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.