Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Jeopardy!", the Audition (conclusion)

To read part 1 of "Jeopardy!, the Audition, click here
To read part 2 of "Jeopardy!, the Audition, click here

Finally, the time came for the auditions to begin. There were 24 of us aspiring contestants for that audition session. Ours was the middle of three sessions that day in Philadelphia, and that contestant search team was going to be there all week, while a second team was holding auditions in Dallas at the same time. These were the first two of twelve cities the auditions were being held in, which meant that there were a lot of people auditioning for a very limited number of slots.

The first thing we did was to line up to take head shots (baby, I'm a star!).  We received our polaroids and headed on into the conference room. The three man search team, an energetic, lively trio, introduced themselves, and got us all pumped up and ready to rock and roll...but they were really doing was setting us up to be smacked down by the first challenge: a 50 question test that was similar in format to the online test we all passed to get the audition in the first place.

Like the online test, the questions appeared on a screen one at a time; however, there were three differences: first, we were all writing the answers rather than typing; second, we didn't have to phrase our answers in the form or  a question; BUT third - and most important - instead of fifteen seconds, we only got EIGHT seconds to write down a response before the screen moved on to the next question! Now, I don't know if the degree of difficulty of these questions was harder than on the online test, or if it just seemed that way because of the reduced time we had to answer, but let me tell you something: eight seconds ain't shit when you're trying to come up with trivial, obscure answers to questions in all manner of random categories not of your own choosing, especially when you're in a room full of tense, INtense, competitive smart people all trying to outdo you and make some money. Out of those 50 questions, there were three or four that I absolutely had no clue as to what the answer was, and another 2 or 3 that I absolutely DID know but couldn't think of in those eight seconds. The rest I had answers for, usually almost instantly, which was definitely gratifying. There was one potential problem, though: the very last question was right in my wheel house: "Ag is the chemical symbol for what element?" Aww suki suki now, finally a chemistry question!  I had come into this thing hoping, as someone working in the chemical industry, that I'd get at least a few science questions, but question #50 was it for this test. No problem, Ag is the symbol for silver; hell, I was just working with some silver nitrate a few days ago, so I had no doubt about this one. Yet for some reason, I had this nagging feeling that stuck with me for the rest of the day and night that in my haste to get that test over with, I might have written down "gold" instead of "silver". Now I'm not sure whether I actually did, but the paranoia was creeping up in me big time. I could just imagine the conversation:

(Contestant search producer: "Mr. Keel, it says on your application that you are a Chemical Research Associate. So can you tell us why you wrote down gold instead of silver for the last question?
Me:  "What? I did? Um, see what had happened was...wait, uh, are you sure?")

After our tests were collected, along with our applications, head shots, and a list we had to bring of five facts and stories about ourselves, the search team left the room to grade the tests and look over our information. This gave us time to act like a room full of school kids: "What'd you get for this question? Anybody know the answer to that question? Man, I wish I had about two more seconds to answer that question!" This had the somewhat cathartic effect of making us each realize that we weren't alone in feeling like real dummies after that experience. Everybody seemed to know the answer to a couple of questions that others didn't know, and likewise didn't know the answers to a few questions that other people did know, and there was no one making a claim to knowing all the answers. I think we all were relieved at that...

Once the search team came back into the conference room, tests graded and our paperwork in hand, it was time for the real deal: head to head competition! Before we got started, the guy who seemed to be the top dog on the coordinating team went over the importance of not ringing in too soon on a question, as that locks out your ringer and keeps you from immediately being able to answer. However, it was revealed during a brief Q&A that the lockout is only for a half second, so that if you were quick enough and slick enough with the ringer (which was similar to clicking an ink pen) you could, after the lockout, still ring in on answer if the other contestants were either too slow or had also had lockouts. The importance of personality also was stressed; it wasn't enough to know stuff, you had to present that knowledge in a way that was going to have some appeal on TV. So, armed with that advice, it was time to let the games begin...

We were called up three at a time to play the game as you would on the real show. However, after almost every question, the game would be paused as someone from the team (often more than one of them, or even all of them) offered a critique of the way the question had been played: whether the contestant was loud enough, or sounded confident or enthusiastic enough,  or was looking down or off in the distance while giving the answer, whether someone was having issues with the ringer. The critiques were not sugar-coated; the search team was mostly positive, but stern in their assessments.
No scores were being kept, but it wasn't hard to see who was good at the game and who wasn't. Meanwhile the rest of us watched and learned and waited for our chance. When each trio of contestants finished playing, they were interviewed in front of the rest of us. They had to state their names, where they were from, and what they did, after which members of the team would ask them for details about what they did, and questions about things they had written on their applications. After each set of interviews, we all gave a hearty round of applause, and the next group of three contestants were called up.

I was called up somewhere in the middle of the pack, and being me, I worried while I waited about whether their was any significance to the order in which we were being called upon. Was it based on the test scores? The overall package that we turned in? Alphabetical? Completely random? Who knew? No one ever found out their grades, either on the written test or the online test which got us here in the first place, so it was just left for me to sit, observe, worry and speculate. On the other hand, being called up in the middle of the pack was definitely a good thing in term of picking up pointers and learning from the mistakes the people ahead of me had made.

Right front the start I felt in my element during the game. I rang in with perfect timing on two of the first four answers (I got them right) and just missing ringing in first on the other two, both of which I knew. This got me a critique from the team: I was only pushing the ringer once, while my opponents were hitting theirs multiple times. I was lucky to hit the ringer with the perfect timing on the questions I got right, but not so much on the ones I got beat out for (which they could tell from my body language that I knew). I needed to do better with the ringer - much better.

After that it was on! I can see how contestants on Jeopardy! get on a roll; it's not just that they know more than their opponents (although I'm sure that can happen), but that they get into a rhythm with their clicking the ringer that puts them at an advantage. That's what I felt after the critique. It turns out the guy to my left was feeling it too, and we but on a serious battle against each other. I ended up being a little more aggressive, and rang in first a few more times, but my aggressiveness led to two wrong answers, which this other guy quickly jumped on. The third guy - poor thing - got left in the dust. He was able to get a ring in maybe twice (and he answered one of those incorrectly, which I was only too happy to pounce on). All in all, even though no scores were being kept, I did pretty doggone good, and I think I might have had a slight edge on the guy I was duking it out with.

Then came the interviews. Turns out the guy I was battling with is a Harvard grad who had just quit his job to open up a restaurant - in New York City, no less. The third guy was - I think - a teacher, but he seemed so deflated by the beatdown he received, that nothing he said was even remotely memorable. As for my interview, the search team asked questions about my job that gave me the chance to explain what I do with a good amount of detail; and amazingly enough, no one's eyes appeared to glaze over the way they normally do when I try talking about the joys of electrochemical and metallurgical research. I also told the story about my grandson Darius (aka the Hurricane) jumping out of his crib at 2 in the morning and scaring the hell out of me, which got a big laugh...on the way back to my seat after I was done, the guy sitting in front of me - who I talked to while we were waiting to get our head shots, and who turned out to be a news reporter in the D.C. area and who had also been, in his younger days, a DJ at an R&B / Hip-Hop station in upstate New York (a fact which everyone found to be hilarious because this dude looked to be about as old-money preppy whitebread as you could get) clapped me on the shoulder and said, "awesome, man!", which is pretty much exactly how I felt right then (I had even temporarily forgotten about the whole silver/gold worries).

After a few more rounds of head to head competition and interviews, we were done. Nerdy as those folks were, they were an impressive bunch, that had done some interesting things in their lives. But while I hadn't traveled to Europe, or started my own business, or had any unusual hobbies or collections, or built a life-size pinata of myself for my 25th birthday (which someone actually did), there were three things about myself that stood out in that group: #1, I was the only Black contestant in that session, #2, I was the only one in the session doing any work in chemistry, or in the sciences, period (unless you want to count the high school chemistry teacher), and #3, besides the retired college professor, I was the only one who was a grandparent (hell, there might have been only one other person in the room even old to qualify). So it remains to be seen how much all of that will matter...

After I was done, Mike - who did a little sight seeing while I was auditioning - and I went to a sports bar he found. We both decided we wanted to try famous philly cheesesteak sub, so cheesesteaks and beer it was (for the record, the cheesesteaks we had didn't taste any better or different than any other cheesesteak we had ever eaten. Maybe the "movie star" could have picked a better spot, LOL). After that, the road dawgs made our way back to Baltimore, with Mike taking pictures while I took the wheel. The drive back was just as easy as the one going up; the only negative to the trip was the SIX DOLLAR toll we had to pay - in ONE direction - at all toll in our "fair" home state (seriously, Maryland? SIX  FREAKIIN'  DOLLARS?). Aside from that, it was a great experience - challenging, nerve-wracking, stress-inducing - but in the end, pretty damned fun.

(and yes, I am still worried that I wrote "gold" instead of "silver")

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jeopardy! the Audition (continued)

To read part 1 of "Jeopardy!", the Audition, click here.


It was 10:40AM. Why didn't my alarm go off? I pulled out my phone; it was indeed set to go off at 10:30 - 10:30PM ( can remember all manner of facts and figures and trivia, but you can't set a damned phone alarm...)

After a couple minutes, my heartbeat returned to normal, and I realized I still had plenty of time to get myself together. First order of business: De-funkifying my nasty breath. That hour of sleep had given me a case of the yuck-mouth, and combined with the leftover taste of chef's omelet (complete with onions and peppers and three kinds of cheeses), I knew I needed to freshen up - QUICK.

I made my way to the hotel gift shop, reached to grab a pack of Eclipse gum (damn, how did my hands get so ashy?), and then asked the cashier if they carried any lotion (geez, and look at my fingernails!) and nail clippers. I left the gift shop, headed to the nearest men's room, pulled my tie out of my jacket pocket, tied it (three times before I liked the knot), slathered my hands with lotion, clipped my nails (which would have been easier if I had done them BEFORE lotioning my hands), and as I walked out, popped three pieces of gum in my mouth, chewed the life out of them, then chewed on a couple more after that. There. Now I'm good to go...

With about a half an hour to go before audition time, Mike and I walked around to where the auditions were being held. Outside of the conference room there was a table, on which there was a can of "Jeopardy!" pens, a stack of applications, another stack of paper that had a space to write your name, followed by a series of lines numbered 1-50, and a stack of 8"x11" sheets of cardboard. I glanced off to one side and saw 3 people already filling out the application, so I grabbed one of everything and joined them.

I sat down, said my hellos, and joined in the conversation as I filled out my paperwork. Sitting with me were a retired professor from Blacksburg, VA (where Virginia Tech is located), a chemistry teacher from northern Virginia, and a graphic designer from Silver Spring, MD. As it got closer to 11:30, more and more people filed into this reception area. Although everyone was polite (and some were very friendly), two things stuck in my mind about them: #1, look at how these people are dressed! Is it possible to look more nerdy than this bunch? and #2 listen to them talking about past Jeopardy! winners, recent Final Jeopardy! answers, and Alex Trebek like they were Star Trek groupies or something. OMG, this is like GEEK CENTRAL! Look at these people! I'm waaaay cooler and dressed better, and just as smart! But then...

"And how about that Final Jeopardy! question from last night (a question that none of the contestants answered correctly)?" the graphic designer (a lumpy, dumpy 30-something guy wearing a drab grey shirt, an even more drab, severely faded, rumpled pair of what were once blue khaki-style pants and some beat-up hush puppies) asked. And a voice sounding like just mine came from out of what appeared to be my mouth, saying, "I know right? That was a tricky one, although I should've figured out from the clue that it was Fahrenheit 451." The others sitting around that table - the lumpy dumpy graphic designer; the matronly high school chemistry teacher with the awful blue and white flowered dress; the retired college professor, who would look good dressed in a Santa Suit at Christmastime, but in his green shirt, baggy brown corduroys, and taped up glasses, not so much; the young guy with the tinted glasses and scruffy beard, who looked like he was wearing his big brother's suit (to go with some beat down running shoes), and who, despite living in Tampa, Florida, bypassed the audition in Orlando so he could come to Philadelphia to visit some obscure museum that no one else had heard of; the guy who had gone to elementary school with a former big winner on the show, and who seemed to be both jealous of him and to have a huge man-crush on him; the approximately 6 foot tall, 90 pound lady with the droopy brown hair, and profoundly sad face, and who was auditioning for the third time - all smiled and nodded in agreement at my assessment, as if I was one of them.

And then I gasped "Oh my God, maybe I AM one of them! Maybe they're all looking at me in my suit and tie and thinking I'm the nerd! No wonder that restaurant manager was ignoring me and treating Mike like a movie star; he probably DID look like a star standing next to me..."



Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Jeopardy!", the Audition

So the time had finally come for me to make my trip to Philadelphia for the "Jeopardy!" Audition. When my new "road dawg" - my Brother-in-law, Mike - found out about the audition, he didn't waste time in letting me know he wanted to take the road trip with me, which was pretty cool.

My audition time was 11:30AM. We got rolling early (around 6:45 or so) to try to avoid catching the worst of the morning rush hour traffic. The plan worked great, as we pulled in front of the Sheraton Society Hill, where the auditions were taking place, a little after 8:30 - but that left me with almost three hours to kill before the audition.

Since neither of us had eaten yet, the first order of business was breakfast. We quickly found the hotel restaurant, where after standing unattended to for a few minutes, we were greeted by the manager, an attractive, perky, 40ish blond who instantly turned on all the charm and flirtation she could muster towards us - or more accurately, towards Mike:

"Would you prefer to sit in the back, or up here in front with a view of the lobby?", the manager asked.
"How about right here?" Mike asked, pointed to a raised table and chairs at the front of the restaurant, which looked directly out onto the lobby.
"Well now, that's a good choice", she said, as she led Mike around to the opposite side of the table. "You should want every body to see you; you look just like a movie star!" She held the chair out for the "movie star", who was wearing an ordinary blue sweater, jeans, and white sneakers. Meanwhile, I - wearing a nice grey suit with a brown and white pinstripe shirt with French cuffs, and brown shoes polished to a perfect shine - got no such love; I seated myself.

"Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?" she asked, and we placed our orders.
"What are your names, by the way?"
"I'm Michael."
"Michael? Wow, I've always loved that name! Everyone I know named Michael is just a wonderful, wonderful person! How about you sir, what's your name?"
"I'm Keith."


"Okay, well let me go get those drinks for ya!"
(I was beginning to have doubts about this "road dawg" idea)

After we devoured breakfast, there were still a couple hours until the audition. Mike and I walked around the lobby for a few minutes, then found ourselves in a smaller room just off the lobby. The room looked like it could have been used for small meetings; it had four plush chairs, a fireplace, and sliding wooden doors.

We sit down, got comfortable, made some small talk about the decor of the room, and of the hotel in general. Everything was nice and relaxed, and I wasn't worried at all about the audition. But then...UH OH! I looked at Mike, Mike looked at me, and we both knew: the "ITIS" had descended upon us both! What's more, I had, for some reason, woke up around 3:30AM, and in all my excitement and anticipation, never made it back to sleep. So now I was REALLY feeling it...

"Look, man" Mike yawned, as he sunk deeper into his chair (which, since it was identical to mine, I knew was ridiculously comfortable), "You can close your eyes if you want to. I'll make sure you don't oversleep."

As I looked at the race between his ass and his eyelids to see which could droop the lowest the fastest I knew his idea had a fatal flaw: this here knee-grow was going to be asleep BEFORE I would be; who the hell was gonna wake HIM up so he could wake ME up? So I pulled out my cell phone and set the alarm for 10:30 - I thought...

Next thing I know, I sat straight up in my ridiculously comfortable chair like somebody had jolted me with an electric cattle prod...



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baltimorons - Howard County Edition

Well now, we have ourselves a story of some bona fide Baltimoron behavior out in the suburbs...apparently a young female student at the town of Columbia's Long Reach High School felt like she was being picked on a little too much by at least one of her schoolmates. After said schoolmate allegedly threw a french fry at her (the french fry that broke the camel's back?), the young lady decided to take action. She reached out to an adult male (relative, acquaintance, friend? The stories I've read haven't yet identified this man or what his relationship to the girl is) from Baltimore, apparently to ask him to rough up the alleged french fry thrower (and I say "alleged" because from reading different responses to the story, it's not entirely clear that the student this girl fingered was even the guilty party) for the crime of assault with a deadly potato.

Well, let's just say things didn't go down as planned. As this link explains, Ol' boy drove out to Long Reach High School from Baltimore to catch up with young Mr. French Fry Hurler after school. When the young lady pointed the young man out to her rescuer, then man pulled a ski mask over his face, walked up to the young man, and (I suppose) after saying something briefly to him, decided to take a swing. One problem: he missed...

The young man, however - a short but powerfully built football player - did NOT miss. And one punch and a split second later, the masked avenger was sleeping peacefully on the ground next to the school. The young lady who set this all up then came charging after the young man, but he - smartly - managed to back away and keep her at bay without knocking her into lala land next to the masked avenger, before teachers and security came running in to separate the two.

This being the age of cell phones and You Tube, the whole mess was recorded and posted, and went viral in no time flat. If you haven't already seen, here it is - but pay close attention, because the "fight" is over quick:

The masked avenger woke up to an assault charge for his troubles, as did the young lady who thought calling on this Baltimoron was going to solve her problems. No charges for the young football player, as he did what you would expect, which was defend himself.

All in all, this was about the best laugh I had all week, because, Mr. Masked Baltimoron,

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Jeopardy!", Continued

So after I received the email from telling me I had passed the online test, I immediately responded and waited for their reply...and waited...and waited. The email said that I would be found out more information in about a week to ten days after they received my RSVP confirmation of the invite to an audition, but my rational thought processes were short circuited by the possibility of being on the show. I found myself checking my email several times a day expecting further information from Jeopardy, and I even checked my "sent" folder a few times to re-check whether I had successfully sent the RSVP to them (yeah, I was being a bit crazy about the whole deal).

Then finally, about a week after I had initially responded, I received the follow-up email from, complete with the actual location of the audition, and what to expect: a personal interview, followed by a series of head to head matches with other contestant hopefuls, and then finishing it off with a repeat of the online test I passed to get the audition in the first place. All told, about two and a half fun-filled, action-packed hours to determine if I've got the right stuff...

I also need to list five things about myself: either about my job, hobbies, things I collect, embarassing moments, claims to fame, awards, dreams, ambitions, "bucket list" items; anything that Alex Trebek can small talk with me about if I make it to the show.

None of this guarantees anything. A successful audition only spares me from being eliminated from  consideration. After that, it's all up to them to pick and choose which of the survivors they want to make it to the show (and when). So until then, I've got a little time (and just a little) to study up, take a few more practice tests, and come up with some funny stories about myself (I'm sure some of y'all can help with that)...

Monday, March 12, 2012

The "Baltimoron Store" Makes the News!

You loyal readers of this blog - all 3 or 4 of you - may remember that about a month or so ago, the Angry Nerd posted an entry about his favorite "Baltimoron" store, the Food Depot on Belair Road in East Baltimore. Well, that store (through no fault of its on) is in the news - and not in a good way.

Seems that one of the cashiers charged her mother about $100 for about $400 worth of groceries by marking the price of everything down. An eagle-eyed security guard somehow saw that the cashier, one Ciara Anderson, was marking down items so dramatically on her mother's checkout that $401.86 worth of stuff ended up as a $101.28 charge (how can a brother get a hookup like that?). Now here's the best part: Mama - Darlene Early - is one of "Baltimore's Finest"...yes, a Baltimore City Police Officer! Wooo, I tell you, the BCPD is on a roll with the activities of some of the members of its force (I need to do a separate blog on this)!

Anyway, I was in the Food Depot yesterday, and the atmosphere around at checkout ws decidedly different. There was little to none of the normal chatter going on  between the cashiers, not much  conversation between cashiers and customers, no "mean girl" attitudes projecting from the newer, more attractive cashiers who replaced some of the original, snaggle-toothed ones (and considering young Ms. Anderson is 18, she has to have been one of the newer mean girls; I can't wait to find out which one she was). Instead, everyone seemed to be looking over their shoulders at the increased presence of security pacing about intently. The security staff, who consist of rather massive fellows who were at the same time a rather genial bunch, were all business on this day. And in addition to a couple of the security guys who were regulars at the store, there was, stationed by the exit door, a mountainous (both in the size of body and stoniness of expression) man who appeared to be about 7 foot tall and 400 pounds with about a quarter of a percent body fat and a permanent scowl drawn on his face (OK, I might be exaggerating a little bit) and flashing a badge of some sort on his belt as he stood by the door and checked customers' receipts, creating a serious bottleneck just to get the hell out of there (not that anyone was going to give this guy a hard time about it).

Sigh. How ironic: My favorite Baltimoron store had been turned into a police state, all due to the actions of a police officer and her daughter...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

You Might Be An Asshole...2nd Edition

To read edition 1, click here.
  • If you come to your first day of work with a wool cap emblazoned with a big, fluorescent marijuana picture (complete with the number "420"), with the waistline of your pants just above your knees, and a shirt not nearly long enough to cover your dingy might be an asshole...
  • If you're standing on a street corner, dropping trash on the ground when there's a garbage can not three feet away from might be an asshole...
  • If you're walking down the street, and hock up a loogie and spit it out right in the middle of the sidewalk where people are might be an asshole...
  • If you and your boy get on a crowded bus, you push and shove and squeeze your way to the back (where there really wasn't room for you) while your boy stays in the front, and then you spend the rest of your ride yelling your conversation back and forth with /at might be an asshole...

    Friday, March 9, 2012


    I was watching my favorite game show, "Jeopardy!" one night a little over three years ago, when the announcement game on that online tests were going to be conducted for a contestant search. Since being a contestant on the show has long been a dream of mine, I raced to the computer to go to and register for the test.

    After I registered, I got my notice of when to be available to take the test; along with that came the recommendation to try the practice test before taking the real thing. In my best Clay Davis voice, I said, "SSShhheeeeeeiiiiiiiiiitttttt, I don't need no practice test! Don't they know who I am?" My confidence in not only being picked to be a contestant on "Jeopardy!", but taking home a big-time haul was staggering, and bordering on (probably actually putting my toes on the other side of the border) arrogance...Hell, I had already started imagining what I was going to wear on all those different days I was winning money (get ahead of myself? Moi? No way!)...

    Finally, the time to actually take the test. I logged in, took some breaths, and watched the countdown to the test start time, fully confident that I was about to take the first step in becoming the Black Ken Jennings. And then...

    The first question (or answer, actually, if you are familiar with the Jeopardy format of responding to answers with questions) popped up, together with a timer that immediately started counting down from 15 seconds. For about 12 of those seconds, the following went through my brain:

    IknowthisIknowthisIknowthisIknowthis, whatisitwhatisitwhatisitwhatisit?

    After a lifetime of acquiring and warehousing all kinds of trivial facts and figures and statistics in this head of mine and being able to regurgitate them at the snap of a finger, I was having a severe brain fart which was interfering with my ability to access this fact from the recesses of my brain. Finally, with about 3 seconds left to answer, the response came to me, and I started frantically typing...but not fast enough, as my 15 seconds ran out before I completed my response. Oh boy...The next few questions produced the same sort of panic, in 15 second increments: either I'd go down to the wire trying to pull an response out of me (sometimes typing the response in time, sometimes not); or I knew I had absolutely had no idea what the answer was and just hit the "pass" button; or a couple of times an answer came to me immediately and I was only too relieved to type it in and keep things moving. Finally, about halfway through the test, I calmed the heck down, got into a good rhythm, and sailed through to the end - fifty questions in all, at 15 seconds or less a pop. Not a whole lot of time from start to finish, but plenty enough for me to have choked it away. Even though I finished strong, I gave away most of the first half of the test just by not remaining calm.

    I should've tried the damned practice tests...

    Last year I gave it another shot. I was prepared, calm, and  focused. I put the first test experience behind me, took the practice tests,  and did plenty of reading on a variety of subjects. I was all set to go...but there was one last minute development: the babysitting of my then one year old grandson, Darius, aka "the Hurricane". It just so happened that my test appointment time was at 8:15, right about the time Darius' mother hit the showers to get ready to work her night job. So now I had two choices: try to take the test with Darius screaming in his crib, or try to take the test with him in the room with me. I chose the latter option, and took the test with the Hurricane climbing all over me. I have the feeling neither option would have worked. EPIC FAIL.

    Then came this year. All prepared, psyched, ready to go. NO ONE in the house but me, did a little workout before the test to get the blow flowing. Everything was in place for a passing score. Then the test started. First question, no clue, PASS. Second question was a IknowthisIknowthisIknowthisIknowthis, whatisitwhatisitwhatisitwhatisit? type of deal. I got the response in with one second left...Here we go again...But then, before I started to get in a panic, the tide changed: I got an easy one that I jumped all over, then a few tougher ones, but ones I got right away. Next thing you know, I was an a bona fide ROLL. It doesn't take long to answer 50 questions when you have only 15 seconds for each one. When you're struggling to come up with an answer to a question (especially when it's one you're pretty sure you know, or should know), that 15 seconds is like an eyeblink. But when you're hot, it like "15 seconds? I don't need no stinkin' 15 seconds!" And that's how I had it going on this test - finally! There is no indication from the Jeopardy! online test whether you've passed or failed the test when you done taking. They flash a big "thank you" on the screen, with a message that you will be notified if you pass and they want to audition you further. I didn't hear a damned thing from them the first two times I took it, confirming what I already knew in my gut - that I had crashed and burned. This time, though, I fully expected that somebody was going to be hittin' a brotha up about making some Jeopardy money...

    Almost two months later, as I was checking my e-mails, there it was:
    From - Jeopardy Contestant Search
    Subject - Jeopardy Contestant Audition in Philadelphia on 3/28

    I had passed the test, and now I had a follow up appointment to meet with the Jeopardy! people. The e-mail was shrouded in mystery, however; there was no mention of WHERE in Philadelphia I had to go, just that I needed to be in Philadelphia on March 28 at 11:30AM. There was nothing about what the audition consisted of, only that it would last about 2 to 2 and a half hours. I needed to RSVP within 48 hours, providing them with certain information that was in the e-mail, and then they would respond to me within 10 days after that to give me more details...


    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    "House Nigger"

    So as we come to the end of Black History Month, and I reflected on what it means to me, I am reminded of a story that happened to me recently:

    I was trying to cross the street one afternoon at a busy intersection near home. It was a nice mild day out, and I was in full prep gear: a corduroy sport jacket, sweater, button down shirt, khaki pants, argyle socks and loafers. I made it halfway across the street, then stopped on the island as the light changed. While I stood on the island, I noticed a pair of Black women in an SUV, waiting to make a left turn, alternately looking at me and talking to each other. I didn't think much of it at first, but then as the truck was pulling off to make the turn, the window rolled down, and the women yelled "House Nigger!" at me as the SUV sped away. I stood there for a moment and watched the car drive away, feeling a strange mixture of anger, sadness, amusement, and above all, confusion. This wasn't the first time I had been called a "house nigger" or "Uncle Tom", or been accused of "trying to be White", but usually I had to be saying or doing something for someone to issue such an epithet in response. To be accused of House Niggeration while just standing around was a new one for me...

    To Be Continued...