Reading speeds

I’ve always thought I was a slow reader so when I saw this speed reading test I wanted to see if my suspicions were confirmed.

The test, created by Staples, times how long it takes you to read one page of text from an ebook. To check how much you’ve actually read it asks you a couple of questions about the content. And then it calculates your score. I read 186 words in 44 seconds and this gave me a score of 254 words per minute (wpm). To put your score in context you are provided with some other examples. On the scale my score was bang on the average reading speed of a student in 8th grade (year 9)! The average adult reads 300 wpm and the world speed reading champion is somewhere around 4000.

To find out your score have a go for yourself:

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

Out with Dad

The other day I stumbled across this excellent web series, Out with Dad. It tells the story of Rose, a 15 year old girl who is exploring her sexuality. She lives with her Dad, Nathan, who is doing some exploration of his own, into how he can best support a gay teen.

I just finished watching season 1 (it’s now in it’s second season) and it’s really really good. I especially like how it shows the story from both sides, the teen and the parent. All I can think is that I wish there had been something like this around when I was a teenager and trying to put words to what I as feeling.

My ebook experience

Over Christmas I downloaded a free ebook of Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast from the iTunes 12 Days of Christmas app. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try out ebooks with something I wanted to read anyway and at no cost.


  • Capacity – we are already overflowing our bookshelves, despite a determined effort to weed our collection and decision to borrow rather than buy books. Converting to ebooks would offer a solution to this.
  • Pagination- I really like the feature in iBooks that tells you how many pages there are left in the chapter. It makes deciding whether to continue reading or go to sleep so much easier.
  • Page turning – I like that with iBooks Apple have tried to keep the authentic page turning effect, as demonstrated in the picture above.


  • Distraction – I am easily distracted and I found having my reading book on my iPad meant that I messed about on the Internet for a while before settling down to read. This limited the amount of time I spent on the book in an average day.
  • Disunity – my usual reading time is before I go to sleep, and in the bedroom we have an unwritten rule about using mobile devices. After I finished the ebook my wife confessed to me that having me in bed with my iPad felt odd because it wasn’t entirely clear what I was doing. Whereas when we usually read side-by-side there’s a sense of unity.
  • Discomfort – reading on the iPad just wasn’t as comfortable as reading a print book. I often found I couldn’t get into a comfortable position where I could rest my iPad and turn the pages.

So in number my pros and cons are equal but when looking back on the experience overall I’d say that it was a little underwhelming. Looking at my cons they all appear to relate to the act of reading itself, whereas the pros are largely about functionality. Reading for me is about the full experience, the act of reading a book is as important as the book’s content. So for the moment I’ll be sticking with print, but won’t rule out giving ebooks another go in the future.

If you could be anything

A friend of mine has recently been considering a career change and this has prompted me to consider what I would retrain as if money and time were of no concern. I am surprised that I didn’t need to think too long about it.

My answer: an architect.


And do you know what I would design? Libraries.

If you could be anything, what would you be?

The power of vulnerability – Brené Brown

I first came across this TED Talk over a month ago when I saw this tweet:

I have this TED talk pretty much on speed dial:…

— Beck Tench (@10ch) January 5, 2012

I bookmarked the link but have only just got around to watching the talk, and now I can really see why you would have it on speed dial – I want to watch it every day. Immediately after watching it I tweeted the link and proclaimed Brené Brown my new hero.

Check it out, this is 20 minutes well spent:

If you want to find out more about Brené Brown and her research you can read her blog and follow her on Twitter.

LGBT History Month: Alan Turing

Earlier this week I went to a lecture for LGBT History Month organised by the University of Oxford LGBT Staff Network Steering Group. The topic was Alan Turing, the lecturer Andrew Hodges, Tutorial Fellow in Maths at Wadham College and author of the biography Alan Turing: the enigma.

Following a brief introduction on Turing’s work Hodges introduced the concept of hidden histories. In Turing’s life there were three:

  1. the history of code breaking at Bletchley Park during WW2 and Turing’s leading role in cracking the enigma code
  2. Turing’s involvement in the birth of Computer Science and the creation of the first computer
  3. Turing’s life as a gay man

The main focus of this talk, as you might expect for LGBT History Month, was on the third hidden history. We heard how, although discreet, Turing was by no means completely closeted choosing to live openly as a gay man within the relatively protected environments of the universities of Cambridge and Manchester.

This moving subject was made even more so by the revelation that the speaker was personally involved in revealing elements of each of these hidden histories through his work as a mathematician, biographer and member of the Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s.

I was really impressed with what a well attended event this was. Even more so that it was opened by Oxford’s Vice Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton who, rather than leave once his duty had been fulfilled stayed to hear the talk and participate in the event.