Feature: answer the suze

@ January 16, 2009

Greg asks: What's the deal with this guy?  I don't know if it's going on everywhere, but he's on DC TV and radio a lot, advertising his plan for energy independence.  Is he full of crap?  Is he just trying to get people to buy T. Boone Pickens Brand windmills?  ObscureCraft readers want to know! (and are too lazy to figure it out on their own).

Greg, what are you doing in here?! You are not the Suze!

I'll answer this question, but only because I never got around to actually sending you your prize for winning the ObscureCraft.net Obamaganda contest.  Consider this your winnings.

There are two schools of thought on environmentalism.  I'll call the first one the altruistic view; that is, there is not necessarily a personal immediate benefit to making choices that help the environment, but you do it because you feel it is "the right thing to do."  Call this the Al Gore school. 

The other school is the capitalist view.  Can I make money off of being an environmentalist? That isn't to say that you use being "green" as some bullshit marketing campaign, but rather, is there an inherent competitive advantage to being green? An example would be building an electric car.  You don't build one because you give a shit about the environment; you build one because people will buy it.  This is the T. Boone Pickens school.

@ January 9, 2009

The Suze asks: There was a story on the news this morning about a boy who convinced his city council to remove an anti-hedgehog ordinance so that he would legally be allowed to keep one as a pet.  Isn't this a terrible idea? Are there any such things as domesticated hedgehogs? Where do you even get one?

hedgehog!The boy in the story behind the Suze's question wanted to get a pet hedgehog after playing Sonic the Hedgehog.  He successfully sued to have an anti-hedgehog ordinance in his town struck down.  I can relate to this boy, as I had a similar experience in my youth when I was denied my request for a pet Metroid.  But it turns out that, while they are exotic (and incredibly pointy), it is not as rare to keep hedgehogs as pets as we may have originally thought.

The International Hedgehog Association attempts to persuade you to join the world of hedgehog ownership with some of the following "fun" facts:

  • Hedgehogs do not give off any appreciable odor (as opposed to those smelly, smelly guinea pigs we used to have)
  • They can be easily litter trained
  • hedgehog rendesvous!
  • They can live from 4-7 years
  • No immunization shots
  • They are sometimes referred to as hedgies
There is no reference on the page to hedgehogs being particular fast runners, which I have no doubt will come as a disappointment to the boy in the news.

Hedgehogs can be purchased from breeders, or you could adopt one from a rescue organization.  They are also sometimes found in pet stores.  Maybe we can get one in time for the Milwaukee Hedgehog Rendezvous 2009!  And yes, the result of my research is that I want a pet hedgehog.  Look at his little face!!!


The Suze asks: Is there a difference between a nook and a cranny? And if not, then why do we use both words together?

A quick internet search reveals that there is no significant difference in the official definitions:

Nook: A small corner, alcove, or recess, especially one in a large room.
Cranny: A small opening, as in a wall or rock face; a crevice.

The phrase "nook and cranny" originates, as does pretty much everything in modern English, with the Norman invasion of England in 1066.   When the invadees and the invaders communicated with each other, they often would use both the French and English words for whatever they were trying to say.   Nook and cranny both mean corner, but nook is from medievel English and cranny is from medieval French.  Hence, "nook and cranny."

As for why this particular phrase has stuck around since then? I blame english muffins.

@ December 18, 2008

The Suze asks: Hey, my kolaches just came out of the microwave, but one is hot while the other one is cold.  What gives?

What gives is that The Kolache Factory doesn't have a rotating platter in their microwave ovens.  Microwave ovens, as you might have guessed, heat food by emitting microwave radiation into the cooking chamber.  Microwave radiation is defined as that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths from a millimeter to a meter in length.  This places it, in terms of wavelength, in between infrared and radio waves.

Follow closely, as this shit is about to go science on you: the manner by which energy is absorbed from the microwave radiation into your food is called dialectric heating.  Water is a dipole molecule.  That means it has a positive charge at one end, and a negative charge at the other end, like the magnet on the right.  When the microwave radiation passes through the water, the water molecule rotates like a magnet trying to align itself along the direction of the radiation.  Because the microwave is pulsating, the direction of the alignment changes, causing the water molecule to rotate.  This rotation generates heat, cooking your food.

Okay, so now we know how the microwave is working: but why did it only cook one kolache and not the other?  Because the microwave energy is not distributed evenly throughout.  Here comes the science again: microwaves are like waves in the ocean, with a crest (the top part of the wave) and a trough (the bottom).  When microwaves cross each other, it creates interference.  The interference can be destructive (when a crest meets a trough) or constructive (when two crests or troughs meet).  Where it is destructive, there is less energy.  Where it is constructive, there is more energy.  This destructive and constructive interference within the microwave chamber creates, for lack of a better term, "hot spots".

That is why most microwaves these days have rotating trays.  As the tray rotates, different parts of the food move through the hot spots, allowing the food to heat more uniformly.  But at The Kolache Factory, their microwave had no rotating tray. So one kolache, sitting in a hot spot, was nice and warm.  The other, which was not in a hot spot, remained cold. And you, the Suze, were left with one cold, cold kolache.

@ December 9, 2008

While watching the Panthers/Buccaneers Monday night game, the Suze asked: Why do the referees use hand signals to indicate penalties? Don't they have microphones?

The answer is not, as I originally stated, that the NFL has a larger-than-usual following among deaf people.  Instead, the answer is a combination of utility and tradition.

Here's the utility:  When football was started and microphones were not available, the hand signals were necessary as a way for the referees to signal to the press box and the coaches on the sideline what penalty had been called.  The hand signals are still used in that capacity today - you may notice, the Suze, that the referee will signal the penalty to the sideline before announcing it over the PA system.  This gives the coach the opportunity to indicate whether or not they want to accept the penalty (on procedural penalties where the coach will not ever decline, such as a false start, this step is skipped).  The hand signals are also used exclusively in football games throughout the country at the high school level and below where microphones are not available to the refs.

However, you, the Suze, are not at a high school game, and you are not the coach on the sideline (although I would absolutely LOVE to see that).  So why do you need to see the hand signals? Tradition, plain and simple.

@ December 8, 2008

The Suze asks: "Why do we call homeless people hobos? Where does that word come from?"

New web hobo.JPGFirst, let's get one thing straight: most of the people we call hobos are not actually hobos.  They are either tramps or bums.  Yes, there is a difference.  The guys we see sitting under the overpasses? Those are bums (or, in the parlance of Houston, "campers").  They are non-itinerant non-workers.  A tramp is an itinerant non-worker.  They travel, but they are not doing so to find work.  A hobo is an itinerant worker.  They have no home, so they travel from place to place looking for work.  They are the most noble of all homeless people. Also? Bindles.

So you and I, the Suze, call those people hobos because we are using the word incorrectly.  However, why are actual hobos called hobos?  Nobody knows for sure, but there are lots of theories. 

It could be a contraction of a two word phrase used to describe them.  Some examples:  Homeward bound.  Houston and Bowery.  Hoe-boy.  Hopping boxcars. Homus bonus (latin for good man).  Homeless body.

It could come from the city of Hoboken, New Jersey, which was a large railway hub in the late 19th century (note that much of hobo lore is centered on the railroad, as this was the preferred mode of travel of your average hobo).

The bo could be an adaptation of either boy or beau; thus, the word hobo would be a contraction of the greeting "Ho, boy!" or "Ho, beau!"

My favorite explanation, however, is this:

"[i]n the course of my study of the Japanese language for military purposes, I came upon the word hobo. In the Japanese, hobo is plural form of ho [which means] 'side'. In the plural it takes the meaning 'all sides' or 'everywhere'. As the meaning seemed to fall in so closely with the current American idea of hobo, I at once felt that here was the original form of the word.... The word originated on the western coast of the United States. This lends further color to the theory of its Japanese origin."

@ November 25, 2008

The Suze asks: Have you noticed since we moved to Houston that every fast food place uses styrofoam cups instead of those wax-coated paper ones? Whataburger, Sonic, and even the little Greek deli down the street uses them.  What gives?

What gives is that it is hot as fuck down here most of the time.  Styrofoam insulates better than paper.  When you go to Whataburger, and you get a hamburger that is so enormous it takes you 45 minutes to eat it, you don't want your drink to be warm by then. So out with the biodegradable but poorly-insulating paper cups, and in with the well-insulated, last-until-the-end-of-time Styrofoam cups.

You and I both figured this was the answer when you asked the question, the Suze, but I decided to do a little research just to make sure.  Instead I found this:

World's Most Disgusting Apartment Is In Houston

"This has nothing to do with the Hurricane. We had a resident who had an outstanding balance for over a month and no one could get ahold of her. The Bookkeeper went inside after so many tries to leave a note and this is what we found.

The pictures do NO justice. There is suppose to be 2 cats living here but we cant find them (we think they're dead somewhere inside the apartment-we contacted the SPCA). The place REEKS to say the least, i gagged non stop."

I am NOT going to put any pictures on my site.  If you insist on taking a look at one, this is the least disgusting one.  And for the love of God, make sure you didn't just go to lunch and eat a Whataburger Thick & Hearty burger before looking at any of these, because it will make you feel very badly in your tummy.

If you get sick, don't blame me.  Blame the Suze.

@ April 29, 2008

Everywhere we go in New Jersey I see Boylan Soda.  Is that made around here or something?

Yes, although the reason you probably notice it everywhere, the Suze, is that Boylan soda has an awesome looking retro-style label.


According to the company's website, Boylan is located in Moonachie, New Jersey, about an hour drive north from Red Bank.  They have previously been headquartered in Haledon and Clifton, also in New Jersey.  Their signature product is birch beer, developed over 100 years ago by William Boylan in Paterson, New Jersey.  If their birch beer is sold in Paterson today, it is probably as a 40-ounce.

And what exactly is birch beer? Why is it called beer? Is it made out of birch trees?

Close.  Birch beer is a soft drink distilled from the sap of birch trees.  There are distinct flavors of the beer, depending on the specific species of birch tree that the sap is drawn from.  The distillation process used to make birch beer (or root beer, or ginger ale) is similar to the process that beer is made from.  In fact, these kinds of soft drinks even have alcohol in them. Just not very much.  The length of distillation dictates the level of alcohol, and birch beers are less than one percent alcohol by volume (not even enough to get me drunk).

@ April 12, 2008

The Suze asks: If Dikembe Mutombo is from Africa, how did he end up in the NBA?

For those that don't know, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo is a 7 foot 2 inch tall NBA center who actually has the name I just wrote, I didn't make it up as a joke about how Africans have funny names. In addition to being one of the most dominant defensive players of all time and having a voice that sounds exactly like the Cookie Monster, Dikembe has one of the greatest track records for humanitarian work in all of professional sports. dikembe-cookie-monster.jpg His crowning achievement is the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, a $29 million, 300-bed hospital near his hometown of Kinshasa. Of the $29 million, $15 million was donated by Dikembe personally; the hospital is named in honor of his mother, who died of a stroke in 1997. What does this have to do with Dikembe, a native of the Congo, showing up in the NBA? Well, he originally showed up on the basketball radar at Georgetown, where he was attending school with hopes of becoming a doctor on a USAID scholarship. As fate would have it, John Thompson, the basketball coach at the time, just assumed that a 7 foot tall black man would be a good basketball player. What a racist.

And what is the origin of the word eavesdropping?

Well, I don't exactly see what the two questions have to do with each other, but whatever.  The original definition of eavesdrop is "place around a house where the rainwater drops off the roof" (from "eave", or roof overhang, and "drop", which is a, uh, drop). An eavesdropper would be someone who would stand at the walls or windows of a house to hear what's going on inside. This definition has since drifted away from someone standing at the walls to anyone who stands near a conversation to overhear what is being said. 

@ March 7, 2008

The Suze wants to know: "Why is Newark, New Jersey called the Renaissance City?"

Don't we all, the Suze. 

Renaissance is a fancy-pantsed way of saying revival.  So, Newark is the Revival City.  Let's start by considering what Newark is reviving from.  

Well, here's something: for 6 days in July of 1967, riots ripped through the city, leaving 26 people dead, 725 injured, and causing millions of dollars in property damage.  

Newark was not alone in the summer of '67.  The Newark riots were joined in July of '67 by civil unrest in Plainfield, NJ; Memphis, Tennessee; Durham, North Carolina; Cairo, Illinois; Cambridge, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   Boy, it was must have been tits-hot in 1967.

Of course, LA burned for a month in the early 90s, and it seems to be doing just fine these days.  So, it wasn't just the riots.  In the early part of the century, Newark had a huge manufacturing base -Newark was once the "patent leather capital of the world".  Iron, plastics, and all sorts of industrial goods were made there.  Westinghouse and Edison both had operations there.  So what happened?

Well, good news for you, the Suze: you can blame whitey.  As urban centers grew through the 20th century, upper and middle class whites began moving out in a phenomenon historians call "white flight."  No, I'm not making it up.  Look it up, the Suze - just click here.  Okay? It's real.  Let's move on.

White flight resulted in a collapse of Newark's industrial base, which in turn left a poor population and an extremely high crime rate.  This same pattern was seen in many former industrial cities; in addition to Newark, the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta, and Cleveland all lost over half their white population at one point.  It is not exaggeration to say that Newark was at one point, the worst city in America.

So, we've covered why Newark went in the toilet, but Renaissance also means that it is coming back.  Where's the evidence of this?

Well... they built the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in 1997.  And, uh, there's a baseball stadium.  And some light rail.  Whatever, Newark is still a shithole.  But, hey, they went 47 days without a murder to begin this year.  So let's all give Newark a clap on the back for that.


@ February 27, 2008

Welcome back to Answer the Suze.  This time, the Suze wasn't able to limit herself to just one question - no surprise there - so lets knock out some quick ones.

How is sherbet different from sorbet?

Actually, the Suze, there is no difference.  Sorbet is just French for sherbet, and the words can be used interchangeably.  However, instead of sorbet, I propose that we start calling it "freedom ice cream".

How did Magic Johnson get the AIDS?

There are 3 major ways to get AIDS (well, 4, if you think it can be transmitted through sweat and tears like Senator Dr. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee).

- Sharing needles with someone who has AIDS
- Receiving a tainted blood transfusion (also known as the Ashe Method)
- Sexual intercourse with an AIDS infected partner

Magic Johnson got it the last way, although its up to you whether or not you believe his story of a single extra-marital discretion with another woman.  Sounds pretty unlikely.  Pretty, pretty, pretty unlikely.

Why is it named the Tappan Zee Bridge? That's a stupid name.

Well, the Suze, I'm sorry to say, but that's because you are a racist.  The name Tappan Zee is Dutch for, uh, Tappan Sea.  The Tappans were a Native American sub-tribe of the Delaware/Lenni Lenape.  At least they were, until they were wiped out, probably by other people who also thought they had a stupid name.

And for the record, its full name is the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge.   You can certainly see why they named a huge bridge after him - he was a highly influential governor whose tenure spread from 1973 all the way to...1974. Huh.