May 14, 2006

Ask Tim: Am I an alcoholic?

A reader asks:
In high school one of our teachers gave us a list of criteria to determine if you were an alcoholic. But now, as a college student, they seem awfully harsh. Can you tell me how I can tell if I am an alcoholic?
No problem, anonymous reader! Here are some example cases so that you can tell whether you are an alcoholic or someone whose life is worth living.

If you come home everyday after work to your apartment and have a six-pack, you are an alcoholic and you need to seek help.
If you come home everyday after work to your apartment and have a six-pack with your roommates, you are not an alcoholic, you are a social drinker.

If you drink the same inexpensive beer 4 or more days of a week, then you are an alcoholic and you need to seek help.
If you drink a different expensive beer 4 or more days a week, then you are not an alcoholic, you are a connoisseur and you are worthy of admiration.

If you are drinking in the street in the middle of the day, you are an alcoholic and you need to seek help.
If you are drinking in the street in the middle of the day, and are in one of New Orleans, Las Vegas, or Mexico, you are not an alcoholic, you are a tourist, one of the driving forces of our economy.

If you woke up in the gutter with a wine bottle in your hand, wearing puke- and urine-stained clothes, and haven't showered in a week, you are an alcoholic and you need to seek help.
If you woke up in the gutter with a wine bottle in your hand, wearing puke- and urine-stained clothes, haven't showered in a week, and are currently enrolled in a four-year college or university, you are not an alcoholic, you are a college student, the future of our great country.

Posted by mill1991 at 10:05 PM

April 7, 2005

Ask Tim: Selecting a Bowling Ball

Recently I purchased my own bowling ball, for $5 at a local Salvation Army. It also came with a bag, and it is engraved with the extremely creative name "Striker." I bet the guy who donated that ball also owns a dart case with "Bullseye" engraved on it. Anyways, with ownership of a bowling ball I am now only a pair of shiny white Etonics and a wrist brace away from contending with #1 Dad for "Lamest Guy" at next year's Turkey Bowl. Since this purchase, people have been bombarding me with questions about how to select a ball of their own, especially when they are just using the ones at the alley. Here is my take on the situation.

There are two schools of thought on the subject. The first perspective comes from the "You suck at bowling" angle. You could spend an hour canvassing the bowling alley hefting every ball, sticking your fingers into every set of holes you run across, ignoring screams of terror in search of the perfect bowling ball. But the end result is that you will end up with a slightly less shitty ball than if you had just picked one at random. Thus, the best idea is to just scan the racks, looking for the coolest looking ball at the alley. Pick this ball, and no matter how many 13-year-old girls laugh at your score, stick with it, because you suck at bowling anyways.

The counter-argument comes from the "It's impossible to look cool while bowling" school of thought. This theory says that, no matter how "cool" any ball might be, you are still bowling, an activity which scientists have proved is not done by anyone cool. Therefore, you might as well go through a little bit of trouble and select a ball which works for you, and pick up a couple extra pins.

Posted by mill1991 at 10:59 PM

February 22, 2005

Ask Tim: Gift Horses

A reader asks:
I have question for Tim who is wise like the old Piut Indian. While herding cattle on the Ponderosa a Indian savage told me, "Don't look (or was it lick) a gift horse in the mouth". I understand what this is supposed to mean, but it makes no sense? Can you try to explain the origins of this saying? And is it "don't look..." or "don't lick..."

Thanks, Benjamin Cartwright

First of all, I'm pretty sure it's "look" - licking a horse is lowly recommended, gift or no gift. Second, the meaning of the expression: The idea is that if you are given a gift, you shouldn't question it. For example, when you are accidentally given a large french fries instead of a medium, you shouldn't complain if you find a finger in it. Finally, to the origins of this expression: This website explains it nicely. The gist of it is that looking at a horse's mouth (and jaw, in particular), is one way to examine it's quality. If one is given a horse as a gift (a gift horse, if you will), it is an insult to the giver to inspect it by looking it in the mouth. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for my own pet theory, that gift horses could shoot blinding lasers out of their mouths.
Posted by mill1991 at 12:22 PM

January 18, 2005

Ask Tim: Tolerance from religious folk

A reader and fellow blogger writes (from his bike computer I'm sure):
Do you have an explanation for why the holy-rolling crowd seems to leave you alone? You make some fairly inflammatory statements here toward religion (which I enjoy by the way), yet you never seem to get preached at for it. In my case, if I endorse a certain type/brand/style of bicycle, I often have two or three people who give me shit for it.
Zeus bless.
This question intrigued me. Some of my regular readers may already know that I am not religious, and sometimes it may even come across in my writing. While some of it may be inflammatory, that is not my sole intention. Most of it is just goofy, so they probably figure it's not worth their time. But in the spirit of your letter, I'll try to stretch the limits of what I can get away with. Without further ado (except this) (and this - okay after writing this I need to add here that this could be highly offensive if one doesn't realize I'm completely kidding - most of my friends are religious, and most of them are wonderful people):
  • Religious people are too stupid to use computers
  • While religious people are indeed among the most stupid living things, this is not likely. Computers (which are not religious) do most of the work for the faithful these days.
  • Religious people only appear to be leaving me alone - they are actually praying vigorously for me to be struck by lightning or crushed by an anvil falling from the sky
  • You see, religious people think that prayer is more than just talking to yourself. Here's an interesting anecdote. At my parents church, they had a certain committee that had been meeting for a while, but hadn't done anything. My mother came home one night, and told me that they had finally done something. What had they done? They had agreed to pray for help with their task. Wow. Congratu-fucking-lations.
  • Many people are religious about things besides god
  • Even though many people will claim they are religious, they are actually more devoted to other aspects of life. For some people it is bikes, as you mention. For others, it is professional sports. Many vegetarians are zealots who wish to proselytize as much as the most annoying evangelical Christian. This does not explain why my site doesn't get much heat, but rather why yours does. In my case, people have only wasted time if they are wrong about god. But in the case of bicycles, people have wasted their money!
  • Religious people don't feel the need to judge others, because they realize that god will do this at judgement day
  • And if you believe this, I have a bridge that I'd like to sell you, and then push you off of.
Posted by mill1991 at 1:18 PM

October 18, 2004

Ask Tim: A Modern M*A*S*H?

A very interesting question came to me recently:
I have a couple questions that I would like addressed by Tim. Recently the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, Wis. stopped airing Seinfeld in the 6:30 time slot and replaced it with Malcolm in the Middle. Can anyone over 11 years of age rationalize this decision? Today when people of our generation flip through the channels and M*A*S*H is on we think, “who is the heck ever watched this show, and why was it so popular, this is a waste of perfectly good air space…” Has Seinfeld become our generation’s M*A*S*H?
Frankie Muniz

I think this is an excellent analogy. M*A*S*H was, by all accounts, a very well-written show which attracted dozens of viewers, yet I can't sit through more than 10 seconds of it. I don't know if it's because of the grainy video quality that could be easily exceeded today using a $50 camera phone, or the fact that a war-time emergency room has already been mined of all comedic value, or the theme song which was seemingly composed with the goal of making me want to hit myself in the head with a hammer.

Now, Seinfeld, there's a show I get. I too question the wisdom of replacing Seinfeld with Malcom in the Middle. The only possible justification, and I know I've discussed this with #1 DAD before, is that over our 4-5 years of college and handful of years since then, we've seen approximately 365 * 6 = 2190 episodes, assuming one a day. Since this show has been shown approximately six times a day, one a day is probably a low estimate. This means that you've probably seen each episode several times.

Meanwhile, I've not seen many Malcom in the Middle episodes at all. So, this seems like a marriage made in heaven. Unfortunately, the honeymoon is already over. There is a reason I have not seen many Malcolm in the Middle episodes. I don't like the show. It is hard enough dealing with actual women (though I assure you this is as much my fault as theirs). Trying to listen to the wildly exaggerated matriarch on that show is painful. She makes "Murphy Brown" seem endearing and sensitive by comparison. She makes Elaine Benes seem the epitome of reason.

So, change is inevitable, and usually bad. I dread the day when "The Simpsons" is taken from syndication and replaced by "8 Simple Rules." Come on, you know it's gonna happen.

Posted by mill1991 at 5:27 PM

October 11, 2004

Indian summer

A reader writes:
Tim -
I hear you are wise like the old indian man, well answer this one for me. Why do meterologist, heck, and everyone else for that fact, call the warm days in October, Indian Summer? What do the indians have to do with warm fall weather? I don't see the connection. Also, are their native american tribes out there protesting againt weathermen who use the terminology "Indian Summer"? Do they find it offensive?
Regards and enjoy your Indian Summer!

Tom Mahoney

Well, I would just like to say that I am honored that the illustrious Green Bay TV weatherman Tom Mahoney would visit my website to ask me about the weather. That's like Chris Samp asking me a qestion about being an awesome football player.

"Indian Summer" is an interesting expression, though. While some may find it offensive, it is much less offensive than some of the forms it has had in the past, such as "Redskin Summer" and, before that, "Brutal Savage Summer." Nonetheless, the more politically correct term "Native American Fall Warming Period" has been gaining traction.

As far as the origin of the term, that's another story. When Europeans first started colonizing the Americas, Native Americans (then mistakenly called Indians) were already here, living the good life. There were plenty of buffalo, and the marijuana practically grew itself. Life wasn't all buffalo steaks and mary jane, though. Those living in the upper midwest needed a way to tolerate the cold seasons. Towards the middle part of fall they would begin to do their "warm dances," in an attempt to change the weather. Back in the 1600's, these dances were quite effective, since the gods that the Native Americans worship are actually the real gods. The effectiveness of the dances surprised the Europeans, who for centuries had been foolishly making "coats" and "hats" to keep themselves warm. The Native Americans wisely cut out the middle man and just made the weather warmer. Thus, Europeans started to call it the "Indian summer." As the influx of white people continued, the white man's diseases were spread to Indian Shamans. These diseases attacked the ability of the Shamans to change weather patterns. Now, Native American dances are mainly ceremonial, although I have it on good authority that much of what is called "Global Warming" is actually the accumulated effects of the few remaining Indian Shamans. Also, Native American dances are responsible for Roe v. Wade and why magic carpets used to work.

Posted by mill1991 at 12:42 PM

October 5, 2004

Disruption follow-up

It seems like you're all rant with no ideas. What would you do to fix the disruption problem?

Well, this refers to the rant I had yesterday about people disrupting my learning experience. First, as a student, there is not much I can do. But perhaps someday I will be a teacher. In that case, I do have a solution.

Immediately before the first class meeting of the semester, I will go on a long run, followed by drinking three cups of coffee. The result of this is I will be sweaty, flushed red, and jittery. If I then add in a pained grimace and heavy breathing, this will make me seem like someone who is unstable and very close to breaking down perhaps. Then, I will walk in the classroom and drop my books on the lecture counter with a loud thud. The final move will be taking a silver revolver out of my bag and placing it gently on the counter. Surely by this point I will have the undivided attention of the class. Now I will say, "Everybody turn off your cellphones. I will not be saying that again this semester. If I hear a cellphone ring after I am in the classroom, I will come over to your seat and pistol whip you. If, god forbid, someone is to answer his or her phone before I get to your seat, rest assured you will be making a person-to-person connection with 9 millimeters of lead."

This may seem a bit extreme, but its important to understand one thing: I am not good at shooting guns. I have never shot a pistol in my life. The recoil from all guns I have shot sends me flying a few feet, due to weakness caused by my anorexia. So realistically, I will probably miss the first shot, and I will be unable to get off a second before I am restrained. You were probably worried for a little while there.

Posted by mill1991 at 2:52 PM

October 4, 2004

Weekend qestions

There are a few qestions that came up over the weekend:

1. What happens to the stuff on a white board when it is erased? Does the eraser need to be clapped out like a chalkboard eraser?

This is something I think about all the time. All those markings on the board over time, and yet the eraser never seems to be "full." This is the type of qestion that human beings will never be able to answer. The only possibility is that God is responsible.

2. Is it morally acceptable for a married woman to kiss a gay man?

It depends. Is she happily married? Is he happily gay? Does the husband of the woman kiss lesbians? You can see that there is no simple yes or no to this qestion.

3.What would you like to rant about?

I'm glad you asked. I would like to rant about people who disrupt my learning environment. This includes people whose cell phones ring during class. Okay, cell phones have been around a few years now, your grace period is over. At this point, forgetting to turn off your cell phone is grounds for immediate placement into "special" classes.

The second kind of interruption is people who walk in to class late. Most of the time it's not a big deal because they are quiet, class has just started, and they go to the back. But once in a while, every so often, that guy walks in fifteen minutes late, slams the door, and then walks through a completely full row in the front of the room to sit in the open seat directly in front of the lecturer, all while wearing a bright tie-dye t-shirt with swear words on it. This could not be more distracting. The whole time he's saying, "Excuse me. Sorry. Pardon. Excuse me." Oh, he said "excuse me." No, go ahead. If you say "excuse me" you have the right to make any kind of disruption you like. Want to play the trumpet during a lecture? Just say "excuse me." If you want to sit in the front row with your laptop open looking at pornographic images, it's fine as long as you say you're sorry in advance.

The final disruption is when people start packing all of their things together a few minutes before a lecture is done, so that they can get a head start in going to their next class. It boggles the mind even trying to consider how many sheets of looseleaf paper and notebooks it would take to create so much noise. Do I just have supersonic hearing? Am I Superman? Sometimes I wonder if I took a wrong turn and wandered into the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Green Bay. Surely ream after ream of paper being thrown together in a paper mill could make that much noise. But notebooks in a classroom?

Posted by mill1991 at 8:44 AM

October 1, 2004

Unsettled (and unsettling) question

A reader writes:
I have a question[sic] for Tim that I don't think was ever settled--are girls disturbed if you are dancing with them and they can feel your bulge?
- Dick Frisky

Well, Nate...errr Mr. Frisky, that's an interesting qestion - indeed, a qestion as old as time. Unfortunately, it's entirely inappropriate, as this is a family website. In polite company, the issue you've mentioned is referred to as the "GTB Problem" for historical reasons which I won't get into.

As far as I'm aware, this is still an open question. Fortunately, there are currently several world-class researchers here at the University in the GTB Institute working on this very problem. Some say the issue could be solved easily simply by conducting a survey of a large number of women. Unfortunately, all of the researchers are men and they are afraid to ask women. So, they've resorted to deductive methods.

Most of this research consists of sociology PhD's going to downtown clubs and attempting to dance with women, and then gauging the responses. Again, here, the research has run into a wall. You see, these people are also afraid to ask women to dance with them. In addition, even if they somehow muster up the courage, academics tend to have extremely rigid dancing styles, and the dancing partners quit before any serious dancing takes place. If you can imagine an actual robot doing the robot dance, that is an approximation for what it looks like when academics dance.

In a related note, I wonder if, when robots become sentient, they will think that the robot dance is an unfair stereotype. It will start by robots inventing a dance where they move fluidly, and they'll call it "the person" to mock the way humans dance. Then there will be some kind of PR campaign to change the name of the robot. If this occurs, may I suggest "The Moronic Person," because that's what popular opinion is on people who seriously do the robot dance. Finally, in a fit of political correctness, there will be a push by humans to rename other dances, like "The Lawnmower," that robots never really had a problem with.

Posted by mill1991 at 9:25 AM

September 29, 2004

What is a blog?

Yesterday, a reader left this lengthy comment:
I don’t have a comment about this entry in particular; it is more about the ‘blog’ as a whole. I’d like to see a revival of the “Ask Tim” forum. I have so many questions, yet so few answers.

You are surely aware of my aging condition and it is entirely possible that I may drop dead at any moment.. So, rather than waiting for the return of “Ask Tim”, I’m just going to go ahead and ask my question. What the heck is a ‘blog’. Back in my day (just after we stopped golfing the old fashioned way) the kids used ‘websites’ to express their thoughts. Take a look at an ol’ favorite of mine:

This ‘website’ was created by the Omnivorous, well mostly Maruchen, Lutheran formally known as “T-Mills”. “Where have all the websites gone, long time ago…. and why have blogs taken over? Kids these days with their fancy shoes and crazy thoughts. To qote my favorite rap artist, the Fresh Prince, “parents just don’t understand..”


From this tome of a comment (over 100 printed pages), I have distilled a few worthwhile questions:

  1. What is a blog?
  2. Why have blogs taken over?
There was also an implicit question about the "Ask Tim" advice column that was on a website I produced in a former lifetime. So, in "Ask Tim" style I will answer these questions. I think this would actually be a good "theme" for this sort of website, except there are so few readers of this site that each person would have to generate 3.5 questions a week just to have a daily post. Anyways, on with the answering.

  1. What is a blog?I probably should have defined it when I started this website, since some of my friends (who are probably the only readers) feel the same way about technology that bacteria feels towards penicillin. If I wanted to double the number of my friends who read this, I could distribute this website via carrier pigeon as well as in "blog" form.

    Anyways, on with the answering. The canonical, or "Boring", definition of a blog can be found here. I believe I can provide a definition that goes beyond that.

    Some blogs are compilations of interesting news articles. In this case, the intended audience is lazy people who can't be bothered to look at more than one website.

    Other blogs are intimately personal, detailing the minutiae of the authors daily life. There is no intended audience, per se. What happens is that in real life the authors try to tell everyone the boring details of their lives, and real people stopped listening to them. So, they publish it in blog form, ostensibly so that the whole world can read it, but knowing that they'll be lucky if one person stumbles across it.

    I wouldn't categorize this blog as either one of the above, though it matches the first type in terms of uselessness, and the second type in terms of readership. A blog generally has some sort of sequentiality to it, e.g. today's news depends on yesterday's news, or today's boring occurences depend on yesterday's boring occurences. In contrast, this website is more like random independent observations that I'm cramming into a blog system because it is free for students.

  2. Why have blogs taken over? Blogs are popular because they combine two things that people really like: Talking about themselves and telling people all of their crappy ideas.
  3. So, that's all for today. If anyone actually read this far, I will add that if anyone does have a question you need answering, I am all knowing, so you've come to the right place. Just leave it in the comments.

    Posted by mill1991 at 11:54 AM