Review: 21st Century Knight's Tour

Published on Thursday, August 31, 2006 in , , , , ,

21st Century Knight's TourTwo weeks ago, in my Mental Software Round-Up, I briefly mentioned Lior Manor's 21st Century Knight's Tour. Thanks to Lior's generosity, I am able to bring you a review of the package as a whole.

Before I proceed with the review, check out the 21st Century Knight's Tour slideshow to get a better idea of the nature of the program. I will be reviewing the Flash version only, so nothing I say should be taken to necessarily apply to the executable file.

First, I should mention that this is a legitimate version of the Knight's Tour. The program doesn't secretly signal you in any way as to where to move next. If you already do an ungimmicked version of the Knight's Tour, you should be able to adapt your versionb to use this program with few problems. It is flexible enough to perform everything from the classic Corinda version to the version in which you can have the starting and ending squares chosen.

When you begin the program itself, the program allows you to set up the parameters of the program. As you'll note from the slideshow, you can end with either a custom text background, or the built-in picture (go to the slideshow, and click on "8. Second finish with a picture".) Unfortunately, you cannot choose to use your own custom picture if you choose this option. The other major option you have when starting is whether to use the numbers 1-64 or standard algebraic chess notation (A8-H1).

Quick Shameless Plug: You can use my Train Your Brain and Entertain software (TYBE) to help both learn the method that Lior teaches in the instructions, and get used to performing the Knight's Tour without looking at the board. You'll also be able to practice both the numbered square version or the algebraic notation version with TYBE.

Once you've set the program up, it's time to hide the ending and get to the starting point from the audience's point of view. When the audience first sees the screen, they're shown only a black screen with the white text that says "start". A quick 3-d view of a chessboard plays. As you introduce the Knight's Tour challenge to the audience, the program also demos the different moves of various chess pieces, including the knight.

At this point, you'll have an assistant sit down at the keyboard, and explain that he is to click the squares as you call them out, which deletes them. If you selected the picture background, that will gradually be revealed. Otherwise, they will see scrambled letters revealed as you proceed through the challenge. At the end of the text version, the scrambled letters with rearrange themselves to reveal your choice of messages.

One minor criticism I have about the program itself is that it won't prevent illegal moves. Regardless of which square you're currently located, you can hit any other square that is still visible. As you'll often be using people from the audience to click on the board as you call out the numbers, it would have been nice if the program could prevent a square being mis-clicked. However, as long as you've learned the method properly, and can give clear instructions while maintaining good audience control, this won't prove much of an obstacle.

The accompanying instructions, in the form of a PDF file, are very clearly written. Lior describes the evolution of the program itself and how to use it very clearly. One of the best parts of the instructions is Lior's full script. His presentation covers the challenge itself, exactly how your assistant is to click on the board, and, most importantly, how to build the presentation so that it engages the audience.

As a bonus, Hal Weaver's version of the Knight's Tour from Vibrations, the journal of the Psychic entertainers Association, is reprinted in the instructions, as well. Hal Weaver's version teaches both how to memorize the algebraic notation version, as well as the psychology behind performing it that way.

There is one further bonus, which is called the “Instant Knight's Tour”. This a version of the Knight's Tour challenge in which the focus is placed on the speed, rather than the drama. Even if you don't use this version, it's a great example of how to look at other presentational approaches for a single routine.

All in all, I find Lior Manor's 21st Century Knight's Tour to be very well thought-out and executed. The lessons learned from the trials and tribulations from many regular professional performances are quite evident in the package, and make this program a great value. If the Knight's Tour suits your particular performing style, you can't go wrong with the 21st Century Knight's Tour!


Video Blog Delay

Published on Sunday, August 27, 2006 in ,

Grey MattersI apologize for not being able to update the Grey Matters Video Blog for roughly the past 2 weeks. This was largely due to a minor bug over on YouTube, which prevented newer videos from showing up in search results.

At this writing, the YouTube search bug is being cleared up, and I've posted a new video blog entry including a video from MySpace.com in the meantime.



Published on Thursday, August 24, 2006 in , , , ,

Shock Memory GameJust recently, I've run across a fun site, whose spirit I absolutely love! It's called perpetualkid.com, and features items that help bring out the spirit of the kids in all of us.

That being the case, there's plenty of items of interest for Grey Matters readers there!

Remember the classic Simon game? The have a unique twist on the game called Shocking Memory. As you may have guessed by the title, you must repeat the exact sequence of lights, or you get a mild shock to your fingers!

Looking for just the right fun attitude to present those amazing math feats? Perhaps a Robot Calculator would help!

Imagine opening a routine by holding up an impressively thick book and saying, "I have memorized everything in this book!" Then, you open the book and reveal that the book is a holder for cards and poker chips! From here, you could do any sort of card memory feat you desire.

While on the subject of games, I shouldn't neglect to mention the chess set they carry, with a foldable board and both "frosted" and clear pieces. This would make an attractive and easily-carried set that would be perfect for the Knight's Tour.

There's plenty more on the site to stir your imagination, so take a look around and enjoy it!


Instantaneous Card Memory

Published on Sunday, August 20, 2006 in , , , , ,

ScarbobniOver on MySpace, Scarboni has just posted an interesting psuedo-memory effect. It's called Instantaneous Card Memory, and uses only a single deck of cards.

Here's the description of the effect as he describes it:

Calling attention that deck is thoroughly mixed, performer gives it a GENUINE RIFFLE SHUFFLE and several straight cuts. Stating that to use the entire pack would lengthen the feat too much, the pack is turned face up and dealt into two piles, reds in one and blacks in the other. Performer takes the two packets face down on hands and gives spectator free choice and the packet remaining is dropped in pocket out of way. He stands in full view while spectator cuts packet several times and then calls out the order of the cards from top to bottom, back to face. Then, to avert any suspicion of confederacy or signal, performer goes into another room or out of sight. Immediately he calls order of cards correctly through packet, can repeat them back-wards if wished and as a conclusion names card at any number called or the position of any card named.
It's an interesting effect, and is almost self-working. It's definitely worth checking out.

I've included it in my most recent MemoryEffects.pdf update (link opens a new window), as well.


Mental Feat Software Round-Up

Published on Thursday, August 17, 2006 in , , , , , , ,

21st Century Knight's TourToday's entry contains plemty of software that is right down the alley of many Grey Matters readers.

Lior Manor has announced the release of his 21st Century Knight's Tour routine! The routine comes on a CD-ROM, with both and executable (.EXE) version and flash files (.SWF) for Windows users. Mac users will be able to perform this using the flash files. The instructions were written by Ken Weber, the author of Maximum Entertainment. The routine was designed to be filled with drama and suspense, and has been used effectively by Lior Manor himself. The regular price is US$155, but at this writing, there is a FISM special on the Knight's Tour that will allow you to save US$35.

I've discussed free software for memory training before (here and here), but it's time to add a new program to the list. Pauker is a free flash-card-based program that helps train your memory. It's Java-based, and will run on any system, and the site provides compatibility information to make sure it will run effectively on your system. For Java-capable PDAs and mobile phones, MiniPauker is available. To get an idea of the program before you download it, check out the screenshots and the list of ready-made lessons.

Finally, from the always informative Lifehacker blog, comes a great personal gift suggestion. About a year ago (OK, so I didn't find this right away, but I found it!), Lifehacker suggested creating a memory/concentration game with treasured photos. For any special occasion in which you want to add a sense of personality, fun and nostalgia, this could be the perfect gift.


Store News Update

Published on Sunday, August 13, 2006 in , , , , , , , ,

Train Your Brain and EntertainToday, I have new of some updates to the Grey Matters Online Store for you.

First, the Back To School Special, originally slated to end on August 14th, has now been extended two moew weeks, to August 28th, 2006! As before, when purchasing anything over $50, simply enter the coupon code BTS2006, and you'll receive free shipping on your order!

I've also extended my Basic Blackjack Strategy line, which was originally introduced back in early July. The new line is for games with the following qualities:
* Played on the Las Vegas strip
* 6 decks are used
* Dealer stands on soft 17
* Doubling any 2 cards is allowed
* Doubling after a split is allowed
* Late surrender is allowed
* Hole card rule: Original bets only

As with any of the items in my Basic Blackjack strategy line, please remember that, as with all forms of gambling, there are no guarantees of returns that will result from using these charts. Any gain or loss is solely the user's responsibility.

More items in this line are being developed, as well.


Review: Secrets of Mental Math

Published on Thursday, August 10, 2006 in , , , ,

Secrets of Mental MathArthur Benjamin's book, Secrets of Mental Math (discussed here and here), has now been released!

As mentioned before, this is a reprint of Mathemagics: How to Look Like a Genius Without Really Trying. There are a few changes for the new edition. In addition to the original foreword by James Randi, there is a new additional foreword by Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

There are also two new chapters, "Chapter 0" and "Chapter Infinity". Chapter 0 introduces some quick math tricks with which to amaze your friends, and saves the explanations for later in the book. Co-author Michael Shermer writes Chapter Infinity, which is an epilouge called How Math Helps Us Think About Weird Things.

The remainder of the book itself remains the same. For those not familiar with the original book, it discusses faster an easier methods for mental arithmetic, including estimation, and using memory technique for working with numbers. The book then concludes with some mathematical magic tricks. There are plenty of practice exercises along the way, with the answers available in the back of the book.

As you read through the chapters, you occasionally run across side articles talking about interesting people and topics in the history of recreational mathematics. The topics of the side articles are Carl Friedrich Gauss, Zerah Colburn, the Monty Hall Problem, George Parker Bidder, Évariste Galois, Shakuntala Devi, Alexander Craig Aitken and Thomas Fuller.

Secrets of Mental Math also makes an excellent companion to Dr. Benjamin's Mathemagics video, especially as they cover many of the same areas. The book, of course, goes further in depth than can the video.

Even if you have the original, the new additions make the book worth purchasing again. If you don't have the original and are interested in improving the mental math skills of yourself or your loved ones, then I would consider this book a must-buy!


Back to School Time!

Published on Sunday, August 06, 2006 in , , , , ,

Train Your Brain and EntertainIt's time to start thinking about going back to school! Yes, when I was in school, that thought didn't thrill me either.

However, one of the things that can help greatly in school in being able to remember as much as possible of what is being taught. That's part of the reason I created my Train Your Brain and Entertain software (TYBE). As essential as memory technique can be in school, it is strangely absent as a regularly taught tool.

If you or your kids are heading back to school at this time, why not make this school year the best one ever by developing and using a trained memory this year? I didn't learn about memory technique until I was in college, and I had an experience that really showed me how effective it can be.

To help encourage you to purchase Train Your Brain and Entertain (available for Mac OS X or Windows), I'm offering free shipping on any order over $50 from the Grey Matters Store through August 14, 2006! To take advantage of this, just enter BTS2006 when asked for your coupon code during checkout. $50 isn't that much at the store, either. If you get TYBE and another item, such as Pi T-shirt to impress this year's math teacher, you've filled the $50 minimum!

This is the end of my shameless plug, and I now return you to the regularly scheduled blog.


Dustin' It Off

Published on Thursday, August 03, 2006 in , , ,

Dustin' It OffMy first ever published article was in the December 1990 issue of Genii magazine, in a column called Tarbell Treasures, by Dean Montalbano. The basic idea of the column was to start with a specific routine from the Tarbell Course in Magic, and make it your own.

I've often wished that the column lasted longer than it did, as it was such a good idea. However, the series is back! No, Genii hasn't started publishing the column again. Instead, many of the routines from Tarbell Treasures have been gathered by Dean Montalbano and Julie Sobanski and published in a new book called, Dustin' It Off, from Leaping Lizards Magic.

Lest you think I'm only recommending this book due to a soft spot for the people who first published my work (which, admittedly, I do have), take a look at this free PDF excerpt from the book, so you can judge for yourself.