Sunday, July 29, 2007

And what are the extra four digits for, again?

Excerpt from the post-trivia phone call with the gf:
"Did you know that polar bears don't have white fur?"
"Yeah. It's transparent. Didn't you know that?"

Needless to say, flying solo at trivia has been a disaster so far. The other misses:

1. Before the invention of the modern basketball, the game of basketball was played with what sport's ball?
2. How many known species of poisonous bird are there: 0, 1, or 2?
3. What country sent out 15,000 census workers in 1990 to count the country's homeless population?
4. Which coin features Dwight D. Esienhower?
5. What is Bob Dylan's real name?
6. What does the ZIP in ZIP code stand for?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oh, foul accursed thing! What demon from the depths of hell created thee!

At my previous educational stop, one of the perks of being a graduate assistant was a "temporary faculty" parking sticker, which allowed us to park in employee spaces. Here, graduate assistants must purchase student parking permits. I'm willing to pay for my parking, but it has long rankled me that I have to compete with my students for a space.
Things have been different this week. When the gf moved, she left me her parking permit, so now I get to park in those coveted spaces right next to the buildings, instead of shlepping my bags in from the commuter lots. At least, that's the dream. The reality is that I've spent 15-20 minutes each day driving around looking for parking; those spots fill up fast. And the spots I end up with aren't that much closer.
So, getting what I wanted hasn't really worked out so far. I suppose I'll complain a little less about the commuter permit when fall classes start. But not much less. What fun would that be?

Friday, July 20, 2007

A story you won't read this weekend

Last Friday, I was tabbed to help the gf move. She got a job in Winston-Salem, about three hours down the road. She was going to be reimbursed for moving expenses, so she shopped around and found a relocation service (recommended by the U.S. Postal Service in their MoversGuide®), scheduled the move, packed everything herself, even made sure that it would be no problem for the movers to pick up the new furniture she had bought at a store a few miles up the road. Meanwhile, my duties consisted mainly of scheduling her going-away get-togethers.
The trouble began Thursday. The gf arrived at trivia, smiled at the friends come to say farewell, and said, "I'm not moving tomorrow." She had called the relocation service to confirm the movers were coming on Friday. She was placed on hold, transferred to someone else, placed on hold, transferred to someone at the moving company that had been hired to actually move her stuff, placed on hold, transferred to someone else, placed on hold, and finally told that no, they would be arriving on Saturday. The remainder of the conversation:
"But I scheduled this for Friday."
"Well, we're very backed up, and we have a two-day window to arrive."
"Was anyone going to call me and inform me that you weren't coming?"
"We're very sorry, ma'am." (Translation: no)

Friday was spent calling Nationwide Relocation Services and Ben-Hur Moving (a "local mover," based in the Bronx. Yes, the one in New York.) to make sure that a) the movers would actually show up on Saturday and b) there wasn't some nasty hidden "weekend rate." Her suspicions rose when she started trying to give people directions relating to picking up the new furniture; every single person cut her off with "no, no, I don't need to know that, you'll have to tell [insert person who would be called next]." Still, she was assured, there would be no problem picking up the new furniture. When she asked what time the movers were coming, no one would commit to a time. When she asked if it could be narrowed to morning/afternoon, she was told only that the drivers would call, and they would give her sufficient warning before they arrived.
Saturday came, and by noon, she had recruited her father to the calling effort, because the movers still hadn't called, and she wanted to get out of the contract and just rent a U-Haul. Sadly, the service would not cancel the contract unless she agreed to forfeit the $900 deposit. Finally, at 1:30, the driver called.
"I'm confirming a pickup for 11:00."
"11:00? As in tonight?"

When asked how he planned to pick up the new furniture (remember that?), the response was, unsurprisingly, "what new furniture?"
Clearly, a midnight move was not an option, so after several more hours of increasingly angry phone calls, it was agreed that the movers would pick up the furniture at 9:00 Sunday morning, and then come to Clemson. My job was to keep the gf sane for 24 more hours.
Sunday came, and at 9:30 the driver called.
"We're on 385, we'll be in Clemson in an hour."
"You've already picked up the furniture?"
"What furniture?"

Ever had someone blathering at you, and you weren't sure what they were talking about, and you just kept saying "yeah, yeah, okay," just to get them to leave you alone? That's what happened here. They finally picked up the furniture at 11:00 (on a Sunday, recall; the store owner is a saint), got to Clemson at 1:00, and took four hours to load three small rooms. At 5:00, I went home to walk the dog and get ready for the drive to Winston-Salem. As soon as I walked in the door, the phone rang.
"Is my contract there?"
"Yep, right here on the kitchen counter."
"What does it say about who I have to pay when I have to pay them?"
"Payment On Delivery. There's nothing about who you pay, but I would assume you pay the relocation service. Why?"
"The movers say I have to pay them the balance now. And they don't take credit cards. And they won't leave until I sign a document saying that I understand this, and that I'm expected to tip them 10%. It's Sunday! Where am I going to get $800 in cash?"
I spent some time working for a moving company, and not once in that time did I hear it suggested that I, or any of my co-workers, or the OTR drivers we would help, receive a tip. Maybe it was just that company. Maybe this started when the coffeehouse tip jar started invading every store in creation. But that's sort of tangential to the point, which was that the tip, the cash-only policy, the demand for payment before delivery, were surprises. You would think, in several weeks worth of phone calls arranging this, someone would have mentioned that, oh, yes, you need to have cash or a cashier's check on hand to pay the movers before delivery. An hour later, she called back:
"I'm not moving tonight. I'll be there in a few minutes."
It took until Monday evening to get her moved in, almost 72 hours behind schedule.

Maybe this is exactly what one is supposed to expect when moving. Maybe we were being unreasonable, and everyone involved in both the moving company and the relocation service acted professionally at every turn. But, as I said, there were a lot of surprises in this move, and there seemed to be no effort made to keep us informed, and a lot of effort to avoid taking responsibility for anything. At any rate, there's your cautionary tale. Get things in writing, ask lots of questions, and then ask more questions, and expect the things you got in writing to be meaningless.

The Middle of the Film

This was last night's trivia final:
On a certain street, there are five houses in five different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. Each owner drinks a certain type of beverage, smokes a certain brand of cigarette, and keeps a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, drink the same beverage, or smoke the same brand of cigarette. Also:
  • The Brit lives in the red house.
  • The Swede owns a dog.
  • The Dane drinks tea.
  • The green house is on the left and next to the white house.
  • The green homeowner drinks coffee.
  • The person who smokes Pall Mall raises birds.
  • The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  • The man living in the center house drinks milk.
  • The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  • The man who smokes Blends lives next to the cat owner.
  • The man who keeps the horse lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  • The man who smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
  • The German smokes Prince.
  • The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  • The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.
  • One man owns a fish.

The question is: Who owns the fish?

The toenails never grow at all?

I've been trying to write a trivia week, and I've come to appreciate just how hard it is. Twenty-two questions (twenty, if you go with a "Six Degrees" halftime question), they have to be unambiguous, they have to be hard enough to make people think, but not so hard that no one in the restaurant will know them. I can see how the guess-the-number questions creep in so often.
This week, I'm afraid the creators fell down on the "unambiguous" part. While the Cajuns did indeed come from the Acadia region of what is now Canada, they are mainly of French descent, and were expelled from the region a good eighty years before Canada became a country (thanks Wikipedia!), so to say that they emigrated from Canada (and not France) is not entirely correct. The big controversy, though, was over the following question: "Name one of the two man-made structures visible from space." Nearly everyone submitted The Great Wall of China, and was surprised to find out that it was wrong! The correct answers given were the Pyramids of Giza and the Hoover Dam. The only place I can find this as an answer is here, but the Great Wall has been confirmed as visible, as has the Three Gorges Dam. The problem, as several articles mention, is defining "from space." If you're just in low earth orbit, you can see lots of man-made structures (I can't find the Hoover Dam in these photos of Lake Mead, but that sure looks like an airport in the lower left corner). If you're out near the moon (it was claimed that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon), you can't see anything man-made. So, not the best question.

Here are my other misses. I just found out I got number 5 right, so I continue to be unhappy. I'll post the final question as a puzzle.

1. What is the full name (first and last) of the principal on "Saved By The Bell?"
2. What is the only planet in our solar system to rotate clockwise?
3. How many verses in "The Star-Spangled Banner?"
4. Connect Christopher Walken to Jeremy Piven in two degrees.
5. What is the oldest soft drink in America?
6. Which grows faster, the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, or your toenails?
7. What was the name of the dog on "Fraggle Rock?"

Where'd You Go?

Okay, so I'm behind on a lot of things:
1) The running. As you can see, that went on hiatus after three days. I really do want to start up again, but I'm doing a lot of traveling, and I generally am not in the mood to run after long drives.
2) The posting. I will put up this week's trivia, as soon as I sort through what I actually got wrong, and I'll put the final question as a separate post, as it's another puzzle. I also have a story about the gf's move to Winston-Salem, which took approximately three days longer than it should have.
3) The research. The actual reason I'm in school, instead of sitting in a cubicle somewhere. I was hoping to come up with some publishable material this summer, but it's looking less likely now. There's always fall term.
4) The lawn. Not that you need to know about that.

I'm starting the catch-up effort today. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tim Taylor Would Have Cleaned Up

Trivia league drama: due to a laptop crash, The Powers That Be have lost the first two weeks' worth of scores. I remember our score from week one, I think I know our score from week two, but we finished way behind those weeks, whereas we've won the two weeks since. What to do, what to do....
Anywho, we did finish in first again this week, by a single point. It would have been more, but someone (i.e., me) overruled the four other people at the table who were "pretty sure" they knew how many stars were in the Little Dipper, thus costing us a 5-point question. Of course, if the first two questions of each of the first three rounds hadn't been "guess the number"-type questions, this wouldn't have occurred. Having thought about it for a week or so, those questions bother me a lot more than what I consider overly specific questions;. After all, in a team of 4-6 people of a certain age, someone is bound to have seen Gone In 60 Seconds; how many people are going to be able to guess the first year that Chevrolet made the Corvette?
Our misses, plus two lucky guesses, and the final, which fits into the puzzle content that I am so woefully behind on:

1. What was the first Japanese car produced in the United States?
2. How many glasses (8 oz.) of milk does the average cow produce in her lifetime?
3. How many stars make up the Little Dipper?
4. What was the maximum horsepower of the original Porsche 911, which was produced in 1964?
5. In what year was the first Corvette produced?
What is the next number in this sequence:
2, 10, 30, 68, 130, 222, ???

Sunday, July 8, 2007

More Sunday Randomness

As I was driving home last night, I heard a new (at least to me) installment of "Real Men of Genius." This one was a salute to "Mr. Taxicab Over-accessorizer - only you can proudly say, 'Yes! I have junk in my trunk!'"
What's your favorite RMoG spot? My top three:

3. Mr. Boneless Buffalo Wing Inventor - how do you improve upon a meat that's breaded, buttered, double fried, and dipped in bleu cheese dressing? Remove the only part that doesn't contain fat.
2. Mr. Really Bad Toupee Wearer - A classic. He's not fooling anyone.
1. Mr. Egg Nog Inventor - At least we've never been exposed to "the ill-advised pork nog."

Eventually, we all become parodies of ourselves

I'm watching the Pixies on Austin City Limits right now, and I don't think there's a word in the English language to describe how depressing it is. Frank Black has a range of about one octave these days. The crowd has some original fans in the back who are bouncing around, but the teenagers in the front are about as into this as they would be the opening act in the Corner at the Middle East. Crikey, if the Pixies can get old and fat, what hope do the rest of us have?

Friday, July 6, 2007

No MIT student would miss the last one

Here's the thing about being in the "trivia league:" the gf and I had planned a leisurely drive back from my ancestral home, figuring trivia night would not be held right after the holiday. When we were informed otherwise, we suddenly had a 6:30 departure time, breakfast in the car, and a comical scene in which I ran into the restaurant to sign in, while she drove home to drop off our pets. There's big money on the line here, folks.
A miss on the first question made me wonder if the effort had been worth it, but as it turned out, the rest of the night was question after question right in our wheelhouse - movies, geography, 80's pop culture. When the halftime category is questions about ALF, you know the team named "Gordon Shumway's Cat-sitting" is going to do well. We had two misses on the night; the first one, we'd have gotten right if one of our cohorts had been able to make it before halftime, and the second one, we missed by a year. We even corrected the hostess on a typo in the final question - who ever heard of "Wesley College?"
The first two are our actual misses; I added a few more that I liked, plus the final.

1. In the movie Gone In 60 Seconds, what is the name of Nicholas Cage's 1968 Shelby Mustang GT 500?
2. In what year did South Africa begin to dismantle the Apartheid political system?
3. What is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust?
4. What do you call the offspring of a male tiger and a female lion?
5. What 2008 Presidential candidate was once president of the College Republicans at Wellesley College?

Edited to add: Actually, there are many, many Wesley Colleges; one is in Dublin, two are in Australia, and there are at least three in the U.S., including two in the fictional state of Delaware. Fortunately, no current U.S. Presidential candidates attended any of them.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sadly, there were no questions about Zork

I'm on vacation, so I'm a little behind on posting. It seems a lot of teams had a bad week; there was a lot of booing at answers, even more booing when we were told "we're also accepting [other answer]," and a somewhat acrimonious dispute over the actual dimensions of a two-by-four. I think I'm not a fan of league play so far, and it's not just because we've picked a bad time to go into a slump.
Lots of misses this week:

1. Which city in Missouri do you depart from in the classic computer game "Oregon Trail?"
2. In the game "Number Munchers," what are the names of the cannibalistic monsters who try to eat your character?
3. Where is the nine-foot statue which commemorates Balto and his Alaskan journey?
4. What is a female cat called?
5. What was the hourly rate of the first federally-mandated minimum wage, set in 1938?
6. How many mainland civilian casualties did the U.S. suffer in WWII?
7. What is the color of mourning in China?
8. Before the invention of jets or air travel, what was jet lag called?
9. The word "testify" is based upon men in Roman courts swearing to a statement as true upon... what?