After my degraded time management the week before, I had some success getting to bed earlier last week by using a Pomodoro timer to break up my work at the computer, which kept me from losing track of time and gave me stopping points. This is very encouraging, because usually when my self-imposed schedules fall apart, they stay that way.
Events conspired to keep me from getting much further in Meaning and Argument last week, but I’ll probably keep working on it during my learning project. My summary of this modeling language project is that I learned a little about modeling languages and a lot more about taking notes–oops. I also gained a greater sense of urgency about managing my project time, because I need to make a lot faster progress, and my hunch is it’s possible, so I’ll keep experimenting.
Last week I continued cramming in books on learning before my listening time is taken up by the Bible (see the Spirituality section below).
I started the week with Memory: How to Develop, Train, and Use It by William Walker Atkinson, which argues that mnemonics are time-consuming tricks with limited value that weaken your natural memory from disuse, and the book describes how to remember more using only your natural memory. I disagreed with his assessment of mnemonics, but I was interested in his techniques and thought he did a decent job of explaining them.
Next was Memory Craft by Lynne Kelly, which I ran across in a friend’s tweet last year and then again recently on the Art of Memory forum. I haven’t read many books on mnemonic systems, so I don’t know how its approach compares, except that I imagine most books don’t bring in the practices of ancient indigenous cultures, but I do know this book is delightful and has inspired me to learn history and use it to populate my memory scaffolding. Maybe once I get more advanced, I’ll make some Lukasa-like memory boards.
After that was Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein, which discussed the ways individuals and organizations pursue a broad range of knowledge and skills (sometimes on purpose, sometimes not) and the benefits of having this range for performance, creativity, and problem solving, which are increasingly important skills as society becomes ever more complex. I appreciated the validation of my generalist lifestyle and the encouragement to make the most of it.
At the end of the week I squeezed in You Can Have an Amazing Memory by Dominic O’Brien, who I’d never heard of before the Art of Memory forum, but he’s been the World Memory Champion eight times, and I wanted to find out how such a high performer got to that level. The book was charming and helpful, not only for reinforcing the usual memory advice but also for nuancing it in ways that could speed up my memorization a bit. It also reinforced my sense that the memory challenges at these competitions make good exercises for honing your skills even if you don’t plan to compete.
My main agenda for this month’s learning project is to set up some learning procedures and tools to experiment with, especially some mnemonic systems. This week I’ll do the planning and get started.
Lent starts this Wednesday, and like last year I’m planning to listen to an audio Bible, this time the NKJV Word of Promise, which is a dramatized version I got for Christmas quite a few years ago and haven’t listened to yet. It’s 98 hours, so if I’m diligent (2x speed, 2 hours a day), I can get through it in 25 days. If that works, I’ll have time in Lent left over, and I’ll listen to some other fitting books on my list. I never got around to writing my reflections last year, so I’ll try to do that this time.
I watched the next movie in my AI list, Alphaville, which I knew nothing about, but it turned out to be by a famous French avant-garde director, and thus I don’t really know what to make of it. My impression is it had some interesting ideas buried under clumsy execution, but who knows, maybe that was on purpose? I ended up only really caring about the city’s technological philosophy, at least the parts that were delivered by the impressively croaky AI and the engineers, which didn’t make complete sense but felt evocative, like a philosophical Rorschach test. As usual with media that feels sloppy or incomplete to me, I took it as a writing prompt, and I’m curious what a remake by someone like Alex Garland or Denis Villeneuve would be like.