Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On the road to recovery

Having posted whining blog entries for the last two days about being unwell, I can't not post anything today, or you'll all assume I'm dead. But I'm going to start posting full and exciting daily journals just as soon as I feel like it, you'll see.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It's totally not my fault

I made a definite resolution to blog something interesting on a daily basis, but I'm still unwell. So I'll stick to the letter rather than the spirit of the resolution, and just say this.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sniff, snort, snuffle

Clearly I've turned into an old man, because I can't even remember the last time I had a proper cold like this. But I feel really horrible today, so excuse me not writing about the whole red sun thing that everyone was excited about today. I'll just go to bed.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Memory competition preparation

Nick "The Greek" Papadopoulos, who in recent years has become my indispensable arbiter-in-chief at memory competitions I run, asked me (three months ago) if I could give him a checklist of everything I make sure to bring along to events. I said yes, of course, I'll do it next week when I get a chance, and it's been on my to-do list ever since. So here we go! If you're interested in running a competition yourself, you can use this as a rough guide, though I can't promise it's anywhere near perfect.

I turn up at the Friendly Championship (or whatever) with a big pile of envelopes and a few other important accessories. The general accessories you absolutely need to have, in descending order of absoluteness:

A timing device. You have to tell the competitors when to start and stop, as well as giving them reminders at set intervals. I use my trusty stopwatch - probably not a good idea to use an app on your phone, because phones have a tendency to make unexpected noises if somebody calls you, and you do need to set a good example for the competitors. It's traditional to start each discipline with one minute's "mental preparation time" and then go straight on to the start of memorising time, so for a five-minute discipline I start the stopwatch, give them one minute, say "Neurons on the ready, go!" when the watch shows 1:00, "One minute remaining" at 5:00 and "Stop memorising" when it says 6:00.

Pens. Memory competitors will always forget to bring a pen. Have several spares with you.

Laptop. It's important to keep track of the scores, so do make sure you have your laptop with Excel spreadsheet, or the whole thing falls down a little bit.

A typical 'national standard' competition will run like this. Fitting it all into one day is quite difficult and involves a bit of a rush; lots of people prefer to spread it over two days now. It can be done, as long as you're organised! I always arrange my envelopes in the order I'll be needing them before I come to the venue - usually with memorisation papers in white envelopes and recall in brown, to avoid confusion. Specific things you need for each discipline:

5 Min Random Words; 15 Min Recall
Memorisation papers will be in multiple languages (have each language in a separate envelope, and check before you hand them out!).
Recall papers are the same for everybody.

5 Min Binary; 15 Min Recall
Provide a 'sample sheet' (a memorisation paper with all zeroes) that competitors can use to draw lines on their transparencies if they want. Make sure it is exactly the same format as the memorisation papers. Make it available before the competition, and put it somewhere safely away before handing out the real papers.
Memorisation papers
Recall papers

5 Min Names; 15 Min Recall
Memorisation papers - it's helpful to know how many pictures are on a page, and how big the pages are, before you open the envelope, because someone always asks.
Recall papers
Answer papers - do make sure these are in an envelope of their own and don't get mixed in with the others! These have the faces in the recall-paper order, but with the names underneath. For arbiters only! I print them out in 'draft' format so they look noticeably different, just in case I open a wrong envelope by mistake.

15 Min Numbers; 30 Min Recall
Sample sheets again
Memorisation papers
Recall papers - some competitors bring their own, though it's more common with the cards.

10 Min Cards; 30 Min Recall
Cards - the top competitors will always bring their own, which need to be handed in and shuffled by the arbiters before we get to this point in the competition. Newcomers will often not know it's "the done thing" to bring your own cards, so I always make sure to have a good supply (already shuffled) with me.
Recall papers - these can vary in format from one event to another, so it's more common for people to bring their own. It's important to explain before the memorisation time exactly how to fill them in, for the benefit of new people; don't keep people waiting between memorisation and recall with explanations.

This is a good time for a break. Classy competitions provide sandwiches or even hot meals as part of the entry fee! It's not essential, but it helps to know where's a good place to go and buy lunch, so you can tell the competitors.

5 Min Numbers 15 Min Recall
National standard competitions traditionally only have one go at this, but two trials can be done - make sure people know what you're doing in advance.
Sample sheets again - these might be the same ones as 15-minute numbers, as long as you've made sure the memorisation papers are exactly the same format.
Memorisation papers
Recall papers

5 Min Images 15 Min Recall
Important to remember the new 'concrete images' are only 5 minutes, not 15.
Memorisation papers
Recall papers
Answer papers - arbiters only; these will tend to be in the format of just a page of numbers, but make sure to keep them sealed away until they're needed.

5 Min Historic 15 Min Recall
Memorisation papers - multiple languages again
Recall papers - and this time, the recall papers are also language-specific.
Answer papers - these ones I normally print with a red heading, just so it's harder to accidentally hand them out to people.

Spoken 100 5 Min Recall
Spoken 550 25 Min Recall
Always worth checking immediately before the competition how many digits/trials is the 'standard' nowadays - it changes a lot.
I always make sure to have two sets of numbers prepared for each trial, just in case something goes wrong with the playback. This is the discipline where things are most likely to go wrong!
Recall papers - since the scoring is up to the first mistake, these don't have to be rows of 40; in fact, 30 is traditional for some reason.
Answer papers

5 Min Cards 5 Min Recall
5 Min Cards 5 Min Recall
Bring cards - as with the 10-minute cards above, a lot of people will bring their own, but some might not. There's no harm in re-using the cards from earlier as long as you make sure they've been extremely well shuffled. But if there are enough to go round, it's better to use different packs.
Also needed are 'speed stacks' timers, although again some competitors like to bring their own.
Some competitions like to have slips of paper to record the times on; it's not essential, but it's nice to have.

And finally
Don't forget to bring any prizes that might have been promised! Some people like to create certificates once the final results are known and hand them out in a prizegiving ceremony; Friendly Championships tend to be in venues where we need to vacate the room quickly after speed cards is finished, so the single most important bit of preparation for a competition is to know where there's a nearby pub everyone can go to celebrate when it's finished!

Did I forget anything important? Let me know, and I'll add it in before I finally cross this task off my list!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Because tomorrow, maybe you'll be gone

You know how Marvel comics keep trawling through their old characters to see who'd make a new money-generating movie, and then they re-launch the old comic to try to spin a bit more cash out of it, and it's always rubbish and really the whole thing's terribly disturbing if you were a big fan of the original incarnation? Well, you might not know that (a lot of my blog readers are still resisting my efforts to turn you into obsessive fans of superhero comics), but in any case, there's going to be a new TV series based on Runaways (which judging by what I read about it on the internet will be atrocious, despite a perfectly-cast James Marsters as Victor Stein) starting next month, and there's a new volume of the comic out there now, which started last month but I've only just summoned up the courage to look at today.

And it's completely totally awesome! It's absolutely perfectly right, exactly striking the tone of the Brian K Vaughan/Adrian Alphona original and moving it on in new ways rather than re-treading the old ground! I love it! You really should check it out, even if you're not an obsessive fan of superhero comics - I mean, I still do feel that the best thing Marvel are producing right now is Squirrel Girl, but you kind of do need to be a comic fan to get 90% of the jokes, whereas Runaways always was and now is again the perfect comic for a newcomer to pick up. Enormous admiration for Rainbow Rowell the writer (really) and Kris Anka the artist for hitting all the right notes! Where were they ten-and-a-bit years ago when we needed someone to keep the series going and Joss Whedon surprisingly turned out not to be up to the task? Here's hoping it's a long-lasting success...

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's that time again

I've developed a sort of resigned attitude to birthdays now. And saying "I'm forty" always sounds like a vague approximation, so possibly when I tell people I'm forty-one, it will actually sound younger. I'd still rather not be forty-anything, but what are you gonna do?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Roll one

We use a software at work called SmartAssessor, and when I see the link to the website on my screen, it shows up as https/www.smartass...

And when I'm on Facebook, and it wants to tell me that the International Association of Memory group has a new message, I see something like this:

It puts me in mind of the comic called Avengers & Power Pack Assembled, in which some artist cleverly positioned Captain America's shield on the cover of the first issue:

I could quote more examples, but I'll stop there. Nobody likes a smart alec.