Reading

19 September 2017

Just recently I finished editing a novella for an author friend. While I was working on his book, I noticed several things about how I was reading it and did some thinking about the way I read.

I’ve always loved reading. The family story is that I was potty trained by being placed on the toilet and handed some books. If true, I’m sure they were suitable for my age.

In Junior High and High School, I quickly devoured every SF book in the school library, as well as other literature. SF, however, was my go to when looking for something to read. As to Westerns, I think I’ve read maybe six or seven in my lifetime. I’d also hit the base library (AF brat) and read just about everything SF they had. It was at this time that I also found Fantasy and began reading that genre as rabidly as I did SF. I was probably 14 when I read Lord of the Rings.

This love of reading almost got me into trouble in high school but thanks to a lovely English teacher, turned into a benefit instead. In the second week of a new school year, my English teacher caught me reading in the back of the classroom instead of paying attention. So, she sprung a pop quiz on us, based on the story she had been going over. The story was in the school textbook, and hadn’t been assigned to us as reading yet. I was one of the few to pass the quiz with a 100 grade, so she had me stop by after school. She then asked how I had done that and I explained I had already read the reader from cover to cover. After a few questions to verify I wasn’t just claiming that, we talked about moving me to her advanced reading program instead. The carrot for me was being able to read and the icing on the cake was learning how to speed read. By the end of the school year, I was pretty much reading one paperback a day on the bus to and from school and was reading at around 880 words per minute, tested.

Even now, I will read rather than watch TV. There has been a time or two when I’ve repeatedly told the family that there was a show on in 5 or 6 days that I wanted to watch, to make sure they were aware of my plans to watch it. Then that day I’d find a book and start reading. When the show came on, they tried to tell me and I told them I’d rather read this than watch that. That’s after reminding them for five straight days that I was going to watch this movie or whatever on Channel X at 7:30 PM. I’m sure there were some frustrated or dirty looks cast my way then!

I can read several books a day if I’m allowed to. That’s one reason I like ebooks: I only need to take my tablet with me and I have multiple entire series as well as stand-alone books readily to hand. Heck, I have an entire library with me. No risk of getting to book 2 in a trilogy and having to run around to find book 3. Or carry a stack of books on vacation. And yes, I still very much enjoy reading physical books, turning the pages and having that weight.

That’s my background. I’m a reader, born and bred.

So, to the point of this blog post. It turns out that I have different reading modes, at least four that I’m aware of. No surprise there as I think everybody does, actually. After thinking about how I read and the different “modes”, I find the differences intriguing.

If I’m reading for my own pleasure, I pretty much zone out everything but the words before me. I’m still aware to some small extent what’s going on around me; being deaf I tend to automatically be aware of my surroundings, at least to some extent, as a safety measure. And, yes, I do get irritated when my reading is interrupted.

Speaking of getting interrupted, my wife has this uncanny knack of always interrupting me when I’m in the middle of some battle scene, engrossing dialogue or other action. I logically know it’s not premeditated, but I can’t help wondering why she never seems to interrupt in the boring parts of the book.

Anyway…

The first mode is typically reading at full speed. Some books, especially non-fiction, I read the fastest. I’ve not tested in a long time, but I’m pretty sure I’m not reading at my original 880 WPM now, but more likely closer to 500 to 600 WPM. In this mode I will slow down at certain parts, such as detailed descriptions of interesting techniques or explanations. I also use this mode with heavily embellished fiction, such as where they describe what someone’s wearing down to the thread count or every leaf on every tree in the park the characters are in. Those sections, I read as fast as I can without actually skipping them entirely.

The second mode is reading at a slower rate, probably down around 300 to 400 WPM. This is reserved for books I’m really enjoying, books that I’m savoring. Even with these, I’ll sometimes speed up over what I consider unnecessary detail, as mentioned previously. This is probably where I read most SF and Fantasy, especially my favorite authors.

Those two modes above, I start at the first word of the book and read straight through to the end. I’m simply reading for enjoyment or education.

For mode three, I’ve noticed that when I do a preliminary edit, whether my own writing or someone else’s, I read at a much slower speed. It’s not so much that I’m reading as it is I’m looking for discrepancies. I’ll read a ways, then see something that doesn’t click, read it again, mark it up or verify the discrepancy then mark it up. In this state, I’m also marking up misspellings, typos, grammar that really stand out. Right now, I’m not necessarily looking for particular wordsmithing problems, I’m looking for issues in the story itself. I am, however, not willing to put up with glaring English errors, either. While in the previous two modes I would grimace and keep reading, momentarily irritated with the author for not doing his work, this time if it jumps out at me I won’t hesitate to write it up. On the whole, though, I’m almost reading like I do for fun. Just more deliberately, and with an eye out for glaring story line or grammatical errors. At this rate, it can take me a couple days to get through a book.

The final mode is a full on editing mode. This is the slowest mode of all for me. It’s also one of the more intensive reading modes, a point that surprised me. Here, I’m doing all that I do in the preliminary edit, but where there I only go back to check something, here I’m constantly going back a paragraph or page and re-reading from there. I’m constantly unconsciously asking myself questions: Did this flow properly? Could this really happen this way? Didn’t she sit down a couple paragraphs ago? Can a ship really do that? Would he really speak like that? Does this read like an insert by the author trying to explain something directly to the reader? Is this grammatically correct? Would the reader understand this reference? Is this spelled right? To vs too vs two and other such critters.

As an example of reading progress while editing, consider any consecutive pages of a book. I’ll read page 1 halfway, go back a couple of paragraphs, study a sentence or two, figure out what’s wrong with it that grabbed my attention, mark the correction, continue reading from that point. After several times doing this as I work my way down the page I’ll eventually finish that page and start on page 2. Then I go back to that last nagging paragraph on page 1 and resume from there. When I get that taken care of, I continue reading anew from that point. After a few paragraphs, I’ll go back to a previous paragraph and study it…why did that demand my attention now? I’ll even read ahead past some error to see if it’s explained or accounted for in the next several paragraphs. If not, I go back, make my comments, and resume reading there even though I’ve already read ahead. And so it goes for the whole book, constantly going back and forth by sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters until eventually I reach the end of the book.

When I hit something that I think is wrong, I’ll look for the answer and try not only to comment on the error, but suggest a fix and provide helpful information to avoid that error in the future. I’ll spend several minutes on two sentences, trying to see what made me pause and see how to fix it. It might be voice, it might be tense, it might be grammar, or it might be English. Maybe it’s inconsistent based on a previous book or drawing or model. Perhaps it’s illogical, written that way to accomplish the author’s goals. Maybe it’s physically impossible. Something made me pause here, and I intend to discover what it was. By the time I have finished the book, I have probably read every page three or four times on this one pass from the first to the last words of the novel. This mode of reading can take me at least a couple of weeks, if not more, to read the same book that took me a mere couple of days in the preliminary edit.

I guess it’s to my advantage that I can “forget” most of what I’ve read last time when I re-read a book. I like re-reading a book and being able to enjoy it all over again. I always find something new, some new insight to the characters or some new appreciation for some action or dialogue that comes from knowing but not necessarily consciously remembering what’s going to happen later. This also comes handy when editing as it allows me to maintain a fresh perspective rather than having in the back of my mind that nagging that I’ve already checked this once. Since I never really forget what I’ve read, mention of something at odds with previous pages, stories or books related to what I’m editing tends to pop into mind when needed.

Well, there you have it. I don’t know if this is interesting or useful to anyone else, but it was fun writing up how I read.

Advertisements

Time Passes

6 September 2017

It’s true, time passes faster when you’re having fun. It’s also true that if you stop doing something for a while, it’s much harder to resume. At the same time, at least for me, having that break with regular writing and playing on the radio makes it harder for me to start anything else since I have those two things hanging over my time. I want to get back into them, but…tomorrow? And then because of that attitude, I’m not eagerly starting new projects or doing other things that I want to. Not because I can’t or don’t have time, but because I have those two things hanging over me and I can’t get myself going on anything.

Milky Way from Coyote Grade in the Owyhee Foothills.

I did get out and do some Milky Way photography. It turned out OK, and I had a blast. With all the smoke lately, I haven’t gotten back out to shoot more astrophotography. Or any photography, actually. The drive just isn’t there and to be honest, I’m reluctant to just go by myself. Not because I can’t, but because I know my wife doesn’t like me going solo into the Owyhees. And I’ve sort of gotten used to having someone else along.

Excuses. Just excuses.

I do need to go back out with some settings from that shoot and try doing more and specific adjustments to the camera to attempt to get better images. I also want to take one of my telescopes out and use it to track the camera. That way, I can get some images to try stacking and see how that works to get a better Milky Way image.

In spite of that, I did do a bunch of prep for the recent total eclipse of 2017. For that, I built myself a solar filter out of PVC pipe and gold mylar sheet. A preliminary test showed the filter worked, but I am not happy with it and will probably eventually replace the mylar with newer or something else. It’s just not perfect.

My homemade solar filter mounted on the lens I will be using for the 2017 solar eclipse.

 

The sun as shot through my homemade solar filter. It’s two layers of gold mylar secured between an inner and outer PVC ring.

One of my sisters lived right in the path of totality, so it was a simple matter to head to her place 45 minutes away and observe the eclipse there.

My setup while shooting the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. We had 100% totality here.

I did get at least one decent image that I was really happy with, and one I was sort of happy with. And yes, you can see sunspots in my images, so I guess there actually are other decent images from the event.

Bailey’s Beads from the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. You can also see some solar prominences.

 

Another shot of Bailey’s Beads as the sun moved out of totality.

 

Sunspots during the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, along with the moon encroaching. This is early in during the eclipse. They’re easier to see in the full size image.

The same time I did the Milky Way shoot, I took my DJI Phantom 4 along and did some flying. I had been mentally rehearsing the remote controller stick movements for a 180 flyby where you spin around 180 degrees without stopping. Or put another way, you’re flying away from a spot looking back at it and at some point along the flight path you spin around to face the other way while you continue flying in a straight line. I’m happy to report I got the stick movements right and it worked pretty well.

And now we have a Purple Air Quality alert for the valley. That’s the color for “very unhealthy” with the next color being brick red and meaning “hazardous”. So, I’ll leave you with one last image, one that I took last night and that I call the Fire Moon. The color is due to the smoke in the air, of course.

The nearly full moon, discolored from the heavy smoke covering Treasure Valley, Idaho.

Splashing around

19 June 2017

Last Friday was fun. Surfing Google Earth earlier that week, I noticed a potential location for doing a photography project I have in mind. So, my son and I headed out to try and scout the spot.

Short story version is that I have to try a different route in. The “road” is blocked about 2 to 2.5 miles from the site. It’s good trail in, so hiking in is quite feasible. It’s carrying in all the necessary gear that makes it a little less fun. Obviously, I’ve got the means to backpack the gear, so we’ll see. It would also take care of removing the vehicles from the photo site.

However, there’s a possible alternate route in as well. Personally, given who (BLM & F&G) blocked vehicle access to the site while allowing horses and hiking, I suspect even that other route will turn out to be blocked. After all, why would two ways way in be blocked (I already know it’s also blocked at the dam) and the third not? Especially since the hiking “trails” are actually the old road system. Gotta check it out, anyway, just to be sure, eh?

Even though the desired goal wasn’t reached, we did have a lot of fun getting in as far as we did.

We took the back route to the park but one spot got bad enough that we both agreed to turn back instead of continuing on. A tight curve, a steep drop, and a large puddle only a foot from the edge with no way to avoid it…doesn’t sound that bad, but it was questionable at best right then. Walking back to my vehicle, I saw track indicating whoever had been there before us made the same decision to turn around. We could see the bridge and the entrance to the park off in the distance from there. Rats! Foiled again!

Once we got back to the main road, we took that to the park and drove through it to the fishing spots on the other side. At the end, that’s where the road was closed by a BLM/F&G gate. Access isn’t prohibited, just vehicles.

Years and years ago a friend and I drove the entire canyon from the park entrance to the dam. There wasn’t a park there at the time but people still went there to get in some good fishing, mostly catfish. We just wanted to see if we could drive the whole way, and we did. Good thing his Blazer had good suspension! Part of that, about a quarter mile worth, was solid boulder field and we were going over them following the track!

Hmmm. I wonder, could someone have tried doing it without good suspension, vehicle clearance, and a 4×4 drive? If enough idiots…excuse me, explorers… in inapprorpiate vehicles did try to go through that boulder field and kept breaking down, that could explain why the area got shut down to motorized use. Or more likely, people kept trying to make different roads all over the place to get past that part.

Ah, well. I’m obviously going to check out the remaining access road, but I’m expecting it to be closed as well. It looks to be a much shorter hike, but it’s down the canyon wall and those tend to be a little steeper than a highway in the same place. The hike in would be fine, it’s the hike back up and out that I wouldn’t wanna be facing at the end of the day. I’ll take the level, twice as long hike over one I have to climb.