12 March 2017
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What Was the Hardest Thing You Ever Did?

As hard as it might have been, you may not remember. It took me a while to answer that question, and my answer is probably the same as yours: Learn to read. It was a bit of surprise when I thought of this, as it may be to you. I barely remember learning to read, but it's a multi-step process and requires several years to become proficient. A few seconds of research seems to indicate that adults typically read at 250 to 300 words per minute.

We presumably also learn to speak and listen, but whether or not it's "hard," it's effortless in the sense that it happens to one brought up in a culture without any particular effort. A few additional seconds of research gives 125-150 words per minute as the typical speaking, and hence, listening, speed. We can actually listen faster than that, as evidenced by the "readers" that increase speed while reducing pitch to allow "talking books" for the vision-impaired to be consumed faster.

In other words, we read about twice as fast as we "consume" spoken language. It is a hard-earned and valuable skill.


When I got my first computer (an HP 9810) in 1969, memory upgrades cost about $1 per byte. Now, fingernail-size 256GB memory cards cost about $100, a ratio of about 2.5 billion to one! The cost of bandwidth, from 300 baud to broadband internet at, say, 150MB/sec has only decreased by about half a million. And don't even think about storage! From hundreds of bytes on magnetic cards to multi-terabyte disk drives. Many billions to one.

Is This Going Anywhere?*

Yes. In fact it's here already. I'm giving up. I have given up. I now declare: Disk space is free. Memory is free. I can easily afford (and carry) enough memory to store all the music I'll live long enough to listen to. My science toys can transfer data to my sense organ cluster far, far faster than I can possibly absorb it. I hereby renounce any previous role I had as a memory scold or a bandwidth scold. Proof? Look at the beautiful antenna on The 8, which probably is larger in its full resolution glory than my first full year of blog. Do you want to send me an email in pestiferous HTML when all it contains is text? Go ahead! I no longer care. Waste my disk space and my bandwidth as you will. I cock a double snook in your general direction and disport with sublime indifference in its radiance.

And yet, I remain a scold, not about space, but about time. Back when bandwidth was dear, I and the rest of the internet was spared the spread of gratuitous video. Now, all the newsletters I used to receive in glorious, 300WPM text have become 150 (or less) WPM videos, which take twice as long to watch or listen to. They cannot even be skimmed easily since it only becomes obvious after the introduction how useless or stupid the whole story sometimes is. A few seconds of reading vs. a minute or more of watching. This is my life you're wasting, evil media scum! Please, eschew video "stories" when it's nothing but someone reading or conversing. If you must envidify your item, at least provide a transcript that I can read instead. I spent so much time and effort learning to do that!


By coincidence, even as I proclaim my new role as a time scold, I have become a violator of the very concept against which I inveigh. It was my pleasure to be interviewed for the famous Gear Club podcast. I am Episode 6 and, if the prophecy is correct, may be enshrined as Episode 7 as well. You have my personal authorization to play it at double speed.

Here will be added a list of video time sinks as I encounter them:

AOPA Live, ...(for now)

Nyah Nyah!

Or, as Dave Barry would put it, neener neener.

Jeopardy made a mistake in one of their clues!

* Is this going anywhere, in addition to being an entirely innocuous paragraph heading, gratuitously relates to a joke about the penguin who took his car to a mechanic. If you know the joke, it will be obvious as to why I don't relate it here.

"Tend My Garden"
James Gang




Here's Boris Badenov!

Who is still missing? I think Natasha Fatale may still be on a secret mission of cartoon evil.

Richard Factor

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