Friday, December 01, 2006

Killing Time With Geography

Boring meetings call for important time-killing strategies. I personally recommend geography, writing down your answers on the back of your powerpoint sheets. It takes enough thought to distract you, but can be interrupted at a moment’s notice to say “Well, but where do you draw the line?” or “We’re not allowed to express obvious contempt to that agency, are we?” without losing any ground. Naming the states is good, and having a go at the capitals is humbling at first. No one has ever heard of Jefferson City, MO except in the context of memorizing the capitals, so 45 years later, it’s hard to pull up. European countries are tougher than you’d think. There are now about 50 on official lists like the CIA and FIFA, because they include Azerbaijan, Kiribati, and now Montenegro.

It doesn’t take too many meetings before you’re up on this Azerbaijan and Kiribati stuff, really. You make your list of countries and get to what – 20? Then you leave the meeting and check on it and go “oh, Poland! How could I forget Poland?” and “Malta? Malta counts as a European country? I didn’t even know it was independent. I thought someone still owned it.” And at the next meeting you get 18 of your original 20, plus 10 you remember from checking the list…pretty soon you’re ready to move on to capital cities or start on Africa. (Africa will take more than a few meetings).

Rivers are good. For American rivers you can get a half-dozen each of White, Black, and Red. Animal names, state names, Indian names, and you have a flock o’ rivers already. European rivers – not so much fun. Even the English rivers aren’t always in English.

I used to do mental arithmetic, but that was when I still had the desire – and ability – to concentrate that hard. It seems too tiring now. I don’t recommend these games at all, in fact, unless need drives you. They do take some energy, and why waste that when you could be doing something enjoyable? But when you’re stuck somewhere, it’s worth the investment.

You had no idea I was this boring, did you?


Ben Wyman said...

Well, when you throw down a mental challenge: I named 20 European capitals offhand, and forgot that Luxembourg's was not Luxembour or Luxembourg City but "Luxembourg-ville." I also missed Copenhagen and Vienna when I certainly shouldn't have.

Tomorrow I'll do state capitals. Tallahassee! Springfield! I'm psyched.

GraniteDad said...

Don't lose faith Dad. I knew you were that boring.

Anonymous said...

Boy, am I glad I am a state employee who doesn't have meetings that drive me to remembering state capitols! Of course, a meeting now and then might actually be productive! Ah, state government!!!

Old Wacky Hermit said...

I sometimes waste time analyzing the symmetries of wallpaper patterns. I use the Conway notation instead of the more common crystallographic notation, just to be butt-headed.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Luxembourg City is also acceptable, in my book.

WH - I defer to your superior geekiness, because I haven't the faintest idea what systems you are refering to. Not worthy. Not worthy.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Update on the new nation of Montenegro. Size of Connecticut. 600,000 people, with 13 "major" political parties. They make aluminum, which they mostly sell to Switzerland. They hope for tourists. Capital: Podgorica, which I never heard of before today.

From the CIA world fact book:
The use of the name Montenegro began in the 15th century when the Crnojevic dynasty began to rule the Serbian principality of Zeta; over subsequent centuries it was able to maintain its independence from the Ottoman Empire. From the 16th to 19th centuries, Montenegro became a theocratic state ruled by a series of bishop princes; in 1852, it was transformed into a secular principality.