Saturday, October 18, 2008

We be bad!

Today I've done a final practice run of 30-minute binary and hour numbers, had a haircut, done some shopping and won an Online Memory Challenge, and it's only seven o'clock!

Let's talk about the OMC first, because we haven't had one for a while, and it's returned, better than ever, thanks to that statistics whiz and website-creating genius, Simon Orton. The website now has an excellent training system as well as regular online competitions, so it's well worth checking out - you need to email Simon to register, so check out this page for the details. There's another Challenge tomorrow morning at 11:00 British time!

And now let's talk about hour numbers, because I'm feeling very happy about that all of a sudden. Last year I didn't train on the final weekend before the WMC, because I had an annoying TV crew following me around, but that's not a problem this year - the BBC are safely packed off to America, filming somebody else, and I've only had one late-night phone call from Michael with a query about memory techniques (he really is enthusiastic about it, it's great! He can memorise a pack of cards already!) - and I'm very confident that it's going well this time round. I got a 3630in binary this morning, which isn't bad because it could have been much better with a little more effective time management and fewer silly mistakes, and then this afternoon a whopping 1960 in hour numbers. Would have been a nice round 2000 if not for a stupid error on the penultimate line - I memorised the right image but somehow wrote down the wrong numbers and didn't notice (I did go through and double-check what I'd written at the end, but my mind had obviously started to wander a little after 58 rows of numbers).

I credit this better-than-usual score (it'd be a world record, just barely, if I did it in the competition, although I'm expecting Gunther/Andi/Dr Yip/someone to beat that record by a bigger margin next week) to a slight change in technique. After reading through each journey's worth of digits (234) once, I normally whizz through them very quickly again, but this time I closed my eyes and went through what I'd memorised carefully in my head, only looking at the paper when I couldn't remember an image. It was quite a bit slower (4 minutes per journey instead of 2½), meaning I only went through the digits three times, but my recall was a lot more accurate. I think I'm slowing down in my old age, but that seems to not necessarily be a bad thing.

If tomorrow I manage to do another OMC plus an hour cards, and maybe a bit of spoken numbers, I will be fighting-fit for the world championship. I'm on form and (fingers crossed, touch wood) hopeful of winning!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bahrainy sports

I notice that there's a new snooker ranking tournament in Bahrain in November, just a couple of weeks after the world memory championships, but several of the world's top snooker players can't be there because of a clash with that stupid Premier League Snooker thing that nobody cares about. Insane though it is that something like this might happen, it makes me wonder just how long it'll be before the same thing happens in the memory world. We've had a near miss this year with the Memoriad the week after - what do you bet that next year someone'll organise a competition in Europe at the same time as the world championship in Bahrain?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm not ready!

I'm jetting off to Bahrain next Wednesday and I'm struggling to get everything done at work before I go. I'm having two whole weeks off, rather than go back there for the brief couple of days between returning from Bahrain and jetting off to Turkey (which would kill me - I'll need to catch up on my sleep), so I'm stressed and working too hard right now. Which, of course, is exactly the right frame of mind to be in for a World Memory Championships, so I'm quite hopeful that it'll do me some good!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

See Zoomy Play!

Click here! Click here! (only one clicky-thing, I'm just so excited I had to say it twice)

It's the video of our day at Alton Towers! And here's a viewer's guide for the benefit of those who want to know who's who. All the bright-sunshine scenes are of some other day, all the gloomy-and-cloudy scenes are real footage of yesterday.

At the 40-second mark it's me on the right in the hat, Jabba on the left in the groovy shirt and then Ace comes round the corner dressed in black. At about 1:25 you can see Argo front-and-centre with the greenish shirt and black jacket, and Crispy at the front on the right looking at him, then behind them it's me with jumper tied around my waist, Kitty level with me with the long hair and groovy black outfit, Gilly in front of him with long black coat, and it's hard to tell for sure, but I think it's Sleepy just behind my left shoulder, and Jabba peeping out over Kitty's.

On the rapids, clockwise from me it's Sleepy, Crispy (in matching raincoats), Jabba and Gilly. The others didn't want to do the water rides, but they missed a lot of fun. I stayed almost completely dry on the rapids, while the others all got soaked.

On Rita, it's Jabba next to me, Kitty behind me and I think the others except Ace and Mik went on the previous one. Fast! Zoomy! Scary! The Flume is, front to back, me, Gilly, Crispy and Sleepy. With five grown-ups in a tub and it spitting with rain, we got splashed LOTS more than the sunny stock footage shows. And Spinball Whizzer has Kitty next to me, and Jabba and Ace behind. I'm still terrified of that thing, and I've been on it twice now. My ambition is to open my eyes a crack next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Best birthday ever!

And even though Jabba's still here, I'm going to do a blog tonight to talk about it!

Nine of us on the Big Zoomy's Birthday Alton Towers trip - Me, Jabba, Kitty, Crispy, Sleepy, Gilly, Argo, Ace and Ace's new guy Mik (who seemed surprisingly undisturbed by our eccentric gang). It being Tuesday, and a school day, and mid-October, and cloudy, the place was pretty empty and the queues were non-existent. But the park was still populated enough to have three different people recognising me and saying hello, which was very cool because it's the first time that's happened while I've been in the company of VPS people. Crispy said to the first of these fans "Do you mean you know who he is, or do you just want to shake hands with people with hats and beards?"

Although I'm something of a feardy-gowk, the only rides I was too scared to go on were Corkscrew, Oblivion, Nemesis and Air - I did go on lots of other scary things, and spent the entire time screaming loudly with eyes firmly closed. That's just how I like to do roller-coasters, although Kitty, who was sitting next to me on Spinball Whizzer, didn't seem to enjoy it so much.

And, thanks to the absence of people and Crispy sweet-talking the guy on the control booth, we got to go round Runaway Mine Train (admittedly a roller-coaster for babies, but I still liked it) five times!

Even coolest, I wore one of those magic bracelets that makes cameras point at you all day, and got a fantastic DVD of our adventures! And not just clips of us on the rides (stock footage of the ride, filmed in bright sunshine, edited rather awkwardly together with scenes of us whenever we went past a camera), but a couple of clips of us walking around too! It's brilliant, and I'm currently trying to put it up on YouTube - if I succeed, I'll share it with you.

Ooh, also, Jabba got me a chemistry set and Kitty got me a magic trick! And Ace got me a hand-made glittery card made by Mik's sister!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Okay, I was wrong

Quick bit of bloggery before Jabba arrives to spend the night before our trip to Alton Towers (woo!) tomorrow for my birthday (woo!) to say that, despite my expectations, filming with the BBC today was a LOT of fun! Mainly thanks to the presenter Michael Mosley, who proved an enthusiastic and extremely talented pupil at memorising cards. I'm thinking he's going to turn into a memory star in the future. We did lots of fun stuff in a refreshingly short six-hour session, and I think it's going to be good to watch (won't be on telly till April, but I'll remind you in good time).

Also, it's my birthday tomorrow! Woo!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oh well

There are times when you feel all motivated and keen to achieve things, and then there are days when you feel it's more important to sit around doing nothing, and cheerfully give in to notions like "You know, I've never actually played original Donkey Kong, ever. I'd better download it and see what it's like." You just have to take days like this as they come and not worry about them too much.

Anyway, tomorrow it's the bleeding BBC coming round to film me. I'm supposed to teach the presenter, whose name I've forgotten, how to remember people's names. Even though I've told the person I think is the director, whose name I've also forgotten, and the other person who might be the director, who's probably called Catherine something (something that begins with W) that I'm not good at remembering names. And that's not not-good-compared-to-certain-other-superhuman-geniuses, that's not-good-compared-to-certain-unusually-intelligent-bricks. But people never take me seriously when I say I've got a bad memory, they assume it's my adorable putting-myself-down act.

Also, they want me to memorise barcodes in the supermarket again. And since I haven't yet signed anything promising confidentiality and not being downright rude about this latest documentary... I'm not overwhelmed with enthusiasm about this one.