Monday, August 19, 2019


On the way home from the Mind Sports Olympiad Memory Championship - it's the 23rd MSO, but I'm not sure whichth MSO Memory Championship it is, because there have been some years without a memory event there, and some years when the memory event was the World Memory Championship... I think it's the third, or maybe fourth, MSO Championship in this particular format, anyway. I'll write it up in full detail as soon as I get a bit of free time, but here are a couple of lovely photos to whet your appetite:

Here we have, from left to right, my ever-awesome arbiting sidekick Nick, MSO Championship veteran and thoroughly awesome Lars, noble and awesome representative of Britain Gordon, awesome pi-memorising juggler Susanne, EXTREMELY awesome new superstar of competitive memory Andrea (who won everything), me grinning like a loon in the background, and awesome all-the-way-from-Thailand card-memorising star Preeda.

It was awesome! Did I mention how awesome it was?

Sunday, August 04, 2019

And good news for fans of cryptograms

I don't buy X-Men comics as a rule - they've been really rubbish for many years now. But the latest 'epic' is weird and cool enough that I thought that even the ludicrously high price they sell for was justified here, and I've got the first two parts, House of X issue 1 of 6, and Powers of X issue 1 of 6.

It's "two series that are one", you see, and one issue of one or the other is coming out weekly over a 12-week period (in an interesting sequence, too, listed at the back of each comic to avoid confusion; House 1, Powers 1, House 2, Powers 2, Powers 3, House 3, House 4...). They cost $5.99 each, which means that British comic shops feel it's okay to round up the exchange rate and sell them for £4.99, so we're looking at sixty quid for the whole adventure. You could buy quite a lot of real books or movies for that money.

So what makes them worth the extravagance, you ask? Well, as comics go, they're chunky things - 56 pages, not counting the covers, and even excluding the ads (mostly for other Marvel comics, rather than the more intrusive kind of paid advert) you get well over 40 pages of actual content in each issue. And the way it's presented is intriguing and worth reading multiple times too, decidedly different from the average comic. A lot of text summarising different aspects of the universe it depicts, as well as the traditional visual storytelling.

The whole thing is written by Jonathan Hickman, and to describe the story is almost impossible, so I recommend that you check it out for yourselves - knowing anything about the X-Men beyond the basic concepts of the series (mutants with super-powers, hated and feared by humanity) isn't really necessary, and it's not really any kind of continuation of the storylines that have been appearing in the comics in recent years (which I haven't read, for the most part, so that's good). While House of X is set in the present day, it involves the X-Men behaving in a different and rather scary way, with revelations about exactly what's going on still to come, probably, by the end of the series if we're lucky. Powers of X covers four different time zones, brilliantly described as X⁰: year 1, X¹: year 10, X²: year 100, and X³: year 1000. "X means ten" has been done by X-Men comics before, naturally, but I love this kind of nerdishness in my comics.

X¹ is the present moment, with the events of House of X continuing on; X² is a really nicely done extrapolation of that into the status quo of 90 years of X-Men comics later. All the events of the present day have been resolved long since, but the whole general war is still going on. It actually works better than the previous famous X-Men future-based stories have in the past. I like it a lot, anyway.

There's extra nerdishness in the form of things written in the 'language' of Krakoa the living island, which is actually just symbols representing letters, for the readers to decipher - there's a separate symbol for 'th', which is another example of the kind of extra touch I like to see.

It's not perfect - the art is a bit ugly here and there, and I don't think it always conveys quite what the writer intended, and the whole thing feels a bit fan-fictionish (think up a cool idea and then try to write a story around it), and they do get those Krakoa characters wrong at least once, probably twice... but it's generally awesome enough that I'm getting it for the next ten weeks, just based on the promise of the first two issues. Sixty quid well spent!

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Always wanted to own one of these

In a charity shop in Nottingham today, I found a vintage othello set, late 1970s or very early 1980s, back in the days when it was produced by Peter Pan Playthings. Not only does it still have all the pieces, it even still has all the original paperwork, including the British Othello Federation insert telling you all about the British Othello Championships! Those were the days, or so I'm told - I wasn't there at the time.

Also, to read on the train I took with me "The Seeds of Time" by John Wyndham, a collection of short stories which I've owned for decades but haven't read for a while - strangely, I found I had no memory at all of ever reading one of the stories in it, even though I was very familiar with all the others. And since "Opposite Number" deals with alternate universes, I can only assume either I or the book have fallen into a very similar parallel universe where that story is/isn't in the anthology. Or else it's not as memorable as the other stories in the book, but I found it entertaining enough this time round...

Friday, July 26, 2019


I feel like I should be making an effort to learn Portuguese before I go to the Azores, even though it's a tourist resort where I doubt anyone will expect me to. But I tried and signally failed to learn the language back in the dim and distant history of thirteen years ago, when I went to Rio de Janeiro for that wonderful TV show that gave me the Brazilian Mystery Cloak, and (because I never throw anything away), I've still got the language course I bought back then. Granted, it's a course in "Colloquial Portuguese of Brazil", and I should more probably try to learn Portuguese Portuguese if I'm going to what is technically a part of Portugal, but I'm just impressed that I still own this big plastic box, containing a book, two CDs and two audio cassettes for people who hadn't upgraded to CDs yet.

I think I'll become fluent in colloquial Brazilian Portuguese, and make the locals tut about these Brazilian tourists causing trouble, instead of English tourists. It'll make a nice change.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

This beats Joe-from-the-office's hairdryer into a cocked hat

Do you remember my blog post a month ago, when I recommended you all to buy a raffle ticket or two on Raffolux? And did you do it? You probably didn't, but you definitely should have done, because if you had, you might have won a luxury 5-day holiday in the Azores, complete with swimming-with-dolphins and looking-at-whales experiences. But as it turns out, it was me who won it!

I'll be going some time in September, most likely, as soon as I sort out tricky little details like who gets to go along with me. Not bad for a £5 raffle ticket, eh?

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Vacation time

Just to follow up on that post about tennis players of the 1980s and 1990s generations, the main draw at Wimbledon this year featured 52 players born in the 80s and 74 born in the 90s, plus one from the 2000s (the aforementioned Félix Auger-Aliassime) and one from the 1970s (Ivo Karlović, forty years old, seven feet tall and possibly some kind of mythical long-lived tennis-playing giant species to which the laws of human aging don't apply). After the first round, the remaining 64 players are those two outliers, 30 of the 1980s team and 32 of the 1990s. The old men are still teaching the young ones a lesson or two.

But now there's no time for more unnecessary analysis of tennis players, because I'm going on holiday! Jetting off to America today to see the sights and the fireworks of Pittsburgh! Remember when I did that ten years ago exactly? I barely do, but you know what my memory's like. No more work for a week! Woo!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Roll of Honour

The British Othello Championships are basically the same age as me, so compared to memory competitions (which only date back to 1991), it's very cool to be part of such a long-established tradition. I really must get back into the habit of playing online, and go to more real-life competitions too, and come somewhere closer to winning the thing one of these days. I'd quite like to see my name on this list, and a little shield on the trophy...

1977Alan Woch
1978Geoff Davidson
1979Alan Woch
1980Neil Cogle
1981John Parker
1982David Stephenson
1983Imre Leader
1984David Sharman
1985Neil Stephenson
1986Imre Leader
1987Peter Bhagat
1988Graham Brightwell
1989Joel Feinstein
1990Imre Leader
1991Joel Feinstein
1992Joel Feinstein
1993Joel Feinstein
1994Imre Leader
1995Graham Brightwell
1996Joel Feinstein
1997Joel Feinstein
1998Graham Brightwell
1999Imre Leader
2000Graham Brightwell
2001Imre Leader
2002Garry Edmead
2003Garry Edmead
2004Imre Leader
2005Imre Leader
2006Graham Brightwell
2007Imre Leader
2008David Hand
2009Michael Handel
2010Imre Leader
2011Guy Plowman
2012Borja Moreno
2013David Hand
2014Guy Plowman
2015Imre Leader
2016Imre Leader
2017Imre Leader
2018Imre Leader
2019Imre Leader