Saturday, August 04, 2007

Back in black and white

I've completely neglected the game of othello lately. I'm playing right now in a tournament on kurnik for the first time in I can't even remember how long. So many memory competitions and media nuisances and jobs and things getting in the way. But I'm not doing all that badly, considering.

I should really write more on the subject, to make this into a proper blog entry and not short-change my readers, but it's late and I'm going to bed as soon as the tournament finishes. So I'll just advise everyone to buy the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow, where somewhere among whatever rubbish the Sunday Telegraph usually contains (I've never read it, but I'm pretty sure it complies to the usual quantity-not-quality rule of Sunday newspapers) there should be a big article about the World Memory Championships.

Friday, August 03, 2007


It's the weekend! This is the first full week's work I've done for a while, so it makes a couple of days off feel extra-special. I'm going to hopefully do some hour numbers and hour cards practice, possibly draw some pictures (remember that learning-to-draw intention I had? Still got it, just haven't had the time to doodle), maybe clean up my flat just in case I decide to move out (living in Nottingham would be a heck of a lot more convenient if I'm going to be working there). All in all, just relax. Yay!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Behind the door of the Big Yellow Teapot, there's a whole world of fun

Having a conversation at work today about children's toys, and the subject of the Big Yellow Teapot came up. I always wanted a Big Yellow Teapot, and I never got one! Admittedly by the time it came out I was a bit too old and a lot too male to be in their main target market, so I never really told anyone I wanted one, but someone should have realised and bought me one anyway. I had a Family Treehouse, also mentioned in the article linked above, but that was comparatively rubbish, and no substitute for a Big Yellow Teapot. It's not fair.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The railway and the telegraph

Two inventions of the Victorian age without which the world would be a much better place. Got up earlyish this morning and intended to catch the 7:22 to work, which gets me into the office a bit after eight, which lets me leave in time for the 5:00 train home. However, I missed it by about thirty seconds, and had to get the 8:03 instead. Which was cancelled. And then the 8:22 did turn up, but the electrics failed and it never left the station. So I had to get the 8:39, which was running late as well as being full of three trainloads of passengers, and didn't get to the office till gone half nine.

So I couldn't really justify leaving before five, so I got the 5:34 home, in time for the visit of a writer and photographer from the Sunday Telegraph, who conducted a surprisingly lengthy interview - more than three hours they were here! I taught him a basic card memory technique (which he seemed to pick up quite well), while the large photographer wandered around the room knocking every single one of my posessions over on his way. He also took photos of me in the hat and the Brazilian Mystery Cape, which should look good. Although they probably won't get into the paper - they've got enough writing and pictures there to fill a largish book, and they're only writing a little article for which they're also interviewing Tony tomorrow.

So I'm tired.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Zoom zoom zoom

Just as I was about to take my saucepan of spaghetti and my other saucepan of bolognese off the hob, my phone rang with one of those talking text message things. I've never had one of those before. It just said "zoom zoom zoom", from a phone number I didn't recognise.

The scary thing is that I have no end of friends who might have decided to send that message, so I have no idea who it could be from. I was going to call back, but I decided to have my tea first before it got cold. I'd just about got it onto the plate when the phone rang again, with another unrelated phone call. And then just after I'd finished, someone else rang up to talk to me. And bear in mind that I can go weeks on end without ever using the phone sometimes. So I forgot about the text message until right now, and now it'd just be silly to ring up. It made me giggle, and I imagine that was the only reason for the message. And I dare say whoever sent it will own up, right?

Monday, July 30, 2007

One last observation

I now hold the world records in all the memory championship disciplines involving cards and binary digits, and none of them in the ones involving decimal numbers. It's because I've got good systems for the cards and binaries, better than anyone else (I think so, anyway), but an unexceptional one for the numbers. I need some ideas for how to improve it, something that doesn't involve switching to a 10,000-image thing, because I just don't think that would work.

Okay, that's it. Memory competitions over for another month, British media blissfully unaware that there even was a competition last weekend, I don't need to talk about memory any more. In fact, I resolve to give the whole talking-about-memory thing a rest for, ooh, at least a fortnight. I think my loyal readers have had more than enough.

What did I talk about before this last month or so, anyway? How about work? I'm not technically really looking for a job, but I did agree that Hays could put my CV forward for three permanent jobs today - they sound a bit upset that I've taken a temp job (albeit a temp-leading-to-permanent-possibly job) with another agency, after telling them I didn't want one. I hate to upset anyone. One of these jobs is in Denby again - maybe I'll cycle if I get an interview.

No, work's too dull a subject. Cartoons! I haven't watched nearly enough cartoons lately. Apart from a couple of episodes of Thundercats. I really must do that proper Thundercats review blog thing I was talking about. I'm sure you'll all love to read it. I just want to get some kind of magic device that lets you put pictures from old videos on the internet. I'm sure such a thing exists, but I'm a bit ignorant when it comes to hardware.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Other things I should mention

Tuttlingen is noted for producing surgical implements - the top winners all got a special souvenir case of scalpels and things. Which is very nice, but I only had hand luggage, so I couldn't possibly take them home with me! I gave my set to Boris. I did manage to fit the trophy in my rucksack, although I can't think how since it was stuffed full to bursting on the way out too, and I didn't leave anything behind. Commendably, this year's best-foreigner trophy was only half the size of the one I got in 2005.

On the train on the way to Zurich this morning, the passport inspectors inspected my passport to a quite scary extent, examining it through a magnifying glass, shining lights through the pages, practically taking it to pieces to examine the component molecules. I have no idea what they were looking for, but since I didn't get arrested, they presumably didn't find it.

There were no trains running from Birmingam airport train station today, as usual. I might have mentioned before that it's the only train station in the country that seems to be permanently served by nothing but rail replacement buses. A man at the station with such a strong Birmingham accent that I think he must have been faking it to sound cool said the current lot of maintenance work is going on until September the nointh, although that probably won't concern me, since I'm flying to Bahrain from London, and tragically I don't think I'm going to get the chance of any more foreign trips in the next couple of months. It's really not fair.

The brain's fine, the fingers need some help

First of all, it turned out not to be possible to find a big black hat for sale anywhere in Stuttgart. I'm horrified. But I suppose if they were easy to come by, everyone would wear them and they wouldn't look so cool any more. So I bought a straw hat instead, which looks quite cool and works as something to prop my stopwatch up on.

Anyway, the competition was great, the venue was excellent, lots of fuss being made over the whole thing by everyone at the Aesculap Akademie. All the competitors got an Aesculap Memo Masters '07 T-shirt, which everyone except Andi dutifully wore. Who needs a team uniform when the venue dress us? Sixteen competitors in the adult championship - twelve regulars and four eighteen-year-olds from the local grammar school who'd never heard of memory a couple of weeks ago and were having a competition among themselves to see who'd do best. Sabine Michelfelder won, for the record, just in case she goes on to be world champion in a few years' time.

Meanwhile, Gunther was on cracking form all weekend. Even better, so was I! After the first two events I mentioned yesterday, I ended up with 3915 in the binary digits, another world record, and 3000 points from the first three disciplines. Which is very cool. Cornelia was third-best in binary, like in the cards, Simon was fourth in all three events on the first day, and Boris, Johannes and Alisa were the chasing pack. Seriously tough competition.

For the second day, I did much better than I expected in the events where the German language got in the way a bit - an entirely respectable 62 in historic dates (Hannes got 79, and he's aiming to beat my record some time soon), 90 in spoken numbers, 81 in names (all German names, half of which I'd never heard of before), and 109 in words, which I'm extremely pleased with - attempting 110, so just one spelling mistake, and about 25% of the words were ones I didn't recognise. Boris set a new world record 227 in words, and Gunther beat his own world record in abstract images with 244.

In speed numbers, I did 360 in the second attempt (having made a bit of a mess of the first one), which would have been a new world record too if Andi, who skipped the morning's events, hadn't done 396 in the first go. So that's his revenge for me taking his speed cards record in Highley. I'll get it back in Bahrain.

At this point, I noticed that Gunther's consistently great scores in everything were not only giving him a safe lead over me (which didn't worry me, because what with the language barrier I didn't go there aiming to win), but also giving him a high enough score that a half-decent score in the final discipline, speed cards, would put him on top of the world ranking list, dislodging me! Unless I could do a very good time in the cards and beat him after all.

But I did a safe 55 seconds first time round, because this was practice for the world championship and I never practice slow-and-steady speed cards. Gunther did a safe time of one minute or so. Second time round, I did 27.44 seconds, but as I put the cards down, they slipped out of my hand and spread all over the table. I carefully put the pack back together, but there was one sticking out that I wasn't sure was the bottom one or another that had come out. And without looking at the face and thus invalidating my time, I couldn't be sure. So I tucked it into the bottom of the pack and hoped for the best. I got the recall right, but it turned out that the last two cards had got switched, so the time didn't count. Which is extremely annoying, but never mind.

Gunther did 47 seconds, and I've been trying to work out in my head whether my time on the second pack, if I'd got it right, would have put me narrowly ahead of him in the final table, or narrowly behind. Perhaps someone with the spreadsheet could save me the effort and work it out properly? Not that it matters - for one thing, I have the moral victory of knowing that but for that mishap I would have had a personal-best total score, despite the four disciplines in German; for another, honour was the only thing at stake anyway - only Germans can win the German championship, foreigners compete alongside them but fight for a different set of trophies. So Gunther was always going to win the big cup, the smaller cup he gets to keep and not return for the next champion and the complete ten-bulky-volumes encyclopaedia (of which he already has more than enough - that's always the prize at the German championships, and this was his eighth win), and I was always going to win the smaller best-foreigner trophy.

But that does put Gunther in the number one spot on the ranking list, that has been my personal property since August 2004! I always figured it'd be Clemens who knocked me off, but it just goes to show how Gunther's still improving steadily after all these years. He definitely deserves to finally be number one, and I'll just have to do something special in Bahrain to get it back.

Cornelia is also still improving at a rate of knots - she finished a bit behind me in the total rankings, to get the second place German trophy. She's now up to 5th in the world ranking, and Simon, who was third, moves up to number 8. It's quite staggering how the standard keeps rising at these things, and the scores get higher by so much every time.

There was a barbecue after the championship, and then the lavish prize-presentation ceremony, which goes on for hours but is always very entertaining - everyone gets medals, trophies, certificates and so on, there's a big screen display with the statistics, lots of applause and local dignitaries handing out the prizes, I love it. The world championships prizegiving ceremonies are always rather subdued in comparison to the German spectacle.

So, all in all, I'm delighted with the way I performed. I was good in EVERYTHING, no weak events, and that's exactly what I've been aiming for over the last year of practice. Bahrain's going to be fun - Gunther kindly, and inaccurately, said he wouldn't have a chance of beating me, but it's going to be a real challenge. As for who's going, that's the problem - Gunther will be there, the rest of the Germans aren't so sure - Cornelia and Hannes definitely can't, which is a real loss (we'll also be missing Joachim, who's currently in Costa Rica on his gap year and can't make it), Boris and Simon are thinking about it. Clemens, no idea, but I really hope he'll be there.

Boris explained to Tony Buzan that as a student, he might not be able to make the trip to Bahrain. Tony, who never really understands the concept of not having enough money for something, helpfully replied "You must!", but he did say that they'll be announcing the prize fund within the next week. In WMSC language, that generally means in the next two or three months, so we'll have to see, but if they did offer big prize money, and split it between, say, the top three in each discipline rather than giving it all to the overall winner, they would get more competitors.

Even so, I'm looking forward to it. If I can do this well there too, I'll win. Need to practice the hour numbers and cards over the next month, but otherwise just keep on form. I want it to be tomorrow, to be honest. I hate waiting for in a competition when I'm in the mood, and I've seldom been quite so in the mood as I am right now.