All posts by Alexander Van Berg

Great Design

Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of SER, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

My third book is currently being published.  My first follow-up book covered the Spanish verb estar, and this second follow-up book covers the Spanish verb ser.  Both of these expansion books utilize and extend the foundational system in the original book.

Considering estar and ser are loosely related, conflated, and easily confused, I figured it made sense to publish distinctive works on this pair of frequently used verbs.  And so in a way, these two expansion books are worth more than the sum of their parts.

In my opinion, this book has some of the best mnemonics and visualizations yet.

One of the strong selling points of this series of Flawless Recall books is it provides enough instruction so that you can eventually generate your own custom expansion content for any irregular verb that you like.  And for the ambitious student or teacher, they could possibly take the entire system, and look at adapting it to a completely different language.

The book is currently working its way to the different marketplaces.

https://books.apple.com/us/book/flawless-recall-expansion-book-memorize-irregular-conjugations/id6443567341

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1142359150

https://books2read.com/u/bOnnrN

Great Design

The Claim (2000), Extremely Underrated And Much More

American poster for The Claim (2000).

 

I was very impressed the first time I saw The Claim, which wasn’t that long ago.  I had never heard of this film, and at 6.3 on IMDb, this has to be one of the most underrated films on the site, after filtering out more minor works.  I’d have to rate it at least 9.0 out of 10, and I don’t say that lightly.

The Claim is various complex stories wrapped up in a very simple story.  The simple story being an old, cruel America finally being replaced by a more effective and newer, old, cruel America.  (And of course, all of these iterations of America would finally get us to the relatively advanced America we live in today.)

Although American politicians and the United States military demarcated America’s boundaries, all of that land would only become America through the confluence of various inviolable determinations, and this is captured brilliantly in The Claim.

There were always two manifest destinies, or at least two facets to the ill-defined term.  The simple story in The Claim is a haunting story.  The original victors of the geographical manifest destiny are rendered extinct by ushers of the chronological manifest destiny.

I’m not sure why, but this film has not received the attention that it deserves.  I believe it should be inducted into the US National Film Registry as important and compelling Americana.  And all of this is made just slightly more strange by the fact that it was a co-production between Canada and Britain.

I purchased the DVD and I watched it for a second time with Spanish audio.  It transferred very well with Spanish audio, although some of the Spanish translations do not do justice to the original English lines.  The film definitely holds up over time, and my guess is that it delivers in any language.

Great Design

Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of ESTAR, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

I released my first book last month, and now I’ve released a follow-up to it – Flawless Recall Expansion Book: Memorize Irregular Conjugations Of ESTAR, For Students And Teachers.

This follow-up book is very, very interesting because it demonstrates how the original system for regular Spanish verbs can be re-used, to a significant degree, for different irregular Spanish verbs.

To anyone who’s struggled with this aspect of Spanish, and wanted to finally memorize these conjugations, I can’t recommend these books enough!

Right now the book is working its way to the different marketplaces.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BFCVN3NX

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flawless-recall-expansion-book-alexander-van-berg/1142239905

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1305006085/flawless-recall-expansion-book-memorize

https://books2read.com/b/4D6gK7

Given that irregular Spanish verbs tend to be even more jagged and chaotic than regular Spanish verbs, a good memorization system really makes sense.

The common teaching style in schools tends to revolve around rote memorization, and the analogy here would be traveling in Japan from Tokyo to Kyoto.  Rote memorization is like crawling there with a heavy ball and chain shackled to your ankle, while a good mnemonic system is like taking the bullet train.  Yes, the bullet train still takes time to get there, but it gets there a lot faster than crawling, and more importantly, it’s also reliable.

Miscellany

The Jump

I’ve had to literally run for my life twice in 6 years from killer bees.  They’re just a fact of life in this part of the country, and no one anywhere is immune from the threat.

I got away without even minor illness, so I guess my luck with killer bees hasn’t run out yet, but I will say this – the previous time was easier to digest mentally, because they were at least living in a common type of bee shelter that I had disturbed without thinking.

But the race I had recently is harder to forget.  I was walking along a clear path, disturbing nothing, and a lawnmower was mowing grass maybe 40 yards away.  Without any warning, and out of nowhere, I realized several extremely angry bees were up at my head trying to sting me, and probably stinging me already.  I started my sprint out of there without actually having seen a single bee.  (In fact, I ended up never seeing any of the bees – only hearing and feeling them, and finding some stingers that were left behind.)

I got a really good jump on the rest of the hive, wherever they were; I was sprinting away in probably less than a second.  What’s actually scary though is later I found small bee stings (with no or very little injected venom) on my torso – meaning additional bees were still hounding me even as I had created some very good separation in such a short period of time!

I supposed your mileage might vary, but I ended up taking the longer path to my house, because the shorter path had some obstructions, and I didn’t want to risk tripping and falling.  The longer path also afforded me the luxury of thinking less.

In the end, there’s really only one good explanation for what happened.  The bees had probably become angry due to the lawnmower noise, and then they happened to find me by accident.  I’m going to have to find the hive later (using a bee suit), but the truth is I have no idea where the bees came from (and if they’re even living on my property), and considering I was doing nothing where I’d expect a bee attack, this was pretty memorable.

In a surprise killer bee attack, humans basically have no advantage, but I’m a believer that getting a good jump is important, and a difference of a few seconds can mean quite a lot.  I’ve figured that if you create enough separation fast enough, it can buy you a tangible amount of extra time to get inside (or in water), and reduce the number of stings, and can also magnify the consequences of any errors that the bees are making.

One thing I would recommend to everyone is that if you have a bunch of keys on your keychain, you should probably mark the key or keys that get you inside your house.  I have a strip of green duct tape around the base of the key that opens my home’s outer door.  It didn’t save my life this time, but in a scenario where I’m not as lucky, it could certainly make a big difference.

In a panic situation, all your fine motor skills will go away, and so you’re probably going to fumble around with your keys trying to find the right one.

The other thing that helped me in this case was the clothing I was wearing.  There are no guarantees, but when bees sting through your clothing, they usually don’t inject as much venom.  So that’s another thing to keep in mind.

And afterwards, I would run all the clothing through the washing machine immediately, take a shower, and not go back outside for a good period of time.  You want to get the bees’ alarm pheromone off of you and off of your clothes, and also let the alarm pheromone that was released into the air dissipate.

Great Design

Flawless Recall: Universal Memorization Method For Conjugating Regular Spanish Verbs, For Students And Teachers by Alexander Van Berg

Well, I finally broke down and wrote a book.  These days the process is seductively simple.  You can write any book you want, in a Word document if you want, and then publish it pretty much everywhere through a service like Draft2Digital, for free.

An eBook and a print book are making their way to all the marketplaces right now.  Amazon takes a little bit longer due to their gating procedures, but right now the book is actually available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B9Q9S6GSminor eBook outlets and also intermittently at Barnes & Noble:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B9Q9S6GS

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1288226705/flawless-recall-universal-memorization

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flawless-recall-alexander-van-berg/1142006254

https://books2read.com/b/b6R1jZ

This book provides a reliable way to finally memorize regular Spanish verb conjugations across 18 tenses.  (In this book, the subjunctive and imperative “moods” are called tenses just for simplicity).

I would highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who’s wanted to accomplish that goal, but has struggled to do so.  If that sounds like you, keep an eye out for this book at your favorite marketplace!

Before I designed this system, I had spotty recall on maybe just a few tenses.  I’m now able to write out the entire 18-tense conjugation chart purely from memory, and I also have a better understanding of what the tenses actually are.  (If you’re counting, that chart has upwards of 200 or more facts, and those facts are not conveniently packaged.)

Academically speaking, this represents a canonical and accessible implementation of a relatively difficult goal: State-of-the-art mnemonics properly fitted to language learning.  I would characterize this book as a seminal publication.

The print book will soon be available (through standard vendors) for physical bookstores, libraries, schools, and universities to order, so if your local book centers would benefit from this type of book, be sure to suggest it to them.

Miscellany

Some Thoughts On Modern Cinema

Prey (2022), the prequel to Predator (1987).


1.
The Safdie Brothers are quietly rejuvenating, re-imagining, and I would even say completely re-inventing the thriller genre, which is no small feat.  At the current pace, that will most likely be how their recent films are described in future.

2. Mosul (2019; the one directed by Matthew Carnahan) is definitely underrated at its current 7.1 rating on IMDb.  It looks at one part of the Iraq War, and also one that doesn’t directly involve Americans, and for that alone it’s already a different type of film.

3. I recently found out a prequel to Predator (1987) will be released this year, and it’s titled Prey.  The plot involves the Predator hunting a Comanche tribe roughly 300 years ago.

I’m a fan of the original film, but I don’t think I’ve been excited for another iteration of this franchise in quite a while!  I think the producers picked a great idea to run with, and I hope they pull it off.

I’m very interested to see where they go with this.

Just my two cents on what I would do with it, or what I’d like to see them put together, I would have the Comanche tribe slowly lose a war of attrition to the Predator, and when the tribe has completely lost hope, the elder chief (who’s perhaps on his death bed) pulls out on old relic that had been passed down to him (and that he had until now not understood), and the old relic is actually the severed hand of an even older Predator with the tactical nuclear device still attached.  This leads to an abrupt but memorable ending where, somehow, the female warrior divines what it’s for, rides off into a suicide mission against the Predator somewhere perhaps in an open field (with the tactical nuclear weapon counting down in the alien script), and, with a final display of bravado, takes out the Predator, saving the remainder of the tribe.

Then, another prequel is released where we find out how that Predator hand came to be severed.  The sequel would be much further back in time – perhaps as far back as the “cave man times”.  I really like this idea because we tend to figure the cave men were idiots, but it would be interesting to see how a group of cave men might be especially wily and somehow overcome a single Predator.

That’s how I would run with the franchise.

But no matter what, the female protagonist in Prey absolutely needs to bring back the line, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”  I’m going to be very disappointed if they didn’t think to do that.

I actually liked the last iteration of the franchise – Predators (2010).  I’ll give my take on it also, which involves a few spoilers.

I would have shaved maybe 20 seconds off the end of the film.  The entire film was pretty bleak, and I don’t see why they can’t just be stranded on the alien planet at that point – without any hope of further human contact.

But what I would have really liked to do is completely change the surprise mole character.

I would have liked to see a twist on the “don’t judge a book by its cover” proverb.  I would have liked the group to identify the Japanese warrior as a Yakuza member by the volume and nature of his tattoos, but I think it would have been a great twist if they didn’t look closely enough.  In my opinion, the Yakuza member should have had one additional tattoo unrelated to organized crime – one for Aum Shinrikyo, the infamous Japanese death/doomsday cult mostly remembered for their sarin gas terrorist attacks in Japan.

So the idea is that his organized crime involvement, while congruent with his radical views, is maybe just like a day job for him, and what makes him the most notable is his involvement in that infamous cult.

The idea would be that the Predator clan handpicked him to be the mole in the human group due to his obsession with doomsday and human death, and so, ultimately, he’s essentially working with the Predators against the humans – most likely eagerly so, as he possibly perceives this whole thing as a sort of grand religious consummation.

Perhaps after this is finally revealed, we also see something like a telepathic link between the Predators and the death cult member, which would be a memorable first in the franchise.

Most of all, maybe the Yakuza member was handpicked by the Predator clan as a particularly twisted or poetic element in their competition – an element that would also be a rare demonstration of the Predators’ higher sentience and intelligence.  The idea would be that this was a distinct challenge for the other humans – would any of these clever criminals, intelligence agents, and elite soldiers be astute enough to see past the “noise” of the Yakuza tattoos?

Miscellany

Three Security Observations

1.)  In the technology world, the strength of security is often quoted quantitatively in terms of combinatorial complexity (e.g. an 8-character password with all normal keys available has a combinatorial complexity of 94^8), and qualitatively as if there is only one attack vector and the context for that attack vector is full access over the technology in question, with no significant time constraints, by a malicious actor.

That attack vector is more or less equivalent to scientists in a laboratory trying to attack some piece of technology you have.

Scientists in a lab doing something with a computer. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

That’s pretty much the worst case scenario, and so it makes sense to judge security by this standard prominently.  But the world isn’t perfect – not even for malicious actors.  There are many other attack scenarios that don’t resemble this full-control-with-no-time-constraints setup.

What seems to be missing in security analysis are metrics that are relevant to many other imperfect attack vectors that are liable to exist.

One metric, for example, might be coined time-pressure-complexity, and it would measure how long it would take an intruder to attack some piece of technology if the intruder also wanted to not remove the technology from its current setting.

And imagining a similar setup, another metric might be how much dexterity-complexity an intruder would face when attacking a piece of technology.  This metric is not specific to passwords, but just as a simple example, let’s say one created a very long password that was easy for the owner to remember and type, but that would just naturally take longer for an intruder to enter.  We can take that further and imagine the password not utilizing common typing patterns (e.g. languages) the intruder is used to.  Even if the intruder knew the password letter for letter, he might fail to enter it correctly when under time pressure, which could lead to panic and a further degradation in that entire attack vector.

In a panic situation you tend to lose your fine motor skills, and a high dexterity-complexity would attempt to attack that weakness.

Although these are secondary metrics to consider, they’re still extremely relevant to the real world, and so it would make sense to have a proper accounting of them in many types of security analysis.

2.)   Security analysis for multi-factor authentication often describes three separate notions: something you knowsomething you have, and something you are.

MFA diagram courtesy of Litzia.
MFA diagram courtesy of Litzia.

But I believe there’s actually slightly more to this security space than what the current model is describing.

I believe there’s another distinct notion: something you inherently own

Perhaps it would be a subset of something you have.

The difference is that if a malicious actor takes your metal key (something you have), it is now something that the malicious actor has.

But, for example, if a malicious actor steals a phone with a SIM card tied to your phone number (perhaps utilized for 2FA), you will, generally speaking, have the ability to get that SIM card invalidated by the carrier and have your phone number re-associated with a new SIM card.

To a significant degree, you inherently own that phone number – it’s not just something you happen to have.

Although that was an overly simple example, it demonstrates an additional security notion and a meaningful difference between it and its closest relative.

3.)   Major mainstream technology providers (e.g. email providers) offer a sizable amount of security options, ranging from rustic passwords to biometric technology.  But I believe the not-so-state-of-the-art communication space therein is serious cause for concern.

Currently, the consumer/user is not provided clear guidance on what’s going on with their security options.

There are generally three different times an email provider will bring those extra security options (e.g. phone text message, biometric) into play:

  • MFA login
  • account recovery (can’t log in to your account)
  • trying to change security settings for the account

The technology providers allow the user to define their additional security options, but they do not provide any guidance at all regarding what will happen in each of those three different scenarios, and if I’m not mistaken, there are differences.

What will specifically happen in each scenario should be communicated clearly to the user, but currently the system is unclear, ambiguous, confusing, and opaque; you set up your security options and then find out later exactly how they’re employed in each individual scenario.

In my opinion, three visual diagrams should be shown to the user – side-by-side if possible – depicting what will occur.

Knowing how those options are actually employed in those three different scenarios can definitely affect the user’s decision making, and it’s just generally a good practice.  But unfortunately the providers are not living up to their affirmed security and corporate responsibility principles when it comes to this.


As a final quiz, imagine a user who has set up a mainstream email account (of your choosing) with a password and a garden-variety authenticator app.  The user forgets the password, and also, his phone is completely destroyed.  (In this example, it sure is especially clear the authenticator app is something he had, not something he inherently owned.)  How do those three security scenarios play out?  Don’t know, do you?  But shouldn’t you?  Additionally, if a phone number was also required to set up the account, perhaps to save the user in this situation, would that or would that not contradict the theory that authenticator apps are superior to text messages for account security?  Whatever your answer is, it should serve to further articulate the distinction between something you have and something you inherently own.

Great Design

Three Simple Hacks That Have Always Worked For Me

#3:   Keep an extra supply of new, unused SIM cards.  Over the years, extra SIM cards have saved me countless time, effort, and headaches.

 

#2:  When watching something, and when they’re available, always turn on subtitles for a language you’re learning (or willing to learn).

 

#1:   I use an unorthodox financial transaction scheme that helps me stay on top of everything more easily.

Whenever I have to manually pay a bill online, and it requires me typing in a certain amount by hand that is not copy-and-pasteable, I don’t type in the exact amount.  I type in the next dollar up, plus a penny.

The reason for the rounding is it removes almost all possibility of human error.  I helps me think less, and the overpayment is meaningless and gets accounted for in the next bill.

But there is actually another reason for the scheme beyond even that.  I custom code the following types of financial transfers by the trailing cents:

*.01   bill

*.02   bank transfer

*.03   ??? (haven’t used in a long time)

*.04   ??? (also haven’t used in a long time)

At one point I had up to four coded transaction types.  I can’t remember what the last two were, but the first two I still use.  When I check my bank account balances, I can see and verify what’s going on, at a glance, with a high degree of confidence.

Sure, there’s a 1 in 100 chance that a different type of transaction might end in the same number of cents, but this has happened to me maybe once in all the years I’ve done this.  Plus, the odds drop even further once you systematically adjust other transaction types as part of the same scheme.

Miscellany

My Contribution To The Mnemonics State Of The Art?

In my previous post, I talked about some products designed to improve mental speed and memory.  As an absolute beginner, I don’t anticipate too many novel insights on my part, but I did discover a few things that didn’t seem to be covered, and might be worth sharing.

(If you aren’t familiar with the subjects in that previous post, the following won’t be very useful to you.)

1.  Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory teaches the listener how to organize memories so they are easily accessible later.  With the methods that are shared, one tends to end up with a lot of different ordered lists.  (Ordered lists are a strong motif in the course, but it’s not the only memory application taught.)

For example, one might memorize all the U.S. presidents in order, the periodic table of elements, the human bones, and so on.  For a task like that, at least two memory systems were taught.  Using the primary system, each element of each list goes onto a “peg”.

You develop various “peg lists”.  The peg lists are ordered.  Some peg lists might be 10 pegs long.  Others might go up to 100, or even more.  The pegs are where you place the individual items to remember.

You pick the peg list you feel is best for the ordered list of data to memorize, and then, using specific criteria, go element by element and associate the ordered elements with the ordered pegs, pairwise.

But with even just a few ordered lists, it seemed to me like sometimes one of the challenges is remembering which peg list you used.  And furthermore, it seems to me that when you do remember the peg list that you used, and then remember the first peg/item memory that you created, the rest of the list, at that point, gets recalled relatively easily.

Therefore, if the first peg/item association has greater significance, greater effort should go into creating it.

Taking the example of U.S. presidents in order, George Washington will be the first item.  As far as the peg list to use, the listener can pick from various peg lists that were taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory: the “tree list”, the “body list”, the “house list”, and also a custom list based on the major system.

The best list to use virtually gives itself away in this case.  The “tree list” begins: tree, light switch, stool, …  (Although that list only has 20 pegs to begin with, the listener is challenged to add more, and in this case will need to create 26 more.)

The “body list” begins: toes, knees, muscle

(My) “house list” begins: chest, dresser, map…

The major-system list begins: tie, Noah, mow

The list to use really is a dead giveaway.  The “tree list” is absolutely what should be used.  George Washington and the cherry tree he felled are part of the national consciousness.  There’s even a little bit of scandal and drama, and that makes it even better.  His act of chopping it down will be the memory, that, in this case, doesn’t even need to be dreamed up; all the hard work has already been done for us.

Several years later, when you want to randomly recall the list of U.S. Presidents, and you have also memorized hundreds of other lists, I believe it will be very important to remember the peg list that was used, and the first peg/item association.  And since a natural and intuitive first peg/item association has been created (more like adopted in this case), that will not be a problem.

Diving a little deeper into cognitive psychology, the instructor talks about how once you mentally get a handle on something related to what you want to remember, it’s like grabbing ahold of a chain that you can start pulling on.  So the idea here would be like we are trying to make that first chain link big and easy to find.

If I were daring enough to create terminology for this concept, I would label this first peg/item association the door association” and/or the window association”.

In my opinion, it’s tangibly more important than the rest of the associations to come, and so additional care should be given to it.

Finally, perhaps there is also a generalization of this idea, or at least an application for any level of granularity.  Going down the presidents list, I realized I could recall the other presidents easily, but for some reason 27 was difficult.

27 letters in the Spanish alphabet.

 

My 27th peg in the tree list is morion, and there was no trouble remembering that.  In the presidents list, William H. Taft needed to be associated with it.  My visualization was an NFL player in the NFL draft (“Taft”) being selected at the podium in a celebration, and then he kicks a morion into a TV and it goes into the TV programming, which is showing an old-style H-shaped field goal (“H.”), and it bounces around the goal posts and then through the goal posts, and then the morion finally hits another visual representation I have for “William”.  The reason 27 was taking longer to recall is because the morion was not immediately active.

Having to wait for the NFL player to hold up a jersey at the podium (to signify this was the NFL draft) was delaying the introduction of the morion, which was the mental peg.  When I got to 27, my mind was searching for action involving a morion, but my visualization started with action not involving a morion, and also made it so that the morion’s action was not obviously the most significant action – the draft selection could be viewed as equally significant or even more significant which just creates more “noise” that distracts the mind.  (And to make matters even worse, there was almost no memorable connection between the draft selection and the player then kicking a morion into a TV.)

Just a split-second delay, and just an ounce of ambiguity can stall the memory recall, or prevent it altogether.  Therefore, applying the “door/window association” principle at this level of granularity would mean etching the mental peg first and foremost within the visualization, and also striving to elevate its significance as much as possible.

 

2.  In general, and certainly in specific situations, spend extra time creating multiple mental linkages.

The custom major-system list taught in Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory goes up to 100.  Pegs 60-69, as taught, are below:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • chain
  • gym
  • shower
  • shell
  • judge
  • sheikh
  • shave
  • Jeep

I don’t think that list is very good, and I’ll elaborate more on this shortly.   Furthermore, 60-69 is especially difficult because the words can begin, phonetically, with three different consonant sounds (ch, sh, j).  That alone makes this series of 10 pegs more difficult to remember than the other 90 pegs.

It’s worth the effort to improve the list.

The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind's eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.
The image of a horse jockey is clear, crisp, loud, and unambiguous in the mind’s eye: garish clothing, huge helmet, short stature, and a short whip. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.

Here’s my customized 60-69:

  • cheese
  • cheetah
  • china
  • shim
  • shore
  • shell
  • judge
  • jockey
  • shave
  • Jeep

(For me, “china” as in “fine china” is what works best, but for someone else, it could just as easily be uppercase “China”. )

Here’s why I prefer the customized list that I created:

 

•  Much better verbal flow.

“cheetah” verbally flows/rolls to “china” much more naturally/fluidly than “chain”.  “cheetah china…” just rolls off the tongue much more naturally than “cheetah chain”, and most people will quickly realize that when trying to memorize about 100 other pegs.

Good verbal flow from “shim” to “shore”.

And so on.

 

•  Much better semantic flow.

The semantic link from “shore” to “shell” is very good.

The semantic link from “shell” to “judge” is vaguely kind of good once you consider the idea of a fraudulent shell corporation.

And so on.

 

•  Also, just better individual pegs.

For example, the mental image of a “sheikh” was bound to look like an abstract Arab, and this would later present a problem when trying to remember why in the world you have a mental picture of an “Arab” in a memorized list you’re going through.  On the other hand, a (horse) jockey is a much cleaner, crisper, louder, unambiguous image, unlikely to be confused with anything else.

But on the other hand, “shore” will definitely be confused with “beach” later on, unless you devise a way to disambiguate it.  My method for that was to visualize “shore” as very rocky, without sand, without people, and overcast – basically the opposite of a beach postcard teeming with humanity.

etc.

 

Sub-item #1 (better verbal flow) and #2 (better semantic flow) constitute the additional mental linkages that make the updated list superior, in my opinion.

You’ve added more ways to remember a list.

Great Design

Things Worth Remembering

This Christmas, get yourself a gift that promises not only to reward you, but to keep on rewarding you indefinitely.

I was intrigued a while back by several products on the market.  One was a relatively new DVD titled The Secrets of Mental Math.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  The instructor is clearly a student and an expert in mental math techniques, and he goes over the best methods and techniques that would be accessible to the average person.  This is not a hard DVD to watch, but many will probably get more out of it with multiple viewings.

The other product, fittingly, was from the era of audio cassette tapes: Kevin Trudeau’s Mega Memory (“As Seen On TV!”).  The analog nature of the tapes sort of romanticizes what the product reveals.  And that is that the human mind was an analog picture recorder, analog emotion archiver, and analog pattern matcher from the very beginning.  We go through school and learn digital ideas and digital techniques (e.g. 2+2=4), but it’s never anything that the mind stores in its “native file format”, which is analog.  As someone who had never heard of the techniques presented, it really, really impressed me!

These products will yield different rewards to different people.  It’s something that you can take and use as much or as little as you like.  I believe at the very least – and the Mega Memory tapes touch on this – these products work to un-calcify the mind.

Finally, in my opinion, it’s a crime that these subjects are not mandatorily taught in high school.

So if you received any gift cards this year, and you aren’t familiar with the above subjects, reward yourself richly and check those products out.  I doubt you’ll regret it.