Is this just an excuse to get healthy?

I’ve been reading what I’ve written (someone has to!), and I find myself thinking, “Why is this guy insisting on going back to seventeen? How is this idea any different from just (1) picking up good habits he should have acquired years ago and (2) trying to feel younger?”

I won’t deny that good habits and feeling younger are a big part of the whole project. However, I think there’s a qualitative difference. I want to redo my seventeenth year, not just feel healthier and more energetic. (Okay, so technically my seventeenth year was the one that ENDED on my seventeenth birthday. When you’re seventeen it’s actually your eighteenth year. Whatever.) The motivation for the changes in my life and/or attitude will be based on what a seventeen-year-old should do, not on what a fifty-eight-year-old should. Luckily, what’s good for a seventeen-year-old is generally also good for a fifty-eight-year-old….

One thing you do (or should do) when you’re seventeen is to learn general “life skills”, things that will be useful in a variety of contexts over the rest of your life. Things like touch-typing, a foreign language, a musical instrument. Reaching an acceptable level doesn’t take too long — maybe a year or two — and the skill learned can be useful for the rest of your life.

The life skill I have decided to take on is one I tried years ago and never got very far with. I will IMPROVE MY MEMORY. There are lots of memory systems out there, mostly based on similar techniques, and they really do work. Sure, we have smart phones now to remember things for us, but they can only partly replace our own personal in-head RAM.

I am starting by learning to associate words with numbers. It is a very old technique, sometimes called the Major System. If you have a number you want to memorize, you replace each digit with a specific consonant sound:

  • 0 → S or Z
  • 1 → T or D
  • 2 → N
  • 3 → M
  • 4 → R
  • 5 → L
  • 6 → J, SH or CH
  • 7 → K
  • 8 → F or V
  • 9 → P or B

Then you upgrade this string of consonants to a word or string of words by adding vowels. For example, you change 32 to MN, and then add a vowel to make MOON. (Or you could use MONEY or MENU or MAINE or AMMONIA if you prefer.) Most of us find words easier remember than numbers, especially if the numbers are long. For example, METOR-TAIL-PINK is an easy way to remember pi to 7 decimal places. (Linguistic note: Although I live in Spain and speak Spanish fluently, I am finding this system much easier to use in English, as the variety of consonants used in all positions is much richer.) There’s a ton more information on the Web. If you’re interested, you can start with the Wikipedia article.

And that’s my blog posting for the NOSE of March NEWS-TOWEL….


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