Monday, December 31, 2007

They're gonna put me in the movies

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Woo! This is the first time one of my occasional TV appearances has merited a namecheck in the Radio Times! I really must be famous! Although I don't get to be in the picture at the top of the column. And Kate Moss's documentary is five minutes longer than mine. And I'm not one of the 'choice' selections for the day in RT. I'm offended. I'll complain to my agent and manager and drug dealer. Well, actually, I'll just sit here complaining to my blog and enjoying a sherbet fountain.

Anyway, 2008 beckons! Tomorrow is the dawn of a new productive era of Zoomy! There'll be writing and memorising and achieving and weight loss! Sherbet fountains are low fat, right?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cross my palm with golden oldies

A train of thought today led me to think "I'm pretty sure I own a pack of tarot cards, somewhere. Perhaps I should find them and read my fortune for the year ahead, and write about the results in my blog. And even if I don't find them, I'm sure to find something blogworthy while I'm looking through all my old stuff..."

Well, I never realised I own such a lot of rubbish. Really, I need to throw some things away. The most entertaining things I turned up in the box of junk that sits next to my bed were a couple of old music cassettes - Kid Jensen's Favourite Chart Breakers and The California Raisins Sing The Hit Songs. There was a time, when I first got a walkman back in the late eighties, when the California Raisins tape formed the entirety of my music collection. I can't remember where it came from, presumably it was a present since I can't imagine going into a shop and thinking "Wow, I really must buy a California Raisins tape!" But you never know. I was a very strange child.

Kid Jensen's Chart Breakers, on the other hand, definitely came free with a Rubik's Magic puzzle (or possibly the puzzle came free with the tape - the pair of them together cost around 50p, anyway), bought in the Wise Owl drug store (and general junk shop) in Boston, at some point after spring 1987, which is when the eight hits in question were breaking the charts. Since I know you won't be able to live without knowing what Kid Jensen's particular favourites were at this point, here's the running order:

Pepsi & Shirlie - "Heartache" (entered chart Jan. 1987, highest chart position 2)
Johnny Hates Jazz - "Shattered Dreams" (entered chart Apr. 1987, highest chart position 5)
Fine Young Cannibals - "Ever Fallen In Love" (entered chart Mar. 1987, highest chart position 9)
Boy George - "Everything I Own" (entered chart Mar. 1987, highest chart position 1)
Five Star - "The Slightest Touch" (entered chart Apr. 1987, highest chart position 4)
Blow Monkeys - "It Doesn't Have To Be This Way" (entered chart Jan. 1987, highest chart position 5)
Living In A Box - "Living In A Box" (entered chart Mar. 1987, highest chart position 5)
Mel & Kim - "Respectable" (entered chart Feb. 1987, highest chart position 1)

Those descriptions are all you get on the inlay, there's no commentary from the Kid explaining why they're his favourite chart breakers, or anything like that. All eight songs, in fact, are rather good ones. I was thinking I could have a laugh about some song being considered anybody's favourite, but they're all quite nice, you can listen and sing along to them. So I thought I'd look up the singers on the internet and see what they're doing now.

According to this Wham fan site, which is the first one you get when you type 'Pepsi and Shirlie' into Google but hasn't been updated since 2001, Pepsi sings backing vocals for Geri Halliwell, and Shirlie is married to Martin Kemp out of Spandau Ballet and "London's smash soap opera The Eastenders". And apparently Pepsi and Shirlie's dancing was a crucial part of Wham's success. If you say so.

According to this Johnny Hates Jazz site, "there is no current news regarding the groups activities or any solo-projects that I am aware of." Good to know.

This VH1 website says that Fine Young Cannibals Dave Cox and David Steele continue to work together under various names, without adding any more detail, "while Roland Gift's hoped-for film career never quite took off."

Boy George is still vaguely in the public eye, I think - the ultimate homepage dedicated to him says that he'll be in Genoa Italy for the new year's eve. Whether he's performing there or just holidaying isn't clear.

The first result on Google for 'Five Star' is Five Star Professional Ranges, which is far more entertaining to me than knowing what they're doing now. However, I remembered that one of them was called Delroy, looked him up and it seems he's got an IMDb page. All the cool people have them nowadays.

The Blow Monkeys have apparently reformed recently, although a cursory internet search reveals absolutely nothing about them except websites mentioning their couple of singles in the eighties. I'm sorry, people, but if the first page of a google search for your name doesn't give me a fan site with news updates, you're not going to hold my attention. Their lead singer was called Doctor Robert, though, which is a very cool name.

The lead singer of Living In A Box, Richard Darbyshire has his own website that says he's giving one-to-one songwriting lessons in West London "in a bid to help younger artists to reach their goals". How nice of him. Marcus Vere, wonderfully, writes songs for the "Here comes a..." series of children's DVDs. Drummer Anthony Critchlow might be a sculptural lighting designer, or an associate in the litigation department of Bell, Rosenborg & Hughes LLP, or else he hasn't done anything in the last twenty years worthy of a mention on the internet.

Mel & Kim, whose hit "Respectable" was my favourite of Kid Jensen's favourites, I can probably write about without looking them up. One of them died young and I think the other was on Big Brother or something. Let's see... Kim Appleby's clearly still alive, so it must have been her. She has a website that says she's released a new song but doesn't mention Big Brother, so perhaps she wasn't on it after all. I still loved "Respectable", though.

David "Kid" Jensen is still a DJ on some obscure radio station, I think.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Puppet show

Something I could have blogged about yesterday if I hadn't decided to be all me me me with the resolutions is the Weakest Link puppet special that was on last night. I'd actually heard about this during my Blue Peter adventure, chatting with someone who had worked on it and was telling me all about the technical difficulties of making a Weakest Link show with puppets (the walk of shame is obviously tricky to arrange). And no, I can't remember her name.

Soo was obviously going to win, though - she's always had more brains than all the other puppets on children's TV put together (except Sooty, of course, but Soo has the advantage of being able to talk. Although Sooty answering questions by whispering in Anne Robinson's ear would have been good.) Actually, I always had something of a crush on Soo. She's got a really nice voice, don't you think?

Jelly and Jackson had the funniest ad-libs, though. I'm going to have to watch The Story Makers now - I really admire puppeteers who can get into their characters like those guys obviously can.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Come the resolution, you'll be the first against the wall

It's the time of year when people resolve to do things and then don't do them. So I thought I should join in the fun, since there are rather a lot of things I need to do. So, because I'm twelve times better than most people, I'm going to make New Month Resolutions that I want to achieve before January is out. And I'm publicly posting them a few days early in case any of my loyal readers want to suggest further resolutions or refinements to existing ones. So here we go:

1) Get the amazing memory feats prepared for those uni demonstrations we're going to do. This way we'll avoid any Blue Peter-style fiascos.

2) Get a job. Unfortunate but unavoidable - if I'm not gainfully employed by around the end of March, I will be destitute.

3) Get that machine in Woolworth's to tell me I weigh less than 11 stone 10.2 pounds with a B.M.I. value of less than 24.9. By fair means or reprogramming.

4) Get that damn book of mine written. Seriously.

5) Develop magical powers of some kind. Not related to memory.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Commercial break

There's a thing on the BBC News website saying that that advert with the drumming gorilla was the highlight of the advertising world in 2007. Really? I mean, it was okay, but it wasn't anything special. And until I read the article I didn't have the faintest idea that it was an advert for Cadbury's, so it's really not achieved its basic aim, anyway.

The coolest adverts of the year have been those home-made-looking ones for some phone company, no idea which one, or that one with squillions of musical instruments all in a line playing a catchy tune. Which could be advertising toilet paper as far as I know. If I ever end up in charge of arranging an advert for whatever company I'm working for, I'll insist that it uses the brand name in a catchy, memorable slogan that's the core of the advert. And no drumming gorillas.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm an actor, a mentalist and a psychological specimen!

Wow, I haven't googled myself for ages, but I didn't expect to come up with so many wonderful discoveries in one session!

Okay, number one - I've got my own IMDb page courtesy of my appearance on The Panel! This is the grooviest thing ever! I've always thought it would be good to get myself an Equity card and have a small speaking part on The Bill or something along those lines. You know, just for the experience. And if you're on IMDb, that practically makes you a real actor, doesn't it?

Number two - not that anybody at Channel 5 or Special Edition has mentioned it to me, but it seems the documentary "The Mentalists" is on Channel 5 on Thursday January 10, at 8:00pm. "Documentary following accountant Ben Pridmore in his bid to become the World Memory Champion. The film follows Pridmore on a journey from the UK to Germany and Bahrain to compete against 'warriors of the mind' from three continents. Along the way, he encounters an array of eccentric characters, including a blue-blooded Austrian Count, 'mind guru' Tony Buzan, and a latter-day Renaissance man who lists 'inventing a new colour' as one of his works.". I confidently expect it to make me look like some kind of freak, and I urge everyone reading this not to watch it.

Number three - I don't know exactly what an A.P. Psychology course is, but they see fit to publish their homework schedules online, and check out what they were doing a couple of weeks ago! On Thursday December 13, brilliantly as part of the day themed around both memory and forgetting, students are instructed to spend five minutes watching "the amazing memory of Ben Pridmore" (aka my Central Tonight appearance). I'm on a syllabus! My god, it doesn't get cooler than this!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ho ho ho, merry Christmas!

What could be more appropriate for the festive season than six consecutive episodes of Father Ted (not including the Christmas special) on More4 tonight? Well, quite a lot of things could, but I don't care. It's funny. Happy Christmas, everyone! Have a great day!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Once you pop, you can't stop!

Much as I love my grandma, she labours under the mistaken impression that I don't eat enough. So whenever I come round, she plies me with cakes and goodies non-stop until I'm fit to burst. She also routinely tells me I've lost weight, even though I've got documented proof that I haven't from that machine in Woolworth's.

She also gave me a big tube of Pringles (35% extra free, party size!) and a pack of jaffa cakes to take home, just to keep me going until my next visit because I can't be trusted to eat anything in the meantime, and I just have no moderation when it comes to Pringles. Once I've eaten one, I'll finish the whole tube, especially if they're sour cream and onion flavour like these. So now I feel unwell from overeating, and it's not even Christmas Eve yet!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's really all about buying things

It's really no fun at all having to work late on December 22nd. I've done it before and not liked it, and I didn't have to work in a shop packed with Christmas shoppers. So I deeply sympathise with all those poor people who have to man the tills for late-night shopping at this time of year. At least, those are the thoughts that passed through my head when I went out late-night shopping tonight. I didn't stay at home to ease their annoyance factor slightly, or anything like that.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone did, though? Not only would you make the lives of a lot of low-paid customer-service-facilitators a whole lot more bearable, but it'd cause a major economic panic and stories in the papers about how Christmas sales are down, even if they aren't, possibly the collapse of capitalist society and the rise of a glorious socialist revolution of the kind I keep going on about! Wouldn't that be something?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The dog of death

I checked the Radio Times synopsis of The Grim Reaper Dog - apparently it has correctly predicted the deaths of 58 residents of a nursing home in Ohio over the last three years, by barking to the staff and then staying with the patient until they pass away. Personally, I think I'd rather end my days in a nursing home that doesn't have a dog that tells me when I'm going to die. It's probably carrying some contagious disease, that'll be how it does it. I'm sorry, this mutt doesn't hold a candle to the Memory Chimp.

It's times like this that I feel I really should find something more worthwhile to blog about...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ich hasse Toastbrot

Set your videos, or your DVD recorders or Sky+ boxes or whatever the cool people have these days, for 7:30pm on January 29th, for "The Memory Chimp". Actually, that'd be a cool name for a documentary about me, but in fact this is the one about Ayumu the chimp, with a brief cameo by me. It's the seventh in the Extraordinary Animals documentary series - set your videos for the others if you like, but they didn't see fit to ask me what I think about the non-human stars of those ones. The lineup is:

Jan 2 - The Elephant Artist
Jan 3 - The Grim Reaper Dog
Jan 4 - The Smartest Sea Lion
Jan 8 - The Genius Parrot
Jan 15 - The Greatest Ape
Jan 22 - The Super 'Sonic' Dolphin
Jan 29 - The Memory Chimp

The titles all seem more or less self-explanatory, except for The Grim Reaper Dog. What the heck could this extraordinary dog do to merit such a title? All I can think of is that it's a documentary about Joscha Sauer's "Nichtlustig" comics, with particular emphasis on Death's toast-hating pet poodle, but that seems a little unlikely. I hope it is, though.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tis the season for stocking fillers

I'm always delighted to see how much cheap tat there is in the shops at this time of year. Especially when it comes to toys. Can't afford a Transformer for your whining offspring? Buy them a Transmogrification Robot instead! That's what my brother did for me this year, anyway. The best thing about these cheap and tacky versions of the cool toys is that the packaging is generally made by non-English-speaking slave labour, which means the instructions are always fun to read, and this is a particularly good example:

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I love the text:

Discover the magic of transformers GO-ROBOT. These colorful young robot have come to earth to discover the magicalpower inside of them: the power to change! GO-ROBOT transformers are specially designedfor preschoolers with little hands and big dreams. now you can help our young robot learn tofly,run, race...and save the day.

Someone has really put some thought into this - a lot of these toys, if they say anything at all, limit themselves to a snappy phrase like "Special for you of children design. It will give you infinite pleasure!"

How to transform this robot:

1 Demount the weapon.
2 Turn the crura upward .
3 Turn the with an angle of 180º.
4 Impel in the center
5 The arm revolve
6 The arm retroflexion
7 Assemble the weapon


This may be news to you, it certainly was to me, but 'crura' is a real word. It means the parts of the legs between knees and feet. Although the first page you get if you type 'crura' into Google is the Wikipedia entry for 'clitoral crura'. Which made me wonder exactly what part of our young robot I'm meant to be turning.

If you type 'retroflexion' into the Google toolbar, the autocomplete function suggests 'retroflexion uterus'. Is there nothing on the internet except ladies' bits? It's shocking!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The merry Christmas season

I've actually done most if not all of my Christmas shopping. I haven't wrapped anything up yet, but there's plenty of time for that before meeting my brother for lunch tomorrow. It's the thought that counts, and a shoddily, hurriedly packaged present shows you care.

Getting there

(Written last night, but my internet connection died)

After last night's whining about memory training, I found the time and the inclination for a 15-minute numbers practice run today. I ended up with an unimpressive score of 576 (attempting 936), but I didn't have any problems with keeping the concentration going for 15 minutes of memorisation and 30 minutes of recall, and my speed of going through the digits was just fine - it was just the kind of mistakes that come from being a little out of practice, combined with the fact that the numbers threw up a whole lot of small furry animal images and I got them all mixed up.

Also weighed myself in Woolworth's again, and found that I weigh exactly the same, to the tenth of a kilo or pound depending which one you want to read, as I did last month, but my fat index has gone up slightly. Whatever that might mean. Still, I'm not too bothered.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dedication, that's what you need

Thank you for all the silliness, it's great to know that I can give orders like that and people will obey me. It's like being the King, only without having to wear posh clothes and eat swans.

Right, now that I know people aren't taking me seriously, I'll talk seriously about memory stuff. I really want to get back into proper training, but there's something just missing in the motivation department. I'm not sure why that would be - it's not like I won the WMC this year, so you'd think I'd be motivated to try to win it next time, but apparently not. I haven't even done a speed cards for a couple of weeks now, Blue Peter and OMC last Saturday aside.

It's annoying, because I'm pretty sure from past experience that I'm going to get to a point eventually when I want to get back into it, and I know that the longer I leave it, the longer it'll take when I do start again to get my mind adjusted to long periods of concentration. I know it's much too early to worry about these things, but I feel like if I don't keep the practice ticking over starting around now, I won't be on top form again next summer and autumn in the competitions. Gah, the intricate workings of my brain - I both want to and don't want to practice right now, so I'm never going to be satisfied.

A competition would be good right now, actually - something next month that I could go to and get back in the memory-championship mood. We need more competitions, I'm always saying it, I know, but it's true. It'd be great to revive the Memory World Cup next year, wouldn't it?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Be silly!

I can't help noticing that when I posted a blog entry about global warming, I got three more or less entirely serious comments in response, discussing the extent to which my energy-saving lightbulb would contribute to the crisis. And yesterday when I posted one of my occasional can't-think-of-anything-to-write-about pieces of nonsense (and not even a particularly good one, at that), someone commended it as 'rather imaginative'.

Really, I'm starting to worry that people are taking this blog seriously. So I command everyone who comments on this one to say something completely stupid and not even remotely serious, just to restore Zoomy's Thing's reputation as a totally pointless waste of everyone's time.

Also, you all need to watch Damekko Doubutsu, one of the strangest and funniest Japanese cartoons I've ever seen, about a forest populated by useless animals.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Coventry Ikea

The Ikea store in Coventry is larger than most, being a vast underground complex spanning the whole of the city and parts of the surrounding countryside, plus a small, cramped tunnel leading all the way to Belfast. The complex was built as a result of a mix-up on the part of the architects who redesigned the town hall after the Gulf War - their blueprints got mixed up with a picture one of them had drawn of a revolutionary new hamster habitat he was planning to build. It would have been a terrible hamster habitat, being several hundred square miles of empty cavern, but it made a passable Ikea once a few shelves and tills had been fitted and the hamsters that had quickly colonised the place had been put to work providing electricity by running around on little treadmills.

The real problem with the store is that although it is located directly underneath the car park in Coventry, it is only accessible by means of the small, cramped tunnel from Belfast, there being no other access point. Customers are therefore faced with difficulty in leaving the store with their purchases and staff, given the difficulty of entering and leaving the store, spend their entire lives in the gloomy caverns and have evolved, over the course of the three years the store has been open, into a race of mole-like beings, two feet tall, with no eyes and worm-like appendages that sometimes alarm small children.

On the other hand, it's better than the Tesco in Coventry, which has slippery floors.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Blue Peter-related remarks

After tonight, I won't mention Blue Peter again, I promise. But I thought I really should say a public thanks to the boy who reassured me that I'm like a million times better than all of them put together, after my rather unimpressive memory performance. If only I could remember his name...

I'm also told, by an unreliable maternal source, that the first proper sentence I ever said was "It was Goldie's birthday and all the dogs came to his party!", so possibly if not for Blue Peter I would never have learned to talk and this blog would consist of disjointed incoherent childish babbling. Oh, wait, that's all it does consist of...

Also, and this isn't really anything to do with Blue Peter at all, have they stopped making Drifters? The chocolate bar, not the vagabonds. It's my choccie of choice and there aren't any in the shops any more!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here's one I prepared earlier

To be fair, I did tell them I'm not particularly good at memorising names.

Actually that's not being fair at all - while the names-and-presents thing was the Blue Peter team's idea, and they couldn't be talked out of it, it was me who suggested throwing in birthdays as well. The idea was that by adding something numerical to the mix, I could turn it into a challenge that not just anybody could do, while still being confident that it was still eminently doable for a half-competent memory expert like me. And in all honesty, it really shouldn't have been any problem - I attribute my spectacular failure to excitement and unpreparedness, never having done anything remotely like that before and having to take a guess at what would be the best strategy. And having the numbers come up of the few kids who I couldn't remember - I would have been fine with most of the others. And getting the first one wrong really annoyed me, because I did know him - Harold was the littlest one of the thirty and the thought of him playing for Chelsea was a funny mental image that should have stuck in my brain but somehow didn't when I was put on the spot.

But still, it wasn't about succeeding in the challenge or providing watchable entertainment for the nation's youth, it was about going on Blue Peter, meeting the presenters (Zoe and Andy are exactly the same off-camera as on, I'm pleased to report - I've always been worried that Blue Peter presenters are nasty, cynical grown-ups who swear and watch pornography when they're not on air, but in fact they're fantastic people. Although Andy had to be reminded not to say "I'm knackered" like he did in rehearsal after playing on that groovy electronic floor game thing), meeting the pets (as well as Socks sitting on my lap, Mabel decided she liked the taste of my shoes), getting the badge (still haven't lost it again) and having fun! And I certainly achieved that. Too bad nobody's going to want me on any future TV shows after that shambolic performance, but never mind. I was getting tired of celebrity status, anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Up for the Cup

As part of this memory demonstration we're going to do in the unis, in the spirit of memorising something more, well, memorable than numbers and cards, I volunteered to memorise all the FA Cup Final results. Which is easy enough, but proved unexpectedly complicated when it came to finding out what all the results were in the first place. Most reputable internet sources say that the Wanderers beat Oxford University 2-0 in the final in 1877, but Wikipedia (and the various websites who steal their information from Wikipedia), give the score as 2-1, with an Arthur Kinnaird own goal for Oxford.

I wondered whether this was one of those falsehoods people put on Wiki to discredit someone - a great-grandson of someone Kinnaird fouled a century ago, possibly - but no, it seems the 2-1 result is correct, and the other websites share a mistaken source. I checked with the FA website and a real book (because if they put it in a real book, it must be true. Even the real books that just steal their information from Wikipedia).

I'd still like to be absolutely certain, though. Has anyone got a time machine I could borrow? And the price of a ticket to the cup final in money minted at some point before 1877? I'll bring you back a programme and half a 130-year-old meat pie.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When you do nothing all day...

... it's really hard to think of something to write about in the evening. Well, tomorrow I'm going to get off my lazy backside (metaphorically but not literally), sit down and work on my book and our upcoming university memory demonstrations. No, really, I am, because I've planned out tonight what I'm going to do, and writing it in this blog makes it official, so I can't not do anything tomorrow now without being some kind of public liar.

Who knows, I might even find something to blog about tomorrow, too.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Global warming? Yeah, that's my fault. Sorry.

I switched to energy-saving light bulbs a couple of years ago, but the bulb went in my living room last week and I dug up an old non-energy-saving lightbulb to replace it until I could get a new one. And since then I've never remembered to buy a new one while I was in town. So I'm hoping that by writing about it at unnecessary length in my blog tonight, it will stick in my memory a bit better and I'll be able to get back to making an infinitesimally greater contribution to saving energy, and thus saving the entire world from flooding and sunburn.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Blue Peter Badge, chapter 94

I'm well aware that this blog has turned into "The Saga Of Zoomy's Blue Peter Badge", but I think I have to record that I found it again. It had fallen down behind my armchair, where I briefly dumped my jacket on Thursday night before deciding to be tidy and hang it up instead. So now I'm reunited with my status symbol, and I don't need to mention the thing again. Yay!

So, what else can I talk about? Let's try memory. I've been seriously unmotivated to train my memory lately. I don't know if this is in spite of or because of the fact that I've been doing so many tangentially-related memory celebrity things like This Morning and Radio 4 and the chimps and Blue Peter, but I'm really unable to sit down and practice the long or even medium-length memory disciplines now. I've become a performer rather than a competitor. Which isn't good. I really want to win the WMC again - I'd hate to go down in the history books as someone who only won it once, because I know, all modesty aside, that I can do better than that if I really live up to my potential.

Maybe it's just because it's Christmas. I always get depressed at Christmas.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Oh, I don't believe it!

I've lost my Blue Peter badge! It must have fallen off somewhere yesterday, because it wasn't on my jacket this morning. And still isn't, for that matter. I can't believe I didn't notice it last night when I hung the jacket up - possibly someone broke in to my flat last night and stole it. But this is terrible! I look like a normal person again, someone who's never been on Blue Peter and had Socks the cat sitting on his lap and everything! Well, I'm not going to stay badgeless. I'll buy one on eBay. Or steal one from someone else. Or draw a picture and send it to them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I didn't wear the badge

At least, not for the interview. But I put it straight back on my jacket immediately afterwards. And in a charity shop in Burton, two people were very impressed by it. A woman in the shop told me that she's always wanted a Blue Peter badge, and that when she was little she sent them a story she'd written, but they wrote back saying that she hadn't written it herself, she'd just copied a story written by someone else. And she swears she didn't. It must have been a terrible childhood trauma, and I felt deeply sorry for her, but if she was hoping I'd give her my badge to make up for all her upset, well, she'll have been disappointed.

The interview went passably well, though - I'm making an effort to write about real life in this blog a bit more, because I'm conscious that I don't do that very much. I wouldn't have given me the job based on that interview, but I'm tougher than most people, so you never know.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Today on Blue Peter, Burgess Meredith memorises things!

I won't talk about the actual contents of the show until it's on telly next Wednesday, but I will say now that I've got a Blue Peter badge! My trousers are absolutely covered with hairs from Socks the cat! I got my own dressing room at Television Centre! I've never had my own dressing room on a TV show before!

I should have thought a bit more about the actual dressing part, though. I decided to wear my black suit jacket and trousers with a predominantly white T-shirt because I thought it would look cool and memorable. What I failed to take into account was the fact that I have a rather large and pointy nose, and the Blue Peter studio is currently festooned with animatronic penguins. I can't help thinking viewers will make comparisons.

Still, all this celebrity stuff is REALLY getting in the way of real life - I got a call from one of the recruitment agencies on Tuesday morning just before leaving for London, arranging an interview with Coors in Burton for tomorrow morning. What with being a nationally famous children's TV entertainer nowadays, I really haven't got a lot of time left to read up on the job and the company in preparation. It sounds like a cool job, though, so I'll do my best.

Should I take the Blue Peter badge off my jacket before the interview? All professional logic says yes, but I want people to see me wearing it. I will brush off the cat hairs, though.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Worst advert ever

I saw an advert on a tube train today for Vicks First Defence, which went along the lines of "A stinking cold is the last thing you want for Christmas. Vicks First Defence fights the cold virus in the early stages and may prevent symptoms developing. In fact, 77%* of people who used First Defence said they didn't get a cold. Happy Christmas."

The asterisk leads to some very small print saying "2006 satisfaction survey of 90 UK users."

So let's get this straight. Out of 90 people who used this product last Christmas, TWENTY of them developed a cold over the Christmas period? What percentage of people would normally get a cold over that kind of timespan? I'd be very surprised if it's as high as 23%. It seems to me that this First Defence stuff actually makes it MORE likely that you'll get a cold! And they're using this statistic for advertising purposes?

Anyway, that rant was the main reason I've come to this internet cafe/barber's shop in the heart of London tonight, but I suppose I should also mention that the chimp memory filming went very well too - I see they made the BBC news tonight, too, so I'm sure it will be old news by the time the documentary makes it to your screens, but you will have the fun of seeing me attempting the same memory test and scoring significantly worse than Ayumu the chimp. It's going to be great!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Make a note in your diaries (and cross out the other one)

See me on Blue Peter on Wednesday December 12th! And not the 5th, as I might have said before! It's being recorded in advance, you see.

Check out my memory chimp friends on BBC News! In fact, the performance you can see by clicking on 'number memory test' is rather more impressive than anything I can do (without practice, anyway), although I think Ramón Campayo, who specialises in split-second memorisation of random digits, could still beat them. Actually, I wonder whether that film's a bit misleading and there's a limited number of positional distributions of digits that the chimp has seen plenty of times before, but that's just me being a sceptic. Still, I think tomorrow I get to have a go at the same test, or something more similar to it than the one they knocked together for this documentary last time - we're basically redoing the whole thing that I filmed with them previously.

The life of a memory man really is groovy, isn't it?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Word of the day

It occurred to me that I was aware that there is such a word as 'amanuensis', but I had no idea what it meant, or how I became aware of the word's existence without also learning its meaning. So I looked it up on the internet and now do know what it means (I would share it with you, but I'd hate to think that this blog was educational in any way), but I still can't think where I heard it from in the first place.

I am friends with several pretentious people who like to use big words, it might have been from one of them, but perhaps I was asleep during the conversation and didn't pay attention to the context. Or maybe I came across it in some unnecessarily pompous factual book or article I read and didn't pay particular attention to.

Well, however I heard the word, I'm now enlightened and, being both pretentious and pompous, will do my best to use the word in everyday conversation and everyday bloggery as often as I can. And I'll maybe employ an amanuensis to transcribe my blog and show it to people who haven't got computers, so they'll all know how clever I am!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ooh aah Tominaga

I was rather hoping for a super-rare European win at the world othello championship, but despite the best efforts of Stéphane Nicolet, the trophy goes back to Japan again. Still, it looks like it was a great tournament. I would write more, but it's late at night and I'm typing in between rounds in a somewhat smaller-scale othello tournament on kurnik.

It's quite staggering to realise that it's December, though.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Have cards, will memorise

I finally got round to buying two new packs of cards today, to bring my total of useable packs back up to 36. Maybe I'll have a go at memorising the whole bally lot of them in an hour tomorrow. I doubt I will, knowing how useless I've been at the whole training thing just lately, but you never know.

Other than that, I can't think of anything to write about tonight. Or rather I can, but it's all about subjects I would never sully this blog with, like the latest entertaining developments in the latest political scandal, or the fact that I was mentioning Christopher Biggins in this blog before he was cool, or the fact that the fourth-most-emailed story on the BBC News website is about a puppy that got its head stuck in a watering can but is okay now. So I'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Now, it is beginning of a fantastic story!

I've become worryingly addicted to Bubble Bobble. I dug out the old Sega Master System a couple of days ago and played it, and I've been hooked ever since. I've been semi-hooked on the game ever since I bought it back in, um, 1992, probably. That kind of time period, anyway. But I've usually had other things to do with my time to keep me from playing it all day and all night...

I have done some things today, though - I've been practicing memorising cards and then reciting them immediately, in preparation for Blue Peter. I'd rather not make a total fool of myself on such a big show. And I'm persisting with the swimming thing. Let's see if I've lost some weight by mid-December, shall we?

In other news, the World Othello Championship is underway, and it looks like it's going to be a close contest - you can't really identify any favourites to reach the semis yet, although Matthias Berg seems to be doing very well, Ben Seeley's obviously still on form despite being out of practice, Anon Hongthong, who I've never heard of before today, seems to be beating everyone he meets, all the French seem to be looking dangerous, and check out Geoff on five out of seven, including some really good wins! Which reminds me I haven't emailed him my transcripts from Cambridge like I was supposed to, but never mind. He won't pester me about it till he's back from Greece...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

But if you've been bad, he will kill you

It's that time of year when everybody's thoughts turn to a silly song on an episode of Maid Marian And Her Merry Men from nearly twenty years ago. So I was very pleased to find that typing "Father Bloopy" into YouTube not only gives me the song itself, but also enlightens me as to the existence of a band who named themself after the song. And not only were they genius enough to call themselves Father Bloopy, they also did a cover of Dragostea Din Tei live in Miami Beach, in which they more than make up for any shortage of musical talent with raw enthusiasm. This is my kind of band, and I'm going to find out whether they've got a fan club and join it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Never work with children or animals

Next Tuesday I'm going down to London to watch footage of the Japanese memory monkeys (well, chimps, but I'll take alliteration over accuracy any day) and offer my expert opinion on their thought processes for that documentary. Then I'm staying in a hotel overnight at the BBC's expense yet again (it's a shocking waste of licence fee money, it really is) and on Wednesday I'm memorising information about an assortment of children Blue Peter have dragged in off the street.

[Please ignore the following observation, it's unworthy of an intellectual non-lowbrow-political-observational-comedy kind of blog like this one, but it came into my head when I typed that last sentence: If Revenue and Customs had also asked me to memorise information about children instead of putting it on two disks and losing them, they wouldn't be in the mess they're in right now.]

I've also been working on How To Be Clever a tiny little bit! I'm starting to be in the mood to actually do something with it, for the first time in ages! I might just be able to crank out some kind of finished product after all! But this enthusiasm seems to have come at the expense of practicing actual memory stuff - I haven't done a real training session for ages. I'm feeling all unmotivated right now, and I really need to keep in mental shape if I'm going to win the WMC. I've been doing speed cards quite regularly, but nothing else, and it's the long disciplines I really need to work on. I wish there was a competition, even a little tiny one, some time soon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Seriously, who ARE these people?

I don't know who Ziggy and Chanelle are. I keep seeing one or the other of them on the front of trashy magazines, apparently describing the intimate details of their breakup, but I honestly do not have the faintest idea who they are or why they're famous. What am I missing? In fact, don't tell me. I'm actually quite proud of not knowing. It shows that I live on a higher plane than the kind of people who care about these, um, celebrities (if indeed they are celebrities).

Anyway, I really genuinely am a celebrity, and I can prove it. All you have to do is watch Blue Peter on Wednesday December 5th. Woo! I'm not supposed to write about exactly what's going to happen, for some reason, but I think I can safely promise that it'll be an unexceptional and by-the-numbers routine episode of the long-running show that will go down in history as one that doesn't get mentioned in the history books, ever. But it'll have me in it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

I've just spilled a kettle full of hot water over my left hand while filling my hot water bottle. Ow!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Back home, surprisingly

I was planning to stay over in Cambridge tonight, seeing as I'm going to London tomorrow, but we finished the othello earlier than expected and I thought I might as well sleep in my own bed and play about on the internet tonight. The tournament was a lot of fun, though - held in a different room at Trinity College than the usual one, this one featuring a lot of glass not just on the walls but also the floor of the kitchen (up on the second floor, overhanging the edge of the floors below, so you could see beneath your feet down to the concrete outside. Groovy.) Twelve players and a non-playing-but-there-anyway Aubrey, and I ended up 4th on four wins out of seven, narrowly ahead of David Beck on Brightwell Quotient tie-break. I didn't beat Imre, although I was really hoping to do that three Christmas tournaments in a row, but did beat David (who's rated higher than me, so I won't have suffered too much rating loss from being comprehensively outclassed by Crichton Ramsay, who's rated lower). Nobody beat Imre, in fact, he squished everyone he came up against and won the tournament, with Graham second and Geoff third.

At lunch we'd all piled into the pub we traditionally go to before anyone realised that it had turned into an unnecessarily posh restaurant. We ate there and had the committee meeting anyway, and the meal, although unnecessarily posh, was nice (chips piled up like jenga blocks, I ask you...). At the meeting, Aubrey announced that it's silly him being such an absentee chairman, stepped down and said he thought Geoff should take over. Nobody complained, not even Geoff (probably rendered speechless by having the job thrust upon him like that), so the BOF got a brand-new big boss for the first time in however many years. Almost certainly the first non-British chairman of the British Othello Federation.

It's the world championship next weekend in Greece, and I wish I could be there (Imre, Graham and David are the British team, with Geoff there representing Australia) not just for the othello but for the hopefully rather warmer weather. It was extremely cold today, and I'd decided not to bring my jacket with me on the grounds that it isn't really properly winter yet. I'll wear it tomorrow, I wouldn't want to catch whatever you catch if you get cold.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Something for the weekend

Ahh, nearly the weekend again. If I was gainfully employed, that might mean something, but still, this weekend will be fun. On Saturday we have the Cambridge Christmas Othello tournament, held as usual in late November, then on Sunday I'm heading down to London to meet up with James and James (but not James - he can't make it) and plan out our big university tour of memory performances and teaching.

This is going to be really cool. I'm wildly optimistic about us recruiting whole armies of impressionable young students to the ranks of memory competitors, and the experience of demonstrating memory in front of an audience and running university competitions is an extremely groovy kind of idea. Hope it all works out without any really major disasters...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blow me down

Well, England made a complete mess of the football, didn't they? Ah well, that means I won't spend so much time watching matches on telly instead of practicing for the world championship. And Germany DID qualify, so all my rivals will be too distracted by football and will be rubbish at memorising things! See, there's a good side to everything!

Also, I'm not too unhappy at the result because I've just bought the collection of old Popeye comic strips, and it's fantastic stuff. I had considered boycotting it on some sort of moral principle because I would have preferred them to reprint Thimble Theatre from the beginning rather than start with Popeye's first appearance (I feel deeply sorry for Ham Gravy, the original star, and think he deserves some time in the limelight after all these years), but I decided that was silly. And I'm glad I did, because there's lots of good reading there. I'd really love to do a daily comic strip, and who knows, maybe some day I'll get round to doing that webcomic I've occasionally talked about for years now...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asquith vs Asquith

"Father's fallen into the lion pit again," Henry said, strolling unhurriedly into the drawing room.

"How typical of the man," Mother tutted, looking up from the tapestry she was weaving. She had been working on the tapestry, which chronicled in detail the life of Herbert Asquith, adding fictional sections to fill in the gaps in her knowledge of the man (which had all been gleaned from his entry in an outdated copy of Who's Who from before he became Prime Minister), for several years now and it was approaching eight miles in length. "He knows the Archbishop of York is coming for tea this afternoon and he'll be expecting to throw some paupers to the lions. If they've already eaten your father again, they'll be fully fed and sleepy."

"That's what I told him, but he wouldn't listen," Henry said. "He was too busy screaming and pleading for help."

"I would never have married him if he hadn't drugged me," Mother said, adding a depiction of Asquith and his wife participating in a prizefighting competition in a field near Eastgate. "Believe me, Henry, if I'd had my way I would have married Prince Andrew and lived happily ever after."

"Yes, Mother," Henry said, a little annoyed by his mother's frequent announcements that she wished he had never existed. "So who is going to pick up the Archbishop from the train station? Father won't be able to do it until he's passed through the lions' digestive tracts."

"And I'm afraid of cars, you're too young to drive, being only two years old, and your older sister, whatever her name is, isn't allowed to go within six miles of the train station because of that gypsy's curse. I shall have to ask Valerie to do it."

Mother turned back to her tapestry and Henry took this as a cue to find out who Valerie was and arrange for her to collect the Archbishop. An hour's research with the electoral roll narrowed it down to three candidates, and he sent carrier pigeons to each of them, asking for the favour and enclosing crude drawings of the Archbishop naked, in case they needed further persuasion.

Two of the Valeries collected the wrong Archbishop from the station and delivered him to the wrong house, but the third brought the correct Primate of England to Henry's house, albeit to the tradesmen's entrance. He negotiated the kitchens and scullery to find his way to greet Mother, who had abandoned the tapestry and was putting the finishing touches to a sausage roll.

"Ah, sausage roll," said the Archbishop, picking it up and eating it. "Not so bad. I've had better, mind. And the weather's rotten. And why isn't the train station closer to your house? The Archbishop of Canterbury gets to visit people whose houses are right next door to the train station. And I don't like the colour of your ceilings. Change them. Right, where's your lion pit? I saw a pauper on the way here."

"Ah, um..." Mother said, nervously throwing half bricks through the windows.

"Why don't I take the Archbishop to the lion pit, Mother?" Henry said with a reassuring wink. Mother looked confused for a moment, but nodded and went to get the paint and brushes for the ceiling. Henry led the Archbishop outside, and the two of them returned five minutes later looking in the best of spirits.

"Splendid," the Archbishop said. "I've never seen hungrier lions, poorer paupers or better decorative carvings. There's no need to change the colour of your ceilings. Oh, you already have. Well, change them back. Splendid. I shall recommend you to my friends and arrange for someone to give you fifty pounds. Valerie, take me back to the train station."

He left cheerfully through the window and Mother picked up her tapestry and got to work on it again. "Mother," Henry said, somewhat put out. "This is the moment where you're supposed to ask me how I arranged for the Archbishop to feed paupers to the lions after all."

"Mm," Mother said, not looking up. "I don't really care."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Even more vital statistics

It turns out that Woolworth's haven't completely got rid of the weighing machine, they just stuck it in a dark corner where nobody ever goes. But I braved the paper plates and napkins section and weighed myself today to see how much weight I'd lost after my vow roughly a month ago to get back inside the normal weight range for my age, height and gender. And here are the results!

---------------------------------------------------------
YOUR MEASUREMENTS

Weight.......................12st8.1lb/79.9 kg
Height.......................5ft8.1in/173 cm
Body Fat Estimation:
Fat Index.................22.9%
Fat Mass..................2st12.1lb/18.2 kg
Free F.Mass...............9st10.0lb/61.7 kg
Age and Gender...............31 ♂

REFERENCES

Your Normal Weight is between:
59.9 kg-74.5 kg
9st6.0lb-11st10.2lb
Your current Body Mass Index
is 26.7 kg/m². The Normal B.M.I.
value is between 20 and 24.9

Normal Fat Index............17-23 %
Normal Fat Mass: 12.6-18.4 kg or
1st13.7lb-2st12.5lb

19/11/07,Monday..............11:16:53

This in not a medical act.

· Do not self medicate.
· Control your weight.
· Consult your doctor regularly
or pharmacist.
---------------------------------------------------------

I've GAINED three and a half pounds? That's ridiculous! I've been swimming! I've only occasionally eaten a whole bag of tangfastics in one sitting! I've been reasonably conscious of my intention to lose weight most of the time, and I've still gone and got fatter? Nope, not possible. The machine must be broken.

I have lost some height, though. I'm a centimetre shorter than last time the machine measured me. That's something to be proud of.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Excitement

Ooh, Blue Peter are phoning me tomorrow! I'm going to absolutely insist on a badge as payment for whatever they want me to do. I drive a hard bargain, I know, but sometimes you have to stick to your guns. Perhaps I should try to watch an episode too, so as I have half a chance of remembering the presenters' names.

This reminds me of "Pink Peter", which was a comedy sketch some people, possibly including Robert Webb but I can't remember for sure, put on in one of our school productions. It was extremely funny, meaning that it almost certainly was Robert Webb, since his bits were always the only reason to watch those shows. I'll name-drop that to the Blue Peter people and they'll think I'm even cooler than I already am.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ben Pridmore on Saturday Live

The rather uninspired title is a cunning plan to attract the attention of googlers wanting to look me up after this morning's radio show. Is it a 'show' if it's on the radio? Well, it is now if I say it is.

Anyway, this unseemly publicity-seeking is an attempt to atone for a fairly serious mistake I made during the show - I forgot to mention the thing that was the main reason I agreed to do it in the first place. I still had fun, though - you can hear it here if you're so inclined.

But the thing I was supposed to talk about is that myself and a group of other British memory competitors, all of them called James, are in the process of organising educational and entertaining visits to as many universities in the country who will let us into their hallowed halls. We'll put on a memory performance, hand out memory manuals teaching tricks and organise university memory competitions. It'll be a fascinating introduction to the world of amazing feats like the ones I performed with mixed results on the radio. And you know, I was just about to post this without including the link to the website. I really have a mental block about this, for some reason. CLICK HERE!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm going to get a badge!

Remember back in March when, in a misleadingly-titled blog post, I mentioned that I really love Blue Peter and have always wanted a Blue Peter badge? Well, I got an email today, and they want me on the show! Some time in December! Oooh, I wonder if they'll let me light the advent candle?

Seriously, this is big time stuff, isn't it? Blue Peter! Proper BBC1 nationwide TV, not some grotty satellite channel or Channel 5 or Irish or Brazilian TV, proper British television that lots of proper British impressionable young people will be watching! I don't know why I've suddenly started being famous again, but today I confirmed that I'll be on Radio 4 on Saturday morning (set your tape-recording devices for 9:00), agreed to do a bit more filming for the memory chimp documentary and gushed to a Blue Peter Forward Planning Producer that I'd really really love to be on the programme. And this after a good few weeks when nobody's wanted to talk to me at all.

And maybe I'll be so impressive as a guest on the show that they'll ask me to become the next Blue Peter presenter, and thus fulfil another of my life's ambitions! You can be a Blue Peter presenter when you're bald and bearded and 31, can't you?

Also got a job interview tomorrow, but who cares about being an accountant when you're going to be on Blue Peter?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our radio, our radio, our radio rocks

Remember back in early July when Radio 4 wanted me to be on Saturday Live? Well, they just got back in touch today, as if it was only yesterday, and renewed the offer. So I might be on the wireless this coming Saturday morning, assuming they do call me back tomorrow and do still want me. And yes, I know that it's not usual to use the word 'rocks' in connection with Radio 4, unless possibly in the context of a thrilling programme about geology, but hey, if I'm on it, it really does rock.

I've even got something I can possibly plug while I'm there, and benefit the memory-competition world as a whole - it's one of those projects I wasn't supposed to talk about that I mentioned a while ago. Assuming the others think it's a good idea to talk all about it on the radio before we've finalised any real details, I'll spill the beans. I'm sure you're all excited and giddy with anticipation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The footballer's wife tells her troubles and strife

I'll start with a confession - the song "Mr Rock & Roll" by Amy Macdonald makes me cry. It's also a good song, so when I saw that her album was reduced in Woolworth's, I decided to buy it. But while I was there, I made a shocking discovery - the speak-your-weight machine is gone! I suppose they've got rid of it for the Christmas season when there's less demand for weighing oneself and more for buying huge quantities of cheap tat. So now I'm not going to be able to weigh myself and see if my weight and body mass index have gone down to reasonable levels in the last month!

And then when I got home I noticed that they've stopped doing the 1250+ tournaments on Kurnik othello! Just when my rating has reached the dizzy heights of 1275 and I was planning to play in tomorrow's! Actually, they stopped doing them two months ago, I just haven't noticed till today because my rating's been a touch on the low side lately, but it's still terribly upsetting. There should be more elitism in modern society! It's really exciting when you're eligible to play in the 1250+ leagues! Now I don't get to look down my nose on people who have slightly lower ratings!

AND I found out today that I didn't get the job at Proquest. THREE earth-shatteringly traumatic disappointments in one morning, followed by repeatedly listening to a song that for some reason never fails to bring a tear to my eye. By the standards of some of those true-life-tragic-stories books out there, I could make a fortune writing about this. But I'd settle for a hug and a there-there if anyone's got one handy...

Monday, November 12, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I've just seen an advert that uses that song. I've never heard it before anywhere except from the singing Christmas tree that used to be in the Eagle shopping centre every festive season. It wasn't there last year, as I think I lamented in my blog at the time, and I hoped it would be back this year now that the rebuilding work is all finished and the centre is much bigger and better than ever, but no, rotten old Santa's grotto is there again. Poor tree. I wonder what happened to it.

On the other hand, I went through a pack of cards in 22.67 seconds today. Didn't get the recall right, but that's the fastest I've ever managed. Passing the cards between my fingers works so much better than turning them over onto the table. So many wasted years, doing it the wrong way... sigh...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Working like a dog

Hmm, I'm feeling horribly unproductive. I think I'm going to set myself some hugely excessive targets to achieve tomorrow, so that I can get lots of stuff done and still feel like a failure. That'll do wonders for my psyche. I really need to get back into practicing the long memory disciplines, so that I can win the world championship next year. I think I'll really make an effort with it tomorrow, for want of anything better to do with my time, unplug the phone and see if I can fit in two three-hour sessions. I'll also scour the recruitment websites to see if there are any interesting jobs going, clean up the pigsty I live in and who knows, maybe even write that book I keep talking about.

And learn to do an amusing conjuring trick. I don't know enough amusing conjuring tricks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Things that deserve a blog entry to themselves but haven't got one

Ace bought me a star for my birthday. A star that comes with a cuddly dragon!

My brother bought me a Baby-Face Finlayson comic library, and a knockoff Optimus Prime-like transforming robot whose left leg he then snapped off two minutes after I unwrapped and opened it.

I'm still having a Zumo smoothie every day, although I'm not 100% certain whether they're less fattening than my usual chocolate bar and cherry coke. I don't entirely trust "low-fat probiotic yoghurt", anyway. There's something seriously wrong with the idea.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar is still alive and well, although I'd been told he was dead. This is nice to know. Grace Slick out of Jefferson Airplane is also still alive - I didn't have any reason to assume she isn't, but I'm listening to Surrealistic Pillow at the moment, and thought I should check.

I also recently bought an ancient Black Bob book for £1 in a charity shop. It's great. I'd get a dog if they weren't so scary and prone to bite people.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Heat is off

Heat magazine called me today - they're doing a feature about memory in between the celebrity gossip ('about remembering the night before and all that') and wondered if I could advise them, in return for plugging my book. Yes, funnily enough, the woman who called me knew that I'm writing a book, but thought I was still the world memory champion. Perhaps she comes from an alternate universe where I'm the world champion and have finished writing a magnificent book that just needs a few plugs in popular magazines to make the best-seller list.

I turned it down, anyway - I'm being quite resolute lately about not accepting offers to pretend I know about how to improve your memory outside the whole numbers/cards area. With hindsight, perhaps I should have turned down the plugging-my-book compensation and suggested a big plug for the memory championships. We're trying to improve awareness right now. That would have been a lot more sensible than turning them down flat. Ah well, next time a tacky magazine wants me to talk to them, maybe I will.

I've been less resolute about the whole weight-loss thing. I have been swimming several times this week, but in the supermarket tonight there were 250g bars of dairy milk, two for £2. Which is the kind of offer you can't possibly turn down, is it? Especially when they're sitting next to 400g bars for £2.14 each so you can see what a fantastic offer it is (strangely, the box of 400g bars was half empty, so perhaps a lot of people really can't see what a fantastic offer it is). Well, I also bought some oranges and apples, so I'm still healthy and slimming.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pigmeat

I always giggle at the sound of the German footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger's name when I see him on telly. I expect I'm mistranslating and his surname doesn't really mean Pig-Climber, but that's what it sounds like to me, and it makes me laugh. I have a sophisticated sense of humour.

It also reminds me of the olden days when I worked for Adams and saw "hand raised pork pies" among our product list. That always made me think of happy little baby pork pies, gambolling in the fields and being hand-reared by loving farmers. Really, I have a strange mind.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My professional quest

Remember that interview at Proquest for Thursday? It seems that they wanted it to be Tuesday, but the guy at the agency responsible for passing the message on to me got mixed up. So they rescheduled it for today instead, meaning that I went down to Cambridge to see them. Since the only train getting me there got me into town an hour before the interview, I decided to walk from the station to the office, just on the outskirts of the city, which would have been a very good idea and wonderful for my half-hearted keep-fit drive, if not for the fact that I was wearing my work shoes, and I haven't had much reason to walk long distances in them before, and they basically cut my feet to ribbons. Oww, my poor backs-of-ankles, they might never be the same again. And that's despite wearing the super-thick woolly socks my grandma got me for my birthday.

Still, apart from that, the interview wasn't too bad, all in all. It started with an Excel test in which they gave me a huge pile of data and 25 minutes to produce a useful report incorporating as much of it as possible in a meaningful kind of way. This is exactly my kind of thing, so it's strange that I made a complete mess of things - starting off producing something huge and ambitious, realising that it was going to take way longer than I was allowed, and finishing up with the kind of shoddy little report that I could have knocked out in two minutes flat. But in the interview after that I did my best to give the impression that I knew what I was doing and could, with five minutes more, produce something a lot cooler, and I think they believed me.

And the rest of the interview went pretty well, all in all. If I wasn't already out of the running with the Excel test, I think I came across as the kind of person they'd want to employ. And there's a sporting chance that they'll go for expediency (they need someone to start very quickly, and there can't be many candidates who'll need less than a month's notice) rather than ability. So we'll see. And if they don't, well, having considered my options, the scarcity of good jobs who want to employ me and the not-my-kind-of-thing-ness of every possibility I can think of in which I try to make a living from memory stuff, I think I'll go back to temping. It'll keep me off the streets at least, and there's always work available.

But seriously, ow, my feet!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Gunther stole my hat!

Well, not that Gunther, and in all probability not actually my hat either, but there's a programme on channel 4 tonight featuring a Dr Gunther von Hagens, who apparently always wears a trademark black fedora. "For me, it's also a sign of individuality," he says. "As a former East German who spent two years in prison for political dissent, I believe in individualism and I cherish it." Well, I'm sorry, but that's no excuse for stealing my gimmick. If we ever met at some kind of party for celebrities who get to appear on telly every now and then (it's about time I got invited to one of those) it would be terribly awkward and embarrassing.

I'm annoyed now. I've never heard of the guy before, but he seems to be better known than me, and he's a real doctor and everything, and he wears the same black hat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Boycott Oust!

Not only is its claim to 'eliminate odours without just masking' obviously a lie, I've just noticed that my can of outdoor scent odour eliminator says on the back "It's special formula neutralises bad odour molecules in the air." Gah! Honestly, that's a disgrace. I'm not going to buy anything produced by S C Johnson any more, until they can prove to me that the 'family company' is teaching its younger members to use apostrophes properly. I bet there's a lot of marriages between first cousins in the Johnson family, you know.

Moving on from other people's mistakes to the far less important issue of my own stupidity, you might have noticed that rather than going out to a fireworks display tonight, I've been sitting at home reading my Oust. Well, that was because I needed to get up early tomorrow to get the train down to Cambridge for my second interview with Proquest. However, when I got down to printing out the information I have about the company to read on the train, I read the email from the agency giving the details of the interview, and found that it's actually not till Thursday. Good thing I noticed that in time, really, although I'm sure they would have took my turning up two days early as a sign that I was really, really keen about the job.

So now I have to rearrange my schedule and find something else to do tomorrow. I suppose I'll continue with my newly-established routine of going swimming in the morning and having a smoothie from the juice bar instead of coke and chocolate for a mid-morning snack afterwards. If this doesn't reduce my weight by November 17th, I don't know what will. Except possibly eating less unhealthy food at mealtimes, or cutting out the mid-morning snack altogether, but I don't think I'm prepared to do that. I only want to lose a little bit of weight, let's not be silly here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Whoops, I forgot

Sorry, I didn't mention that my brother was coming round this weekend so I fell victim to my usual strange phobia of writing my blog when there's somebody else in the house. So if you were hanging on the edge of your seat waiting for my daily ramblings, well, you'll probably have fallen off. Sorry about that. Especially if it's one of those seats attached high up on an outside wall of your house, like in that Oasis video.

Anyway, I did remember to take part in the second Online Memory Challenge on Saturday. Come on, everyone, join in the fun next time, it really is great! Unless you're in China like Emmanuel Mercado is right now - Simon's website seems to be one of the many that doesn't have the approval of the Chinese government, so it's not possible to access it from there. This is the kind of thing that's going to get in the way of the Chinese competitors becoming part of the regular memory crowd - maybe if the WMC is ever held in China, I'll take the opportunity to overthrow the communist rulers while I'm there and set up a peaceful socialist republic in which everybody has equal access to www.memorysports.info. If I can spare the time in between disciplines.

I won it again, anyway, despite my brother being in the next room reading quietly and occasionally bringing huge piles of books down on his head with a loud crash. I think I've managed to get used to the different feel of reading the numbers/cards/words off a screen instead of a piece of paper - I did a 360 in speed numbers, which was groovy. Next time I'll try for a fast time on the speed cards and see what happens. It's really great for training, this system.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Virtuous Dean

I'm not feeling too much like a lazy slob right now. After all, I've been doing well with the swimming - last Friday and then yesterday and today and have every intention of going back tomorrow, and I'm starting to feel less like collapsing after a couple of lengths. And I've got an interview with Proquest in Cambridge next Tuesday, which I'm feeling optimistic about - it will take the form of an Excel test (I'm all in favour of tests at interviews rather than just talking) and then a more standard talk, featuring 'competency-based questions' (you know the kind of thing, 'give an example of a situation where you...', arguably a less stupid interview technique than 'what are your strengths and weaknesses', although I'm still not a fan). I do quite like the sound of this job, so fingers crossed, eh?

And I've also embarked on this year's National Novel Writing Month project - for newcomers or oldcomers without flawless memories, this is the annual task of writing a 50,000-word novel from scratch during the month of November, the point being that you'll produce a load of rubbish but get your creative juices flowing. This year, instead of trying to do something different and stretch my boundaries, I'm going to write a silly but epic story that will be made up as I go along and not make any kind of sense. It's called "Virtuous Dean" and will consist of thirty chapters, each containing exactly 1,666 words, followed by a ten-word epilogue. So far, Virtuous Dean, Despicable Dean and the man whose dog Despicable Dean accidentally killed with an axe have decided to go to Paris to buy coffee beans. As the first stage of their plan to get there, they've acquired jobs as cabin crew on a plane going to Iceland, and I'm sure further adventures await them there.

Dream diary

Sorry I didn't post this last night, but my internet connection dropped dead. I actually wrote it yesterday morning as soon as I woke up, but decided not to post it till the evening for reasons of tradition, so it's now a whole day old. Sorry about that. Anyway, here goes:

My head is really full of dreams I’ve just had, so I thought I’d write them down. I don’t remember exactly what order these sequences occurred in, but the following things all happened:

I was driving a car (which is strange enough, since I never do) in Tumby Woodside. I turned right at the end of the road to head towards Boston, but there were several new sets of traffic lights, a few yards apart – permanent ones, not the temporary ones they put around roadworks. I negotiated them okay, but had a feeling I’d gone through a red one. I pulled in to the side of the road to let a tractor pass in the opposite direction (this is pretty mundane for a dream – driving along those roads, you get out of the way of tractors a lot), and it was lucky that I did, because then I was overtaken by a blue car moving sideways. It stopped, horizontally across the whole narrow road, and I stopped to wait for the driver (he was a yuppie type, but nobody I know) to get out of the way. He tried to do something, but only ended up going forward and down into the ditch along the side of the road. The front windscreen shattered and the guy fell out, but he wasn’t hurt. I got out of my car to see if I could help him.

We knocked on the door of a nearby farmhouse (not one of the real houses that line that road) – it had a friendly, cluttered interior and the owner was a friendly old man who I knew (not based on any real-life person again). He offered us a mobile phone with which we could call a magic fairy who granted wishes. This didn’t seem at all like an unusual kind of thing to do. The fairy came along and fixed the car with a wave of her hand, returning it to the road, chatting with me that it was a surprise to get the call from the yuppie, since that mobile phone is the only way of contacting her and she normally only speaks to the old guy. As an afterthought, she transformed the yuppie’s car into a magnificent vehicle – a sort of burgundy limousine, three doors along each side and decidedly antique, looking like it dated from the forties or fifties. I was delighted by it – it was a ‘Spyder’, and there was a manufacturer’s name too, but I can’t remember what it was.

The yuppie, on the other hand, was extremely annoyed by this – he hated the Spyder and preferred his original car, which had been an unexceptional modern vehicle, newer and shinier than mine. I suggested that we swap, and he cheerfully agreed and drove off in my shabby old car, while I took the cool one. Then there was a sort of brief narrated epilogue saying that I went wherever I’d been going in the first place, came back, and helped the old guy from the house transport some potatoes into town.

In an unrelated sequence of events, I was sitting in a classroom at the end of a lesson for some kind of course at a college. The lesson ended and people started leaving. The teacher was reading the comic 2000AD at his desk, and asked me in admiring tones how I’d managed to write something as great as a series he named (I can’t remember what it was called). I told him he’d got me confused with someone else, and the only thing I’d ever had published in 2000AD was a Future Shock short story. I had the feeling I was trying to make myself sound like a full-time comic writer whereas in fact that might have been the only thing I’d ever had published anywhere, but then I remembered that they’d printed another story of mine, a five-part superhero story, and I couldn’t remember the name. I racked my brain, trying to remember what it was called, who the artist was, and what had happened in it, but could only get the vaguest ideas. Meanwhile, the next class was coming into the room and urging me to get out in a hurry so they could start. I had no interest at all in whatever subject they were learning, but they seemed to think I was trying to hang around and join them, and didn’t want me to. I think the class might have been ‘Asian Studies’, and I noticed that the people attending it were unusually ethnically diverse, representing between them the full spectrum of race, age and gender (for this to be unusual suggests I was still in Lincolnshire in the 80s or 90s, rather than ethnically-mixed Derby). So I picked up my bag and wandered off down the corridor, which resembled one from my old school in Horncastle.

That probably led into this bit – I think I was still trying to remember my superhero story (it was something of a disappointment to wake up and recall that I’ve never had anything published in 2000AD) and thinking I’d find the file on my computer when I got home. But for the moment I was at my old school in Horncastle (of course, I didn’t have a computer at home when I was a pupil there), although I’m pretty sure I was still an adult, rather than a teenager again. It was the end of the day, I’d been held up by something after school and I went out to the buses, hoping mine wouldn’t have left yet. But unfortunately, I was just in time to see it leaving. It was pouring with rain and I was wearing nothing but the Brazilian Mystery Cloak – this didn’t strike me as unusual in any way.

I went back inside and into the sixth form common room, where I dug through my bag to find some clothes, since the cloak was soaked through. The bag contained my corduroy trousers, which I rejected since there’s a small hole in them and I didn’t have any underpants, and a skimpy pair of shorts, plus a very tight, pale pink, knitted tank top. There may have been shoes as well, I can’t quite remember. I was conscious that this outfit would make me look extremely silly, but decided to wear it anyway for a laugh. I invited a woman nearby, who might have been Jenny, to walk into town with me, and maybe go to the library. I have a feeling she had to think about it, since I was dressed extremely strangely, but I don’t remember anything else after that point.

So, any Freudians out there want to analyse my brain and tell me exactly the extent to which I'm a loony?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

November rain

I might have mentioned in my blog before that November is traditionally when I start a new thing in my life, generally a new job. It's happened every year since 2002, without me really planning it, and I seem to be a bit behind schedule this time. Or maybe something new and exciting will come along in the next couple of days - I do have a second interview coming up for that Cambridge job, and I could always ask the agencies for temp work again and trust to fate or the time of year to drop me in a good one this time round.

Or maybe I'll be abducted by aliens? That'd be cool.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Online Memory!

Okay, a bit of advance hype this time, for the second Online Memory Challenge! It's this coming Saturday, 1pm my time, it'll last about an hour, and I think everybody should come along and check it out, whether as a competitor or spectator. All you need to do is click here, and drop Simon a line to tell him you're coming, then he'll give you the link to the website.

If you've never tried memorising things before but have always been vaguely curious about what I do, this is a perfect time to find out for yourself without leaving your home. I'd urge you to compete rather than spectate, for the full experience, but there's no denying that spectating is a lot of fun with the way this ingenious program is set up. Come along and have some fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Par-tay

Well, the whole house party thing was a bit of a bust, but I still got to hang out in Manchester with David and Kitty and Jack, and what more could anyone want? I'm also still too tired and/or hungover to write at length about it, so, well, sorry about that.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Facecloths?

Bought a new towel today, so I can go swimming without looking like some kind of ragged pauper, and the woman on the till in the textiles shop asked me "Do you want any facecloths to go with that?" I find that quite offensive, actually. It's like saying "You obviously don't wash your face on any kind of regular basis", and not too far removed from spitting on a hanky and wiping my face for me in full view of the public. I suppose that might be a normal thing to say in textiles shops, actually, since I haven't bought towels for many years, but that was my reaction, anyway. I didn't buy any facecloths.

I didn't go swimming, either, but fate was just conspiring against me there, it wasn't my fault. I woke up at 4am for no readily apparent reason, and wondered if it was my subconscious mind prodding me to talk to my friend on the west coast of the USA who'd been wanting to chat with me for a while, and who would most probably be sitting at his computer in the early evening over there right then. So I got out of bed and found that not only was he online, he'd just sent me a message five minutes before, so naturally we had to have a quick chat. Two and a half hours later, he went to bed and I figured there wasn't much point in me going back to sleep. By nine o'clock I'd changed my mind, since I was feeling like I might fall asleep on the floor at any moment, so I went back to bed and slept till one in the afternoon.

I REALLY need to get a job. This can't be a good way to carry on. My body clock's all out of whack now. Although that might be a good thing - I'm going to Manchester this weekend for my late birthday party, we're all renting a house for the weekend and going to bed at unusual hours is very much the norm at these things.

Might not blog again till Sunday, we'll see - I might bring my laptop with me and share some enlightening drunken ramblings with my loyal readers in a quiet moment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My bank has become a trendy wine bar

The HSBC in Derby is closing down and moving to a much smaller building down the road, some time next year. It's a real shame, because it's a really impressive big stone bank building of the kind that you practically never see still being banks any more. But apparently it's about ten times bigger than modern banks need, with all this work-of-the-devil internettery and cashpoint machines, so they're selling it.

Maybe the new owners will turn it into a swimming pool. That'll be convenient for me, seeing as I'm the kind of fitness fanatic who goes swimming every day, starting tomorrow. Remember that resolution I made last week to lose a small amount of weight in the next month? Well, swimming is the answer. I would have started today, only I haven't got a decent towel that isn't falling to pieces, and it looked like rain, and it was a bit chilly, and I'd got a new book to read. But tomorrow, definitely.

And I'm also going to write my book tomorrow, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Doncaster, synaesthesia and kitty-cats

There can't be many blogs that offer you all three of those in one night.

You may remember that a month or so ago, I wrote about how I'd decided to go to Doncaster, on the grounds that it's quite nearby and I've never been there before. Well, it occurred to me today that I HAVE been to Doncaster, at least once, for an othello championship. It was the nationals, back in 2003, I think, and I played extremely badly. There was also probably a regional in the same place that I went to, as well. It's a good thing that I didn't end up going to Doncaster and expecting it to all be new to me, or I would have been deeply disappointed.

Or maybe not. You never know, since my mind works in strange ways. It's the Champions League football tonight, and I recently found myself thinking that it's unfortunate that Manchester United and Arsenal are playing one night this year, and Chelsea and Liverpool the next, since Man U and Arsenal are very similar teams to each other, as are Chelsea and Liverpool, so viewers who prefer one or the other type of team don't get to watch both their games. I contemplated writing this in my blog, and started trying to put into words exactly why these pairs of teams are alike, and the best I could come up with was that Man U and Arsenal are sort of like a big red cube, whereas Chelsea and Liverpool are more like some kind of wavy line. It makes sense in my brain. Chelsea and Liverpool are very much like the letter C in that respect, whereas the others are more like B or D. I suppose this is the synaesthesia in my family that I've always said I haven't got. Ah well, I'll have to stop denying it in future.

Doncaster is an anagram of 'on red cats'. If you want to read up on red cats, and other kinds, you could certainly do worse than check out http://www.kittiesandcats.com/, a site that's just been set up by a friend of mine. This is an unpaid advertisement, there has been no bribery involved whatsoever, so as a personal favour to me, please go over there and click a google ad or two, even if you loathe and detest cats.

If you loathe and detest cats, by the way, what are you doing being friends with me? I love cats. How dare you say such nasty things about them?

KittiesAndCats

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm number two!

The very worst, most unoriginal thing you can do with a blog is link to an interesting story on the BBC News website, so in the spirit of that, here is an article all about the talent English sportspeople and teams have for coming second in major international events. I'm proud to be part of that tradition. Who knows, if we work really hard at publicising the world memory championship, I might end up mentioned in the same breath as Lewis Hamilton and Jimmy White.

Which reminds me that the BBC Sports Review Of The Year is coming up soonish (or at least they're already running ads to encourage people to vote for the Personality Of The Year), and I've always thought it would be nice to get a passing mention for mind sports somewhere in the course of that long, dreary, annual celebration of the year's sporting events (or at least those of the year's sporting events that the BBC has the rights to video footage of). I'm not saying I should win the Sports Personality Of The Year award (although I should), just that it would be cool if they'd do a bit about the likes of chess and bridge and things, by way of contrast to the usual stuff on there. There's plenty of interesting stuff to talk about in the world of British mind sports.

And anyway, I'd be a better winner than Zara bleeding Phillips.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Otara Millionaires Club

Yes, today saw the inaugural Online Memory Challenge, and a lot of fun it was too! Two Englishmen, an Australian, a Norwegian, an Indian and a Latvian brought together by the wonders of the internet to compete against each other in a mini-memory championship without having to leave their homes.

Simon Orton (the Australian) has designed a flabbergastingly magnificent website for the purpose - we had three disciplines, five-minute words, five-minute numbers and speed cards, and all we competitors had to do was log in at the right time, chat while we watched the timer counting down the time to the start, and then start memorising when it told us to. The words/numbers/cards appeared on the screen for five minutes (all in the right format and size for easy competition-standard memorisation), then disappeared to be replaced by the recall page. We typed in the answers, and if you finished early you could click a button, the machine instantly calculated your score, and returned you to the spectator lounge, where you could watch everyone else's recall pages being filled in. And laugh at my inability to remember the word 'fauna' - I reeled off the rest of the words with no problem, and then spent the rest of the recall time staring at the blank space and thinking "I know it was some kind of animal, but what kind?" At the last second I took a wild guess at 'goldfish'. Well, it was close.

And you know what? I think this is the future of memory competitions. Not so much the doing it over the internet part (I like to trust my fellow competitors to play fair, but I don't think I'd be entirely comfortable with having the world championship rely on people not sneakily writing down what had appeared on screen), but the computerised aspect. I've always been sceptical when people have suggested doing it all on computers before, but the OMC has converted me. Simon's program worked so smoothly and perfectly, completely without human intervention once the competition had started, that I now believe it would be possible to do this at a real memory championship without it all going horribly wrong.

I'm looking forward to the next OMC - hopefully it will be bigger and better! (And yes, I won this one).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hey, it's Tegs!

Only he's a gay American now! For want of anything better to do before the rugby tonight, I watched the new American sitcom "The Class" on E4, which the Radio Times had half-heartedly recommended. Although their suggestion to "Keep an eye on this - it could be a grower" is a bit silly - a cursory internet search tells me it's already been cancelled in the US. But it does star Sean Maguire, doing an impressive American accent, and claiming to have gone to school with the other central characters, when we all know he really went to Grange Hill, as Terence "Tegs" Ratcliffe, in my year, before showing up on EastEnders as an Irish football player. The show itself had some funny moments, but not enough to justify watching the rest of the series.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm competing in the first Online Memory Challenge, organised by Simon Orton, which should be fun. Basically a mini-memory championship, all done over the internet with participants promising not to cheat. It'll be a useful bit of practice, an enjoyable experience and hopefully the start of a lot of things like that to come!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hey, I know him!

Look, Ed Byrne's a guest on Have I Got News For You! I wonder if he mentioned having this memory guy as a guest on The Panel and suggested that I'd make a perfect HIGNFY host?

Actually, it's quite cool how many famous people I've met now. You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing someone I've crossed paths with. As long as you exclusively watch the kind of programmes that Phillip Schofield presents. And yes, I kind of miss all the excitement of being on TV now that the buzz of the world memory championship has died down and I'm a nobody again until next year. Can we have another WMC next week? I'd do badly in it, because I haven't been practicing, but I don't think any of the people who interviewed me this year really knew or cared whether I'd won or not...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vital statistics

There's the 21st-century equivalent of a speak-your-weight machine in Woolworth's, and I had a go on it yesterday. You tell it how old and male you are and it scans you and does the rest. It gave me a little print-out that says
---------------------------------------------------------
YOUR MEASUREMENTS

Weight.......................12st4.6lb/78.3 kg
Height.......................5ft8.5in/174 cm
Body Fat Estimation:
Fat Index.................21.7%
Fat Mass..................2st9.2lb/16.9 kg
Free F.Mass...............9st9.3lb/61.4 kg
Age and Gender...............31 ♂

REFERENCES

Your Normal Weight is between:
60.6 kg-75.4 kg
9st7.6lb-11st12.2lb
Your current Body Mass Index
is 25.9 kg/m². The Normal B.M.I.
value is between 20 and 24.9

Normal Fat Index............17-23 %
Normal Fat Mass: 12.6-18.3 kg or
1st13.7lb-2st12.3lb

17/10/07,Wednesday...........11:54:59

This in not a medical act.

· Do not self medicate.
· Control your weight.
· Consult your doctor regularly
or pharmacist.
---------------------------------------------------------

Well, I thought I should share it. You all want to know everything about me, right? In my defence, I had just had a Drifter and a can of cherry coke (yes, I eat sweets before lunchtime and ruin my appetite), and I was wearing my shoes and clothes and hat, that has to add a bit of extra weight.

I'm not sure I should take advice on losing weight from any machine that says "this in not a medical act", but you know, maybe I should make an effort to get back into my Normal Weight range. It wouldn't take too much effort, would it? Half a stone? Any old fool can lose that much. You just have to go to the world memory championship for a day. I think I might make this a project. November 17th, I'll go back to the machine and see if it tells me I'm Normal!

Note for Americans - 14 pounds to a stone. Do the math, if you really want to.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reader mail

Thanks to Boris, Gregory and Mike for responding to my request for subjects to write about! This is going to be a long (and hopefully interesting) blog entry...

I´d like to read, how your telephone interview went like.

Really? Because last night, sitting down and intending to write about my telephone interview was what made me think 'this blog of mine is getting really boring nowadays'. But hey, if you really want to know about my half-hearted job-hunting... It went quite well, really. I was talking to the financial director and an HR person - this job reports directly to the FD, which is a bit unusual, there's normally another level separating the big boss from the management accountant - and I think I mostly gave the impression of knowing what I'm talking about. I did have one embarrassing blank spot though - they asked me the routine question of what I know about their company, and I suddenly realised I couldn't think of anything. It's the telephone's fault (curse you, Alexander Graham Bell!), because normally while I'm travelling to an interview, I take a printout of interesting pages from the company website with me and read through them, memorising useful snippets of information. In this case, I hadn't done that and couldn't even remember which of the various companies I've been looking at lately I was talking to at that moment. I stumbled through it in the end, and I do have the Excel skills they want (and very few people do have that level of ability), so we'll see if I get a second interview. If I do, that one will be face-to-face, at least.

Do you have any ideas on how to make memory sports more popular especially for new competitors with and without taking into account limits on people and money to do the necessary tasks?

Yes, I do. I think a large part of any plan to increase the popularity of 'memory sports' would have to be to make the general public aware of its existence, and to give them the impression that it's something anyone can do, and have fun doing! I would like to see a televised memory championship along the lines of the US Championship, only with more emphasis on the numbers and cards, so as to show off the more impressive skills of the European competitors. This TV competition (which would be made in a swish TV studio with groovy graphics and things) would be in addition to, not replacing, the normal memory competitions, and would mainly be to highlight to the general public what's possible with memory skills. I think it'd get a good audience on Channel 4.

Apart from that, what we need is more publicity, and a lot more teaching of memory skills at a basic level to people who've never heard of it before. This is something that's been done in Germany but has been completely neglected in Britain in the past. There are plans in the works right now for a couple of different projects to go into schools and universities and organise competitions - one of them is being organised by the WMSC, and so probably won't happen (they're good at planning things but not at actually doing anything about their plans), the other is by someone else and really is likely to make a difference and bring in more competitors.

One more thing we need, naturally, is more championships, with accessible locations, lots of advance publicity and maybe even some prize money. Most championships in the past have managed one or two of the three - if someone manages to hold a competition that brings all of those together, it really will excite interest on a much wider scale.

Discuss the developments in England between 1815-1832. Explain why Parliament eventually chose to pass the reform bill of 1832.

Something that I think is often neglected in discussion of the buildup to the Great Reform Bill (which wasn't really all that great, if you ask me, although at least it laid the groundwork for later electoral reforms that really achieved something) is the role of the monarchy. People answering this kind of essay question like to say how the industrial revolution and the defeat of Napoleon had given the average Briton more time on their hands to complain about iniquities, without looking at the way Parliament had gradually assumed a much more important role in recent years, due to the diminishment of the traditional role of the King.

Until after the end of the 18th century, there was still a general feeling that Parliament existed to fulfil its traditional role of gathering together important people to advise the King on how to rule his country. George III had always taken a very active part in politics, but by 1815 he was incurably insane and his fat, lazy, useless son was technically in charge of Britain. George IV wasn't interested in politics at all, unless it directly affected his plans to stuff his face and have fun, and reduced his role in the great events of the day to agreeing with whatever politician had spoken to him last. Parliament for the first time in many years was free to do what it wanted, without the monarch butting in. Naturally, the likes of Earl Grey took the opportunity to make the Commons into a fairer representation of the average working man.

I'm in college and this is a question our professor gave us in advance for Donnerstag. can you give some advice on how one can utilize memory techniques in essay writing?

No. No, I really can't. I've never used memory techniques for essay writing or anything vaguely like it. I use memory techniques for the sole purpose of trying and failing to win the world memory championship, not in any everyday-life application.

Is there a way to make a journey follow the ideas of an essay? I suppose you could use the same strategy that you employ for poems, but I think the richness of imagery in poetry lends itself to mnemonics much more easily. What mnemonic techniques could I use for this essay for example?

Well, I suppose you could use a journey to sort concepts or ideas into the sequence that you're intending to use them. I think that's what the books on the subject advise you to do, anyway, although I have no idea whether it would work or not. Or you could use the kind of technique we use in the 'historic dates' discipline to associate images with the year and the events that happened in it - 1832 for me is the obscure 1940s superhero the Fin (he wore a suit with a big shark fin on his head); I'd imagine him lecturing parliament or maybe rampaging through a rotten borough, denouncing it loudly, and probably drinking Earl Grey tea as he did so. That's quite fun, actually. 1833, abolition of slavery - the characters from badly-written preschool children's TV show the Fimbles, slaving away in chains being whipped by that frog they hang out with, until they're liberated. 1834, Tolpuddle Martyrs - a muscleman ('virile man' is the phrase, for anyone who's following the Ben-system logic) being loaded onto a ship, singing trade union songs in a manly kind of way. I could work through a whole history book like this. Maybe I should...

write about your teenage years =D

Well, my teenage years were in the early nineties, so I'm not sure it would mean anything to a current teenager like you. If memory serves, I mainly spent my time waiting for the internet to be invented. Well, that and playing chess. A gang of us at school used to spend every spare moment playing chess. Which is what the cool kids did in those days. All the handsome, athletic types were deeply envious of us. Really.

Apart from that, I don't think I ever really did anything worth writing about. I was living in the middle of nowhere with my dad and brother, going to Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle, as previously mentioned, and generally not working as hard as I should, if at all. Then I left school and briefly went to Kingston University before giving it up as a bad idea, then went to a training centre to do an NVQ in accountancy, then got a job, then stopped being a teenager.

Outside my own life, things of vague interest were happening. I remember being excited when Margaret Thatcher resigned when I was 14 - she'd been PM since I was two and a half, so deep down I still think she's really cool, despite all rational thought on the subject. I also remember hearing that John Smith had died - I was in the sixth form common room and someone had been listening to the radio on a walkman. When he heard the headline, he got up and turned on the radio to play it to the whole room. That's one of those rare moments where I really do remember where I was when it happened.