10 years. I had to tell existing clients about the changes, so I sort of burnt some bridges. I figured the ‘new things’ will compensate for that immediately and keep me busy mentally and socially but they did not. Social media was one way to cope with that: entering a new social circle (wordpress), and, above all, finally sign up to Facebook and reconnect with my IT nerd circles on Facebook.

          But then something really odd happened: At the end of 2013, a few months after having completed the degree, I had maybe coped with the ‘void’ finally but I still felt kind of nostalgic about my old world but in a reconciled way, sort of, hard to describe. Anyway, then suddenly a bunch of my old IT clients had new project requests and they insisted on me supporting them even though I said I am out of the loop, haven’t learned or researched anything in my old speciality for two years, am knee-deep in different projects. And it were exactly those clients whom I would have hand-picked myself had I had the choice to keep them – all of them actually. That moment when even a no-nonsense geek like me wants to wax esoteric about karma 🙂 One really renowned international expert in my former field was interested in my anecdotes and interviewed me when he was in Austria.
          So as a result, I really had the best of all my worlds, something I never figured was remotely possible as maybe I had been as conditioned to ‘You cannot have it all’ as anybody else. At the same time when I was reunited with the best my old IT security world had to offer we finally got the first requests from new heat pump clients – who found our German blog, after we had blogged into a virtual void for more than a year (without much expectations). Given our weird blogging humor those clients were a perfect match for us. I can’t express in words how grateful and happy I was that I was able to address so different ‘target audiences’ in so different ways, as in IT security I have always got projects via endorsements and personal contacts – at large global corporations – while heat pump clients were private home owners who happened to find us via Google.

          I have considered to write philosophical business posts along the lines of these comments – actually I have two such complete posts in my Drafts, one a rant about governmentally funded research and one about my business transition and my very special ‘social media marketing’ via a business blog that does not look like one (actually a copy of a wall-of-text comment I left on a blog on social media marketing). The reason why I haven’t published them is that I don’t know how fragile that status is, and how it will finally pan out. Right now, given the low oil price, it’s not that easy business-wise. I tend to write about periods in my life that are ‘complete’ with hindsight, and I want to avoid getting across as bragging as arrogant … perhaps only to find out after some months or years that I had been delusional. It’s weird as I don’t hold back in comments here or elsewhere, but it’s a different to actively promote the same stories to a blog post. Publishing a post on a social platform is like asking for feedback but I am not sure if I want any on an ongoing personal process that is either reward in itself anyway or difficult enough in itself so the last thing I want is a meta-discussion to explain what I actually meant and why I did not intend to offend anybody with a different view on life and work etc.
          I might cover such stuff on my personal website though, as I don’t share the articles there on any social media and this site has no options for interaction. I don’t want to promote this site here (exception: the technical articles from 2015) so I left out that part of the story in this post deliberately, but I think I merged and re-did those sites exactly to have a place that’s online but not social and interactive, where I would publish the more self-indulgent essays and status updates.

          • There’s so much going on!

            There is something about how former parts of our lives follow us; thankfully, that doesn’t have to be just the problems. In fact, it seems largely to be the good, workable elements that return.

            I have something crazy going on, too, and I don’t think I could post about it because it feels like an invitation for anyone and everybody to comment on it. Very recently I was screened for dyslexia, and something else was revealed in the testing. I have a vision perception issue that affects reading error and reading rate. It’s actually quite severe, and much worse than I would have guessed. Which is okay, I can deal with that, but the consequence was that other aptitudes and cognitive strengths came out with much higher scores than I’d have guessed. This is especially so in math, which was my area of highest aptitude. Oddly, the positive component of this is harder to deal with than the other. It comes down to this—I’m doing okay in my classes—but if I accept the use of supports at the university, then more of what I can do will show up in my work. I had some informal support in my English studies, and the consequence was that I did well enough to have some pressure to do graduate work (grooming, etc), and perhaps more attention than I felt I could comfortably manage. I don’t know if I want that again. You’ve shared about what happened to you in your Physics studies, and I’m not sure I want even a fraction of that attention. I suspect that with this testing, and because this is a small university, that it could be a bit worse than before–if age hasn’t exempted me from the usual process of grad school recruitment and institutional rejuvenation.

            While I’m trying to avoid a direct question, I can’t help but wonder how you managed in your Engineering, where you no doubt were considered an ‘asset to the program,’ etc.? Or, do we ‘mature’ students fall into a different category, so that some of that ‘recruitment’ pressure does not apply?

            If you would rather not, don’t answer those questions. Regardless of this situation, I like my classes, the school and the program here. I am especially happy to hear that so much is going well in your work, too.

            • Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your story here, and I can of course understand that you don’t want to blog about it. It’s a topic everybody on the internet has an opinion on. I had also left out the anecdotes about my academic awards here – although the story about how I refused to have my slightly subversive ‘acceptance speech’ approved would have been a funny one – as I know what comments in newspapers look like when people comment on such achievements. It has become fashionable to question and ridicule the value of formal education and grades, and anything is called ‘rote learning’ (even math and physics, what a joke…) – a negative side-effect of the movement of self-learners that I otherwise can relate to. People don’t really like the nerds although they like to copy their homework assignments, and the nerds are in the minority so the commentators are always right.
              And of course there is so much hobby psychology on the net so that everybody can analyze you with ease. I think my reluctance is also due to the imbalance between genuine contributors with skin in the skin and commentators – who just share links with their one liner of a strong opinion but never share anything from their own experiences and expose themselves to others’ opinions. If I utter an opinion myself, I try to do this based on education, experience, and skin in the game, and I really think our world would be a better place if everybody used the same policy.

              Your question is spot-on: Yes, I was considered an asset by the university’s marketing department. The poster child, the student with top grades, the women in tech. I have been asked several times to be interviewed by media as an outstanding student. I have very mixed feeling about this, and my personal hobby psychology theory is that I might have been a token girl – maybe there is a term for that in psychological research: I was a naturally gifted student and I was the living proof that female students faced no obstacles. So teachers could show off my example and perhaps did not care so much about other girls who struggled more with STEM. But with hindsight I feel (especially thinking back 20-30 years) perhaps my CV was rather intimidating than helpful for other girls / women. Sometimes I feel it is my duty to write about this ‘as a part of this society’ and given the luck I also had, but then again I balk because of the reasons discussed.

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