Thursday, July 21, 2011

I am not Muqtada al Sadr

I recently attended a family reunion on my wife’s side of the family. While talking to my wife’s cousin, Doug, who was on leave from Afghanistan, he mentioned he saw my picture every day. I told him he was spending too much time on Facebook. He replied that he saw my picture in the newspaper over there.  Apparently, there is a Shiite cleric, Muqtada al Sadr, going around Afghanistan Iraq fomenting trouble, and he looks like me. I need to clarify two things, first, I have never been to Afghanistan Iraq (although I am fond of their blankets during the winter months), and B) I have no idea what foment means.

I asked my daughters for a definition of foment. They are intelligent young ladies, who, when they were younger, actually pretended to be in school. I was sure they could give me a definition. One of them said, “Dad, go look it up.” I think they played school too much when they were younger. As I crossed the room to get a dictionary, the kind printed on paper and bound with a stiff hard cover, another daughter said, “Dad, don’t you have a dictionary app on your ipod?!” Such an intelligent young lady. I stopped and looked for my ipod. At this point the third daughter chimed in, “Dad, you were just at the computer. You could simply go to”

I looked up the word using and discovered foment means to stir up trouble and I aim to stir up trouble for three smart alecky…I mean intelligent young ladies.

After finding the definition of foment, I made a to-do list. It started with a scientific inquiry into whether I really look like Muqtada or not. Not having access to facial recognition software, I uploaded a picture of Muqtada to Facebook and asked my friends there if I looked like him. Astonishingly, 80% of the five people who responded said we looked alike. Thank you Mrs. Redfield for believing in me.

Of the four who said that Mr. al Sadr looked like me, two were my daughters. I foresee even more foment from me in their lives.

I then turned my attention to the next item on the list and started to search through every drawer, shelf, and safe spot in our house for my passport. My wife saw the path of destruction I left everywhere I searched and asked, “What are you fomenting about now?!”

I responded that in light of recent developments I was going to turn in my passport. I could just imagine what atrocities the TSA might do to me when they realized you-know-who looked like me. I read just last week that they frisked some woman’s hair. I could not bear the thought of them pawing through my full mane of hair. So, I told Beloved I was going to return my passport to the State Department. Then Beloved reminded me I did not have a passport.  I took my to-do list and marked that item off and proceeded to the computer to scroll through my email and check my calendar.

“What are you doing now?” Beloved inquired.

“I am checking what international travel plans I have and cancelling them.” I responded.

Beloved rolled her eyes. “No passport, no international travel plans. You don’t travel!”

I took my to-do list and scratched that item off the list. Then I went upstairs and laid down in bed.

“What are you doing now?” Beloved inquired.

I showed her my to-do list. Scientific study-done. Passport-returned. International travel plans-cancelled. I have had a busy morning; I am going to take a nap.

I hear the hushed voices downstairs as Beloved and my daughters foment trouble for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What exactly is Bible Quizzing?

Last week I wrote about my road trip to Spring Arbor, MI. The purpose of that trip was to take a group of Bible Quizzers to Spring Arbor University for a National competition, the Final competition of the season.

Bible quizzing, for those who are unfamiliar with the sport, is a cross between Jeopardy and musical chairs. Except that people sit in the chairs and jump out, rather than stand by the chairs and jump in. On the chairs are pads, connected to a magic box, with pretty lights. The ‘quiz master’ pretends to be Alex Trebek and reads a question, and people jump out of their seats as if someone snuck up behind them and stabbed them with a pin. Then that magic box lights up and indicates which person jumped out of the chair first, second, third, and (unbelievably) fourth.

There is some ritual to this process. First, the quizmaster needs to let the quizzers know that he or she is ready to ask a question. This is done by announcing, “Question, question number 1 (or 2 or 3 or get the picture)” followed by the word “question” one last time. Then the question is actually read. The first time the quizmaster says question is a sign for all the quizzers to be quiet and listen. When the quizmaster says ‘question’ the third time, each quizzer must be still and keep the magic lights from turning on. Quizzers take this ritual seriously. So seriously in fact, that when I want my daughters’ attention (all three of them are top-notch quizzers) I simply announce in a rather grand and imposing voice, “Question” and then enjoy the hush that spreads over the hubbub of daily life and the intense gaze that my girls direct my way.

The quizmaster begins to read the question and when he is finished, the quizzers can jump and attempt to answer the question in the order they jumped. Unlike a contestant on Jeopardy, Bible quizzers can jump before the question is finished being read. This is because quizzers, generally, are more intelligent and much better looking than Jeopardy contestants. When the quizzer prejumps, she guesses at the completion of the question and then answers it, if she has guessed correctly.

If that is not confusing enough, it gets even crazier. The quizzer has twenty seconds to give her answer. If during those twenty seconds she makes a mistake, she can correct it by saying, “correction” and giving the correct answer. When she is done answering, she can wait until either her twenty seconds is over or she can say “finished.” At this point, the quizzer gazes expectantly at the quizmaster and waits for a ruling.

Just before our trip to National quiz finals, I went to conference finals with our team. We quizzed at a camp and each of the meets were held in the cabins. For one of the matches there were not enough chairs and I, fortunately, elected to sit on an empty bunk.

The quizmaster announced “Question, question number 4,” then he paused and said, “question.” The quizzers were quiet and the quizmaster read the question. The first person up was Karlos Dancing-Burger, the son of Ted Dancing-Burger mentioned in my previous post.

Karlos began to rattle off what he thought was an answer. He did not like what he said and announced ‘correction.’ Then he rattled off more, and not liking what he said he announced ‘correction.’ He repeated that process five or six times and each time he dropped lower and lower until he was on his knees hands clasped in front of him almost pleading with the quiz master to rule in his favor.

The quizmaster did not, since Karlos hadn’t given the correct answer. Watching this scene unfold before me, I could barely contain myself. This was one of the most comical scenes in quizzing. Since, however, quizzing is serious, I tried to maintain my decorum and stifled my giggling.

That worked until the next question, which was a four-part question. This meant that there must be four parts to the answer. Karlos jumped up first again. Then he stared blankly and said, “Oh I forgot the first three parts. Ooops, there goes the last part.” He then said “finished” and sat down.

I found this scene to be comical and I started to giggle--silently. Except this time, Karlos turned and saw me turning red, fighting to contain my mirth. He shouted out, “Mr. Distaffen, you look like a leprechaun!”

I found out a few things in that moment. First, while trying to contain my laughter, I could not breathe. Next, I discovered that if you cannot breathe, you pass out.

I awoke to the distant voices of quizzers. Not a single person came to my aid. This is, after all, a tough competition, and the quizzers were not about to be distracted by someone passing out.