fun stuff, journal

Phones and fun times

Today I snapped this image in an old folks’ home, and thought how funny it was that they’d used the kind with the spinning dials. My parents kept one in the house as a novelty item when I was growing up. In my day (ie 90s), phones had buttons.

By the way, it has dawned on me these last two years that there are five year olds out there who do not recognise landline telephones, by courtesy of their parents only keeping smartphones at home.

I can practically feel the G-force from the speed with which humanity is hurtling toward new technological vistas. Or maybe it’s just existential panic.

☎️ 📞 📲

Anyway, out of interest, I got Googling. According to The Smithsonian, the first evidence of a device for long-distance communication, concocted by a genius/geniuses of centuries past, dates back to 1200-1400 years ago.

The object uncannily resembles the modern day version of two paper cups joined by a string, only this was made of resin-coated gourd and cotton twine. It came from the Chimu empire in Northern Peru.

Here is the Smithsonian article about it!


This is an update regarding two other little story arcs I started in previous blog posts.

• I am still doing working memory training with Dual-N-Back.

Before I began, I thought progressing to some of the levels beyond N=3 sounded impossible… and then I reached them. More than anything, this has boosted my general confidence. I feel less afraid of completing instructions, and probably this forms a big part of doing anything without screwing it up.

At the moment, I am working on maintaining a high accuracy at N=5.

This graph from the app is, for me at least, really interesting to see.

People online complain about how boring N-Back is, but the activity still holds my attention* somehow.

In the last month, I checked my emails a great deal.

In late August, most applicants received an invitation to an interview, or they were sent a rejection letter. Not me! Would you believe that history repeats itself? Thirteen years after the first time it happened, I have been placed on a waitlist** for med school AGAIN.

⬆️ ➡️ 🔃 🔁 🔄 ⚠️

Oh, well.

How are you? Do you have a story about five-year-olds or phones?

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*Maybe as I find other areas of my life so tear-inducingly boring, staring at squares and listening to nonsensical strings of letters seems fun in comparison.

**Waitlist for the interview, rather actual school admission.

fun stuff, journal

Working memory workout

This week I am confronting myself! I have a not-so-excellent working memory and I am finally doing something about it.

Working memory is different to long-term (and even short-term) memory for recall. As is described in the book Human Physiology by Lauralee Sherwood, it is like “the erasable blackboard of the mind”. It’s the ability of the brain to contextualise information as it’s coming in, and using that to execute actions immediately/near the same time.

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So for example, I can spout silly trivia I learnt at age 10, such as ‘The longest recorded flight for a chicken was 13 seconds.’ = long term memory 🐔

But if someone was, say, giving instructions prior to starting a complicated board game, the verbal directions do not land well. The explanations go over my head, like a record-setting flying chicken. I have to participate in one/more rounds of the game first, then we are good.

I also misplace my keys a lot.


Thankfully, I have discovered that neuroscientists designed a game for training working memory. The game is called N-back.

Basically, there are squares that pop up in a 3×3, like a budget game of Whack a Mole. Except, instead of hitting garden creatures, you hit a button that says Position Match when a square pops up in the same place twice in a row. ❗️This is N=1. Easy.

But then the level gets harder (N=2), and you press if the squares pop up not consecutively, but only after another square pops up (eg if the third square is a repeat of the first).

N, or the number of squares back that you have to remember, becomes +1 if you get 90% right.

Then you have to throw the audio into the mix because the app shouts random letters at you like an audio alphabet soup – you hit Sound Match if it repeated itself too.


It sounds confusing because it is.

When I first tried to Google how to play, it made no sense. I thought, great, I can’t work on my working memory because my working memory isn’t good enough to understand the instructions.

Eventually I found a good app that came with an explanation, and have been trying it for a few days. My initial sense was overwhelmingly I don’t know what I’m doing after N=2.

But today, I noticed I remembered to do things, such as send a text message when usually I might have forgotten. Yay! Whether this is a coincidence, or an upgrade of some brain software, remains to be seen.

I like this app, because it records stats, but there’s a number of them out there.

Here are some cool papers I read.

The first one I found; How it Helps to Improve Post-error Performance; Supporting article.

My study&work life has had some developments … but no conclusions, so I will tell that story when the time is right.


What’s your go-to piece of trivia? Do you enjoy brain training games? Are you someone who loses their keys, or well organised?