Ken Jennings


December 27, 2007

Last week only four respondents correctly answered the final question to the Tuesday Trivia quiz. I thought it would be hard, but not that hard:

What unusual distinction is shared by these countries, and no others? Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and the US?

Allison Jenik, Phyllis Tag, Rael R, and Joshua Davey all answered that these are the countries that have hosted official “Expos,” or World’s Fairs.

But wait a second, a couple readers have pointed out. What about the Taejon Expo in 1993? Shouldn’t South Korea be on that list?

As far as I can tell, yes. The list I used for this was this Wikipedia article, which claims to pull its information straight from the Bureau of International Expositions, some kind of official sanctioning body. I foolishly took them at their word, but the odd thing is that this comprehensive-looking list is missing fully twenty Expos from the BIE’s list. This means that my list was missing not only Korea, but Israel, Sweden, Bulgaria, Finland, and Hungary (or “Hungry,” as the BIE calls it). The Wayback Machine confirms that the BIE has had all those Expos on their website for years. So why does the Wikipedia article omit them? If there’s some rationale for the omissions, I’d love to hear it (could you really skip twenty Expos accidentally?) but I have the sinking feeling it’s just a screwup and I apologize for passing it along to you, the reader.

Speaking of screwups, the rocking-horse saga continues! Last Friday, Mindy got a voice-mail from a higher-up at Back To Basics Toys, apologizing profusely for the screw-up. She’d be overnighting us the horse we’d ordered and a gift card!

The cynical moral here: you can get attentive service out of Back to Basics Toys, if you’re a semi-celebrity who feels like venting about them, by name, on a semi-popular blog. I chose to believe the more charitable moral: this is a company whose resources have been stretched way past the breaking point by a holiday rush, genuinely trying to make amends where they discover (the most gaping) oversights.

The horse arrived, via FedEx, on Christmas Eve. It was the wrong horse! (The plastic horse they sell, not the plush one.)

Mindy called her front-office buddy (possibly some high-priced “fixer” type, like Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction) who told her that yes, they’d run out of the plush horse (we knew that!) and sent us the closest thing they had available. What, do we want that plush one instead?

Yes, I would like what I ordered. In fact, customers generally want the items they order. Sometimes they expect to get them the first time they order them, not the third. Take notes on this. It’s important.

The nice lady says they’ll send us another horse in mid-January when they get the plush ones back in stock. His plastic buddy will probably be going to Toys for Tots or something.

Mindy got the impression they know they’ve had a rough holiday season and are working on the related problems, so I’ll cut them some slack. The fatwa is over, I might give you a second chance some future Christmas. Who knows, I might have a better experience. It couldn’t be much worse.

Mostly it’s because I don’t want to wake up some morning with a sawed-off plush rocking-horse head on my pillow…

Posted by Ken at 12:16 pm