Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mr. Speed

Mitch Berg is looking to deal some speed to Chad the Elder. Chad is looking for a good source, and Mitch has experience processing his own.

No, not that kind of speed; these guys are interested in the art of speed reading.

Back in the late 1970s my father took a speed reading class at work. He brought the textbook and workbook home with him so that I could try it out. I got through the initial chapters but gave up as I find myself skimming too much. I needed to go back again and read slowly to be able to digest everything I had missed while trying to speed read. So I gave up.

Mitch's speed reading experience involves a last hour rush to finish his senior paper in college. I could have tried the speed reading during my college days, not to mention speed thinking and speed typing. Typically, I waited until the evening before a paper was due to begin writing. It actually helped me concentrate on the paper; I was so worried about getting finished that nothing else could distract me, even sleep be damned. My intensity was almost always rewarded with an "A" grade of some kind.

Keep in mind that these were short, 2-4 page papers and not 10-20 page term papers. Those required actual research and study throughout the semester.

On one occasion, I had to write a 2-page paper on some topic pertaining to Medea by Euripides. I had read the play, the class has discussed it, and I was all ready to start typing. I sat down at my Commodore 64, transcribed my thoughts, and came out with what I thought was a pretty good essay. Yes, I was quite proud of myself.

Then I saw that I had finished just moments before 11 PM. Time to run downstairs and reward myself with an episode of one of the BBC's funniest comedies ever. But I had neglected to print the paper; I habitually shut off the computer without saving my work, and everything was lost. (Since I had a word processor, I did not bother with pen and paper.) Yes, I was quite disgusted with myself.

I was in to much of a panic to try typing again right away, so I went downstairs to watch the show as an anxiety reliever rather than as a reward. Somehow, it worked. By the time the show was over, I had relaxed enough that I was able to go straight back upstairs to my desk and start over again. To my amazement, I didn't have to start over completely. I sat down, and in my sleepy, anxious state, I was able to re-type my entire lost paper from memory. Was it adrenaline? Or was it the human brain displaying its capabilities to the fullest extent? As far as I was concerned, it was another "A" grade on an essay.

Don't ever expect me to try that again, though.

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