MEMORY TECHNIQUE: A step by step guide for creating a memory palace

If there is one person whom I could meet in this world, it would be Derren Brown. The BBC recently broadcast a one-hour special to celebrate 10 years of the psychological illusionist’s work. I personally endeavour to watch everything ever made by Derren Brown and I’m currently­ immersed in his latest book Confessions of a Conjuror. Great read.

Although Derren Brown is something of a trickster — making use of suggestion and misdirection to manipulate people and accurately predict their behaviour — his skills are something to behold. His newer TV shows also seem to be about helping people in areas such as self-improvement and increasing self-confidence.

Thousands of ‘ordinary’ people apply to be on his shows where he teaches participants some of his psychological techniques. In a recent Trick or Treat episode, an applicant in his mid-40s claims to have a very bad memory (as many people of that age might advocate).

After teaching said participant to speed-read and passing on various memory techniques, Derren Brown enters the man in England’s top pub quiz. After just two weeks of preparation, the participant single-handedly earns second place.

One fantastically simple memory technique that is mentioned here is that of the memory palace. This creative approach is not only simple, but it is highly effective in committing long lists of information to memory that can then be recalled at will. It has been used since ancient Rome and goes something like this.

A Virtual Memory Palace

Virtual Memory Palace

The memory palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know (image: web.science.mq.edu.au)

Step 1: Creating a Memory Palace

The whole memory palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. So, the first step is to create a memory palace of your choosing in your mind’s eye. A memory palace is essentially a physical location that you are very familiar­ with — such as your home or route to work. So long as you can clearly visualise each room or landmark within your memory palace, it will serve you well.

Step 2: Define a route

The second step is to trace a clearly defined route through your memory palace and visualise particular objects along the way. If you are considering your home for example, your route may start with your front door. You may enter into a hallway and notice a mirror hanging on the wall. Start with one object per room and follow an easy path (such as from left to right) until you are back at your starting point.

Practice following this route in your memory palace — making an effort to remember each specific object in order. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you choose a place deeply embedded within your mind; perhaps the house you grew up in. Each object is generally known as a “memory peg”.

Step 3: Peg it to memory

Now think of something that you’d like to remember, such as a shopping list or your agenda for the week ahead. Place items in a particular order and integrate each with a memory peg (object) within your memory palace. It helps to conceptualise objects as being bizarre or perhaps cartoon-like at this stage. Memory does, after all, perform best when operating in a strong, visual way.

For example: your week could start by going to the post office. If you have chosen your home as a memory palace, visualise a letter box spewing out envelopes. Perhaps your child is playing a school cricket match on Tuesday. Visualise a school cricket match happening inside the mirror in the hallway. Animate­ things as best you can and they’ll be sure to stick in your head. You could even add smells and sounds to things to remember.

Step 4: Remember to practice!

The memory palace has proven to be a powerful memory technique that anyone­ can use to awaken the memory they already have. Your imagination really is the limit. Also, remember that you can have more than one memory palace for dealing with different kinds of information. There is also always the option of upgrading your palaces once you’ve got the hang of it.

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SKYPE: Setting yourself up for web chatting in a few easy steps

SKYPE is great for chatting to friends and loved ones spread across the globe without worrying about getting a hefty phone bill at the end of the month. The web application is completely free for home use and can be set up in a few simple steps.

What you’ll need is a computer, Internet connection and a microphone and headphones. You can buy headsets with built-in microphones if you want to go for more of a call-center look and keep conversations private. Alternatively, you could buy an external microphone and use your speakers as the audio output if more people are keen to participate in web chatting.

Next, you simply need to download the latest Skype from www.skype.com and install it. There is very little to configure once installed, and the program will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to set up your microphone. This really just involves plugging it in correctly and testing it.

skypeThe next step is providing a user-name for yourself and to start adding web contacts. Skype lets you easily search for people you know on the web, and adding them to your contact list is a breeze.

The application will also let you know who is online and ready for chatting. Clicking on “dial” once you have selected a person to call will start making Skype-like noises and connect you to that person — wherever they may be in the world.
Commence chatting as if you were having a normal conversation.

If you would like to see each other while chatting, you’ll both need to have web cams installed. These are now available for around R300. Web chatting has never been easier. To get started, simply download Skype from the link below.

Kind regards,
That Tech Guy

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WEIGHT LOSS: Tips to help shed those unwanted flabby bits

I used to have the special ability to eat whatever I pleased and never put on weight. This was before I hit twenty five. I am no longer the envy of the heftier members of my family and I've had to start following a few weight loss tips to stay in shape.

weight lossWith winter having waned, you are so often left with the results of overindulging in the warm, delicious winter dishes which tend to settle around the middle body area, increasing your girth and refusing to budge. All of this is exasperated through lack of exercise. The gradual expansion of weight in this manner can eventually lead to all kinds of of negative, unhealthy conditions. Proper weight loss will help prevent these.

Research shows that decreasing your body fat percentage by 5-10 percent reduces your risk of cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other lifestyle related diseases. Follow these simple weight loss hints and tips below to help reduce your weight and improve overall well-being.

14 weight loss tips:

  • Exercise while watching television.
  • Use a smaller plate when dishing up your food.
  • Make sure ½ of your plate is full of raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Drink a glass of water before your meal to help fill up the stomach.
  • Reduce/eliminate alcohol intake as this can contribute to weight gain.
  • Eat 80%of your total energy intake during the day and the other 20% at night.
  • Cut back on your carbohydrates at night eg: pasta, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc.

Be careful of snacking, especially at restaurants or coffee shops. Milkshakes and carrot cake with cream, for example, contain approximately 4500 KJ. For the average woman, this amount of energy virtually covers her total energy intake for the day.

  • Exercise: starting with a short walk then gradually increasing the walk to 30 minutes a day is a good start.
  • Eat at the table rather than in front of the television. When your brain is preoccupied with visual stimuli other than your food, this can affect the digestive process.
  • Wait twenty minutes before you go for a second helping. It takes at least twenty minutes for the brain to register you are satisfied.
  • If you are still hungry after a meal, head for the salads which contain little or no dressing.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sometimes we are thirsty and not hungry.
  • Feed the body with nutrient rich foods (vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, avocados, nuts) rather than nutrient diluted foods (refined foods, biscuits, breads, sweets, chocolates etc.)

And remember, “optimum nutrition = optimum weight” !

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SEO: Best practice using Copy Compass!

HAVING used Copy Compass for a while now, I can honestly say that it is the best WordPress plugin released to date. The brainchild of Talooma's Nick Duncan, Copy Compass is an easy-to-use plugin that analyses your posts for best SEO practice. It is an absolute breeze to use and a must-have for bloggers.

With a single click of your mouse, Copy Compass analyses a post, provides an overall score and offers suggestions for improving SEO for that post. Content analysis has never been this easy.

Copy Compass WordPress SEO pluginGeneral SEO practice involves having between three and five keywords, including as many of these as possible in your title, having a meta description between 100 and 160 characters and ensuring that your main keywords are prominent throughout your post.

Copy Compass makes SEO practice far easier and exciting by analysing your posts for you - quickly and accurately. One is also able to analyse older posts and ensure that each one gets a high SEO score.

If you have minimal SEO experience, using Copy Compass essentially allows you to teach yourself SEO by learning to understand how search engines treat content on the web. Apart from the above, Copy Compass also uses text analysis and Reading Ease indexes to determine how readable and accessible your content is.

Nick really is an innovative machine that is super quick to fine-tune great plugins such as Copy Compass. You can download Copy Compass from the website or install it within your WordPress plugin directory. A simple search for “Copy Compass” will bring it up.

If you find any bugs or have any suggestions regarding how to improve Copy Compass, post a comment or drop Nick an email and I’m sure he get right on it!

Happy SEO-ing!

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AVAST! Free virus scanner that will serve your PC well

IF your PC is connected to the Internet, having a good virus checker is of the utmost importance. There are many virus scans available and the more expensive ones are generally better, however there are some free ones available for download that will serve your PC just fine.

Avast! is one particularly good virus scan that is both free to download and easy to use. You can download it by doing a Google search for “avast free download.” As with most free software there may be a few features that are unavailable to you, but Avast! will still be sufficient at protecting your PC from spyware and viruses.

It is also important to update your virus checker periodically to keep your PC protected from new threats. Almost all virus scanners will notify you when updates are available for download. Avast! will give you voice notifications when your virus signatures have been updated. You can also configure it to download these updates automatically, which is highly recommended.

Lastly, have your virus checker scan your PC and a regular basis (once a month is a good window to go by). You can set your virus software to perform such scans automatically too.

That's all for this issue! Until next time.

Kind regards,
That Tech Guy

The home PC has evolved into what is now considered a modern-day home entertainment system. Capable of behaving like a television, home cinema, game station, work station, music player and much more, the home PC is far more capable than it has ever been before. But with all these capabilities come complexities, and there are several things to consider when investing in any form of home entertainment. This is what Easy PC plans to simplify.

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