Friday, September 26, 2008

If I had the time and energy to think of something else to write, I would

The council estate on Bumblebee Road has been controversial from the start. While the project was still in its planning stages, Porr-Lon, the god of housing developments, manifested himself nearby and played a melody on his pewter bassoon which all those who heard it agreed meant that he felt the estate should be built on the other side of the river. The council considered re-siting the planned estate, but eventually concluded that the additional expense of drawing new blueprints, the difficulty of aligning the houses with the constellation of Aries on the other side of the river and the fact that Porr-Lon is one of the less important gods made it impractical to change the location of the estate.

Immediately after it was built, there was a space adventure involving Martians, and after that had been dealt with there were complaints from local residents that crime levels had risen and there was an unpleasant smell coming from certain of the buildings. These allegations were inaccurate - crime had in fact been completely and totally eliminated in the entire county the day after the council estate was built, and in fact in some regions the number of reported crimes fell as low as minus seventeen every day. And while there was indeed an unpleasant smell coming from certain of the buildings, who are we to criticise unpleasant smells? After all, most people smell quite unpleasant, if you come to think about it.

Nonetheless, the controversy reached such a level that the leader of the council, Bog Myrtle Sutherland, signed an emergency decree banning the estate from ever having been built in the first place. When it comes into effect, next Tuesday, the whole estate and everyone who lives on or near it will be wiped out of existence entirely and this whole article will never have been written. Which is a shame, but that's Bog Myrtle Sutherland for you. She's always overreacting to things. There was a time when she overreacted to a horse, and that didn't end well for anyone, except the jockey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not quite so panicky

Did a 30-minute binary tonight and it went quite well. Low score, but no concentration problems. If I can do a few hour cards and numbers in the evenings, I'll be fine for the world championship. Doesn't leave me much time for blogging, though...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just starting to panic a little bit now

The World Memory Championship is a month away, and I'm nowhere NEAR match-fitness. It's infuriating - on one level I can't stand the idea of losing the world championship yet again, but on another I can't really summon the enthusiasm to go all-out for the win. And circumstances have kept me from getting into any kind of training schedule lately, so I think I've already left it too late to get back into top form before the competition, even with some excessively draining training over the next few weeks. We'll just have to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A healthy memory

Well, the not-blogging-about-work-in-case-I-get-in-trouble rule lasted for two months, more or less, which is pretty good going. But I can't resist this one tonight. The worlds of work and memory are sort of merging, you see, and the people who read this blog for the memory technique insights might be interested in this.

As I might have mentioned before, it's the Boots Healthcare Conference in Birmingham next week, woo, and I've been asked to go along to our department's stand (it's all about store-controllable wastage) and persuade attendees to come and look at this not terribly compelling-sounding display by performing a memory stunt. I'm not 100% comfortable with being an Official Boots Memory Man as opposed to a Boots Profit Protection Analyst, but as long as it's only once in a while, I don't really mind.

So what I've done is taken a list of all the stores which will be represented at the convention, which each have a number from 5 (Beeston) to 6526 (Glasgow Fort) and the value of their healthcare-department credit claim values for this year to date and last year in three different categories (out of date, damaged and theft), all of which are a one-to-five-digit number, and when somebody tells me their store number, I'll be able to reel off the six figures for their store, and amaze and astound them. Then I suppose I'll order them to make an effort to reduce their wastage if they want to see more memory feats, or something like that.

Having played around with techniques for memorising these slightly tricky numbers (when you have a 3-digit-image system like me, memorising a 4-digit number is inconvenient), I decided to memorise them as eight three-digit numbers, by taking off the first digits of each and combining them into one number. So for example, if store 27's [there is no store 27 in the Boots world at the moment, and the following numbers are entirely fictional] six numbers are 1425, 684, 9723, 226, 8821 and 23, I remember it as 027-109-425-684-723-080-226-821-023. See what I'm doing there? The 027 is the store [I forget where store 27 used to be, but it closed down last year. I reiterate, I'm not quoting real figures here], the 109 is the thousands figure from the first three numbers and the 080 is the thousands figure from the last three.

I tried memorising a scene of these nine images in isolation for each of the 192 stores that'll have representatives at the conference, but they just wouldn't stay in my memory. So I used journeys instead, and placed nine images in each location, and somehow that works a great deal better. Now when someone says 'store 27' to me, I have to run through my journeys and work out where it is, but when I find it, I can remember the images perfectly.

I don't know why that's so much better than doing it without a journey. Maybe my mind is just used to journeys and now I can't survive without them. Anyway, it's been fun to be working from home this afternoon, memorising numbers and getting paid for it, although I still feel guilty because I can't quite mentally accept that memorising is part of my job at the moment.

Speaking of memory, you can check out Gaby's pictures of Maisons-Laffitte here!

And the BBC were speaking of memory today to me, too, asking questions like "when you talk about memorising a pack of cards, do you mean a 52-card pack or a 36-card pack?" I suppose you have to check everything, but that's one I've never been asked before. They want to film me on October 7th.

Wait, I forgot to mention the interesting technical bits of the healthcare memory thing. Some stores have a four-digit store number - ones that start with 1 I remember which journeys they were on and just memorise them as a 3-digit number without the 1, and the handful that start with 20 or 50 or 64 or 65 I use others of my images that I don't usually use with numbers, so store 2053 becomes store h-5-3, a hummingbird, in my head.

And for the stores whose credit claims in a category are over 9999, I use another consonant or vowel for the 10, 11, 15 or whatever thousands figure - no number is over 16000, luckily. Creating systems is about 75% of the fun of doing something like this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Old fellow

It's othello in my dad's ancestral home of Sheffield this weekend. I've played a couple of games on playok in some kind of preparation, conscious that I haven't looked at an othello board for months now (except in the course of moving mine to the new flat and dumping them in the corner of my living room - they're among the things I haven't found a place for yet). I also haven't done my treasurer's report for the AGM... come to think of it, where did I put my box of othello paperwork? I'm pretty certain I brought it with me, but I don't think I've seen it since. Ah well, there's days before I need it.

With this kind of advance preparation, I think I'm a dead cert to win the nationals this year!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hooray, I'm home!

Despite a slightly awkward moment going through security at Charles de Gaulle airport when the machine picked up an undeclared bottle of liquid, an unidentifiable big heavy object and lots of sophisticated-looking timing devices in my rucksack. But I managed to explain without too much difficulty that the timers are used for timing memorisation of cards in memory competitions, that the big thing was the trophy I won at the UK Memory Championship and that despite the above I had put a half-drunk bottle of coke in my bag and completely forgotten it was there. I drank the coke without exploding and the security people seemed satisfied.

As for the competition itself, I won't say much except that I was rubbish. I still won, so obviously I wasn't all that rubbish, but it definitely showed that I hadn't done any training. Got to get on with it now for the next month.

Good food, though - at lunch, we had a waiter who bravely attempted to talk with us in French, English and German, as necessary, which led to a fun multilingual bacon/Schinken/chicken confusion. And in the evening we had crepes, in the proper French style. And I got to see lots of sights in Paris!