Saturday, April 29, 2006

I've got soul but I'm not a soldier

I was walking through town today, and the Socialist Worker people were out in force with petitions. I'd gone past without looking and was round the corner before it occurred to me - I always used to sign those things. When did I stop? It's not like I ever had the idea that it would make any difference, but it doesn't hurt to put your name on a list in a good cause, right? And it's years since I went to an anti-war protest march. I think the last one was the big one in early 2003, in fact. And it's not as if the world is such a happy, peaceful place nowadays that I don't feel the need to do anything. I've just got out of the habit. I still criticise people at every opportunity for their apathy, but when did I last do anything constructive to protest the state of things? Long, long ago.

And thinking about it, I seem to have dropped the anti-war stuff at exactly the same time I started getting seriously into memory training. I'm sure there are other factors involved too - that was also the time I came down from my six-month lost weekend and got a horrible new accountancy job - but it's rather worrying now that I come to think of it. So anyway, I turned round, signed the petition and resolved to go to the next event that comes along. World, get ready for the return of Activist Zoomy.

Although the standard of protests seems to have gone down since my day - the only march on the Stop The War Coalition's calendar for the next few months is an anti-Israel thing, and that segment of the Stop The War crowd always got on my nerves. Okay, there's a don't-attack-Iran day next Saturday which I just can't get involved in because I have to be in Cambridge for the competition, but it's May Day on Monday, for crying out loud! What kind of socialists don't hold mass protests on May Day?

Damn, I should have titled this post "Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?" Oh well, I'll save that for the next time I want to agonise about being a semi-celebrity. I'm sure it'll happen again. Anyway, I bought the Killers album "Hot Fuss" today, I'd been meaning to for ages because I love "All These Things That I've Done" so much, but I don't like buying an album based on one song. But the rest of the tracks are okay, if not all that exceptional, so it was probably worth it. I should get in to downloading music, but that just seems a bit technological for an activist hippy like me.

Oh, and tonight's Doctor Who (the one with Sarah Jane and K-9) was brilliant.

Friday, April 28, 2006

With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older

I've decided not to send any more emails to people about abstract images. I was getting way too caught up in the whole argument today. I think the whole thing's been more or less settled now, anyway, probably. Not to my satisfaction, but there are many more important things in life to get worked up about.

Anyway, while I wasn't reading and writing emails at work today, I had my six-monthly appraisal, which went very well. I came across as all professional and efficient and accountanty, which is quite a trick considering I'm not at all. What was more fun was appraising my own underlings a couple of days ago - I've never done that before, but I quite enjoyed it. Luckily I have good underlings who know what they're doing and get on with it without me having to do boss things, so it's not too difficult. I should remember not to call them underlings in the office, though, it sounds kind of rude.

Ah, and a three day weekend! The first of two in a row, since I've also got the next Monday off to recover from Cambridge. And speaking of Cambridge, I had an email from Boris today asking me if I knew of any accommodation there that wasn't fully booked, which reminded me I haven't booked a room myself for the weekend either. This could be a problem - I'll have to find somewhere tomorrow. I phoned Sleeperz tonight, but they're full on the Saturday.

I need to trim my beard and get a haircut. It's at times like this that I wish I had the option of changing my hairstyle and doing something new, but short of shaving it all off, that's genetically impossible. I'd like to have long hair, but I can't even do that - it gets to roughly collar length and then just won't go any longer than that. I miss the days when I could toy with a side or centre parting.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


They did it! In exactly the same way as against Basle! Maccarone scored in the last minute to win the game! Good grief, if this was fiction nobody would like it because it takes far-fetched to the point of absurdity...

Little bits of memory

There's a Mexican journalist who's sent me an email wanting to do an interview, who's apparently 'like 80% English speaker', which automatically makes me feel bad about asking to do it in writing rather than talking on the phone, in case she thinks I'm saying I don't think she speaks good enough English to do a spoken interview. Even though I ALWAYS ask journalists if we can do the interview in writing, yes. I worry about these things.

I also worry for the laws of nature - there's an ongoing debate about the new 'abstract images', and I'm agreeing with Gunther about absolutely everything! We're normally diametrically opposed on every subject vaguely related to memory. The problem is, we feel (and Clemens, Astrid and Joachim back us up on this), that if the random shapes Phil's fancy new random shape generator produces are coloured in, it makes it much easier to memorise them, because you only need to look at the colours. To be fair, it's not like they're primary colours, it's patterns and textures, but the point still stands.

Phil, Mind Map fanatic that he is, thinks that colours are essential to 'stimulate creativity', but I think that's nonsense. Memory competitions should be about giving the competitors things that are DIFFICULT to remember, and making them come up with creative ways to memorise them. Giving them things that make it easier to remember defeats the whole object. But it looks like the united front of the top competitors isn't going to get us anywhere again. Shocking. I'd complain and boycott things if I was the type to give a monkey's.

I'm watching the most amazing football match while I'm typing this - I know I've written about footy a lot on here lately, but this is something special. Middlesbrough came into the second leg of the Uefa Cup semi-final against Steaua Bucharest 1-0 down, played terribly for the first twenty minutes and conceded two more goals. With the away goals rule, that meant they had to score four to stay in the competition.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with football, coming back from 3-0 down is a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of thing. But it's something that Middlesbrough actually did in the previous round of the Uefa Cup, against FC Basle, and somehow that statistic has inspired them to stage another amazing recovery. And everyone in the crowd is right behind them too - somehow, from the moment they went three down, they were hot favourites to win the game! As I write this, there's five minutes left and they've scored three of the required four. Unbelievable.

A bit more useless trivia - I've had the song 'Cool For Cats' stuck in my head all day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Horses for Courses

It occurred to me that I should write something about eating horses, and call it 'Horses for Courses'. But then I realised that that would just be silly.

What would be better would be to write about a funeral director who decided to give away all his vehicles to the people who swore at him in the most creative way, and call it 'Hearses for Curses'. But that would essentially be the joke right there, and I've already given away the punchline, so I won't.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fate mocks me once again

I had a plan tonight - get a snack on the way home, do some memory training once I got in, then cook tea in time for the football.

Got to Burton station in ample time to buy a bite to eat from the shop if the train was a couple of minutes late like it always is, but it was bang on time, so I didn't get a chance. And then it trundled out of the station a little way and stopped dead. The 'senior conductor' (I'm pretty sure there's only one conductor on these trains, but that's how he introduced himself) apologised over the tannoy and explained that the points were broken up ahead. So we sat around in the middle of nowhere for quite some time until the tracks were clear enough for us to back up to the previous set of points and move onto another track to continue towards Derby.

Also, it was the train with the display that says the train will be calling at 'Derby, Long Eaton, Long Eaton, Attenborough and Nottingham'. There should be one less stop at Long Eaton and one more at Beeston in between Attenborough and Nottingham.

Lehmann just saved a penalty!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so by the time I got home I judged that there wasn't time for any memory stuff. I've not been in the mood for it just lately, and I don't want to push things and force myself to do it. I'm still in good shape, mentally speaking, so I could give things a rest for a while until I'm more excited about it. Cambridge will probably have that effect on me.

Woohoo, Arsenal are in the final!

Monday, April 24, 2006


I've just been watching a very entertaining snooker match between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ryan Day. Day was 9-7 up going into the evening session, lost the first frame but was about to win the 18th when he had one of those complete nightmare moments - taking aim to pot a straight pink with just the colours left on the table he miscued horribly, bounced the cue ball right over the pink and straight into the pocket. And from that point on, everything that could possibly go wrong for him, did. You had to feel sorry for the guy. Ronnie won 13-10 in the end.

Talking of Snooker, I saw in HMV yesterday that there's a DVD of Maid Marian and her Merry Men, which I was sorely tempted to buy. In fact, I was tempted to buy about a dozen diverse DVDs, and the only reason I didn't was that I knew I'd just spend all my time sitting watching them and not doing anything useful. I still haven't written that book, after all, and I haven't done any memory training for the last few days either. But on the other hand, I'd like to experiment a bit more with my laptop's amazing DVD-playing abilities, and to see the entire run of Allo Allo in one sitting, intermingled with a few obscure old episodes of Doctor Who...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Cloth cap and whippet

I've spent a lot of today sorting out the things people are going to memorise at Cambridge. The random words was fun, if horribly time-consuming. I have an Excel spreadsheet that picks random words from a list of about 50,000 English words, but for the competition I had to pick out the reasonably common ones - I like to think I've got a pretty cromulent vocabulary, but there are plenty of big words that thing comes up with that I've never heard of.

Having done that, then they need to be translated into German. Which means rejecting another bunch of words if the dictionary can't find them or can't provide a one-word synonym (had to lose 'whippet', because the best translation I could find online was 'kleiner Rennhund'). And then there's agonising over whether it's more or less difficult in the two different languages. In my considered opinion, based as it is on my imperfect grasp of German, the two versions are about as equal as it's possible to get in terms of how commonly used the words are, how easy it is to confuse a word with a similar one, and so on. And they're all spelt right, I can promise that much at least.

I've also finished off the names and faces papers - roughly one third English names, one third German and one third international. Again, with the same difficulty level whichever of the two main languages is your first, scrupulously measured. That just leaves the spoken numbers to generate and record (on my laptop and on cassette in case of technological disaster - no translations here because there isn't the time or the technology, but I need at least two different sets of 100 and 200 digits in case something goes wrong) and the historic dates to do (relatively easy, although again the German translations are a headache).

Organisers of memory competitions always get blamed for everything that goes wrong, and get no credit for everything that goes right. It's like being a football referee.