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memory competitions

Extreme Memory Tournament 2015

For those who find this TL;DR and too dense with inside jokes, I jam-packed this post with pictures. I even made an album for da public. Also for people who are better at blogging about the actual competitions go to Zoomy’s thing or If you’re really late to the party, everyone else went to for the LIVE results and for behind the scenes, training software and other info


The Playlist [EXPLÍCITO]

I woke up at Fro’s in Stockholm on Wednesday morning before the flight to San Diego, with the epic part of Nobody Love in my mind.  Synesthesia was rampant and the colors were so strong and vivid I almost couldn’t find my way to the bathroom to shower. It was a good sign though and I basically found my soundtrack for the entire southern Cali trip that morning.

The People 

OK, so Lance, Livan and Briones called me out on this. I didn’t have the best opinion of the American population, but most Americans are so friendly, so warm and so casual it’s almost a joke. Lance is one of very few people who calls me out on my bs in general in a way that doesn’t make me feel bad and makes me laugh when I’m the least ready for it. Such a bro.

And as per usual the memory people are awesome and I’ve already annoyed the living fudge out of Hannes by talking about how much I like everyone. I could make a 1000-word post on almost everyone I met on why they are awesome. But I’ll post a bunch of pictures instead.

I was very afraid that Katie was going to be mean and she was afraid I was going to be mean as well but it turns out neither of us are mean! YES! I love talking to Katie for a myriad of personal reasons… some of which actually make me tear-up in a good way, but one major thing that I feel I can share is that she makes me feel less crazy. 

« I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy » – Lana Del Rey, Ride.

She has synesthesia/ideasthesia and she understands what I mean when I say I can get confused about when something is happening because “those two months are the same deep-blue colour”,  she thinks people have pretty birth dates and that their names have different feelings – so of course we made a secret sign language the first day we hung out. I could also write a million happy things about having breakfast with Katie but this trip taught me secrets are fun. Secret sign languages and all. FUN SECRETS ARE FUN!

“Sometimes when I memorize the word “happy” I think of you. Even before we met”.

I can’t even. The amount of work I’ve done to get myself this happy and then to hear Katie Kermode THE GODDESS OF WORDS say this… #figurativelydying #cuehappyleaffeeling

I didn’t get to talk to Ben as much as we’ve done at previous competitions. I mostly talked about him with all the staff at the hotel. Ben is so eccentric it’s impossible for people not to notice him. I got to talk a whole bunch with Mr. Knight (who is completely different from me neurologically) and Rudy (is that how you spell that?) and that’s always nice. I love the entire British team and listening to their distinct accents.

Anne and I played a hand-clapping game that I hope we’ll build upon further in future competitions, fitting since she’s 14 and I’m mentally 14 when it comes to hand-clapping games. Except unlike most 14 year-olds she can memorize a deck of cards in 46.3s. Bam.

Also I love taking pics of Mr. Abrina because he always looks so displeased and/or skeptical.

Ola Kåre Risa is so handsome I couldn’t stop taking pictures of him. I even took this of him posing next to a picture of himself. Anyone who thinks binary is the best discipline is a person I trust.

Christian and Annalena were so nice as usual, I didn’t get to talk to them much but they totally kicked butt in their group with Annalena going undefeated at 9-0 the first half of day 1.

The Mongolian team is so ridiculously fierce I always feel a little intimidated, but I’ve always enjoyed talking to Mr. Khandsuren. That man is prolific as fuck and told me the Mongolian team thought I was ignoring them or something.

“They are more scared of you then you are of them”.

So I got a chance to speak longer to Aka and Enji on day 2 which was fun. Mr. Tsogoo told me I didn’t look Mongolian. Dafuq does that mean? I mean, HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN MY CHEEK BONES? No, you probably didn’t because you bumped into them so hard when I walked past you they blinded you. I really adore the Mongolian team though and I want to join them for a year or so but alas sports politics says I cannot. :’(


Team Sweden though <3 Jessica and Jonas are always so supportive I try my best to return the favor. Marwin’s mom is ridiculously bad-ass and pretty. #sorrymarwin. We were all a little out of shape but we still managed to survive until day 2. #sosorororymomarorwowinon


Boris knocked me out in the morning on day 2. I was too happy. I was singing along to the songs in the surprise event of remembering a deck of cards to music changing up all the time. “Got me looking so crazy in love” mixed with imagining Hitler eating crickets on the loo. Imagery I will never get rid of. Boris really deserved his silver position this year. Boris happy, I am happy.


Johannes, my German teacher extraordinaire won the XMT. I have a lot to say about Johannes. Only good things I promise. But the man thinks I talk too much so I won’t say much about him. I like him.


At the US Open Simon Reinhard broke his own world record of 5-min names and faces and I got the new Swedish record and the second-best result of all time, memorizing 71 names. He told me I wasn’t close to my potential during dinner in LA. I’ve captured this moment.


Finally a fine fucking thank you to the MC and organizer Nelson for making memory sports exciting, bringing awesome people together under the sun and helping a poor student survive the summer with the prize money.


Also a huge thank you to Micha and Flo for organizing the first ever US Memory Open – digital is the future. Hugs and conversations with Flo (sometimes I just see myself in him, it’s strange) are always appreciated and Micha even let me borrow his awesome hoodie.


Thanks to <3 Beth and Brad for giving me rides, cookies and encouragement.


And so many thanks to the rest of the XMT/Dart peeps – Mary, Mike and the ominous “Simon Orton”… Thanks to Linda for being so nice to me and helping me find a curling iron and getting Ola to buy me tacos (he also got me 4 cans of Mountain Dew, that’s 1,33l of soda for lunch – WHO DOES THAT?).



The Pizza


After only having pretty shit pizza since like November, it left me in a non-pizza funk. I even thought I had celiac’s disease just because I felt so bad afterwards. At one point, dare I say it, I even thought I didn’t like pizza.


The pizza in China wasn’t great and when I got back to Stockholm it was more of a comfort food than something I was craving.


But this pizza in the U.S. was awesome. I had forgotten I love pizza. I love America!


P.S, Wessel and my epic friendship would’ve never blossomed if he hadn’t been wearing a t-shirt with the words PIZZA on it at the UK Open. Pizza is my saviour.


The Places – poverty and paradise


San Diego is gorgeous, but the East Village was a little shady. Same with deep in Downtown LA. Even though I’ve been in the slums of Mumbai and Kibera… holy shit this was like a whole new level of poverty. I think it felt worse because most of the people were so miserable and angry all the time. You’d be walking down the street and BAM – there’s a person sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk or BAM – person screaming about money in yo’ face. What is that?


Anyways except for my one experience with these weird areas when I took the bus from LA to San Diego it was beautiful EVERYWHERE. And also I think Starbucks is only hiring gorgeous redheads. I recommend Starbucks +++++.


There is a distinct smell that happens only in palm-tree dense areas. I like it. It reminded me of a breezy day in Mombasa with Jo. I usually don’t like Mombasa, but that one day when it was breezy. Damn. Heaven. Also, the less I need to wear the happier I am so <3 sunny places.


The Press


The XMT 2015 was very media-friendly and everyone was really nice and interesting… I almost always find journalists interesting, maybe I’m biased because I never managed to become one myself. 

Joao Medeiros from Wired talked to me which is amazing since I share his piece on dyslexia with every one of my dyslectic friends but unfortunately most don’t read it because… they have dyslexia. Conversations with him were sporadic but almost always jam-packed with interesting things that made my mind explode, but I think I managed to play it cool.

Damon had the best “atmospheric” and portrait pictures –  I couldn’t stop bothering him about sending his RAW files to me. I know, I’m a bad person. Also Jeremy was helping out even though he fractured his finger “playing basketball”. Please click for a NSFL picture of his finger.

Liana and Keegam making a piece for the Guardian were cool. I wish I would one day be as cool, calm and collected as Liana. But alas, I am me. The things I do are cool and calm and in my moments of solitude I’m collected but I am bursting at the seams with emotions almost 24/7 otherwise. I have an instacrush on her @lianaagh – “hopping from LA to Yerevan and everywhere in between”. I mean come on? HOW COOL IS THAT!?

Jeffbenzac is a dashing new boy-band slash film crew. They were cool. I’m extremely weak for people who can afford to give compliments that I think are genuine and for people who know how to handle C300’s so I’m biased here as well I suppose. Oh well. I signed away my soul to them so I have to be supportive. GO JEFFBENZAC!!! (feat. Bob). 

Also, the NBC crew were cool. Joe Fryer had the biggest smile it was distracting and I couldn’t string together sentences that made sense at times and I accidentally kept saying shit. Shit. They were all super professional though. Jody acted as my make-up assistant because I’m so bad at trying to be pretty and Steve told me he could tell I was from Sweden based on the way I expressed myself hehe… Can’t take the Swede out of the… No. I’ll stop here. 

The Portions 

THIS IS WHY AMERICA IS OBESE. It’s not the gluten, the corn-syrup etc. THE PORTIONS ARE GINORMOUS EVERYWHERE. My fridge was overflowing with left-overs when I left San Diego. No one needs to eat « a mountain of nachos drenched in cheese ». Why would anyone even order that? (I’m looking at you, Herr Konrad). I liked the size of the pizza though.


The Patriarchy


Ah yes. I started playing this game – « how many minutes does it take for this man to make a comment about the way I look? ». Then I started playing a reverse game called “Say something about his looks back and wait for his reaction”. “Women should be wearing hats” – is totally OK to say. “You look hot for 68” – said by a girl is somehow not OK.

Many guys had to make comments about their own masculinity as well. « OK. Is there another store in the vicinity that does sell tampons?». « Well I wouldn’t know. » Yes dude, I’m aware you’re a dude, but I hope you having a penis doesn’t render you completely incapable of knowing which stores sell tampons god fucking damn.

Number of times I can recall that I heard the tired phrase « sex sells »- 23.

THE STARING. I would walk into a place and people would just be staring at my legs like it was their business. I know my legs are awesome and without heels it looks like my calves will explode in your face so people stare just to take precaution but goddamn. Guys would also ask me about my hair, my height, my lashes etc. It was weird. So many American men are like metrosexual and über-machismo all at the same time. Verwirrend.


The personal/psychological stuff about competing

I made a little rough calibrating in my mind about how to get to day 2. It was down to the last match of images, the discipline in which I qualified in first place. I knew Enkhjin was good enough to get 9s in images though… So it was all about whether I wanted to risk not moving to day 2 for the chance of 2000 dollars. If I lost and either Marlo or Lance won their rounds I would have no chance. I made a very mature decision to go super-slow on images at around 21s and made it! 

On day 2 I decided the happy attitude is the only thing I cared about. I made more than enough money to pay for my summer flights to Paris, Tokyo, UB, Hong Kong, London and with me landing in the group of death I really didn’t think I would advance to day 2. I was just happy. As soon as I got eliminated I took a nap and continued research for my thesis. Take a look at me now, I’m an adult and I make adult decisions.

The rest of the trip was mostly euphoric. I got super-sad and started crying during a hiccup of the abstract images that left me with a raw score of 196, but I decided to look at it from the bright side and I realized after a few minutes that the bright side was blindingly bright… So it was somehow still good.

And because someone else has always said it best:

 “Some of the best days of my life, with some of the best and coolest people around, and all of this in Southern California – what else can you wish for?”  – Simon Reinhard

 And also just go Team Wessel for motivating me to no end and a HUGE thanks to Cathy for saving me from menstrual cramps and for taking my new favourite picture.

Puss :*


memory competitions

Würzburg Open & Süddeutsche Gedächtnismeisterschaft 2015

My shutter count is high because there's an old lady photobombin me in every other picture

“Excellent”. My shutter count is high because there’s an old lady photobombin’ me in every other picture

The playlist ^ mostly listened to Ur cool, I’m Good, Yellow, Nothing but a Heartbeat and Even If I’m Loud Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking to You.


There is a police raid or a bomb threat or both at the airport and so the entire baggage claim area looks like a crime scene. “Wie lange müssen wir warten dann?” “Euh… 5 minuten oder 5 stunden… das kann ich nicht sagen…”. Great.

So somewhere between 5 minutes and 5 hours later I get my luggage and continue to the trains. The trains are all but one cancelled. Great. The one train that isn’t cancelled gets me there 30 minutes before the competition starts. I talk to the Swedish junior soccer team and we have a moment of mutual respect and admiration and I calm down for a bit.

Frankfurt Flughafen

I felt like taking Hipster-y pictures of Frankfurt Airport

The Swedish Junior soccer team

The Swedish Junior soccer team

We pass idyllic German landscapes, listening to music from Chihiro and I’m feeling awfully nostalgic about everything that’s changed. But it also reminds me that I’ll be in Japan soon enough and get to kiss and hug my sisters again. I get to Würzburg 20 minutes later than expected. I grab the first cab I see. I ask him if I can pay with a card and he says no.

The moment of panic when you realize you have shilling, yen, yuan and Icelandic kronor but you forgot all your Euros at home.

The moment of panic when you realize you have shilling, forint, yuan, tögrög etc but you forgot all your Euros at home.

Halfway through the trip to the university he tells me it’s going to cost 11 euros. Scraping all my coins together I have about 6. I offer to pay him in bob, kuai, Icelandic kronor, yen etc. We stop the meter and he tells me it’s been so nice just talking about life in Würzburg and helping improve someone’s German that he doesn’t mind. Awesome.

I get to the Informatikgebäude in time. Luckily memory competitions have a tendency to not run on time, no matter how well-organized and carefully planned (as was the case for the Würzburg Open). I get to hug all the people I adore and the weather is amazing. I’m so sleep-deprived and excited at the same time that everything has a surrealistic feel.

Spoken numbers trial 1

I get to all 200 without any hiccups. It feels perfect. I’m in flow. Something happens and I have to do recall on paper with not the best pens in the world. I mess up early on at 64 digits. Still a personal competition best. Hannes and Simon get over 100.

Spoken numbers trial 2

I just want to get 100 in competition. I choose my favorite location, the house I’ve lived in since I was 13. The house I saw for the last time just the day before coming to Würzburg. It has so many different rooms that I almost never mess up. It’s perfect and I’ve never felt so focused in my life. I realize I might’ve passed 100 a couple of locations ago. I stop. Rather memorize 100+ and get 100+ than memorize 400+ and get less than 100. I have loads of time to go through the locations. I only have one thing I’m unsure of. It’s either Obama with a bottle of absolut vodka (5243) or Obama dunking a basketball (5241). The thing is… I’ve seen Obama dunking a basketball on TV, so that imagery is really strong. I haven’t seen him stumbling around drunk.

I go with drunk Obama. I’m the only one left in the room. I go out and ask Jonas what it was. 5243. Phew. I am so happy. The Reulkes tell me I got a perfect 128. My score doesn’t show on the results page. But Annalena announces that I’ve won the discipline, I jump up and down and almost knock over a chair and turn into Boris for a second. Hannes says it was a good score with no sarcasm in his voice. Awesome.

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Lance posts on my wall saying “the queen of spoken digits” and it feels awesome and I’m hoping I’ll continue being that from now on.

Cherry on top I get to cuddle and kiss this puppy after the announcement

Cherry on top I get to cuddle and kiss this puppy after the announcement



Numbers 15 minutes

I’ve practiced this discipline maybe five times. Maybe. I go for a very safe 600 but somehow mess up and get 440. Oh well.

Cards 10 minutes

After getting 260 just last week I want to go for a semi-safe 312. It feels so natural – too natural maybe. I get cocky. I go for 6,5 decks because of mid-competition hubris. I botch it completely and get a little over 3 decks. Hannes scores 380 and gets the new world record.


They’ve forgotten how to get to the garage. After some mucking about we get into Boris’ car and drive to the Italian restaurant. The waiter and I start speaking Italian and I order the steak. I tell Wessel he’s sort of kind of my best friend. Malte tells me Måns Zelmerlöw will win the Eurovision Song Contest. I have no opinion about this. I tell Boris about my first tutoring session, that I taught a girl 100 decimals of pi and how much money I’m demanding from the different people who want me on their shows and/or in their documentaries and/or to teach their kids and I feel like I’ve grown so much in this department since the last time I spoke with him about getting paid what you’re actually worth.

Omkar and Jonas look like besties

Omkar and Jonas look like besties

Johannes Zhou gets that we're besties so he let's me and Wessel sit together so we can send snaps to randoms

Johannes Zhou gets that we’re besties so he let’s me and Wessel sit together so we can send snaps to randoms

I look way smarter with glasses

I look way smarter with glasses

Eating animals :'(

Eating animals :'(


We take the bus and get to know Lars Christiansen better

We take the bus and get to know Lars Christiansen better

Names and faces 5 minutes

The names are of the same difficulty as in Gothenburg, maybe only slightly harder. Two seconds before recall ends I remember Nganga – one of our chauffeurs in Nairobi, also a Facebook friend, also means tomato in Swahili. I also realize I was looking for the phrase “your d**k OH!” in the wrong languages. I was searching in Mongolian/German but I had memorized it in French. Goddamn Tabito.

It’s too late. I get 71. My score for this discipline in May is 71, 72, 71. Simon gets 77. It feels bad until Boris tells me he attempted more with better accuracy. Jan-Hendrik has it worse getting 66, 67 being the Junior record and he has several names that are just off by one or two letters. The scoring in names and faces feels unfair. But moreover I’m blanking completely on how to improve in this discipline.

Speed numbers trial 1

I’m just in the zone. I’m still using what Johannes Zhou, Jonas and I dubbed « The S.T.U.P.I.D. System » = a.k.a. a very dumb version of PAO that is very slow and uses 10 digits per location. But it works because I’m in the zone. I write it all down so fast and with so much certainty it feels alien. I get 280/280 – personal best in the house.

Speed numbers trial 2

I’m going for 320. Mess up somewhat but not brutally. 280 is still the better score.

Random words 5 min

I’m not running out of locations like last week in Gothenburg so I’ve prepared up to 130. I realize the words aren’t sorted so it feels really easy. The first column consists of only verbs, the second column is made up of abstract nouns then everything is just concrete nouns. It’s so easy it becomes hard. I sometimes don’t even put the words in the location. I miss two words on almost every column. I get 32/142. The scoring in words feels unfair and shitty. But I convince myself I’m just going to have to learn to be bulletproof.

Binary digits 5 min

I’m going for a safe 750 to get 750, because it leaves me enough time to repeat everything. I get 576. It always feels weird when you go safe and it still goes poorly. I know I got 681/900 the week before and start wondering whether I would’ve scored better if I hadn’t started repeating.

Abstract 15 minutes

I promise myself to go for a safe 450. We do it on paper. I break that promise and go for 550 because I forget to stop at 9 pages. The recall sheet is not as good as the memorization sheet. I get 383. Hannes gets 387 – one row more. For the third time in 2015, I mess up pretty badly in abstract but at least I got second place.

I skype with these two and my brother is only happy when he sees Hannes -.-

I skype with my mom and my brother. He is only happy when he sees Hannes though -.- I am second to Hannes in an entirely new and different discipline.

Historic dates

Once again, I forget to stop and repeat. Go through the entire list even though I never ever do that. I get 31.5. Personal worst? Not sure. This is the equivalent of getting less than 25 digits in XMT-numbers. Not OK.

Speed cards trial 1

I dance around, I get pumped up and as I slide my hand down a pillar that I dance past I cut all of my fingers on a poster. I’m an idiot, I run and grab the first aid-kit with my bleeding hand. It hurts like a mothertucker. I did not think that one through. Simon helps me find which of the million things in German is a band-aid. Soren offers me painkillers.

I'm the master of dance.

I am the master of dance and luck.

It’s awesome. 36 seconds. I stand up and do recall like Jonas and it’s so perfect I’m getting worried. I triple-check it. Boris is my arbiter. I’ve accidentally switched two cards. Two cards. I made a flying Kim Kardashian, even though it was obviously Thor trying to tape stuff. 18 cards. It doesn’t feel awesome.

Speed cards trial 2

My second deck isn’t shuffled. Nenette (Sorens wife – also has one of the prettiest names I’ve ever heard of) shuffles it for me. 33s. It feels a little so-so. In a last-minute stupid decision I’ve used one of my lesser journeys. It shows. I have four cards that I’m unsure of. 1 minute until recall time ends. I realize there are 16 possible combinations and the gaps I have are on location 3 and 24, so no matter where I mess up I’ll only get 4 cards. Shit.

I botch it.

Over at the other table there’s a roar and a world record is announced. I applaud hard, bleeding, sweaty post-speed cards fingers and all.

World record in da haus

World record in da haus

I still get 4th place and it feels great. And if only for this weekend I feel like I could really be great one day.

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Boris gets into speaking mode and we accidentally learn the names of all the German presidents

Boris gets into speaking mode and we accidentally learn the names of all the German presidents

Micha gets his own model for being awesome

Micha gets his own medal for being awesome and continuing this jam

Jonas also spoke a bit of German and it was awesome

Jonas speaks  a bit of German and it was awesome

Jonas juggles and memorizes spoken numbers. The Germans compete by memorizing flash numbers USA-style. Hannes is not so surprisingly the winner. Fabian Saal breaks some sort of record that has to do with Pi that I don’t completely understand.

World record in da haus

This is what a world record looks like

Wessel gets tired of me taking pictures of us

Wessel gets tired of me taking pictures of us and there’s a displeased German in the middle

But idgaf so we have this one with vegetarian Gaby and Süddeutsche master of memory Melanie in the back

But idgaf so we have this one with vegetarian Gaby and Süddeutsche master Melanie in the back

Me and trophies totally work but I have to work harder to get them

Me and trophies totally work but I’m not trying hard enough to get them

Melanie wins the Süddeutsche and I'm so happy for her because she was so set on that goal.

Melanie wins the Süddeutsche and I’m so happy for her and it makes it that much cuter that she says it was her dream.

We drive past an odd group of people

We drive past an odd group of people

Eating animals again :'(

Eating animals again :'(

Me and wine don't go together but I'm really trying to make it work

Me and wine don’t go together but I’m really trying to make it work

Our night walk takes a philosophical turn and I see signs like this everywhere

Our night walk takes a philosophical turn and I see signs like this everywhere


Thinking about Marco Polo Season 2

Thinking about Marco Polo Season 2

I take more hipster pictures of Würzburg

I take more hipster pictures of Würzburg

I bid Wessel farewell in the morning, go for a long walk with music by myself and chat a bit with people I adore who aren’t with me irl. Meet up the others by the central station and say goodbye, get on the train to Frankfurt with JZhou and Jonas. I feel so happy. It feels like what I imagine hanging out on the Hogwarts Express would be like (minus Draco, the dementors and other drama.) In Frankfurt we eat at Johannes’ parents restaurant (Asia Express, iirc) which has such good food I force myself to continue eating even though I’m not feeling very hungry.

I think Johannes would be the Hermione of our group because he's more organized.

I think Johannes would be the Hermione of our group because he’s smart and can do mental calculation magic. Jonas is def Harry with the hair and I’m such a Ron. Or maybe I’m Harry because I keep asking everyone the most basic questions all the time… -_-

We get to the airport. I’ve reached conclusions about certain relationships and Jonas acts as a stand-in girlfriend (in lieu of Fro and Emilia not being by my side) and agrees with me. I feel free. We say goodbye. I’m thankful for Christian, Annalena and Boris and ALL OTHERS who made this weekend happen.

Spot the World Memory Champion

Spot the World Memory Champion

We fly to the coast of Croatia during sunset and there’s a scent of wild flowers everywhere and I can’t imagine the amount of kittens we’ve had to have saved in previous lives to be able to witness such beauty. A new week starts.