Saturday, March 31, 2007

No time, no inspiration

Don't you hate it when you're going out to a beer festival and think it's probably best to update your blog beforehand because you're not intending to be in a fit state to type when you get back, but find that you have to leave pretty much immediately so as not to be unfashionably late and can't think of anything to write about?

Actually, I don't hate it as such, and if you do you really need to get your priorities right. I mean, it's only a blog, for crying out loud! What's wrong with you?

Friday, March 30, 2007


Having forgotten what he did for a living, Cecil was participating in an archaeological dig in Middlesbrough when he uncovered the fabled Amulet of Dennis, which confers on its owner the power to become ruler of the world. He phoned Phillip to tell him the news, before getting back to work.

Phillip immediately burst into Samantha's bedroom, kicking the door down and dynamiting the remains in his haste to get inside. "Cecil's only gone and found the Amulet of Dennis," he lamented, "and he's going to end up ruling the world unless we stop him right away."

"But what can we do?" asked Samantha from the dining room where she had been sitting having lunch with Phillip before he ran upstairs to talk to her.

"We have to stop him using the Amulet," explained Phillip. "Luckily, he won't be able to do anything with it until he knocks off work for the night. It seems he's under the impression he's an archaeologist today. That gives us four hours to find him and do him in."

"But surely," protested Samantha, thinking that this whole endeavour sounded too much like hard work, "if the amulet gives him so much power, we won't be able to do anything?"

"No, no," explained Phillip, "it confers on its owner the power to rule the world. By which I mean that what you do is present it to the Prime Minister and he turns over control of the country to you. It doesn't give you super-powers or anything. And it's an Amulet, not an amulet."

"It's not possible to aurally distinguish between a word spelt with an upper-case letter and one spelt with a lower-case letter, so get off my back," commanded Samantha. "So what are we going to do?"

"Well," explained Phillip, "Cecil neglected to tell me where in the world he is at the moment, so I'm going to get Richard to drive me randomly around the country in the hope that we bump into him. I need you to go to London, seduce the Prime Minister and persuade him to go and hide down a hole in Czechoslovakia."

"You mean the Czech Republic," said Samantha, "and what if the Prime Minister is a woman, a homosexual man or a member of a different species such as dog or wolf?"

"We'll have to take that risk," said Phillip firmly. "I know there's no way of knowing who or what the Prime Minister is until you get to 10 Downing Street and meet him, but I think it's statistically likely that he'll be seductible by an attractive woman. And don't bother pointing out that you're not the slightest bit attractive and in fact look less like a woman than I do, beggars can't be choosers and you'll have to do."

Samantha, who hadn't been intending to say anything of the sort and actually considered herself to be quite good looking, shrugged consent, and Phillip stormed determinedly out of the door and down the street to Richard's house. Samantha got to work on her part of the plan immediately, going into the kitchen and putting the oven on. "I'm going to need energy for the trip to London," she reasoned, "and although I just finished a large lunch five minutes ago, I'd better cook some Findus crispy pancakes, just in case..."

Meanwhile, Cecil had left work early, having got permission from his bemused "boss", who of course had no idea who Cecil was. However, on his way down to London, the train was suddenly derailed by a sinister cloaked figure, who abducted Cecil and dragged him up to the top of a perilous mountain in the vicinity of Stevenage. "And now, Cecil," the mysterious stranger intoned, "prepare to meet your nemesis!"

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Cecil. "Uncle Graham!"

"That's right," intoned the stranger, throwing off its cloak. "It is I, your third cousin Brenda, returned to destroy you once and for all as I swore to do seventeen years ago!"

"But you said you'd leave it twenty years before destroying me," whined Cecil.

"I meant seventeen," snapped Brenda ill-temperedly. "It was a slip of the tongue."

"I'm sorry, you did say twenty. I'm free for another three years and there's nothing you can do about it. Now bog off. See you at cousin Steve's wedding next month."

Brenda wandered off, kicking small stones and sheep, and Cecil climbed back down the mountain and headed off towards London again.

Meanwhile, Richard's car was not fifty miles away from Cecil's position and heading in roughly the right direction. "We're making good time," observed Phillip, quite loudly so as to be heard from the roofrack, to which he was fastened with chains (Richard's car had no seatbelts).

"Yep, we're sure to find Cecil before long," said Richard happily. "Oh, blast," he suddenly added, bringing the car to a screeching halt in the middle lane of the M1.

"What's the problem?" Phillip asked.

"I've just realised that an isoscles triangle exhibits reflectional symmetry along one axis, regardless of the size of its internal angles," said Richard, in tones of deep despair.

"Is that such a problem?" Phillip inquired, but Richard was lost in silent contemplation, occasionally muttering to himself that he had wasted his entire adult life, and for what? Phillip freed himself from the roofrack and ran for the safety of the hard shoulder, but was hit by a speeding unicycle-steamroller and sent flying.

By a stroke of luck, he landed on Cecil, who was in the process of hitching a lift down to London. Phillip was rather annoyed to see that the driver who had stopped to give him a ride was in fact Samantha.

"What in the name of Dennis are you doing?" he demanded of her.

"I'm giving Cecil a lift," said Samantha. "Turns out we're both going to see the Prime Minister. Small world, eh?"

"Words fail me," said Phillip, inaccurately, and went on to explain at length what he had told her at lunchtime.

"Oh, that's okay," said Cecil. "I accidentally buried the Amulet of Dennis again five minutes after I phoned you, and then couldn't find it. I was just going to see the Prime Minister to ask him whether I'm actually an archaeologist. I just have a feeling that I might not be."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Torvill and Zoom

I think we should all give a nice round of applause to Boris Konrad for producing the above image. You know, sometimes I worry about the sanity of my friends, but then they go and prove that I've got nothing to worry about by producing a very impressive composite photo of my head on Christopher Dean's body, without me even asking them to.

Back in the real world, have you seen "Desperados"? It's a rather brilliant drama series on children's BBC, about a wheelchair basketball team. I've seen the last three episodes of the series over the last couple of days, and I was enthralled. I've sometimes considered taking up some kind of wheelchair sports - I can't do the non-wheelchair kind on account of my dodgy knees, but the more I get towards middle aged fat-and-laziness, the more I feel like some kind of regular, competitive exercise would be a good thing for me. Although I always find memory competitions physically exhausting, so maybe the solution is just to have more of those in a year...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Figure skating

Yes, figure skating. You and I know that figure skating is the stupidest kind of so-called sport in history, consisting just of people faffing around on ice skates and looking stupid, and that I'm not at all saying that because I'm jealous of people who can skate, look good in sparkly spandex and dance acrobatically on ice. Anyway, I think the rules of figure skating competitions provide an interesting analogy to memory competitions (a real sport, because I'm good at it).

Apparently, in the olden days, 60% of the scores in major figure skating championships came from what they called 'compulsory figures' - skating in such a way as to carve circles, figures of eight and so on into the ice. Judges would examine the figures in afterwards and mark them according to how perfectly circular and evenly-shaped they were. Which was all well and good, but then people outside the figure-skating bubble noticed that spectators weren't at all interested in that bit, which took hours and was mind-numbingly boring, but loved the free skating part. So when it became big and televised, the free skating gradually got a higher proportion of the marks, until the compulsory figures were dropped altogether.

So the world ended up with was a sport that looks pretty but has lost most of the claim it used to have to being based on any kind of technical skill, as opposed to looking pretty and waving your arms in time to the music.

And this is a pretty similar kind of situation to the world of 'memory sports' - there are those who want to introduce shorter events, and more telegenic championships like the US, and those who feel that the hour-long marathon number-memorising sessions are the real test of memory, as well as a big part of what makes memory competitions special. There are arguments for and against that I deeply sympathise with, but when it comes down to it, I really don't want to turn into Torvill and Dean. However handsome and athletic and well-dressed as Christopher Dean might be. Not the slightest bit of jealousy here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hectic life

It occurred to me today that it's a good job I'm not gainfully employed, or I'd never get any extracurricular memory-related stuff done. Granted, I'm not getting much of it done as it is, but it would be even worse if I had a real job, because it struck me that I'm fully booked for every weekend for the next seven weeks. What worries me particularly is that having established that to be the case, I now find that I can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing on April 28th. Oh well, I'm sure it can't be anything life-threatening. I just checked to see if it's another othello regional, weirdly scheduled for the week prior to Cambridge, only to find out that it's not, but Mansfield is on May 19th, so that's eight consecutive weekends. I don't know, I thought I was the unsociable type.

For the record (and in case I forget again), it's Vicky's party next Saturday, the Nottingham comic fair the Saturday after that (combined with my grandma's birthday on the Friday and possibly going to see Notts County v Boston Utd if I can fit that into the schedule too), then the Ashford regional (maybe I'll go down there on the Friday, seeing as I've had trouble in the past with getting up early enough to get all the way to Kent in the morning, possibly even hang out in London on the Saturday night and see a show, like some wealthy socialite), my mum's wedding on April 21st (if I forget that one she'll write me into her will just so she can write me out again), some mystery event on the 28th (really ringing mental bells there, but I can't think why the heck it would), the Cambridge MSO with all its attendant othello and memory hoopla, the Bristol comic expo (haven't booked a hotel yet for any of these things, and I really must get round to it - Bristol keep adding really great names to the guest list), then Mansfield. If I had a job, I'd be stark raving mad by the end of it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

True confessions

I bought two medium-sized easter eggs at the supermarket the other day, because they were cheap, and I've eaten one a night for the last two days.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Film And Cult Television

The real highlight of my extremely brief university career was the FACT club. We met once a week and watched Star Trek and things. I've been in a trekkie kind of mood lately, having stumbled across "Memory Alpha", the Star Trek wiki while wandering around the internet. It's always nice to know I'm not the only person who feels that the world really needs an authoritative analysis of every appearance of the ever-present but untalkative Lieutenant Leslie in the original series.

I'm going to have to stop doing these links to whatever website I've been reading. This blog is becoming full of them. It should be full of talk about how great I am, and I'll make sure it is in future.

Meanwhile, I've also lately been watching my way through the "future" series of the Transformers cartoon. It's set in 2006, but that was the future when it was made. It's something I've always had a great affection for - the artwork is generally terrible, and the plots are normally more simplistic than the older episodes, but there's something really compelling about the ongoing storylines and characters that makes it all worthwhile. We didn't just watch it for the glimpse of toys we posessed or wanted to posess, it was exciting space adventures of the kind that you just don't see much of nowadays. Poor youngsters today don't know what they're missing, those who watch Ben 10 excepted.