Sunday, October 10, 2010

Favorite Moments

What follows is the equivalent of a clips show of Ask Mitssob. I came up with a few categories of my favorite questions/answers, and then did a "Top 11" list to wrap it up. So without further adieu...

Busiest Year: 2009. 35 sets of answers takes the prize. I was newly single and Ask Mitssob helped distract me from what turned out to be a pretty lousy year.

Longest Answer: The Hunt for Red October vs. Crimson Tide. I loved every part of answering this question, from coming up with the categories to watching the movies and making notes to laughing out loud at some of the conclusions. My personal favorite revelation from the movies was the total lack of any female involvement.

Shortest Answer: On June 25, 2008 Gobe asked, "Can you cite your sources?" I didn't feel like getting into a long discussion so I just answered with "Yes." Which is true, I can (and often do) cite my sources.

Best Non-Question Question: Eric Carney's rambling incoherence about boxed wine. I still laugh when I read it. It has nothing to do with anything. Much like Carney himself.

Best Non-Answer Answer: Over the years I enjoyed not answering questions as much as I enjoyed answering them. My personal favorite came earlier this year on March 24, 2010 and is printed below in its entirety:
Q: Rani - On the topic of fire ... How does a person spontaneously combust?
A: By being not on fire one moment and being on fire the next.

Technically correct and completely unhelpful.

"Um Tim, you missed the reference there": On at least two occasions people asked me questions that flew right over my head. A couple examples are printed below.
- January 28, 2008: Eric Democko - What kind of bear is best? - This is from the hit NBC show "The Office" and because I don't watch it I didn't get the reference. I enjoyed answering the question in my ignorance, though.
- September 7, 2009: Jesse - what's the difference between peanut butter and jam? - This is from a joke that I won't bother repeating here, but needless to say I hadn't heard it before I answered the question.

Favorite Questioner: A tie between Bill Jeffers and Karyn Graves. Between the two of them I was always guaranteed a question to educate, amuse, and enlighten. Early on Bill asked a question about theoretical physics one week, then a question about breasts the next. Karyn always asked a question that made me think, do research, or both. Thanks to her I learned a few things about owning a home before I went out and bought one.

Best All Around Episode: June 25, 2008. Not to toot my own horn here but I hit the ground running on all cylinders with this episode.

Top 11 Questions/Answers: These were the answers I felt captured the spirit of what I was trying to do here. They were funny, maybe a little informative, but mostly they just made me laugh. They are printed below in chronological order.

August 29, 2006: Brett Gobe - Why does the cheese stand alone? - It wasn't the first rhetorical/silly question but it was the first that I really dove into.

10. January 12, 2007: Lisa Jeffers - Is Santa Real? - I enjoyed tackling this traditional question from multiple angles.

April 17, 2007: Jennifer Walden - In a mascot brawl - Who would win, the UMASS Minuteman, or the UMaine Bear? - Classic Ask Mitssob fare. Silly, funny, and a little informative. But only a little.

January 28, 2008: Bill Jeffers - Do YOU think it's Cayuga's waters? - I still think it's Cayuga's waters. No question. Move on.

October 2, 2008: 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 very informative question and an equally interesting answer.

November 2, 2008: 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. - I know that most of my friends and readers don't share my political views so I appreciated the chance to do some writing on the subject just before the 2008 election. I don't know if I impacted anyone's decisions but I enjoyed writing the answer.

May 11, 2009: Bill Jeffers - Is there anything bacon can't do? I mean I'm sure it could even cure this silly swine flu in the proper dosage. - A surprisingly fun answer for the simple fact that when I googled "bacon" the first thing that came up was the bacon bra. With a start like that you know it's going to be an entertaining answer.

June 21, 2009: Nate - Where do babies come from? - A chance to laugh at an inappropriate story with a hilarious punchline.

August 16, 2009: Jesse - are puppies immune to bullets? - Possibly the single most disturbing question in Ask Mitssob history.

December 31, 2009: Matt - Since I'm both lazy and fed up with the pop-culture-obsessed society we are members of, I haven't really been following the Tiger Woods story. All I know is that he crashed his car after possibly being beaten up by his wife because he cheated on her with some skank, but it seems like there might be more details of the story that I haven't paid attention to. Could you give me/us a synopsis of what's been happening with golf's golden boy? - I'd like to think that if you knew nothing about the Tiger Woods Fiasco of 2009/2010 when you started reading my answer, then you knew a little less than nothing at the end.

July 23, 2010 - Jacob - Is The Room really a black comedy or did Tommy wiseau just fail miserably at making a romance drama? - I will never forget sitting through that movie. Having to do that made this the single most painful answer in Ask Mitssob history. By a long shot.

That concludes this little retrospective. Thanks for joining me. Next up, the answers to the (probably) final round of "Ask Mitssob".

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

65 - Answers

[Editor's Note: Last Sunday afternoon I was woken up from a nap by the sound of a large bundle of papers hitting my front door. I stumbled out in time to see Tim's car pulling away and to hear him call, "So long, sucker!" Intrigued I picked up the bundle of papers. It contained the usual collection of poorly-written and rambling answers, but this time there was a letter on top adressed to me. Well, letter is a bit of a stretch. Here's what it said:

I quit.

I called him up that night and he told me that his decision was final. So it's official: the long-running and much beloved "Ask Mitssob" is going away. Some of you may remember Tim going on hiatus last year. This time I get the feeling that it's going to be a bit before he even thinks about picking this up again. He's got some issues he needs to work through and needs to take some time to get his life in order. I've tried counseling him but frankly that man needs more help than I can give.

Before we hung up I told him the only way I'd let him out of his contract is if he did one more, and he's agreed to do so. So this is it, folks. The penultimate "Ask Mitssob." Will he come out of retirement sometime in the future like that football player everyone talks about every offseason? Honestly? I couldn't say one way or the other. But I know he's had a great time doing this over the past 4 years and he might get bitten by the bug again one day. And when that day comes I'll be ready to edit once again.

Q: Sarah - How the heck are the Australians??
A: They're fantastic, thanks for asking. They even say hi. Well not really, but I'm sure if I had asked they would have said a hearty "g'day" to you, Sarah.

I recently returned from a two week trip to the Land Down Under. I spent a day in Sydney, a week in Canberra for work and then took a week of vacation, splitting my time between Melbourne and Sydney. It was a fantastic trip, one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Unlike my last trip there I took lots of notes and will be compiling them into a more complete journal of the experience. In the meantime I give you these random notes from my time in country.

- Unlike my first trip I had to actually drive for a while, and since they drive on the left down there it was a little unsettling. Fortunately after a couple of kilometers I felt a lot better. You just have to think everything through. Left is good, look right, left is good, look right, left is good...
- It took me a bit to get used to Australia slang. For example, equipment is "hired", not "rented." "G'day", "How ya goin'?", and "No worries" quickly became part of my lexicon while down there. We really are two people separated by a common language.
- It took me about a day to get adjusted to the time difference on the way out (+14 hours for those of you keeping track at home). I left Rochester at 3:30pm on Thursday, July 29 and arrived in Sydney at 6:30am on Saturday, July 31. I slept great on the 15 hour leg from LA to Sydney and managed to get through the whole day Saturday including an AFL game that night (more on that in a minute). By the second day I was pretty much adjusted. Hooray!
- The return trip was another matter. I left Sydney at 9:30am on Saturday, August 14 and landed in LA at 6:30am on Saturday, August 14. I got about an hour of sleep on the Sydney to LA leg which doomed me for the rest of the trip. I eventually got back to Rochester at 6pm that day, beaten down and exhausted but wide awake. My body finally gave out at around 11pm and I slept fine for about 8 hours but when I woke up I definitely felt odd. The next night I didn't sleep at all. Not even a few minutes. I survived by drinking huge amounts of coffee and sugar-free energy drinks, and then took a dose of sleeping pills and a shot of vodka that night to induce sleep. It took about a week for me to feel close to normal again, which made it the worst jet lag I've ever experienced.
- Australian Rules Football is an experience not to be missed by any visitor to the land down under. "Footy" as it is referred to by the locals is a unique combination of soccer, American football, and rugby. There's always something going on so it's very entertaining to watch, but Mike (my coworker) and I were dumbstruck for about the first five minutes of the game trying to figure out the rules. We eventually figured out some of the scoring rules (6 points for a ball between the middle stakes, one point for a ball between the outer stakes) but largely it was a mystery. For more information click here for the Wikipedia page.
- One thing I did love about the AFL game was the involvement of the refs. At the start of the quarters and after scoring there's a jump ball, which the ref initiates by throwing the ball as hard as he can into the ground and letting it bounce straight up. When the ball goes out of bounds the ref will collect it, stand with his back to the field of play, and toss it over his head like a bride tossing a bouquet. I am highly amused by this and think more sports should use it.
- Melbourne is basically a cross between London and San Francisco. My first day there had great weather and the next two were grey and rainy. The architecture was older and there was a very European cafe culture feel to the place. I really liked it, especially walking around Federation Square and taking the trolleys.
- Sydney is a fairly modern city with newly renovated sections, big buildings, and of course the famous Opera House and Harbor Bridge. The climate was good there (mid to high 60's and clear skies) and I loved walking around various points of the harbor. I walked across the harbor bridge, took tons of pictures, and ate some fantastic food.

So that was my Australia trip. I'd love to go back sometime and since we're doing quite a bit of business there I may get a chance in the future.

Q: Banjo - Do the recently graduated (i.e. from college) qualify to draw unemployment while searching for a job in their field of study?
A: I was all set to give a detailed and well-researched answer to this question when I was pre-empted by a member of the Jolinko community. At first I was angry but then, well, I read the answer and it was quite good. Here it is:

From the NYS Department of Labor:

A: To qualify for benefits:

You must have worked and been paid wages for employment in at least two calendar quarters in your base period,
You must have been paid at least $1600 in wages in one of the calendar quarters in your base period,
The total wages paid to you in your base period must be one and one-half times your high quarter wages. The amount of high quarter earnings used to determine if you meet this requirement will not be greater than $8,910. Earnings in the other base period quarters must total at least one-half of $8,910, or $4,455.

A: The unemployment insurance program provides benefits to individuals who have sufficient employment to establish a claim, have lost employment through no fault of their own, are ready, willing and able to work and are actively seeking work. If you have worked in New York State within the last eighteen months, you have the right to file a claim for benefits.

to explain this more briefly...

- you have to have been working for at least 6 consecutive months (2 quarters.)
- you have to have made at least $1600 in wages during one quarter (you surely meet this requirement.)
- if you made less than $8,910 during a 3-month period, then you need to have made at least half that during the other 3-month period (to prevent people from working full time for three months, then slacking off and filing for unemployment benefits.) this shouldnt apply to you.
- you must have lost employment due to no fault of your own. you cant be fired or quit, but you can be laid off.

you likely meet all of the criteria, but (as far as i know) havent been employed for 6 consecutive months so you might be out of luck.

EDIT: whoops, there we go again answering questions meant for mitssob to answer.

Believe me, I appreciate it. Thanks, Zane.

Q: Bridget - Are there no workhouses? No prisons? Perhaps if they wish to die, they should do so, and decrease the surplus population.

^^^^^Name the movie ^^^^^^

A: I'm sorry, your question must be in the form of, um, a question. But I'll give you a pass this time. The movie is "A Christmas Carol", based on the book by Charles Dickens of the same title. My personal favorite rendition is A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Q: Barn - Where is it then?
A: Where is what? For the love of God man, where is what?

Q: Phil - What teams will win each of baseballs 6 divisions?
A: Once again it's my favorite time of the baseball season. That time when someone asks me who's going to win the divisions and I make my guesses and then get laughed at for being a complete idiot. This year promises to be the same, trust me.

AL East: NY Yankees - They'll hold off the Rays and the Sox (who won't make the playoffs).
AL Central: Minnesota Twins - They're up 4.5 on the White Sox at the time of this writing and this year they won't piss that away.
AL West: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - My only real long-shot. I don't trust the Texas Rangers at this point and think the Angels will stage a great comeback. Maybe.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies - The Braves will choke and Philly will slide in.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals - Ditto for the Reds.
NL West: San Diego Padres - Tim Lincecum cannot save the Giants, so it's the Padres.

As I say every time I'm asked to predict anything, any money lost by using my picks is not my responsibility.

Q: Michaele-Lynne - Are there any PsyD programs for counseling or industrial/organizational psychology in the Philadelphia/Tri-state area? How about a masters degree in Counseling? I feel like I've exhausted the search engines...I fully do not expect you to actually do this research for me, however, I encourage you to learn up on I/O Psych!
A: Well since I'm going to likely use the same search engines as you I probably won't find anything you didn't, but I'll try.

The site I came across first is and found this site as a result of a search for organizational psychology. There was also a separate page for General Organizational Psycholog found here. I didn't see any schools in the tri-state area but I may have missed one so you may want to dig around there a bit. Another site to check out is, which has a section for clinical-psychology found here.

Thanks for the encouragement to study psychology, by the way. The subject of psychology is one I've never been all that interested in. As I continue to develop as a writer, however, I think there's a need for at least a basic education.

Q: Bridget - How would you suggest one go about preparing now (as a recent college grad) for everything monetary in my future, i.e. financing for a home, paying off loans, bills, and a wedding that's in about a year?
A: Below are some of my off-the-cuff thoughts about the subject. Bear in mind that I'm a pretty financially responsible guy but I don't have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. I know nothing about weddings, for example, so I'll defer to the Jolinko community responses (posted at the end of the answer).

- Pay off your debts as soon as possible. They're a financial drain and the sooner you pay them off the better. I'd divert as much as you can to paying them off early, even at the expense of setting money aside for things like a house. The sooner the loans are paid off, the sooner you can divert more of your income to the things you want to buy.

- If your or your future husband's work provides a 401k then contribute as much as possible. My company matches up to 6% and I go above that to 12%. You will not miss the extra few bucks every paycheck and over time it adds up. A lot.

- Get a Roth IRA. It's basically a savings vehicle that you can contribute up to $5000 per year to. You can use it for stocks, bonds, cash, or whatever and it's not taxed when you withdraw when you retire. If you need to get to the money in an emergency (say when you decide to divorce Banjo) you can do so and pay a fee. In fact, I think you can actually make a one-time withdrawal for a down-payment for a house and it's not taxed, but I have to check on that. My company uses Fidelity for its 401k so I set up a mutual fund and a Roth IRA separately from that using them.

- Honestly a lot of this comes down to organization. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't balanced my checkbook in years but that doesn't mean I'm totally disorganized. To help keep myself organized I've settled on a web application called It is basically my financial clearing house, a place where I keep all my accounts up to date. You can track spending, savings, and get an up-to-the-minute look at your personal financial situation.

- To encourage savings I use automatic withdrawals from my checking account to other accounts. If the money's not in my checking account then it's harder for me to spend it. At least that's the theory.

- For those of you with a mortgage here's a novel idea from the good people at If your mortgage provider permits it then you should pay half the amount of your mortgage with every paycheck (assuming a 2-week schedule). You end up making one extra payment each year, which saves lots of money in interest over time. Unfortunately my mortgage provider (ESL Federal Credit Union) doesn't make it easy to automatically set that up but I was still able to modify this method for my own situation. When I bought my home I did what is known as an 80-10-10 mortgage. I put down 10%, and borrowed 10% using a home equity line of credit for 15 years. Initially I paid double that every month but now what I do is pay the full amount every month plus half every two weeks. It's automatic and it'll help me pay it off a lot faster.

- Since my mortgage provider is not my normal bank I am able to use this for yet another purpose. With every paycheck I transfer half the value of my mortgage to a savings account with the credit union. Instead of making extra payments, though, I simply save the money. I use it as another savings vessel.

- The most important thing other than organization is to live within your means. It sounds like common sense but it's amazing how easily people can get in financial trouble.

And now, the Jolinko community sounds off.

BillF: I would suggest putting off buying a home for a few years. Homes are much more expensive than just a mortgage payment. You are in charge of fixing leaky faucets and broken windows. You need to buy things like yard equipment, and you have to worry about things like appliances breaking down. You also have to worry about the economy and whether or not you will find yourself laid off because you have no seniority in a struggling company. Or whether you or Banjo get a great job offer somewhere else. You don't want to tie yourself down to a house so early. I think it's a very very wise decision to wait and see where your life is headed, how much disposable income you need to live comfortably (meaning your quality of life is good, nobody wants to be house poor and feel like they can't do anything they would like to do or purchase that awesome new TV because their mortgage payment is too much)

Zane: Oh i'm definitely waiting for a home for a while. As much as I'd just love to go house hunting because I'm a girl and girls like that stuff, I'm gonna hold off for a while on that one. I'm mostly concerned about affording my wedding. I've got $9,000 aside now, but that's saved for the actual ceremony and not the honeymoon yet.

BillF: I can't give you much advice on that front because
1) I'm not married
2) Weddings are an expenditure I don't think is worth it (but I am a man)
You look like you're off to a good start with the money you've set aside though. But as for paying off loans and bills. The first step is to consolidate your loans, that will help a bunch. Also, your lending company should be able to provide you with a payment schedule so you know exactly what to expect. Here's what kind of bills you can expect to budget for:

Utilities (Electricity, heat, hot water)
Insurance (Auto, Renter's)

The biggest thing is to figure out your net income and not your gross income and base all your decisions off of that. I know way too many people who think that because their salary is X that's how much they actually make. Just take how much you take home a month, multiply it by 12 and figure out your necessity spending. Then you know how much extra you have a month to spend on extra curriculars or how long it will take you to save for your next big purchase. There really is no trick or secret. But make sure you can use your money in ways that make you happy. I work with a few guys who pinch every penny and then just leave it sitting in their savings account. And they will never, ever touch it. I'll never understand hording money. It's of no value if it won't ever be used.

Banjo: I'm a big believer in retirement savings. Using the "rule of 7s" as is common in financial circles (in an average market, your investment doubles every 7 years), if you put aside a pool of money as you begin working, and continue to work for 35 years (5 iterations of 7, however some work for 40-45 years), theoretically your initial pool will be 32 times the value when you withdraw that it was when you deposited it. I intend to retire handsomely, with a fast car... and a shit ton of banjos.

Jarsh: 9k?! Our wedding was around 7k and a lot of the ppl on here could say it was pretty great

BillJ: I would agree that it was a good time. It sounds like Bridget's family if more along the lines of ourses', and our reception alone was more than 9k....but we (they) were in a position to fund that. We also did not turn away dates (not a dig, just a fact). I know you were limited by the size of the location, but that's just it: Families who dream of their "only daughter's only wedding" (quote from my father-in-law when speaking to the baker about the blackish flowers on the cake) are willing, able, and sometimes even insist on paying for things to be perfect. That doesn't even touch on the stories I heard working in the wedding business for over a year. Lisa still gets them with calligraphy business. Some people are just crazy about their wedding day. Anyway, weddings are definitely what you make of them. And if you're more on the "traditional" side like she's talking about, you're spending $15-20,000 easy.

BillJ: This ain't your daddy's average market. That said, things always have a way of stabilizing. Houses are a great investment if you planning on staying in one place for a lot of years...ideally longer than your mortgage. It's also better if you are buying in a market that has steady, gradual property value growth. If you're in a market that is booming, it will bust soon enough. You're looking in the greater Albany area, so until we get a strongly-conservative governor (not just republican, see Pataki) and they shrink government a whole bunch, I don't see Albany's bubble bursting any time soon. If you heading further south, like anywhere near Pughkeepsie, be careful. The closer you get to NYC, the screwier things get. As for other investing, that's all about the long haul as well. Start with your 401k. Invest at the maximum level that your company will match all or part of (I don't know of anyone matching 100%, but whatever) because this is free money. Aside from that, pay your freaking bills. Get rid of all credit card debt, installment loans, and get to work on any student loans that you have. Sure, they are low interest, so do them last, but they still have interest and it will get you more buying power (and probably lower interest rates) in the future. If you have paid ALL of your bills and still have money to play with, call me, I have some things I can sell you. But seriously, if you're bill-less, build up a cushion of $5-10,000 for oops expenses. Beyond that, live a little, you're going to die next week in a firey car crash. PS-my opinion based on my experiences in life and working in the financial services industry. Many will disagree, especially about the house being a good investment. Like BillF said, there are things you'll need to fix. That might be your tipping point-if you like fixing things, owning is awesome. If you don't, you'll want to sell the first time the toilet won't shut up.

BillJ: An IRA acts similarly to a 401k. The Roth variety is the best (most tax benefits). A minimum or 3 to 4 percent of your income is a good starting point, 5-10 is good if you can. Sorry Tim, I'm hogging.

Zane: you can likely invest through the bank you already do business with. its usually free, or affordable, in terms of fees and most all banks offer a variety of investments from stock and bonds, to mutual funds and other more sophisticated investments. they'll also sit down and help you figure out what you should invest in to meet your financial goals (making quick money, steady income for retirement, etc.)

BillF: I stay out of the market as much as I can. It's too fickle in my opinion. Though now is a pretty good time to invest. I have a 401k that I put 6% in but I've chosen to invest in Real Estate rather than Stock or Debt (Bonds).

Heyotter: Pick 4-6 things to invest your 401k into (and not just the same 4-6 kinds of mutual funds). Any more than that and you've got too much to keep track of. Any less and you aren't diversified enough. Almost doesn't matter what you invest in, they all give shitty returns these days. Anyone trying to tell you their investment is better than everyone else's is just full of shit and trying to get commission. Keep investing your whole life. I don't want to bail your ass out.

Banjo: If I continue to work for the state, I'll have a hefty pension on top of my other savings. Furthermore, I only have to put into the retirement system for 10 years to draw full benefits once I retire (this is not common, I got in the system before they added a new "tier" which requires you put in for your entire time at the state).

Todd86: Anyway, weddings are definitely what you make of them. And if you're more on the "traditional" side like she's talking about, you're spending $15-20,000 easy. Carla and I got married in 1999 in Potsdam and it cost us about $12k, and it wasn't what I would call particularly lavish. A lot depends on location. If we got married in NYC it would have easily cost us 3x that. Edit - come to think of it, we did have an open bar the entire reception, and Carla's sorority was there in full force.

Q: BillJ - Every time I load the animated gif thread my router poops. Short of buying a new router, anything I can do to stop that?
A: More fiber.

Seriously? Check to see that your router is in a place that gets proper ventilation and is not overheating. Next you can open up the administrator settings and check on the security settings to see if any ports are blocked or if anything looks out of whack.

If all else fails buy a new router. They're fairly cheap and honestly it's not worth the time or money to try and debug one that's really flaky. Better to just move on.

Q: karyn - Are the numbers on a baseball field fence the distance from home to the bottom of the fence or top? How do they determine how long a homerun was if it lands in the seats? Is it distance to the seat or to ground level where it would have landed if the seats weren't there?
A: First, the numbers on a baseball field fence are the distances from the tip of home plate to the bottom of the fence (thanks to Second the folks at answer your home run distance question far better than I could. In short the distance is to ground level there ball would have hit if the seats weren't there. It's a bit of guesswork based on where the ball lands and what kind of home run it is (line drive, normal, or towering).

Friday, July 23, 2010

64 - Answers

Q: Jacob - How long will it be before Steve Jobs initiates kill mode on every apple product, turning each one into a pocket sized nuke and obliterating the human race to make way for a society of steve jobs (both male and female) clones?
A: Since I'm writing this answer with an iPhone 4 in my pocket (and yes, I'm also happy to see you) I hope that your theory is wrong. The sheer number of Apple products in the marketplace right now means that if Apple did have some sort of "kill switch" in their iPods, iPads, iMacs and iPhones they could cause considerable damage. The size of the explosive device would obviously play into how much damage. I do not believe that "pocket sized nukes" exist, so I'm not too worried. If you packed an iMac full of C4, though, I'm sure it would make a hell of a bang.

On a random note, when I was in middle school a friend of mine had a similar theory about Lee Iaococca and the wildly successful Chrysler family of minivans. It was his theory that Lee Iacococa had planted a small explosive device into every minivan sold (and remember that at the time, Chrystler was pretty much the only game in town when it came to minivans) and would one day detonate them to destroy the country. I find it funny that someone else has come up with that same theory over 15 years later.

Q: Jacob - Also, shouldn't you know the answer to your own question of "any questions"
A: I should, but there's always the risk that no one will ask any questions in a particular episode. On a couple of occasions I've only gotten one question which made for a very short week.

Q: Banjo - If you were writing a guidebook to being the Business Manager for the Clarkson Pep Band, what sort of advice might you give for future managers?
A: Great question. I served as business manager for the Pep Band for the 1999/2000 season and I'd like to think I didn't screw it up too badly. The following are my random thoughts about what I would tell young whippersnappers who yearn to be business managers for the Clarkson Pep Band.

1. Get one or two credit cards, preferably ones that provide some form of reward, and use those to book the travel expenses. You get reimbursed by the university and build up your credit rating and earn rewards at the same time.
2. Keep an eye out during the year for your successor. Get them to sit at the table with you as you peddle merchandise before games and as you take tickets at the Barben rooms. If you decide that they're not right then move on to the next candidate.
3. Don't use Suggestion #2 only to hook up with your fellow bandies. (Notice I said "only". If they're cute and competent then have at it!)
4. Don't bail the President out if s/he is arrested for public indecency.
5. Worry too much about your first bus trip. Print directions for the bus driver, double-check all hotel reservations, and watch traffic reports on where you're going.
6. Don't worry so much about the next trip.
7. Always be the least drunk person on the eBoard. In fact, it's best if you are sober during games and during the majority of time spent on road trips. Seriously. I'm not kidding.
8. Never ever EVER lose track of the envelope of cash. I mean not now, not ever, never.
9. See #8.

I would encourage other past business managers to chime in here with their thoughts and suggestions. It's a very rewarding experience and one that I highly recommend.

Q: Jon Otter - What ever happened to Caswell?
A: He and his lovely wife Heather live up in Massena, NY. I have seen the two of them at a couple of Clarkson Pep Band Reunion weekends over the years. They seem very happy and I hope that they're doing well.

Q: Vanessa - Will Lindsey Lohan ever realize shes a huge fuckup?
A: Try as I might I haven't been able to dig up any information about Lindsey Lohan. To my mind that means she can't be that much of a fuckup. Every time I search I keep getting redirected to some Hollywood starlet-gone-wrong named Lindsay Lohan. I presume that this person must be interesting because there are literally thousands of news stories about her.

I jest, of course. I know that you're asking about the aforementioned starlet-gone-wrong. So let's dig in. This is a complex social and societal question, one that I'm not even remotely qualified to answer for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my total and utter lack of interest. Let me be perfectly clear in the way that Ask Mitssob so rarely is:


But this feature is all about me looking into things for the benefit of my readers so let me boil this down to the basics in one horrible run-on sentence: She's a girl who used to model and now she acts and sings and when she's not doing that she drinks and takes drugs and she had a bunch of topless pictures taken of her and then she got some DUIs and spent 84 minutes in jail and then she got a bunch more DUIs and didn't show up for her hearings and now she's going to jail for 90 days and then into rehab for 90 days and then she's going to be naked in a movie called, "Inferno". The end? Of course not! I'm sure there will be much more from this girl in the future and that gossip websites will get millions of hits and gossip magazines will sell thousands of copies. But to reiterate:


And far be it from me to tell you all what to do with your lives, but I don't think you should give a crap either. Yes, she's a fuckup. I think that we can agree on that. But the question is whether she will ever realize it. My answer is no, she won't. She is a hip young starlet, immortal in the way that only hip young starlets can be. She's her own woman, out to show the world that there's nothing she can't do. The rules don't apply to her, goddammit! She's Lindsay Fucking Lohan! And so it's not worth our time. Let's just move on.

So in short, she won't ever realize that she's a fuckup. Am I sad? Nope. Do I care any more now than I did at the beginning of my answer? Nope. Did I at least have fun answering this question? Yeah, a little, I guess.

Q: Jacob - Is The Room really a black comedy or did Tommy wiseau just fail miserably at making a romance drama?
A: The Room is not a black comedy, nor do I think that Tommy Wiseau failed miserably at making a romance drama. I think Tommy Wiseau failed miserably, period. I don't know what he was trying to do, but whatever it was he failed. Epically, tragically, unquestioningly, failed.

Until now the worst movie I'd ever seen was a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie called SS Doomtrooper. I found out about it about two years ago when some of my coworkers and I started looking through the cast of the new Star Trek movie. We saw that the guy playing Sarek had been in a movie called SS Doomtrooper. The reviews on IMDB made it sound like something not to be missed so I set my DVR and watched it a few days later. It was an incomprehensible mess, just as hilariously stupid as the reviews led me to believe. I burned copies of the movie and passed them around to my coworkers and their assessment was the same.

Well step aside, SS Doomtrooper. The Room is now officially the worst movie I've ever seen.

It took me the better part of two days to watch this movie because I couldn't watch for more than five minutes at a time without fear of losing my mind. Seriously. From the first horrible line to the final stupid shot I alternated between laughing, screaming at the screen, and holding my head in agony. Never before have I seen such a combination of bad acting, bad writing, incoherent story, and unlikable characters. If it wasn't for Ask Mitssob I wouldn't have bothered finishing it, but just for you all I suffered through to the bitter end.

Here's my distillation of the plot (or at least as much of it as I can figure out): Johnny (played poorly by Tommy Wiseau himself) is a guy. His fiancé Lisa lives with him. They have awkward sex a couple of times featuring eyeball-searing shots of Tommy Wiseau's ass. There's a kid named Denny whose only function in the movie is to show up from time to time, be annoying, and then leave. Lisa's obnoxious mother comes over and Lisa announces that she doesn't love Johnny anymore. Then she (Lisa) has awkward sex with some random dude. That dude turns out to be Mark, Johnny's best friend. After that a couple show up and have sex in Johnny's apartment but it's OK because the woman is Lisa's friend Michelle. Then Denny gets beat up by a drug dealer on the roof but Johnny and Mark save the day and the drug dealer is never seen again. Later a guy named Peter shows up and plays the role of best actor in the movie (which is like being the world's tallest midget). The guys all play football in tuxedos on what I presume was Johnny and Lisa's wedding day, but there's no wedding. Lisa and Mark have awkward sex again. Lisa gets more annoying and has another awkward conversation with her mother about not loving Johnny and loving Mark. Lisa throws Johnny a surprise birthday party complete with a horrible rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung in four different keys by the cast. Lisa sends everyone outside and then tries to have sex with Mark but some random guy walks in and spoils it. Later Johnny announces to the party that "they're expecting", but Lisa reveals to random guy and Michelle that she lied. Random guy has the best line of the whole movie: "I feel like I'm sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off." Indeed.

Anyway, Johnny and Mark fight and then they make up and then they fight again and Johnny storms off and locks himself in the bathroom. Lisa leaves to be with Mark and Johnny wanders around his apartment doing a bad impersonation of Peter Banner turning into the Hulk. Then he finds a gun and shoots himself. Mark and Lisa find him and cry. Lisa asks if they (she and Mark) can be together and Mark yells at her and says that she killed Johnny. Donny shows up and cries. Final shot is of Johnny lying in a pool of blood. The end.

This movie is the first ever to reach the final level of my movie rating scale (which I forgot to mention when I brought it up last year): Destroy All Copies. I will be deleting my copy shortly and I encourage anyone who has it to do the same for the benefit of all humanity.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

63 - Answers

Q: Jacob - so what is this exactly for those not in the know?
A: This is the Internet. It's basically a series of tubes.

Oh, sorry, you mean what is "Ask Mitssob". I get confused sometimes. Since this is yet another new venue for the glory that is "Ask Mitssob" I guess a brief overview of what's going on here is fitting for those of you new to the party.

The story of "Ask Mitssob" begins with my membership in the old Jolinko sometime in 2006. Part of the membership was a blog. I've been doing the blogging thing off and on for a decade and I decided that I would do something different with this blog. In June of 2006 I began to solicit questions from my friends on Jolinko and provide them with answers. Now, before you think that I'm some kind of arrogant know-it-all I'll repeat what I said then: I am not doing this to prove that I'm smarter than everyone else. Far from it. By taking questions on subjects I know nothing about I'm forced to research, learn, and come to new understandings. Plus I get to practice my writing skills, get into interesting debates, and make copious amounts of fun of myself. All told I've had a blast doing this for the past four years and will continue doing it for as long as I have an audience willing to ask me strange questions and put up with my rambling, incoherent answers.

So ask away, good people of New Jolinko (and Blogspot and Facebook and wherever else I decide to post this). Thanks for your questions and I'll see you in the answers!

Q: Bill Jeffers - It seems like you get more condensation on a glass than a plastic cup. What is it about glass that makes it more condensation friendly? Or am I mistaken?
A: Condensation is the conversion of a substance from a gaseous state to a liquid state. What you're describing happens when water vapor in the air comes in contact with the cold surface of your cup. I suspect that glass gather more condensation because glass transfers heat and cold faster than plastic. That means that the outside of your glass gets colder faster than the outside of your plastic cup, and thus gathers more condensation from the air. I'm sure if I'm mistaken then the mechanical engineers amongst us will correct me.

Q: Sam Parker - What is the typical penalty for drunk driving a car with no registration, insurance, or up to date inspection sticker in the state of new york?
A: All of these penalties are assuming that you are convicted.

Driving while intoxicated - There's a myriad of options depending on age, whether this was your first offense, and the exact amount of intoxication. Minimum is for driving with a .02 to .07 while under 21, which is $125 plus a 6-month license suspension and a $100 re-registration fee. Maximum is your third offense of aggravated DWI (.18 or higher) in a 10-year span, which results in a maximum $10,000 fine, up to 7 years in prison and a minimum 18 month license revocation. Click on the link to find your exact case.
Driving without registration - NY Vehicle and Traffic Code section 401. You're fined between $75 and $300 and/or imprisoned for up to 15 days.
Driving while uninsured - NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law 319 - Suspension of your license for one year, which will result in a civil penalty of $750 when you go to re-register. You're fined between $150 and $1500 and may be imprisoned up to 15 days.
Driving without inspection - If the inspection sticker on your vehicle has expired in the past 60 days, you can receive a fine of $25 to $50. If the inspection sticker is expired more than 60 days, the fine is between $50 and $100. If there is no inspection sticker, the fine is between $50 and $100. Mandatory state surcharges of $55, plus additional fees, are added to the fine.

So all told the minimum you'll pay is $1,180 and the maximum is $12,705. Of course, if this situation applies to you then you really should be asking a lawyer and not me.

Q: Jarsh - Why is it that every morning when I need to log into 5 different websites at work, most use the same password, or at least a variation, that hotmail nearly 9/10 times makes me do it again due to bad log-in?
A: Below are a few possible explanations I was able to come up with.

1. Someone has installed a password-sniffing utility on your work computer that has redirected your Hotmail account to a bogus page that tells you that you've logged in incorrectly so as to collect your password. This is, needless to say, unlikely, but if you've made any new enemies in the past few months you might want to check it out.

2. You are missing the variation in your password scheme consistently on Hotmail because it's ingrained in your head to do it that way. To break out of that cycle try logging into your websites in a different order and see if it still happens.

3. Microsoft is automatically rejecting your first login to mess with you. Bill Gates probably has better things to do with his time but I wouldn't put it past one of his employees to torture you for no good reason.

3. You are hung over. Stop drinking before work.

4. You are drunk. Stop drinking at work.

Hope this helps. Let me know if this problem persists and I'll see if I can come up with more helpful suggestions.

Q: Phil - why the hell can't people drive?
A: Allow me to offer an answer that may seem a bit counterintuitive: people cannot drive because roads are too safe. This answer is based on an article I read in Wired magazine that was first published back in 2004. The article is about a traffic engineer who is redesigning roads with fewer warning signs and traffic indicators. This traffic engineer found that by taking away those warning signs drivers became more cautious and thus safer. Intersections with fewer signs forced drivers to pay attention because they couldn't predict the actions of other drivers based on signs. Drivers and pedestrians and bikers all had to cooperate and share the road, and it worked. His ideas were first implemented in Denmark but have since gone as far as West Palm Beach, FL.

An extension of his argument is the idea that signs and signals give a false sense of security, that people read signs of danger and assume that because of the warnings things are actually safer. Counterintuitively, making roads more dangerous (with fewer traffic signals, warning signs, and with things like traffic circles) makes them safer because we have to pay more attention. I think that this false sense of security we have contributes to the sense that people can't drive.

Q: Bridget Murray - Why do shower farts smell more than regular farts?
A: I think there are two reasons for this (and I base this on absolutely no medical knowledge or research):
1. Your body has had the chance to digest and process the food from the day before and thus generate a lot more gas. Concurrently that gas has had a chance to build up and become more, um, potent I guess is the polite way of putting it.
2. The confined space of a shower combined with the steam (presuming that you're not taking a cold shower, if you know what I mean) would have an amplifying effect on said fart.

I was going to leave the answer at that and then our own Matt Barrett chimed in with this gem: "Because you shower with Banjo." Never before in Ask Mitssob history has a user-provided answer been both concise and horrifying. I'd like to thank you for planting that mental image and thus denying me hours and hours of sleep. Well played, sir.

Q: Rani - Of the 4 elementals (or 5, I saw you missed heart). Which would you rather be killed by?
A: Let's take these one by one:
- Air: Blown to death? Where do I sign up?
- Water: Drowning is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has the benefit of being relatively fast compared with, say, a heart attack.
- Fire: As much as I love fire I'm not keen on the idea of burning to death. I suppose if the fire was hot enough to completely incinerate me I'd be OK with it, but if it's a mild fire and you survive then you're probably going to be killed by the resulting infection. And that, my friends, would suck royally.
- Earth: Buried alive? Welcome to one of my nightmares. Killed by falling rocks? Now that's more like it.
- Heart: Loved to death? Kinky...

I think I'd prefer fire on the condition that it's total. Otherwise I'll go with drowning.

Q: ML - When did I say Cornetto?
A: It was in the days of the Old Jolinko during what became the final round of Ask Mitssob questions on the old Random Thread. For some reason you posted "Cornetto" and I decided that it was worth calling out. What you meant or why you posted it are questions that only you can answer, ML. So why did you post it and what did you mean?

Q: Lisa - What is the difference (to me) between a 32-bit and 64-bit PC with Windows? The background to my question is that I'm hoping to get a new laptop within the next year or so (the one I have now is 5 years old, def 32-bit). I just found out that the Nike+ Armband that I got for my birthday apparently doesn't run at all on a 64-bit system. It made me realize that I know nothing about the new technologies or what I'll really need/want in a new computer!
A: The difference between 64-bit Windows and 32-bit Windows is 32 bits.

Ha, get it? Difference? 64-32=32? Sorry, Lisa, I couldn't resist.

To REALLY answer your question, there is little practical difference to the every-day computer user. 64-bit references the architecture of the computer in question. I won't bore you with details; if you're looking for more information I would check out this Wikipedia entry which outlines some differences between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.

In your background information you mentioned that you were interested in a particular application, specifically the Nike+ Armband. I would assume that Nike will be updating their software to support Windows 7 64-bit, but in the interim I found a blog post here that explains how to run the program in Windows XP Compatibility mode on Windows 7. In short, I wouldn't let particular software issues dissuade you. The world is Windows, and since Windows is moving to 64-bit then it's in the interest of software companies to keep their products current.

Good luck in your computer purchase and if I can be of any help I'm only a question away! Or a phone call, which will likely be faster.

Q: Karyn Graves - The Graves family will finally be upgrading to one of those fancy phones that use those app thingys before December. It appears our verizon bill will go up by at least $30/month (per line?) just to add the data and then we also need the actual phone(s). Should we wait until closer to the deadline to get one or start looking now?
A: To answer your first question, the $30/month data plan applies to each phone, so if you and Kevin both get smart phones then you will have to pay an additional $60/month.

If you want an iPhone 4 then you'll have to switch to AT&T, otherwise your choices are Android, Palm, Windows Mobile or Blackberry. What I would recommend is that you start looking at the operating systems for the phones now. You may decide that you really love/hate one of them and can thus help narrow your decision down. If I wasn't a full-fledged Apple Junkie I would be going with the Android platform. There's lots of apps, they have the most powerful phones, and some of the phones let you use the phone as a mobile wifi hotspot. For hardware comparisons the good folks at Engadget have produced a nifty table comparing offerings from various manufacturers, which can be found here.

Phone turnover is so fast these days that waiting until September or even October before choosing a phone might be a good idea. You can keep track of new and upcoming phones on technology websites like Engadget and Gizmodo (assuming you're not already doing that) and when one comes along that strikes your fancy you can buy it. The other advantage of that is that when the new and fancy phones come out that often drives down the price of the previous generation, which may be all that you need. I wouldn't wait any longer than October because that gives you a solid month of time before your trip to test drive the phones and get used to them. If they turn out to be faulty or they just plain suck then you have time to exchange them for something different before your trip.

A final note on the whole smartphone thing. I've had a smartphone (in my case an iPhone 3G and iPhone 4) since June of 2008 and I can say without question that it changed my life. Having instant access to information, entertainment, as well as full contact with the world is something I now could not live without. I'm not proud of this, it's just a fact and something to consider. It really is an addiction of sorts, which may color your decision to purchase one.

Q: Bill Jeffers - Any medical research done on vibrating cell phones in your pocket causing muscle spasms in your leg? I swear I feel my pocket vibrating 15 times a day, sometimes even when my phone isn't in it.
A: To start, our own Eric Democko decided to be his usual helpful self (no sarcasm, he really is helpful) and contribute the following:

because I like to help mitssob out every once in a while: ... PageReturn
"Some call it "phantom vibration syndrome." Others prefer "vibranxiety" — the feeling when you answer your vibrating cellphone, only to find it never vibrated at all."

I found a similar article at a site called America's Watchtower from 2007 that had more interesting information. A psychologist was quoted and I'll repost that quote in its entirety below because it does a good job of explaining the science of what's going on:

Peter Tse, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, said phantom vibration rings may happen because cell phone users develop a "template" in their heads.

"I have a template for my baby’s cry in my head, for example, and sometimes just by chance a random set of sounds will match it," he said. "I will go to check, but the baby wasn’t crying."

He said the brain is constantly filtering out background information. Tse said sometimes when a person is monitoring or searching for something important to them — such as a cell phone call or the sound of their own name — some of this background information is picked up and matched to a mental template.

It’s called the cocktail party effect.

"When everyone’s talking at a cocktail party, if your name or anything close to your name comes up in the room, you easily pick up on that," Tse said.

But false vibrations are less easily understood. Some neurologists compare it to the nerve sensations felt by amputees in the place of the missing limb.

Q: Bill Jeffers - I'm generally not one to ask engineers a grammar question, but this has been annoying me. Brett reminded me of this annoyance when he posted "Italy are out". In my logic, it should be "Italy IS out", but all the commentators say it the dumb way. Is it a European thing? I mean we're talking about a singular team/country, so is would be the appropriate version for me. Though I suppose it would depend on what your definition of is is, right Bubba?
A: Your write, axing engineers grammar and speling stuff are dangerous.

The difference in phrasing comes down to differences between how British English and American English treat collective nouns like names of countries, organizations, etc. In British English they usually take on a plural form when it comes to verbs. For example, "Italy are out." In American English those same collective nouns take on a singular form. For example, "Italy is out."

So the real answer is that both statements are correct depending on who you are, where you're speaking, and the kind of English you prefer to speak.

Q: Kait and Jeff - Hey Mitsy, if becoming a nun means "marrying God" does one "divorce God" or get an annulment to leave religious life?
A: The technical term for giving up being a nun is "dispensation", which according to a glossary I found at the Sisters United News website means, " release from vows granted by the Catholic Church allowing a sister to leave a congregation." I suppose this means that one is "divorcing God", but really dispensation sounds more like the dissolution of a contract than something that requires an annulment.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

62 - Answers

Editor's Note: Tim has been very busy during this little unannounced two-month vacation from his Ask Mitssob duties. He has been filming and editing for his video production company, he's written a music video for his old band, and he's working hard on a new first draft of his novel. In short, Tim's got a lot on his plate, but that didn't stop me from sending a stern reminder that his legions of fans are eagerly awaiting their answers. He didn't believe me, but he put out these answers anyway.

Q: Bill - What's your favorite elemental?
A: The four elementals are earth, fire, water, and wind. Of the four I think that water is my favorite. I've always enjoyed spending time on the beach either swimming in the ocean or just sitting and enjoying the sights and sounds. Plus I love seafood, and seafood is impossible without water.

Of course, as a guy there's a special place in my heart for fire. But that's true of all guys.

Q: Bridget - Where and how can I get cheap plane tickets or save money on flying somewhere?
A: When I have to book travel for myself outside of work I've used Orbitz and have been pretty happy with them. I'm also a fan of the aggregator site Kayak. Finally, there's the William Shatner supported Priceline, which should earn your business for no other reason than it keeps William Shatner off the mountain.

Q (Part 1): Matt - This is going to be similar to the question I asked about the Tiger Woods saga. I haven't been paying much attention to the whole healthcare debate. Can you give me/us a brief rundown of what is being proposed, who the proposed changes will affect, and why it seems like everyone and their brother is against the legislation? Also, if you have any ideas of your own regarding what should be done, I'd be interested to hear those too.
Q (Part 2): Adam - I would also like to hear your thoughts on the health care legislation, but I would like to hear a bi-partisan version of the "overview" first. I'm not saying you'd be biased, but in the interest of education, I'd like to hear the big picture.

A: This question is the reason it's been so long between answers. Normally my editor would be providing excuses and/or insults but this time I wanted to do it myself. Every time I've sat down to answer this question I find myself going off on tangents about the nature of the American system of government, constitutional conservatism, and other lofty topics. It's taken me a long time but now I think I'm ready to provide some thoughts on this topic. It's not as complete as I'd like but it'll do for now.

Unbiased Overview

The Wall Street Journal had a good year-by-year breakdown of the healthcare bill as it currently stands, which can be found here. Another interactive guide was put together by USA Today and can be found here. Finally, the Washington Post has put together a nice "look ahead" here. Together these guides provide a better unbiased review than I could so I'll defer to them for this part of the answer.

Biased Thoughts

First, I can't speak for "everyone and their brother" on the issue of opposition to the bill. I think that the primary source of opposition to the bill is the feeling that an intrusive federal government meddling in the lives of citizens, but that's really a topic for another question and another time. Speaking for myself, the real problem that I have with Obamacare can be stated in two words: unintended consequences. The minute that the government tries to fix something that it perceives as broken there are a whole new set of problems created. I gave this example a few answers ago but I'll use it again: President George H.W. Bush increased taxes on luxury yachts as a way to tax the rich, but instead caused thousands of workers to be laid off. There are hundreds of examples like this. When the government tries to solve something it invariably creates more problems than it solves.

So what are the unintended consequences of a bill as complex and cumbersome as Obamacare? For an interesting read on just a few check out this article in Fortune Magazine. It outlines how big companies are considering dropping health coverage for employees since it'll be much cheaper to just pay the penalties. Now was this the intention of the bill? Of course not, but companies are going to act in their best interests despite the best intentions of the government. And any bill as massive as this one is going to have reams and reams o unintended consequences. I'm sure we're only just scratching the surface.

Dr. Mitssob's Solutions

Now that I've rambled a bit what would I like to see done? Below are three quick ideas I'd like to see implemented.

1. Restore the original definition of "insurance" - The basic concept of any insurance is that you pay a small amount on a periodic basis which covers you against a loss. Does that sound like health insurance to you? No, it doesn't, because "health insurance" now means "health care." An example I like to use is this: do you have insurance for the spark plugs in your car? How about for oil changes? No, of course not. Those things are to be paid for out of pocket as part of the care of your car. You have insurance for when you are involved in an accident. The term for this is catastrophic insurance. If you are in an accident the the costs of that accident are covered by your insurance. A side effect of this is that your premiums will go up because you are deemed a bigger risk. That's life. Getting back to the health side of things, if I get hit by a rental car bus on my next business trip then my insurance will pay for the costs of my hospital stay. As a result of this my insurance premiums will go up. You know what? That's also life. If you have demonstrated risk in your life then you're going to get charged more to insure your health. That's just the way that it is.

This is why the talk of "pre-existing conditions" during the debate about Obamacare made me shake my head in frustration. The rules that the government wants to put in place would let you buy insurance after you're sick, and then not have your premiums increase. That does not make sense from a business perspective. You can't buy retroactive car insurance that covers you after you've had a crash, and you can't buy homeowner's insurance while your house is on fire, so why should you be able to buy insurance after you break your leg? If you force insurance companies to do things that make no business sense then the insurance companies are going to fold. Period.

In short, pillar one of Dr. Mitssob's Healthcare Plan is to return to a normal insurance model. You want a doctor's appointment? Good for you, you get to pay money for it out of pocket. The result is that doctors will compete for your service, similar to how Jiffy Lube and Midas compete for your service when it comes to oil changes. Costs of routine visits will go down and the quality of the care will increase.

2. Leave drug companies alone - There's another side to the health care debate and that is the business side. It's very fashionable and chic to demonize and blame both insurance companies and drug companies for health care woes. Just take those "huge profits" away and life will be better for everyone, right? As I covered in a previous answer, drug companies make drugs by investing money in research and development. So where does that money come from? From selling drugs that people want. That means that erectile disfunction medication pays for research into new cures for cancer. Yes, it's a weird world, but the profit motive of the drug companies does far more good than politicians and activists do. Name me one drug that a politician created. Go ahead, I'll wait. Done? When I hear about the government wanting to cut into drug company profits or forcing drug companies to sell drugs for less I get worried. If there's no money to develop cures for cancer or new arthritis medication or whatever else we need then those drugs aren't going to get made. Think of that the next time drug company profits are mentioned.

3. Decouple insurance from employment - Want a historical example of unintended consequences? After World War II General Motors started offering health insurance as part of an employee's compensation so as to get around wage caps that the government put on companies. Eventually those wage caps went away but companies continued to offer health insurance as a perk to attract employees. What I'd like to see is a move towards an individual system. Let people purchase health insurance (or not) without input from their employers. That way when you change jobs the insurance moves with you, and employers have the burden of providing insurance to their employees removed. It's a win-win in my opinion.

So what's my final answer? Is there hope? Are we doomed? I honestly don't know. I'm lucky in my life to be healthy and have a job that provides me with good health insurance. If tomorrow I find out that I've got cancer or some other terrible disease then my insurance is going to cover me. And I'm happy about that. But that doesn't mean I'm satisfied with the health care system. I think improvements must be made but that market-based improvements are going to do a hell of a lot better than the government.

Q: Eric - I would like to hear mitssob as Glenn Beck on healthcare. Then again as Michael Moore
A: I would too. Unfortunately I don't pay enough attention to either of those personalities to properly "walk in their shoes" so to speak, nor do I have the time or desire to learn.

Q: vanessa - How many mistresses do you think will end up coming out about sleeping with Jesse James?
A: The count as of this writing is 5. They are:
- Michele "Bombshell" McGee
- Melissa Smith
- Brigitte Daguerre
- Unnamed Woman #1
- Unnamed Woman #2

The last of these was exposed (as it were) at the beginning of April. I'm tempted to say that since no others have come forward in the past two weeks that we're done with this sad, sorry story. However, these things are never over until they're over so I'll say that one more woman will be found.

Q: Sam - Why does the sun shine?
A: The sun shines because of a variety of nuclear reactions taking place in its core. These reactions are outlined quite well here and mostly involve hydrogen and helium.

In my first of two random asides, while researching this question I did what I normally do: type the question verbatim into Google and see what comes back. A few links down I found perhaps the least helpful answer I've encountered in my years of doing this exercise. [Ed: You mean other than the answers you come up with? One of these days I'm going to turn this column over to you and we'll see just how good you are at this.]:

"The Sun shines because it sends out energy in all directions as radiation. This radiation takes the form of light and heat. Almost the same amount of radiation leaves the Sun in all directions. It takes about eight minutes for the light from the Sun to travel to the Earth."

Thanks for playing,

Bill: The sun is a ball of something something gas.

The song is called "Why Does The Sun Shine?" and it begins "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace." A full version performed by They Might Be Giants can be found by clicking on the question itself.

This answer gives me the chance to share one of the more surreal episodes in my life. The summer between Junior and Senior years of high school in New Hampshire students can apply to be part of the Advanced Studies Program at Saint Paul's School in Concord, NH. You take one "college-level" course plus a writing course. The course I chose to take was in Astronomy; at the time I was more of a science nerd than I am now and had dreams of becoming an astronomer. Anyway, one afternoon our class had to stand in front of the gathered masses in the lunch hall and sing that very song. It was, in a word, weird.

The sun is a miasma
Of incandescent plasma
The sun's not simply made out of gas
No, no, no

The sun is a quagmire
It's not made of fire
Forget what you've been told in the past

Electrons are free
A fourth state of matter
Not gas, not liquid, not solid

The sun is no red dwarf
I hope it never morphs
Into some supernova'd collapsed orb
Orb, orb, orb

The sun is a miasma
Of incandescent plasma
I forget what I was told by myself
Elf, elf, elf

Electrons are free
A fourth state of matter
Not gas, not liquid, not solid

Forget that song
They got it wrong
That thesis has been rendered invalid

Thanks, Gobe. As always a nice contribution.

Q: vanessa - Whats the difference between a waspand a hornett? Please provide pictures/links. Thank you.
A: Basically a hornet is a kind of wasp, similar to how a golden retriever is a kind of dog or a square is a kind of rectangle. More precisely a hornet is a social, nesting wasp. The main distinguishing characteristic is that a hornet constructs its nest out of wood pulp. Below are pictures of wasp and hornet respectively:

More information can be found here, here, and here.

Q: Michaele-Lynne - Cornetto
A: What is a frozen ice-cream cone brand? [Ed: When did this become Jeopardy? I'm not sure. Maybe ML mistook me for Alex Trebek. It's easy to do.]

Q: Karyn - Is there any way to get some of those (good) virtual console/wii ware games for free? Are there any that are actually worth what they charge?
A: To do the things you describe you have to hack your Wii, which is something that sounds scary but is actually pretty simple and painless. I'd been thinking about doing it for a while and I used your question as an excuse to do it this afternoon. The goal is to get the "Homebrew Channel" onto your Wii. I started with these instructions I found on my new favorite website Lifehacker. Unfortunately they didn't work for me. I have 4.2U software which for some reason didn't work with the files provided with the instructions. I ended up finding a custom version of the files through these YouTube instructions.

Once the Homebrew Channel is on your Wii there there's one more step. The Homebrew Channel runs off of an SD card. To work on the Wii the card must be formatted as FAT and have a directory called "apps". The first app you need is the Homebrew Browser put out by the good folks at CodeMii. Put it into the apps directory and run it from the Homebrew Channel to get access to all sorts of cool stuff. When you download apps they are placed on that card and you can also go get custom apps off the Internet. Once you have everything installed I recommend reading this article for some tips and tricks about what to do with your newly-hacked Wii. For example, to run emulated games (which is all the Wii's Virtual Console is) you just download an emulator and put the ROM for the game onto that SD card.

As for the last part of your question I can't say whether any of the old games are worth the cost since I haven't bought any yet. Partly this is because I'm a cheapskate but it's also because I have a backlog of actual Wii and GameCube games I'm working through. In the Wii-Ware realm I have played a trivia game and a beer-pong game over at Bill's place and they're pretty entertaining and probably worth the few bucks they cost.

Q: Phil - Will it snow again in Potsdam before graduation this year?
A: Yes. There is typically a spring snowstorm in Potsdam and this year will not be an exception.

Q: Todd Nielson - What do you use to get something you post to, say, Twitter, and have it show up on Facebook, too?
A: I haven't done this in a while, but if I remember correctly it involves linking your Twitter account in Facebook. Check this link for instructions on how to do that. I had the two sites linked for a while but ended up disconnecting them since they serve two different purposes in my life.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

61 - Answers

Q (repeat): Jake - Who has the best chance to win the NBA championship this year? And don't cheap out on me with a "the Lakers have the best record, so they do." I want details, man. Details.
A: What I'm going to do is take the two teams from each conference I think will play in the conference championships, give you the winners, then run the matchup of the conference winners and give you an answer. Sound good? As with all of my prognostications I add the following disclaimer: any money you lose by betting on my less-than-informed picks is your own fault.

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Winner: Cleveland
Ramblings: Cleveland is rolling into the playoffs like a juggernaut. They've won their last 8 games and have an easier path to the finals (at least on paper) than the Celtics. Of course last season they had the theoretically easier path and lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference finals. Will that happen this year? Maybe, but I don't think so. They are absolutely desperate to hang on to LeBron James and have sunk a lot of money and talent into this team. They're going to the finals.

LA Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Winner: LA
Ramblings: I think this will be less about LA and more about the fact that whomever LA plays in the conference finals is going to be vastly inferior to them. I looked at the playoff matchups and didn't see a really dominant team in the West other than LA. Therefore I don't think it matters who they play. LA will win and move on to the finals.

NBA Finals: LA Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
Ramblings: This is 100% gut feeling, folks. I have no basketball reasons for this other than sheer force of will on LeBron's part. He wants a championship. Badly. And more importantly he wants one more than Kobe Bryant. That's the difference and that's why he's going to carry the team to Cleveland's first championship in team history.

Q: Eric - How many frequent flier miles do you have? and more importantly, how do FF miles work? you don't earn one for each mile you fly do you?
A: Below is the list of carriers and frequent flier miles I have with each.

United: 111,662 miles
Delta: 30,959 miles
US Airways: 9,136 miles
Continental: 2,000 miles
American Airlines: 551 miles
Air Tran: 4 Qualifying Segments

Frequent flier miles for the major carriers tend to work the same way. You earn a mile for every mile that you fly. You can get bonus miles for things like being a very frequent flier with an airline, using an airline credit card, or even just buy them. Once you have the miles you can redeem them for things like flights, hotels, rental cars, and even goods and services. I've linked to each airline's "How to use your miles" page so you can compare them for yourself.

The odd duck in this is Air Tran. They, like Southwest and Jet Blue do things called "segments". They don't give you the number of miles you travel but rather credit for the number of one-way flights that you take. If you do a lot of short hops you can build up credit very quickly, but there's no benefit to taking cross-country flights. These credits, like miles, can be redeemed for a number of different things.

Q: Kristian - Since we all seem to hate Sidney Crosby, what is your humble opinion on said douchebag?
A: First, I don't hate Sidney Crosby. I dislike him and find him to be a whiney, pretty-boy hockey player, but hate is something I reserve for those who really deserve it, like lawyers and people who talk on cell phones during movies.

My opinion of Sidney Crosby the hockey player is that he is talented. Very talented. He is a good skater, has a great hockey mind, and will go far in this league. Like it or not he's been good for the league as both a good player and a good personality. Pittsburgh's hockey program has been revitalized thanks to him and the Canadian Olympic hockey team owes their gold medal to his overtime goal in the final game. In short, he's extremely good.

But despite that I don't particularly like him. On reflection the main reason he rubs me the wrong way is that he's a hockey player that his teammates feel the need to protect. That bothers me. As a hockey fan I know that there have always been "finesse" players in the game and I accept that. But I much prefer the hockey player who can throw a good hip check, get the puck, and score on a well-placed wrist shot from the point. I don't see Sidney Crosby that way. He's a finesse player. Fine, wonderful, good for him. It's just not my cup of tea.

Q: Bill - Why do men like fire so much? Can we burn this quiz?
A: There are many possible reasons for this. First, one instinct that men have is to protect and provide for their family. Fire can be viewed as a tool to aid in that instinct. It has the capacity to heat an area and to cook food.

Second, fire is also a tool of destruction. From a very young age boys tend to display acts of aggression and destruction. They crash toy cars together, build structures out of blocks only to knock them down, and are generally more outwardly destructive than girls. Fire is an extension of that side of male nature.

Third, fire is just plain cool. I mean come on, what guy doesn't like burning stuff? It's awesome!

Oh, and about your second question, this is not a quiz but yes, you can burn it. However, since you just bought the computer you're likely reading this on I don't think you want to do that. I suppose you could print out a copy and burn that. Just don't tell your wife I gave you permission, especially if you end up burning your house down.

Q: Rani - On the topic of fire ... How does a person spontaneously combust?
A: By being not on fire one moment and being on fire the next. [Ed: You think you're funny, but you're not. But I answered the question, didn't I?]

Q: Jarsh - What is hell really like?
A: A little background for those of you who aren't fans of LOST. For a long time the producers of the show have said that the characters are not dead and are not in hell or purgatory. Last night's episode explored that topic a bit. The character on whom the episode focused at first believed that they were in hell but by the end of the episode came to accept that they were not.

Anyway, Jarsh posted the following on his Twitter/Facebook account: They aren't in hell. #alsonotaspoiler.

I responded on Facebook with: "I already knew they weren't in hell because I've been here for three weeks and I haven't seen them."

Now in the interest of full disclosure I'm not actually in hell. It only feels that way. I've spent the past three weeks in Barstow, CA. It's a desert town about halfway between LA and Las Vegas. Because of the amount of time I've spent here I'm losing more of my sanity than normal on this trip. A month is a long time to spend away from one's home, even if one doesn't consider one's self to have a home. If that makes any sense. See, I'm losing it, people! Luckily I'm only out here for another few days, then it's back to good old Rochester. I just hope my house is still standing.

The other reason I think I'm in hell is the fact that the hotel I'm staying in is about a mile away from a train yard. At random intervals during the day and night train cars will be moved around and the screeching sound of brakes can be heard reverberating through the hotel. It's a sound I cannot begin to describe other than to say that if you dislike the sound of nails on a chalkboard, you'd be in hell.

Q: Brett - Are you back in town next week? I'd like to dump all the Beaumonts photos on your machine off of my CF card before I go to Virginia for Easter weekend.
A: Yes, I will be back in town next week. I need to get with all of the filmers to collect tapes and to thank them personally for their help with this latest project. I can't wait to see what you guys were able to generate in my absence. I'll give you a call when I get back and we'll link up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

60 - Answers

Editor's Note: After over a month of hearing nothing from Tim I found two packages from him waiting on my front porch this morning. One was the collection of answers you're about to read and the other is an outline for a short film. At first I was outraged that Tim was wasting his time writing things other than Ask Mitssob, especially since he was so late delivering this round of answers. Then I read the outline. It's good. Really good. So I'll forgive him this time, but that doesn't mean that you have to.

Q: Brett - Any questions?
A: Who am I? Where am I? Why are my pants gone? I have lots of questions these days and disturbingly few answers. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to have fun along the way.

Q: Bill - Alright, so we talked about this on the trip, but I want to see the numbers: Paper towels kill trees, but hand dryers are powered by electricity (really? not magic?) and that's pretty dirty to make these days. Give them each a MOther NAture Rape Score (MONARS for short)
A: My gut originally told me that the answer would be that paper towels are better for the environment. My grandfather worked for a number of paper companies in both engineering and sales and so I've always thought of trees as a renewable resource. Therefore I considered paper towels to be better since they were made from something that could be regrown.

Then my research led me to this site. This research site pointed me at something that should have been obvious: the disposal cost of the paper towels. The graph below outlines the cost analysis that the author did:

As you can see the disposal cost alone of the paper towels is greater than the electricity of the blowers. So this is yet another case where my gut proves to be completely wrong. It won't be the last time.

Q: Matt - It's pretty obvious that the men's hockey team is going nowhere fast this year. What's more, they haven't even improved from last year, and there was plenty of room for improvement. What do you think are the problems the team is facing, and what are the root causes of their problems? Also, what do you think are some solutions?
A: I have seen the Clarkson Men's hockey team play a grand total of three games this season: two games at a tournament in Minnesota and once in Potsdam against Dartmouth. Now in fairness, this is not enough to make a full judgment. But life isn't fair so I'll judge them anyway.

When I saw the team play in Minnesota there were a few things I observed. First and most importantly I didn't get a sense of team from watching them. On a number of plays I would see a Clarkson do something fairly routine such as skate behind the net and drop the puck. Another Clarkson player who was supposed to pick the puck up always looked surprised. I thought it might be a one-time occurrence the first time I saw it but it just kept happening. Bill and Todd also noticed it and it was a topic of conversation during the game. When a team is firing on all cylinders then things like that are just routine. They'll make no-look passes, move around with ease, and generally find ways to get open. Clarkson wasn't doing any of those things.

Second the team was weak on the fundamentals of the game. They were doing entirely too much chasing the puck, passing poorly, and shooting even worse. They were predictable to the point of humor. "Oh look, another pass right to the other team."

The Dartmouth game started out with the best play I'd seen the team make in the last few years. They broke into the Dartmouth zone stacked three wide. They proceeded to make a series of drop passes that completely fooled Dartmouth's defense and it was only thanks to a great save by their goalie that they didn't score. My jaw dropped when I saw that play happen. Unfortunately that quality of play did not continue throughout the game and they soon dropped into the habits I'd observed in Minnesota.

So what to do about this? In my opinion the biggest problem that the team has is coaching, plain and simple. There is raw talent on the team. The problem is the harnessing of that talent and that responsibility falls to the coaches. George Roll must go if the team is to improve. Harsh? Yes. But frankly he's had four years to make this team into something better than it is. He's failed. A new coach and a re-focus on fundamentals ("Old time hockey, eh coach?") would do wonders.

Q: Lisa - And now for a completely random, more generic question: How are streets named? Who's responsible for determining what your street is named? Why is your street Paul Road, and who is Paul? Why is our street Matthew Circle, and who is Matthew? And more obscurely, why is my parents' street Bright Autumn Lane, and who is Bright Autumn? (you don't have to answer all the questions...I'm just giving examples...but I would love to know how to learn how our streets were named!)
A: The best source I found for how streets are named comes from my oft-used friend Wikipedia. The article explains that there are several reasons for the naming of roads including (but not limited to):
- Scenery
- Famous Citizens
- Numbers (which includes the most common street name in the US: "2nd")
- Themes (such as types of trees, US Presidents, etc.)
- Landmarks

For the streets you listed here are my explanations:
- Paul Road: Paul must have been someone famous in Chili's history.
- Matthew Circle: Ditto.
- Bright Autumn: This is probably a reference to a bright autumn day rather than a person.

I'll have to do some more digging into the history of our towns to find out specific details. Ask me again sometime and I'll tackle it.

Q: Karyn - Is there a external Hard Drive I can buy that comes with free backup/sync software that isn't just a free trial that will expire and then ask me to pay?
A: The software that came with Bill's Samsung hard drive was free and not a trial and it looked pretty good and simple. It's called "Auto Backup" and a link to it can be found here. I'm not sure if it will work with a non-Samsung drive but it's worth a shot.

There are other alternatives out there that I researched. Many of them are pay-only and/or want you to subscribe to an online backup system. One of them that I think would work is Microsoft Sync Toy, which is unfortunately named but looks quite capable. Another option that was recently featured on Lifehacker is called Back4Sure and also looks good. Best of luck and let me know how you make out.

Q: Nate - Gut feeling - will my first child be a boy or a girl? Or other?
A: My gut answer is a girl. I have no factual or rational reason why, I just think it'll be a girl.

Q: vanessa - I'm a grown up now with real taxes to file, should I A)go to a place like H&R Block, B) get my Aunt to do them since she does taxes all professionally and stuff, C) try and do them myself and probably miss a bunch of stuff and do them wrong?
A: Personally I would go with option C. You're a grown-up now but probably not one with a complex enough financial life to justify going to a professional. When you do them yourself you have two choices: by hand or software. My ex-girlfriend preferred to do her taxes by hand using the IRS forms. I have great respect for people who choose to do their taxes that way. Ever since I've entered the real world I have gone with Turbo Tax and I've been very satisfied with the results. Now that I'm a homeowner doing my taxes has gotten more complicated but Turbo Tax was able to keep up with me without problems. In the future I will probably move to consulting a professional but for now my life is still simple enough to just go with Turbo Tax.

The Jolinko community has their own opinions which I've pasted below:
Lisa: D) do them yourself using TurboTax, TaxAct, or some similar software (I recommend TaxAct)
Brad: E) do them yourself on paper to learn everything, then check and file using a tax program (I use H&R Block online for free)

Ultimately its your decision, so make it and plow ahead!

Q: Brad - Since we are on the subject of taxes, since I just got married in October, should I file single, married jointly, or married seperately? And does it matter that we live in seperate states?
A: To answer the last question first, it matters that you live in separate states for your state taxes but not for your federal taxes. Next, you are considered married if you are married on or before the last day of your tax year which is generally the last day of the calendar year for a normal person unless you've defined a fiscal year for yourself.

So now that we know that you're married in the eyes of the IRS (congratulations, by the way) you and your blushing bride have to decide whether to file married jointly or married separately. The decision will impact what kinds of deductions you can claim and also how much they are worth. Since I don't know anything about your financial situation this is something I would consult a professional about. I'm sure that software like TurboTax or a professional service like H&R Block would be able to answer your question better than me. For a LOT more information about filing married jointly vs. separately you can consult the IRS here.

Q: Matt - With the constant updating of technical storage devices, we've already seen the demise of the floppy disk (both of them) so far the CD seems to be holding out the longest so far, so my question is how far down the road do you see the CD finally going the way of its more-squared and floppier predessors if at all?
A: I think that the CD still has a long life ahead of it. People still use it to burn things for one-time use since the cost of the media is less than $.10 per disc these days. The difference between CDs and floppy discs is that CDs are the same size and use the same laser technologies as DVDs and BluRay discs. Therefore they will still be able to be used in computers as long as those computers support those technologies. Ultimately I think that media that is the same size as our beloved CD will remain dominant for the foreseeable future. By this I mean that where a CD isn't enough a DVD will work, and eventually BluRay will take over for DVDs.

Q: Jon - Well Betamax make a comeback?
A: Betamax, surprisingly, never went away as a media format. There is a small but crazy minority of users who still cling to it. It is also used by many professionals due to the fact that the tapes have a longer shelf-life than VHS tapes.

Q: Michaele-Lynne - How do those giant mutant mosquitoes get into my apartment when the windows are all shut (and in the winter!) and I am 4 doors away from the outside???
A: First, these are not "giant mutant mosquitoes". I'll let Brett tell you what they are:
Brett: You mean Mayflies? They probably laid eggs in your apartment somewhere, or in your hair.

Follow the link to find more than you ever wanted to know about mayflies that can be found in Pennsylvania. More information can be found here. Brett may be right that they laid eggs somewhere in your apartment, but it would have to be somewhere with standing water that has been around for at least a few months. This is possible but unlikely.

So my real answer is that I have no idea how they're getting into your apartment. The good news is that they are harmless unless exposed to great amounts of radiation, at which time they will be too busy fighting Godzilla to be of any trouble to you.

Q: Michaele-Lynne - I have another question. Is Brett right???
A: He's right about some things and wrong about other things. I've learned to trust his wisdom and doubt his word only when I am certain of his being in error.

Q: Jake - In related news, Tim requested a question of me. So I'll make him go out of his element. Who has the best chance to win the NBA championship this year? And don't cheap out on me with a "the Lakers have the best record, so they do." I want details, man. Details.
A: This question is so far out of my element that I'm going to punt this time. I will provide an answer in time for the start of the basketball playoffs next month. Sorry, Jake.