#2: Why Nonsense Comes in Bytes

Of 60 Seconds

Welcome to Episode 2 of Nonsense At Work.

This episode will be longer than future ones as I explain why future episodes will be the number of words that result in a recording (podcast) of exactly 60 seconds as spoken by me at my talking speed and with my accent.

In May 2006 Dr Wally Johnston, a retired VCU Business Professor, asked me to be a stand-in for him as a commentator on a regional public radio network in Central Virginia. Dr Wally’s instructions were simple, but brutal. I had 60 seconds on air to make my point. No more. No less.

My first in-studio recording session was rather stressful. I tried again and again, over and over, until I managed to grind my way through my first proudly written-for-radio piece within the allotted 60 seconds with no mistakes and with no change in tone or inflection and without breathing once.

In making these recordings, I experienced an unknown law of nonsense. It takes much longer to listen to a 60-second-recording than it takes to speak it. Think about that bit of nonsense for a minute.

You know others listen faster than you can speak, which is why some annoying people complete your sentences for you, often incorrectly. But that’s not the case when you are told to say something meaningful within a specified time limit. Then time speeds up and you run out of seconds before you run out of words.

Another lesson I learned is that it takes much, much longer to write something that can be read in sixty-seconds than it takes to read it.

I now know what Pascal meant when he wrote to a friend explaining that he made his letter longer, because he did not have the time to make it shorter.

Unlike Pascal, I had to find the time to make my pieces shorter. If I failed to, then my time on the radio would have been cut short.

The fact that my sixty-second recordings are still being aired somewhere on a regional public radio station speaks to the success of my time discipline.

As to the success of my material, well, I leave that up to you to decide.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.