Replied to a post by Davey Moloney (

Interestingly, this article ( highlights recent studies where “researchers found drawing information to be a powerful way to boost memory, increasing recall by nearly double” #​OpenBlog19

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I’m glad that there’s some more modern research around this general idea. Of course the reliance of humans on the power of visual memory goes back to ancient Greece with the method of loci and from the Renaissance (or earlier) with the mnemonic major system.

I know both systems intimately well since the age of about 11, though I haven’t written much about them on my site. (I should fix this, though there are some related tangents within my memory category.) I did notice a large overlap with the major system and Gregg shorthand a while back, which leads me to believe that they’ve got an even richer back history than most may presume.

I’ve always been confounded that these systems aren’t better known in modern culture, though some sources have indicated that religious influences tamped down their proliferation in the 1500’s.


Bookmarked The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory by Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes, Melissa E. Meade ( Current Directions in Psychological Science)

The colloquialism “a picture is worth a thousand words” has reverberated through the decades, yet there is very little basic cognitive research assessing the merit of drawing as a mnemonic strategy. In our recent research, we explored whether drawing to-be-learned information enhanced memory and found it to be a reliable, replicable means of boosting performance. Specifically, we have shown this technique can be applied to enhance learning of individual words and pictures as well as textbook definitions. In delineating the mechanism of action, we have shown that gains are greater from drawing than other known mnemonic techniques, such as semantic elaboration, visualization, writing, and even tracing to-be-remembered information. We propose that drawing improves memory by promoting the integration of elaborative, pictorial, and motor codes, facilitating creation of a context-rich representation. Importantly, the simplicity of this strategy means it can be used by people with cognitive impairments to enhance memory, with preliminary findings suggesting measurable gains in performance in both normally aging individuals and patients with dementia.

👓 How long do floods throughout the millennium remain in the collective memory? | Nature

Read How long do floods throughout the millennium remain in the collective memory? by Václav Fanta, Miroslav Šálek & Petr Sklenicka (Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 1105 (2019) )
Is there some kind of historical memory and folk wisdom that ensures that a community remembers about very extreme phenomena, such as catastrophic floods, and learns to establish new settlements in safer locations? We tested a unique set of empirical data on 1293 settlements founded in the course of nine centuries, during which time seven extreme floods occurred. For a period of one generation after each flood, new settlements appeared in safer places. However, respect for floods waned in the second generation and new settlements were established closer to the river. We conclude that flood memory depends on living witnesses, and fades away already within two generations. Historical memory is not sufficient to protect human settlements from the consequences of rare catastrophic floods.

This is intriguing particularly when thinking back to our earliest world literatures which all involve flood stories.

I wonder what the equivalent sorts of things would be for C. elegans, drosophila, etc. for testing things on smaller timescales?

👓 The act of drawing something has a “massive” benefit for memory compared with writing it down | Research Digest | British Psychological Society

Read The act of drawing something has a “massive” benefit for memory compared with writing it down by Emma YoungEmma Young (Research Digest | British Psychological Society)
It didn’t matter how good the drawings were for the memory benefits to manifest.

A picture is worth a thousand words…. When it comes to conveying a concept, this sentiment can certainly be true. But it may also be the case for memory. At least that’s the message from Myra Fernandes and colleagues at the University of Waterloo, Canada – writing in Current Directions in Psychological Science, they argue that their research programme shows that drawing has a “surprisingly powerful influence” on memory, and as a mnemonic technique, it could be particularly useful for older adults – and even people with dementia.

📑 An Illustrated Guide to Making People Get Lost | New York Times

Annotated How to Say ‘No’ This Thanksgiving by Darcie Wilder (New York Times)
Why, though, do we not romanticize our preservation? The same matter of chance, of the fleeting nature of fate exists on the other side of the coin. What would have happened if we were better rested, if our energy was better preserved, if we managed our time and said what we really mean? Rarely do we approach whether we get eight hours of sleep with the same guilt as we do whether or not we attended a party, even when, according to sleep expert Matthew Walker, sleep deprivation prevents the brain from remembering information, creating new memories, and sustaining emotional well-being.  

A great observation!

🔖 Sans Forgetica | RMIT

Bookmarked Sans Forgetica (
Sans Forgetica is a typeface designed using the principles of cognitive psychology to help you to better remember your study notes. It was created by a multidisciplinary team of designers and behavioural scientists from RMIT University. Sans Forgetica is compatible with both PC and Mac operating systems. Download it for free today, or keep scrolling to learn more about how it was made.

📺 Sans Forgetica | The font to remember | RMIT University | YouTube

Watched Sans Forgetica | The font to remember from YouTube
Sans Forgetica is a typeface that has been specifically designed by academics at RMIT University to enhance memory retention.
Download the font and Chrome extension, or hear more from the team who created Sans Forgetica, at:

👓 Shavian alphabet | Wikipedia

Read Shavian alphabet (Wikipedia)
The Shavian alphabet (also known as the Shaw alphabet) is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw set three main criteria for the new alphabet: it should be (1) at least 40 letters; (2) as "phonetic" as possible (that is, letters should have a 1:1 correspondence to phonemes); and (3) distinct from the Latin alphabet to avoid the impression that the new spellings were simply "misspellings".

hat tip to

📗 Read pages 1-37 of The Celtic Myths by Miranda Aldhouse-Green

📖 Read pages 1-37 of The Celtic Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends by Miranda Aldhouse-Green (Thames & Hudson, , ISBN: 978-0500252093)

I picked this up the other day while browsing at the library. It’s turned out not to have some of the actual mythological tales I was expecting, but, even better, it has some preparatory history and archaeology which I suspect will make my later reading of them more fruitful and interesting.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Prelude & Chapter 1

Myths flourish in societies where such issues are not answerable by means of rational explanation. They are symbolic stories, designed to explore these issues in a comprehensible manner.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 15

This makes me think of complex issues of modern science like people (wrongly) believing that vaccines cause autism or in our current political situation where many blindly believe the truth of the existence of “fake news” when spewed by politicians who seem to be modern-day story-tellers.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

Medieval Welsh storytelling was close kin to poetry, and often the poet and the cyfarwydd were one and the same. Of course, modern audiences can only access the tales through their written forms but, even so, their beginnings as orally transmitted tales are sometimes betrayed by various tricks of the trade. Each episode is short and self-contained, as though to help listeners (and the storytellers themselves) remember them. Words and phrases are often repeated, again to aid memory. A third device also points in this direction, and that is the ‘onomastic tag’, the memory-hook provided by explanations of personal and place names.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 22-23

This is interestingly relevant to some of my memory research and this passage points out a particular memory trick used by storytellers in the oral tradition.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

The Classical mythic centaur, which melds the forms of man and horse, has its Celtic counterpart in the Welsh horse-woman, Rhiannon.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 22-23

Origin of the name Rhiannon
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

The weapons used were words and they could literally sandblast a man’s face, raising boils and rashes. The power of words to wound was a recurrent bardic theme in medieval Ireland; […]

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 34

I can’t help but think of the sharp tongued William Shakespeare or old barbs I’ve read from this period before. Obviously it was culturally widespread and Shakespeare is just a well-known, albeit late, practitioner of the art.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

So gessa [singular geis] acted as a device to keep listeners interested, and one can imagine how, perhaps, a storyteller would break off his tale at a crucial moment, leaving his audience to wonder how it would end, avid for the next episode in the ‘soap opera’.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

This passage makes me think of the too-oft used device by Dan Brown’s Origins which I read recently.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

… red was the color of the Otherworld.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

This is a recurring thing in myths. The red flames of Hell spring to mind.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

[…] this took place at the end-of-the-year festival of Samhain, the pagan Irish equivalent of Hallowe’en, at the end of October. Samhain was an especially dangerous time because it took place at the interface between the end of one year and the beginning of the next, a time of ‘not being’ when the world turned upside-down and the spirits roamed the earth among living humans.

Highlight (yellow) – 1. Word of Mouth: Making Myths > Page 36

Cultural basis of Hallowe’en? This also contains an interesting storytelling style of multiple cultural layers being built up within the story to bring things to a head.
Added on Monday, December 25, 2017 night

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

👓 The Beauty of Amazon’s 6-Pager | Brad Porter

Read The Beauty of Amazon's 6-Pager by Brad Porter (
Imagine for a moment that you could go into a meeting and everyone in the meeting would have very deep context on the topic you're going to discuss.  They would be well-versed in the critical data for your business.

The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does | New Statesman

Read The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does (
Over the years, hundreds of people online have shared memories of a cheesy Nineties movie called “Shazaam”. There is no evidence that such a film was ever made. What does this tell us about the quirks of collective memory?

Continue reading “The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does | New Statesman”

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

Wished for The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by Jonathan D. SpenceJonathan D. Spence (
In 1577, the Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci set out from Italy to bring Christian faith and Western thought to Ming dynasty China. To capture the complex emotional and religious drama of Ricci's extraordinary life, Jonathan Spence relates his subject's experiences with several images that Ricci himself created—four images derived from the events in the Bible and others from a book on the art of memory that Ricci wrote in Chinese and circulated among members of the Ming dynasty elite. A rich and compelling narrative about a fascinating life, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci is also a significant work of global history, juxtaposing the world of Counter-Reformation Europe with that of Ming China.

Something I’ve been meaning to buy and read for a while.