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Different games

My middle daughter was the great reader among our children.

And it was through her that I discovered a, well, novel kind of novel.

One day she brought home from the school library a book that was written in such a way that the reader could choose paths to take to get to the ultimate resolution. So, there were several possible endings depending on the pathway you chose. And you could choose all of them one at a time, just for the heck of it.

Pretty neat, I thought.

Now I am reading about online games that do the same thing, and they are not animated, blow-'em-up, shoot-'em-up boy videos.

Using a program called Twine, girls are writing games that take players all kinds of places to find an ending, according to a story in The New York Times Magazine published Sunday by Laura Hudson.

Lots of traditional gamers are claiming these aren't games at all, but those build them claim they are.

I can't speak to that controversy.

I can just say that I find it encouraging that girls are getting into online activities that raise their profiles and, maybe, make them a little money.

Be still ...

The main article on my favorite blog, called Brain Pickings, last weekend was about a book by Pico Iyer that I really need to read and heed.

It's "The Art of Stillness," and Iyer's right. Stillness is definitely an art, one I have most assuredly not mastered, although I thought I might try in retirement.

I did try, but wasn't good at it, possibly because I didn't know how to do it.

Iyer sought out Leonard Cohen, the great musician, who became a nearly isolated monk to get away from it all/

But, he talked to others, too, and he has this observation:

"We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, our nights off – our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk."

Isn't that true?

One place where you can, though, get away from it all: the Wimberley Village Library.

Come on in.

Really smart?

I kind of feel sorry for Dawson Orr.

He's the superintendent of schools in Highland Park, the exclusive, for-the-rich-only city within Dallas.

Dawson is a thoroughly decent and capable man who's managed to get himself into a place that seems to be as crazy as it is wealthy. Dawson was superintendent of schools for a while when I was editor of the newspaper in Wichit Falls.

What Highland Parkers are doing is systematically dumbing down their high school curriculum by insisting on approving each and every book their children are asked to read. In the process, they have managed to challenge the use of classics such as Brave New World, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter and A Farewell to Arms.

These are all books that the parents probably read in high school, but they -- what? -- fear their children aren't mature enough to handle such strong stuff. There's more outrageous material in the ether today than existed 10 to 15 years ago.

One supposes these same parents decline to let their children sleep over with friends for fear of what they might watch on TV or snag from the book shelf. Surely they don't let the kids go through the line at the grocery store. There are magazine covers out there that are more stimulating than anything in A Farewell to Arms. Going to the movies must be taboo, as well. And the kids must not be allowed to use the internet or to watch their on TV sets unsupervised.

So, I really don't understand what's going on unless it's mere politics, part of the overal effort to dismantle Texas public schools.

Oh, I do well understand one of the selections the parents resent. It's called Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. Poor people don't exist in Highland Park, so they must be figments of someone's imagination everywhere else, too.

Smart phones win

Americans are spending about three hours per day on their mobile devices.

That's according to Flurry Analytics, a Yahoo company. The analysis was released today, and Library Journal summarized the findings.

What's most striking about the report: People are spending more time on mobile devices than watching television.

Remarkable.

Flurry Analytics said that they can't prove how much overlap is reflected in those numbers, but they suspect there's a lot. In other words, people use their mobile devices while they watch TV as well as when they walk, sit in meetings, ride on elevators, attend church and funeral services -- and, my own set of observations -- when they drive their cars.

I'd love to see a comparison between time spent on mobile devices and time spent reading books or newspapers.

The digital divide

For 20 years there's been talk of the so-called "digital divide."

For most of that time, the divide has been thought to have been both racial and in terms of income.

Higher income folks and white folks were thought to be more likely to own computers and to have high-speed internet access.

Now comes the U.S. Census Bureau with results from its latest American Community Survey, and those findings confirm the conventional wisdom.

People who live in large metro areas are more likely by a high number to own computers and to have high-speed access than people in rural areas. Metro areas have high-speed access; rural areas don't.

No mystery there.

But, it's interesting to look at use. In Boulder, 97 percent of the population uses high-speed internet; in Laredo, Texas, that number is 70 percent. Guess which town has the highest povery rate.

So, we have to continue to talk as libraries about having computers with high-speed access because that digital divide isn't going away.