Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

This book was an entertaining glimpse into the world of competitive memory contests. The author started his journey into this world by reporting on a memory contest, and then immersed himself by learning the techniques and becoming a competitor himself. Along the way, the reader learns the history of memory techniques and current practices.

This is not a how-to book-- although the author interviews the experts who have written the how-to-books. But really, I think one could learn enough of the memory "tricks" from this book to memorize decks of cards, etc. The techniques are not that complicated to describe, the hard part is implementing them; not because of difficulty so much as setting up the memory systems can be tedious and I doubt many people would bother.

Although after reading the book I was inspired this morning to memorize my shopping list by using creative visualization and a "memory palace" based on my childhood home. While I did enjoy reading about the colorful characters who compete to memorize the most playing cards in an hour, I have no desire to join their ranks. But I recommend the book to a general audience. It was engagingly written and quickly read.

"Hold On to Your Kids" Book Review

"Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers" by Gordon Neufeld

I thought the first part of the book where the author gives examples of the horrors that can result when kids are "peer oriented" went on a bit too long, but did find the chapters where he eventually got around to explaining concrete steps to take to maintain parental attachment while avoiding or reversing peer attachment to be useful.

Before reading this book, I thought kids would "attach" to their parents based largely on the sheer quantity of time they spent together, but the authors have explained that it is more complicated than that. It is easier than I supposed for kids to become "unattached" to their parents, but then on the flip side it shouldn't be too hard to get them back if you catch this early.

I also appreciated the chapter describing the ways peer orientation *seems* to be a good thing in young kids and that's why society pressures parents into getting their kids "socialized" at a young age. Although it may be too complicated to explain to people who disagree in a social situation where this would come up, the book does give the reader encouragement to be counter-cultural and foster parental attachment way beyond the time most parents in our culture have relinquished that role to peers.

King's Dominion Is Great

My husband and I left our toddler at grandma's house today, and spent the day at King's Dominion, just north of Richmond. The whole experience was so much fun, we've been married over ten years, but felt like we were dating again. Here's my quick impressions of the rides I went on today. Bear in mind, these are being reviewed by an out-of-shape middle-aged woman who has no fear. I'll include a short description lifted from the park's website before my commentary.

Intimidator 305
Biggest, Baddest and Meanest Coaster to hit the Mid-Atlantic!

This one went so fast, it even went fast UPHILL. And the drop was spectacular, at least until I started to black out from the G-forces. That part was a bit uncool, in my opinion. It happens to a lot of people on that ride, so you might want to be prepared for that should you choose to ride it. Apart from that few seconds of weirdness, the ride was exhilarating. Nevertheless, I'm not certain I'll go on it again. The line wasn't too long.

El Dorado
This high-in-the-sky swinging pendulum ride is a family friendly thrill ride that sits up to 40 riders in a blue 1950’s style El Dorado convertible car. The car acts as a pendulum, as it rotates riders to a height of 85 feet in the air in two different directions during an approximately two minute ride. El Dorado takes the concept of the family “going for a spin” to a whole new level.

I thought this was a peaceful ride. You're way up high over the park, enjoying the fresh air, cool breezes, and views. The motion is smooth, yet you are high enough that there is a little bit of thrill as you go through the rotation.

Anaconda
Get wrapped in coils of this awesome coaster and prepare for the 144 foot drop into the depths of the Anaconda. The Anaconda was the first looping coaster in the world that showcased an underwater tunnel.

Anaconda? More like the avocado. It was a fun coaster, but it didn't seem to be in the same league as the others in that section of the park.

Drop Tower
The largest drop ride in North America, a 305-foot tower of thrills that promises daring riders a 272-foot descent at 72 miles-per-hour! This adrenaline-pumping adventure simulates the sensation of skydiving.

This was awesome. My husband was afraid to go on this, and if you have any problem with heights, you'll do well to avoid it, also. It is HIGH. WAY up there in the sky. But for me, it's in the category of "peaceful" ride. You're up in the clouds, it's quiet, cool, breezy. And the drop? Well, it only takes a few seconds. Before you know it, you're done. Easy-peasy, not worth getting scared about. It's the slow ascent into the clouds that could freak people out if you're afraid of heights.

Flight of Fear
You asked; we answered! Your favorite indoor roller coaster, Flight of Fear, is back to thrill you! Linear induction magnets propel you into almost total darkness. You’ll fly through a cobra roll, a sidewinder, a corkscrew, and dozens of terrifying twist and turns. It’s two and a half minutes of sheer, pulse-pounding fear!

This one was pretty fun. The induction start gets you going fast, and it's nonstop action from there.

Grizzly
Hiding away in the backwoods of Old Virginia is the Grizzly. This beastly wooden coaster's double figure-eight configuration was modeled after Coney Island's Wildcat.

This is probably the scariest wooden coaster. I like to put my arms up, but there are several places where the cars go under crossbars or into tunnels that seem not only like you ought to keep your arms down, but it would probably be prudent to duck down as well. Like all the wooden coasters, the lines were very short.

Hurler
The Hurler is one of the best wooden coasters around!

It's worth it if you are partial to the wooden coasters (they don't offer as smooth a ride as the newer coasters, you get banged around a bit), but I preferred both the Grizzly and Rebel Yell over this.

Rebel Yell
With a Rebel Yell, you'll cry MORE, MORE, MORE! On this wooden roller coaster, two trains travel on twin tracks.

This is one of the oldest rollercoasters in the park, but it's still a goodie. I went on this a lot in my youth, but it's even better than I remember. Classic action-- no upside down, no magnetic induction, just a wonderfully designed thrill ride.

The Crypt
The Crypt takes you on an adventure filled with fire, water – and a few flips and turns high into the air.

This was the first ride of the day, since it's near the entrance and there was no line. I thought it was a lot of fun-- you go up, you go down, you flip around in both directions (forward flips are scarier!). But it's more comfortable for women, for sure. Men must protect themselves, due to the shape of the restraining seat.

Volcano, The Blast Coaster
It's the only coaster in the world to shoot you straight out of a raging volcano! Suspended from a steel track, you'll fly in and out of the rumbling mountain at speeds over 70 mph, then rocket 155 feet out of the top of the crater into a series of heart stopping inversions before a final 80-foot plummet. This is one of the world's most exciting suspended coasters!

This was my favorite of the more-recent rollercoasters. By more-recent, I mean since I was last at King's Dominion many years ago, this ride has probably been around a few years. Blasting out of the volcano was pretty cool. It's an exhilarating ride, fast and exciting without being brutal. The line was one of the longer ones, but I thought it was worth it.

Americana
The first Ferris wheel to be introduced at Kings Dominion in the park’s 35-year history, will feature 24 six-person gondolas that the entire family, including adventuresome grandparents can enjoy. Kings Dominion’s new Americana Ferris wheel will bring the history and romance of a boardwalk favorite to the park’s midway in 2009.

The individual cabins are big enough for an entire family to ride at once. My husband and I rode together on the same side in an otherwise empty car, and it was a little tippy, but not much. Overall the ride was very relaxing. I think we went around 4 times, with plenty of pauses for loading and unloading passengers in other cars during the process. Don't go on this if you are in a hurry to move on to the next attraction, but it's a wonderful way to take a break from the wilder rides.

Avalanche
An exhilarating ride on the only bobsled style ride of its kind in North America!

This was interesting because there is no track-- the cars just ride in a flume-type tube. It built up a surprising amount of speed toward the end of the ride, making it more exciting than anticipated. It's more comfortable if the heavier of the two people riding is in the back.

Shenandoah Lumber Company
When it comes to fun it can be found right here on our Log Flume. Float down river in a log-shaped boat headed for another gigantic drop.

This water ride uses the perfect amount of splash for a hot day. You don't get so wet that you'll be cold or soaked to the bone, but just wet enough that you'll be cool as you walk to the next attraction and stand in line.

Wave Swinger
For an exhilarating ride experience, take a high-flying twirl 40 feet above the park on our Wave Swinger.

This is another "peaceful" ride. It can be a little monotonous, but I've enjoyed it since I was a kid. The swings now feel too small, so I sit up when I ride.

"Despicable Me" Was Entertaining

I just got home from the 3D version of "Despicable Me". I enjoyed the film, and recommend it to anyone. I didn't know much about it before I saw it-- the film got good reviews overall, Steve Carell did a good job with the main character, and the minions are cute.

It's animated, and in some theaters it's in 3D. I enjoyed it in 3D, and when I got home our babysitter asked if it was worth the $3.50 surcharge to see it in 3D. I figured it was, although it occurs to me now (hours later) that I might be less willing to spend the $3.50 if we weren't in such a secure financial situation. It would still be a really good film in 2D, if that's an issue for you. The charm of the film was not in the 3D special effects, it was the story and characters.

It's about a villain who is getting a little over the hill, and being challenged by a young upstart villain. So the older guy figures out a way to steal the moon as a way to get back on top. He winds up adopting three orphan girls to use to get a shrink ray, but they become a distraction to his mission. I won't give away more, but you get the gist; the film is not about unexpected plot twists, and they all live happily ever after.

Terry always laughed when he saw the upstart villain, Vector, because of his physical appearance. He was a pretty nerdy villain. I liked the main villain, Dr. Gru, largely because of his silly accent and word choices. He used some modern slang, but then had some idiosyncratic phrasing, like a non-native speaker. It was a fresh take on the usual tone of animated villains.

I'm glad I went out to see the show in the theater-- not that it won't be good on DVD, but it was so enjoyable I'm glad I didn't have to wait months to see it.

"The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain" Book Review

The full title of the book by Barbara Strauch is, "The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind."
The book was full of information from the latest brain research, which is contrary to what most people have been told all their lives. Sure, you can kill off brain cells through various activities, but unlike what we were told in our youth, OUR BRAIN CAN GROW MORE. And guess what helps your brain grow more better cells? Healthy diet and exercise. Anyone surprised?

There is a decline in short-term memory and processing speed that is associated with middle age (here primarily defined from the 40s through 60s), but for most people it seems to be made up for by better intuition and expertise in life. So although one can't remember facts as well as one used to, problem-solving and wisdom skills increase to offset that, and reduce the need to remember facts quickly.

Also, contrary to the idea of "midlife crisis", most people are happiest in mid-life. The brain automatically focuses on the positive, lets the negative stuff go. The book explains some reasons this might be evolutionarily advantageous.

I recommend the book. It's a heartening anti-dote to our youth-obsessed media culture.

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