This is incredible. Scratch that. This is life changing. Thank you so much for sharing Derek.
I was skeptical that Spaced Repetition Software would work for me and my terrible memory. I’ve tried plenty of techniques in the past. For instance, I spent a while learning the peg system in an effort to be able to memorize dates, numbers and lists. While it worked, it serves me more as a party trick than an actual life changing approach to memory.
What I particularly love about using Anki, which I’ve been doing for a half an hour a day on the bus since reading this article, is I feel the information is actually sticking. Because of that, I want to spend more time learning, and because of that my memory muscle is actually growing stronger. My ability to memorize quicker and quicker is already improving. I’ve gone from hating the very idea of memorizing to getting excited about learning more. I’ve always been frustrated wasting time memorizing because I knew it was facts I’d just forget in another couple months. This doesn’t feel like that. This feels like I’m gaining a super power.
I did a small test over the course of the last three weeks to see if Anki would really work for me. I didn’t want to jump into something ambitious like a programming language before seeing if it actually worked for a small data set. I challenged myself to use it to learn the names of all of the countries in the world. There’s less then 200. If Anki could teach me those, I had faith I could then go on to more ambitious challenges.
I loaded a shared deck, and three weeks later, I feel confident I know them all. It took half an hour on the bus every day, but that’s a small sacrifice. In a few more weeks it will be cemented for life. That’s incredible. Now I’m excited for what I’ll be taking on next.
I went to see Chris Dorr give a talk on promoting indie films and projects through social media. Here’s a collection of my notes from that talk with helpful links throughout.
He stressed the importance of having a strong database of followers, and how important it is to grow that over time. Independent artists can literally support themselves off of 1,000 true fans. Kevin Kelly goes into how with 1,000 fans you can support yourself for life.
On the outskirts of Nashville, I drove down the freeway weaving in and out traffic, going a little over 85, switching lanes every 15 seconds, as traffic crawled at 55 around me. If a cop saw me, I had no doubt he’d rightfully pull me over. I prayed that that didn’t happen in the eight mile stretch between where I was and the airport. My flight was taking off in 50 minutes, and I still needed to return my rental car, check my bag, and hope that I didn’t hit traffic.
Cut to thirty minutes earlier. T-minus eighty until my flight departed.
When I got to the airport, there were no rental car locations. I searched for Budget’s location on my phone. It was eight miles away meaning if Budget had a slow shuttle I was screwed.
‘I probably should have checked this beforehand,’ I thought.
I started driving in that direction, and about a mile in, saw it was taking me straight towards the center of Nashville. It didn’t make sense. I looked down at my phone, this time looking at the address that they’d listed in my email when I booked the car.
1 Terminal Road.
Searching for directions to that, I saw I was going the wrong way.
The real destination was only a mile and a half away, which still seemed pretty far from the airport for a road with Terminal in the title. Also, it was listed as 1 Terminal Court. Not Road. I’d done that dance before, so I searched again, not letting the autofill correct me. It showed up with the same address. Reluctantly, I drove there.
‘There’ ended up being a dirt road under a bypass with a massive truck depot lot on the left. No Budget Rental Car.
“Shit,” I screamed, knowing I would miss my flight. There wasn’t enough time. I got back on the road, heading to the actual Budget Rental Car place inside Nashville, still feeling this didn’t make any sense. Why would the airport drop off be eight miles away?
Ten minutes and six red lights later, I got to a tiny Budget office. This wasn’t right. I swerved the SUV into the lot and ran into the office.
“Is this the Airport Budget place?” I asked the guy at front.
He looked at me and kind of smirked.
“No. That’s by the airport.”
“Oh, cause I typed in Budget and got this. Do you get that a lot? I’m sure you do.”
“No. Never gotten that before.” He looked at the other guy there. They smiled, “You see-”
He kept talking but I ran out yelling behind me, “Thank you. I don’t mean to be rude, but my plane takes off in less than an hour and I’m pretty sure I’m screwed.”
By the end of the sentence I was back in the SUV, screeching out and heading back to where I’d started. I thought how this was probably going to be a $400 screw up. How I trusted my phone without double checking, and it was likely going to cost me, which is ironic as the whole point of my phone was to avoid situations like this.
This was my very last day on a job I’d had for four years, traveling one week out of the month to teach. On the one hand, it would be a terrible way to end it. On the other, it would be a pretty poetic finish to a run that for all intents and purposes should have ended two years ago. I swore to myself pretty loudly.
‘I’m an idiot,’ I thought, switched lanes, hit my brakes, switched again, and continued praying no cops saw me. The windows were down, country music played at full blast (this was Nashville, after all) and I relished in the air beating against my face at 80 miles an hour, feeling alive.
In less than ten minutes, I got back to the airport, this time from the front where there were all sorts of signs showing where the Rental Car drop off was.
I sped up the ramp, over the Do-Not-Back-Up thingies and came to a halt behind someone slowly removing their luggage from their trunk.
“Hey, my flight takes off in 40 minutes. Could I quickly get a receipt?” I asked as I went for my bag in the trunk.
The Budget Employee shot me a look.
“Give me a minute,” she said. Not an option.
“Can I get it emailed to me?” I asked, as I shut my trunk.
“Sure?” she said.
“Great. The keys are on the seat. I hope that’s all right. We good?” I didn’t wait for a response. I was running with my bag in tow towards the gate. I ran through the lot towards departures and down the escalator. I hoped my projector was fine, as I heard my 45 pound bag clank as it hit each step.
Reaching the Delta front counter, I swiped my card. I wish I could say this was the first time I’d almost been destroyed by an airline’s 40 minute absolute cut off policy. I was prepared for the worst.
This time my card was accepted. It wasn’t a problem. After four years of endless traveling, it was over.
(Note: This happened back in June. Don’t worry, I’m good now.)
By the time I felt the bone slipping it was too late. I’ve been doing P90X for a while, and despite my long history of stupid injuries, this hadn’t yet been the source of one of them. I thought I knew my limits. Clearly, I was wrong.
Up to this point all of my injuries have been for relatively embarrassing reasons. The first time I pulled my shoulder it was while doing a one man scene in high school. The second time was mid stroke while swimming. Time number three was from Richard Simmons.
This was the first actual weight lifting related one. I’d grown sloppy, but that wasn’t the stupid part. Not even by a little. I was in front of my laptop, watching Battlestar Galactica and working out, doing a shoulder tricep extension
when I felt the muscles spasm halfway up into the lift. By the time I dropped the weight, it was too late.
I screamed out in pain as I fell to the floor. I held up my right arm with my left so I could slowly and painfully make my way over to my laptop. Each movement was excruciating. I couldn’t figure out how to pause Battlestar so I just hit mute. This probably shouldn’t have been my first concern.
I grabbed my phone to call someone and then debated if I could set it myself. When I dislocated my shoulder in Michigan that first time, all the doctor had to do was lay me face down and let my arm dangle as he pulled slightly. It’s possible that’s all it would take. Admittedly, the other two times involved heavy amounts of morphine, but why focus on the negative?
“There’s a chance I can pull this off without going to a hospital,” I thought. It was less about the inconvenience and more about not having health insurance and being terrified how much it would cost.
I made my way back to my bed and tried laying on my stomach and slowly lowering my arm. I kept my phone in arms length of my left hand, just in case I started to feel like I might pass out. I was heavily sweating, not sure if it was from just having spent 35 minutes working out or from the intense pain. I kept my arm dangling. It wasn’t working.
It took me two minutes to lift my arm up and get into a position where I could reach my cellphone one foot away from me. On my phone, I googled “I just dislocated my shoulder” and came up with a few results from yahoo answers and YouTube.
I watched the first video, and tried to emulate it. I was standing next to my bed, and knew somehow I needed to get down to the floor with both a pillow and my phone. I dropped my phone on the ground, hoping it landed in the right spot. I wasn’t going to leave it somewhere unreachable. Then I slowly lowered myself and the pillow down, got into position and started the motion. The excruciating pain made me afraid I was making things much worse.
I picked up the phone, resigning that I was being an idiot and should go to the hospital and called up my friend Drew. No response.
“Let me try one more thing before calling someone else,” I thought. I glanced at my computer and saw the muted Battlestar was over, meaning I’d now been trying to fix myself for half an hour.
I searched again
and saw another solution involving standing up and starting with my arm bent towards my body. I couldn’t even start this exercise.
I read Yahoo Answers, and one response mentioned the importance of having a muscle relaxant. I went to the bathroom and for the first time looked in the mirror. “That’s not how shoulders are supposed to look,” I thought, as I saw the ball socket clearly an inch lower than it should have been. I looked at my other shoulder to confirm. “Yeah, that’s not right at all.”
In my medicine closet I had some Vicodin from when I’d caused myself permanent brain damage in an incident four years back involving me on a bicycle not wearing a helmet, a car, and far too much cement in proximity with my face.
I tried to open the container but it took two hands, and I didn’t have the strength, “Stupid child proof locks.”
I went back to my bed and used a hard surface to get it open. Then I waited five minutes for the drug to get in my system and tried the last strategy again. No luck.
I texted Andrew, but he wasn’t responding. I called up my neighbor Hillel, but he was away. I thought of the biking incident four years ago and how, despite the fact that blood was dripping off my neck and my left hand had stopped working, I’d decided to drive myself. I realized how this must be significantly more pain as there was absolutely no way I could drive myself in this state.
I called Drew’s land line and he picked up.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“I just dislocated my shoulder. Again. Could I have a ride?” I was laying on my side in bed not quite able to move without insane amounts of pain. He said he’d be right over.
It took me a full three minutes to put on a t-shirt. Fortunately I was already wearing my shoes, as I have no idea how I would have gotten them on. Once Drew picked me up, it all went smoothly. I realized I could have passed out, alone in my apartment. I should have asked for help immediately. I was an idiot. Perhaps next time I’ll do it differently.
Of all the things I was looking forward to seeing on my first day in Israel, the naked ass of half a dozen Orthodox Men was not one of them.
It had been 30 hours since anyone in the group had slept, and while I’m sure our guide, Raz, was saying fascinating things about Tzfat, all I heard was, “Blah blah blah Maron. Blah blah blah Judaism…etc…Kabbalah.” I couldn’t quite keep the words straight as he took us from one seemingly random location to another in the city. I figured there was some significance to the places we stopped at until two strangers walked through our group to get to a door we were blocking and one of them muttered, ‘Why would anyone spend time in this alley?’
Everything was shut down because it was Friday afternoon. Instead, we walked past closed store after closed store as packs of ultra orthodox children kept running past us.
Eventually we reached Yoni, our personal guide into the world of Kabbalah. The guys in the group went with him and his cousin, as the girls went their separate way. Like most of the men in this city, he had a long beard, black hat and long black coat despite it being 90 degrees outside. It’s a brand of Judaism that I’m so far away from, I have a hard time even calling the same religion. He led us to a room slightly less interesting than most dining halls. We all sat down and he rambled for a while about his path to Judaism.
“I was like you. I grew up in Brooklyn. When I took off for Israel my parents told me one thing – don’t come back religious. So…I never came back. Now, some of you might have noticed a lot of others dressed like me, walking around carrying towels. Before Shabbat it is our tradition to head to the Mikveh. Now this is a wonderful, holy place. Before Shabbat we go there to immerse ourselves in water and make ourselves completely pure.”
After going on about the history of the Mikveh, he led us towards one. I talked with his cousin on the way there.
“So what do you do for a living?” I asked.
“I work at an anti-terrorist shooting range,” he said.
“Seriously?” I said, because that’s hilarious. Yoni quieted the group as we came to a stop.
“Now this door leads to a Mikveh. Not the main one, as that’s packed right now,” he said.
The place wreaked of spoiled fish and looked like a locker room with a small still pool at the end of it. The smell was so strong, I did all I could to not throw up as he talked. It was as if they’d never changed the water.
“This water was never touched by man in coming here,” Yoni said, “It came directly from rain to this pool by pipes. And not normal pipes, but special holy pipes that were built into the building,” he said.
“Does it circulate much?” Cory asked.
“I’m sure it does,” he said and then kept going about its holiness. “How about we go to the holiest Mikveh in Tzvat? I wasn’t going to because it’s full of people, but we should be all right. You don’t have to go in, but it’s truly an amazing experience.”
He led us another quarter mile until we passed through some arch that indicated the start of the locker room. It was outdoors and held dozens of Ultra Orthodox men either giving us dirty stares or consciously ignoring us. Only a couple were naked. An orthodox man sat at a folding table against one wall, offering towels for a 5 shekel suggested donation and lemonade for 1 shekel. The showers were in the next area. I peaked in and saw a line of 5 rather fat and completely naked men waiting at the far door.
Four of the people in our group stripped down as the rest of us stood around uncomfortably feeling a locker room is a terrible place to take a bunch of tourists.
After seven minutes watching ultra orthodox men give us dirty stares as they got naked, we took off. Just after leaving, I heard one of them call out, “Jeremy?”
I turned around. He was wearing all black. A black hat. A full beard.
“Mende?” I said. I’d known him back when he was 14, the son of the Chabad Rabbi at Syracuse. I hadn’t seen him in five years. We talked for a bit and traded numbers.
As I walked away, I thought, ‘Perhaps I’m closer to this world then I realized.’
and decided I’d be the guy to do the video. Obviously, someone had to.
I was up till three in the morning singing it over and over again trying not to slip up on the words. I ended up with a video that advanced from frame to frame of the comic with me singing not over an audio-only version, but over a full version of the song. I sang over this:
It was fun, but because it was 3am, there was a good chance it might was awful. I decided to rewatch it in the morning, and post it then if I still liked it.
When I woke up, I rewatched it and decided it was terrible. I started to write an email to a friend who’s recorded music for me in the past, asking if he could record a version of Modern Major General for me. To help him out, I chased down some sheet music on 8notes, and saw they had a ‘play’ option. I’d spent over half an hour the night before trying to chase down an audio only / karaoke version with no success. But here it was. Found accidentally. I scrapped the email, sped the music up by about 20% because I’m an idiot, spliced it so it allowed for another verse as the comic required, and sang over it over and over again until I made few enough mistakes to be proud of it:
As of now, it’s my biggest one day hit of a youtube video, and the first acting/singing related video I’ve ever had any success with. It’s inspired me to start creating more videos just for the fun of it. I was thrilled to see it get 5,000 views the first couple days, over a 150 likes, and not a single dislike. It really gets me excited for whatever the next project will be.
And a big thanks to Randall Munroe. All hail Randall, king of the internet.