Friday, March 21, 2008

Look, it's the Easter Bunny!

No, actually, it's just me, bouncing up and down with excitement at having four days off. As I've mentioned before, bank holidays are so much more cool when you're otherwise working for a living. So, since the situation clearly calls for making it less fun by planning out what I'm going to do, I will do some serious memory training over the next four days, I'll come to a definite decision about whether to write 'teach yourself How To Be Clever' (I ummed and ahhed over email to the publisher, but they'd probably prefer a real answer some time this century), and I'll get a haircut. That ought to keep me busy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hand in glove

I realised just as I was about to leave the house this morning that I'd lost one of my woolly gloves. Drat, I thought, but never mind, I'll wear my leather gloves that I don't like very much because they're slightly too small for me. So I went back upstairs, grabbed the leather gloves and left the house. On arriving at Long Eaton train station, I dug in my pockets and noticed that somewhere along the train journey I must have dropped one of the leather gloves too.

Drat, I thought, now I'll have to wear one blue woolly glove and one black leather glove on the cycle ride to work, and motorists will point and laugh at me. Oh well, they would probably have laughed at me anyway, because I really need a haircut. So I reached in my pocket for the woolly glove that I hadn't lost, only to find that I had now also lost that one.

Drat, I thought again. I've lost three gloves in the course of one morning. I wonder if that's a world record? There can't be many people who've lost three gloves in less than half an hour.

So, to make a long story slightly longer, I survived the cycle ride to and from work with only one glove, even though it was a bit cold, and when I got home I found one of the woolly gloves again. So now I have a pair, albeit a non-matching pair. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Memories are made of this

It's a four-day Easter weekend coming up! Strangely enough, Saint-Gobain take their bank holidays on Monday and Tuesday, instead of Friday and Monday (have they no respect for the sanctity of Good Friday? I know I haven't, but employers should. And for the sanctity of the Monday after Easter too, because that's important). Still, that means that even after lunch with my brother on Saturday, and the inevitable heavy intake of alcohol that goes with it, I'll have three days to myself, which I rather think I should spend practicing the long disciplines of memory. 30-minute binary, hour cards (need to get my cards back from James, he borrowed twelve packs for the uni competitions that nobody came to) and hour numbers. And I'll post my results here, so if I don't, you'll all know I've been lazy, and can jeer at me. That's the way to get me motivated! Fear of derision!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I sort of halfway persuaded someone to come to the Derby Memory Championship on the ten-minute train journey home today, even though he knew nothing about it beforehand, just because he asked me where I got the Blue Peter badge. I hadn't thought of the benefits the thing has for spreading the word about memory, but I can see how it could be a help. I just need to get in the habit of replying "Yes, I got it for doing an amazing memory feat, such as you yourself could do with a little practice, so why not come along to my competition in a couple of months", all in one breath, before the person has a chance to escape.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A "Zoomy Answers Your Questions" kind of thing

Welcome, one and all, to the kind of thing where I answer questions people have asked in comments to previous entries. Starting with the one that made me think it would be a good idea to answer them in a blog entry to themselves:

do you know if it [The Mentalists]'s going to be repeated, please, and if not, where might I obtain one of these DVDs?

As far as I know, there are no plans to repeat it. But then, they didn't tell me when it was on the first time until the last minute, so you never know. On the other hand, I have sent the DVDs of most of my recent TV appearances to Raggy, and when I overcome my laziness, catch up with him and find out whether he's been able to combine and copy them into multiple DVDs for anyone who wants one, I'll set about distributing them to anyone who wants. With any luck, within the next few days.

I wonder if you could give yourself extra financial motivation to prepare by placing a sufficiently large bet on yourself to win the next WMC? You could probably find one of the bookmakers who'd be willing to quote some odds

You know, that's not a bad idea. And it leads in nicely to something I've been meaning to blog about for some time now - my motivation still isn't up to the level it should be. It's not anywhere near, to be honest, and I don't know what the problem is. I can't stand the idea of not winning the WMC yet again this year, but that just isn't enough to get me practicing like I need to. I'm hoping that the competitions from May onwards will get me more in the mood, but with my very half-hearted training I've been doing for the last however many months, I'm not sure whether that might be too late to get back into it. It's worrying.

Have you ever investigated arcade emulation to play actual arcade ROMs on your PC?

Actually, I downloaded MAME last year, and I had to delete it, because I was doing nothing but playing Roadblasters and Track & Field all day and night. Horribly addictive thing. I didn't get the arcade version of Bubble Bobble, though, because it's the Master System version that I'm hooked on, and the subtle differences would be too annoying.

Come to think of it, can we interest you in trying out for the UK team for the World Puzzle Championship?

Sure, why not? I don't know why I've never looked into this one before, it's exactly my type of thing...

Is it too cheesy an analogy to compare the speed cards discipline to the hundred metres sprint, as being the one whose world record people are most likely to care about if they only care about one world record? (Then again, people used the analogy "four-minute mile" for "30-second pack of cards".)

Yes, this is another thing that deserves a blog-rant! Why did people keep calling it the four-minute-mile? The hundred metres is a much closer analogy, not just in that that's the record that people get most excited about, but because it's fast and furious, not a long grind like the mile or the hour numbers. Okay, for some reason breaking the 10-second barrier in the hundred metres didn't generate all the hoopla that breaking the 4-minute barrier for the mile did (useful How To Be Clever-style trivia - Jim Hines did the first accurately-recorded sub-ten-second 100m, on my birthday, October 14, in 1968).

Actually, having just looked him up to find out who did the first sub-ten-second hundred-metre-sprint, I'm appalled by the lack of websites praising Jim Hines. Put his name into Google and you get lots of pages about a guy who writes books about goblins. But the sprinter Jim Hines seems like a really nice guy. Someone make him more famous, please!

Have you ever considered turning your hand to seven-card stud, where the ability to memorise the upcards that have been folded would be of very great advantage?

Well, I did win a seven-card stud gold medal at the MSO one year. But that was just using my favourite strategy of not having a clue what I'm doing but being dealt really good hands every time. I prefer to play that way - somehow, using memory techniques in a poker game would make it feel like working, whereas using memory techniques in a memory competition feels like having fun. Don't ask me why.

When are you going to send me you book, man?!

I did send it to you! I'll send it again now...

Let's say you accepted a bet, and that bet was something to the effect that if you could drink all the water you wanted, but were limited to only one food to eat everyday, for an entire week, what would that one food be and why?

What am I betting here? It'd have to be something good. And when you say 'one food', do you mean the same meal, or the same general cuisine? Assuming you mean just one meal, let's say spaghetti bolognese. I like the stuff, I can eat an enormous plateful at one go, enough to last me a whole day, most likely, if there's plenty of water with it, so I wouldn't get too tired of the stuff after seven days. And it's probably good for you, contains vegetables and things, it's probably one of the healthiest things I regularly eat. As an alternative, I could live for a week on bacon double cheeseburger meals from BK. Mmmmmm... (drooling with a glazed expression)

If you could travel back in time and kill Hitler before he came to power, would you?

No, because as I mentioned a while ago when talking about that book of Stephen Fry's, doing so invariably leads to someone much nastier taking his place, Germany winning the war and some hero having to set things right again.

But even assuming I could also, just to make sure, kill off Goebbels, Strasser, Schleicher, Bormann and all those kinds of people who might cause trouble without Hitler being around, I wouldn't. I think the war served an important purpose in the progression of human history - it put an end to big armed conflict between European countries, it established things like genocide as being entirely unacceptable, and all in all, I think averting the war would really not have a beneficial effect on the world of the early 21st century. There were tensions that needed to be burnt off, Hitler brought them to a head and it wasn't pleasant for anyone, but it's all receding into the history books now.

What's a Butfore?

For pooping, silly.

Are you afraid, you book could be a success?

Terrified. Secretly, I don't want anyone to read it, in case they laugh at me and say it's rubbish. But I'd still like to be paid for it, please.

I would like to know if I could enter just one or two events [at the Cambridge Memory Championship] and not all of them?

That wasn't a blog-comment question, it was an email from a competitor, but I thought it was worth mentioning here. Yes, you can come to the Cambridge Memory Championship (May 4th, Trinity College, Cambridge) and only compete in the disciplines of your choice, but it's a lot more fun if you take part in everything. There's nothing to be afraid of, a lot of beginners are coming and nobody's going to throw rotting vegetables at you if you get an unimpressive score!

You can also come to the Derby Memory Championship (May 24-25, Bramblebrook Community Centre, Derby), if you like. It's gonna be really great, lots of publicity, cashing in on my local celebrity status!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And that's the tooth

I've got toothache and I blame my toothpaste. For reasons that I can't remember now but that probably made perfect sense, last time my brother came to visit, he brought a tube of toothpaste with him and left it with me, since mine had nearly run out. However, it was Macleans Whitening toothpaste. I disapprove quite strongly of whitening toothpastes, although my brother wasn't to know that, since I don't think I've ever mentioned to anyone that I have this unusual opinion. However, I'm actually quite pleased to see that my irrational prejudices have been borne out in this case, because I've been using the stuff for a month or so, my teeth aren't any whiter and they hurt.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I'd like to announce that tomorrow's blog entry will be a "Zoomy Answers Your Questions" kind of thing. 'Your' in this case referring to Chris Dickson, who found my blog today and posted several comments that I think merit a full and public answer in a blog post, but while I'm doing that, I thought I should make it into a full reader-mail kind of blog. So if anyone wants to ask me anything, post a comment here, and I'll answer you!