Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hey, it's Tegs!

Only he's a gay American now! For want of anything better to do before the rugby tonight, I watched the new American sitcom "The Class" on E4, which the Radio Times had half-heartedly recommended. Although their suggestion to "Keep an eye on this - it could be a grower" is a bit silly - a cursory internet search tells me it's already been cancelled in the US. But it does star Sean Maguire, doing an impressive American accent, and claiming to have gone to school with the other central characters, when we all know he really went to Grange Hill, as Terence "Tegs" Ratcliffe, in my year, before showing up on EastEnders as an Irish football player. The show itself had some funny moments, but not enough to justify watching the rest of the series.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm competing in the first Online Memory Challenge, organised by Simon Orton, which should be fun. Basically a mini-memory championship, all done over the internet with participants promising not to cheat. It'll be a useful bit of practice, an enjoyable experience and hopefully the start of a lot of things like that to come!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hey, I know him!

Look, Ed Byrne's a guest on Have I Got News For You! I wonder if he mentioned having this memory guy as a guest on The Panel and suggested that I'd make a perfect HIGNFY host?

Actually, it's quite cool how many famous people I've met now. You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing someone I've crossed paths with. As long as you exclusively watch the kind of programmes that Phillip Schofield presents. And yes, I kind of miss all the excitement of being on TV now that the buzz of the world memory championship has died down and I'm a nobody again until next year. Can we have another WMC next week? I'd do badly in it, because I haven't been practicing, but I don't think any of the people who interviewed me this year really knew or cared whether I'd won or not...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vital statistics

There's the 21st-century equivalent of a speak-your-weight machine in Woolworth's, and I had a go on it yesterday. You tell it how old and male you are and it scans you and does the rest. It gave me a little print-out that says

Weight.......................12st4.6lb/78.3 kg
Height.......................5ft8.5in/174 cm
Body Fat Estimation:
Fat Index.................21.7%
Fat Mass..................2st9.2lb/16.9 kg
Free F.Mass...............9st9.3lb/61.4 kg
Age and Gender...............31 ♂


Your Normal Weight is between:
60.6 kg-75.4 kg
Your current Body Mass Index
is 25.9 kg/m². The Normal B.M.I.
value is between 20 and 24.9

Normal Fat Index............17-23 %
Normal Fat Mass: 12.6-18.3 kg or


This in not a medical act.

· Do not self medicate.
· Control your weight.
· Consult your doctor regularly
or pharmacist.

Well, I thought I should share it. You all want to know everything about me, right? In my defence, I had just had a Drifter and a can of cherry coke (yes, I eat sweets before lunchtime and ruin my appetite), and I was wearing my shoes and clothes and hat, that has to add a bit of extra weight.

I'm not sure I should take advice on losing weight from any machine that says "this in not a medical act", but you know, maybe I should make an effort to get back into my Normal Weight range. It wouldn't take too much effort, would it? Half a stone? Any old fool can lose that much. You just have to go to the world memory championship for a day. I think I might make this a project. November 17th, I'll go back to the machine and see if it tells me I'm Normal!

Note for Americans - 14 pounds to a stone. Do the math, if you really want to.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reader mail

Thanks to Boris, Gregory and Mike for responding to my request for subjects to write about! This is going to be a long (and hopefully interesting) blog entry...

I´d like to read, how your telephone interview went like.

Really? Because last night, sitting down and intending to write about my telephone interview was what made me think 'this blog of mine is getting really boring nowadays'. But hey, if you really want to know about my half-hearted job-hunting... It went quite well, really. I was talking to the financial director and an HR person - this job reports directly to the FD, which is a bit unusual, there's normally another level separating the big boss from the management accountant - and I think I mostly gave the impression of knowing what I'm talking about. I did have one embarrassing blank spot though - they asked me the routine question of what I know about their company, and I suddenly realised I couldn't think of anything. It's the telephone's fault (curse you, Alexander Graham Bell!), because normally while I'm travelling to an interview, I take a printout of interesting pages from the company website with me and read through them, memorising useful snippets of information. In this case, I hadn't done that and couldn't even remember which of the various companies I've been looking at lately I was talking to at that moment. I stumbled through it in the end, and I do have the Excel skills they want (and very few people do have that level of ability), so we'll see if I get a second interview. If I do, that one will be face-to-face, at least.

Do you have any ideas on how to make memory sports more popular especially for new competitors with and without taking into account limits on people and money to do the necessary tasks?

Yes, I do. I think a large part of any plan to increase the popularity of 'memory sports' would have to be to make the general public aware of its existence, and to give them the impression that it's something anyone can do, and have fun doing! I would like to see a televised memory championship along the lines of the US Championship, only with more emphasis on the numbers and cards, so as to show off the more impressive skills of the European competitors. This TV competition (which would be made in a swish TV studio with groovy graphics and things) would be in addition to, not replacing, the normal memory competitions, and would mainly be to highlight to the general public what's possible with memory skills. I think it'd get a good audience on Channel 4.

Apart from that, what we need is more publicity, and a lot more teaching of memory skills at a basic level to people who've never heard of it before. This is something that's been done in Germany but has been completely neglected in Britain in the past. There are plans in the works right now for a couple of different projects to go into schools and universities and organise competitions - one of them is being organised by the WMSC, and so probably won't happen (they're good at planning things but not at actually doing anything about their plans), the other is by someone else and really is likely to make a difference and bring in more competitors.

One more thing we need, naturally, is more championships, with accessible locations, lots of advance publicity and maybe even some prize money. Most championships in the past have managed one or two of the three - if someone manages to hold a competition that brings all of those together, it really will excite interest on a much wider scale.

Discuss the developments in England between 1815-1832. Explain why Parliament eventually chose to pass the reform bill of 1832.

Something that I think is often neglected in discussion of the buildup to the Great Reform Bill (which wasn't really all that great, if you ask me, although at least it laid the groundwork for later electoral reforms that really achieved something) is the role of the monarchy. People answering this kind of essay question like to say how the industrial revolution and the defeat of Napoleon had given the average Briton more time on their hands to complain about iniquities, without looking at the way Parliament had gradually assumed a much more important role in recent years, due to the diminishment of the traditional role of the King.

Until after the end of the 18th century, there was still a general feeling that Parliament existed to fulfil its traditional role of gathering together important people to advise the King on how to rule his country. George III had always taken a very active part in politics, but by 1815 he was incurably insane and his fat, lazy, useless son was technically in charge of Britain. George IV wasn't interested in politics at all, unless it directly affected his plans to stuff his face and have fun, and reduced his role in the great events of the day to agreeing with whatever politician had spoken to him last. Parliament for the first time in many years was free to do what it wanted, without the monarch butting in. Naturally, the likes of Earl Grey took the opportunity to make the Commons into a fairer representation of the average working man.

I'm in college and this is a question our professor gave us in advance for Donnerstag. can you give some advice on how one can utilize memory techniques in essay writing?

No. No, I really can't. I've never used memory techniques for essay writing or anything vaguely like it. I use memory techniques for the sole purpose of trying and failing to win the world memory championship, not in any everyday-life application.

Is there a way to make a journey follow the ideas of an essay? I suppose you could use the same strategy that you employ for poems, but I think the richness of imagery in poetry lends itself to mnemonics much more easily. What mnemonic techniques could I use for this essay for example?

Well, I suppose you could use a journey to sort concepts or ideas into the sequence that you're intending to use them. I think that's what the books on the subject advise you to do, anyway, although I have no idea whether it would work or not. Or you could use the kind of technique we use in the 'historic dates' discipline to associate images with the year and the events that happened in it - 1832 for me is the obscure 1940s superhero the Fin (he wore a suit with a big shark fin on his head); I'd imagine him lecturing parliament or maybe rampaging through a rotten borough, denouncing it loudly, and probably drinking Earl Grey tea as he did so. That's quite fun, actually. 1833, abolition of slavery - the characters from badly-written preschool children's TV show the Fimbles, slaving away in chains being whipped by that frog they hang out with, until they're liberated. 1834, Tolpuddle Martyrs - a muscleman ('virile man' is the phrase, for anyone who's following the Ben-system logic) being loaded onto a ship, singing trade union songs in a manly kind of way. I could work through a whole history book like this. Maybe I should...

write about your teenage years =D

Well, my teenage years were in the early nineties, so I'm not sure it would mean anything to a current teenager like you. If memory serves, I mainly spent my time waiting for the internet to be invented. Well, that and playing chess. A gang of us at school used to spend every spare moment playing chess. Which is what the cool kids did in those days. All the handsome, athletic types were deeply envious of us. Really.

Apart from that, I don't think I ever really did anything worth writing about. I was living in the middle of nowhere with my dad and brother, going to Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle, as previously mentioned, and generally not working as hard as I should, if at all. Then I left school and briefly went to Kingston University before giving it up as a bad idea, then went to a training centre to do an NVQ in accountancy, then got a job, then stopped being a teenager.

Outside my own life, things of vague interest were happening. I remember being excited when Margaret Thatcher resigned when I was 14 - she'd been PM since I was two and a half, so deep down I still think she's really cool, despite all rational thought on the subject. I also remember hearing that John Smith had died - I was in the sixth form common room and someone had been listening to the radio on a walkman. When he heard the headline, he got up and turned on the radio to play it to the whole room. That's one of those rare moments where I really do remember where I was when it happened.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Being Boring

You know, I get the feeling that I haven't written anything interesting in this blog lately. I think it's mainly because I haven't done anything interesting lately, but I still feel guilty about depriving my readers of interesting babblings every evening. So I'd like to ask for suggestions - what should I write about? I mean, I generally write this thing to entertain myself, but it would be nice to know what my various weird readers enjoy reading about and what they don't. Someone tell me what to write, and I'll do it tomorrow. That way I don't have to think of something myself, and I preserve my brain cells, in case I need them later.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Everyone wants a piece of me

One advantage (possibly the only advantage) to being imminently featured on a Channel 5 documentary is that it makes it easier to decline offers to be the subject of other documentaries. Another producer called me today, thinking of making a documentary about me (she'd looked me up in the electoral roll, she said - I never cease to be amazed by the ways people go to get in contact with me. Just put my name into google, you'll even find my phone number quoted without my permission in a press release...), but was easily deterred when I pointed out that a documentary about me is in the final stages of editing at the moment. Nick says I'll like it - I very much doubt that I will, but we'll see.

I was less successful in saying no to the one accountancy recruitment agency who I neglected to tell that I don't want any more temp jobs, when they called a bit later on to offer me an interview-followed-by-immediate-start kind of thing at Bombardier the train people down the road, lasting till Christmas doing project work of some kind. It's on Thursday, unless I find a way to get out of it.

Before that, though, there's a telephone interview tomorrow for a real job, with Proquest in Cambridge, which sounds like it might be fun. It's a very Excel-heavy job, that sounds like it might be right up my street, although they might want some more VBA programming experience than I've got. I got a crash-course book to refresh my knowledge of it, and I'm pleased to see that I do mostly know what I'm doing after all. Might be a cool job, if it works out. But telephone interviews are a terrible thing. I hate phone calls in general, and especially phone calls when they're important. What's wrong with dressing up in smart clothes and shiny shoes and talking to people face to face? Yes, I dislike that too, but not as much as telephone interviews.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I want a star!

Roger Moore got a star on the walk of fame for his birthday, and I want one too! I could be an actor. The evil English genius, as someone suggested recently. Still hoping someone plays me that way in the movie of "Moonwalking With Einstein". Or I think I'd make a good evil scientist in a Japanese monster movie, the kind who starts out seeming like one of the good guys, but turns out to in fact want the monster to destroy Tokyo.

Anyway, happy birthday to me, and Roger, and Cliff Richard, the late E E Cummings and the very late Battle of Hastings, and Jason (someone on the rugby coverage was just holding up a sign saying "happy birthday Jason"). Also, happy birthday yesterday to the other Ben Pridmore on Facebook (the one who formerly had dreadlocks) - had I been born five minutes earlier, we'd have shared a birthday as well as a name and a fondness for silly hairstyles. We should have had a double party, open only to people called Ben Pridmore who are celebrating a birthday this weekend. It would have been great.

Also, you should watch Pillow's Pillow's Story, made years ago but I've only just discovered it's on YouTube. The voice of the pillow is my brother.