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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 9, 2006
This book is based on information that can be found at the Mentat Wiki and consists of 75 tips and methods for helping you organize your thought processes and exercise your brain so that you think more efficiently. Some of them are well-known brain exercises, and some are not so well known. I had seen most of the memory hacks before, with the exception of the one on the "tip of the tongue" effect. In the section on creativity, I enjoyed the hack on looking at your brain as a random number generator that needs seeding by doing such tasks as picking up a magazine that you wouldn't normally look at and then reading it. I also liked the hack on learning Morse code like an efficiency expert. Although the task itself is of dubious value, the process teaches the reader the value of mnemonics which is, as the author puts it, is like putting Windows on top of DOS. The final chapter, on overall mental fitness, is of particular use to us baby-boomers as it reminds us not to neglect the essentials of basic overall physical health since this has a powerful effect on the brain. I really enjoyed this little book, since it has so many ways to expand your brain power and creativity that can easily be incorporated into your daily life.

The table of contents is not shown by Amazon, so I list the table of contents/hacks here:

Chapter 1. Memory

1. Remember 10 Things to Bring

2. Use the Number-Shape System

3. Make Lots of Little Journeys

4. Stash Things in Nooks and Crannies

5. Use the Major System

6. Use the Dominic System

7. Visit the Hotel Dominic

8. Dominate Your Memory

9. Memorize Numbers with Carroll's Couplets

10. Tune In to Your Memory

11. Consume Your Information in Chunks

12. Overcome the Tip-of-the-Tongue Effect

Chapter 2. Information Processing

13. Catch Your Ideas

14. Write Faster

15. Speak Your Brain's Language

16. Map Your Mind

17. Build an Exoself

18. Pre-Delete Cruft

Chapter 3. Creativity

19. Seed Your Mental Random-Number Generator

20. Force Your Connections

21. Contemplate Po

22. Scamper for Ideas

23. Deck Yourself Out

24. Constrain Yourself

25. Think Analogically

26. Enjoy Good, Clean Memetic Sex

27. Play Mind Music

28. Sound Your Brain with Onar

29. Keep a Dream Journal

30. Hold a Question in Mind

31. Adopt a Hero

32. Go Backward to Be More Inventive Going Forward

33. Spend More Time Thinking

34. Extend Your Idea Space with Word Spectra

Chapter 4. Math

35. Put Down That Calculator

36. Make Friends with Numbers

37. Test for Divisibility

38. Calculate Mental Checksums

39. Turn Your Hands into an Abacus

40. Count to a Million on Your Fingers

41. Estimate Orders of Magnitude

42. Estimate Square Roots

43. Calculate Any Weekday

Chapter 5. Decision Making

44. Foresee Important Problems

45. Predict the Length of a Lifetime

46. Find Dominant Strategies

47. Eliminate Dominated Strategies

48. Don't Overthink It

49. Roll the Dice

Chapter 6. Communication

50. Put Your Words in the Blender

51. Learn an Artificial Language

52. Communicate in E-Prime

53. Learn Morse Code Like an Efficiency Expert

54. Harness Stage Fright

55. Ask Stupid Questions

56. Stop Memory-Buffer Overrun

Chapter 7. Clarity

57. Learn Your Emotional ABCs

58. Avoid Cognitive Distortions

59. Use the Fourfold Breath

60. Meditate

61. Hypnotize Yourself

62. Talk to Yourself

63. Interview Yourself

64. Cultivate the Naive Mind

65. Employ Mental Momentum

Chapter 8. Mental Fitness

66. Warm Up Your Brain

67. Play Board Games

68. Improve Visual Attention Through Video Games

69. Don't Neglect the Obvious: Sleep, Nutrition, and Exercise

70. Get a Good Night's Sleep

71. Navigate Around the Post-Lunch Dip

72. Overclock Your Brain

73. Learn the Facts About Cognitive Enhancers

74. Snap Yourself to Attention

75. Assemble Your Mental Toolbox
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VINE VOICEon March 1, 2006
Tips and tools for overclocking your brain, for me, instantly brings to mind images of Dr. Frankinstein with a saw and a sharp knife. After the initial disappointment (?), the book highlights different techniques for improving memory, problem solving, mathematics and word skills.

Some (most) of the tips aren't that original mnemonics and linking object to memorable visual images aren't new. Some of the math skills are the sort of thing most people pick up in grade school. Also, the problem solving methods outlined are rather crude.

But; they are the kind of tips we may "know" but don't apply. Some (a few) of the tools / techniques were new to me and very valuable.

OK; after such a critical start why give the book five stars? This book is unusual, it groups useful techniques and tools for creative thinking into one short guide. Although the techniques outlined may be simple they are highly effective.

The writing style is informative without being patronizing. I read this book cover to cover in four sessions; it was as interesting to read as most fiction.

The author references source material very well and provides references for further exploration of the topics covered.

In answer to my original question, "who is this book for?", just about everyone should be able to take away something positive from this book. Good preparation for exams such as GMAT and SATs. Also, good tips for staying sharp into old age (have to wait and see whether they work or not).
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on July 7, 2008
This book is a summary of techniques taken from the mentat wiki. While skimming a sample of hacks from each section, I discovered some less-than-scientific ideas. So, I went to the URL and tracked some of the links. I discovered that some of the links were legitimate links to peer-reviewed wikis, like Wikipedia. However, the contents of mentat do not appear to be peer-reviewed. For example, one link was to an interpretation of a research project which contained the researcher's comment that the site did not correctly interpret his research. Also, some links were to commercial web sites. So, the mentat content is simply a collection of individual opinions about different subjects. Therefore, as always, the hacks in this book should be evaluated with a critical mind. Some of the ideas are legitimate; some are simply extensions of long-held myths; some could be self-motivated trivia.
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on September 11, 2006
Mind Performance Hacks is much more than a "hack" book. I didn't expect to read all of it since you normally only read

the "hacks" of particular importance to you at the moment.

I did read the entire book though because it was so fascinating and helpful.

The first chapter was somewhat of a disappointment since many of the memory hacks

only fit with a natural ability for visual or musical talent, which I don't have. And 1 or 2 of the

hacks were so complicated that you'd have to need to memorize a huge volume of material to make

it worth while to work hard at the hack to get good enough to find it useful. This is certainly not the

fault of the author since he was only letting you know about the hack.

But I loved chapter 2 on information processing, especially the map your mind hack. I've done mind maps

before but this book mind it more "how to" to really assimulate the information. It also had a hack for speedwords

that looks very useful which I hope to implement soon.

The Math chapter was also helpful if you need to develop more of a "feel" for numbers and get to an

approximate answer quickly.

The book has a nice format. Each hack starts with a brief overview. Then the In Action section explains

the details. Then the How It Works section explains how your brain is using the hack. The In Real Life

section gives an example of how the author used the hack. Finally, the hack ends with lots of external

references to web sites and other books.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a non-technical understanding of

how their brain works and how to get more out of it. If you are a creative person and need to get more

out of your thoughts, this book is for you. If you are an analytical person and need to make better decisions

or be more intuitive about numbers, this book is for you. If you are just curious on a few hacks to have better

recall, this book is worth getting. I bet you end up reading the whole book, like I did!
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Do you want to stretch your mind's capabilities and understand how to get the most out of that thing we call a brain? Ron Hale-Evans has written a good O'Reilly Hacks book titled Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain.

Content: Memory; Information Processing; Creativity; Math; Decision Making; Communication; Clarity; Mental Fitness; Index

In this book, you'll find 75 hacks/tips/tricks that you can use to take your memory, focus, and concentration to a new level. Some are complex and require some practice, like #5 - Use the Major System. This is a series of mnemonics that you can use to help remember large numbers of related and unrelated items. There are also alternatives to that system, such as the Dominic System (#6). Either way, you may find that something like this can help you dramatically improve your "remember-y". Other hacks are more in line of making changes in your lifestyle that will affect your cognitive abilities, such as #70 - Get a Good Night's Sleep and #71 - Navigate Around the Post-Lunch Dip. Simple steps you can take to avoid mental pitfalls. I particularly enjoyed #27 - Play Mind Music. I finally understand why I find that I can't listen to a podcast and program at the same time. Very good stuff...

You won't adopt and use every one of these hacks, nor does the author intend you to do so. But you can think of this as a toolbox that you can use to improve your performance and understand things that often are unconsciously occurring to us on a regular basis. A very good read...
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Mind Performance Hacks includes the usual fare of all memory books - various memory systems including the Major and Dominic Systems and variations of them. However, these authors go beyond the memory books by including many of the newer concepts in information processing such as mind mapping, dealing with cruft, ways of increasing creativity, capturing creative thoughts and using your creative self to resolve current issues. They also include some neat math tricks and techniques to quickly check the results of calculations for accuracy, estimate square roots, and other quick calculations. Unusual areas include better decision making and communications, bringing clarity to your life by working with emotional problems, and using meditation. And of course they include things to do to exercise your brain and keep it in tip top shape. Mind Performance Hacks: Tips and Tools for Overclocking Your Brain is highly recommended and was well beyond what I had expected from the title.
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2006
Have you ever forgotten something? Do you want (or need) to improve your memory? Then this book is for you.

Mind Performance Hacks is written by Ron Hale-Evans, who is an expert on memory. He has created the Mentat Wiki (which was the inspiration for this book). But memory tricks aren't all that the book has to offer - in fact, the many other tricks and "hacks" were more appealing to me than the memory tips.

Hale-Evans gives a great overview of the prevailing memory tricks, including the Dominic System. These tricks to improve memory have helped thousands of people, but they've always seemed to be more work than they're worth to me. My memory isn't the greatest, but most of the time it's easier for me to just write things down to remember them.

The thing that first attracted me to this book was the mental math. Who wouldn't want to be able to count to a million on their hands (Hack #40)? Estimating sqare roots and testing for divisibility are both tricks that I've seen taught in the classroom, and are worth knowing and remembering.

But there's a lot more to this book even than that. There are valuable tips on enhancing your own creativity (I especially liked the 'mental random number generator' in Hack 19). Hale-Evans encourages the reader to develop their inductive reasoning skills (especially in Hack 48), which is something we could all use. He also includes tips on "mental fitness" - how to get your brain warmed up and ready to process information.

I got the book for the "brain math," but I'll keep referring back to it for the brainstorming. You can learn a lot about how people think, and maybe even pick up some techniques that will improve your own memory and help spark your creativity. If nothing else, that counting to a million trick could win you a few bar bets - even if you only get to a thousand!
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on April 11, 2006
* This is a great little book, full of funky tricks and tips for improving, amongst other things, your mental arithmetic, memory, ability to brainstorm effectively and so on.

The hacks themselves are split neatly into eight sections: Memory, information processing, creativity, math, decision making, communication, clarity, and 'mental fitness'

Some of the hacks in the book are pretty intense, requiring a fair amount of legwork (or should that be brainwork?) to get them up and running. Some of the memory systems for example would clearly need you to remember the system before you could remember other things!

I loved the way that the hacks are set out - starting out with what the hack will achieve, how it would work 'in action', then applying it so that you can see how it would work 'in real life'

My favourite section was the Creativity section, with some great ideas and tips for getting the old grey matter ticking along. As with every O'Reilly book I've read, the author's style is friendly, clear and informative, not to mention funny.

You may not use all the hacks in this book, but I'll bet you a dollar you come out of it wanting to try more than a few. Top stuff.
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VINE VOICEon January 31, 2008
This is a valuable book that is also very entertaining.

The book is a compilation of seventy-five "hacks" designed to help us "overclock" our brains. Catchy! What it means is that the book is a collection of tips and techniques that speed and enhance our mental abilities. And they do.

The tips deal with memory enhancement, perception, decision making, math applications, and general mental fitness. Most of them aren't really new, but all of them are very clearly explained and illustrated with real-world examples. Every tip has citations for further research, a feature that led me to several hours of surprising and useful reading.

This is not a mental fitness system; that is, the author does not expect the reader to adopt and use every one of the tips. It's a loose collection of tools, and like all tools, the trick is to select the appropriate one for the task. I'm using several of the tools on a regular basis, and that more than justifies the cost of the book for me.

Finally, the book is a very entertaining and very quick read. The author's style is just right. The information is presented in easy-to-digest blocks, and the explanations are very clear. The author clearly has expertise, but he's never condescending. The tone is light and slightly self-deprecating without being cutesy.

I really liked this book. It's rare to find such a finely balanced combination of entertainment and utility. I'm very happy I bought it, and I recommend it highly.
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on July 16, 2006
This book is for everyone; whether you want to improve memory, learn some math tricks, enhance your creativity, etc... The beauty of the book is that it covers a wide array of topics, and it does a good job.

I say it is a survey because while some tips are evaluated others cannot be put in a few pages. Each hack, however, gives you the topic in a nutshell, describing the theory behind it, and how it could be applied it in the real world. Furthermore, each hack is augmented with some excellent bibliography that you a person could look into if he enjoyed the hack.

The final point to be made about this book, and all O'rielly Hacks books, is that you could read the hacks in any order you want.
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