MilliHoyts: Measuring Important Stuff

Last post, I coined (I think) the term ‘milliHoyts’ as a measure of reading speed. Goes like this:

Sarah Hoyt, prominent fantasy and sci fi author who blogs here, mentioned in passing on her blog that, while on vacation, she reads 4 novels a day. That’s the fastest reading speed I’ve ever heard of, so, like Fahrenheit and his salty ice water, we’ll just assert that that’s as good as it gets and make it the benchmark.

Since science depends, to an often shocking degree, on simplifying assumptions, we are not going to ask whether we’re talking 4 anchor-like tomes such as Anna Karenina or lighter fare such as Have Spacesuit Will Travel. Nope – science decrees: novels is novels.

So a Hoyt of reading speed is based on 4 novels a day, 28 novels a week and, for standard measuring purposes, 1460.96 novels per year (1). A milliHoyt is therefore 1.46096 novels per year. We could round up to 1.5 novels/year with no material loss in accuracy (because I say so).

So: right now, I’m reading about 2 novels/week, which projects to 104 novels/year. Dividing by 1.5 yields a current novel-reading speed of 69.3333 milliHoyts. How you doin’?

The next challenge for Science is to come up with an equivalency table: while we will silently glare with eyebrows held high at anyone who wants the 250 pages of Slan to count less the 600+ pages of a typical John C Wright or Gene Wolfe novel, at some point we must attempt to expand beyond typical novels. For example, how many standard novels is Phenomenology of Spirit worth? And are we to count just pages, or do the spiritual and moral effort needed to complete some books figure into it? Phenom of S is only a little longer than a Mike Flynn novel by page count, but a Flynn novel doesn’t reduce your brain to jelly and leave you mind a quivering cripple.

Science! Marches On, but does need to mill around on the parade grounds a bit from time to time, too.

1. Using 365.24 days/year. Close enough.

Thoughts That Pop Up While Reading

I’ve got 4 books going at the moment: Frankenstein, Princess of Mars, Dune and In Defense of Sanity (a collection of Chesterton essays). This does not include the Hegel that I’ll get back to Real Soon Now, nor the various education and education history books that I’ve never gotten quite through. In my defense, the last 3 years have been pretty tough around Casa de Moore, and the reading activity has picked up a bunch over the last few months. No, really – I’m up to probably a couple books per week now, which, while only registering a few milliHoyts on the standard Reading Volume Scale, still means that, by the end of the year, I will have read a decent pile of books.

The reason I’ve got these four going at once – I usually read one book at a time – is that, for whatever reason, my mood is strongly affecting my ability to stick to a story. This didn’t used to happen much, either. So, sometimes the manly murdering of Princess of Mars is just the thing, while at other times its the baroque flourishes (and yawning chasms of improbability) of Frankenstein. Chesterton is always good, so I read that when nothing else is appealing.

Dune has, so far, failed to grab me. I’m maybe 10-15% in. The only character so far that seems truly interesting is the Harkonnen Mentat – he is a scream, and has both my attention and sympathy in a weird way.

But you see, Baron, I know as a Mentat when you will send the executioner. You will hold back just so long as I am useful. To move sooner would be wasteful and I’m yet of much use.

That’s an interesting thing to say, right there. The other characters, at least so far, strike me as a bit cardboard. But, hey, there’s still a couple inches of novel to go, so there’s hope for the characters to develop.

But the syncretism and patent Bene Jesuits jab are just, I don’t know, petty. I mean really – the Bene Gesserit are the only humans in their opinion, and control lesser beings by planting appropriate myths, and are ruthless manipulators of all things political, and run around in robes and stuff and – c’mon. Not to mention Way Cool Mind Powers(tm). So, there’s a bit of an uphill climb here to get my buy-in.(1)

The most striking thing about Frankenstein – about 60% through – apart from the the many implausible things that just don’t warrant an even passing shot at explanation(2), was the scene where Frankenstein shows up for University. I’m assuming it’s a realistic representation  of what went on, since 18-year old Mary Shelly evidently had beta readers. What went on is that the prospective student shows up, presents some letters directly to the professors he’s interested in studying under, they assign him some reading, and – that’s it. They’d teach you, evidently, one-on-one?  Very cool.

Princess of Mars I’m mostly rereading, because I can’t remember if I got all the way through it (I think I did, but doubts linger). I like all the over-the-top manliness of the whole thing. The creatures and settings are also very good, except why, exactly, would Mars be warm enough to run around naked on, when it’s way farther from the sun than the earth, where, outside the tropics, it tends to get cold? But hey, nit getting picked and all.

1. Maybe I need to convince myself that it’s all a post-Vatican II send-up? That the arrogant jerks that make up the bulk of the Jesuit leadership, at least in this country, are getting their due at the hands of Herbert? Can I do that? I worked at U. of San Francisco as a choir director about 25 years ago, and so got to hear a lot of Jesuits giving homilies. What a load! If I, with a Great Books background, am straining to follow your little lecture, then what about all the neighborhood people and college Freshmen in the church? Who, in other words, were they preaching *to*?  For the record, I’ve known 3 Jesuits that are among the most wonderful and holy men I’ve ever had the grace to meet. Buuuut, in general….
2. OK: The monster not only is animated from dead people and cows and stuff, but he’s a athletic freak and a genius – because? There’s no healing involved in a creature pieced together like that, so that he’s ready to rumble right off the old animation table, not wracked by pain or failing apart or anything? In a couple years, he acquires a fluency and grace of language equal to that of a remarkably precocious 18 year old English woman? Note that I’m not mentioning anything related to the relatively primitive state of science in 1800 here, just more basic stuff. And some cottagers live adjacent to a 8′ tall Peeping Tom for a year, and just sort of miss it? Never once wonder about that lean-to right there? On notice the eyeball peaking in the room?  But hey, it’s still pretty good.