Saturday, January 26, 2008

The magic of the FA Cup and the internet

I watched Havant & Waterlooville play Liverpool today, thanks to the miracle of streaming video from ESPN's far east broadcasts. If the BBC had had the sense to show the game, I wouldn't have had to, but still, it pleases me to know that there really is no limit to what you can get on the internet if you look hard enough.

It was a great game too - a real who-says-the-magic-is-gone-from-the-F-A-Cup game. Actually, have you ever noticed that nobody ever actually says the magic has gone from the F A Cup, but everybody always makes a point of denying it? It's strange.

And why do I always want to refer to Havant as "Havant & Westfield"? I know the shopping centre in Derby is called the Westfield centre, but I'm sure I know of something with an "and Westfield" suffix, because it just sounds so familiar...

In other news, I'm informed that "Chimp Beats Memory Champion" has made the radio news in Toronto, Canada. It's nice to know that media coverage of all my achievements in the field of memory put together is going to fall far short of all the press I'll get for this thing. I can just tell that "lost to a monkey" is going to become even more widespread than that old chestnut "forgot to set his alarm clock".

And also, while I'm vaguely complaining about things, I've just watched the Friends episode with the following dialogue:

Joey - Why do you call him Gandalf?
Chandler - You know, Gandalf the Wizard!
Joey looks blank.
Chandler - Didn't you read Lord Of The Rings in high school?
Joey - I had sex in high school.

Last time I saw the episode, it was on E4's 5:00pm showing, and they cut out Joey's final line. I've just watched it again at 8:00pm, and that line was still edited out! You can't say 'sex' at 8pm? What is the world coming to?

And if you're going to cut out the punchline, why on earth would you leave the extensive setup intact?

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Book of Heroic Failures

Yes, as several of my readers have noticed, the Daily Mail finally picked up on the man versus monkey memory marvel and ran an article about it today. Channel 5 were supposed to be calling me to get a couple of soundbites to give to them, but either they didn't bother in the end or they didn't manage to catch up with me, so they just used snippets from next Tuesday's documentary. And the Sun ran a similar story by copying what the Mail had written, changing it slightly and passing it off as an original scoop. This is exactly the same thing that they did with an article about me and the world championships last year - I suspect that the Sun no longer employs any actual journalists.

Anyway, this has in turn piqued the interest of Richard and Judy, one of whose minions phoned me this afternoon to say they're thinking of previewing the documentary on next Tuesday's show, and might want me to come on and talk about it. This is interesting, because years ago, when I won the world memory championship, Richard and Judy made noises about wanting to talk to me and then eventually decided against it (possibly bumping me in favour of Aubrey, who was on the show around that time). If they do decide to put me on the show this time round, it will clearly show that losing a rigged contest of short-term memory against a chimpanzee is a much more impressive feat than winning a gruelling three-day memory competition against the rest of the world.

The funny thing is that I find myself making excuses about how I could have done as well as or better than Ayumu in the memory test if I hadn't been doing it for the first time in my life, and if we hadn't been using a flawed program where my hand obscured the numbers because the start button was in the middle of the screen, but when I'm thinking or saying all this, I completely forget that the opponent I'm talking about isn't even human. It's like, say, Daniel Tammet performing some memory feat and claiming that makes him the best in the world - my instinctive reaction is to acknowledge that Ayumu has done something impressive, but assert that I could do the same thing with a bit of work. I'm seeing him as a rival rather than an educated ape, and that really is pretty darn cool.

I look forward to the day when the world memory championship is contested by representatives of multiple species.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Memorable training

I'm really back in the groove of memory practice now - I've been doing lots of speed practice this week, I've created a few new journeys so I don't have to reuse them so often, and I'm going to take a break tomorrow so as to be fresh for some heavy long-discipline practice at the weekend.

This is the kind of routine I can follow when I get a job. Or if I get a job - there's an amazing scarcity of decent jobs in this area right now. Does nobody want a management accountant who's been on the telly? Or at least anybody who doesn't specify extensive experience of standard costing in their job spec? Seriously, who uses standard costing? I thought it was something that only exists in accounting exams! I didn't think it was something you could actually apply to a real company...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Week In Media

I've been "tagged" by "Sam" and ordered to talk about what I've experienced in every possible medium over the last seven days. He suggested I could also tell us which media I've been watched/listened to/read in, but to my great shame, you've caught me in a slow week between starring in my own documentary and making a cameo in one about a chimp. Not so much as a newspaper article in the last seven days, to the best of my knowledge, although I have been being pestered at length by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, who are coming to film me next week.

Actually, I told them I wouldn't do one of the two things they wanted to film me doing, because they were starting to annoy me. I regret it now, because I've just remembered I've got a couple of friends in Canada who'd no doubt enjoy watching it.

But anyway, here's everything I can remember doing for the last week:

What I read

Probably within the last week, I finished re-reading The Green Mile, by Stephen King, which is one of his best, and always worth another look every couple of years once I've had time to forget all the little details. Then I moved on to Treasure Island, which I hadn't read since I was in school but had been meaning to buy and read again ever since I saw that they're performing it at the Derby Playhouse at the moment. It really is a fantastic book. Since finishing it, my bedtime reading has been selected bits of the complete works of Chaucer (the textual notes as much as the poetry - I love the intricate process of establishing a definitive text from all the widely varying manuscript readings. You just don't get that fun from writers who did their writing after the invention of moveable type).

In comics, last week's selection was The Umbrella Academy #5, probably the best new comic around at the moment, brilliantly written by Gerard Way and heartily recommended to anyone; Iron Man/Power Pack #3, latest in Marc Sumerak's wonderful kid-friendly superhero adventure in the classic style backed up by Chris Giarusso's hilarious Mini-Marvels strips (no Elephant Steve in this one, sadly), heartily recommended to anyone whose first superhero comic was the Power Pack backup strip in Star Wars weekly; and Penance: Relentless #4, which is frankly almost unreadable drivel and my only excuse for buying it is a sort of Thunderbolts completist syndrome that I really need to break myself of. I also bought this week's Beano today, since it was in a plastic bag and I couldn't flick through it in the shop like I normally do - it isn't much good. There's normally one or two entertaining bits in each issue, but the only strip of note this week is "Bash Street Zombies" by Kev Sutherland. His Bash Street Kids stories generally somehow fail to be as funny as they should be, but this one has a genuinely gigglesome bit with Cuthbert's comic rejuvenating machine that has an unfortunate side-effect of turning people into zombies.

What I watched

I haven't been watching much telly lately, actually. I watch the repeats of Friends on E4 every night (yes I do, Crispy - "lowbrow" indeed...) followed by repeats of The Simpsons on channel 4 and that's about it. Until it finished on Sunday I was watching quite a bit of the snooker - Stephen Lee (enormously fat) lost to Mark Selby (slim), which just makes my resolve to lose weight even firmer. I don't want to be the only 'sport' champion who's obese. Even darts players are positively skinny these days. And I watch the football highlights every Saturday and Sunday evening.

As for cartoons, it's a bit of a slow time for quality animated entertainment these days. It's a while since the American studios churned out a good, watchable adventure or comedy series for kids. In the field of very-small-children's entertainment, I have been enjoying "Timothy Goes To School" just lately. It's a by-the-numbers kind of semi-educational series, but they do make an effort with characterisation and humour above and beyond the call of duty for a show like that, which I do appreciate.

I also watched the first couple of minutes of Ski Sunday, just to see if the 'new direction' for the series really is as bad as it sounded. Yes, it is. If anything it's even worse. They decided to change it from a programme about ski competitions into Top Gear without the cars. Why they thought that would be a good idea is beyond me - see rubbish skier Graham Bell looking at mountains! Woo! And, despite the continuity announcer's assurance before the programme, the wonderful theme tune has been very badly remixed and mostly drowned out by helicopter noises and swooshing sound effects.

What I listened to

Again, not all that much. I've got out of the habit of listening to an album in an evening. Except for tonight - the best of REM is playing right now. It's "Orange Crush" at this exact moment, if you really need to know. I've maybe had another couple playing in the background this past week - Definitely Maybe by Oasis, and This Is The Life by Amy McDonald. I've also had Virgin Radio on from time to time. I'll listen to anything except The Geoff Show and the Saturday afternoon show where they interrupt the songs every time a goal is scored in any football match in the country.

What I surfed

Bits and pieces, here and there - Sam's aforementioned blog is one of the couple I check daily, Jemfy's is the other. I keep forgetting to read Samt's every day, but I've kept up with it when my brain permits.

Webcomics I read either daily or whenever they update: Newshounds, Something Happens, Ozy and Millie, Count Your Sheep, Achewood and Order Of The Stick.

I read the BBC News website, the forums for memory and othello competitions and anything else that springs to mind. I always like to read the comments people leave on this blog, of course - thanks in particular to those who suggested ways I could lose weight, but I don't think I'll be getting a pedometer (they click over if you shake them - I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation) or the fitness plan that comes with a disclaimer that some people say it could be harmful, tempting as that is.

What I’ve played

As I'm sure you know, I'm hugely disdainful of modern video game systems. In the past week, I've been playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my Mega Drive - the original game, Sonic 3 and the bonus game you get when you plug Sonic 1 into Sonic And Knuckles. Great stuff.

Online, I've been occasionally playing othello - I always play in the Saturday night tournament on kurnik while I'm watching Match Of The Day, and I've been doing quite well by my standards just lately. I've also been playing a bit of xiangqi/Chinese chess, and finding that I'm much worse at it now than I was a few years ago when I was playing semi-regularly. And I was always pretty terrible.

Well, I think that's enough details of my everyday life to be going on with. REM have moved on to Electrolite, so I've had five full songs play since I did the listened-to bit. It's a good thing I've got nothing else to be doing with my life, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Speed cards

I've been practicing, but I don't think I've been practicing in the most intelligent way. What I should be doing is practicing taking the pack a bit slower, linking each location together, and seeing if I can get my time doing that down to around thirty seconds or so. If I could do a safe thirty-something seconds in competition, that would be enough to squish my opponents. But I prefer to practice doing it as fast as possible, leaving the individual locations isolated, which is riskier but significantly under 25 seconds most of the time.

I'm not a very professional kind of competitor. I can't stand doing slower-but-safer when I know I could be doing fast-and-probably-make-a-mess-of-things. Which is strange, because I was always good at egg-and-spoon races at school.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lard Lad

This is, Blogger tells me, my 850th blog post. Which is a really huuuuuge number, and deserves a really huuuuuge topic, like how really huuuuuge I am. The weighing machine in Woolworth's is working again, and I weighed myself yesterday to find that I'm 12 stone 11.6 pounds now. This is just getting silly. It seems that ever since I decided to weigh myself three months ago, I've been getting fatter at a staggering rate.

Well, no more! Proper dieting, exercising, not stuffing my face, here we come! Thin Zoomy, they'll call me in a couple of weeks. Maybe I'll even get one of those have-a-flat-stomach-in-one-day videos I occasionally see advertised. I'm not sure I'd like a flat stomach, but this weighing machine is annoying me. Either I'll lose weight or take a hammer to it, we'll see.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Appreciate me!

I've only just found out, but it seems that January 16th was Appreciate A Dragon Day. No, really, it was. Look it up on the internet. You can buy e-cards and everything. Why does nobody ever tell me about these things?

Well, it seems that tomorrow is National Hugging Day, and that 'national' here means 'applying to any and all nations', so I'm going to expect hugs.