Saturday, September 23, 2006

Just plain mental

I've been practicing mental calculations. There are six events at the MCWC - adding ten ten-digit numbers, multiplying two eight-digit numbers, finding the square root (to eight significant figures) of a six-digit number, and naming the day of the week for a given date, plus two "surprise" tasks. In each case you get a certain amount of time to do as many of the tasks as possible - ten minutes for the addition, fifteen minutes for the multiplication and roots, and just a minute for the calendar calculations. Which is a bit of a rush if like me you're not particularly brilliant.

You're given ten of each task, and I can just about do eight additions in the time, and six multiplications. The trick is to keep practicing so that I get most or all of them correct, because I have too many little errors at the moment. Dates is more a case of getting my mind in gear as quickly as possible - once you get going, it really is easy to rattle them off in a few seconds, but I seem to struggle to get warmed up properly.

Square roots are my weak point at the moment. I'm still not entirely sure what approach to take for them. I'd quite like to memorise all the six-digit squares and their roots, which would give me a head start, but it's quite a big task and I worry that that amount of long-term memory stuff would get in the way of the short-term memory stuff I'll want to do for the memory competition on the Sunday.

I've been doing a bit of practice for that, too - did 780 in five-minute binary today, which would equal my world record, but I know I can do more than that on a good day. Also a fifteen-minute number, where I was going for four journeys' worth of digits, 936, but had lots of gaps. I'm pretty sure that's a realistically possible figure, though, so I'm going to stick with it. I'm just pleased that I've been more or less in the training mood today!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Unblogged

I feel like I should offer a heartfelt apology for yesterday's post. It may not be immediately obvious, but I do have certain standards here, and I do feel bad when I churn out a few unentertaining lines when it's late at night and I'm in a bad mood because of technical problems. I know I have literally more than one reader who tunes into this blog every day, so I'd hate to let you down. The whole MSN Messenger thing is fixed, anyway - turns out it was upset by me changing the date on my laptop in order to fool a dimwitted free trial of Microsoft Office into thinking it hadn't expired. Who would have thought that breaking the law could have consequences?

I did have a blog entry all planned in my head yesterday, before I spent the evening getting frustrated with these new-fangled machines. It was going to be about the fact that I forgot my tie when I went to work yesterday. I'm definitely cracking up, it's official. Nobody noticed, which just goes to prove something. Perhaps I'll try going to the office without trousers next, see what happens.

This isn't the first time I've had the intention of writing about something here and then ended up not, for one reason or another. I know it might sometimes seem like I chronicle every little thought in my head in excruciating detail, but you'd be surprised how much happens to me that I don't get a chance to mention. It seems terribly unfair on these things, although on the other hand if you start feeling sorry for abstract concepts, that's probably another sign of insanity.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Technical hitches

As I mentioned a few days ago, my laptop has decided not to let me use MSN Messenger. This is inconvenient, as it forces me to use my desktop when I want to chat with people, and my desktop is elderly and getting to a state where it's not a lot of use. It definitely can't cope with three or four messenger conversations at once, and takes five minutes of whirring every time I switch from one window to another. Tomorrow night I must sit down and mess with the laptop to persuade it to work properly.

Also, I have to invite people to the big birthday bash. I've decided to go for a meal and a lot of drinking in Nottingham, and so it's just a matter of seeing how many people want to turn up...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We struggled hard all our lives to get by

There are times when I really don't like my job. Today was most definitely one of those times. There should be a law against making people work for a living, especially when the work involves finding that you've made stupid mistakes in the course of putting figures together over the last month and having to apologise and correct them in a very short space of time. What I should have done is only given one month's notice, then I could have spent today sitting around doing nothing.

I still need to find some more wholesome activities to fill my time when I am jobless - this sabbatical needs to be a learning experience, rather than giving myself an excuse to be lazy. If I'm not enriched, fulfilled and a better person all round by, say, Christmas time, I'll be annoyed with myself. So, which languages should I learn? What useful charitable acts can I perform other than volunteering in a shop, which seems just too obvious? What should I create a website about? Which chapters of How To Be Clever should I write first? Answers on a postcard.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

They fell apart some time ago

I went into a shoe shop today, for the first time in living memory. Mainly to see whether the "buy one get one free" sign in the window meant one shoe or one pair of shoes, but since my boots have reached the point where it is in fact painful to walk around in them, I did think it might be a good idea to get some new ones. But I didn't like any of the ones in the shop, so I'll leave it till the weekend.

I had the leisure time to hang around shoe shops, of course, because I did all my work for the day before 9am - twelve very quick interviews with local radio stations (it should have been 14, but Sheffield had technical problems and York cancelled. Typical Yorkshire people.)* It was fun noticing the very slight different in format and questions from each one - some focused on serious talking about Alzheimer's, others were more interested in getting me to recount my amazing memory achievements. Radio Lancashire decided to take the approach of making me out to be a complete sad case. I'd complain, except I am in fact a complete sad case.

I did do a bit of mental calculation practice, and I was pleased to see I'm not far off the level I was at in 2004 when I last did it. I'm not going to break any records there, but I should put in a respectable kind of performance.

*I have no previous experience of the habits of Yorkshire people when it comes to arranging radio interviews, so I'm just assuming based on today that they're always having technical problems or cancelling them at short notice. This prejudice doesn't apply to local radio stations in Leeds.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Video killed the radio star

Early start tomorrow - interviews on the early morning shows of lots of BBC local radio stations about the launch of the Alzheimer's campaign. Still don't know which stations, or exactly when, so if you want to listen to me it's more a matter of tune in and hope. I won't be saying anything interesting, anyway - I've got a very detailed briefing that should more than cover a couple of minute's chat in each case.

Disappointingly, I won't be flying from one radio station to another in a private helicopter, but doing the whole thing from Radio Derby down the road. I'll be finished by nine o'clock, and after that I've got the whole day off work to do something useful.

Also in the news, and I don't normally mention celebrity birthdays here, but I've just heard that June Foray is 89 today. And still doing cartoon voices, as she has been doing for well over sixty years now. Happy birthday, Granny!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ah'm fed up! I never get ony fun here.

I'm bored! And by that I mean that there are many, many things I could be doing, like memory training, or mental calculations training, or writing books, cleaning my flat, arranging my birthday party, watching videos, playing games, emailing people, phoning people, heck, even leaving the flat and going for a drink, but for some reason none of these wholesome activities hold any appeal for me at the moment. The only thing I can reconcile myself to doing is lying around the place at 8pm on a Sunday night and moaning because I'm bored.

Have I mentioned that the day after the mental calculation world cup in Gie├čen, there's a memory competition in Stuttgart that I'm also competing in? I'm trying to work out how best to balance training for the two - the mental calculation bit involves some long-term memory of numbers, which kind of gets in the way of practising the short-term things for the memory competition. Although since, as previously mentioned, I'm not doing either right at the moment, perhaps it's just an academic question.