Back at the start of the month, I published a list of facts which may or may not be true. As we’re well into April now, I thought it was about time I told you what the answers are.
1, sadly, was entirely untrue, and was merely there so that I could make a tenuous pun around “gratin catalogue”.
2 is true. So is 3, at least according to Robert Graves, whose Greek Myths is good on the myths themselves, less reliable on their interpretation.
4 is most definitely not true.
5 is probably not true, but it was an urban myth for many years in the railway enthusiast world.
6 is true, pretty much. The CPC range could show 27 colours, each referred to by a number which represented the colour’s RGB values when written in trinary. They used a 4-bit hardware palette to map between the trinary graphics chip and the binary video memory.
7 is false, even though lots of people would tell you otherwise – see Wikipedia for details.
And 8 must, if you’ve been counting, be true. Although it’s arguable what the oldest part of the Underground is, the oldest underground railway was the Metropolitan Railway – now the Hammersmith & City Line – and it was originally built to Brunel’s broad gauge standard, about 2′ 3″ wider than standard gauge track.
So, there you are. I’ll try to think up more falsehoods next April.
As it’s April 1st, here’s some almost-but-not-quite-believable information. Some of it is true, some of it isn’t. See if you can guess which is which.
- A firm from Skegness once offered a mail-order service supplying potatoes sliced and braised in cream, and other similar dishes.
- French revolutionary politician and Terror leader Maximilien Robespierre was obsessive about wearing exactly the right sort of silk stockings every day.
- Some Ancient Greeks believed that beans were haunted, and that eating them could cause pregnancy.
- I have a tattoo of a steam train on the inside of my left thigh.
- The British government for many years maintained a secret stash of spare steam engines, hidden in an old quarry just outside Bath.
- Sir Alan Sugar’s company Amstrad once sold a range of home computers whose graphics chip used trinary, not binary, arithmetic.
- The term “bug” for a computer fault dates from someone finding a moth stuck in an early electromechanical computer.
- The tracks of the London Underground were originally about 2′ 3″ wider than they are now.
No blogpost yesterday, because – well, I was rather busy. Regular readers might remember this post from last week, in which I speculated vaguely about auditioning for a TV quiz show - I didn’t say which one, but it was fairly easy to guess. Those auditions, as it happened, were yesterday.
They were open auditions, so I just turned up. And, really, it was all rather painless. They weren’t busy; I sat down, answered some general knowledge questions, and had a bit of a chat about potential subjects. All very friendly. The interesting bit, though, was after I came out. “Would you mind hanging around for a while,” someone said, “the local news would like to interview people.”
Happy to oblige, I waited around, before going outside, getting miked up, and answering a few questions about what I’d just been doing. And then: “could we have some setup shots of people queuing outside the audition room?” So, the news team commandeered a corridor with a likely-looking door at the end, sat us down, and told us to try to look nervous. I found it hard not to laugh, as the cameraman zoomed in on our anxious faces from somewhere around floor-level. We acted out arriving at the audition, for the cameras, and I suddenly realised how hard acting is: how hard it is to make scripted actions feel natural.
The whole thing seemed far more complicated than the audition itself had been. And even if I don’t end up on any quiz shows, I’ve had my 2 minutes of stardom on the local news now.
Or, the perils of knowing a little on a lot of subjects.
Say, hypothetically, you were considering auditioning for a popular TV quiz show, confident in your general knowledge. However, the hypothetical quiz show in question requires you to also answer questions on a few specific topics – let’s call them, for the sake of argument, “Specialist Subjects”. What sort of things would you pick, and why would you pick them?
It’s nearly Yuletide, and all shall rejoice. For Yuletide means: the King William’s College General Knowledge Paper. Hurrah!
If you’ve never seen it before: the General Knowledge Paper is both an exam paper, and one of the hardest general knowledge quizzes around. Its questions are succinct, cryptic, and intriguing, and range over huge areas of knowledge.* On a quick run through it today, I reckon I scored about 32 points out of 360;** doing particularly well on London and Russians. Answers probably include I. P. Pavlov, Martin Chuzzlewit, Greyfriars School and Waterloo – unless I’m deliberately trying to confuse you.
* so much so that my friend K claims it isn’t a general knowledge quiz at all, because the answers are that obscure.
** There are 180 questions; you score 2 points per answer.
Back in December, I briefly mentioned the King William’s College General Knowledge Paper, and ever since I’ve received hits from people searching for the answers. I had, indeed, posted three of the answers, but hadn’t mentioned which questions they were the answers too. The full answers have now been published, though,* and I’m pleased to find that all the answers I posted here were indeed correct. One of them (“In 1906, who benefited, through his far-eastern mediation, from a Nordic inventor’s bequest?”) needed a bit of research into Nobel Peace Prize winners; but the other two I spotted (“Which man in holy orders had a first edition of his own revolutionary theory of the heavens presented to him on his deathbed?” and “What is the Drain?”) I thought were really rather obvious “everyone will know those” questions, so I wasn’t really bothered about posting the answers to them here.
Still. Three right out of a hundred – it’s a bit rubbish, really!
* you can still get the questions from The Guardian or the school itself, at time of writing.
So, Big Dave has left, in a cloud of adulation and office stationery, getting ready to move house over the break. Everything is booked, and everything is ready to go, and when I get back after Christmas I will have someone new to share the office with.
Things have been a little strange lately, and not just because of Dave. Work has been very stressful, and other things have been very stressful too. I see someone and I want to try to help them, to save them from themself and from dangerous people, but I know they would not accept my help. The stress of all this, and all the work that has been piling on me at the office, makes me want to curl up for a thousand years, not sleeping, just dormant. A bit like King Arthur, maybe.
Talking of King Arthur, here’s more Susan Cooper:
For Drake is no longer sleeping in his hammock, children, nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping, and you may
not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it is up to you.
Now especially since man has the strength to destroy this world, it is the responsibility of man to keep
it alive, it all its beauty and marvellous joy.
Maybe that should be my epigram for the coming year. In the meantime, I’m going to occupy myself with the King William’s College General Knowledge Paper. I might only get a handful of answers,* but it will keep me busy for a while.
* which may or may not include “Copernicus”, “Theodore Roosevelt”, and “The Waterloo and City Line”. That’s how random they are. Feel free to guess what questions I think those are the answers to.