Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's a printing-things-out weekend

I always forget how long it takes to print all the papers for even a tiny little memory competition like Cambridge. It does give me a much greater admiration for those wonderful people (ie Phil and maybe a couple of other helpers if he's lucky) who do all the preparation work for the world championships.

I also forget how much paper and expensive print cartridges it takes - I had thought I'd be able to use my Boots staff discount this year (it's got to be good for something - normally the only thing I buy at Boots is earplugs, which cost £1.99 for five pairs, so my discounts are pretty negligible), but I left it to the last second as usual, and the big Nottingham store had run out of the kind of cartridges I need, so I had to buy them for full price at Dixons.

As a tangent, why does every type of printer take differently-shaped print cartridges? Is there any reason why all Lexmark printers couldn't be made so that they use a universal kind of cartridge? It's all a big conspiracy, I tells you.

As another tangent, yes, I still call it Dixons. If they're too lazy to change their colour scheme along with their name, they've only got themselves to blame. The general public's collective brain just processes the colours and doesn't look at the words.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Crash! Shatter! Tinkle!

Some of the lights in this place have sort of strange frosted glass globe lampshades instead of normal ones. I was just sitting down to eat tonight when there was suddenly an almighty crash-shatter-tinkle kind of noise from the kitchen. The lampshade thing had spontaneously fallen to the floor and shattered into a zillion pieces! I was standing roughly directly underneath it not more than a couple of minutes beforehand, too! I could have been killed! Well, actually, the thing weighed practically nothing and seems to have been fairly fragile, but I might have got Bond-villain kind of scars on my bald shiny head. I'd sue the landlord if not for the fact that I changed the bulb a couple of weeks ago and clearly didn't put the stupid lampshade back properly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Weight a minute

To celebrate the launch of a scary-sounding miracle weight loss pill in pharmacies, there were weighing machines at work today, inviting everyone to come along and see what they weigh. Just like the one that used to taunt me at Woolworth's before I engineered the closing down of the entire company just to shut it up. Only this Boots one was even nastier to me - it tells me that anyone with a Body Mass Index over 28 can benefit from a weight loss plan, and mine is 28.6.

I'm being forced to the conclusion that I need to start making an effort to eat properly. This last couple of years, I genuinely have got much too chubby. It's just that the very thought of trying to lose weight sends me scurrying to the Co-op for a bag of Tangfastics. The idea of dieting seems to be against all of my principles, somehow. Like wearing a cycle helmet or sunscreen. It's the kind of thing that a certain kind of person does, and I don't want to be that kind of person, however sensible it would be. It's hard to explain.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Watching some snooker player trying to conceal his annoyance as he snappily answers questions like "What's your favourite colour" in the BBC's attempt to convey the personalities of players makes me think about the marketability of memory competitions.

It's a regular complaint nowadays that there used to be "characters" in snooker, whereas now the players are all interchangeable, boring young men. This complaint is generally made by old men who forget that the old players were also boring. But I think "The Mentalists" showed that we could do a big feature about all the top memory athletes, sum up each of their personalities and quirks in a soundbite and make the general public genuinely interested in us. You know, Gunther's the German mastermind, Ed's 'the upper-class chap' (as someone I met in the street a while ago repeatedly described him), and I'm the working-class hero. Or maybe the weird nerd with the beard and hat, take your pick.

I bet I could describe the whole top twenty in the world in their own unique phrase, if I put my mind to it. But I don't think I will - I'd only end up offending everyone by using some harmless phrase like "the big fat idiot who can't remember anything".

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lots of phone calls

Well, two of them, anyway, which is two more phone calls than I like to deal with of an evening. But hopefully they'll result in an article appearing in the Cambridge newspaper about the upcoming memory championship, and in Canadians coming to film the UK and World championships later in the year, so it's worth it.

Meanwhile, to make up for me not replying to Florian's email because I haven't got round to it yet, have I plugged on my blog before? I don't think I have, but you should all go and look at it anyway.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The things I do for memory

A journalist from a local Cambridge newspaper said he'd call me at some point tonight for an article about the Cambridge Memory Championship, and I needed to go out to the supermarket, so, with great reluctance, I had to change the message on my answering machine.

It's not an actual answering machine, you understand, it's the normal 1571 service, but I've got an outdated vocabulary. Anyway, it used to say something like "Hi, I never check this thing, but leave me a message and if you're lucky I might hear it some time and call you back. Or you could just email me like a normal person." I don't like phones.

But so as not to offend this intrepid reporter, I changed it to a bland hello-I'm-Ben-I'm-not-here-right-now thing. And did he call? Did he heckers. That'll teach me to compromise my principles just for the sake of not being rude to people.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pound for pound

As I think I've mentioned, I've been browsing around coin-related sites just lately, and in the process discovered something I didn't know - there's one different design of pound coin for every year from 1983 to 2008, but from now on they're sticking with the same shield design along with the new versions of all the other coins. So, naturally, this means I need to collect one of each, just for the sake of having a complete collection. 26 of them, you see - one for each location on one of my journeys, it's fate. The minor problem is that some years' pound coins weren't manufactured in bulk because there were already enough of them in circulation, so I'd have to buy one of those official Royal Mint collection sets from some official Royal Mint coin collector, and that seems like an excessive length to go to just to satisfy a 'hey, I should get hold of one of each kind of pound coin' urge. Maybe I'll just limit myself to what I'm doing at the moment, and putting aside a kind that I haven't got yet every time I get one in my change...

An interesting side-effect of paying attention to pound coins is that I can now spot a forgery if need be. You know how there are stories in the news every now and then saying that 10% of pound coins in circulation are forgeries, or something like that. I got one in my change today - it's quite obvious, if you're paying attention; the writing on the edge is wobbly and not deep enough, the heads and tails sides aren't lined up with each other right and it's slightly the wrong colour. I'm not sure whether to start a collection of fake pound coins alongside the collection of real ones or just to buy something with it next time I'm in a shop. I think it's probably illegal to knowingly spend fake money, but I think that's a monstrously unfair rule, punishing you for being clever enough to know a forgery when you see it. Fair laws should punish stupid people and give extra money to clever people. That's how things would work if I ruled the world, anyway. Also, cleverness would be legally defined in some way that includes me and excludes anyone I don't like.

I'd make a really great evil dictator, wouldn't I? Maybe that should be my next career move. Anyone want to be my henchman? I'll pay you a pound!