Saturday, March 27, 2010

My untidiness is my achilles heel

My heel is also something of a weak spot. I had a certificate of some kind - not a memory competition thing, some kind of work-related rubbish, that was in a glass frame, which got buried under a pile of old papers and things in my spare room, and a little while ago I accidentally trod on it and shattered the glass. I didn't bother to pick up the pieces, because I decided they were safely trapped under the general refuse in my spare room and wouldn't bother anybody until I was in more of a tidying kind of mood.

But there's a sort of slow tectonic movement to the darkest depths of the junk in my room, and a big pointy glass shard ended up protruding from the pile of papers, and stabbed me in the heel while I was sitting at my desk today. It really hurt. So I've been forced to clean the place up a bit, and get rid of the deathtrap.

27.77(X), 26.63, 30.44(X); 2:54.93; 5:27.03/405/80; 8:11.07/1225

Friday, March 26, 2010

Assorted announcements

1) My mention of the abstract-image-shuffling-Excel-spreadsheet-practice-tool-thing a couple of days ago has provoked a worldwide response from the USA, Germany, China and Wales, so if anyone else wants it, you can download it here.

Files uploaded by people who are too cheap to pay for 'premium membership' can only be downloaded ten times, I think, so it's first six come, first six served, and if you're too late, let me know and I'll upload it again. Or maybe you could upload it to your own website, if you've got one. It's shareware, or freeware, or whatever the word is. Underware, maybe.

2) Should I stand for election as a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate in May? I was looking at their website earlier, and frankly I don't think they're anywhere near loony enough these days. I think I'd be a great success.

3) 31.61(X), 29.03(X), 31.38(X); 3:44.53; 5:17.30/414/200; 8:28.06/1350.
Definitely starting to burn out a little, made mistakes on all three speed cards, and lots and lots of blanks in the speed numbers. But my theory is that if I keep going, I'll get through this barrier and out the other side to a magical land where I'm better than ever before.

4) I think I'm going to have to go to the Mental Calculation World Cup, just because I almost decided not to today, in case it interfered with my memory training. I used to have a reputation as someone who competed in everything, whether I'm good at it or not, but it's ages since I took part in a mind sports competition that wasn't memory or othello. So Magdeburg here I come (in June). Who lives in Magdeburg? I know someone who's from there, I'm sure. Oh, hey, it's Johannes! Groovy, that's another good reason to go there!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's still working

I should have thought of posting my training scores on my blog before, it's really succeeding in making me force myself to practice even when I'm not entirely feeling like it. Maybe I'll stretch the excessive-training experiment out for another week, until the Easter holidays. Or maybe I won't. I'll see what my brain's feeling like. But I'm definitely back in the mood for a bit of regular practice in the evenings again. I'll get on with the marathon disciplines over Easter and see how long it takes me to get up to speed with those.

29.44(X), 27.09, 32.53; 3:25.93; 5:40.28/453/345; 7:59.22/1440

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gah! It's on telly!

That's what I just said to myself upon glancing at the Radio Times and noticing that the Spurs/Fulham game is on ITV tonight. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that it would be, but never mind, there's still 40 minutes left, and if I'd thought of that straight away I wouldn't have done any memory training tonight, and that would have been terrible.

By the way, 29.94(X), 30.59, 31.09(X); 3:31.28; 5:37.06/448/240; 8:53.15/1370.

I'm very undecided about who I want to win this game. On the one hand it would be funny if Fulham won the cup and took the Europa League place that would otherwise go to Liverpool, leaving them Europeless next year, but on the other hand I've been rooting for Tottenham this year despite my longstanding dislike of Harry Redknapp, and I'd love to see them win the cup. I think I'll go with the positive feelings rather than the jeering-at-Liverpool's-bad-season approach, and cheer for Tottenham. Go Spurs! Woo! They've just scored! 2-1 up with half an hour to go!

Also, let me just say three cheers for Christian Schäfer, who won the North German Memory Championship at the weekend, with some really impressive scores - 240 in 5-minute numbers, 585 in 5-min binary, 68 seconds in cards and 236 images (dammit, that beats my best score in competitions!) This is yet another graduate of the Junior Memory Championship scene in Germany who's going to start threatening the top rankings now he's officially an Erwachsene. When is someone going to organise a real junior competition in this country? I'd do it myself, but I'm lazy and have no money. But without it, the days of British dominance in memory sports are going to die with me...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fear my memory

Day two of the forcing-myself-to-do-more-memory-training-than-is-sensible-considering-I'm-out-of-practice, and I genuinely think I'm clicking into gear. And even though I accidentally watched the first five minutes of an intriguing Stargate:Universe episode (never watched the series before, but it started out with a murder mystery and I really wanted to find out who dun it) I had enough willpower to turn it off and go and memorise numbers.

I'm not going to blog about memory every night, by the way, I'll revert to general nonsense tomorrow, but I'll post my daily scores as promised:

35.08, 31.84(X), 30.31(X); 3:54.09; 5:31.56/453/360; 9:21.97/1360

(That is, three speed cards attempts, the last two of which had errors - my excuse for the slow times is that I've switched to my brand new, slippery cards and I need to break them in before they get to the kind of state that flutters effortlessly between my fingers; 15 rows of abstract images in just under four minutes (all correctly recalled); 468 digits in five and a half minutes, good enough for a score of 360 in a competition if we'd had an extra 32 seconds; and a better time than yesterday for 1500 binary digits. By the way, I only give myself 15 minutes of recall time for that, which is barely enough to write them all down, to test my immediate short-term memory)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eye of the tiger

Okay, I've decided to get serious about memory training again. I know I said I was thinking of dropping the whole memory thing for a while, but in the end I've concluded that life is basically meaningless without long periods of sitting at a desk, memorising 1s and 0s. And all that talk about money yesterday probably helped, too. So I've resolved to seize this momentary enthusiasm and force myself back into a training schedule.

So, today I did three packs of speed cards before work, 15 rows of abstract images using my handy-dandy Excel abstract-image-shuffle-o-matic on my lunch break, and 468 decimal digits and 1500 binary this evening, all in as fast a time as possible. And I even checked my recall to see how many I'd got right, which is a tedious process but useful for motivation purposes when I see how much I've improved. I could of course circumvent this marking process by doing my memory training on the computer, but I prefer to work with pen and paper. There's less temptation to click onto the internet, for one thing.

And now I'm intending to do the same routine every day for the rest of the week. This is, according to my long experience of memory training, much too heavy a schedule which will lead to bad results by the end of the week as I start to burn out, but I think it would be a good thing to do for a few days, just to get my brain up and running properly again. And given the times I've recorded today, I can expect to see some quick improvements if I keep up the schedule. I'll post my times and scores nightly on my blog, so that a) everyone can know to nag me if I fail to post anything and b) all my rivals can see what kind of form I'm in and try to do better.

Today's results - speed cards in 28.75, 36.68 and 29.61 seconds. All correct, but all three of those, even the awful 36-seconds one, were me trying to go as fast as possible. This is the kind of slowing-down that I suffer when I haven't done any training for months.

Abstract images in 3:57.04 - not too bad a time at all, I aim for an ideal of three and a half minutes. One mistake where I didn't notice that there were two identical textures on a row and had to guess.

468 decimals in 6:09.56 - which is dreadful. Five minutes is the time I normally try for with this one. 452 digits correct, or a score of 328 in championship scoring (including 20 points lost for one extremely careless wrong digit written down after I'd memorised it correctly). I can do better, but that's not bad. If I keep to my training schedule, I would expect to see the time get better and the scores get worse, then when I get down to around the five-minute mark, the number of numbers I remember will gradually start going up.

1500 binaries in 10:11.38 - atrocious. Eight minutes is the time I have in my head as 'good' for this exercise, but there was a time when I was doing closer to seven very consistently. Hopefully some fast improvement to come here, too. A score of 1415 in the recall (one careless memorising mistake when I used an image that nicely fitted the story I was telling, rather than the one-digit-different image that I should have used instead, and the final image in the final row was one I couldn't remember, as it very often is, for some reason).

Improvements to come tomorrow. I don't know if I'll have the time to do the cards first thing, because I start work early on Tuesdays so I can take a long lunch and do my reading-volunteer thing, but I'll fit them in somewhere.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who wants to be a thousandaire?

A groovy announcement went out today, confirming the prize money distribution for this year's World Memory Championship:

The 2010 World Memory Champion will receive US$20,000. Silver Medallist receives US$10,000 and Bronze Medallist, US$ 6,000
Tee 4th to 10th place competitors will each receive US$2,000.
In addition, each of the ten memory disciplines attracts further prizes. Gold US$ 2,000 Silver US$ 1,200 and Bronze US$1,000
The top three competitors in the 2009 World Memory Championships in London have already won free flights and a luxury hotel suite for the week of the competition. The 4th to 10th placed winners in 2009 also receive free hotel accommodation.

This is pretty awesome, obviously, and it's already nearly the end of March and the arrangements don't seem to have changed at all since they were announced last year - this is almost certainly a good sign. There have only been, what, two world championships that have been cancelled and rearranged at short notice later in the day than this, and this one sounds like it's got a lot of enthusiastic people involved. I'll still reiterate my usual advice not to book your tickets yet, but I think we've got good reason to be excited about it now (also, don't leave it till the very last minute, people - you need to apply for a visa at least a month in advance).

As for the prize distribution, it's nice. I like the big amounts going to the top three in each discipline - that'll give a lot of people a decent share of the cash, rather than it all going to one or two competitors. If we'd had these prizes last year, actually, just eleven people would have shared the prize money between them (everyone getting $3000 or more), but I think this year might be even more closely contested, and there might be more people taking home big wheelbarrowsful of cash.

It would have been nice to see some cash prizes for the juniors and kids competitions too, and I would still be very happy to swap my 'luxury hotel suite' for a normal cheap room and have the extra money put to some more practical use, but hey, if there are people out there who are prepared to give us ninety-two thousand dollars just for remembering a few numbers, I really shouldn't complain. I'm not going to say another word on the subject that isn't glowing and positive. Starting now. Unless the organisers have another falling-out and cancel it. Right, properly starting now. I love these people, really.