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E-mail has rapidly become a way of life for those of us fully
acculturated into the online world, and I don’t have a problem with
that. I like e-mail. It’s efficient. It’s fast. It’s free (after one
pays an average of $20 a month for an unlimited dial-in Internet
connection, which, as utility bills go, isn’t too extortionary). It’s
less formal than a letter, and it’s more forgiving than a phone call,
since it allows you to take a few minutes to adjust your phrasing before
hitting “send.” It keeps me in touch with old friends in far-flung
places. It’s a good way to live.

At the same time, there’s no denying the e-mail-intensive lifestyle
can get out of control. One of my life’s major stress vectors is the
fact that I have entirely too many e-mail addresses. I was complaining
about it recently to a colleague and started counting them up on my
fingers to see just how many there were, and there turned out to be
about a dozen of the darned things. There’s my WorldNetDaily
address,
first of all, which is
linked to my main Web-based e-mail address at
Postmark. There’s my old
Hotmail Web-based address, which I fled
for Postmark after a nasty
experience
with Hotmail a couple of months ago, but still use for
e-commerce site registrations and bulky mailing lists. There’s the
company address I use at my regular office day job. There’s the
Mindspring address I use for connecting
to the Internet from home, and there’s the
AOL screen name I use for connecting
to the Internet from my partner’s house. That’s no fewer than six e-mail
addresses in pretty regular use (i.e., anywhere between three and three
million checks per week).

But those are just my primary and secondary e-mail addresses. An
entire tertiary tier still waits to be accounted for. One at
Excite — which is quite a decent service
– for very junky junk mail and only check every month or two. There are
a good four or five random Web-based addresses I set up for one reason
or another but rarely use. Some are mail-devoted sites I ended up
rejecting for one reason or another, such as
Mail.com (didn’t like the site’s look) and
YAWmail (very chic, but unfortunately
Macintosh-disenabled). Others are through commercial or special-interest
sites such as ZDnet and
RagingBull. Oh, yes, and I have an
e-mail address at Deja.com that allows me to
utilize Usenet occasionally without attracting spam to my “real”
addresses.

Not content with all this, I am — incredibly enough — contemplating
the addition of yet another address through
NYPress, my first-rate local alternative
rag, which recently went digital at long
last. And there may be yet another one to come after that, through a
shortly-to-be-born website being developed by my brother.

Let’s see: I believe that adds up to 6 major, about 6 or 7 minor, and
2 proposed e-mail addresses in all. To quote better self-help programs
everywhere, “the first thing you have to do is admit that you have a
problem.”

Seriously: does everyone on the Internet behave like this, or am I
just a freak? Maybe e-mail addresses are like potato chips: “no one can
eat just one.” Maybe I have the Web-mediated equivalent of an eating
disorder, a new psychiatric diagnosis: cyberbulimia. Maybe I really do
have a major personal problem here. Or, maybe, this particular form of
craziness is becoming a part of the millennial human condition — a
cultural development that’s simply a more or less inevitable feature of
our increasingly communications-drunken society, like cell
phones.
Either way, I can tell you, I’m beginning to feel just a
little panicky thinking about it.

Have your mind made up

Though simple in conception and design, the European site
DecideNow is one of the
stranger sites I’ve come across lately. Essentially, they’ll make a
quick, unbiased decision for you on any point regarding which you’re
having trouble making up your mind. Just enter a small amount of
background information and the specific yes-or-no point you want
decided, and the staff member responsible
for the arena in question (relationships, career, etc.) will e-mail you
a decision within a day. This isn’t a Magic
8-Ball
type of site. They’re perfectly serious
about the project and see themselves as offering a useful, if somewhat
restricted, service. Worth checking out.

Apocalypse soon?

Sez here the end of the world could be closer than you think — and
I’m not talking about the tired old predictions of
Nostradamus,
which,
incredibly, have lately been dragged out yet again and batted around by
certain of the more sensationalistic and conscience-impaired segments of
the media. The London Review of Books reviews a new book by John Leslie
that puts forth the Doomsday
Argument,
a
probability-theory-based analysis of the question of apocalypse
suggesting that, for any living observer (e.g., you or me), the End is
by definition likelier to be near at hand than far off. Reviewer Mark
Greenberg (who happens to be Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the
U.S. Department of Justice) dissects Doomsday Argument at some length,
eventually satisfying himself of its ultimate invalidity. Armchair
logicians — whichever man they come to believe in the end — will enjoy
the intricate and baroque dance of reasoning in which Leslie and
Greenberg seductively guide them.

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