Saturday, January 20, 2007

Would it be monstrously self-indulgent of me?

If I went to Las Vegas for a holiday? You know, as opposed to visiting the various friends in the Americas who are reading this and might reasonably expect me to drop by if I find myself on the other side of the Atlantic? But it's a couple of years since I last went there, and it's still my favourite holiday destination, and the solitude would definitely help me work on my book and things (this last sentence is what we in the trade call a terminal case of self-delusion). Flights aren't too expensive at the moment, and it's practically two dollars to the pound these days, so I'd be able to throw even more money around than I usually do when I've got foreign cash on me and can't be bothered to work out exactly how much I'm spending.

I thought of promising it to myself as a reward if I meet my self-imposed targets writing the book, but I know from past experience that I'd just fail to meet the targets, take the reward anyway and feel terribly guilty about the whole business, losing productivity, money and morale all in one fell swoop. So maybe I'll just do it anyway and not care about anything or anyone else. Is it me, or do I sometimes come across as a really terrible person in this blog thing?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Card sharp

I did an hour cards practice today, and got 20 packs, attempting 30. It's annoying how sharply my results drop off, in the longer events especially, when I haven't practiced them for a few months - this was only the second time I've done it since last year's WMC, and I got 17 last week, so at least I'm getting better. I did an hour numbers the other day and got 1480, whereas I've done two half-hour binaries recently and got 2505 and 2715. Not that these are particularly bad scores, but I look on them as a good base to look back on in a couple of months when hopefully after some more training I'll be doing much, much better. Always write your scores down, that's been my motto ever since I first started doing the memory thing. There's no better rivalry than with your past self. You're already envious of his youth and comparative good looks, you see.

Actually, outside of memorising things, my personal motto is "Start with dessert". There is practically no situation to which you can't metaphorically apply that one.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

But I've got an excuse

It's not just that I have a major psychological flaw that prevents me meeting self-imposed deadlines, you know. Events always conspire to stop me doing things. So it's not entirely my fault that I spent yesterday (and, to be perfectly honest, most of today too) not writing the Cambridge Memory Championship website, or working on that pi system so I can let Ulrich know whether I'm going to do his pi challenge, or doing anything else.

It's Dave's fault. After I enthused about the webcomic Goblins, he pointed out another webcomic along the same lines - Order Of The Stick! Which, as it turns out, does the same jokes about RPGs as Goblins does, only OOTS did them first, and much funnier, and has just produced its four hundredth full-page strip. To say that I love Order Of The Stick is a wild understatement - the art isn't gorgeous, but then it's not trying to be, and it tells the story more than adequately, and the story itself is sheer genius. It has squillions of interlaced plotlines that develop out of each other, and get resolved satisfactorily in the short, medium and long term. This isn't one of those comics that gives you the impression that it was just made up as the writer went along. It probably was, but it's done so cleverly that it doesn't look like it. And it's freaking hilarious!

So, basically, I was up till half past one in the morning reading the whole archive. Including stopping to work out the cryptograms that make up Haley's dialogue for a large chunk of the adventures. Hey, when I procrastinate, I do it wholeheartedly!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I was hoping that something momentous would happen today that I could pentacentennially blog about, but in fact I've followed my usual practice whenever I have several specific tasks that I was intending to do, and have sat around all day doing absolutely nothing. I may have mentioned this before, but I suck at self-motivation. I'll just have to leave all that stuff until I've forgotten how personally important it is to me.

In the meantime, the Bristol Comic Expo for this year has just announced its guests. Brian K Vaughan AND Kurt Busiek?! Ignoring Alan Moore, who doesn't do this kind of thing, they've got my two favourite comic writers in the world right now! I've never been to one of these things before, but I'm not missing this one. I'll have to get an autograph book and start a collection! Oo, I'm all excited already and it's not until May! The weekend after the Cambridge MSO (othello on the Saturday, memory on the Sunday), in fact, so I get to indulge three of my geeky hobbies in two weeks!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2D6 (+1 modifier)

Part 97 in the occasional series of posts where I link to a webcomic I've just discovered and think is brilliant, to the interest and fascination of absolutely none of my readers. In that spirit, I give you Goblins!

It maybe works best if you've got a passing knowledge of role-playing games, but then I've never been all that seriously into them, even in my particularly geeky teenage years, and I can still pick up on the ways Goblins pokes fun at the silliness and unusual features of the hobby. And it's the kind of storyline that covers the whole range from just-plain-silly to deadly serious, depending on the mood the writer's in (I love that kind of approach to writing). I've read the whole archive today, and I laughed out loud lots of times, and cried when they did horrible things to poor Fumbles. And the art is just plain gorgeous! I may have mentioned two or three dozen times before that I'm wildly envious of people who can draw well, but it's one of my major hangups in life, and I'm sure I'm going to mention it again and again. Get used to it. I'd love to do my own webcomic.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Like the corners of my mind

I seem to have written about memory stuff more than is decent just lately. But then, I've been doing a lot of memory stuff recently, so it always tends to be on my mind when I'm blogging. Anyway, while practising spoken numbers today, I tried something a bit different - running all the groups of three images together so that the last of each group was interacting with the first of the next, and so on. It's something I don't normally do when memorising, because it adds a couple of seconds to the time it takes. But in spoken numbers, the whole reason I don't consistently do well at it is that the numbers are coming at a rate of one a second, whereas I like to go through them faster than that. So I have time to spare. And it worked surprisingly well, first time out. I got the first 108 digits perfect, and 185 of the 200 in total. That'd be a decent result at any memory championship (I've done better in practice in the past, but I have a feeling that I could do that kind of thing consistently that way).

I've also been thinking of a new way to memorise pi, which I'm going to play around with before telling Ulrich I'll do his challenge thing. It's the kind of thing that may or may not work at all, but it'll be interesting finding out. And I also have a memory-related problem - I'm doing so much practising these days that I'm reusing journeys before I've completely forgotten what was on them last time. I'm torn between dreaming up a lot more journeys, or just reusing them over and over again until I get over this problem. I think that would work, but I'm not certain.

By the way, is anyone else out there on Myspace? In the past couple of days I've discovered three people I know with Myspace accounts. I've got one myself now, although I don't intend to ever do anything with it. It just seems kind of un-user-friendly.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why does nobody tell me these things?

Lew Stringer's got a blog! If you haven't heard of Lew, you're obviously not a thirty-year-old British comic fan - he was the guy who drew "Robo Capers", and "Combat Colin", and for that matter "One Cat and his Cod", the hilarious little comic strips in Marvel UK's comics like Transformers, Action Force and Thundercats. In the mid-eighties, you bought Transformers comics because it was Transformers, and kids in those days couldn't get enough of anything Transformer-related. It was just a happy coincidence that the Transformers stories were often brilliant pieces of work, the backup strips were usually readable and the Lew Stringer strips made you giggle all week until the next one came out. Marvel didn't need to produce anything good, kids would have bought anything with an Autobot sign on the cover, so I'm eternally grateful that they turned out such a quality product anyway.

Lew also draws strips for Viz on occasion (Tranny Magnet was sheer genius), and he's one of those rare names that you're always delighted to see in any comic anywhere, because you know that it's going to be great. Back in the heady days of 1998, when I first got a computer and started poking around on the internet, someone on a comics forum asked what ever happened to Lew Stringer, and I mentioned the last couple of things of his I'd seen. He then sent me an email detailing the comics he was currently drawing, and I was all giddy with excitement. Lew Stringer - officially the first celebrity to write to me!

Anyway, I should stop acting like a giddy groupie before it gets embarrassing for everyone. Another thing I noticed on the internet today is that the list of alumni on the Horncastle Grammar wikipedia page is growing at a steady rate! To recap, it was just Robert Webb when I first came across it last November, when I mentioned that fact here one of my fans kindly put me on the list too, and now we've also got the Reverend Jonnie Parkin! So that's three famous pupils in the school's four-hundred-year-plus history! And I notice nobody's tagged his entry as non-notable. Anyway, I've never heard of him, but he was in Robert Webb's year, apparently.

I take this as a challenge. We need a Wikipedia page for someone else from my year so we can add a link. The only person I can think of who went on to be famous is Helen Wikeley, who was one of the vets on Rolf Harris's Animal Hospital. Sadly, that sentence comprises absolutely everything I know about Helen, except that she was in my form and lived in Woodhall Spa on the same street as Chris Timony and John Gray. That's probably not enough for a proper wiki entry. Somebody out there must know all about her - create a profile, link it to the QEGS page and restore the honour of the class of '94!

In other other news (I've had a busy day today, because I decided to take a day off from memory practice and book-writing and things - I also went to a car boot sale this morning, and in the afternoon talked to James Kemp about this Cambridge Memory Championship website, which is actually going to be really cool, but I've waffled on too much tonight already to go into that, especially seeing as I've already embarked on a lengthy tale about train journeys) I went to Nottingham today, just because it was an unseasonably warm day, thanks to global warming and everything, and I felt I should go somewhere. On the way there, the train was sitting outside Nottingham station for about twenty minutes because of engineering work at the station, and the guard made tannoy announcements every five minutes or so with enlightening updates like "We're still here, but we might be moving in a minute or two."

On the way back, the tannoy announcement on the train before it left was even more helpful - "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I'm your senior conductor. This is the..." (roughly a minute's silence) "this is the 16:48 Nottingham... er..." (two minutes' silence, during which the train departed from the station, followed eventually by details of where the train was actually going). This kind of thing fills you with confidence in the ability of the train crew to get you where you want to go.