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.

Friday, January 4, 2008

27 - Answer(s)

It’s been a long October. And November. And December. Here are the much-delayed answers to the last round of “Ask Mitssob”.

Q: Eric Democko - How will the Sabres do this year after letting Briere and Drury go?
A: I was very unhappy as I watched Briere and Drury leave the Sabres during the offseason. Briere was one of the great leaders on the team, and I think he’ll be missed the most from a team perspective. I’ll miss Chris Drury more, though, due to how emphatically announcer Rick Jennerett would yell his name after he scored a goal. “Chris DruuuUUUUUuuury!” He did it so often that fans actually spelled out “Druuuuuury” on the wall behind the rafter seats at HSBC arena.

But to answer your question, I think the Sabres will do well this year. So far they’re not living up to my expectations, however. It took them far too long to get above .500, but now that they are they look fairly strong. The outdoor game they played this past weekend was both a good exhibition for the NHL and a good hockey game in general. After the initial excitement they seemed to calm down and play a very steady game. We’ll just have to keep watching to see how they do as the season moves on.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Will the Pats go undefeated this season?
A: Because so much time has gone by since this question was asked, I think it’s only fair to include my original thoughts (written right before the Indy game):

“Yes. No doubt. Now, I’m not very good at sports prognostication (as evidenced by my baseball picks), but I have supreme confidence in this Patriots squad. Tom Brady has a squadron of the best receivers he’s ever had to work with, lead by a reborn Randy Moss. Bill Belicheck is without question the best coach in the league right now, as evidenced by the methodical destruction of every team they’ve faced this season. I don’t think another team in this league can compete with the Patriots, and yes, I’m including the Indianppolis Mannings in this discussion. This Sunday’s game will be the only game that has the possibility of being close, and I still think that the Pats will win by 21 points. The Patriots are out for blood this season, and they’re going to get it. 19-0, folks. 19-0.”

Now, I was wrong about the score of that game, but I’m right so far. The Patriots have officially gone undefeated in the regular season, something that hasn’t been done since 1972. This is an amazing feat, but unfortunately to many people it won’t mean anything unless they continue to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. I’m quite worried about this prospect. After rampaging through the league through the first half of the season, the Pats have returned to their old ways. They do just barely enough to win games, which is maddeningly frustrating.

But in the end I still think the Pats will go 19-0. As always, any money lost by betting based on my analysis is your own fault.

Q: Adam Barnello - I still want to know. Blu Ray or HDDVD?
A: First, let me hit you guys with three Wikipedia sites to get you all the background that you need.

- BlueRay
- Comparison

In my mind the question can be answered from a number of different angles. Blu-Ray has an edge on the technical side, beating HD-DVD in areas like maximum bitrates and storage capacity. For normal users these differences are fairly minor, however. I suppose that if you want the “best” format then you should choose Blu-Ray. Unless you have top-of-the-line video and audio equipment, though, I doubt you’ll notice the differences.

The second consideration is the content that one wants to watch. There is a roughly even split in the big distribution companies between the two formats. For example, the TV series Lost is available on Blu-Ray, while Heroes is available in HD-DVD. If there are movies that you are just dying to see in HD, then that would be one way to make the choice.

One more factor in this equation is the user’s choice of gaming platforms. If you currently own an Xbox360 you can purchase an HD-DVD player add-on. Future versions of the Xbox360 will have the player built in. Sony included Blu-Ray in its Playstation 3 platform. Personally, I’m going to purchase a Playstation 3 when my Playstation 2 goes to that big junk heap in the sky. Therefore I’m already considering Blu-Ray as my HD format of choice.

Looking ahead, I think that the ultimate answer to this question is “yes.” Initially the wisdom was that one format would win and one would lose, but as time goes on that seems less and less likely to me. This represents a key difference between the VHS and BetaMax format war of the 80’s. Those two formats were fundamentally incompatible due to the physical differences in tapes, in addition to any other technical differences in the formats. Because of that consumers were forced to choose permanently between the two, and VHS ended up winning. With this format war it’s different. Both formats use the same sized disc, with the differences coming in the encoding of data. Because of that it’s very possible to have a player that does both. In fact, such players are already under development.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your decision.

Q: Joe Zaffarano - What's the best way to prevent blisters from drumming?
A: My favorite method is to wrap a vulnerable area with a fabric band-aid. I specifically use fabric because it feels more natural when drumming than the plastic variety. When I played in the pep band and felt a blister forming I would use electrical tape, and while it wasn’t comfortable, it did the job. To increase my comfort I would often put a small piece of a napkin over the vulnerable area, then tape over that.

A final emergency method for preventing blisters is to change the way that you hold the sticks. During a gig this summer I felt a blister forming on my right index finger in the middle of the set. I didn’t have any band-aids or tape, and even if I had I couldn’t stop for long enough to wrap my fingers. So I changed the way I held the stick in my right hand. Rather than holding the stick between my index finger and thumb, I put it between my index and middle fingers and used my thumb to steady it.

The last way I can think of is to wear gloves. I have never worn gloves while drumming, so I can’t say how well it works. I suppose it would work pretty well, though. You’re removing the primary cause of the blister, namely the stick rubbing against the skin directly. On the other hand you’re losing some of the feel of the stick when you do that.