Sunday, February 06, 2005

Associative memory

Those of you who've suffered through my blog to this point may have wondered at the way I throw out exact dates. Indeed, many of my friends, over the years, have expressed doubts when I say that such and such an event occurred on such and such a date where the date is 20 or 30 years ago. They think I'm making em up. Doubtless you do too. But I've never yet been proven wrong . How do I do it?

Piece of cake!

It's all done by association and a little arithmetic. There are certain dates that are like tombstones in my mind; Wednesday September 7th 1960 - the day my father died. Saturday June 30th 1962 - the day my mother married my step-father. Saturday November 23rd 1963 - the day JFK was assassinated. Hang on you say - that was Friday November 22. Not where I was living it wasn't. I was on the other side of the dateline. Wednesday July 19th 2000 (an event I'd rather forget). Friday August 2nd 1985 (first marriage). And so on... you get the idea.

So it's not that much of an effort to be able to fix the day of the week. Roll it forward from a known day of the week to the current year. Knowing the pattern of the calendar reduces the effort; every 28 years the days of the week fall on the same day. Of course, this is easier if you're over 28 . Otherwise, days of the week repeat on 5, 6 or 11 year cycles depending on how many leap years occur (and also on 16 and 22 year cycles though those are harder to work with). For example, I started work at Unisys Australia on Tuesday January 3rd 1989. No leap days between then and the 1992 anniversary so it was Friday in 1992. Sunday in 1993 because 1992 was a leap year.

For the rest; I've always had a good memory for the year in which such and such occurred for (or to) me.

So I'm not really pulling dates or days of the week out of my bum - even when I write of things that happened more than 30 years ago. If I'm really not sure of when such and such an event happened I won't lie to you - I'll say I don't remember. But if I say it was on some Sunday in 1958 be assured that I can substantiate the date.

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