Friday, January 06, 2006

Party time

It's Crispy's 21st birthday party tomorrow. This is both a good and bad thing, I think. Good not only because she's my best friend and we always have fun when we get together, but also because it's got to be a good thing to be invited to 21st birthday parties of trendy young women when you get to my advanced age - this is the second one in less than a year, after Shahin's last May or whenever it was.

The bad bit is the mental arithmetic the existence of this 21st birthday makes me do. When I first met Crisp, she was 14 and I'd just turned 23. So any reminiscences along the lines of "wow, how many years have we known each other now?" lead inexorably to the horrific milestone that's lying in wait for me in October.

But enough of that kind of thinking. An impending party leads to more mundane thought processes, like should I have a haircut tomorrow morning? It's been two or three months since the last one, and it's getting a bit on the long side, even with my famously non-growing, sparse hair. But on the other side, it's not really as long and ugly-looking as I usually let it grow before getting it cut. Maybe I'll leave it. I definitely need to trim my beard, though - it doesn't look nearly as good when I grow it long as it used to, because the white hairs seem to grow much longer than the others. Sigh, I'm definitely too old.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Not in a blogging mood tonight

I'm sitting here thinking "Oh, I haven't put anything in my blog yet today, I'd better do that," and feeling completely devoid of inspiration. That hasn't happened to me very much over the nearly six months I've been doing this (must have a half-anniversary party!), which surprises me a bit. I've tried keeping a diary several times in the past, but it's never lasted this long. I think there's something about putting it online where anyone can read it (even if nobody does actually read this because I don't tell anyone it exists).

I considered posting a bit of nonsense that I wrote years ago and have on this computer, but that seems like cheating to me. I think there's an unwritten rule that everything I put on here has to be fresh and new and original - not that anyone would notice the difference if I put some old stuff on, but it's the principle of the thing.

So anyway, as you can see, I've devoted three paragraphs to saying that I don't feel like saying anything - that's concise by my standards. Now I'm off to memorise some binary digits before bed. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty artwork

I have a real mental block when it comes to drawing. It's a deep-seated childhood trauma caused by the fact that my brother was always so much better at it than me. I wish there was something I could do about this, because I think I've got the soul of an artist trapped inside the body of this accountant somewhere. Every now and then, I think of something that I would really like to draw a picture of. Occasionally I even manage to put pen to paper and actually try to draw it, but the results aren't generally very encouraging.

Anyway, around Christmas time I found myself thinking "What I should do, is draw a picture of Nigel and Alistair from Newshounds kissing under the mistletoe, with Nigel standing on a box or something so he can reach." It didn't get any further than that, but then another Nigel-fan on the Newshounds forum the other day observed that we've never seen the lovecats kissing before, so I took that as a good excuse to draw this:

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Now, I'm not claiming it's a work of art comparable to Van Gogh's best, or for that matter that it meets even the most basic standards of acceptability for a quick pencil sketch, but I like it. It looks more or less like I thought it would look before I started, it's kind of cute, and it's not even a complete swipe. And it's about three or four years since I tried drawing anything but stick-figures, so I was already feeling quite happy with my artistic outpourings even before Thomas K Dye, the writer/artist of Newshounds, said it was 'adorable'. That just made my day completely. It's so cool when someone you admire pays you a compliment.

Weirdly enough, a day or so after the Newshounds forum inspired me to draw something I'd been thinking about drawing, today someone posted a link to something he'd written, and it's something that I've been meaning to write for a couple of months now - An interview with Daffy Duck by Rory O'Bannion. The general tone of the thing is freakily similar to the thing that's been bouncing around my head, although the Daffy in my interview would have been as youthful as ever and full of enthusiasm about his latest Duck Dodgers series. And I can't believe Daffy wouldn't have got on with Chuck Jones, considering he directed The Scarlet Pumpernickel, the cartoon in which Daffy gets to expand his acting range and cast all his friends in an epic dramatic production. Still, I love this interview.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Time off for good behaviour

Left work two hours early today, not because of any special occasion, strike or communist revolution, but because the flipping accountancy software package has blown a fuse and we weren't able to use it all day. It's one thing after another there - ever since I started working there two months ago there's been an endless series of computer problems getting in the way of work. And going home early isn't much of a treat, because I know I'll have to make up the time and more over the next few days to get everything done.

In fact, I'm going to have to work quite excessively hard over the next couple of weeks, because having told my boss that her deadline to get the monthly accounts completed was too short and got an extra day to do it, I now feel obliged to get everything finished well before the original deadline, to confirm my reputation as a miracle worker. That's something I've missed at this new job - my strategy is normally to come into a new workplace and do the job much more quickly and accurately than whoever was doing it before, and have everyone think I'm great. But because everyone is new at Nord Anglia, they haven't got anything to compare me to, and so just assume that all the brilliant things I'm doing are normal. I tell you, it's tough being a genius. And having such an inflated opinion of my own abilities is a real handicap, too.

Still, it's not all bad. Getting home early gave me a chance to do something I was too lazy to do all this time I've been off work - practice hour numbers. It went really well, too, I got a score of 1940, a personal best and 9 digits short of Gunther's world record. I'm really feeling confident about the world championships at the moment, if I can keep up the training. It's a while since I've gone into a competition knowing that I've achieved really big scores in practice in lots of the disciplines.

It's funny really how I've snapped back into hard-working, dedicated, super-accountant, super-memory-guy mode after a week and a half of unmitigated accidie. All it took was being forced to get out of bed at half past seven after not nearly enough sleep, and now I'm all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I'm a squirrel when I'm not a dragon, did you know?) and looking around for more useful, productive things to do with my time. It's great.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Writing books is hard

Or at least, sitting down to write them is difficult. I'm normally okay once I get started, but I keep finding better things to do with my time. I was only trying to write a synopsis to send to publishers, but I just can't be bothered. I think it's because I'm trying to persuade someone to give me money for writing this thing, and that turns it into work, and therefore not fun. I'm not sure how to circumvent this problem, really. I could get it published and give all the money to charity, but then that kind of defeats the object of writing the thing in the first place. Perhaps I could say I'm going to give the money to charity and then actually keep it? Conning my subconscious in that way would be pretty clever stuff, I'll give it a try.

Anyway, I've got to go back to real work tomorrow. What a drag. Never mind, at least it'll get me a bit of exercise, cycling there and back. I think I've put on about three stone over Christmas, what with all the sweets and cake lying around the place and no more physical movement than necessary to change the TV channel occasionally.

One person I sympathise with is Sharon off EastEnders. I've been trying to get hooked on it again lately, but I keep forgetting it's on. I've watched a couple of recent episodes, though, and she's gone and had another fiancé killed in shocking circumstances just when they thought they were going to be happy forever. It's only been a couple of years since the last one, poor thing, and she's also had her father return to life and be murdered in the meantime. If it was me, I'd want to move away from Albert Square and settle somewhere more peaceful, like Baghdad.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Rather than doing anything constructive today, I've been reading the collected editions of Synapsia magazine that all the competitors at the world memory championships this year were given free. It was the magazine of the Brain Club, which is Tony Buzan and his gang of mind-map enthusiasts, also discussing other brain-related things like chess and memory and the like. Like these things generally do, it started out with wild enthusiasm in 1988, was published regularly for a few years, then gradually dwindled away through lack of interest (whether from the writers or readers, I'm not sure) until it was coming out once a year before finally disappearing in 1997.

If I'd known about Synapsia back then, I would have been one of its biggest fans. I was a terribly nerdy teenager, and I can just see me and Noddy poring excitedly over every new issue. Who knows, maybe I would have got into the whole memory thing much earlier, and competed in the first world championships back in 1991? Probably not, though - it took actually talking to memory people at the MSO in 2000 before I believed the memory techniques described in Synapsia and such publications could really work.

The funniest bit is reading about the MSO in Synapsia. The first mention comes back in 1991, when Ray Keene confidently announces that not only will the first MSO happen in 1992, but that it's reasonable to expect at least five hundred competitors in each mind sport, that well over ten thousand people, plus their spouses and friends, will converge on the event from all over the world, and that TV and press coverage will be huge, turning mind sports into the most popular thing in the universe. And these estimates might have to be revised upwards closer to the time.

The MSO was quite big for the first few years (when it finally started up in 1997), but it never got more than 2000 or so competitors at its peak, and international participation was always pretty minimal. But it's not really nice to laugh at over-optimistic predictions, and I do like the MSO and Synapsia. Just not as much as I know I would have liked it when I was 14, that's all. I'm not sure whether that means I'm less nerdy now, or just nerdy in a different way.