Tuesday, December 15, 2015

a francophile called Wanda

Last night SB and I joined a quiz night at Cafe Scientifique as last minute replacements for a couple of friends who had enjoyed their holiday party a bit too much the night before. The quiz questions were challenging but we managed to pull off third place with our motley assortment of non-scientists. It was the journalist in our group who blew me away with his breadth and depth of knowledge on almost every scientific category from geology to astronomy. After nine rounds of questions, our team was only six points behind the winning table of incumbent science professors. I surprised myself with my knowledge of plants and animals, which won our team a bottle of wine in the bonus round of Hong Kong flowers and fauna, sponsored by the Bauhinia Genome Project. You can read about them here.

Apparently some of the contestants at last year's quiz night complained that the questions did not include enough French information so the hosts bent over backward accommodating them and it didn't take us long to realize that if there was any doubt on an answer, to choose a French one. It was amusing that the French team finished thirty points behind us. Someone said that they missed the question about Jacques Cousteau. Merde!

One of the announcers, an Englishman of distinction, began by sprinkling his French knowledge into his questions, but hours later, likely aided by several glasses of wine, he lost all of his inhibitions and revealed himself to be a raging francophile, waxing on in increasingly flowery language about each minute detail of the quiz's Gallic questions. At some point as he was booming passionately about Fermat's last theorem, I suddenly was reminded a scene from A Fish Called Wanda, where Archie orated in Italian, then Russian, while Wanda writhed on the floor in ecstasy.

Due to veering well off course by the quiz master imparting bits of trivia on top of the actual trivia (fascinating as it was), as well as the ill fated decision by the hosts to allow a room full of know-it-alls the ability to challenge the answers for the price of a small charitable donation, the quiz lasted for almost four hours. SB and I had cereal for dinner at midnight and went to bed too tired to revel in our success. This evening I imagine that we will relive the agony and ecstasy of last night, and of course plot to join again next year. If nothing else, the events of last night have inspired me to resolve to actually read a science journal or two in the next year. After National Geographic became embarrassingly shallow, I lost that feeling of wonder and excitement but now it's back.

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