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#432: Whole New Worlds

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #432, on the subject of Whole New Worlds.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,

  1. Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel,
  2. Old Verses New,
  3. For Better or Verse,
  4. Spy Verses,
  5. Garden of Versers,
  6. Versers Versus Versers, and
  7. Re Verse All,

in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways.  Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts.  This is the first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 21.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 1, Kondor 172

The first decision that had to be made about this book is which characters’ stories it would recount.  That wasn’t that difficult a decision, because Kondor, Slade, and Brown had all been absent from the previous book, the seventh, Re Verse All, and so there would be a strong argument against omitting any of them from this one.  Meanwhile, I had Hastings and Takano together in the same world, and if I carried them over I would have five viewpoint characters, which while I have done that before it makes for shorter stories.  Besides, if at some point I split them I would have more trouble.  I could bring Beam into it, but since on the last page of the previous novel he verses out he is the easiest one to delay.

The second decision was the sequence of the characters.  The argument against Joe was that he was the last chapter of Versers Versus Versers.  On the other hand, there were a lot of chapters since then in the intervening book.  What Joe had in his favor was that his first chapter actually had some action in it.  Further, when I finished writing Versers Versus Versers I tackled a short story continuation for each of the six viewpoint characters, and for him I wrote three consecutive chapters, so there was a strong argument in that for beginning with him.

In the end of the previous book I had had Joe suggest to Zeke that they attempt to sink the boats by shooting holes in them.  After I finished it, I remembered that canoes don’t sink because they’re buoyant, and these wooden boats would swamp but stay afloat.  Thus I had to rethink the strategy, but more significantly I had to think of why Kondor would know this and have him rethink it.

As usual, as I started writing the book it was untitled.  I had received suggestions when I was writing the seventh book, although I used my own idea of Reversal to create Re Verse All, which I liked and ultimately used.  I had also been considering Inverse Proportion.  Then there were the suggestions from readers:  Eric Ashley recommended Chapter and Verse, and Bell, Verse, and Candle, and To Verse is a Verb; Kyler Young put forward Conversation; John Walker suggested Joe Verses Slade (although I felt like there must be something better than “Slade” to make that work, such as Tornado).  As I am reaching the sixth chapter, I am leaning toward Con Versation, or else In Verse Proportions.  While I was working on setting up the HTML pages of Re Verse All I thought of Ner Verse, but am not sure how I would use it.

I am thinking that for the gather I’ll use The Farmland beta, in which aliens invade a primitive world and the verser defends it.  I could put this in Slade’s current world, the parakeet world at the level of the industrial revolution, which is more advanced than the world of the book version but should be workable.  Slade, Derek, and Kondor have all done spaceships by this point, so they’re a good set to put against the aliens.


Chapter 2, Slade 168

The argument for making Slade second was that I had written three consecutive chapters for him as well, so it would be quick and easy to put together a good part of the beginning of the book.

I wanted Bob to be able to communicate with the Parakeet People, but it was not credible that their language would not have changed at all from the time when they wove baskets and lived in wigwam-like nests to the age of the industrial revolution.  Thus I decided that the first bird he encountered would be a scholar of ancient civilization who knew the language.  Bob, though, does not know it well, and it is likely that the scholar would shift to the modern version of it rather easily–for example, someone who knows the early Greek of Homer and also knows modern Greek would probably revert to the modern if he started conversing in Greek, despite the similarities in the two languages.

When I created this world in Verse Three, Chapter One I never really made decisions about the biases.  I decided that some things worked and some didn’t, but I didn’t put numbers on anything.  As I bring the world back into play, that gives me two problems, the one figuring out what was possible then, the other deciding whether that has changed, and to what degree.  When I do Mystery of the Vorgo (which I did in Old Verses New, but it didn’t matter there because Kondor doesn’t believe in magic), I keep the magic curve but drop the level, so everything that was possible is still possible for the verser, but not for the indigs, and it’s all more difficult.  Eventually Shella is going to try to figure out what she can and cannot do, and I have to make it consistent with what is already established about this world.


Chapter 3, Brown 196

The problem with Derek’s story is that not only did I write only two chapters for it, they’re not consecutive.  The first follows immediately from the cliffhanger of Versers Versus Versers, but the second is clearly set later, after Derek and Vashti have become more established.  That means I face more writing when the next Brown chapter is due.

I recognized the Commander Brown problem, and decided to play with it a bit.  The robot does not recognize the problem, and Derek has to find a way to get it to do so.

In the previous book Derek had noticed that the indigs he encountered were left-handed.  I remembered that, and assumed that it would mean that the top assistant would be the left-hand man because of it.


Chapter 4, Kondor 173

This was again one of the chapters I wrote immediately after finishing Versers Versus Versers, and so was continuing the battle there.  I had not yet decided which characters would be in the seventh book and which would be in this one.


Chapter 5, Slade 169

This was another chapter written before the decision had been made concerning which characters would be in which books.  I was beginning to paste the three characters together in this book and so creating the story, while at the same time formatting Re Verse All for publication, and getting the opening of the ninth novel in place (there were aspects of Lauren’s and Tommy’s story that needed to be covered before I forgot them).

Originally I had called the apartments “Married Student Housing” as they were called when I was in college (although my colleges didn’t have any such dorms), but I changed it to “Mated Student Housing” as perhaps better translation for what the birds might have called it.


Chapter 6, Brown 197

This was the first chapter I had to write to continue the story.  I had another Brown chapter, but it was several chapters later, and I needed to bridge from here to there.

I wanted Derek to address Vashti in a language the homonoid did not know, but I had to look up whether he had programmed the computer with Arabic or Farsi.  (It was Arabic.)

I started this and gave it its head, but had to interrupt in the middle without knowing where it was going to go after Derek commented that he didn’t know the native language.  At the time I was trying to set up Re Verse All for online serial publication, so I didn’t get back to this for perhaps a month or so, during which time I had thought of a different direction.  Returning once I’d finished the last behind-the-writings post for that book, I picked up and integrated the two ideas.


Chapter 7, Kondor 174

This was another chapter written shortly after the previous book was finished, so I would know where I was taking Kondor.  There is one more Kondor chapter already drafted, and this one actually sets that one up, but boxes me into I’m not sure what.

The notion that amirates give silver chains like the gold chains given by the caliphate seemed appropriate.


Chapter 8, Slade 170

This was the last of the pre-written Slade chapters, and even a month or so later I am not certain what happens next.

The fact that they appear as gods is significant at this point.

I had originally written that the porter’s name was “unpronounceable”.  In editing, it bothered me, but I didn’t realize the problem and make the change to “untranslatable” until the night before it was published.


Chapter 9, Brown 198

At this point I was struggling with all three stories.  I knew quite a bit of what had to happen with Derek and with Slade, but wasn’t sure how to organize it; I was not at all certain what to do with Kondor.

With Derek, I realized that he did not know for how long he was expected to stay at his post, and in fact he didn’t even know how the ship’s time system worked.  In contemplating this, I decided that there was something rational about dividing the day into twenty-four equal hours, the hours then into sixty minutes each of sixty seconds, but that there was nothing rational about supposing that the day of the originating planet was the same length as that of earth.  I thought perhaps it should be the equivalent of twenty-one hours, with each second correspondingly shorter such that the clocks counted twenty-four shorter hours in each day.  That would give me a bit of math to resolve, but it was manageable.

The next problem, then, was how many of those shorter hours comprised a standard shift, and was it different on the bridge.  I was much inclined toward making the standard work day eight hours, but making the bridge shift shorter, six hours.  But the problem was communicating all of this to Derek.

Beyond that, they had to find their quarters, and it would be separate quarters for each of them because they would be officer’s quarters.  They would of course move in together into Derek’s room and turn Vashti’s into some kind of study area–which was the next problem, that Vashti had a tremendous amount of learning to do, and Derek had to learn some himself, so they had to put that together from the ship’s computer.

All of this had to be done without belaboring the text.

I tackled the time questions first.


Chapter 10, Kondor 175

This was the last pre-written Kondor chapter.  There was one more pre-written Brown chapter, but its content was for later in the book and I had a lot to write before I could insert it.


Chapter 11, Slade 171

Before I started this chapter, I was approached by a publisher who was willing to publish my Why I Believe and wanted me to write a book based on the Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies web site.  These occupied a significant amount of my attention for several weeks, and I realized that I was not moving this book forward, which might be a problem because Re Verse All was a relatively short book and was progressing rather quickly through the online publication process.  Still, I was unsure how to proceed with a lot of this.

I had been struggling with how to move Bob forward, knowing all the things he had to do but not how to get them into the story, and abruptly it occurred to me to do something I’d done before:  have the characters talk about it, and see what ideas they had.  Most of what I was trying to work toward had already occurred to Slade, and was easy enough to put into the story, along with the idea from Shella that he learn the language mind reading trick.


Chapter 12, Brown 199

I pushed forward by moving Derek and Vashti off the bridge to living quarters, and as I was setting them up I realized that they hadn’t eaten in five or six hours, and I was going to have to address that first but had not given it any thought at all.  I wanted to avoid replicators and food dispensers, but knew I didn’t have a kitchen crew and wanted to avoid forcing them to make their own meals.  I’ve got a couple chapters to work it out while I catch up the other two characters.


Chapter 13, Kondor 176

I was concerned that I not wind up putting Kondor back into a situation in which he was introducing modern medicine to a technologically primitive society, and wondering how to avoid it, when it struck me that this is a highly magical world and to this point although there have been a number of people injured, no one has been sick.  I wondered about whether I could credibly create the idea that there is no disease in the world, and floated it on one of my social media pages to get feedback from fans.  Some of it was excellent, and I started piecing together how to make this work.


Chapter 14, Slade 172

I was several weeks stalled on this.  It was only partly because during this time I completed a first and a second draft of the promised time travel book.  It was also because I was stymied on all three stories–on Joe because I really couldn’t think of what to do with him, and on Bob and Derek because even though I had a lot of pieces through which to move them, I couldn’t figure out how to connect them.

I had considered having Bob botch or fail on the language link, but I had some significant problems ahead for him and didn’t want to add this to them.  I might still have a language link failure at some point, but for the moment I just need to push forward.

I’m thinking that Bob can invent the internal combustion engine and the telephone and maybe the light bulb easily enough.  I’ll have to decide whether they have electric generators, but I think they do because I think they have electric motors and batteries, although it is possible their vehicles are all steam powered at this point.  I don’t see him refining petroleum, but he can run a vehicle on alcohol fuel, and if they don’t have distillation that’s easy enough for him to create.


Chapter 15, Brown 200

I was trying to get things organized, and realized that food was the priority, so I sent them to the officers’ galley which, I realized, would probably be stocked much as the other kitchen but would have no staff so Derek would have to cook.  Then I tried to work out where he would think to start Vashti’s education, and moved on from there.  I have to move them forward quickly, and bring in instruction on using their stations, but I couldn’t put more into the time than was credible.

The bathroom kept nagging at me, probably because I had just set up to publish the chapter of Re Verse All in which Beam teaches his lieutenants how to use one and I didn’t want to omit it from Derek’s story.


Chapter 16, Kondor 177

I was stuck with how to keep Joe’s story interesting in the Arabian Nights world, and took it up with several people, one of whom suggested I should just verse him out–but I didn’t have anywhere to send him, and I was going to need to take him to Slade for the gather which would limit how much I could do in any intervening world.  Then it struck me that he was a highly eligible bachelor, obviously a wealthy foreign nobleman, and that it might be time to entangle him in some kind of relationship.  As I considered it, the notion of someone trying to arrange such a thing struck me, and I figured I could launch that and see where it might lead.

This was a short chapter, much shorter than I had intended.  However, when I wrote the last words, “I would like you to marry my sister,” I needed a way to convey the shock of this, and in less than a minute I decided that the best way to do this would be to end the chapter here.


Chapter 17, Slade 173

I couldn’t decide whether to do the engineering discussion or the legal discussion first, but since I saw the problems arising in the latter I decided to move forward with engineering.

I decided that the language link failed mostly because I didn’t want it to succeed constantly, particularly considering that both of them were fairly new at it.

When I was setting up the HTML page for publication for this chapter, I realized that the next chapter, Brown 201, had the wrong number–the digits had been transposed to 210.  What was worse is that the error was copied both to my outline notes of the book and to the behind-the-writings document from which these posts are produced, and then followed, every chapter nine places higher than it should have been.  That was forty-five chapter numbers that had to be corrected individually in three different places.  At least, though, I caught it before I had done images for them.


Chapter 18, Brown 201

I needed Derek and Vashti to learn what they needed to know at a swift but credible pace, and I needed to make it happen without it becoming boring reading.  Eventually I’m going to have to create a problem, probably an intercept course with a comet or other huge ice ball, but I’m going to want Derek and Vashti to be able to handle it when it comes, so I need to get them trained first.


Chapter 19, Kondor 178

I had a number of things to deal with, and decided to stretch the time a bit by having Mohammed try to persuade Kondor to come meet Leah and instead he insists that she must come to him.  I had thought briefly that perhaps he brought her with him, but decided that was not the way he would have done it, so there will be a delay while he goes to get her.

I need to pick an amirate for Mohammed, who will be the recently installed Amir there.  I’m thinking southwest, but that’s terribly convenient; the problem is all the others are north of the Capital, and would take a longer time to reach.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I’m not sure how to stretch it at Kondor’s end.


Chapter 20, Slade 174

I had been trying to construct a conversation here, and it wasn’t working.  At one point I had imagined the professor saying something like “but you’re not parakeet; you’re not even avian”, but I couldn’t make that make sense.  That is, in our world we might say “You’re not human; you’re not even hominid” or maybe “primate”, but we wouldn’t say “mammalian” even if that were the case.  In the end I’m not sure whether I conveyed the “legal nuances”, but I think I got the problem across.


Chapter 21, Kondor 179

This was going to be a Brown chapter, but I wasn’t sure what to write.  Then as I thought about it I decided that I left Derek and Vashti in a routine, and giving them a bit more time before the next chapter would make it feel like they had continued working that way for a while.  Besides, I knew exactly where the Kondor chapter began and a lot of what it contained, and people would be waiting for it, so I decided to go for it.
The idea of telling the prospective in-laws about the verse had occurred to me already, but the idea of having Zeke suggest it was new.


This has been the first behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.

#406: Internet Racism

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #406, on the subject of Internet Racism.

I have previously written quite a bit about discrimination and racism, and about freedom of speech.  I deplore any expression of racism–but I have a lot of trouble with efforts to curtail it by stifling the right to express opinions.  Having read Ray Bradbury’s excellent book Fahrenheit 451 and assuming that all reasonably intelligent well-educated individuals have if not read it at least understood the message it conveyed, I assumed that at least among such people it would be recognized that any effort to stifle speech led directly to dystopian results.

British soccer player Marcus Rashford among those criticized for a missed penalty shot.

Yet it seems I was mistaken in this.

I recognized my mistake watching the British morning light news and talk show Good Morning Britain for July 13th, 2021.  Among the top stories was the unfortunate fact that when England had lost in a major soccer tournament (and I do not follow any sports and care little enough about them that I did not research many of the details) supposed fans went to major social media outlets and posted racist comments about some of the players who had missed critical shots.  The uproar is not exactly because they were criticized for missing shots, but because the criticism suggested that their failures were because they were persons of color.

O.K., that’s plainly stupid.  Maybe it’s an American thing, but blacks dominate many of our sports.  It would be racist to claim that they are naturally better at them (and actually the evidence suggests that it has more to do with their devotion to play at a young age).  Whoever these players are, they are good enough to have gotten on the British national team, and frankly they are inarguably better than any of their critics.  They missed a few shots; that happens.  The critics are displaying their own stupidity through their posts.

However, at least two social media platforms made a concerted effort to remove any posts containing racial slurs about the players as quickly as possible.  Yet the British media thinks this is not enough.  They want those who posted such statements identified and brought up on criminal charges.  They want it to be a crime to express an opinion that includes a negative attitude about race.

Let me turn your attention to Bradbury’s aforementioned book.

The story focuses on a near-term future world and a man who works for the fire department.  It is almost impossible for homes in the future to burn without some kind of accelerant, so there isn’t actually any work putting out fires.  That’s not their job.  Their job is to burn books, and since book lovers can be very devious in hiding books, they burn down the homes of anyone suspected of possessing such contraband.

What is significant for us, though, is how Bradbury imagines the world came to be that way.  The fact is, it is impossible to write anything meaningful that does not offend someone.  Recently books like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings have been accused of racism.  As Bradbury suggests, if you write about mobsters you offend the Italians, if you write about cowboys you offend the Native Americans, if you write about Americans in space you offend the Russians (indeed, the second season of the original Star Trek television series added Pavel Chekov precisely because the Russians were offended that the entire multi-racial crew of The Enterprise had no Russians aboard).  Yet if everything offends someone, and we decide no one is to be offended by anyone, it becomes impossible to write anything beyond the palest pablum.

And so books become illegal because everything is offensive to someone.

Yet the British population wants to make it criminal to say anything via the internet that is offensive, at least to black athletes.  What, though, about offending Italians, or Spaniards, or whoever it was who beat the British team?  That’s also racist.  Offending white players is just as racist.  And before we know it, offending anyone becomes a criminal offense, and none of us can express an opinion about anything for fear that someone else might be offended.  If I say that a particular television show is trash which should insult the intelligence of two-year-olds (and I have said this), I have offended not only the creators of that show but its undoubtedly many fans who enjoy the show.  Yet if I say that a particular show is excellent and worth watching, I have offended those who find the show offensive for some reason.

The opinions of people who irrationally disdain persons who are different from themselves are not worth entertaining–but they are not worth suppressing, either.  They are not worth suppressing because once we do that we give someone power to decide what we are allowed to say.  Who do we want for our thought police?  The wealthy owners of the major social media networks?  Already I know people who have left Facebook and Twitter for MeWe, because the latter promises not to censor their posts.  Already I had a link to an article deleted from my Facebook page because someone (whom I suspect did not read the article) thought it was potentially offensive.

Remember the words of Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, that “the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas–that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market….”  Remember, too, the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  If you don’t want the thought police coming to arrest you for expressing your disagreement with someone, don’t empower them to do that now.

*****

Let me provide a few links to previous articles on the subject:

  • Freedom of Expression, a compilation of several previously published articles covering free speech, hate speech, racism, prejudice, and other related issues.
  • #135:  What Racism Is, an examination of the meaning of the word and how it is applied and misapplied.
  • #156:  A New Slant on Offensive Trademarks, anticipating the Supreme Court decision regarding whether an Asian-American band could trademark a name that was considered a derogatory moniker for Asians.
  • #194:  Slanting in Favor of Free Speech, sequel to that, giving the outcome and its implications, and also having much that is relevant to the question of free speech on the internet in connection with a related case.

#347: Versers Scrambled

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #347, on the subject of Versers Scrambled.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the sixth, Versers Versus Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the eighth and last mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 78 through 86.  Previous entries in this series include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 78, Kondor 168

At this point I had two problems.  One was pacing; the other was bringing each of my characters to a satisfactory end for the book.  I still did not have worlds chosen for Slade or Beam, and was going to have to do one of them next, but I had at least two more Kondor chapters to bring him to the finish point, one more Hastings chapter, and probably one more Brown chapter.  I also had to decide who would be last.

This had been chapter 67 before the addition of the Takano chapters.


Chapter 79, Slade 167

Sometimes in play one gets an idea for a world, and sends a player character there to see what might happen.  This was like that, only less so initially–I had the notion that Slade would return to a future version of the parakeet valley world, but I was not at all certain how far future.  My three notions were medieval, modern, and science fiction, but I was not seeing much of a story for any of these.  I put it to Kyler, and he said definitely modern, but perhaps not quite modern–mid twentieth century or even late nineteenth century.  The notion of our auto mechanic appearing in the age of steam appealed to me, so that’s where we went.

I had already decided that the version of the language he spoke would have become something known only to scholars, but would still be recognized as language.

This was chapter 68 until the Takano chapters shifted it.


Chapter 80, Kondor 169

I had originally thought to do most of this in retrospect, but remembered an editor friend suggesting that action was better, so I tackled trying to tell more of it as it happened.

Before the addition of the Takano chapters this was chapter 69.

I once saw a Doctor Who special in which one of the companions commented that her job was to say “What is it, Doctor?” so the Doctor could explain, and that there were only so many ways to say that.  I think of that as the Amir asks Kondor that question.


Chapter 81, Beam 55

I pondered where to send Beam, and the best thing I could think of was a published world called The Industrial Complex.  The player on whom he is based was there when I was running him, and did some surprising things, so it might be a good direction for me.

Prior to including the Takano chapters this was chapter 70.

On the last edit I discovered that this was double-numbered Beam 54; there were no further Beam chapters in the book, so it just involved fixing this one.


Chapter 82, Hastings 185

At this point I decided I had to add the other character, so I began writing the Tomiko Takano stories.

I had originally written that Lauren did not sense any other versers, but was changing events such that Tomiko would be the girl on the curb, and that meant Lauren would detect someone but would not have time to learn more.

This was chapter 71 before the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 83, Kondor 170

I had thought that I would be going directly from the report to the Amir to the defense of the shoreline, but then I recognized that there had to be some discussion about where the attack would come.

This had been chapter 72 until the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 84, Takano 12

I knew this would be the end of the book for Tomiko; I still had to write the last chapter for Kondor.  I had to integrate what Tomiko saw with what I had already written for Lauren, as the stories were now overlapping.  The other problem was exactly how much of this new world I should write, knowing that I was going to have to pick it up in another book.

Then, of course, I was going to have to interweave the dozen Takano chapters into the six dozen chapters of the main story.

The decision to place it here between two Kondor chapters was connected to the decision to switch the order of the final two chapters of the book, discussed in connection with them.


Chapter 85, Kondor 171

Even though I had only written four chapters of the Tomiko story, I expected this would be the last chapter of the book, as all the characters came to cliffhanger endings.

This was originally chapter 74, and the final chapter of the book.  The reasons for changing that are discussed in connection with the final chapter; moving it also meant placing the last Takano chapter before it, so I wouldn’t have two Kondor chapters in a row.


Chapter 86, Brown 195

There was a question about whether when Derek got to the bridge a voice would say “Captain on the bridge” and some mechanical crewmen would snap to attention, or whether it would go as it did, with an artificially intelligent humanoid holding the position of captain.  When I got here, I decided that making Derek First Officer had a lot more potential for interesting story, including addressing why the captain has not maintained the education of the humanoid indigs aboard.

I swithered about whether this would be the last chapter, or whether Kondor would end the book.  I had considered Lauren as well, but decided against her at some point.

Originally I ended the book with Kondor 171, with this as the penultimate chapter.  However, when Kyler was reading the chapters he said that the Brown chapter was the best ending for the book, the best cliffhanger.  However, if I moved it that would give me two Kondor chapters in a row–which was remedied by putting the last Takano chapter between them, also having the benefit that it prevented me from going directly from Lauren throwing the child to Tomiko catching her.


This has been the eighth and last behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with another novel and more behind the writings posts for it.

#325: The 2019 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #325, on the subject of The 2019 Recap.

Happy New Year to you.  A year ago I continued the tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #278:  The 2018 Recap.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable, so that if you missed something you can find it, or if you vaguely remember something you want to read again you can hunt it down.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, that day also saw the publication of the first Faith in Play article of the year, but all twelve of those plus the dozen RPG-ology series articles are listed, described, and linked in 2019 at the Christian Gamers Guild Reviewed, published yesterday.  There’s some good game stuff there in addition to some good Bible stuff, including links to some articles by other talented gaming writers, and a couple contributions involving me one way or another that were not parts of either series.  Also CGG-related, I finished the Bible study on Revelation and began John in January; we’re still working through John, but thanks to a late-in-the-year problem with Yahoo!Groups that had been hosting us we had to move everything to Groups.IO, and I haven’t managed to fix all the important links yet.

At that point we were also about a quarter of the way through the novel Garden of Versers as we posted a Robert Slade chapter that same day, but that entire novel is indexed there, along with links to the web log posts giving background on the writing process.  In October we launched the sixth novel, Versers Versus Versers, which is heating up in three chapters a week, again indexed along with behind-the-writings posts there, and it will continue in the new year.  There are also links to the support pages, character sheets for the major protagonists and a few antagonists in the stories.  Also related to the novels, in October I invited reader input on which characters should be the focus of the seventh, in #318:  Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel.

I wrote a few book reviews at Goodreads, which you can find there if you’re interested.  More of my earlier articles were translated for publication at the Places to Go, People to Be French edition.

So let’s turn to the web log posts.

The first one after the recap of the previous year was an answer to a personal question asked impersonally on a public forum:  how did I know I was called to writing and composing?  The answer is found in web log post #279:  My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

I had already begun a miniseries on the Christian contemporary and rock music of the seventies and early eighties–the time when I was working at the radio station and what I remembered from before that.  That series continued (and hopefully will continue this year) with:

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it is evident that the music dominated the web log this year.  In May I was invited to a sort of conference/convention in Nashville, which I attended and from which I benefited significantly.  I wrote about that in web log post #297:  An Objective Look at The Extreme Tour Objective Session.  While there I talked to several persons in the Christian music industry, and one of them advised me to found my own publishing company and publish my songs.  After considerable consideration I recognized that I have no skills for business, but I could put the songs out there, and so I began with a sort of song-of-the-month miniseries, the first seven songs posted this year:

  1. #301:  The Song “Holocaust”
  2. #307:  The Song “Time Bomb”
  3. #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal”
  4. #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods”
  5. #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe”
  6. #320:  The Song “Free”
  7. #322:  The Song “Voices”

I admit that I have to some degree soured on law and politics.  Polarization has gotten so bad that moderates are regarded enemies by the extremists on both sides.  However, I tackled a few Supreme Court cases, some issues in taxes including tariffs, a couple election articles, and a couple of recurring issues:

I was hospitalized more than once this year, but the big one was right near the beginning when the emergency room informed me that that pain was a myocardial infarction–in the vernacular, a heart attack.  Many of you supported me in many ways, and so I offered web log post #285:  An Expression of Gratitude.

Most of the game-related material went to the RPG-ology series mentioned at the beginning of this article, and you should visit that index for those.  I did include one role playing game article here as web log post #303:  A Nightmare Game World, a very strange scenario from a dream.

Finally, I did eventually post some time travel analyses, two movies available on Netflix.  The first was a kind of offbeat not quite a love story, Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies unravels When We First Met; the second a Spike Lee film focused on trying to fix the past, Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies unravels See You Yesterday.  For those wondering, I have not yet figured out how I can get access to the new Marvel movie Endgame, as it appears it will not be airing on Netflix and I do not expect to spring for a Disney subscription despite its appeal, at least, not unless the Patreon account grows significantly.

So that’s pretty much what I wrote this year, not counting the fact that I’m working on the second edition of Multiverser, looking for a publisher for a book entitled Why I Believe, and continuing to produce the material to continue the ongoing series into the new year.  We’ll do this again in a dozen months.

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or PayPal.me helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#188: Downward Upgrades

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #188, on the subject of Downward Upgrades.

I have been playing a game on a “smart” cellular phone for the past few months–obviously not constantly, but in spare moments when I am stuck somewhere like waiting for the washer to finish or for the dog to decide to come back inside.  I’m going to name it, because this complaint is in some sense specifically their fault, although they are certainly far from unique in this.  The game is called My Singing Monsters, and it’s a sort of time-eating building game with some interesting twists, the best of which was that eventually I got to create my own songs using their tools.  I reached something around level forty-three or forty-four, which was far above anyone else I ever saw playing the game, the best of whom stopped playing around level thirty.

Then the game stopped working, and I know exactly why it stopped working, and in a very real sense it is the fault of the designer, and in another sense the designer is just doing what everyone does:  I was forbidden to continue playing unless I installed the latest upgrade, but the latest upgrade was too big for the memory space on my phone.

It’s not as if my phone is filled with junk.  I have seven “apps” (that’s short for “applications” but it means “programs”) that did not come as part of the original software–Netflix, but no saved video, Kindle with only two books at a time saved locally, a remote control for my bedroom television, my bank’s access program, a voice recorder for making quick reminder notes, a program that cleans junk off the phone and monitors its functionality, and a very small program that tells me what my phone number is when I look.  I had a couple other games, but I deleted them, and very much for the reason that I just deleted this one:  without me adding any new functions to my phone, the existing functions kept using up more and more resources.

This has been a habit of the software industry for a generation (well, in software terms that’s probably twenty generations, but it’s only a few decades).  Once upon a time making a program “better” involved writing it such that it used less space, had fewer command lines, and did as much with less resources.  Now it seems that making a program “better” means bloating it with more code to provide features the user never requested–if I’m using my phone for directions and I plug it into the power supply, that cleaner program shuts down the running map program and locks the screen; it did not do that when I first installed it, but included that “feature” which I consider a “bug” in one of the upgrades (and there is no option to disable it).

Of course, the hardware manufacturers are even more supportive of this practice in connection with phones than they were with computers.  At one time when the resource demand grew too great you could upgrade the computer–install a larger hard drive, more on board RAM, faster processor, better sound or video card.  With a cell phone, you can’t even add memory–oh, you can put in an SD card, but the system is designed to prevent you from running programs from it, so you can only store media there (I have a thirty-two megabyte card hosting a dozen photographs and a lot of empty space).  Ultimately if you run out of room on the phone you either have to delete programs or you have to buy another phone.  Industry hardware executives are of course hoping ultimately you will be forced to the latter.

So I hope that the My Singing Monsters designers hear that they lost a player because they upgraded beyond his phone’s capacity, and give some thought to whether it’s really worth making the program bigger to add features no one requested, and also that the rest of the cell phone software industry might take to heart the idea that in many cases the best way to improve a program is to make it smaller, remove worthless code and features, and have it accomplish what it is essentially made to do with a much lower use of system resources.

I’m also hoping for world peace, the brotherhood of all mankind, and a perfect hot fudge peanut butter sundae.  I might get one of those.

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#145: The New Internet Tax Law

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #145, on the subject of The New Internet Tax Law.

What the Supreme Court won’t hear can hurt you.

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case appealed from the 10th Circuit, Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl, which means that the decision of the appellate court stands.  That decision means that the state legislature in Colorado has found a loophole of sorts in a very important previous case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), which has been very important to Internet sales over the past one and a half decades, in a way that means you might have to pay your local state sales taxes on purchases you make over the Internet.

img0145amazon

Quill is effectively the reason you don’t pay sales tax on purchases you make over the Internet from retailers in other states.  It actually had nothing to do with the Internet–Quill Corp. was a mail order office supplies dealer in Delaware that shipped orders all over the country, and North Dakota sued to require them to collect sales tax on any products they sold to customers in that state.  The Supreme Court set up standards by which in order for a company to be required to collect sales tax for any given state, it had to have some kind of physical presence in that state–offices, warehouses, retail outlets, even possibly franchises.  Absent these, the state had no authority to impose obligations on a business located in another state.

What states did in the wake of Quill was in essence to add a line to their state tax forms instructing residents to declare how much they owed in unpaid sales tax due to purchases made out of state.  Oddly, very little was ever reported.

Colorado had a new idea.  They could not require out-of-state businesses whose only connection to the state was through electronic communications and independent shipping companies to collect taxes for them–but could they require such companies to report the amount of such tax that was owed?  If you in Colorado spent a thousand dollars to have Amazon ship you books, movies, or whatever you bought from them, you were legally required to let the state know, and to remit the unpaid twenty-nine dollars (2.9%) sales tax–but if you neglected to mention it, the State of Colorado would be unable to determine that without legal action such as a warrant to open your banking records.  Under the new law, though, Amazon would be required to let the State tax board know of your thousand dollars worth of purchases, so that when you failed to mention it the state could send you a bill with penalties for tax avoidance.

New York’s Data and Marketing Association, an industry group (formerly the Direct Marketing Association), sued the state in the name of the executive director of its Department of Revenue several years ago when the law was enacted, and got a stay while the matter was being litigated.  It has now run its course:  the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that the law is not an “undue burden” on out-of-state retailers, and the Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case, so that ruling stands within the Tenth Circuit and will probably be followed by other circuits.

The law has some specific limits.  It only applies to retailers with at least one hundred thousand dollars in gross sales to customers within the state, so it’s not going to impact your e-bay resale business unless you’re doing a lot better than most.  However, it is fairly certain that other states will be passing similar laws–it is estimated that Colorado will be able to collect over one hundred seventy million dollars a year in previously unpaid sales tax revenue, and numbers like that are undoubtedly going to appeal to legislators elsewhere.  It is less clear how important the definition of minimum gross sales within the state is to the decision, so it may be that some states will place the bar much lower with the result that small Internet retailers are going to have a hard time knowing where they are required to report what.  Meanwhile, language in the denial of certiorari (that means the written decision not to hear the case) from Justice Kennedy suggests that the Court might consider overturning Quill and allowing states to demand that retailers selling to state residents through such means collect and remit sales tax on all purchases.  Tennessee is already in the process of passing such a law, which might make it the test case in a few years.

Whatever else can be said, it is clear that the landscape of Internet marketing just changed significantly.  You can no longer avoid paying sales tax by ordering from out of state.

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#92: Electronic Tyranny

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #92, on the subject of Electronic Tyranny.

I encountered an article–I did less than read it, but more than scan it–which ironically was apparently written by an expert in social media working with LinkedIn, if I understand aright, explaining why she had shut down her Facebook account.  She also had decided to deactivate her smartphone for several hours each evening.  She explained that it had been taking over her life, and now she finds she has much more time for more important things, like her writing and in-person personal interactions, relationships.

I apologize for being bored.  I use Facebook as my primary mode of communications, but I do understand the problem–and I understand it because I faced it and addressed it long before Facebook was an issue.  In fact, there was a name for this problem when it was a much smaller problem.  It was called The Tyranny of the Telephone. We have the same problem, only bigger; and the same answers address it, only modified for the new shape.

img0092Telephone

By the early 1960s, telephones were ubiquitous; it was probably earlier than that, but that’s a time I can remember, and it’s important for another reason.  Almost every home–certainly almost every suburban home–had one, and people used them for all kinds of things they previously did in person, like making appointments with doctors and talking to friends and selling life insurance and magazine subscriptions and promoting political candidates.  There was a weak attempt at establishing a standard of courtesy, such as when you called someone the first thing you should say is who you are, but this did not really take hold.

What was unexpected about the phone was the way in which it took over our lives. You could be entertaining sixty people spread across three rooms at a family gathering, but if the phone rang whoever was calling would expect, and get, your undivided attention for however long they chose to stay on the line, almost never asking whether it was a bad time.  You could be deeply involved in a work project, but if the phone on your desk rang you suddenly were interrupted by whoever was at the other end, for whatever reasons they had for wanting your involvement in what they were doing.  It was unlike any social interaction previous to it. If someone knocked on your front door and you were busy, you asked them to wait. If someone called on the phone, you asked everyone else to wait.

Around that time, in the early 1960s, my father, who at that time was an engineer with Western Union, attended a major telecommunications industry conference.  The president of AT&T was the keynote speaker.  For those who don’t know, prior to the antitrust breakup in the 1980s which allowed the launch of other long distance telephone services and ultimately the creation of independent local telephone companies, American Telephone and Telegraph was the phone company.  They provided nearly all local and long distance telephone service throughout the United States, and their Bell Labs was one of the leaders in electronic development and experimentation (I believe they invented transistors and were among the first to work with fiber optic data transmission).  In his keynote address, he spoke of many of the technological advances in telephone technology he perceived as coming within the decade, many of which did come in that time while others fell away for lack of interest for a few decades.  He predicted call waiting and call forwarding and caller ID, picturephones, and telephones with remote service that you could carry with you into the wilderness.  As he finished, he said that he could foresee the day when if you wanted to speak with someone you could pick up a phone, dial one number, and if he didn’t answer you could be pretty sure that he was dead.

What the president of AT&T did not understand then was the possibility that most of us sometimes and some of us most of the time would rather not be readily available to anyone and everyone, that we would want to disconnect from the world for a while, be voluntarily incommunicado.

And the problem with technology like the telephone is that it connects us.  Of course, that is exactly what it is supposed to do, but we do not always want to be connected.  That, though, is not a problem with the technology; it is a problem with us.

I say I understand the author’s problem, but am bored by it because it is old news.  In the late 90s I installed maybe all the popular instant messaging programs–ICQ, AIM, Yahoo!Messenger, MSN Messenger–and made myself available to anyone looking for me.  I was, after all, designer of a recently published game, and I needed to be available to answer questions–and I had launched several then independent web sites on time travel, D&D, Bible, law, and more, and needed to be available to people with questions about those.  What I found in the main, though, was that if you were visibly “on” such networks, it was like attending a large house party–people would see that you were available and assume that you had nothing better to do than chat with them.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I was at work trying to get web pages posted, new worlds written and edited, a novel completed, and more.  I would try to get these people to come to the point, to ask their question, to get past the pleasantries–only to realize there was no point, no question, only pleasantries from people who were bored and wanted to talk.

My response then was as drastic as that of the current author:  I shut down all those programs.  I’m not sure whether I could find the passwords and user names if I wanted them now, and I’m not sure which, if any, still operate, but I removed them from my schedule and found indeed that I had a lot more time, and a lot less contact with some people.

I went through something similar with electronic mail.  Every day I would download a large quantity of e-mail messages, attempt to discard anything that I could tell was obviously Spam (something at which I have improved), and then read through the substantial remainder and write responses to most of them.  Some would take perhaps not hours but certainly dozens of minutes, explaining complicated issues in temporal anomalies or answering a Bible question that had real personal meaning to a correspondent, and I would send these missives as soon as they were complete.  Then when I had finished all the mail that had been downloaded, I would hit the download button again, and get more–usually at least some of it replies to letters I had just sent, often requiring additional substantive responses.  This would happen several times every day, and my e-mail engagement would take several hours of my work time.

This time I handled the problem more intelligently.  My first step was not to download the second time–that is, if I downloaded mail at two in the afternoon, anything that hadn’t arrived by then would wait for the next day.  I did this because I realized that some people were using e-mail as if it were an instant messaging program, and I had eliminated instant messaging programs because they took over so much time in my life.  These e-mail conversations were doing the same thing.  Cutting them to one message a day saved a lot of time.  It saved so much time that I gradually cut it back further, first to every other day, then to a regular schedule of five times in a fortnight.  Eventually I realized that anyone who needed to reach me urgently either had my cell phone number (very very few, it was intended for emergency texting) or could reach me through Facebook.  Anyone who sent me an e-mail was not in that big a hurry to get an answer, and today I check e-mail about once a month, plus or minus a couple weeks.  I’ll get to it eventually.  It’s not usually that important, and I don’t need to let it take over my time.

I poke my nose into Facebook several times a day.  I was recently gifted with a smartphone, and added the Facebook apps so I can check when I am not at my computer.  However, I control my Facebook–I don’t look at my feed or try to follow what my friends are doing, and they know that I am unlikely to notice anything posted that is not in some way directed at me (a private message, a post to my wall, or a post in which I am tagged) or made in one of the few groups which have priority in my preferences.  I don’t have to delete Facebook to control it; I have to control myself.

The electronic world has the potential to consume our lives, to take time from other more important activities.  That has been true since its beginning, with gramophones and nickelodeons, radio and telephones, television, video games, personal computers, bulletin board systems and online services, cellular phones, Internet and e-mail and smartphones, and whatever comes next will undoubtedly be the same only more.  We can be the Luddites trying to cut ourselves off from its progress, but it does not stop that progress and does not improve us nearly as much as learning to control ourselves so we can use such advances as Facebook wisely.

Deleting your Facebook account strikes me as a desperate attempt to get control of your life, along the lines of those in earlier times who removed their television sets and had their phone service disconnected.  The problem is that you are letting it control you; the solution is to learn to control it.

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