Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Anniversaries

[This blog is usually impersonal, but today it’s all about me. Enjoy. Or skip it. Whatever.]

I celebrate two anniversaries today.

First, and infinitely more important, is my wedding anniversary. 17 years, baby. Couple of kids and a dog. There's even a white fence.

I don’t know if Tolstoy was right – that happy families are all alike and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. It's one of those quotes that sound wise but upon closer examination doesn’t hold up. It’s natural for a novelist to subscribe to the time-honored literary notion that bourgeois happiness is boring. Unhappy families, after all, have much more interesting plots.

All I know is that ours is a happy family. Whether we’re happy in the same way as other happy families is unknowable. But I can share with you, free of charge, Keatang’s Keys to a Happy Marriage:

1. Marry someone who makes you laugh. Mrs. Keatang has a subtle, sneaky sense of humor that she doesn’t show to everyone. But after all these years, she still cracks me up.

2. Marry someone who shares your television tastes. This is an underrated component of the modern American happy marriage, even more important than a shared thermostat philosophy. The fact that we love the same shows – Dexter is our current favorite – means we spend our evenings together, rather than in separate rooms. (Except during the playoffs.)

3. Marry someone who keeps her head when times get tough. Thanks for last year, honey. You really came through.

I also recommend marrying a beauty.

But November 29 is not just my wedding anniversary. It is also, coincidentally, the one year anniversary of FreeTime.

A Look Back

A few weeks back, I saw an arresting definition of good writing: “Making what is completely obvious only to you completely obvious to everyone else. With words.”

That’s what I aspire to here, although I would change “words” to “words and facts”. As John Adams said (and I’ve quoted dozens of times), “Facts are stubborn things”, and I believe the most powerful facts come from history and statistics. If it’s just words, it might be bullshit. Ask any lawyer.

So here are some words and facts about the first year of FreeTime.

The Good Kind of Traffic
On the roads, traffic is a terrible thing (an issue I addressed in one of my weaker blog posts). In music, it’s a question of taste. But out here in the blogosphere, it is something to be sought after and cherished. So you might be interested in what kind of traffic we get here at FreeTime.

Short answer: it’s not the Van Wyck but it’s not a country road at 3AM either. Considering I don’t market this thing, don’t deploy the latest search optimization techniques, don’t post very often, don’t write about anything specific, and aren’t part of a large network of bloggers – I get a decent amount of traffic.

FreeTime gets a little over a hundred unique visitors each week, more when I post and less when I don’t, but it’s been remarkably stable over the last few months. I seem to have a steady group that checks in regularly, some of whom are people I know from my professional and personal lives, many of whom have stumbled upon the site and come back. At least a few international readers are on every week – and from all over, too – Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, South America, Australia.

All told, since I started measuring less than a year ago I’ve had a total of 8,400 unique visits and almost 11,000 page views. So that’s the story on traffic.

* All the data about traffic comes from SiteMeter. Anyone can click on the SiteMeter icon and see all the data yourself. I find it most interesting to click on "By Location" on the right-hand nav bar. That's where you see the most recent visitors and where they came from. Someone from Latvia was on earlier today...

Greatest Hits Package
I've written 87 pieces, some of them just throwaways but many are fully-written articles. For what it’s worth, these are the ten pieces that in my (not particularly) humble opinion hold up the best. (in reverse chronological order)

One of Us
Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, she made a quite a splashy entrance and a was a muse to the whole blogosphere. This piece looks at how Americans claim to want candidates who are just like us...but not really.

Dad vs. Robin

An attempt at a Dave Barry-type piece. And as Dave might say, I did not make this story up.

A Soldier's Reading List
Not sure how to characterize this one. But it grew out of of some volunteer work I do with an organization called Operation Paperback.

From Left to Right
The playwright David Mamet's conversion from liberal to conservative inspired this piece on what, exactly, it means to have a political ideology.

Monolingual Americans

Very few Americans speak foreign languages. And for good reason. This piece has been the 2nd most widely read piece, after....

The Last Movie Star

This piece on George Clooney was picked up by the influential blogger Jason Kottke and a few others, causing a huge spike in traffic. Since I wrote it Clooney has released two more bombs - and not the kind of bombs that will get Oscar love.

In Defense of Divisiveness

Do we really want our politicians to get along?

Barack Obama and the Activist's Dilemma

I wrote plenty about the President-elect this year. This was one.

Eli Vs. Phil

This wasn't necessarily a great piece - but was rendered great by Super Bowl XVII

The Dubious Value of Experience

Probably the piece I referenced the most this year - it's a look at how many of our best Presidents had little experience, and many of our worst had plenty.

The above selections are heavy on politics, and light on sports and music. I think that's because, reading through the old pieces, the sports stuff is pretty good but too time-sensitive (does anyone care anymore whether Goose Gossage deserved Cooperstown?) and the music pieces...well, they kinda sucked.

I thank those of you have come to the site - especially those that have gone out of your way to let me know you like it. I have great confidence my marriage will last till death do us part. Hopefully FreeTime will have a decent run, too.


Brian M said...

I know people don't leave you a lot of comments, possibly because your articles are more about interesting and less about arguing, but I've had your blog bookmarked ever since Kottke pointed me your way and I haven't given up checking weekly for new stuff.

I guess I'm a sucker for articles and viewpoints with factual evidence, so keep up the good work.

And congrats on the 17yr anniversary. My wife and I just passed 6 months and "so far, so good." I think point about laughter is legitimate.

Jean said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! You are a great couple!!!

I hope my marriage isn't in trouble because I can't get enough of Dexter and Charlie doesn't want to give it a try!

Love your blogs ... I read them fairly regularly and have shared with others. Charlie is a big fan as well. Thanks for give me some good entertainment at lunch time.

Alison said...

Happy Anniversary!!! Wow 17 years and to think I remember when it all began. Your marriage tips are right on and thankfully both Jim and I are both addicted to Dexter! This is my first peek at your blog and have to say it is wonderful. Can't wait to read your book :) Just think - another 30 to the big 4-7!

maeir said...

Happy Anniversaries!

I really enjoy the site- keep it up!