The definition of squirrelly has long been odd, eccentric, crazed or jumpy. This of course is due to the squirrel’s behaviour. They jump at every slight movement of something else. Yet, still they keep up all the things they do, continuing to get close to things that could kill them. That seems crazed. But there is method to these odd, eccentric creatures’ madness.

Squirrels are of course gathering and storing food. That’s what gets them so close to predators. They try to gather and store enough food for the winter months. They do an amazing job of this and that’s how they survive the winter without hibernating.

But if they stored their food in one giant cache, that might spark battles between squirrels for the each others’ cache. So squirrels scatter cache their food. That is, some species of them have 3 000 caches around their territory. It’s estimated that 25% of these caches are pilfered by other squirrels and birds but with 75 % of their caches okay, squirrels are more than capable of surviving the winter.

3 000 caches? What a feat of memory by the squirrel! I am in awe of these little guys. I am also reminded about memory palaces. That is the memory trick of mental “athletes” to memorize a set of things by using a memory palace to aid in the memorization.

The idea is simple enough. First you think of a place that is big enough to have easily remembered spots to place the items of your list. Then you mentally place that item there, or a mnemonic of that item. Say your list is the items in order on the periodic table. Hydrogen could be represented by the burning Hindenburg at your front door. Helium could be represented by the non flammable, lighter than air balloon that is tied to your doorknob. Lithium could be a battery that is in your front door camera. Beryllium could be your favourite kind of berry just inside your open door on a ledge where you keep your keys. Etc.

That is the introduction idea for the memory palace. If they could only talk, squirrels would be the masters of the memory palace. Their mental feats would be the stuff of legend. They would be banned from most casinos with their memory tricks.

I now think that squirrelly should mean something different. It should mean a mental “athlete”. It should mean someone schooled in the ins and outs of the memory palace. It should mean someone able to beat the odds at the casino.

I aspire to be squirrelly.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet
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