Day 7: The Science of Speed Reading

Something that I am really just appallingly bad at is reading. I’m not even entirely sure why that is. I used to be a really prolific and fast reader, and with time it’s like I got worse. I’m not sure if I fell out of practice or if I stopped being able to focus on it or if maybe I’ve just gotten blinder and it’s gotten harder, but whatever the case, I’ve gone from being someone who would knock out like 100 books a year to someone who can count the number of books she read in 2014 on one hand.

I know that the focus thing is definitely part of it. In an effort to commit everything I read completely to my memory I take way too long, which I suppose is fair to an extent but I know that part of it is outside distractions, like the cat walking by, or some weird sound that keeps making me look up, or that I keep re-reading the same word over and over again. Sherlock Holmes is obviously not hampered by the inability to read quickly because he seems to know an awful lot about an awful lot, so I decided I was going to look into speed reading.

I am not sure what I expected. It certainly wasn’t that I was going to be knocking out a thousand words per minute and actually understanding them. I thought that maybe if I focused on speed reading, though, I could do two things:

  1. Get my regular reading speed up to a respectable level again, and
  2. Re-read books I’ve already read–you know, like A Study in Scarlet, which I didn’t love the first time and wanted to punch myself in the face the second time and I can’t even imagine how aggressively angry the third time is gonna make me the third time–much, much faster.

So I downloaded some speed reading app that you plug into your computer browser and just highlight stuff and it helps you focus. I started off reading The Gloria Scott at 400 wpm, which according to my research is about as fast as a person can read and really comprehend everything that they’re reading, and ended up going, “20 minutes to read this story I’ve already read 70 times? NO THANKS,” and I sped it up so that I was reading 800 wpm.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 10.39.35 PM

I was definitely missing a lot of words, but it turned out I actually didn’t care, because I’ve read them before. Anyway I’m pretty happy about it. I knocked out almost 9000 words in like 12 or 13 minutes, which is faster than I would be able to really properly comprehend if it wasn’t really a refresher course. Regardless, the fact that I can use this thing to read things at a non-snail speed is pretty rad and I am excited about using it to read A Study in Scarlet at a rate of 10,000 wpm. Is that possible? OK, not really. According to this thing if I read it at the same rate as The Gloria Scott, I’m in it for about 60 minutes, which I suppose I can deal with. Maybe I’ll test the limit at the part that takes place in Utah, which according to my recollection. In fact, let me try a quick sneak preview. You know I can actually max it out at 9,600 wpm! I can re-read this entire novel in like 5 minutes! Yeah, that’s gonna be pretty great. STAY TUNED FOR THAT.


Day 1: The Rejuvenation Ritual

I have returned from the dead! Just kidding. That’s impossible. As far as I know, I am not, nor have I ever been, dead, though I imagine that possibly one day I will be.

Sadly this project last year was designed to be a daily activity. It turns out that you cannot work 60-hour weeks, and also learn how to be more like Sherlock Holmes, and also write a stupid blog about learning how to be more like Sherlock Holmes, so in fact I gave up the latter two, which is silly, but apparently the stupid blog was keeping me on track.

Now that 2015 has rolled around, I have decided to do the thing, except with new rules:

  1. Fewer gifs (sometimes)
  2. One post a week (POSSIBLY MORE, only one necessary)
  3. Those are the rules!
  4. They’ve literally changed WordPress since I last opened it. That’s worrisome. Can I switch it? Yes.
  5. I was going to include a gif, but in accordance with my “fewer gifs” requirement, THERE IS NO GIF. You must imagine the gif. You must be the gif.
  6. OK, bye


Watching The Sign of the Three again with my roommate, I recalled my previous attempts to text behind my back, and the numerous times since then that I’ve wished that I could do it. It turns out that once the thought has occurred to you, the usefulness also does, in like a Bader-Meinhof kind of way, where it seems like opportunities to use that skill if only you had it are just popping up left and right now that you’ve thought about it.

So I’m gonna get back on that. Tomorrow, pocket texting. I am going to successfully type out, without looking, at least one Sherlock Holmes quote, if it fucking kills me, but I mean that metaphorically, not literally.


Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation, I had tossed aside the barren paper, and, leaning back in my chair I fell into a brown study. Suddenly my companion’s voice broke in upon my thoughts.

“You are right, Watson,” said he. “It does seem a very preposterous way of settling a dispute.”

“Most preposterous!” I exclaimed, and then, suddenly realizing how he had echoed the inmost thought of my soul, I sat up in my chair and stared at him in blank amazement.

“What is this, Holmes?” I cried. “This is beyond anything which I could have imagined.”
He laughed heartily at my perplexity.

“You remember,” said he, “that some little time ago, when I read you the passage in one of Poe’s sketches, in which a close reasoner follows the unspoken thoughts of his companion, you were inclined to treat the matter as a mere tour de force of the author. On my remarking that I was constantly in the habit of doing the same thing you expressed incredulity.”

“Oh, no!”

“Perhaps not with your tongue, my dear Watson, but certainly with your eyebrows. So when I saw you throw down your paper and enter upon a train of thought, I was very happy to have the opportunity of reading it off, and eventually of breaking into it, as a proof that I had been in rapport with you.”

I had initially written three paragraphs elaborating on why this is amazing and a way in which I already identify with Sherlock Holmes, but I scrapped the entire thing because it made me sound like a douchebag. Sherlock Holmes sounds like a douchebag, too, but it’s OK when he does it because he is a tall, dark, and handsome British sleuth, and none of these adjectives (or nouns) apply to me at all.

Anyway, this is one of those stories in which Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really do a lot and the crime sort of naturally solves itself, yet Watson writes about it because it’s really cool. I love how many of these cases there really are, in which Sherlock Holmes gets all kinds of (at least literary) credit, while in fact he didn’t do very much at all. At least in this one he, uhhh…he…uh…well he figured out that it was a murder while it appeared to be a suicide, although I’d like to believe that at least one detective would have gotten there eventually without Sherlock Holmes’s help, although it is doubtful, not because the police force is wholly incompetent but because the one Sherlock Holmes works with evidently is.

So my goal for the near future is to be as badass as Sherlock Holmes in this passage above, in which he responds to something somebody did not say out loud. I am going to do it. I am going to boldly go. And if I’m wrong, I’ll just say “never mind” and it will be like it never happened. And if I’m right I’m going to look like a total badass.


Remember these two posts in January? The Science of Ciphers and The Science of Television? In the latter (which actually came first) I said that in the former (which actually came second) that I was going to write what I had deduced about one of the TV shows I had worked on based on VERY LITTLE EVIDENCE, but I couldn’t just say it because I could get slammed with a lawsuit, so I had to write it in a code, which was good.

Well, using some kind of cipher–and the real tragedy here is that I can’t remember what and I think I threw away the paper I’d done all the work on–I wrote it down in the former post. And up until earlier today, because I was kind of behind on this show and the episode I was on didn’t mention it at all, I had thought that I was completely wrong, and I was glad I wrote it in a cipher no one would bother to solve, because believe me, no one would bother to solve it. In fact whichever cipher I used, I did it TWICE, because I was so worried it would be really obvious the first time that I did it a second time with a different key just to cover my ass. I’m determined to go back and solve it now.

Anyway, essentially the message was this: Leslie Knope is pregnant. And guess what? BOOM. MIC DROP. Later I’m going to go back and crack my fucking code and prove it. GOOD DAY.

knope we can


“The Adventure of the Speckled Band” takes place on my birthday, supposedly, and also marks what was, I think, the first time I really realized that Watson refers to like every single one of the cases he mentions as “like totally the most singular case ever.”

Also in case you are wondering, this post has been brought to you by scotch.

ron burgundy I love scotch

Let’s talk about some stuff.

First and foremost, let’s discuss my favorite part of this story, Sherlock Holmes responding to douchebaggery with douchebaggery.

“I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran.”

“Indeed, Doctor,” said Holmes blandly. “Pray take a seat.”

“I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been here. I have traced her. What has she been saying to you?”

“It is a little cold for the time of the year,” said Holmes.

“What has she been saying to you?” screamed the old man furiously.

“But I have heard that the crocuses promise well,” continued my companion imperturbably.

I love this because it is the exact kind of humor that is borne of knowing that you are smarter than the person shouting at you. I have therefore decided to respond to all jerks with this “pretending not to notice you are being a dick even when it is very obvious” thing, which it seems has the property of actually making the dicks in question even more upset, which is excellent. I guess I already knew this.

“I knew that we should find a ventilator before ever we came to Stoke Moran.:

“My dear Holmes!”

I love this because it is essentially Watson pointing out how egregiously bullshitty this statement kind of is, and yet at the same time I don’t doubt its veracity. I feel like I’ve been there a number of times. What I like about this moment is that I previously always kind of thought that half of what made Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes was the courage of his convictions in the face of uncertainty. Holmes always knows that he could be wrong, but decides to risk it, and 99 times out of 100 comes out on top as a result. But this, and the next story on my list “The Resident Patient,” feel like they both have great examples of times in which Sherlock Holmes had indeed thought he had solved it all, but he decided to wait until he was certain before he went and shot his mouth off on it. So the big things he doesn’t just leap at; when it comes to solving mysteries, and perhaps this is just a dramatic device, he tends to wait until he’s pretty fucking sure that he’s right before sharing his suspicions with others. The only reason I believe it is because of how often I feel annoyed at the fact that I actually figured something out way in advance, but then when I tried to tell someone, I had no real evidence of the fact and they’re like, “Bullshit!” just like Watson says here.

Also I got this case for my laptop and it’s like cutting into my wrists. THAT’S NO GOOD AT ALL, what am I supposed to do, file it down? Sherlock Holmes never had this fucking problem.

ANYWAY, last and not least, here is a mention I had never bothered to look up before:

“When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession.”

I always love a good story of a convicted 19th-century murderer, so I checked up on this. Evidently they were both dummies, doctor-wise, but I guess pretty good at killing people. Pritchard murdered his wife and mother-in-law in a total Dr. Abel Gideon move, and Palmer murdered some of his relatives as well. Both by poisoning. So does Dr. Grimsby Pussyfoot or whatever his name is. I don’t know. Shut up. I’m not scrolling up. He’s a big fat poisoner, but with a snake.

If you ask me, this is what gets these guys caught. If Dr. Benedict Cumberbatch or whatever just went and murdered his stepdaughters like with normal stuff, like regular poison, or making it look like an accident, instead of an elaborate situation with weird construction and ventilators and servant pully thingies and exotic snakes, maybe Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t turn up and fucking solve the case. All these cases are “singular” and it says somewhere in at least one, if not many, of the stories that it’s actually easier to solve a unique case because its properties tend to stick out. So there you go.


“My God!” I whispered; “did you see it?”

Holmes was for the moment as startled as I. His hand closed like a vice upon my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke into a low laugh and put his lips to my ear.

I love this because I am one of those people who believes first in subtext, and also I love the idea that Holmes actually had the shit scared out of him, even if just for a second.