Saturday, November 29, 2008

Nursery rhyme time

Thanks for all the suggestions for things to talk about, my loyal bloglings! However, I had about four and a half hours' sleep last night, and when I'm sleep-deprived and on a train, my brain does strange things. Today it thought up the following traditional nursery rhyme, which I mentally added to and enhanced during the othello tournament (unlike memory, I find that I only use about 75% of my brain even when I'm fiercely concentrating on an othello game - the other 25% is free to do what it wants. I remember a previous London regional when I'd had an early start and not enough sleep when I composed a song about going to the shops and encountering Gareth Enniskillen and his son Theodore. I should try to remember that and type it up for you all to read too...)

Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding good!
He took it down the garden for to gather in some wood,
It got hold of his axe and swung it at his head,
Kicked in the window of the old garden shed,
Sent shards of flying glass through the bust of Robin Hood,
Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding good!

Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding use!
He took it to the forest for to hunt for deer or moose,
It got hold of his gun and shot him in the pants,
Smashed his lunchbox open and attracted all the ants,
Coating the soil for yards around with sweetened apple juice,
Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding use!

Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding good!
He took it to the kitchen for to cook it in a pud,
It got hold of his knife and stabbed him through the chest,
Ruining his overcoat, his waistcoat, shirt and vest,
Soaking his best trousers and his socks and shoes with blood,
Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding good!

Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding use!
He took it to the market for to swap it for a goose,
It got hold of his leash and swung it round his neck,
Dragged him down the road and dunked him in the beck,
Kicked him in the pants so hard he landed in a spruce,
Oh, Father's donkey was no bleeding use!

Oh, by the way, Graham won the othello, beating everybody with staggering ease, and I ended up with three wins out of seven. But hey, could be worse.

Friday, November 28, 2008

T'was ever thus

Whenever I have to get up super-early in the morning to catch the train down to Cambridge, I always end up sitting up late doing nothing and not even leaving myself enough time to write my blog.

So, I promise that next week I'll write lots and lots of interesting bloggery, all about subjects of interest to my many readers. And on that note, what would you, my loyal readers, if I still have any readers, like to see me talk about? Memory? Othello? Chocolate? Last week's Beano like I promised to write about but never did? Trousers? Geraniums? Dentistry? The history of bubblegum? Tell me!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm a memory man again

Did three speed cards practice sessions tonight, and made mistakes in all three packs, but the important thing is that I'm back in training! Now if I can just get into a regular routine and keep in shape throughout the winter, I might just win the world championship again next year. I'd still quite like to be a three-time winner. Or more. Nine would be nice, but I'll be really really old and ancient by that time...

In other news, othello in Cambridge on Saturday, woo! The radio interview was quite good, although the host took the approach that all people who play board games are terrible nerds, and I spent most of it trying to convey the impression that, despite the fact that I am a terrible nerd myself, othello is very much a game for everyone to come along and play. Please do come along and play on Saturday! Trinity College, 9:30, come and see the World Memory Champion! Or, you know, play othello. Whichever you find more exciting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Great World Memory Champions Of History

As we all know, history has been full of interesting World Memory Champions. And here are a few more of them:

Terence "The Punching Man" Punchman (World Memory Champion 1763), a noted London prizefighter, was the other World Memory Champion to hold the title despite never memorising anything. During the celebration dinner at Simpson's-On-The-Strand (then a social club for philosophers, fortune tellers, coal miners and similar professions) after the world championship in 1763, newly-crowned world champion Edith Estragon promised to hand over the trophy, title and all attendant ranks and privileges to anybody who could beat her in a fight. Punchman, who was dining at the next table, immediately got up and knocked the champion unconscious with a single punch to the head. Her one hour, thirty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds as champion (timed by the ever-pedantic Baron Crysanthemum on his pocket-watch) is of course the second-shortest title reign in World Memory Championship history.

It was suggested that the frail 93-year-old Estragon had probably been making a joke, and that her offer therefore shouldn't have been legally binding, but as she never regained her memory of the incident (or of anything else), there was no way to prove it and the title devolved on the boxer. During his year-long reign as World Memory Champion he had a regular newspaper column in which he answered readers' questions on the subject of memory to the best of his ability and was invited to dinner with the Prime Minister, during which he punched several people unconscious and thereby also became Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Taxation and Tennis. He declined to compete in the 1764 world championship, but failed in his attempt to win the title when he was spotted lurking outside the championship venue and clobbered by the bodyguards that eventual winner Szeznlwicz Norberto had had the foresight to employ.

Baboushka Boguinskaya (world memory champion 1853) competed in every world memory championship from 1800, when she was three years old, until 1847, and finished last on each occasion. She despised memory sports and everybody involved with it, and only took part in the competitions because her mother forced her to. Domineering Mrs B eventually gave up on her dream of vicariously living the life of a memory master through her untalented daughter (who was unable to remember what playing cards were, let alone which one she had recently seen) and instead took her to America to force her to become a rodeo champion.

This turned out for the best in 1853, when the World Memory Championship was held in Idaho. The venue had been announced three months in advance, but this was insufficient time for the message to reach Africa, where all the world's memorisers lived, and for them to make the lengthy and arduous journey to the championship venue in the middle of the empty plains. The Boguinskaya family, however, happened to be in the neighbourhood, looking for buffalos to ride, and Baboushka was forced to take part. Although she scored zero in every discipline, she was given a bonus point for owning an unusual hat, and thus won the championship by virtue of being the only competitor. Her mother, however, had lost interest in memory sports five minutes earlier and departed for Nepal, resolving to give up on her talentless daughter and become a mountaineer herself.

Porcelain Palladium (World Memory Champion 1947, 1956, 1983) was supposed to be called Percival. However, his parents both suffered from speech impediments that prevented the registrar of births and deaths from understanding what they said. He also refused to allow them to change the name, even when they wrote it down for him. Young Porcelain therefore grew up embittered towards authority figures and often found fault with the arbiters when he competed in memory championships. He generally hurled bricks and kettles at them from his seat while they were trying to tell contestants where the toilets were, and if at any point anyone tried to tell him the rules of the championship, he would attack with bone-crunching fury until nobody in the room was left standing. He won three world championships on the three occasions when unfortunate ski-jumping accidents (he wasn't a ski-jumper and never went within a hundred miles of a ski-jump, but freak gales caused ski-jumpers to land on him on three separate occasions) left him paralysed and unable to speak or otherwise do anything that might get him disqualified.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Football is rubbish!

When did the big and cool football teams lose the ability to score goals or play interesting games? I've given up on tonight's games and turned over to watch Mitchell and Webb, even though I've seen it before and it's the most recent series which wasn't all that good, mostly. That's how bored I am.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Attention, people of Cambridge!

I'm going to be talking on Radio Cambridge (possibly Radio Cambridgeshire) tomorrow morning at 8:15 about the othello tournament this weekend. So make sure to listen in if you don't know that there's an othello tournament, open to everybody, on Saturday, starting at 9:30, at Trinity College's Junior Parlour (use the entrance opposite the great big one, near to the post office), entry is free if it's your first tournament, a great day out for all the family, drop us an email if you're coming so that we're sure we've got enough boards, details can be found on, othello is that game that you might know as reversi if you play on the internet, everyone's welcome regardless of age, ability or hair colour, wearing a hat is optional but recommended.

So if you're still in the dark about what's happening this weekend, tune in tomorrow morning when I will be saying some or all of the above, and nothing else, for your entertainment. And please do come along to the tournament, it really is fun!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One last memory talk

I know I've rambled on about nothing but memory lately, but I'll give it a rest after today. However, I felt it necessary to record that I haven't done any memory training today after all - didn't get out of bed in time for the Online Memory Challenge (yes, it started at ten. It's Sunday.) and then I discovered that Virgin have settled their dispute with Sky, so I get to watch the Simpsons and Futurama all day again, so that was that.

It's a bit worrying, really - on the one hand I'd hate to be all like 2005 again, when I didn't do any memory training for months and months, and my big teetering pile of packs of cards sat untouched on my desk until they all fell down behind the radiator. It's very sad if like me you associate cards with people. Because, generally speaking, people falling down behind the radiator is sad.

But on the other hand, I just don't feel like memorising at the moment. I'm hopeful that this is only a short-term thing (let's face it, my motivation always comes and goes depending on what latest fad has caught my attention this week), because I really do still want to be a memory champion and all famous and stuff. Maybe I should try memorising pi again, only I've heard that James Ponder is aiming to break the European record, so it would probably be rude of me to try to do the same. And very embarrassing if I did try to do it and ended up making a mess of it, as I probably would. No, I think I'll just try to get into a routine of practicing speed cards every night after work. That should keep me in shape.

Speaking of shape, I weighed myself on that machine in Woolworth's yesterday, and I'm 13 stone 4. It's roughly a year since I posted my weight according to that machine for the first time, and I'm deliberately refraining from looking back to see what it was. It wasn't 13 stone 4, though.