Coping: With the Death of Reading.

I have been perplexed recently – although not the first time – by a continuing erosion in people’s reading skills.

It seems that with the advent of GoPro videos and YouTube people’s interest in reading have been dropping dramatically. Paper thin attention spans.

We may begin posting MP3s to YouTube with our morning remarks. Although it will be on a delayed basis (of probably an hour) because of time constraints and our dedication to the written word first.

Now, about the death of reading:

While it’s true that Pres. Trump has had a number of serious run-ins with the old-school institutional press, it’s also true that some of the major media have been losing revenue. People aren’t reading today as they once did.

Things are reduced and distilled to almost idiotic levels.

Once upon a time a thoughtful American, seeking insight into a political issue could turn on C-SPAN and watch first-hand..

Today, who has time? Instead, people are watching 30 second to 2 minute news blurbs that mostly fail to capture essential details of decision-making by policymakers.

Along this line, a New York Times article from 2008 titled “The Death of Reading, Continued…” is worth reading.

The article mentions It is the “if: book” project of the Institute for the Future of the Book.

When I review top – ranked authors of best-selling books, there’s a clustering effect: Many people selling books are making sales not because of their book’s content, but because they already have established a cult personality. Some cult members will buy anything. Let’s go monetizing!

Often enough, the “book” is not designed to extend their ideas, not so much propose, new or original ideas in the print format. Damn shame that.

This seems particularly true for the electronic media stars.

I’m not saying it’s all bad. But people don’t seem interested anymore. in reading a book.

Instead,. The kids especially want to turn on YouTube. Get the instant answers and get a hurry up – fix. Even the president has been reduced to tweeting

I think back to the Tower of Babel story.. Did it fall because of different languages? Or is the effect of data compression doing something pernicious, something subliminal to the human species?

We were never engineered as compressed data consumers. We are upright apes – omnivores – capable of environmental extremes. Where did the walking and foraging go?

A little over 100 years ago, companies like Atwater, Scott, and others exploded the realm of audio distribution..

The second revolution was optical with the ultra small cams the Flip Videos and then look GoPros. Today everybody’s smart phone has shoot and stream capability.

Which has gotten us what exactly?

Our political nominees don’t seem any better informed than those of yesteryear. Our opinion makers don’t seem particularly brighter than their forerunners.

Even more importantly, we now have rap artists able to make (not so) Thinly Veiled Threats against the President and get away with it because it’s all in the infotainment sphere.

Sounds like a paradigm and collapsed to me.

My very first job (outside of shoveling coal for the lady up the street – yes, I really am that old) was as a “page” at the Seattle Public Library on north Beacon Hill in Seattle.

People would return books at the front desk.. They were placed on a roll-around cart. It was my job to place the books back on the shelves in the proper order. It wasn’t a terribly difficult task, or I would not have been able to do it.

Works of fiction were all sorted by the authors last name. Errol Stanley Gardner mysteries were placed well ahead of Nicholas Montserrat. Adventures. Easy money.

Learning the Dewey decimal system was hard at first because at age 13 I did not have a good grasp of what philosophy, natural science, hard sciences, nor applied sciences were all.

Perhaps the Dewey decimal system itself is one of the problems facing the future of the book.

The competing knowledge organization system today is the Library of Congress classification system which leaves us in a very interesting space: We’ve got the Dewey Decimal System that works just fine, but which now seems to be more proprietary. On the other hand, we have the Library of Congress system which is a government solution. Sheesh!

Not sure what to do with the problem of the future of the book, but it does mean something around the Ure household.

I will probably throw a slapdash cover on the Millennial’s Missing Manual and toss it up on Amazon as complete e-book for $2.99.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read the series as it’s has evolved, and if sorting through back issues of Urban Survival, not your cup of tea, here is opportunity to do the American thing: Spend Money and get something of value in a somewhat condensed form.

By the look of it the Millennial’s Missing Manual will probably run 50 to 60,000 words, but novels – and everything else today, including phones, earphones, videos, portable monitors, and so forth – all seem to be shrinking in size.

A novel used to be at least 80 to 90,000 words in length. More recently, novels are becoming shorter – perhaps 60,000 words. My first novel (DreamOver) was about 93,000 words, and I thought it was just squeaking by the accepted length for a novel, just a few years ago.

Do We Write Another Book Online?

This future of the book problem has me wondering if we should continue the process of publishing a chapter of one of my book ideas per week on Thursday mornings around here.

The next book, I’d like to write is a second in the Dave Shannon adventure series, taking up from where DreamOver left off.

Please leave a comment (yes or no is fine) and let me know how you feel about it.

Some people think Thursday’s have become a terrible waste of space because the chapters of the missing the Millennial’s Missing Manual were sometimes a bit long..

On the other hand, some just love the idea of some real substance on the web for a change, which I think you’ll admit is largely missing.

For the Love of Saint Patrick

As soon as I’m able to extricate myself from my writing position, I’ll be hosing off the old pickup going to town two prep for St. Patrick’s Day.

No, I will not be dropping by the local Catholic Church to operate offer my confessional. That would take the rest of the month.

But if you know where to look at Walmart, you can find an acceptable corned beef in almost every town in America.

My what I’d really like to do is swing by “The House Of Good Corned Beef.” If I were in Seattle, but it’s a long drive from Texas.

My gastronomic fine tuning advice for the Walmart corned beef is as follows:

Order yourself about a pound of fresh organic clothes from Amazon. Walmart may have those in their spice department. While you’re at it pick up a pound or two of pickling spice to go with it.

When you get your pre-packaged corned beef home, you can rinse off all of that pickling gel that comes from the corned beef factory. This will allow you to make a much less salty corned beef.

The American palate seems to get confused between taste (as in spices), and salt (as in that stuff that’s bad for blood pressure).

The solution is like real corned beef establishments (HOGCB in Seattle) do: throw a big handful of pickling spice along with a few extra cloves in at the time of cooking. This will give you a corned beef that is. Less salty – maybe just enough to offset the cabbage and carrots – while kicking up flavor a notch.

Oh Yum!

There is no practical way to have left over corned beef. Not only are Reuben sandwiches, easy enough to make (should you have any leftovers) but also sliced up in homemade corned beef hash with Yukon gold potatoes is about as good as it gets at breakfast time. Serve with two eggs over easy and some catch up. Don’t forget to call the cardiologist.

Climate Change and Dogwoods

Another seasonal note here: our Dogwood trees out in the woods have blossoms looking long in the tooth.

I hope there will be enough to justify your visit to Palestine, Texas for the Dogwood Trail days weekend after this. Then two weekends following.

In past years – before the mass marketing of climate change – the last couple of weekends of March and the first one in April were excellent dates..

Why, I remember one year in particular, we had a pretty good snow on the 4th of April. It didn’t stick but for five or six hours. It was only an inch or so deep, too. Point is Dogwood blossoms used to make sense at this time of the year. Now they’ve been listening to the Weather Channel or something and they have taken up this climate change stuff. Blossoms arrived a good three or four weeks early.

Perhaps Texas will have a rare named storm to preserve the blossoms long enough for the touristas. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. I sure wanted some snow this winter

In the Ham Radio Corner.

The sale of our airplane to that bright young contractor fellow up in Bismarck does not seem to have restored any available time for ham radio pursuits.

I finally have a line on enough pieces to put an HJT-45 linear on the air with the collectible/tube-type SX-117/HT-44/PS-150 set up.  These were the late sixties Hallicrafters Co. answer to the Collins 75-S series receivers and the mating #@-S series of transmitters.

The HT-45 is a single-ended 1 KW PEP amplifier that matches in styling. Although the original protos and early production units were made by Radio Industries and marketed by Hallicrafters.

Between a ham up in the PNW (who has a power supply) and the Texas ham with the RF deck, I should be able to complete another one in the bucket list: A complete Hallicrafters Line.

A word about the Cosmophones that may be coming up on eBay shortly (the fellow has a couple he may part with if I read it right):  There is some discussion about where the KWS-1 Collins transceiver was the first one build (ostensibly the somms side of the U-2 spy plane program in the 1950’s) or whether the Cosmophones came first.

Good article on the QRZ Forums site over here if you’re interested – or just scroll down for a picture of a Cosmophone with a Collins S-line in background to the left…

Yes, I love ham radio history particularly the early days of Single Sideband when the R.L. Drake company up in Ohio was just coming up to challenge the Collins boys over at Cedar Rapids…

What was the old TV cutaway phrase?  “Meantime, back at the ranch…” 

A couple of projects remain directly ahead that will limit my use of that 746-foot OCF monster antenna a while longer.

Fixing up the foundation under the 180° view porch is on the agenda for this weekend.

Next week I have to till and get the garden planted. Somewhere in the midst of all this outdoor pleasure, the lawnmower is screaming for attention.

Shop organization is coming along, and a few ongoing projects like a new stove hood being installed for Elaine will eat up a day or two of spare time along the way as well.

But I’m at least starting to leave a 2-meter portable radio on the local repeater now and then and I’m catching up on the local goings-on. The local ham club provides communications support for the Dogwood Trails event weekend after this… 

Speaking of the Range Hood

Found an interesting little device that I stupidly did not know about until recently when our range hood finally rusted out: There is now a range hood damper available that will keep the cold air from going up the vent in summer time and prevent the cold air from coming in during the wintertime available from Amazon for about nine bucks.

Not a very big device either. It’s easily installed when you’re putting in a new hood and I wish I had thought about it (or known about it) before. It’s one of those devices that may actually pay for itself over its lifetime.

When you get this close to 70 anything that will pay for itself in your lifetime looks a tad less like a bargain.

Enough of the ramble: let’s go watch the stock market make a fool of my melt – up prediction.

I’m still unrepentant and bullish until our trading tools send me to Rehab for Bears…

Come on by Monday.

Write when you get rich

27 thoughts on “Coping: With the Death of Reading.”

  1. Just a couple of questions about your recommendations for great corned beef:

    “The solution is like real corned beef establishments (HOGCB in Seattle) do: throw a big handful of pickling spice along with a few extra clothes in at the time of cooking.”
    … George, how big a pot will I need to use?

    “Order yourself about a pound of fresh organic clothes from Amazon.” … Amazon sent me my clothes from their warehouse. Should I consider them to be “fresh” enough?

    I do have some cloves, though, and I do get the meat of your suggestions.

  2. I like your writing and enjoyed Dreamover! Reading a sequel would be fun and interesting. When the weather is decent, I usually go outside and work, so I don’t get to the longer stuff until evening. BTW, the Millennial Missing Manual stuff is awesome and helpful. I’m anticipating the climax next week!

    Regarding reading and watching – they both require focus and using the eyes. After a long day of using eyes, I sometimes listen to info from either youtube or other sources while sitting in a recliner and having my eyes closed. Visual work is hard work and even watching a movie is tiring. Listening is different and can be done while resting the eyes. Just FYI.

    Of course, reading is much faster than either watching or listening. Youtube does have its benefits when doing a car or similar repair, since you can see the details of what’s torn apart. Unfortunately the quality of videos is highly variable.

  3. George,
    I share your concerns about literacy and the book. Back in 80’s I had to deal with the argument that the death of the book meant smaller libraries and the the internet would make libraries and librarians obsolete. I have always been a reader and I read widely. I agree with you about Big name authors who continued lamentably long after they had a good story to tell. There are several whose new books will never be on my reading list.

    Part of the literacy issue is the business model of publishing. One hundred years ago the better publishers and presses actually employed book designers who were artists in their own right. Also,there were good well educated editors. Books were well made at all levels and did not fall apart on their first reading. Today books are made as cheaply as possible with crowded text, narrow margins, and cheap bindings. All of which detract from the reading experience. Speaking of literacy remember when a question about a computer problem got the response RTFM?

    Reading is not irrelevant. Robert Goddard published his back yard science experiments in the Smithsonian Miscellaneous pamphlet series. Warner ton Braun read them and we now stand poised to end civilization.

  4. Hi George, here is a public suggestion, so your readers can comment on, as they see fit.

    How about you create a separate webpage of recommended webpage links shared by your readers, set up by content. Repairs and fixes,War & Military Matters, Gardening …etc etc.

    You get the idea. I am sure others who read your work may appreciate the links too.

    Something else to consider would be a resources link page, as you have already done, but with links and titles to your former stories, to simplify researching your huge data base of information.

    And just as an FYI there is great software out there that can catalog your entire database.

    I will post a suggestion on this in a day or so.

    All my best to you and your readers,

    Roger in Tucson

  5. I’m surprised anyone still uses range hoods. The microwaves with the fan and light built in also free up counter space and don’t cost much more. I think it’s worth changing a cabinet to make it fit. They usually come with a damper.

    My favorite corned beef: remove the fat, enough water to float, all the juices and spice pack that came with,a papaya peeled and chopped, cloves, whole allspice, celery seed, brown sugar. A carrot, potato and a jalapeno chopped and added in early kinda dissolves and makes a broth to boil the vegetables in later. Stop cooking early enough to finish in the oven a few minutes and have a texture like pastrami.

    I recommend clothes with zippered pockets to put cloves in for the boil; then it’s easy to take them out after cooking.

  6. great post today.. a question that I have often wondered.. years ago when I lived in DC.. I would go to the library of congress all the time.. because I was always making them run for odd things that no one had an interest in. they just gave me a stack pass.. there were a few other people would go down into the stacks and read as well.. the only thing available above ground was the card catalog .. the books were all stored in hermetically sealed vaults etc. beneath the city. today the written word has drifted from the written word to digital format even the many many libraries are all digitized colleges digitize their research and libraries making it easier for students etc… I got rid of my mini library of a garage full of books in boxes.. ( well I kept a few of my favorite ones..)and put all of my books on an ebook reader..
    Last year I was visiting with an old friend.,. (yup we met at the library of congress stacks.) when I brought up the ebook reader.. she said she still liked the paper books and still reads a book a day I was going to give her an ebook reader with a thousand or so of my favorites on it …. ( I have slowed down considerably to about ten to fifteen books a month ) then we got in a huge discussion about the lost libraries of antiquity and whether or not digitizing the written word be the downfall of mankind..
    I have said for years that the puppet masters have been working hard to dumb down the general public.The average middle class child cannot afford to go to school and make a living the school loans discourage the average person.. keep the people ignorant for three generations and you have total control.. brain freeze them with tv filled with subliminal messages and they will do your bidding like a zombie..
    could the demise of the written word be the downfall of civilization.. and what if an EMP were to happen a solar flair high altitude etc.. and then the digital is nothing more than a tin foil covered plastic cup coaster or the chip.. what is that.. how long could civilization last without books or working knoweledge of how to do things.. who can make a pencil.america has been working hard to stop us from manufacturing anything at all. could this have already happened to us.. as far as I know we still can’t build a pyramid like they did in ancient days in the same time period.. or cut stone as good as they did so fine that you cannot slide a peace of paper in between the joints.. is the past bound to repeat and will we be shoved to the knowledge that they had before five thousand bc.. silly but simple questions that make you wonder if and why.
    Look at today.. the older people that went through the depression are pretty much gone.. just a hand full left.. so are we destined to make the same mistakes they made before the last depression..

  7. Reading & Writing in ages past was a ‘high-tech’ occupation for highly trained professional scribes. Even kings (e.g., Charlemagne) did not know how to do it. As society slogged along, the ‘elites’ did hire tutors for their children so they could read for themselves. Until the mechanized printing press, mass literacy was not relevant.

    In our rush-rush modern world, reading takes TIME (in short supply). Audio works as other tasks can be done at the same time (think the old radio soap operas for the lady doing the ironing). However, if the task requires more concentration (e.g., driving a car), audio doesn’t work so great. I find if listening to audio other than music, I am easily distracted and have to stop and back up to replay. With a hard copy, you can easily ‘pause’ reading to think and make margin notes. (I don’t much like reading long pieces on electronic devices.)

    We’re just reverting to the old status quo where the ‘masses’ are mostly blotto in the mental department and the only the few with intellect will study for further knowledge.

  8. “a pound of fresh organic clothes”
    Now THAT was the funniest voice-recognition failure I’ve seen in awhile. In the context of the rest of the paragraph, I was falling off my chair with guffaws!

    Mister “I never proofread” strikes again! :-)

  9. Yes on the Sequel to Dream Over. Kindle is OK but I do have some space available on the bookshelf. Old school books are cool. I would also be happy to purchase a hard copies of the Missing Millennial Manual for my boys. Sort of a here see this is some of what I have been trying to get you to understand kind if gift.
    Had a friend, Steve Campbell, who wrote a series of books with an apocalyptic collapse theme called American Apocalypse. He was a thoughtful and intelligent person who unfortunately passed away soon after his first set of books published. He would post chapters on line then solicit (ask) for input from his readers. I think you can still find it on Amazon.

  10. My Doc now says watch the sodium–1500-1800 mg/day. (FDA says 2500 mg)
    EVERYthing is salted in the package! Try reading the fine print. A pickle is now an illicit pleasure. And Chinese sauces are downright poisonous. Drat.

  11. YES! I would love to see this!!! If this will replace the manual for reading on Thursday! I love a good story!

    Also sir, would it be ok to print off the millennial manual for my own physical consumption?

  12. Reading more and collecting great books. Part of a group of over a thousand people doing the same. Minuscule number compared to the general population, but somebody has to keep the old crafts alive. ;)

  13. Seems to me it was a little a bit different —

    What was the old TV cutaway phrase? “Meantime, back at the ranch…”

    I remember it as “Meanwhile, back at the ranch”

  14. I actually prefer text posts. It faster to read and easier absorb than a video. I get a lot of messages of interest from the various sites I visit daily and via email lists presented in video format only that are 30 mins or longer when the meat of the info being shared could be easily summarized in a few paragraphs of text or so. That eats up a lot of time. Don’t take this as saying don’t do video. Everyone is different in how they like to digest information and if it reaches more people that is a good thing.

  15. The real purpose of reducing the reading skills of the population is to reduce the vocabulary of the average man. Every profession and major subject has its own vocabulary. Reduce the vocabulary and it makes it impossible to intelligently discuss a subject.

    So if you want to implement political change today, first you have to teach the appropriate vocabulary so people can discuss issues and principles intelligently. In the USA Today, not gonna happen. A genius of yesteryear was characterized by the mastery of vocabulary on multiple subjects. The Russians do great research because they use people from multiple disciplines on a research team. Today in the USA (and probably elsewhere) an archaeologist cannot communicate with a physicist or an engineer or even a machinist. So when they come across something they don’t understand, they just make sh*t up. Or else they just say, we can’t explain this, but one of these days we will figure this out.

  16. It’s worse than just books. I read an article about people who who have talking computers from Amazon and the like in their houses. Their kids talk to them all the time and ask their parents much less questions. One Women said her two year old talks to any object that’s round like the computer to see if it will answer.

Comments are closed.