Updates: June 10, 2016

June 10, 2016 at 10:55 am (Art, Java, memory palace, Programming, Rant, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


I’ve been working on a number of different things as well as thinking about my next steps and goals for the year. Here is a point-form list of some of the projects and endeavors I’ve been spending effort on in the past couple weeks:

  • I set up a home Linux server. I wanted a local, private Git repository as well as a machine to host some automated processes and apps. Things have been working out very well on this front. It’s been a great learning experience on top of it as well as I haven’t really used Linux in a decade or more. I installed a desktop version of Ubuntu, but I’ve been sticking to using the terminal as much as possible to expand my sphere of knowledge.
  • I’ve been working on my coding skills and algorithm knowledge. I always have some sort of coding project on the go, but recently I’ve been so focused on my front-end skills that I’ve let my core skills droop a bit. To get back up to par, I’ve been solving a lot of coding problems in Java as well as figuring out some algorithms that I haven’t touched in a while. I decided to start basic with heaps and heapsort, then moved on to KMP string matching, and now I am working on suffix tries/trees. I’m going at a slow pace with this though so I can not only code solutions, but also store them in my mind palace.

   Preparing an algorithm for long-term mind palace storage pretty much consists of tearing the algorithm down to its basic elements in your mind and trying to make a story out of it. For example, I’ve decided to store the KMP string matching algorithm in a kitchen in one of my mind-rooms, so I compared the process to making spaghetti. Comparing noodles of different length was the basis of the story. I also had to work in the generation of the prefix table for the search pattern. For this, I’ve been toying around with adding some sort of “sauce” to the story to indicate the comparisons of the prefix to suffix for each length of the pattern noodle.

   I think that I’m finally starting to outgrow the hub room I’ve been using for my computer science mind palace. It was a good index for classes of algorithms so I could always see what tools were at my disposal, but it’s getting too cluttered now.

  • I’ve also been doing a lot of general-purpose reading. I visited the library not long ago and “accidentally” walked away with between 10-15 books. Some of these were painting-related so I could learn some new techniques and composition skills, but I also picked up some interesting biology books. One of these is a book on viruses (the non-computer version). I’ve been learning a lot about how they operate as well as how they’re being used/manipulated today. Bacteriophages are being produced to one day replace antibiotics, and I find the whole thing fascinating (phages are a type of virus that goes after bacteria instead of humans).
  • In addition to practicing my coding/problem solving skills, I’ve also been working on learning and using some new technologies; at least new to me. I’ve been fiddling with the Play framework, which is a web platform. I wasn’t really impressed with it at the start as you have to use a self-hosted web app just to create a project structure, but beyond that it seems really nifty. My next area of interest within this framework is the Ebean integration, which allows for a fun way to connect objects to databases without having to write scripts and stored procedures. There are also some features to allow syncing a database to ElasticSearch automatically, which will be fun.
  • The Android platform is another area I am learning about lately. I’ve set up my development environment and I’ve been learning about the SDK for creating apps. It seems like there are a lot of different approaches to building Android apps, especially as the SDK has been evolving. It has made things a little awkward to get started (as there are many references on the internet to doing things the “old” ways), but I think I’m past that hurdle now. My only real problem now is that I haven’t been spending enough time on this project.
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Synthetic Synesthesia: The Art of Remembering Numbers

October 9, 2015 at 11:43 am (Thinking) (, , , )


By associating numbers or letters with colours, you will be more likely to remember sequences of them and verify if there are mistakes in them. Who doesn’t want a better memory?

 I have synesthesia. Essentially this means that my brain has some extra wiring in it that makes it automatically associate colours with other stimuli. In my case, when I see or think of numbers, letters, or dates, my mind’s eye generate a colour that is static for those things. For example, when I see the number 7, I see a specific dull shade of blue that never changes over time. I also see colours when I interact with people, but that’s a bit less common as far as synesthesia cases go, and it certainly isn’t as useful as numbers and letters.

Why do you care about this? Because it offers a new and powerful memory technique, and I think it can be useful even if you don’t have synesthesia. Here’s how it works. Your brain is great at remembering places; humans have been doing this for a long time. Your brain is also good at identifying and remembering colours and textures. What your brain isn’t good at is remembering sequences of numbers and letters – we haven’t had consistent forms of written language for very long as a species.

My proposed trick is that when I am presented with a string of numbers, I will encode them into a sequence or grid of colours in my mind. Instead of remembering which number goes where in the sequence, my theory is that I will have an easier time remembering what colours in the sequence are warm vs cool, or light vs dark – essentially giving me additional tests to ensure I am correcting remembering the sequence.

Okay. That’s how it works, but how can you use it? Well, the brain is a magical piece of machinery; it can be reprogrammed and restructured with just the power of thought. Start by picking a specific colour for each number. The colours can be the same general colours as long as they are not consecutive, but should always be different shades.

For example, you could select the following mapping:

  1. Bright sky blue
  2. Dull, brick red
  3. Lemon yellow

And so on. Now is the part that requires effort: you have to constantly think about each number as being written in that colour. In your mind, pretend you are drawing these colours in crayons using their selected colours. Try some exercises on your computer by drawing numbers in MS Paint using these colours. When you do this, you are creating new associations in your brain that will eventually become second nature to you. The act of writing numbers with your associated colours will trigger something called the “generation effect” – the idea that you will remember things better if your brain “generates” the answer than if you were just reading it (Jacoby, 1978).

This article was originally posted here: http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/synthetic-synesthesia-art-remembering-numbers-jake-seigel

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Improve Your Memory and Never Forget

September 28, 2015 at 2:27 pm (Rant, Thinking, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )


Memory is key to living. How can you operate if you can’t remember who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going? Consider this quotation from Hugh of St. Victor: “The whole usefulness of education consists only in the memory of it”. Essentially, you could pay thousands of dollars to go to school for years and obtain a doctorate, but how useful is it if you don’t remember anything of those years?

Often I hear people explain that their memory isn’t what it used to be, and they just can’t seem to retain anything. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure to help us instantly improve our memories and remember everything we’d like to. However, I’d like to introduce you to a technique I make use of: the memory palace. Honestly, you don’t have to be a genius or a brilliant detective to take advantage of this technique, but it will take some deliberate practice and effort to get used to it.

Brief Background on Memory Palaces

This technique is also known as the “Method of Loci”, the “Journey Method”, or the “Roman Room” method. All of these names essentially point to the idea of associating items or concepts with a physical location. You might not even realize this, but your brain is exceedingly good at remembering locations. You’re able to remember the rooms in your house, where your furniture is, and where the bathroom is at your place of employment. I bet you can probably remember the journey you took to get to work today as well.

The general idea of this technique is that you associate the things you want to memorize with areas of these locations using vivid images. When you imagine yourself walking through your location in your mind, you will “see” these images and they will remind you of the items you’re trying to remember.

See the Memory Palace in Action

As a trivial example to illustrate my point, if I wanted to remember a grocery list consisting of bread, milk, eggs, and butter, I could do something like the following:

I choose to use the journey from my apartment to the nearest bus stop; I live pretty close to it, but my list is very small. As I exit the lobby of my apartment, my spider-sense tingles to let me know I’m in danger! I quickly duck to avoid being hit by a French baker swinging a baguette at me. He shouts profanities at me as I run around the corner to avoid him. Whew! Bread is the first item on my list.

As the next part of my journey, I have to cross over the exit to the underground parking lot for my building. Unfortunately, just as I walk up to it, a stampede of cows rush out of the parking lot. Their cow bells are clanging as they run past me, and I notice that they definitely smell like cows. Milk is the second item on my list.

Once the stampede is over, I continue down the street to a stop sign so I can cross the road. I wait to ensure the cars are going to stop for me before I begin to cross. As I start to walk, I hear honking from the jeep that stopped for me – what is their problem? I look over and there are chickens driving that jeep! They look really angry with me that I had the nerve to cross the road and they start throwing eggs at me. I cover my head and run to get to the other side. Eggs are the third item.

It finally looks like I’ve made it; I can see the bus stop from here. As I fist-bump the air to celebrate, I realize I’ve made a grave mistake – I’m no longer watching the sidewalk. Somebody has smeared butter all over the sidewalk and I slip and fall! Now I’m covered in grease and everything will probably stick to me now. Butter is the last item on the list.

At this point, you need to practice walking through this journey in your mind. If you only need the list for a short period of time, you don’t need to practice that much. However, if you are storing information you’ll need for a long period of time, you’ll want to refresh the journey periodically to make sure it doesn’t degrade.

What Can You Store in a Memory Palace?

Honestly, I haven’t been able to find things that can’t be memorized using this technique. It has been used for hundreds of years by some very famous people (as a homework assignment, I encourage you to do a little research). Essentially anything can be stored, but it depends on the amount of effort and creativity you have. Here is a short list of different types of information you can store; everybody likes lists, right?

  • Sequential Lists of data such as processes, instructions, or ordered data
  • Sets of unrelated data such as concepts within a field or shopping lists
  • Speeches or stories. These have an ordered sequence of plot points

Ways to Improve the Quality of these Associations

On a final note, I should discuss some things to make the whole process easier. There are certain types of memories that your brain will have an easier time storing. If you think of images for your memory palace that involve these concepts, you’ll find that they will become more vivid and therefore more memorable. The following is a short (but not exclusive) list of these concepts:

Laughter. Create funny images that you can laugh at. Instead of some ultra-realistic image, throw in some comical things like chickens throwing their eggs at somebody.

Exaggeration. Make things larger than they have to be or more intense. An angry French baker dueling with bread is more memorable than a grocery store rack of bread loafs (to me anyway).

Your senses. Memories that include multiple senses have a lasting effect. What do things smell like? What do they sound like? Do they have tactile textures?

Positive Thinking. This is an underestimated factor of memory. You have to have a positive opinion of what you’re trying to remember. Your subconscious will always try to protect you by trimming out unhappy memories when it can. Keeping things positive will put you in a better state when you revisit your memory palace and will reduce stress (which creates chemicals that are not helpful for thinking).

I hope you’ll give this a shot; I’ve had some great success using this technique to remember some really tedious and detail-oriented concepts over the years. It’s great for never forgetting, and it’s also an excellent creativity exercise. Happy remembering.

Originally posted here: http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/improve-your-memory-never-forget-jake-seigel

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Synesthesia + PAO Memory Technique

June 10, 2015 at 9:12 am (Thinking, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )


Some of the books I’ve been reading lately are about the use of advanced memory techniques such as the memory palace or the person-action-object method. It’s actually interesting that I’ve read so much on the subject that I keep reading references to the existing material; this means that I’ve found the “good” stuff.

I’ve been experimenting with the memory palace technique for a while, but I started trying out the PAO method. The interesting bit here is that I have synesthesia: a condition where my brain merges different things together essentially. In my case, when I look at or think about numbers or letters, I see colours as well. These colours are always associated with the same digits and it never changes. On an unusual side note, I also have the same effect with personalities (it’s hard to explain).

Anyway, I’m still in the preliminary stage, but I’m associating Marvel characters with numbers based on their costume colour palette. Essentially, each character has one or two colours that are fairly iconic for them. For example, Iron Man is red and yellow and Spiderman is blue and red. I’m hoping to use this as a starting point for using this system (definitely check out how it works on wikipedia).

For those interested, the colours I associate with numbers don’t change, but they’re kind of hard for me to describe or even pick out from a list. I’ve put together an image showing a loose approximation of the 0-9 numbers:

Synesthesia

Synesthesia

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Update Mar 12, 2015: New game demo, mind palaces, and notebooks

March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm (Game Development, Games, Processing, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , )


It’s been a while again since I’ve posted here, but I haven’t been idle in this period of time. I don’t think I can list all of the things I’ve been up to, but here are three things I’ve been up to:

New Game Demo

I’ve recently released (privately) a new demo for my game. It features brand new levels, mechanics, and storyline. I’ve even added new tilesets and original music for the levels. With the last demo, I was happy to have something playable that resembled a game and showed off some of the neat things I’ve built, but this time I think I’m actually content with it as a game. I’ve added some dialogue that needs a bit of polishing, but is roughly what I want it to be as well. I still need to post screenshots and a video, but I need a big chunk of time to do that still.

The first person to play-test it and give feedback made me pretty happy. It seems that they felt what I wanted them to feel and thought what I wanted them to think with respect to the storyline. They noticed some of the extra details I put into the levels (like the rain effect) as well. One thing I took away though, was that they didn’t use the camera mechanic at all. I think I might add some HUD cues and mechanics to encourage the usage of it.

 Mind Palace

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time lately rebuilding my “Mind Palace”. This is a mental tool that utilizes the “Method of Loci” method for memorization. Essentially it’s a superior way to reliably remember things. It takes a bit of effort to set up and upkeep, but if done correctly, you can do wonderful things with it.

Before, I was building the hub structure of my palace based on something I had imagined. My problem was that I never fully constructed it; I wasn’t sure how big of a space I needed, so it deteriorated over time faster. I can still reference most of the rooms, but I didn’t solidify where everything was enough.

Also, I didn’t have enough connections to well-known places. Examples of these are houses I’ve previous lived in, These are useful as you can typically just imagine yourself moving through those places and then have your memories jump out at you. My next goal is to tie in more of those to my “hub area” so that I can jump from location to location without having to remember how many houses I’ve lived in. It probably would look like that hallway in one of the Matrix sequels that had all the doors leading to difference places.

 Notebooks

Soooo, it turns out I am a crazy person? I used to have decision issues when it would come to notebooks. I remember being in a store for 10 minutes trying to decide what colour I wanted to use for a notebook. I ended up just buying all of them so that I could decide in a non-public place. Recently, Target has gone out of business in Canada due to questionable decision making. The good part of this is that Moleskine notebooks have gone on sale; at the time I purchased them, the discount was 30% off. I rarely notice these going on sale, and since I’ve started using them almost exclusively, it seemed like a great idea! However, now I have a drawer full of different sizes of notebooks and my mind will only let me use certain notebooks for certain purposes. I’m happy to not have to go buy more for a while, but now I have to store a ton of notebooks…

 

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