Friday, December 27, 2002

Hopefully silent night.

Well, folks, didn't even get to a third house. No. After Christmas Eve at the aunt's house, whatever bug that had been trailing me for the couple days before nailed me just as I was finishing putting the last tags on the gifts. Wham. Flat on my back, with occasional standing, nausea, and emergency gastrointestinal evacuations. My mother claims she can tell exactly how sick I am by the level of darkness under my eyes. Well, at one point I noticed that I was so dark under the eyes, and so pale otherwise, I looked like the gray aliens had dispensed with trying to breed with humans, and had gone after a raccoon.
The one good thing about this year's holiday is that I didn't spend Christmas Eve at my apartment, instead I ended up having this all happen at my parents', enabling me to get a traditional Christmas dinner of broth, tea, and Jell-O. This made opening gifts extra interesting, as my family tends to compensate for the fact that we all have too much stuff we don't use anyway, by giving food products. It's really hard to be appreciative of a gift of a Tabasco gift pack while your stomach is going "Do not bring that thing in my house! No! Talk to the duodenum!"

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

First of all a happy holiday(s) to all. I never remember to send out cards, so this will have to do. Off to do the Christmas visiting rotation. (Four, maybe five houses in 36 hours.)

But before I leave some oddity:
Joe saved Christmas for my family, I can't elaborate until after the holiday, but I appreciate it.

I probably put myself on a naughty list somewhere. While entering the grocery store last night, I saw that a sticker had fallen off of one of those stuffed toys with a voice chip inside. "Squeeze Me, I TALK." Naturally seeing this as an opportunity for mischief, I picked it up. I initially thought about putting it where it could do the most damage, one of the cacti in the flower section, but I restrained myself, and merely put it on a 4-pack of Charmin.

This is of course not the best holiday chip fun. My friend Ryan topped it all one year at a Target. While passing through the toy section, he happened across "Talking Pooh and Tigger" Each one fired off in response to noise from the other, making conversation. Of course, there is a fatal flaw in this toy; namely that they forgot that if you put two Pooh's very close to the Tigger, both will fire off, and likewise two Tigger's close to the Pooh. (Incidentally, why does "Two Tiggers Close to the Pooh" sound like a Pogues album? Or is that just me?) And now Mr. Wizard will give you all a lesson in feedback and chain reactions. Ryan went right down the line, and fired all the Poohs at the same time. Overload. Not only did the Tiggers go off, but then the Poohs behind them, and then the Tiggers, and by that time, the Pooh in the front had stopped and were restarted. Soon the entire section was overcome.

Meanwhile, I lost out in the final of fantasy football. Simple reason, same thing that's haunted me all year. Daunte or Trent, Daunte or Trent. I went 9-4-3 on picking the right one going into this week, and just whiffed. However, Byko did the same, choosing the wrong two recievers to bench, so it all balances out. Congratulations, Byko.

I don't usually comment on baseball that isn't the Pirates, but this one demanded it, and it's been in my head ever since I saw it.

Scene: the set of Card Sharks
Jim Perry: "Okay, we asked 100 rotisserie baseball commissioners, if a trade of Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada needed your approval, would you block it? How many fantasy baseball commissioners said 'Yes, they would block that trade'?"

Peace on Earth folks, except in the toy aisle.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Yesterday's popculturejunkmail answered one question that's been troubling me for several years. "Yes, DEK, one of your students for whom you're trying to teach math, is in fact trying to smell like a cake, on purpose. It's not a happy accident."

On Tuesday, Mark went into a little more detail about the sort of thing that I mentioned as making sense at the time at Trashmasters. TiVo and Amazon have similar ideas about data collection (I think they might even share databases), where they use previous known views/purchases to supply a set of upfront options for you, because the software thinks you might like them. Applying this logic to quizbowl, and specifically to what you answer in a trash tournament, however, would result in remarkable stupidity. Especially after playing with teammates who are faster than me on a lot of things that we all know, leaving that very extreme tip of "knowledge without shame" as my primary contribution. It would probably bear a frightening resemblance to Smithers' Amazon wish list (were such a beast to exist.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Butter is made of cream and salt.

The new item in the vending machine this week: Cracker Jack Butter Crunch. Apparently they realized that, having really cheesed out on the whole "prize inside" think with regular Cracker Jack, people need to be brought back to the product by reducing the amount of popcorn in it. Thus Butter Crunch, or "Nothing but the stuff you'd gut a guy like a fish to obtain." Incidentally, this is perhaps the first product I've seen with the warning CONTAINS PEANUT AND MILK INGREDIENTS on it. Just for those of you who saw "Butter Crunch Candy Coated Peanuts" on the label, and thought it was not one but TWO clever ruses in one. It also has the odd phrase on the ingredients "BUTTER (CREAM, SALT)". Well, yes, but I think an intermediate step is lost in the listing. Maybe I'll just stick to the all-Muppet diet. [Show 202, or search for "Eating Muppets"]

Meanwhile, for the second time in its run, 24 pulled off an episode which completely shuffled the deck. Now we have to wait 3 weeks for the next hour. Grr. Incidentally, I think this show has cured me of one possible gift plan. Ain't nobody getting a gift card from me this year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Death to Betty Crocker...

I'm tantalizingly close to being done with holiday shopping, and now wondering whether I need to do certain small things to cover up some holes in the purchasing. Having done the office internal audit on the purchasing department this week, I'm also wondering if some of my shopping could be accomplished on the office's dime. Probably not, but it just looked like a hole to be exploited.

My amazing levels of cheapness may now know no bounds, after pulling off a trip to Heinz Field without spending a dime downtown. (Last minute use of the tickets that would go dead, and Pittsburgh's insistence that parking be free during the holiday season, to boost shopping downtown. The fact I didn't spend a dime downtown kinda pokes a big hole in that.)

The main moment of the game I'll remember will probably be Nick Goings dropping a pass. Actually, not even dropping the pass, more like looking at the pass with disdain and choosing not to even effort catching, while it hit him in the arms. For that we dub him Bartleby the Third Down Back.

Joe gave me props for winning this weeks fantasy football matchup, but really it was all Daunte and Marvin. There will be no lording over, especially after I witnessed one of the most disturbing bits of fantasy football. While at the bar watching the late games, I had to take leave to the rest room. About a minute after I got there, I saw a guy run in, and begin banging on the doors of the stalls. Finally, after a guy whose voice he recognized called out for him to stop, the guy screamed over "Dude, your Cowboys' defense are killing me." I'm pretty sure harassing people on the john is cause for an intervention.

Monday night was the traditional decorating of sugar cookies. This is the one paramount family tradition. Cookies must be sugared, and not just a single color coating. No, these get filled out so that a tree looks a tree. Complete with lights, star, and trunk. Thus it is written, thus it must be. And so, it still falls to me, since the next likely candidate to do it is all of 4 weeks old. Tradition also dictates that we leave about 30% unsugared, so that we can ice them. Herein lies the above fatwa.
From the time I was first able to do this until the time I was 12 we had cans of Pillsbury Decorator Icing. It came in a nice pressurized can about the size of a pump bottle of hairspray, came in the four key colors (red, green, yellow, and blue), and when we were done, it was hard enough to withstand being stacked up in a big can. Pillsbury apparently discontinued the stuff in the mid-80's, and since then we've tried everything that's come out, and nothing, save mixing some specialty cake frosting, has managed to be of structural grade. This year, we found a 3-can set of Betty Crocker decorator icing. We thought we had it made. It even had the key sign of quality, the fact that the first icing out of the pressurized can comes out like an invert sugar bullet, with a stopping power recommended by the NRA. Sadly, after about one quarter of the cookies were iced, we noticed the small print on the cans, "Not stackable." Bite me, Betty Crocker. On to the hate list you go with Delta Airlines.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I shouldn't cook on Fridays, or something.

While making dinner tonight, I shredded the fat of my hand with a slicer. Dumb. This is now the second cooking related accident I've had on a Friday, compared to being a paragon of blade safety the rest of the week. Very odd.

Last night, instead of finishing off the tree, I ended up staring slackjawed at the spectacle of a 1983 film, Cocaine and Blue Eyes. Your standard issue pseudo-pilot oriented TV movie level film. The star, O. J. Simpson. Looking for the real killers. If you ever get to see this, I defy you to get through this without thinking that, because there isn't anything else to think about in the movie. It's almost completely plotless. And ironically, O. J. seems to know this. He's just walking through scenes, stuff happens near him, people don't really give him any information, his mere presence just seems to drive people to do stupid things. And then someone asks if he was a boxer, or a basketball player, or whatever. It's the sort of movie written to be attacked by Crow T. Robot. O.J.'s car gets mangled by thugs, he'll have to get a rental from Hertz! Lots of low-hanging fruit to pick. Recommended only for that purpose.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Things that only made sense at the time, from last weekend's Trashmasters:

World War II was won by tow trucks.

Not all bats fight crime.

The GEICO Gecko does not appear in Double Indemnity, but he should have a role in the remake.

On a similar vein:
Celebrity Boxing: Gecko vs AFLAC Duck, with the Serta Sheep refereeing

Craig Barker is not anti-monkey; his opponents made him out to be.

The concept of outcome-based hangman is not really a good idea.

If you dumped the things you buzz in with into a TiVo, the results will have little resemblance to your actual personality.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Notes from the weekend:

I'm not flying Delta ever again, if I can avoid it. The fact it took me longer to fly to Chattanooga than it would take me to drive there was enough of an annoyance.

The tournament was all right, though I think I'm losing my sense of wonder at such things. We did what we could, and while I would have liked to win, third place wasn't a failure. It was good to see all the people there.

Craig brought up a point on his weblog, that kind of relates what I've been thinking is happening with trash. Namely, the trash circuit is approaching the point that ACF and NAQT have hit in the past, where it is impossible to facilitate both the high level player, and the entry level player, with the same set of questions. The good thing is that I think that the trash circuit got to see the NAQT growing pains and is taking a similar approach. Trash has a three-fold problem here in that not only don't the top players retire, but they have a fairly different set of priorities as to what they feel makes a balanced packet, as compared to newer players. This, when combined with the natural experience gap, and the specialization of players into either trash or non-trash play, make a three-headed monster of a problem.
I guess I'll be revisiting this in future.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Quick bits, I've got a flight to catch.

Level 1 disturbing: Realizing you're watching the movie with someone who's killing time before graduation working at the Chuck E. Cheese in a rat suit.
Level N disturbing(for large values of N): Realizing the movie you're watching is Meet the Feebles.

Mike's Nobel Committee has its first confirmed kill. And so does Bigfoot.

Interesting reading: I found this after doing a google while reading the liner notes to Elvis Costello's "Let Him Dangle". Can't see a way to turn this into a question anytime soon.

Those of you going, see you at Trashmasters.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

The Onion in one article sums up exactly why comedy is hard. And yes, it smacks a little too close to home. For the record, I don't take notes for football comedy, quizbowl writing is different.

Meanwhile, I think we can sum this one up best as: I am Jack's morbid sense of meta.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Okay, the "Annual Progressive Lunch" (Could we have made that phrase any blander and non-offensive? And I'm still trying to figure out what's progressive about it.) is occurring in two weeks at work. Rules of the game: Each member of staff is requested to bring a meal course representative of their family's holiday traditions. Additional rule, everyone in my wing of the building is supposed to bring an entree. Okay, in a nutshell, I'm screwed. As you've seen from the list from Thanksgiving, there is nothing unique about my family's holiday entrees, we were assimilated into the game early and often. What originality is left stays strictly in the side dish and leftovers. (Tonight's my third night of turkey mole pablano, though last night was my mother's scalloped turkey). The only traditional stuff I can even reasonably think about making is mince, and frankly, when you've got co-workers who come from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Chile, France, Hungary, Russia, and Thailand, ain't nobody gonna go nuts for a big helping of boiled ground beef and mashed potatoes. (I like it, but I'm not going to inflict it on non-blood relations.) Now that I think about it, I seem to spend most of my cooking time running away from my family's entrees, and my mother does too. So I'm stuck. Maybe I can pickle a chicken...(No, Dwight, that would only further the stereotype.)

Monday, December 02, 2002

Weekend hangover.

Two totally unnecessary covers. Just in time for the holiday season, the Thanksgiving Day parade was telling us who's going to be a "teen sensation". And their choices were people covering "Kids in America" and "Just a Friend". It says something when people feel it necessary to besmirch the legacy of Biz Markie. No reason for that.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Things forgotten from yesterday's menu:

Corn pudding. Very Pennsylvania area ladies club sort of dish, creamed corn meets eggs and milk. Better than any way I can make it sound.

Appetizer: Chicken cheese ball: chicken, cream cheese, worcestershire, onions, form ball, roll in nuts. Match with butter crackers.

Dessert: Pumpkin roll, zucchini nut bread, and the under-rated mincemeat pie.

We have a really freakin' huge stack of turkey to clear. Not only were we down to 12 people, but because we dropped a few due to illness, there was a cooked, untouched additional turkey breast.

Meanwhile, I finally got to meet my new second cousin, baby Austin. I believe I was the first non-father male to handle him for significant time, given that I had him cradled in the left arm, he kept turning his head to my chest, and I had to keep telling him. "Nothing there, dude. Don't even try." After about 15 minutes of instructing him on the finer points of football. ("See that, that's a touchdown. That means points for my fantasy team, yes it does!") He then did a very male thing for watching football, or at least I thought so, but then I realized babies don't bluff. And that was the end of that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Mark's post on Turkey Day struck a chord. The house specialties(this and Memorial Day being the days my mother gets in the family rotation, the Fourth, and Labor Day, and sometimes Christmas in other relative's hands.) :
Turkey, with just a small bit of ham available for the couple of people who don't eat turkey. Cooked in the traditional way, nothing unusual there. Bread stuffing, cooked in bird and outside (yeah, I know, Mr. President). No deep fry, no turducken. (the turducken always looked like something you'd eat if Norman Rockwell and H. R. Giger had Thanksgiving together) The turkey is cooked nicely, unlike my aunt, who once suggested that when the little pop-up thing goes off, it has another three hours to go.
Mashed potatoes, lots of potatoes. Potatoes are good. If you can set me up with potatoes and stuffing, and gravy, you could probably get me to pass on the bird. (Incidentally, the most amusing moment I've ever gotten out of Iron Chef has to be seeing the Turkey battle with the explanation of gravy as one of the great innovations of American cuisine. Very strange.) I'm less enamored of the candied sweet potatoes which do show up. I think they smell better than they taste, which always leads to disappointment.
Cranberries. No can involved. Take cranberries, apples, orange peel and a meat grinder. Mix into unset jello, form a ring. Good stuff.
Vegetation. Mostly a tip to the family's tie to the Pennsylvania Dutch, we usually end up with one or two vegetables in cream and butter (never was big on that add on, it only made lima beans look stranger). Also as the Pennsylvania Dutch are supposedly masters of pickling (possibly the world's most ridiculous ethnic slur or something), we get the full compliment of pickles, olives, pickled green beans, etc.
Dessert. Want some pie? I fully expect Weebil and Bob to appear at my parents' for dessert. Pumpkin, Apple, Black Raspberry, of which I usually grab the first two, and retire back to my chair to bloat and collapse.

Nothing real special, except for the head count (last year 22). But as always it's not the food, it's the people reminding us exactly why we only see them once a year. More on that later.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Ennui...Or perhaps just recovery.

Saturday went well. A solid B. I can't give us an A for it, because we cut so many things so closely. It's one of those things that I've had the pleasure of seeing a tournament run with excess staff that I realize how much better it is, unless you've had it, you can't really appreciate it. Then again, it gives us room to improve, and I think we can do that. The things that need done (more moderator training, more personnel), are fixable.

Sunday should have been an experiment in deep hibernation, were I not lucky enough to have tickets to the Steelers game. I don't understand why the hot dog with grilled onions and peppers is so good, it just is. Bengals almost made the Steelers pay for it, but no. Still the Bengals. Heinz Field remains a bit of a challenge in turfkeeping. After high school championships, and both Pitt and Steeler games, they've basically given up on the field being any good for this year. Instead of a halftime show by the band on the field, it was the band on the sidelines, and synchronized steamrollers. That was cool. Depending on the moment, we had the possibility of people being run over by steamrollers, people mistaking the steamrollers for Zambonis, a near reenactment of the Cal-Stanford play, complete with crushed trombone, and jokes about how Pittsburgh's "Sparkle Season" included a performance by Mannheim Steamroller. Disturbing comedy abounded. We then retired after the game to random ranting on sports radio, followed by a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings, where I now officially find the Caribbean Jerk wings intriguing, and the Thai wings the right choice after you trade off for one of your mates' Dresden Firebomb wings.

Monday returned to normal, after all it's a short week at work. You can tell this is one of those weeks where people are just marking time. I have a little bit of stuff to do, but the developer left at 3, which made any questions I wanted to ask rather pointless. My inertia at this point will make me look positively manic after dinner Thursday. Meanwhile, I have a large stack of questions written on paper. Nothing trashy, just a stack of stuff, that I just can't seem to bring myself to type in. Eeek...Sleeepy...

Friday, November 22, 2002

One little quiz bowl thing before I start spewing data.
There really are very few words that don't really need to be used in quiz bowl questions at any time. But one of them, that really is nothing but spacefiller is the word "famous". Unless it's in a title, "famous" isn't necessary. Everything in quiz bowl should be to some degree famous. If it isn't famous, then why are you writing the question in the first place?

Head check, how many people know what this is?

A eulogy of a sorts for Sid Sackson

I'm sure there's a question in here somewhere:
1 Every so often it is important to remember that where I live was Whiskey Rebellion country.
2 How much would we be able to charge for Celebrity Kickerboxing?
3 I'd be much more likely to go with a strict vegetarian diet, were more condiments to go on homicidal rampages. I like my food to assert that I am on the top of the food chain, and to have it challenge me is a good thing. Or perhaps she should have been tipped off by the "Bin Laden's Own" label.
4 Just OWW!
5 Admit it, you want this in the next Grand Theft Auto as badly as I do.
6 The management is not responsible for anyone you accidentally maim by this.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

First an odd note: Some people out there define Trash as anything outside of what they could learn in their schools curriculum. What does this mean? Recently we were told that including fine arts made the packets too trashy. That amuses me. I'll just file this as more proof that how we debate these issues makes no sense, primarily because these issues mean different things to everyone.

Why current events were abandoned, and how we get them back.
Back in the day (current events was around 20% of all packets) I can sum up how we lost current events in two steps. First, we fell victim to the worst impulse in packet writing, packet deadlines. If you're writing for a packet deadline, what is the most obvious method of creating a current events question? Simple: open up Newsweek, or, or whatever. Guess what, EVERYONE DOES THAT with the deadline approaching. So what happens: You end up with a bunch of questions submitted, which are identical to each other, reflecting not current events, but only what's in the newspaper on the day of the deadline. Unsatisfactory, especially when you go killing repeats. The moment I saw this begin to affect things on a grand scale was QOTC 1996. The big joke was that of 19 submitted packets, 9 of them referenced Mad Cow Disease (10 if you count that my team name was Cornell Mad Cow.) All of those were cut out. So suddenly the real interesting story, which provided intriguing current events questions, was out of the tournament. Result: harder, more obscure, and less interesting current events.
The second element of current events falling out of favor, was simply that when campaigns were led for other categories, no one would defend current events. Current events tossups are difficult to write, where the answer is not a person, or some sort of biography-type question (by that I mean a question basically retelling the origin of a person/group/movement/company/artwork.) Since we've been on a fairly absolutist purge of biography of any kind, current events was a natural casualty. Add to that, there is no natural constituency within quizbowl for it. By that, I mean that no major that is well-represented in quizbowl benefits from the inclusion of current events. Like the other fields that have been attacked as "not academic" or "not part of real quiz bowl" (current events, geography, general knowledge, pop culture, and sports), the draw for these categories is not based in a set of collegiate majors, but in a broad-based "things that people pick up in real life". The majors which could defend current events (business/finance, journalism, communication, international relations, etc.) aren't typical majors quiz bowlers gravitate towards. That we don't draw heavily from these is a different problem, and a rather shameful one, but one I can't offer solution to today.

The saving grace, and what makes them worth writing, is that primarily current events questions are about the interaction of elements. Those individual elements are what makes a set of answers that you can use, and the interaction of those elements is what makes them interesting. It makes them ideal for bonus questions.

So how do we make them work? Well, the two best ideas I can offer are to write them more, and write them more often. The two best writers of current events I'd ever seen (Pat Matthews and Eric Tentarelli, both unfortunately no longer writing) both wrote them ahead of deadlines. Additionally, they wrote them constantly. So if a tournament deadline was 3 weeks out, they'd have questions to put in from a variety of times, and a variety of subjects. Use that as a model. The second thing I can suggest is that if we want 2/2 current events out of 20 (to my mind not an unreasonable level), we shouldn't expect 3/3 for 30 to give enough questions to avoid repeats. Repeats are the hardest part of this for the editor, so we should give them the opportunity to avoid them, by putting more questions into the set for current events. So 2/2 in the edited packet should correspond to 4/4 in the submitted packet.

In a similar vein, things lost which should be found, consider this report on geography.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

It was very odd today at work. They let go 19, two in my department, which kind of gives me one of those odd mixed feelings. It's not like the testing group was overstaffed before, and with two less people we're only going to be further stretched. On the other hand, it was a guy with more seniority than me and a guy with less seniority, which means that I was probably dubbed irreplaceable. Good grief.
This is only the second time I've seen someone fired while here, and that previous time was kind of obvious that he wasn't getting a grasp of the problem. Nonetheless, this was more than a little surprising.

Meanwhile, they've cleaned out everyone on the other side of my cubicle wall so that they can continue the extreme programming experiment. I'm doubtful as to its efficacy in our environment, since it seems to favor small projects with little legacy code to integrate them, neither of which really apply to our company. We will see. Hopefully they won't be too loud. If not, you'll be hearing it here.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Shoes, pen cartridges, a haircut, and spinach.
Or in other words, reasons why I hadn't been posting. Little things that needed done, that weren't getting done.

I'm stuck for new material, since I'm in the midst of writing my share of the TrashMasters packet, and I can't really tip you off to what I'm writing.

S'anyway, the trophy lamp got lit by CMU on Saturday. A pleasant surprise, now we move to reproducibility. Meanwhile, Pitt is putting together its biggest HS tournament ever. Encouraging to see that the local schools are getting in to this.
More later.

Monday, November 11, 2002

A Belgian engineer, an evil squirrel, and a superheroine walk into a bar...

Product testing, stuff I've eaten in the past week.

Lime Green Tea by Snapple. Since Snapple went down to just lemon, raspberry, and peach iced teas, I've felt a little deprived, having really enjoyed some of their discontinued stuff (cherry, strawberry, mango, mint, orange, and especially cranberry) Overall not bad, though they probably put more sugar in it than was really needed, but that might have been from me not getting it cold enough.
dnL by 7up. The thing that will mess with your head with this beverage is that it is the exact color of the 7up bottle, while having a clear plastic bottle, thus making it REALLY look like the label was put on upside down. It ends up tasting like a lime soda, though with a Mountain Dew caffeination aftertaste. Decent, though not spectacular.
Caramel Crunch. Not to be confused with the Camel Clutch, it's the next variation of an established candy bar, following in the line of the Snickers Cruncher I guess. Not bad, given I don't typically go after a Crunch in the first place, this might make my list of normal vending.machine choices.

For those of you who wonder: No. Not all the people from Pittsburgh are as messed up as I am. However, it would appear from this that I'm not quite the top end of the wacky. Hmm. Back to the plans.

Irony defined: this guy

Evil squirrel roundup: One dead, one at large.
Quote that just makes this: "Its a shame he went nuts, but I couldn't let this little beggar hold the town to ransom,"
What next, the squirrel was going to put acorns in the water supply?

Let's just file this under "why Belgium is goofy."

Is there a term for the feeling of frustration that results when one of your fantasy football players just misses the roundoff for the next set of yardage points? Because I'd be feeling it if I wasn't almost assured of a win.
James Thrash 9 yards rec
Michael Bennett 9 yards rec
Duce Staley 39 yds rec
Deion Branch 9 yds rec
Hines Ward 139 yds rec, 29 yds rush
Haven't seen this many 9's since the old PSA's for Covenant House.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Two obits became known to me today.

Kam Fong. Back in the early 80's, I saw some random comedian start a routine about Hawaii Five-O, which began roughly. "Kam Fong as Chin Ho, and vice versa," a phrase which registered with me on so many levels. Hawaii Five-O always fascinated me as a small child, because I understood none of it, but it was just outside of my reach (11:30 being a common young Kidder's bedtime, and regular as Juiceman's colon, 11:30 Sunday night was Hawaii Five-O reruns on Channel 2, at least until 1992. I once theorized that wherever you were in the world, if it was 11:30 Sunday, Hawaii Five O was on, seeing it in Cleveland, and Virginia Beach. After theorizing this, I then saw it in Hamburg, Germany, dubbed, which I think proved my case until the age of Baywatch.) Kam Fong in particular was fascinating, as this was my first exposure to Asian-Americans beyond stereotype. Of course, in the episode where he was shot, and I found out Chin's full name was Chin Ho Kelly, was a classic little WTF? moment for me. (And I suspect for many of you just now.) On occasion, Hawaii Five-O would enter my mind as I drove past Canonsburg's Chinese restaurant (coincidentally named Kam Fong, I assume no relation). gave him a very nice send-off. And so I join them. Mahalo, Chin Ho.

Sid Sackson. When I was 10 years old, I stumbled across a copy of Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games, a book he published of about 38 games he or his friends had developed. I knew his work from Games Magazine, but I didn't realize at the time how many cool little games he had been responsible for (Domination, Bazaar, Acquire, and Can't Stop being the four I most identified with him). In the 1970's Sackson was the closest equivalent to some of the top German developers today, and he was still creating. A Gamut of Games was a wonderful eye-opener for me, in terms of understanding the mechanics of games, and what makes them fun. Probably had I not run into quiz bowl, following in his path might have been my afterwork activity. According to the reports, he wanted no eulogy, oh, well. Instead, play a couple rounds of something he did, I'd highly recommend Monad, which has a DOS version on the same website. You'll be frustrated, infuriated, and then you'll start to understand it, and you'll be amazed by how elegantly it works. I'm half tempted to go out to the auction of his game collection next weekend.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I had no idea there was a Thornburg, PA.
And yet while tracking my order online I discovered the town is just barely 8 miles from where I live. I think this is a sign my local geography goes as that New Yorker cover does, north of 279.

Two things which kind of amused me for their incongruity:
Anne Rice is apparenlty a season ticket holder for the New Orleans Hornets.
While playing around with isotopes, bashing them into each other, scientists may have inadvertently created the tetraneutron, a reasonably stable arrangement of four neutrons, which would be the densest element (as well as having an atomic number of zero, which will make computer scientists very happy.)

Well, the Republican faithful are happy, but I'm not necessarily. The win in the Senate is nice, but I am hoping it's balanced at 51-48-1, preventing the assumption of lockstep conservatism, or perhaps because I don't want the appearance of it. Memo to anyone who's crying right now: So, you got your butt kicked. This happens on occasion. But you'd better get up. You whiffed here. You didn't articulate much more than "what he said, only I'm better, isn't that obvious to you?", and you didn't connect with it. Guess what, you lose that way. And now, if you sit there bitter and moping, you're going to tell me I'm a fascist, or evil, or something else. No, and I don't like being called that any more than you would. So don't go there. Don't fight dirty either. Come up with something positive, and fight for a good idea, not for a party.
Because of my tendencies (socially liberal, fiscally reactionary) I didn't like the election, despite voting pretty much in favor of it. I didn't expect Fisher to win, he had run a general campaign as bad as Rendell had run in the primary, and Rendell had the money advantage. The problem I see now is that because this was a rare and significant Dem pickup, by a former DNC power player, the state capital became the bully pulpit for opposition to Washington, rather than what it needs to be, a place to get things done to keep people, jobs, and business from leaving the state. If he manages to do that, that's fine, and really what he offered wasn't significantly different from Fisher's case, so I'll live with it. If he ends up spending more time on Hardball than in Harrisburg, well, we'll be in the same boat we were this time, and the time before that, and before that....

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Vote if you haven't. I'm off to.

Time once again for "I'm sure there's a question in here." (News that almost but not quite could be used for question fodder.)
1 I just like the description of this as a giant lava lamp.
2 I always wondered in the Monty Python bookshop sketch why the expurgated version was missing the gannet. [Walks away whistling the alma mater]
3 Apparently the pinheads who do ads for PA have a British subsidiary.
4 Just when I think the ultimate extension of bad reality TV has been achieved, something like this comes along.
5 Sorry, Julie.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Well, now there are three people I know with birthdays today.
My cousin and his wife finally had a kid. They've had a lot of false starts and heartbreak along this path, and it's taken them a long time. I'm really happy for them.

I'm still trying to figure out my position on this year's ACF Fall, because I'm agreeing with everyone. On one hand, it was a step forward. It was a set where I only saw one tossup where I hadn't heard of the answer. That's very good. The difficulty on the bonuses was mostly reasonable. (It appears that my assessment of "one and two and a kick in the balls" has propagated, and there were more than a few of those, but not the majority. I understand that that is compensating for the other two parts being considered trivially easy, but when you can basically mark the question as a zero before you ask it, all it becomes is unnecessary, undistinguishing time filler) If the design was to make a set accessible to those on the circuit who don't usually go to ACF, then that was mostly achieved. This was a set at about the same difficulty as every other submission tournament I've seen in the past year and a half.

On the other hand, typos do matter, especially if they cause bad moderation. Factual errors do matter. Having pronunciation guides so that new moderators can get their heads around how to say things, that matters. It's damning to the image of something as academically rigorous as to have it ignore elementary school spelling and grammar. Fortunately, that is fixable. Less fixable is the proposition that only 12 of the 25+ were deemed usable, even partially. I've argued the idea that feedback is needed to make sets better, and cutting off another channel of feedback isn't going to fix the problem long term.

Anyway, it was a solid effort by ACF. I didn't see it as jaw droppingly excellent, but as good as other submission tournaments. More importantly, it was something for them to build on. It will take a series of events to shake the notion of ACF as nothing but hardcore. They've had two fall tournaments that have done that, and interceding tournaments that haven't. Whether the fall tournament is enough, we'll see.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Carey displayed an unnerving power to unleash destructive force on the television schedule. Someone from the Charles Xavier Focus Group will be calling later.
Right now, I'm just hoping MDs leaves, and quickly. Of all the shows this year, this was the one whose ads drove me the most insane. They kept trying to established the leads were "Not your ordinary doctors!" Well, no. However, they were exactly like every other lead TV doctor, and I do mean exactly. It less looked like a show where the characters were created, than extruded out of a PlayDoh Fun Factory.

Finally got to see the Browns ORANGE uniform, thanks to Wow. They managed to capture the exact orange of an Orange Tootsie Pop. They're growing on me. Could be a worthy third jersey (if such things existed in the NFL).

The magic bag of candy appeared again, and I partook. At some level I should feel guilty about metaphorically taking candy from babies. Then I find one of the mini boxes of Dots, and the feeling passes. Craig has managed to capture some of the my more interesting bits from the afternoon after Halloween.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Matt adds his take today.

Tomorrow morning, I get to enjoy one of the great holiday traditions. Every November 1, a big bag of candy appears in the office kitchen. I finally realized this afternoon that it probably was someone just getting rid of the overflow from what they bought to hand out to the neighborhood kids. What's depressing about that is that until today I thought it was some parent giving us the stuff because their little young'uns had OD'ed the night before on the other half of the bag, doing Pixy Stix like they were Mrs. Mia Wallace. Somehow, not having a wicked parent steal their children's hard begged loot just takes the whole magic out of the evening for me.

I just noticed that I hadn't announced the fate of the software. It finally was expelled out the airlock last Friday, we're not sure if it's clinging to the hull.

Consider this: While you're walking around a used bookstore, you see something that's available for a dollar. You look at it, and realize you could probably write only one question on the material in it, and then you wouldn't use it again (not even to read, assume its something that has no value outside of quiz bowl). Would you even consider buying it? If not, what price would you pay? If yes, how high does that price have to go before you say no?
The reason I ask was that I saw a bunch of travel guides at the local Half Price Books for such tourist hot spots as Stockholm, Cyprus, and Tunisia. Each for a dollar. Didn't buy any, but I was tempted. I admit I buy a lot of used books for purely quiz bowl purposes, but it's always been stuff that I could always justify getting the cost back in total questions written. My gut is my single question value lies somewhere between $1, and the $.10 I paid for the Reader's guide to Belgian Literature, which is terribly amusing, but really dumb, and certainly not worth writing anything out of it..

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Brian and Victoria add their views on the whole future of the game thing. Note that I didn't read theirs in advance of what I wrote today, just dumb luck that.

Those of you who watched 24, two questions:

1. Do we have any idea what the heck was going on with that opening scene? Do the South Koreans have some sort of torture involving removing someone's internal fluids and replacing it with bavarian creme donut filling? 'Cause that's what it looked like to me, and really, I'm having a hard time imagining a worse way to go.

2. If I ever utter the phrase "I'm going to need a hacksaw" will you please be kind enough to get out of my way? I'll do the same for you.

Stuff from the office vending machine: They've developed the Banana Nut granola bar. Much like South Korean Bavarian Creme torture, once you get past the hideous yellow/gold color, it's not bad eating.

Accessibility, and a building.

Okay. I just want to start you off with a mental image. Imagine a skyscraper, not a really tall one, maybe 7 to 10 stories tall. Across the street there's a parking garage, with a walkway that connects over to the building on the third floor. People in this building work there all day, some of them go down to the basement where there are a couple of fast food places for lunch, then come back up on the elevator, but the majority pack their own. Some people come in off the street and eat at the food court, then go back out. Everything is nice and reasonable. One day you come to the building, having never been there before, and you try to enter on the ground floor. Only one problem, there's nohing on the ground floor there, no entrance, just windows, and you can't see anything in there, except for where the elevators would be, but they're just a column. It looks like the whole building's empty. So you go wandering around, and you find the stairs into the basement. You ask someone who just comes there to eat, and they're happy, but they don't really see what's going on upstairs, and besides, those folks keep to themselves. So you go ask someone who came down on the elevator, and they tell you they don't know how to get in the building that way, they always park at the parking garage. They've never had to think about coming in from the street.

Welcome to how I see the circuit. We tend to spend all our time going from the parking garage (HS) up to our work on the upper floors, doing our work, and not even realizing what's going on below us. (Incidentally, the upper floors are all the formats, NAQT, TRASH, ACF, some are very difficult, some are less difficult but all are up there on all of those high levels.) Down in the basement we've got CBI, which the circuit has all but separated itself from, by moving up to the higher floors. In the process we've left the lower floors empty, but with no way for anyone to take up residence. There's plenty of space down there, but since we've been conditioned to enter in a different way, it doesn't occur to us that we have this accrued experience that makes us think that there's anything down there. We advertise things as accessible, but that we don't realize that that means accessible for those people already here.

The promising sign is, for the first time this year, I've seen people make an effort to realize that these levels of quiz bowl are unoccupied, and that people might want to occupy that space. TRASH's junior bird was a major step in that direction (see my previous effusiveness for that set). NAQT's IS sets are getting there, and the only team-written set I've seen recently that could get down in there was Cornell's set from a couple years back. Merely providing the questions, however, is only half of how to make that level habitable. We need to break open the routes to allow people from the outside in. All three of those sets get dinged for being "too easy", but that's because the teams that played on it were already integrated into the circuit. Expose those to people not used to quiz bowl, and then you have something.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

First of all some fun bits:

24 premieres tonight. Just watch it. If they manage to make it half as good as last year, you can thank me later.

I ran across someone mentioning this short biography of Piet Hein I had run across his work in old Martin Gardner columns, but it appears that he's an order of magnitude cooler than even I thought. Anyone who can combine mathematics, architecture, and satire is one formidable dude. The superellipse was the first thing that I ever looked at and immediately was able to grasp its aesthetic virtue.

Maybe it's the only flower of the season, but maybe it's just the first.
Word came from Eric Bell that he had had a school sign up for one of his HS events which qualified under Title I. That's one of the good signs. If we can draw in more teams like that, that's a big step toward dropping the stigma of quiz bowl being just for "elitist suburban schools." Yeah, we still get dogged by that.

In reply to the reply to the reply:

Eric, I'm not underestimating the value of travel, but when travel for most teams consists of enjoying the great Motel 6's of the world, arriving late at night, playing, and then leaving after the tournament to head back home, I have to think that you might be overestimating the value. The majority of tournaments aren't exactly travel destinations, but a few are. There's room for both.

And as for the question of playing with the university money versus your own, it may be true, but should that matter? Whether your team has to fight for the budget money, or earn their own cash, it's the same shade of green. You may not be able to spend university funds in all the same places, but the investment principle is the same; it's a resource that needs to be divided up, and we should all be watchful of how it gets divided. If you want to argue this as the extension of my old rule that high school teams will spend their budget in the least logical way, you're welcome to.

As for the argument that new people will possibly be annoying... Well, would it be any less annoying than the circuit is now? The circuit talks more angrily than it's ever done before. I may be privileged in remembering a time when the circuit forums were actually reasonably pleasant, but it's really nasty out there, and the lesson being broadcast out there is if you want to be heard, speak louder and flame more hurtfully. I grant you it's a possibility that what is brought in will be worse that what's here, but the favorable outcome is far more probable.

Why I think the density can be achieved (certainly east of the Mississippi, beyond there, or California, it's iffy.): Take a look at any listing of the colleges within your state (I used the list at It is my belief that any school with 1000 students could support a team. There should be enough people familiar with the concept of quiz bowl there that they could do it (not will, but could). It doesn't matter whether it's Directional State or Ivy Tech. If we can just put them all together... I'm not foolish enough to think that will happen overnight, but give us five years, and there's hope.

Eric is essentially correct in saying that there's not a groundswell supporting the idea of growth. For now. Like anything else, it needs a catalyst. It demands someone looking beyond this year, beyond even when they might not even be part of the circuit. I admit I'm trying to raise some rabble, but I'm also trying to raise awareness. If you've ever had that feeling during a tournament, "there has to be more than this." I'm trying to scratch that itch for you.

Let me tackle Eric's four components, they do summarize the basics requirements:
1. (a sufficiently motivated individual with organizational skill) is easy enough.(the actual level of organization needed at the beginning is remarkably small, it's only when you formally organize as a club that this comes into play.) And component 1 will easily collect component 2 (people interested in competing). Component 3 (money, basically) is harder to come by, but does have some degree of scalability. You can get by with less. (fewer tournaments, certainly, but what's required for one tournament isn't much. No one ever required teams to go to every tournament.) 4 (the catalyst to put everything in motion) is the mystery. To a certain degree we've fallen into the expectation that 1 will find 4 for themselves (maybe they find the Yahoo club, or something similar). The problem is that 4 is pretty inert. Part of what I'm proposing is reversing that order. What happens if 4 actively seeks out 1? What if we make 4 more available? Now I'm not exactly talking about prosetlyzing the masses. Nobody's got the time for door to door sales. But a more open and active presence is possible, increasing the awareness of what we do outside of our little box.

Progress is achieved where the altruistic interest intersects with the Machiavellian. I've had this phrase rolling in my head now for a couple months. Whether I picked it up as a quote or I have formulated some new maxim, I don't know. But it came into play today.

Eric challenged me on the issue that my advocacy of circuit growth may really be a front for an NAQT profit motive. It's a fair criticism, given my connection, and I would admit that a larger circuit would benefit NAQT, and it's a nice one since it can't really be disproven, short of having me shoot NAQT in the foot, and since to a certain degree those are my toes as well... The thing is, even if I wasn't with NAQT, I would still wholeheartedly advocate it. Everyone benefits from a larger circuit. More teams means more teams at tournaments, and more hosts for tournaments, more events, more moderators, more packets, and more money flowing (the dreaded profit motive). [Before someone throws the natural follow-up "But NAQT will benefit first!" No, unless NAQT is the next event on the schedule. Before someone throws the natural follow-up "But NAQT will benefit more!" No. The people, teams, and organizations who are most able to make new teams welcome, feel accepted, and happy will benefit more. That may be NAQT, but it's no guarantee. It's also the best check against the "NAQT will get a big head and forget us all" line of reasoning.]

On a purely personal basis, I just want new teams, they're fun to watch, they're excited about playing, and they laugh at my jokes. But I'm not expecting them to dominate, I wouldn't make that the ultimate measure of whether teams should be considered successful in the circuit. I'm expecting them to enjoy themselves, learn something, contribute some enjoyment to the game, and yeah, maybe they will become dominant. Nothing wrong with them reaching the top, nothing wrong with them not reaching it either.

I hold that there is also a second set of reasons for growth, which play in into the altruistic viewpoint, but that I also to be true and fundamental. Those items spring from the idea that quiz bowl has value in and of itself, that there is value in playing and interacting with the circuit, beyond wins and losses. That it is fun, enlightening, and honorable. And it is those things that make quiz bowl good, that draw people in, and make them want to play. Those things are not highlighted enough. You play, you learn, you enjoy, you meet new people, and you grow as a person. I believe in those ideas. I've believed in them since before NAQT was even concieved, and I bring those ideals into the NAQT discussion. So if you're assuming that what I'm saying here is because of how NAQT does things, well, to quote Willy Wonka, Strike that...reverse it.

Now filling in Eric (and everyone else) on the idea of reducing overall costs.
I mentioned that we should have a reduction in costs. Well, here's how I see it. Over the past month, I've seen the following pattern with events that I've driven to. Tournament fee is around $60-70. That's equal to the cost of one room for one team per evening. (Since I was driving my own car, we didn't enter car rental into this, but the gas is usually around 2 tanks per trip. $40.) If any of those trips had been within day-trip range, we wouldn't have needed hotels, or the second tank of gas. $100 is sufficient to go to another tournament. I concede that there will be tournaments that will be worth the travel cost, but you can't say that about every tournament (besides, with a larger set of teams to draw from, those tournaments will have new teams replacing those from far out). If one distant tournament can be replaced with two closer ones, then there's a serious benefit. If we can populate the circuit with more teams, then this would be a real savings, and it would keep a higher percentage of money within the circuit.
I'd also love to see the tournament fee structure drop if this happened. But I recognize that really becomes a question of what the market will bear, and really, I've yet to see someone suffer sticker shock so bad that it's kept them from going to a tournament. Until that happens, and makes it public, we won't see a drop.

One other point that Eric raised was one of "how do you get a critical mass at a new location?"
Well, sometimes you need a team to come together. But sometimes you need to just have one or two interested people, if their passion is strong enough. That's pretty much how we restarted Cornell, there were several tournaments where we took two people, because that was all that were interested. Eventually we were able to collect a team, but if we weren't tenacious that way, we never would have gotten there. Doing that sort of thing isn't a bad thing, as long as you concede that you're going to learn, not necessarily to win. This also makes the winning that much better.

More later.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Hayden, Fred, and Brick(October 23 and August 15 entries) have added their takes on this.

I'd like to thank everyone who's participated, and please continue the discussion. I've found it enlightening, and more than a little frightening. Not because of any particular vision of the future, but because every version that has been presented lacks one simple component: what can be. While everyone has brought up concerns worthy of consideration, the prevailing notions take one of two forms: either that "if we fix the problems I'm bringing up, we'll be all right" or "there's nothing wrong here that won't always be wrong. So why bother?" The latter I find simply wrong, and the former I find to only address part of the problem. Neither gives us anything more than a view of the future other than a view of today, perhaps a little better polished.

I have to take a few things as given which, though my work has demonstrated to be true, there will be a few who doubt whether they will be true.

Premise #1: There is an immense number of people not currently served by the circuit, who, if exposed to it, would like to be involved. This is true whether we are discussing the collegiate level, high school level, or even the post-college level.

Premise #2: While the circuit is by any measure healthier than it was previously, in no reasonable way can it be considered healthy.

To a certain extent, the last wave of great circuit expansion via currently available means is over. And really that wave, the expansion of the circuit into community colleges was a cheat, since there was an existing circuit that was merely integrated. Without that sort of group integration, we've only seen about a 5-10% growth in the new teams on circuit per year over the past 5 years. And when you factor in teams that have fallen off the circuit, the growth is more like 0-5%. Let's consider that the baseline, and let's consider that the fundamental problem: that five years of progress on the circuit will leave us exactly where we are. Except we will have spent five years generally grinding on each other's gears. If you think that is our fate, that's fine, and I won't be able to stop you from thinking that. I'm hopeful for more than that, because it means that quiz bowl will be available to more people, and because there are benefits to the circuit in growing.

Now let me tell you what I think is possible, should everything roll together correctly. (Admittedly this is the ultimate extension of wish fulfillment, but the components to make this happen are at least possible, and available. I couldn't say that five years ago.)
In 5 years, it should be possible to have all of the following, given sufficient effort:
400-500 teams participating on the circuit.
10-20 tournaments every weekend across the country, hosted by circuit teams, either for college or high school.
An existing and vibrant masters circuit, competing in a variety of formats, throughout the year.
A reduction in tournament costs such that everyone is able to play as much as they want.
A 50% increase in high school teams competing in quiz bowl, as we percieve it, and a 500% increase in high school teams competing in quiz bowl events hosted by circuit schools.
And finally, for NAQT's (Okay, maybe more for my sanity's) sake, at least one full-time employee.

I will freely admit there are a couple of ugly little cheats involved in this which I will get into later, but I want to give you the possible, not necessarily the assured. In most of the cases above, the actual number is not as important as creating enough growth to actually be able to shift from the stable point we're in now, to another stable point with a larger, more inclusive circuit. Just 100 new teams would be a tremendous jump. But each of these bits interacts and plays off each other, making all the other parts more probable, and easier to pull off.

I'll follow this up with the advantages, drawbacks, and necessary actions to achieve these in later entries.

Friday, October 25, 2002

It didn't ship yesterday. I swear this is software release is a breach baby.

If you thought I was running short yesterday, today is nothing. Thankfully we've got a triple open mike night: Allison sent a link to her take in to me while MattW and Mark sent in via the email. First Matt, 'cause he hit the inbox first.

I know that NAQT's difficulty has gone down since 1999
from reading and then playing their sets. I know that
ACF's difficulty has gone down since 2000 from same;
the spring 2001 regionals and the 2001 fall tournament
were perhaps as close to perfect difficulty as packet
submission can get. Invitationals remain all over the
map: I wrote perhaps the most accessible invitational
packet of my life, a freelance round for GWU's
tournament, in between writing rounds for the
intentionally challening Bongo. If I personally can
switch difficulties when my purpose requires it, then
I'm sure that entire tournaments can do the same.

The idea that difficulty in general is still rising is
not the only misconception in the discussion; another
is the assumption behind that statement, that
difficulty is the major factor in retaining new
players. There are loads of teams out there who keep
upwards of five freshmen a year, including some teams
who seek out harder events--Michigan and Maryland
being the most obvious examples. Giving people a good
atmosphere, providing insight and resources on how to
be either a casual or a dedicated player as each
individual might wish, and above all treating freshmen
with respect is of the utmost importance. The biggest
problem with the rise of grad students is not an upset
to competitive balance; it's a widening of the age gap
between the elder people on teams and on the board and
the newbies, leading to lots of patronizing or
insulting comments. It is never appropriate to tell
someone that their opinion is invalid because they are
younger or less experienced than you; argue the
merits. Likewise, coddling your freshmen by taking
them to tournaments which do not represent what
quizbowl is all about can only lead to a shocking
discovery as they find themselves playing Chicago on
an Anthony de Jesus packet as sophomores. The approach
from the teams with good track records on recruiting
seems to be, teach freshmen to write, but only require
it a few times a year. Don't prevent them from going
to a difficult or competitive tournament if they want
to. If they say something stupid, correct what they
said, but don't tell them to shut up until they're

The most important factor in continuing growth,
besides bringing in new players and new teams, is
creating new writers. Teams with good writers can do
this by teaching internally; new programs will need
the help of tournament editors or nearby volunteers.
It's often proposed that editors at submission events
should issue specific comments to each team about
their packet, yet I've heard of this happening only
once in the past two years (this year's Cornell
tournament.) It should be widely encouraged--perhaps
highminded programs could offer entry discounts to
anyone who hosts a commented submission tournament
during the same academic year. New, more detailed
documents on writing to complement the excellent
Michigan guidelines should be proliferated to teams as
well, along with a range of sample packets from all
common formats and difficulties.

I remind everyone yet again that three and a half
years ago I was struggling to put up 20 points a game
on high school questions. All I've done since then to
improve is write questions whenever possible (as well
as read more respectable literature, but I probably
would have done that anyway). I've never used
flashcards or lists and I rarely read reference books.
Improving to at least an average level in college is
not difficult for those who are motivated, and I think
with the few small changes above we can make the game
more welcome both for those people and for people who
just want to play the questions without working.

In the larger picture, we probably all need to start
being more "professional," as painful as that will be.
I've been told by the TD that there is a possiblity of
a certain upcoming tournament for which people have
purchased plane tickets being cancelled. Routinely,
tournament directors write finals packets during lunch
or make up tiebreakers on the fly. Tournaments are
announced mere weeks in advance, rendering teams
unable to present yearly budgets in the fall. If we're
ever going to achieve the levels of funding and
respect that similar academic club activities (chess,
debate, model UN) get from their schools, then we will
need to start acting like them. They know their own
rules, they know not to act like they're doing people
a favor by taking their money, they are experienced in
seeking funding, and you will never see someone
attempt to end a dispute on a chess mailing list by
posting "it's just a game so it doesn't matter." I
believe that activities can both "be just a game" and
"matter." Until more of us do, we will not be taken
any more seriously than we take ourselves.
--Matt Weiner

I’ll take a stab at this.

Quick personal background: With the exception of one or two years as an undergrad, when the BU program was crawling out of the primordial ooze, I’ve been involved in some sort of quiz bowl-type pursuit since 1982 (yikes!), starting in eighth grade and not looking back. Over the last 5 to 7 years, I’ve taken on more of an advisory role with college teams (BU and, now, Babson College) and am involved in one of the question-writing ‘businesses,’ TRASH. I still play, generally only trash.

I think about why I’m still involved with this pursuit, and it involves three things:

1. I still like to play. It’s a reasonably healthy outlet for my competitve nature, and one that doesn’t necessarily become harder as I age. I find the information interesting, and like to see where the breadth and depth of my knowledge lies.

2. I like the people. My usual trash teammates are among my best friends. The folks I work with for TRASH are fun to interact with, be it over email as we get questions ready or at tournaments (TRASH or otherwise). A bulk of the other people who play this are also fun to hang out with, even if I don’t see or talk to them regularly.

3. There’s a lot of room for individual accomplishment, achievement, and growth. You can become a better player, question writer/editor, found a team, lead it, and so on. There’s never a shortage of opportunity for folks who want to get deeper into the pastime.

The problem I see with quiz bowl’s future is that the first two points, which are probably common for most players, are being met less and less. I’ve never been much of a quiz bowl theorist, but I’ll try to ascribe reasons as best I can.

Enjoyment of the game requires, I think, a certain level of familiarity with the material. Losing when you recognize all 20 tossup answers is easier to take than losing when you recognize, say, half that. It doesn’t mean that all 20 tossups have to be obvious, written from the World Book questions. One could write a very challenging pack where answers would include, say, George Washington, Macbeth, and oxygen.

But that doesn’t happen. Or at least not as much as one would hope.

Some argue that there’s an arms race going on regarding question difficulty. Not sure if that’s necessarily the case; looking at some recent packs, I see more recognizable answers than say from 1997. I do think, though, that there’s a lasting effect whereby questions with ‘obvious’ answers aren’t looked upon as quality.

The problem, for me at least, is that there’s little intermediate quiz bowl. You’ve got junior birds for new players, while packet submission invitationals seem to cater to the experienced player. If you’re in the middle& well, there’s not much out there.

To my mind, this discourages the casual player, who could be the core of a huge expansion in quiz bowl. Craig mentioned beer league softball, and without taking it to that point (though we’ve all kidded about having to chug after missing questions), and thinking about the teams I’ve been involved with, there’d be great interest in a level of competition for the casual player.

Consider my new team at Babson. Babson is a business school, and while there are liberal arts and science requirements, they do not lend themselves to the sort of depth much of quiz bowl requires. It also means we don’t have the ability to get a cross-section of majors to put together on one team.

Playing on standard invitational questions is a challenge for Babson students, in that they don’t take advanced classes in literature, chemistry, physics, history, etc. It’s discouraging when, in practice, we go 5 or 6 questions with answers no one in the room other than I have heard of (and for me, only heard of because of experience, not knowledge).

I suppose I have two ideas for keeping the game enjoyable on this level-

1. Bringing back what some would consider over-used subjects, but with new facts. I think I see this happening a bit, but not enough to see it as a movement.

2. Making quiz bowl tournaments more like high school debate tournaments, where teams are grouped into novice, intermediate, and varsity levels. There is a practicality issue here in that you may need three sets of questions, one for each level. You could write one set for novice/intermediate and one for varsity, as NAQT has done in the past. In any case, offering opportunities aimed at specific skill levels will help players decide what they want from the experience. Casual players can stay in intermediate competition, while folks looking for a more hardcore experience can move up to the top level.

I don’t see the latter happening, but the slow grown of division 2 brackets is a start.

The biggest problem with quiz bowl comes from my second point- there are a number of people who make the quiz bowl experience less than fun. It’s actually not a ‘number’ as much as a small group whose vocal nature gives them influence beyond what would be expected and whose abrasive personalities turn off even experienced players.

It’s this group of people that dominate the Yahoo! group and generally act as beknighted members of the community. In many cases, their Platonic ideal of quiz bowl (shared or not) blinds them to the limitations that ideal places on growth. In many cases, this ideal seems to be that all events would be organized and written such that the winning team would go X-0, the second place team X-1, and so on. Questions would be written to reward depth of knowledge only.

Should quiz bowl come to this, it’d be a very small circuit. I’m sure they’d be very happy, but they’d also be very insular and not particularly friendly to new folks outside of the very determined or the very arrogant.

Which leads me to a side issue. Whenever this topic comes up, about the personality of quiz bowl, someone inevitably says that quiz bowl is, at its heart, elitist, and that explains why people act the way they do.

Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, BULLSHIT.

Quiz bowl can cater to elite ‘competition’ without the rudeness that seems to attach itself to high levels of play (or people who think they play at a high level, or who see themselves as some sort of pivotal member of the community). I can’t say why there seems to be this corollary, perhaps it’s related to self-esteem or fear that the ‘common folk’ will take over what the ‘nerds’ have built for themselves.

What I can say is that acting like an ass, in person, at a tournament, or on a public forum like the Yahoo! group isn’t the way to develop a healthy, growing pursuit. I will say that, with both teams I’ve been involved with, it allows for a certain level of comic relief. But I think the long life of the BU team is due, in large part, to the success they’ve had catering to a wide array of skill levels. They’ve stayed involved in all major formats because they appeal to at least some sector of the team.

Given both where questions are going and the public ‘face’ of quiz bowl, I’d have a hard time seeing where growth is going to come from. I’ll take New England as an example. Over the past 10 years, there have been only five truly stable programs ‘ BU, Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, and Williams. Recruitment ebbs and flows, but unlike the mid-1990s, you don’t see teams that can send 3 or 4 teams to a tournament regularly. Yale gets props for coming back from the dead (there was a big chunk of the 1990s where they weren’t around), and probably are more stable at this point than, say, Williams.

But there aren’t many new schools. Brandeis, Wellesley, and BC are as close to ‘new’ as you get. Had I not come to Babson to work, the students here who have started playing never would have started on their own. Much of this is getting the word out to programs on how to start, but there’s not much out there to support the new teams and keep them going. Certainly getting involved and getting the perception that college bowl is all about being an annoying font of obscurity doesn’t help.

I don’t know if I’ve made much sense here. I definitely feel that there’s a problem, and don’t know if I’ve best expressed where I think it’s coming from and what it may do to the future of quiz bowl. I tend to think that there is a possiblity for quiz bowl to embrace a variety of skill levels and interests, but it may not happen because of a cadre of true-believers who draw the focus towards their specific idea of what quiz bowl should be all about. There’s no sense of inclusion, and without that the rank and file aren’t going to stick around.

Mark Coen
Residence Director
Office of Campus Life
Babson College

Thursday, October 24, 2002

I believe it shipped, though the fact that they didn't call a traditional 4 o'clock kegger worries me. Hopefully they'll be a bouncing baby product on the PR Newswire tomorrow. Cross fingers. Note this is also why I'm running short today.

Open mike night: Craig's take today. If I don't get any more in my inbox tomorrow, I'll start mine, giving first what I think is possible, and then following up with my justifications on either Friday or Sunday (depending on how my schedule plays out), and now Craig's take:

As a matter of personal experience, I am entering my 11th year of association with quiz bowl in some form. I pride myself that I played on two teams that never required me to study, and in doing so, I have made myself into a quality player, being fortunate enough to be a member of several national championship winning teams and an occasional all-star at tournaments, both academic and trash. I was never hard-core to many people, because I discovered that I didn't like certain formats from my freshman year, but I never complained about them because I didn't play them. The freedom to decide like that is kind of an amazing principle that sometimes gets lost in the desire to play as many tournaments as possible. I never kept a notebook, I never wrote a flash list, and I never wrote a thousand questions to get better. By the same token, I am one of the hard-core dinosaurs that people hate, because I have been around forever, I have heard tens of thousands of questions, and I spent way too much time in any given week thinking about quiz bowl or working on quiz bowl related things. The amazing thing is, there is a place for me, in part because I have retired from all but the one format that still permits me to play (which also happens to be the one I am quite good at.) I moved on to other ways of partaking in the circuit, writing and working for NAQT, coaching at my high school, reading at Michigan tournaments. All of these things are the underrated and under-appreciated side of the game. We need people, whether they are undergrads, grad students, or alums, or even just interested people, to help us, because the key to everything we want to do is manpower.

Interestingly, I think that one of the key things that no one ever mentions is how the quiz bowl community in general could benefit seriously from reaching out to the business students in their campus community. There could very well be a number of people who could help them run the organization's ugly side: the finances, PR, marketing, outreach, and the things which we seem to lack. Everyone wants to join a quiz bowl club to play, but sometimes, having people who are more willing to run the show without touching a buzzer could be beneficial. How often are players put into positions in their club which they are ill-suited to fill, simply because they are the only ones willing to do the job, or the club is so small, that everyone has to do something? Finding people who would like to build their resumes by running what amounts to a small business while hanging out with some fun people certainly could help a number of us.

I lament the fact that my breed of player is going to die, the ones with the almost eerie ability to anticipate where a question is going and jump on it quickly. Over the past few years, many of our questions have become so obscure in so many of our lead-ins that players now sit through six seconds of inane one-upmanship before they get to the part of the question that anyone can answer. The pyramid point is now the size of a pin, and we have to start sliding down before anyone who hasn't spent the last two weeks in the grad library translating Tolstoy from the original Russian into French will be able to get it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that as your idea of fun, you're just not going to find a broad cross-section of people who are going to find that fun.)

The fundamental problem I see with quiz bowl is not the game, it's the players. Arrogance is required to be a good quiz bowl player; you have to be willing to put yourself out on the line and risk looking foolish AND losing points if you are wrong, so you better either know the answer or be willing to take the ego hit, which means your self-esteem needs to be pretty robust as well. Couple this with the fact that, generally, we have been socially ostracized so much over the years by our age-peers for being smarter, for knowing more, or for being socially awkward (speaking in very broad generalities here, but experience has shown me that while this is not always true, it can generally apply in one form or another to a broad swath of quiz bowl players) that when we get a chance to be recognized by people who share our interests, who prize knowledge and revel in being "smart", we want to embrace it fully. But if quiz bowl were just about being knowledgeable, we could just have the questions written out in test form. So it's something more; it's about knowledge and speed and anticipation and pattern recognition. The problem becomes that in a general sense, arrogance and competitiveness go hand in hand, and it is rare that anyone in the QB community, with their healthy ego rolling from their playing ability, is going to want to appear weak by saying that this was out of their league. Some will take it as a sign that they just need to hit the books harder, well, we have reached them, no problem. But what about the person, who, upon looking upon this paradox, decides that quiz bowl is no longer worth their time because they will never be good enough to win given they time that they can and are willing to devote to this pursuit. There has to be a place for them in the community as well. Do not rec softball leagues have different classifications for different levels of commitment from "softball guy", in his Oakleys with his three different ceramic bats, who laced it up in college, and the beer league, where a bunch of 45 year olds are trying to make it from second to third without spilling until they can get a refill from the third base coach. These two teams would never meet in the field of play, and yet, I suspect, that they both enjoy what they do for completely different reasons. People like winning better than losing, for goodness sakes, it's why we keep score, but isn't having fun, having a good time, having a chance to win in more games than not, also important? It will keep people coming back; it will keep people wanting to put in the time it takes to go to tournaments, to write questions for those tournaments, and the like. They cannot help but get better, but maybe that isn't what matters to them. Maybe they just really like playing the game, and really, what's wrong with that? No one is asking them to win a national championship; maybe all they would like is to make a playoff round every so often. This team is just as important as the overall health of the circuit as a perpetual contender is, just as the Kansas City Royals are as important to the overall health of Major League Baseball as the New York Yankees.

Circuit quiz bowl grew up with a DIY mentality, in stark contrast to the corporate side that so many teams became frustrated with. When you think about it, it makes sense, if you don't like the game, make your own. Sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will fail, but with some experience, some luck, and some wisdom, you'll create something that people want and will want to help build. Have we reached the limits of DIY for the circuit? Certainly not. Whether you like ACF or not, what they do is exceptional, they take packets written by the players themselves and hold three tournaments a year to determine a champion in that field. They do it for very little compensation, but, for what I suspect, is a sense of duty, loyalty, and commitment to the game. Each of several exceptional players willingly sacrifices a shot at playing at one of their tournaments annually to provide a much needed service. ACF has grown because of commitment from these people, so I don't suspect that there is any reason that we should think the end of the DIY mentality is neigh.

Are there ways of studying to get better, well, yes, no one can deny the results that we have seen who have committed themselves to improvement, but I think even those who are the staunchest advocates of studying would probably also tell you that writing questions is one of the best ways to get better. This, of course, has the two-fold effect of improving your game and providing fodder to be submitted to an invitational tournament. People cite stats about a question a day, but it's scary to consider. If you wrote one toss-up and one bonus a day every working day for a year, you would have roughly 260/260 for use for whatever you saw fit. You would also have added benefits of learning key resources to look up questions, refining your understanding of pyramidal structure, and expanding your breadth of knowledge. Is every question you write going to be great, no, but that's why you have, hopefully, people who will edit your questions. Even if you have a lack of experienced players in your small circle, a second set of eyes can prevent even the most egregious mistakes from getting through. Similarly, reading your questions aloud are a great way to be nice to moderators and make sure you have not made a difficult question to read, whether you include pronunciation guides, or even just a comma or two. Does this mean that question writing is the only way to improve either? Of course not, just like you find, over time, what works best for you when trying to prepare for an examination, you're going to find a method of preparing that meets with your satisfaction.

Question difficulty. Has anyone ever considered that instead of writing "easy" questions with "hard" answers, we write hard questions with easy answers? How often do you hear Abraham Lincoln as a packet submission tournament anymore? Probably never, because the factions will claim that all of the clues are trite, all of the lead-ins well worn, all of the ground already trod upon. But you know what, if you have never played the game (and can we assume for a moment that there are a number of people who discover the game in college for the first time through the playing of intramural tournaments or during a campus activity fair or what not), you don't know those clues, and while you would be beaten to them, at least you have heard of them. I am not saying that the better players shouldn't win games, and in general, "better" means more experience in quiz bowl, having heard more clues, written more questions, played in more games. What I am suggesting is that question writers at least have answers that not just a group of quiz bowl regulars are intimately familiar with, but a wider cross-section of potential players. At least then, if you're getting smoked early in your tournament life, you at least have heard of the things they are asking questions on, and that is somehow less discouraging, because as you expand your knowledge base, you'll be taking what you know and making it better.

On the principle of studying, I have a fundamental problem with it as being the only solution to a player's ills. Certainly a goodly number of players who play college bowl are doing as an something fun to do on the side, they like going to practice to meet with like minded people, and to play trivia and have fun. Are they ever going to win a national title, probably not, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for them in the great big ocean of quiz bowl. Carrying 15 credits already gives you enough headaches of reading, being told that you also need to read Master Plots, Benet's and other assorted works merely to be competitive is not going to keep people in the game. Winning is better than losing, but without other teams to beat, those victories will be hollow. There must be room made in the circuit for all players of all abilities, all time commitments, and all experience levels.

One of the other fundamental problems I see with the theory that there is no difficulty problem is that too many people assume that the entire universe of people who play quiz bowl post on the Yahoo! board and since no one ever complains about things being too hard, we must be doing fine. Since I have seen over many moons what happens to a person who dares voice an opinion that is out of step with the mass of squeaky wheels, I would never even consider posting to the board about things being too hard. The squeaky wheels are the best players, the players looking for the next challenge, and since they play the most, tournament directors must please them or risk being pilloried on the message board for running a bad tournament. And heaven forbid that teams come out of nowhere and do well at a tournament while established teams struggle, because then obviously the results of your tournament are fraudulent. And heaven forefend that you use the packets as you got them with repeats and hoses removed, you might as well shoot yourself in the foot, because your tournament has just become a low quality pariah. Perhaps if more tournament directors had the courage to aim for the middle, to aim the tournament's difficulty at the middle team and let the best teams play it out to high scores while the less experienced teams still put up quality points. Losing 400-200 is far less discouraging somehow than losing 200-0.

One last thing to remember: Like a poorly edited tournament, history repeats itself. If we do not commit ourselves as a community of people who believe in something larger than ourselves and our own personal enjoyment of the game, we will never make the game more mainstream and enjoyable for more people. There are those who would probably be very happy about this, but there are many more, I suspect, who are willing to go to the front and make the charge, they just need someone to yell Virginians and raise their sword. People with vision can start it, but will they have the ability to sustain it. But it doesn't have to be one man, one woman, one group. It can be a number of us, if we are willing to speak, to hear, and to understand, be willing to compromise and be willing to be flexible, then we may have a sun rising on our game than setting.

Craig Barker

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Mike pointed this out to me, it would make a good companion site to BevNet, for your Pop Culture: Food & Drink needs.
Also please take note that Mike is looking for nominations for the Trash Nobels, to be awarded next week. Help out by nominating.

Little else to report today, save we got the last of the big beast done last night, and hopefully we kill off the next big one tonight. Meanwhile the day job has set tomorrow as the absolute final drop on the latest release. It goes tomorrow, and at this point, speaking as a tester, I can only say get it out of here.

Open mike night again: Tim and Anthony and Ed and Bill and Charlie's posts on the Yahoo club are available, and even Seth manages to make a good point on qbflame, once you clean the bile off it (bucket of club soda and a wire brush). If I don't get to one that you post on the Yahoo club (and there have been a lot of good takes on this) I apologize, but you can always send it here. Phil sent this one in to me(yes, I know it's a rebroadcast)

The Future of the Circuit

Just so everybody understands my perspective – I am a 3rd-year law student at Villanova who has been playing since 1994. I guess you could call me a dinosaur. I played while an undergrad at Georgetown, and currently can be seen at various trash tournaments around the country, or reading at events. Even though I am a so-called dinosaur, I will scare no one at an academic tournament. I do serve as the advisor for Villanova, as we try to integrate ourselves into the circuit.

The circuit has cockroach-type survival ability, and I suspect that in five years, it will still be around, with the 50 or so schools that are always around being there, and the 30 other sporadic schools dropping out and other ones catching on, with a few exceptions.

Almost all invitational tournaments are too hard. There are several reasons for this. One is the one-person written set, in my estimation, largely an exercise by a good player to try to get even better by doing all the research and legwork, but further squeezing what should and should not be asked. Another is existence of tournaments such as Michigan’s Kleist/Artaud, whatever you wish to call it. Please do not posit the argument that if you don’t want to play, don’t show up, that’s not what I’m driving at. My point is that people get the idea to write the hardest questions they can find, and this directive from one of the most successful and prominent programs (Michigan) permeates the circuit. It’s a difficult to measure trickle-down effect, but I think it is there.

The biggest reason for difficulty skyrocketing is TD’s desire to please only the best players. Anyone who understands basic marketing can tell you that you should shoot to please the greatest number, so let’s say the aim is to please the middle 50%, not the three best players/teams, or the top 25%. It seems to me that the infamous Chip Beall may have figured this out, and CBI has to a degree. I am not arguing we should mimic them, but I think there is a way to structure circuit packets/activities in the same way.

Graduate students are needed. Think of the tournaments you attended in the past year, and who was running them. I attended 2 NAQT tournaments, Penn Bowl, JCV, and Pitt’s Omar Bongo. NAQT largely grad students and beyond, PB is run by Samer T. Ismail, and Tim Young is at GW. Only Pitt was undergrad-free, and the finals were bastard teams made up of grad students and beyond. My point is that’s who is running the circuit these days. I would love the idea of the Masters Competition Circuit. Every year I’ve read at ACF, some older hangers-on invariably play. It’s bothersome and should be stopped.

I’ve argued for a schedule before, I do think it would help. Basically, a central body would schedule the tournaments. Attendance is very sparse at many events, causing a waste of extremely limited resources. More stuff seems to be cancelled than ever before. If fundraising is the issue, high school tourneys provide much better margins.

So, in conclusion, the circuit will remain, but no one seems to have the vision to move it forward. The qb community are largely not salespeople by nature, and some degree of marketing will be needed to ensure its expansion. It’s a great game, and it survives through dedication by people; I’d like to see their efforts go more rewarded.

Phil Castagna
JD/MBA 2003
Advisor, Villanova ACC

Monday, October 21, 2002

First of all, is there anything more frustrating than scheduling a vacation day, then getting sick right on top of it? (For those who saw me at Delaware this weekend, it left the throat and is now just a normal sinus cold waiting to happen. Apologies to anyone I may have infected.)

I was really impressed with what TRASH rolled out this weekend. It may get lost in the shuffle, but this was worth seeing in action, if a run of this is coming to your neck of the woods, make an effort. It may not please hard core trash players, but in terms of giving everyone an opportunity to hit stuff in their areas of knowledge, this really did the trick. More importantly, this is the type of thing that's most needed in quiz bowl. Easy, accessible sets which will bring people into the game. This was the first time in a long time that I've seen a set that a team experiencing their first tournament wouldn't be beaten down by the packets. They may lose, but the battle for them was between themselves and the teams they played, not between themselves and the packets.
That's probably the only bad thing about this set, that initially it won't be used by those who can use it the most.

And now, it's open mike night. Remember, I'm looking for opinions on where the circuit is headed. I've seen a couple posts in other forums, which means people are reading, much thanks. If you want to speak up here, kidder at naqt dot com:

When I played QB in high school, we didn't have NAQT.
Our primary exposure to the world of quiz bowl was in
two televised formats: a local show, called "TV Honor
Society," and a Huntington program called "Hi-Q."

Once I joined the team, I found out that the team also
played in several tournaments at high schools
throughout the area, but for all most people knew, all
we did was go on TV every now and then.

"TV Honor Society" used questions submitted by the
coaches. "Hi-Q", as I learned just within the year,
was affiliated with Chip Beall.

If it hadn't been for my introduction to Quiz Bowl
through a Beall format, I wouldn't have played in
college at all; likewise, I never would have
discovered Trash (or TRASH) if I hadn't shown up to
that first CMU meeting expecting academic questions.

Here's my new analogy: Quiz Bowl is Van Halen. That's
right, Van Halen. They started out with a flamboyant
frontman named David Lee Roth, who went on to a failed
solo career. Then they picked up solo artist Sammy
Hagar to sing for them during their "Van Hagar"
period. After they kicked out Hagar, people thought
they'd get Roth back in; but to surprise us all, they
chose Gary Cherone, former lead vocalist from Extreme.
From what I understand, Cherone's already out of
there. It's probably only a matter of time before
anyone reading this is considered for the job of Van
Halen frontman.

Just about everyone has one favorite "lineup," though
the rest of the band has remained the same: Alex Van
Halen on drums, and Eddie Van Halen on guitar. It
doesn't matter what the rest of the guys are doing,
though, because whoever's out front seems to determine
whether you like them or not.

So, Quiz Bowl is Van Halen. In the backfield, you have
trivia geeks, a buzzer system, and questions. Out
front, you have names or acronyms, like ACF, TRASH,
NAQT, CBI, or even Chip Beall. Fundamentally, it's all
Van Halen, but the difference is in who's writing the
lyrics and singing them. If they get a new guy to
sing, it's still Van Halen.

I checked in on the boards recently, and that's
exactly what I saw: the Roth fans are telling everyone
that most of Hagar's lyrics are badly written. People
that own albums from all three incarnations are
complaining about Hagar's decision to open a bar in
Mexico. There's always the ongoing debate that Gary
Cherone never belonged in the band in the first place.

Meanwhile, the other three guys who have been in Van
Halen throughout it all just sort of sit back and
laugh, because they've seen in all before, and they've
realized one thing: they'll get royalty checks no
matter what.

And that's where QB differs from Van Halen, because
with all of the bickering and infighting, people
aren't seeing the big picture. It's all Quiz Bowl, and
one hand shakes the other. We're all a bunch of trivia
geeks gathering in rooms with buzzer systems, trying
to impress everyone else with what we know.
(Incidentally, the often overlooked Michael Anthony
plays bass.)

Personally, I think Roth is overrated, Cherone's
tenure with the group was too short-lived to matter
much, and the Hagar period saw some of the most
diverse and memorable Van Halen tunes ever. Other
people, I'm sure, have their own opinions. But
fundamentally, the same three guys were involved each

With all of the bickering over who the better vocalist
is, it's not unthinkable that all of the Van Halen
fans might just give up on them completely and start
listening to Winger. Van Halen will lose their record
contract, stop touring, and break up, and all we'll be
left with is a vague memory of how well Eddie used to
play guitar.

If memory serves, Roth and Hagar were planning to go
on tour together since they were both kicked out of
Van Halen. I've drawn out this analogy long enough, so
draw your own conclusions.
--Carey Clevenger