Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 1: Moonwalking With Einstein

Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer is the first book that I am reading in my challenge. Yesterday was my first day reading and I really thought that I might have trouble reading this book because my baby was being super needy throughout the day and I didn't get much downtime. Luckily, once it was bedtime I started reading and I couldn't put the book down because it was a really good and interesting read.

"Foer's unlikely journey from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion frames a revelatory exploration of the vast, hidden impact of memory on every aspect of our lives" ( website). This is basically what the book is about. In the first part of the book Foer explains how he came upon wondering about memory. He was in a weightlifting museum where he saw pictures of the strongest man in the world and he began to wonder about the smartest person in the world. He Googled for the smartest person in the world and happened upon Ben Pridmore who was the reigning world memory champ.

**Okay, side note here! I had finished up this blog post and went to publish the post and it made me sign back in and then 2/3 of my post was gone! Very frustrating and if I had a great memory, like some of the people in this book I would be able to write down everything that I just did, but alas I do not, so I will try and remember what I did write about!**

After Foer found out about Ben he went to a memory championship tournament to see what it was all about. There he met some "mental athletes" (MAs) that all told him that they were all just regular people, not savants, that have trained their brains to be exceptional at remembering things. They even said that they could teach Foer how to train his brain to remember a lot of things too. From that point in the book Foer goes on to explain what memory is. He looks into long and short term memory, what is happening in people's brains when they are recalling a memory, and what is going on in people's brains that have a really good memory regarding something (different parts of the brain at work). Foer also looks at two cases of amnesics who can't process short term memory. All of it is pretty fascinating and there was a lot that he discussed that I don't exactly remember and that I would just want you to read for yourself :)

At the world championship Foer befriends two MAs and they tell him that with their help they will be able to make him a memory champion too. That is about where I ended off in the book. I am hoping that in the rest of the book we learn some memory techniques because I would like to know how to improve my memory. I also assume that we will learn about Foer's journey to becoming the US memory champion. I am very excited to read this book and I look forward to reading more.

The first quote that stood out to me was: "If the point of reading were simply to retain knowledge, it would probably be the single least efficient activity I engage in. I can spend a half dozen hours reading a book and then have only a foggy notion of what it was about. All those facts and anecdotes, even the stuff interesting enough to be worth underling, have a habit of briefly making an impression on me and then disappearing into who knows where." This is me to a "T!" After I have read a book and I try to remember what the book was about after I have read a couple more books I have a really hard time remembering what it was about unless I have something to jog my memory. That is why I used to keep a book journal. After I read the book I would write what the book was about and if I liked it or not. I have recently quit doing that because I came along the Goodreads site where I could list the books that I read along with how I rated them online. I could also look to see what the book was about with one click.

The next quote that I liked was, "Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it...That's why it's important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives." Reading this I was thinking, "Yes, a very valid excuse to take more vacations!" It all makes excellent sense to me. For the past ten years or so I have kept a daily journal of my life. The past few years I have been busy with the kids and haven't been able to keep up on it on a daily basis. I would find myself trying to remember what I did each day for the past three weeks and I couldn't do it because each day blurred into the next day. I would have to keep another mini journal of what I did to help me remember what to write for my journal. On the days that I did new and exciting things I could remember most of the event in clear detail.

This book is really fascinating to me and I look forward to reading more of it. I think that most anyone who reads it will enjoy it too. I really do hope that I learn some memory techniques because I need them! Just the other day I was at a BBQ at my son's preschool and two seconds after a parent introduced themselves to me I would forget their name. I wish that I had a better memory for remembering names (I used to be really good at it in high school and college). The funny part, at least I think it is kind of funny, is that with this book I am trying my hardest to remember what it is about! With blogging about it I am sure that I will remember more of the book than if I wasn't blogging it.

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