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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #322

Anyone Ever Hear of Benford’s Law?

Bev and I watch quite a few documentaries during the evenings. We just find the world fascinating, and there’s always something new to learn, you know?

Bev leans more towards environmental and scientific docs. I’m more into the history of drugs and true crimes and major social issues.

Anyway, we watched one the other night about Benford’s Law, and it absolutely blew my mind. Now I’m no scientist, so some of the really technical stuff went right over my head, but I understood enough of it to blow my little brain.

That’s all I’m going to say about it; I’ll leave it up to you to research it if you’re interested, or just watch that particular documentary called “Digits” on the show “Connected: The Hidden Science of Everything.” You can find it on Netflix.

Now let’s get to the mail!

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Me and a Children’s Story

From Ann: “Question: Have you ever written, or thought about writing, a children's story? If so, what? If not, why not?! As you seem to turn yourself to just about any kind of writing, I thought that one might apply.”

Oh God, Ann, have you been talking to my wife Bev lately? She will occasionally prod me to do that, and I will respond with a yawn and a shrug.

Truth be told, I don’t think I could write a children’s story. It takes a certain skill set I don’t think I have as a writer. Besides, I really don’t have any desire to do it.

Having said that, the next book on my list to write has a working title “A Time and Place,” and it is geared towards, let’s say, fifteen and up. That’s about as close to children as I’m likely to get, I’m afraid.

On a side note, Bev started writing a children’s book about seven years ago titled “The Golden Dragonfly.” She got about three chapters into it and then stopped. I actually loved her story, and I keep encouraging her to return to it (I even bought her a golden dragonfly t-shirt last week), but so far she has ignored my encouragement.

Technical Writing

From Patty: “My question is probably a simple one. When you want to get technical in writing, are you hired, or you just write, like for hubpages?”

Thanks for the question, Patty. I don’t do technical writing for HP. I tried it a couple times when I first joined HP, and I bored myself to tears. No, all of my tech writing, or content writing as I like to call it, is done for customers who hire me as an independent contractor for their company. I do quite a bit of work for a guy down in Fort Worth, Texas, who owns like seven businesses. I write for all of those businesses. I’ve been doing that kind of content writing for ten years now; I spend about ten hours per week doing content writing and I earn a decent supplemental income, and that’s more than enough for this boy. I could do more but I don’t want to. Too much of that type of writing makes Bill and dull boy.

"All dogs are good" is an absolute which is probably not true. That's the problem with absolutes.

"All dogs are good" is an absolute which is probably not true. That's the problem with absolutes.


From Eric: “Do absolutes in writings bother you? "All people get angry" vs Most people have at least some anger issues? (and don't try the smarty pants one-word answer "absolutely")”

This just happened this week, Eric, no smarty pants answer at all.

I was on Facebook, and a writer I’ve known for eight years, a writer on HP, made a comment that said Democrats are IDIOTS! Since we’ve always been on a friendly basis, I responded to her comment by asking if she really meant that all Democrats are idiots because, well, I’m a Democrat and I was sure she didn’t mean all of us. Surely, she couldn’t mean that forty-one percent of the registered voters are idiots. I mean, most of us use absolutes from time to time, not even knowing we are doing it. Surely, she just used an absolute but didn’t mean it to be all-inclusive.

She said yes, if I believed in the Democratic platform, I was an idiot, and she ended that by saying “WAKE UP!”

She is no longer an online friend.

Scroll to Continue

Yes, absolutes bother me! I think an absolute, in many cases, is the product of a weak writer, a sloppy writer, or a weaker mind.

Did I adequately answer your question?

Past Experiences and Writing

From Liz: “I was interested in your comments about the impact other writing jobs might have on the way we write. On a broader scale, would you say too that past work experiences might also impact how we write. I recall being trained in time and task management at one time. How much of our past experiences impacts our writing?”

Honestly, Liz, I think our entire accumulated body of life impacts our writing, especially if we are creative writers. I don’t know how it could not, do you? If nothing else, our past experiences provide us with things to write about and viewpoints to pass on to others.

Many times, in my novels, my characters do things which I did during my lifetime, or they visit places I have visited. I do that for two reasons: it’s easier to write with conviction about something I have experienced, and it also saves me doing research, which I hate.

Anyway, I might be wrong, but I don’t see any way to avoid who we are and what we have done. I think it’s always bubbling just below the surface of most writers.

Understanding and Good and Evil

From Zulma: “Do you think understanding plays a role in good v evil? Did the boy understand that his action would be considered evil or did he believe it would be considered good because of the intent? I suppose it would depend on the boy's maturity and capacity for reason.”

Questions like this one, Zulma, are right in my wheelhouse. To put it in baseball terms, I can always count on getting good wood on fastball questions like that one, so thanks!

I think “good vs evil” depends, greatly, upon intent, but intent is anchored by maturity and the capacity for reason. The whole concept of “good vs evil” is dependent upon the ability to tell the difference, or to know the difference, don’t you think? A five-year old might strike a playmate in anger, but that doesn’t mean the kid is evil; there is no way that child understands evil, and if he/she does not understand evil, they can’t possible do evil with intent to do evil.

But then we get into the “Ted Bundy” argument, innocent by reason of insanity, and can the insane truly do an evil act if they are too crazy to distinguish good from evil?

And then we can talk about some of the barbarian stuff that still happens in remote parts of this planet. The acts appear evil to the western world, but to those cultures they are quite normal?

I don’t have answers to this stuff, but it fascinates me, and that fascination can be found in almost all of my novels. Human beings are damned complicated creatures, don’t you think?

Some people do evil acts but don't intend to; is that evil?

Some people do evil acts but don't intend to; is that evil?

Too Far Fetched To Believe

From Mr. Happy: "Yes, that is what I am saying. If a writer wrote about the political, social, economic, covid-19 stuff and all other crazy things happening now, like climate change and many others, would You think the story was far-fetched? I honestly think it would be for me. I'd just say it is a bit much but I'm curious what someone who writes professionally thinks. Where do we draw the line on things being "far-fetched"?"

Mr. Happy, I immediately thought of 1984 by Orwell, and 2001 Space Odyssey. Those seemed incredibly far-fetched at the time, but I'll be darned if a lot of that future society didn't actually happen.

Science fiction/fantasy is supposed to stretch our horizons, right? We are supposed to suspend logic in those cases. Yes, they seem far-fetched, but people expect far-fetched in those kinds of novels.

Granted, what we are living through is bizarre. It's like waking up, each day, inside the walls of a mental institution. But, for me, that's what I expect in a novel of that type.

Back to Benford’s Law

There was one segment of the documentary where it talked about digital photos, how easy they are to manipulate, how easy it is to post phony photos, and how Benford’s Law is used to distinguish real photos from “fake news.”

Absolutely blew my mind!

There’s a big world out there, folks, and it is fascinating. It would be a shame to miss out on it by narrowing our sightline, don’t you think?

Just random thoughts. What do I really know? According to my former online friend, I’m just an idiot!

Have a brilliantly-happy week and please, remember, do all things with love.

If you have a question for the Mailbag, you can leave it in the comments section, or email it to me at

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 23, 2020:

Well, Lora, if you are ever in Olympia, I'll buy you a coffee and we can discuss the nature of evil. Until then, I appreciate your comments and I always look forward to reading them. Thank you for taking the time to leave a thoughtful response.

I hope this finds you healthy and well. Take care, my friend. It's a crazy world out there.

Lora Hollings on August 21, 2020:

I think intention definitely needs to be considered when judging an act as evil. However, I suppose we can all agree that certain acts qualify as evil because of the nature of these acts, regardless of the person's sanity, so there is objectivity in this respect. But, it certainly is a multi-faceted question and one that doesn't have a simple answer! And we could go on for hours discussing this topic, I'm sure.

I noticed that most of the time on Facebook that it's the rudest people that seem to be the most outspoken about their views and they are quick to judge others without all the facts. I stay away from it as I'm more of a private person and I feel it takes a long time to get to know someone, and you cannot achieve that on facebook. I have opened myself up in the past and have certainly learned my lesson the hard way.

The documentary on Benford's Law sounds fascinating. I'll have to check that out soon on Netflix. How enlightening your mailbag is, Bill!

Expanding our knowledge is good not only for our writing but for ourselves, too.

Have a great weekend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 21, 2020:

Thank you Rajan! Yes, for sure, check out that documentary.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 21, 2020:

I'm all over that topic like a blanket, Zulma. :) Happy Weekend, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 21, 2020:

Thanks for the nudge, Dora. I really wish my wife would finish her own story. :)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 21, 2020:

I will check if the documentary is still on Netflix as it seems quite interesting. Very interesting questions in this mailbag. Thank you.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on August 21, 2020:

I look forward to your reply. Perhaps next time we can cover nature v nurture. lol

Have a great weekend, Bill.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 20, 2020:

Thanks for another interesting mailbag. I'm supporting your wife and others in nudging you for a children's story.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 20, 2020:

Man alive, Zulma, you are just feeding the beast now, aren't you? I would have loads of fun, sitting down with you over coffee, and delving into this stuff.

I have much to think about now. See you on Monday! In the meantime, have a marvelous Thursday!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 20, 2020:

I will do my best, Jeremiah! Thank you, sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 20, 2020:

Thank you Umesh! I appreciate it.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on August 20, 2020:

Thank you again for another insightful response. With regard to culture, can evil be defined by what is acceptable in a given society?

I recall reading about a village where paranoia was a completely normal way to live. People regarded each other with suspicion, cooking pots were never left unattended lest they are poisoned, that sort of thing. But there was one man who was friendly, treated everyone with kindness and respect and was helpful. He was considered crazy.

Could evil be defined by actions, intent and societal expectations?

Have a lovely day, Bill.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

I guess that's it, RoadMonkey. Sure seems out there, though. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

I appreciate that, Liz! Thanks for the question. Have a brilliant week in the UK.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

I can't argue at all with you, Denise. Besides, why would I want to? :) Technology is passing me by very quickly. I simply can't keep up with it, but it is pretty fascinating.

Blessings always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

Sha, I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you this week. I didn't do a Maggie article this week. I started a couple new projects and got side-tracked on the Maggie series. I'll do better next week...I hope! lol Thanks my friend. I'm including your question in next week's Mailbag.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

Eric, it seems impossible to do to me, but I suspect, with Bev, it's a lack of confidence. She was beat down pretty good as a kid, and this is a recurring theme.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2020:

Mary, I really doubt it things will change during my lifetime, but I sure hope they do. Blessings to you always.

RoadMonkey on August 19, 2020:

How does an astrophysicist become an actor? Lots of dramatic societies at university.

JEREMIAH MWANIKI KILUNDA from Nairobi on August 18, 2020:

Captivating story. Keep it up!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 18, 2020:

Interesting reading. Mails responded on the background theme. Nicely presented.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 18, 2020:

You mention the 'big world out there', Bill, but it strikes me that you have covered a lot of ground and a lot of topics in this week's postbag. Thanks for answering my question and confirming my thoughts on that subject. I hope you have a good week and stay well.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 18, 2020:

Pretty awesome, far-fetched, digitally manipulated, idiotic mailbag today. I loved it. I always love it. I wouldn't miss it. Too much cool stuff happens in the writing world not to be fascinating. Your far-fetched answer made me think of the lecture my daughter got to attend by Ray Bradbury. There's a man who could look into the future and imagine some pretty far-fetched scenarios. Yet a lot of them have happened and many have yet to happen. We'll see. It seems to me that if writers can make it up some techy somewhere can make it happen. Like doors that open automatically or communicators that looked like flip phones, and how about molecular transportation. The future is upon us.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Alyssa, I absolutely love that quote about retaining a childlike mind. That is beautiful and I will remember it.

I can see you liking the documentary I mentioned. I hope you can find it. Maybe it's on YouTube?

We had a heatwave, 100 for us and that is highly unusual, but it's back in the 70s today, thank the gods. I just wilt in that kind of heat.

Be well and stay safe, my young friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

You do the same, Bill, and I hope you like that Netflix special. I think you will.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 18, 2020:

Bill, the FB incident that ended a friendship is one of the reasons I pretty much stay away from it. I'll post things occasionally, but they're in the way of videos that impressed me. I rarely, if ever, actually carry on a conversation on Facebook.

I love the variety of questions and answers this week. The far-fetched topic got me thinking. Now, I'm not a sci-fi person, but if you consider that most ideas come from what we know and what we can perceive by using our imaginations, nothing can really be too far-fetched. Putting knowledge, imagination, and what-would-happen-if-we-mixed-this-with-that is how science and technology advance, is it not?

Have a great week, Bill! I look forward to this week's walk with my favorite writer and his canine kids.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

RoadMonkey (I know your name, but I'm never sure if I should use it), my memory is not as good as it once was. I don't remember if I asked a question inviting answers or not. lol Sorry about that. I will head over now to see your new article.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Good for you, Flourish.

I have some extended family in North Dakota who are against, seemingly, everything I am for. Our conversations are very vanilla, which is sad in a way, but it's also much more peaceful that way.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Happy Tuesday, Lori!

Benford's Law really makes a lot of sense in that documentary. If you read about it, it sounds like a foreign language. lol

I was watching a documentary about an actor who is also an astrophysicist. Who knew? I found that amazing. How does an astrophysicist become an actor?

Anyway, I'll answer your question about absolutes in next week's Mailbag.

Stay safe and be well, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

MizB, hugs heading your way on your late son's birthday. I'm very sorry for you.

I have family in North Dakota who are the polar-opposites of me and social issues. It makes for some very vanilla conversations on the phone and in emails. We just tiptoe around each other and try not to get too deep on anything other than sports and the weather. lol

Be well, my friend. Happier days are ahead.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Shannon, can you imagine the fear the passengers experienced when they knew that ship was sinking in icy waters. They had to know there was no prayer of them surviving. My God that had to be horrible.

As for absolutes, I was actually astounded that she meant what she said. I specifically asked her if she meant me, and said yes, I was an idiot, and this was a person who I have had a very positive experience with for years. What the hell????

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 18, 2020:

Your last comment to Linda here is I all I need to say for a question. Egotistical self centerdness. Dang it Bill I get out there and neglect some. How do you walk away from writing? I do not like blaming it on boredom. Heck you are the psychiatrist you tell me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

You betcha, Ann!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Thank you Pamela. I'm that way, too, about learning. When I was twenty I didn't much care about documentaries. I was too busy having fun. Now I would much rather watch a documentary rather than a reality series. Dancing with the Stars drives me crazy! lol

Happy Tuesday my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Maybe, Peggy, after the November election, the polarization will diminish, but I doubt it. One half of the nation is going to be real upset after the results are announced.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Well heck, Val, you just managed to muddy the waters quite successfully. LOL Now I'm as confused as everyone else.

Not really, but thanks for your thoughts. I can always count on your to give me a concise look into your mind.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Linda, you might have to talk to Bev. Obviously I haven't been able to convince her to finish her book about the dragonfly. I just bought her a dragonfly t-shirt and even that wasn't enough to motivate her. Me thinks it is a lack of confidence on her part.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 18, 2020:

Similarly, Heidi, you won't be seeing this boy doing a TedTalk in this lifetime. lol Maybe a YouTube or two, but in front of an audience? Not likely!

Good stuff as always, my friend. You and I can blissfully live our lives without writing a Ducky Ducky book and be quite happy.

Happy Tuesday to you!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 18, 2020:

I find it sad that it has become normal to call people publicly such labels as idiots. I hope that this will change and that we get back to respecting people and not promote divisiveness. We have evolved and, hopefully, have a clear understanding of good v. evil.

Alyssa from Ohio on August 17, 2020:

Hahahaha! Oh the power of the keyboard! Human beings are interesting creatures and it always amazes me what people are willing to write and share on social media. Turning the subject a bit, I follow my county sheriff on Twitter. He's an amazing man and human being, very wise, always posting inspirational and motivational content relating to leadership, integrity, and how to grow as a human being. I remember him tweeting something out a few years ago about not engaging in arguments online. It's advice I took to heart. Anyway.. I always appreciate your posts. Sometimes you give me insight to reflect on and other times you just make me laugh. I'm so grateful :)

Anyway, once again, a fantastic mailbag! Your documentary sounds fascinating! I've never heard of Benford's Law. I'm going to have to do a little research. Concerning children's books, I'm reminded of something Madeleine L'Engle wrote in A Circle of Quiet -- if memory serves me correctly (which is questionable. haha!) she was reflecting on writing A Wrinkle in Time and wrote something along the lines of, "it's not about writing for children, but retaining a childlike mind." (I Googled it just to be sure. It's not an exact quote, but I'm paraphrasing there.) I always found that fascinating. I know she had more to say on the topic, but it's been so long since I read that book. I've always thought it would be fun to write a children's book, but I'm not a very good artist and I would want to do all the parts myself. I blame that on my Type A, perfectionist personality. haha!

Well, I hope the weather is nice and you all enjoy a wonderful week!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 17, 2020:

Nice mailbag, Bill. This is why I never, ever comment on political posts on FB. Some folks are just too absolute in their views. I just don’t get it?

We also love documentaries so we’ll check it out. Have a great week.

RoadMonkey on August 17, 2020:

Hi Bill, a really interesting bag this week. I had heard of Benford's law before in the context of financial auditors using it to check for wrongdoing in people making up their accounts! I agree that absolutes are not useful, in most cases, LOL. Did I dream it or did you ask a question the other week that invited answers? I have not been able to find it since. Was it so controversial that you or some admin deleted it? You noted that you had not been able to find a new Hub of mine recently, well, you are in luck. I have written a new hub but it's not just for you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 17, 2020:

I’m with Doris. I have unfriended people on social media or ghosted them when they went all political. Recently a long lost high school friend I dearly loved sent me a friend request and I accepted then I saw the terrible, vehement anti-BLM and pro-Trump stuff on her FB Wall. It had a bunch of absolutes that included me as a Democrat. This was not the person I once knew! Ordinarily I would have sent her an inbox message excitedly reconnecting but I decided against it. I was so disappointed in her. I have held my tongue with relatives in the interest of relationships. One in particular doesn’t return the favor and the last time she did it, I had enough and let her have it. I told her all the other people she was also offending and although I apologized in advance for being brusque, I told her she had had this coming for too long.

Lori Colbo from United States on August 17, 2020:

I'm sorry for my absence here. Life has been busy despite this COVID crap, and I'm still chipping away at the book.

I would like more clarity on absolutes in writing. Do you mean there are no absolutes as to how and what to write? Or there are no absolutes in life? Just curious. I do believe there are many absolutes in life. I could start a list, but that's not my purpose in the question.

I'm sorry about that lady. I didn't realize you confronted her and she stuck with her comment. It is hurtful. I confronted one of the people who called me a moron but I never heard from her. I guess because she doesn't talk to morons:).

I looked up Benford's law. I don't get Netflix anymore but I think it would be way over my puny moron head. I am a documentary junkie. I love the historical as well. Scientific if it's not too complex. I like the ones about people. I recently saw one on Hedy Lamar, the famous sex symbol actress from back in the day. Turns out she was a brilliant scientist and she and another man invented something called frequency hopping. You may have seen it. I think I saw it on Netflix when I had it.

Good Monday, Bill

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 17, 2020:

Benford’s Law, I’d never heard of it, even in my stats classes in journalism. But it’s about numbers, so, ho hum, I don’t think I’ll get into it. By the way, I learned of Occam’s Razor while at the movies watching one of those end of the world ones.

Absolutes. Larry has PTSD, and while we were in therapy learning what it was and how to deal with it, the counselors said never to use absolutes when criticizing each other. But it’s kind of funny. There is something that he always does. It is as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning. LOL I’ve unfriended a couple of people like the woman you described on Facebook. I’ve also held my opinion to myself to keep from feuding with a family member over politics. But I was thinking last night, that contingent of my family do not walk on eggs around me. So are they really worth extending them the same courtesy?

Some interesting questions this week, Bill. I think if I couldn’t write from my experiences, I probably wouldn’t write. I remember 18-year-old me comparing the depth of my writing in my advanced comp. class in college to an older student who was married and divorced. My depth couldn’t compare with his. Speaking of experiences, today is my late son’s birthday and I’m not hitting on all eight cylinders. So have a great rest of the week, my friend.

Shannon Henry from Texas on August 17, 2020:

Lots of good questions this week, Bill!

You mention documentaries and I was watching one about the Titanic just last night. I know it's a topic probably overdone in recent years, but the idea that these were real, living people on board when a tragedy of that magnitude happened just fascinates me. The documentary mentioned the fact that the shoes remain there in the wreck even though the skeletons and clothing have been gone for decades. Something about the chemicals the shoes were made with is keeping them from deteriorating. It's an eery thought, don't you think? The cameras were panning over some of the shoes and it reminded me of a ghost story.

Absolutes also fascinate me. I mean, most of us are taught in grade school not to use them. And yet I think everyone does sometimes use them. Probably because we also grow up hearing them as acceptable figures of speech. Except in your example, I am rather astounded that someone boldly said that they did in fact mean ALL, including you. If the goal is to truly change someone's mind, that's the wrong way to go about it. I get more defensive when someone comes at me that way and won't hear a word of reason, no matter what the topic and even if I'm the one in the wrong, until later. If I process it the person's intent and words at all, that is.

And the good vs evil conversation is ground for endless philosophical discussion. In fact, I saw a post in a writer's group the other day asking what people think of this statement: all humans are evil. I didn't bother to put in my two cents because I was too fascinated reading the various responses of others. The one that stuck was someone saying that they would have a better time accepting the statement if it were worded something like: all humans are innately evil. Now, that statement makes a person think.

Happy Monday!

Ann Carr from SW England on August 17, 2020:

Yes, I'll try to watch that - don't have Netflix but my daughters do.



Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 17, 2020:

Happy Monday, Bill!

I can't wait to watch the Benford's Law documentary on Netflix. I love those types of shows. I think in recent years that I work harder to learn than I did when I was younger, if that makes sense.

I go on Facebook to see what family and good friends post and I really don't like political statements like the one you described. I didn't see that one. I will post one of my artices, cute pets and funny pictures and that is not frequent. If it wasnt for family I would stay away from facebook. I try to stay away from politics most of the time. I really don't like any politicians anymore as I think they all let us down.

I like the good vs evil question. that was vary interesting as was the whole article today. It is nice that you earn some income for technical writing. I can see you doing that rather than writing a children's book.

Have a good week, Bill!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 17, 2020:

The first thing that I had to do was look up Benford's Law. Most of it went right over my head, but it is fascinating that those who know how to use it correctly can detect fraud.

As to absolutes, you were smart to get rid of that person on Facebook who labeled you as an "IDIOT" just because of your political beliefs. It is a shame that our country is so polarized, even about such things as wearing masks.

Have a good week!

ValKaras on August 17, 2020:

I think "absolutes" are a tricky theme. On one hand, yes, generalizing doesn't make sense with all variables suggested by intellectual tastes.

But -- yes, there is a BUT -- we are not second guessing ourselves when our strong principles are at tests. Besides, we've got to know what we want, and there I don't see just some "shades of grey", as our cute friend Heidi would call it.

There are values, and they have a strong aroma of absolutes. Without them, we are indulging in freedoms, whims, impulsiveness, anarchy -- individual and collective.

As my own version of a self-disciplinarian, I like going careful about this word "absolutes". And as an individualist I certainly don't care for generalizations. And as an out-of-box thinker, I don't care much for common sense either. Common sense means pretty much using others' reasoning. There was that time when it was common sense that the earth was flat.

Like I said -- a tricky theme.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 17, 2020:

Bill, you started out with a topic that really brings out the nerd in me—even more than writing about food or food history. If you or your readers want to read about Benford’s Law and get a really good explanation of what it is, I suggest this link:

Writing for children is a tough one—and I would think you would need to give much thought to your target age-range. Ten-year-olds would not be interested in a book that fascinates a five-year old. And then there’s the problem with illustrations, and on and on. I would prefer that you continue to focus your attention on scaring the willys out of us. But, Bev simply has to finish that Golden Dragonfly. Do I need to talk to her?

Technical writing? As close as I get to that is explaining how to fold in beaten egg whites.

Absolutes—don’t you just hate it when someone responds with all caps. I’ve responded a few times “It’s too bad that your caps lock key is stuck. I hope you can get it fixed.” By the way, you didn’t lose a friend. You lost someone who had fooled you into believing you were friends.

Past experience and good vs. evil are fascinating; consider the writing of Stephen King. I’ll just leave it at that.

As for stories being too far fetched to be believed. No one, and I mean absolutely no one would have bought into the things we are witnessing today. “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.” Mark Twain

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Thanks for the question, Mr. Happy. Benford's Law actually has applications regarding the natural order of things around us. It is pretty complicated but also fascinating.

Be at peace, my friend, and I'll catch you down the Road of LIfe.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Yes, Miebakagh, I did cut off the friendship. I expect respect from people. Anyone who cannot deliver respect, well, it's a short life, my friend, and I would rather spend it with respectful and loving people.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

It's a possibility, William. Time will tell. There are a couple novels I absolutely must write before that happens, but thank you for the suggestion.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Thanks John! I'm still waiting for flying cars, but other than that, we are seeing a great deal of science fiction come true, aren't we?

Have a great week, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Ann, if you can, watch the Netflix show about it. I couldn't understand it by reading about it. I had to have it explained to this old brain. :)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

There was a two-year span, Eric, where I wrote one article per day, back in my first two years. After that I came to my senses. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Thank you, Ann, and Happy Monday to you as well. I suspect I have dragged my feet on this new novel exactly for that reason: it's going to be difficult for me to get into the mind of someone so young. We shall see what happens, but so far I'm not enthused by it.

I hope you are well and healthy, my friend. Let's see what kind of trouble we can get into this week, shall we?


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2020:

Happy Monday to you, Rosina! Thank you for your thoughts, my friend.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 17, 2020:

Happy Monday! Yes, it's Monday and I'm in the Mailbag before noon.

Re: Benford's Law. Well, when that series comes to Amazon Prime, I'll have to add it to my watch list. I guess it was referred to in the Ben Affleck movie, The Accountant (a good watch!). Yes, twisty stats stuff.

Re: Children's Books. Yeah, you won't find a book of mine on any kid book shelf either. Ugh! And when I was a kid, I always wanted to read books for older kids and adults. So I won't be writing one.

Anyway, children's books are a huge challenge, even though on the surface they seem simple. Everybody thinks they can write one. Nope. And don't get me started on that rant.

Re: Absolutely. There are no absolutes. Everything is a shade of gray.

Re: Good vs. Evil. Is there such a thing? Again, absolutes. Too big of a question for the Mailbag.

Well, this Mailbag could be the basis for like a ton of TED talks. Gotta run. Make it a great week!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on August 17, 2020:

"I think an absolute, in many cases, is the product of a weak writer, a sloppy writer" - "Sloppy" is a very good description I think. We can't generalize. I used to do it but I tried to watch myself in the last decade, to cut those generalizations out. I think it worked-out for the most part ... haha!!

Thank You for answering my question. Every day is indeed a new kind of crazy these days. Well, when I am among humans. When I was out in the bush for a handful of days last month, everything was so ... just regular: birds chirping, mosquitoes hunting me down, chipmunks and squirrels gathering food for the winter ... just regular stuff. Here in the city, I just gotta turn on the news and the "crazy" stuff begins. Humans ... lol

I don't understand that Benford's Law. It looks like math stuff and I'm not good, or interested in math stuff, haha!!

You have yourself a great week ahead - cheers!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 17, 2020:

Happy week Bill. This week's mail bag is very fascinating with interesting question. And your answers seems fascnating and interesting. But Bill, that facebook friend who binge on absoluteness to call you and all Democrates idiot, did you absolutely cut off the friendship, or is it an hoax?

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on August 17, 2020:

Interesting questions, Bill. I have much to ponder. Thank you for the answers, Mr. Holand. I may have mentioned this before, and I'm sure others have as well but have you ever thought about collecting the mailbag and put it into book form? It would certainly sell.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 17, 2020:

An interesting Mailbag once again,,Bill. Yes, absolutes or generalities bother me too. I can understand why that person is now an ex-friend. You even gave her a chance to alter her statement but she declined. I hate how sides of politics can define friendships.

As for “far fetched” well, looking back many things that seemed highly unlikely or almost impossible at the time, have now happened. What was science fiction 50 years ago could now almost be classed as non-fiction.

You also have convinced me to look up “Benford’s Law.” Have a great week.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 17, 2020:

Well, so much for Benford's Law - my little brain can't encompass all that data. What I do know is that the education powers that be have used a logarithm to determine this year's A level results (at age 18, used for Uni applications etc.), in the absence of the exams themselves. They've made a complete mess of it and many students are distraught because of down-grading from teachers' assessments and Mock results being totally different. One student was predicted three straight A*s and got A, D & U (ungraded)!! Can you imagine?!

Just thought I'd tell you. Sorry, but a quick rant makes me feel better.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 17, 2020:

Sorry but you kicked some ass today so I will be back for more kicking. Bill we did a bit of writing here every day for about 6 months. Or is my memory playing tricks on me?

I remember it like I do anything except for why I walked into a room ;-)

Ann Carr from SW England on August 17, 2020:

I don't know why but I kinda expected your answer, though I'm sure you'd be perfectly capable of writing a children's story! However, the crux is that you're not interested and I believe that if we're not interested it comes out in the writing, so maybe it wouldn't work. That's a roundabout way of saying I don't blame you!!

Stories for 15+? Well, I admire you for that. I couldn't begin to get my head around it because I just don't understand that age group (generally, that is - I did understand my granddaughter but she wasn't average!). I'm much more attuned to children up to and of primary age. I have written a few tales for the young but they don't match up to my standards so I have not continued. In fact, the 9 year-old is better than I am! Maybe one day...

Sounds like Bev has a good story - must be good if it comes up to your standards!

Will now look up Benford's Law.

Enjoy your week, bill, and have a mind-bending Monday!


Rosina S Khan on August 17, 2020:

Absolutes are indeed bothersome, Bill. And I do think past experiences influence our writings. Great mailbag today. A happy Monday and a superb week ahead to you.

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