Alice’s Restaurant

November 15, 2006

Reply to a Squawk

Filed under: Day to Day Life — aliceaudrey @ 6:13 pm

Lisa Kleypas has a concern that she put on Squawk Radio.  She’s worried about large-scale illiteracy.  I believe I come from a uniquely pertinent point of view.

But for the grace of God I would now be nearly illiterate.  The same level of illiterate as Michael Rogers advocates.

Reading was always hard for me, made harder by poor social skills and some issues which I have no intention of discussing here. 

When I hit 6th grade I still struggled with cartoons.  I could read labels in the store if I applied myself and had no problem with traffic signs.  I was quite good at reading maps.  With some work I could get by.

My reading skills were so poor I was separated from my class to attend remedial reading.  They started with the alphabet and went from there to vowels and consonants.

By coincidence we had lost our TV the same year.  It was not replaced for a year and a half.  The only form of entertainment I could readily come by involved reading.  Better yet, if I was reading, I could put off my chores for an hour or two.  Reading became a constant activity for me.

In a matter of weeks I surged past my fellow remedial readers and was transferred back to my classroom.  That didn’t last long.

I was mortified when my teachers pulled me from class again.  I didn’t want to go back to remedial reading.  But it wasn’t remedial reading they wanted to put me in.  It was the gifted class.

It’s amazing what a year without TV can do.

Could I survive without my reading skills?  Certainly.  But not easily.  When I was nearly illiterate I often felt left out because others understood so easily what I was still trying to sound out.  Think of the way Star Wars started, with a long scrolling screen full of words.  Newspapers, magazines, nearly 90% of what I personally have encountered online has involved reading far beyond the basics.  Bought a toy or a piece of furniture lately?  Get a load of the instructions on how to put it together.

It goes beyond reading comprehension.  The more illiterate the reading, the worse the writing.  Poor writing skills come across the same way as poor grammar and poor annunciation.  People automatically assume the speeker/writer is uneducated, and less worthy of attention.

Yes, writing has historically been the province of only those lucky enough to be able to afford an education.  However, it has been a part of civilization for as long as people have felt a need to record things for posterity.  Admittedly the earliest recordings were predominately accounting records *grin* but the skill set is the same.  It isn’t the overnight phenomena Rogers would have us believe.

It is possible technology will someday make reading obsolete, returning it to a select few who value reading for itself.  I don’t see that day coming in 19 years.  Do you?


Gerbil TV

Filed under: Day to Day Life — aliceaudrey @ 2:53 am

I suppose it’s about time I answered the question.  What is Gerbil TV?

Keep in mind that my family gave up cable TV a few years ago.  We still get broadcast, when the weather is good, and rent videos a fair amount, but we don’t do any channel surfing.

Last year we went to the pet store and got a couple of gerbils for my daughter. 

Gerbils are fun to watch.  They are sociable creatures who get along much better than hamsters.  Soon my whole family found itself standing round the cage, watching the gerbils play.  We spent more time watching gerbils than watching TV.

When we got them, the clerk assured me they were both female.  You’d think a pet store clerk would be able to tell, wouldn’t you?  Hah!

Everything was fine until about four months after we brought them home.  Then it turned out one of the gerbil was a daddy, which made the other a mommy, and we had ourselves a litter of 6 gerbils.

Like I said, gerbils are sociable creatures.  The daddy did not eat any of the babies and neither did the mommy.  Instead, we got treated to gerbil antics like box matches, friendly chases, group grooming – get your mind out of the gutter, they weren’t doing anything naughty – and gerbils who would sit on their haunches and watch TV.

We gave that litter to the pet store when we couldn’t find anyone else to give them to.  Did you know gerbils breed as soon as a litter is born?  By the time we figured out which gerbil was nursing the babies, it was already too late.  Shortly after giving away the first litter of gerbils, we were treated to another.  We decided to keep this one because they were so fun to watch.

We took these gerbils to the veterinarian to have them positively identified girls from boys.  You wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be that hard to tell, would you?  I mean, surely a veterinarian could be relied on to do a good job.

So, a few weeks later we had our third litter.  Yep, it turned out daddy was the only male in the lot.  We now have three cages of gerbils.  Every so often the gerbils will do something cute and the whole family ends up standing around the cages watching gerbil TV.


Create a free website or blog at