Posted on August 3, 2008.

It's been a mixed week. Work has been frustrating, in that nothing that I've built or made works quite how I want it to, so I'm layering bodge job upon compromise upon approximation. If I have got anything remotely resembling science out at the end of next week, it's going to be a small miracle.

To keep my mind off of this fact, however, I've been enjoying the Cambridge Busking Festival this week. I've spent my lunchtimes on the streets of Cambridge, enjoying a variety of acts. The most notable, however, was Kenneth Lightfoot. He's a street magician with charisma in spades, and it says a lot that I caught him multiple times. He had an excellent ambitious card routine, complete with bending and initialing of multiple cards. The most amazing effect, however, was one that I'd not seen before.

He'd give a spectator a piece of paper, on which he was to write a two digit number, and then put it in an envelope in his pocket. He'd do a couple of illusions in the interim (he did this quite often; start things and then return to them later - an excellent way, I note, to keep a crowd) before returning to the spectator. He'd 'read his mind', and draw up a four by four grid, inside which he put numbers, seemingly at random.

One of the times I saw him, the number was in the grid, and he got a small child to wave their hand over the grid, and stop where they liked - stopping, of course, on the chosen number. The other time, the number was not in the grid, so he omitted this. In both cases, the grid, of course, was a magic square for the chosen number - and spectacularly so. Diagonals, rows, columns, corners, center four, opposite pairs, the works.

I've worked out part of the trick (at least, how I'd do it if I were instructed to come up with the effect), but obtaining the spectator's number in the first place eludes me. My mother can read what you're writing just by watching the top of your pen with surprising accuracy. It feels like cheating, but that's the best that I've come up with so far.

I've also had the distressing news that Nizlopi, who I love and see live whenever the opportunity remotely presents itself, will not be touring in 2009 at all. I also cannot make it to any of the farewell tour this autumn (all the gigs are during term time, none of them are in Cambridge, and the London date is a Wednesday). I'm going to have gone almost two year without seeing them live (best case scenario) by the time I next see them. At least I got a signed copy of Extraordinary last time I saw them.