I didn't tell you people what happened at Wednesday's logic seminar, did I?

Well, first of all it wasn't a logic seminar. I had forgotten that the logicians were not using the basement room in the math building any more, went there --- and because I am sticking out like a sore thumb the way I am, sat down and listened, along with Margarethe, and took notes on some sort of algebraic structure...which was a category. Them categories stalk me, though I miss categorial logic seminars. I categorically greet you, indeed. My graph theory professor was there and I think he noticed me. I wondered if after the seminar was over he was going to ask me why I never came back to graph theory. "Well, I, um, went to England...and, um, never came back." But he didn't ask.

Today I went to quiz bowl practice. There is a tournament coming up on the Saturday week from tomorrow; the NAQT regionals. I feared I was going to have to play alone in Division I in them, since Steinbeck and Keira both staff, but thankfully Tor (Lord of Tunder) cancelled the voyage he was going to take that weekend, and will play. And the NASCAR namesake who had been our gallant trio's fourth wheel to the Nationals in New Orleans (four months before Katrina, they are the reason I am doomed to play in Division I quiz bowl for the rest of my life) and I hope to talk him into showing up. As well as my new pub quiz teammate, possibly.

He watched me play across the buzzers, and I wondered whether he was seeing that girl from 2005; how young she had been, I look back on her,  as he and she discussed air gun technique and she read the story of Lot and the Song of Songs out of the motel Gideon Bible...How young she was, and insecure and nervous, though very good at quiz bowl. Now she calmly said, "Will you come? Please?" and mockingly fluttered her eyelashes at him, something the 2005 girl would never have done. I launch Crown Victorias (which have the equivalent horsepower of some significant number of Mycenaean ships) with a smile now; that insecure girl is gone forever. In a way, she went to England, and never came back.

So there was the great Nawlins reunion, and three first years. Who will probably make up our Div II team. Now the sad thing is, I have no idea how good our Div II quiz bowlers are, because, um, every time I've seen them play...I was playing.

After the first pack, Steinbeck had us play Tourmaline Versus The World --- or at least, everyone else with a buzzer.

Tourmaline won, 175-70.

Of course, my bonus conversion on American law cases and sports (except tennis) and Green Day and Killers songs (other than "Breaking My Back Just To Know Your Name") stinketh.
Vertical walls, take care and duck! In the mountains you cannot trust to luck:
Here neither stone nor ice nor rock is true.
We trust only in the strength of our hands; in our hands, our nailed hooks, and our friends,
And we pray that the safeties will hold through.
We trust only in the strength of our hands; in our hands, our nailed hooks, and our friends,
And we pray that the insurance will come through.

We cut out steps, dare not step back, and from strain our knees shudder and crack
And our hearts are ready to race to the peak through ribs breached.
The world is before you, you're happy and mute, and there's only a little bit of envy in you
For those others for whom the top is yet to be reached.
The world is before you, you're happy and mute, and there's only a little bit of envy in you
For those others for whom the top is yet to be reached.

So yes, third trivia night of my life is over. I now rule Beamer and have crafted works of elegant beauty in it; and that afternoon, I was in a mood I described as "an ass-kicking sock-rocking if-you-don't-love-my-work-and-me-you're-bloody-insane mood and counting on my audience jumping to THAT bar of expectations." I had the question shows in PDF and the sponsor-thanking show in PowerPoint on my USB key, and I had what proved to be remarkable foresight in emailing them to myself as well.

The energy carried me through. Looking back at the various incidents, I am surprised at how calm I remained; except for a tense line across my upper back, I was completely unruffled, not clenching, not pacing, not yelling. I had complete and total faith that things will come through and the show will go on; and if I had to hold up the show, well, then I will hold up the show. Strangely, the girl who would be horrified and tense and can't-disappoint-the-dear-public has now gone into my past. The Age of Faith and the Age of Freedom was the subtitle of an excellent Jewish history textbook I read back in Jewish school, and it seems that this year has been a year for learning for me about many kinds of faith and freedom. There is a freedom in going where you please in a world city, true; but there is also a freedom to admitting your flaws and weaknesses, a freedom from fear that they will be discovered. There is a freedom to knowing exactly where you stand with someone, and not trying to impress them; and there is a freedom, and a power, in accepting that you may make mistakes, and you may not look your best, and you may disappoint some people, and responding to that --- so what?

I would give the very wonderful Zhan Huan Zhou a name in this blog if I were not about to cite this article of his that has his name written right at the top. He told me in personal communication much later that the article was written after organizing a trivia event; today I thought of it often. "Have faith in your fellow humans," indeed.
What really happened )Yes, come to think of it, looking back on it, the night would have been calculated to get my nose out of joint; I did not mention all of the times that the AVA girls or the teachers could not understand me until the third time I rephrased myself, or all of the times the youngsters come to play trivia were noisy, squealing and nearly turned a rock-paper-scissors game violent. Somehow I did not let that bother me, as I would have in the past.

Gods, if ye were testing me, I passed the test with flying colours. I would like to thank the Academy... I can has reward now, plz?
syncategorematic: (erythraean sibyl)
( Nov. 21st, 2007 08:24 pm)
""Then you love it. For if you fear it because it is stronger than you, and hate it because you fear it, you love it. For you cannot submit it to your will. One loves only the things one cannot conquer."

Beg pardon, dear I-330, dead in a bell jar in Evgeny Zamiatin's We, but I disagree. For today I have extensively made a slideshow submit to my will, by messing with its code, no less (obviously its code was not an Aries nor a Taurus nor a Sagittarius, although it is on the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius now). I know this slideshow as I have never known my Keynote and PowerPoint presentations; I know what makes it tick, and exactly what is \begin{figure} \centering \includegraphics[height=50mm]{canada} \end{figure}. I can change its look in a few keystrokes. It is almost completely submitted to my will (I confess, the theme I am using, I use because it is what the Not-So-Short Introduction to LaTeX 2\epsilon recommended in its templates....but I only learned this software for the first time on Monday night, so give me some leeway here!)

And I love the thing.

Truly, I love everything I've worked long and closely with. Even the bagelshop, Indeed, this is a human characteristic; having a lot of information for something and affection for it go hand in hand, which is why the Emergency Handbook recommended making friends with your captors in a hostage situation as much as possible, showing them pictures of your children and your intimate moments. Which is why  The Math Gene claimed that mathematicians know numbers the way the rest of us know  the people we gossip about and gossip with, and love them in the same way. 

Oddly enough, sexual love seems to be the other way around. I do not see the people I have known for many years, and know a lot about, as sexual beings, of course.
We all resemble more or less
our Mother Eve: we're never falling
for what's been given us to take;
to his mysterious tree the snake
is calling us, forever calling --
and once forbidden fruit is seen,
no paradise can stay serene.
But my friends and the things I craft --- I love them the more, the better I know them.

Except for my novel. The parts of it I have nearly memorized are the parts I like least, but that is because they were written by a younger, less skilled writer. She had loved them. I do not. But I will grow to love them again.

And I did love the way they looked on the PDF when their LaTeX file compiled.

Dust on your trousers, mud on your boots, and stars in your eyes: redwood, tonka bean, white sandalwood, lemon peel, patchouli, rosewood, coriander, and crushed mint.

-- Description of Tristran, from the Stardust Collection, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, inspired by Neil Gaiman's Stardust.

What follows is an epistolary novel of Tristran-type idealism versus my jaded cynicism:

I sent a missive out to the Reach students two days before, which ran approximately thusly:

The idea of how much bloody WORK this will take, to make even a faint shadow of Nelson's vision into reality, and trust me, I know how much work it is --- makes me want to cry too.

I can has run away to Milan naow, plz? Or, at least, some crushed mint?

syncategorematic: (so what do you want?)
( Jun. 16th, 2007 09:29 pm)
Sorry, bright ladies --- I am working on the stories I promised for you, I vow so! It is just that I have been bitten by a serious plot bunny, and am finally writing down a scene that had been in my mind for years. So I keep in mind Shilhak-Inshushinak's advice that my time and writing energy is better spent writing fiction, if I intend to write fiction anyways.

Super quick summary: Ontario Reach for the Top sixth, Chicago NAQT tied for 36th of 160, (Cuchulain got 4th individual and top senior out of 500-something), I attend a logic seminar to the discombobulation of the famous logic professor, and a Lie algebra seminar to the discombobulation of Margarethe, which was the first math talk ever where I cannot understand the words, but I can understand how they are put together.* I work, breathe, write, eat, window shop, browse the BPAL forum, and plan jewelry and BPAL purchases. Life is fairly good and quiet. 'Tis the Tarot Year of the Hermit for me, indeed.

*A former math acquaintance of mine told of a scale of understanding math texts:
 1. You can understand all the words, and how they are put together.
2. You can understand all of the words, but not how they are put together
3. You can understand some of the words; therefore, how they are put together escapes you.
4. You cannot understand any of the important words; forget about wondering how they are put together.
4a (achieved by Margarethe's talk) You cannot understand the important words, but if you assume you do, how they are put together makes sense. Maybe this is a state achieved only by someone who has had category theory thrown at her. It's all objects and arrows, and who cares what the objects are.

Oh yeah, and I met at Timothy's the gentleman I had been committing mathematical adultery with at the Bagelshop long ago. We chatted again, about math, about category theory, about Lambek who he had assumed was dead. I did not think of replying that when I was trying to wrangle an appointment with the man, no one told me yet to bring a Ouija board along. Knock wood for the Linguistics Elder Gods.
I will post this in parts. It will keep me feeling like I have done something.

So, the tale of the Reach provincials of 2007, the sad, funny stories of a brain tournament in the wonderfully boring city of Scarborough (subset of the Toronto megapolis.) Olwen: Aww, can't we go clubbing that Sunday night? Cuchulain: You can go clubbing in every one of the zero clubs in Scarborough.

Up next: the rooms snafu, settling down in the rooms, the meeting, the practice game, the evening "gala" banquet...
Sometimes the part of me that dutifully attended Java (the computer language, not the coffee) classes wakes up, and forgets that most of my assignments in them were, I admit, done by certain gentlemen who wished to know me better, and knew computer science better than they knew me. Thus I write Java-geeky titles like the above, which, for non-Java-geeks means "add 1 to the number of repetitions. With feeling." For people who wish it even less abstract, it also means the name of the only Buffy episode I have yet watched, as well as a paraphrase of Lord Pencilturn's most common critique of our dance ensemble at this stage.
syncategorematic: (erythraean)
( Nov. 25th, 2006 04:53 pm)
Alright, I fulfill my promise ([profile] sweeteepea, I will handle your meme in a moment; I already have a good outline for it, but events first!)

So on Saturday we had the 2nd Annual Ottawa High School Quiz Bowl match (co-hosted by the school and the University of Ottawa, held at the school). I was officially staff, while the school has submitted two teams.

In any case, I shall need to wrap up in a few minutes, to proceed to work on our Urban Di presentation due on Monday, so I leave you, my dear friends and passersby, in suspense, awaiting my description of my angst concerning dance, and what ensued thereof; and the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Graduate Studies in  Mathematics and Statistics Information Session and Luncheon, which took place today.

I wish you joy.
Note that my userpic is Michelangelo's Libyan Sibyl. I know this because a question I wrote for the difficult round asked to name any one of the other Sistine Chapel sibyls other than the Delphic. I am not sure anyone got it (Libyan, Persian, Cumaean and Erythraean; Erythraean is the previous post's userpic.)

Up next: the high school NAQT tournament, and why I intend to go to Chicago again.
So the trivia night has happened.

If I do not write you the story of it tomorrow, please kick me. However, I am just too tired tonight. Oh, and I will probably friendslock the post if I post the trivia questions in it.

Doughnuts are surreal.
I received an email from Steinbeck today:
[The gentleman whom I called "Hawkface" here] has found your blog and noted the moniker "Hawkface" in your SCT summary as an anti-Semitic remark. He's not angry about it, but he has used it for mocking you behind your back.
I wouldn't recommend being angry toward him, but you should probably apologize. (Goes on to cite said gentleman's email)

I laughed out loud. However, I will not move to apologise until requested to do so by the gentleman himself for the following reasons:
1) If I assign you a name in this blog and it displeases you, the mature thing to do, in my opinion, is to leave me a comment saying straight to me, "I am the person you called [---]; I find that name displeasing for the following reasons: [---]; please change it." I will reply that I apologise for it and change it promptly. Ask Shilhak-Inshushinak; he knows. All comments on Blogspot, at least, go through comment moderation, so your request can be discreet and I will just take the action you requested, and all comments are emailed to me, so I am aware that the gentleman in question has left no such comment. Mocking me behind my back is childish. If you find my judgement in this displeasing, do not be afraid to leave a comment telling me so, and your reasons for it.

2) Calling me anti-Semitic makes me laugh as first of all,

A. I lived in Israel for 15 months, and then have 10 years of further Jewish education. If I chose to identify with any religion, it is likely to be Judaism.

B. I did not know said gentleman was a Jew or a Semite, and if I had known, I frankly would not have cared because

C. If I spoke about him negatively, I described in detail my reasons why, and nowhere in those reasons was it mentioned what group he belonged to. Indeed, to dismiss any criticism I make of any individual in particular as referring to any group in general is ridiculous. I can just as easily write off any criticism anyone makes of me as being a sexist remark; to accuse me of anti-Semitism is more absurd still as, unlike my being a woman, said gentleman's being a Semite is not evident beyond all doubt to the eye. The mature person, perceiving individual criticism, offers counterarguments as to why this individual criticism is unmerited or false, instead of making accusations of a crime against any group, particularly when no group membership was mentioned in the criticism. Thus, to accuse me of being anti-Brandeis would have some small weight, as I mentioned said gentleman's membership in this group; to accuse me of being anti-male, even, would have some small weight, although would be easily dismissed; to accuse me of being anti-Semitic has absolutely none.

Please feel free to comment on the soundness of my judgement in this case, and if your arguments against my reasoning convince me, I will make corrections to the post in question and make another post describing the error in my judgement.
Now here beginneth the chronicle Keira requested for the club website, although I have lost my sheet of notes, and so I will have to wait to receive the full stats of each game and the question pack to recall which lovely tossups I got.

However, even Shilhak-Inshushinak is nagging me for details, so I suppose I will be like the Sicilian who refuses no request on his daughter's wedding day; I will give consideration to any man's request on Valentine's Day. Let the Chronicle begin!

Despite the pushing back of the opening meeting to 9:00, I just barely made it in by about 9:05: my map did not tell me that Autoroute Ville-Marie was in a tunnel, and that caused a lot of doubling back. I finally got to room 302 of the William Shatner Building, to find most of my team, Keira and Steinbeck and Tor (Lord of Tunder) already there, among the teams consuming Tim Hortons doughnuts and muffins (no drinks, though; boo!). Steinbeck announced that Tor and I and whoever comes after would be on the Ottawa A team; he and Keira would be on the Ottawa B team. Their long partnership is based, in theory, on Steinbeck getting the tossups and fighting for individuals titles like there is no tomorrow, while Keira ameliorates his usually-abysmal bonus conversion. (P.S. Yes, I named him Steinbeck because that is the only literature he acknowledges and because it sort of fits. Produce Boy does not fit anymore.)

"And I would be very embarrassed if we win against you," Steinbeck reminded Tor and me. "I called you Ottawa A for a reason."

Soon Messner arrived and Ottawa A cheered: the team of Tor, Messner and me was on the first Sectionals we had ever gone to, and in several tournaments since then. We make a good team, with Messner taking most of the sports and history and current events questions, Tor handling science and French literature and some applied math, while I cover theoretical math, linguistics, Russian stuff, and whatever else comes my way.

"If Binturong shows up, we'll put him on your team," Steinbeck ruled. Given Binturong's notorious inconsistency, we all looked at each other.

Tsvi, the dark and intense McGill TRASH champion and current tournament director, stood up and began explaining the rules of the tournament to those teams who had never been at a NAQT event before - presumably mostly from Division II. He disallowed double negs - "If the other team interrupts before hearing the rest of the question and gets it wrong, the other team does not get a penalty but the other team is stupid."

"Can we substitute between halves?" the Lawn Bowler, the "University of Guelph team" who is playing solo in Division II, asked.

"No," said Tsvi. "Between rounds, yes, between halves, no."

"Lawn Bowler, I don't think that applies to your team," Steinbeck pointed out, to our laughter.

On the schedules, Division I was the two Ottawa teams, two teams from McGill (McGill C was playing in Div2, I believe), and the Americans: Brandeis of Massachusetts, and Afred, from Alfred, NY. However, a roll call by Tsvi got no answer from the Alfred team, so we wondered whether they would show up at all. On checking our schedule, I saw that three of the times, Ottawa A was not playing at all, while McGill B (I believe) was playing twice, at the same time, in different rooms. I addressed Tsvi with this concern, and he, groaning, corrected his typo for all the Ottawa A vs. Brandeis meets.

Then we headed off to the building on Sherbrooke St. where the tournament was actually taking place.

Game 1: Ottawa A vs. McGill B 130-155

For some odd reason, the stats have as scroing no points in this game. That must be an error; I definitely recall scoring some. I began badly, calling a tossup "Coming of Age in West Samoa" when Margaret Mead's book title was "Coming of Age in Samoa" - too much information. The other team tried to steal, but guessed "Coming of Age in Western Samoa," so there goes that tossup - and I have seen that darned book referenced so many times! I did get the next one by saying "seas of the moon, mare lunae." Mare was the required answer, with seas of the moon not accepted by itself. Thank goodness Society Max used to have a really cool globe of the moon, and so I knew where Piers Anthony got the name for Mare Imbrium, the main character in Night Mare (which I have never read, as I do not like the Xanth series at all; there is no shame in trash, only points.) Unfortunately, McGill got power on Hellespont and Kirposi's sarcoma, which I think reversed our fortunes this early in the game. We did get a good bonus on bodies of water near St. Petersburg, which I swept since it could have been much harder than it was. I should have remembered Masaccio, but I did not, and I of course guessed Casanova for the eight-letter term for a lovelace, allowing McGill to steal Lothario. They also got a historical linguistics bonus and did not use it - gods, did I gnash my teeth! I did manage to get Erdos (I love that question) and Pirandello (thank the gods I read Six Characters in Search of an Author once). And Messner got the odd tossup on "Where have all the cowboys gone?" However, before the time ran out McGill got both Edith Wharton and Warring States, and successfully converted the bonuses (among them a National Fire Prevention bonus; Keira tells me Steinbeck managed to get ten on that but blew the St Petersburg bonus), so to their own surprise they won that game. I was highly disappointed and demoralised.

Game 2: Ottawa A vs. Brandeis 115-225

Brandeis's Division I team comprised two characters: a reddish youth of unmemorable looks, and a rotund gentleman (the term is used loosely) with a hawkish nose and the same real name as Messner. No personal affection motivates me to craft real names for them, so I will call them Reddish and Hawkface in this chronicle. A veteran of the game, Hawkface projected contempt for the country-bumpkin Canadian trivia players from almost every pore, as well as for NAQT it self (N-A-Cutie, he called it with scorn, complaining about the giveaway last sentences of the tossups). Having crushed their first opposition, they were confident about getting to the Nationals; Hawkface went into detail about the rule that even if a graduate team wins, the top undergraduate team can place a bid for Division I, clearly implying that they would be said undergraduate team. They calmly stated their strategy to send their Division II team to the local Sectionals an hour away from their Massachusetts setting, while sending their Division I team to Canada to avoid Yale and Harvard and Princeton and Cornell. As the Manifest-Destiny Fenians sang in the 19th century, "Many battles have been won / Along with the boys in blue /And we'll go and conquer Canada / 'Cause we've nothing else to do."

Unfortunately, they did conquer us in that game, although not as resoundingly as the team before us. Messner could not forgive himself for missing the Donation of Constantine after having studied it the week before. Brandeis had an excellent grounding in art history and literature, and got both "Time Tranfixed" and Midnight's Children (which sounds like an interesting book). Although I did get Basque and the Graces, that did not save the game. However, it was a game to be sacrificed, for we sounded out two weak points in the Fenian Brandeis attack:

(a) Tor got "heat capacity." Science, science was the Achilles heel of the Hawkface and Reddish team; between Tor's chemistry, biology and physics, and my math and linguistics, we had them outgunned on the science front.

(b) For a question that mentioned the massacre of Babyi Yar happening on the outskirts of this city, Hawkface rang in and then said, "The massacre of [pause] Kiev." Holsteiner of the McGill Nationals team (the reasons for his name have to do with a menu in New Orleans) said he could not accept that, so I stole with "Kiev." Hawkface nearly threw a fit, claiming that "stream of consciousness" was acceptable in NAQT games after ringing in. One of the people present, I cannot recall who, countered with "What if there was a village on the outskirts of Kiev that calls itself The Massacre of Kiev?" Hawkface demanded that the question be thrown out, etc., and Holsteiner ruled that we would consider it if the score was close. The score was not close. However, we saw Brandeis's other weakness: Hawkface, at least, was a lean-on-the-rules sore loser, and given that he had not seen the age of ten for at least a decade now, that was a major sign of inner insecurity. I felt a little sorry for Reddish, being dwarfed by Hawkface on this team.

(c) I guess there was a third weakness: Brandeis and especially Hawkface were not making themselves any friends in Canada. And that will come back to haunt them.

We went to pick up our pieces with a 0-2 record into the third game.

Game 3 Ottawa A vs Ottawa B 175-140

The INTRA-OTTAWA DEATH MATCH, Keira called it (PART I, that is). There our fortunes turned around when Tor began sweeping science questions, including a trigger-finger duel with Steinbeck on Laplace transforms - them chemical engineers and chemists, drôles de gens que ces gens-là (it is a line from the opera Carmen). As well, Messner gained the laughter of the group by getting Black Sabbath on power. Although Steinbeck beat me on Peter the Great (beat me), I beat Keira on Andrew Marvell (of course). We got Shakespeare plays based on settings as a bonus, which I did not convert fully, and also one on the Argonauts: darn, I should know my Castor from my Pollux by now, but I did know Meleager, and explained to the quizmaster afterwards how his life was linked with a log. However, Ottawa A lived up to its name. We won. Off the clock, Amir the quizmaster read us a tossup and by the second sentence Steinbeck rang in with "Desperate Housewives!" and then immediately protested "I don't watch it, I don't watch it!" "Yeah," Amir replied, "that's why you got it on power."

Game 4 Ottawa A vs Alfred; they did show up, it seems. 350-25

I feel sorry for poor Alfred. They were very nice people, unlike Brandeis - but here was where our slaughter began. I was almost surprised to ring in on a question with "William Lyon Mackenzie King?" It seemed almost too easy. I would have known Amalthea, but someone on our team negged that question. But I got Kuril Islands and Akbar, and Messner got Jerry Springer (umm...) I also took Saint-Saens at "Samson and Delilah" - I played both that and "Danse Macabre", of course I know Saint-Saens. And I think I must have gotten Satyricon - it matches my score for that round (someone must have been scorekeeping Round 1 wrong!) Keira tells me Brandeis were really smug about getting Satyricon themselves. There was also a great bonus for me - two fifteen-point questions about mystery stories involving stolen letters. Of course, I interrupted the bonus with "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Purloined Letter," respectively; I knew "The Purloined Letter" was going to come up and I worked the clock. Keira on her side objects to the question, since she says Irene Adler concealed a photograph rather than a letter. Actually, and I will respond here, Irene concealed a whole bunch of letters from the king, and planned to use them for blackmail. However, the letters would have been laughed away if she had not had the photograph to verify them: that is one of my favourite dialogues in all of Sherlock Holmes, which I will cite from memory:
"There is the writing."
"Pooh-pooh! Forgery."
"My private notepaper."
"My seal."
"My photograph."
"We were both in the photograph."

I cannot vouch for the exactness of Holmes' reply, but it runs something like "Dear, dear, that is very bad. Your Majesty had been most careless indeed." - "I was mad, insane," &c.

Keira replies that the line was "Oh, dear! That is very bad. Your Majesty has indeed committed an indiscretion." And she says the actual question says that Holmes tricked Irene Adler into rushing to the letters when she thought there was a fire, while she actually rushed to the photograph. That is true. However, I did not listen to the question; as soon as I heard "Irene Adler," I rang in, without bothering to listen to the rest of the facts presented, true or otherwise.

Game 5 Ottawa A vs. McGill A: 150-10

And the slaughter continued; we were beginning to think Amir's room lucky. Well, I cannot deny he is an excellent reader, rapid yet coherent. Alas, foolish I did not get the racehorse Citation tossup, and I should have. However, I did get the Alzheimer's, and then came one of my favourite questions of the tournament. About the eigenvalues of Hermitian matrices; now where did Nathan Ng of Applied Linear Algebra mention the eigenvalues of Hermitian matrices? "...prime distribution..." Nathan Ng's first true love. I rang in and said slowly and evenly:

"The zeroes of the Riemann zeta function."


Now I know I got Balzac; I should have gotten it earlier: I HAVE Prometheus, or the Life of Balzac kicking around my house, and that his biography was called Prometheus was in the first sentence. Keira tells that Steinbeck got it on her side, which is surprising considering his attitude to that kind of literature. I know I calmly stole "chords," and I know I negged Sennacherib - I will never forget now "The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold..." - "Was it terror or war? We were all Gallup polled." I know McGill's only tossup that game came with the Einstein satellite, which we (not me) negged and they failed to convert the bonus. Poor McGill A.

But McGill B was coming up again, the people we lost against in the first round.

Game 6 Ottawa A vs. McGill B 265-135

I needn't have feared. That game was not even close. Tor got pyrite ahead of me - hmph! but it went to our team anyway. But I got power when I heard that the overture features Turkish music, and rang in with "The Seraglio...The Abduction from the Serail." I have heard the opera referred to in so many ways, but I got all the parts of the required answer in, and sneaked in a power. However, I did not get Alexander I; I should get my Romanov monarchs between Paul and Nicholas II straight by now. I also stole hydra and Anton Chekhov (doctor writer, of course). And I managed to get Myth of Sisyphus after struglling for a few seconds, "I read it! I know it! I read it in first-year philosophy class!" But I cannot account for my last tossup point. Maybe it was James Bond...actually, I think it was. Really amusing if so, but, teammates of mine, speak up if it was you and not I who got James Bond, but it is the only tossup remaining I am likely to get.

Game 7 Ottawa A vs. Brandeis 165-150

It was tough, I admit that. But we were ahead at the halftime score check, and I think that flustered them. I got my tossups in the early part of the game, with Volta, "forbidden" (I must admit, the quizmaster accidentally said part of it, but not all of it, and I sneaked in); pastoral symphony, and Regency novel (thank you, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell).

But the score was tied just before the last tossup, so both teams were psyched and nervous. Then the quizmaster begins reading the tossup, and Tor rings in with "The British North America Act!" "Power!" Oh, Can.Con, you showed us that Canada was behind us winning this game.

However, prior to that, Messner had rung in with "World Baseball Championship" and the quizmaster accepted it. However, the correct answer was World Baseball Classic, and Brandeis were prepared to be anal about it. The battle was not yet won.

We went to the big centre on Maisonneuve for lunch, to their underground food court, like we had before. Someday, one of the things I want to accomplish in this life is to explore Montreal's underground system; I hope that would be easier than some of my other things to accomplish in this life, like cross a major mountain range on horseback, or ski across Scandinavia. I was introduced to the wonders of Quizno's Subs due to Keira's enthusiasm about them; they were indeed good, although Steinbeck himself was raving about a 12-inch Subway sub for him.

I cannot recall much of our dinner conversation. However, on the way back, we stopped at a little store just inside the mall so Keira could buy a French newspaper (did I mention she is a translation major?) and I checked out the Vanity Fair cover which alleged to have Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson naked and Tom Ford dressed on it (celebrity gossip fan, am I?). To those who pricked up their ears, I will say that a lot of the cover - the strategically key areas - was covered with a big label. Who said Montreal was a haven of depravity?

Then as we went back up Maissonneuve, we saw a large protest. "A protest against the Mohammad cartoons?" "Or a protest against the protest." One yelling man was being taken away by police; however, as Steinbeck rightly pointed out, the police were walking slowly enough that his rant can be taped by a news crew walking along with them. Messner, intrigued, chased after them to get a picture on his cell phone. We teased Messner about being a paparazzo for the rest of the day.

A couple of blocks up Sherbrooke, several people dressed in balaclavas were protesting with the banner "Freedom of speech is a fundamental right." So that one was indeed a protest against the protest. Anti-anti-cartoon-protest-protest.

Game 8 Ottawa A vs. Ottawa B 245-90

I suppose this is INTRA OTTAWA DEATH MATCH, PART II. Well, as you can see from the score, it was not too much of a contest. A particular favourite of mine was a wild guess on the Umayyads, which I got. As well, I managed to remember Victor Hugo, The Interpretation of Dreams, Stravinsky and grizzly bears (try fitting those together in a sentence). But possibly my quickest power of the game was on a question: "It begins with a discussion of three-toed sloths, which the narrator studies..." "Life of Pi!" "Power. Of course." Well, Keira claims that this was in Round 8, but she also claims she answered that question on hearing of a zebra, and I have the feeling that was in the round before. I do know that in this game I got Cryptonomicon also on power, because unlike the ICT, here Bobby Shaftoe was mentioned while it was still power. Besides indirectly influencing my career choice, this book has earned me 25 NAQT career points so far...and I never finished it. The most important book I never fully read.

Amir was absolutely excited about one question, and skipped to it off the clock. It was on Ali G., and alas, the rest of us were completely apathetic. Our bonus on James Bond theme songs (none of which for the Bond movies I have seen) did get us 20 points, I believe, but we missed the song sung by Duran Duran. To the great frustration of Steinbeck.

So far, so good.

Game 9 Ottawa A vs Alfred 270-40

I got seven tossups in this game, and alas, we squandered Laocoon and His Sons, which I would have gotten. But I got Empress Wu (Holsteiner was impressed; I am making up for the squandered tossup on the Tang dynasty at the ICT); albedo (allegedly Brandeis got that on insane power playing Keira's team; I got it in regular time, but well); Epiphany; Mount Erebus; Sheridan (thank you, The Rivals); and I suppose I must have gotten Radames (Aida, right?) and either Napoleon or Boccaccio, but I believe a girl on Alfred took Boccaccio, to my approval. However, Messner took "fear and loathing," and Uncle Tom's Cabin, among others.

Good game. Holsteiner, enthusiastic, read us the tossup on Full House off the clock. I cannot recall who took it.

Game 10 Ottawa A vs McGill A 235-105

That one got even better for me, as I got eight tossups, including a power. I know I got monotremes, but alas, I negged Lucretia by saying Lucrece - Shakespeare, darn you. But i took Strawberry Fields (so, on her side of the wall, did Keira; ah, my only point in the Singles Action at the St. Lawrence Seaway last fall). Maybe that was power. I also took four tossups in a row with gold eagles, Arthur Miller, happiness, and Boudicca (Boadicea). That accoubts for six, now what were the other two? I know we only lasted until James Buchanan. I know I did not get Ecclesiastes, but I may have gotten binary relations and Francis Bacon. If I did get Francis Bacon, that would make a five-tossup sweep. Sweet.

Game 11 Ottawa A vs. McGill B 225-145

Both of my powers have to do with gold: as soon as I heard "...was renamed", I, not knowing which title they would ask for, rang in with "The Golden Hind, previously known as the Pelican." That got me power. And my other sweet first-sentence power was the question, "A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat..." You are dealing with a cryptography-history freak and Poe fan here: "The Gold Bug!" Everyone was impressed at the power of that.

But I cannot, for the life of me, recognise my other three tossups. McGill took Theseus on power just before me, so it was not that. Oh, yes, I recall getting "Robinson" on the author of "Richard Cory" and "Luke Havergal." And I suppose I must have gotten "delta" and "Syracuse." None of the others ring any bells at all.

Game 12 Ottawa A vs Brandeis 230-160

And that was an uncontested win. I only got two tossups of my own, though - Novaya Zemlya (how can I give such a tossup away to someone who could not pronounce it?) and Hatshepsut, to Brandeis's surprise: "Oh, they never mentioned a pronoun." They stole Saturn's rings and Battleship Potemkin from me, darn them. However, Messner and Tor carried the game, which was rich with science and political history tossups, and by the time Messner got Dnacing With the Stars (hehe), it was finished. First completely unequivocal defeat for Brandeis. From us.

Game 13 Ottawa A vs. Ottawa B 280-55

I guess that clinches the INTRA-OTTAWA DEATH MATCH. Keira and I overlap in many areas of knowledge, so we had races on A Tale of Two Cities (power for me; I know that first sentence almost by heart) and igneous rocks, which I took as well - Keira may have taken Earth Science, but I , my dears, know jewelry and all that comes before it. Indeed, I had fun with the other tossups I got, recalling an old grade 6 project I had written awfully, but which now netted me the Scythians, taking Pascal's Triangle, and Swan Lake one word after power (I should think faster). I also took Madeira and the scapula. Messner took the Stanley Cup on power with "places where the Stanley Cup has been," which was deemed acceptable.

On the boni, Keira remembers me guessing Hawley-Smoot Tariff on an American history bonus and getting the 10 points; thank you, Dave Barry. And so the INTRA-OTTAWA DEATH MATCH endeth.

But the Ottawa-US match is still not won.

Game 14 Ottawa A vs. Alfred: X-10, X > 10. (Officially forfeit)

Tsvi lost the score to that game, and Keira does not have the tossup pack; when she does, I will correct it. I do recall that Alfred got only one question: "All My Exes Live in Texas." If Keira tells me the tossups for that round, I will state them here. The official stats say Alfred forfeited to us; it was pretty obvious who was going to win.

Game 15 Ottawa A vs. McGill A: Forfeit

We came into the room and said hi to the McGill A people. By the fifteenth round of this playing , everyone was tired; the quizmasters were tired too, and were slurring their words. Everyone in Division I knew that Ottawa A and Brandeis were the only teams with two losses; they will face each other in a tiebreaker final.

The quizmaster began reading the game when the McGill people pointed out: "We've heard this before."


"It's Gran Chaco. We heard this question before, in the previous game."

It turned out that McGill A played McGill B in Round 14 -using the pack for Round 15. Tsvi was summoned, and the quizmaster and he discussed the mistake. Tsvi was deeply distressed, because there simply was not another pack; NAQT had sent only 16 packs, and the sixteenth was for the final.

Now while the problem was being explained to the tournament director, I did a very very foolish thing that caused me, Tsvi, and the entire tournament a great deal of stress and frustration. Yes, I know everything ends happily (I better warn the gentle reader now: do not be afraid, this Saturday, February 11, will end happily. "The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That's what fiction means." - Oscar Wilde) but I still feel a little guilty.

I picked up Pack 15 and I leafed through it.

"Look, Messner," I showed it to him, "there is a question on Sidney Crosby. Now I wonder how long it would take any proper Canadian to get it?"

Messner, Tor and I laughed together, speculating on powers. Just then Tsvi came in.

"Have Brandeis play Ottawa on Pack 15 and McGill A and McGill B play each other on Pack 14; it's the only way to settle this," he ruled. "We have to get out of this building in half an hour."

And then I realised what a foolish, foolish act I had committed. "Umm...we've already seen Pack 15."

"But there are no other packs. You guys have to face Brandeis in the final." Poor Tsvi; I really am sorry for what I did. "What's you win-loss record?" he asked us.


"And what's yours?" he turned to McGill A.


"Forfeit. Please."

"Ok," said a gentleman on the McGill team, and I will give his real name here because he did a very noble thing, and his name should be remembered. "We'll forfeit. For Canada," said In-Ting Ho.

"Now, I will have to ask McGill B to also forfeit to Brandeis," said Tsvi.

Still feeling guilty at creating this mess, I walked out with a group, and we were met by a desperate Division II player who had no scorekeeper for a game. I volunteered, and I scorekept for the game between McMaster B and Laurentian University - McMaster won, 170 to 135, but I need to check the scoreboard to remember that. They did hear the Gran Chaco question that was first in our ill-fated pack; theirs was #9, if I recall. Neither of them got it.

Tangled with a mess of players trying to clear out the building, trying to find my hat as well, I finally made my way back to the William Shatner Building. I had not lost my hat, but I had not noticed losing the schedule sheet, on the back of which I had kept track of scores and interesting tossups. If I had kept it, I would not have trouble remembering whether I had known James Bond or not, and I also would have supplied Tsvi with the score for the Alfred game. However, the space-time continuum split a great many times that day, and I always seem to end up in the more complicated and interesting of worlds.

At the William Shatner Building (yes, I just like typing that) I rejoined my teammates, and Brandeis as well, who were still complaining about the World Baseball Classic question. "The question should be thrown out, and thirty points subtracted from their game as well. Or even better, the entire game should be thrown out," claimed Hawkface. Of course, even better, if the game was thrown out we would have two losses and they would have one, they would win, and they would not have to explain to Yale and Harvard and Cornell and MIT that Brandeis had fled the local sectionals only to get beaten by a country-bumpkin zed-loving Canadian team.

To appease Hawkface, Tsvi actually phoned NAQT on his cell phone, from Montreal to Kansas City (or maybe Michigan; they seem to write me from one place and send packages from another), explained the problem, and asked for a ruling. They agreed with his: throw out the tossup and the points (15) we collected on it, give Brandeis a tossup and bonus off the clock, see whether that ties the game, and if so, proceed with the usual NAQT tiebreaker procedure: three tossups, off the clock, no boni.

Brandeis would have of course preferred for the game to be thrown out, but the Powers That Be have spoken, and the miracle of modern technology, and Tsvi's phone bill I ache in sympathy about, forces us to obey. He took a tossup from the last question of the contested pack, a question we did not get to; that is what I remember, but Keira's list of that pack says "surfactants" was the last question, not the tossup I recall.

They got their tossup; it was on life insurance. However, they only converted the bonus well enough to...make the score tied again.

And so the team sat down to tiebreaker questions. And we were playing for the right to a tiebreaker match, which would be played for the honour of Camada to teach Hawkface that he was a pompous ass (meaning donkey). My mind reeled at the implications of this. Don't think ahead.
Even now, a week later, I feel a wave of nausea at remembering how badly I wanted this, how much I was praying to all the gods there are to for a moment look our way.

They did. Tor got the first tossup. And no one got the other two. Now what were they on? Keira, where in the world is Pack 16 now?

So now it was unequivocal - Brandeis had two losses, and so did we. We had to play a tiebreaker game.

Someone suggested that before we play the game, we award the Division II individual awards and everything, as tiebreaker scores will not be counted in the individual score. I heaved a sigh of relief; if they give out the awards, that gave me time to go to the bathroom.

But when I came back, Brandeis and my team were sitting at the table. "We're playing the tiebreaker game now." And the entire room, Division I, Division II, quizmasters - all watched to see me take my seats, and not one of them had any love for Brandeis and Hawkface.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

...And he cried to our gallant pack:
"Friends! Isn't Moscow at our back?
Let's die 'fore Moscow bright
As our brothers died ere now."
And so to die for her we vowed
And truly did we keep that vow
In the Borodino fight.

- Mikhail Lermontov, "The Battle of Borodino" (translation mine, as it was running through my head that hour)

Science, science, science. And science came. And Tor took it. And Brandeis were nervous, and they would neg. And Messner, or Tor, or I, would pick up the pieces. I took my two non-power boni, on Sardinia and on altarpieces, that way.

And my two powers: "The disk of radius strictly less than one is one. So are all real-line intervals missing their endpoints..."

Now what in the world did I study point-set topology for the last month for? I pressed the buzzer down. "Open sets!" They could have given something harder, like they did for the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function. If I were writing a tossup on open sets, I would begin it with something like "These are all cofinite sets under the Zariski topology..." Power, in my opinion, should be deserved.

"Power." My favourite word, after "open sets."

"...in Danish it is written as 'nd'..." Now Lady Cauchy's husband is Danish, and his name has what I think this is... "...in phonetics it is written as a reversed question..." (mark.) "Glottal stop," I said, not even expecting power after that giveaway to any first-year phonetics student. But I got power. I deserved it.

At halftime we were ahead of Brandeis, and they were looking nervous - well, who am I to brag, so was I. Breathe in. Breathe out. At one minute or less to the end of the game, Messner called a timeout, with a score check. They were close, but we were ahead of them. The timeout gave me a chance to breathe normally.

And then Tor, or Messner took the last question, and our bonus went off the clock.

"The score is: Ottawa A 245; Brandeis 170."

I hugged Messner; the first time in my life I have ever hugged anyone due to my own happiness and not to ease sorrow or have it eased. He has a girlfriend, so I do not think it was that hug that made him say, "It's good to have you on my team, Tourmaline."

Now I have written this post for a very long time, and I am sick and tired of it, and I am letting a whole week (with Olympics and Valentine's Day and midterms) slip by undocumented, so I want to blow this thing and let's go home. Only a few more points to answer:

(a) After us, the Div II tiebreaker was held between Queen's and McMaster A. They had been eixled to the hall during the playing of our final, in case questions would be repeated - they were. They missed a lot of them. Queen's won.

(b) In the individual statistics, Messner was fifth. Reddish of Brandeis was fourth. Yours truly was third, but, just like at Quebec Bowl, she was beaten by Steinbeck (he continued his streak of being the top Canadian undergraduate at every tournament - except the ICT, where the top Canadian undergraduate, and I believe Canadian, period, was yours truly). But the top title went to Hawkface. The Lawn Bowler got the Div II title.

(c) When I returned home from Montreal, there was an email from the ensemble in my Inbox. The ensemble had been performing at Winterlude that Saturday. Now there was a performance opportunity April 7, who could go? I checked two things, and then wrote back:

"Sorry, I'm in Maryland that day."

Trivia and dance are two things incompatible.
(I am the person of the female persuasion in this picture taken at Dovercourt Trivia Night.)

On Friday Lady Mollweide called and invited me to attend a trivia night at Dovercourt Community Centre, to fill out the two teams from the schooll; I had shown my interest before. Besides being trivia practice, the night, organised by the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa West (by the way, Shilhak-Inshushinak, if you ever read this, both Dovercourt Recreational Centre and the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa West are blog names for Dovercourt Recreational Centre and the Kiwanis Club of Ottawa West, respectively ;-)

My impressions of the trivia night are best summarised in my letter to Lady Mollweide afterwards:


1) The School Team (Oliver, Cuchulain, Rustem, Cuchulain's father) got 12th place out of 30 teams. The Margaret Atwood Team (the Kilhuch family and I) got 17th, two points
behind (there were a lot of ties). We were leading them until the eighth round. The questions were tough - I believe the top score was in the seventies, out of one hundred questions.

2) You won a door prize! I took it for you, and now it is sitting in my front hall - I hope it was not damaged by the ride back. A beautifully wrapped box of something; we suspect it is a bottle, but it is up to you to find out. I will give it to you on Monday afternoon or Tuesday, how it works out.

3) Refreshments in the form of plates of chips, at $1 a plate, seem to be a big success - our own table spent $5 or $6 in the course of the night. Soft drinks, though, were in limited supply. For our night, we should compensate for our "Prohibition law" by making as wide a variety as we can of soft drinks, bottled water, juice, coffee and tea available; if we can at all afford it, something other than Red Rose tea! (The Kilhuch family, suffering without root beer, suggested we
have a keg of root beer. Probably a combination chips and bake sale would be successful.)

4) Scores were done on a spreadsheet PowerPoint on a laptop linked to the InFocus projector. I believe I can find how to set one up, and set it so the ranks are clearly visible and not almost-hidden by the bottom of the screen.

5) The Roland family (playing on a separate team) introduced me to one or two of their trivia-loving friends, who seemed enthusiastic about the planned event. I also spoke briefly to Paul Paquet, who was also encouraging.

6) I do believe the card tables were a great idea; they ensure enough privacy for the teams. However, we probably cannot procure thirty or forty card tables on such short notice, so we will have to work that one out. If only our desks were not all chair-attached!

7) GREAT idea they had: provide a sponsor for each round, and put the sponsor's name on the scoresheet. I would consider it even better if we put the round sponsor's logo on every scoresheet (print on sponsor letterhead?), and, as they did, make sure to project the sponsor's logo, and address (they did not have that) with thanks, on the
PowerPoint each time we can. As well - maybe "table sponsors"? Whatever tables look like, we can provide scratch paper on each table (like at World Trivia Night) with the sponsor's logo on the scratch paper. A higher price to be a round sponsor than a table sponsor, perhaps? Tanaquil (the Acta editor) knows the fair prices to charge for Acta advertising.

8) Maybe we can work out a deal with local food businesses to provide some of the food for the night in exchange for advertising: "Coffee generously provided by the Second Cup on Elgin St...." or something.

9) Maybe we could team up with, say, the art classes to exhibit some of the students' work at the night, or arrange for some school musical group to provide a bit of entertainment during the break - Dovercourt had only piped music on the speakers, whereas if we can say "live music provided," it will encourage people to come, because, besides being trivia freaks, they also feel like patrons of the arts. I do not know if that impinges on some jurisdictions or something, but it is an idea worth tossing up in the air. We should arrange for it soon, if so, since then we can mention the arts connection to potential sponsors. I know the Bagelshop had a near-policy to only sponsor artsy things, and a few other businesses might as well.

10) It may be an audacious idea, but given the technology these days - perhaps for a higher fee, we can offer to play an actual brief ten-fifteen second commercial for sponsoring business, in an audio or even video file they may provide, on the InFocus projector. Tell me if I am crazy, or if that is too invasive already, but it must be more effective than the reader saying "We thank Hulse, Playfair and McGarry. If you die soon, go to Hulse, Playfair and McGarry." If that flies with the Principal, we can find out what the radio charges, and go lower. Even if the audio idea won't pan out, we can offer actual print poster ads for a higher fee, instead of just logos.

11) Definitely door prizes. I think they are a vital part of any adult gathering these days. As well, the idea of giving prizes to the team with the highest score for some of the rounds is a good idea; warning in advance "This round is a prize round" would increase the excitement, which Kiwanis did not do. The idea of tiebreaker
questions, like a spelling bee, made for an exciting show, with everyone listening to see who of the four teams will go out.

12) Kilhuch's father suggested roping some celebrity to serve as quizmaster. That will definitely attract the people, but I do not know what celebrity we can afford. Also, we must project questions on the PowerPoint; Kiwanis did not, and it is unfair if teams ask for some of the questions to be repeated.

In any case, I am amazed myself at my advertising blitz savvy. Let me know what you think, and I will see you this week. With the door prize.


Oliver, when I polled the team there for more feedback on how to run ours, suggested that (a) the questions be progressively more difficult as the round progresses, and (b) the quizmaster should have more background knowledge. There was a problem when the question was asked "What is a googolplex" and both Kilhuch and Cuchulain knew that it is 1 followed by a googol zeroes (10 to the power of 10 to the power of 100), while the Quizmaster said the answer was 1 followed by a billion zeroes. Cuchulain and Kilhuch went and argued with him, until he yielded to say any concept of a number would be considered correct. Since I will probably end up writing most of the questions, I am certain I will be able to provide more background information.

Besides, Reach for the Top wrote back to me, saying they like the sample questions I sent them, and they would be willing to accept 30 pages of questions like that. I immediately sent them the thirty pages I already had, and mentioned more were on the way. They also spoke of a contract, which eased my heart; I have sold my writing before, and I was growing wary at no mention of a contract. So wary that I carefully coded LaTeX to put my name and the date (of the last compile cycle of the file) on each page, just in case Reach skip out on me and I have to take them to court for my hundred bucks. So I write questions for the next Reach pack (it is half done), and await the contract meanwhile.

And that is all I will say on the trivia subject now. That does not quite ease the previous post's angst about my not being good for anything, but whatever. Life goes on even if I am not written in the annals of history, although my heart wrenches inside me at the very idea of not being written in the annals of history.