Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 6: Playing like a player

Another pretty good day at the office:

1. This is the work of what contemporary American artist? 

I got past the momentary distraction of the word Red, which made me think of Mark Rothko due to John Logan’s Broadway hit that recently played the Goodman Theatre here in Chicago. The contemporary timeframe worked but the painting itself didn’t much resemble Rothko’s work. I wasn’t familiar with the canvas in question but the splotchy motif reminded me of Jasper Johns’ flag and target paintings. I used to have a print of his Green Target in my office, for example, and the weathered look was reminiscent; his American Flag could also plausibly share a creator with the mystery painting. And words painted in colors different from the colors the words themselves represented, shared a playful quality with targets consisting of identically colored concentric circles and alternate takes on the American flag.  So although I knew little about his other work I guessed Jasper Johns and it was correct.

2. The West Indian (but not Caribbean) Lucayan Archipelago consists of the Turks and Caicos Islands, along with what nation?

On this question I made the best educated guess of my LearnedLeague career to date. I had never heard the word Lucayan in my life, so all I could go on was the other given information. The two keys, pun unintentional, were “(but not Caribbean)” and the fact that the answer was one of two nations in an archipelago. So I was looking for, possibly an island nation, but more likely a nation that was itself an archipelago, since I was hard-pressed to think of an island nation adjacent to a nation that was a group of islands, like Australia just south of Indonesia (or for that matter the Philippines), but somewhere near the Caribbean.

My knowledge of geography in general is pretty shaky. About all I could confidently say about the island geography of the greater Caribbean region was that Haiti and the Dominican Republic are the two modern nations that share the island that was once called Hispaniola. So I started thinking about what “(but not Caribbean)” could mean. To me that meant somewhere that was generally thought of as Caribbean, but technically wasn’t.

I vaguely remembered that the Bahamas and maybe Jamaica were southeasterlyish from Miami, close enough to visit by a short flight or boat ride. Maybe they weren’t exactly in the Caribbean since they were on the Atlantic side. Lacking a better guess, I decided to go with one of those. I wasn’t sure whether Jamaica had more than one island to its name, but the Bahamas clearly did. So I went with the Bahamas and it was correct.

3. The television station S4C, based out of Cardiff, was the first television channel to be aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience, and now broadcasts exclusively in that language. The S stands for Sianel (Welsh for channel); what does the C stand for?

No clue. I would have been fine if they were asking how to refer to Finland in its native dialect (Suomi), but they weren’t. I don’t know the first thing about the Welsh tongue; had you told me the Welsh traditionally spoke Old English, I’d have believed you. I guessed Cardiff on the thin hope that it was a trick question with the answer in the given information, even though I knew that was not the league’s style. The answer was Cymru, a word apparently familiar to viewers of BBC programming such as Doctor Who that originates in Wales.

4. The derivative of the equation 3x3 + 4x2 + 6x + 2, when plotted, is what geometric figure?

Mike Markovich and I sat in the last row of calculus our senior year of high school and quietly cracked jokes back and forth the entire school year, so I might have learned more about “The Calculus of a Single Variable something something,” as our textbook's title put it, had we not found each other and ourselves so hilarious. But I did know that the given math term was not an equation, it was an expression; that with the implied y= it would indeed be an equation; and that the answer was a parabola.

5. While the kilogram is the International System of Units (SI) base unit for mass, what is the SI derived unit for weight?

Probably should have gotten this one. I also took physics in high school and had I thought about this in physics terms I might have remembered the newton, a shockingly common standard unit in physics circles considering how it pretty much never comes up anywhere else. Looking for a non-metric equivalent to the kg I said the pound, ignoring the SI (which should have implied physics to me) at my peril.

6. What is the name of the meadow, along side the River Thames in the Royal County of Berkshire, where King John of England sealed the Magna Carta in 1215?

Like Cymru, you either knew this one or you didn’t, and I didn’t. Inspired by Hogsmeade, the town nearest Hogwarts Castle, I tried to picture a bucolic meadow along the banks of a river. I guessed Sheepsmeade, not a bad guess in light of the answer: Runnymede.

So I went 3 for 6 thanks to two good guesses. Playing defense, I gave my opponent 2 2 1 1 0 3 and he gave me a very similar 2 1 2 1 0 3. Unfortunately for him he went 0 for 6, so I won 4(3)-0(0). The victory gave me a 4-2 record and lifted me to 13th place of 44 on our still tightly packed division ladder.

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