Thursday, June 03, 2010


Is a difficult word to pronounce if you have trouble with the letter R. So here are my plans for the next few days:

Tomorrow, crack of dawn, get train to Manchester Airport and fly to Stuttgart, arrive there pleasantly early in afternoon, find hotel (shouldn't be too difficult, even with my sense of direction, it's just over the road from the train station), see sights. I've been to Stuttgart before, a couple of times, but I'm sure the sights have changed a bit since last time.

Saturday, find University of Stuttgart (also right next to hotel and train station) and memorise small amounts of numbers, cards etc in a no-pressure kind of way, safe in the knowledge that my scores won't be counted because I'm not South German. Note to self - avoid wearing lederhosen, just in case someone mistakes me for a South German and publishes my terrible scores for the world to see. Also avoid making lederhosen-themed jokes in case they offend genuine South Germans. Then after competition, beetle off back to the airport, fly to Berlin, get a train to Magdeburg, get an S-Bahn to Barleben, find hotel (quite some way from the train station and it'll be dark by then - this is the point where the schedule might go wrong), go to sleep.

Sunday, be ferried back into Magdeburg by Mental Calculations World Cup organisers (hotels, meals, guided tours etc are all free of charge for competitors, as always), pose for photo, then try to remember how to do mental calculations. I haven't calculated anything mentally since 2006, so my hopes aren't high for lifting the World Cup for England.

Monday, more of the same.

Tuesday, get away from Barleben/Magdeburg in time to see the sights of Berlin, a city I've never once visited despite all my millions of trips to Germany, then fly back to London (because that was cheaper than Manchester, not to mention Birmingham which is much easier for me to get to and from by train but fails to provide any reasonably-priced flights on the days I want to fly to and from there). Get home probably late at night due to unexpected delays, go to bed just in time to get up for work on Wednesday. If I didn't find this kind of thing so much fun, I'd drop dead from mental exhaustion and stress.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I did a 30-minute cards practice tonight (it was going to be hour cards, but I felt my mind wandering about 15 minutes into it, so I changed my plans), and did 15 packs, all perfectly recalled without any real problems. That's pretty good, really - when I'm properly in form, I do 18. Maybe in a week or two I'll be back up to full speed.

Although on the other hand, it is the World Cup. Maybe if I'm lucky we'll get knocked out early as a result of unfathomably picking Emile Heskey, and there'll be no important games to distract me.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Last Call?

Good grief, it's only May. Since when are world memory championships organised so far in advance that they're sending me emails insisting that I register at this point in the year? Still, I thought I should reproduce it here, for the benefit of anyone who reads my blog but isn't on the WMSC mailing list:

There are now just twelve weeks to go to the 2010 World Memory Championships in China. With a prize fund of US$ 92,000, this is the biggest amount in prizes ever offered for a memory championships. So far competitors from 14 countries are registered, and this is expected to increase over the next few weeks. The logistics of organising a World Championships are enormous. Competitors may ask to compete in their native language, and resources required to prepare and translate the memorisation and recall sheets. In addition, arbiters are required who are fluent in all these languages. As a result, of this, it may be necessary to close the registrations earlier than in previous year, so that there is sufficient time for preparations to be made.

This is therefore the Last Call for competitors to register for the 2010 World Memory Championships . If you are planning to compete, please do not assume that the organisers will know this instinctively, if you haven't completed your registration form. Please click on and do so without delay. This also applies to our Elite Competitors - our Top Ten Memorisers. We can only make preparations for you, if we know you are planning to compete.

All competitors, regardless of rank, are require to pay their competition fee in advance of the competition. Registrations without a fee are not confirmed.

Also, please allow plenty of time to organise your travel visa to enter China. This may well take longer than expected. If you require a formal invitation, please email me by return.

The 2010 World Memory Championships in China promise to be the most spectacular so far. Don't miss out by leaving your registration too late.

I can't help thinking the "please do not assume that the organisers will know this instinctively" is inspired by my tendency not to tell anyone I'm coming to competitions and assuming they'll make all the necessary arrangements anyway. But if they really insist, I'll do it tomorrow. Can't be bothered tonight.

Also, "As a result, of this, it may be necessary to close the registrations earlier than in previous year, so that there is sufficient time for preparations to be made."? As a result of what? Everything that the first paragraph says has also applied in every previous world championship.

Still, it can't be a bad thing that everything's getting done in advance. Unless it gets cancelled again. Go and register, everyone!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Well, having done no memory training yesterday, I eventually managed to force myself to do a 30-minute-binary practice today, and wow, I don't remember ever being so slow and lumbering at memorising 1s and 0s. It's been a while since I last practiced, I know, but even so, today was exceptional. I had to really give myself a mental kick up the backside, repeatedly, not to give up half-way and go and do something else, but at least I managed to get over that hurdle and now, theoretically, it should be easier to get into the swing of things tomorrow.

But as for today, I only got through four and a half pages in the 30 minutes. I normally aim for seven and a half as a best-case-scenario, although only if my brain is running in a super-speedy kind of way do I get that far. I don't recall ever not getting to the end of the fifth page before, it's a bit scary.

Thing is, though, going so slowly makes my recall much more accurate - I normally think I'm doing well if I get about 80% of the rows correct, whereas today it was very close to 100%, and I ended up with a score of 3210, which is... well, it's not what I'd call 'good', but if I'm having a bad day I'm more or less satisfied with anything over 3000. And maybe next time I can increase the speed a bit without dropping too much of the accuracy. Maybe. We'll see, but if I can chain myself to the desk all day tomorrow, I might start thinking it's still possible to do well in Guangzhou.

(It isn't, but I like to try to be optimistic anyway)