Monday, January 19, 2009

42 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - With all the talk about McNabb not knowing that there were ties in football, and now his team is advancing even though he might be perceived as stupid...what sport has the smartest athletes? Would Jeopardy: Professional Athlete tournament be interestingor embarassing?
A: Bill, as much as I love this question, I don't think I can give you an answer that's as scientific as you deserve. Researching this question has proven harder than I expected. I was hoping to find a list of average IQs for each major sport and just pass that on. Sadly such a list does not exist. Nor can I find any intelligence measurement of the general population that includes professional athletes. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, sure, but not athletes. Or musicians, for that matter.

So I'm going to have to tackle this myself. First, the counter-question that must be asked is what does "smart" mean? Does it mean general intelligence as measured by an IQ or does it mean smart as far as skill required to play the sport? Also, elite and snobby does not necessarily mean smart. I'll admit that my first thought was that golf had the smartest players. Then I realized that it was because of the air surrounding the game, not because of the players themselves.

With that out of the way, what follows is an off-the-top-of-my-head, no-good-reason ranking of the "major" sports:
1. Baseball - Players have to think about their actions and anticipate what others will do. Pitchers and hitters will study film of each other in an effort to gain an advantage.
2. Hockey - Hand-eye coordination like no other sport, plus memorizing plays.
3. Football - You have to memorize complicated playbooks, especially quarterbacks. Lots of time spent analyzing film and learning from it.
4. Basketball - Memorizing plays, but not as complicated as other sports. More about athleticism than intelligence.
5. Soccer - Running up and down a field and kicking a ball.

Like I said, this is hardly scientific. If you'd like me to dedicate more time to this then I will. I find the question fascinating, and I really think it does deserve an entire book. Or maybe a chapter in my book. We'll see.

As for your second question, I think that Jeopardy: Professional Athlete is a great idea. I would actually make it like a tournament. Baseball players one night, football players the next night, and so on. The winner of each round gets to proceed and finally a winner is decided. I would watch that. Especially if the answers were all sports related. That would be some entertaining television.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein -
1) Don't you think speeches such as Crichton's there and movies like Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" only add to the partisan nature of the argument and allowing either of them to profoundly influence your ideas is giving in to the partisan nature of the argument? Both seem to be at the far ends of each sides arguments.
2) Going back to where this started: how is adding solar panels to your house and reducing your "carbon footprint" not adapting to climate change and (trying to) doing something about it?
A: 1. When I say I was profoundly influenced by Michael Crichton's speech I mean that it changed the way that I thought about the issue. I don't see that as giving in to the partisan nature of the debate but rather opening up my mind to other ways of looking at the issue. Once I stopped reflexively believing in whatever the climate change proponents said I was able to start to see the issue in a whole new way. As I said in my last answer I stopped looking at causes and started looking at actions.

I disagree that both Crichton's speech and Al Gore's (and others') films are opposite ends of some kind of spectrum. To me that's engaging in a kind of equivalence between the arguments that misses the point. In the case of the debate about climate change there are scientific facts regarding the issue. Put another way, one side is going to be right and one side is going to be wrong. Will that matter? I don't know. I'll say it again: I see the partisan nature of this debate as the fault of the believers in climate change. Is this because I'm not a believer? Maybe.

2. As I said in my last answer there are many reasons that someone might choose to add solar panels to their house. Motivations and effects are not necessarily linked. Let me illustrate this with a related point. Let's say I trade in my SUV and buy a Chevy Aveo (or some similar small car). What is the effect of that decision? For one thing, I'll get better gas milage and thus spend less money on gas. For another, I'll be polluting less and thus my "carbon footprint" will be smaller. So why did I buy the smaller car? It's impossible to say.

Here's another example that is unrelated to the environment. Back in 1990 President George HW Bush signed a tax increase that included, among other things, a "Luxury Tax" on such things as yachts, private airplanes, and luxury cars. The motivation for the tax was to tax the rich and raise money for the government. The effect of the tax was that the rich bought less of the items being taxed, and thousands of jobs were lost in the industries that produced those goods. Was it President Bush's intention to destroy those jobs? Of course not. But that was the effect.

Similarly the effect of installing solar panels or other "green" home improvements might be to impact climate change (I personally don't believe it, but I'll concede the point for now). But that is not necessarily the motivation for the actions. I'll turn the question back around on you: does it matter what the the motivations for the actions are? I contend that it doesn't, and that we as a people shouldn't be concerned with it. But that's just my opinion, as always.

Q: James Lileks (via Twitter) - What does the guy whose job it is to bang on the drum all day want to do instead of work?
A: This question was not asked of me directly, but I saw it on twitter the other day and was so amused that I had to give my own answer. For those of you who don't know, James Lileks is a humorist who writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and is the editor of He's on par with Dave Barry for humor in my opinion, albeit less wacky than Dave.

Anyway, this is a good question. I think that a professional drummer might want to do any of a number of things all day:
- Work in an office (first suggested by Brett Gobe).
- Learn to play guitar/sing so he can have a chance to get laid.
- Bang on a different drum.

Ultimately it's unanswerable, but still very funny to ponder.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

41 - Answer(s)

Q: Adam Barnello - Why didn't you like The Big Lebowski?
A: I didn't say that I didn't like The Big Lebowski. I said that I didn't get it. I enjoyed the movie on a number of levels. The characters were well written and acted. The plot, while confusing at times, was neatly wrapped up by the end of the movie. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more.

But in the end I just didn't "get" it. I realize that the movie can be viewed as a psychological study of humanity. But I didn't see that. I saw a movie about a stoner slacker from the 60's and his two friends. The Dude certainly is an interesting character, but that's nothing special to me. His world and the wacky events of it make for an entertaining story. But I just don't get the obsession, the absolute cult following that this movie has generated. And until I get that, I probably won't "get" this movie.

Q: Brett Gobe - Yeah?
A: Yeah. Sorry, guys. I hate to disappoint you. Maybe someday you both can sit me down and explain it to me.

Q: Eric Democko - Who will be playing in the Super Bowl? And what time does your party start?
A: Right now the teams remaining in the playoffs are as follows:
AFC - Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC - Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles

Of those teams I think that the Ravens will beat out the Steelers and the Cardinals will beat down the Eagles. That means we'll have a Ravens/Eagles matchup in the Super Bowl. And I will be rooting for the Ravens with every fiber of my being due to my hatred of the Eagles.

To answer your other question, the third annual Mitssob Super Bowl Extravaganza begins at 5pm at Mitssob Estates. My address is 1079 Paul Road, Churchville, NY. I will begin a thread in the Rochester/Western NY section of Jolinko after this answer is posted to take suggestions for food, beverages and entertainment. Last year the taco bar went over fairly well and I'd like to see if I can top that this year. Hope to see you and the family at Casa de Mitssob for the game!

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - Why has Global Warming become a partisan political issue rather than a scientific one?
A: There is a lot to talk about in this answer, so please forgive the length. I will try and keep this as coherent and on-point as I can, but if I'm unclear about something and you'd like clarification then please ask followup questions. The topic is very complicated and very heated (forgive the pun) and I don't think one answer is going to cover it. I'd like the opportunity to continue the conversation.

My thinking on the subject of Global Warming was altered dramatically by reading a speech given by the late Michael Crichton in September of 2003. The text of the speech can be found here. The thesis offered is that Environmentalism (and by extension belief in Global Warming) is more of a religion than a scientific pursuit. I recommend reading the speech in its entirety; it had a profound impact on me, and it might have the same impact on you.

With that thesis in mind, I think that one reason it has become a partisan issue is that the people who believe in Global Warming treat those who do not as heretics. "The debate is over" has been stated numerous times by numerous champions of Global Warming (including Al Gore). When it comes to science debates are never over, especially when considering something so complex as the climate of the Earth. The science, quite frankly, is not settled.

The problem with this issue is that the people who believe in Global Warming have tied the issue to environmentalism as a whole. Therefore if someone is skeptical about Global Warming, they are viewed as anti-environment. And no one wants to be seen that way. After all, who wants to be FOR dirty water and dirty air? No one. The idea is stupid. But if you're someone who questions environmental policy or the validity of the theory of Global Warming, you're anti-environment and thus someone not worth debating. That has the effect of turning the issue from a scientific one, where facts can be discussed and evidence weighed, into a political issue where inconvenient facts are ignored if they don't fit into the larger narrative.

Here's a quick question for the Global Warming evangelists: What is the optimal temperature of the Earth? I don't have an answer, and neither to they. And that's the point. There isn't an answer. The Earth's climate is in constant change and has been from the beginning of the Earth's existence.

Adding to the partisan nature of the issue is that Global Warming are framed as a crisis. Since the 1970's Americans have been told that we have less than 10 years to save ourselves or else it will be too late. And they've been wrong. I see no reason to trust people like that. The scientists have been screaming bloody murder for decades and people are not listening as intently as they used to.

So why is it partisan? Because the people who champion the issue have made it partisan. I see no reason why it should be. The issue should be able to be discussed rationally, scientifically, without any prejudice. If the Earth is getting warmer or cooler, the question shouldn't be "What can we do to stop it?", but rather "What can we do ABOUT it?" The Earth's climate will continue to change regardless of what we do. Adapting to that change will enable our survival as a species, and it's something that we should focus on.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

40 - Answer(s)

Q: Brett Gobe - Are there any boxing matches on Boxing Day?
A: In case anyone doesn't know, Boxing Day is a public holiday in Canada, England, Australia and other countries. It almost always falls on December 26th but that is not always the case. It is roughly the equivalent of Black Friday in the United States in that stores reduce prices and hold sales to lure shoppers.

I checked the ESPN Boxing homepage on Boxing Day and did not see any boxing matches here in the US or anywhere else. There were cricket and soccer matches, but no boxing. I think that having a boxing day boxing match is actually a good idea. Someone could probably make a little money on the event if they put one together.

Q: Jarsh Beckstein - When is it when people are talking green updates to their homes all they think of is the "payoff"? What about the fact that you are producing your own power rather than buying it from the electric company? Or even reducing your (gasp) carbon footprint?!? Chances are a system is about the same as your electric bill per month with. Current incentives (NYS currently has some of the best) and financing, especially of you can incorporate the cost into your mortgage.
A: Since I can't speak on behalf of the human race, or even of the Jolinko community at large, I'm going to answer this question entirely from my point of view. I am interested in one day installing one of these systems in my own house and so I will consider your question with my own interests and thoughts in mind. Hopefully what follows will answer your question.

As I interpret your question, you're wondering why people are interested in the monetary payoff of installing so-called green technology rather than other considerations. My initial answer is that money is the most important factor in the decision, which is why people are interested. We live in a capitalistic society. We work so that we can earn money that we then spend on goods and services. One of these services is electricity. Now, most people are interested in saving money. They shop for the best phone plans, clip coupons for groceries, and wait for sales on things that they want to buy. Along those lines, if one reduces one's need for electricity then one will pay less for it. That is one incentive to reduce power usage, and one that I practice in my own life. With the addition of some solar cells or a wind turbine to one's house one can generate electricity and further reduce their need to purchase power from someone else. Since these systems cost a good deal of money, it's natural to consider how long it would take to pay for the installation of the system with the savings in one's electrical bill. If someone isn't planning on living in their house for very long, then they may not want to pay the money to install a system that they won't get the full benefit from.

As to your larger point, I'll admit that I hadn't fully considered the issue until you asked. Money was the most important factor to me, but as I thought about it other factors rose in importance. The fact that by installing one of these systems I'd be generating my own electricity and thus be more self-sufficient than if I were relying entirely on the power company was very appealing to my libertarian instincts. I don't like to be dependent on anyone for my well being, or that of my family when that time comes. That independence can be considered a "payoff" in its own right, a benefit weighed against the cost of installing the system. I would fall into that category. I'd seriously consider installing a system that was capable of providing most of the power to my house if for no other reason than I wouldn't have to depend on RG&E for my electricity.

You mentioned reducing one's "carbon footprint" as an incentive to installing one of these systems. Because I do not believe that man contributes significantly to global warming/climate change/environmental crisis du jour, reducing my carbon footprint is not something that I think about. Does this mean that I go around recklessly dumping garbage in the streets and polluting whenever I feel the need? Of course not. I do things that make sense to me such as recycling and being responsible with the care of my house and my car so that I do not cause more pollution than necessary. But I don't believe that reducing my carbon footprint is a virtue. I find the pursuit quite silly in fact. I look at it as a form of penance to repent for a sin against nature. If you disagree then that's your prerogative, and if that desire to reduce your carbon footprint leads you to install a power generation system then I have no objection. As I've said in previous answers I'm a live-and-let-live kind of guy. "Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose" is a euphemism that I try and live by. But that means that I believe in liberty, which in turn means that I believe that people should be free to pursue whatever makes them happy without my interference. Want to install solar panels? Great, good for you. Want to mandate that for everyone? Now you're interfering with my freedom.

So what's the conclusion to draw here? I would say that the "payoff" that you speak of does in fact constitute more than just money. Money is the most important factor to most people, as it is to me, but other factors do have an impact. It's up to each person to decide what factors are most important to them and to make decisions based on those decisions.