Saturday, July 25, 2009

At last the truth can be revealed

"Zoomy's thing" has in fact been ghost-written for the past two and a half years by a team of ghost-writers employed by the government, under the supervision of editor-in-chief Emma Bunton Out Of The Spice Girls, who's actually quite a lot cleverer than most people think. It has been important for reasons involving national security to keep up the illusion that Zoomy himself still maintains a daily blog, hence the deception. In fact, it still is vitally important to the security of the nation and the existence of Zoomy himself that this deception not be revealed, but unfortunately there was a typographical error in the latest edition of the ghost-writers' secret instructions, issued today, and now they start with "Do under any circumstances reveal in the blog that Zoomy is in outer space and not at home writing his inane nightly drivel..." so the writers have had no choice in the matter.

Zoomy's occasional appearances on television were all pre-recorded in early 2007, and the results of all memory competitions to which they refer were decided in advance by a committee of government and WMSC officials - Zoomy has been represented by actors (the identical triplets Steve, Dean and Other Steve Bradshaw) at all competitions and the results manipulated by arbiters to conceal the fact that "Zoomy" can't actually memorise anything. At othello competitions he is played by Joel Blackmur in an ingenious disguise made from coat-hangers and gravy. At parties and social occasions, a crude robot is used.

Zoomy's space mission is top-secret and highly classified, but it involves a giant magnet in Bridlington which was built by accident and can't be got rid of due to a refuse collectors' strike, which attacts alien spacecraft from the farthest reaches of the galaxy and have to be continually repelled by Britain's own space program. Since this space fleet consists of one spaceship, and since this was built in the nineteen-fifties and requires course calculations to be done with pencil, paper and a book of log tables, and since all log tables were thrown on a big fire when scientific calculators were invented in 1983, the only person who can fly the ship is someone with a really good memory for numbers.

If any aliens read this blog entry and its revelation that Zoomy is currently taking a week off on one of the least pleasant moons of Jupiter, they'll immediately send their most magnetic spacecraft out on a beeline to Bridlington, take over the country and eat all the ice cream. So now we're for it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heights of absurdity

Hooray! I've won a prize in a raffle! A family day out at the Heights Of Abraham!

It does look like a fun kind of place, judging by the website (although the writers of it don't know how to use apostrophes), but all in all I think I'd still prefer to stay at home and watch telly. Besides, it would be embarrassing to ask someone to lend me their wife and kids for the day, even if I promised not to damage them. So, does anybody out there want this golden ticket? Free for the first person who asks!

Also, boo to the blood donor people. You can't give blood for 28 days after you return from the USA (because they're all swimming with West Nile Virus over there, apparently), which means I'll miss the days the donor van comes to work, and have to go somewhere else and get out of sync with the donor van's visits and be dreadfully inconvenienced.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I wonder if they sell hamburgers in Hamburg

I need to spend this coming weekend doing tedious things like shuffling and labelling the cards I'm going to memorise in Hamburg, printing out a map of the hotel and competition location so I don't get lost, digging through the drawer where I put foreign money to see if I've got any euros, getting new batteries for my speed cards timers, making sure my lucky t-shirt is clean and that I know where it is, writing a list of the important things I need to take with me and will forget otherwise (earplugs, hat, stopwatch, toothbrush etc) and so on. But since I won't be doing any memorising (too close to the event), I'll have plenty of free time to hang around doing nothing, too. Perhaps I'll write a book. Or reply to all those people who want to interview me just lately.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thanks for the questions!

It's always nice to know that some people are still reading this thing, and I do apologise to anybody I narked or saddened. But hey, now I've got something to write about tonight, so all is well with the world again. First question...

Tell us more about your trip Stateside!!

Well, that's more of a command than a question, but that's okay. I like having instructions shouted at me occasionally, it removes the need to think for myself. Anyway, apart from the lengthy flight delays, my visit to Pittsburgh was just fantastic. I got to meet up with quite a lot of people I only previously knew over the internet (among them, if they're reading this, Max and Logan, who I should say hello to - and assert that although comics fans won't believe me, Logan is Canadian and that's his real name) and have a lot of cartoon-animal-related fun! I also got to look around the city, which isn't nearly as exciting or big as I expect American cities to be. It did, however, have a really amazing fireworks display on the 4th! With some really clever rockets that make smiley faces in the sky!

Now that you are an expert in long-distance cycling, what are your thoughts on this year's Tour de France???

My readers are fond of punctuation, aren't they???? Anyway, I currently have no thoughts on the Tour de France, except that it provokes a memory of the Luxembourg National Anthem from an episode of Maid Marian And Her Merry Men: "Hurrah for the state of Luxembourg, all Luxembourgers sing! And let our heroes' deeds throughout the rest of Europe ring! A man from Luxembourg once came thirty-seventh in the Tour de France, and in this year's Eurovision Song Contest we stand quite a good chance."

Let me just see what's happening in the Tour. Ah, I see Bradley Wiggins, who's got a silly name, isn't winning, Lance Armstrong, co-star of Men's Health's Superhuman issue, is doing slightly better, and someone I've never heard of called Alberto Contador is winning. Hooray for him, I wholeheartedly approve. I know two people called Alberto and nobody called Albert. Nor am I friends with anybody called Bradley or Lance, nor anyone with the silly surname Wiggins.

You could talk about how, confident or otherwise, you feel about the upcoming competitions Ben.

If not maybe you could discuss the number of locations you have used in recent memory training sessions :-)

What I would really like to read is a list of 50-odd items described in the pictures made by another person. Censored obviously (which is probably why nobody ever does it; he he.)


Up to the challenge Ben ?

Erm, I'm up to the challenge, but I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "a list of 50-odd items described in the pictures made by another person." You mean my images for memory, or someone else's?

Anyway, as for the rest of it, I feel sort of semi-confident about the German championship. I've slacked off the training quite a lot just lately, but before that I had a month or so of very dedicated memorising, and hopefully that'll stand me in good stead. My motivation comes and goes these days, but I think the truly mind-boggling amount of memory work I did back in 2003/04 still helps me be in a good state with just a little bit of refresher-practice before a competition. I don't think I'll ever be able to get back into the mindset I had before I won the world championship, when I was training constantly and never leaving the house unless I absolutely had to. But I'm still keeping up with it, because I really don't like it when I'm not the world champion.

The number of locations I've used... I've currently got 62 journeys, some of them old familiar ones I've been using for years, some of them brand new and still not entirely clear in my head, with 26 locations each. Plus a half-journey that goes up to 14 locations max before I get lost, that I use when I need a partial one, like in trial 2 of spoken numbers (11 locations for the 100-digit trial, then 22 for the 200-digits, which uses one-and-a-bit journeys). That makes 1626 locations, unless I've got my sums wrong. Which I probably have, because the radio's playing and I can't be bothered to concentrate.

I estimate that I need 31 journeys for the German championship. Having twice that many journeys prepared was not deliberate.

Your birthday's only a couple of months away, should we follow tradition and throw another Poohsticker event? Perhaps something pub based this time for those of us who are temporarily incapacitated?

Would be great to get the old gang back together again :0)

Yes, yes it would! I don't know how we got into the habit of only getting together once a year on my birthday, but I think it's a great tradition. And to compensate for the Zoomy-centricness of it all, I'll buy birthday cards and little presents for everybody else this year! How about a weekend in York - I think it's the anniversary of that great event some time around now. How long ago was that now? Eight years? Wow, I must be old.

What are your views on the Fermi paradox?

I had no views on the Fermi paradox until I looked it up on the internet. I think it's a nice thing for science-fiction writers to write about. Personally, I think humans need to broaden their ideas of what alien intelligence life would be like if they want to find any evidence of it. People still think in terms of little green men in flying saucers, and all those fancy radio-signal-monitoring things are geared to detect something that's basically exactly like us. Show some imagination, people. Aliens a squillion light-years away are probably sitting in their living rooms "listening" to radio comedy shows transmitted by the disturbance in air currents caused by a dense metal box being strategically hit with some kind of space hammer. We need to build some kind of receiver that can pick that up.

Thanks for the questions, one and all!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Did you miss me?

I deliberately didn't blog anything last night, to see if anyone would complain. Well, actually, it was more that I couldn't think of anything to write about and didn't want to subject my loyal readers to the first thing that came into my head. I'm generally a bit short of inspiration lately, for some reason, so I think it's high time we had another of those 'please, blog-readers, tell me what to write about!' episodes.

So please, if you're reading this, and have always wanted to know something, ask me a question, and I'll answer it at length in my next blog!

Otherwise, it'll be very boring around here until my muse returns.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Well, what an anticlimax

Tom Watson just needs an easyish putt to win the Open and he collapses at the last moment. And now it's after 7:30 and I'm wondering whether I can still fit in the 30-minute binary practice I was meaning to do after the golf to round off the day's training, or whether I should just leave it so as not to overload my brain. Maybe leave it, I think - binary I don't need to work out how many journeys to attempt because in that one I just do as many as I can until time runs out, one journey, repeat it, then on to the next, with no third or fourth read-through like the others. For some reason, possibly because it takes a bit longer to translate binaries into images, they stick in my brain with only two viewings, whereas numbers and cards don't. A bit of speed training in the evenings next week, using the backup journeys I'm not going to use in the competition, should set me up right for Hamburg.

Something I haven't mentioned in my blog yet, I think, is that the UK Championship is happening two weeks after the German, in London. The scheduling is a bit unfortunate - with the German championship being the bigger and more useful preparation for the worlds, competitors whose budget can only stretch to one event are more likely to go for the German, and personally I'd prefer to have the one-day UK first, then the two-day German, so we get a steady build-up to the big three-day WMC. Still, I've been unusually well-prepared this weekend and booked my cheap train tickets (£10 each way) down to London on the internet - still need to decide between the nearby but expensive hotel or a more distant but cheaper one, but I'll see how I feel. I think it's high time I stuck to those principles I'm supposed to have and stayed somewhere cheap and nasty.

In other news, isn't the internet great? I typed "Snodgrass" into Google to see what would happen, and the second entry was a really very fun short story about a John Lennon who left the Beatles before they got big. I heartily recommend it.