A Bit of Speed Reading Fun

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

I hadn’t actually tested how fast I read in awhile, so I was curious as to what this little test would reveal. My results – 1920 words per minute. There’s a chart on the test at the end that shows you where your reading skills line up with the rest of the world. 1500 words per minute is the rate at which speed readers are found, with 700 words per minute being the rate at which college professors read, and 300 words per minute being the rate at which the average college student reads (the top percent of college students read at a rate of around 800 words per minute). The national average is between 200 – 250 words per minutes.

Granted, there are tricks to reading fast while maintaining comprehension, and there are articles out there about those tricks if you want to learn how to read quickly. I actually read fast because if I don’t, my comprehension drops. Comes from loving to read but having to contend with the difficulties created by having ADHD. While a lot of ADHDers end up being slow readers because of difficulty in concentrating on walls of text… I went the other route. I learned to read so fast that I didn’t have to think about the fact I was concentrating. I learned to consume information. So, I don’t know what tricks to share with you…at this point, I can take in every word on a page just by glancing at it. How I developed the skill? I’m really not so sure.

Anyways, have some fun with the reading test. It’s always interested to find out where you stack up compared to the national average.

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Reflections #2: A Weird Relationship with ADHD Medication

Because of my ADHD, I’m supposed to have a tendency to be late to everything. I actually have the opposite problem – I’m early everywhere. I chalk that up to having been a band geek in high school. I think I carved the phrase “Fifteen minutes early is on time, on time is late,” into my soul. Also, I hate being late. I hate missing things (although doctor’s appointments aren’t really exciting enough for me to miss anything).

I’ve been thinking about the way ADHD impacts me, as well as the way it impacts everyone around me. Most people, when they hear the term “ADHD” think “Oh, she’s just got an attention problem, a focus problem.” The condition deals with a lot more than an inability to focus properly, although it does center around that. Or, more precisely, it centers around the inability to prioritize our focus, to sort out the things that matter against the vivid background of noise and attention-grabbing scenery the world provides.

I spent 25 years without a diagnosis, without medication, and then I spent one year on Adderall. I combined that with therapy. And I did well. Incredibly well – I got my priorities in life straightened out, figured out what I wanted to do with my life in terms of going back to school, and I stopped ruining relationships. Then, after I’d been successfully using the medication for a year, I decided I had learned enough about myself while on the medication to be able to handle going off of it.

So I’ve spent the last 1.5 years without medication. And I thought I was doing fine – at least, in terms of relationships, I’ve managed to get to a point where I don’t wreck them. But I was going back over my semester grades over the past 2.5 years, and I realized something that staggered me – when I was taking my medicine, I was making straight A’s. As soon as I stopped taking it, my grades started dropping. Not because Adderall makes you smarter (anyone who thinks that doesn’t understand the way the medication works at all), but because I stopped being able to properly focus on my classwork. I stopped being able to see it as a priority in my life, and I started focusing all of my time on my social life. In other words, I wasn’t handling being off medication as well as I thought I was.

And that was a stark realization for me. I’ve always been afraid of becoming too dependent on medication, becoming addicted because my mother was an alcoholic and addictive personalities are common in my family. Before I even agreed to a first script, I spent four months obsessively researching the dangers of Adderall addiction, the likelihood of it happening with prescribed doses, and the side effects of the medication. I became as much as an expert on Adderall as I became an expert on ADHD (once I had my diagnosis, I obsessively read every book I could get my hands on about the condition…at this point, I’ve easily read at least 15 books on the subject, if not more.

Adderall isn’t a cure-all, though. It doesn’t eliminate the conditions of the disorder, just like how insulin doesn’t cure diabetes. What the medicine does, however, is make the condition manageable. Lessens the severity of the symptoms, allows for a bit of quiet in a restless mind to be able to get things done. Balances out emotions so that you don’t always feel like you’re ping-ponging back and forth – which, by the way, is why ADHD is often misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. Emotional dysregulation is a huge component of the condition, as is an inability to experience time properly.

Time management is a weird concept to those of us with ADHD because we don’t really experience it, so we don’t have any idea how long it actually takes us to do things. Which leads us to putting things off because we think they are going to take longer than they do (case in point, I tend to put washing off a handful of dishes because I think it’s going to take me around an hour to do them, and then I time myself when I do them and find it only takes about ten minutes). Or we get super involved in something we’re interested in and forget that we have an appointment or a class at a certain time. “Surely ten more minutes won’t interfere with my ability to get there on time.” An hour later, you’ve missed the entire class. Also, note I said I hate being late…if I’m going to be late, I will generally just skip the entire thing. I’m working on that, as skipping classes is not conducive to making good grades.

Anyway, ADHD and the medication used to treat it are topics that are much more complex than most people realize. It’s a legitimate neurobiological disorder that can, and does, destroy people’s lives. So if you’re one of those who thinks that ADHD is just a fad, just an excuse, or just a way to make hyper kids behave… do us all a favor and do some real research. You just might learn something.

Reflections #1

Next Monday is Martin Luther King Day, and I highly encourage everyone to reflect and remember the great things he did for this nation. Watch the speech he gave that sent ripples throughout the nation, throughout the world, and remind yourself that one person can change the world. By being willing to speak up about injustice, others will find their voice through yours. Do not sit on the sidelines of your own life.

Now, with that said, I’ve been considering what to do with this blog for some time. I’m going to be incredibly busy with school – 19 credit hours, 3 clubs, and all the homework that comes with it – so it’s going to be hard for me to fit in extra writing. But I have no intention of putting the blog on hiatus.

I may end up using this blog to reflect on what I’m learning, as I have a pretty interesting mix of classes. I’m taking the following: Beginning Japanese II; Philosophy: Society, Issues, and Ethics; Leadership and Ethics; Survey of Social Psychology; History of Modern East Asia; and History of American Popular Culture. I have a feeling that quite a few of those classes are going to be thought-provoking, and I have always found it easiest to explore my thoughts through writing.

Outside of classes, I’m participating in a club called AppSpeaks, and its purpose is to create a comfortable atmosphere for students to discuss controversial topics. The club hosts its own version of TEDtalks and a public forum called the Socrates Cafe. I love discussing controversial topics, so I think this will be an awesome opportunity.

I’m also participating in Sustained Dialogue and training to be a moderator of the group. From what I understand (the training is at the end of the month, so I have very little background information), the organization focuses on creating dialogue that is inclusive and allows those of diverse backgrounds to discuss controversial and sensitive topics in a safe atmosphere.

The third club is Pagan Student Association (PSA), and I participated in it last semester and will continue to do so throughout my time at ASU. Paganism is an integral component of my life and has been for the last 17 years. It is also through PSA that I managed to find a more serious group of practitioners, and, though we all come from very different backgrounds and traditions, manage to find a way to respect each other’s paths enough to participate in each other’s rituals. That’s a very rare find in the Pagan world, and I’m incredibly blessed to have found such a group.

For now, this blog will be dedicated to my own reflective writing. We’ll see what the winds bring when the semester ends.

Book Review: The Way We Fall

While I’ve read other books since the last time I wrote, I didn’t find them strong enough to discuss. I’d prefer to talk about the books I enjoy rather than the ones I didn’t, as everyone has different tastes, and I’m not really that fond of criticizing others for the hard work they’ve done. Unless it’s constructive criticism, of course, but it’s hard to offer constructive criticism of a book if you don’t personally know the authors.

Anyway, I recently finished The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe. The back of the book reads:

For the first time in what seems like forever, there were people on the streets. Everyone was going to see the shipment come in. Some people were carrying signboards with messages like END THE QUARANTINE NOW, as if that was going to change the government’s mind.

Parked cars clogged the streets around the harbor, so we pulled over to the sidewalk a few blocks away and jogged the rest of the distance. My face mask made it hard to catch my breath. I heard coughing in the crowd, and we passed a woman who’d stopped to scratch her knee. My lungs started to burn. All I wanted to do was go back to the car and leave. But Mom caught sight of Uncle Emmett’s truck and hurried on. I was afraid if I took my eyes off her for a second, I’d lose her.

The inside of the dust cover reads:

It starts with an itch you can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. AND THEN YOU’RE DEAD. 

When sixteen-year old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying good-bye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. But then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island; no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for the island’s dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of the people she holds dearest, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save those she loves.

Because how will she go on if there isn’t?

Poignant and dizzying, The Way We Fall is the heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit as she challenges not just her fears, but her sense of what makes life worth living.

That last paragraph from the inside of the dust cover pretty much nails it. The book is written as a series of letters to Leo, Kaelyn’s best friend. While I’m not usually a fan of books written in such a style, Megan Crewe really nails it. The reason I generally dislike the letter style is because it must, by its very nature, utilize second person. And second person writing, no matter the reason it is being used, is incredibly difficult to pull off. That Crewe managed to write such an engaging book utilizing any form of second person perspective amazes me, and this book is one I would recommend to anyone.

I’d especially recommend it to those who are fans of young adult novels that deal with infectious disease, suspense, and the human interaction that unfolds in the face of trauma. The Way We Fall is definitely a poignant book that tackles some of the hardest questions that we all face everyday – what does it mean to live when others have died? What does it mean to love? What makes life worth living, even in the hardest moments? This book gets a 10/10 from me, and I’m very rarely that generous with my ratings.

 

Book Review: Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

For those who are unaware of the speed at which I read, I average approximately 100 pages an hour. I’m not entirely sure why I am able to read as quickly as I do, but I chalk it up to the fact that I was taught to speed read when I was taught to read. Also, I spent thousands of hours reading every summer when I was growing up, and I always came home with 20+ books with every library trip I made. To be honest, I still do that.

Anyway, I read “Wolf Mark” by Joseph Bruchac. It’s a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel mixed with suspense.

The blurb is as follows:

Luke King knows a lot of things. Like four different ways to disarm an enemy before the attacker can take a breath. Like every detail of every book he’s ever read. And Luke knows enough just enough about what his father does as a black ops infiltrator to know which questions not to ask. Like why does his family move around so much? Luke just hopes that this time his family is settled for a while. He’ll finally be able to have a normal life. He’ll be able to ask the girl he likes to take a ride with him on his motorcycle. He’ll hang out with his friends. He’ll be invisible just as he wants. But when his dad goes missing, Luke realizes that life will always be different for him. Suddenly he must avoid the kidnappers looking to use him as leverage against his father, while at the same time evading the attention of the school’s mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in Luke’s own personal secret. Faced with multiple challenges and his emerging paranormal identity, Luke must decide who to trust as he creates his own destiny.

Anytime a book is written in first person, I am automatically more inclined to be interested in reading it. I have trouble getting invested in characters when books are written in 3rd person…and most books are written in 3rd person.

Bruchac combines Native American legends with suspense to create a different perspective on what it means to be a werewolf. If you’re an avid YA reader, this is definitely a title to add to your list.

 

 

Book Review: The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis

I recently finished “The Mechanical” by Ian Tregillis.

The blurb on the back of the book reads:

My name is Jax.

That is the name granted to me by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world – and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human masters.

I am a slave.

But I shall be free.

The story follows three individuals. Jax, a mechanical clockwork slave finds himself free and must run to evade the other mechanicals who are bound to pursue him and, upon catching him, melt him down in the Great Forge. Pastor Luuk Visser, a secret Catholic priest is found out as spy and learns some terrible secrets about the Clockmakers’ Guild. The story is set in a world where the Dutch reign supreme, where Protestant faiths triumphed and France has little to no power. It is for the French that Pastor Luuk spies. And, in the midst of the French and the plans to take back the throne comes Berenice Charolotte de Mornay-Périgord, vicomtesse de Laval. Of all humans, she has the most in-depth understanding of Clakkers and is relentless in her pursuit of the knowledge of the mechanical slaves. For she believes that the only way to retain the French throne is to gain the knowledge of the way the machines are constructed and switch their unwavering loyalty from the current Dutch monarch to the French monarch.

The book raises many of the same timeless questions that haunt us all. Is the soul real? Can free will be removed? Are machines capable of sentience and emotional depth?

Because of the questions it raises, this book may be an uncomfortable read for anyone unwilling to ask questions. For those who enjoy reflecting on some of the most difficult questions ever posed – questions that may never have answers – this is definitely a book to add to your reading list.

 

Poem of the Week

A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.