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.