Early Baez: A Tribute

By Gene Wilburn

Album Cover Copyright Vanguard Records

I just read on Facebook that it was Joan Baez’s 83rd birthday. I’m only trailing her by a handful of years and, in a way, Baez and I grew up together, meaning we both passed through the same turbulent time periods. Not that I ever met her. I was just another fan, but her voice accompanied me through the early folk revival years, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and her singing introduced me to Bob Dylan.

I was seventeen in 1962 when I first heard Joan Baez on my transistor radio. She was singing the traditional ballad “Barbara Allen” and I was struck by two things: her beautiful, sad, gentle pitch-perfect soprano voice, and her guitar work. She played the song in D, if I recall correctly, using inverted arpeggios.

I was just learning my first few chords on a beat-up old guitar that had a turnbuckle on the back to keep the fingerboard from snapping off. I tried imitating her playing and found I could do it, a little. I couldn’t match her singing, of course. I was a teenage male without a great voice, but I could at least sing more or less in tune.

From that point on, she became my favourite folk singer, and, unbeknownst to her, my first guitar instructor.

The next year, 1963, I was struggling as an eighteen-year-old freshman engineering student at the University of Arizona, Tucson. I was failing chemistry and just getting by in calculus and feeling miserable about my prospects, but nonetheless it was a great year for folk music. I’d been to live performances of the New Christie Minstrels, the Clancy Brothers, Mike Settle, Joe and Eddie, and those enigmatic Tucson favourites, Bud and Travis.

I had acquired a cheap used Goya flamenco guitar which I used as a folk guitar. By this time I was listening to the early Baez albums over and over to pick up more of her guitar techniques. I was learning other folk styles as well, but there was something in the way Baez played that always drew me back.

My engineering roommate and some other engineering dorm buddies and I had planned a trip to the Grand Canyon to hike down and back up the Bright Angel Trail but an unexpected event intervened. It was announced, on short notice, that Joan Baez would perform a concert in the university auditorium, so I let my friends hike in the canyon without me. There was no way I was going to miss this.

I bought a medium-priced ticket and attended the concert. I think it happened on a university break because the seats weren’t filled. But the audience was attentive, enthusiastic, and adoring.

With no introduction by an announcer, Baez simply stepped out from behind the curtains into the spotlight, walked up to the mic, turned her Martin guitar around and sang her first song of the night. It cast a spell on us. The sound coming out of the many AR-3 speakers in the hall (engineering students notice such things) was purer than any recording I’d heard. She was even better live than she was on record, and she played song after song of her early ballad material. She also played some early Dylan which we all loved.

Because there were empty seats near the front, I moved into a first-class seat close to the stage where I could watch her play.

To this day I think Baez is an underrated guitarist. She wasn’t a guitar virtuoso, and played the standard folk/country chords, but what she did with them was something special. Her guitar not only provided accompaniment to her beautiful singing, it served as a second voice. She had a deft, confident technique (I never heard a single clunker) and while she was singing a lot was going on with her guitar.

In tunes like “John Riley,” “Girl of Constant Sorrow,” “East Virginia,” “Donna Donna,” and “All My Trials,” her guitar joined her in harmony, played mostly on the bass lines. In “Wildwood Flower” you could hear that she’d been influenced by Maybelle Carter, yet she moulded the technique into her own.

Baez had a remarkable way of using her guitar as an amplifier of her sung lyrics. In both “Henry Martin” and “Mary Hamilton” her sudden light double stringing on the bass strings brought forth dramatic moments of the ballads. Subtle and beautifully effective, cradling her clear soprano voice.

I’ve been to many folk concerts since then, and heard many better guitarists, but few folk artists ever matched the exquisite combination of Joan Baez’s voice and her single guitar accompaniment.

Not long after, the early Beatles bombarded the air waves, and the folk movement was more or less washed away. This led to the psychedelic era of rock, and folk music was largely forgotten and ignored, except for established folk festivals like Newport and Mariposa.

Baez, too, changed with the times and her work became increasingly singer-songwriter oriented, including some masterpieces from her own pen, like “Diamonds and Rust.” But even in that iconic song, her lovely guitar accompaniment underscores the lyrics.

When I see photos of the current Baez, she’s smiling a lot. I get the impression that she’s lived the good life and fought the good fight, and has achieved an inner peace. She still looks lovely.

But my memories harken back to the sad-eyed, serious early Baez who started me on the path of folk singing, something I continue to this day.

I owe her a great debt of thanks. Dear Joan, to me you are forever young.

If you are new to early Baez recordings, you can sample her at https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lvlmIBhrHo_Munfas0UYXIJVsr3UhBdyk&si=KeNlIyG5sKFBwLnOhttps://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lvlmIBhrHo_Munfas0UYXIJVsr3UhBdyk&si=KeNlIyG5sKFBwLnO

Klondike Solitaire with a Twist: A New Approach to an Old Game

By Gene Wilburn

Solitaire may have started as a fortune-telling game. Image DALL-E 3, requested by the author


The game of Solitaire, also known as Patience, has an indeterminate origin. The entry for “Solitaire” on the Britannica website suggests that a group of card solitaire games originated in the Baltic region of Europe, possibly as a form of fortune telling, sometime in the late-18th century.1

The first recorded mention of solitaire comes from France, as the French name for the game — Patience — implies. Spreading through Europe and the UK, the game of solitaire had many, perhaps hundreds of variants.

The North American version of solitaire that is best know is called Klondike, or Klondike Solitaire, thought to have originated in the Klondike region of Canada during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–1899). This, for me, has always conjured up an image of solitary prospectors stuck in primitive miner’s cabins during fierce winters, playing solitaire in what little light was available, but the sources suggest otherwise. The game seems more likely to have evolved as a gambling game to be played in the gambling establishments in Dawson City, Yukon. It was also popular in the gambling spots in Skagway, Alaska, where fortune hunters arrived from and departed for the gold fields.2

As a parlour card game, Klondike has been a pastime for thousands, possibly millions, of card-playing North Americans.

But Klondike Solitaire received its greatest boost in popularity when Microsoft included it in Windows 3.0 (released in May, 1990) as a way to train users new to graphical user interfaces how to drag and drop selected items with a mouse. The impact of this was significant because it became one of the most-used Windows programs and it spread the game as a pastime to millions of computer users.3

Later, it generated another gold rush of sorts when software developers vied for creating the most popular Solitaire app for the iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices. Computer versions of Solitaire, along with Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and other such games remain highly popular with users. I find solace in Solitaire when sitting in the waiting room for a medical appointment and the doctor is running far behind schedule. (The Solitaire app I use most of the time is Real Solitaire, produced by EdgeRift, Inc. because I like its design and interface. Microsoft Solitaire is also excellent.)

The Twist

The variant of Solitaire I always play is 3-card Klondike. I find it satisfactorily challenging, but I found I seldom won, despite the source that that puts the upward odds of winning at 3-card Klondike at 82%.4 However, a different study came up with the more realistic odds of 43% of winning.5 By this standard you should win at a nearly 50% rate.

The problem is that this just isn’t so. I may not be a great solitaire player, but I’m not bad, and my actual winning percentage was much lower (6%). This is so much lower that I came up with a twist to make the game more enjoyable. I decided to set a winning number (according to the traditional scoring rules) based on points. After some experimentation, I found what, for me, was the Goldilocks number: 150.

DALL-E 3, requested by the author

So, if my score reaches 150, that’s a win. If I attain what is a traditional win, I call that a “sweep.”

A simple twist, but it made the game much more equitable.

I’ve now played 3-card Klondike with this twist for a few years and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to keep track of my scores over several weeks and then take a look at the numbers.

Because none of my Solitaire apps is set up to record each game’s score, I used QuickNotes on my iPad to manually enter each game’s score in a comma-separated file. Every Sunday I would transfer this file to my laptop, then erase the contents of QuickNotes to prepare for the next week’s numbers. On my laptop I wrote a Bash script to concatenate the weekly files into a long working dataset that I could then analyze with a few Python scripts.

For this experiment I collected 14 weeks of game scores, from October 1st to December 31st, 2023.

The Results

First, the overall stats:

Items in full_list: 5854
Items in short_list: 5529
Items in sweep_list: 325
Items in win_list: 2553
Win percentage: 49 %
Sweep percentage: 6 %

In 14 weeks of playing Solitaire, I played 5854 games and recorded their scores. Of those 325 games resulted in “sweeps,” which is “wins” in traditional scoring. This means that, in traditional scoring, I won 6% of my games. No wonder I needed a new target for winning. When I add all my new “win” stats — 150 or better–I have a 49% chance of winning, though as we shall see, this is a bit misleading due to the high scores of a sweep.

The numbers came out like this:

{0: 14, 5: 24, 10: 48, 15: 41, 20: 60, 25: 64, 30: 70, 35: 77, 40: 96, 45: 101, 50: 110, 55: 119, 60: 140, 65: 133, 70: 145, 75: 152, 80: 163, 85: 137, 90: 149, 95: 146, 100: 153, 105: 144, 110: 141, 115: 159, 120: 132, 125: 121, 130: 124, 135: 110, 140: 113, 145: 115, 150: 134, 155: 170, 160: 147, 165: 114, 170: 131, 175: 96, 180: 91, 185: 74, 190: 68, 195: 97, 200: 79, 205: 72, 210: 57, 215: 60, 220: 61, 225: 59, 230: 52, 235: 64, 240: 36, 245: 62, 250: 32, 255: 38, 260: 32, 265: 23, 270: 20, 275: 37, 280: 22, 285: 21, 290: 20, 295: 17, 300: 27, 305: 15, 310: 18, 315: 19, 320: 15, 325: 14, 330: 13, 335: 8, 340: 10, 345: 10, 350: 11, 355: 8, 360: 5, 365: 10, 370: 4, 375: 8, 380: 3, 385: 9, 390: 2, 395: 4, 405: 3, 410: 5, 415: 2, 420: 2, 425: 1, 430: 3, 435: 3, 440: 3, 470: 1, 485: 2, 490: 1, 495: 1, 505: 1, 550: 1, 615: 1, 635: 1, 650: 4, 655: 1, 660: 3, 665: 3, 670: 6, 675: 12, 680: 14, 685: 17, 690: 31, 695: 47, 700: 49, 705: 47, 710: 38, 715: 23, 720: 15, 725: 2, 730: 7, 735: 4}

I got totally skunked (score: 0) 14 times, I scored 5 points 24 times, and I scored 10 points 48 times.

When the numbers are sorted by frequency, they look like this:

{425: 1, 470: 1, 490: 1, 495: 1, 505: 1, 550: 1, 615: 1, 635: 1, 655: 1, 390: 2, 415: 2, 420: 2, 485: 2, 725: 2, 380: 3, 405: 3, 430: 3, 435: 3, 440: 3, 660: 3, 665: 3, 370: 4, 395: 4, 650: 4, 735: 4, 360: 5, 410: 5, 670: 6, 730: 7, 335: 8, 355: 8, 375: 8, 385: 9, 340: 10, 345: 10, 365: 10, 350: 11, 675: 12, 330: 13, 0: 14, 325: 14, 680: 14, 305: 15, 320: 15, 720: 15, 295: 17, 685: 17, 310: 18, 315: 19, 270: 20, 290: 20, 285: 21, 280: 22, 265: 23, 715: 23, 5: 24, 300: 27, 690: 31, 250: 32, 260: 32, 240: 36, 275: 37, 255: 38, 710: 38, 15: 41, 695: 47, 705: 47, 10: 48, 700: 49, 230: 52, 210: 57, 225: 59, 20: 60, 215: 60, 220: 61, 245: 62, 25: 64, 235: 64, 190: 68, 30: 70, 205: 72, 185: 74, 35: 77, 200: 79, 180: 91, 40: 96, 175: 96, 195: 97, 45: 101, 50: 110, 135: 110, 140: 113, 165: 114, 145: 115, 55: 119, 125: 121, 130: 124, 170: 131, 120: 132, 65: 133, 150: 134, 85: 137, 60: 140, 110: 141, 105: 144, 70: 145, 95: 146, 160: 147, 90: 149, 75: 152, 100: 153, 115: 159, 80: 163, 155: 170}

Here’s what a histogram of all the scores look like in terms of their frequency:

This clearly shows that the stats are imbalanced by the sweep scores which which have a much greater value than non-sweep scores. If we remove the sweeps from the data, the histogram looks like this:

You can see that the scores are clustered around the 150 mark. In terms of 150-point and above wins, excluding the rarer sweeps, the percentage of winning drops to 43%. That makes my choice of “150” as a win just right for me. You might choose to use a slightly higher score, like “200”.

More Stats

Matching Sequences

One of the oddities is that as you play, you sometimes get the same score twice or even three times in a row. It feels almost spooky, especially when the game play is very different but leads to the same score as before. I wrote another Python script to see how often this happened and if any numbers dominated.

{10: ‘o’, 25: ‘o’, 110: ‘o’, 140: ‘o’, 145: ‘o’, 170: ‘o’, 180: ‘o’, 190: ‘o’, 200: ‘o’, 210: ‘o’, 220: ‘o’, 235: ‘o’, 300: ‘o’, 20: ‘oo’, 55: ‘o|o’, 70: ‘o|o’, 85: ‘o|o’, 90: ‘o|o’, 120: ‘o|o’, 125: ‘o|o’, 135: ‘o|o’, 160: ‘o|o’, 205: ‘o|o’, 710: ‘o|o’, 115: ‘o|oo|o|o’, 40: ‘o|o|o’, 65: ‘o|o|o’, 80: ‘o|o|o’, 95: ‘o|o|o’, 100: ‘o|o|o’, 130: ‘o|o|o’, 175: ‘o|o|o’, 45: ‘o|o|o|o’, 60: ‘o|o|o|o’, 75: ‘o|o|o|o’, 150: ‘o|o|o|o|o’, 165: ‘o|o|o|o|o’, 195: ‘o|o|o|o|o|o’, 105: ‘o|o|o|o|o|o|o’, 155: ‘o|o|o|o|o|o|o’}

An “o” by itself indicates a pair of sequences back to back. A double “o” indicates where this happened three times in a row. The vertical bars (pipes) between the “o’s” indicate that it happened again, but later, in another sequence. The only triples I got were the numbers “20” and “115”. The others were all pairs, but some of the pairs happened more frequently. The number “155” paired seven times, with the number “105” happening six times. If I were superstitious I might specify those numbers in a lottery ticket, but I won’t. I know the odds are against me.

Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks

Remembering that “150” and above is a win, and “149” and down is a loss, it’s instructive to compare winning streaks and losing streaks. My definition of winning and losing streaks is the same as for many sports: “3”. Three or more wins in a row is a winning streak. Three or more losses in a row is a losing streak.

This in some ways is the heart of gambling. When you’re on a roll, you feel you can score anything. Then comes the reality.

The Winning Streaks look like this:

While the Losing Streaks look like this:

As the numbers show, I once had a 10-game winning streak, but I also once had a 16-game losing streak.

The moral of these particular stats are that even when you’re on a roll, you shouldn’t feel too confident. Losing streaks solidly outnumber winning streaks.

Bottom Line

I enjoy Solitaire. I use the game partly the way some people finger worry beads: it gives me a mental break from writing and other mental activities and I find it calming. By setting “150” as a win, the game has more immediacy for me.

Try it out yourself, if this interests you, and let me know how you fare. See if you, too, find the game more enjoyable with a better chance to win.

1 “Solitaire,” Britannica.

2 Gamblers and Dreamers: Women, Men, and Community in the Klondike, UBC Press

3 “The History of Solitaire”, Solitaire-Palace.com

4 “Solitaire”, Wikipedia

5 Ibid.

My Mind Is Copernican, but My Heart Is Ptolemaic: Perception Is Reality

By Gene Wilburn

1660 or 1708 by Pieter

“The Sun Also Rises” — Ecclesiastes 1:5

The Ptolemaic System

For over a millennium the science of astronomy subscribed to the Ptolemaic System, formulated by the Greek philosopher and astronomer Claudius Ptolemy of Alexandria around 150 CE. It described a cosmos with the earth as the centre of the universe while the sun, moon, stars, and planets (and the Zodiac) revolved around it, in perfect circles. We now call this the geocentric view of the heavens.

We shouldn’t dismiss Ptolemy and subsequent astronomers out of hand, for they were excellent observers and recorders of the night sky which, in their time, wasn’t obscured by city lights. Their observations were as accurate as they could make them without telescopes. What they could see with their naked eyes was their reality.

To account for the apparent retrograde motion of the planets, they developed a set of complex, but circular, epicycles to explain these motions.

The Ptolemaic view of the heavens held sway for the next 1300 years. It had staying power, and, moreover, it was also accepted and approved by the early and medieval Church.

Near the end of the Middle Ages when new learning started spreading across Europe in the Renaissance, a new theory turned the cosmos upside down. The Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543. To say its publication caused an uproar is an understatement. It totally flipped our understanding of the cosmos.

The Copernican Revolution

What Copernicus brilliantly proposed, using only his naked eyes, was that the sun was the centre of our solar system, and that all the planets, including earth, circled around the sun. The Church didn’t much like this, nor did many of the astronomers of the time, but the Copernican system prevailed because it fit better with later observations of the night sky, after the invention of the telescope.

The Copernican Revolution shifted us from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of our solar system. As an existential side effect, it displaced mankind from the centre of the cosmos.

But as successful as the Copernican system was, it still had a few scientific rough edges and it, too, used the concept of epicycles to explain some of the retrograde movement of the planets.

English astronomer and mathematician Edmund Halley, bothered by these discrepancies, coaxed Isaac Newton to publish his ideas and his newly invented mathematics to assist with refining the Copernican model. This resulted in Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687, in which Newton’s laws of motion and law of universal gravitation were presented, along with the mathematical framework of early calculus.

Finally the problematic epicycles were eliminated from the Copernican view, based on Newton’s physical forces and the ability to calculate orbits that turned out to be ellipses rather than perfect circles.

The universe was still relatively small in Newton’s time. It took us until the 1920s to realize that many of the nebulae we could see with new, more powerful telescopes were actually galaxies, like our own Milky Way galaxy — not only that, but that there were a large number of them. Through red shift/blue shift spectroscopic analysis, it could also be seen that most of them were receding away from us.

As telescopes became yet more powerful, it became apparent that the number of galaxies in the cosmos numbered in the millions, then billions, and maybe even trillions, and that they were, for the most part, all expanding away from each other.

If they were all expanding, the question arose: “What was their starting point?” This led, through much research and debate, to the Big Bang Theory of the universe, which, by scientific consensus, happened about 13.7 billion years ago. And with better dating methods, it appeared that our earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Most recently, images and measurements from the JWT (James Webb Telescope) space observatory provide a hint that the Big Bang might have even happened further back in time than we currently think, but that is still up for debate.

This is heady stuff, and as a science lover from early childhood I bask in the wonder of it all. But there is one problem: Despite its scientific inaccuracy, I still live Ptolemaically.

Perception is Reality

For most of us, the day starts at sunrise and ends at sunset. Few of us think, or say, “what a beautiful rotation of the earth this evening” instead of “what a beautiful sunset.” Likewise, our perception is that the moon rises and sets, and the stars (including the bright planets) circle overhead during the night. This has been mankind’s perception of reality since probably before we descended from the trees and started living on the savannas.

We may be an insignificant speck in the universe, but most of our perceptions and goals are mundane in the etymological sense of the word: “of the earth.” We don’t wonder about being a speck in the cosmos nearly as much as we wonder who will be the next U.S. President, and if devastating local world conflicts will ever be resolved. In other words, our main focus is on “us” and “now” and “earth.”

As a species we have tried out, and endured, many different ways of organizing ourselves into social units that we call, variously, tribes, counties, cities, countries, coalitions of countries — the building blocks of “civilization.”

On a personal level, once we get beyond the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow’s Pyramid), and have enough food, shelter, and the absence of immediate threats, we begin to concentrate on personal relationships, education, careers, raising families, and pursuing any number of entertainment, academic, craft, or artistic pursuits. This is the reality most of us live by, from sunrise to sunset, and on moonlit nights.

As more recent neuroscience explains: It’s complex, but the brain is constantly generating predictions about the world, and our perceptions are influenced by our unique expectations and internal narratives. While our perceptions play a significant role in shaping our reality, they are not a perfect reflection of the objective world.

We perceive see the night sky as Ptolemaic. Although we might know that sunsets are misnamed, it’s a perception and a bias that most of us happily live with. Although I love the astronomical accuracy of a Copernican system, I perceive sunrises and sunsets as Ptolemaic.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. As wonderful as science is, it’s a poor poet. And as the poet e.e. cummings wrote: “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”

The Joy of BT Hearing Aids

Photo by Sharon Waldron on Unsplash

When I recently purchased a new set of hearing aids to replace my old, failing pair, it reminded me of when my wife and I traded in our 15-year-old station wagon for a new mini-SUV automobile. Car technology had changed enormously in the interim. Rear-view camera, lane drift alert, automatic windshield wipers — things that were new to us and highly welcome.

With my new hearing aids (Philips 9030 miniRITE T R, sold at Costco), the sound is much better than my earlier-generation Oticons, with less screeching, and there is an app (HearLink) that works as a remote control from my phone or iPad. The new devices are rechargeable, freeing me from having to carry around small zinc-air batteries.

Best of all, the new hearing aids have Bluetooth (BT) built-in. They can answer my iPhone and, with the embedded microphone, allow me to talk “hands free” on the phone while driving, should I need this feature.

Truth be told, though, as a senior living during the Covid era, I don’t drive all that often, so this option is less important to me than it would be for others. However, the ability to listen to audiobooks, streaming music, and YouTube videos directly from my hearing aids while using my iPad Mini is a sheer joy.

I’ll be the first to admit that the sound quality, which I find perfectly acceptable for casual use, is not in the high fidelity range. For that, I have my Apple Airpod Pros and a pair of Bose BT headphones with noise cancellation.

The hearing-aid bass response is thin, though the built-in equalizer helps boost the lower range. Treble is strong, and human voices such as the narrators of audiobooks are clearly heard and easily understood, with the exception of some of the Scottish and British dialects of my favourite UK mystery and espionage novels.

Using the hearing aids with Bluetooth reminds me very much of my childhood years when pocket transistor AM radios first came to market. Despite their poor sound quality, they opened up an entire new way of listening to radio — private listening.

Private listening got another big boost when the Sony Walkman was released, and then again when Sony released the Discman for privately listening to CDs. Private listening transformed into a cultural phenomenon with the advent of the Apple iPod and other MP3 players.

Now even they have been superseded by smartphones and tablets delivering streaming music via Spotify, Apple Music, or Prime Audio. Not to mention podcasts, TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos.

Earbuds have become a way of life, and BT hearing aids double as your always-ready, always-on earbuds.

Seen from this perspective, these new little devices tucked discretely behind your ears, greatly help with the inevitable hearing loss many of us experience as we age. Add BT to this and being a bit deaf isn’t so bad after all.

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT professional.

Toward a Philosophy of Using Writing Apps

Photo by Gene Wilburn

When you look at the number of writing applications available to writers, whether novelists, short story writers, essayists, or nonfiction writers, you see an almost bewildering number of choices. The time-honored notion that you should use the right tool for the right job sounds good in principle, but what, exactly, is the right tool?

It’s a cliché to say that each writer is different, and that no set of writing tools will be right for all authors. For instance, Canadian SF writer Robert J. Sawyer and American SF writer George R.R. Martin, two highly successful writers, still use WordStar, an ancient, but capable, word processor from the days of CP/M and MS-DOS.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that switching to WordStar will make you a successful writer too. Writing happens in the brain, usually coming out through the hands resting on a keyboard, regardless of the application being used.

Even so, when you find the writing app that suits you best, the app works with you seamlessly, fading into the background as you create your story. Every app has its advocates, and it can be a good idea to try out different approaches to writing to see which type of writing app clicks with you the most.

Essentially, there are three general categories of writing apps:

  • Full-fledged word processors with all the bells and whistles to create everything from short stories to business reports full of graphics, or graduate-school theses.
  • Specialized word processing apps designed specifically for writers, with a writer’s needs in mind.
  • DIY apps that take a minimalist approach to writing, providing uncluttered text editors and usually employing Markdown for text attributes.

Let’s see where you fit in.

Word Processors

Millions of writers use Microsoft Word, the gold standard for word processors. It’s a complete office-oriented app and publishers everywhere can accept Word .docx files. The latest version of Word, in Microsoft 365, even offers a focus mode, that allows you to view your work on a blank screen, similar to such functions in apps like Scrivener.

Despite its widespread use, not all writers either like, or can afford, Word. Its ribbon menus drive some writers nuts, and others have have had bad experiences with Word in terms of stability. Still, if you don’t mind the menus and you can afford the annual subscription, you’ll never go amiss using Word. The current version of Word runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, which means you can use it on tablets and phones. There is also a cloud version.

If you’re one of those writers who liked the versions of Word prior to its ribbon menus, there’s the open-source and free LibreOffice Writer. It has much of the look and feel of Word from the past, and it has a reputation for being rock solid. LibreOffice can convert its files to Word and many other formats, including Epub. You also get the rest of the LibreOffice suite with it, including a spreadsheet, presentation program, drawing program, and database app. LibreOffice runs in Windows, Mac, and Linux, but not on iOS or Android.

Many writers have discovered the general excellence of Google Docs, a cloud-based word processing app that covers all the basics and is terrific for collaboration. Used in a browser, Google Docs is accessible from every operating system, including ChromeOS for Chromebooks. There are also iOS and Android versions of Google Docs for use on tablets and phones. Google Docs can export to Word format (as well as plain text).

Mac users may be drawn to Apple’s Pages, a very attractive word processor that comes free with a Mac. It’s also available on iOS for iPads and iPhones. It’s one of the easiest word processorsto use and it integrates well with other Apple software, such as Numbers. It too can export to Word format. Pages is a solid choice for those who work entirely within the Apple ecosystem.

All of the above, plus a few lesser-known word processors, can get the job done. If you’re happy using one of these applications, there is no reason to switch to something else. You have everything you need.

Specialty Word Processors

On the other hand, if you find word processors to be, well, a bit boring, there’s a tier of specialty writing apps that have turned the heads of a lot of writers who swear by them and who swear they’d never go back to a word processor after using them. The best known of these, and probably the most widely used, is Scrivener.

Scrivener, from an English company called Literature & Latte, was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of serious writers, rather than the word-processing needs of office workers. It offers views of your writing that are extremely useful, including an equivalent of storing everything in a spiral notebook, corkboard views, the ability to include synopses, and a place to store your research and your character and plot ideas. It has templates for novels, nonfiction, and screen writing.

Scrivener can output to Word, of course, but also to rich-text format, HTML, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, Final Draft, Fountain Screenplay, plain text, PDF, and Markdown.

Scrivener has become the gold standard for a writer-oriented, specialized word processor. It runs on Mac and Windows, as well as iOS. There is no Linux or Cloud version. It is a commercial program that you must purchase, but there is no subscription required.

Another up-and-comer in the specialty writing category is Ulysses, a Markdown-based word creator with a minimalist interface, similar to other Markdown editors, but with some Scrivener-like features like a way to package your writing together and easily rearrange parts, like chapters. It has the usual export features. One of the distinguishing features of Ulysses is its beautiful interface. That alone might convince you to make an annual subscription to use the software. Unfortunately Ulysses works only on Macs and iOS.

The most specialized writing app I’ve used is LyX, which calls itself a “document processor.” This is an app for techies who also write. It’s a front end to the powerful TeX/LaTeX typesetting system and can be used to produce beautiful books and articles, especially those with an academic purpose. It has deep support for creating mathematical equations, abstracts, supported graphics, and all elements of traditional book publishing, including front matter, back matter, footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies. I include it here because I believe it should be better known. A free, open-source product, it runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows. It’s definitely not “easy,” but if you’re looking for something that can create formal books and reports, this is it. It can produce beautiful novels and Epub ebooks, too.

DIY Word Processing Systems

For the DIY (Do It Yourself) crowd, the way to go is with Markdown. I’d have put Ulysses in this category except for its additional features, but the rest are pure Markdown editors with one job only, to help you write words with a minimum of fuss and bother. Anything you need to do with your words after they’re written is up to you.

A Markdown editor is simply a plain text editor, full stop. Any text editor will do, from Notepad in Windows to TextEdit on Mac, to any number of text editors in Linux. You can use oldies like Vim and Emacs or use a more dedicated Markdown editor.

One of the most universal Markdown editors I’ve used is Ghostwriter, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It’s a free, open-source editor that just gets the job done but with a few niceties like keyboard shortcuts for inserting Markdown notation.

My personal favorite Markdown editor is iA Writer, a commercial product available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. I’ve used it for years and it’s never let me down. On its own it can output to HTML, Word, and PDF. It has dark mode support and one of the least cluttered interfaces around. iA Writer was once free and had at one time sponsored NaNoWriMo, so it’s already known to many writers. The commercial edition is modestly priced and doesn’t require a subscription, like Ulysses. That, by itself, tips me toward iA Writer.

Typora is another solid Markdown editor, freely available for Linux and Windows (no Mac version). I’ve not used it yet myself, but, in addition to distraction-free writing, it offers an outline panel and a wider range of exports than iA Writer. It looks like a good offering.

One last app I’ll mention in the DIY section is Joplin. It bills itself as a note-taking app, a kind of Markdown-oriented Evernote. Open source and free, it is available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. It includes a built-in Markdown editor, plus a rich-text editor, and can as easily be used for writing as for note-taking. The organizational framework it offers gives it a bit of a Scrivener and Ulysses vibe. In my experience, it syncs well across platforms. One feature that grabs me is that it can also invoke an external editor, such as iA Writer, when you’re writing with it, storing the story in Joplin itself.


Ultimately, as a writer, you are what you write, not what you use to write with. Nonetheless, each of us develops preferences for which tools we like, and there’s no lack of options.

It’s worth experimenting with different writing tools to see which ones attract you, and why. Most of the commercial ones offer a free trial period, and you can experience the open-source ones at leisure. When the tool fits, you’re more productive.

The main thing is to get the job done. Happy writing!

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT specialist

Devolution of the Word “Meme”

By Gene Wilburn

Photo by Peter Lam CH on Unsplash

Sure, you know what a meme is. It’s a picture with words, usually humorous, sometimes acerbic. You see dozens of them each day if you’re on social media. You probably share really funny ones with friends. And, as you’ve seen, there are hundreds of cat memes floating around the Internet.

But did you know that the word meme has strayed from its intended meaning?

Meme is not an old word. It is a word coined by Richard Dawkins in 1975 in his landmark book on biology, The Selfish Gene. It is a foreshortening of the Greek word mimēma ‘that which is imitated.’ It was intended to signify ideas that spread through a population in the manner of a gene, though faster.

Think of ideas that have swept through populations: philosophical or religious beliefs, the idea of a renaissance, the concept of an age of reason, to highlight a few. On the societal side, think of political phrases like “lock her up” and “#metoo” that have spread far and wide.

In an interview with Newsbeat, Dawkins admitted that “I’m not going to use the term internet meme to refer to a picture with writing on it.” For Dawkins, memes are “ideas that spread from brain to brain — a bit like genes, they are replicated many times.”

And so it is that while gaining a popular new word for pictures with captions (now its primary meaning in dictionaries), we’ve mostly lost an intellectually useful word to explain how ideas spread.

One thing linguists always tell us: language is in a continual state of change. Words change meaning, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. It’s the way language works. We may rue the change in the meaning of meme but it’s now a done deal.

As Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. often wrote, “And so it goes.”

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT specialist.

Dictionaries – A Writer’s Best Friends

by Gene Wilburn

Webster’s New World Dictionary. Photo by the author.

Words are … the most powerful drug used by mankind ― Rudyard Kipling

Words are the core stuff of writing―its quirks, quarks, roots, and branches. To form sentences and paragraphs, we use words. To express ideas, thoughts, plots, characters, dialogue, or scenes, we use carefully crafted combinations of words. The richer our vocabulary, the more precise and elegant we can be, not to impress the reader, but to seek le mot juste, the perfect word or words to describe or express something.

As a self-appointed dictionary evangelist, I believe all writers should love and use dictionaries. They’re the gateway into our language’s word horde, and English has the largest word horde of any language as measured by the number of entries in a dictionary — over a million words and counting.

Dictionaries provide not only the correct spelling of a word (including variant spellings), but also the definitions of words and the nuances of distinction between a word and a word with a similar, but not exact, meaning. Today’s online dictionaries even come with an audible pronunciation guide, to enable you to pronounce the word correctly in speech.

Selecting a Desktop English Dictionary

If you don’t already have a preference in dictionaries, and would like a print dictionary to keep on your desk, any of the so-called college desk dictionaries will provide you with an excellent companion and guide. Top Choices for American English include:

These dictionaries not only provide spelling, pronunciation, and syllabification, they define words, and give a bit of the word’s history, or etymology. These are among the most handy dictionaries available.

Canadian writers might also want to supplement one of the above with a paperback copy of the Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English to check on Canadian spelling preferences for Canadian publications, such as colour instead of color and other words with -our spelling, and doubled consonants in words such as counselling.

Some of these dictionaries are also available in ebook format or as an app for phone or tablet. My favorite dictionary app for American English is provided by the august Merriam-Webster company, publisher of the definitive Third International as well as smaller dictionaries. On my iPad, I use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus app almost daily and consider it the best dictionary app I’ve used. It can be obtained from the app store for your iOS or Android device.

Online Dictionaries

If you simply want to quickly check the spelling of a word, Google (or your search engine of choice) is your friend. A quick check on Google will usually zero in on the spelling you want, even if you don’t spell it totally correctly.

Beyond Google, there are free online dictionaries that might suit your needs as well as a desk dictionary. Here are some that you might want to bookmark:

Urban Dictionary

This site is a terrific aid to writers writing contemporary fiction and who want to include some of the latest in colloquial and slang terms and expressions. It’s kept very up to date on the latest words, some of which are at least semi-vulgar. You know. The way people actually talk. These recent words can add spice or variety to your character’s dialogue. E.g., Cape: “When someone is protecting, covering for or being a ‘hero’ for another person — ‘Lisa always gotta cape for Jay when he gets caught leaving early’.”

Oxford English Dictionary

This is the most authoritative dictionary of the English language. It is famous for its etymologies and its historical citations that give examples, with dates, of how a word has been used in written English, from earliest recorded history of the language. The creation of the dictionary is the stuff of legend. Here’s a primer on the subject.

Bonus for fiction readers: Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams. A delightful novel about a young girl who grows up to womanhood working in the Scriptorium where the Oxford English Dictionary was created.

The downside of the online OED is that it requires a hefty annual subscription. However, some public library systems and colleges subscribe for the benefit of patrons and you may be able to access the dictionary for free through your library.

Merriam-Webster Online

Simply one of the best. The website offers both dictionary and thesaurus listings from its carefully curated database. It seems on a par with the desk version of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate. Note that it does display ads when using it for free.

Cambridge Dictionary Online

The Cambridge dictionaries are another of the fine set of professionally created dictionaries available online. You can toggle it to either US or UK English, making it especially handy for Canadian writers. It too contains ads.


Wiktionary is a popular site for looking up words. It has been created in the same manner as Wikipedia, by volunteers. It presents a less attractive interface than the previous dictionaries but it offers, according to its opening page, over a million words in English. It may be one of the best places to find the definition of technical words and terms. It provides some etymologies as well and it’s totally free, with no ads.

Online Etymology Dictionary

Here’s a site to bookmark by word lovers who are interested in the history of the words we speak and write. As it says on its opening page: “This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.” Sheer fun and delight.

Word of the Day

An excellent way of increasing your awareness of words and their subtleties is to subscribe to the “Word of the Day” offerings from several of the dictionary companies. Each day in your email inbox you will find a word that is examined and explained, including its history of how it evolved into today’s meaning.

The sites that offer this list it on their front web page. I must admit I have a favorite: Merriam-Webster Word of the Day. It even has a companion podcast that is available from Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify Podcasts. Merrriam-Webster also offers a more general podcast called Word Matters. It describes itself this way: “Word Matters is a show for readers, writers, and anyone who ever loved their English class. Join Merriam-Webster editors as they challenge supposed grammar rules, reveal the surprising origins behind words, tackle common questions, and generally geek out about the beautiful nightmare that is language.”

What could be more fun than geeking out on words? Well, okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but as a writer our stock of words and our intimate knowledge of them is one of our best assets.

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT professional. He has a B.A. and M.A. in English with a specialty in the history of the English language.

Goodbye Overdrive, Hello Libby

By Gene Wilburn

For some years now I’ve been using Overdrive Media Player as my ebook reader and audiobook player for books and audiobooks borrowed from the public library. Overdrive is on my iPad, my MacBook, and my wife’s iPad. Between us we must have listened to or read several hundred borrowed library books. We like and enjoy Overdrive and, for our purposes, it’s an ideal library companion.

Recently, though, we learned that Overdrive (the company, based in Cleveland, Ohio) is replacing Overdrive Media Player with a different client app called Libby. In fact, they’re set to pull the plug on Overdrive Media Player by February, 2023. It’s no longer available in the various App Stores. Given that we’re now living on borrowed time, we added Libby to our tablets and laptops to get used to it, preparing ourselves to leave the Overdrive app forever.

It’s a truism in the software world that users don’t generally like changes to their interfaces, or having to switch to a different product. Word users balked at the “ribbon menus” of later versions of Word, and few Word users have switched to Google Docs or LibreOffice Writer. When you’re comfortable with an app, changes are painful. And so it was as we moved to using Libby.

The Overdrive interface is clean, neat, and tidy.

Overdrive Bookshelf Interface

Whereas Libby is expansive, not as neat, and very chatty.

Libby Bookshelf Interface

Of course beauty, being in the eye of the beholder, means that what one user likes, another wouldn’t. You can never please everyone, but on the whole I can move into Libby without overt trauma. Almost.

However, I’ve found two flaws in Libby.

Libby Doesn’t Allow You to Copy Text

I must say I was shocked when I discovered that you can’t copy and paste text from ebooks in Libby. This is something I do a lot in Overdrive, copying passages to my Notes app for research purposes, or quoting an opening line or paragraph when talking about an interesting book on Facebook. This, for me, is a serious deficiency.

Libby Doesn’t Support More Than One User Per Library Account

The reason why this might be a problem is simply this: Sometimes family members share the same Library card. For example, my wife and I live in the city of Mississauga, Ontario, adjacent to the city of Toronto. We each have a Mississauga Public Library borrowing card, but having previously lived in Toronto, we missed the larger selection of resources from the Toronto Public Library system. This we solved by purchasing a single extramural reader’s card for TPL. At a cost of over $100 per year, we didn’t feel we could each could afford one, so we share a single library account.

When we use Overdrive, we can each download books and ebooks from the library and our borrowings don’t get confused. If we’re reading the same book or listening to the same audiobook, our individual Overdrive apps keep our position locations discrete, which is great because we obviously don’t read or listen to the same book at the same pace.

Libby synchronizes its bookshelf automatically across devices, meaning that our separate reading locations get updated to whoever is farther along in the reading or listening. Then if one of us returns to a previous location, it resets it for the other one. Relocating your place, especially in an audiobook, is a painful experience.

Unfortunately, there is no setup mode in Libby that allows you to turn off synchronization, making it work more like Overdrive.

Better Font Sizing in Libby

Aside from those two problems, Libby is pleasant to use and, like Overdrive, allows you to choose your reading font, size it for your eyes, and choose between white, sepia, or black backgrounds. Black is especially good for reading at night. Both offer a timer to switch off your audiobook after a certain number of minutes, say 60 minutes, which is a godsend if you fall asleep while listening. You don’t have as far to backtrack.

One thing that has bugged me for years about Overdrive is its too-coarse adjustments of font size. I frequently hit that condition where the font is ether too small, or too large, with no steps in between. Libby has much finer font size adjustments. I can always seem to find that just-right “Goldilocks” font size when I’m reading on Libby, which gives Libby the edge for me on ebooks.

Looking Ahead

For the most part, I don’t anticipate great difficulty adjusting from Overdrive to Libby. I still prefer the clean, terse Overdrive user interface, but Libby is easy to use and is probably a better interface for new library users.

Overdrive (the company) only needs to fix two deficiencies: The ability to copy text from ebooks, and the option to turn off synchronization. If they can do that, I’ll give Libby full marks. Until then, it’s an app that just misses being great.

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT specialist..

Fedora 36 Linux: First Impressions

By Gene Wilburn

Fedora GNOME Interface

When I started using Linux in the early 1990s, my first distro was Slackware, followed soon after by Red Hat. Eventually I discovered Debian Linux and it quickly became my favourite, especially after Red Hat evolved into an enterprise company.

Along the way I tried Ubuntu Linux and Linux Mint and liked both, partly because they were part of the Debian family of distributions. Over the years I’ve watched them become easier to use and more polished. I run the latest Linux Mint on my desktop machine.

Even so, I enjoy trying out different distributions to see what they offer. Of course, Linux is Linux, no matter which distribution — under the hood they pretty much all do the same things. Where they differ the most is in packaging systems, method of installation and maintenance, and the user interface.

My test computer for experimenting with distributions is a Lenovo Thinkpad E431 i3 laptop, introduced in 2010. It contains 4GB RAM and 500GB of hard disk. Not a speed demon, but it has plenty of memory and storage, and is supported by all the Linux distributions I’ve tried.

Using this laptop, I took a look at the no-nonsense Fedora 36 Workstation. Fedora is sponsored by Red Hat and is characterized as a “bleeding edge” distribution, continuously introducing the newest versions of applications. It is popular and has a large support community.


After loading the Fedora .iso file onto a stick disk, I booted it up on the Thinkpad and asked it to install to my hard disk. The installation procedure worked but was less explicit about what was going on than, say, an Ubuntu installation.

The only confusion I encountered was in letting it know it could blow away the existing Linux Mint and use the entire hard disk. There is less feedback than I’m accustomed to, and it was unclear to me whether I had set it to delete the existing partitions. It turned out to work fine, but I prefer the feedback I get with an Ubuntu-family install.

First Look

After Fedora booted up for the first time, it displayed the latest GNOME user interface, which left me wondering what to do. There were no docks or panels on the screen. My first hurdle was how to access stuff. I tried clicking at the corners and clicking on the background screen, to no avail. Then I pushed the Windows key, which led me to the dashboard, or “dash” as it seems to be called. From the dash I could launch selected software or invoke a full screen of installed apps, similar to Launchpad on a Mac.

I’ll never understand why most distributions, including Fedora, do not include a Terminal app in the initial dashboard. That’s always the first thing I need to use.

Fedora Workstation is highly integrated with GNOME and is configured to present an uncluttered screen, leaving most of the screen available to applications. I like this approach, especially when working on a restricted screen such as a laptop.

From apt to dnf

Instead of the apt command-line tool of the Debian variants, Fedora uses dnf for command line management of software installations. Fedora packages are .rpm files rather than .deb files and Fedora supports both Snap and Flatpack, which are increasingly used for software distribution. Fedora differs from Debian-based distros in its security mechanism. Ubuntu-family distros use AppArmor while Fedora uses SELinux.

In practice, switching to dnf is straightforward for an experienced Debian user.

In Debian distributions, you might install a software package such as btop by typing

sudo apt install btop

In Fedora you would type this instead

sudo dnf install btop

The two systems are similar enough that transitioning from apt to dnf presents no particular challenge.


Changing the Look & Feel

Although I find the GNOME interface interesting and slick, I couldn’t get comfortable with it, so, in the great Linux tradition, I added my favourite GUI, Cinnamon, as an alternate GUI with the simple command

sudo dnf install cinnamon

and, upon completion, Fedora installed the Cinnamon option. This significantly increased my comfort level.

Cinnamon User Interface with Menu and Task Bar at the Bottom

Bottom Line

I give Fedora 36 highest marks: It’s a great distribution. I suspect, though, that it’s a better Linux for experienced users than beginners. For those new to Linux I think Ubuntu or, particularly, Linux Mint, makes a better choice.

If you want to use a solid, leading edge Linux, and have a bit of Linux experience, Fedora is one of the top choices.

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT professional.

Enough with Subscriptions Already!

By Gene Wilburn

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

These days it seems as if every vendor of every product has jumped on the “service as subscription” bandwagon. While this might be good for vendors, providing a steadier income stream, it’s reaching a breaking point for customers. Worse, it’s often nothing more than a greedy money grab.

$18/Month to Warm Your Derrière

BMW has recently introduced a monthly subscription fee of $18US a month if you want access to the vehicles’ heated seats. Other car vendors are implementing a monthly subscription fee for remote-start key fobs.

“Earlier this year, Cox Automotive conducted a survey of 217 people who intend to buy a new car over the next two years. Only 25 percent said they’d be willing to pay a monthly or annual fee to unlock a feature in their vehicle. The remaining 75 percent said piss off. [my emphasis]

Well, you might say, luxury car owners can afford subscriptions like seat warmers. Not so fast. GM expects its in-car subscription services on its automotive lines to generate nearly $2-billion this year, which will reach as high as $25-billion by the end of the decade.

Remember, this is beyond the base price you pay for your family automobile, and it’s not just aimed at luxury cars.

How Much Monthly Streaming Services Cost in Canada

The following prices were what I could confirm as Canadian prices. U.S. pricing tends to be slightly lower.

Netflix Canada: $9.99 / $15.49 / 19.99 depending on the plan
Crave: $9.99 for mobile devices, $19.99 for all platform
HBO (ad-free): $19.35
YouTube (ad-free family plan): $17.99
BritBox: $8.99:
Hulu (ad-free): $11.99
Wondrium: $20.00 (lower with quarterly or annual plans)
Spotify: $9.95
Amazon Prime: $9.99
Cable or Fibre Plan: $50 (for basic package)

Depending on how many streaming services you subscribe to, you could be pushing $150 per month. It wasn’t so bad when there was just Netflix, but everyone jumped on the bandwagon, diluting the offerings on each service so that you’d need them all if you are a serious movie and TV buff.

Software Subscriptions

And then there’s software. Adobe has always charged plenty for its software but, in recent years, seems to have found the subscription model more profitable. As a photographer, I purchased its last sales-based package of Photoshop CS6. Unfortunately, CS6 apps no longer run on my current Macs so the only option, if I want to continue to use Photoshop, is to subscribe to it for $9.99/month.

I did for a short while. Photoshop is more polished and better than ever, but is it worth over $100 per year to rent it? I’m not a professional photographer, and, being retired, my budget simply doesn’t stretch that far for a hobby. So I unsubscribed and purchased Affinity Photo outright. It’s a pretty fair substitute, and cost me a one-time $40, on sale.

As a writer, I’ve looked at software such as Ulysses. I use Markdown editors most of the time, and Ulysses is a very nice product, but is it worth $50/year in perpetuity (with probable increases in the subscription price along the way)?

We’re talking Markdown here, an open-source format. Any free Markdown editor does the job nicely, thank you.

Then there’s Microsoft Office. $79.00 per year for the personal edition, and $109.00 per year for one to six people (Canadian pricing). In a misleading sleight of hand, they put a “Buy now” button for the subscription, rather than the more honest “Rent now.”

If you need pure Microsoft, there’s no evading the cost, though the excellent open-source LibreOffice suite is free, as are the Google office modules like Docs and Sheets if you’re a student or a casual user.

It happens at the low end of software too. I’m amazed at the number of iPad utility apps from the App Store that only give you a free trial period, then charge you forever with a monthly subscription fee. Even for a calculator app.

The Bottom Line

No single subscription sounds terribly out of line, but the cumulative cost of subscriptions-as-service is an insidious trend for anyone on a low-to-moderate fixed income.

The bottom line is that many of us simply can’t afford to play this game. Or are unwilling to.

I’m booked solid. I will not rent any more software, streaming services, or automotive services, and I know I’m not alone. We simply can no longer afford it. I’m already deciding which services to drop.

Oh, yeah, what about Medium? I enjoy reading what Medium writers have published so I will probably continue to subscribe. But my loyalty is thin. If the price increases, I’m outa here.

Gene Wilburn is a Canadian writer, photographer, and retired IT specialist.