Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vicious cycle

It's the Great Notts Bike Ride tomorrow. I haven't registered for it this time, but I'm sort of contemplating going along anyway. I probably won't, if only because I realise I'd only be doing it as an excuse not to practice memorising, and I want to be fierce with myself about that. If I've got until December now, it's actually not impossible for me to do reasonably well, with just a little bit more devotion and motivation than I'm currently mustering.

Still, I'm going to stop blogging about memory stuff now, I've been doing that too much lately. I'll find a new and exciting subject tomorrow.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Post-match postscript

Well, that was rubbish. I'm watching the Slovenia game on Wednesday on the big screen in one of the conference rooms at work, and we'd better win that, or the combination of England going out of the World Cup and me being at work would just be too depressing for words...

Spreading the word

Just for the benefit of anyone whose sole source of memory-related information is my blog, here's the email we got from the WMSC early this morning, just as I was about to set off for work:

URGENT and IMPORTANT Announcement
The China Organising committee has written the following letter to the World Memory Sports Council and have asked that we immediately pass this on to all competitors.

“Dear World Memory Sports Council,

It’s known that China had won the bid to host the 19th World Memory Championships in 2010, and it was to be held from August 21st to August 27th in Guangzhou, China.

This will be the first time for China to host this international memory sports event. World Memory Championships represents the world’s greatest test of memory and is of great importance to the development of human minds and the Chinese people are endeavouring to host a high-level and distinctive WMC.

We are grateful for the trust that WMSC puts in us and are honoured to be given the opportunity to host this great event. At the same time, we are also keenly aware of the heavy yet lofty responsibilities we bear.

In order to maximize the international influence of the WMC and make it more authoritative, we’ve been seeking the co-operation of the Guangzhou government since the successful bid of the 19th WMC, with the hope of attracting the public, news medias and more memory sports fans to participate in this championship.

However, as the 16th Asian Games are to be held in Guangzhou from November 12th to November 27th, this become the focus of the Guangzhou government and they have now made it clear that there should be no big event to take place in Guangzhou before the Asian Games.

Under these circumstances, the 19th WMC is now officially postponed to a new date, December 1-6 , 2010 . All other previous arrangements, including the prize find, will be honoured then in full.

So China Organizing Committee informs all the foreign competitors to suspend their bookings of airline tickets and hotels. We are sorry for the inconveniences caused by this decision, and we sincerely hope that WMSC can assist us in informing the registered competitors of this delay as well as explaining to them the reasons why we must make such a decision. We (China Organizing Committee) extend our sincere thanks here.”

On receiving this, the Council has naturally made forceful representations on behalf of all competitors to our hosts in China, to ascertain why this announcement has been made now, so close to the event. We understand that they have been in negotiations for some time with the Provincial Government to try and avert this possibility, but to no avail. We are only too aware of the enormous upset and inconvenience their announcement is going to cause. It has come as a great surprise and shock to us all.

We will share any further information as soon as we receive it.

And this from the GGK, about the German championship:

Hallo Ben,

the next German Memo Open will be in Heilbronn on the 12./13. th of November 2010.

We would be glad to see you again .

Klaus Kolb

Short and sweet, that one. Anyway, this is terrible! Shocking! Enormously upsetting! That means no memory competitions at all this summer! What am I going to do for my summer holidays? I'll have to go to the seaside, like normal people! I'll be forced to sit in a deckchair on Skegness beach, wearing a knotted hanky on my head and reading a newspaper! And I bet a crab will come along and nip my toes, too! Not to mention the horrific cruelty I'll have to inflict on some poor donkey by riding on its back, and it's ENTIRELY the fault of the WMSC and GGK and whatever-initials-the-Chinese-memory-organisation-uses!

But to be serious, although this rearrangement can actually only be a good thing for me, assuming it happens like that (let's face it, there's a good chance that 'postponed' will be a precursor to 'cancelled altogether'), because I now have six months to prepare for the WMC instead of two, I'll get the German championship and maybe a UK championship before it, to build up the preparation and stamina, and because I feel vindicated in my "don't book your flights and hotels until the last possible moment, everyone" advice once again... on behalf of the memory competitor community in general, I'm annoyed. 'Enormous upset' is putting it a little too strongly, but definitely annoyed. The more the WMSC pretends it's a real organisation with official bids and forceful representations and things, the more annoying it is when things go wrong every year. If they'd just act like the well-meaning and generous amateurs they are, we'd all have more of a sense of all being in it together, easy-come-easy-go, never-mind-eh, let's-get-together-and-decide-what-to-do-next kind of spirit, and we'd get a proper World Memory Championship every year without the plans being changed at the last minute.

So, let's assume that we do get a full memory competition schedule in the winter - we really need to fill that summer gap with something. Everybody except me has been training hard for a World Memory Championship in August, I say we arrange a full three-day competition somewhere cheap, in Britain, Germany or wherever is convenient, on or around the dates when we were expecting to be in China. And everyone can help out with the organisational duties. Who's interested?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


There's a journalist who's sent me four emails over the course of the last day, asking for a quick interview. I've just been too lazy to reply (I've got the usual pile of emails from friends that I haven't responded to yet, let alone the emails from the international press [by which I mean Radio Nottingham and a French magazine], so I apologise to anyone reading this who's waiting to hear from me), and it occurred to me that I should prepare some answers in advance, since people always ask the same questions. So, all you journalists out there, here's the Zoomy FAQ:

Q: How do you remember things?
A: I don't remember things, I'm just really good at guessing.

Q: I've forgotten where I put my car keys, can you help?
A: They're on the kitchen floor, near the sink.

Q: Have any interesting memory-related things happened to you, involving Japanese chimpanzees?
A: Yes, I was once abducted by Japanese chimpanzees and forced to compete against them in a series of memory tests. I won easily, and the chimps conceded that humans are superior to them in every way.

Q: Why is your lucky shirt lucky?
A: Luckily enough, it conceals a very lucky small computer, hidden under the picture of a dragon, into which I can type all the numbers/words/abstract images I'm pretending to memorise, pretending to scratch my chest. Then in the recall period, by a remarkable stroke of luck, I can print out a perfectly-recalled paper and win every competition. Also, the shirt was bought for my by my gal pal Emma Picot.

Q: What's your favourite colour?
A: I'm actually blind, and don't know what colours are.

Q: Please recite pi to 50,000 decimal places.
A: I've forgotten it. The 50,001st digit is 3, though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The Mental Calculation World Cup was held at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, and everyone got official university T-shirts that said "JETZT ABER OVGU!" in big letters on the back. I was confidently expecting 'ovgu' to turn out to be an obscenity in the native language of one of the competitors, but unfortunately it didn't. Still, I'm sure one day I'll be walking along the street and suddenly find myself punched in the back of the head by an offended Uzbek.

But nevertheless, I'm in a good mood today, because I got Switzerland in the office World Cup sweepstake, and they unexpectedly won. It's another of those omens I like to attribute to the World Memory Championship - if Switzerland win the competition, I will be absolutely guaranteed to win too!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whine, whine, whine

It seems like all I do lately is whine about lacking motivation to practice memory. You'd think losing my favourite world record would get me back into it, but no. (Theatrical sigh) Ah well, maybe I'll just go to China and set a new world record for the worst ever score by a reigning world champion. It'll be hard to beat Clemens Mayer's 2007 record of scoring zero points by not competing, but I'll try.