Message category: Fun

The posts in this category have been identified by AHA! Software as possibly fun-engendering. Users for whom fun is medically or morally contraindicated are advised to switch to a different category without delay.

November 2, 2011

The beautiful tongue

Categories: Fun — Tags: , , ,

Question 4 in our developing and music theory quiz concerns the use of the Italian language for expression markings and other musical terms. Fats Waller’s arrangement of the jazz standard Stardust is said to feature the tongue-in-cheek instruction tempo di sturb de neighbors, but our tone is a little more serious as we discuss:

Dying away

The Italian language has given us a widely-used lexicon for indicating expression in music. For example, the usual terms for ‘soft’ and ‘loud’ are the Italian words piano and forte. Sometimes Italian offers almost too much choice. The directions espirando, morendo and perdendosi all roughly mean ‘dying away’ — slowing down and fading out. Three of the words below also mean ‘dying away’. Which one is the exception?

  1. Calando
  2. Incalzando
  3. Mancando
  4. Smorzando


Bradley, a commercial message

Categories: Fun — Tags: , , , ,

But not really a commercial. Just a simple song about a schoolyard spat unimproved by Santa’s Secret Valley. Those who brave this video will hear (pianoware and vocal) but not see me; titles and the lyric are the only imagery.

November 1, 2011

The grandest staff

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After yesterday’s excursion to the 1950s and Big Blue, now we’re back to facing the music quiz that’s currently in preparation for and Today’s question, the third in the set, also includes a little physics. Specifically, we want to know:

How many lines can you hear?

An ordinary 5-line musical staff covers a musical interval of one octave and two notes (counting from its bottom line to the space just above, inclusive). How many lines would be required if the staff were to cover the entire range of human hearing (roughly 20 through 20,000 vibrations per second)?

  1. 36
  2. 54
  3. 80
  4. 128


Latest and greatest

Categories: Fun — Tags: ,

Although we’re currently concentrating on our first music education quiz for, concentration has never been our strongest point. For those of you who wouldn’t know which end of a treble clef to stir your coffee with, here’s a question in a quite different key.

It concerns the changing face of technology

In 1956, a new type of computer peripheral appeared on the market for the first time. What was the IBM 550?

  1. A disk drive
  2. A modem
  3. A printer
  4. A video display


October 31, 2011

Good old Bach

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Today we continue with the second question of our slowly ripening music quiz for, which is starting to look as though it will come out on the challenging side, particularly if you don’t happen to be some kind of music student. Don’t worry, however, because…

We’ve got your Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the composer one generally means when speaking of ‘Bach’ without qualification, was but the most outstanding member of an exceptionally musical family. Indeed, several of the other Bachs retain some renown as composers to this day. All four listed here are in that category. Three are J.S. Bach’s own sons. The fourth was a grandson. Which?

  1. Johann Christian Bach
  2. Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
  3. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
  4. Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach


October 27, 2011

Listen to the mirlitons

Categories: Fun — Tags: , , ,

Although AHA! has been doing both trivia and music software for some time now, it’s only in the Mozart Quiz on that they have significantly overlapped. As a result, the music quiz that we are now compiling could be regarded as somewhat overdue. Facing the choice of doing it late or doing it never, we have consulted a book of proverbs and decided that now is probably the right time, so here goes.

We begin with an instrument

Musical instruments, the tools of musical expression, have been around more or less as long as human culture. One venerable and widespread instrument type is the mirliton, although it is usually called by another name. Which?

  1. Didgeridoo
  2. Drum
  3. Kazoo
  4. Xylophone


October 25, 2011

The Black Guru

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Original manuscript of The Black GuruAHA! scholars were delighted recently when a long-lost poetry manuscript turned up at the back of one of our many dusty vaults devoted to the storage of past indiscretions. The fading stanzas, inscribed on the obverse side of a Pizza Delight menu, had lain undisturbed for decades, partially obscured by the spreadeagled carcase of a Commodore 64.

Those readers who did not spend most of the late 1980s programming Amigas, if any, may have trouble with the technical terms in the poem. Oh, well. The important thing to know is that when the Amiga program you were working on blew up badly enough to bring down the system, vital statistics about the error were presented to the user in a flashing rectangle at the top of a solid black screen. This was a ‘Guru Meditation Error’ message — so named because only a system guru could understand it.

The precise circumstances under which the poem was composed are lost to history. Presumably it happened at lunch. The year was 1987; the place was Toronto; the guilty parties were Nick Sullivan and Chris Zamara: these facts are known. The motivation, alas, may remain always a mystery.

The Black Guru

by Nick Sullivan and Chris Zamara

Well you pulled out your Amiga, to write that video game,
It took some sweat but you ain’t done yet — there’s still some bugs to tame,
Programming problems,
Always make you blue,
Just when you think you’ve got it licked you’ll meet the black guru.

I wrote a program late last night, the code it looked real good;
I used some system functions I thought I understood,
Took an hour or two,
But when I typed that program name I got the black guru.

I passed the right parameters and I cast them all to long,
But when I called those system functions I found that I’d done wrong,
Scrambled all the pointers
I was indirecting through,
No wonder when I stored those bytes I saw the black guru.

Now you might like assembler, or maybe you use C,
But watch those system functions, or you’ll end up like me;
Say goodbye to sanity —
Life is just a zoo,
Call BltMaskBitMapRastPort, and meet the black guru.

Now I think I’ve got it licked, the code it looks real clean,
The reason for this is I typed it from a magazine,
Didn’t see the bug fix
That was in the next issue,
I got another visit from my friendly black guru.

Took my hard-earned dollars down to my computer store,
And I bought commercial software for a thousand bucks or more,
Didn’t make a back-up —
Didn’t have a clue,
If you hear someone laughing now it’s just the black guru.

Well I’ve had it up to way past here with this mixed-up machine,
I believe I’ll put my cowboy boots right through that monitor screen;
I just might switch to alcohol,
Benzedrine or glue,
And say goodbye for ever to that evil black guru.

(Copyright © 1987 AHA! Software Inc.)

October 24, 2011

Cutting back

Categories: Fun — Tags: ,

New knowledge is often hard-won, to be gained only by protracted effort on the part of multiple workers, each responsible for some small advance. Occasionally, but importantly for those who compile trivia, the progress can be reported as a simple numeric value.

A case in point:

In 1981, Morwen Thistlethwaite proved that 52 were enough. Hans Kloosterman showed in 1992 that, actually, 42 would do. By 2010 it was known that in fact one can get by with as few as 20. What are they?

  1. Dietary nutrients needed for optimum health
  2. Gannet breeding pairs needed to establish a colony
  3. Moves needed to solve Rubik’s cube
  4. Syllables needed to communicate intelligibly


October 23, 2011


Categories: Fun — Tags: ,

Life is full of strange or suggestive coincidences that may sometimes make us stop and think. Some coincidences are so striking that they become famous. These are one of nature’s leading sources of trivia questions. In the fullness of geologic time, many of them turn up on

For example:

A few years ago, in 2005, one national capital city could boast of a unique record: that its inhabitants included the largest concentration ever of chess grandmasters. Which city was home to this remarkable abundance of chess talent?

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Kiev, Ukraine
  3. Reykjavik, Iceland
  4. Ottawa, Canada


October 16, 2011

What can the matter be?

Categories: Fun — Tags: ,

One reason to write a trivia question is to get straight for yourself something you feel you really should know. That’s why today we’re looking at something rather fundamental: the modern notion of what reality is made of. The question below might find its way into a physics quiz on TriviaPark one day, or even a quiz on particle physics in particular. (Of course, it will show up in our general knowledge quiz rotation eventually too.) Feel free to suggest in the comments ideas for other questions you think a (particle) physics quiz should contain.

Here’s the question:

Nearly all the ordinary matter in the observable universe — the stars, the planets, ourselves — is made of just two kinds of elementary particle. What are they?

  1. Electrons and quarks
  2. Mesons and baryons
  3. Neutrinos and hadrons
  4. Protons and neutrons


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