On Speed

Most people speak at 100-150 words per minute. And they read at 150-250wpm. If you're an experienced or professional reader, you can probably manage 400-500.

With a month's practice, you can get up to 1000 - the problem being that although you can comprehend text that fast, retaining it for more than a few seconds is difficult. It's as though your short term memory is a small shelf, and pushing a rapid stream of new things on one end pushes other things off the other end - before you have a chance to move them to the bigger shelf of longer term memory.

I can get my reading speed comfortably up to 800, with high comprehension and low retention, and I use it for proof-reading and finding specific information that skip-reading would likely miss.

There are techniques for going faster than 1000, and retaining what you've read by chunking it up into gestalts. But they're very difficult and I never had the patience to learn them.

All of which means...people speak painfully slowly. Really, talking is a terrible way to make spoken words. The geek who uploads a video CV communicates less in five minutes than his written CV does in thirty seconds - and it's annoying to 're-read'. The half-hour radio documentary gives you a handful of facts delivered at a snail's pace, padded with waffle and repetition.

So why not...listen to your radio at double the speed? Record the show, put it through some time-compression freeware - so the 'tempo' doubles but the pitch doesn't - and double your listening ability.

And that's what I'm doing. Today I listened to a biography of Joesph Grimaldi and the letters of Arthur Conan Doyle at double speed - coming to around twenty five minutes each. Seeing as the average human attention span is 20-30 minutes, I think that's a plus.

There are people who download a dozen podcasts a week, and by slightly hacking their iPods, get through them all with time to spare.

Next thing to try: Putting an ebook through a text-to-speech reader, doubling the speed and have my phone read to me at a speed that's comfortable to listen, but physically impossible to speak.

The above article, read by a not-quite-perfect mechanical voice, in one minute sixteen seconds:

On Speed.

(Sometimes the subtitle is a lie.)

I Wander....

Places I've stumbled upon recently:

Sometimes you'd like to leave a message - to yourself, the world, or a group who have the password. A message that'll last a week, a month, or however long you need. And available pretty much anywhere - online, in other words.

TinyPaste.com - halfway between blogging and email.

Wikipedia is sometimes wrong. Conservapedia is always wrong, about everything - including its own reason for existence. Uncyclopedia is deliberately wrong about everything, and wikiality sounds right...but only to morons.

The Less-Wrong Wiki knows how to be right.

If you like XKCD...you'll probably already read Abstruse Goose.

Daily Science Fiction short stories, to your inbox.

Good books are good. Bad books are everywhere. But only OddBooks are fun.


It's an automatic world.

A few months ago I set up a spare laptop to automatically record random frames of TV shows. I came up with some captions, which I used a keyboard scripting program to automatically resize and frame the pictures, and automatically put the captions underneath.

Now I'm going to use another script to automatically schedule each picture in turn, for blogger to, erm, automatically publish.

Sometimes there's nothing to do except spend hours figuring out how to give yourself slightly less to do. Some things at least you can't yet have your computer do for you....

Dumb, Da Dumb Dumb

Why are people such fuckwits?

Or, a better question: Why are people who really shouldn't be fuckwits...still fuckwits?

Last week I went to a job interview. The business owner is a self-made multi-millionaire who's spent a million of his own pounds in setting up a small college.

You might think a successful businessman would know better than to trust the first self-proclaimed management consultant who walks through the door and tells him he needs to employ several extra layers of management...before employing any staff who do the actual work.

Or that he'd think twice before rushing out to buy a hundred obsolete laptops on the word of a family member.

You might think he'd check that there are already dozens of places locally that offer courses in accountancy, IT and Business English - cheaper and with more resources than he can offer.

But no. If being in touch with reality helps you make a success in business, then being a success in business insulates you from reality.

I only hope the college runs long enough to pay me - before selling off all the expensive new equipment bought for its enormous empty classrooms.

I was one of six interviewees - one of two without PhDs, and the only one not applying for a managerial position.

Can you explain how a room of men with doctorates, who want to work for a place that plans to teach arabs and asians, can spout the same racist bullshit as the gutter press?

Apparently there are too many (whatever that means) foreigners (meaning non-caucasians) coming into "our" country to "steal" "our" jobs.

And they dilute (whatever that means) the true british culture (whatever that is) with their strange foreign ways (which is a Bad Thing for some reason).

How can someone spend years in other countries, learn the languages, and stay in education long enough to get a PhD...and come out of it spouting xenophobic isolationist horsecrap?

When I catch myself being stupid, I do something about it. I've no idea who I could have picked that habit up from, because no one else seems to do it.