Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GOP Debate Advisory Tweets

Before tonight's debate I thought I'd reach out to each of the campaigns on Twitter to offer my advice and thoughts. This post captures all of the tweets in one place. Candidates are presented in reverse order of their polling as part of the CNN debate selection criteria.

Happy Hour Debate

.@LindseyGrahamSC: No one in the base likes you. Drop out now. Seriously. You're not helping. Please go away. #GOPDebate

.@GovernorPataki: Switch parties and run against #ReadyForHillary for the D nomination. You might win something that way. #GOPDebate

.@BobbyJindal: You're going to be great in 2020/2024. Please go back to LA and keep up the good work. See you in a few years. #GOPDebate

.@RickSantorum: You've lost every time you've been on the ballot since 2006. Take the hint and join a think tank. #GOPDebate

Primetime Debate

.@CarlyFiorina: Introduce yourself and be yourself. Keep fighting #ReadyForHillary and you'll come out ahead. #GOPDebate

.@GovChristie: Your fight with @RandPaul was a great highlight from last debate. This time focus on how you'll fix a broken DC. #GOPDebate

.@JohnKasich: You and @ScottWalker are best positioned to capture the heartland. Highlight your record as a solid governor. #GOPDebate

.@RandPaul: Isolationism is appealing but not where base is. Don't engage @GovChristie. Focus on freedom to survive the night. #GOPDebate

.@MikeHuckabee: GWB killed big government conservatism. Sorry. You'll make a great talk show host. Again. #GOPDebate

.@MarcoRubio: Foreign policy is your strength, answer @hughhewitt's questions concisely and you can win the night. #GOPDebate

.@tedcruz: Get into an actual debate with someone other than @realDonaldTrump tonight to show your chops. #GOPDebate

.@RealBenCarson: You're not POTUS material. Sorry. Use tonight to declare that you'll be GOP Surgeon General. #GOPDebate

.@ScottWalker: Explain that you're a fighter and a winner. NLRB-busting plan will be a hit with the base if you can explain it. #GOPDebate

.@JebBush: The establishment loves you. That's bad. Taking on @realDonaldTrump is your only hope. #GOPDebate

.@realDonaldTrump: Stick to the issues, don't engage the other candidates when they attack. Maybe switch to decaf. #GOPDebate

Bonus Round: The Debate Staff

.@jaketapper: GOP base hates MSM and @CNN but trusts you. Build on that and you'll secure an audience through the election. #GOPDebate

.@DanaBashCNN: As the representative of the left feel free to reinforce all of our stereotypes. We won't hold it against you. #GOPDebate

.@hughhewitt: Looking forward to your usual probing questions of the candidates. Hope that they cooperate. #hewitt #GOPDebate

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SCOTUS Scribblings

Q: Editor - I see from your social media feed that you're pretty upset about the two Supreme Court rulings this week. Would you care to expand your incoherent tweeting into some equally incoherent writing?
A: One benefit of the fact that I'm my own editor is that I can ask myself leading questions. Yes, this is cheating and no, I don't care.

First let's talk about King vs. Burwell. After a day of time to reflect about this ruling I've got a few thoughts:
1. Chief Justice John Roberts believes that the Legislative Branch should fix Legislative Branch problems. This is why the fact that the ACA had some language in it that basically said, "only state exchanges are eligible for tax credits" doesn't matter. If the court had said, "you're right, only state exchanges can give tax credits" then peoples' health care expenditures would have increased overnight. The court didn't want to be responsible for that, so they ruled that the federal exchange should be able to be substituted for state exchanges. I take that as a message from Chief Justice Roberts to the Congress that if they want this fixed, they need to fix it.
2. Obamacare is now a major chain around Hillary Clinton. Every failure, every rate increase, every premium hike, everyone who loses their doctor, they now have an enemy to point towards.
3. I hope that the 2016 election will start a national conversation about entitlements and the entitlement society, and this ruling makes that conversation more likely. Unfortunately, health insurance now equals health care in most peoples' minds so replacing the ACA with something else is going to be a tough fight.

Now, for the legalization of same-sex marriage. I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. What I'm coming to grips with is that this objective truth is now an opinion. "Believe" is the operative word. The cultural majority now "believes" that marriage is one man and one man, one woman and one woman and one man and one woman. Does that change what marriage is? No. What has changed is the fact that the word "marriage" has no meaning. It's whatever the will of the cultural majority says that it is. Are we as a society OK with that?

I've been married for just under two years and my wife and I recently had our first child. I've already seen how we both bring different things to our daughter's world but with this ruling I have been told that my wife and I bring exactly the same things to our child. That if you replaced me with a woman or my wife with a man, our daughter would turn out the same. I disagree. Men and women are different and bring different things to parenting. But now that belief is, like the definition of marriage, just a belief that is now overtaken by the culture. Are we as a society OK with that too?

So where do we go from here? This ruling means that all 50 states must conduct marriages between any combination of two consenting adults. What will that mean? My predictions for the next few years in no particular order:
- There will be a lawsuit filed this summer against either a church as an institution or a priest as a person for not performing a same-sex wedding. The outcome of that lawsuit will be to force the church to perform same-sex wedding. I cannot predict where that will lead.
- Same-sex marriage advocates will target the wedding service industry, specifically businesses owned by people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Any business that does not service same-sex weddings will be driven out of business, either by lawsuit or public shaming. It will make headlines but ultimately be met with a shrug from the media and popular culture.
- Adoption agencies will no longer be allowed to prefer opposite-sex couples to same-sex couples. This will cause agencies run by religious institutions to shut down.
- The first divorce proceeding involving a same-sex couple's fight over custody over their children is going to be fascinating reading.
- The first polygamy case will be filed before the 2016 election. The Supreme Court, using the same logic, will grant the right for marriage to be expanded to more than two people. After all, it's about love, right?

In short, I'm pretty worked up today, but the positive impact is that I'm stepping into the game much more than I ever have. I'm inspired and I'm motivated. More on this to come.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Personal Note About Moving On

On Friday I made a series of tweets and retweets on the official Twitter account of the Answer Boss regarding the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. I received a response tweet from a friend saying that one post was in poor taste, and afterwards that friend went to the online community where this feature was born and commented on it there. Below are those posts.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:26 am
tim boss on twitter (tweeted an article saying this is a "dark week")

PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:49 am
link plz.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:51 pm
sorry my quote should say "these are dark days"

he retweeted this one: ... 6623517696

and he has been tweeting up a storm. i called him on it.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:13 pm
You did :-)

PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:45 pm
i don't understand what is so divisive about coming out publicly and saying "i am a bigot who hates gay people" or "i am really stupid, and don't care to learn about any of the issues i parrot about on social media." then you can more easily join into hate groups and be shunned by actual people, employers, and society at large (although this might lead to a SCOTUS case regarding the rights of the criminally stupid...)

this shit is just straight baffling. it's a failure in democratic process because the Supreme Court upheld a right which is supported by 63% of Americans? lol nope. we don't even have a direct democracy (American History: F-) and if we did, your opinion would have lost out to the actual majority.

you aren't a "true American patriot" for standing up to the Liberal democrat moslem scum who passed this law in the face of overwhelming opposition. you're a backwards fuckwit who doesn't understand the law, doesn't understand government, and hasn't bothered to read the court's opinion on this matter (which has nothing to do with any of these bullshit conservative talking points).

i wish the worst on people like him for hiding their heads in the sand (err, Twitter) so they can circlejerk about being bigots, and be butthurt that other people now have the same rights as them (which is in fact, a thing literally written into the Bill of Rights).

I will not comment on the content of the above other than to say that the opinion above (opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry) is that of most members of the community. What caught my attention was that I was personally being called a bigot. That affected me a lot more than I expected it to. I was furious as I read the words, and my anger did not subside. After that post a few more were made, and what I found interesting and disheartening was that there was no commentary on the charge of bigotry. Just a casual acceptance. And that was what told me that it was time to walk away and not look back.

I'm a little sad since that community is where I started and developed the question-and-answer column that now lives here. But if I am not welcome in a community then I am not welcome, and it is time for me to leave it. I write about it here only to remind myself of why I am leaving and to document it for posterity. 

Below is my final contribution to the site.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 12:25 am
Thank you for your post. You have made it clear that I am not welcome on this site and so my time here has come to an end.

Being called a bigot is something that I will not tolerate. You do not know me, have never (that I can remember) met me, yet you presume to know what is in my heart and in my head. You don't, but if that is your opinion of me, and if that opinion is shared by the members of this community, then it is time for me to spend my time somewhere else.

I will not be back to read any responses to this post. I will not be back at all. I wish you all the best with the rest of your time on this site. Goodbye.

Monday, May 18, 2015

71 - Answers

Q: Phil - Where the fuck have you been?
A: I've been to 8 countries outside the US (chronologically they are Ireland, Canada, England, France, Australia, Denmark, Mexico and Aruba) and 29 out of 50 states. I've been near the geographic center of North America, and to the southern-most point in the US. I've been to a LOT of airports around the country, including a personal best 5 in one day (AGS-ATL-HSV-BWI-ROC) on April 27, 2012. The longest day of my travel life was in October of 2008 when I flew from Rochester, NY to Canberra, Australia. I departed Rochester at about 3pm on October 3, 2008 and landed in Canberra (hopping through Chicago, San Francisco and Sydney) at about 11am on October 5, 2008. All told I spent about 38 hours traveling, which is a record I hope stands for the rest of my life.

Q: Luke - Will the Clarkson Men's Hockey Team ever win a National Championship? Is Casey Jones' system failing, or is the new cadre of recruits going to finally make it work? Who is the guy behind the Richard Nixon mask? THESE QUESTIONS AND MORE ON THE NEXT.......ASK MITTSOB
A: Three questions and a dramatic statement. Not exactly the normal format of a question I get but I'll tackle them one at a time.

First, I think that it's likely that the Clarkson Men's Hockey team will win a National Championship (by which I assume that you mean the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament and not, for example, the National Spelling Bee). Unfortunately the last time the team made the finals was was 1970 when they lost to Cornell 6-4, and they haven't even made the tournament since 2008 when they lost in the quarterfinals to Michigan 2-0. Given the team's performance over the past few years (see question 2) it feels unlikely but times change and I have faith in our team!

As to your second question, I sheepishly admit that I have not watched nor listened to a minute of Clarkson Hockey this season outside of the game that I attended at RIT in October. Yes, I'm a bad fan. To help close that gap I brought up the ECAC Hockey Page for Clarkson to see how the season unfolded, and the more I read the more disappointed I became. We went 8-11-3 in conference, lost in the first round of the ECAC playoffs to RPI, and to make matters worse we went 1-2-1 against SLU. Those facts alone give me pause and make me question how effective our coach's system is. Looking deeper we were in the bottom half of most statistics including Goals, PIM, Power-play (goals, opportunities, etc), Saves and Save Percentage. The only area that we seemed to do well was in Penalty Kills (3rd). With all of that data I won't jump to the "OMG Casey Jones' system is failing OMG" position, but I will express my disappointment in this past season and my hope that new recruits will help. Time, as always, will tell.

Finally, as to the identity of the guy behind the Richard Nixon mask, I plead total ignorance as to what you're talking about. Is there someone in a Richard Nixon mask attending Clarkson Men's Hockey games? The only person I identify with being behind a Richard Nixon mask is Brett Gobe, but that only makes him A guy in the Richard Nixon mask, not THE guy in the Richard Nixon mask.

Q: Mike Guethle - We've had the snowiest January on record followed by the coldest February on record. March shows no sign of warmup. When will the snow melt, and is barn cat dead?
A: Based on when the snow melted last year (a comparably cold winter) I would say that the snow will finally finish melting sometime in the first week of April. The last snowfall of the season will likely come in May of this year given the trends of the past few years, but any accumulations will be short lived.

Because it was such a brutally cold winter in the northeastern United States I'm going to guess that Barn Cat did not survive. That makes me sad despite the fact that I have not, nor never will actually MEET Barn Cat. Hopefully I am wrong about Barn Cat's fate.

Q: Matt Neal - Are smurfs insects or mammals?
A: Smurfs appear to have a skeletal structure covered by muscle, fat, skin and hair. Therefore I think this puts them into the mammal category.

Q: Phil - Will the Sabres successfully complete the tank job or will they Buffalo all over it?
A: Unfortunately my lack of hockey viewing this season extends to the NHL as well. When I moved to western New York in 2002 I decided to adopt the Buffalo Sabres as my professional hockey team but my attention has waned in the past few years. Thus I was only peripherally aware of the tank job that Buffalo was attempting this season. I say "was" because at the time of this writing (April 11, 2015) Buffalo has clinched last place with a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, April 10, 2015, so it seems that they've succeeded. Their prize is a guaranteed #2 lottery pick and a 20% chance at the #1 overall lottery pick. Was it worth it? Personally I think it's dangerous to put all of one's faith into a single draft pick, but let's face it, it's hard to finish worse than last. But if any city can figure out how, it's Buffalo!

Q (1 of 2): Bill - Who are the two candidates for president in 2016? Editor: don't let him wuss out on this, I want a definitive, well-thought out answer.
A: As a consumer of political news I welcome this challenge, but as a man with limited time on his hands I loathe this challenge. But accept this challenge I will!

Some ground rules and formatting up front. Candidates are grouped by political party and presented in alphabetical order. Next to each name will be their current/most recent political job. I'll try to include at least one recent news article about the person in the answer embedded with my thoughts and opinions on the person.

At the time of this writing (March-April, 2015) two Democrats have announced their intention to run for President. The popular view is that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee but that is far from certain (see: Obama, Barack Hussein).

Joe Biden (Vice President of the United States of America)
"Uncle Joe" Biden has been involved in American politics since the late 60's, and was elected to the Senate in 1972. He has mounted several presidential campaigns over the years and was a prominent Democrat member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his tenure in the Senate. In 2008 after losing in the Democrat primary he was chosen by candidate Obama to be his running mate and became the 45th Vice President of the United States in 2008, a position he retained in 2012 with President Obama's reelection.

Vice President Biden is well known for his gaffes and inappropriate and borderline racist comments over the years but he has not suffered any serious consequences for them. Likewise his foreign policy experience (one of the reasons that he was chosen for Vice President) has been criticized by many people including most recently former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Will any of that impact his ability to try for another run at the Presidency? No. The only thing stopping him from trying is Hillary Clinton, which is the same thing stopping anyone from running on the Democrat side. Personally I hope he tries again because he's an entertaining figure in politics and he'll provide some much-needed comic relief.

Hillary Clinton (Most recently Secretary of State of the United States of America)
The first entry in our "Back to the 90's" series is Hillary Clinton, who announced her candidacy on Sunday, April 12, 2015. Former Secretary Clinton has been engaged in the American political scene for the last 40+ years. Her husband William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd President of the US. During his presidency she was brought in to design and implement a new Health Care system for the country (known at the time as Hillarycare).

After her husband left office in 2000 she was elected Senator from New York, and after a term and a third she ran for President starting in 2007. Her election to the Presidency was supposed to be a shoe-in but she ran into the political force of Barack Hussein Obama and wound up losing the Democrat Primary in 2008. Her name was floated as a potential Vice President for Obama, but ultimately she was offered and accepted the Secretary of State position after his election. What did she accomplish as Secretary of State? Not much. She flew hundreds of thousands of miles around the world meeting with diplomats and visiting foreign countries. To me that qualifies her as a travel agent or host of a show on the Travel Channel. She presented the President of Russia a misspelled reset button to symbolize a reset in Russia/US relations. She claimed to have come under sniper fire during a visit to Iraq (which was later proven false). On September 11, 2012 the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya was overrun by a coordinated attack in which the ambassador and three other American embassy personnel were killed. She blamed the attack on reaction to an obscure YouTube video (unlikely but also not disprovable), later famously proclaiming "what difference, at this point, does it make?"

The past few weeks have uncovered new scandals regarding her time at the State Department (another well-written summary can be found here). The Clinton Foundation accepted contributions from foreign governments while she was secretary, in direct violation of administration policy. She and members of her staff used a privately owned and maintained email server at her residence in Chappaqua, NY to conduct official State Department Business. She turned over all work-related emails from that server to the State Department and then deleted all emails on the server, thus ensuring that the public will never know if she ACTUALLY turned over all of her work-related emails. Most recently a book called Clinton Cash has been written detailing how Former President Clintons' speaking fees increased after she became Secretary of State and how her positions changed based on contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

But what difference at this point does it make? She's Hillary Clinton! First Woman President! And remember the 90's? They were great, right? Hillary Clinton was in the White House in the 90's! Also, vagina! #ReadyForHillary

Al Gore (Most recently Vice President of the United States of America)
Speaking of the 90's, ladies and gentlemen, Al Gore! The recent stumblings of Hillary Clinton have sent the left side of the political world looking for alternatives. The New York Times chimed in recently with this piece practically begging the former Vice President to run.

Al Gore served as a congressman from Tennessee from starting in 1977 and was elected to the Senate from that state in 1984. In 1992 he was chosen by Bill Clinton to be his Vice President where he served until 2000. In 2000 he lost the Presidential Election to George W. Bush. Since that loss he has been involved in a wide variety of environmental causes and has amassed a multi-million dollar fortune in the process. He founded (and later sold) a liberal-left media group called CurrentTV.

The fact that his name is being floated now interests me as an observer of these things. Has it been long enough since the 2000 debacle for Al Gore to make a reappearance? Personally I think so. 16 years is enough time for a new generation of voters to come of age and for the sins of the past to be forgotten (for example, Al Gore was raising campaign money from the Chinese well before Frank Underwood was).

But who cares what's in that lockbox? Remember the 90's? They were great, right? Al Gore was in the White House in the 90's! Also, environment! #ReadyForAlGore

Martin O'Malley (Most recently Governor of Maryland)
Martin O'Malley served two terms as Governor of Maryland from 2007 to 2015. Before that he was mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007. He's got executive experience and left-wing values, so in a normal year that would make him a viable candidate for the Democrat party's nomination. Unfortunately for him this is not a normal year. He's starting to make appearances in NH and has begun to (gently) poke at Hillary. What I expect will happen is that eventually the Clintons will swat him like a mosquito and that will be the end of his candidacy.

Bernie Sanders (Senator from Vermont)
Bernie Sanders is an Independent Senator from Vermont who is a self-labeled Democratic Socialist (in the mold of the Democratic Socialist parties in Europe) who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. He began his political career as Mayor of Burlington in 1981 and was elected to the House of Representatives on his second effort in 1990. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 and won reelection in 2012. He is currently the only officially-declared challenger to Hillary Clinton.

Senator Sanders has been a champion of far-left causes for his entire career. He is most famous for delivering an 8.5 hour speech on the Senate floor (incorrectly labeled as a filibuster) in December of 2010 against extension of the tax cuts signed into law during the George W. Bush administration. His platform seems to be a very far-left populist message of taking money from billionaires and distributing it to the rest of the country. It's a very popular message among the left but I'm not sure how it's going to play in a general election. Regardless I'm happy that he's in the race because he'll put pressure on Secretary Clinton and provide some competition on that side of the race.

Elizabeth Warren (Senator from Massachusetts)
Senator Warren is currently a darling among the left. Part of her admiration seems to be based on her firm allegiance to the "you didn't build that" wing of the Democrat party. Her left-populist, class-envy positions are popular with the far-left and there's already a movement to draft her into the nomination. Thus far she has not declared or indicated any interest, but if Hillary Clinton were to suddenly disappear she would be a first-tier candidate.

There are many similarities between Senator Warren and President Obama. Both are former college professors. Both were aided in achieving their college positions by their minority status (1/2 African-American for Obama, 1/12th Native-American for Warren, though this was later proven false and provided her the nickname "Fauxcahontas"). Both hold views that are on the far-left of the American political spectrum. Both were first-term Senators when they seriously considered Presidential runs. So if you think that the Obama regime has been a success, by all means let's try it again!

James Webb (Most recently Senator from Virginia)
James "Jim" Webb served one term as Senator from Virginia from 2007 to 2012. He was elected as part of the Democrat wave of 2006 where the Republicans lost both the Senate and the House. In his time in the Senate he served on the prominent military and foreign committees (Foreign Relations, Veterans Affairs and Armed Services). He decided to leave after one term, and in November of 2014 formed an exploratory committee for a Presidential run, which is unique among the candidates on the Democrat side of the ledger.

Senator Webb falls into the same left-wing populist category as our current President, but the fact that he served a full term in the Senate gives him more experience than Senator Warren, so he's go that that going for him, which is nice. Personally I believe that his run is for a position in a future Clinton administration (most likely Defense Secretary). This is a tactic used over the years by many candidates, and we'll have several more examples when we get to the Republicans.

As a conservative I am supremely happy with the crop of candidates. I will say upfront that I have not currently chosen a candidate, but out of the ones listed below there are only a couple that I would not enthusiastically support. All face an uphill battle but I believe that all are qualified to at least wage that battle.

Jeb Bush (Most recently Governor of Florida)
For our third and final entry in the "Back to the 90's" sweepstakes, I give you Jeb Bush. Governor Bush is the son and brother of former US Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush respectively. He was elected as Governor of Florida in 1998 after losing in 1994 and served two terms as Governor. During his tenure he lowered taxes and implemented conservative government reforms including cutting spending and making it easier to remove government employees. He worked to reform education, something that he has continued in his time outside of office with his support of Common Core. At this point he has only declared that he's exploring a run for President, not actually declared but the popular opinion is that he'll get in sometime this spring/summer.

Governor Bush is the leader among establishment Republicans and has the most big-money donors supporting him. That will help his chances but with the rise of the conservative grass roots since 2009 I don't know if it will be enough.

Ben Carson (N/A)
Dr. Ben Carson is a pediatric neurosurgeon who was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in February of 2013. There he gave a very pointed and critical speech directed partly at President Obama, who was in the room with him during the speech. For this he received praise from conservatives and condemnation from the left. Since that time he has become a prominent conservative commentator, appearing often on Fox News and talk radio outlets. He officially announced his candidacy via a video released on May 3, 2015.

Dr. Carson's views tend to the conservative/libertarian, which I like, but mastery of Medicine does not qualify someone to be President, nor does rhetorical flourish, so I'm not a fan of his Presidential run and I don't think he has a chance of winning. His knowledge of foreign affairs is particularly lacking as evidenced by an interview he gave with one of my favorite conservative talk show hosts. In my opinion he is running not for President but for a Cabinet Secretary position (Surgeon General most likely) in the eventual Republican nominee's administration.

Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey)
Governor Chris Christie is one of my personal favorite figures in national politics today. He began his political career in 1995 as a county legislator, was appointed US Attorney for New Jersey by President George W. Bush from 2002 to 2008, and then ran for an won the Governorship in 2009. He won reelection in 2014 and is currently the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Governor Christie is a bombastic, fearless, articulate man. He balanced budgets in New Jersey without raising income, sales or business taxes. He is a vocal critic of the teacher's unions in New Jersey, and supports school choice. Unfortunately he has been dogged by a number of media-driven complaints and controversies for the past two years. The most famous of these involved the closure of two lanes of the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington bridge from September 9-13, 2013. This caused numerous traffic headaches for residences and became a national scandal known as Bridgegate. The closures were ordered by one of Christie's aides who was later fired. In January of 2014 Governor Christie held an epic 108 minute long press conference, answering every question that the press could come up with about the incident, which seemed to deflate a lot of attention. An investigation of the incident concluded in December of 2014 and cleared the Governor of any wrongdoing.

He's been keeping out of the spotlight lately, which I think is for the best. In my opinion he would be an entertaining candidate, but I don't think he's the best we can do.

Ted Cruz (Senator from Texas)
In general I do not like Senators as Presidents. The last six and a half years have more than borne this out. However, I really like Ted Cruz. He is smart and a great speaker, and he backs up his principles with action (filibustering overnight in the Senate, for example). He does well in large groups and in long interviews, and does not require a teleprompter to tell him what to say. He clerked in the Supreme Court and has argued nine times in front of that same court.

He was also the first Republican to openly declare his/her candidacy. Since the announcement he has made the rounds in Iowa, given several media interviews, and started meeting with voters. The most recent controversy he's been involved in is regarding an interview given by Mark Halparin in which Cruz was challenged to prove that he was authentically Cuban. Senator Cruz bore it well and the interviewer was rightly chastised for his racism. It isn't the end of it, but the public shaming of Halparin is encouraging.

Carly Fiorina (Most recently candidate for Senator from California)
Carly Fiorina is most famous for being CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 2002 to 2005. Her first political activity was an unsuccessful senate campaign in 2010, but she's been very vocal about her desire to run for President this cycle. On the one hand I like executive experience, and Carly Fiorina certainly has that. She seems very smart, accomplished, and can think fast on her feet. She has been going after Hillary Clinton in speeches and is at least partly shielded from gender politics by being a woman. She officially announced her candidacy during an appearance on ABC's This Week program on May 3, 2015.

Unfortunately I think her lack of national political experience is going to hurt her as the race gets going. True, she's a good speaker and can battle back against the inevitable bias in the media, but that won't be enough to push her candidacy over the edge. I see Carly Fiorina giving this a go for two reasons. First, to raise her national profile. She could come back and run for Senate or Governor from California again. Second, she could also be running for a Cabinet Secretary position, probably Secretary of Treasury.

Lindsey Graham (Senator from South Carolina)
I am not a fan of Lindsey Graham. He has been in Washington for far too long, and as such has become a member of the establishment wing of the Republican Party (see also McCain, John, Boehner, John and McConnell, Mitch). Anyone who has spent that much time in the US Senate is not qualified to be President of the United States of America. The one interesting thing about his candidacy is that it increases the probability of the Naked Leprechaun Riding on a Unicorn Scenario, which I will come to in due time. [Ed. The WHAT?!? Trust me, it's good!]

Mike Huckabee (Most recently governor of Arkansas)
Governor Huckabee is a big-government conservative in the mold of George W. Bush. He is socially conservative, a darling of the evangelical right movement, and an effective communicator. He was able to turn his unsuccessful Presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 into a successful television show on the Fox News Channel. Recently he announced that he was going to take a leave from the show, and on May 5, 2015 he announced his candidacy.

Governor Huckabee's brand of "compassionate conservatism" died with the George W. Bush administration in 2008. Sadly the Governor does not yet realize that, but he will, and when he does I hope that he steps aside gracefully.

John Kasich (Governor of Ohio)
John Kasich is currently in his second term as governor of Ohio having won a decisive victory in 2014. Prior to that he served in Congress from 1983 until 2001, then went on to host a show on Fox News until 2007. His name has recently started to be spoken more loudly by the political class, and given the importance of Ohio to the electoral college and his performance as governor (generally positive) I think it's likely he'll get in.

Rick Perry (Most recently Governor of Texas)
Rick Perry is considered a dark horse candidate given his struggles in the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign. His experience as governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015 certainly helps his chances, as does the fact that he's run and lost. He seems to have learned some lessons and is keeping a low profile. He has not officially declared, nor has he formed an exploratory committee, but his name remains in the mix.

Rand Paul (Senator from Kentucky)
Rand Paul announced his candidacy on April 7, 2015. His launch was rocky (he got into an on-air confrontation with Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show), but during it he did succeed in pushing back against the media and that shows that he's a fighter. Rand Paul is firmly in command of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, and a formidable wing it is. His father Ron Paul has been a darling of that movement for a long time, and Senator Paul seems to have inherited that support.

He, like Ted Cruz, also suffers from being a first-term senator. Given that there are three total (see our next contestant) that's not that big of an issue, but it's still an issue. I think his bigger issue is going to be the fact that this election is going to be more and more focused on foreign policy, and Rand Paul's isolationist instincts are not going to serve him well.

Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida)
Rounding out the class of first-term Senators running for President, I bring you Marco Rubio. Elected in 2010, Senator Rubio has made a name for himself as a foreign policy expert in the Senate. I have seen and heard him give numerous interviews on foreign policy and he is impressive in those settings. He works without notes, has a clear vision, and articulates it well.

Senator Rubio announced his candidacy on April 13, 2015 in a speech in Miami, FL. The fact that two major politicians from Florida are in the race and that makes the aforementioned Naked Leprechaun Riding A Unicorn Scenario more likely. [Ed. I'm starting to think that you just made up that term. I only wish I had come up with it first!]

Rick Santorum (Most recently Senator from Pennsylvania)
On the plus side Rick Santorum has been out of the US Senate for long enough that any establishment stain has long since washed away. On the minus side, well, he's just not a good candidate. He's been running for President of Iowa for the better part of a decade but hasn't gained much national momentum. He collected the second most delegates in the 2012 Republican Primary but that doesn't seem to matter this time around. Personally I hope he decides to sit this one out but I doubt he will.

Scott Walker (Governor of Wisconsin)
A very successful governor with a rising national profile, Scott Walker is my personal favorite candidate in the batch. First elected governor in 2010 he upset the left in Wisconsin by introducing drastic overhauls in the budget and limiting the power of public employee unions. In retaliation there were demonstrations, protests, and eventually a recall election in 2012 which he won handily. He campaigned again in 2014 and again won re-election.

In January of 2015 Scott Walker first formed an exploratory committee around a Presidential run and began making speeches in Iowa and other places around the country. He would be the first President in a very long time without a college degree (he quit his Senior year to accept a job offer and never finished). Personally I find that to be to his benefit.

Matchup and Victor

Democrats: Hilary Clinton
Who else could it be? I mean really, it doesn't matter how many scandals come about, how many rules and/or laws that she's broken, or how incompetent she has been in her government jobs. She's the nominee. Get used to it. #ReadyForHillary

Republicans: Brokered Convention
One possibility that 2016 presents on the Republican side is what's known as a Brokered Convention. This means that no one candidate has enough delegates to win outright and that the rules of the convention will pick the candidate. I like to think of it like how the Vatican chooses a new pope but without the white smoke. Because of how rare it would be, Hugh Hewitt (another of my favorite radio talk show hosts) calls this the Naked Leprechaun Riding a Unicorn Scenario.

So once the dust settles who will win? My money is on Governor Walker. Admittedly this is some wishful thinking on my part, but to me Scott Walker is the best possible choice for the Republicans.

Q (2 of 2): Bill - Which pair of pep band offspring are the first to hook up? You know it's going to happen eventually...
A: There have been pairings in the pep band for as long as the pep band has existed. Some of these have succeeded (often times spectacularly) while others have failed (equally spectacularly). Pairings of pep band offspring, however, is something that is naturally going to be rarer given the smaller pool of people to draw from.

But how small is that pool? I've decided to bound the potential candidates with the following rules:
1. One parent must have been a member in good standing of the Clarkson University Pep Band for one full hockey season.
2. Both parents must have attended Clarkson University for at least one full year.
This disqualifies a large number of people (including myself and Steve Faux) but leaves in place people like you and your wife. You're welcome. With those rules in place I racked my brain and was able to come up with the following (admittedly incomplete) list in no particular order:

Greg and Kathy Dilmore: 4
Kevin and Karyn Graves: 2
Tim and Marybeth Livingston: 3
Charlie and Serena Blackmer: 4
Jarsh Beckstein: 2
Eric and Alicia Democko: 2
Matt and Meg Stoffel: 2
Bill and Lisa Jeffers: 2
Brian and Jen Walden: 1
Tim and Melissa Sweet: 2
Miscellaneous other couplings I'm forgetting about: 5-10
(I embarrassingly can't remember if Todd or Tony reproduced within the rules above, so if they did then their children apply too. Sorry guys!)

This brings the total number of children to between 25 and 30. Not bad! Let's assume for the sake of this question that all of these children attend Clarkson once they are old enough. The age distributions bring a large number of them to Clarkson at the same time, and common interests (pep band, general Clarkson-ness) means that the probability of romantic interaction become very high.

Assuming that none of the geographically co-located children have been matched together before college (there are large collections in Rochester, NY and Albany, NY, so it's certainly possible), the odds that two of them will get together increase once they reach college age. But which you ask (bringing the question full circle)? I really can't say, but I will say that it WILL happen.

Q: AndrewSmith - What happens to Guethle on St Pattys day?
A: The same thing that happens to Guethle on every other day of the year: he wakes up, he drinks, he has adventures, he drinks, he sleeps.

Q: Jacob - DANCE!?

Q: Jesse_Burton - How long is original recipe fourloko good for?
A: FourLoko is a combination malt beverage and energy drink that was first introduced in 2005. Its main ingredients are alcohol (12% ABV), caffeine, taurine and guarana. FourLoko became a craze between 2008 and 2010 for its intoxicating and energizing effects. It was banned from several college campuses after incidents involving students drinking too much of the product and the hilarity that did not ensue. In response to the controversy they relaunched without the energy drink components (caffeine, taurine and guarana) and became more of a standard malt beverage.

I posed this question to the competition and learned that malt beverages expire after about 4 months. However if you keep it unopened and refrigerated it will technically never go "bad", it will just grow weaker and less fresh with time.

Q: waits - What form of Guethle would most likely be successful I.e. profitable in the world outside the linkos?
A) reality tv documentary
B) reality dating show
C) Guethle show I.e. Truman show
D) Book deal
E) blog
F) advertising poster boy for a new dating website.
A: Again basing this only on my limited interactions with Guethle (mostly over the last few months on this forum) I'm going to combine A and E leading to D. I can see Mike beginning a blog and hosting his own YouTube TV show, using both platforms to entertain people with his stories and adventures. After a few months/years of this he should have built up an audience and can peddle that into a book deal.

Mike, if you're interested I'd love to help out with this project. There's gold in them thar hills!

Q: Sheamus - What question should I ask in Ask Mitssob - Episode 72?
A: Because it takes me so long to answer these questions (and despite my best efforts that trend is sadly going to continue) I recommend asking a question that you WANT an answer to, but not one that you NEED an answer to.

Q: Jacob - What dead language should we all learn and program into Jolinko for our own personal use?
A: The easiest dead language to use would probably be Old English. The structure and form seems to be close enough to modern English that we could stumble through with minimal effort. If you want to go really obscure there are many choices. Personally I think Aramaic would be a good one to resurrect. However I think a more productive use of resources would be to use a language that is still in use today so that the community can grow more worldly.

Q: Jesse_Burton - What will my raise be this year and should I be happy about what I get?
A: Based on nothing in particular I think that you will get a raise of between 1% and 5%, since that seems to be a standard these days.

The second part of your question touches on the topic of expectations and happiness. As I've mentioned in past episodes, one of my favorite radio talk show hosts is a man named Dennis Prager. He dedicates the second hour of his Friday show to Happiness, and has written a fantastic book on the subject called Happiness is a Serious Problem. He wrote a column in 2012 entitled Who Is Happy?, and one part of it is relevant to your question:

People who have few expectations.
The more we expect, the less happy we will be — because the more we expect, the less grateful we are for what we receive. And ingratitude is the mother of unhappiness.

I think that's a good way to look at things. If you don't have expectations then you will be happier with the outcomes, and this applies to your situation. If you don't expect to get a raise then you will probably be happy with whatever raise you get. And if you don't get a raise then you won't be disappointed if one doesn't come.

Q: Steve Faux - Why is deciding on a baby name so difficult?
A: First, congratulations on the forthcoming arrival of Faux Baby! Hopefully you and the Fantastic Mrs. Faux are getting through the pregnancy with minimal difficulty and are getting excited for the arrival of your offspring.

Your question is timely since my wife and I have struggled with this problem as well. I think it's difficult because it's a major decision. It is a choice that will define your child's life, something that he or she will be stuck with forever. You'll be calling your child this name through good times and bad. It will help define their identity. Therefore it's not something to be taken lightly.

The second reason its difficult is that you have to pair the name with your surname, and that can prove difficult. "Boss" and "Faux" aren't the most common names, and they naturally eliminate some choices. In any event it's a tough decision and I wish you both the best of luck both with that, and with everything else that's coming your way.

Q: Matt Barrett - What are the chances Steve Faux names his child Seven?
A: Given that the Fantastic Mrs. Faux is involved in the decision I'd say that the chances are somewhere between zero and none.

Q: Sheamus - When will my neighbors take down their Christmas lights?
A: In my opinion it's permissible to leave Christmas lights up while there is still snow on the ground, regardless of what month it is. It's currently April as I write this and snow is still on the ground here in Rochester (albeit fading very quickly), so I would think that your neighbors would take their lights down soon.

Q: Matt Neal - Why do I only have lucid dreams when I drink heavily?
A: Lucid dreaming is the state of dreaming where you are aware that you're dreaming. A quick search yielded a very interesting message board thread on this topic. My guess is that the alcohol is relaxing to you and puts your body into a deeper sleep than normal.

Friday, February 27, 2015

70 - Answers

Q: waits - Where did the song "here we sit like birds in the wilderness" originate?
A: I was unfamiliar with this song (the lyrics of which can be found here), so I dove headfirst into some research. I have to say at the outset that I'm in your debt, because this was a lot of fun to track down. What follows is a first-person recounting of my journey of discovery with this song.

My initial search turned up a number of children's lyrics and Boy Scout sites, which lead me to think it was a camp song. I attended summer camp, first as a youth and later as a counselor, but our camp did not feature this song. The song appeared to be a way of passing the time while waiting for something (mealtime) or someone (another group of campers). Before I found a recording I read the lyrics aloud and fell into a natural cadence with them. Ba-da-da-da, ba-dadadadada, and so on. And I thought to myself, wow, that cadence sounds very familiar. Then I found a recording from a place called Flying Horse Farms:

Sure enough, camp song, complete with choreographed arm motions and shouted lyrics. Mystery solved, right? Well, not quite. I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd heard that cadence and melody before. After some more digging I discovered that the song originated from a folk song called The Old Gray Mare. Both links contain some brief but interesting information about the song's origins, which date back to the Civil War and maybe as far back as London Bridge Is Falling Down.

But wait a minute, Old Gray Mare you say? Why is that familiar? And then I remembered, The Simpsons!

And then it hit me that I'd heard this melody and cadence while watching college football:

In short, the history of the song goes a long way back, but it's been used for a lot of things over the years. Hope this gives you a bit of entertainment as we kick things off on our 70th journey into the land of questions and answers.

Q: Jacob - What makes this episode the quintessential episode?
A: My initial answer was "nothing", but I thought a little more about this and decided that it does have some quintessential "Ask Mitssob" characteristics:
1. It's late. Very late. Untimely late. Late enough that at least one of the answers is OBE (Overtaken By Events, one of many military acronyms that have made their way into my lexicon).
2. It has rambling answers that provide entertainment and information.
3. I use biographical information in at least one answer.
4. My editor makes an appearance. [Ed. Hello. Hi.]

Q: Bill - What do you get for the man who has everything?
A: The joking answer to this question would be "nothing", because the man who has everything clearly doesn't have "nothing". But that's a cop-out and today is not a day for cop-outs. 

First, even a man who has everything likely hasn't EXPERIENCED everything, so I would start by looking in that direction. You could go as simple as a pottery class or bird carving, or as immersive and intense as the movie "The Game" went (complete with cathartic birthday experience that I won't mention in case you haven't seen this movie).

Second, this same hypothetical man probably hasn't EATEN everything, so I would suggest taking him out to dinner. You could also give him some exotic foods like kangaroo, chocolate covered crickets, or haggis. Or you could combine the above suggestion with this one and do a cooking class. 

In any event I think that there are plenty of options for "the man who has everything".

Q: Luke - What are the best and worst Christmas songs and movies, respectively?
Q: JFK - Though I'd add in there Christmas TV specials/Christmas episodes of xyz show too.
A: I love getting questions like these but I also hate it because it's a huge time-sucker. If I ever start doing this as a paid gig I'm going to have the hardest time doing this on a deadline. Anyway let's dive in. 

Best Christmas Songs

These are the songs that make me happy it's the holiday. I tend to whistle little pieces of them as I walk around work or outside. I tend towards the classic and religious, but also the sad.

Angels We Have Heard On High
Gloooo, ooooo, ooooo, ooooo, ria! Puts me right in the spirit of the season, both religious and secular.

Making the most of the dreariness of winter, set to a catchy melody. This also gives me the excuse to link to a fantastic parody video made from clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation!

The original lyrics (in the link above) are slightly more depressing than the more well-known ones, but I find it a beautiful song with a great melody, one that I never get tired of hearing. 

Note that this doubles as easily the creepiest Christmas song out there. I love the song, don't get me wrong, but the tone and content can easily go from sweet and innocent to creepy and horror-movie. The woman in the song is clearly stating that she'd like to leave but the man is very intent on keeping her in his home. Yes, I get it, it's innocent, but in this day and age it's very easy to read it another way.

Not technically a Christmas song, but I do love the sadness that is captured in this South Park classic.

Worst Christmas Songs

Repetitive, overplayed, repetitive, boring, and repetitive. After the second chorus (which corresponds with the 500th time you hear the refrain about "Last Christmas I gave you my heart") I find myself yelling at whatever speaker this song is eminating from, "We get it! Last Christmas you foolishly gave your heart away and this Christmas you're going to do it again. Good luck with that, asshole!" And then I go back to whatever it was I was doing until the next time this song comes on, usually within 15-20 minutes.

Have you thought through the ramifications of your Christmas desire, little girl? No? I didn't think so.

And the number one worst Christmas song...The Italian (Fucking) Christmas Donkey
Combining the worst elements of Italian music and annoying Christmas themes in one neat, tidy package!

Best Christmas Movie

A Christmas Carol - I love the elements of despair, love, hopelessness, family, regret and redemption that this story has. My personal favorite version is A Muppet Christmas Carol, but honorable mention goes to the underrated Scrooged.

It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra at his most Frank Capra. Jimmy Stewart at his most Jimmy Stewart. I watch this movie every Christmas and every Christmas I love it all over again.

Bonus: Die Hard - It's become cliche to engage in the "Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?" debate (personally I say yes but I understand both sides of the argument), but I'll include it because it's a great movie, Christmas or otherwise.

Worst Christmas Movie

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians - Brilliantly torn to shreds by the MST3K team, this movie is so bad that I still haven't seen it all the way through. It's possible that it resolves itself into something redeeming, but I doubt it. If you want to watch it yourself you can find the non-MST3K version here

After you asked this questions one of the Kinja-based sites provided their own list, which I found quite entertaining. 

Mrs. Ssob Bonus Round

To say that Christmas is special to my in-laws would be like saying that air is special to creatures that breathe. As such my wife is an afficianado of all things Christmas, so I asked for her input on this question.

Favorite Movie: Elf
Best Christmas Song: Baby It's Cold Outside (specifically the one with Zooey Deschanel and Will Farrell from Elf)

Favorite Christmas Special: Too many to mention (basically anything that's playing on the Hallmark channel or Netflix)
Worst Christmas Song: The Italian Christmas Donkey

Q: democko - Why did Canada join Twitter?
A: The "DUH" answer is that Canada joined Twitter to become an active participant in that most peculiar recent development in society: social media. But why does Canada feel the need to participate? Reading through their feed gives me part of an answer. They are using it to promote the contributions of Canada to the world (in the recent Oscars), advertise tourism (which would bring money to the country), and to share news involving Canada. 

In short, they want to be involved in all social media platforms, and I think they're doing a fine job so far. 

Q: Jesse_Burton - I just put my foot through the ripped pee-hole in my it time to get some new pairs?
A: [Ed: There's a joke in there somewhere, I just can't find it. Now that the pee-hole is bigger it should be easier.]
Not necessarily. If you possess sewing skills you can repair the hole and continue wearing the boxers. Alternatively you could just continue wearing the boxers even though they have an enlargened pee-hole.

But even with the above suggestion, yes, you really should invest in some new boxers. They're not that expensive, come in a variety of styles, and frankly there's something very pleasant about wearing a new pair of boxers.

Q: Jackie - What is the best stocking-stuffer available this year?
A: To bound the search I've defined "stocking-stuffer" as:
1. An item that can fit into a standard Christmas stocking (less than 2 pounds, no larger than a paperback book)
2. An item that costs less than $20

With those restrictions here's an off-the-cuff list of things:
- Flashlight
- Pen Knife
- Bottle Opener
- Purell
- Chapstick
- Thumb drive / SD card
- Candy
- Deck of Cards
- Tape Measure
- Hand lotion
- Gift Card
- Starbucks (or similar) coffee packets

As you can see I'm a big fan of practical stocking stuffers. A couple of years ago I bought a couple dozen of this multi-tool and gave them to my team at work and to my in-laws. I still have mine and use it for everything from opening bottles to tuning my drums.

Q: Todd - I need to start planning a menu. Best Christmas dinner main course?
A: My wife's mother is one of 14 children. Throughout my wife's childhood their family would all gather in Long Island at her late grandmother's house and an epic feast would ensue. There would be a turkey, a ham, baked ziti, a roast beef, and a pork roast (and possibly more). Appetizers would be varied and plentiful, as would desserts, and an epic feast would ensue.

We aren't quite as elaborate on my side of the family. My mother has prepared a roast for our Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember, and her side of the family would come to our house on Christmas Day and we'd have a great dinner.

My breakdown of the classic (and non-classic) entrees is below:
- Ham: Personally this is my least favorite main course, but it's also quite popular this time of year.
- Turkey/Chicken: Seems too close to Thanksgiving for my tastes, but to each their own.
- Pig Roast: A Hawaiian twist on the holiday! The only difficulty is in digging the pit, which is fairly easy before the ground freezes but would probably require some serious Earth-moving equipment or high explosives to do in winter.
- Roast Beef: Because this has been my family's meal of choice I'm biased.
- Duck: Reserved for fans of the Christmas classic A Christmas Story.

Q: Brett - Spaceballs: great movie or greatest movie?
A: While Spaceballs is a great movie, I cannot make the leap to call it the greatest. I don't mean that as an insult. Far from it. Mel Brooks movies are entertainment, not great art. I'll even go so far as to say that Spaceballs is not even Mel Brooks' greatest movie (in my opinion that honor falls to Blazing Saddles).

On the plus side you have some truly Oscar-worthy performances (seriously, I'm not joking) from John Candy, Joan Rivers, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman and Mel Brooks himself. The writing is above average, the jokes (for the most part) are funny. Like many Mel Brooks movies it is inherently quoteable. People at work make the "12345...that's the same combination as my luggage!" joke frequently, as well as the "When will THEN be NOW?" line. Finally, the running gag about merchandising was years ahead of its time.

On the minus side, though, the move has not aged well. The references and in-movie technology are practically sheep-dipped in the 1980's. Some of the targets of ridicule (like the sheer size of the ship at the beginning of the movie) just aren't that funny. And there are some cringe-worthy moments that are trying VERY HARD to be funny, but just aren't ("Druish Princess").

After you asked this question rumors began to arise that the long-rumored sequel was indeed being thought about again. In the movie Yogurt makes reference to the next movie being called "Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money". An urban legend was that the sequel would actually be called "Spaceballs 3: The Search for Part 2", which still makes me smile. 

Finally, an enterprising YouTuber created a brilliant trailer based on the ones done for Interstellar. I have to say it does a fantastic job of making the movie look FAR more serious than it actually is.

Q: Barn - What should the schedule of planning my wedding look like?
A: First, congratulations to you and the future Mrs. Barn! I was excited to hear your announcement and wish you both years of happiness.

The short, "kinda joking but not really" answer to your question is "whatever your future bride tells you that it is." But I assume that by asking the question that you're not totally cut out of the process, nor should you be. I really enjoyed planning our wedding and was involved in more than I expected to be going in. Many of the decisions were made by my wife, but we saw eye-to-eye on the big things (type of venue, church, etc), with disagreements only happening on the smaller stuff.

Couple random tips before I break out a schedule. First, spreadsheets are your friend. I made several during the planning process and they were invaluable in keeping us both organized. Second, figure out a way to share a calendar with your bride-to-be. Right around the time I moved in with my wife we did this and it was a very valuable tool during the wedding planning process. If one of you makes an appointment you can put it on the calendar and the other will immediately see it, making coordination a lot easier.

Below is my informal breakdown of planning the wedding. I'm basing this on the wedding I know best (mine), which was a church ceremony with a separate venue for cocktail hour and reception (which also doubled as the hotel). You may not have the same wedding vision as we did but hopefully this helps!

Stage 1: 12-24 months until THE BIG DAY

1. Define a budget that you're comfortable with. I recommend building in at least a 10% buffer.
2. Come up with a rough wedding guest list (within 20 people) and wedding party.
3. Find a venue. For me this was the big driver of the rest of the wedding planning process. The venues that we looked at all had relationships with vendors to provide other services that you'll need. 
4. If you're going to do a church service, find a church. 

Let me break the list at this point to say, welcome to the Wedding Industrial Complex! I recommend picking up a copy of Insane City by one of my favorite authors Dave Barry to help you see some of the humor in this process.

Stage 2: 6-12 months until THE BIG DAY
5. Pay deposits. Our wedding venue required a series of deposits before the final payment the week of the wedding. Vendors have their own schedules, just roll with it.
6. If you're going to do save-the-date cards then those can go out whenever you want.

Stage 3: 3-6 months until THE BIG DAY
7. Invites should follow around 8-10 weeks before the wedding itself. This can get frustrating and political as you and your future bride navigate both of your families trying to find out who to invite and not to invite. I don't have any specific advice, just know that it could get tense at times.
8. If you're planning to register for gifts, now's the time!

Stage 4: 1-3 months until THE BIG DAY
9. Your RSVP date should be roughly a month prior to the wedding, that way you can plan how many guests you'll have, arrange tables, etc. We had several late changes, which was frustrating but in hindsight we should have planned for them. 
10. Wedding Shower and Bachelor / Bachelorette parties happen around this time. Enjoy this time bonding with friends and family, it's a blast!

Stage 5: 0-1 months until THE BIG DAY
10. If you're working with a hotel it's a good idea to create some kind of check-in bag for your guests. We included water, snacks, pamphlets for local attractions, and a note about the hotel itself.
11. For us we had to bring everything (table place cards, signs, etc) to the venue a week before THE BIG DAY.
12. Get married!!!

Again, congratulations and best of luck!

Q: Luke - How would you rank all questions in this thread against each other? What criteria would you use, and what would the final rankings be?
Q: Jacob - Should we do a question draft where, after you close questions, everyone drafts questions and then you determine who has the best team?
A: I don't explicitly rank the questions that are asked here, but there definitely ones that I enjoy answering more than others. On the blogspot account I started tagging posts with general content like "silly", "sports", "politics". A long-term project (read: one that I'll never get around to but would be fun if I did) would be to go back and re-rate the questions along the lines you outlined. 

What's more likely is that I'll do a second spin of questions. I've toyed with the idea of writing a real book based on the questions asked here, going back and reworking/editing the answers into something of a more complete work. If and when I do that then categorizing the answers will be a good way to organize the project.

Q: democko - What is the most underrated thread on jolinko?
A: I have always been partial to the "...will not be down for breakfast" thread. It's a good source for recent deaths, often getting updated within minutes of an announcement. It is also an opportunity to inject some humor into what is normally a very sad occasion. Finally it gives people a chance to weigh in on what that person meant to them.