Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Full "How To" Article

Got a nice bottle of Andrew Motion's Oloroso, I 'ave

Of course, there was a lot more I wanted to put in the article (I could have added 2000 words in fact) and much ended up being cut to fit the space (my own fault for overwriting), so this is what I actually filed.

Unedited How to be a whoo-weee at quizzzy stuff

It was a moment I had been dreading. We had been lagging behind, but magnificent 100 per cent scores on the fifth and sixth rounds of this year’s PEN Quiz had propelled The Times’ Thunderers into a tie for first place with HarperCollins and The Guardian.

As the paper's elected representative – the one who happens to set the times2 quiz – the heavy burden of taking to the stage, winning the tie-break and bringing home the trophy for only the second time would, gulp, fall to me.

After the first tie-break question about the origin of the word “bombast” elicited only wrong guesses (I swear I thought Philip Hensher - standing to my right - would have got that), another came and, as the words “Francis II” “bought” and “portrait” came out of host David Mitchell’s mouth, my mental reflexes kicked in and I spat out “Mona Lisa!” Correct. It was something I recalled reading in a book about art that came free with The Observer.

Winning this prestigious quiz for the first time since 2004, a fundraising event attended by many of the biggest brains in the literary and media world, was no easy task and, it must be said, involved a lot of luck. Sheer good luck, as in plumping for the right choice in a 50/50, is often the decisive factor when the score margins are so tight.

But, good fortune aside, how do you win any quiz? The answer is so obvious I feel idiotic saying it: you must know the answers. Actually, let me put it another way. A quiz is essentially a general knowledge lottery. The more tickets you buy, i.e. the more facts you collect and store away, the more likely your numbers will come up. And it is all the better if you have an innate talent for remembering stuff allied with a ravenous hunger for the world and all it contains. This curiosity has, in my case, translated into full-on quiz addiction.

If you want to win a standard, humdrum pub quiz, you can bore yourself senseless by rote-learning trivia books of interminable lists filled with FA Cup winners that do nothing for your soul or mental well-being. But to win the kind of quizzes that invoke descriptions of participants weeping at the sheer difficulty takes a lot more skill than simple “What is the capital of Croatia?” recall.

The best and most interesting kind of questions – the ones often asked at PEN – may appear maddeningly obscure at first glance, but because they have been laden with enough clues (e.g. a year, a certain noun), require deduction and a just a touch of lateral thinking to solve them. It also helps to remember that, presuming they are not sadists, they wouldn’t ask it if the answer was so boring as to be pointless. A question about which Eurovision Song Contest winner appears in the lyrics to John Lennon’s 'Imagine' may appear initially absurd, but once you ponder the song’s utopia-inclined content, there is only one feasible answer – Brotherhood of Man.

It also helps to know the tricks of the quiz-writing trade: the little tics and techniques setters employ when constructing questions. The aforementioned addiction has evolved into a question-writing career. Aside from penning quizzes for The Times, my various TV jobs include being one of the University Challenge setters.

Thus, I spend my days filling dozens of notebooks with potential material for starters and bonus sets, gleaned from every possible medium whenever I can. And after a while you develop an eye for the kind of trivia titbits that jump out of a newspaper article and demand to be made into questions, which helps when you are doing other people’s quizzes and you realise that the setters have had the same “Eureka” moment.

There is, however, no substitute for serious participation, and this is where the thorny accusations of “professionalism” truly come to the fore (as if the question-writing wasn’t enough). I am a long-time regular on the Quizzing circuit, a series of monthly national and international events where competition is fierce and the questions are always taxing. Recent performances have ensured my regular selection for the four-man England team, as well as a ranking of fourth in Europe.

Earlier this month, I took part in the European Quizzing Championships in Holland and very nearly did a “Michael Phelps”. Having won gold medals in the National Team, Club and Pairs events, I fell short in the individual competition where I placed a very respectable second behind Kevin Ashman, the man deemed to be the greatest quizzer in the world.

Playing against the very best on the very hardest questions will prepare you for any quiz, and my own regime for competing in them, and all trivia-related contests, boils down to this simple piece of advice: read as widely as possible and remember as much as you can.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick Thought

Amplifying a theme briefly mentioned below

For all the bloated, fat-head meeja talk about standards slipping on quiz shows, why do the hacks that write articles about them keep on asking people for their "opinion", rather than looking at hours of old programmes from different eras, transcribing the questions asked and then doing a comparative analysis?

It's quite easy, if massively time consuming at first. And it would certainly give you some kind of actual answer that you have arrived at through empirical means.

I mean, for crying out loud, newspapers love doing it with ye olde O-Level papers and brand spanking new GCSEs. That kind of thing I can trust.

Then again, there are things what were published at several intervals through the years: quiz books with questions taken from the shows they were asked on*.

The funny thing is that many of these uber-hacks seem to give the impression they have no idea if they are hard or not, and that they are so dim they have to ask other folk what they think, when in all probability they watch the show in question themselves.

So you're left wondering whether they're too brain-damaged to form their own opinion. Or whether they're cynical beasties looking for a non-story that has all the pizzazz and whizz-bang drama of a story, and will fill the space reserved for them their paper/magazine very nicely indeedy. What you might call a chocolate-coated turd. Ok, I mean, what I might call. Just me.

But jumping on decontextualised quotes - words, I might add, that may well have been spoken tongue-in-cheek - then constructing, house of cards-style, some ill-informed hypothesis that sounds mildly provocative (while forgetting it is just a TV quiz show, yes, remember it's only a TV show, where people get asked questions because for some weird reason they bloody love being asked quiz questions, why get so het up about it when child soldiers are emptying their AK47 clips into pregnant Congolese widows) is so pointless and moronic, I'm just left making this GRRRRRR sound. Honestly, no other option is left to me: GRRRRRGGGGRRRRGGGGR

*Even if you might have to resort to stealing your Mastermind omnibus edition QB from an Arundel pub (I could tell it was lonely and gave it a home with many, many like-minded friends)

Unsent Letter (Polite Version)

(With silly title censoring in the first line)

As a question setter for both "a certain paper" and "a particular quiz show", I have to say I was irritated by the assertion in your Media Correspondent's* article that the questions are easier simply because the executive producer said they contained "more clues".
The piece mentions nothing of the length of today's questions. There are "more clues" because the questions are significantly longer than they used to be. A clued-up modern day starter, conforming to a kind of pyramidal structure, may often end up revealing a very easy answer, but it begins, rather far back, in a very obscure place. Thus, the player who buzzes in early and gets the question right is rewarded for their deeper knowledge, as well as their nerve.
Also, in many cases, the question never gets the chance to become easy precisely because someone interrupts correctly.
In contrast, Bamber Gascoigne's University Challenge reign was replete with far shorter one-line questions that went in the blink of the eye and were, indeed, a matter of you either know it or you don't.
Subject matter also leaned heavily upon on history and literature. Today's show is far more catholic in taste for its potential material and therefore given far wider scope to test every single facet of the contestant's knowledge.
But if you must make comparisons, take a quick tour of the video websites. They will yield you enough clips from Bamber through early Paxo to the now to help you make your own conclusions about how hard the questions are.
There is, however, one immutable law that many setters believe in. Questions on long-running quiz shows have no option other than to become increasingly difficult simply because retreading or repeating the same old chestnuts is bad for the programme's integrity; contestants who haven't heard them but then play against those who have learnt them off by heart; and the viewer, who will be thoroughly bored before long. Therefore, new and invariably trickier stuff must be found.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prez Cup Doodahs

On Any Alternate Sunday

There was a time when match reports filled this blog. Looking back on them I wonder if that was a good idea. Sometimes I got the feeling that it was a bit like telling a bunch of strangers what you dreamt last night, meaning it was a bloody waste of writing time ("Write a dream, lose a reader" - Doris Lessing), though, admittedly, rather than the constant, necessary self-laceration, my diatribes about question-setting prejudices might have amused match participants and fellow league quizzers. Or at least, years down the road, everyone has a knowing smirky giggle when the words "BREWERY", "BRITISH BIRDS" and so on pop up in conversation within my earshot.

And they did get formulaic in that I'd go: "Blah blah blah, I can't believe I got that wrong!, I suck at those questions, blah blah, score, oh that was funny, funny peculiar, blah, me being craptastic again, blah blah, random score update, if I hear that question again I will become homicidal, blah blah, what is the setter's major malfunction?, blah-dee-blah-feeling slightly blue-blah, why did we lose? please tell me why. Oh yeah, the final score. Almost forgot."

So. Yesterday saw the fourth President's Cup game of this season. We played against Oxford. Most of the set seemed to have been inspired by current affairs. That lighthouse pair got the tumbleweed wind blowing through. Four detective novelist creator questions - a bit much. Damnit, I should have said the right to bear arms for the US Amendement Q. A bit low scoring this, but it picked up towards the end. Blah blah blah. I kinda miss breweries when they're not there. That may be a demented lie. We won 43-21. I got my lowest score of the PCup season so far -15! - disgraceful.

And that is that. Three wins, one loss. Not doing too badly.

The Friendly
I wrote a quasi-friendly. In that, I imitated Nic and just asked the players to pick a number from 1 to 8 for each of the eight rounds (admittedly, the number fours on each got the Hobson's choice, but that is that and that's just the way it is). This was because the task of picking paired questions (and Jack & Jolenes, rather than dreaded Jack & Jill duos) seemed too onerous to me when I was setting it the day before. In other words, I was lazy and was distracted by silly things.

The final score? 37-37. So you see, the random picking question number format balances everything out. That's the scientific proof right there: Thirty-seven all. You better believe it.

Pointless/unanswered questions are bolded up (just to be different)

Randomised Friendly Action 15/11/09

Round 1
1 Dolly the Sheep was cloned at which animal sciences research institute, near Edinburgh, in 1996?
Roslin Institute
2 Derived from the French for 'pounded' / 'ground gold', what term describes applying finely ground gold in a mercury amalgam to bronze objects?
3 The Bye Plot was a conspiracy to kidnap which king and force him to repeal anti-Catholic legislation?
James I
4 Which 1970 rock musical includes the songs 'Everything's Alright' and 'I Don't Know How to Love Him'?
Jesus Christ Superstar
5 Discovered in 1974, the Caloris Basin is a large impact crater on which plant in our Solar System?
6 Who played sex-mad Timothy Lea in the 1970s Confessions films?
Robin Askwith
7 A statue of the Battle of Britain hero, Sir Keith Park, now occupies the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. Park was born in which country?
New Zealand
8 Which DVD region code is used in every European country except for Russia, Ukraine and Belarus?

Round 2
1 Which French Huguenot ironworker produced the screens and grilles of St. Paul's Cathedral for Sir Christopher Wren?
Jean Tijou
2 Which English cathedral was reputedly the tallest building in the world from 1300 until 1549 when its central spire collapsed?
Lincoln Cathedral
3 Which two-time World Cross Country champion married Mike Pieterse in 1989?
Zola Budd
4 Issued from 1849 to 1967, which British coin was known as a "two bob bit"?
5 Known by the code CDG, what is the world's second busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic?
Charles de Gaulle
6 Founded in 1997, the company KooGa specialises in making clothing for which sport?
7 Which English rock musician released the 1995 album Stanley Road?
Paul Weller
8 Which Premier League football club have played at the Britannia Stadium since 1997?
Stoke City

Round 3
1 Located on the planet Mars, what is the tallest known volcano and mountain in the Solar System?
Olympus Mons / Mount Olympus
2 What is the smallest German-speaking country in the world?
3 Which film director returned to the stage when his play Two Thousand Years opened at the National Theatre in 2005?
Mike Leigh
4 Characterised by dark fabric and contrasting (usually white) collars and cuffs, which 1940s dress style is named after an Oscar-winning role played by Ginger Rogers?
Kitty Foyle
5 What name links a French porcelain manufacture and a 1920 treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Allies?
6 What number is signified by the word MIX in Roman numerals?
7 Give one of the forenames, apart from the first, of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
Antony or Richard or Louis
8 Which European country gave women the vote at a federal level on February 7, 1971?
Switzerland - but they didn't get the vote in cantonal elections until 1990

Round 4
1 After his recent release by Yorkshire, former England fast(-ish) bowler Matthew Hoggard joined which county on a three-year contract?
2 What fruit gives the liqueur Triple sec its flavour?
3 The ecclesiastical title of "rector" is derived from a Latin word meaning what?
Ruler (rector can also mean "teacher", I think)
4 Which French composer wrote the music for the Papal Anthem, now the official national anthem of The Vatican, in 1869?
Charles Gounod
5 Opened in 1997 by Sonny and Silvia Priest, what is the northernmost brewery in the British Isles? Its name comes from Norse mythology.
Valhalla Brewery (in Baltasound, Unst, Shetland)
6 In October, Norfolk's Chrissie Wellington won which world triathlon championship for the third time?
Ironman world championships
7 Which annual fair is held in Nottingham during the first week of October?
Goose Fair
8 How many grains are there in a pennyweight?

Round 5
1 What name is given to both the currency and an official language of Paraguay?
2 Which American poet, who died in Venice in 1972, wrote the epic poem The Cantos?
Ezra Pound
3 Named after an English county, which period of the Palaeozoic era comes between the Carboniferous and the Silurian?
4 Arnold Schwarzenegger played Douglas Quaid in which 1990 sci-fi film?
Total Recall
5 First broadcast in 1969, which sitcom centred on the employees of the Luxton & District Traction Company?
On the Buses
6 Founded in Florida by Alisa Ianelli in 1983, which restaurant chain is known for its scantily-clad waitresses and orange-lettered owl logo?
7 Sharing its name with a Yorkshire city, what is the largest of the towers in the curtain wall of the Tower of London?
Wakefield Tower
8 Invented in 1919, which weapon had such nicknames as "the Trench Sweeper" and "the Chicago Piano"?
Thompson submachine gun / Tommy Gun

Round 6
1 Thomas the Apostle was also known as "Didymus". What does Didymus mean?
2 Which Manchester United manager was sacked in 1977 after having an affair with the wife of Laurie Brown, a club physiotherapist?
Tommy Docherty
3 Which cut of beef, taken from the shoulder area of the cow above the brisket and ahead of the rib, is sometimes referred to as "braising steak"?
Chuck steak / 7-bone steak
4 Bay leaves come from a shrub that belongs to which family of plants?
Laurel / Lauraceae
5 In the DC Comics universe and on film, Perry White is the editor of which newspaper?
Daily Planet
6 Which theme park is home to the rollercoasters Nemesis Inferno; Stealth; and SAW: The Ride?
Thorpe Park - yes, SAW: The Ride is the rollercoaster version of the Saw films
7 Who is/was the oldest member of the Monty Python line-up?
John Cleese
8 Michael Schumacher made his Formula One debut with which now defunct team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix?
Jordan (or Jordan-Ford)

Round 7
1 Founded in 1981, what type of business is Foxtons?
Estate agents
2 Which English cricketer's Test career spanned a record 31 years and 310 days?
Wilfred Rhodes
3 The initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy is located on a hill overlooking which Devon town?
4 Which Whig politician became the first US President never to have held any previous elected office when he won the 1848 presidential election?
Zachary Taylor
5 The "Singapore Declaration of ______ Principles" was issued in 1971 at the conclusion of the first meeting of the heads of government in which organisation?
Commonwealth of Nations (old name: British Commonwealth)
6 The American ventriloquist Shari Lewis is best known as the creator of which sock puppet sheep?
Lamb Chop
7 Which painting was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821 under the title Landscape: Noon?
The Hay Wain
8 In a 1707 comedy play by George Farquhar, what eponymous plan is hatched by the gentlemen Archer and Aimwell?
The Beaux' Stratagem

Round 8
1 What name links a metallic element with the atomic number 46, a wooden statue of Athena that protected Troy, and a West End theatre owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber?
2 Arline, daughter of Count Arnheim, is the title character of which 1844 opera by the Irish composer Michael William Balfe?
The Bohemian Girl
3 The Frenchman David Douillet is a two-time Olympic champion in which sport?
4 Charles Bronson's character in the spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West was named after which musical instrument?
5 Characterised by its black fur, which animal became the world's largest carnivorous marsupial after the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936?
Tasmanian Devil / Sarcophilus harrisii
6 Which passenger died on September 16, 1977 when Gloria Jones drove their purple Mini into a sycamore tree in Barnes, south-west London?
Marc Bolan (born Mark Feld)
7 The home of the Lytton family, which country house in Hertfordshire has hosted several major open air rock concerts since 1974?
Knebworth House
8 Which rugby team won its ever first match when it played against Hartlepool Rovers on December 27, 1890?
Barbarians (or Barbarian F.C.)

The poem On Monsieur's Departure is commonly attributed to which English monarch?
Elizabeth I
Lasting no more than eight weeks, what was the second Parliament of King James I's reign and was named for its ineffectiveness?
Addled Parliament
The coffee drink Mocha takes its name from a Red Sea coastal town in which country?

It's Not a Question...

... it was Seven Questions Away

(I know: the above song reference doesn't really make enough sense)

Oh the burden of question-writing. 'Tis weighing heavy this week, last week. Poor me. Poor me dripping with sarcasm (which is better than dripping with a lot of other stuff). Tempus fugit and it's already been a week since I trekked across the old German sea to participate in the European Quizzing Championships. And only afterwards, in the exhausted afterglow, did I realise how the preparation had trussed me up good and proper with nervousness and jittery agitation brought on by last year's four medal haul. The nagging fear that I wouldn't do as well lurked in the back of my mind, which was incredibly silly since merely winning a single Eurobauble of any metallic hue is a fine achievement. Bloody rubbish expectations created in my mind. All they do is kick you in the goolies when the reckoning rears its ugly, apocalyptic head. A bit of a metaphor cocktail for you there.

But not to worry - hurrah! - I came away with another quartet of trophies ... twas 200% more golden in colour, and there's no way I can write that sentence without feeling like a smug tossbucket and thinking you think exactly the same thing, only more so and with a sneer curling up your nonplussed face. All that brain-busting, insane prep I did; all those questions I reread until my mind felt like popping and I was on the verge of weeping like Gazza in a crisp advert. It all helped, um, marginally and I probably would have done just as well had I just sat back and relaxed, and maybe watched more Isabelle Adjani films (I'm having an accidental season of the said actress).

Anyway, it's a relief I feel, a big exhaling wooohhh of a "Thank god, that's done with for another year; I can stop with the silent screaming fits" feeling. Then I think back to all my proper, hardcore prep plans and wonder why I never - sorry - "actioned" them. Because, come to think of it, the last paragraph was pitted with lies. In reality, my prep was scatty and rubbish and vulnerable to distraction by film and TV DVDs. Rather than getting down to it with nary a fuss, eyes fixed resolutely on the prizes, I buggered about and just stressed, as inconsequentially as you can, about finding all the time I wanted for it, which was more hours than each day actually contains.

So I spent most of the time panicking about the fact that time was running out because time always runs out. It's a damn Usain Bolt of a sometimes bafflingly abstract concept.

Because if I had done all those things; things that made my fellow Broken Hearts recoil in a kind of awe-filled horror, could I have made up the deficit in the individuals and done the Golden Clean Sweep?

Then I look at the final 20 questions; realise that I would have only got four more correct on a day when everything was going right, then come to the conclusion: "Nah".

There was nothing I could do to stop Kevin taking the title again (he's that awesome), unless I had constructed a quiz-bound cocoon of EQC training insanity some 364 days before I took the trip to the Netherlands. And even when I was leading, the sensation was disturbing, chest-constricting even, while the head felt lighter, more woozy. I'm not kidding either.

As Randy Newman didn't quite sing - it's lonely at the top and makes you hyperventilate for the first time in your life, while making you paranoid that every silly question you bugger up kickstarts a mildy mental monologue in your mind, which goes along the lines: "No, Kevin has got that. He's definitely got that. He's breathing down my neck. He's Reinhold Messner and he's using me as a hilariously easy training rock climb. His boots are treading on my face (but he's still ever so polite). Now he's over and away! And I've got another one wrong that he will have got. Slag-gnash-it!"

But no. Forgo the thought and implementation of the year of training insanely. Must have a normal life. Or at least one that bears believable similarities to a quotidian human existence. Must not let quiz consume absolutely everything in a Borg-like fashion, as it has already taken over my work, space reserved for old hobbies and large proportions of other life sectors. I believe that there's still a pure air-bubble left uncontaminated by trivia (says the deluded quiz slave).

Right. Was going to pen more shambolic EQC musings, but realise today's too short and that you can have a word or four hundred on non-Euro matters like:

Quiz League of London: Top of the table clash with the Pericardiums tomorrow night. Insert insipid Premier League football analogy here. What else to say? Apart from: Hi, Pericardigans! Er, rubbish weather, isn't it? I hope you like Domino's margheritas. Feel free to call us things like "Broken Hats" or "Bum Tickers" or "Congenital Heart Defect Sufferers" (I know those crap name suggestions are too stupid to live).

To be honest, I think - and this is pathetic - I'm more concerned with keeping my 2-point average at 6.50. It's insane that I now think about the individual scoring tables when choosing to pass or answer a slightly tricky question, if only for a 0.2 of a second. In the past, it was safety first. Now it's: "I wonder how many two-pointers he's/she's/they are getting right at this very moment, somewhere across town. I bet they're getting more than me". Damn statistics making me reckless and selfish.

Radio Times interview: I might be appearing in the said publication this week, spouting rubbish and rhubarb crumble about setting questions for a certain quiz show. I remember saying that sending questions in was like "chucking them into a well". I'm not at all sure that sounds good. Gulp. I'd like to clarify that there was nothing critical about the comment, though "chucking" (being careless, as well as bowling illegally) and "well" (the Stygian, bottomless one from 300 comes to mind and that was a place ... OF DEATH) have, I admit, pretty bad connotations.

Are You an Egghead? Apparently not. Ho hum. I haven't even watched a full episode of the series yet, but like the Murphy's (whatever that is/was), I'm not bitter, twisted to feck and poised to launch a vengeful arson attack on the 12 Yard offices, while spouting bon mots from Ezekiel - the show's just a shade on the slow side and is broadcast at a very internet-intensive time of the afternoon.

Some say my Final Five* questions sucked spherical objects, while others point out that I should have known my UK town planning codes and Scots slang for cottages. Ach, so what if they were and shut your cakehole! Far more crucially, methinks the way AYAE? is formatted, it's designed to more-or-less even-up the chances of the contestants. Therefore, it is liable to scupper your best laid plans or, come to think of it, plans laid in every which way. As in poker, getting a bad beat on the show is more than likely; it's inevitable; the chances of which are amplified by the three-answer multiple choice jiminy.

Lest we forget, it is an entertainment show designed to amuse and enthral the viewer. The contestants are really only amusing, sometimes sentient set decoration. Or puppets, if you don't like to be compared to non-humanoid forms, like light fittings. For what's the point of having gruesome one-sided contests that resemble bloodsports more than an actual quiz? So it leans heavily on the luck factor and, let's be honest, is better for it - in terms of a TV spectacle.

Thus, the spectacle rounded on me and I fell foul of fortune, but them's the breaks. 12 Yard's much beloved penalty shootout format leitmotif - look, it's in their name - ensures an exciting, surprising finale, as in football, and therefore, one just as likely to be riven with injustice. But, since you can see it coming a mile off, when it crashes into you the only option left - the one which will give you some peace of mind - is to be stoical about it.

I was more suspicious of the realisation that the two subjects I highlighted as my weak areas - Sports & Sciences - in Big Capital Letters on my contestant application form were frontloaded in both of my Series 2 shows.

That's right: stuck up front. One in the driver's seat and the other riding shotgun. Now why was that? But as it was in the relatively unimportant bit of the show, the "pick me an Eggy" part, the one that takes up 30-35 minutes of the running time, there is no need to be too suspicious and start delineating intricate, spidery conspiracy matrices.

And, in hindsight, it was unbelievably foolish to moan about sports and the sciences being my Achilles heels - in writing! and in my interview! Like I did last year! - and therefore give me and them a long enough rope to string myself up. Even if sport isn't actually one of my weakest subjects anymore. Though when they ask me sodding horse racing betting questions, then yeah, I'm stitched up like a helpless, naive kipper.

As for "A1" and "but-and-ben". Well. Well. Well. well well well. If that kind of Brit-centric factage is the stuff that Eggheads are made of, then I am an absolutely F... [JUMP CUT] But such arcane gubbins was to be expected. It's (a kind of) Eggheads, remember.

Anyway, I'd just like to say that my opponents Gill Woon and Dave Clark were lovely people, as well as highly skilled quiz players (they have done far, far better on Mastermind than my sorry Caribbean-leaning self), and that we were more united in terror of the show, the lights, the etc (not the Eggheads though), than enmity with each other. Or so I thought - DUM-DUM-DAHHHH!

Masoquizm III this Saturday: As man-lady cool-assed-gun-cannon-toting Vasquez said in Aliens: "Let's ROCK!!!" (oh, I will fall, and the landing will hurt, unless ... unless I start rabidly reading thousands of my NAQT/ACF questions right now. Insanity rising; taking me over)

*Talking of which, the "new" Battlestar Galactica TV movie - The Plan - does chow down on big steroid-boosted bull balls. So very disappointing. I can only imagine the extent of my disappointment had I paid to viddy it, rather than utilise the piratical side of the interwebway.