Gongol.com Archives: June 2021

Brian Gongol


June 25, 2021

Computers and the Internet Like it or not, analog literacy is incomplete

Sharing a snapshot of his child's summer reading packet instructing the student to "compose four tweets to tell about a book you read", economist Joshua Goodman asks, "Anyone else worried that their kids are being exposed to social media at too young an age?" ■ The question is certainly fair game, and the particular exercise in question is certainly too cute by half. Considering that Twitter itself is only 15 years old, most adult parents would be within reason to find the very assignment unrelatable. ■ The notion of normalizing social-media interaction as part of a reading assignment is prone to feeling forced -- and perhaps even a bit unhealthy. Young people can be impulsive and easily harmed by the hazards of social media, especially if they aren't practicing good technology hygiene or learning healthy boundaries between their digital and real-world lives. ■ But on the other hand, Benjamin Franklin continues to reach us nearly three centuries later via the pithy quotes in his Poor Richard's Almanack. Franklin's aphorisms were, effectively, 18th Century tweets. And we are better off for having them. ■ The form of a work may vary, and the form it takes can influence the content. Illuminated manuscripts are by definition different from 280-character bursts of thought and speed selfies. ■ Discovering a subject-matter expert with a lot of interesting things to say -- but no social-media presence -- is a lot like finding a book you can't read on a Kindle or a movie you can't stream. Convenience matters more than it rightly should. Yet the other side to that same coin is that there are people devoting far more writing to social media than they do to long-form published works, when they really could do a world of good by piecing together thousands of scattered thoughts into coherent works. ■ So the reality is that educators (and parents) probably should teach a balanced approach: Yes, young people should read books. But they should learn how to be digitally literate, too. They should learn how to write critical essays. But they should probably know how to compose a clever tweet, too. Literacy is bigger in both its reach and its consequences than it used to be -- and if you doubt that, consider going through the Cuban Missile Crisis with a Twitter-addicted President at the helm. As uncomfortable as it often makes generations older than the digital natives, there's no going back.

Business and Finance The US Treasury is still borrowing at near-zero interest

Even with a small uptick in 10-year rates, the country is still borrowing at about 1.5% (nominal). It was only a generation ago that kids could get 5% interest on their miniature savings accounts and buy savings bonds that doubled in value after ten years.

News John McAfee found dead in a Spanish prison

Drew Cline offers wise counsel: "A new lesson in our family is: Live your life so that no part of your obituary reads 'found dead in a Spanish prison.'" Other words to avoid: "exiled", "disgraced", and "crypto".

Weather and Disasters "Ope, it's gross"

Almost as good a weather graphic as "Taco Watch/Taco Warning". Speaking of gross, Seattle faces coin-flip odds of breaking its all-time high temperature record in the next few days.

Humor and Good News Happy mid-summer from the King of Sweden

Try, just try, to come up with a cushier-sounding job than "Strictly ceremonial hereditary monarch with zero executive authority over a rich country with a population about the same as North Carolina's".

News Human-adjacent history just got more interesting

"The team said that Homo longi, and not the Neanderthals, was the extinct human species mostly closely related to our own."


Recent radio podcasts