August Learning: AI and ChatGPT Part 2

AI Generated Barbie photos from a “real” photo of me dressed as Barbie

AI and ChatGPT: Friend or Foe?

This month my learning topic has been AI and ChatGPT. There’s been a lot of chatter in the news, both good and bad. And as with any innovative technology, there will undoubtedly be both good and bad applications of AI.

Being a tech-lover, I’m much more excited and optimistic about all the positive outcomes that I think will become available, including advances in everything from medicine to the arts.

Just like the Internet and social media have allowed us to collaborate and learn from brilliant minds throughout the world, AI will make it possible for us to accelerate that learning.

As for the bad stuff? I have faith in humanity. There will be jobs, smart people, and tools to expose those who are using technology unethically or for harm. That’s my viewpoint, anyway.

Using ChatGPT to blog for me

I had ChatGPT write an earlier blog post this month: August Learning: Embracing AI and ChatGPT in Retirement. Though I was amazed that ChatGPT could write, in a few seconds, what typically takes me at least an hour, I also felt like this was somehow “cheating.”

No one is “grading” my blog posts (in fact, hardly anyone is even reading my blog posts!) so why should it matter whether I write it or AI writes it? If AI can write better than me, then what motivation do I have to even want to write?

When really thinking about why I blog in the first place, it’s mostly so that I have a place to reflect and process some of my thoughts. It gives me a way to hold myself accountable to whatever goal or project I’m currently working on. It also is a great way to preserve memories (I’m much more aware of this, lately, as I think about the importance of memory and the ‘stories’ we tell. )

And, of course, I like to blog because I like to write. I get a kick out of words and puns and wordplay… trying to find my own unique voice. Having ChatGPT quickly write up a blog post for me is entertaining and amazing, but it doesn’t give me nearly the satisfaction I feel from writing a blog post on my own.

Learning more about what AI and ChatGPT can do for us

However, I discovered that I could use AI to help me improve my writing, rather than asking it to simply write something for me.

Besides the more technical Coursera class I took about AI, I also took a Udemy course, ChatGPT Complete Course: ChatGPT Beginner-Expert. ChatGPT. This course was very informal – no quizzes or technical content whatsoever. In fact, I listened to most of the lectures similar to how I listen to podcasts, while walking.

Though this was not your typical course, it opened my eyes to the vast number of ways that the free version of ChatGPT could be used. I’m especially impressed at how well it can write poetry or can imitate the “voice” of famous authors or poets.

There are a lot of other AI tools besides ChatGPT, of course. I had fun converting my photo to a Barbie image with one of the AI Barbie tools. There will continue to be more and more interesting and unique tools, allowing us to experiment, play, and learn.

In Summary

Technical innovations are exciting for me, but even I have had my uncomfortable feelings. Am I becoming even less valuable as a person? This is a time of life when I already am questioning my purpose and value. Knowing that a tool is more skilled than I am in the art of writing, I initially felt demotivated to blog anymore at all.

However, I have now learned that there are so many ways I can use ChatGPT to enhance my skills. AI cannot replace ME. We are each unique in our experiences and talents. But there are some amazing tools that will help us do some of the easier tasks, leaving our minds to the more creative, unique tasks that make us who we are.

What about you? What do you think of AI?

August Learning: Embracing AI and ChatGPT in Retirement

Hello, tech aficionados and fellow lifelong learners! Last month’s learning adventure involved psilocybin. This month we’re looking at another trendy topic: AI and ChatGPT.

In retirement we have more time to embrace the wonders of technology on our own terms. We get to be our own bosses and explore the apps that benefit our interests and hobbies. Let’s debunk that myth that those of us over 60 aren’t up for a bit of digital magic. In fact, we’re here to show the world that retirement is the perfect time to ride the AI wave and discover the endless possibilities it brings to our ever-curious minds.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t recommend staring at a computer screen all day. Waking up without an alarm clock and trading business meetings for leisurely walks are luxuries we’ve earned. But let’s not forget that our brains are still firing on all cylinders, ready to absorb new knowledge like a sponge. And what better way to satisfy our tech-hungry souls than by diving into the realm of artificial intelligence?

Yes, I’ve always been a tech geek. From the early days of floppy disks to today’s AI-powered marvels, I’ve marveled at the evolution of technology. So, when I heard about the world of AI, it was like discovering a new galaxy waiting to be explored!

Enter the Coursera class to learn the basics: “AI for Everyone” (yes, the link is right here: AI for Everyone on Coursera). This course isn’t just for the young and restless; it’s for us, the curious and seasoned souls who believe that learning has no expiration date.

Led by the legendary Andrew Ng, the course breaks down AI concepts into bite-sized pieces, making it as easy to digest as your favorite comfort food. Remember those neural networks and machine learning jargon? Andrew will explain the lingo and the concepts. It’s like he’s sitting right beside you, guiding you through the AI maze with the expertise of a seasoned tour guide.

One of the most exciting parts of the journey is discovering how AI is already shaping our world. From personalized recommendations on streaming platforms to medical breakthroughs, AI is everywhere. By becoming familiar with AI, we’re not just keeping up with the times – we’re becoming active participants in shaping the future.

One more benefit of online learning – the camaraderie you’ll find in the course forums. Connecting with like-minded learners from all walks of life, sharing insights and epiphanies, is a truly enriching experience. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not alone in our pursuit of tech enlightenment. Retirement isn’t about fading into the background; it’s about shining even brighter with newfound knowledge and experiences.

And now, for the grand reveal: the very post you’re reading was crafted with the help of ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. That’s right, the same AI technology we’re diving into has lent a hand in shaping these words. Talk about full circle!

Rather than my usual struggle with an end-of-month blog post summarizing my learning, I’m 21 days early, thanks to ChatGPT!

So, fellow tech enthusiasts, join me and embark on these AI explorations. Let’s break those stereotypes and show the world that retirement isn’t a pause button – it’s a gateway to endless exploration. AI is our canvas, and we’re the artists shaping its masterpiece. The future is bright, and we’re ready to embrace it, one AI-powered discovery at a time. 🚀🔌

July Learning: Trying Psilocybin in Retirement

Women’s Wellness Retreat

Psilocybin can be good for your brain!

When I started my “Year of Learning” project, I didn’t expect “psilocybin” to be on my list of something to try or even learn about!

Unlike many of my peers, I never tried “magic mushrooms” (or even pot!) in my youth. I’ve always been sort of a nerdy rule-following health nut, and was never even tempted by any kind of drugs. I remembered the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” commercial and the last thing I wanted was to fry my brain.

But for the past couple of years I’ve been really interested in Brain Health, and was amazed to learn that psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) has been proven, with proper usage, to actually be good for your brain!

Since talking to Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield on my podcast, I’ve known that building neuroplasticity in our brains is a key to preventing Alzheimer’s.

Learning that psilocybin actually builds that neuroplasticity… improving our brain health, rather than destroying it, was an incredible discovery!

Besides wanting to build neuroplasticity to prevent Alzheimers, I’ve learned that building these pathways in our brains helps us gain clarity and cognitive skills, helping us find new ways to solve problems.

How does one try psilocybin?

Despite the discoveries of the benefits of psilocybin, there is still a lot of stigma and legalities associated with its use. I live in Colorado where possession and use are decriminalized.

However, I don’t take any mind-altering substance lightly. Taking psilocybin does come with risks. I wanted to be fully informed, safe, and legal.

I got my opportunity when I found out through Facebook that one of my trusted friends, a therapist, was co-hosting a women’s wellness retreat in Manitou Springs, which included a guided plant-based medicine “journey.”

The Psilocybin Journey

The Psilocybin Journey was the original reason I signed up for this retreat. I had wanted to try psilocybin in a safe and controlled environment and, without me even seeking it out, the opportunity presented itself.

The “journey” itself, for me, was like conscious dreaming. We were in a comfortable bed with eyeshades and headphones, listening to curated music, designed to evoke different emotions and heighten the experience. For me, it did evoke a variety of emotions including grief as well as gratitude and contentment. At the same time, with eyes closed, there were the psychedelic images, shapes, and colors that seemed to flow with the music and my thoughts.

I especially appreciated the “integration session” in which the group shared their experiences with their journeys. It was wonderful to have the guidance of Heather and Monica who reassured us all of the magic of the mushroom. The “download” and neuroplasticity will continue in the coming weeks, helping us gain clarity in areas that we may have previously felt stuck.

They are passionate about removing the previous stigma associated with mushrooms and instead honoring it as plant-based medicine, designed to heal.

I’m excited to think that this acceptance and appropriate use will become more available for people over time, helping people to overcome depression and PTSD.

Sharing the experience with Megan

Megan joins me on the Manitou Springs Moon Magic Journey

It’s funny how this memorable weekend materialized. I’m quite logical so don’t talk too much about ‘manifestations’ or anything too ‘woo woo.’ However, I do believe in being intentional about living our dreams.

One of my primary intentions is to spend time with the people I love.. to share new and memorable experiences and adventures with them. I don’t often get the opportunity to have a 1:1 adventure with my daughter, Megan. She’s married with two kids of her own so her priority, of course, is her own family. I felt so lucky and excited that she was able to join me on this special women’s weekend! She even drove us (no hands!) down to Manitou Springs in her new Tesla!

Self-Driving “EV” drives us to Manitou Springs

Indulging in a Women’s Retreat

Besides the adventure of trying psilocybin for the first time, there were so many other memorable moments throughout the weekend.

I’ve never splurged on a “retreat” before. It always felt too indulgent. But this is the time of life to try things I’ve never done before… not just psilocybin, but also treating myself to a luxury weekend. I’m so glad I did!

Admittedly, yoga is one of my least favorite activities. It seems to be the main attraction at most women’s wellness retreats. At this retreat, the main attraction, of course, was the psilocybin journey, but an optional pre-journey yoga class was offered.

Wanting to take advantage of everything offered, I joined, and was, once again, surprised at how the experience exceeded expectations. The beauty of the studio with the magnificent view inspired awe with every stretch. The yoga instructor repeatedly reminded us that there were no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ and put my over-thinking mind at ease.

Each meal was prepared so beautifully, full of healthy, colorful deliciousness. There was ritual and sharing and a feeling of tribal sisterhood throughout the weekend.

On our final night, we had a surprise full-moon ceremony at the gorgeous Garden of the Gods (Goddesses!) How wonderful that the park was open at night!

As we stood together, hand in hand, an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love filled my soul. Maybe it was the mushrooms building the new pathways in my brain. I felt the presence of past spirits, the moon, the sisterhood, the wind, the magnificent universe.. and God. Maybe I’ve become more woo-woo after all. It was magical.

June Learnings: Improving my Poker Skills

Though poker skills doesn’t come up as a high priority for most retirees, it’s been on my list for awhile.

I come from a family of gamers. When I was a kid, we regularly played family card games (Pinochle was a favorite.) My parents were both Bridge Masters and tried to get me to play. I was intrigued by bridge, but never got into it, like my parents.

My kids also are major gamers and we’ve even attended board game conventions together.

Board Game Convention with my kids

Scotty and I took an online class together about Gaming Theory and I found it fascinating! There are so many different types and aspects of games – collaborative or competitive, luck vs. skill, social, strategic.

I’m at risk of going down a long tangent here because there’s so much that interests me about games, but I’ll cut to the chase: The game I’ve been focusing on mastering is Texas Hold’em Poker.

Improving my Poker Skills

When I first learned to play poker, I thought it seemed like a rather boring, simplistic card game that was much more about luck than strategy.

However, as I played more, I realized that, like bridge, there were some formulaic ways of betting that did involve a lot of strategy. Seasoned poker players also are able to predict what other players have in their hands, not just by how they’re betting, but by knowing their tendencies and reading their ‘tells.’

The combination of luck and strategy, added to the relatively unique aspect of reading the other players intrigued me. Add to that the fact that there are plenty of opportunities to learn, to play and even make a little money, and I decided to go ‘all in’! (Or at least make it my focus of study for June this year.)

Classes and Podcasts to Improve Poker Skills

Last year, I took a 4-week online class through Poker Power, a group that specifically teaches women to play poker. This group is really interesting in that it ties poker skills to business skills such as negotiating and risk-taking.

Both in poker and in business, women tend to be more submissive and get intimidated by those who are aggressive. The classes gave us strategies for confidently understanding when and how to aggressively bet. I’m no longer in a business environment, but it’s always good to build confidence skills and know how to not back down to an inappropriate aggressor.

Knowing that I was going to be getting together with a group of friends to play poker this month, I reviewed what I’d learned in those classes. I also listened to a few podcasts (enough to realize that I still have a LOT to learn before I can compete with the pros).

There really is SO much strategy involved in this game. It’s both motivating and humbling. Sort of the same feeling I get whenever I want to learn anything really well. I’m excited and want to take more and more classes. I vow to study and become a master! But then I realize how much there is to learn and that I’m such a novice when compared to the real masters.

The “wise” me advises: “Learning is about enjoyment and fun! You do not need to win big in Vegas or compete against the pros. You just need to beat your friends!” Heh, heh, heh…

Executing my Poker Skills

Though I’m no where close to being ready for Vegas, my goal this month was to use my improved poker skills, beyond my friend group. I joined an online poker site, Ignition, and attended a Poker Meetup in Boulder last night.

Playing Tournament Texas Hold’em with my Friends

Chris and Adam at our Mt. Shavano KOA Poker Game

I came in 3rd out of 6 (which means I didn’t lose any money) when I played with my friends this month. Adam and Chris came in first and second and they both are very good players. I played much more aggressively than usual and it showed.

Both Chris (who’s given me some good poker coaching) and Adam noticed my improved game-playing. I could tell a difference as well. I used to “limp in” pre-flop, but now I almost always either raise or fold pre-flop. (This was one of the first lessons from my Poker Power class.)

Playing Online Low-Stakes Poker

Though I’ve played plenty of online poker for practice, when you’re not playing with real money, you take much more risk. I had been doing much better with my online game (no real money, no real people!) Would I do as well playing against real people for real money?

After researching the best low-stake online site for newbies, I found that Ignition Casinos was good. They don’t use HUDs. HUDs (head’s-up-displays) are a great tool for experienced online-poker players, but will expose a newbie. Since I much prefer playing live to online, I didn’t want to add the complication of learning about how to use HUDs to my list this month. I was challenged enough just learning how to use the Ignition Casino application.

I bought in to the application with $50 and I’ve been playing low-stakes games with 2 and 5 cent blinds. You can ‘buy-in’ to a game for a minimum of $1.50 and that often keeps me playing for quite a while, but when you win, you don’t win much, even getting called and winning when you go all-in.

The last game I played, I bought-in for $5 (the max you can buy-in to a game for) and I did have a “big win” with an Ace-high Flush:

But even that win was only $2.92. (With the blinds so low, the usual pot is less than $1. so it was exciting!)

My application pot total is now sitting at $51.22, so I’m up by $1.22… It definitely can be addicting and is more fun than playing the “fake games.”

Playing with a Meetup Group

Poker Meetup in Boulder

My final out-of-comfort-zone poker experience was playing with a Meetup Group last night at DV8 Distillery in Boulder.

This group plays every 2 weeks with a $20-$60 buy-in and low stakes (.25 and .50) blinds. Unlike when I play tournament poker with my friends, I didn’t have to worry about the blinds getting so high. It’s also really nice to be able to cash-out or to buy more chips if you want. With tournament poker, you play until you’re either out of chips or you win them all. That can make for either a depressingly short night or a way-too-long-I’m-ready-to-be-done tiring night.

As it turns out, last night was a just-right night. The people were friendly. There were two tables, each with about 9 people. Of course, I prefer playing with people I know (and it’s definitely an advantage if you know people’s betting styles). These were obviously seasoned players, so I had a little bit of newbie-fear, but I was able to stay confident with my game.

I bought in for $40. I won a couple of small pots but mostly did a lot of folding. With so many people at the table, it’s tough to have the best hand.

The game started around 7pm and after 9pm, I’d decided I was going to bet big the next time I got a good hand. My break came when I was dealt two kings. I bet and raised to $12 pre-flop and went all-in ($12.75) after the flop, and finally won a decent pot! Time to cash-out!

My total was $49 (so a $9 win) but it was the first time I was in the green all night and a good time to call it a night! (If it had been early, I probably would’ve gotten cocky and lost my lead.)


As is usually the case, the more I learn about something, the more I learn how much I don’t know. I certainly didn’t become a master of poker this month, but I absolutely improved my game.

I’m proud of myself for gaining the confidence to play online for money and for joining a new Meetup and play with people I don’t know.

The biggest goal, again, is to have fun.

Retirement is a good time to go ALL IN!

May Learnings: AARP Benefits Badass Contest and Videography

This month has been busy and productive! Unfortunately, I’ve gotten out of my weekly blog postings habit. However, since it’s the last day of May, I wanted to give an update to my AARP Benefits Badass Challenge.

I entered my contest submission two days ahead of the deadline:

AARP Benefits Badass Contest Entry

Given that there are thousands of entries and I’m a newbie at videography, I have no expectations that I’ll make it into the top 25, but I learned a lot this month, which was my real goal.

AARP Benefits

I discovered how valuable my AARP Membership really is! There were many more benefits than I realized!

As I mention in my submission, the AARP Staying Sharp benefit is my favorite and includes so much that it was tough to describe even that one benefit in 2 minutes!

The other benefit I discovered was the AARP Virtual Community Center. Every single day there are live classes – dance classes, cooking classes, virtual travel classes, exercise classes, etc., all for free!


The other skill that I learned was making movies using the iMovie and Canva tools. Both of these tools were free, though I did upgrade Canva for the month to check out some of its cool features.

I’d already taken a class in iMovie, but needed to review a lot of the features. I still have some trouble with text additions with iMovie, but I enjoyed playing with layering and some of the different templates. Here’s a quick “trailer” I made at the beginning of the month:

Quick AARP Benefits Movie made with iMovie


The other thing I’d planned to do this month was to become a “Grandinfluencer”– a kind of edgy way of saying an older person who influences others with social media.

I’d thought about starting a new season of my Carpe Diem Connections podcast and even created a recording about AARP Benefits. However, when I got to the editing process, I was reminded of how much time and effort it takes to create a podcast episode. It was distracting me from my main task: learning videography skills!

Overall, I feel good about learning more about movie-making and all the great benefits that are available to me as an AARP member!

May Goal: Learn to be an AARP Benefits Badass!

Becky renews AARP Membership thanks to my work as a AARP Benefits Badass

The Year of Learning in Retirement

2023 is my year of learning. Each month, I pick a new “focus” or theme and write a blog post at the end of the month with a summary of what I learned. Learning these subjects is a little bit different when we’re in retirement. We don’t feel the pressure that comes from cramming for finals or stressing about grades. At this time of life, learning is all for the pleasure that comes from continuous growth.

I haven’t picked all my monthly learning topics in advance. There are so many classes I’d like to take, and every month I find more! May was going to be Poker until I got wind of the AARP Benefits Badass Competition. Oh yeah! That is so up my alley!

Do you know where you can find SO MANY resources for learning in retirement? AARP: The American Association for Retired People!

What I’ll Need to Learn to be an AARP Benefits Badass

To enter this competition, I’ll need to create a video (no longer than 2 minutes) about AARP Benefits, specifically the AARP Social Mission Benefits. Holy cow! There are a LOT of AARP Benefits! I don’t know if I could even read that list in 2 minutes! And that doesn’t even cover all the AARP Commercial Benefits.

Judging will be in two phases with these criteria:

Phase 1. (Top 25 are picked to go to Phase 2)

  • Charisma (33%); 
  • Quality of Video (34%); and 
  • Creativity (33%)

Phase 2

  • Public Appeal (10%);  
  • Charisma (30%);
  • Quality of Video (30%); and 
  • Creativity (30%)

Given that I have very little video-making experience, the chances of me even getting noticed are slim. However, competitions are always a perfect motivator for me to learn. They act as an “assignment” in this school of life and I love a good challenge.

The deadline to submit the video is May 29th so I have about 4 weeks. Here are some of the skills and apps I’m going to focus on learning:

  • Creating Short form Videos
  • iMovie
  • Canva
  • Audiojungle or Free Music Archive
  • Becoming a GrandInfluencer with charisma and creativity!

April Learning: Improving Memory in Retirement

This month I focused on learning about memory and brain health.

AARP’s Staying Sharp Program offers a wealth of articles, tools, and challenges

Improving memory in retirement is something a lot of us want to do. We want to make sure our brains continue to remain healthy throughout our lives.

This has been the month I’ve enjoyed most so far in my year of learning. I’ve been interested in memory since I was a kid. These days there are just so many resources available to us to help us with memory and brain health!

Improving Memory by Memorizing the US Presidents

So, the goal I picked to demonstrate my enhanced memory skills this month was to memorize the names of all the United States Presidents in order.

There are a lot of memorization techniques that I’m aware of. The easiest technique is The Story Method. You “picture” something that reminds you of each name and then create a story where the pictures interact with each other.

However, I didn’t want to just remember the President’s names. That’s the kind of rote memorization I did in elementary school. This time, I wanted to learn a little history, too.

I spent some time reading up a little on each President and even though I didn’t try to memorize each fun fact, I tried to picture the actual President rather than an insignificant picture (like a washing machine for Washington) when going through the list.

It was slow-going at first, but by practicing every day, I can rattle through them easily.

Different Types of Memory

I’ve heard this automatic memory be referred to as “muscle memory.” I found it fascinating as a child that I could remember how to play a piano piece just by practicing it enough times. It was as if my fingers knew how to play the piece without me having to tax my brain at all.

The problem would come, however, when I’d come to a certain spot in the piece and not be able to go on. This would be most likely to occur when I was up on stage, performing for an audience. I guess anxiety messes with your muscle memory.

In the Coursera Class I took this month, learning about memory through movies, I learned about these 4 types of memory systems:

  • Working Memory – short-term retention
  • Episodic Memory – memories of events, recollections
  • Semantic Memory – maintains our acquired knowledge, facts
  • Procedural Memory – enables us to learn and perform skills and actions, ie. Riding a bike, driving a car – demonstrate by doing it, not by describing it.

“Muscle Memory” seems like another version of “Procedural Memory.” However, I’m not sure if being able to recite something (like all the President’s names) without thinking would be considered a form of “procedural memory.” I’ll have to ask Jim Kwik about that.

I’m also curious about which type of memory helps us learn a new language. Learning a second language fluently is something I’ve always wanted to do, but it is much more difficult than simply memorizing vocabulary words.

I’ve heard, though, that learning a second language is one of the best things we can do to keep our brains healthy.

Resources for Improving Memory in Retirement

There are so many great resources available about brain health and memory improvement. This is definitely a topic that I’m going to continue to explore. Here are three resources that I highly recommend for improving memory in retirement:

AARP’s Staying Sharp

AARP’s Staying Sharp Program is an online resource that provides information and activities to help adults over the age of 50 stay mentally sharp. The program covers a variety of topics, including memory, problem solving, focus, and mental well-being. It also offers lots of activities, such as games, puzzles, and quizzes, to help users test their skills and learn new things. The program is free to use for AARP members.

Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik

I’ve been obsessively listening to the Kwik Brain podcast since I discovered it this month. Kwik covers a lot more than memorization in his podcast episodes. I’ve discovered that the brain is instrumental in every function of our life. I hadn’t realized how everything.. our emotions, our pain, our love, our insecurities, our actions.. are influenced so much by the thoughts we have. Many of these thoughts were influenced by conscious or unconscious memories and experiences.

Coursera: Understanding Memory Through Movies

The Coursera class, Understanding Memory Through Movies, has been informative and interesting. I’ve been listening to a lecture each morning, always with the thought: I want to watch that movie! The 5th and final set of lectures have been about memory in older age and have addressed topics related to Alzheimers and dementia. Though these are scary topics, the more we can learn, the more we can arm ourselves with knowledge of how to cope with memory issues.

What’s next?

So here we are on the last day of the month and I’m a little sad that my month of focused brain study is over.

However, my focus in May will be related! AARP is looking for a Benefits Badass! I’m going to focus on upping my game with videos, becoming a healthy-aging influencer, and digging deep into all that AARP has to offer. Whether or not I win the prize, by the end of the month, I will be an AARP Benefits Badass!

Memory and Movies

Coursera Class: Understanding Memory through Movies

This month in my Year of Learning, I’ve been focusing on Memory. It’s been enlightening and interesting, and … well, hopefully, memorable!

I enrolled in the Coursera Class: Understanding Memory: Explaining the Psychology of Memory through Movies offered by Wesleyan University and taught by John G. Seamon. By the way, Seamon has a book available with the same content.

John G. Seamon does video lectures in the Coursera Class about Understanding Memory

This has been one of my favorite Coursera classes. Each lecture highlights a movie. Seamon gives an overview of the plot and then explains concepts from the movie that help us learn more about how our memory works.

I’ve seen many of the movies that are from the course, and it’s been super-interesting to me to dig deeper into the psychology of the characters and the plot and for Seamon to help us understand what’s realistic and what’s not.

First Lecture: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film:Fifty First Dates

In the first lecture, Seamon gives us an example of how the movies we see may influence what we believe and affect our brains in unexpected ways.

He showed us clips from the movie, 50 First Dates, in which Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore), suffers from a type of amnesia that she gets as a result of a car accident. Each day when she wakes up she can only remember her life up until the day of the accident (which she doesn’t remember.)

She creates new memories only for a day, but she loses those memories at night when she goes to sleep.

We learn in this first lecture that amnesia doesn’t really work this way.

If Lucy’s brain damage were severe enough to stop her from making lasting memories, she would find it hard to remember anything new for more than a few minutes. 

Lucy would be able to follow short commercials on television. But longer stories would leave her baffled and confused, as she would forget earlier scenes.

Lecture 1: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film: 50 First Dates

However, shortly after the film came out, there was a patient (known as FL) who experienced a similar type of amnesia as Lucy. The doctors were baffled because the brain scans did not indicate any damage that would cause this amnesia, but also didn’t think FL was faking her amnesia.

They discovered that FL’s favorite actress was Drew Barrymore and that she had seen the movie, Fifty First Dates, before her accident.

The researchers surmised that FL was experiencing amnesia, but it was functional not organic amnesia. The origin of each type of amnesia is different. Functional amnesia has a psychological origin, while organic amnesia has a biological basis.

Lecture 1: Sometimes Life Imitates Art – Film: 50 First Dates
Amnesia can be either Functional (psychological) or Organic (biological)

Movies and other media affect our beliefs and our brains

I found it incredible that a movie could affect someone’s psyche enough that it could create functional amnesia. I’m finding that there is so much more that might affect our brains than I realized. And, in turn, our brains and what we think, affects our health – mental and physical!

News, social media, music, and movies will influence our beliefs and our brains!


  • Coursera’s class about Memory and Movies is very interesting and informative!
  • There are two types of amnesia: functional (psychological) and organic (biological).
  • Movies (and other media) can influence us into believing a false reality.

Memory Improvement Podcast Binge: Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik

Listening to Podcasts for Learning

My 2023 Project is to do more focused learning, picking a new topic each month. The 3 topics for the first quarter of 2023 were Purpose, Blogging, and Taxes, specifically in retirement.

For April, my primary topic is “Memory Improvement.” (Stay tuned for my end-of-month summary post.)

One of the awesome ways we have of learning in this modern era is by listening to podcasts. Each month, as my primary topic has changed, I’ve searched for podcasts related to my primary topic. (By the way, listening to podcasts while doing my daily walk, has been a great way to keep me motivated to always get those 10K+ steps in.)

When April rolled in, I searched for podcasts having to do with Memory Improvement.

I’ve always been pretty good at memorization and some of the podcasts are specifically designed to help learn and practice memorization techniques. For example, a few years ago, I learned 100 digits of Pi, and this month, I’m learning about the 46 US Presidents (which is also helping me learn more about US History.)

Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik

Even though memorization skills are handy, what I like about the Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik podcast is that the topics he covers are all about Brain Health which is a lot more than memorization skills.

I’ve been so interested in Brain Health that after doing the “Napkin Test” with Richard Leider, I discovered that my “purpose” was to “Have a healthy mind and help others with brain health.” This is exactly what Jim Kwik is doing with his books, podcasts, and coaching!

At the end of each podcast episode, Kwik encourages his readers to leave a review about what they learned. Since I’m always walking while I’m listening, I don’t have a very handy way of doing that, but I’m going to summarize some of my takeaways.

Brain Health Takeaways from the podcasts

  1. Having a positive attitude about aging is one of the most important things we can do to maintain a healthy brain. With all we are learning about brain health, scientists are finding that are brains can continue to improve throughout our life.
  2. From 314: Lessons From The World’s Longest Study on Happiness with Dr. Robert Waldinger: Relationships are key to mental health. We need to have people we can trust and confide in who will listen to us and help us “destress” at the end of the day.
  3. MEDSRX Acronym to help remember healthy brain habits: Meditation, Exercise, Diet, Sleep, Relationships, Xtra!
  4. From 311: Simple Ways To Get Your Daily Brain Nutrition with Maria Shriver and Patrick Schwarzenegger I learned about Mosh Bars, a health food bar that I want to give a try.
  5. From 326: Revitalizing Your Brain: Unlocking the Power of Mitochondria with Dr. John Lieurance I learned that Dr. Lieurance practices in Sarasota! He’s doing exciting work with regenerative medicine.

Next steps

There’s a lot left to explore in this area and I’m excited to keep learning! Besides the many podcast episodes I have yet to listen to, I also want to check out Kwik’s books and classes.

Kwik’s podcast doesn’t have ads, and he depends on listeners for reviews and to spread the word, so I wanted to leave this blog post. I’m very impressed with all of his podcasts. They’re interesting and he has a lot of high-profile, trustworthy guests.

Brain health is an important topic at any age, but especially can affect those of us who are in our 60’s and worried about the possibility of decline. I highly encourage anyone who wants to maintain a healthy brain to check out Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik.

April Adventure: The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 in Washington DC

The Cherry Blossom Festival is an adventure inspiring awe

Last year was the year of Microadventures. I did some kind of activity or excursion at least once a week that inspired awe. My “rules” were that I had to do it with another person and then blog about it.

This was a wonderful habit to get into and even though I haven’t been blogging about all my 2023 Microadventures, I am going to blog today about a very awe-inspiring excursion: The 2023 Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

What makes this a full-blown “adventure” (as opposed to a “micro”-adventure) is that I’ve been planning for it ever since Scotty moved to Washington DC last year! This took planning and travel and was a much anticipated escapade.

I just love flowers, flowering trees, and had heard how gorgeous the cherry blossom trees would be when they were at their peak.

Timing the peak

One of the difficult things about seeing awe-inspiring natural beauty is that it’s difficult to time the peak days, which change from year to year.

Because I needed to make my travel plans in advance, I just estimated the peak to be around early April, and got nervous when this year’s peak turned out to be March 23.

Even though we were there 9 days after the peak, there were plenty of beautiful, full trees. The weather was cool (about 57 degrees) but sunny so the scenery stunning. I absolutely want to make this an annual event (as long as Scotty is living in the DC area). Maybe next year, we’ll be able to hit it right at its peak. Now I feel confident, though, that it’s still worth going even a week or so past peak bloom.

Photos of the Cherry Blossom Festival in historic Washington DC

The Cherry Blossom Trees surround the Tidal Basin of Washington DC’s National Mall. This is where you’ll find all the historic monuments honoring our country’s forefathers.

The Jefferson Memorial framed by Cherry Blossom Branches
Martin Luther King Memorial Surrounded by Cherry Blossom Trees
Tulip Garden with the Washington Monument in the background
Cherry Blossom Trees in the Japanese Lantern section

Getting off the beaten path

The one downside of this adventure were the crowds. Luckily, we were able to take the subway to get to the National Mall, but the sounds of cars honking and whistles blowing (from people who were directing traffic and pedestrians) kind of took away from the audio ambiance.

After getting our fill of the trees around the National Mall, we got back on the subway to the Armory exit and from there took a Lyft to the National Arboretum for more beauty.

Cherry Blossom Trees at the National Arboretum

The National Arboretum offered up more opportunities for Spring Blossoms. Scotty kept saying they should have a race through these trails. After I’d scoffed at such an idea, we saw that, in fact, there was going to be a 5K in early June when all the azaleas would be in bloom!

Fields of Bluebells in bloom

It also was the season of bluebells! The vast blooms on this walking trail right by Scotty’s house were gorgeous and plentiful.

All-in-all, this was a super-successful adventure. These early April flowers fill me with joy and I’m so grateful that I was able to experience such a memorable sight with Scotty.