About Dots and Cats and Christians

The mariner asks forgiveness for allowing his Guru persona to reach the keyboard. The last three posts were written with traces of obfuscation. Mariner knows that Guru has the habit of taking giant leaps to keep up with where his thoughts are. The trouble is Guru doesn’t use turn signals; those attempting to follow from one sentence to the next are left at an intersection of thought with no directions.

Upon reevaluation and pointed criticism from the home team (actually a good editor), a grammatical pattern is determined wherein Guru will start a sentence with a given premise, then insert two parenthetical expressions comprised of twelve or thirteen points, ending with a conclusion that has little to do with the initial noun phrase. The reader is left to connect ethereal waypoints without a map.

Mariner’s wife is a librarian working in a public school. The library has a colored dot system called Accelerated Reading (AR) which is a counter intuitive name. Every library book has a dot on the spine, each with a given color that indicates that book’s rank of difficulty. A student who is learning to read must start at the lowest color, take a proficiency test and pass it before the student can move to the next higher color – a gradation measured in picograms (one trillionth of a gram). Had the reader and the mariner been forced to learn in this brain-numbing manner, I could not write a post and it wouldn’t matter because the reader couldn’t read it. Please understand the mariner speaks for himself; his wife notwithstanding.

Nevertheless, Adolf Hitler, had JEB Bush not killed him, could not devise a more abusive environment for young minds wanting to leap forward at a challenging pace. It is heartbreaking to see a student walk into the library and ask for a book about rocket ships. After looking along the shelves, the librarian advises the student that the nearest book about rockets is two colors above his current dot. By the time the student reaches middle school, reading is no longer a joy or a habit in the student’s life.

What is worse, the students learn the game. A number of books must be read in the current dot level before they can take the proficiency test. It is quite likely that the student need read only one or two books to advance to the next picogram but typically several books are required. The only game in town is to accumulate enough book points to be eligible to take the proficiency test. Consequently, students come to the library wanting only those books with the right dot color. Reading is not subject driven, not interest driven, not maturity driven, and not intellectually driven. “Give me a yellow – I don’t care what it’s about; I need my book points.”

During the mariner’s formative years in education, he remembers, in the second grade, that he had read the whole set of learning to read instruction books and was bored with the pace of the class. When mariner was little, teachers were about making sure everyone learned everything – a practice that slowed the curriculum to a standstill. Had he been forced to read only one dot color that had nothing to do with his curiosity, personal reality, or challenge him – all children want to be challenged in the second grade – he would have lost interest in reading and thinking in short order.

During mariner’s college days while working at the same time, mariner decided to take the Evelyn Wood speed reading course. The instructor chose a book that lent itself to the task of reading fast (The Sun Also Rises: Hemingway). It was clear, however, that we were to be taught how to read not by constraining subject matter like dots do, rather we will be taught to read anything we pick up. And read it quickly!

To share the phenomenon of Wood’s speed reading technique, mariner was pressed by the instructor to read a page in 60 seconds; then the instructor asked questions to test how much mariner had absorbed and remembered; then the next page was selected but time to read was reduced to 50 seconds. Further reduction in time occurred when the instructor was satisfied that mariner had captured all the information on the page in the allotted time. The transformation to Super Reader occurs when one is reading so fast that there is no time to say individual words in your head – AKA subvocalizing. At a minimum, one is reading whole phrases as if the phrase was only one word but it was read without saying it.

Mariner had nothing short of an epiphany. At the point a reader leaves subvocalizing behind, the increase in speed comes rapidly; it is comparable to an airplane leaving the runway, leaving the resistance of the wheels and crosswind behind. One must speed read regularly or reading falls back into subvocalization. The experience of speed reading enables the reader to read two or more lines in the same glance – literally a 20th second glance because we no longer interrupt reading cognition to speak the words. The better readers in the course graduated reading ten thousand words per minute. Sounds impossible but mariner is a witness. With Wood instruction, we all learned to read but after the first novel, we each chose our own. I picked a story about rocket ships.

Of course, AR has little to do with mariner’s childhood and his noted ability to screw up sentences. He’s just deflecting criticism….


Was the reader successful in reconciling the paradox proffered by Schrodinger’s cat? In quantum physics, this is an important concept to master. When Einstein and other theoretical physicists proposed that subatomic particles could exist in a number of different states simultaneously, none of which was primary until some external event forced one and only one state to survive, Schrodinger scoffed and created the cat paradox. After an hour, as the classic experiment proposed, the cat would have a fifty-fifty chance of being dead or alive. No one would know which until the box was opened. Schrodinger proposed the cat paradox to show how silly it was to apply quantum values to complex systems much larger than atoms. Two excellent presentations that will clear the mind are at the following:



A liberal arts article was submitted by the mariner’s wife. It is about the disarray of Christianity and that one can claim that the US is not a Christian nation. It is likely that the reader’s subsequent conversations will be entertaining – in a serious way. Unlike Guru, Parker Palmer writes clearly and with a tight grasp of his ideas. The mariner believes it is mandatory reading; color of dot is moot:


Nate Silver is a famous statistician who is magically right whenever he predicts anything. A few years ago, Nate began tracking every topic influenced by prediction – especially politics. Nate is financially successful given his clients are some of the largest corporations in the world (and largest gamblers) – to speak nothing about US ragtag politicians. NATE SAYS IGNORE THE POLLS! Visit his website at: http://fivethirtyeight.com/tag/2016-presidential-election/

Ancient Mariner

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