Short post tonight. I am super tired!
This week, starting today, I’m reading 30 pages of each of 3 books per day. I was thinking that I would choose Walden by Thoreau, but I felt strongly that a book I’ve read before is going to be easier for me to speed read, so I let myself revisit long ago by reading Time To Go House. More about what sounds like a preschooler’s book in a bit.
After timing my 40 pages last night, I headed into this evening, walking home from work around 7, thinking about 180 minutes of reading. Three full hours, at least! Then factor in making some food, using the washroom, short lapses in concentration — I would be reading until I stopped to write this post and fell asleep. So I decided to make a much more concerted effort to speed read.
How does one make a serious effort to speed read? Time trials with as little attention to comprehension as possible. The rules are to keep your eyes moving, finish each page in an allotted amount of time, and keep your mind focused on the task. If you see blurs, you’re not focused. What you should see are tiny little bits of the story, just 2-3 word phrases, that may or may not link themselves into any coherent narrative.
I targeted 1000 words per minute. I do not expect to achieve reasonable comprehension at that speed this week, but I do believe that tracking to that speed will make 650-750 words per minute feel comparatively comfortable. I estimated about 2 pages per minute for Ringworld and The God Particle, and about 3 pages per minute for Time to Go House. The total expected reading time was 40 minutes (plus time for any breaks).
I was interrupted 95% of the way through The God Particle by a sudden memory that I’d left a battery charging at work. A different battery, left charging about 3 hours too long last week, produced a good deal of battery acid and overheated. I was concerned that leaving the battery overnight could be a fire hazard, so I left immediately. After getting back, I spent some time watching Community and relaxed, and then got back to the readings.
Time To Go House
I initially used an online stopwatch to count down 10 minutes while reading the first 30 pages of Time To Go House. 3 pages per minute works out to 20 seconds per page — there’s 31 lines per page, so it means spending about 2/3rds of a second on each line. Focus 1/3rd of the way into the line for a third of a second, then focus 2/3rds of the way into the line for a second third of a second, and move on. No slip-backs, vocalizing, or close reading permitted!
I did very well on this leg. I finished about 45 seconds after the 10 minute mark, which means I achieved slightly less than 900 words per minute (there’s only 31 lines per page, averaging about 10 words per line), but I’m pretty happy with that for a first night.
It’s great to be re-reading this story. It’s not actually a book for preschoolers; it’s a short novel about a family of mice that use the word “House” as a verb to describe their annual journey out of a forest and into a nearby homestead, and the time they spend living there. A little bit like saying “We summer in prague”, they would say “We house over there during the cold season”.
That said, it’s certainly a book intended for younger readers. I first read it when I was 10 or so, and it has epitomized the autumn/winter transformation for me ever since. I have fond memories of a re-read during the winter when I was 14 or 15, laying in my bed with cheese and crackers, petting my cat Kit Cat, listening to the howling wind of a snowstorm at my window. That window whistled and shook in a slight breeze, and in a storm it really did wail. Fortunately, I loved the noise it made.
During the first 30 pages, the main character Smalleata is introduced along with her Uncle Stilton, winter hits, and the mice transit the field past the brown bear Honeysuckle and the fox, Reagan Ready (political much?). They get into the house and are baffled by the new furnace, then start to head upstairs. I look forward to reading about them riding toilet paper rolls down stairs in the future!
This book is great for me to speed read on because I know the general arc of the story and the key moments, so I can easily keep my bearings as I move forward, even when I’m missing huge batches of details. I also don’t feel like I’m spoiling a first-time experience, which is what’s keeping me from speed-reading Stand on Zanzibar and Red Mars, and it’s very simple language, easy to process. I’m staying away from the Feynman Lectures on Physics and my Linear Algebra text for that very reason.
The God Particle
I seriously lagged while reading this passage. It was interesting! I felt like I was missing so much… (I am. I will re-read this at some point.) What I did catch was Einstein shaking things up, Rutherford working out the atom, Bohr doing it better (cherry-picking Rutherford, Planck, Maxwell and Einstein into a theory that did a good job explaining but was not particularly right), de Brogley and Schrodinger and Heisenberg and all the uncertainty and probability and resisting that thought and waves as particles and particles also as waves, and how the wave theory really applies to the probability of the position of the electrons, not the electrons themselves.
I got to page 169 and then went for a walk to work to make sure that the battery I’d left plugged in was not starting any fires, then returned (bearing fruits and vegetables!) and watched 3 episodes of Community, including the episode which parodies Law and Order, which was one of the better bits of Television I’ve ever seen.
Then I finished the passage. At least 35 minutes spent on reading time, when I’d plotted just 15. I lost focus on speed reading and let myself slip into normal reading processes a number of times, which are much slower. I’ll build the skill of maintaining that sort of focus!
I read the whole passage post 11:30 PM, and I’m very tired. This passage featured Louis Wu getting grimy while he navigated his starship toward the puppeteer migration. Then the team arrived at the 5-point rosetta sort of configuration of planets that is the puppeteer migration, and we were given a taste of the breadth and scope of the puppeteer civilization: they have been incredibly civilized and moving planets longer than we’ve been a distinct species!
The exchanges between Teela and Louis don’t seem very indicative of anything I’ve seen or done in real life, but can you really fault the author? Anyway, that’s all for tonight. Got lots to do tomorrow!
For the future: focus more on keeping my speed up!