Saturday, September 03, 2011


Watching Doctor Who tonight, I was thinking "Oh, I really don't want to devote my whole blog tonight to writing about how bad this episode of Doctor Who was, that's just so horribly negative and mean-spirited and unnecessarily hurtful towards the writer and the actor who played the father if he happens to read this, but I don't think I've got any choice, because this really is really really bad..." and so on in that vein for a full forty minutes.

But then there was a final brief scene in which the Doctor, Amy and Rory go back to the Tardis, and I'm left with the feeling that hey, maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Which is funny, because it was that bad - I'm all in favour of them doing cheap episodes normally, because they tend to be original, clever, well-written and well acted, but this one was quite the opposite - but the three regular characters just go so well together that it redeems even the worst load of rubbish!

And if you think about it, throughout the fifty-year history of the programme there have been pairings of the Doctor and companions that have just been so good that even if they never appear in a story that's watchable. And the current line-up is the best that the new series has ever had! I still love Doctor Who.

But seriously, I've never seen such bad acting as the guy who played the father. Where did they find him?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Germany calling

Two weeks to the German championship, and I'm really looking forward to finding out how good I am compared to the top Germans at the moment. I hope I can be confident I'll do better than last year's fifth place, but am I good enough to win the thing? Probably not. Still, a weekend of training in the 30-minute marathons would certainly help a lot. Let's see how it goes.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Broad beans are sleeping in a blankety bed

I've been trying to get back on a healthy kind of diet for this past week. The kind that involves vegetables and things, you know. But I'm finding it very difficult to resist supplementing the salads with chocolate and cherry coke. I just try to delude myself into thinking that they haven't got any of those carbohydrate things that I hear make you fat.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Look for signs that summer's done

Winter's drawing near. It's dark outside, and cold and nasty. And it's September tomorrow, which is a good indicator that August is over. I really would prefer it if it was still summer. I'm seriously thinking about emigrating to Australia. Do people still do that?

And come to think of it, have I blogged about this before? I do consider emigrating to Australia on an annual basis around this time of year, I've probably said this half a dozen times before now. Maybe I could devise some kind of solar mirror weapon that makes it warm and sunny in Beeston and the surrounding area all through the winter? And also light in the mornings and evenings, because before long it'll be that time of year when I'm cycling to and from work in the dark, and that's really depressing.

I should consult an almanac or a set of astronomical tables to find out if that happens before October 28th, when my contract with Boots ends. If it doesn't, I really will emigrate. Or start working very long night shifts so I'm cycling to and from work in the daylight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

This is what we need

We need some kind of extremely cool website for the British memory community. You know, like all those cool websites they've got in Germany, only in English and serving as a place for all the trendy young British memory enthusiasts to get together and exchange views on memory subjects. If I knew anything about how to make websites, I'd do it right now. Maybe I'll buy some kind of book about web design...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Remembering memory

Right, where did I leave off? Oh yes, Thursday night. I remained delighted with the bikes for hire in London, and managed to avoid getting too lost all the time I was there. So I got to the second day's competition without any difficulty, and found that I'd got a score of 897 in the 30-minute numbers - so just one mistake out of the whole lot I tried to remember. That's quite good, really, and I'll have a go at taking that approach with five journeys in Germany, maybe.

We started on Friday with random words, and I've been practicing that with a home-made word-o-matic which isn't very good, but does have the advantage of giving more difficult words than you generally get in competitions. I tried for 200, and ended up getting 189. Which is nowhere near what the really good word-memorisers get, but was good enough to beat everyone else on the day.

Then it was time for 30-minute cards, and I had a go at 18 packs, and wasn't too far off getting them all right - there were mistakes on four packs, but they were only little ones, not any really big memory failings. I can improve on that with that little bit of practice I keep talking about.

Rob Carder, competitor of the olden days (back in 2002, when the lack of British competitors really started to become obvious, the British team at the WMC was me, him, Dominic and Andi. I wasn't in the top three Brits.) came by to say hello at lunch, which was a good excuse to reminisce about past memory championships for the benefit of all the newcomers. It's a sad but unavoidable fact that I've now been taking part in these things for longer than practically anyone else.

Back at the competition, historic dates didn't go as well as it could, there were a lot of gaps in my memory and I ended up with a not-very-good-by-my-standards eighty-something. It's the stamina thing again - after a day and a half, my mind was wandering. Then came spoken numbers, including a bit of last-minute debate as to exactly how many trials we were supposed to be having and how many digits in each one. I don't think anybody had ever set any rules for the international standard competitions, but they settled on 100, 300 and 400. I got the hundred perfectly right in the first one, but couldn't improve on it afterwards. Since 300 and 400 are a lot more than anyone in their right mind would try to memorise, Dominic suggested some kind of system whereby competitors signal when they've stopped paying attention to the numbers, so they wouldn't need to play them all - the idea was to save time and stop the competition overrunning, but everyone agreed that that would just be confusing and distracting, not to mention against the rules, so it didn't happen.

Actually, though, we weren't running late at all. The small number of competitors cut down on the marking time, and we'd even finished some recall periods early because everyone was done. And the speed cards took a minimum of time to set up, too - everything ran very smoothly the whole two days, to the great credit of the hard-working arbiter team. I tried for fast times twice, but I was a) slow and b) wildly ineffective in recall, so didn't get anything. And I realise that this entire blog has been about me and not about everyone else, but to make up for that in some small way, let me just congratulate Mattias on beating his personal best time and winning the discipline.

So I ended up winning with a score of 6489 - a good speed cards time would have put that into the mid-7000s, which would be good but not good enough to seriously challenge for the world championship. We'll just have to see how much I can improve in Heilbronn.

And all that was left after that was to wait an hour for them to print out the unnecessarily huge pile of certificates (top three in each discipline) and then endure the prizegiving ceremony. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it wasn't really a big enough event to justify the music, photos, awards, applause etc, especially without there really being anyone there to see it (one photographer was hanging around earlier on, and we had an audience of one passing family who wanted their daughter to learn memory techniques to help her pass exams). Still, it was all very nicely stage-managed as usual.

So, onwards and upwards. A couple of weeks of practice and Heilbronn here we come!