By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 70 - Memrise - Self Improvement

Okay, I know this is a day late, but I have a really good excuse! I was at my office until 9:45 PM, came home, and just had to get some sleep. I was passing out on the drive home and barely made it into bed half an hour later. But I DID do some self improvement!

I found a way awesome website called Go there. Check it out. I'll wait...

So here's the deal:

A couple of months ago I listened to the audio book edition of Moonwalking with Einstein. For starters, a book title can't get much cooler than that. Secondly, it currently has 188 reviews at Amazon with 4.5 stars. That is incredible. Finally, it's a half story, have self-help, and a sprinkling of autobiography all rolled into one. From the dust jacket:

Moonwalking with Einstein follows Joshua Foer's compelling journey as a participant in the U.S. Memory Championship. As a science journalist covering the competition, Foer became captivated by the secrets of the competitors, like how the current world memory champion, Ben Pridmore, could memorize the exact order of 1,528 digits in an hour. He met with individuals whose memories are truly unique—from one man whose memory only extends back to his most recent thought, to another who can memorize complex mathematical formulas without knowing any math. Brains remember visual imagery but have a harder time with other information, like lists, and so with the help of experts, Foer learned how to transform the kinds of memories he forgot into the kind his brain remembered naturally. The techniques he mastered made it easier to remember information, and Foer's story demonstrates that the tricks of the masters are accessible to anyone.
Yeah, so an ordinary guy with a faulty memory is taught specific training and in one year has a brilliant memory. And you can do it too. Listen to the book!

Anyway, the person who took Mr. Foer under his wing happened to have been Ed Cooke. Ed Cooke created the International Memory Championships about 20 years ago. He can memorize an entire pack of randomly shuffled playing cards in 45 seconds and 1,000 random digits in an hour. And now... he has a website!

If you guess that website is called Memrise, you'd be right! Memrise is a variance of an online flashcard system, but a little more. For starters, the interface and website is very clean and friendly. Secondly, it has social aspects, so you earn points by learning new words or facts, theirs a points ranking board, and you can share your progress with your friends via facebook, twitter, etc. The system is built around a "memory garden" where new words are seeds, words you've learned are in a greenhouse and still need a lot of care, and words you've really learned are in your garden and still need occasional watering, the frequency depending on how established that "word plant" is. Pretty nifty, eh? Right now most of the lessons are with foreign languages, with Mandarin being one of the most developed

Additionally, you can create your own lists of vocabulary or factoids. I uploaded the top 1,000 Biblical Hebrew words in order of Frequency to help me improve my Hebrew vocabulary. Later I will upload all 4,000+ Hebrew/Aramaic words found in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). And I'm going to share it with my Hebrew learning friends, old professors, etc. And learning just became easier and even more fun.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Simple: We need to exercise our brains. The more we exercise our brain in one area, the easier it is to learn in another. Further, if you add to this website by learning memory techniques from the champions (not currently on the website, but read Moonwalking with Einstein as a stepping stone introduction), you're memory will vastly improve. And with a good memory, you can write better stories AND you can do so faster. Give it a go. I dare you. Let me know how it goes!


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