Saturday, April 14, 2007


Okay, so I wasn't quite as successful in Ashford as Oadby. In fact, I came dead last. But, you see, it's not the winning, it's the taking part, and by doing so badly I probably made everyone else feel a lot better about themselves, so in a very real sense, I'm a winner.

Ashford is a strange kind of place for at least two reasons - it calls itself "Ashford (Kent)" to excess, for one. I walked past the Working Men's Club when I got there on Friday night and the sign outside says "Ashford (Kent) WMC". Would people really not know which Ashford they were in if they looked up at the sign and it only said "Ashford"? For another thing, I found when I daringly decided to walk from the station to my hotel that Ashford is some kind of magical land where however far you walk in any direction, you always end up in the same place at the back end of the town centre. After quite a lot of that, I got a taxi like some kind of big city fat cat.

Fun tournament, though, and lovely weather. I even walked from Charing Cross to St Pancras, taking in all the places I was intending to along the way, on my way back. And without once getting lost. It's official, I can cope with London streets now. Perhaps with a bit more practice I'll get Ashford (Kent) too.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

There are days when I'm all hyper-productive and get lots of stuff done. There are also days when I just don't do anything. This has pretty much been one of the latter. Although I did talk to the Cambridge local paper. And I, well, expressed enthusiasm on hearing that Ravinder's documentary has officially got the sort-of go-ahead from Channel 5. That counts as memory-related work, right?

Anyway, I'm going to Ashford tomorrow afternoon for the othello on Saturday, rather than getting the early morning train, so I probably won't post anything tomorrow night. Yes, I'm still pointing it out every time I don't intend to post anything here. I have a very inflated sense of this blog's importance in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More reasons to be cheerful

Man Utd won 7-1 last night and it was a great game. I saw the first five goals before turning over to watch the last episode of Life on Mars, which was also absolutely fantastic. I found those raffle tickets today without even meaning to, while looking for something else. I also found the something else I was looking for. Boston Utd did indeed beat Macclesfield on Monday, and are now at the lofty heights of 22nd (out of 24) in League Two. This is important, because the bottom two get relegated. Granted, they're only three points clear of Wrexham, who've got a game in hand, but it's the psychological advantage of not being in the relegation zone that matters. Plus, Boston's last four games are against Hereford and Chester (both comfortably mid-table with no chance of making the play-offs), Torquay and Wrexham (the two clubs below us). We've got a good chance of survival. I'm doing an interview with the Cambridge Evening News tomorrow about the memory championship, and hopefully getting it a nice bit of advance publicity. It's definitely spring, you know - it's been all warm and sunny for the last couple of days.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hello, sunshine! Hello, birds on the wing!

I've got lots of bunnies! By which I mean that I've got The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, which you may remember me bidding for on eBay last week, in rather more formats than I was expecting. For some reason, the seller has also enclosed a "free gift" of a pirate DVD copied (or "ripped" or "burned" or whatever the technical term is) directly from the official, original VHS that he actually advertised, sold and sent to me. I don't get why he would do this. Did he think "well, if he likes the legal version, he's sure to also like a less legal version along with it!"

Come to think of it, "captured" might be the technical term.

Anyway, I'm glad that I've got it. I've watched it twice today, since that's obviously what the seller wants me to do, and watched a couple of the brilliant songs at least hrair times. I haven't seen the Bunny Picnic for years and years, and I'd forgotten just how great it was. If I had the first idea how to go about doing such a thing, I would burn/rip/capture/sync the wonderful musical number at the end when the bunnies confront the farmer and put it on YouTube for you all to watch, because nobody should go through life without hearing that song.

I find it hard to describe to normal people the feeling of sheer delight and euphoria I get from watching a stirring musical tale of bunny bravery like this. Suffice it to say I've been in a deliriously happy kind of mood all day. It even helps me put a positive spin on things that I might otherwise consider bad - having done a bit of Cambridge championship preparation work today, I've been thinking "well, it's nearly all done now and well ahead of time", rather than "I still need to do the historic dates in multiple languages, and that takes ages, plus I need to arrange stopwatches or timers for the speed cards and I should have done that yonks ago".

And when the charity Cerebra phoned me tonight to ask for money and I suddenly remembered I've got some raffle tickets of theirs that I'm supposed to be selling and have no idea where they are, my thought is "wow, good thing they called or I would have forgotten all about it and then felt horribly guilty when they write to me asking for money", whereas had I been in less of a cheerful mood, I might have been thinking "aw, now I'll have to turn my living room upside down looking for those raffle tickets. How could I have forgotten them, anyway? I'm supposed to be a memory champion. And why are Cerebra pestering me for more money when they haven't finished with this raffle yet, for Pete's sake?"

Everything's better with bunnies. Man Utd are 3-0 up after 20 minutes! It's the bunnies, I tell you! Incidentally, Lugsy is the real hero of Tale of the Bunny Picnic, not Bean. He's the one I always admired.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Woo! Did an hour cards practice today, attempting 33 packs and got 29½ right. And the half (you get half a pack if there's one mistake) was just stupidity on my part - I memorised it right, I just wrote the wrong thing down and didn't notice. I'm still not 100% confident with going for more than thirty packs, but I'm feeling now that I can maybe eventually speed myself up just that little bit more so that I can look at each one three times. Today the sixty minutes ran out when I was just short of the end of the 27th pack for the third time. And my recall was still good on the ones I only had time to look at twice - it was harder work and took longer, with a bit of educated-guesswork, but I got most of them right. The mistakes came on packs 24, 29 and 30, plus the aforementioned annoying blunder on pack 7. And I was finished with the recall with ten minutes of the two hours still to go, rather than frantically scribbling till the end. All in all, I'm happy with that.

And while I'm talking card-memorising (I have quite honestly been told that there are people out there who really like reading things like the above paragraph, you know), I'll throw out a favourite tip of mine for "memory athletes" in training - try to practice things in the exact format of the championships. Between memorising and recall when I practice hour numbers, while I'm putting those fiddly little rubber bands back around the cards and stacking them up neatly, I like to turn the telly or radio on to simulate the talking that goes on at competitions during the hiatus. I also avoid consciously trying to recall any of the images I've seen until the recall time has started, because you never know what distractions are going to come along at the world championships.

When it comes to speed cards, I also always wait the full five minutes until recalling, even though I'm going through the pack in thirty seconds and then just sitting in silence. Sitting still and not saying anything is something I have difficulty with, you see, so it's good to get in a bit of practice. I'm an incorrigible daydreamer, and I can never spend the whole four and a half minutes thinking about the cards I've just memorised without drifting off on a mental tangent, so practicing like that really helps - now I can daydream all I like and still keep the cards bobbing around in my brain until I have to regurgitate them.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

When did my hobbies turn into work?

Not only am I wrestling with writing a book about memory and stuff (that's "wrestling" in the sense of doing nothing about it, which is an unusual but quite acceptable use of the word), but I'm also trying to entice people to chip in with some prize money for the Cambridge championship (I'm still hopeful on that front). And if that wasn't enough, I've been wrestling with a question about the British othello rating list that David asked the committee about - should people who don't live here any more still be included?

I can think of lots of sensible arguments both for and against the idea, which is confusing me a bit. I would have expected not to care either way, since the only rating I ever look at is my own, but in fact I seem to be deeply passionate about every possible argument for and against every possible arrangement. Perhaps I just need to get out more. Come to think of it, I maybe shouldn't be posting publicly about this in the first place. Some people might argue that it's private committee business (the committee of the BOF doesn't generally do anything, so it's probably a good idea to shroud anything we do do in mystery, so as to give the impression that we do more). Ah well. They can always excommunicate me, or whatever the expression is.