Posts Tagged 'Jeopardy!'

Critical Thinking–NOT

I hate how old-fashioned this makes me sound, but I believe higher education is NOT just preparation for a career.  Career-training has its place, but college can fill in the gaps toward a well-rounded individual.  Dorm living helps prepare for life outside the comfy confines of home. Required classes that seem totally irrelevant to one’s major can provide some interesting knowledge and information.  For example, I learned from a professor in a basic Chemistry class that it is possible to increase the odds of producing a boy child (or girl if you prefer) using a little preparation.  Fertile Myrtle here never got the chance to use that system, however, but I was pretty damn sure another boy was on the way even before I had the sonogram.  Little tidbits gleaned here and there also helped me to not make a total fool of myself on Jeopardy–but I should have played more video games with my kids to master that darn buzzer!  One of my most informative classes was a Political Science class I had very little interest in at the time.  But the professor was an astute man that helped me see and believe that we are bombarded with information that almost always is slanted a certain way.  It is up to us to try to see all sides of an issue and form the most clear understanding of it by peeling away others’ hidden agendas.  This may not be important to an accountant on the job, but it is relevant to a person in this world who just may earn a paycheck crunching numbers.

One of my sons is taking some required humanities classes at the local branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  My boys are all science majors and are not quite so enamored with the subjective subject matter of the social sciences, and I agree that without the right person teaching these classes, they can be opinionated busy-work courses.  One would expect that a distinguished and not-so-inexpensive college like Pitt would be able to find highly qualified professional people to teach these courses in a meaningful way (even at a branch campus).  But every week, I am becoming more inflamed over how our tuition dollars are being spent!

First of all, the teacher:  Almost every week, one of J’s teachers is at least 15 minutes late for class.  One week she arrived 45 minutes late.  Most of the students don’t bother waiting around after 15 minutes, but J has another class afterward so there is no point in him leaving.  The secretary just keeps popping in every 15 minutes to say the teacher is on her way until she finally makes her grand entrance.  Highly disrespectful and irresponsible, in my opinion!

Not only is she notoriously late for class, she has a PhD yet asked the class if  “as of now” was one word or three! WTF!!  She’s teaching COLLEGE!!  I know I’m a little priggish about spelling sometimes because I used to read a lot and it came easy for me, and I’m aware of some very bright people that are challenged by spelling rules, but if you’re teaching college or are an English major or journalist, you should be literate!!  Does she seem smarter than a fifth grader??  I think not!

The text book:  I can’t even believe it is a text book.  It is the most biased, left-slanted piece of garbage I have ever laid eyes upon.  By the way, I would be almost as incensed if the book (titled “Critical Thinking” by Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker) was this one-sided yet totally aligned with my own viewpoints.  It is just opinionated drivel and in no way teaches or exemplifies “critical thinking.”  It is laden with factual errors that J has in fact pointed out in class.  At every opportunity, it slams the GOP, Fox News, the NRA, and the war on terrorism but treats the authors’ opinions on these subjects as facts rather than opinions.  It is clearly an opportunistic attempt to brainwash young minds that may have not had a chance to form their own opinions on these things.  And this is not even a political science class!!  It is supposed to be teaching “logic,” one of those murky subjects that academia loves.

By the way, I asked J about a week ago if he would mind if I blogged about this awful textbook and unprofessional teacher.  I in no way want to jeopardize his grade or cause him any trouble in case this teacher somehow stumbles upon this rant.  He was fine with it.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to write, he texted me that she was already 15 minutes late for class again tonight.  Then, of all things, she called him up after class and asked why he looked so bored and didn’t participate.  He was so floored, because half the kids in the class were sitting there with their eyes half-closed, without their book, and unlike J, never offered an answer or opinion.  J has been to every class, hadn’t dozed off and was following along with his text book in front of him.  Despite the idiocy of the subject matter, he has scored well on every quiz.  Where did this clueless question spring from?

It makes just about as much sense as the next tuition hike.

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Final Jeopardy! – The End of the Story

When we left the Jeopardy! try-outs in Pittsburgh, the staff told us that if we were selected for the show, we’d probably hear from them within the year.  IF!  Being that I live my life just hoping nothing bad happens, I was not expecting to get the call.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I did get the call.  Surprised the heck out of me.  I had about two months to try to cram in all the little bits of knowledge I thought I might need. I studied atlases, memorized the presidents, and played computer Jeopardy! over and over.  Big Daddy made the plane reservations.  We were both going to visit California for the first time together.

You’d think with all the gazillions of dollars the Merv Griffin enterprises has, they would spring for some of the travel costs.  We are, ahem, the stars of the show, along with, of course, Big Alex.  In October 2000, airfare travel was pretty expensive.  But had they called me the next year, after 9/11, I probably wouldn’t have even gone.  At that time though, I would have paid just about anything to compete on my favorite game show.  This was one of the very few things on my “bucket list.”

At first, I let myself think how cool it would be if I could actually earn enough money to pay for our addition, and even get professionals to do the work that Big Daddy planned to do.  But at some point, reality started to set in.  I could really make an ass out of myself!  I thought about the people I’d seen on there that gave a ridiculously stupid answer.  I envisioned standing there in shame with a negative $2000 and not being allowed to compete in Final Jeopardy!  What if I froze up and just stood there for the entire show like a deer staring into the headlights?  OMG.  What had I gotten myself into?

So I studied even harder.  I only told my immediate family and some people I had to tell, like the woman that was going to haul my kid to soccer practices while we were gone and the volunteer coordinator at the Middle School so she could find someone else to take my work shift.  I started praying not to win, but only that I didn’t make a complete and utter fool of myself.  I did not want to make news headlines as the stupidest person ever on a game show, or have SNL do Jeopardy! parodies of me.

They tape an entire week’s worth of shows in one day.  The radio in our hotel room was playing U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” while I was getting ready, and it was a gorgeous day.  I met up with the other contestants on the studio parking lot, each of us holding a couple changes of clothing in case we were lucky enough to be competing in more than one show.

The staff was very friendly and made us feel comfortable.  They had light refreshments for us in the green room, and a makeup artist powdered our faces.  We got to sit in the audience and  watch the contestants called up before us.  Whew!  There was at least one episode where I would have looked like a blithering idiot.  Thank God they didn’t call me for that one!

A few of us were still left for the afternoon tapings.  They gave us vouchers for the studio cafeteria and we all tried to eat.  I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been getting increasingly nervous.

I finally got called up.  I had sat with my competitors at lunch and thought it might be a fairly matched game.  I was put in the middle spot, and given a box to stand on so we would all look about the same height.  Once the game started, my brain kicked in and I have never felt so focused in my life.  Things I forgot that I even forgot popped into my head like I’d just learned it that day.  The trickiest part is that damn buzzer.  If you hit it before the lights go out, you’re locked out.  But if you’re not quick enough, you get beat out.  When there are so many questions you don’t know, it’s really frustrating when your neighbor rings in first on one of the questions you do know.

I can thankfully say, without a doubt, my prayers were answered!  I did not make an ass out of myself.  Unfortunately, I should have kept praying to win!

I answered 13 out of 14 questions correctly.  The only one I missed was a stupid Daily Double.  But I didn’t give a stupid answer.  I just couldn’t come up with anything.  I was in the lead several times, and was still in the running even after I missed the Daily Double.  I could have answered more if the nimble fingered dudes on either side of me hadn’t rung in first.  But I did get to ring in with the right answer once or twice when one of  the guys  gave a wrong answer.

Once again, my big mouth was my downfall.  We’re playing Final Jeopardy!, you know, where you wager first, and the music plays while you write down your final answer.  A dozen different names go through my head before, half-way through the music, I hit upon what I believe to be the right answer.  I start writing as fast as I can because I know time’s almost up.  The music is still playing, but my pen quits writing.  I’m pissed.  I feel ripped-off.  They better fix this.

So Alex reveals the answers.  I blurt out that my pen quit writing before I was finished.  (If I hadn’t opened my big freaking mouth, they would have never know the difference).  My answer was right, but my “N” at the end looked more like a small “n.”  If I hadn’t said anything, I’m sure it would have slid on through, but since I didn’t “finish,” I was relegated to third place.

At the time, they just gave crappy prizes to the runners-up instead of cash.  Due to the guy on my right being some kind of expert on obscure American artists, I wouldn’t have won the cash prize anyways.  Second prize was a trip to New Jersey.  Um, I’ve already been there–a few times too many, so I wasn’t too upset.  So I have a few souvenirs from the $1000 gift certificate I won, along with my picture of me and Alex.

Several months ago, middle son J found this really cool site with Jeopardy! show archives.  It’s a recap of the entire show, complete with the answers we gave and the prizes we received.  If you know my name, and you want to see if you could have beaten me, here’s the link to the archived shows:

http://www.j-archive.com/showseason.php?season=25

Type my name in the search box and it will give you the number of the show.  Just don’t tell me how bad you would have whooped me!

Alex & Me

Alex & Me

The Day I Met Alex — Part 2

Youngest Son and I brushed up on our trivia knowledge the best we could given the short amount of time until the Jeopardy! testing.  Big Daddy drove us both to the Pittsburgh hotel that Saturday morning because the kids’ tryouts were first.  Mine would be afterward and we couldn’t leave an 11-year -old roaming the streets of Pittsburgh alone.

Apparently, they expected youngsters to be more knowledgeable about pop trivia than academics.  Youngest Son did well, but his lack of interest in kid shows and teen stars lost him the few points he needed to make the cut.  I told him he shouldn’t make fun of me for watching Entertainment Tonite!

The hotel conference room was packed.  We sat in chairs and took a test with some fairly difficult questions on a very wide range of subjects.  I overheard people saying this was their third or fourth time to take the test.  One woman had been to several different cities.  I guess there were some people that wanted to be on even worse than me!

They called the names of those that made the cut.  I thought I had done pretty well but started doubting myself when my name hadn’t been called until almost the very end.  Only about one-fourth of us were left.  They grouped us in threes and gave us buzzers and asked questions, like on the real show.  They asked us what we would do with our money if we won.  I tried to be original–almost everyone said they would save for their kids’ education or pay bills.  We were in the midst of adding on to our home so I told them any money I made would save my husband from months of hard labor.  I really wanted to win enough money to pay for our new addition.

I promise I’ll finish this story tomorrow.  I’ll even have a picture for you!  I didn’t realize how long this story would be.

The Day I Met Alex — Part I

I ran to see him almost every day, watching from afar.  Sometimes I even dropped whatever I was doing.  It was my dream to meet him in person.  And that day arrived, in late October 2000.

You may know Alex.  Alex Trebek, king of knowledge, master of world travel.  Alex T, emcee of my favorite game show, Jeopardy!

I watched Jeopardy! way back when I was a kid, when Art Fleming hosted the show.  Being the nerdy bookworm that I was, I loved game shows almost as much as the latest Nancy Drew mystery.  Jeopardy! was one of my favorites, and I could even answer some of the questions back then.

I never dreamed that I would actually be able to compete on the show.  Just to try out, I would have to fly to the other side of the country.  In the off-chance I made it through, I’d have to fly back out for the show.  Once in a while, they traveled to this area to try-out hopeful wannabe contestants.  I sent postcards and tried calling phone numbers that were perpetually busy, but was never lucky enough to get through to take the test.

One night, they mentioned that they would be in our area looking for young contestants for their pre-teen tournament.  Crap.  Genius son was too old, but the other two were the right age and perfectly capable of doing well.  But I knew Middle Son J would kill me if I signed him up.  He was way too shy to want to go on TV.  So I went online, like they said to do, and signed up Youngest Son.  Hey, I’m not too proud to live one of my big dreams through the kids.  It doesn’t really matter which one.

Lo and behold, I got a phone call out of the blue one day.  Would we be willing to travel to Pittsburgh with Youngest Son for Jeopardy! try-outs?  Would we?!  Of course!  I tried not to sound too excited or as choked up as I felt.  My throat was ready to close up but I forced out these words:  “Are you doing try-outs for adults, too?  I’ve always wanted to be on the show and I’ve watched it ever since I was  kid.  Can I try-out, too?”

You can’t imagine how shocked I was at my own forwardness.  You may not believe this, but I am actually a shy little flower.  I must have really wanted this thing badly to resort to begging.  But the man on the other end said to call back on Monday.  (It was a Friday when we got the first call).  Would this family actually have two shots at Jeopardy! fame and fortune?  It was like I was living a dream.


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