Another Calendar Feat Approach

Published on Thursday, April 30, 2009 in , , , , , , ,

Dafne Cholet's Calendar* photoOne of the more popular features of this site is the Day of the Week For Any Date tutorial. While this is my favorite method, I'm not averse to other effective approaches. For example, there's my specially-made calendar that helps make determining the day of the week easy without even opening it, as well as the Doomsday method for the current year I taught back in mid-January.

Here's another approach, with a detailed explanation of the whys and wherefores of each part of the method, courtesy of math buff James Grime. Grey Matters readers will likely enjoy perusing his YouTube channel.

If you're already in the process of learning from my tutorial, don't learn the method below, as different key numbers are used for the days. However, if you've found the other methods troublesome, perhaps this approach will work for you:

There are a few details in the video description that should be noted:
If you give me your date of birth I can tell you the day of the week on which you were born.

Some information:
This was a presentation for a job in Cryptography, hence the punchline about Enigma. I got the job.

Not mentioned in the video, if it's January or February of a leap year we need to subtract 1 (since we are counting leap days).

If I'm counting from 1899 why do I add 41 instead of 42? Because the date must be at least 1 - that automatically pushes us into 1900 and we count the years from there.

The sound is rubbish because Vista is giving me problems.
I happened to be thinking about the calendar feat today because a recent contestant on the British game show Countdown (if you're not familiar with the show, see James Martin's legendary appearance on that show here) performed that same feat, and several readers from a Countdown forum (Warning: Foul language at that link) came to my site to learn how the feat was done.

If this isn't enough incentive to learn the calendar feat, think about the fact that 6-year-old Sean (below) can master the feat! When he's working out the final date, he verbalizes his thought process, and he seems to be using a version of the Doomsday method I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The fact that he can determine the day of the week for any date in 2009 is especially interesting when contrasted with his mom, who apparently has trouble just starting and stopping the video camera.


More Free Flashcard Sites

Published on Sunday, April 26, 2009 in , , , , ,

BrainGood news, flashcard fans – more sites are ready and willing to help you learn for free!

Cramberry: OK, I hate the name, mainly because it was used as a derogatory nickname during high school. However, once past that hurdle, Cramberry's main strength is the simplicity of creating cards. Instead of fancy codes or other tricks, the entry is done via a simple two-line interface. Need to study on the go? You can use Flash-Me on your iPhone/iPod Touch to study on the go (although Flash-Me is an inexpensive paid program). Both Cramberry and Flash-Me also offer a variety of ways to study your flashcards as well.

Study Stack: Study Stack has a good following and probably the largest library of the flashcard programs in this entry. Besides the standard approaches to flashcard testing, you also can test yourself with specialized versions of hangman, crosswords and more! While Study Stack doesn't have a specialized iPhone version, you can export the flashcard information in a more generic form to study on many phones, PDAs and even your iPod.

Smart.fm: Smart.fm is unusual in a couple of ways. First, you don't even have to sign up, if you want to. You can create and test yourself on cards right away. However, if you want to do things like track your progress, you will have to create a free account. Smart.fm's other unusual aspect is the focus on lists. Instead of focusing on individual cards, the items in the list interrelate during testing, in tests such as the A-or-B quick choose game, the iKnow multiple choice tool and the Dictation Trainer, where you have to list all the items as fast as you can.

Cramberry and Smart.fm both have free tours available to give a better idea of the experience you can expect while using them. Check them out and start learning more now!


Even More Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, April 23, 2009 in , , , , , ,

LinksIt's time again for some quick snippets, and this time, the theme is memory videos!

• I'm not sure how I missed it when it first aired, but back in March of 2008, Harry Lorayne appeared on FOX & Friends with host Greg Kelly, in order to promote his then-newly-released book, Ageless Memory. He gives some excellent tips for remembering people's names (with a video segment from earlier in the same show that demonstrates how essential this skill can be). Harry even tests Greg Kelly's ability to memorize a list of 10 random items! Check it out below:

• Speaking of memory improvement, I've updated the Grey Matters Miro Channel (learn more about the Grey Matters Miro Channel here) to include the BBC documentary, How To Improve Your Memory, which I first mentioned last November. You can still watch it online, but Miro makes it easier to watch at your own pace, and even save it to your computer, if you so desire.

• In this video from the show, “Wanna Bet?”, young 10-year-old Christian Kalinowski, already a regular competitor in memory competitions, demonstrates his skill at remembering names by meeting an entire audience of 400 people. When it comes time to demonstrate his skill, the hosts select 50 people from the audience at random, and then a group of 10 from those 50. Christian's challenge is to name all 10 of these selected people. He says he can do it. Wanna bet?


Free Study Tips: 12 Things I Wish My Students Knew

Published on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in , , ,

Students in a classroomDid you ever wonder if there was a way for the average student to improve their learning abilities? Sure, there are simple tools, such as SQ3R, but what about a more comprehensive, detailed approach to learning as a whole?

Memory trainer Graham Best, who once demonstrated his memory skills on the Alan Thicke Show, spent more than 3 decades as a teacher in the Vancouver school system, and spent much of that time figuring out exactly what students could do to improve.

The result was a course you could purchase at his now defunct memory-learning.com site (still viewable via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine).

While the paid course itself is no longer available, the free overview that came with the course still exists. This overview was called 12 Things I Wish My Students Knew, and was available as a series of 12 videos. The first one, not surprisingly, was titled First Things First, and is shown below:

The complete series of 12 videos are still available on Google Video, and are listed below in order. Most of the tips are simple (yet effective), and just take a little extra time versus doing things the same way and getting the same results.

1. First Things First
2. Be Prepared
3. Get Organized
4. Learn to Read Right
5. Schedule Your Time
6. Listen and Take Notes
7. Hand in Neat Work
8. Ask
9. Help Others
10. Test Yourself
11. Do More Than You're Asked
12. Use What You Learn

Granted, the videos do occasionally refer to things that are taught in the now non-existent paid course, but often a little extra searching on the internet will help you discover the details you are seeking. If you know a student who is struggling, you might want to alert them to these videos as a means of helping them.


New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part IV)

Published on Thursday, April 16, 2009 in , , , , , ,

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

Now that we've covered poems, magic effects with the poems, and assorted lists, what else can we put in the Memory Binder?

Actual props for memory feats can also be put in your binder, as well. The simplest example I can give would be Doug Canning's Mental Shopper. The included PDF is set up for business cards, but there's no reason you couldn't create 5 large binder pages instead of the 5 business cards, as long as they all have the same items and prices.

One nice presentational touch, for things like Mental Shopper, the alphabet feat and the 400 Digits of Pi chart, is to use a horizontal presentational binder that is facing away from you, so that you obviously cannot see information you're going to recall. In the case of Mental Shopper, where there are multiple pages you're not supposed to see during the presentation, you may wish to add opaque dividers on either side of each page, to help keep the pages hidden when they're flipped (as you could be looking at the other side.

Now, Mental Shopper is both a memory feat and a math feat, so to verify your answer, you'll need a calculator, too. You could carry one separately, but why not have the calculator in your binder, instead? Not only does this keep all the props for Mental Shopper in one place, but you're now also prepared to other math feats such as squaring 2-digit numbers, root extractions or exponential expressions! Between the perpetual calendar in the binder and the calculator, you're also well equipped to handle any of the presentations I discussed for guessing someone's age.

Another feat to consider is the magazine memory feat. If you're working for a smaller audience, you could carry the magazine (or even a few copies of the same issue) inside the binder using magazine/catalog binder strips. If you're working for a larger audience, and will passing out loose pages, you could number and tear apart the pages before the presentation, and carry them in multi-page sheet protectors.

Even if you're memorizing DVDs instead of magazines, you could carry the DVDs themselves in the Memory Binder! No, I haven't found a DVD player that would fit in the binder, but we're definitely getting closer (You might laugh at the idea, but in the 1960s, anyone would've laughed at the concept of an inexpensive digital pocket calculator that could fit in a binder).

You wouldn't think something like the Knight's Tour could possibly fit into a binder, especially with 3-dimensional pieces, but with magnetic travel chess sets available like the Chessmate Travelmate (see larger picture here), it is conceivable. When closed, that board is only 7" by 9", smaller than most of the 8.5" by 11" pieces of paper, and is thin enough to hold in the binder via the aforementioned magazine/catalog binder strips. What about the bulk of the pieces? All you really need is 1 chess knight or, if you do the version where you let an audience member choose the starting and ending squares, 2 chess knights. I use 1 black knight and 1 white knight for this version, telling them to put the black knight on any black square, and the white knight on any white square. The piece(s) could be stored in a storage pouch along with some small magnetic pieces to mark the spaces to which you've been. If you do Chris Wasshuber's version of the Knight's Tour, you could also keep your blindfold in the pouch, as well.

As you can see, there are many possibilities to put together a whole show of mental feats in one binder. There are many more ideas I didn't have the time or space to discuss in these 4 Memory Binder posts. If you want to pursue this idea further, start by looking at what feats you already perform and, if they weren't covered in these posts, think how they might be adapted. Also, look through the Mental Gym, my list of memory effects and past posts on this site, including the ones on math, memory, memory feats and Martin Gardner.

If you have any ideas of your own about the Memory Binder, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!


New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part III)

Published on Sunday, April 12, 2009 in , , ,

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

Yes, I still have more ideas to share about the Memory Binder. Unlike Part I and Part II of this series, this entry won't deal with the poetry section.

How about an alphabet section? Sure, most people know the alphabet in its standard order, but what about in a completely different order? In Chuck Hickok's book, Mentalism Incorporated (Volume I), he teaches how to instruct an audience to learn the alphabet backwards in less than 5 minutes. Even if you don't have this book, the approach is a public domain one, and easy to find on the web. It's taught on an instructables.com page, and in a few PDFs, including the 2nd page of the TEC '007 newsletter and page 11 of the Winter 2006 issue of Eye on Ohio newsletter.

A chart of the alphabet could make this lesson easy to follow, or be used for verification if you simply say the alphabet backwards yourself. Another related feat you could use this chart for is TAELBPAH from Harry Lorayne's book, Mathematical Wizardry. In this feat, you learn how to say the alphabet backwards and forwards simultaneously, as in “Z-A-Y-B-X-C-W-D-V-E-U-F-T-G-S-H-R-I-Q-J-P-K-O-L-N-M”.

On the back of your alphabet chart, you could also have a list of which positions of the alphabet are held by which letters, such as A–1, B–2, and so on, up to Z-26. Most people couldn't tell you what the 16th letter of the alphabet is (P), or which letter V is (22nd), so this can be quite a feat, too. You can learn to do this quicker than learning the alphabet backwards with the EJOTY method, as taught in section 2.1 of this article and in this entry of E pluribus Unam's Diary.

The fun part about these alphabet feats is that you can begin by asking your audience who knows the alphabet. Even if every hand goes up, you can still impress with your knowledge of the alphabet that goes far beyond what most people know about it.

Of course, instead of just alphabetical lists, you can have lists on just about any topic you've memorized. In past posts, I've talked about memorizing things like the states and their capitals, chemical elements, Shakespearean histories/tragedies/comedies, degrees of separation between celebrities, the 10 commandments and even the ingredients of a Big Mac!

If these examples don't inspire you as to the possibilities, the quizzes listed in my How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? post should give you a better idea of the endless possibilities. Often you can create your own mnemonics for any unusual list you choose, but you can also learn by creating your own timed quiz or using flashcard programs, such as the ones I mention here, here and here.

There are myriad things you can print up for your memory binder, but did you realize that your Memory Binder can also hold actual props for a memory act? That will be the topic of my next post.


New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part II)

Published on Thursday, April 09, 2009 in , , , , , , ,

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

With the previous post about poems in the Memory Binder, I've only started to scratch the surface of the possibilities of this great tool.

For some added fun, here's a way to add a little extra magic to the poems. Have someone announce their choice of any poem, and then turn to that poem in the binder (As an example, we'll use the version of Monday's Child from the previous post). Holding the binder so you can't see the poem itsef, ask them to put their finger on any word in the first line of that poem (as an example, let's say they chose the word fair in the first line).

Tell them to spell that word silently, and move their finger one word ahead for each letter. So, if they started on the word fair in the first line, they'd spell f-a-i-r, moving their finger one word ahead for each letter, and end up on child in the second line. Tell them to repeat this process of spelling and finger moving until they reach the last line of the poem, and don't have enough words to continue the spelling procedure.

Remind them to keep that final word secret, and that you'll try and read their mind. Reminding them that they could have chosen any word in the first line, and that it obviously affects the word on which they end up, you divine their final word - good.

How does this work? This uses what's known as the Kruskal principle, developed by Martin Kruskal. Here's the same principle applied to a similar card trick, along with an excellent visual explanation of why the principle works. Since the principle works with any items in sequence, be they cards in a deck or words in a book or poem, it's not hard to adapt the principle. Here's the same effect done with the first three sentences of the book The Wizard of Oz, and another using the first sentence from the US Declaration of Independence. Note that this latter version uses a slightly different version of the procedure, in order to get a better result.

Once you understand the method and principle behind this effect, you should have little trouble adapting it to the poems in your Memory Binder. Go through each poem, and work out what the resulting word on which you'll land in each poem, and use basic linking technique to remember the force word for each poem. You'll want to make sure that the poem is long enough that every word in the first line ends up on the same word in the last line.

Speaking of length, what do you do for longer poems, such as Casey at the Bat? The Kruskal procedure would take too long to remain interesting if you used the full poem. In a case like that, you could just limit the procedure to the first stanza of the poem (or first two stanzas, if one stanza isn't long enough to force a word). Just make sure you remember to include the proper stopping point for the chosen poem in your instructions to the spectator.

If your interested in more details of the principle itself, check out John Allen Paulo's article Who's Counting: A Card Trick and a Religious Hoax, or if you're up to it, Jeffrey C. Lagarias' detailed mathematical paper on the Kruskal Count.

That will wrap up my thoughts on a poetry section, but not on the Memory Binder itself. In the next post, I'll discuss many other uses for it.


New Ideas for the Memory Binder (Part I)

Published on Sunday, April 05, 2009 in , , , , , , , ,

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

I first mentioned the Memory Binder last November, but only mentioned 2 ideas with it. It's time to explore some other ideas with this great tool.

The main idea I'll discuss in this post is to have a poetry section in the Memory Binder. Once you've memorized your favorite poems, as I talk about in my Memorizing Poetry post, you could have someone choose any poem from the section, and listen to you recite it. Productivity 501's article and tool for memorizing verbatim text can be a great help here. Once you've practiced the poem itself, you also need to practice making the recitation itself enjoyable for the audience.

The poems in my own Memory Binder include Casey At The Bat, Jabberwocky, If and others. The poems you choose should fit your personality and style, and should be ones you enjoy, since you'll be spending so much time internalizing them.

If you're using the binder for the Day for any Date feat, as discussed in the first Memory Binder article, one poem that can add an interesting touch to the feat is the classic Mother Goose rhyme Monday's Child. I used to use the original version, but now use this modified version to avoid the all-too-frequent tangential discussions that resulted from the use of the terms “gay” and/or “Sabbath day”:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,

Wednesday's child is full of woe,

Thursday's child has far to go,

Friday's child is loving and giving,

Saturday's child must work for a living,

But the child that's born upon Sunday

Is fair and wise and good they say.
Once someone has given you the date, and looked up on which day it falls, you can ask them to turn to this poem, and describe the characteristics they supposedly have, based on the weekday of their birth. Saying, “You must be full of grace!” is more interesting and lively than simply stating, “You were born on a Tuesday. ”

You can also mix poetry with your memorization of Pi! There are many Pi-related poems that could be used here, and you can explain their mnemonic use, as well as recite them! Of course, if you want a poem and Pi challenge, try the lengthy Near A Raven, or the awe-inspiring Cadaeic Cadenza (of which Near A Raven is only a small part)! I wouldn't seriously expect any audience to sit still for work of these lengths, however.

One poem that deserves special mention here is David Shulman's Washington Crossing The Delaware . The fact that every line is an anagram of the title can add some punch to your presentation.

No, poetry memorization isn't the only additional idea I have for the Memory Binder. In Thursday's post, I'll continue with even more ideas!


Scam School

Published on Thursday, April 02, 2009 in , , , , , , , , ,

Brian Brishwood's Scam SchoolWait . . . Scam School?!? Isn't this blog about improving your mind in fun ways?

Yes, it is. As it happens, many of the scams taught by Brian Brushwood meet those criteria exactly! Now, I'm not suggesting that you make a living cheating people. Before we get to the scams themselves, I'd like to post a quote from Bob Farmer, which was often found at the end of his Flim-Flam columns (also well worth looking up for numerous scams!):

Caveat Scamtor: Ethical Hustlers warn the Mark the game is fixed. Money lost is an educational investment. Gambling may be illegal where you live. Information in this column may be wrong, so don't bet the farm until you've verified it's right.
I should clarify that money lost by either party involved is an educational investment. Having said that, on with Scam School!

Early on, the classic game of Nim is taught. Money and beers have been lost to this game for hundreds of years, so it is well tested. For you Martin Gardner fans, many of his books cover Nim and its seemingly endless variations. Once you've mastered the basic version of Nim, Brian also teaches a more advanced version of the Nim game, which has the devilish twist of also seeming more fair. There are some details to remember here, but I'm pretty sure no regular Grey Matters readers would shy away from any memory work.

Another mathematically-based scam that Brian teaches is one that is known among magicians as Debit and Credit, but became popular recently as The Trick That Fooled Einstein (video below):

When you first see this completely impromptu scam, it seems impossible that anyone could know such exact details about an unseen sum of money. If you look at it closely, you're never really saying anything about how much money the other person has. Rather, it's really only a clever way of stating how much money you have!

There are a few that require less common bar items, but are nonetheless such as how to predict the future using dominoes. This is an interesting bar bet, but I wouldn't use against people who know too much about dominoes, or they may see right through it. Another great prop one is Fast and Loose, a chain con that originally became popular because you could wear the required chain as jewelry, and thus not be caught with any other props that were used to scam people, such as cards.

There's even one scam that aided by an old Grey Matters friend, Pi. In this bet, you brink out a glass, and ask them which they think is larger, the glass' height or its circumference. After the first round of bets, you put various items underneath the glass to increase the height, and offer to let people change their bets. The ending is very surprising to most people.

There are many more Scam School episodes available, and they're all downloadable, too. Not only are they all available in high- and low-res Xvid, Windows Media and QuickTime formats, but as HD QuickTime, YouTube videos and even as iTunes podcasts.

There's nothing to stimulate your brain training like making a little money while doing it!