Sunday, February 15, 2015

Let's have a party with Charlie Brown and Snoopy

Some people, when they find themselves with a huge list of things that really need to be done over the course of a weekend, prioritise the most essential tasks and use effective time management techniques to make sure the best job possible is done. Others give up on the whole thing and decide to devote their time to something reassuringly completely unnecessary and yet entertaining enough to distract them from all those other things they were meaning to do.

With that principle in mind, I hereby rectify the shocking absence from the internet of a really good visual analysis of the relative prominence of characters in the early years of the Peanuts comic. The following graph is a moving annual total of appearance in the daily comic strip; each point shows the number of strips that character has been seen in for the year up to and including that date.

 photo Untitled-2_zps62ioipqx.jpg

When the strip launched in October 1950 its three regular human characters - Charlie Brown, Shermy and Patty - shared the spotlight, and it's actually Patty who makes the most appearances in the first couple of months. Snoopy, who at this point is an entirely normal dog, plays a supporting role. By the start of 1951, though, Shermy's appearances have already started to dwindle and Charlie Brown becomes established as the star of the series. Shermy never gets any real kind of personality, strangely enough. He's one of life's straight men whose job is to stand there and listen to the punchline once in a while.

The introduction of Violet in February doesn't change the dynamics very much, as there's not much difference between her and Patty, who still features more often. More interesting is when Schroeder makes his debut in May, as a baby who can't yet walk or talk (or even play the piano). He grows up surprisingly quickly, and by the time of Lucy's debut in March 1952 she and Schroeder both are just slightly smaller than the other characters.

Lucy immediately zooms to prominence in the daily strip, mostly at the expense of Patty, although it takes her several months to transform from the baby of the group into the kind of personality she eventually settles on. Linus, when he makes his debut in September, is much more of a slow burner; he remains a baby for a much longer time and settles into a pattern of only occasional appearances for the best part of three years, seen more often only than Shermy (who at one point in 1954/55 shows up only twice in nine months, but doesn't quite get forgotten about altogether).

We settle now into a pattern of Charlie Brown featuring in the majority of strips, with Lucy the other central character and Snoopy gradually getting more anthropomorphised as time goes on (his thought bubbles make a debut around this time and he starts to dance on his hind legs on occasion). Schroeder, Violet and Patty are the supporting players, and it's interesting how closely the lines for Schroeder and Violet stick together on the chart - it's unusual for them to appear together, but they each alternate in strips alongside either Charlie Brown or Lucy.

The other supporting characters of the 1950s don't get much exposure - one-joke character Pig-Pen is used sparingly and Charlotte Braun, although introduced as a new main character, is dropped completely after just a couple of months. There's an almost complete and total lack of other characters, even in the background nor even as passing mentions.

In July 1955 Linus suddenly becomes much more interesting - armed with security blanket and unique philosophy he ages to just a little smaller than the others and starts to play a central role. With Patty and Violet fading to near-Shermy levels of obscurity, the more familiar main cast of Peanuts is in place. We're still a long way away from Snoopy's eventual domination of the strip (in 1957 he'd just started to walk on two legs from time to time), and the sixties add some more major characters to the mix, but I thought seven years was about as far as it was worth going with this. All those other things to do, you see...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wedding vows

I heard "Uprising" by Muse today for the first time in quite a while. It's not the best song in the world, obviously, and whenever I listen to it I always tune out the mumbled lyrics of the verse and only notice it during the cool bellowed chorus, "They will not force us! They will stop degrading us! They will not control us! We will be victorious!"

And every single time I hear the song I expect the second line to rhyme with the first, and when it gets to "They will stop de-" I mentally complete the line to say "They will stop divorces!" and start imagining it's singing the praises of some militant group who are out to uphold the sanctity of marriage by any means necessary. That might actually be a cooler song altogether.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Meet the Extremers!

No, wait, let's call them The Extremities! That sounds even cooler. X-Tremities. X-Tremites. X-Termites? I'll think of a cool name later.

Qualification is finished for the 2015 XMT, and if all the people who've qualified do decide to go to the actual tournament, the lineup looks like this - 7 Germans, 5 Mongolians, 3 Swedes, 2 Filipinos, 3 Americans, 1 Norwegian, 3 Britons.

The quarter-finalists from last year qualify automatically - this includes Simon Reinhard, Boris Konrad, Mark Anthony Castaneda and me, who all decided to take part in the online qualification anyway, and Jonas von Essen, Johannes Mallow, Christian Schäfer and Ola Kåre Risa, who didn't. Then there are the top sixteen of the online qualifiers, as below:

Simon Reinhard133.00123.61108.7081.1691.84538.31
1Johannes Zhou69.54154.00117.3971.4187.76500.10
2Yanjindulam Altansuh52.15167.22113.0467.2587.76487.42
Ben Pridmore107.08133.8765.2279.5079.59465.26
Boris Konrad74.96169.49100.0074.99419.44
3Enhkjin Tumur57.90158.2365.2292.9738.78413.10
4Johann Randall Abrina99.06116.28100.0037.8551.02404.21
5Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan89.3475.7878.26117.5342.86403.77
Nelson Dellis52.3272.99117.3966.1585.71394.56
6Annalena Fischer42.18129.7086.9644.0483.67386.55
7Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar51.58130.2678.2649.0575.51384.66
8Anne Reulke43.87125.47100.0037.3877.55384.27
9Lance Tschirhart70.1966.86100.0073.5871.43382.06
10Tuuruul Myagmarsuren46.29123.15113.0437.8559.18379.51
11Alexander Mullen53.04101.9782.6169.7071.43378.75
12Marwin Wallonius58.70115.4373.9171.8157.14376.99
13Marlo Knight62.88101.1191.3055.1859.18369.65
14Akjol Syeryekkhaan37.9680.52121.7452.9273.47366.61
15Katie Kermode30.3776.36117.3942.4497.96364.52
16Johnny Briones45.6993.87100.0038.3375.51353.40
17Purevjav Erdenesaikhan69.2384.2265.2276.9257.14352.73
18Konstantin Skudler34.59116.9678.2642.7169.39341.91
Mark Anthony Castaneda87.9095.6573.3265.31322.18
19Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar51.5094.1665.2249.9259.18319.98
20Norbert Reulke37.96104.5760.8740.4665.31309.17
21Brad Zupp42.1862.8891.3037.3867.35301.09
22Juliane Fischer23.62122.2565.2233.0655.10299.25
23Tuvshintugs Nyamdorj53.9953.7465.2275.8848.98297.81
24Clay Knight33.7496.9669.5745.4348.98294.68
25Florian Dellé30.3789.0760.8732.5853.06265.95
26Oddbjørn By23.6281.3969.5737.3840.82252.78
27Brice Trejo44.6481.2643.4843.8338.78251.99
28Omkar Kibe29.5362.3760.8725.8848.98227.63
29John Graham24.4670.0395.6532.10222.24
30Javier Moreno19.4055.1165.2215.3342.86197.92
31David Billington25.3135.0069.5728.7536.73195.36
32Khaliun Bolor-Erdene32.9055.3569.5736.42194.24
33Luis Angel Echeverria22.7856.7852.1725.4030.61187.74
34Andrej Savickij26.9950.0026.0935.4634.69173.23
35Chris Forde10.9771.7765.2214.38162.34
36Kevin Horsley80.3964.68145.07
Simon Orton59.9378.26138.19
Idriz Zogaj46.6722.0468.71
37Alexis Rodríguez23.6223.62

Lance Tschirhart apparently had his words attempt disqualified and then reinstated, or something like that - I don't know if there's any kind of sensational controversy there, but it's bad news for Purejav Erdenesaikhan, anyway.

The others who were competing "just for fun" are Nelson Dellis, who will be running things admirably as always, Simon Orton providing the wonderful software and Idriz Zogaj helping out and cheering on Team Sweden, too.

How will the group stages and knockout rounds work? If I could make a suggestion before I know the seedings and so can't be accused of suggesting something that'd give me an advantage, I'd like to see a tennis-style thing (big tennis tournaments are seeded so that the 1st and 2nd seed will meet in the final, they'll each play a randomly-drawn one of the 3rd and 4th seeds in the semi-finals, and each of those four will play a randomly-drawn one of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th seeds in the quarter-finals, and so on) coupled with the system that I think they used in the football world cup when it had 24 teams like this:

The top six seeds will each be in a group with a random one from the three other pots (7th-12th; 13th-18th; 19th-24th), split like this:
Group A - 1st seed
Group B - 3rd/4th seed
Group C - 5th/6th seed
Group D - 2nd seed
Group E - 3rd/4th seed
Group F - 5th/6th seed

The knockout stages will then be arranged to keep the top seeds apart if they win their groups, and the second and third places in each group be ranked according to the number of points they amass (the best being called 2nd-place-1, then 2nd-place-2, and so on), and split like this:

Match 1 - winner group A vs 3rd-place-4
Match 2 - 2nd-place-2 vs 2nd-place-3
Match 3 - winner group C vs 2nd-place-6
Match 4 - winner group B vs 3rd-place-2
Match 5 - winner group E vs 3rd-place-1
Match 6 - winner group F vs 2nd-place-5
Match 7 - 2nd-place-1 vs 2nd-place-4
Match 8 - winner group D vs 3rd-place-3

Then the quarter-finals are winner match 1 vs winner match 2, and so on to the final.

Any better suggestions, bloglings? Maybe an optional rule to stop people who've met in the group stages meeting again in the round of 16...

Here's an interesting one

I went to school with a guy called Phil Inkley; we were in the same year but different classes and I didn't really know him all that well. Anyway, he's currently living in the woods to avoid electromagnetic signals and needs to raise money. Click on the link here, check it out, and maybe donate something if you've got a bit of money to spare? Hey, I myself might be described as a bit of a weirdo to some people, I sympathise with others who fall into that category.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Blogs, blogs everywhere!

Another of the XMT qualifiers has started up a blog - Alex Mullen, the latest new superstar of American memorising! I can't wait for May, the internet will be absolutely deluged with people's personal experiences of the Extremeness in San Diego!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Thyme flies

I knocked a jar of thyme off my kitchen cupboard shelf today, and it flew everywhere.

Why did I even have a jar of thyme, I hear you ask? (I assume you're familiar with my style of home cooking and know that it doesn't involve fancy seasoning.) Well, I've had it since I was dieting, like five years ago at least, and making a short-lived but brave attempt at cooking nice-tasting but low-carb vegetable-based meals for myself. The nearly-full jar of dried thyme has been sitting in my kitchen cupboards ever since then, and it's a mystery to me why I saw fit to bring it with me when I moved house. I didn't realise I'd done it; I didn't bring any of the other herbs I stocked up with way back then.

Logically, I must have subconsciously packed it away in my cardboard boxes of kitchen supplies, safe in the knowledge that one day in the far future I would knock it over and be able to write a blog entry with a vaguely funny punning title. And now that day has come.

A final word

Week five of XMT qualification is words! Not a very exciting one visually, this - I find it easier to just read the list of words as it is on the screen, rather than highlighting one batch of three at a time. I do do them in batches of three, though - until last year's XMT, I'd never used a journey for words, just strung them together in one continuous story, but I find it helpful to use locations with such a short fast discipline.

Accurate recall is tricky, and I do suspect English-language-users are at a bit of a disadvantage, if only because there are more possible synonyms, and the translations will generally default to the most commonly-used word in other languages. But then, there are plenty of English-speakers who do this much, much better than I do, so I can't really use that as an excuse.

And so that brings us to the end of qualification! When the results are in I'll run down the list and blog about who I'll be competing against in May!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Hooray for me, because I've passed my driving test! I'm fully allowed to drive like one of those grown-ups I've been hearing about, scaring cyclists and shouting at other vehicles for getting in my way.

Four faults on the test, like a horse knocking off the top bar of a fence, only less cruel and inhumane. It was pretty straightforward, actually, but I still feel a great sense of pride in achieving what probably only half of the spotty, dim-witted 17-year-old population of this country do, and passing first time.

Now when someone says to me "And naturally you've got a full driving licence?" I can reply "Yes, naturally, wouldn't it be silly if I was a 38-year-old accountant who couldn't drive?" and we can all have a good laugh about it.

When they add "And you've got a car, of course," I'll still have to say "No, I can't afford one, but I've got a bike and the brakes still just about work."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Four down, one to go!

 Qualification for the XMT continues apace! Who will make the coveted top 16? Well, I think words will probably be a low-scoring discipline, with an extremely difficult target of 49 for 100 points, so the people sitting there at the moment are looking good.

Nelson's already submitted a words score before I had a chance to copy-and-paste the leaderboard, so he's in the wrong place here, but since he's not trying to qualify anyway it doesn't really matter.

Marlo looks safe, and Katie's still in with a good chance of joining Team Britain. And Clay's still an outside possibility, too! We'll be horribly outnumbered by Germans and Mongolians, but it'd be nice if we could beat the Phillipines, Sweden and the USA in the all-important number-of-competitors stakes.

Let's all put in a big push for the last week of qualifying, whatever country you come from! Good luck to one and all!
Simon Reinhard133.00123.61108.7081.16446.47
Boris Konrad74.96169.49100.0074.99419.44
1Johannes Zhou69.54154.00117.3971.41412.34
2Yanjindulam Altansuh52.15167.22113.0467.25399.66
Nelson Dellis52.3272.99117.3966.15308.85
Ben Pridmore107.08133.8765.2279.50385.67
3Enhkjin Tumur57.90158.2365.2292.97374.32
4Enkhmunkh Erdenebatkhaan89.3475.7878.26117.53360.91
5Johann Randall Abrina99.06116.28100.0037.85353.19
6Tuuruul Myagmarsuren46.29123.15113.0437.85320.33
7Marwin Wallonius58.70115.4373.9171.81319.85
8Lance Tschirhart70.1966.86100.0073.58310.63
9Marlo Knight62.88101.1191.3055.18310.47
10Tsogbadrakh Saikhanbayar51.58130.2678.2649.05309.15
11Alexander Mullen53.04101.9782.6169.70307.32
12Anne Reulke43.87125.47100.0037.38306.72
13Annalena Fischer42.18129.7086.9644.04302.88
14Purevjav Erdenesaikhan69.2384.2265.2276.92295.59
15Akjol Syeryekkhaan37.9680.52121.7452.92293.14
16Johnny Briones45.6993.87100.0038.33277.89
17Konstantin Skudler34.59116.9678.2642.71272.52
18Katie Kermode30.3776.36117.3942.44266.56
19Tsetsegzul Zorigtbaatar51.5094.1665.2249.92260.80
Mark Anthony Castaneda87.9095.6573.32256.87
20Tuvshintugs Nyamdorj53.9953.7465.2275.88248.83
21Clay Knight33.7496.9669.5745.43245.70
22Juliane Fischer23.62122.2565.2233.06244.15
23Norbert Reulke37.96104.5760.8740.46243.86
24John Graham24.4670.0395.6532.10222.24
25Brice Trejo44.6481.2643.4843.83213.21
26Florian Dellé30.3789.0760.8732.58212.89
27Oddbjørn By23.6281.3969.5737.38211.96
28Brad Zupp42.1862.8891.30196.36
29Khaliun Bolor-Erdene32.9055.3569.5736.42194.24
30Omkar Kibe29.5362.3760.8725.88178.65
31Chris Forde10.9771.7765.2214.38162.34
32David Billington25.3135.0069.5728.75158.63
33Luis Angel Echeverria22.7856.7852.1725.40157.13
34Javier Moreno19.4055.1165.2215.33155.06
35Kevin Horsley80.3964.68145.07
36Andrej Savickij26.9950.0026.0935.46138.54
Simon Orton59.9378.26138.19
Idriz Zogaj46.6722.0468.71
37Alexis Rodríguez23.6223.62