Verbatim Bug Found!

Published on Sunday, September 27, 2009 in , , , , , ,

Verbatim(UPDATE - July 14, 2011: Verbatim has been updated and improved. Click here to learn about the update!)

A minor bug has been found in Verbatim. It's not serious, but it does did prevent effective use of the program.

Grey Matters reader “Bev” had trouble getting Verbatim to read her XML file, and asked me about the exact nature of the problem. Upon further investigation, it turns out that the problem boils down to Verbatim being on one domain and her file being on a totally different domain. As a security feature, most browsers specifically prevent a Javascript program (such as Verbatim) from accessing an XML file under a totally different domain.

Update (October 15, 2009): The bug has been fixed, and this post has been edited concerning the changes.

It took quite a bit of research to find the solution, but it's done. Except that you now have the ability to use XML files located on almost any server (except for those overly-strict ones that prevent ANY external access, which is unusual), you shouldn't notice any differences between the original and current versions of Verbatim.

The original XML files still work with the program, and it still works as in the videos.

I eliminated the verbatim.zip file I originally offered as part of a short-term solution, as you can now use the program here, and access your files anywhere.

Bev, thank you for alerting me to this problem!


Timed Quiz Milestones

Published on Thursday, September 24, 2009 in , , ,

Timed QuizzesThe most popular blog entry on Grey Matters, How Many Xs Can You Name In Y Minutes? has been the source of several milestones recently.

First, the total number of quizzes has now passed the 2,500 mark! That's more than 500 quizzes in just 3 months.

Since most of the quizzes on that list come from Sporcle, I predicted in that entry that we'd probably see Sporcle's quizzes alone pass the 2,000 mark about the time we reached 2,600 quizzes. Only yesterday, Sporcle posted their 2,000th quiz. How many quizzes were on the list when I posted the update that included that 2,000th quiz? The number was 2,569 quizzes! Not a bad estimation, eh?

Sporcle also reached another milestone shortly before their 2,000th quiz. They've just reached over 100 million games played! They observed this feat by posting a quiz concerning things with either hundred or million in their names.

The Timed Quizzes RSS Feed is about to hit its own milestone, as well. At this writing, it's a 964 KB file, and it won't be long before it 1 full megabyte! Even with the quiz names, links, tags, and other information, that's large for a text file.

With so many of these milestones coming so close together, it also has me thinking that the list itself needs to be redesigned, to improve its usefulness. Even with the recent addition of the droplist filter, I can see that more can be done to improve the ease of finding a quiz on a desired topic.

At this point, I'm still looking into the possibilities and have no definite plans. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


Piece Sources for Verbatim

Published on Sunday, September 20, 2009 in , , , , ,

Sir Alan Bates(UPDATE - July 14, 2011: Verbatim has been updated and improved. Click here to learn about the update!)

If you've found Verbatim useful, you're probably wondering where you can find more resources.

The first place you should look, of course, is Verbatim's own related resources section in the manual. There, you'll find many sources for speeches, monologues, poems, and more! As a matter of fact, one of the sources you'll find there is this very blog entry.

Before I provide a few more resources, I'd like to explain a little about where the idea of Verbatim came from. Not long after I hit upon my idea of the Memory Binder, which I first discussed back in November 2008, I hit upon the idea of using it to hold poems. I didn't discuss the memorization of poems until this past April, but I had been working with it since December 2008.

I enjoyed memorizing poems so much, especially with the help of the approach taught in J. J. Hayes article, I decided my New Year's resolution would be to memorize at least 1 poem per month, so that at the end of the year, I would have 12 poems memorized. I'm actually ahead of schedule, as I have the 11 poems I included in the sample poems.xml file already memorized (Which is why those were chosen in the first place)!

Since poetry was the original inspiration, that's where I've focused my efforts when looking for new pieces to memorize.

Most of the resources in Verbatim's manual are text-based, so that it's easy to copy and paste when setting up the XML file. However, I've found video to also be a valuable resource in finding new pieces. I've put together several YouTube playlists containing various poem videos. Sure, you can't copy and paste the text, but most them are either easy enough to understand, or are classic enough that they're easily found in text version on the web.

Here are the playlists I've put together in the hopes that it will help you discover some new poems which you might like to learn. None are in any particular order, so you may wish to randomize the playlist order (click here to learn how to do that) to make the discovery process more interesting:

Classics - This is a small list of classics I created as I discovered new pieces. While there aren't many in this list, these videos are extraordinary in their depiction of their respective poems.

UBS Ads - I first talked about this series of ads back in May. To project an image of strength and stability, UBS presented several respected actors reciting classic pieces of poetry.

Miscellaneous - Too often, lists of classic poems make poetry seem stuffy. The pieces on this list are more recent, and may be easier to relate to for many audiences. It also may surprise you as to just where poetry can pop up. Even sitcoms like Night Court and The Brady Bunch have featured poetry!

Nipsey Russell - It's hard to mention humorous poems and TV without referencing television's poet laureate, so much so that he really deserves his own playlist. If you're not familiar with his work, you soon will be.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats - This classic book by T.S. Eliot features poems that weren't hard to find on video, as it was the inspiration for the musical CATS.

Best Remembered Poems - This list is full of poems from a book of the same name by Grey Matter's perennial favorite, Martin Gardner, which focuses on poems that are the best remembered by ordinary American who like poetry. These range from classic children's poems, such as Antigonish up to classic pieces by Wordsworth and Longfellow. If you enjoy these works, check out the sequel Famous Poems from Bygone Days

Do you have any sources you've found helpful in discovering new pieces? I'd love to hear about them.


Free Web App: Verbatim on iPhone/iPod Touch

Published on Thursday, September 17, 2009 in , , , ,

Verbatim(UPDATE - July 14, 2011: Verbatim has been updated and improved. Click here to learn about the update!)

Today, I'm announcing Grey Matters' newest free web app for the iPhone and iPod Touch: Verbatim!

Wouldn't it be great to download things like monologues, poems, presentations, scripture, scripts, song lyrics, and speeches directly into your brain, so that you knew them word for word?

Until that's possible, the next best thing is Verbatim. What exactly is Verbatim?

Verbatim is a free web app that helps train you to memorize pieces of text word for word!

If you've ever wanted to memorize an inspiration poem, or been faced with the task of memorizing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address for school, then Verbatim can help!

The approach used in this program is based on one I first learned from J. J. Hayes' HubPages article, How To Memorize A Poem. Having used it effectively in the real world, I was inspired to turn this into an iPhone/iPod Touch program.

So that you can get a better idea of what Verbatim is about and what it does, here's the video overview of Verbatim:

There are more detailed video tutorials on each aspect of the program in the Video Tutorials section, and in the Verbatim Video Tutorials Playlist.

If the part about developing the XML file concerns you, I've even taken the extra step of creating an XML File Maker for Verbatim, complete with its own video tutorial.

If you'd like to check out this program's full capabilities with some ready-made pieces, you can check out Verbatim with the sample poems.xml file pre-loaded here. You'll find a good selection of long and short poems in this file that will challenge your memory.

As mentioned in the video overview, the jQTouch engine also makes it possible for this program to work on a Palm Pre, an Android device, or any WebKit-based browser with HTML5 and CSS3 capabilities, such as Safari or Google Chrome.

In the hope that Verbatim will inspire you to find the fun in memorizing pieces word for word, I've also included with Verbatim a list of speeches, monologues, poems, song lyrics, and more to help you find pieces you'll enjoy.

I sincerely hope you find this program useful, and I'd like to hear any comments, questions, suggestions or experiences you have involving Verbatim in the comments!



Published on Sunday, September 13, 2009 in , , , , ,

Dissecting a CircleDid I scare you? Often, the mere mention of calculus send shivers down the spine of a student. However, it doesn't have to be that way.

The reason behind the common perception that calculus is perceived as a scary topic by so many is the basic idea behind the article at BetterExplained, A Gentle Introduction To Learning Calculus. In this article, math is likened to art, and preventing kids from learning about calculus when they're younger is likened to not letting the finger-paint until they have 12 years of art fundamentals. It sounds strange, but the way calculus is taught today is a big example of what's wrong with modern math education.

BetterExplained has many more articles on calculus that are worth your time and attention. You'll be amazed how well you can start understanding calculus after reading them.

If you really want to take the time to sit down, and practice calculus concepts enough to understand them, then I'd like to turn your attention to Visual Calculus. As opposed to the introductory articles at BetterExplained, this is a thorough course with both lesson and exercises. What makes Visual Calculus stand out, though, is stated right in its name. Each concept taught is well detailed with visual examples, to make each of the points clearer.

Update (9/14/09): One Grey Matters reader alerted me to an old text from 1914, called Calculus Made Easy. This is a great work, and is still understandable and usable today!

Granted, the more time and attention you give you calculus, the better you'll comprehend it. That doesn't mean that fun is out of the question, however. If you prefer it quick and simple, here's all of calculus in 2 videos, and in under 20 minutes:


The Magic of 9

Published on Thursday, September 10, 2009 in , , ,

Since yesterday was 9/9/09, it seems like the perfect time to look at the mysteries of 9.

BTW, the actor who was singing about 9s in yesterday's video, and who apparently learned about 9s from Fleet the Genii, is Reg E. Cathey, whom you may know from a surprising number of places.

We'll start off with something simple. The following video teaches an easy way to learn the 9 times table from 1 up to 10. It's so straightforward, there's no audio required to help you understand it:

Probably one of the most famous 9 tricks would have to be the classic 1089 trick. The explanation is surprisingly simple, despite the large numbers involved.

Why is 9 so surprising? Sol from Wild About Math took a look at this phenomenon last year, and explains it pretty well. The best part of this article is the mathematical magic tricks you learn while trying to understand the principles being taught. Yes, the 1089 trick shows up here, as well.

Sol's article briefly mentions “casting out nines”, which I remember learning about long ago. It's a great way to check your math on an arithmetic problem, but the teaching of it seems to have fallen out of favor decades ago. The usefulness and simplicity of it, once learned, is so elegant, that there are people today who, when they finally learn about casting out 9s, become enraged that they were never taught it!

Yes, 9s can simplify magic tricks, but math as well. Sophie B. shows us how to use 9's amazing properties to multiply by 9, 99, 999 and even 19! I not only like the methods taught here, but the amusing way the story is used to present it.

Even if you missed 9/9/09 itself, you still have the rest of the month to improve and show off your 9 prowess in 9/09!


Happy 9/9/09!

Published on Wednesday, September 09, 2009 in , , ,

Today is September 9, 2009, or 9/9/09 for short! We're going to celebrate by heading over to Tilley's, courtesy of Square One TV and YouTube:


Mnemonics Around The Web

Published on Sunday, September 06, 2009 in ,

I enjoy finding new mnemonics for things I didn't know about before. My Timed Quiz Mnemonics post was fun to research for that very reason. Having found some great new sources, I though I'd share them with you.

We'll start off with a whole host of mnemonics over at Mnemonic Devices. Many of the mnemonics here I've run across in other sources, such as the rhyme for remembering the Kings and Queens of England. However, there are also plenty of mnemonics that are completely new to me, including the hierarchy of winning poker hands. Living in Vegas, you'd think I would've run across this before. This is one of the best mnemonic collection sites I've run across since Memoria Technica.

One specific mnemonic I hadn't run across before was the US Constitution Song from the 1993 movie Born Yesterday. It's sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas. If you add this to Schoolhouse Rock's songs about the Preamble and how a bill becomes a law, you could have an excellent constitutional lesson!

Do you use the Major/Peg System to remember numbers? If so, you've probably had the occasional trouble trying to find a good word to use for a certain number. Thankfully, the Phonetic Mnemonic Major Memory System Keyword Database is here to help! You just enter a number, and it will give you a list of words that can be used for that number. For example, if you enter 42 into it, you get 39 different keywords to use, such as Iran, arena, rain and runaway (which I never would have come up with on my own).

If you take your mnemonics to the next level, and actually use them in performance, then you might want to join Bob Miller's Memory Performers Association. You may remember Bob Miller from my mention of him in the January snippets column. The association already was just started recently, and yet already has its own facebook page. I do thank Bob for his gracious links to the Grey Matters site on the association page.

Do you have any favorite mnemonics you'd like to share? I'd like to hear about them, and especially how useful you've found them, so leave a note in the comments!


More Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, September 03, 2009 in , , , , ,

LinksToday's entry is both late and short, because I have a surprise I'm developing for those of you who enjoy memory training and have an iPhone. What is it? I'll tell you when it's ready.

Instead of me surprising you with memory techniques, this edition of Snippets will focus on you surprising yourself with math techniques.

• Misha Lemeshko challenges us to solve “the greatest math problem ever”. This is one of those problems that children who haven't entered school yet can solve effortlessly, yet adults find fiendishly difficult. Maybe not all adults would find this difficult, though. I'd imagine anyone who is a Potentate of the Rose wouldn't take too long to solve it.

• Here's 10 Easy Arithmetic Tricks, courtesy of Listverse. Some of these, I've taught on the blog, but not all of them. I can honest say I've found all of them useful in real-world situations at one time or another, and usually impressed several people as a bonus!

• Not that the links in the post don't already have a healthy dose of silliness, but I'd like to round this out with a particular brand of silliness. David Letterman's Top 10 Lists are, of course, a comedy staple. Here's one of the strangest editions of it which I've ever run across: David Letterman's Top 10 Favorite Numbers from 1 to 10, as built up by Casey Kasem!