Most of us have been reading for so long that we fail to appreciate what a complicated exercise it is. Those of us who read every day are shocked when we read that literacy rates are not 100% across the board in the United States. The U.S. literacy rate matches the world literacy rate at 86%, but with as much as the U.S. taxpayer pays on education, the U.S. citizen should be angrier that it’s not higher. As low as it is, it’s double the literacy rate when JFK was the president, when it was 42%, and that more than tripled the literacy rate of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood in 1820, when only 12% of the world was literate. Our eyes glaze over when we hear that Lincoln was self-taught, as self-taught has taken many meanings over the years. The bar of our current definition of self-taught now is much higher than it was in Lincoln’s day. Lincoln’s formal schooling, he once said, wouldn’t have amounted to a full year. He had too much work to do as a child.
Those of us who read something every single day assume that human beings have been reading for as long as human beings have been on the earth. When we hear that some famous historical figures were either illiterate, or barely literate, it’s noteworthy to us. “They accomplished that with little to no education?” When we learn that Abraham Lincoln was mostly self-taught, after reading his speeches, we think, “What a teacher!”
Books are such an unlimited commodity today that we take them for granted, but as far back as Abraham Lincoln’s day, the future president and others walked miles to borrow a good book. They didn’t have many books, newspapers and pamphlets were a limited commodity, and they didn’t have the internet of course. They appreciated the limited commodity of books, and they loved to use their brains for the complicated past time of reading.
If we take this one-step further, how complicated is it for the average citizen to write a book? For most of my life, our lives we’ve heard how difficult it is. “I wrote a couple novels in my spare time,” Actor George Kennedy once said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
Kurt Vonnegut counters, “Writing allows a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anyone can do it. All it takes is time.”
Planning to go to an Easter Egg hunt, Nephew #5 was in the basement with a stick practicing fencing techniques on a wall. He was two-years-old, but he apparently watched enough video to know lunge techniques and some counter attacks. Sister-in-law #3 said his facial expressions were so intense, he looked angry.
“What’s the stick for?” she asked.
“My nana said we’re hunting the Easter Bunny,” he said, “and my mom won’t let me bring a gun.”
While still two-year-olds, nephew #5 had a real phone that was not plugged in. He picked up the phone and said, “Maury, my girlfriend and my wife keep arguing, and I can’t take it anymore.”
My first nickname for a woman I knew was “unfair”. I considered it unfair that she should have all of the characteristics boys like. Most of us have an abundance of one characteristic and a deficit of the others. My guess is that anyone else who saw considered it just as unfair that God decided to be so stingy with all of our superficial characteristics while giving her everything. Those who believe our characteristics are solely genetic and a result of everything our forebears passed down, have to wonder how all of the optimum characteristics filtered down to her. My guess is that her relatives, or those who didn’t have all of the optimum family characteristics passed down to them, hold a lifelong grudge against her. When her relatives, and anyone else who sees her walk down our employer’s hallway, see her, they know how unfair life can be. I developed another nickname for her, through the years. I called her “The Godfather”. Every time we went to a bar together, guys would come up to her and whisper in her ear. We sat at these bars together, in a group, for about 90 minutes on average, and it never failed. Some guy, from some part of the bar, would walk up and whisper something in her ear. One night, in particular, four different guys whispered things in her ear. She told us she knew two of them, and two she didn’t. What were they whispering? She didn’t cite the Southern Italian code of silence and the code of honor that forbids telling outsiders anything that is discussed, but she wouldn’t break their trust and tell us what these guys were whispering to her.
An eight-year-old boy asked me if I wanted to hear examples of the extent of his knowledge of swear words. I asked him why he was so fascinated with swear words. He didn’t know, of course, as he never dissected it. My guess is that it’s independent knowledge he has attained outside the home, and the psychology of it fascinates him. He knows it’s taboo and that fascinates him.
Some people complain that other people, mostly men, waste huge chunks of the precious time they have left on earth watching NFL games. Watching the NFL is a complete waste of time in the sense that we get little to anything out of it, but it’s no more a waste of life than watching any other TV show. I found an even greater waste of time, paying attention to mock drafts.
True NFL fans are almost as concerned with next year as they are this year. As such, they waste huge chunks of their precious time left on earth reading Mock NFL Draft experts guess what college player NFL teams will select in the upcoming draft. The NFL Mock Draft industry is now a multi-million dollar business built almost single-handedly by a guy named Mel Kiper, a man some claim “built an empire out of nothing.”
Why is spending countless hours reading, listening, and watching what these experts think such a huge waste of time? A writer named Derek White graded Kiper, Todd McShay, Peter King, and other top experts of mock drafts in 2014, and he found that top, universally acclaimed experts picked the player an NFL team would select 4.6 times out of 56. Reading other, more recent grades for the experts, they often correctly pick an average of 6 times out of 32. This inflated score includes a heavy asterisk, as the first draft pick is often set in stone by draft day, and the next two are often so obvious that we shouldn’t give these experts any credit for stating the obvious. If these admittedly debatable points are true, then the true prognostication of NFL Draft experts begins at pick four. At that point, the top experts in this field average about 3 correct picks out of 29, or just under 10%. These experts watch countless hours of game film, they have insider access to insiders of each team, and they spend hours studying their algorithms before they sit before a massive NFL audience to reveal their findings. They know way more than we do, and they correctly pick the college prospect an NFL team will select less than 10% of the time. Do these mock draft experts take abuse for missing, yes, but before we feel sorry for them remember that they are paid fairly well to do something most of us pay to do. The question isn’t why do they do it, but why we waste such a huge chunk of our precious time left on earth watching, listening, and reading them do it?
In 2015, a writer for the East Oregonian wrote that major league pitcher Pat Venditte was the majors first major league pitcher to switch hands pitching in 20 years. The writer for the EO picked up a story from the AP and wrote, “Amphibious Pitcher makes debut”. I believe the writer intended to write that Pat Venditte was the first ambidextrous pitcher in 20 years. I know Pat Venditte. I might not know him well, but he’s never been anything less than a mammalian to me.
Some 30 years prior, while former NBA player Charles Shackleford was at North Carolina State, he told reporters, “Left hand, right hand, it doesn’t matter. I’m amphibious.”