Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 1: Off to a bad start

My first day of warfare on the LearnedLeague trivia battlefield was far from my best effort.

1. The Italian corporation known today officially as Olivetti S.p.A. was founded in 1908 as a manufacturer of what?

I spectacularly blew this question.

First of all, I felt like I knew the answer. I couldn't think of it, but I'd definitely seen Olivetti products over the years and with enough time I might remember what they were. Some LL players use the "KGN" metric (Know/Guess/No Idea) to describe how much they know about the six questions they play each day. On this one, give me a K-. I knew the answer, but it wouldn't come to me. If you'd shown me a list of 20 possible answers, I would have picked out the right one.

There's no shame in not being able to spit out a fact you know, and  in any case I can't always do it. (I had fairly instant recall of even the most random things I knew into maybe my late 20s, but those days are gone.) But it is a shame when you have a 24-hour window to answer a question, which is how this league works, and you just knee-jerk a half-assed answer first thing in the morning without giving yourself a chance. Even worse, there was a huge hint in the question I foolishly ignored, that the company no longer makes what it was once known for.

My horrible guess was tires, even though I knew I was thinking of Pirelli and not Olivetti. The correct answer was typewriters, which I knew was right when I saw it, as I've seen old Olivettis (and their American equivalent, old Underwoods) over the years. And it totally makes sense as a product eventually rendered obsolete.

A rookie mistake, or more accurately a first-day mistake.

2. This culinary term, which is specifically a particular type of miniature lobster, has evolved etymologically into a style of preparation, which involves sautéeing the entrée in garlic butter and white wine (and often, topping with bread crumbs).

All I could think of was scampi, since the preparation style sounded a lot like shrimp scampi, and sure enough, scampi it was.

3. What nation won the 2011 Rugby World Cup, outlasting France 8-7 in the final on October 23?

NAFC, as they say in LearnedLeague circles. Not A F-ing Clue. I only read the newspaper intermittently, and even then it's often just NYT headlines on my BlackBerry. I didn't know the traditional powers in this sport, and I sure missed the recent Rugby World Cup headline if indeed there even was one. I figured England would be good at rugby but that seemed too obvious, and briefly considered guessing the USA. Then I thought, isn't Australian rules football kind of like rugby? So I guessed Australia. I should have guessed something nearby, New Zealand.

4. In human anatomy, the 'supraspinatus', 'infraspinatus', 'teres minor', and 'subscapularis' muscles, along with their connecting tendons, are known collectively as what?

I was stubbornly locked into trying to name a specific body part even though the question pretty much indicated that it was a more general term, and overlooked that guidance at my peril. I knew the scapula was the shoulder blade, so not knowing what the spinatus was (something spinal?), I guessed shoulder. The correct answer, which like any baseball fan I have heard of a thousand times, was the rotator cuff.

This was getting ugly.

5. What is the common name for the area highlighted in red here?

Another strikeout after a 3-0 count. Like Olivetti, I made a guess I knew for a fact was wrong. I guessed the West Bank, even though I knew the West Bank was further south on the map (on the, duh, western bank of the Dead Sea). I felt like the correct answer had to be the Negev or the Golan Heights, but for some reason I just didn't want to believe the league would be asking for less frequently newsworthy parts of the nation of Israel.

Not only was there no reason to believe that—I'd already gathered that the league trades in and thrives on far more obscure trivia than this—I knew for a fact I was guessing a wrong answer, indeed the only Israeli region I knew could not be the right answer. Other than that, I was all over this one. The correct answer was in fact the Golan Heights, so I'd have had a 1 in 2 chance if I'd listened to my instincts.

6. The television network VH1 Classic declared and celebrated November 11, 2011, as National Metal Day, a date selected in indirect and implicit honor of what 1984 film?

I salvaged a small measure of my pride with this gimme, This Is Spinal Tap. "This one goes to eleven," as Nigel Tufnel proudly explained to Marty DiBergi. "Eleven... eleven... eleven."

So I got just 2 out of 6, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I had reasonable shots at 3 of the other 4 questions and didn't even give myself any time to think about them and make educated guesses. (Chalk it up to first-day jitters and a still unrefined sense of how to play my best game. It was already becoming clear on the first day that when you don't know the answer, you have to take what the question gives you and let the murky answers you used to know bubble slowly to the surface.)

Happily for me, my opponent also had a rough go of it, answering only Spinal Tap correctly. I gave him a 0 for that question, and though he too played perfect defense, my 1 point for scampi gave me the ugly victory.


joecab said...

Oh you're going back to Day 1? Great I get to relive the pain all over again. :P

FYI we already had a tires question two seasons ago:

Joshua said...

Could you include the points you assigned to each question on defense (i.e. your rating of how hard you perceived each question to be)?

Ben said...


If I'm going to do it every day I'll have to decide how to get this info into the narrative, but for now, I assigned today's questions, in order, 2 1 3 1 2 0. My opponent had a very similar take, giving me 2 1 3 2 1 0.