Saturday, May 20, 2006

It's terrible

They've changed the Eurovision Song Contest so the representative of each country at the end doesn't read out all ten scores, just the top three. That stops the results taking quite so many hours, but it's still a terrible break with tradition. On the other hand, the coolest song (Finland) are winning for a change, so it's okay.

Yes, there are more interesting things I could write about than the Eurovision Song Contest. I bet the internet is full of blogs talking about it, and this is meant to be a "different" kind of blog. But hey, it's only once a year. I won't do it again. And Britain have scored double figures for the first time in years!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Planning it is half the fun

Yes, two posts in one night. I'm as prolific as Enid Blyton, and only 90% as contemptuous of the working classes. But I've just noticed that the MSO schedule is on the website. This is always a highlight of my year. Planning out a timetable that will give me something fun to do all day, every day is a challenge - how much othello should I play? Should I play the last weekend or go to the othello nationals in Crawley? I want to do the mental calculations on Wednesday morning, so what to do in the afternoon? Can I cope with two solid days of Chinese Chess? Why is Chinese Chess before Chess in the alphabetical list? Can I remember how to play stratego? Can I fit azacru into the schedule and still have something to do for the rest of the first weekend?

After nobody came to last year's event, they're really going out of their way to persuade people to come back this time round, so maybe it won't be a complete disaster after all. I'm pretty sure I'll go along this time, anyway.

Who is Sandie Thom sleeping with at Virgin Radio? They're plugging "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker" like nobody's business at the moment. Okay, it's a very good song, but every DJ is urging us to listen to it, predicting it will be a chart-topper and telling us it will grow on us. In identical words. There's some sinister conspiracy behind it. Really great song, though, so I don't mind.

And while I'm talking about radio, I really should have mentioned tonight that Radio 4 want to do a show about me as part of an all-summer theme of memory. Riveting as usual, Radio 4. But this really sounds like it would be fun, somehow, so I really want to get involved with it. It's only a 15-minute slot and it's on radio, so it seems to me there'd be a bare minimum of people following me around and talking to me, and probably no cameras being pointed in my face.

Oo, gotta get up, gotta get out

Sainsbury's have changed their opening hours without telling me, so that they now close an hour earlier at 7pm. This forces me to go to Spar if I notice I've run out of bread after that time, which generally forces me to buy that horrible "seven days fresh" stuff, because they generally sell out of the edible kinds of bread by that time of night.

Now, I'm not like Delia Smith, who won't eat any bread that she hasn't made from flour she's ground herself and yeast she's cultivated between her own toes, but that seven-days-fresh bread is horrifically nasty. I'm not sure by what definition of 'fresh' they're working, but it looks, feels and tastes past its sell-by date even when it's brand new. And a loaf of normal bread usually lasts me seven days without going off. Who buys this product, and in the name of sanity, why?

In other news, there's a solid gold pack of cards as the prize at the Speed Cards Challenge next month! I'm definitely going to win it. This is the kind of prize that all memory championships should have, rather than stupid trophies that don't fit in your rucksack for the journey home (always catches me out, that does. And I can't bring an empty bag to the competition with me because that would jinx the whole thing). This whole event is going to be fantastic, I can tell. Better by far than my Cambridge thing. Hattingen's limited supply of hotels seem to all be fully booked, but rather than trawl around for B&Bs and phone Germany to ask if they've got a room, I think I'll get a hotel in Essen - it's twenty minutes away on the train and that way I get to look around the big city on the Friday before the competition.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mister Boss

I'm not, as a rule, good at being a boss. I can't tell people to do things because I'm scared they'll say no, and besides, I'd much rather do everything myself than get someone else to do it. But today I noticed that I and my underlings were working really well, getting stuff done and I was all telling them what to do and how to do it and everything. I'm not sure how that happened, but it was fun.

Although in between that, I was getting in an argument with someone non work-related over email, and I was going to blog about that at length tonight, but we sorted it out, more or less, and it was all the result of a misunderstanding, mostly, so I won't go into it here after all. Although I'm still quite annoyed with this person's attitude, so maybe I will if I can't think of anything better to write about tomorrow. It's the kind of thing I should sleep on, I think.

I'm watching the Eurovision Song Contest semi-final at the moment. It's kind of irresistible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fallen at the last fence

Drat, I was hoping to say tonight that I should have had a bet on Chelsea to win the league, Liverpool the FA Cup and Arsenal the Champions League, as I predicted a while ago, but it didn't quite work out.

Instead, I suppose I should record that I'm thrilled with the World Memory Championship being moved to London and mid-August, meaning that a) I don't have to take time off work in our busiest period of the year (and might even have escaped the newspapers and things before I have to get on with work), and b) I get to play in the othello nationals after all! Now all I have to do is learn how to play the game properly and I have a very slim chance to get a trip to Japan out of it. That's assuming an unprecedented number of flukey wins, better players not wanting to compete in the worlds and people being abducted by aliens at convenient (for me) times.

It's a shame to miss out on visiting Malaysia again, though - I was really looking forward to it. I suppose I could go there anyway some time and not compete in a memory competition, but that would just be silly.

Another TV company emailed me today, adding to the long, long list of people who are trying to develop a documentary about memory for Channel 4. One of these days, I'm sure one of them is going to actually make one, just on the law of averages.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Bermuda Triangle

"Everybody shut up and pay attention," said Douglas, bursting through the front door with a two-foot-long model ship in his arms. "I've solved the mystery of what happened to the Mary Celeste."

Everyone turned their gaze from Noel Edmonds on the TV to look at Douglas. When he showed no signs of wanting to elaborate on his pronouncement, Davina asked "So what did happen to the Mary Celeste?"

"Technically," said Hortense, "we know what happened to the Mary Celeste. It was the crew whose fates are a mystery. The ship itself was just fine."

"Shut up, Davina," said Douglas, rather unfairly. "I'll be able to tell you what happened to it if you'll let me use your bath. I've only got a shower at my place and that's no use."

Everyone stayed silent this time to see if Douglas would explain what he was talking about without prompting, but he put the model ship down on the table, wandered into the kitchen and made himself a cup of tea. Roger threw a brick at him and narrowly missed, breaking the sugar bowl and two salt cellars. Luckily, the salt fell on the floor in such a way that it seemed to spell the words "What do you mean, Douglas?", so Douglas continued his explanation.

"You see," he said, inaccurately, "I've made a perfect scale model of the Mary Celeste. I just need to set it afloat in your bathtub and watch what happens, and the greatest mystery of the human race will be solved!"

Davina doubtfully interjected, "Douglas, it's a very good scale model, but..."

"I got a better scale model out of a Kinder egg last week!" shouted Spike from the corner.

"...But I'm not sure you can deduce what happened to the original ship by what happens to a model in a bathtub," continued Davina undeterred.

"And it was supposed to be an ostrich, I just put the pieces together the wrong way!" Spike screamed.

"Ah, but I've made scale models of the crew as well, look," said Douglas, as if that put an end to any and all criticism of his theory. "Now come on, let's go to the bathroom.

"I could do a computer simulation of what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste..." started Hortense, safe in the knowledge that everyone told her to shut up every time she mentioned computers and thus she wouldn't have to reveal that she hadn't the first idea how one would go about creating such a simulation. Roger threw a brick at her head, which missed and shattered a ming vase, three windows and an antique crystal radio set.

So, ignoring Noel Edmonds's increasingly frantic attention-seeking, the gang trooped upstairs. The bathroom door turned out to be locked, so Davina and Spike kicked it down. They discovered an elderly man in the bath.

"For crying out loud, Uncle Herbert," sighed Davina, "I've told you before about breaking into my house to use my bath."

"Yes, but your bath is slightly smaller than mine, so it reduces the risk of drowning," said Uncle Herbert, climbing out. "I'll be off, then."

"No you bleeding well won't!" yelled Spike. "You're staying here to help us solve the mystery of the Mary Celeste!"

"Can I at least put some clothes on first?" asked Uncle Herbert. "I left mine at home, and it's surprisingly cold in here, considering there are six of us standing around a tub of hot water in a six-foot-square bathroom on a hot afternoon in the middle of August."

"There's no time for that kind of nonsense," said Douglas airily. He put the model of the Mary Celeste into the bath and took out his camera to record the goings-on.



Several theories have been advanced as to what happened after that. We will never know for certain, as at that moment the batteries ran out in the security camera in the bathroom. When the man came to read the gas meter three weeks later, he found the scale model of the Mary Celeste still floating in the bath, Noel Edmonds still on the television, but no sign of any of the six former occupants of the house. Some things we are just not meant to understand.

Monday, May 15, 2006

I want a mini-me

It occurs to me that of the newcomers who took part at the Cambridge memory competition, Rich Bowdler is very much in the mould of Ed Cooke, wild-haired life-and-soul-of-the-party Oxford types; Dave Turner is along the same lines as David Thomas, both professional corporate memory trainers as well as the eerily similar names; Guy Griffiths has been taught everything he knows by his fellow student Boris Konrad; and James Paterson at least shares a name and initial with James Ponder, even if I can't think of a good way to keep the analogy going. There was also Philip Peters who joined in for the afternoon, but I didn't get much chance to talk with him and I can't think of anyone to compare him to, so I'm ignoring him for the sake of this argument.

The important thing was that there wasn't anyone there sporting a silly hat, unflattering beard and strategically shaved head, nor emulating my own approach to memory contests. (Unlike in the othello-playing world, where hats are fast becoming the essential fashion accessory). I do have plenty of people who ask my advice and act on it, so I shouldn't complain. But I'm going to anyway, because I'm just in the mood for it tonight. Not that I want to devote my time and energy to training or inspiring people, but if there was a way to have hordes of dedicated fans and proteg├ęs without having to actually do anything, I'd take it.

Until I got tired of the attention and ran away, obviously. And if I've offended anyone reading this by characterising them as a mini-me, I'm very sorry.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Practice makes you tired

Haven't done as much as I was planning, but I did a 30-minute binary this morning, and 30-minute cards tonight. And I'm toying with the dangerous idea of trying 18 packs in Germany. I did that tonight and think I got 14 right, which would be great, but I didn't get the last three, which kind of suggests that I should just stick with 15. That's the safe option (relatively - there's still a sporting chance that I could mess it up completely), but 18 is the tantalising target that I've felt for years like I should be able to do.

I could always attempt a number of packs that isn't a multiple of three, there's no law against it, but I just prefer to do these things in complete routes (three packs to a route). If I did 16, maybe I'd get them all right. Or maybe I'd just be confused by the whole thing. I really like strategising like this.