Friday, March 08, 2013

Ask James Anything Month: A Bumper Crop of Questions

Well, hello there! Looks like we've got quite the full slate of inquiries, so let's go ahead and jump right in. Ask James Anything Month continues!

mrchristian asks:

"Rabbits or ferrets ?"

I've got a theory, it could be bunnies.

I'm trying to think of a scenario in which I would go with ferrets here, and I'm sure they're lovely critters if you get to know them, but nope, so far I'm coming up blank.

If I were to own one of the two, I expect I'd go with a rabbit (and, me being me, I would be functionally incapable of naming it anything but "Bunnicula"), because I don't think I'd get used to that weird sideways poinging weasel movement that ferrets do. And this goes doubly so if cat ownership is factored in; I've heard anecdotal testimony from people who claimed to have successfully convinced a rabbit and a cat to coexist, but cats aren't big on sudden movements, and videos of ferrets seem to suggest that they're nothing but sudden movements, so that combination would probably end in disaster.

Now, if I'm misinterpreting the question and I were instead tasked with eating one of the two, I'd also go with rabbit in that instance. I mean, a ferret does kind of look like a naturally-occurring sausage, but whatever useable meat is in there would probably be subpar, and the primary motivation for eating one (outside of hunger and desperation, I mean) would be just to make sure that it can't try and eat you first.

So, yes. Bunnies, bunnies, it must be bunnies.

unclebob asks:

"[W]hat think you James about Paula Havixbeck? Is she such a trigger point of change or simply political debris?

And for your bonus point, why not gaze into your crystal ball and tell us if you see any political party movement that might trigger change?"

It's funny; if you'd asked me this time last year who looked to be the most noteworthy Council newcomer, I'd have said Brian Mayes -- who has proven solid and sensible, if a tad dry -- with little to no hesitation. But in that past year Havixbeck has made a late charge for that Most Noteworthy Council Newcomer title, the one that kind of doesn't exist, the award that I'm making up as a hypothetical right now.

(The rest of the field: Ross Eadie is most recognized for a profane email outburst, Thomas Steen's rare appearances in the public eye boil down to "hey fellers, heh, d'you folks remember when hockey", and Devi Sharma has been a living Kate Bush song.)

That said, Havixbeck's stock has gone up and down and every which way in that timeframe, so it's a lot harder to project her trajectory than it is for other members of Council; her current identity as an accountability champion for the little guy and a careful steward of public funds is indeed quite newfound, as just eleven months ago she was fully on board for the Mayor's $7-million waterpark grant right to the last whether Council had enough information on it or not.

Further to that point, her new one-woman-army attitude seems to have developed less from a natural evolution into the role and more from her increasingly acrimonious rebellion against the Mayor. (Not that distancing oneself from Katz has been anything of an exclusive practice, as late.) And the Mayor is known for making statements that are provably untrue -- Sam Katz could tell you that his name is Sam Katz and you'd still be better off having an auditor confirm it -- but when he characterized Havixbeck as "unpredictable" following her ouster from EPC, it was as close to plausible-sounding as anything he's said in months. (And, indeed, there've been rumblings to that effect as far back as April of last year.)

So it's hard to tell! It's hard to say for sure. We the audience can seem reasonably certain where Havixbeck stands right now -- her speech in January about being no one's yes-person and no one's tin soldier was, in professional wrestling parlance, a definitive face-turn promo -- and she'll be a distinct force to be reckoned with if she continues on her current path, but then again we've also seen the difference that a year can make. This time next year she might be arguing for a doubling of the police budget, embedded helicopters in every school, and a base on the moon. We don't know! We don't know. But it'll definitely be interesting either way, and interesting is exactly what I like to see.

As for any political party movements that might kick up some dust, I'm not terribly convinced that there are any significant status-quo shakeups a-comin'. Provincially, the Conservatives can't make the inroads into city-voter support that they need without alienating the zealots people like this within their base, and the Liberals continue to basically not exist. (A weak Liberal party directly benefits the NDP, not just in the "well, duh" polling sense but in the very real "federal Liberals endorsing provincial NDP candidates during provincial elections" sense.) Federally, meanwhile, the NDP is having the exact problems with its new Quebec MPs that most everyone predicted would happen after the last election, and the Liberals are drifting dangerously close to Calgary Flames territory -- stubbornly unwilling to begin the rebuild that they desperately need, instead sticking to the unsuccessful framework of years past and forever clinging to the hope that just one extra piece is all they need to take them to the top.


Anonymous, 2013-03-05 10:39 asks:

"Leaving former team scoring leaders aside (Hawerchuk, Selanne, etc) which former NHL Jet would be the best addition to the current Jets roster?"

Allowing for my incredibly transparent loyalty-slash-bias, and allowing for the obvious caveat that we're dealing more in archetypes than in specific player evaluations because of the inherent difficulties in comparing players between eras -- dude, OBVIOUSLY Teppo Numminen.

Goal scoring isn't really the problem with the current Jets, necessarily; goaltending, sure, but that doesn't really help us when the former-Jets were... never exactly an elite goaltending powerhouse themselves. No one's ever like "by god, what this new Jets team needs is a Rick Tabaracci!" (And y'all know I love some Bob Essensa, but man, he had some not very good years.)

As I was saying, though, about scoring -- so far the Jets have scored three goals in a game and then lost anyway four times this season, and that was within the first twenty games. Not good, guys. Not a good look! Not great.

So our current, sadsack Jets have a lot of issues, but we can cover a few of the more obvious ones -- special teams (because good lord), consistent effort (because younger teams, particularly this one, give up easily and quickly) and positional defensive play (because BYFUGLIEN WHY ARE YOU BEHIND THE OTHER TEAM'S GOAL, COVER THE P--DAMMIT ENSTROM, YOU TOO, GET BACK HERE) -- with a quietly excellent, positionally sound two-way D-man who could eat up twenty to twenty-five minutes a night and handle both PK and PP duties effectively.

Numminen! He's all we ever need on D!

H asks:

"If I saw you in person and wanted to say hello, how would you prefer I do so? I'm assuming not by shouting 'heeeeeey Winnipeg cat!'"

That would be a bit peculiar, yes. (Although not unheard of!)

But, nah, there's no real trick to it beyond the same general way to approach anybody; if you see someone in the wild who might or might not be me, something along the lines of "excuse me, are you James?" ought to work perfectly well.

And if it does indeed turn out to be me, bear with me if I seem a bit dazed for a moment or two; even to this day I've still never quite wrapped my head around the idea of people recognizing me as Guy From The Internet.

Anonymous, 2013-03-05 13:33 asks:

"Everyone speaks much too slow on Internet Pundits. Will you guys ever try to speak quicker? "

Hmm! You know, I had not considered this. This is good feedback! I can't speak for anyone else, but I could give it a shot; the difficulty, however, in my (limited and amateur) experience, is that radio may prove a difficult medium to rush.

Legibility is part of it, but not as big a part as coherence of thought; if I seem discombobulated and ungainly on the radio now, imagine what a trainwreck I'd be if I weren't also pacing myself just enough to think my statements through.

The Analyst asks:

"What are your opinions on Steve Keen's modelling of Hyman Minsky's Financial Instability Hypothesis?"

1936-37 Keynesian ruminations on investment motivation being synthesized and codified as a 1957-onward Post-Keynesian framework of capitalist unsustainability, being revived in the mid-2000s to address the influence of large banks on the world economy, and then ultimately being packaged as a Kickstarter project serve to quite thoroughly remind and convince me that I just really, really do not understand economics. Like I'm a Golden Retriever with safety goggles in a chemistry lab. No idea.

Avid S and M Reader asks:

"A classic question with no right or wrong answer...

You can have sex with the most beautiful woman in the world, but nobody other than you and her will ever be able to know about it.


You can have the most beautiful woman in the world draped off you, holding hands with you, making out with you, etc, for all to see. Everyone assumes you are having sex with her, but, you never ever can actually have sex with her.

Which scenario would you choose?

Thank you for your avidity!

The question may very well be a classic, though I must say that I've never myself encountered it before now, but -- real talk? That second scenario sounds legitimately awful. I don't even get how this is a dilemma.

Unless you're absolutely just consumed by what other people think of you -- and what kind of a way to live is that, really -- how would that second choice be anything but perpetually, tormentingly unfulfilling? A self-imposed blueball purgatory! The heck with that. Given the choice of being satisfied and letting people think I'm miserable, or being miserable and letting people think I'm satisfied -- well, as I'd said, it doesn't seem an overwhelmingly difficult decision. I never was one for the classics, I suppose.

Anonymous, 2013-03-06 10:01 asks:

"When are you going to have Woofers on Internet Pundits?"


ha ha ha ha, naw, I'm kiddin', I'm kiddin'. I don't know how well the gimmick would fly on radio, though.

tofurkey asks:

"Middle name = Hope. Is there a story behind that?"

There is, but in thinking about it I am just now realizing that I don't know enough about it to tell it properly.

Or, rather, I don't know the backstory well enough to tell it; the details and mechanics, as they were, are simple enough. My parents never married -- and it probably explains a lot about me that I was brought up second-wave feminist -- so when I was born, they gave me my mother's last name, and my father's last name became my middle name. Hope! Of all things, Hope.

As I'd said, I've known the how my whole life, but I'm just now realizing that I never properly asked about the why. I was an inquisitive little child, but I doubt I was much of a cross-examiner. I did escape the then-ubiquitous hyphenation, however, so there's that -- I went to Laura Secord for elementary, trust me, ubiquity ain't overstatin' it -- and that's not to say that I hold anything against hyphenation, necessarily, but it really is the kind of trick that you can only do once. (Imagine a Ms. John-Jacob and a Mr. Jingleheimer-Schmidt trying to sort out what to name their kid.)

In short, I suspect that this explanation is probably far more prosaic and mundane than you'd been hoping, but there it is; I inherited my mother's last name, and Hope's my middle name. (This would later prove to be a rich vein of irony for a number of reasons, but we shan't get into those now.) Never seemed odd to me, but I know that it can take a while for people to get used to it.

"Hey, is your dad named John?"
"John Howard?"
"I know. Just roll with it."

Graham asks:

"I'm playing black jack. I have 16. The dealer is showing an ace.

Do I hit?

Well, I can't speak on your behalf, but I wouldn't. (Disclaimer: I am not much of a gambler, most of my experience and knowledge -- 'expertise' would be overselling it by a very wide margin -- coming from the 1993 Super Nintendo video game Vegas Stakes.)

To cover the easy outs on the question, let's assume for the sake of the exercise that I don't have an ace and a five, that I don't have two eights I could split, and that I don't have any other players at the table whose cards I can use to make a better decision.

With a 16 there are only five of the thirteen face values -- A, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- that can improve the hand, and eight -- 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K -- that will bust the hand and kill the round, or whatever the proper language would be for it, outright. (And interestingly, now that I look at it that way, the dealer ace has the exact opposite situation; eight values that would seal the deal at 17 or better, and five values with potentially undesirable outcomes.)

So -- again, not being much of a gambler -- since a hit is almost twice as likely to kill me as it is to save me, I'd stay on the 16. There's still only about a third of a chance that the dealer turns up ace through five to bail me out, but at least my hand will be alive long enough to see if he or she does.

I'm entirely willing to be wrong on this reasoning, but that'd be my advice, as far as our hypothetical blackjack scenario goes. And during your time at the tables, if anyone asks you to buy a diamond off of them, invest in their oil-drilling business, or let them wipe a stain off your shirt, don't take them up on it. Thanks, Vegas Stakes!

And, finally:

Anonymous, 2013-03-07 14:23 asks:

"Here's a question I've had in my mind for some time: Are you my cousin's evil twin? You're both music-playing librarians with (sometimes) politically-themed blogs. Come to think of it, last time I saw him he had a beard, so maybe he's the evil twin. Maybe you're both evil, never thought of that. Or maybe I'm just misinformed about the whole beard/evil formula.

Is it just coincidence that his former band's entire discography made it into the elite Slurpees and Murder Record Club?

Well, mild hyperbole of 'elite' aside -- I worry sometimes that my longevity can be mistaken for success -- that last part narrows it down to... let me have a look here... Fast Orange, the Steinbach Bible Institute, the Folklorama Youth Choir, and the 1971 Saskatchewan Roughriders. And actually, when I put it that way, I suppose that does kind of sound like it'd be considered elite company -- but I can confirm that I am, as far as I know, not an evil doppelganger of anyone involved in those groups.

(A sidenote on Fast Orange: one of their former members had sent me a very lovely email after my blog post on them, and I didn't see it until about a month later because it got caught in my Spam filter. There is no graceful way to respond to an email upwards of thirty days after it was originally sent; I have felt guilty and awful ever since, even knowing that it happened inadvertently and automatically. The moral of my story, gentle reader, is to check your Spam folders regularly, and to check them very carefully.)

Anyway, in the interest of clearing up the slight and understandable bit of misinformation, let me just note: beards do not tip off alignment values one way or the other. Goatees are for evil twins. And I would look mad goony with a goatee, but then, I doubt I'd make much of a villain, either.

Antagonist, sure, I could pull off antagonist. But villainry, I fear, escapes me. I think I'm more around a Neutral Goo--oh, dude, we should all do our Gygax alignments! Yes! Yes. I mean, not right right now, this post is long enough as it is. But remind me to come back to that later.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Your cousin sounds like a pretty cool guy, from your description of him! Sounds like a good dude.

In conclusion: if I don't want to bog the whole process down, I should answer questions in the rotation more speedily in order to keep things rolling. So! The comments box awaits below, true believers; Ask James Anything!


Vanessa said...

"Sam Katz could tell you that his name is Sam Katz and you'd still be better off having an auditor confirm it"

Ha! Love it.

cherenkov said...

Should I buy a motorbike or a snow blower?

Anonymous said...

Hey James! Can you tell us... Who (or rather how) talk-bubbles were invented. Y'know, comicbooks & dialogue.
I'm a James too!

Anonymous said...

Re: my evil twin question - thanks for clearing up that whole evil goatee issue for me. I was sure I remembered Michael Knight's evil twin having a full beard, but a quick Google search has confirmed that this was never the case. I wonder how many of my other childhood memories are completely wrong.

Anonymous said...

When you say "the Liberals are drifting dangerously close to Calgary Flames territory," do you mean they are dangerously close to being "Red Hot"?


Anonymous said...

Don't you think, though, that if you had the most beautiful woman in the world draped off you, it would open all kinds of doors and opportunities for you? Tons of other beautiful women would be throwing themselves at you because if you go for it with them, it validates their lofty self-esteem. You'd likely travel the world for free, and never have to pay for a drink again. Bunch of other advantages if you really think about it.

Thanks for your replies, this has been fun!

YWGger said...

As many of us know, there are a diverse range of comments following online articles, most notably on the websites of CBC Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Winnipeg Sun.

Some people are of the opinion that for an online comment to be valid, it must be mature, moderate, politically correct, and written with passable grammar and spelling. In short, online comments should be dismissed outright if they do not meet these standards and branded as that of ‘crazy internet trolls.’

Other people contend that while some comments raise eyebrows given the views advocated, the people who post such opinions nonetheless represent a notable subsection of the Winnipeg and Manitoba population. In essence, to truly have a finger on the pulse of the city and province, one must recognize that these non-PC opinions are shared by many and could also give us a sense of upcoming shifts in public opinion. In short, these opinions are therefore valid and serve a useful purpose.

It seems that the former is often espoused by professional journalists & columnists (and many ‘established’ bloggers who play Twitter footsie with them). Whereas the latter seems to be championed by a smaller few columnists and the online commenters themselves.

James, what is your opinion on this matter?

The Analyst said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Analyst said...

Where does The Winnipeg RAG Review sit within YWGger's dichotomy? After all, it's prone to bashing racist, insane wingnuts, but does so in more in a rough edged, conversationally intolerant manner that might equally offend those with more genteel sensibilities.