👓 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 (sansforgetica.rmit)
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: http://sansforgetica.rmit

👓 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 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 (newstatesman.com)
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 (amazon.com)
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.

Boffo Socko Now Supports Hypothes.is Annotations

You can now highlight and annotate most of the pages here on Boffo Socko as well as other web pages.

I’d played around with many of them in the past, but a recent conversation with Matt Gross about News Genius and their issues in the last week reminded me about internet annotation platforms. Since some of what I write here is academic in nature, I thought I would add native Hypothes.is Annotation support to the site.

hypothesisIf you haven’t heard about it before, you might find the ability to highlight and annotate web pages very useful. Hypothesis allows for public or private highlights and notes and it can be a very useful extension of one’s commonplace book.

At the moment, I’m not sure where it all fits into the IndieWeb infrastructure I’m building here, but, at least for the moment, I’d hope that those making public annotations and notes will also enter their commentary into the comments either here on the blog or by way of syndicated versions on Facebook or Twitter so that they’re archived here for posterity. (Keep in mind site-deaths are prevalent and even Hypothes.is acknowledges in a video on their homepage that there have been many incarnations of web annotations that have come and gone in the life of the internet.) Perhaps one day there will be a federated and cross-linked version of highlights and annotations in the IndieWeb universe with webmentions included?!

Educators and researchers interested in using web annotation are encouraged to visit the wealth of information provided by providers like Hypothes.is and Genius.com.  In particular, the Hypothes.is blog has some great material and examples over the past year, and they have a special section for educators as well.

As it’s similar in functionality to highlighting on the web, I’ll remind users that we also still support Kevin Marks’s fragmentions as well.

If anyone is aware of people or groups working on the potential integration of the IndieWeb movement (webmentions) and web annotation/highlighting, please include them in the comments below–I’d really appreciate it.

 

Attributes in Paintings May Stem from Mnemotechnics Dating from Ancient Greece

As I delve into the history of mnemotechnics, I suspect that attributes in paintings originally stem from memory techniques that date from Simonides of Ceos (c. 556 – 468 BCE) and potentially earlier through the oral tradition.

As I delve further into the ancient history of mnemonics and mnemotechnics, I  strongly suspect that attributes in paintings (like those frequently seen in depictions of Christian saints) originally stem from memory techniques that date from Simonides of Ceos (Σιμωνίδης ὁ Κεῖος; c. 556 – 468 BCE) and potentially earlier by means of the oral tradition.

The National Gallery has a short little primer on paintings of saints and recognizing them by means of their attributes. As an example, in the painting below Saint Genevieve of Paris holds the candle which she miraculously relit. On the brooch at her neck are the alpha and omega signs. Saint Apollonia of Alexandria’s brooch shows pincers: she was tortured by having her teeth extracted.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472 - 1553 Saints Genevieve and Apollonia 1506 Oil on lime, 120.5 x 63 cm Bought, 1987 NG6511.1 This painting is part of the group: 'The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters' (NG6511.1-NG6511.2) http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6511.1
Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472 – 1553
Saints Genevieve and Apollonia (1506) Oil on lime, 120.5 x 63 cm
Bought, 1987; NG6511.1
This painting is part of the group: ‘The St Catherine Altarpiece: Reverses of Shutters’ (NG6511.1-NG6511.2)
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6511.1

Book Review of Dominic O’Brien’s “Quantum Memory Power”

While I'd generally recommend this to the average mnemonist, I'd recommend they approach it after having delved in a bit and learned the major system from somewhere else.
Quantum Memory Power by Dominic O'Brien
Quantum Memory Power by Dominic O’Brien

I’ve read many of the biggest memory related books over the past three decades and certainly have my favorites among them.  I’ve long heard that Dominic O’Brien’s Quantum Memory Power: Learn to Improve Your Memory with the World Memory Champion! audiobook was fairly good, and decided that I’d finally take a peek having known for a while about O’Brien and his eponymous Dominic System.

General Methods

Overall, I was fairly impressed with his layout and positive teaching style, though I don’t particularly need some of the treacly motivation that he provided and which is primarily aimed at the complete novice.  While I appreciate that for some, hearing this material may be the most beneficial, I would have preferred to have some of it presented visually.  In general, I wouldn’t recommend this as a something to listen to on a commute as he frequently admonishes against doing some of the exercises he outlines while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Given the prevalence of and growth of memory systems from the mid-20th century onwards, I personally find it difficult to believe all of his personal story about “rediscovering” many of the memory methods he outlines, or at least to the extent to which he tempts the reader to believe.

Differences from Other Systems

Based on past experience, I really appreciate his methods for better remembering names with faces as his conceptualizations for doing this seemed better to me than the methods outlined by Bruno Furst. I do however, much prefer the major mnemonic system’s method for numbers over the Dominic system for it’s more logical and complete conversion of consonant sounds for most languages. The links between the letters and numbers in the major system are also much easier to remember and don’t require as much work to remember them.  I also appreciate the major system for its deeper historical roots as well as for its precise overlap with the Gregg Shorthand method. The poorer structure of the Dominic system is the only evidence I can find to indicate that he seems to have separately re-discovered some of his memory methods.

I appreciated that most of his focus was on practical tasks like to do lists, personal appointments, names and faces, but wish he’d spent some additional time walking through general knowledge examples like he did for the list of the world’s oceans and seas.

While I appreciated his outlining the ability to calculate what day of the week any particular date falls on (something that most memory books don’t touch upon), he failed to completely specify the entire method. He also used a somewhat non-standard method for coding both the days of the week and the months of the year, though mathematically all of these systems are equivalent.  I did appreciate his trying to encode a set up for individual years, which will certainly help many cut down on the mental mathematics, particularly as it relates to the dread many have for long division.  Unfortunately, he didn’t go far enough and  this is where he also failed to finish supplying the full details for all of the special cases for the years.  He also failed to mention the discontinuities with the Gregorian versus the Julian calendar making his method more historically universal. For those interested, Wikipedia outlines some of the more familiar mathematical methods for determining the day of the week that a particular date would fall on.

Instead of having spent the time outlining the calendar, which is inherently difficult to do in audio format compared to printed format, he may have been better off having spent the time going into more depth memorizing poetry or prose as an extension of his small aside on memorizing quotes and presenting speeches.

I could have done without the bulk of the final disk which comprised mostly of tests for the material previously presented. The complete beginner may get more out of these exercises however.  The final portion of the disk was more interesting as he did provide some philosophy on how memory systems engage both lobes of the brain within the right-brained/left-brained conceptualizations from neuropsychology.

While O’Brien doesn’t completely draw out his entire system, to many this may be a strong benefit as it forces individuals to create their own system within his framework. This is bound to help many to create stronger personalized links between their numbers and their images. The drawback the beginner may find for this is that they may find themselves ever tinkering with their own customized system, or even more likely rebuilding things from scratch when they discover the list of online resources from others that rely on people having a more standardized system.

O’Brien also provides more emphasis on creativity and visualization than some books, which will be very beneficial to many beginners.

Overall, while I’d generally recommend this to the average mnemonist, I’d recommend they approach it after having delved in a bit and learned the major system from somewhere else.

The Mnemonic Major System and Gregg Shorthand Have the Same Underlying Structure!

I’ve been a proponent and user of a variety of mnemonic systems since I was about eleven years old.  The two biggest and most useful in my mind are commonly known as the “method of loci” and the “major system.” The major system is also variously known as the phonetic number system, the phonetic mnemonic system, or Hergione’s mnemonic system after French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Hérigone (1580-1643) who is thought to have originated its use.

The major system generally works by converting numbers into consonant sounds and then from there into words by adding vowels under the overarching principle that images (of the words) can be remembered more easily than the numbers themselves. For instance, one could memorize one’s grocery list of a hundred items by associating each shopping item on a numbered list with the word associated with the individual number in the list. As an example, if item 22 on the list is lemons, one could translate the number 22 as “nun” within the major system and then associate or picture a nun with lemons – perhaps a nun in full habit taking a bath in lemons to make the image stick in one’s memory better. Then at the grocery store, when going down one’s list, when arriving at number 22 on the list, one automatically translates the number 22 to “nun” which will almost immediately conjure the image of a nun taking a bath in lemons which gives one the item on the list that needed to be remembered.  This comes in handy particularly when one needs to be able to remember large lists of items in and out of order.

The following generalized chart, which can be found in a hoard of books and websites on the topic, is fairly canonical for the overall system:

Numeral IPA Associated Consonants Mnemonic for remembering the numeral and consonant relationship
0 /s/ /z/ s, z, soft c “z” is the first letter of zero; the other letters have a similar sound
1 /t/ /d/ t, d t & d have one downstroke and sound similar (some variant systems include “th”)
2 /n/ n n has two downstrokes
3 /m/ m m has three downstrokes; m looks like a “3” on its side
4 /r/ r last letter of four; 4 and R are almost mirror images of each other
5 /l/ l L is the Roman Numeral for 50
6 /ʃ/ /ʒ/ /tʃ/ /dʒ/ j, sh, soft g, soft “ch” a script j has a lower loop; g is almost a 6 rotated
7 /k/ /ɡ/ k, hard c, hard g, hard “ch”, q, qu capital K “contains” two sevens (some variant systems include “ng”)
8 /f/ /v/ f, v script f resembles a figure-8; v sounds similar (v is a voiced f)
9 /p/ /b/ p, b p is a mirror-image 9; b sounds similar and resembles a 9 rolled around
Unassigned Vowel sounds, w,h,y w and h are considered half-vowels; these can be used anywhere without changing a word’s number value

There are a variety of ways to use the major system as a code in addition to its uses in mnemonic settings.  When I was a youth, I used it to write coded messages and to encrypt a variety of things for personal use. After I had originally read Dr. Bruno Furst’s series of booklets entitled You Can Remember: A Home Study Course in Memory and Concentration 1, I had always wanted to spend some time creating an alternate method of writing using the method.  Sadly I never made the time to do the project, but yesterday I made a very interesting discovery that, to my knowledge, doesn’t seem to have been previously noticed!

My discovery began last week when I read an article in The Atlantic by journalist Dennis Hollier entitled How to Write 225 Words Per Minute with a Pen: A Lesson in the Lost Technology of Shorthand. 2 In the article, which starts off with a mention of the Livescribe pen – one of my favorite tools, Mr. Hollier outlines the use of the Gregg System of Shorthand which was invented by John Robert Gregg in 1888. The description of the method was intriguing enough to me that I read a dozen additional general articles on shorthand on the internet and purchased a copy of Louis A. Leslie’s two volume text Gregg Shorthand: Functional Method. 3

I was shocked, on page x of the front matter, just before the first page of the text, to find the following “Alphabet of Gregg Shorthand”:

Alphabet of Gregg Shorthand
Alphabet of Gregg Shorthand
Gregg Shorthand is using EXACTLY the same consonant-type breakdown of the alphabet as the major system!

Apparently I wasn’t the first to have the idea to turn the major system into a system of writing. The fact that the consonant breakdowns for the major system coincide almost directly to those for the shorthand method used by Gregg cannot be a coincidence!

The Gregg system works incredibly well precisely because the major system works so well. The biggest difference between the two systems is that Gregg utilizes a series of strokes (circles and semicircles) to indicate particular vowel sounds which allows for better differentiation of words which the major system doesn’t generally take into consideration. From an information theoretic standpoint, this is almost required to make the coding from one alphabet to the other possible, but much like ancient Hebrew, leaving out the vowels doesn’t remove that much information. Gregg, also like Hebrew, also uses dots and dashes above or below certain letters to indicate the precise sound of many of its vowels.

The upside of all of this is that the major system is incredibly easy to learn and use, and from here, learning Gregg shorthand is just a hop, skip , and a jump – heck, it’s really only just a hop because the underlying structure is so similar. Naturally as with the major system, one must commit some time to practicing it to improve on speed and accuracy, but the general learning of the system is incredibly straightforward.

Because the associations between the two systems are so similar, I wasn’t too surprised to find that some of the descriptions of why certain strokes were used for certain letters were very similar to the mnemonics for why certain letters were used for certain numbers in the major system.

From Dr. Bruno Furst's "You Can Remember!" The mnemonic for remembering 6, 7, 8, & 9 in the major system
From Dr. Bruno Furst’s “You Can Remember!”
The mnemonic for remembering 6, 7, 8, & 9 in the major system.
From Louis Leslie's "Gregg Shorthand: Functional Method" The mnemonic for remembering the strokes for k and g.
From Louis Leslie’s “Gregg Shorthand: Functional Method”
The mnemonic for remembering the strokes for k and g.

One thing I have noticed in my studies on these topics is the occasional references to the letter combinations “NG” and “NK”. I’m curious why these are singled out in some of these systems? I have a strong suspicion that their inclusion/exclusion in various incarnations of their respective systems may be helpful in dating the evolution of these systems over time.

I’m aware that various versions of shorthand have appeared over the centuries with the first recorded having been the “Tironian Notes” of Marcus Tullius Tiro (103-4 BCE) who apparently used his system to write down the speeches of his master Cicero. I’m now much more curious at what point the concepts for shorthand and the major system crossed paths or converged? My assumption would be that it happened in the late Renaissance, but it would be nice to have the underlying references and support for such a timeline. Perhaps it was with Timothy Bright’s publication of  Characterie; An Arte of Shorte, Swifte and Secrete Writing by Character (1588) 4, John Willis’s Art of Stenography (1602) 5, Edmond Willis’s An abbreviation of writing by character (1618) 6, or Thomas Shelton’s Short Writing (1626) 7? Shelton’s system was certainly very popular and well know because it was used by both Samuel Pepys and Sir Isaac Newton.

Certainly some in-depth research will tell, though if anyone has ideas, please don’t hesitate to indicate your ideas in the comments.

UPDATE on 7/6/14:

I’m adding a new chart making the correspondence between the major system and Gregg Shorthand more explicit.

A chart indicating the correspondences between the major system and Gregg Shorthand.
A chart indicating the correspondences between
the major system and Gregg Shorthand.

References

1.
Furst B. You Can Remember: A Home Study Course in Memory and Concentration. Markus-Campbell Co.; 1965.
2.
Hollier D. How to Write 225 Words Per Minute With a Pen: A lesson in the lost technology of shorthand. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/yeah-i-still-use-shorthand-and-a-smartpen/373281/. Published 2014.
3.
Leslie LA. Gregg Shorthand: Functional Method. Gregg Publishing Company; 1947.
4.
Bright T (1550-1615). Characterie; An Arte of Shorte, Swifte and Secrete Writing by Character. 1st ed. I. Windet; reprinted by W. Holmes, Ulverstone; 1588. https://archive.org/details/characteriearteo00brig.
5.
Willis J. Art of Stenography.; 1602.
6.
Willis E. An Abbreviation of Writing by Character.; 1618.
7.
Shelton T. Short Writing.; 1626.