Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wifi on planes? Whatever next?

Well, since it's here, I'd better use it for a blog update. And before we get into Chinese airspace, too.

Anyway, I'm on my way to Nanjing! I'll be away from home until the 29th, then on February 1st I launch into a new job, in Redditch, which means I'll be moving house again, too. It's all go, but basically I've resolved not to think about any of that until I get back from China, because there's only so much my brain can deal with at once.

I've done my hugely unsatisfactory Images qualifying for the XMT - really annoyingly, I did a practice run of a perfect 18.70 seconds, or something like that, first thing this morning, and then couldn't get close to that any time that I had the 'qualification attempt' box ticked. I'm resigned to setting my sights a bit lower now, and aiming for "just barely scraping into the top sixteen". We'll see how it goes.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Luke Spacewalker

There's a British astronaut going spacewalking at the space station today, which reminds me of a picture I'd like to find from an old Beano comic, some time in the early eighties. The Beano often liked to boast that Mark Hamill was a member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club, and one time on the letters page some editor (who clearly knew nothing at all about Mark Hamill except what he could deduce from the names 'Star Wars' and 'Luke Skywalker') quipped that he should remember not to pin his fan club badges on his spacesuit when he next goes spacewalking, illustrated with a picture of an astronaut being blown away into space by a puncture. It was a really impressive attempt to show that the Beano was down with the kids!

Monday, January 11, 2016

It begins!

Qualification for the world's coolest memory tournament is underway! Week one is the coolest discipline, speed cards!

The way qualifying works is that you have a week for each discipline, in which you get to make five attempts and choose your best time. Attempts have to be videoed and comply with specific rules to prevent cheating, which means the world gets to see everyone sitting at computers and remembering things...

Here's my first attempt, 25.85 seconds, which would be an entirely okay time to submit even if I don't manage to go any faster in the remaining four.



Cards is the one where I really need to set a very good time to start off with, because people are going to catch up and overtake me in a big way on some of the other disciplines. This one, though, I'm still one of the best at - I hope.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Extremely extreme!

It's that time of the year, everyone - qualifying for the Extreme Memory Tournament starts next Monday!

Go to the training website, sign up, pay a little bit of money if you have to, it's worth it, and take part in the qualification tournament!

I have to qualify this year, and it makes me nervous. I did a practice run yesterday and got some pretty good scores (400 points' worth), which most people think would be enough to get into the tournament, though I'm a little concerned that there'll be some extremely big scores from a lot of people this time round...

The thing about qualifying is that you really want to end up in the top four of the sixteen qualifying competitors - the top eight from last year will (I assume) be the top eight seeds again, which should mean that when everyone's drawn into six groups for the XMT itself, the top four qualifiers will get into pot two (along with Jonas and Enkhjin) and theoretically have a slightly easier group stage draw. Although the top six seeds are all pretty scary (Hannes, Boris, Simon, Alex, Katie, Christian), so there really isn't going to be a super-easy draw for anyone.

But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! The first step is to qualify, starting with speed cards, and my aim there is to get a time better than the 100-points record of 23.34 seconds. I did 23.33 in my practice session yesterday, so that counts as a success!

I'm flying to China on the 19th and back on the 29th, which will get in the way a little, or a lot. I think I'll have to do the images qualification on the 18th before I go, since I'll be spending the remainder of the week in Nanjing rehearsing and performing, and then do the names qualification on the weekend after I return, since I'll be spending the first half of the week in Harbin with probably little access to the internet and a lot of access to beer and a brother I haven't hung out with for ages. But we'll see how it goes!

And if you're keen to read about actual memory competitions, rather than prospective qualification for future competitions, you really must check out new World Memory Champion Alex Mullen's account of how he won, thoroughly squishing my two remaining world records along the way. I think we can safely say that the top memory competitors' scores have now reached a level that makes my performances way back when look quite embarrassingly bad...

Friday, January 01, 2016

Back in the red

Taking an excellent suggestion from Danny at work, I spent three hours of today very productively; watching Red Dwarf. He was thinking more in terms of watching the DVDs, but I'm old-fashioned and still have video tapes that I recorded off the TV, twenty years ago. Nearly exactly twenty years ago, as it turns out - my tape of series 6 was apparently recorded when it was repeated in early 1996. I can tell this from the BBC announcement that because of the events in the news at the time, "Rimmerworld" was postponed and replaced by "Out of Time". I had to check the internet to find out that it was the Dunblane massacre, which just made me wonder why the latter episode was considered more suitable - if anything, it's got rather more shooting and violence in it than the other. I also find myself wondering why I didn't also tape Fist Of Fun which according to the BBC continuity announcer was shown right after the Red Dwarf repeats - not only was it hilarious, but it had text at the end designed to be recorded and watched with the aid of the pause button. Maybe I did tape it but lost the tape at some time since then, I don't know. Twenty years is a long time.

I haven't been entirely idle today, though, because XMT qualification starts soon, and I've been doing a bit of practice for that. I'll blog at greater length soon about the qualification tournament and how I'm going to arrange it around a two-week visit to China. You know, once I've worked out how exactly I'm going to do that...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I'm going to China!

I know I've been going to China for a while now, but it's official - I've got my visa, and they'll let me into the country! Unless something goes wrong. I mean, they might change their minds...

I always worry too much about this kind of thing. Anything that involves getting official approval just scares me. Officials are frightening people.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Job satisfaction

I'm starting to worry that I really like my job. It's not what you'd call mentally exerting, but it's sort of fun. This is a terrible kind of mental attitude to have, I really should try to do something about it.