The World is Hollow (and I have touched the sky)

24 Oct

Grab a chair and a fresh drink, and one for me too, won’t you? I’m going to rant for a bit.

Stephen King’s On Writing is a terrific book, of course. I’ve read it enough times that I no longer read it beginning to end. I pick it up, I open it randomly, I read something, I go on with my day. I didn’t buy it, and I don’t read it, with the intention of learning how to write more betterer. I came to it knowing how to write (good enough) and what I learn for that skill is mostly unconscious, and that’s good enough for me. I just read it for the delight and the boost in my moral.

Anyway, one quote stands out at me today.

To paraphrase, “Now, I don’t want to say anything bad about my generation, (actually, I do: we had a chance to change the world, and we opted for the Home Shopping Network).”

It’s a fascinating quote. He moves on, straight away, back to the topic and that’s the end of his discussion of his generation, but it crosses my mind now and then, because it’s very true. His generation — which is also my parents’ generation — did have a chance to reshape the whole entire world. And they did. Unfortunately, it was mostly in the shape represented by the Home Shopping Network.

I have no right to judge that generation, nor do I intend to. What can I say? I wasn’t alive yet, I don’t know what it was like, what caused whom to make what choices. People don’t make decisions as a whole. Each individual person makes a decision for themselves. Of course, (thanks to Hari Seldon) we know that sometimes, the decisions are just individual currents which make up a river that flows one direction anyway.

But I can talk about my generation.

A generation which came into its own right around 1990. I don’t know if we were Generation X, because I don’t know what the hell that means, but my generation was a big part of the 90’s. My generation knows Metallica’s self-titled album and knows what a Limp Biskit is. My generation wasn’t an MTV generation, but it was a Real World generation and a comic book generation and, perhaps the first, it was the video game generation. Where previous generations will retell good memories of concerts and gigs and parties and movies, my generation can retell stories of multiplayer matches in Quake, of the origins of words like “pwned” (if we dare call it a word) and so forth. My generation does not have Woodstock, but we had Napster, and KaZaA, and Limewire, and so on. My generation did not have wars to protest (there were still wars, there are always wars, but we did not march), but we protested video game ratings and VMA award shows and American Idol voting results.

I can apply Stephen King’s phrase to my own generation. It can be adapted. We had a chance to change the world, and we opted for the internet.

This gets into social and political commentary which, again, I have no right and no qualifications to judge, and I won’t. The point I am muddling my way toward is, as ever, discussing writers and their interaction with technology.

I have never made it a secret what I think of writers and technology. I do not think they mesh. Or rather, I do not think they’re meshing properly.

To further reference Stephen King, he talks about the importance of writing at about the same time every day, in the same place, for the same reason that about the same time every day, you go to the same place to sleep. It gets your body ready to wind down and sleep and, with writing, it gets your body ready to be physically still while the mind unlocks. “I think what we’re talking about is creative sleep,” Stephen King says, and I think he’s right.

I also like comparing the process of writing to the Buddhist monks who might sweep the same patch of ground over and over and over, not because they expect to get it clean and hope for that, but because of the peace and clarity of mind. There is a stillness and a calmness in redundant work, in the repetition of a task which lets the mind allow the body to carry on and unlock.

Computers can work fine here, but not the internet. I think the internet is a bad thing for writers, for a lot of reasons. I think it gives writers an immediacy to everything which is no good. Immediate communication, immediate access to information (good and awful, equally) immediate access to interesting conversation and music and videos and opinions and articles and on and on and on.

I think that’s no good. I am of the opinion that a writer would do well to correspond freely with other writers, but on the slower-pace of letter-writing, and phone calls, and getting together for meetings. I think that research and information should be gained by going to talk to people, by going to look things up in books. You learn more accidentally and on the peripheral of what you actually went there to learn. You look up one word in the dictionary and wind up learning all about the word which came before it.

To use my Zen Buddhist example again: It’s like sweeping that patch of dirt, then stopping to see how others are sweeping patches of dirt, what sort of dirt it is, what you think of the dirt and what people think of what you think of the dirt and what sort of broom you’re using and maybe there’s an automatic broom-pusher and you can just press a button and so on.

It’s busy. It’s white noise. It’s the frazzling of the mind. The mind isn’t unlocking, it has to keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel because it’s on an icy road. Also, the brake lines have been cut.

This post is not going to dissuade anyone from the internet, or send anyone into a letter-writing frenzy. If this post were discussed, it would be discussed on the internet. And *I* am posting it on the internet, so what right do I have to talk?

I think that’s what niggles me. I do believe these things, I have evidence and plenty of thought which allow me to accept them as true. Regardless, I use G-mail. I use this blog. I am moderator on a massive writing forum. I spend all manner of time using the internet to read interesting and wonderful things.

It bothers me. It’s like someone who’s really, really wanting to become vegetarian, but they don’t because they haven’t figured out a way to get the same nutrition that they get out of meat, and they aren’t healthy enough to do without. It niggles and bothers.

I am putting together a system. Depending on how crazy you think I am, you could call it a religion. It’s not, it’s just a better way of working. It involves so much of the letter-writing and hand-writing and luddite-ism that I’m talking about here.

And even if others adopted it, they would never be able to entirely accept it, because computers are a pandora’s box that are not easily forgotten, nor dismissed. That all of the things which are declared good about the internet all existed before computers does not matter. They exist anew, and everything else is practically Biblical in age.

My generation had a chance to change the world all over again. We opted for and MySpace, and YouTube, and talk. To quote my ever-present hero, John Lee Hooker, “You yak!”


Posted by on October 24, 2007 in Uncategorized


25 responses to “The World is Hollow (and I have touched the sky)

  1. MidnightMuse

    October 24, 2007 at 10:58 am

    As my idol Douglas Adams once quipped about the Internet: “Wonderful swiftness of responses, which saves you a great deal of time, which you then waste by wandering about looking at loads of useless stuff.”

    My generation is inbetween – I’m not a gen X but not a “child of the sixties” in that, I was actually born in the sixties, so I guess “my generation” is of the 70’s, which really had no label. And I agree, the Internet, and all manner of these new-fangled technogeekie things are poised to bring about the demise of life as we know it. I keep saying one day the pendulum will swing back, I just hope it doesn’t take a massive EMP burst to cause it.

    Simplify, is my motto.

    But I put to you, as I put to all others who say things like “I’m turning 30 and what do I have to show for my life?” . . . What exactly are you supposed to have to show for your life?

    If you’ve failed to find a cure for cancer by the age of 30, or 40, are you a failure? Is your life meaningless if you’ve merely lived a good and happy one, without saving baby seals or donating all your worldly goods to an orphan in Ethiopia who is then adopted by whatshername Jolie?

    Every generation has the chance to change the world, and they fail because the world isn’t theirs to change. Their own minds are. Their own actions are. And their own lives are. If each individual person in any given generation stopped trying to change the world, and concentrated on changing themselves, for the better, perhaps the world would follow suit of it’s own accord.

    Either that, or Brew More Tea. (chant that, maybe it’ll catch on) ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Pete Tzinski

    October 24, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I would be happy if people did exactly what you state. Because no, you don’t have to go to Africa and Do Good. But I do think that you need to better yourself. You need to live up to yourself, if that makes any sense. Great and epic world-shattering changes are the ideas of the young, the attempts of the slightly older, and the regret of the aged. It doesn’t need to be that way at all.

    Londo Mollari (Emperor, Centauri) stated “It’s the quiet ones which change the universe. The loud ones merely take the credit for it,” which I always agreed with. Quiet change is the best change. And that means that you don’t have to stand in front of tanks, you don’t have to fight a war, or march for peace, or anything like that.

    But you DO have to do something. For yourself — and, eventually, that leads to “for the world” — even if its justify yourself to yourself, as I mentioned. The reason I bring up the internet is, in a world when we can all sit around and endlessly discuss the comings and goings of others, and what we think, we forget slowly how to think and how to discuss and how to affect. It’s artificial sweetener in the Hummingbird feeder (hummingbird thinks it’s full, but starves to death anyway, because they’re empty calories).

    This topic always comes up when I spend too much time in the internet world, and it comes up far stronger when at the same time, I’m reading about the lives of people like Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens and Ray Bradbury and so on.

    “But it was a different time, and a different world,” is the argument that can be made, and quite reasonably, because it’s absolutely true.

    Nonetheless, I do wonder if writers (as opposed to humanity, because although I am disgusted by presumption much of the time, it is not ego to talk about ‘writers’ seperate from humanity in some regards) should BE in a different time and a different world.

    Readying oneself for sleep does not involve watching cartoons and jumping and jumping and eating pounds of candy and then wondering why you’re not dozing off as you’re jumping jumping jumping.

    I wonder if it’s the same metaphor for creative sleep.

  3. Melissa (sanremoave)

    October 24, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Well said.

  4. Arachne Jericho

    October 24, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Speaking as a member of the MTV generation, how paranoid. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    What the net has done is create a generation of creators. Yes, 99% of everything is crap, but when you have a much bigger pie, the 1% of things that are good is also larger.

    Without computers we’d never have the likes of Charles Stross, Cory Doctrow, John Scalzi. Without the internet I’m of the belief that reading in the US would truly die. Only the ‘net makes possible the ability for people across the world to communicate—and that means every subculture has a gathering point, and when your numbers are in the 1 out of 100s, this is necessary.

    I have seen too many benefits of the ‘net to say it’s a Pandora’s box that should never have been opened. Not only was it inevitable—now I think about Mark Twain’s story, whatever it was, that predicted the Internet, even back then—but it is necessary for the human race to get to the next step. Only by seeing the rest of the world and making it smaller, more intimate, can we ever pull together.

    Mind you, the human race sucks at pulling together on the large scale. All the more reason for things like the Internet.

    I have no problems with MySpace or any of the other social networks, which verge on viral sometimes (Quetchup, for instance, although that has mostly died). For all the dramatic that goes on, there’s communication there. For all the triviality of it—is not most of the human condition trivial anyways? All that pain and stupid poems and silly showing off are the human condition writ small and intimate—at the personal level. To see all that jostling together….

    I have no problems with YouTube, DeviantArt, or any other art sharing network. The world could never have seen Peep Wars, shared anime fan fiction for shows and manga that have small audiences… nor could what most of us consider “true” art spread across the world. And I love YouTube most during emergent, disaster events. People sharing the world through the eyes of YouTube becomes a rallying point of the common man, the magnitude of which has never, ever, ever been seen before. Yes, there is robbing and copyright violation…. but there is also a lot of originality there.

    As for… I say, good choice. Same for Yahoo, and eBay. They bring choices — in products, in auctions, in photo sharing or IM or webpages or whatever and, these days with Yahoo, WordPress blogs — to the population at large. goes beyond what your normal bookstore could even simply order. And they serve it up faster.

    The world is speeding up. We will achieve in 50 years what previous generations thought would take us 100 to even muddle through. Science fiction writers must be ever more speculative, because when we can copyright the gene sequence of an entire breed of transparent frogs, and create with the wave of the genetic wand zebra fish with green blood vessels, and are starting to reach the limits of silicon with respects to computing—and even now, discovering ways around that… well, what the hell can you do? What’s left is aliens and space travel, the next big barrier we have not yet crossed.

    How could we ever do all that without a large communication network? Without it, how could the PeaceCorps or Red Cross mobilize so quickly? Or the ability to share discoveries across the world, across nations, across continents? I have no doubt that when we do finally get out into space on a regular basis, the Internet will have played an enormous part in touching on that.

    With the net, the world is watching, the world is being watched….

    Now, what the hell is in that for writers?

    Well, it should be bleeding obvious.

    Writing is about communication, even if it’s just with yourself (diaries and whatnot; and even so, diaries can get out and touch the world, like Anne Frank’s or the other diaries World War II’s unfortunate Nazi Germany).

    The writing that matters the most to the human race, overall, is that which communicates with others.

    What does the Internet do?

    Duh. Yes, there’s a lot of noise, but thanks to search and pagerank and even human-driven scoring, the good stuff does make it to the top. Like any slush pile.

    I am not fond of my fellow human being. I’ve been hurt too much in life for that.

    But I know the net is necessary for bloody everything, writing *definitely* included.

    There is even more to all that.

    But I said what I gots to say at the moment. And the ferry is docking, and I must drive off.

  5. Pete Tzinski

    October 24, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Writing is indeed about communication, but it is not about instant communication. Not always. That’s something else and it’s called “Conversation.”

    There are enormous advantages to the internet. I pointed out, in my article, the hypocrisy of me posting about this, since I’m doing it on a blog, on the internet, for people I have never met to read. I’m in the steak house preaching vegetarianism.

    The net is certainly not necessary. No more than, truly, caffeine is necessary in the morning, or cars are necessary to get around. They are useful, they are convenient and fast, and we love them for it. We could get up in the morning in different ways; we could adopt public transportation instead of cars. We could not have the net. But none of this is true.

    The net is not necessary, but it is present and it is used and it has been adopted. To find other solutions would do nothing for a huge number of people, merely because they have the net already. It would be an expulsion from the garden and they would be bitter for it, no matter what benefits there would be.

    The ‘net should not go away, should not be vanished. Sugar should not vanish. Both should be considered for their good and their bad and compensated accordingly.

    In all of this, I talk only of writers.

    And in none of this do I particularly expect anyone — writers or not — to actually agree with me. I am not such an optimist as that.

  6. MidnightMuse

    October 24, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Just keep in mind, man first got to space well before the internet – or home PCs – were ever around. And the dude(s) who invented the computer certainly didn’t do it with the use of a computer, or the internet.

    Just sayin’

  7. Pete Tzinski

    October 24, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Kristine, it was interesting in your first post that you used the word “pendulum” because I wrote an article expounding, at length, a lot of the things I talked about here (the gist of it, anyway). Technology is utterly a pendulum and I think right now, we are at the extreme end of the arc. Where we need to be is in the middle. I think it’ll swing back. Soon? Yeah. I don’t know how soon, I would be a fool to try and predict it, but I think it’ll eventually swing back.

    The world worked for a long time without the internet. It worked well. It works as well now, with the internet, as ever-before. That said, without moderation, the internet is as dangerous as eating junk food and never exercising and going everywhere in a car.

    I have long held, and never articulated, a lot of the stuff I’m talking about here. Partly because I knew the sort of reaction it would get. However, then I started reading more about authors, and I discovered:

    – Neil Gaiman writes by hand.
    – J.K. Rowling writes by hand
    – Stephen King writes by hand these days.
    – Harlan Ellison still uses a typewriter.
    – Reading through this page ( ), the vast majority of those authors do not use computers.
    – Some of the greatest works in the english language were not composed on computers. There were no computers, in point of fact.

    I can think of valuable uses for the computer, for the internet. I do not regret my time on the internet, and I am grateful for the friends it has allowed me to make. That does not make it a good thing, not as it stands.

    I have pointed out in another article, somewhere (Hi, I’m forgetful), that “The internet is a tool for mass communication, despite the fact that we are less and less able to communicate with one another through it.”

    Bob Dylan once said, “Rock journalists are people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t speak, for people who can’t read.” To some extent, that applies to parts of the internet too.

  8. MidnightMuse

    October 24, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    I often lament my loss of the ability to write by hand – truth be told, if I could physically hold and use a pen for more than five minutes at a time, I’d be in writerly heaven.

    I am, however, going to be doing just that in November. For two days, I’ll be stuck in a place without keyboards of any kind, and Must. Keep. Writing. So I’ll have aspirin, a notepad, and pen and lots of time to stop and get the feeling back ๐Ÿ˜€

    Perhaps, in time, with the swinging of the Pendulum, the apple tree with shake out the underdeveloped, rotten, and diseased, and we’ll be left with a lovely tool that performs well but knows it’s place. Then the world will look upon the ‘net as no more important than an automobile that gets them from home to work again, or that hairbrush you use in the morning then put away until next it’s needed.

  9. Pete Tzinski

    October 24, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    That’s exactly what I was trying to say, in a clumsy sort of way. That’s what I want the ‘net to be.

    And appearing shortly (I don’t know the exact date) on Lori’s blog is an article I wrote about handwriting and tea, and it might be useful for you when you go away to handwrite.

    It was realizing that I hadn’t handwritten in years, and that my handwriting was this huge awkward thing which led to me working very hard to get my handwriting back proper and useful. People say, when I discuss that, “Well, it’s easy when it doesn’t hurt and your handwriting looks like that,” which is a bit insulting. It took me seven months of unrelenting handwriting every day — and it did hurt — before my handwriting was usable and my hand didn’t hurt again. It’s like saying to a professional swimmer, “Well, it’s easy to do when you’re strong like that.”

    The other thing worth addressing here is why I talk about it in the places I do, rather than finding a nice luddite community on the internet (how’s that for irony?) and talking about it there. The reasoning is simple. Because occasionally the luddites I’ve met, in reality and virtuality, are nuts. Nutso. The one guy I met wanted life to be like it was in Victorian England, which is frankly lunatic, since I have no desire to die of the dozens of disease which I would have gotten while I was walking around London in my elegant attire. I think anyone that truly wants life without any form of technology in it has frankly never read/watched anything on the sort of medical instruments used back then. No thanks.

    That’s why I’m always careful to emphasize that I am referring to parts of the technology world, and am mostly applying it to writers.

  10. Arachne Jericho

    October 24, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Well, okay then.

    Will the pendulum ever swing back for the printing press?

    I spoke mostly about writers, Pete. And none of the writers you mention—including the dead ones—would have as large an audience today. If you want to speak of necessity, I know that Gaiman and Rowling almost certainly would not have—and neither of them would ever be considered classics either. Without the Internet, Sandman would never have reached as wide an audience as it did—and American Gods would never have been considered for publication. Harry Potter’s popularity is an Internet phenomenom—something to be included in the next Merrel-Webster.

    Plus an ever growing number of writers do find out about the craft through the ‘net. And more writers touch base, learn from each other, critique each other, etc through the nets.

    Speaking as someone who grew up without anything more complicated than a typewriter, who grew up thinking that technology was evil and the Internet witchery, who grew up thinking that science should stand still and progress was overrated…

    To many people, even apart from those like myself, the Internet was necessary for us to become writers. To even be aware of the craft, or to learn about it, or even to know where the offline resources are in the first place.

    NaNoWriMo, for many of us, was a necessity in encouraging the craft. Thanks to the Internet, it reaches an audience across the world—including those we think of as “Third World”, because the ‘net is that freaking invasive.

    If necessity only refers to writing in history, remember this: 99% of our precious writers would never be without the printing press. Religious texts may be copied by hand by monks over hundreds of years, but who’s going to do that for _Lolita_ or _Huckleberry Finn_?

    I never want the pendulum to swing back. I’d have been dead long since, and my words never written, and my stories never ever told, without the Internet. Much of what I have learned about writing is through the Internet too—through recommendations from writers’ boards, and through

    If the fact that I would never have been a writer without the Internet makes me unworthy of being a writer at all, then so be it. If the fact that there’s gonna be some writer (not me) who will impact the fiction world, who never could or would discover the craft without the Internet, is not worthy of the ‘net being necessary, then so be it.

    On the ‘net, we all be hacks.

  11. mscelina

    October 24, 2007 at 12:23 pm


    This happens to coincide with a thought process I went through recently. There’s definitely an upswing toward instant gratification. A member of my crit group said, “We have to write like TV. No one wants to wait for the payoff, so parts of speech and literary devices are the first things to go.”

    Initially, I agreed with him. (hell, it was my original point) But then I started thinking about it and I took a look at my daughters. Both are in college now, both have immense myspace and facebook pages, and both of them spend what seems to me to be a ridiculous amount of time taking pictures of themselves, getting involved in flame wars with boyfriends’ ex-girlfriends, and enjoying the power of the internal debate of how to arrange their friends’ list.

    But there was only one thing either girl REALLY wanted this summer and that was Harry Potter 7. In lieu of the gimme now entertainment value of the internet, they willingly isolated themselves with a good book and READ. Our whole house was quiet the day the book came out. My husband and I were at the front of a newly formed checkout line at Krogers to buy five copies of the book–three gifts, one for us to read, and one to be put away with the other HP first editions in my *DO NOT OPEN THIS* barrister’s bookcase.

    It was only later that it hit me. True, the internet can be a bad thing for a writer with a deadline (whether self-imposed or professional). It can be a distraction beyond the fight over the last cookie down the stairs. But that’s MY fault. My discipline as a professional should keep me in focus. So when I’m taking a break from work, like now, I cruise around and see what’s going on. But when I’m working I can have an internet window open (and I frequently do if I’m researching something) but still lose myself in the slow, methodical practices of my routine. Just as my daughters will shut off their computers and browse through my bookshelves saying, “Mom–I need something to read.” Eventually, it all comes back to where it should be.

  12. Lori

    October 24, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    And appearing shortly (I donโ€™t know the exact date) on Loriโ€™s blog is an article I wrote about handwriting and tea, and it might be useful for you when you go away to handwrite.

    Monday, October 29th.

  13. MidnightMuse

    October 24, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Yay. My PT told me I could get it back, if I ‘worked’ at it. I really want to.

  14. tjwriter

    October 24, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Really interesting discussion here, and something to ponder while I drive home when that time comes, three hours hence. Speaking as a member of Gen Y aka The Entitlement Generation who believe they are entitled to any thing, at any place, during any time. I find it pathetic. It makes me an old soul or really weird. I prefer the former, but I have this distinct feeling it’s the latter.

    I prefer to write by hand. I just need a secretary to type it up for me. I think better that way though. My mind flows, and plot twists show up out of nowhere. At the computer, my mind freezes up, and I go do interesting things.

    Part of my lack of focus at the computer comes from my lack of friends, I believe. It’s my social place. There are gobs of intersting people who know all sorts of neat things and I’m an information whore. I love to just observing, taking in and learning. There are lots of places to do that on the internet.

  15. Pete Tzinski

    October 24, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Part of my lack of focus at the computer comes from my lack of friends, I believe. Itโ€™s my social place. There are gobs of intersting people who know all sorts of neat things and Iโ€™m an information whore. I love to just observing, taking in and learning. There are lots of places to do that on the internet.

    This is interesting and true enough. I have friends in real life, but they have jobs and things to do. There’s no problem there. I get together once a week with my best friend and we work on things together, on Saturdays. It’s wonderful. And then he goes back to work on Monday and I go back to writing.

    I can always go on the internet to find someone to talk to. And worse, find something to read. And it’s interesting! It’s a fountain of information. The other day, I just randomly jumped from species to species of deep sea marine life and gobbled it up and was smarter for it.

    Is this a good thing?

    Not where I am being a writer.

    Something else Stephen King talks about is the importance of having that door to close when you sit down to write. You close the door to write, but with the internet, you’re basically just opening another door and this one leads into a really exciting festival full of noise. It defeats the purpose.

  16. Cath

    October 24, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Which is precisely why I write on an old Mac with no internet connection.

    You say we’re an immediate generation – I’d actually add a word. Disposable.

    We don’t value what we have, I think, which is a wealth of good (if you know where to look), and valuable information at our fingertips. And, to me, that has to be a good thing.

    I’m old enough to have qualified as a librarian when computer’s were still an oddity. And I do remember the difficulties of finding information from out of date indexes, and even older statistics. And I love the web.

    But like everything, it’s a matter of moderation. And I think as a generation, we’re also greedy. I can only hope our successors learn from our mistakes.

  17. Arachne Jericho

    October 24, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    I think the ‘net is indispensable for learning, for ideas, for networking. As do we all, no doubt.

    I have my RSS feeds open on as many non-redundant science and tech sources as possible, and I drink it in every morning and every night. A lot of that stuff isn’t going to appear in books for a long time—it’s all live, hot, research action from universities and companies and your random privately rich crazies.

    (I’m such a different person from the one who believed that scientific advancements came in a handful per decade.)

    In between, I do turn off the fire hose to write.

    But I think in the interim, the ‘net makes me a much better writer. Disposing of it would make my works poorer.

    Plus being able to search at Amazon to find out whether something has been done long before or not is invaluable. ๐Ÿ™‚

    None of that defeats the purpose of writing in a holistic sense. Letting your attention stray for any reason — whether or not the ‘net is involved — is what is a killer. ‘Specially in November.

    That all be MY tea.

  18. Melaniehoo

    October 25, 2007 at 10:07 am

    I really liked your dictionary analogy and shared it with my husband. He’s been fluent in English for years yet still reads his dictionary every day. Sometimes for hours. I’m relearning Spanish and try to spend half an hour a day with my Spanish-English dictionary, and find myself doing exactly what you said – I’ll look up one word and end up studying the whole page. I use the online dictionary when I’m writing and don’t have time to waste, but there are still people who appreciate peripheral learning.

  19. Pete Tzinski

    October 25, 2007 at 10:17 am

    When I’m working on the internet — here, or on AW, or writing an article — then I just use an online dictionary.

    When writing fiction, I get out a paper dictionary. It’s not a big or comprehensive one (mostly because that one is HEAVY), but it works. I find that the few moments it takes me to find the page and find the word do my brain good. It doesn’t hurt to have things which slow you up in writing once in awhile. Plus I pick up words I have no reason to know and wind up using them in wrong places in my conversation, just out of sheer delight. It drives my wife batty.

    “Honey, the dishes are flotilla-ing in the sink!”

    “That’s nice, dear…”

  20. MidnightMuse

    October 25, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Am I the only one who keeps a dictionary in the bathroom for reading?


    Okay, then. ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Arachne Jericho

    October 25, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    I get my random weird words from various dictionary website feeds for “word of the day”.

    However, for specialized dictionaries I prefer the paper form. LEO is nice, but it doesn’t beat Langford for German usage by a long shot. And I like the A to Zed British – American dictionary, and dislike the online forms. This all is mostly because of information incompleteness rather than reading on the side.

    However, an electronic Japanese dictionary is frankly necessary…. paper doesn’t do nearly as good a job. Nor does, but it’s better than a lot of paper resources in the US (or even imported).

    And then there’s the Descriptionary, which is all about side learning, which I enjoy in paper form. Though if there were an electronic version, I’d hook on that, too, because the design is such that any form would involve reading through numerous entries.

  22. Shadow Ferret

    October 25, 2007 at 8:44 pm


    My life wasted…

    I’ll say no more.

  23. Pete Tzinski

    October 26, 2007 at 6:53 am

    I see very few uses of electronics in any form as “necessary,” although I think that’s an appropriate word for them, because they SEEM that way rapidly. If you asked a lot of Common People (hums the song) if they could get around without their cars, they would tell you it’s impossible. Get to work without the car!? God…They guess they could hitch a ride. Because cars are necessary.

    I have never had a car. AT first, it was because I just didn’t get around to getting my license. Then you discover that when a group of people find out you don’t have a license, the reaction is interesting and strange. It wouldn’t make sense to explain unless you also don’t have your license. These days, I don’t have it because I just haven’t found a need. When I had a day job, I could walk there. No matter how far, regardless of when I worked, it meant I had to leave earlier and walk it. I was never late. The car is not necessary.

    Nor is the internet strictly necessary. It has its uses, but so much of it is compulsive and impulsive, I think it erodes us into the disposable culture which does us no good, frankly.

    I also keep noticing that there’s a huge portion of the population (in the United States; in the world its even larger) which has little to do with computers and next-to-nothing to do with the internet. And yet, for them, life trundles on. Some of them are very smart.

    The internet is absolutely not indispensable. Nor should it be dispensed with. But it can be a candy store, instead of giving the child just a single candy bar.

  24. Arachne Jericho

    October 26, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Hey man… we don’t need books either. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or writing.

    Technically we don’t need anything other than food (fire optional) and shelter. And sex, got to have sex. And child rearing. Apart from that, though…. everything else is optional.

    If you can’t go ascetic, why not indulge a bit? After all, even the Buddha proposes the middle path. And since the middle path is ever more pulled towards the technological….

    If we want time to stand still, there’s a lot of things we don’t need. And that goes beyond technology (in fact, books are technology too; tools are technology).

    If we want to go ahead, though, I’m afraid there are only a few ways….

    And that goes for writing too. What we write should change and evolve. Because people should change and evolve. And that usually is done through technology, whether we’re talking presses or Leathermans.

    The internet is not only inevitable, but necessary for the human race as a whole. We gotta get the people out into space; how are we going to do that without a massive communications network across the world? And because we’re people, the massive communications network, whatever alternate universe it is, is of course going to have MySpaces and blogs.

    Sun goes nova in a couple billion years. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or an asteroid will come (they say maybe as soon as the middle of this century). Communication accelerates technology.

    So I see the ‘net as indispensable for getting forwards on the level of the human species as a whole. For individuals, sure. You can dispense with it.

    But I’d be dead without it. I’d also be dead without other technology, of the medical kind. So to me, not dispensable.


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