Thursday, December 23, 2004

A happy Chrimble and a gear New Year. Back in a few.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Somehow I found this quote from today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch to be very funny out of context:

"Wal-Mart has offered steep discounts on computers in the past, but many lacked operating systems."

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that last night I found, and tossed out, some of my old File Systems homework from Harvard Extension School. In retrospect, File Systems was really the course that made me realize I wasn't cut out to be a programmer. I liked my instructor, and eventually did well in the course (I'm pretty sure I got at least a B+), but the overall struggle-to-pleasure ratio was not favorable. I probably should have kept at least one bagged specimen, but if the time elapsed between this re-read and the next matched the previous interval, I'll be 64 when I look at it again, and I prefer to think that at that point in my life I'll have more interesting things to do.

We continue to open boxes that were packed between 1974 and 1996, which means that I've found a lot of my old writing - some of it from the days when I did my MIT humanities concentration in Creative Writing, some of it related to the early days of my return to quiz bowl. In general, I've been dumping the serious stuff, but keeping some of the funny stuff (or at least the stuff that was meant to be funny). For example: In 1981, I co-wrote a 60-page script for a Tech Show with this guy, who is going to be very much amused when he reads my e-mail and finds out that a copy is extant. We had both given it up for lost until I found my copy this evening. (The show was never produced; although the selection committee liked the script, Steve and I had both already graduated, and shows written by current students were, fairly enough, given preference.)

Since almost all the readership of this blog comes from the quizbowl community rather than from among my fellow MIT alumni, I'll go ahead and include another piece that I found, which I posted to the old Usenet quizbowl group back around 1993. Some of the feats described here will seem lame by 2004 sensibilities, since the bar has risen considerably over the last decade, but I'm not going to try to update it more than slightly right now. Anyone who'd like to add to it, of course, should contact me via the comments link.


Type: The Gunslinger
Major: Unpredictable.
Succinct description: Will shoot at anything that moves and a few things that don't.
Best moment: Barked out "Hussein" after an early thumb twitch, then correctly guessed which Hussein when the moderator said, "Be more specific."
Worst moment: Forgot that it was Burr who shot Hamilton, and not the other way around.
Future career: High school teacher/quiz coach with emphasis on discipline.

Type: The Renaissance (Wo)Man
Major: Natural sciences, classics, literature, or all of the above.
Succinct description: Reads books like s/he ran out of lithium.
Best moment: In his or her first game ever, pulled out "Teilhard de Chardin" after the words "This Jesuit paleontologist ..."
Worst moment: Any current-events question.
Future career: Academic, with a sense of humor.

Type: The Quagga Hunter
Major: Pre-med or pre-law.
Succinct description: Hears hoofbeats and immediately thinks of a zebra.
Best moment: Spelled "paparazzi" correctly after the tossup's mention of Ron Galella.
Worst moment: Same as above; the correct answer was "Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis".
Future career: An obscure but astronomically-salaried medical or legal specialty.

Type: The Cross-Buzzer
Major: History, but also knows every step of the Krebs cycle cold.
Succinct description: A real pain in the ass, but in a good way.
Best moment: Beat the team's physics major to three (correct) physics tossups in a single tournament.
Worst moment: Beat the team's English-literature whiz to one (incorrect) Shakespeare tossup near the end of a close game.
Future career: Several; may throw over a stellar management-consulting career to start medical school at age 36.

Type: The Silent Partner
Major: Hasn't told us yet.
Succinct description: A headful of answers pleading in vain to be let out.
Best moment: Scored only one tossup in the whole Campus Challenge - the one that won the final match.
Worst moment: "Oooohh, I KNEW that!" ... for the fifth time in the tournament.
Future career: Diplomat with CIA connections.

Type: Captain Bligh
Major: Something authority-oriented, like management or elementary ed.
Succinct description: Terror reigns from the second seat.
Best moment: Correctly overruled half of the answers given by teammates in a crucial game.
Worst moment: Incorrectly overruled the other half.
Future career: Will go far in any (s)he chooses, if (s)he's not murdered first.

Type: Aerobics Junkie
Major: We're afraid to ask; (s)he'll probably mime it.
Succinct description: Poetry in motion, history in motion, chemistry in motion....
Best moment: Entertained the whole room with expansive hand gestures during a bonus conferral on Italian art terms.
Worst moment: Got busted for conferring on a tossup because of a buzzer hand twitching too close to the captain's nose.
Future career: Children's show host or television evangelist.

Type: Entertainment Specialist
Major: Communications.
Succinct description: Always at the movies or in front of the TV - and gets a 4.0 every semester.
Best moment: Ran an unassisted 30-point bonus on Emmy-winning soap stars of the early 1980s.
Worst moment: Once confused Janet Gaynor with Norma Shearer, but, what the hell - the rest of the team was already lost.
Future career: Film critic.

Type: The Penitent
Major: Religion.
Succinct description: Not a bad player, but heavily into self-flagellation.
Best moment: "I never had a best moment. I suck."
Worst moment: Hard to pick one, because (s)he remembers every mistake (s)he made since middle school and will tell you about each in painful detail.
Future career: Recovered alcoholic turned professional political prude.

Type: The Tournament Director
Major: Quizbowl.
Succinct description: Masochism plus a permanent IV caffeine drip.
Best moment: Ran a high-school tournament which included 72 high-strung teams with 58 psychotic coaches; personally wrote half and edited all of the question packets; wheedled free food and supplies out of numerous local businesses; phoned 24 sleepy volunteers before 6 AM to make sure they were going to be on time; arranged to tow several team vans out of snowbanks en route, supervised the troubleshooting of a half-dozen recalcitrant buzzer sets; personally resolved 17 protests - and, after it was all over, holed up at home with two cases of Bud and a bottle of NyQuil and wasn't seen outdoors for five days.
Worst moment: Any one that involves a grade report will do.
Future career: College union executive.

(Again, if you have a favorite not mentioned here, do contact the 'Pede, who will take suggestions constructively with not even a hint of a venomous bite.)