Saturday, May 31, 2008

Darkness and light

Hmm, I might take back what I said about it being good that Steven Moffat is taking over as executive producer of Doctor Who - "Silence In The Library" makes it look like he's really running out of ideas. It was a sort of mishmash of elements of the previous stories he's written, it wasn't scary like it was trying to be, and it was all very base-under-siege.

Still, to look on the bright side, we had a fun day of othello today here in Derby. Eight players, which is just perfect for a seven-round tournament because it doesn't need me to faff about with pairings and Swissness and byes. Everything worked out the way it should - the venue was very nice as usual (although rather more expensive than the income from entry fees), I hadn't forgotten to bring the boards, pieces, clocks, transcript sheets, list of people whose membership had expired, pens, round-robin pairings table or anything important. I had forgotten to bring tea and coffee, but since I don't drink the stuff, I wasn't inconvenienced. And since there's a Happy Shopper just down the road, neither was anyone else.

I beat David, which I always seem to do these days, and lost to Roy, which I also invariably seem to do, and ended up with four wins out of seven in total. I seem to have settled back into a happy mediocrity at othello tournaments now, which I'm perfectly happy with. David and Iain ended up tied for first place, with 6 wins each, and Geoff third with 5. The BGP is really quite exciting this year, even though I'm not in contention, with Iain a mere 20 points ahead of David going into the last regional in Farnborough on June 21st. Which I may or may not go to, depending on whether I've got any money by that time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Classified ad

I got this wonderful little A6-size piece of card through the letterbox this morning:

I'm really thrilled to know that the first man to combine the powers of spirituality lives as nearby as Leicester. Maybe I'll pop round there tomorrow morning and get him to cast a spell to give me luck in the othello. I need a new lucky charm of some kind - ever since tidying my flat up last week, I've been unable to find my lucky Zoom-Zoom T-shirt. For the last day of the memory competition, I had to wear the original Zoom-Zoom shirt, which I retired a couple of years ago because it's sadly more hole than shirt these days and doesn't so much cover my torso as hang in rags from my neck.

Ooh, maybe Mr. Wahab can cast a powerful spell to help me find my lucky shirt!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dedication, that's what you need

I have a feeling I might have used that title before, but I'm too lazy to check. One thing I'm not too lazy to do, though, is memory practice! I'm very much in the mood for it now, and I'm quite keen to go to Germany in July and break some world records. Specifically, I think it would be rather groovy to break the world record in the three half-hour disciplines that traditionally make up the first day of the competition - binary, cards and numbers, not necessarily in that order (I'm also too lazy to look up the timetable). I think that's an achievable goal, just about, if I'm really on super-top form, and it'd certainly get people talking. Talking about how great I am, too, which is the best kind of talking.

In all seriousness, I do really want to get the record for half-hour numbers or speed numbers. It bugs me that I don't hold any of the numbers records any more - I see it as a failing of "the Ben system" that it doesn't give me any kind of advantage over my rivals when it comes to numbers (unlike binary and cards, where it's really really great). But I've never been able to think of a way to improve my system and give myself an edge over the likes of Gunther and Andi. Maybe it'll come to me in a flash of inspiration some day. Or maybe I'll just work at it the old-fashioned way and beat the Gunthers of this world by dint of traditional elbow-grease. I'm sure I can manage to be only selectively lazy if I really put my mind to it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It's the first-ever-as-far-as-I-know Derby Regional othello tournament this Saturday. Yay! And with any luck, there'll be more competitors at that than turned up for the memory competition last weekend. In fact, if you're reading this, I command you to come along and play othello! No excuses!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All good Things...

I've been thinking. I've been told off more than once just lately for certain ill-advised blog entries of mine, and it's making me think that I should either a) stop occasionally saying cruel and hurtful things about people or institutions; or b) start blogging in a slightly less public way.

So I'm considering moving Zoomy's Thing to my LiveJournal account (which exists solely in order to access certain people's friends-only journals), setting it to friends-only and accepting friend requests from anyone who chooses to make one. That way everyone who wants to read my ramblings will still have a chance to, this site will still be here so new readers will still be able to stumble across it and then read the further adventures on LJ, and if I, for example, choose to mercilessly mock a school's website's punctuation and philosophy, I'll be able to do so without them relaying reprimands to me via Phil at memory competitions.

What do my loyal readers think about the pros and cons of this approach? I know some of you are the shy, retiring types who might not want to create a LJ account, friend me and thus identify yourself, but I assure you it won't be any trouble. Besides, this is post number 976 on Blogger, and I think it would be cool to finish here on a nice round 1000, and move over to a brand new adventure.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making up for lost time

Okay, I've done very little blogging for the last several days, for various reasons, so tonight you get a whole lot. Before I start talking about something that some of my readers might possibly want to hear, could I please direct your attention here? It's the E Nesbit short story "The Cockatoucan", which I've just discovered is available online and read for the first time. I've been looking for it (in my usual passive way of looking for things, which means I've been sitting around and waiting for it to fall into my lap) for quite some time, since I heard that it is practically the only work of fiction in the English language to feature a character called Pridmore.

Now that I've read it, I can say that it's not Nesbit's best work, but I urge you to go and read it anyway, just for the unusual Pridmore-content. She's an unpleasant nursemaid who gets turned into an Automatic Nagging Machine.

And while we're talking about children's books, I noticed today that my copy of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" has an obvious edit in it that I've somehow never spotted before - on page 53, "This is not good and I know why. A mouse has cut the wire. Good-bye!" The 'good-bye' is in a slightly different font and has the tell-tale faint rectangular outline around it that shows it's been literally cut-and-pasted on top of the original text.

A quick Google search for "a mouse has cut the wire" shows that roughly half of the results say "Good-by" after it. Have any of my readers got an original edition and can confirm that the recent edition amended the outdated spelling? I'll feel very clever if you can tell me I'm right to make that deduction.

Right, was there something else you wanted to know about? Oh, yes, the Derby Memory Championship. The excitement started on Friday night, when Nik (who was born in Russia, lived most of his life in Norway and is now over here studying) and Dai (who's Welsh) arrived at my place, after an extensive and very enjoyable day's filming with the ITV people. It's going to be a very fun programme. I had successfully cleared just enough floor space to accommodate them both, and even though I'd never met either of them in real life before, neither of them turned out to be the kind of person who'd murder me in my bed, which was nice.

We set off for the community centre bright and early, which was a good thing since we went in Dai's car and I gave some very bad directions. But when we eventually found the place, everything went smoothly from then on. We were joined by our very select crowd of competitors - Gaby and Dagfinn, who can take credit for the competition not being cancelled when it became clear that nobody else was going to turn up, since they'd already booked their flights and hotels and in Gaby's case her week-long sightseeing holiday in Britain - and Phil, bearing a big box of memorisation and recall papers provided by James Paterson. My gratitude to both of them is overwhelming.

The actual competition went pretty well for me. I'm completely out of practice at spending a whole weekend memorising, but I managed to keep the right mental state going anyway, once I'd warmed up a bit - I only managed mediocre results in the random words and binary, but after skipping names and faces to do a final set of interviews with the TV crew, I produced a quite respectable 995 in 30-minute numbers, which I haven't practiced at all. I'm sure I can do 1200 or so in Germany with just a little bit more effort in the meantime. Then I did the TV-special world record attempt with Ray Keene and various spectators in attendance, which I'm going to refrain from talking about since the TV people want it to be a surprise. Although the show won't be on TV till later this year, by which time there will hopefully have been other memory-related headlines.

That was the end of the first day's excitement, and we went to Burger King to celebrate. Nik was reluctant, since he tries to eat healthy food as much as possible (people with that attitude should probably stay away from me at memory competitions), but faced with not only my insistence that junk food is very much the way to go if you want to be a great memoriser, but also Dagfinn's enthusiastic agreement and reportedly his psychologist wife's wholehearted condoning of my 'eat food that makes you happy and you'll do better in life' philosophy, he gave in and had a bacon double cheeseburger. A victory for the forces of fast food! We'll soon have wiped all that omega-3 stuff out of existence!

Sunday, being free from the stress of TV cameras, was quieter and simpler, but no less interesting. I started off with a new record of 17 packs in 30-minute cards (attempting 18 and the only problems came right at the end of the 18th pack), I gave my new abstract images system its first trial run and got a personal best of 142 - with a bit more work, it's going to be really good, I'm sure - and followed it up with an acceptable 320 in speed numbers and a decent 90 in historic dates. I still want to get those two world records back, but it'll have to wait until later this year. I had to skip the spoken numbers event - there'd been a problem with the file James had sent to Phil, so I had to create some new numbers myself at short notice on Saturday night - and we had our only delay of the competition before it, waiting for the noisy cistern in the otherwise perfectly quiet venue to finish filling up before we could begin.

That only left speed cards, but despite having two chances to break my own record, I didn't manage to do it. I recorded a snazzy time of 22.88 in the first attempt but the recall was pretty awful, and the second time round I took it just a bit too slowly, stopped the clock at 26.58 and failed to remember it properly anyway. Still, I'm sure it'll all go right at some competition in the near future.

So, I won, Gaby came second and claimed the prize money. Oh knickers, just now as I type this I remember that I promised James J that I'd get him photos of the prize-winners. And I didn't. Hmm, Gaby did take some pictures, we might be able to come up with something to go on the Science House website... Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Dagfinn came third and took the second-place-apart-from-Ben prize and Nik scooped the best (and only) beginner money. So it's a good thing that only four people came to the competition, because everybody was able to leave with significantly more money than they arrived with!

Except me, obviously. My monetary state is really, really not good at the moment. If I don't get a job and/or a big pile of money some time soon, I'm going to have serious problems here. Still, never mind, something'll turn up, I'm sure...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A memorable weekend

...which I'm too worn out from memorising to write about tonight. Sorry, and also sorry for not blogging at all for the last two days due to Dai and Nik staying with me. But in brief, we had a great international turnout at the Derby Memory Championship (a German, a Russian Norwegian and a Norwegian Norwegian) and an awful British turnout, a great competition, at least one world record (17 packs of cards in 30 minutes) and one non-competition world record attempt for the benefit of the TV crew who were only there on Saturday (see the result when the programme is broadcast!), and I'll tell you about it all at more length tomorrow.