Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Funky Kitty Echo Ringtone

For your amusement, here's a link to a ringtone I created from the unique meowing of our cat, Panther.

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Minding The Mind: Using Your Personal "Neck Top" Computer! (Part II)

When I was growing up, I read books about people who had incredible gifts of memory or number crunching.  It was so fascinating, but it never seemed attainable - it was like being some kind of superhero. It seemed you were either born with the ability or not.  Most of us are familiar with  the impressive abilities of "mega savant", Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man.  Are we all capable of these incredible feats of mental gymnastics?  While I definitely do believe that these things are gifts, there are some skills that can be learned and mastered which can help us with memory or math(s).

On July 30, 2007 I was honored to meet Mr Scott Flansburg - "The Human Calculator".   (Scott could have mentally calculated that it was a Monday)  I had seen him before on television promoting his human calculator learning materials.  He was on tour doing a bottled water promotion and was in Jacksonville for the day.  For a few hours he was at the Jacksonville Landing - which was within walking distance from where I worked.  I walked over and quickly found him under a canopy;  free cold bottled water was available and I took a drink and cooled off and listened while Scott asked the woman in front of me what was her date of birth - month, day, year.  After she told him, he quickly told her what day of the week she was born on.  I told him mine and - zing! - he said that I was born on a  "Sunday" - absolutely correct!  I knew that there was a formula for determining the day of the week from the month, day and year.  When I was a kid, I collected a few math books and some slide rules.  I especially liked the books that had math tricks or shortcuts in them.  In one book, I remember coming across this formula and calculated the day of the week just as Scott had done.  However, it took me a few minutes and I had a pencil and paper.  Scott calculated it in about 3 seconds!  
He is truly blessed with a wonderful gift;  I was totally fascinated with how lightning fast he could calculate.  It was awesome to meet a real life version of  "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes"!  He took the time to show a group of us some of the shortcuts he uses to add columns of numbers (from left to right, instead of the way I was taught, beginning in the units column and working left),  multiply two digits numbers, etc.  He is a great teacher and loves to help make math fun for young and old.  I wish my wife & sons had been there.  Later, I showed them what I remembered - it was not as impressive.   I was so fascinated that I forgot to ask him for his autograph!

Where to begin?

 The first book I recall reading on the subject was The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics by Jakow Trachtenberg and Ann Cutler.  I had the paperback version.  Of course when I say that I had read the book, this really means that I took pencil and paper and followed along by attempting the calculations myself.  I had already been exposed to the "new math" and I could see how many of the techniques were based on some of the techniques that I had learned in algebra.  This is a good book.  However, it is not necessarily "user friendly" or fun.

In addition to the fantastic materials available by Scott Flansburg , you may also want to take a look at the following two books by Mr. Bill Handley:

Speed Mathematics: Secret Skills for Quick Calculation
Speed Math for Kids: The Fast, Fun Way To Do Basic Calculations

Also, Edward H. Julius has some very good books on Rapid Math Tricks, too!

When it comes to math, are you more of a "hands on" type of person?  There is a calculating system just for you - literally.  Have you heard about "Finger Math"?   I was impressed by a demonstration that I had seen on a Talk Show by some young children.  They called it Chisenbop/Chisanbop (Korean for finger calculation).  No pencil nor paper - just fingers being used to perform some hefty calculations - columns of numbers, multi-digit multiplication, division, etc.  The technique is based on some of the same techniques used when working with an abacus.

For further information:
Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by Ron Hale-Evans  
(see Chapter 4 Math ... Turn Your Hands Into An Abacus)
The Complete Book of Fingermath: Simple, Accurate,Scientific by Edwin M. Lieberthal
The Complete Book of Chisanbop : Original Finger Calculation Method by Hang Young Pai, Sung Jin Pai

There are some online tutorials available, too:

ChisanbopTutorial 1

Chisenbop Tutorial 2 

Also, check these out on YouTube:

Chisenbop addition and subtraction

Finger Math: The Basics

Cute Child Demonstrating Technique

There is much more information available!  Just search the internet and specific sites (like YouTube)  using the key words: "Finger Math", "Chisenbop" or "Chisanbop".

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

May I Please Have Your Undivided Attention!

We have, no doubt, heard someone address a crowd or group with the words, "May I please have your undivided attention". The same words, more or less, are appropriate in our everyday conversations and relationships with family, friends, co-workers, clients, etc. This is not to say that we do not need to have several things accomplished by the end of the day. It does mean that instead of juggling and giving "time slices", we learn to really "be there" in the moment and honor the person we are with or do justice to a task by being engaged, rather than half-hearted. Ever seen the bumper sticker, "I'd rather be fishing"? Speaking from personal experience, the way the person was driving his/her truck - I also wish he/she was off the road and in a boat! We've recently become aware of the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. Everyone THINKS they can do it successfully; in reality, driving performance is degraded - and so is the conversation!

In her blog, Laura Grace Weldon has some interesting insights on the subject of multi-tasking:

This reminded me of something I had read by Metropolitan Anthony (Anthony Bloom) years ago. In his book, Metropolitan Anthony writes:

In the beginning, when I was a physician, I felt it was most unfair to the people who were in the waiting room if I was slow in seeing the person who was with me in the consulting room. So the first day I tried to be as quick as I could with those in the consulting room. I discovered by the end of my surgery hours that I had not the slightest recollection of the people I had seen, because all the time a patient was with me, I was looking beyond him with clairvoyant eyes into the next room and counting the heads of those who were not with me. The result was that all the questions I asked I had to ask twice, all the examinations I made I had to make twice or even three times. When I had finished, I could not remember whether I had done these things or not...

Then I felt this was simply dishonest, and I decided that I would behave as if the person who was with me was the only one who existed. The moment I began to feel, “I must be quick”, I would sit back and engage in small talk for a few minutes just to prevent myself from hurrying. I discovered within two days that you no longer need to do anything like that. You can simply be completely concerned with the person or task that is in front of you, and when you have finished, you will discover that you have spent half the time doing it, instead of all the time you took before; yet you have seen everything and heard everything. 

(Bloom, Anthony. Beginning to Pray. New York: Paulist Press, 1982)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you, Teachers!

C. J. Stegall-Evans in her blog, Writing As A Sacred Art ,has written the following about the teaching profession:

I wanted to become a teacher because teachers do this amazing thing; you know the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, well, teachers just give it away. Teachers stand in their classrooms every day and dispense the keys to success
 In Praise of Teachers

As a parent and someone who has taught non-professionally (homeschooling, Sunday School, etc), I can relate to Ms. Stegall-Evans article.  I would encourage the reader to reach out and show your appreciation to a teacher(s) in the next few days and let him/her know what a difference (s)he has made in your life. 

I also invite the reader to read the rest of this brief article and others found at her site.  See, for example, her post, Words on a Page about writing!  Excellent and insightful.

Writing as a Sacred Art

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Seniors on a Mission

Went on a wonderful, short term mission trip yesterday with Seniors on a Mission!!! 
The Lord has given Joanne Hickox an awesome vision/ministry which blesses our seniors and blesses the non-profit organizations in our community. 
You can read more about it at their website and on Facebook.

By the way ... one of the ladies on the Seniors on a Mission trip yesterday was Nina Johnson - 105 years old! (Her birthday is next month). Here's a great/inspiring video of Nina from the Westminster Woods site:
(Click on the Nina Johnson link)


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One Restless Night ... Twenty Years Ago ...

The following are some "free verse" poems that came to mind while searching and weighing my life and the blessings and trials I had been facing.  Wow - that was almost twenty years ago!  I have been tempted to tweak them, but then that would make them reflect the present, rather than what was on my heart at the time.

I hope there is something here that will either minister to you directly or serve as a wisp to  kindle anew the pondering of your own present path and journey.    Love and Blessings!   Woody 


Looking down
Into a watery
Abyss --
Unfathomable ...
Clouded by
Churning water
Bubbling away the view ...
So our hearts
Most clearly see
When at

Night has fallen
And left a trail
Of sparkling gems
In her wake
Specks of light
Humble me


If I must wound
Please let it be
As a surgeon
To heal ...
To renew ...
Not merely to expose
To restore ...
In love
Not in reckless speech
Merely to win a debate
But to see ...
A soul set free!

Some write of peace
And seldom walk in it
He walked and lived it
And others wrote of Him

Your friendship
Shined so brightly
In the hardest of times
When others
Walked away
You remained behind
And gave me a shelter
In your arms
And a shoulder
On which to cry
Thank you
For being
My friend

To open one’s heart
Like a passage
A corridor to another
Two roads become
A single path
Towards each other
With each other
Words, kisses, a touch
Tears and laughter
Blending into ...
One life share
A love given
A world rediscovered
(like a child again)
Expanding into
Joyful mystery!

Dear Lord
I felt quite
Measured by others
Or in my own eyes
Then I remembered
The words of an old song
"You're nobody
loves you"
Looking around
For that love
My heart fell
And fainted
Until I realized
When Looking
The King of all
Loves even me!
And that day
I became...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Going Bananas!!! (One of the Keys to Living Abundantly)

Here's a great resource for your health ...

Check out Sifu Jonathan Petree's latest entry about bananas in "Live Abundantly" magazine:


I am definitely going to try out the mosquito relief suggestion this evening!

Other excellent articles can be found at:

Live Abundantly


Friday, May 7, 2010

Welcome a Pet into Your Life!

Taking a break from the mind/memory resources to recommend ... welcoming a pet(s) into your life! 

If this is just not feasible due to space, allergies and so forth, some other options might be to adopt a pet at a shelter or set up a bird feeder.  For a while we just placed a handful of birdseed on our patio near a chain-link fence and waited for the daily visits from a lovely pair of cardinals.  It was always so endearing to see one of the pair arrive on the scene and call for the other to join in the feast.  

Feeding birds ... that was BC - Before Cats.  We also had to discontinue the bird feeding because word got around to the hawk community that plump birds were coming to our house - which made them easier targets for the hawks to prey upon.  We did our best to shoo the predators away, but it was safer to discontinue or feed them in more secretive locations instead of an open patio.   

Our first cat, an orange tabby named Milos, was part of a ferrel litter.  It took a little time for him to feel comfortable in his new home.  I still remember this cute little kitten hissing at us all like the cat Jonesy in the movie Alien.  I had an idea and acted on it - get a piece of string/yarn and play with Milos.  After a few minutes, he forgot all about fear and was just having fun chasing the string.  My amateur career as the "Cat Whisperer" had begun.

One Sunday morning, while going down the driveway to retrieve the Sunday edition of the Times-Union, a lovely, rather thin, black cat strolled up to me from the wooded lot next door and started a conversation.  While I couldn't quite grasp the nuances of the language or dialect, she seemed to be saying something like, "I've been dropped off... I'm really hungry ... would you help me?"  My wife and I provided her with some nourishment and she was so grateful!  She would sometimes perch on our son Paul's windowsill and he would open the window and let her in at night.  We kept hoping an owner would come to claim her, but, alas, no one did; she had been abandoned.  We also noticed that she was putting on some weight after getting some regular meals.  A trip to the vet confirmed our suspicions - she was pregnant!  A great friend and co-worker named Becky provided us with a very informative/helpful book on cats - especially on pregnancy, birth and kitten care: The Well Cat Book.   After a few weeks, Panther, our new cat had 4 kittens!  She delivered two one afternoon and two more sometime early the next morning.  Our next door neighbors asked for two of the kittens once they were weaned and we kept two - Smoky and Snowy.   They have been a joy, good company and a continual source of humor.

Here's a video I posted of this Chatty Mommy Cat and Kittens and the kittens several months ago:

I recall viewing a film in school that was about a cat that wandered here and there.  Some people were kind: they fed and petted this homeless feline.  Others threw rocks or tried to kick the poor kitty when it tried to rub against them / nuzzle them (closeness and vulnerability).   I think the film was meant to show the good and bad we are capable of doing - that is, what we choose to do.  Its a matter of what's going on in  one's heart.  We can care or be callous.  

Our Heavenly Father provides for the birds and for all of Creation.  He is mindful of even a sparrow's fall.  We have an opportunity to follow in His footsteps by being kind and merciful to our pets and wildlife.  They are a blessing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Minding The Mind: Using Your Personal "Neck Top" Computer! (Part I)

In school, our teacher would say something like, "memorize the times table by next Monday".  HOW we set out to do that was never really explained.  It was usually accomplished by route/repetition.  My Mom finally got me a "sing along" album that I played over and over again until  it was all remembered. - hopefully I wasn't also being subliminally recruited for  who knows what.  (Sadly, all these efforts were before the advent of Sesame Street ... so the songs weren't as hip)  I know there is a cool niche of "educational singers" out there helping to make things memorable.  (I remember the "sneaky" [Saturday morning cartoon time!] educational Schoolhouse Rock episodes being a lot of fun) Anyway ... we were just never taught HOW to memorize things except through drilling.  Nothing wrong with drilling per se.  Just put in some hard work and you'll have those times tables memorized by Monday.  And so, learning things became equated with good old fashioned hard work (unless you really liked the subject).   Okay, I'll admit there were some people "in the know" who used some mnemonic devices to remember things ... Colors of the rainbow: BOY RIG V (Blue,Orange,Yellow,etc), Notes on Treble Cleff Stave: Every Good Boy Does Fine or HOMES: The names of  The Great Lakes (Huron,Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior).  Here's one site for school age children:  KIDS SCHOOL HELP MNEMONICS.  I have it on good report that  medical students employ some special mnemonics as well while learning anatomy and physiology.  Here's a free site with medical mnemonics: MEDICALMNEMONICSBy the way ... if your doctor or nurse hesitates and starts reciting some memory device or nursery rhyme (in your presence) to help remember where something is located in your body before performing a procedure ... yeah, its probably time to ask for someone else or take the exit ramp and seek help elsewhere.  You may also want to RUN if you hear the expressions like "oops", "oh no, not again", etc.  (pardon my silliness)   

Every once and a while, television shows like The Mike Douglas Show, Johnny Carson, etc. would feature a "mentalist" or memory expert who would do incredible mental stunts.  The ones I remember involved the expert meeting each person in the studio audience (hundreds) before the show.  At the end of the show all of the audience members were asked to stand.  The expert would go up to each person and attempt to recall his/her name.  (I have see this done with just the first name as well as with first and last name ) If the expert got it right, the person would sit down.  It was awesome to see the person get everyone's name right. - and no one left stranding.  The performer never indicated that skill was something anyone could do;  I just assumed he was a genius, a savant ... some genetically derived human computer.  I remember thinking, "Wow!  I wish I could do that in school".  (I confess, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes was a personal favorite of mine...)
Oh well, back to the salt mines...

No doubt, amongst magicians, some of this mental magic was published and taught. - albeit secretly.  It was not until 1977 when my friend Alan from Terry Parker High School, loaned me Good Memory Successful Student  by Harry Lorayne that I became aware of a whole new world of memorization techniques.  (He has co-authored some books with basketball player and memory expert, Jerry Lucas )  On and off over the years I have read books - old and new on memory techniques.  Some of the memory tricks employed by Lorayne are not new;  however, he has a great gift of passing this information along and applying it to several subjects - mathematics, chemistry, foreign languages, etc.  Some techniques covered include remembering numbers by rhyme (1 rhymes with bun, two rhymes with shoe, etc), shape (1 looks like a candle, 2 looks like a swan, etc.)  or by a phonetically based system.  I'm so glad Alan loaned me that book! 

Some people have a great gift for remembering long strings of numbers;  those who employ a good memory system can do the same.  Another expert - memory champion Dominic O'Brien can memorize the sequence of 54 packs of shuffled playing cards.  In his audio CD and in his excellent books on memory he guides the user through the same techniques that he uses.  He has a great way of explaining things and walks the reader through (pun intended) techniques like the journey method.  He helps the reader develop a tailored list of numbers 00 through 99 - which are transformed into memorable characters - real or fictional (eg, Orphan Annie, James Bond, etc).