Saturday, January 14, 2006

These vagabond shoes

Booked my tickets to and hotel in New York today - two months before going somewhere is probably a record for me. I worry sometimes that I'm growing up. I'll arrive on the Thursday afternoon, spend Friday seeing the sights, Saturday seeing the memory competition, then go home on Sunday evening, which thanks to the miracle of time differences gets me back into England early on Monday morning. Then I can spend the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday in bed to get over the jet lag before going back to work on the Wednesday. I can't sleep on planes, and I always have a terrible time adjusting to moving a few time zones east and skipping a few hours of the day. I'm fine going the other way - an extra five hours in the day won't be a problem at all. I have a feeling that the solution is to go home in the opposite direction and arrive before I left, but there's probably a technical difficulty or two with that somewhere.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The view from the train

On Central Trains, the space for bicycle storage is right next to the toilet. So more often than not when I take the train, I end up sitting on a seat in the corner of the differently-shaped carriage, with a limited view out the window and a difficult job avoiding watching people going into the toilet and looking around trying to find the button that closes the door. I'm starting to get into the habit of trying to guess from the person's face how long it'll take them to find the button - I've yet to see anyone who knows where it is before they go in, strangely enough. Maybe the embarrassment of standing around in a train toilet cubicle trying to work out how to shut the door means that nobody ever uses those toilets more than once in their life?

Moving on to slightly more interesting subjects, what I need is someone to shuffle cards for me. I've just spent ages shuffling them in preparation for some practice tomorrow, and I've still only got twenty done. If I just do it quickly, you see, the cards are still in a similar kind of order to when I memorised them last time round, and that's horribly confusing. So I have to do a really thorough job of it, which takes ages.

Oh, and speaking of memory, the new series of Child Of Our Time starts this weekend, or some time soon anyway, it might be Monday. Don't know when (or if) my bit's on, but I'd appreciate it if nobody watched it, because I'm pretty sure I come across as a useless idiot, and not in a good way. They might have decided to drop the whole bit, of course - I would have if I was the producer.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Welcome, Benjamin.

I've just been looking into plane ticket prices, and I noticed that Expedia call me Benjamin. I don't know how that happened - I practically never put my full name into forms, even the ones that say 'full name' on them. Maybe I'm a bit of a rebel, or maybe it's just that nobody has ever called me Benjamin in my life. Even the bank have got my name down as Ben George Pridmore, which just sounds a bit silly to me (if you're going to use your middle name, you might as well use your full first name too).

I'd legally change my name to just Zoomy, but it seems like a lot of hassle. Imagine having to explain to people why you haven't filled in the first and last name boxes properly.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bending the rules

I have a self-imposed asbo against talking about politics, or news in general, on this blog. Firstly because it's what everybody else does with their blogs all the time and I want to be a bit more original than that. And secondly, because I think the world would be a much better place if everyone kept their political leanings to themselves. Imagine all the arguments and conflicts we could avoid that way!

But despite that, I feel obliged to say something vaguely political in nature tonight. So, for the avoidance of doubt before we start, I'm a Lib Dem. The upcoming leadership contest is therefore a subject of some interest to me, not that I think it'll make a great difference to the party or the world in general whoever wins, but ignoring my usual scepticism, there's one guy who'd be the obvious choice of winner, if not for one insuperable difficulty - his name.

Now I'm the last person to judge someone because of their name (or if not quite the last, I did do it just five minutes ago when I saw a post on a message board by someone called Supreme Convoy, and automatically assumed he'd be a great guy), but Sir Menzies Campbell. No, it just doesn't work for a leader of a political party in the 21st century. The name just screams "old, posh bloke, eccentric upper-class Englishman who dabbles in politics in his spare time". That's not the kind of image we need as a leader. With the alternatives being yuppie prat Tony Blair and carbon-copy-of-Yuppie-prat-Tony-Blair David Cameron, what the Lib Dems need is a man-of-the-people kind of leader - the kind of guy who gives the impression of being more or less like real people (something Blair and Cameron are totally lacking). Sir Menzies could maybe do that, if he wasn't called Sir Menzies. But change his name to John Smith and he'd be a future PM.

Incidentally, apologies to Tom Holt for stealing his last-person joke in the previous paragraph immediately after saying I want to be original in the paragraph before. I'm a hypocrite. Maybe I should become a politician.

Anyway, enough of this. I've made up my mind about New York, and I'm definitely going. Woohoo! Now I just have to decide how much time to spend over there. How long does it take to see New York, anyway? Is it a case of looking at the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and then going home, or are there hidden delights? Actually, I'm the world's worst tourist - whenever I go to exotic cities I spend most of my time in bookshops. I just get bored with museums and breathtaking natural wonders too quickly - I can always watch them on telly if I ever feel so inclined, and not have to get up out of my chair...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So good they named it twice

I'm still not sure whether or not to go to the US Memory Championship, or the US Memoriad, whatever they're calling it at the moment, in New York in March. I might go there just to watch and help out, rather than competing. I'd feel like I was showing off if I went all the way there just to do better than everyone else. But then I feel bad about thinking like that, because it doesn't show much respect to the American competitors. But I've been thinking, since it's three days before Pi Day, that I could recite pi to 10,000 places or so there, as a sort of sideshow, if they'd let me. It wouldn't take that long to refresh my memory of that much, hopefully, and only take an hour and a bit to reel them off. I'll make up my mind this week.

I've never properly been to New York before. I've sort of been through it, and hung out around Penn Station for a couple of hours on the way from Boston to Washington back in 2000, but that doesn't really count as a visit. I need to broaden my horizons a bit - I tend to go to one place, like it, and then keep going back, rather than trying anywhere else. It would probably do me good to experience something new and exciting from time to time, as opposed to just going to Las Vegas...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Counting sheep

I've just been playing the 'face memory' test here at the 'sleep' section of the BBC website (thanks to the Mule for the link to the general area). I got a below average score on the number of faces remembered, but above average on identifying whether they came in the first batch or the second. I really need to practice names and faces more. Or at all.

I'm not really interested in the connection between memory and sleep, although it would be interesting to analyse what difference it made at the 2003 world championship when I didn't wake up until five minutes after the final day's competition was supposed to start. I did the same kind of thing this morning - I vaguely remember my alarm going off, but I didn't do anything about it and went back to sleep. Woke up again critically analysing some cartoon I'd been watching in a dream (which I remember nothing about now except my waking thought that it was pretty good and, at 23 minutes in length, not too long). Looked at the clock to see what time it was, expecting something like 23 minutes after it went off, and found it had actually been 40, and I had to leave the house in five minutes to catch the train. I made it on time, too - I'm quite an expert at racing around in the morning when I need to.

I got the 5:20 train home tonight, rather than the 5:43, because it was about 35 minutes late. Nothing too unusual there, but the excuse was one I hadn't heard before - a medical emergency on the train earlier on. I think they've issued a new book of reasons for delays to the station staff. A couple of weeks ago the poor guy who works there was updating passengers on the delays to two trains, with three different reasons, and could never keep straight what each one was delayed for.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Howay the lads

It's quite unfortunate that me starting to work in Burton has coincided with their football team's greatest moment. If I started supporting Albion now, it would look like I was only doing it because they're suddenly cool. To be fair, it's not such an amazing achievement. There's a long-standing sort-of-tradition of good clubs drawing away at bad clubs and thrashing them at home in the replay - it gets a bit of extra money and TV coverage for everyone concerned, and while that's a much bigger deal for Burton Albion than it is for Man U, I don't think they're too upset that their reserve team didn't manage to win today.

Anyway, I probably should be writing about the party I went to this weekend - it seems terribly ungrateful not to, and to just sit here writing about the football match I saw brief highlights of this afternoon. It was great (the party, not the football), and so was Crispy's mum's house - it's a picturesque little stone cottage in a picturesque little stone village, and the inside is so clean and pretty that I can't quite get to grips mentally with it. Not having grown up in a house where cleaning was a regular activity (and currently living in a flat where it never happens at all), it always flabbergasts me to come to a house where someone hoovers, polishes, dusts, tidies things away and so on on a daily basis. I don't know how anyone can do it.

They've even got an Aga, for crying out loud! I've never seen a real one before! I was quite overawed by the whole thing.