Seattle geek takes Jeopardy titleon October 19, 2012 @ 1:27 pm (Updated: 9:32 am - 10/20/12 )
Seattle-based technology journalist Glenn Fleishman is well known in the geek world for his columns in the Seattle Times, Macworld, BoingBoing, and plenty of other places. As his lengthy resume and body of work can attest, the accomplished computer programmer is a bona fide smart guy. And he proved it in spades on Thursday and Friday night on national TV, winning on Jeopardy.
Fleishman pocketed a cool $15,199 for knowing Chemnitz, Germany was named for Karl Marx 1953 until 1990.
He almost didn't have the chance. He just happened to be skimming through the spam folder in his e-mail when he spotted a message announcing Jeopardy auditions in Seattle.
Fleishman writes about his experience in an entertaining and revealing article on BoingBoing. "While I have been told my entire life that I would be perfect on Jeopardy due to my ability to retain and produce (on demand or in spite of protestations not to) trivial information, I thought I scored poorly on the online test. Apparently not."
Fleishman not only aced the test, he was selected from among thousands of aspiring contestants after a rigorous audition that included a quiz, realistic game simulation, and a personal interview. Nearly a year later, he was invited to Los Angeles to appear on the show.
With his shot at achieving a lifelong goal on the line, Fleishman says he wasn't about to squander the opportunity. He hit the books like a doctor studying for his medical boards.
"I knew my general knowledge was rusty, and consulted piles of almanacs, watched the show, and went through the J-Archive, a compendium of every clue and question ever posed on Jeopardy, run by fans and unaffiliated with the show. I read the three best-known Jeopardy books, too," he writes.
Fleishman also got together and picked the brain of fellow Seattle-ite Ken Jennings, the biggest winner in Jeopardy! history, calling it a big "morale boost."
Fleishman says it was a thrill just to be selected, and he knew the competition would be fierce among the doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other highly intelligent contestants. But he says brains weren't enough.
"The show wants smart people who are personable. They don't want machines who can answer questions fast, as that's not good TV. They need a combination of fast reflexes for ringing in, quick minds with trivia storehouses, and good TV demeanor. So it's a neat group of people that you get to meet," he tells Geekwire's Todd Bishop.
Fleishman says one of the hardest things was waiting for his actual game to begin. "There are hours of briefing and rehearsals. The adrenal gland can only produce so much before it gives up. I developed something I will politely call a 'gregarious bladder,' which necessitated possibly 30 bathroom trips in the space of a few hours. The other contestants may still wonder if I was a drug addict," he writes.
He says the actual game play is a blur, going "faster than you can remember it happening." But he says when playing well, he entered a mental zone of sorts where all he could hear, see and feel were the board, the buzzer and host Alex Trebek's golden voice.
Since Fleishman is sworn to secrecy, we won't know how he actually fared until the show airs again Monday night.
For however long he reigns as Jeopardy champion, he calls it "a singular experience that stands outside what most of us might expect in a normal, quiet life." He says he didn't need to win to enjoy it because, even though the money is nice, it was enough to shake hands with Trebek and regale him with a "ridiculous story" about breaking the adapter on an original iPod.
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