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Farewell to EvolutionBlog! [EvolutionBlog]

Monday, October 17, 2016 23:33
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Folks, I’m done.

A recent story in the news involves the decision by FIDE, the world chess federation, to hold the Women’s World Championship in Iran. That’s a bit awkward, since Iran imposes certain religion-inspired dress requirements on women. This has led some players, most notably the current American women’s champion Nazi Paikidze, to boycott. She is supported in this by the U. S. Chess Federation, among many others. Frankly, you have to go back to the 1970s to find a time when FIDE was something other than a corrupt embarrassment to chess players.

So here we have a story about religion interfering with chess, and I still couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for writing about it. Definitely time to pack it in.

I started blogging in 2002, when a friend of mine basically dared me to. We were both post-docs at Kansas State University, and we were both chronic night-owls. Most nights we ended up at Gumby’s Pizzeria after midnight, sitting in a booth surrounded by drunk, loud college students, talking about math or politics. We were both blog readers, which at that time largely meant Atrios and Andrew Sullivan and a few others who got in on the ground floor. He said I should start my own blog, and–why not!–I did.

I was fresh out of graduate school, still in my twenties, struggling to get some sort of research program started and worrying about long-term employment prospects. Blogging was a wonderful stress-reliever. At the end of the day I could blow off a little steam, rant about whatever was on my mind, and take a break from the obscure problems in algebraic graph theory and analytic number theory I worked on during the day. It was therapeutic! I was someone who liked writing, who felt he had things to say, and who liked the instant feedback blogging could give you.

At that time ID was still on the ascendant (The Kitzmiller blow was still a few years off) and the New Atheists had not yet arrived on the scene. After a few years blogging on my own, SEED magazine “discovered” me and made me part of their stable of science bloggers. A blog collective like that was a new thing at the time. During those years I blogged obsessively. The folks at SEED brought us all together for blog gatherings in New York once a year. They commissioned a caricature of all of us, that I still have framed and hanging on my wall. That’s when blogging was really fun.

But after a few years of this, things changed. SEED, along with so many other magazines, folded. The original group of bloggers largely went their separate ways, and the feeling of really being part of something faded.

Moreover, my professional interests changed. Ever since the publication of The Monty Hall Problem I’ve been finding more and more of my time spent on writing and editing. I currently have two books under contract (one as author and one as editor), at various stages of writing and production, and I am likely to have a third one going soon. I am also now the book review editor for the American Mathematical Monthly. I now spend so much of my time staring at a screen trying to make words appear, or trying to improve someone else’s words, that blogging no longer seems like much of a release. It just seems like more of the same. Not writing is now my stress reliever.

So I think it’s time to hang it up, at least for a while. Maybe a few months down the line I’ll discover that I miss it. When I started the blog, I never imagined that it would go anywhere. At its peak, the blog was averaging about two thousand hits a day, which still seems like a staggering number to me. I am incredibly appreciative of everyone who read, linked to, or commented on my little musings. Even the critics!

I am also incredibly grateful first to SEED, for plucking me from obscurity in the first place, and more recently to the National Geographic Blog network for continuing to give me a home.

It’s time to move on. The last vestiges of my SIWOTI syndrome have left me. The Internet remains a bottomless pit of stupidity. (It has its good points too!) It used to be that I would read something foolish, and then stew about it all day until I could unload in an epic blog post. I was updating nearly every day, and writing those updates was the highlight of my day.

I have not had that passion for quite a while now. So, it’s time to give up the ghost. Good-bye!


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