Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Experimental Brain

In Which Peter Bites off More than he Can Chew (As Usual)

Here is my plan for the following year, starting in the month of Febuary (through Feb. 2013) My goal, as per my new-years resolution is to get in the best mental shape of my life.

Brain improvement experiment. (memorize one set of facts a month)
  1. February: French: Memorize to autonomy: 80% of french, 3,000 words (~100 a day) (vocab)
  2. March: Names/ Structures: Memorize the entire UW org chart
  3. April: Math: Ref. section of definitive guide to science.
  4. May: French: Memorize all grammar (grids)
  5. JuneL Work: Memorize June calendar (memorizing grid information)
  6. July: Science: Memorize a computer language’s syntax (vocab.)
  7. August: French: Memorize a French poem and english translation (poetry)
  8. September: Work: Memorize cognitive science facts. (factoids/vocab.)
  9. October: Science: Speed calculation, Dual 7 back. (Memory break/ recall at speed/ease)
  10. November: French memorize a french short story. (Narrative)
  11. December: Work (you’ll find something.)
  12. January: Science: Memorize Calc. and Trig. (abstract Syntax)

52 weeks of poetry (trying to memorize a poem a week):
  1. Shakespeare: Sonnet 55
  2. Hopkins: 34
  3. The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Langston Hughes
  4. Fog Portrait, Sandburg
  5. On Righteous Indignation, Chesterton
  6. The Latest School, Chesterton
  7. Keats, On sitting down to re-read Lear
  8. Hats, Sandburg
  9. Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes
  10. Golgotha, Sassoon
  11. A Girl, by Ezra Pound
  12. A word to husbands, Ogden Nash
  13. I wandered lonely as a cloud, Wordsworth
  14. Seven Ages of Man, Shakespeare
  15. Life, Sir Walter Raleigh
  16. Dulce et Decorum est, Owen
  17. The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson
  18. somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, Cummings
  19. The conqueror worm, Poe
  20. The Send-off, Owen
  21. Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes, Gray
  22. The Crocodile, by Carroll
  23. The Dead shall be raised Incorruptible, Galway Kinnell
  24. It is not growing like a tree, Jonson
  25. Good Morning, Stalingrad, Langston Hughes
  26. She walks in Beauty, Byron
  27. When I have fears that I may cease to be, Keats
  28. Darkness, Byron
  29. A day of Sunshine, Longfellow
  30. Hopkins, 40
  31. Blake, The Tyger
  32. Chicago, Sandburg
  33. The bells, Poe
  34. Holy Sonnet X - Donne
  35. Elegy written in a country churchyard, Gray
  36. Yeats, Leda and the Swan
  37. A ballad of Suidice, Chesterton
  38. full Moon and Little Frieda, Ted Hughes
  39. Autumn, Longfellow
  40. Africa, Chesterton
  41. Tennyson, Ulysses
  42. An Ancient to the Ancients, Hardy
  43. A short french poem, both in french, and in translation
  44. In Memory of W.B. Yeats, Auden
  45. Ode On Melancholy, Keats
  46. A short french poem, both in French, and in translation
  47. Byron, The destruction of Sennacherib
  48. Yeats, The second coming
  49. Freedom Train, Langston Hughes
  50. Eliot, the Four Quartets
  51. Eliot, the four quartets
  52. Eliot, the four quartets

Watch one lecture series a month:
  1. Listening to Music (Yale)
  2. Language in the Brain, Mouth, and Hands (Yale)
  3. Classical Physics (MIT)
  4. France since 1871 (Yale)
  5. Game Theory (Yale)
  6. Computer Science I: Programming Methodology (Stanford)
  7. The French Revolution (Kahn Academy)
  8. Building Dynamic Websites (Harvard)
  9. Highlights of Calculus (MIT)
  10. Justice, what’s the right thing to do (Harvard)
  11. Multivariable Calculus (Berkley)
  12. The Creative Organization (Stanford)
  13. Utilities, Endowments and Equilibrium (MIT)
  14. Introduction to Life Sciences (UCLA)


  1. How did you compile the list of poems that you've chosen to memorize? Why poems? How much time do you spend each week memorizing the poems? How much time do you spend in a week/month on this project? Lastly, how is the project going?

  2. As for the list of poems - I definitely would have been wise to edit it more closely before finalizing it, some I have forgone memorizing after starting them, because they weren't as good as I thought at first glance.

    Most of my selection was from specific poems (eg The Negro Speaks of Rivers) that I had wanted to memorize for a while. Others are from poets I had wanted to memorize more of (eg Chesterton, Sandburg)

    A large part of the selection was that I wanted a good mix of short and long poems, and not to have long poems back to back.

    I selected poems partially because they are an "unsolved" problem in memorization - remembering numbers, playing cards, names, historical facts, etc, are fairly well "solved" by communities of international mnemonicists. Poetry, on the other hand, has not. The US Memory Championships are in fact the only memory championships to include poetry memorization, to the constant annoyance of people from other countries. I also selected poems because I like them, because they make for nice "chunks" and they tie into other things I'm studying.

    I have found that the most effective time for memorizing the poems is on my ~20 minute walk to (and from, each way) work each day. I do not use all this time to memorize.

    As far as the project as a whole goes - maybe an hour total a day six days a week on the two memorization sections, and then an hour a day on the lecture section, though I am often multi-tasking with the lectures. Approximate total of 12 hours a week, or thereabouts.

    The project is going fairly well - There was some difficulty in forcing myself to memorize the French in meaningful ways, but I think I've solved for that. I have definitely learned a thing or two about poetry memorization as well, which is encouraging. It is a little hard to find time, and will doubtless be harder as I'm hoping to take a course next quarter.