Saturday, August 12, 2006

World Twister Champion 2006

Title suggested by Vicky, although in fact I didn't win at Twister. I shouldn't really have been playing at all, with my knees being what they are, but you know what it's like at these parties. Crispy and Sleepy couldn't come at the last moment because Crisp's not well (possibly infected with lethal bacteria from her new job, so I think we should all send get-well-soon-type happy thoughts to her and hope she's okay), so I had to go to the scary almost-strangers' barbecue by myself. But it turned out to be fun after all. I'd write more about it, only I've had too much to drink considering I need to be practicing memorising cards tomorrow, and it's late, and I've just cycled home in the pouring rain so I'll probably get hypothermia if I don't go to bed rather than sitting around in my undies typing incoherently.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I've got sixpence, jolly jolly sixpence

Remember that thing I wanted to talk about but couldn't in case talking about it jinxed the whole thing? Well, now the official secrets act has been repealed and I can go ahead. I'm wealthy! I've just had £16,631.04 paid into my bank account, courtesy of my dad's pension scheme. Which certainly came as a surprise to me - my mum and brother have the same amount each too. Add that to the money in my bank account, and it comes to just over £20,000. Does that sound familiar? I got the letter telling me about it last Saturday, exactly a month after writing this about what I'd do if I had £20,000 or so.

So should I do it? Hand in my notice at work, take a year off, write those books, do those college courses, join that hypothetical gym? I'm inclining towards yes, I should. The universe quite clearly wants me to. I can't quite delude myself into thinking it's what my dad would have wanted me to do with the money (he really wouldn't have). I've given myself the weekend to think about it - I'd want to give two months' notice at work (rather than the one that I'm obliged to give) so as not to leave anyone in the lurch, and if I did it on Monday it would neatly round off my career at Nord Anglia the day before my birthday. I could be a wage slave until the age of 29 years and 364 days, and embark on a whole new phase of my life in my thirties. I won't be able to splash out on anything extravagant, but I can just about live for a year with those kind of expenses for twenty grand.

The only thing that worries me is whether I would be able to motivate myself to do cool things if I didn't have to get up in the morning every day. I'm thinking if I structure things around college courses and routines I'd be okay - from past experience I really do need something like that so that I can fit the fun things around it - if I don't have a day job, I don't do extracurricular things either and just spend my time lounging around doing nothing.

This kind of earth-shattering decision isn't the kind of thing I should be doing on the last weekend before the world memory championship. Crispy and Sleepy are coming round on Saturday night, so I can drunkenly discuss the pros and cons with them and see how much I can remember of the conversation the next morning. The plan is to do a 30-minute binary practice tomorrow morning, hour numbers after lunch, then we'll go round to Vicky's barbecue and have a good time, then on Sunday night when I've recovered a bit, do an hour cards. Hope I can stick to it.

Another thing that worries me - everyone is going to say "Yes, you should quit your job and become a gentleman of leisure! That sounds cool!", because it does sound cool. But I'm quite aware that it's not the right thing for me to do on any kind of long-term or intellectual level. On the other hand, though, my decision is pretty much a foregone conclusion. When have I ever chosen the option marked "leave things the way they are and do the sensible thing"?

And feeling guilty about spending it all on myself when the world is full of people suffering? I think I can get used to it. I've never claimed to be a saint. I squandered my redundancy money from Parkhouse on good causes, after all, and if I write a bestseller or become a professional snooker player, I can pay the money back to my conscience.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I don't break rules, I just bend them... a lot

I normally have a rule about not commenting on news items in this blog (mainly because that's what everyone else does on their blogs, and besides, who wants to hear my opinions about current events when they could read me rambling on about cartoon characters for pages? That reminds me, I never did get round to writing that promised essay about Sniffles, did I? And I'm also in the mood to try and get Bimbo, the unusually-named male dog cartoon character from the 30s, the public attention he's been deprived of for so long. But not tonight. I was going somewhere before I got into this parenthetical profusion of purple prose, wasn't I?), but I seriously hope this latest mess involving planes isn't going to stop people getting to the WMC next weekend. Last year the strike at Heathrow stopped some competitors from attending, and the timing of this thing is majorly annoying.

There's been a decided lack of publicity about the WMC this time round. Last year we got quite a bit of press coverage by playing up the England v Germany angle, but this time the people who run the event seem to have decided on a policy of doing nothing at all and hoping someone notices it. I also have no idea how many people are going to be there. Word has it that the German contingent will be smaller than last year, although it will include Clemens, Gunther, Boris, Alisa(?), the usual gang, so I'll have someone to make a contest of it. From Austria there's definitely Joachim and hopefully Astrid, I'm sure Andi won't be able to stay away despite what he says even if he doesn't properly compete, so I can't moan about a shortage of top-level competition.

And then there'll be a reasonably large British contingent. Me, Ed and at least three Jameses would break all recent records for sheer numbers, even if nobody else comes along. It seems we won't be getting a Brazilian team after all, Globo having decided to spend their money on a Brazilian championship next year instead, which is a shame. And there'll only be the one Norwegian, it seems. I have no idea about Malaysians, or Indians, or Jan (the one and only Dane who's ever competed in these things). There'll be Josh from the USA and Tansel from Australia and Pierre from France and HaiZhan from China who hasn't competed before but has been exchanging emails with me lately. It should be fun, anyway.

I'm more interested at the moment in researching Irish history. Talking with my assistant Patrick at work today I realised that I don't actually know anything about the country - it's only just next door, after all, and I know we have a proud history of going over there and subjugating and killing people, so I think I should know a bit more. I want to get a book out of the library or something - I'm suspicious of most websites.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Scheduled outage at 4:00PM PDT

According to the little toolbar thing on the top of this create-new-post thing. It's three minutes to ten here, and I have no idea what PDT is, so I'm hoping it's not six hours behind real time.

Anyway, I'm feeling a sense of achievement tonight, because I've replied to a bunch of emails (I'm kind of a recluse, but I still manage to get into no end of correspondence and if I let it build up for a couple of days it becomes quite a task to reply to everyone), done a load of memory practice (got 385 in speed numbers, which would have been 425 if I hadn't transposed two images - 468 is definitely possible on a good day, now I just have to decide whether to attempt it first time at the WMC, or go for something safer and then go for the big score on the second trial), watched Liverpool play football badly but still win (they're still playing but they've just gone 2-1 up with a minute or two left), and watched some Battle of the Planets and Betty Boop cartoons all in the four hours since getting home.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's The Mind

I've finally got round to sending off my entry form for the Mind Sports Olympiad. Longtime fans will remember that I didn't go to last year's, for the first time since it started in 1997, and I did feel guilty about it. But this year I'm going for the classic MSO experience - staying in a student hall of residence like I used to in the early years when I didn't have any money, competing in lots of games that I don't even particularly like just so as to have something to do, late night poker, no TV for a week (got to dig out my little clock radio so I can have the pleasure of listening to slightly out-of-tune London radio stations all night), lots of unhealthy food, it'll be great.

I'm also almost certainly going to skip the last couple of days in order to go to the othello nationals in Crawley. Now that the WMC has been moved and I only have two major mind sports competitions clashing that weekend, it's only fair to go along to the othello after a week's MSOing. Especially since I'll have to do the treasurer's report at the AGM before the competition starts. Besides, there's still the outside possibility of qualifying for the British team at the Worlds in Japan in October, which I would really love to do. And although 'outside possibility' here means 'no chance whatsoever because I'm not nearly a good enough player even when I've been practicing rather than barely playing at all for months now', it's still enough to give me a gleam of hope in the eyes.

So come along to the Mind Sports Olympiad if you want to play me at azacru, stratego, pacru, acquire, othello, twixt, mental calculations, decamentathlon, entropy, abalone, boku and lots of poker, and to the British Othello Championship if you're British and want to play me at othello more than you can do at the MSO.

Incidentally, I still haven't written the memory tips that the Alzheimer's people asked me for. It should just be a matter of churning out a few bullet points of the usual waffle that everybody says in this kind of situation, but I want it to be actually profound and useful and meaningful. Which, as you might have noticed, isn't something I'm very good at.

(I do have something important and earth-shatteringly significant to write about, but I'm not going to just yet until it's all sorted out for fear of jinxing it. Updates shortly, hopefully. Now that's a cliffhanger worthy of Doctor Who, isn't it!)

Monday, August 07, 2006

War of the worlds

Vole-like aliens invaded Earth in the year 1937. They arrived en masse in about thirty-seven flying saucers equipped with death-ray devices and small gerbils and set about slaughtering humans with the intention of subjugating the human race and forcing them to design new card games for the vole-like aliens' entertainment.

However, since the people of Earth at that time were also rather vole-like, nobody believed that the aliens were in fact alien invaders at all, and just assumed it was some kind of practical joke organised by the new television service. Even when the aliens barged into Downing Street, cut off the Prime Minister's head with pinking shears and declared that Earth was now under their rule, nobody took them seriously and just laughed about it. The aliens got back into their spaceships and left, disappointed with the reception they'd had.

Having assumed that his horrible demise was a practical joke, Neville Chamberlain was none the worse for wear and carried on with his business. But the incident had made him consider the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial lifeforms, and one night at a party he wrote the snappily-titled "What is to be done should real aliens ever invade and assassinate the Prime Minister with pinking shears or some such device" essay, which was published (due to a misunderstanding) in the Dandy the following week.

The essay detailed the process by which aliens would be repelled, and hinged around three people who would be required to do the entirety of the fighting while the rest of the world's population hid in underground shelters. Although a good plan, it didn't consider the ravages of time, and somebody really should have updated it by the time the vole-like aliens returned in 1993. By now immediately recognisable as aliens, they were taken seriously, and everyone immediately dropped what they were doing and dived into the shelters. Global warming having caused them to be flooded in the meantime, of course, the entire world's population were drowned.

The three people, chosen at random from the phone book in 1937, were by a happy coincidence still alive, and after several days' fighting, came to an agreement with the vole-like aliens which satisfied everyone except Bertram Cox. The aliens departed happily and left the three surviving humans a small cat made of green electricity in return for Bertram's underpants and left kidney. Today, on the thirteenth anniversary of that epic and anticlimactic settlement, we celebrate the memory of Earth's three saviours, Bertram and the other two whose names I don't recall, and take the day off work in order to throw bricks at sheep in a ceremony instituted last year in Belgium.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Retail therapy

I went to Birmingham today, rather than practicing memorising things like I was supposed to. But I've got an excuse, sort of - my mother phoned me in the morning to blame me for pretty much everything she's ever done, which put me in a bad mood and feeling like I wanted to go out and take my mind off things. I much preferred it when she forgot I existed for years on end. Anyway, I'm not what you'd call a great shopper. I tend to cave in to high-pressure salespeople asking tough questions like "Can I help you?". If I don't say "Yes, please sell me everything in your shop," I feel guilty about wasting their time and cluttering up the store unnecessarily. But sometimes I can't help going into shops I have no intention of buying from or even any interest in the things they're selling, just because they're playing cool music. There was a clothes shop today blasting out "All These Things That I've Done" by the Killers at top volume, which is the kind of song you just have to sing along to if you're me. I wouldn't be seen dead in the kind of clothes they were selling (you know, the kind of normal clothes that everyone else wears, horrific things like that), but I think I did a pretty good job of feigning interest in the things for five minutes until the song finished and I could beat a hasty retreat.

I did do an hour cards practice this evening after getting home, so I'm not too worried about letting the memory stuff slide. Attempted 30 packs, possibly got as many as 27 right although I haven't checked yet and there are probably several mistakes. That would probably be enough to beat everyone at the WMC.