Even as we read about how impatiently clicking from one channel to the next, or from one website to another, is surely a sign that we can’t concentrate on anything for more than 10 seconds or so, I still enjoy “surfing the web.” (What a quaint old term!)

But in my defense, I was a surfer before there was an internet. A dictionary, way back when, could keep me entertained for quite a while. And check out who else was, or might have been, a dictionary surfer: Shakespeare. There’s an article in the April 28 New Yorker by Adam Gopnik that talks about the efforts made by a couple of New York book dealers to authenticate an annotated dictionary from the Elizabethan era.  The annotations, they claim, are made by Shakespeare, and reveal his way of searching for and creating novel phrases.

Secure in my belief that, were he alive today, Shakespeare would spend way too much time on the internet (looking for material, don’t you know), I feel justified in occasionally spending way too much time on the internet.  Here’s where it led me this morning.

Susan read me a quote somebody sent her, from Francis Bacon: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” Well, that’s encouraging, and it’s enough to make one proud to be a guy.  (You don’t suppose the same would hold true for women, do you?)

But haven’t we read that nobody reads anymore?  That thought prompted me to do a search for “wither reading?”  Oops, not much there (wrong spelling of whither) though it did introduce me to a dystopian novel for teens called Wither by Laura DeStafano.  (I think I’ll pass on that one.)

“Whither reading?” sent me, among other places, to an April 30 New York Times blog post by Jennifer Schuessler, who reported on a Harris poll conducted in March that suggests that contemporary fiction (Dan Brown, Stephen King, etc.) is losing out in popularity to “school-reading-list classics” like The Bible, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, and (really?) Gone With the Wind.  The Harry Potter series holds its own, however. 

So then I tried searching for “exact writing,” which in a tip of the hat to Francis Bacon, frequently referred me back to the original Bacon quote, but also included this plaintive cry for help on the Yahoo Answers site from a distressed student:

11 ^ -5x = 8 ^ -x-5 Write the exact answer using base-10 logarithm. Please help.”

Someone whose online name is “I’m with Stupid” answered helpfully:

maybe you mean: 
11^(-5x) = 8^(-x – 5) 
-5xlog(11) = (-x – 5)log(8) 
-5xlog(11) = -xlog(8) – 5log(8) 
-5xlog(11) – xlog(8) = -5log(8) 
x(-5log(11) – log(8)) = -5log(8) 
x = -5log(8) / (-5log(11) – log(8)) 
 

I’ll have to take that one on faith, because I haven’t dealt with that kind of math in a long, long time.

Finally I googled “ready conference” which acquainted me with many audio conferencing products that I’m just as glad I don’t need to concern myself with at this point in my life and, on the 42nd Google search page, a site about a 2013 conference that posed this question: “Radical Life Extension: Are you Ready to Live 1,000 Years?”

I’m ready to answer that question: NO!

 

 

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