Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 3: Memory Champ (Mon 3/21)

This day I read from page 163-271 (108 pgs).

This last section of the book gets into the good stuff (at least I thought so). It is Josh's journey to becoming the US memory champion. After Josh decides that he will compete in the competition he starts practicing A LOT! He uses the memory techniques that Ed and others have taught him. He spends a lot of his time in his parent's basement just going over numbers, lists, cards, and other things that he will be "tested" on in the competition. He even gets a researcher to study him to see how his memory and brain changes after he has gone through the rigorous training to remember more stuff. While training Josh comes to a plateau and can't seem to get his times faster. Josh called this the ""OK plateau", the point at which you decide you're OK with how good you are at something, turn on autopilot, and stop improving." The researcher told Josh that the best way to get off the plateau was to "practice failing." It is a really interesting concept and it makes a lot of sense that you would learn more by making mistakes and pushing yourself harder to get better. It worked for Josh and he was able to start getting his recall times faster and faster.

During this section Josh goes over what it is to be a savant and to be a "memorizer." There was this case of a British man named Daniel Tammet who supposedly had some major seizure when he was little and that effected his memory and from it he became a savant. The big difference with him and other savants was that he was talented in many areas and not just one, which most savants are. Josh became a little suspicious of this guy and dug around and interviewed him and it seemed to me like the guy was fooling everyone and he is just a really good MA (mental athlete). I bring this guy up and this part of the book because my husband and I actually watched this special on this guy and we both remembered it. I remember being especially amazed at how this guy could learn a new language so fast. It was very interesting to hear how Josh was basically saying this guy is full of BS and here is why. This guy became so famous and even was on a show that I watched and he was probably pulling one on all of us! Josh does go on to talk about Kim Peek, the real Rain Man, who is a true savant and what he is able to do and not do.

The last section of the book was about the US memory championship. Since the US isn't big in the sport of remembering Josh felt that his chances of doing well were pretty high, especially with all of his training and being mentored by a top MA. Josh got to the competition and he did really well. He broke a US record of memorizing a deck of cards the fastest. As Josh kept doing well and making it further along he couldn't believe his luck. When he got to the semi-finals he felt like he was just lucky and one of the other contestants didn't get so lucky and that is why he proceeded on. In the final round it was all about remembering a deck of cards and Josh was really good at that and he ended up winning without much effort. It was exciting to see this reporter become a US memory champ all in a year. Josh did go onto the World Championship and didn't do so well! He also decided that he was done with competing (I am sure it was because he wanted to start writing his book!).

I really enjoyed the book. It was a fast, easy, and an interesting read. I learned that the name of the book comes from a number in the deck of cards. Of course, I forgot to mark what it was, but it was a visual reference to remember a card that was put in his memory palace. I learned that this book wasn't really going to give me a better memory unless I put a lot of time and effort into it, which isn't something that I would be doing anytime soon! One way that I can judge if I liked a book is if I google more about the book, which I did for this one. After I was done reading I looked up videos with Josh Foer and here is a good one from The Colbert Report. I would give this book 4.5 stars (out of five). I just hope that my fellow book club members enjoy it as much as my husband and I did!

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