2013 in Review: The Great Eighteen. Writing you can READ.

The last time I compiled a “Best of Howdy” list, for 2012, it was easier. I browsed through the year’s posts, remembered some things I liked, whittled it down to 10, gave a brief description, done. This time I tried to get more scientific, more democratic, and it’s been a mess. Not a lot of people responded to my invitation to submit favourites of the year, but they were some of my best readers and it was satisfying to hear about posts they liked. But.

My correspondents were far from unanimous in their preferences, and often those didn’t match the things I’d have chosen. And now that I have slightly more sophisticated analytics, I can easily check which posts had the most page views, which was often a completely different list from mine or the sometimes-odd choices of my panellists. A blogger’s work is never done. All this did cause extra work, but it was good thinking – along with the sidebar reflections that my Choice Readers had made – about what I’ve done, what worked and didn’t, and especially about what got read, and how. As it turns out, a tour of these will give you a pretty good idea of what I’m on (and off) about.

So here it is, again in the form of a quick trip through the Howdy catalogue. And I know: eighteen posts? Well, I plead indecision, for one thing, but it’s hard to choose among your children. There were 128 of them birthed on for 2013; also I reached my 500th post overall. Not a bad year, I’m not afraid to admit it.¹

¹ Gift-That-Keeps-Giving Department: Special mention goes to two posts. “Why Do Men Love Sports So Much?” was the third most-read post of 2013, though it dates from May 2012. (Staying power? An overwhelming public outcry for more where that came from? Let’s say yes, and yes!) “Lightning In My Living Room”, also from 2012, was read nearly twice as many times as the number two post from 2013. I  accidentally did an excellent bit of search-engine optimization: people looking for  “lightning” can end up at a fascinating encounter we had with a Chinese religious cult. (Site stats don’t show how many people cursed me and electronically stormed away, disappointed to not see chain lightning incinerating my coffee table.)


  1. Sixty-Sixty (Jan. 9): It starts with a dream, an unusually non-ridiculous one for me, that got me thinking about mindfulness and social justice, and challenging the world to take the most local action of all. I had a vain hope it would “go viral”, but it was read exactly 31 times. A good re-read reminder for me, though.
  2. Another Hit to the Head (Jan. 27): An old guy plays basketball with twenty-somethings, bleeds all over the baseline, worries about his rattled brain, and gets an excellent first tour of the Chinese medical system. Gory photos, too! This piece got some attention at as well.
  3. Super Bowl Monday (Feb. 8): The commercials, the half-time show, the meaning of this near-religious festival in American life, and the game, too. Bonus! This was a two-parter, and I found lots to say in and around the football. (Soon, the SB rolls around again, but I’ll be meditating in a hut somewhere.)
  4. Time Goes Fast, Learning Goes Slow (Mar. 29): Coming to terms with the frustrations of living in China, I naturally had to consider my own (slow) learning. Sheesh: and this didn’t even mention fireworks.
  5. Reaping the Whirlwind and Looking for Hope (Apr. 13): We worry about ecological disaster in my family – I mean the one that’s happening right now. What’s the most positive approach? I went looking, and found it in some strange places. My sixth most-read piece of the year.
  6. In the Village (May 5): I went to Beijing’s ritzy Sanlitun area, which was a trip. I thought about the meaning of chocolate, and fashionable smoking, and what happens when the rich get richer.
  7. The Party, the Bread, the Track, and the Circus (June 10): I’d previously missed my school’s “Sports Day” blowout, but in 2013 I relented. It was a circus: mystifying, colourful, maddening, fascinating. This post covers the Opening Ceremonies (epic!) and two subsequent ones report on the actual athletics meet (which was, ah, really something). A fun piece to write, and it had support from my panel, but it didn’t get eyeballed much.
  8. Your Birds Are All Wackwards (Aug. 5): A magazine article that never sold, written a few years before existed. It celebrates verbal whimsy, confusion, and thoroughly unintentional wit and wisdom. I had fun looking at it again, and so did some constant readers.
  9. Rainn Wilson Explores the Matrix (Aug. 30): I meet, along with a thousand or so of my best friends, the actor from The Office. He analyzes the hit movie soulfully, intellectually, hilariously. (Another two-posts-for-the-price-of-one deal, readers!)
  10. The Rock: Good Medicine? (Sept. 27): Unpredictably, I watch a cinematic cheese-fest called Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and write about it in (nearly) real-time. The Rock stars. Michael Caine prances. The plot thickens into syrupy ooze. I am gobsmacked at the silliness but can’t stop watching.
  11. Better Read Than Never: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (Oct. 2): BRTN is a series of reviews, super-condensed versions of which also appear in a glossy magazine in my city. Other than the “Lightning” piece, this review of the American classic was my most-read piece of the year; it seems to have trended in a minor way among high school students researching essays/plagiarizing. Not sure whether I’m bragging or complaining.
  12. Not Supposed To Be Here: NBA Finals, America & LeBron (Oct. 4): As pro basketball loomed, I recalled LeBron James’s interview after he’d won another hoops title, another MVP trophy, and another audience with the worshipping/hater millions. From the “All About Sports” section of the blog, but as usual, there’s more to basketball than just basketball. 
  13. Waking Up the Dads (Oct. 15): For example, here’s a piece that starts off at youth basketball but ends up shouting about fathers, electronica and cultural biases — so, it appeared in the “At First Glance” (default) section of It was hardly read at all, but several panelists liked it.
  14. Hitting ‘Refresh’: One Dark Night, This Ol’ Dad (Oct. 21): A parenting misadventure of my own, agonized over and resolved; out of desperation, inspiration. (A quite different version of this piece had another brief life on-line at , thus changing the electronic landscape forever.)
  15. Better Read Than Never: “Rudy Kong” & Dragons, Donkeys, and Dust (Nov. 15): The most obscure BRTN review, chosen by popular and panelist acclaim. This memoir of a Canadian in China was written by a friend of friends, based on his ten years in my city. (The review also ran in our local bilingual magazine.) Weeks after posting, it attracted a small whirlwind of interest when the author’s fan base found out about it, and reached number 4 on the “hits” list.
  16. TD, CTE and Me (Nov. 25): A “Sports” entry that looks at the mounting crisis of concussions (and post-concussion effects) in sports, especially football and hockey. The great running back Tony Dorsett’s troubles struck a cerebral nerve, given my own worries about a middle-aged head that’s been knocked around violently in three athletic contexts. (Or is that four?)
  17. Love and Hate in the Palace of Sport (Dec. 30): OR: How to Think Two Diametrically Opposite Things About a Pervasive Cultural Phenomenon at the Same Time. Brian Phillips of wrote a deeply interesting piece about our “two minds” on the subject of sport, and I tried to do the same.
  18. The (Not Quite) Christmas (Late) Show* (Dec. 31): My college has a big pre-exam-period entertainment, and I had a front-row seat. Amazing. Bewildering. Sparkly.

Thanks for the look-in. Mike the Quote-Lover might join me in quietly lamenting some of the superb “He Said/She Said” posts that didn’t make the list; I drew the line at quotations, but in honour of one of the most poignant passings of 2013² I recall Nelson Mandela’s remarkable statement about the prison of hate, one of several Madiba-inspired quotations that I posted. But I have to stop somewhere, so there won’t be any more attempts to swerve your attention. Again, I’m grateful for your readership. Let’s keep thinking and hoping, uniting and reading and writing, in 2014.

Okay, that’s quite a few then, isn’t it?


² Well, there was also a more personal loss: my ex-mother-in-law, a loving woman, also winged her flight this year, and it did my heart good to pay tribute to her as well. It was also the ninth most-read post of the year.

I promise: that was the last.






Comment (1)

  1. April

    It is the era of big data. Data speaks everything.
    Also, this passage is a great reading guide, and I hope you can have much more page views this year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *