2014 In Review

‘Tis the season for all things recap. Case in point: This morning’s inbox fodder featured a nifty end-of-year report (thank you, WordPress.com stat monkeys!) on the Texas A&M Science blog. In case you don’t care to sift through the entire thing available here, I’ll hit the high points as I see them.


In summary, 2014 blew 2013 out of the water. Thirty-four published posts, 5,872 views and 3,235 visitors, compared to 19 posts, 977 views and 523 visitors in 2013. And our top all-time viewing day — 332 on November 25.

To be fair, however, 2013 started a half-year behind, given that the blog didn’t officially launch until June. Fitting, then, that the original post I wrote back in 2013 to pitch the overall blog concept (Heart of the Matter) was the only one from the previous year to grace 2014’s Top 10:

1. A Bittersweet Benchmark (486)
2. The Beauty of Rare Creatures and Social Networking (466)
3. Light My Fire (259)
4. All Work and No Play (240)
5. Winning Teams (206)
6. Life Forces and Legacies (152)
7. You Are Enough (129)
8. Heart of the Matter (97)
9. Angel in Flight (91)
10. Tradition in Action (85)

Seven of those posts topped 100 views, with five exceeding 200. By comparison, only one post logged three-digit-viewing numbers in 2013: the perhaps-coincidentally-titled By the Numbers with 242. The top feeder was Facebook, followed somewhat surprisingly by search engines.


I’ve always enjoyed seeing new countries show up on the world viewing map, and we certainly broke lots of new international ground in 2014 as word (pun intended) has continued to spread. Current reach: 73 countries, which sounds amazingly cool, to me! Not surprisingly, the United States accounts for most of our views (5,323), but can you guess which country is second (170) as the only other that cracked triple digits?

All good news and good fun befitting this blog, which has become one of my favorite self-assignments if not general writing exercises. While in my admittedly old-school book, new media will never trump nor entirely replace traditional media, it sure makes for an enjoyable alternative and accompaniment, ideally for reader and writer.

On behalf of Texas A&M Science, I sincerely thank each of you for being part of this continuous, ever-evolving experiment. Here’s to more stories, additional insights and broader perspectives in 2015!

Oh, and I almost forgot — that No. 2 viewing country? Brazil. Go, GMT!

Snatch the Pebble, Get the Shot?

I’ve said it before, but it’s definitely worth repeating: Science is all around us. In the best instances, it’s accompanied by statistics.

More than a decade of working for one of my favorite statisticians, Joe Newton — who’s known as the Data Dean around here for good reason — has taught me a lot, from Einstein_Educationvaluable critical thinking skills to appreciation of the bigger picture, especially in situations where it hasn’t necessarily been disclosed. From both him and experience (sometimes painful), I’ve learned the importance of caution; of maintaining both a cooler head and the healthy dose of skepticism necessary to withhold judgment as I attempt to gather and evaluate as much information and/or evidence as possible. More often than not, this process begins and so often ends with a single piece of information: methodology. The more statistically relevant, the better.

Apparently, neither Dean Newton nor experience has taught me tact.

This past week, yet another of my friends came down with the flu. I dutifully monitored her prognosis from a non-contagious distance (i.e., Facebook) and noticed that things were looking up by week’s end. Given that ours is a relationship largely based on witty banter, I decided to celebrate her recovery by sharing a flu-related post to her page — a fictitious admission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, she’s fluent in the sarcasm I thought was apparent, given the sensationalized headline and the “news” source — which I now know is approaching a stunning 1.5 million likes on Facebook, indicative to me of a whole other type of pandemic — but several of her friends didn’t get the shot (pun intended). One went so far as to post this fact-laden retort from Respectful Insolence. (Oh, the irony, considering how often I’m the one who gets this educational honor by virtue of my day job).

Properly armed with the full CDC transcript, I’ll let you be the judge as to the accuracy of both the headline and the content of that Natural News piece. However, on the subject of jobs, I think ScienceBlogs.com author Orac really does a nice one in his blog entry of explaining the context behind the flu vaccine and what an absolute (albeit science-based) crapshoot it truly is each year for the World Health Organization. Forget the College Football Playoffs, this one is a statistical nightmare. Well, maybe more like a Bayesian’s dream, if you get my drift (again, pun intended). Paging Bani Mallick or Val Johnson?!?

I'm usually a sucker for a great infographic. Tricky when one is also a marketer, though. (Credit: CDC/gsk)

I’m usually a sucker for a great infographic. Tricky when one is also a marketer, though. (Credit: CDC/gsk)

Incidentally, my dad religiously got his flu shot every fall, and while I don’t recall him ever getting the flu, I can’t say that exactly inspired me to follow his example. Despite the fact that I know the science is solid, the only year I actually did get the shot was the year I happened to be pregnant in the fall (read guilted into it). Guess what? My husband and I both got the flu that year, with a bonus: H1N1. He got antibiotics; I got saline/homeopathic remedies. And the call from the elementary school once we got home, informing us that our first-grader had managed to get a piece of playground pea gravel stuck in his ear.

There is value in not judging a book by its cover, regardless how eye-catching or appealing, and prudence in looking before you leap, no matter how compelling the pitch or bandwagon. And in knowing your audience, even when among friends. Probably the capacity of your ear canal, too.

But in the final analysis where I’m concerned, all the hand-washing, ounces of prevention and apples a day won’t keep the sarcasm away. It’s hardwired. Jury’s still out regarding my own progeny, save for their mastery of dubious playground magic tricks.

(Credit: Huffington Post)

(Credit: Huffington Post)