Every year, KVSC, the student radio station of Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, MN, puts on a 50-hour trivia contest. Last year I participated in the contest for the first time, had a blast, so this year I was even more excited.
The short story is that we took 3rd place (out of 80), down a bit from our first place showing last year. We fell behind early in the contest and never managed to catch back up to first.
You don’t just want the short story, tho, do you…
This year we were unable to secure a commercial site like last year, but we were lucky enough to have one of the team members offer to host the team out of her basement. This brought a few challenges, not least of which was electricity. Her home must have been wired by the previous homeowners, for almost 50% of the house was wired onto one 15-amp “Circuit #9”. This included half of the finished basement space as well. She’s flipped the #9 circuit breaker more than a few times in the past just doing normal day-to-day activities around the house, so we knew going in we were going to have our work cut out for us.
We were thinking we’d have to bring in an electrician to get the electricity in shape, but we all met for a pre-trivia setup event to size up the situation first. We mapped out every electrical socket in the basement (and most upstairs) and mapped out our options.
One needs a lot of power for a trivia setup the way we like it. Projectors, TVs, a computer setup rivaling a small school’s computer lab, network connections, phones, lights, radios and other equipment that shan’t be disclosed at this time. As we reviewed the electrical situation, it appeared that we’d be just fine as long as we used enough extension cords. As luck would have it, right in the main “lab” area the previous homeowner saw fit to run two outlets, each directly wired to one 15-amp breaker. A full 30-amps turned out to be just enough for us to get our setup into shape, without having to rely on “Circuit #9”, which serviced 50% of the house!
Now that power was straightened out, we made arrangements for the utilities (phone lines, Internet access) and mapped out where we thought we could position all the workspaces. I provisioned all the computers from my work, monitors, keyboards, mice, network equipment, got up there early on Friday to set it all up. The new CR-V worked out well for transporting all the equipment - a bit more space than the Beetle I suspect, and much easier to load since you didn’t have to lift it up over a big lip.
By 4:30pm Friday (the contest starts at 5pm, just so you know) all the important equipment was setup to my satisfaction. Tim, our fearless leader, asked me what we may have forgotten. I couldn’t think of anything, but suggested we purposely trip “Circuit #9” to see what might fail that we hadn’t thought of prior. Good thing we did, for we realized that while everything continued to run downstairs, the cable modem upstairs was still plugged into the overloaded circuit. So, half-hour to go, I’m busy recalculating the power on each circuit, I end up unplugged the washing machine, routing extension cords across most of the basement, up through a hole between floors, then over to the cable modem to provide it power. 4:45pm everything is stable, I catch my breath, only to hear the words I had waited 362 days to hear, “Opening Question 1”.
The first two hours flew by, then it was off to a break. Returning at 11pm, I worked through the night until 8am, when I retired to the hotel and slept. 3pm I’m back at the PigPen, worked until 7pm, break, then back at 11pm. This time 8am came around awfully quickly, and with no one showing up to fill in the gaps, I ended up playing straight through until 12:30pm. Back to the hotel to rest after a refueling of food, only to be awakened 15 minutes after I shut my eyes I was awakened by my brother-in-law, Davin, with a call that the “Big Question” was a collection of 27 cartoon theme songs. Back I went to the PigPen, worked straight through to the final hour. All in all, I worked 32 of the 50 hours, not including the countless hours outside the actual event getting all the computers setup and cleanup.
Throughout the weekend, KARE-11 had Boyd Huppert embedded in Trivia HQ, out team and other teams creating a story for his Land of 10,000 Stories news segment. Andy, a photojournalist that works with Boyd, was hanging around the PigPen quite a bit throughout the weekend. The wireless mic would magically appear on the desk next to us, you’d look up and you’d see the glare of the camera lens pointed right at you. Should be interesting what gets edited in and out, what secrets of each team’s setup are revealed, how the group of trivia misfits entertaining themselves in the middle of winter are presented.
As I said before, we managed to take 3rd place this year, with 13,245 points, but it wasn’t enough to beat Pull Start Diesel, who came in first place with 13,890 points. My hats off to them - they pulled ahead early in the contest and no one really got close to catching up to them. In particular, no one managed to get the “Big Question” this year, which must have been rewarding for the Trivia Gods/question writers.
Even with the 3rd place showing (compared with 1st place last year) I can honestly say that I enjoyed this year more than last year. It isn’t about the finish, it is about the race. It is about finding just the right search term for Google, uncovering just the right YouTube video snippet, find that one site with 100s of cartoon theme songs. It is about all my teammates (I was excited to have Davin joining me this year, live at the PigPen, as well as my sister and Kelly joining in on phones a bit), watching a solution slowly form as different team members find clues, watching a the PigPen come alive and function for 50 hours straight non-stop. It is about living on adrenaline, caffeine, sugar and home cookin’ (thanks Steph!). It is about finding the damn issue of Highlights for Children, the answer key to the hidden picture puzzle, calling in the answer and being given the points just as they announce over the air that they are closing the question. It is about the 6am “Audio Trivia Speed Round” consisting of various mash-ups after you’ve been up all night long, calling up “The General Store at Carmel by the Sea” at midnight to ask who managed it in 1992 and finding what song was BMG selection number 62327 in the Spring 2005 magazine insert.
Most important of all…it is about the planning of new strategies for next year!