Archive | February, 2017

Keep your memories accurate and put them in stories

27 Feb


I went to a play called Someone Who’ll Watch over Me a few weeks ago, that had a profound effect on me. It was a story about three guys that were kidnapped in Lebanon, as a way of getting through the days they invented stories/events/memories to help them change their perception of what was really going on i.e. instead of being locked in a basement, they were at a party, having a lavish meal, getting drunk and singing songs.

Fake it, until you make it…out.


Someone Who’ll Watch over Me is a play written by Irish dramatist Frank McGuinness. The play focuses on the trials and tribulations of an Irishman, an Englishman and an American (Edward, Michael, and Adam) who are kidnapped and held hostage by unseen Arabs in Lebanon. As the three men strive for survival they also strive to overcome their personal and nationalistic differences.

Related to this is each individual’s own attempt to maintain sanity under the watchful eye of both captors and supposed comrades. At times the dramatic dialogue reaches a level of Beckettian absurdity, as even the audience is unable to draw a distinction between the characters’ insanity and humor.

We are made witness and accomplice to a humour based on something apparently ghastly, the loss of rationality.


Shakespeare once said…1

I listened to a podcast about memories a few years ago, I remember the person being interviewed saying it’s not so much what happened to you but, how you last felt when you think of something that happened in the past, that shapes how you feel, she said if you want to keep your memories accurate, you need to put them in stories.

If you don’t like the memory, change the story, and re-frame it.

Likewise, it’s not what people say to you that matters, but how they made you feel, that shapes how you frame a moment in your past.


Recalling a memory more often makes that memory less accurate, and that every time you take a memory off the shelf in your brain, you put it back just a tiny bit different.

That’s because instead of remembering the actual memory, you’re recalling the memory of the last time you remembered it and any mistakes that might have been introduced there. Like a game of human telephone, those mistakes can build on one another over time, leaving out details and introducing mistakes.




Now, a DJ I really like Nicholas Jarr, made a mix that won the 2012 BBC Radio one mix of the year, it is a mix like no other, with classical music, bells, folk songs and some electronic music, all up, he brings you on a wonderful musical journey for about ninety minutes.

What was Nicholas thinking? His idea for the award winning mix was Jurassic Park, he watched the movie when he was 12, then again the week before, even though it was the same movie, his perception of the movie had changed since he was a kid, which got him thinking.


I’ll bet you heard this a lot growing up?



“A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event—it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” said lead researcher Donna Bridge, who went on to just depress the hell out of anyone who has even a single thing they’d like to genuinely hold onto in this life.

“Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.”


Its interesting how some cultures have traditions about telling stories, when you think  about it, the stories you tell are more important than you think.


The act of guessing, failure and pre-testing first.

3 Feb

Testing is studying of a different and powerful kind, its one that should be deployed sooner, rather than later. Testing is now seen as an important feedback loop in the Continuous Integration process.


Recently, i picked up a book called “How we learn” by Benedict Cary, I made a few notes and here are some that stuck out…

A test is not only a measurement tool, it alters what we remember and changes how we subsequently organize that knowledge in our minds. And it does so in ways, that greatly improves performance.

Minecraft is more popular than I can believe2

When it comes to learning, testing is better than learning. From watching kids obsession with Minecraft and how learning is engaging, fun, challenging with the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence, it makes my old school reports seem a bit funnier to read.

Through simulation, you can test without even being aware its being done, students in Singapore can be assessed in the class room VIA Twitter and predictive analysis tools.

Also, simulation software testing is fair, the software doesn’t know your gender, sexual preference, if your black, white, Jewish or Christian, you could get hired for a job or accepted for a course, purely based on the result of a game that tests your ability solely.

On some kinds of tests, particularly multiple choice, we learn from choosing incorrectly, especially when you are given the correct answer afterwards. It makes sense, you first get a bad accountant, then you will end up with a good one, the same can be said for many things in life.

Simulation for pilotsplane

Also, making an incorrect choice in a simulation is a lot cheaper that making an incorrect choice at fifty thousand feet.

The act of guessing engages your mind in a different way that straight memorization does.


Depending on the imprint of the correct answers, the pretest drove home the information in a way the studying as-usual did not.

Introducing Winston Churchill1

At the age of twelve, Winston encountered his first examinations.  Unfortunately, the examiners were less accommodating and chose subjects he found dull, resulting in poor results.  His attempted entrance into Harrow was a complete disaster.  After writing his name and depositing a few blotches and smudges, he could only stare at the otherwise empty paper since Latin was totally alien to him.

Perhaps his latent Latin was known to the Harrow Headmaster, Reverend Welldon, who decided to give Winston a chance. Welldon was subsequently credited with vision but at the time he was severely criticized and accused of gross favouritism.

Perhaps the truth was that Winstons father being at the summit of national politics, Welldon preferred to avoid the embarrassment of rejecting his son. Yet Harrow historians have declared that not even Lord Randolph’s son could have been admitted at that time knowing no Latin.

Pre-testing primes students to notice important concepts later, failure had the crucial effect of making young Winston realize that failure was something to be overcome and not to be crushed by and primed him to learn in a big way

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