Free Online Memory Course Videos

Published on Sunday, November 30, 2008 in , , , , ,

The Business of Memory: Fast Track Your Career with Supercharged Brainpower by Frank FelberbaumBefore starting with today's entry, I'd like to thank Sporcle.com for their generous mention in their Sporcle would like to thank... blog entry. Out of 4 items that are linked in the entry, Grey matters had the honor of being the only blog mentioned! If you're visiting from Sporcle, you'll probably be interested in the How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post, as well as the Grey Matters Timed Quiz Generator.

Memory courses taught in books have been around for a long time. However, with internet video becoming a more accessible medium, you're able to find more memory videos as a result. Since so much of memory technique involves visualization, a visual way of teaching the techniques is a great advantage.

In this post, I'll share with you some of my favorite free online video memory courses.

Improve Your Memory (Derren Bridger): This is a course that starts with the basics, and is done simply as a presentation on a computer. If you have no familiarity with memory techniques, this is probably the best place to start:

How To Improve Your Memory (BBC): In contrast to the first video, here's a slickly-produced, professional 2006 documentary on memory techniques from the BBC, including several memory experts detailing their approaches. They also set up an entire area of their webpage dedicated to this special for further detail. This is the longest video of the group, at an hour and a half.

It's available online in 5 parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Tim's Memorization Course (“Tim”, a.k.a. Jediairmech): Once you've got the basics down, this 6-part course will help you remember a list of up to 40 items:

Frank Felberbaum's videos: Frank Felberbaum is the author of the book The Business of Memory: Fast Track Your Career with Supercharged Brainpower (the book pictures at the upper left of this post). The techniques here are more advanced, and deal with more specific situations, such as remembering information out of a book, or memorizing names and faces.

Arthur Bornstein's videos: While there are numerous memory videos on VideoJug, their resident memory expert is Arthur Bornstein, who has run the Borstein School of Memory Training in West Los Angeles since 1952. His videos cover a wide variety of memory situations.

Susan Percy's videos: These videos (in the Films and Articles section at the link) are from British memory trainer and expert Susan Percy, who works for Synergee Training and Consulting. Besides the techniques similar to those taught previously, you'll find a great new technique here for memorizing speeches. The basis of this approach was originally developed by another UK memory trainer, Tony Buzan.

What do you think of these courses? Have any helped you? Did I forget a free online video memory course that you believe should be here? Let me know in the comments!


Chandler's Thanksgiving Challenge

Published on Thursday, November 27, 2008 in , ,

How many US states can you name in 10 minutes?To those of you in the US, Happy Thanksgiving!

Growing up in the age of television, I naturally look forward to Thanksgiving TV episodes and specials. If you regularly watch them as much as I do, you'll probably have no trouble identifying these 11 sitcoms by the description of their classic Thanksgiving episodes.

One of the sitcoms mentioned in that quiz is Friends, but the plot mentioned in the quiz isn't my favorite Thanksgiving episode. Instead, I like the one aired in 2000, called The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs, presented below with limited commercial interruption courtesy of Fancast.

Almost as soon as the episode begins, you can see why I like it. Chandler is challenging everyone to name as many of the 50 US states as they can in 6 minutes, a challenge that I've tried to help people meet in my The States and The States Mis-Stated posts.

How well do you think you could do at such a challenge? Find out at Sporcle's US States quiz, which generously gives you 10 minutes, instead of the 6 minutes that Chandler gave his friends. Let me know how you did in the comments!

For those who lean more towards Phoebe's vegetable-themed challenge, how about naming as many types of squash as you can in 7 minutes?

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner tonight. Because it's a holiday, I'll conclude with a bonus: WKRP's classic Thanksgiving Turkeys Away episode!


Revisiting Old Friends

Published on Sunday, November 23, 2008 in , , , , , , , ,

20-20 Memory SoftwareFrom time to time, I like to go back through sites I've visited before, and see what they have to offer now.

One site I first mentioned back in September 2006 that had some excellent software offerings, as well as some great planned offerings, disappeared. However, the good news is that this site, Iron Tree Software, is back in a new form as a blog! One of their original offering was 20-20 memory, an Excel file that generated random numbered lists of items to memorize. It has been reborn as a full-fledged program, and the new version of 20-20 is available as a download from Lybrary.com (Currently Windows only. Due to the nature of the program, many Wine implementations have trouble running it).

There are plenty of free goodies available from Iron Tree Software, as well. One post features an excellent lesson on the link system. Another one teaches the Substitute Word system by helping you learn 20 country names and their capitals. As a free bonus, you can quiz yourself on these countries and their capitals via iFlipr, the iPhone Flashcard program I mentioned back in July. iFlipr can also be used online with just about any browser, so you don't have to have an iPhone to try out this quiz.

Over at the StackView Musings blog, Nick Pudar has just posted an entry detailing a binary marking system for a memorized deck, using ideas from Bob Farmer and Ed Marlo. Readers of Antominy may recognize this idea from when Nick first published it in issue 8, back in 2006. The binary idea isn't for everyone, but a non-binary version is offered. Even if you never use this, the post is worth a read just for the thought that went into the development, which may help spark other ideas of your own.

In my previous post, I mentioned Ronald P. Doerfler's work, mainly concerning the Hipster PDA and his book, Dead Reckoning: Calculating Without Instruments. On his Dead Reckonings blog, he's posted a very interesting 3-part series on lightning calculators. Part 1: The Players discusses the history of these math whizzes, and their various styles. Part 2: The Methods discusses the various approaches and shortcuts used to make these feats impressive. My favorite section is Part 3: The Media, which is an excellent lesson in presentation. In this final section, you learn all about how the feats themselves get magnified by the way they're presented in the media. As the old saying goes, it's not what you do, but what they remember you doing that counts.

The final updated old favorite is one I created. The newest version of my Memory Effects PDF was posted on November 14th! As always, it's available at the previous Scribd link, or from the Downloads section in the rightmost column of this page.


Memory Feat Props II

Published on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in , , , , ,

Memory FeatsNote: If you like the idea of the Memory Binder, I discuss other ideas for it in Memory Feat Props and in New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).

For formal memory feat performances, a large item like the Memory Binder I discussed in my last post is great. However, for informal performances, even an 8.5" by 11" binder can be a bit much to carry around.

A much better way to pack needed information in a small area is a paper organizer, popularly referred to as a Hipster PDA. Carrying just 1 of these around is easy, and you could reasonably carry up to 5 Hipster PDAs on your person without too much inconvenience.

For the basic version, all you really need are binder clips and index cards, as discussed in the link above. However, there have been numerous improvements over the years as the idea spread. Lifehacker has many excellent and creative ideas to improve the basic Hipster PDA.

One of the best improvements has been software for generating these paper organizers. Certainly, you could develop one in just about any page layout program, but specialized software makes it even easier. Ronald P. Doerfler, the author of Dead Reckoning: Calculating Without Instruments, has created a free program for Windows computers called Plans Unfolding that does a nice job. The author also mentions that Linux users can get the program to work on their system with some extra effort, as well.

At the beginning of 2007, Big Nerd Ranch released a similar free program for Mac OS X called PagePacker. The most recent version for OS X 10.4 (Tiger) is available here, and the most recent version for OS X 10.5 (Leopard) is available here.

The offline versions are more customizable, but there is an online organizer editor called PocketMod, as well.

Using this to carry chart needed for most memory effects would simply involve learning your software well enough to design and arrange the needed charts. As you probably gathered from my previous post, however, a perpetual calendar for the Day of the Week For Any Date feat is a special case.

You could try and adapt the charts I mentioned in that previous post, but covering 400 years would take up 2 full organizers. Isn't there a better way? Yes, and it's straight out of my Fun Calendars post. With a little thought and a little work, the business card-sized calendar designs from the ELZR infodesign challenge could be adapted for use in perpetual calendars that will take up minimal space in your Hipster PDA.

Now you know enough to create your own pocket-size memory act! Enjoy, and if you come up with any ideas for the Memory Binder or the Memory Hipster PDA, please let me know about it in the comments!


Memory Feat Props

Published on Sunday, November 16, 2008 in , , , , , ,

Memory FeatsNote: If you like the idea of the Memory Binder, I discuss other ideas for it in Memory Feat Props II and in New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV).

Instead of focusing on memory feats, as I often do, this post is going to focus on creating your own props for use in memory feats.

Our first simple prop is what I'll call the Memory Binder. The idea here is simply that of a standard 3-ring binder that contains items needed when performing memory feats. To fill the binder, I recommend using white 110 weight card stock, instead of paper, so that the contents are sturdier and will last longer. To keep the contents for different memory feats separate, you'll want to use tabbed index dividers. In most cases, 5, 8 or 10 dividers will be enough. I use pre-printed and numbered black and white index dividers here, for reasons I'll explain later.

What exactly will go in the binder depends, of course, on what memory feats you intend to perform. Let's say you're going to perform the Day of the Week For Any Date feat, so you'll need a simple perpetual calendar that will allow people to verify your answers are correct. First, download and print this 400-year reference table (1800-2199). You'll probably want to print it as a double-sided document. This will go into your perpetual calendar section as the first page.

Right after the reference table, insert a set of multicolor index tabs that are numbered from 1-14. The multicolor tabbed dividers easily set them apart from the black and white tabbed dividers, which is the reason I mentioned earlier. The numbers are important, as the pre-printed numbers on the dividers are the numbers are referred to by the reference tables.

Now, you'll need to download and print out this 14-page set of calendar years each on a different sheet of card stock, as they will each be going into a different divider. Right after divider #1, you should have the page with a regular (non-leap year) year in which January 1st falls on a Sunday. The calendar right after divider #2 will have a regular year in which January 1st falls on a Monday, and so on, up to divider #7, after which should be a regular year in which January 1st falls on a Saturday. The next 7 sections are done in the same way, but with leap years. After divider #8 there should be a leap year in which January 1st falls on a Sunday, and so on through Divider #14, after which should be the leap year in which January 1st falls on a Saturday.

If you get the pages mixed up, just pick a page, determine whether its a leap year or not (is there a February 29th on the calendar?), and note on which day January 1st falls. Once you know that, refer to the corresponding page from the online version of the calendar, and see what page it's listed as online. Whatever page number that is, just put it right after the corresponding numbered tab! For example, if you have a leap year page where January 1st is a Tuesday, the online calendar shows that as page 10, so you'd place this page right after divider #10.

Done properly, you should open to your perpetual calendar section of the binder, and the first page you should see should be the reference table. To verify a date (we'll use November 16th, 2008 as an example), you look up a year from 1800-2199 in the reference table, and look at the number next to it (2008 corresponds to the number 10). Whatever number corresponds to that year, just grab the tab of that numbers, and turn to it (in our example, we'd grab tab 10 and turn to the calendar immediately after that tab). You're now looking at the calendar for that year, so you simply look at the given date to see which weekday it falls on (Calendar #10 shows that November 16th falls on Sunday)! This is easy to demonstrate to your audiences, so that they can verify the weekdays you give for their chosen dates.

If you want to make the assembly of calendars easier, I also have a version of the calendar with the pages numbered. If you prefer a wider range of years, I also have an 8400-year version of the reference table available, running from 1600 to 9999 (the current calendar wasn't adopted until 1582, so it doesn't go into the 1500s).

Don't let the above assembly and usage instructions scare you. Due to its unique nature, this level of detail is unique to the calendar feat. Most feats, such as the 400 Digits of Pi feat, will only require the addition of one simple chart to your binder. As you learn more memory feats, the more you can add to your binder, and the more feats you'll be ready to perform anytime you have your Memory Binder!

Another interesting prop for memory feats, originally conceptualized by Sam Schwartz and Karl Fulves in their book Day For Any Date, is an item called the Date Deck. The basic idea is simple - it's a deck of cards in which each card has either the name of a month (12 cards), the name of a weekday (7 cards), or the numbers 1 through 31 (31 cards). This 50 card deck (12+7+31=50) makes it possible to display any date (without a year) and day of the week. Already, you can probably see possibilities for the date feat. Such a deck, to my knowledge, has never been commercially produced and are notoriously difficult to professionally produce at home. However, thanks to modern technology, places such as Make-A-Deck.com and Card Shark can do small runs of custom cards and decks affordably.

There are many possibilities with such a deck, some of which are described in the aforementioned book from Karl Fulves (Box 433, Teaneck, NJ 07666, USA). The original idea started simply with just the use of the day cards, stacked in order from Sunday on top, followed by Monday, Tuesday, and so on, with Saturday as the bottom card of the stack. First, you ask someone to name a year. You workout (or recall) the key number for that year, and shift that many cards (If they give 1983, the key number is 5, so you'd move 5 cards from top to bottom). You then ask for any month, and shift a number of cards equal to that month's key number from top to bottom. Finally, you ask for a date in that month, casting out 7s if needed (if you do the date feat, you already understand what this means), and move that many cards from the top to the bottom of the stack. At this point, the card on top will automatically show the day of the week that corresponds to this day! This is, in effect, a mechanical version of the date feat. I highly recommend Day For Any Date, as the uses they have for the Date Deck go far beyond this basic idea.

Speaking of customizing products, modern print and design technology has made available an incredible number of ways to create your own items that make great memory feat props (or, just about anything else!). Sites like Cafepress, Spreadshirt and Zazzle feature an incredible array of products that could inspire original approaches. If you want something published with a more professional look than the binder suggested above, you could not only turn to any of the first 3, but to sites like Lulu and CreateSpace, as well.

Hopefully, I've inspired you to start thinking about new and different ways to use props in presenting your routines. I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments, too!


Yet Still More Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, November 13, 2008 in , , , , , , ,

LinksIt's time once again for snippets! BTW, if you've ever wondered what possessed me to use Snippets as a name for these brief entries, I was largely inspired by a series of PSAs that ran in the 1970s, called Snipets.

• Here's a free video that teaches you how to memorize 10 parts of the brain and their functions. It's taught with a sense of humor, and the teacher reminds me a little bit of Colin Mochrie, so the whole lesson is very fun. For an additional $4.99, you can purchase a PDF that will teach you 24 more parts of the brain, as well.

• Speaking of medical mnemonics, medical students and professionals will find the OPQRST mnemonic for patient interviews very handy.

• In my recent post about NASA's memory tools, I mentioned a tool for creating tools called the Mnemonicizer. There's a site called JogLab that takes this same idea into web 2.0 territory. You register for free, and you can create, save and share your own original mnemonics! This YouTube video tutorial will give you a better idea of just how to use this site.

• If you were interested by my previous post on learning Japanese, I've found a few inexpensive tools that can be of great help. First, there's the KanjiPictoGraphix series of products. As you can see from the example section, for each Kanji and Kana character, there is a cartoon that connects the shape with its meaning. For Mac OS X users, there's iKana and iKanji, which are software packages that go for roughly $40 separately, or more than 20% off as a bundle. They both teach Kanji and Kana in great detail, including writing, pronunciation, recognition and more!


Learning Japanese? I Really Think So

Published on Sunday, November 09, 2008 in , , , , ,

Even when you're confident with memory techniques, and even applying them to learning a new language, starting to learn a language as different as Japanese can seem intimidating.

When going from English to Spanish, for example, you might have to learn that the letter j is pronounced like an h is in English, but at least you're working with the same basic alphabet. One look at the Japanese language, and it can seem like too much to tackle.

Starting slow is some good advice. As a matter of fact, starting by learning something about Japanese culture will help learning the language later on, as you'll understand the perspective that goes along with it.

Regular readers know I like to mix learning and fun, because the combination of the two makes each one so much more effective. This works just as well in this case. In just a few silly minutes, you can be counting to 10 in Japanese by this seeing, speaking, and doing approach.

That covers speaking the numbers, but what about writing them? My favorite suggestion here is to learn how to do Kanji Sudoku puzzles! At that site, you not only have access to numerous Japanese language Sudoku puzzles, but memory-match and crossword puzzles, too. They're all intentionally designed to be used off-line, so that the focus is on your writing practice.

One of the biggest and best aids for English speakers who want to learn Japanese has recently been made available online for free! The Japan Foundation's 26-part documentary series, Let's Learn Japanese, has been a great aid to many for over 20 years. The language is taught through skits about a man named Yan, an architect who is moving to Japan. At first, the lessons seem difficult, because it's spoken at everyday speeds, but with repetition you begin to pick up the ideas and the language. This was intended as a television show that taught at the rate of one episode per day, and it seems to be effective watching it at that rate on video, as well.

To wrap this up, I'd also like to leave you with two more handy online tools for learning Japanese. The first is a Flash-based Hiranga quiz. The other is a full set of Japanese pronunciation lessons, divided up by subject, such as greetings, months, and so on.

Take on a challenge you never thought you'd consider, and learn Japanese. I'm willing to be that you'll at least be able to count in Japanese by the end of this week.


Free Memory Tools From . . . NASA?!?

Published on Thursday, November 06, 2008 in , , , , ,

NASANOTE: I apologize for not posting a entry on Sunday, as my normal schedule would dictate, by my ISP was updating the speed of their service, and I was unable to access the internet reliably on Sunday as a result.

“Systems integration” is a fancy term for bringing together smaller systems (or “subsystems”), and making sure they work together smoothly. This usually applies to computer hardware and/or software.

You may not know it, but NASA has what they call a “Human Systems Integration Division” (a what?!?). In short, this division deals both with improving human performance, and how human interact with computers. The aspect of this division that caught my eye, of course, was the memory section!

Most of the memory section involves memory tests. There is also an interesting tool, but I'll save that for later. Generally, these tests can only be done once, as the items involved aren't randomly generated.

The first test, in the Human Memory section concerns lists. You're given lists to remember, which you'll later write down on a piece of paper. Initially, the order isn't important, but in later tests, order becomes a factor, as well.

The next test is dubbed the Short Term Memory test. Unlike the longer lists in the previous test, these are shorter lists of various types, including pictures, visual words, and spoken words. It is interesting to see the difference in performance for each of the various methods. This test may help you to realize which sense helps you learn best!

The Interference test has the most “real world” feel to it. Many times, you hear information you want to remember, and you put forth an effort to do so, but other information often gets jumbled in with it, thus making it harder to remember. This test challenges you to remember numbers, alone at first, and then with interference in later tests.

In one last test, which is the simplest of them all, you're asked to recognize a U.S. Lincoln penny. This is interesting, as those of us in the U.S. often see these several times a day. The big question here is how much detail we really retain of such a familiar object.

If you're new to memory training, I suggest trying these tests as they are, just to learn at what level you naturally work. Then, take your time and work through basic memory techniques. Once you're comfortable working with these techniques, try going back and seeing how much better you do. The fun part here is surprising yourself with how much improvement the application of a few simple memory techniques can give you!

Finally, there's the tool I mentioned earlier. Ever remembered the order of the planets in the solar system with a sentence like My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)? For standard things like planets, music notes, or mathematical order of operation, there are many mnemonics that use initials. If you need to develop your own, the Mnemonicizer is the tool for you! Once you have the list of items you need to remember, reduce them down to their first initials, and write those initials in order (assuming their order is important).

Now, you can go through the word lists by letter in the Mnemonicizer, select a word with the same starting letter, and then click the Display button to add the word over at the right side of your screen. Do this once for each letter in your list, and you've got your own custom mnemonic sentence!

Enjoy these tools and try them out. Who knows? You might surprise yourself!