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Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge’

We won! Take the trivia test The New York Times team killed this week

In design, entertainment, journalism on May 20, 2012 at 2:58 am

So much fun!

On Friday night — in the same ABC TV studio on West 67th. where “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” was once shot — I joined The New York Times trivia team in the 16-team competition for Trivia Bowl, created in 1994 by the Los Angeles chapter of the Asian-American Journalists Association.

My husband, who works at the Times, told me they were seeking competitors and I had qualified for Jeopardy (a popular American quiz show), back in 2006, so what the hell?

Our team of 10 included a copy editor, a former page designer, a reporter and me, a 20-year Times freelancer. I knew only one person on the team, who I’d met a decade earlier at a picnic and hadn’t seen since.

This was the first time the contest was held in New York, and teams came out from CNN, ABC, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Time and others. It was fun to see colleagues…as I reached for a spring roll in the food line-up, a man reached in front of me — the former national editor at the New York Daily News, now at ABC. I hadn’t seen him since 2006.

We’d worked together on a bunch of stories, including one that the Times’ kicked our ass on, but we kicked back. (A helicopter had fallen off a mountain in Afghanistan and the Army refused to give the News access to the military base in NY where many of the soldiers’ families were from. There are few American cities as competitive for news than New York! I once did a stake-out for 12 hours in 80 degree heat outside a midtown hotel and it was crazy. The Times guy even followed me into the elevator to see where I was going.)

So you can imagine the geek-fueled adrenaline in the room on Friday. Of course, no tools or aids were allowed.

I loved that our judges were, in their daily life, professional judges — six men and women who adjudicate cases in housing court and even the Supreme Court of New York. Cool!

We competed in five rounds: Entertainment; Geography/Science/Literature; Current Events/Sports; History/Elections;Presidents; New York.

Yes, the questions are both North America-centric and New York-centric. Good luck!

So, (working from memory!) here are some of the 80 questions. The ones I knew are marked with a C:

What was the original name of New York City? C

Name two musicals that won both a Tony and a Pulitzer prize

Name the two men who won Oscars in successive years

What do you call someone who studies dinosaurs? C

In which state is the town of Truth or Consequences? C

Which president was born in New York City?

Of the city’s five boroughs, which is the smallest in area?

What is the name of Kate Middleton’s dog?

What is the title of JK Rowling’s newest book?

Which Presidents are on Mt. Rushmore?

Which magazine sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement? C

On the 1970s television show All in The Family, which Queens neighborhood did they live in?

Which Asian designer created Michelle Obama’s dress for the inauguration ball? C

Two First Ladies have graced the cover of American Vogue. Michelle Obama was the second — who was the first? C

Which two countries lie directly below Saudi Arabia? C

Which is the third most-spoken language in Canada?

Who first recorded the song “New York, New York?”

Which hockey team has won the most Stanley Cups? C

What is the chemical symbol for salt? C

Who were the Three Musketeers? C

No Googling allowed!

Your answers….?

You Can’t Quantify Kindness: Our Statistical Obsession

In behavior, business, domestic life, education, family, Health, journalism, life, Money, women, work on May 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Chicago graph clim

Like this....but with feelings! Image via Wikipedia

Great piece in The New York Times by Alina Tugend about our growing — and misguided — obsession with measuring everything in our lives:

Numbers and rankings are everywhere. And I’m not just talking about Twitter followers and Facebook friends. In the journalism world, there’s how many people “like” an article or blog. How many retweeted or e-mailed it? I’ll know, for example, if this column made the “most e-mailed” of the business section. Or of the entire paper. And however briefly, it will matter to me.

Offline, too, we are turning more and more to numbers and rankings. We use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and students. The polling companies have already begun to tell us who’s up and who’s down in the 2012 presidential election. Companies have credit ratings. We have credit scores.

And although most people acknowledge that there are a million different ways to judge colleges and universities, the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report of institutions of higher education have gained almost biblical importance.

As the author of a newly released book about working retail I haven’t once (honest!) checked my amazon ranking number.

Seriously, what good can it possibly do?

Will my hips suddenly shrink or my bank balance double? I wish!

My thesis about why retail associates are so horribly paid is linked to this data obsession: you can’t measure kindness!

Think about the very best salesperson you ever met — (or hotel employee or waiter or nurse or teacher).

The EQ — or emotional intelligence — the skills that really left the strongest impression on you, are probably not their technical mastery of that new Mac or their grasp of the essentials of calculus, but how they helped you: with patience, humor, calm, grace.

All of these are essential qualities we simply cannot put on a graph.

And that which we cannot measure, we do not value.

I was in the hospital in March 2007 for three terrifying days, on a IV with pneumonia, from overwork and exhaustion. (Don’t ever get pneumonia — it makes you cough so hard, for hours at a time, you can break a rib.)

I finally begged the nurse to swaddle me tight in a cotton sheet, like an infant, to ease my aching muscles. She never raised an eyebrow at my weird request, but did it at once, with a compassion that I will never forget.

That healing quality of care, invisible, unmeasured and therefore too often undervalued, is not inscribed anywhere in my medical records.

It should be.

Answering Questions Without A Clue — Aka Male Answer Syndrome

In behavior, Crime, men on April 15, 2010 at 11:00 am
Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, ...

A statue of knowledge...boy or girl? Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a phrase new to me — although certainly not the behavior it describes — male answer syndrome. This weekend, the NPR show On The Media will examine this habit of answering a question with great certainty even when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Girls and women generally don’t do this. Most of us loathe looking stupid. We also learn the odds are good that when a woman speaks out loud and clear she’s going to be ignored, shouted down or challenged — depending how testosterone-soaked the atmosphere. So before you open your mouth, you want to be fairly sure you know what the hell you are talking about. Fact-checking on your Blackberry mid-sentence, in my view, is lame.

The point of confidence is putting it out there and seeing what happens. The underlying assumption — am I right? (she asked in a female sort of way) — is that no one will challenge you if you bluster hard and loudly enough. An air of utter confidence can tend to intimidate many people.

I’ve seen it in its most toxic form, thanks to a con man (ex-felon) I dated a decade ago; “con” is short for “confidence”, both that which they so successfully radiate and cultivating their victims’ crucial confidence in them and their usurious schemes. You don’t reap the harvest without a healthy supply of seeds.

He started out in Chicago, handing out business cards covered in fancy acronyms, pretending to be a doctor. Anyone who actually knew medicine — and he chose his victims carefully — would know in a heartbeat the guy was a total liar. But so persuasive was his act that he got a local sports car dealership to send over (!) a vehicle on approval, got a bunch of women to agree to marriage thanks to the glittering CZ he slapped on their gullible fingers, then moved to New York and started all over again, this time pretending to be a lawyer.

From its first iteration, a piece by Jane Campbell in Details, 1991:

ut Male Answer Syndrome (MAS) is by no means harmless, as my friend Pauline discovered at the age of 8. She had found that eating icecream made her teeth hurt and asked her father if Eskimos had the same problem. “No”, he said. “They have rubber teeth”. Pauline repeated this information in a geography lesson and found herself the laughing stock of the class. That was how she learned that a man, even if he is your own father, would rather make up an answer than admit to his own ignorance.

Later in life women run into the same problem: Men can speak with such conviction that women may be fooled into thinking that they actually know what they are talking about.

A woman who finds herself in the midst of an impassioned argument about glasnost may suffer from an eerie sense of displacement. Has a weird time-space warp landed her in the Kremlin? No, she’s in the mailroom with Dave and Bob, who she knows for a fact read only the sports pages.

My friend Jeff (he of the Harley) is full of expertise on subjects as diverse as global warming and Elvis’ current whereabouts. In reality however, he is an expert at only one thing: making a little knowledge go a very long way. For him answering is a game, and not knowing what he is talking about just adds to the thrill.

Expressing skepticism can be highly inflammatory. Even mild-mannered Abe Lincoln types may react to “Are you sure about that?” as a vicious slur on their manhood and find themselves backing up a ludicrous assertion with spurious facts.

It took me a while to notice a variation of this pattern, most evident in my ex-husband, a medical student when we met and who became a psychiatrist. When he didn’t know the answer to something, he’d say, “I’m not sure.” He was sure, all right. He didn’t want to admit ignorance, so the dreaded words “I don’t know” never passed his lips, at least in his private life. While few patients want their doctor to say “I don’t know”, it’s a useful phrase when it’s actually true.

“Are we out of milk?” is a fairly safe question, for example. A simple yes or no would suffice.

Gentlemen, is this part of your verbal repertoire?

Ladies, what do you do, if anything, in the face of it?

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