Wednesday, December 24, 2008

39 - Answer(s): Part 2

Q: Bill Jeffers - I've been hearing a range of answers on this one, so I'll ask Mit Ssob: How long would it take to make my money back if I installed solar panels on my house? Any other green updates I can make that make sense for both my tree hugger side and my like to have money to spend on my family side?
A: The answer to this question depends on too many variables for me to get into. Instead of breaking this down into a nice spreadsheet for you, I found a few websites that will sell you solar kits of various sizes, power outputs, and prices. These sites will answer your question better than I could.

The last site has a handy calculator on it to calculate savings and cost of the different systems. Therefore I’ll tell you to answer your own damned question by entering info from your last bill. I entered my last bill into the calculator and ran the numbers as an example. According to that calculator it would take me 12 years for the 3600W installation, 19.5 years for the 2000W installation, and 24.5 years for the 1200W installation. These numbers are based on a number of assumptions, including a federal rebate (possibly only available in CA), and 5 hours of sunlight per day. Having lived in Rochester for six years I’m not sure we can guarantee something like that.

As for other “green” solutions for your house that depends on how much you want to spend and how crazy you want to get. There are home kits to harness wind power. More information can be found at the American Wind Energy Association website ( Below are links to some wind turbine providers:

If you want to go down the DIY route I found this site for building your own turbine:

We’ve had conversations about how to harness solar energy to heat your pool as well, so here are a couple of sites with more information about that subject:

I wish you luck with this. Let me know how you make out.

Q: Karyn Graves - Is there a hairstyle for young boys that keeps them warm in the winter and still looks nice (like for pics) & cute? Find me a picture.
A: [Ed: You’re asking Tim this? Have you ever seen his hair? You want your kid looking like that? Hey, be nice!]

I realize that the time has passed for portraits, but I’ll throw down a little rambling for your (and others’) amusement. To keep your son’s head warm I recommend a hairstyle involving more than an inch of hair on top. That rules out a buzz cut or similarly short styles. Those are nice from a maintenance point of view but are less practical in the winter. I’m not sure how long your son’s hair has gotten so far but I’d recommend keeping as much of it as you can. Part of the decision for style will depend on how his hair is growing in. If there’s a natural part to it then I’d work around that. If his head is a blank slate then maybe comb it down the front, trimming the bangs to keep them out of his face. As far as the back goes that’s up to you guys. Since this is a portrait I’d be less concerned about that (unless he has a natural mullet in which case you’ll have to deal with that).

Two sources for inspiration can be found at the JCPenny Portrait Page ( and a Google Image search for “children’s portraits” (

Q: Karyn Graves - Did you know Bernacki is designing solar panel systems for residential and commercial customers now? He says they sell systems for $8,000-$25,000 in CO. "And they usually can produce about 40-100% of your electricity needs."
A: Nope, didn’t know that. Bill, you should contact Bernacki. Get on that. Now.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

39 - Answer(s)

[Editor's Note: Due to the time sensitivity of one of the questions Tim is going to forgo a full suite of answers this week. He has promised me that he'll get to the other two soon. I'm not sure I believe him, but there's not much I can do other than threaten to break his thumbs. And since he needs those to answer questions I don't think that would be too effective an incentive.]

Q: Karyn Graves - Say a person doesn't particularly care for government run social programs, but really hates to see greedy execs getting away with handing out bad mortgages and then being 'laid off' with millions in severance. Which way should that person vote? Maybe you want to know which is more important? Let's say that having/keeping jobs that provide an income that is not exceeded by necessary expenses for the family is priority #1.
A: This answer is going to hit on a lot of topics. I don't have time to really plan out an answer properly, and as a result this may end up being a total mess. I'm going to just shoot from the hip, and hopefully by the end of it I'll have some coherent advice. I don't guarantee it, but I'll try.

Let's start off with "greedy execs" and "millions in severance". When I hear people talking about executive pay and generous severance packages, I cringe. Yes, it's fashionable to point out that executives are making more money than they probably deserve. But here's the way I look at it: why is it any of my business how much money a corporation chooses to pay its executives? Who am I to decide what an executive deserves to make? That's up to the corporation. If a corporation wants to overpay for talent then that's their decision. If they screw up, it's up to the board of directors and shareholders to correct the situation, not the government.

Here's something to think about: If the government is allowed to dictate executive pay, what's stopping them from dictating how much money that you or I can make? What if some day it's decided that I make too much money as an engineer, that it would be more fair if that money went somewhere else? Or that doctors make too much money? I don't think that the government should be in the business of deciding what's fair and what's not.

But the gist of that part of your question concerns the mortgage situation that was created when mortgage companies were pressured to give loans to people who couldn't afford them. Who pressured these companies? Congress, specifically members of the Democrat party such as Barney Frank and Barbara Boxer. The rationale given was that everyone should have a shot at the American Dream of owning a home. That's a wonderful sentiment, but not everyone can afford a house. But that didn't stop the pressure, so mortgage companies relaxed the rules governing how loans are given out. This resulted in such bizarre things as no-money-down mortages, and even interest only mortgages.

The end result was that more people became homeowners. Fine. But these people couldn't afford the mortgages unless the value in the homes increased. And it didn't. So people began to default on their loans, and banks began to go out of business. And then the government stepped in and bailed out those banks by putting liquidity back into the market. Time will tell whether this was a bright idea (I don't think so, but I'm not in charge).

The qualifier that you put in about jobs was interestingly put. If you're interested in "having/keeping jobs", then I would suggest that you join a union and then support the Democrat party. Unions are good for job security. Once you've got a union job it's harder to get fired, and you've got a strong position from which to negotiate future benefit increases.

That doesn't help the person who doesn't have a job, however. My personal belief is that more jobs should be created. To do that you need to incentivize business owners to hire more people. That can be done in many ways, but in my opinion the best way is for government to get out of the way. What do I mean? I mean that taxes on corporations and businesses should be lowered. Drastically. Lower taxes mean lower costs of doing business, which frees up money for the business to expand, and thus hire more people.

Here's something for you to consider: businesses and corporations do not pay taxes. Now, before people call me crazy let me walk you through what I mean by this. A business exists to provide a good or service to a consumer. The business will charge a price for that good or service. That price contains in it the cost of producing the good or service, as well as a certain amount of profit. Part of the cost of producing the good or service are the taxes that are levied on that business. Thus, the business actually does not pay taxes. The consumer pays the taxes. So when I hear people talking about taxing those big greedy rich corporations, I shake my head in frustration because they're really talking about increasing the costs of the goods and services provided by those corporations.

OK, after all that rambling, what's the answer? How should you vote? Basically speaking, if you do not want big government programs then you should vote for the candidate who supports conservative economic values, regardless of party. You should vote against people who thought that giving mortgages to people who couldn't afford them was a good idea, and for people who believe in personal responsibility.

But that's just my opinion on the matter. Your opinion is the one that counts, since it's your vote. I hope I've been of a little help here in clarifying things. Happy voting on Tuesday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

38 - Answer(s)

Q: Sarah LaBombard - How are the kangaroos and great accents??
A: They were wonderful. I'm not going to answer this question in too much depth right now because I've got a lot of other questions to get to. I promise I'll come back to this with a full trip report complete with links to the pictures and video that I took while down there. I'm up to my eyeballs in stuff right now and just can't dedicate the time to that right now. Sorry!

But since it comes up in the next question I will say that I did see a lot of kangaroos down there. We did our demonstrations at a test range about 15 minutes outside of Canberra. Once on the range you can see kangaroos all over the place. They were hopping around the fields and near the sides of the roads. The Australians treat them pretty much the same way we treat deer. They're pretty, but also somewhat of a nuisance to the locals. Of course all of us Americans there were enthralled, which amused our hosts.

Q: Bill Jeffers - When you get kicked in the head by a kangaroo, do the stars and birdies circle your head in the opposite direction down under?
A: I managed to avoid getting kicked in the head by any of the kangaroos that I encountered. But I did conduct a scientific experiment concerning the Coriolis Effect, which is what you are referring to. Follow the link for a very detailed explanation of the effect. Basically speaking it is this effect that causes cyclones and hurricanes to rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

It also works on water flowing down a drain, which is what I tested. Unfortunately the toilet in my hotel room had a square shaped drain, and moreover the water jets were on three sides. Because of this I couldn't determine any effect by flushing the toilet, so I decided instead to use a sink full of water instead. I pulled the drain and watched the water flow down the drain, and sure enough, it flowed clockwise. So I can say that had I in fact been kicked in the head by a kangaroo (or an irate Australian), the stars and birdies would have circled "backwards".

Q: Eric Democko - what would happen if sarah palin became our president?
A: I'm going to answer this question in as non-partisan a manner as I can, which means I’m going to totally avoid political discussions during this answer. If you were looking for some deep analysis and predictions, you’ve come to the wrong place. At least for now.

First, let's look at how Sarah Palin could become President of the United States. As I see it there are two possibilities in the near term:

1. John McCain dies (pre or post election) - The first thing that would happen in this scenario is a massive state funeral for John McCain. He has been in elected office for over 25 years, and is a very well respected and well loved member of the Washington DC establishment. Sarah Palin would take office as the first woman President of the United States. This would be a major achievement, though somewhat dimmed since she would be technically appointed the first woman President and not really elected. Still, she would be the first.
2. Elected in 2012/2016 - I am presuming here that she is either defeating President Obama or President McCain. In this case she would be making history for many reasons. First, she would be either succeeding the oldest President in history (John McCain) or the first black President (Barack Obama). But more importantly she would be the first female President (elected or otherwise) in American history. This would be a very significant event in the history of this country.

As to the question of what would happen during her presidency that's one I’m not even going to speculate on. After all, there were all manner of thoughts on what would happen during the presidency of George W. Bush, nearly all of which were thrown right out the window following the attacks of 9/11. I think that Mrs. Palin has the requisite experience to be President of the United States by virtue of the fact that she is a governor. My feeling is that governors make good presidents because of the similarities of executive responsibility. Therefore I would feel good about her as a president.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Will Mit Ssob be performing at the Monday, October 27th Mrs. Skanotto show opening for Sonic Boom Six at Dub Land Underground located on Alexander St in beautiful Rochester NY? If not then who?
A: First, thanks for the advertisement. I'm glad that you all noticed that we'd be around. In fact we will also be opening for Sonic Boom Six on October 29th at the Haunt in Ithaca. Hope you all can make it! As of today I will be playing both gigs. Since the gigs are next week I don’t expect this to change, so I’ll see you then!

Q: Brett Gobe - Is this the death knell for the neoconservative movement?
A: First, I’m unclear as to what “this” means. I’m not trying to be difficult or evasive. I just don’t know what you mean. I’m going to assume that you mean the end of the Bush administration and the upcoming election of either Senator Obama or McCain. If that was not the case then I am sorry, and I’ll take another crack at it next time.

In order to properly answer your question I need to define “neoconservative”. What follows is my unresearched view of neoconservatism. It’s basically just me spouting off for a while on what I think the term means. I could do some reading up on what other people think the term “neoconservative” means, but I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of it.

The terms “neoconservative” and “paleoconservative” apply to the foreign policy views of the conservative in question. In the 1950’s, a conservative typically believed in protectionism. This means that they didn’t care much about what happens outside the borders of the United States. They may or may not be in favor of free trade and low tariffs, but when it came to out-and-out involvement in the world, they preferred to let the world do whatever it wanted. An example of a modern-day paleoconservative is Pat Buchanan. Another is former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who is really more of a libertarian than a conservative [Ed: And more of a nut than a libertarian. True.]

A neoconservative is understood to be someone who wishes to use the economic and military might of the United States as a force for change in the world. They believe that democracy can be spread throughout the world, and that the United States can be an example to other countries in this regard. They also believe that American allies in the world should be supported and defended militarily should there be a need to do so. An example of a neoconservative is columnist Bill Krystol. Another example is Vice President Cheney.

So is the end of the Bush administration the end of the neoconservative movement? No, I don’t think so. Certainly the movement will not have the influence that it once did. Following the attacks of 9/11 the Bush administration adopted the neoconservative view of foreign policy, though I do not believe that President Bush meant for this when he first took office. He campaigned on a platform of reducing our commitments around the world, and I believe that is what he meant to do. Unfortunately the attacks on 9/11 forced a change of direction in his foreign policy. History will judge whether his actions had a positive or negative impact.

Neither Barak Obama nor John McCain can be considered neoconservatives, at least based on their statements while campaigning. Barak Obama is a liberal in the modern sense of the word, and John McCain seems to subscribe more to the paleoconservative mode of thinking. Both candidates have pledged to remove American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But if, for example, Iran decided to launch an attack against Israel, what would either man do? I'm not sure. I think that President Obama would condemn Iran, but do little more than that. I think President McCain would also condemn Iran, and perhaps send some US Air and Naval assets to the area to try and break up the fighting, but not more than that. I'm just guessing here, folks. We'll see what happens when it happens.

Ultimately the neoconservative movement will go underground during the administration of the next president, as will the conservative movement in general. The next four years are going to be hard for conservatives of all stripes. I am not looking forward to them. But this is a representative republic, and the people are speaking regardless of how I feel about it. I am doing my best to avoid the bitterness and anger that I've seen for the past eight years among my friends of the liberal persuasion. We'll see if I am successful.

Q: Brett Gobe - Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
A: Yes. NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is a yearly event, the goal of which is to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. I have been doing this since 2004 and consider it one of the high points of my year. I have met the 50,000 word goal every year, and though I am far busier this year than in years past I have every intention of meeting it this year. Below is a quick re-cap of my past NaNo adventures:

- 2004: Space Novel – My first effort was an attempt at a science fiction novel based around the world of Escape Velocity, a shareware game I played when I was a kid. I initially meant for it to be set primarily from the point of view of an independent pilot, but as I continued writing I found myself focusing more and more on the other characters I’d created. Before too long I had a horrible mess on my hands, and though I hit my 50,000 word goal I didn’t have anything like a workable novel. I continued to work on this story erratically after NaNo ended, but for the most part I didn’t know what to do with it. I hadn’t given any real thought to an ending, and that was really a limiting factor in how much I could get done on it.
- 2005: Enemy of the Rip-Off – For my sophomore work I decided to write in the first person and to have myself as the main character. Unfortunately I had no good ideas for a plot, so I basically wrote a rip-off of “Enemy of the State”, featuring a mis-sent package and the people who want to get it back from me. I enjoyed writing it from a biographical sense, but in the end it was just a rip-off and I knew it. Unlike my first year I had a much more cohesive story, but once again I had failed to consider how it would end.
- 2006: Fabulous People – For a couple of reasons this year was my favorite. About two weeks before November, just as I was trying to decide what to write, Allison jokingly suggested that I write a soap opera. At first I laughed, but after a couple of day’s consideration I decided to give it a shot. The main reason was that I had been toying with the idea of publishing serially what I was writing as I wrote it, and a soap opera seemed the perfect chance to do that. As the month began, however, I quickly realized the folly of what I was trying to do. I just didn’t have the time or energy to edit what I was writing as I wrote it, so I stopped publishing after about a week. The other problem was that, as with previous years, I didn’t have any kind of ending in mind. Strangely the fact that soap operas never end hadn’t occurred to me when I first started out. Still, I had a fantastic time writing it, and created some of my favorite characters to date. And I’m not done with them yet. I’ve created a blogspot account for the express purpose of publishing “Fabulous People” in a serial fashion. If I ever have the time, that is.
- 2007: Space Novel Part 2 – I had been working on the sci-fi novel off and on for the three years since I first drafted it. For this NaNo I decided to try and finish it. In the end I didn’t actually get to the end of the story, but I did fill in a lot of the gaps that I’d created the first time around. The focus of the novel had shifted away from the character I’d set up as the protagonist, and I spent most of the month fleshing out the stories of the characters I’d grown to like. I hit my 50,000 words before coming to the end, but I finally knew how I wanted the story to end, and that was a big accomplishment. I’m currently editing it into a real first draft, and hope to start the publishing process next year.

So what’s in store this year? I wish I knew. I do know that this will be the hardest NaNoWriMo to date given the chaos I find myself embroiled in. But then again, sometimes chaos breeds genius. A few ideas I’ve had in the past few weeks are:
- Create a number of characters and have them post on a fake group blog. It would be hard to move a plot forward, but since characters are my strength it could work. Maybe I could have a simple event (a party, for example) and tell it from the point of view of each character. The more I think about this idea the less I want to try it, though. It has too much potential for cheesyness.
- A murder mystery. Once and for all I would face my demons and write an ending BEFORE writing anything else.
- Write a novel tying together aspects of songs that I’ve written, both for myself and for mrs. skannotto. This has a certain appeal, since I like to write storytelling songs.
- Revisit one (or more) of the short stories I’ve written over the years. The problem is that most of them suck. Badly.

If any of you are even remotely considering doing this then I recommend you try. It’s wildly satisfying. Hard work at times, but when you hit that 50,000 word mark it’s a great feeling.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

37 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - ANSWER MY QUESTION ALREADY! Why do we call chicken meat chicken, turkey meat turkey, but we call cow meat beef, pig meat pork, etc. Is it because there are so many different types of cow and pig cut? Or do birds get special treatment in the meat world?
A: To answer this question we must venture back to 1066 and the Norman conquest of England (Wikipedia article here). There are two things that we’re interested in about the invasion. First, the invading Normans spoke Old French and the English spoke Old English. Second, following the invasion a new nobility was formed by the conquering Normans while the English made up the peasant class. Lots of other things are interesting about the conquest, but these two basic facts are all we need to answer the question.

The establishment of these new classes and differences in languages meant that the same animal was now known by two different words depending on where the animal was. The peasants called their livestock in their fields by their Old English names. These can be roughly translated as “cow”, “pig”, “sheep”, etc. The Norman nobles referred to the meat that they were being served at table by the Old French names for the animals the meat came from. Thus, “cow” became “bouef” (beef), pig became “porc” (pork), “sheep” became “moutons” (mutton).

Now what about chicken and turkey? Well they are technically considered another French word, “poultry”. But I suspect that the languages were merged more by then, and that they used the same word on the farm and at the table.

Q: Sarah LaBombard - After just talking to you, word on the street is that you're a big this true?
A: I am a big puss. A huge puss, in fact. My puss-itude knows no bounds.

But what is meant by “puss”? Well the main way that I think I’m a puss is my lack of courage in certain situations. For example, I don’t like calling strangers on the phone. I get uncomfortable, nervous, and often sound like a moron. The only way I can avoid this is to rehearse what I’m going to say. Sometimes I go so far as to write out notes before the call so I can keep myself on track.

There are other ways I could get into, but I’ll save them for another time. For now it’s enough to know that yes, I am a big puss.

Q: Karyn Graves - Why is the location of a one game playoff based on a coin toss instead of head-to-head record, or even most runs scored???
A: Every year Major League Baseball flips a coin for every possible tiebreaking game during the runup to the playoffs. This is something that’s escaped my notice, which makes me feel somewhat sheepish.

My first reaction is to agree with you, Karyn. It makes sense that the regular season matchups between the two teams tied for a playoff spot should factor into how that tie gets resolved. Head to head record does seem the most logical thing. The question then becomes did the two teams play each other an equal number of times at each other’s home field. Generally this is true, so it makes sense to use head-to-head matchup to decide such things.

The coin toss adds randomness to the process, which can be said to add fairness. The theory is that it doesn't matter how you did during the regular season when it comes to the playoffs. Why should regular season performance come into play when deciding where a playoff is played? My answer to that question is that regular season performance DOES matter in the playoffs, specifically in the area of seeding. Because of that it stands to reason that regular season matchups should be used in determining playoff location. If and only if there is a tie on that front should they resort to a coin flip.

In closing, I'm very sorry that the Twins lost the coin toss and subsequently the one-game playoff to the White Sox. I was rooting for you. May your luck improve next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

36 - Answer(s)

Q: Eric Democko - will the bills make the superbowl this year?
A: No.

Wait, let me think about this for a minute.


And not just because I don’t like the Bills. They have a pretty easy schedule for the rest of the season (@ Rams, @ Cardinals, BYE, Chargers, @ Dolphins, Jets, @ Pats, Browns, @ Chiefs, 49ers, Dolphins, @ Jets, @ Broncos, Pats). I can find at least 6 wins in that list, and that’s more than enough for them to make the playoffs. But when you match the Bills against any other team likely to make the playoffs from the AFC (Jags, Colts, Pats just to name three) I’m not confident the Bills can prevail.

Of course I’ve been wrong before. But not about this.

Q: Karyn Graves - Which ballparks have the home team dugout along 3rd base instead of first and why? And is there an advantage of some kind?
A: Below is a list to answer the first part of this question. The "1" or a "3" next to the team name indicates the baseline of the home team.

Arizona Diamondbacks - 3
Atlanta Braves - 1
Baltimore Orioles - 1
Boston Red Sox - 1
Chicago Cubs - 3
Chicago White Sox - 3
Cincinnati Reds - 1
Cleveland Indians - 3
Colorado Rockies - 1
Detroit Tigers - 3
Florida Marlins - 1
Houston Astros - 1
Kansas City Royals - 1
Los Angeles Angels - 3
Los Angeles Dodgers - 3
Milwaukee Brewers - 1
Minnesota Twins - 3
New York Mets - 1
New York Yankees - 1
Oakland A's - 3
Philadelphia Phillies - 1
Pittsburgh Pirates - 3
San Diego Padres - 1
San Francisco Giants - 3
Seattle Mariners - 1
St. Louis Cardinals - 1
Tampa Bay Rays - 1
Texas Rangers - 1
Toronto Blue Jays - 3
Washington Nationals - 1

I’m less certain about why teams choose to have their dugouts where they do. It could be that they just picked the one that they liked the best. Maybe it’s connected to the nicer of the two clubhouses. I don’t really know. You can make the case for both sides, but I suspect that it just comes down to tradition for that particular team. The only advantage I could see would be environmental. The home team might prefer the dugout that is not facing into the sun. But I don’t think that’s a problem in any major league ballpark.

So in short I have no idea why teams choose to have their dugouts on the first or third base lines. Sorry I can’t shed more light.

Q: Adam Barnello - What are your thoughts about the Lebowski Sequel that's in the works? Does it worry you as much as it does me?
A: I had not heard that there is a Lebowski sequel in the works. My thoughts on the Lebowski franchise (assuming that there is a franchise) in general are mixed. Put simply, I just don’t get the movie. There are movies that are weird and strange that I enjoy. But Lebowski isn’t one of them. I’ve seen it, I laughed, but I don’t GET it. Maybe I haven’t ever watched it under the right conditions (read: drunk), and thus am missing out on some of the genius of the movie. Maybe I will eventually understand the nuances. But not today.

So to answer the second part of your question, no, it doesn’t worry me as much as it does you. I’m not as big a fan of the franchise as you are. Therefore I don’t care about it as much as you. But I hope all of your fears are unfounded and that the sequel lives up to all the dude-ness that it could be.

Q: Nicole Maloney - Maybe Mitssob knows the answer: How can I get Emerson (3months) to take a bottle?!?! I've tried everything I've read. help! (ok, not really expecting an answer here... but if you had one, I'm all ears)
A: Again with the baby questions! I find it amusing that all you parents out there are allowing me to potentially screw up your kids by asking me questions about them. But keep asking, if for no other reason than it gives me something to look back on if/when I become a parent so I can laugh at how ignorant I was.

I’ve spent a little time formulating (HA) my thoughts on this question, but unfortunately I’ve come up with more questions than answers. All I can hope is that my ramblings will help you out. Right at the start I need to disclose that this question has caused me to speculate about not only your breasts but also your breast milk. If that weirds you out then I’m sorry. In addition we’re going to shatter the record for the number of times the word “breast” is used in an answer. I’m trying to be mature about this, but I make no promises.

As I see it the challenge is to get the kid to understand that food can come from two places: your breasts and a bottle. So my first question for you is what are you putting in the bottle? [Ed: What do you expect, Tim? Beer? No, this isn’t Bill’s kid we’re talking about here.] Are you trying to get Emerson to drink formula or breast milk? That might make a difference. Do children know what milk tastes like? I’m not sure, but I can believe it’s possible. Therefore you’d want to make the experiences to be as similar as possible, so if you haven’t tried putting breast milk in the bottle then give that a try.

As to the more practical question of how to get the child to take the bottle, if you’re willing to be a little cruel then you could simply force the issue by denying him your breast. Hunger would eventually force the kid to take the bottle. At least in theory. Would I do this to my own kid (assuming for the moment that I could breastfeed)? No, after a few minutes of crying I’d feel pity and give in. Plus I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work.

Your question sparked a tangential question in my head: Why isn’t there a bottle that’s the size/shape/feel of a breast? It seems like a natural thing to have. Putting aside the obvious weirdness of how it would look (not to mention all the things that it would be used for by college students all over the country), wouldn’t a child be more likely to take a bottle that’s of a familiar size/shape/feel? Just thinking out loud here.

Mothers in the Jolinko community are invited to correct me on this question in the comments. Good luck, Nicole! And once more for good measure: “breast”.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Where in the world is Mitt Ssob?
A: Mitssob is currently in Rochester, NY, though that has been the exception rather than the rule since February when I took on new job responsibilities at work. My job now calls for me to travel around the country, meet with customers and potential customers, and provide engineering support for integration efforts. In English, I build small radio networks so that our sales guys can make sales and so that our engineers can gather test data. It's a lot of fun, if slightly chaotic at times.

Below is a partial list of the places I’ve been for this new line of work:

Paso Robles, CA (3 hours south of San Francisco)
Ridgecrest, CA (3 hours northeast of LA)
Kileen, TX (Fort Hood)
Fayetteville, NC (Fort Bragg)
Fort Walton Beach, FL
Eatontown, NJ (Fort Monmouth)
Baltimore, MD
San Diego, CA

As you can see I’ve been racking up the frequent flier miles and rental and hotel points. It’s been fun to be on the road. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of very interesting people, both in the military and in the Harris organization (sales and field service guys). I usually also have time to wander around and see some sights, and also eat some good local food.

Soon to be added to this list is Canberra, Australia (an hour flight from Sydney). I’m leaving on October 3 and returning October 11. I’ll provide full details of the trip once I get back, but I do want to share one interesting thing about the flight over there. I depart San Francisco on October 3 at about 7pm local time and land at 7:30am local time on October 5. By a quirk of the International Date Line I will not experience October 4. It’s very strange to think about. I hope nothing exciting happens on that date, because I won’t be around for it! I make up for it on the return trip, though. I depart from Sydney on October 11 at about 3:30pm and land in San Francisco at 8:30pm local time. I’m spending 14 hours in the air, but only 5 hours pass. All told I get to experience October 11 for about 34 hours, making it the longest day of my life.

So that's where Mitssob has been. I'll keep you all posted as to my movements as I make them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interview With The Mitssob (Part 1)

[Editor's note: We had planned on resuming "Ask Mitssob" at the beginning of September. Unfortunately we have not heard from the reclusive author in several weeks. We decided to visit him at his home to see what we could learn.]

Q: First off it's good to see you. How have you been?
A: I'm sorry, who are you again?

Q: I'm your editor. Don't you remember me? You used to write a feature for the online community Jolinko called "Ask Mitssob".
A: I did?

Q: You did.
A: And I had an editor?

Q: You did indeed.
A: Well isn't that something. What's your name?

A: Nice to meet you again.

Q: Likewise.
A: So what can I do for you today?

Q: I was wondering when you are planning to start taking questions again?
A: Well I'm pretty busy right now. I'm still getting settled in my house, and work has me traveling all over the place. Plus my band is still working on our second album.

Q: Those are pretty lame excuses, Tim.
A: I know.

Q: Well how about you start up again this weekend?
A: So soon?

Q: Sure. You've had a long enough vacation. It's time to get back on the horse and take the bull by the horns.
A: Um, ok. Sure. Sounds like a plan. I'll start taking questions again this weekend.

Q: Great! Now, when will you actually answer those questions? You got pretty lazy in the last few months of "Ask Mitssob".
A: I'll do my best to keep this on a weekly cadence.

Q: I've been thinking of taking this to a bigger audience. What do you think about making this a weekly feature on one of Jolinko's forums?
A: Moving to a larger audience has a certain appeal to it. More questions, more exposure. I'll think about it.

Q: Well thanks for taking the time to meet with me.
A: No problem. Drop by again sometime.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

35 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - Paper or Plastic?
A: When I go to the grocery store I will always get plastic. The main reason for this is that I can use them as garbage bags in my home. I can also use them to store things, or transport them from place to place. They're quite handy, unlike the paper variety which tend to have a shorter after-supermarket life.

From an environmental standpoint, I think that paper as the more environmentally sensitive choice. This is because the trees that create paper bags can be regrown. Plastic bags are made from petroleum products, which is not as easily renewable. I know that there are energy output concerns stemming from the production of each of these. For paper bags you have to cut the tree down, transport the tree to a processing facility, process it, then ship the finished product. For a plastic bag I'm less sure about how much it takes to make one. I would assume that they start from a single sheet of plastic and get formed, but I really don't know.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Why are boxing/wrestling "rings" square and ofter referred to as the square circle?
A: I'll take the lazy way out of this answer and just paste from the wikipedia article on boxing rings:

The name ring is an atavism from when contests were fought in a roughly drawn circle on the ground. The name ring continued with the Jack Broughton rules in 1743, which specifed a small circle in the centre of the fight area where the boxers met at the start of each round. The first square ring was introduced by the Pugilistic Society in 1838. That ring was specified as 24 feet square and bound by two ropes. For these and other reasons, the boxing ring is commonly humorously referred to as the "square circle."

Q: Joe Zaffarano - Why do women wear evening gowns to night clubs? Why don't they wear nightgowns?
A: First off, I don't believe that women wear evening gowns to night clubs. I don't frequent night clubs, but I imagine that an evening gown worn at a night club might cramp one's style. I think that evening gowns are more appropriately worn when out at a fashionable party.

But I take the meaning of your question. Why "evening" and not "night". To me a "nightgown" implies that the article of clothing will be worn all the way through the night and to the next day. "Evening" implies that it will be worn out to be seen, and then removed when one returns home. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.

Q: Brett Gobe - Now that you are home owner, have you found a rug that will really tie the room together?
A: Not yet, but I hope to. My house has a lot of hardwood floors, and I will definitely be in search for a rug that will tie the room together. Just don't pee on my fucking rug, Gobe. You don't fuck with the mitssob.

For those of you not aware I have recently become a homeowner. Well, that's a bit of a stretch. I have put an offer on a house, my offer has been accepted, and now the lawyers and agents are doing whatever it is that lawyers and agents do. The closing date is July 30th, and then they're going to move out on August 11th. My lease runs out on August 31, so I've got 3 weeks to move. That will be a challenge, but one that I'm looking forward to.

Thanks to everyone who has submitted questions. I'll be posting here, and also starting up a couple of new online projects in the coming weeks. But "Ask Mitssob" will return. See you all later.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

34 - Answer(s)

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - What does Geronimo say when he jumps out of a plane?
A: According to the movie Hot Shots! Part Deux, he yells "Meeeeee!!!". Of course, this is ridiculous. Geronimo died on February 17th, 1909, only 6 years after the Wright Brothers made the first powered human flight. Thus, it was unlikely that he ever flew on a plane, much less jumped from one. Doing a bit more research I learned that the first parachute jump from an airplane was done by a man named Grant Morton in 1911. Again, this is after Geronimo's death. I will therefore conclude that Geronimo never jumped out of a plane, and therefore never said anything as he did so.

I assume that you're asking this question because of the long-held tradition of yelling "GERONIMO!" when jumping from a great height. I didn't know where this came from, but I dug around a bit and found this site. It's a really interesting story about how the tradition started. Short version: A paratrooper named Private Aubrey Eberhardt and three of his fellow paratroopers watched the movie Geronimo the night before their first jump. Inspired, Private Eberhardt decided to yell out "Geronimo" during the jump as a way of indicating that all was well. The full story is quite interesting, and I recommend reading it.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Why don't we call a banana a yellow?
A: I will assume (two assumptions in one "Ask Mitssob"...a new record) that you're asking this question because the fruit we know as the orange derives its name from its color. Well, an orange is orange starting very early in its development as a fruit, and keeps its color until it turns green because it got covered in mold because you left it in your refrigerator for too long. A banana, on the other hand, starts out green, and then gradually takes on a yellow color, before finally turning brown because, again, you left it in the refrigerator for too long. The lesson: eat your fruit before it goes bad.

Q: Joe Zaffarano - What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
A: Congratulations, Joe! You've officially asked the first repeat question in the history of "Ask Mitssob". Your prize? You get to drink from the FIRE HOSE!

No, seriously, you get a brand new answer, from a totally different source. I stumbled onto this page at The author does a much better job of answering the question than I could ever do, so I'll let him do the talking. Enjoy!

Q: Brett Gobe - Can you cite your sources?
A: Yes.

Q: Eric Democko - what are the origins of Cinco de Mayo? and Cinco de Moustache?
A: Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in the state of Puebla, Mexico to commemorate a victory by Mexican forces over the French in the Battle of Puebla. It is not a celebration of Mexican independence, which takes place on September 16. The date has taken on significance in America similar to that of St. Patrick's Day. That is, it is used as both a celebration of national pride, and an excuse to drink.

Cinco de Moustache is a party thrown annually on or about the 5th of May by Chris Page. How exactly it came about I'm not sure. I will defer to Page on this one. If he wants to answer in the comments section then he will, otherwise I'll go interview him and get you a more complete answer soon.

Q: Brett Gobe - I WANT THE TRUTH!
A: Not to get overly psychological about this, but have you ever considered the possibility that you might not? The majority of people want to hear that which conforms with their worldview, regardless of how true it is. If the truth clashes with your worldview it can be very disorienting. You may attempt to disregard the truth, or maybe bend the truth to fit your worldview. You may also develop cognitive dissonance, or other psychological problems.

But I believe that you really do want the truth, Gobe. Unfortunately...


Friday, April 25, 2008

33 - Answer(s)

Q: Brett Gobe - Why are barns red?
A: In the 1800's the paint used to coat the outside of a barn was made of a mixture of milk, lime, linseed oil, and either iron oxide or lead oxide. It was this last ingredient that gave the barn its classic red color. As commercially produced paints became available, red was apparently the color that was the cheapest to produce, and thus was popular with farmers. As time went on, eventually whitewash became even cheaper, leading many farmers to paint their barns white. Today the color is maintained largely as tradition, though you can find barns of all colors and designs if you go looking hard enough.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Why DO we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?
A: I can actually answer this classic question. No, really, I can. Just give me a minute and I think you'll be satisfied.

The answer to the first part of the question can be found by tracing back the meaning of the word "parkway". A parkway was originally a road that lead to and passed through a park or other scenic area. Thus the "park" part of the word "parkway" is literal, which I find interesting. As automobiles became popular new parkways were built. These were usually wide roads with landscaped medians, and while they still often lead to parks they also began to include longer scenic drives. Today a parkway generally means that it serves passenger vehicles only, and there are usually lower speed limits on them than on other highways.

And that's why you drive on a parkway.

The second part of the question is harder. A "driveway" is defined as a private road leading up to one or more buildings. Technically this includes the short little strips of asphalt that are in front of most houses, though I would really classify those as parking spots rather than a real driveway. In fact, that's my answer to the question. You don't really park in your driveway. You drive on your driveway until you reach the parking spots in front of your house.

Satisfied? No? Well I like the answer, and more to the point it's all you're going to get out of me on this one.

A: Done and done. You know, while you're waiting for my witty answers you should head on over to my newly-established poetry site and sample some of my other writings.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

32 - Answer(s)

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - If not hydrogen in the near future, then what?
A: This topic is a very complicated one. It's hard for me to stay focused on one aspect of it for very long before venturing off to another area. Let me start by talking about current technologies that could be applied to automobiles, and why I think they're either going to stick around or get swept aside. That should lead us to a short-term answer. If I end up on some random tangent, I'll try to get back on track quickly.

But before I talk about the technologies I need to frame this issue a bit by asking a question: what is the point? What is the goal here? Is it to reduce "fossil fuel" emissions? Is it to reduce America's dependance on foreign sources of energy? Is it to stop using "fossil fuels" altogether? I don't have an answer to this question, and because of that the issue becomes hopelessly complicated very quickly. I won't try to answer it here, but I'll keep the question in mind as I continue this answer.

Why do I use the term "hydrocarbons"? Why not just call it "oil" or "fossil fuels"? First, because I like to be technically accurate in my language. I lump in not just gasoline and diesel, but also liquified coal, natural gas, and other more exotic hydrocarbon fuels. Second, because there is a lot of negative stereotyping of the term "fossil fuels". I'm trying to get emotion out of the discussion about energy, even though I know that it's nearly impossible.

I think that these sources of energy will continue to power our automobiles for the near and far terms. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that the world is nowhere near running out of sources of hydrocarbon energy. Another reason is legacy. We drive internal combustion automobiles, and we have over a century of experience in the technologies behind them. Will they continue to be gasoline? I don't think so. There are currently cleaner-burning diesel fuels hitting the market, and the cars that run them are making their way across the pond to America. The other more exotic hydrocarbon fuels may eventually make their way into cars, but that's a little further away.

Ethanol has the advantage of being both a fuel source and an additive to current gasoline fuel systems. This means that a new infrastructure isn't necessary, only an addition to current fuel stations. Unfortunately there are many problems with ethanol that in my opinion will lead to its collapse as a fuel replacement. There are consequences that proponents of ethanol either failed to account for or failed to see coming. The first big one is a spike in food prices as corn that was once slated for human consumption is converted over to fuel. The second is that the growth of the amount of corn it would take for ethanol to become a significant portion of America's fuel supply would require burning a large amount more fossil fuels than currently needed. Third, ethanol puts out more fossil fuel emissions than gasoline alone, at little to no gain in performance.

Ultimately I think that ethanol was jumped on by politicians before the true nature of it was fully understood. This is unfortunate, because it does have some potential, but the technology still needs to be worked out before it is adopted. Other sources of ethanol, such as switchgrass and sugarcane may provide better results than corn. Time will tell, but as far as a true short-term solution I'm not holding my breath.

Of all the short-term solutions I like this one the best. Electricity can be efficiently generated, and electrically driven cars do not generate any byproducts. They're quiet, clean, and thus have a lot of appeal. There are some technical problems that must be solved before electric vehicles can truly replace hydrocarbon-based cars. The first big one is battery technology. In order for automobiles to be able to run effectively on electricity new and improved technologies must be developed to store that electricity. Currently plug-in electric cars don't have as much range as gasoline or diesel vehicles. Once batteries exist that can store the energy more efficiently, however, electric will take off very quickly.

So what's my final answer? Hydrocarbons will be the source of energy, with a transition over to electric. Am I right? The fun thing about the future is that it hasn't happened yet. We'll just have to wait around and see.

Q: Eric Democko - Who was St. Patrick and why is he so popular?
A: St. Patrick was born in 378AD, and died on March 17th of either 461 or 493 (there is historical debate on that point). He lived in slavery from about age 14 to age 20, escaping after having a dream in which God called him to return to Ireland. He was eventually ordained a bishop and began a life-long quest to bring Christianity to Ireland.

Two interesting things about the man that I learned in my research for this answer. The first is the meaning of the legend of how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. Like many legends it is not literally true, but rather it serves as a metaphor for how his quest to convert Ireland to Christianity resulted in the ending of various pagan practices, including worshiping serpents. Interesting stuff, and it makes some historical sense. The second is with regards to the shamrock, and why he is associated with it. Apparently he used the shamrock to teach about the holy trinity (the father, son, and holy spirit). It's a simple teaching tool, and again, it makes sense.

For more information, the Catholic Online website has a brief biography of St. Patrick. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a more complete and detailed history of the man.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

31 - Answer(s)

Q: Brett Gobe - Are you going to the Wu Tang Clan show at the Armory on 4/20?
A: No.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Damnit, Brett beat me to it...or something. So 420 is supposedly the police code for marijuana, any other cool codes we should know? Like Statutory?
A: First, contrary to popular belief "420" is not the police code for marijuana. For the background on the origins of "420", check out this page at Snopes for a good explanation. Basically, 4:20 was the time that a group of high school students in San Rafael, CA gathered to smoke marijuana after school in 1971. I'm not sure how it entered popular language, but it's here now.

To answer your other question, here is a "nearly-complete" list of police codes. As far as I can find, there is no specific police code for statutory. Which is a bummer because it would have been useful as a title for my band's next album. The codes I find interesting are 59 (Criminal Mischief), 19 (Drunk), 415e (Loud Music or Party), and 23109 (Speed Contest). It's a pretty interesting list, actually.

Q: Joe Zaffarano - Who would win in a fight, Jack Bauer or John McClane?
A: Unfortunately I don't have the time to tackle this one in as much detail as last episode's blockbuster submarine showdown. However, I have been thinking about this question for the past two weeks, and I've got a few observations to make on the subject.

First, let's give some background on the characters. Jack Bauer (Wikipedia page, Fox Profile) is the main character of the TV series 24, played by Kiefer Sutherland. He has held various roles in CTU (the Counter-Terrorist Unit), which is the main organization of the show. He is a man of action, and a well-trained killer. He has used extreme force to extract information from subjects throughout the show's six seasons, and has saved the nation several times. His wife is dead (for spoiler reasons I won't elaborate beyond that), and he has a daughter who is in constant peril throughout the first three seasons (and briefly in the fifth).

John McLane (Wikipedia page) is the main character of the Die Hard movie series. He is the quintessential "right guy in the right place at the right time", though he doesn't ever see it that way at the time in the movies. He is a police officer in the NYPD in all but the second movie (where he is a member of the LAPD). He has built up a great deal of experience in counter-terrorism throughout the four movies, though apparently he has no formal training. He is a man of action who kills without hesitation when called upon to do so. He is divorced from his wife as of the final movie, and he has two children, one of whom factors into the fourth movie.

Now that we've gotten the biographies out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff. First we need to define "fight". As I see it, the two areas of fighting that are the most important are hand-to-hand, and pistols.

Hand-To-Hand Combat
Jack Bauer has extensive training in hand-to-hand combat. He has dispatched of only a few terrorists this way, however. Generally he subdues them instead, then brings them in for questioning. John McLane uses hand-to-hand combat more often than Jack does, but he does so in more of a brawling way. He doesn't seem to have a lot of real training, but he somehow manages to always come out on top. So the battle between them is really a battle of the training of Jack Bauer vs. the luck of John McLane. In my opinion, training wins. Jack Bauer would beat John McLane in hand-to-hand combat, but he would definitely suffer as a result of the encounter.

Pistol Combat
The weapon of choice for both men is the pistol. Jack Bauer has used a pistol (often silenced) to almost super-human effect throughout the history of 24. One joke I've heard is that Jack Bauer never misses, he was just shooting a terrorist several miles away that the viewer can't see. John McLane has similar luck with his pistol. In the third movie he even used a revolver to take down a helicopter. Given the skill (and luck) of both men, I think that this category is a draw (no pun intended). Both of these men are well-trained in the use of their pistols, and I think that it's only a matter of time before one wins. But I have no idea which one that would be. It depends on the terrain, how much ammunition each one has, and how much danger they are in.

Of course, the real answer to this question is "neither". The reason for this is that both of these men are good guys. The good guy cannot lose in a fight. Therefore you have a situation similar to the internet joke about stapling a piece of buttered toast (which always lands butter-side-down) to the back of a cat (which always lands on its feet). Both must hit the ground, and so neither can hit the ground. A fight between these two American icon would be the same way. It would be highly entertaining, however.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Is hydrogen power the future of the automobile?
A: Short answer: yes. Long(ish) answer: Not for a long time.

Much of the public and media's focus on hydrogen power has been placed on the direct output of a hydrogen fuel system (namely water). Very little focus has gone into what it takes to get the hydrogen into the fuel system in the first place. Presently hydrogen has many disadvantages to the current fossil fuel system that is currently in place around the world. It is hard to manufacture, hard to transport, and hard to store. You have to expend a tremendous amount of energy just to get the hydrogen in the first place, unlike fossil fuels which must only be refined. Then once you have it, it must be kept super-cooled in order to maintain its liquid form, which makes transportation and storage difficult. Strange as it sounds, gasoline and diesel are safer and easier to transport and store than hydrogen.

Now, in the future will technologies exist to answer these concerns? Yes. Absolutely. These points I'm bringing up are not meant to defend fossil fuels or detract from hydrogen. I'm just trying to explain the situation we have in the world today. And I don't see that situation changing in the near future (which I define as the next 50 years). There are many untapped sources of fossil fuel energy, including tar sands, shale oil (literally squeezing oil from rocks), and deep-ocean reservoirs. The technology exists to extract fossil fuel from these sources, and that technology will only improve. Therefore I believe that the fossil fuel system will remain in place for quite a long time. Will your children be driving hydrogen cars one day? I'd say so. But exactly when is anyone's guess.

Q: Adam Barnello - Why does salt taste so good?
A: Your body needs salt in order to function properly. Therefore your mind tells you that salt tastes good because it knows you need it. Nothing more complicated than that.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

30 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - I know you hate predictions, but what is going to be the next crappy genre of music? Or is everything all used up and we'll be limited to artists sampling other artists sampling other artists forever?
A: I think that the next "crappy" genre of music won't be a distinct genre, but rather a merging of distinct genres into something new. I spent some time listening to pop tunes on the radio to research this question, and what I noticed was a curious blend of country, rock, and R&B. Often times there was an over-produced feel to the song, especially in the bass and drums, which felt very electronic and processed. I think that this trend is likely to continue, though I'm not sure what you'd end up calling the resulting "genre", if anything.

On a side note, I also felt like all the songs were the same, at least in lyrical content. Angst, anger, "my girl/boy left me", etc. There wasn't anything original or particularly interesting in the lyrics. I know that doesn't really depend on the genre, but it's something I noticed as a songwriter.

If I had to guess about a current genre that will make a breakthrough to the mainstream (like swing did in the late 90's) I would guess bluegrass. Seriously. Country is already very popular, and the bluegrass feel could translate very well into the mainstream of pop music. It's different without being TOO different, and is also very danceable. Keep an eye out for it, folks!

To answer the second part of your question, mathematically speaking there are only a certain number of chord arrangements that can be made. Of course that number increases because of the variability in the length of songs, but when you're talking about a typical three-minute pop tune you're pretty boxed in. The good-sounding chord progressions are often taken, and so some artists solve this dilemma by "sampling". I've never liked the concept of sampling. I feel that it's a very lazy practice. Unfortunately the music consuming public does not agree with me, and so I don't think it's going to go anywhere unless there is a public backlash against it. And I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Q: Brett Gobe - Crimson Tide or The Hunt for Red October?

A: First, this is going to be the longest answer in "Ask Mitssob" history. By a long shot. In fact, I was so inspired by this question that I enlisted Allison's help to ensure a more complete answer. Together we came up with a list of categories that the movies should be rated on, ranging from the serious to the slightly disturbing. Then we went through and watched both films and made notes according to those categories. The results of our work follows. Enjoy!


CT: Crimson Tide. What is "Crimson Tide?" A new variety of the detergent? Is it like the red tide? I don't know.

THFRO: The Hunt for Red October. Simple, direct, descriptive, slightly menacing.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


CT: A radical general has taken advantage of tense political situation involving the Russian response to a Chechnian revolt. The US has gotten involved, and a General named Vladimir Radchenko is using this as an excuse to incite conflict. A state of civil war exists in Russia. Against this backdrop the USS Alabama is deployed to the region in case things get out of hand, which they eventually do. The Captain and XO fight for control of the ship when their orders to launch their ICBMs at Russia come into question. (Allison's Plot Summary: The damn printer doesn't work!)

THFRO: At the height of the Cold War a brand-new typhoon-class submarine is taken by a captain intent on defection. The Soviet navy is informed of this by that captain, and send the entire fleet to capture him. Meanwhile a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, who has studied Ramius, investigates the situation and figures out that Ramius wants to defect. He convinces his superiors of this fact, and helps bring Ramius in. (Allison's Plot Summary: Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!)

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


CT: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, and a slew of "That Guys"

THFRO: Sean Connery, Sam Neill, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn.

Winner: The top two in Crimson Tide vs. the more rounded-out cast in The Hunt for Red October? I'd say it's a tie.

Protaganist - How strong is the lead character? Not the actor, but the character.

CT: Lieutenant Commander Hunter. He has been assigned to be the new Executive Officer (XO) of the USS Alabama. He is described as an "egghead", and that description fits. He seems to be very smart, and is clearly articulate and well-spoken. When it comes time for action, though, he is quite capable of acting. His conflict with the Captain is the center of focus for the movie.

THFRO: Jack Ryan. A CIA analyst living in London, who learns of a new Soviet submarine and brings that information to the CIA. He is clearly smart, and well-versed in theoretical knowledge. He's not very politically savvy, but he is a good detective.

Winner: The character of Hunter seems more to be about Denzel Washington than the character. Jack Ryan, on the other hand, seems to be a deeper character. That gives him the edge, so The Hunt for Red October wins.

Captain(s) - A ship is only as good as her captain. So how did the captains rate?

CT: Captain Frank Ramsey. He is confident, almost to the point of being arrogant. At first, he seems to want to be a true mentor and teacher to his new XO. He clearly cares about his men; his first speeech to his men consists of short cadence, but it is inspiring and even a little funny at times. But then he starts to show a darker side. He looks down on intellectuals, including his new XO. When the conflict occurs between him and his XO, he starts to get a little unglued. He is single-minded, set in his ways, and that comes through in stark form as the movie progresses. In the end he redeems himself almost completely, and ends up resigning in semi-disgrace.

THFRO: This movie offers two for the price of one!

Marco Ramius - He is a very balanced man. He goes from poetic as the ship leaves harbor to a man of action when he kills the political officer. He gives a good, poetic speech to his crew when he announces their (fake) orders, full of inspiring language. He is a cool-headed man who shows little emotion, and is sparing with explanations. He doesn't really change as the movie progresses. He is able to handle stress and difficulty that his defection causes without changing his personality.
Bart Mancuso - More of a man of action than his Soviet counterpart. He is sarcastic and loose but he still commands great respect from his men. His ship is tight and well run without being overly strict and rigid; he is liked and respected, but not feared. He can handle stress, but shows emotion and isn't afraid to share his opinions.

Winner: Captain Ramsey may be stronger than either Ramius or Mancuso, but not both. The Hunt for Red October wins.

Enemy Sub - Both movies feature a battle with a single enemy submarine.

CT: A Russian Akula-class submarine under the control of General Radchenko. It's just sort of there, hovering sinisterly in the background. The Alabama pretty much wants to avoid it, but when the radio buoy winch fails the sub comes after them. Eventually the Alabama wins, but with a high price.

THFRO: It's the classic student fighting master. A Russian Alpha-class submarine called the Kanevelov, captained by a former pupil of Ramius, is sent to destroy them. It's the ultimate fight in the movie, and ends with the Red October killing the Alpha with its own torpedo.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

"That Guy" - Reserved for the category of guys you see in the movie and shout out, "Hey, it's that guy! You know, from that movie/tv show/commercial/porno".

- General Radchenko (Spurbury police chief in "Super Troopers")

- Viggo Mortensen ("Hidalgo", "Lord of the Rings", etc)
- Ryan Phillippe (starred in "Cruel Intentions", among others)
- James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano in "The Sopranos")
- Ricky Schroeder (former child star, after this he starred in "NYPD Blue" for a few seasons)

- Skip Typer (The Principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off")
- Tim Curry ("Clue", "Muppet Treasure Island", and others) Note: I consider him in the "that guy" hall of fame.
- Cook's Assistant Loganov (Gladiator)

- Captain Tupolov (Bootstrap Bill in "POTC: Dead Man's Chest")
- Foxtrot Bomber guy (LOST)

Winner: Crimson Tide

Career Springboard - How many careers did this movie aid?

CT: The sheer number of "that guys" in this movie translates to a large number of careers. James Gandolfini went on to play Tony Soprano in HBO's hit series, "The Sopranos". Ryan Philippe went on to marry (and divorce) Reese Witherspoon, and also play alongside her in "Cruel Intentions". Viggo Mortensen went on to play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

THFRO: The "That Guy" cast in this movie didn't move on to bigger and better things, unfortunately. Loganov (the cook's assistant and saboteur) went on to play Quintus in Gladiator, but that's about it.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Token Black Guy(s) - What would a movie be without the TBG (token black guy). He is in the background of the film, contributing, but not TOO much.

- Lieutenant Westergard (the brother with the moustache): He seems like a good guy, but he's an ally of Captain Ramsey and that makes him bad (but not TOO bad).
- The fat guy who sings and dances. As punishment for trying to stand out, he dies in the flood scene later.

- Sonar Officer Jones: He's into classical music, has a sense of humor, and is very resourceful (but not TOO resourceful).

Winner: Based on the definition of the TGB, Crimson Tide takes it.

Production Value - Did this movie look good?

- The submarine looks like it's a set, but a pretty good one. For the most part it retains that claustrophobic feel, though at times that's lost.
- As the ship dives, you see a lot of the interior of the ship, with men running everywhere.
- Everybody's sweating, which is realistic.

- Actual stunts, with Alec Baldwin actually going out of the helicopter.

- Big settings, like the sub, the aircraft carrier, the helicopter, and the open ocean.
- The three submarines all have unique looks to them.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Pivotal Scene

CT: The fight between Hunter and the captain over Hunter's refusal to concur the captain's launch command. This scene builds up very well. It starts with Hunter showing the captain the incomplete message, and ends with Hunter relieving the captain of his command. It's a pivotal moment in the film; it represents both a character development moment for Hunter, and a character reveal moment for the Captain.

THFRO: When Captain Mancuso decides to trust Jack Ryan and expose his position to the Red October. The actions of both captains drive the movie from that point on.

Because that scene is so important to the movie as a whole, Crimson Tide takes it.

Dinner Sequence - Oddly, both movies feature a key dinner scene.

CT: This happens just after the Alabama gets underway. There are stark contrasts and stereotypes of military types shown among the officers. The power struggle between the XO and the Captain starts here.

THFRO: After dismissing the doctor, all of the officers sit down for a meeting over dinner. They are all smoking, but Captain Ramius is the only one eating. He doesn't speak at all until he has to. "There will be no going back." Then he reveals that "I announced our intention to defect."

Winner: Tie


- Hunter vs. Captain Ramsey (1): Fight over incomplete EAM that comes in during attack.
- WEAPS vs. Captain: WEAPS refuses to unlock the safe containing the firing trigger. The captain threatens to shoot an innocent seaman in order to get WEAPS to unlock it, which he does.
- Hunter vs. Captain Ramsey (2): Final standoff between Hunter and Ramsey regarding orders to shoot, when Ramsey re-takes the bridge.

- Jack Ryan vs. the Joint Chiefs: "Have you ever met Captain Ramius, General?"
- Jack Ryan vs. Captain Mancuso: Jack tries to convince the captain, gets threatened with death, then lies to him in order to get him to cooperate.
- Captain vs. Captain on the Red October: Ramius orders Jack to turn the submarine into the path of an incoming torpedo, which causes Mancuso great distress.

Winner: Since the entire point of the movie is the standoffs, I'll give this one to Crimson Tide.

Submarine Movie Cliches - All submarine movies (or movies that have submarines in them, for that matter) must have certain cliches. Which did these have?

- Blue/red lights. This is such a cliche that the Simpsons parodied it in their Crimson Tide episode with the line, "We're down to mood lighting here!"
- Holy shit something's on sonar!
- Flooding
- Close hatch, thus dooming a few to save the ship
- Depth/pressure danger
- Launch Countermeasures!


- Blue lights on the Alpha, yellow lights on the Red October, red lights on the Dallas.
- Launch Countermeasures!
- Ping sound from the torpedo.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Death Scenes

- Early on there is a fire in the galley, and a Petty Officer has heart attack as a result. The medical officer gives CPR, but the Petty Officer dies anyway. The music under the scene is light, and quite effective.

- After the Alabama nearly gets hit by a torpedo, the bilge bay floods. One of the men down there takes a pipe-cover to the face, and shortly afterwards they all drown when Ricky Schroeder seals the section off. Once again, the music is used to great effect.

- Captain Ramius kills the political officer in his quarters after unlocking their orders. It was surprising, both to the audience and to the political officer, who died with a look of shock on his face.
- Just after the torpedo breaks apart on the hull of the Red October, the cook's assistant comes onto the bridge and opens fire. Borodin takes a bullet for Ramius, and dies with the famous last words: "I would like to have seen Montana."
- Jack Ryan finally catches the cook's assistant in the missile compartment. Ryan shoots him in the chest several times, ending that crisis.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Tricks and Strategems (or Best Use of Submarine)

- Staying hidden from the Russian enemy sub.

- The Dallas staying in the Red October's "baffles", meaning behind the enemy sub so it can't hear.
- High-speed run of the underwater canyons by the Red October.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


CT: Overall the music is fairly constant without being too distracting. The main theme of the movie is by Hans Zimmer, and is quite moving. Moonlight Sonata is playing when Hunter and Ramsey meet for the first time, which sets an interesting mood for the scene. Finally, the Navy Hymn is used to great effect, both during the ships first dive and when Hunter gives the order that kills three of his men.

THFRO: There is singing in Russian (sorry, I don't know the song) over the opening credits while we see naval studies by Jack Ryan. Later there is an important scene involving the whole crew of the Red October singing the Soviet National Anthem.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Ending - So how did the movie wrap up? Did the ship sink?

CT: The orders to fire ICBMs were called off, and that message finally gets through to the Alabama. Captain Ramsey retires, but not before recommending that Lt. Cmdr Hunter get his next command as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Russian civil war fizzles, and all is right with the world again.

THFRO: Captain Ramius and his officers, with the help of Jack Ryan and the crew of the Dallas, succeed in defecting to America. They hide the Red October in a river in Maine. Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan sing a duet of "Old Man River." OK, that didn't happen. But it should have.

Winner: To be honest, I'm not thrilled with the endings of either movie. It's a tie.

Favorite Quote


Captain Ramsey: Yeah, horses're fascinating animals. Dumb as fenceposts but very intuitive. In that way they're not too different from high school girls: they may not have a brain in their head but they do know all the boys want to fuck 'em.

Admiral Painter (Fred Thompson): Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan.

Winner: One reason I couldn't take Fred Thompson seriously as a presidential candidate is that every time I saw him, that line popped into my head. The Hunt for Red October wins on that fact alone.

General Humor


- Captain Ramsey: If someone asked me if we should bomb Japan, a simple "Yes." By all means sir, drop that fucker, twice!
- Captain Ramsey: Their training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards.

- Captain Ramius: "Anatoli? You're afraid of our fleet? Well you should be. Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?"
- Navigator aboard the plane Jack flies to the aircraft carrier: What's the matter Commander? You don't like flying, huh? Aw, this is nothing! You should've been with us five, six months ago! Whoa! You talk about puke! We ran into a hailstorm over the Sea of Japan. Everybody's retching their guts out! The pilot shot his lunch all over the windshield, and I barfed on the radio! Shorted it out completely! And it wasn't that lightweight stuff either, it was that chunky industrial weight puke! Here, want a bite?
- Captain Mancuso: "My morse is so rusty I might be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the month."
- At two points throughout the movie Jack Ryan imitates voices. This always cracks me up.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Homoerotic Overtones - This is rated on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being mild innuendo, 10 being "break out the astroglide".

- Weaps (Viggo Mortenson) says to his fellow officers of Lt. Cmdr Hunter, "We're lucky to have him." The look that he gives is very suggestive. Rating: 4
- "No-where to run to" song, sung by one of the token black guys, dancing and singing into a flashlight, surrounded by smoking and shirtless men. Rating: 6
- WEAPS is ironing a shirt while talking with Hunter. At the end of the scene Hunter asks, "Do you do pants too?" Rating: 2


- Political officer waiting for Ramius in his quarters, reading his diary. Ramius responds by killing him. Kinky... Rating: 3
- Jack Ryan taking a shower onboard the aircraft carrier. Rating: 3
- Borodin and Captain Ramius in Ramius' quarters. Their discussion covers what they wish for in the future. After Borodin claims to want to marry a "round American woman", Ramius responds by saying he has "no such desires." Is he trying to say something? Maybe... Rating: 4
- Just after the Americans go aboard the Red October, there are yellow lights flashing. It reminds me of a discotheque. Rating: 1

Winner: Crimson Tide

Awkward Moments - The moments in the movie where you have to stop and say, "Um, what?"

- Dog peeing. I thought subs were supposed to be clean and well maintained.
- Captain addressing crew about low morale based on Hunter's comments. He manages to berate them quite well, and probably drives morale further down.
- Captain loudly telling Hunter to "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" on the bridge, after talking quietly and reasonably up until that point.

- Jack Ryan telling Admiral Greer that his daughter suggested that he (Jack) "buy her baby brother." Then he says he'll buy one for Stanley, causing Greer to ask very seriously, "Who's Stanley?" Jack respond's "Stanley's a bear." The whole exchange is very awkwardly done, and feels, well, weird.
- After Jack briefs the National Security Advisor and the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Advisor tells Jack he will be going to investigate his theory. He tells Jack that he can't send any of the Joint Chiefs, partly because they don't believe Jack's theory, and that Jack is "expendable?"
- The long, awkward standoff between Americans and the Soviets onboard the Red October. It goes on for several seconds too long.

- After ordering Jack to turn the Red October into the path of an oncoming torpedo, Ramius then proceeds to tell Jack that his book sucks.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Star Trek Connection

Just before he is taken into custody by the Captain, Hunter goes and visits the communications room. He has a heart-to-heart with Vossler, who was left in charge when the head officer (who is loyal to the Captain) disappears. Hunter proceeds to put their situation in terms of Star Trek. "I'm Captain Kirk, you're Scotty, and I need warp speed."


- Jack Ryan's wife is Gates McFadden, aka Dr. Beverly Crusher.
- The captain aboard the aircraft carrier plays Professor Moriarty in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- It's also posssible (though unconfirmed) that the guy driving the DSRV plays Data's first officer during Data's brief stint as captain of a starship.

Winner: The Hunt For Red October

Linguistic Fakery - For excellence (or non-excellence) in faking an accent.


- Rivetti (the sonar officer): Italian/Brooklynese kid on a sub full of Southerners. He may or may not be faking, but it sure is out of place. And annoying.
- General Radchenko: He doesn't have many lines (maybe two), but they're pulled off with typical Russian bombast.

- Jack Ryan's wife has exactly two lines (see the next category). She uses a British accent for the first line, and American for the second. I guess she had to squeeze in her full range.
- The Captain of the aircraft carrier is played by a British guy, but it's hard to tell.
- Sam Neill (another Brit) manages to do a pretty convincing Russian accent throughout the whole movie.
- Sean Connery does not.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Get Back in the Kitchen (or They Have Female Singers and Female Motorists) - Women do not play a significant role in either movie. Actually, that's a gross understatement. Between the two films, female characters contribute a grand total of eight sentences. And they suck. Below is the full female contribution for both movies.

- Hunter's Wife (Nancy?), as Hunter is about to get out of their car and board the submarine: "Just say goodbye."

- Cathy Ryan: "No more of the usual nonsense; two stories, two glasses of water. Jack, you're going to miss your plane."
- Stewardess: "More coffee, sir?" "You know, if you try to get some sleep the flight will go a lot faster." "Pardon?" "Well, try and get some sleep anyway."

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Suck-ed-in-edness - How likely would you be to stop and watch if you come across this movie on basic cable?

CT: Kinda likely

THFRO: Very likely

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Best Hair

CT: Viggo Mortenson had a flat top you could cut cheese on.

THFRO: Sean Connery's hair seemed to be an extension of a ushanka, which is a stereotypical Russian hat (also called shapka).

Winner: Crimson Tide

Animal Cruelty

CT: Captain Ramsey had a Jack Russell Terrier named Bear. This dog traveled everywhere with the Captain, and was a constant companion. The dog accepted the new XO, and also growled and barked at certain characters when called upon.

- In the first scene aboard the Dallas, Jones uses whales near the Dallas while training the sonarman.
- Borodin indicated a desire to raise rabbits for the express purpose of consuming them.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Best Use of Font

CT: The informational font is a little large, and also a bit sterile.

THFRO: The opening sequence uses a very official-looking typographical font, which gives it a menacing quality. Also, the title is first shown in its original Cyrillic spelling, before blurring into English.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

MacGyver Moment

CT: Vossler and his men working hard to fix the radio against the backdrop of possible nuclear war and a power struggle onboard the submarine. No pressure or anything.

THFRO: Jones listens to his tape recording of the Red October and determines that the "magma displacement" is actually a Soviet Sub.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Tobacco Company Sponsorship


- Smoking cigars on deck before submerging.
- Smoking during officer's dinner (both cigars and cigarettes)
- Cigarettes at weapons area

- Smoking at dinner, all over the place on the Red October.
- Jack's first cigarette, coughs, turns green.

Winner: Just for sheer volume, The Hunt for Red October wins.

After watching this movie, will you want to shoot a Soviet/Russian in name of your country? - A basic gauge of your feelings of patriotism after watching the movie.

CT: Not really. You might want to hunt down the General, but the average Russian soldier is portrayed as more of a victim than an active participant in the civil war underway.

THFRO: Yes, sir. Absolutely. Shoot that fucker. Twice.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Final Tally:
Crimson Tide - 11
The Hunt for Red October - 18
Tie - 3

My answer? The Hunt for Red October. Thanks again to Allison for all of her help with this answer.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

29 - Answer(s)

Q: Brett Gobe - When the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, will the still be the greatest team ever?
A: I've never heard of a team called "The Still". As far as I know, no sports franchise in any major market is called "The Still", so I don't think they could be considered the greatest team ever. I mean, they have just as much right to be considered the greatest team ever if they exist but...

Oh, wait, that was a typo? Sorry, my bad.

During the ramp-up to the Super Bowl, many sports pundits were speaking of the 2007 Patriots as the greatest team ever. I will admit that I was one of those who was boasting about the greatness of my team. It was natural. I was proud, happy, and a cocky son of a bitch. Now, did I ever think during that time that the Patriots were the greatest team ever? Honestly? No. And not because the Patriots were not great. But "the greatest team ever" is too subjective of a question to be answered in such glib terms. To me it's just more hype, more talking by people paid to talk.

Of course, once the Patriots lost the Super Bowl (and bravo for calling that, Gobe, you bastard), all talk of "the greatest team ever" evaporated. Now "18-1" is the new mantra of the anti-Patriots fans. Does that loss diminish the greatness of the 2007 Patriots. Of course. But I don't think it diminishes it that much. Objectively speaking the 2007 Patriots were ONE OF the best teams ever. That is not and should not be in question. They broke a number of records on their way to an 18-1 season, which by the way is the best record in the NFL. Tom Brady and Randy Moss were an offensive duo the likes of which have not been seen since the days of Montana and Rice.

In the end, however, all anyone is going to be able to talk about is the loss in the Super Bowl. Is it significant? Of course. No team wants to lose the Super Bowl, especially if they were undefeated up until that point. But here's my answer to those who are gloating about the Patriots loss: call me when your team goes undefeated into the Super Bowl. I honestly doubt that we're going to see that again for at least another decade, maybe longer.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Who in the Jolinko crowd (or their partner) will be the next to get pregnant?
A: Bill, I'm going to put this question in the same category as the "who's the next to get married" question that you asked a year or so ago. As with that question, I'm going to punt. Both the decision to attempt to have children and the act of conception itself are very personal things in one's life. If I were to guess who is the next to get pregnant, I would be speculating about those very personal things in my friends' lives. I'm not going to do that. What you all do when you're not reading Jolinko is none of my business, and it would be wrong of me to speculate.

Sorry for not answering your question, Bill. Try again this week and I'll see what I can do for you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

28 - Answer(s)

Because we all need a bit of levity on a Monday morning, here is the latest batch of answers.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Do YOU think it's Cayuga's waters?
A: Before answering this I should explain the origin of this question in case anyone doesn’t know. The wording of the question comes from the first verse of one alternate set of lyrics to Cornell’s fight song, which are as follows:

High above Cayuga’s waters
There’s an awful smell
Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters
We say it’s Cornell!

While I was at Clarkson the only exposure I had to Ithaca was through Cornell. While attending hockey games in Lynah Rink, I was exposed to the smell of several thousand Cornell students. I don’t remember it being that bad, but then again I was more focused on playing my snare drum, responding to taunts, and trying to prevent the band from being kicked out of the arena (sometimes all at once).

In the years since I graduated from Clarkson I’ve visited Ithaca many times. My sister attended Ithaca College and I visited her several times while she was there. Charlie and Serena moved to Ithaca, and likewise I’ve visited them many times. My band has also played two shows in Ithaca. In all of those visits, however, I’ve only been close to Cayuga Lake a couple of times. And those times were more than enough to convince me that contrary to our musical assertions, it is in fact Cayuga’s waters. I suppose that if the entire population of Cornell were to forgo personal hygiene for an extended period of time they might compete with Cayuga. Personally I hope it never happens.

Q: Eric Democko - Which Digital SLR should I buy?: Nikon D40X or Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi?
A: Since this question involves the investment of a substantial amount of money, as well as a good deal of personal taste, I’m going to punt on this question. I bought my first and only digital camera in July of 2001, and I haven’t done any substantial research since then. I read articles and look occasionally, but I haven’t seriously considered a digital camera in over six years, so I’m really not qualified to answer.

But what I can do is help out a little. I’m sure you’ve been doing research on both of these cameras, but let me provide links from two of my favorite review sites:

Nikon D40X:
Steve's Digicams

Cannon Digital Rebel XTi:
Steve's Digicams

I’m sorry I can’t be of more help, Eric. Good luck in your decision, and let me know what you and Alicia end up getting.

Q: Eric Democko - What kind of bear is best?
A: Given the vague nature of this question I’m going to throw as wide a net as possible and discuss as many bears as I can think of in the next few minutes. Partly this is because I really don’t know what you mean by “bear”, but it’s mostly because I want to inject some humor into this entry.

Bear (animal): A bear is a large mammal, weighing between a few pounds and several hundred pounds. There are eight species of bear, living in both the northern and southern hemispheres. They are mostly omnivorous, surviving on a wide variety of foods depending on their habitat. Bears in North America tend to hibernate in the winter.

Bear (person): In the past this term was used to describe a large, strong man, as in “Macho Man Randy Savage is a bear of a man.” In more recent years, however, this term has come to mean a large, hairy homosexual man. The term is not meant to be derogatory, but rather a statement of pride. Now, as I’ve stated in past answers, I am not a homosexual man. However if I were I would not be attracted to large, hairy men. And no, I’m not going to further speculate as to what kind of men I’d be attracted to.

Huggy Bear: This is a character from the TV series Starsky and Hutch. He was their contact with the criminal element, and was usually seen dressed up like a pimp. In the recent movie re-make he was played by Snoop Dogg, who appeared to enjoy playing the role.

Yogi Bear: A fictional bear featured in a series of cartoons in the early 1960’s. He lived in Jellystone National Park, and spent his days plotting the theft of tourists’ picnic baskets. He had a friend named Boo Boo, and his nemesis was a park ranger named Ranger Smith.

Teddy Bear: A stuffed doll in the shape of an animal bear. These come in all shapes and sizes, and are a common possession of young children. A child will stereotypically take his or her teddy bear everywhere, and sleep cuddled next to it at night. I had one when I was little, and have it still to this day (though I don’t cuddle with it anymore). I also have several that have been given to me as gifts, and have given many in return.

So which of the kinds of bears I have mentioned is the best? That’s not easy to say. For you I would recommend a teddy bear, given the forthcoming addition to your family. For myself, I prefer the animal. Of the kinds of bears in the animal kingdom, I've always been a fan of the black bear since it is the mascot of the University of Maine, where my parents met. I also share the fascination that most people have with panda bears, both due to their scarcity and their uniqueness.

Q: Brad Pettengill - Speaking of cameras, how long unti Nikon releases a D80x?
A: Presuming that they do in fact release a D80x (and I haven’t been able to find any solid information that they have plans to), my guess is that they will do so by March of 2008. This is ONLY a guess. There is a lot of speculation on the internet about this subject, and no one seems to know anything solid. And that includes me.

Q: Karyn Graves - How should we all stay in touch next time Jolinko goes down and doesn't come back?
A: I actually wanted to answer this question before Jolinko did go down again. Unfortunately we were struck two weeks ago by the Greatly Irritating Jolinko Outage Experience (GIJOE) of 2008. Now that it’s back I think that this question deserves more attention than ever.

The first thing to do is ask what Jolinko is. Put simply, Jolinko is a combination social networking site and message board. It allows its users to create their own pages of personal information, and provides them with the ability to store pictures. The main feature of Jolinko, however, are its groups. Each group has an unlimited number of threads that can be created by any member at any time. These threads live forever, and move to the top of a group’s page when someone posts something to that thread.

So what could replace Jolinko? There are a large number of social-networking sites available today. The one that most Jolinko regulars (myself included) drifted to during the GIJOE was Facebook. The other popular choice these days is MySpace. I personally find Facebook preferable, but I’m still not a big fan of it. It feels too busy for my tastes, trying to do a little bit too much. But if Jolinko were to go down again, I think an official Jolinko Group could be formed, or maybe the “Random Thread Replacement” group could be expanded to handle the wide variety of Jolinko.

One thing I think would be interesting would be a group blog. We could create an account on blogspot that everyone would have access to, then post whatever we wanted. There are several benefits to this. First, it’s maintained by a large organization (Google), and thus isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Another benefit would be the ability to create posts with tags that span boundaries. Of course, this option does not provide the social networking side of things, which is one of the appeals of Jolinko. But it is an option, and one that I think might provide for some interesting writings.

Finally, this wouldn’t be a true “Ask Mitssob” answer without some silly responses too. Here are some off the top of my head:

1. We could post messages to each other in the form of letters to the editor in major newspapers. True, this would be slow, and there’s no guarantee of our letters getting posted, but it would be a fun way to keep in touch.
2. We could pool our resources and purchase a communications satellite and the necessary equipment to use it.
3. We could hang around outside of TV shows like “Today” and hold up signs to send each other messages.
4. Two words: Carrier Pigeons.
5. We could start our own telephone service, like the Psychic Hotline.

Thanks for your questions, everyone. See you all soon.