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The Ask Professor Stoner Column

... where you can get answers to all those burning questions you've been meaning to ask... or, possibly, all those questions that occurred to you the last time you burned one.  Come one, come all, ask Professor Stoner a question!

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Jennifer Gettinger - Dangerous Anti-Mariah Dissident

I don't know about you guys, but as Jen's traffic has skyrocketed with illiterate 12-year-olds concerned with nothing but Mariah Carey - 12-year-olds who, often enough, are dull enough to think she IS Mariah Carey - I've gotten more and more curious as to... how the hell does this happen?

Well, I have the answer now.  After a bit of research, I've found that - as is often the case when the Internet appears to have been smoking yellow crack - there's a simple explanation, and its name is Yahoo.

Personalize Help - Check Email

Home > Entertainment > Music > Artists > By Genre > Soul and R&B > Carey, Mariah >

Anti-Mariah Carey

  • Yahoo! Music: Carey, Mariah
  • Music, Start or Join a Club

There's Jen at #3 - and she's sharing a Mariah Carey category with only two other sites!  Hell yes she's getting an insane amount of 12-year-old traffic.  Um... but why the hell is she such a Mariah Carey headliner, when she really, honestly, truly hardly ever mentions the silly little ho?

Perhaps you weren't aware of this, but Yahoo is a bit on the quirky side.  PeeT and I made a corporate website for [the company I work for] more than a year ago - with five domain names that all point to it, brilliant use of <META keyword>s, and the whole nine.  Of course, it rose to the top of the index on all the search engines almost immediately...

EXCEPT FOR YAHOO.  More than a year after my company has had its own website - and after approximately fifty submissions to Yahoo - even when you directly search for [my company's name] on Yahoo, the only result you get is the homepage of some schmuck who used to work for [my company] and mentions it several times on his own page.  WTF?

Yahoo's conceit is that they are "the only search engine that is completely maintained by human beings."  Unfortunately for us all, what they don't tell you is that they are also "the only search engine that is completely maintained under the influence of yellow crack."  And even more unfortunately, they still get more hits than any other search engine, for the simple reason that they've been around longer than any of the others.

OK, so now we've covered the crack-smoking habits of Yahoo (who I refuse to speak of with a ! at the end of their name) - but why do all the poor little kiddies dis Jen for hating and/or "impersonating" Mariah...?  Well, most likely, the kiddies are clicking each and every link they can find that says "Mariah" in any way, shape, or form - with the idea that eventually, this will land them on Mariah's actual, personal, homepage.  And then, they "reason", they can send their love to her by email.  But when they land on the Mariah Carey in Her Own Words link, all they see after they click it is this:


Which, I assume, leads them to believe that they really had found the one, the true, the this-is-really-Mariah's-own-page-and-I-can-worship-her-directly page... but, much like they've heard about on TV, the site has been hijacked.

That's right... 12-year-olds and various other assorted Mariah-lovers everywhere know what you and I do not...

Jen is a m4d h4ck3r.

     Note: if you wound up here looking for Mariah, you probably want to go here or here.
     God knows I wouldn't want anyone thinking *I* had been "impersonating" Mariah Carey!
     Now don't say I never gave you anything... and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

wink.gif (135 bytes)



I Am The Banner Killer!

Seems like ever since I started telling a few people how to kill the banners on free web servers, everybody wants a piece of the action.  OK, folks... seek and ye shall receive.  Here it is, the supa-fly afro-tastic banner-killing code of doom:

function open () {return true;}

All you gotta do is stick that little piece of Javascript tastiness immediately after the <HTML> tag at the very top of your page, and all will be well - no more nasty pop-up vermin!   We already have multiple confirmed kills at both Angelfire and Tripod, so yes, this is a sure thing.  A couple of notes, though:

  1. Depending on who your free provider is, you may be violating their Terms of Service when you defeat their pop-up ads.  Now, all of the free providers I know of are too busy hunting down illicit MP3, warez, and pr0n sites to bother with niggling little shit like defeated banners... but that doesn't mean that that couldn't change in the future.  Read your TOS, see if they've specifically said you can't do this, then decide whether you want to try to get away with it anyway.   (I know *I'd* still do it - pop-up ads blow syphilitic goat.)

  2. If you use the Basic Editor at Angelfire... you're gonna be out of luck until you Convert To Pure HTML and start using the Advanced Editor.   Sorry 'bout that, folks... but the banner-killing code must come immediately after the <HTML> tag at the top of the page... and there's just no way to stick it there in the Basic Editor.  Cheer up... HTML really isn't all that hard, and all your friends will think you're 3r33t once you quit using that pansy Basic Editor anyway.

  3. You may or may not need to stick this code on EVERY SINGLE PAGE on your site... I know Tripod puts the pop-up code on every page you host with them, not just the index page, so you have to insert the code everywhere.   Some free providers may still insert the code only on the index page, which would be convenient.  Your Mileage May Vary™ - test browse your page and make sure that the damned things don't still pop up on a page or two somewhere.  If they do, apply the code where applicable to treat the outbreaks.  (Sounds kinda like a genital wart treatment, doesn't it?  Ewwwww.)


How To Index Images Like A Crack-Smokin' Pr0n Webmaster
Alyssa is making a photo album for her page, and asked for a few HTML tips on how to caption her pictures - and it seemed like such a good topic that I thought I'd share it with everybody.  There's a secret to building a photo page, guys and gals... and that secret is tables.  Check this out:


Caption caption, what's your... um, wait, can anybody think of a word that rhymes with "caption"...?  Let's see... "Adaption?"  No, that doesn't work, that would be "adaptation"... damn.  Oh well, you get the idea, right?


See how the text stays right there next to the picture and centered, even when it "wraps" to the next line?  This is what you want when you caption your pix - it's especially handy when you have pix with a long story behind them.  And really... aren't those the kind of pix you're the most excited about putting on your page anyway?

Here is the code for the table you see above:

<table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="5">
         <td><img src=""></td>
         <td>Caption caption, what's your... um, wait, can anybody think of a word that rhymes with
         &quot;caption&quot;...?&nbsp; Let's see... &quot;Adaption?&quot;&nbsp; No, that doesn't
         work, that would be &quot;adaptation&quot;... damn.&nbsp; Oh well, you get the idea,

Not too scary, right?  Let's look at it line-by-line:

  • <table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="5">
    This line defines the table itself.  The border="0" means that we don't want a line drawn around the cells, the cellpadding="0" means that we don't want cell padding, and the cellspacing="5" means that we want to put 5 pixels in between each cell inside the table... the reason we want a little bit of cell spacing is to keep the text from butting directly up against the picture; that tends to look a little wonky.
  • <tr>
    This line means to begin a row in the table.  We could get fancy with height attributes or other stuff, but for now we're keeping it nice and simple.
  • <td><img src=""></td>
    Hey, now we're getting to the good stuff!  The <td> begins a cell within the row we just started.  Again, we could get fancy with extra attributes like width, but for now we're keeping it nice and simple.  By now you probably know what the <img src> tag means - that's our picture, which in this case is the small version of my Jimbo's World graphic.  Finally, we've got the </td> tag, which ends the cell, leaving us ready for a new one.
  • <td>Caption caption, what's your... um, wait, can anybody think of a word that rhymes with &quot;caption&quot;...?&nbsp; Let's see... &quot;Adaption?&quot;&nbsp; No, that doesn't work, that would be &quot;adaptation&quot;... damn.&nbsp; Oh well, you get the idea, right?</td>
    Whew!  This one looks like a mouthful.  But it's really not as bad as it looks... we can see the familiar <td> and </td> tags that enclose this line, which tells us that this is just another cell.
    But hey, what's all this &quot; and &nbsp; stuff?  Well, it's like this: as you've already noticed, quotation marks are used in lots of places in HTML code.  So to avoid confusing people's browsers, it's a really good idea to type &quot; instead of actually typing a quotation mark.  (Don't worry - it'll still look like a quotation mark when people look at your page.)
    OK, but what's this &nbsp; business, you ask?  Well, there's an interesting little quirk to HTML you've probably noticed by now... it ignores any more than one space in a row.  &nbsp; is the code that lets you get around this quirk, because when your browser sees an &nbsp; code, it generates a space... no matter what.  So if you ever need to put more than one space in a row - for instance, if you need a quick and dirty way to indent something - you can use &nbsp; tags to push it out.
    (If you care, the reason browsers normally ignore multiple spaces is so that you can format your HTML for readability as code without affecting how it looks to someone reading it in a browser... that's why I can indent lines in my code like I did in the table above, without making the end result look screwy when it loads in the browser.  Even though it's not strictly necessary to indent your code when you're writing it, indenting will make it lots easier to read later.  Although the line we're discussing right now will work wihtout any indenting (like it shows up here in the bullet), isn't it a lot easier to figure out what's going on with it in the neatly formatted code example up there?  Nod your head "yes".)
  • </tr>
    Just like the </td> tag closed a cell, the </tr> tag closes a row.  If we wanted, we could begin a new row after this with another <tr> tag... but this time, one row is all we want in our table, so we proceed straight to the ...
  • </table>
    ...which closes out the table just like </td> closed the cell and </tr> closed the row.  Hey, we made a table!  That wasn't so bad, was it?

Now that you know the basics of building a table, here's a few more things you might want to think about:

  1. While you can just keep adding rows to your table and putting pictures and captions in each, I don't really recommend it.  The reason is, your readers won't be able to see anything in your table until the whole thing loads... which can mean some really horrendous amounts of time you're leaving them staring at a blank page, if you have lots of big pictures.  So it's usually better, in my opinion, to make a brand new table for each single row, rather than just continuing to add rows to the same table.
  2. If you're putting images in your tables, you might also want to consider using height and width attributes in your <img src> tags.  Why?  Well, it's like this - remember how I told you your browser wouldn't render a table until it had loaded the whole thing?  If you don't use height and width attributes in any <img src> tags you have inside the table, the table won't render until the images load completely, too.  Again, if you have big images - and if you're building a photo album, you probably do - this means an unacceptable amount of time people spend staring at a blank page.  Blank pages are bad, they make people want to go somewhere less boring.
  3. If you want to make your images smaller, download a graphics application like Paint Shop Pro and resize your images before you put them on your page... don't make the common mistake of taking an enormous picture from your digital camera and using the height and width attributes in the <img src> tags to make it look small!  If you resize the picture with your graphics application before you put it on your page, it will look much better and load much faster than if you just used the height and width attributes to "cheat".
  4. Got a bunch of images that are really huge, but you think people might want to see 'em in their full glory once they have some idea what they're looking at?  Use "thumbnails", and wrap 'em in <A HREF> tags.   A thumbnail is a very small - typically no bigger than about 160 x 120 at the most - version of a large picture, that when you click on it, loads the whole picture.   You can make one by resizing your picture with your graphics application, then saving it as a new filename - for instance, if you have bigpic.jpg that's 640x480, you could make a thumbnail of it that was only 160x120, save it as bigpic_thumb.jpg, and then use a line of code like
    <A HREF=""><IMG SRC=""></A> - this makes the small, fast-loading image display, but lets your readers see the big one if they click on the little one.  Again, not so hard, right?

OK, guys, that's probably more than enough for now.  If you still want to learn more - or if you want to learn more, after your head stops spinning - you can either ask me a specific question, or go visit WebMonkey for some serious, in-depth, skull-scorching knowledge sessions.  Have fun!



Mr. Joshua's Been Tokin'
> Dear Professor Stoner,
> When I get the mad munchies, I love chowing on
> Golden Grahams cereal.  One question though -
> how DO they cram all that graham?  I could almost
> buy the giant robot theory, but that basketball
> player one was just too damn ridiculous.

> Mr. Joshua (of Foaming At The Mouth)

Well, it just so happens I inherited a box of Golden Grahams from the last inhabitants of my house.  I don't eat the things personally, so almost a year later, the box is still lurking in the cupboard glaring at me balefully... after rasslin' it into submission, I studied the ingredients list carefully in order to try to answer your question.   Pretty innocuous stuff, except... I can't help but wonder why the entire list of ingredients is in plain, all-caps text, except for one curious line at the bottom of the ingredients list, which is in all boldface type...


Now, I realize that this isn't exactly an answer to your question, but... just ask yourself.  Why is that seemingly innocuous line in boldface at the bottom of the ingredients list?  When they seem to feel that ingredients like "Trisodium Phosphate" and "Pyridoxine Hydrochloride" are perfectly normal, why the ominous warning about unspecified bits of wheat and milk...?  I smell a conspiracy afoot!

If you find anything more out, let me know by blind drop before the General Mills goon squad gets to you.  Good luck, my brother.




*NEW!*   Reader Feedback   *NEW!*

I think I have a possible answer to the questions about why CONTAINS MILK AND WHEAT PRODUCTS appears at the bottom of the ingredients section. It turns out that there are bunches of people who can't eat such things -- intolerance for milk I came across a long time ago, but it wasn't until this summer that I stumbled across someone who can't eat fucking bread.

It's all a bit retarded. Anyway, General Mills is probably trying to avoid lawsuits from those who have seen enough doctors to actually be diagnosed as allergic to staples of the human diet. Sometimes, you just can't be TOO clear about the fact that cereal contains... well, cereals.

This reader feedback comes to you from my friend Dave, who tells
me that he is now almost ready to graduate his studies in
Mind Altering Substances 101.  Amazing, no?


Another Lisa Gets Gaseous


> Apparently gas causes burps and farts. Am I correct
> so far?  People always say "I have bad gas" when
> they're burping or farting a lot.  So what I'm
> wondering is, how does the gas decide where to come
> out?  What makes the gas say, "I'm going to be a
> fart.  Not a burp.  Hmmm?

> Lisa (of You Are Here)


Yup, you're right - gas in the gastrointestinal area is what causes flatulence and eructations both.  The answer to your question is short and simple - where the gas bubble is formed in your gastrointestinal tract will determine where it's going to exit.   When you drink a carbonated soda, all that gas is trapped in tiny bubbles in the soda already - no chemical reactions are necessary to form the gas, it just has to be released from solution.  Therefore, you wind up with the gas released almost immediately when the fluid hits your stomach - and that gas is gonna be one nice big belch.  BRAAAAAP!

On the other hand, some foods will release gases - mostly methane - as a byproduct of digestion.  Most of the digestive process actually takes place in the intestines - not in the stomach!  If your digestive processes cause a lot of gas to be formed in your intestines - been eating beans, perhaps? - that gas can't escape through your throat, thank goodness, because there's a sort of a check valve which prevents the contents of your intestines from being reintroduced to your stomach.  Which leaves only one possible egress - yeah, you guessed it.  Squeaker!



She who smelt it, dealt it


> You know that song "Ooh that smell! Can you smell
> that smell!" What the hell are they talking about?
> Lisa

And here we have yet another question that Professor Stoner is uniquely qualified to answer... the song in question is an old Lynyrd Skynyrd tune by the name of "That Smell", and it's one hell of a classic.   The short answer to your question is, they're talking about death and drugs and throwing your life away... but, hey, this is the Ask Professor Stoner column, and we don't leave well enough alone with short answers here!

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that if you had ever really heard the rest of the lyrics, you wouldn't have needed to ask that question... they're profound, but pretty damned straightforward.  So read on, Lisa, and consider yourself a little bit more edumacated in oldskool southern rock'n'roll:

Lynyrd Skynyrd - That Smell

Whiskey bottle and brand new car
oak tree, you're in my way
There's too much coke and too much smoke
Look what's goin' on inside you.
  Oo-oo that smell -
can't you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell -
the smell of death's around you.
Angel of darkness is upon you
stuck a needle in your arm
So take another toke, have a blow for your nose
One more drink, fool, will drown you.
  Oo-oo that smell -
can't you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell -
the smell of death's around you.
Now they call you Prince Charming
can't speak a word when you're full of ludes
Say you'll be alright, come tomorrow
but tomorrow might not be here for you.
  Oo-oo that smell -
can't you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell -
the smell of death's around you.
One little problem that confronts you
got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord, might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks.
  Oo-oo that smell -
can't you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell -
the smell of death's around you.
Oo-oo that smell -
can't you smell that smell?
Oo-oo that smell -
the smell of death's around you.



It burns when you pee!


> Professor Stoner,
> Why does the shower water get so hot when someone in the

> house flushes a toilet? Yeah, I realize that all the pipes
> are connected, but why doesn't the water scald me when someone
> turns on the sink or uses the washing machine? You'd think
> that after all these years of running water, they'd be able
> to devise a system that doesn't require yelling "I'm finished
> peeing!" at the top of my lungs when someone else is
> in the shower.
> Alison

Well, Alison, what causes you to get burned is a drop in pressure in the cold water supply to your shower head.  In most modern houses, this actually isn't too much of a problem anymore, because standards in homebuilding have gotten quite a bit better since the "good old days."

In those houses that do burn your tender parts in the shower, the problem stems from the fact that you have separate piping for hot water and cold water - and the toilet is normally connected to the cold side, not the hot side.  (But can you imagine a hot water toilet?  Ewww, stinky! smile.gif (93 bytes))  What makes the problem considerably worse is that the toilet is connected right next to the shower, especially assuming we're talking about the same bathroom - so when you suddenly open that valve to fill the tank, you drop the available pressure on that line, meaning less cold water, meaning ouch!  You may, depending on how your house is plumbed, notice the shower getting considerably colder when the dishwasher or the washing machine runs.  (The house I grew up in was so bad that you knew it if somebody just ran hot or cold water in the kitchen.)

The reason I say that this is mainly a problem in older houses is because, in most newer houses, there are several separate sets of piping run to various rooms in the house.   Rather than running a single hot water pipe and cold water pipe through the house, the kitchen and each bathroom get their own sets of individual pipes, which then makes it much less likely that you'll see a drop in pressure at the shower head when somebody flushes the toilet.  In really well-built houses, you can often find a completely separate set of pipes that runs directly to the shower (and nothing but the shower), making it almost impossible to make the girl in the shower scream... at least, without pulling a Norman Bates act on her.  And that's cheating.

The other thing that can make shower heads your enemy is low water pressure - if your house has well water instead of city water, for instance, it's difficult to isolate the shower from pressure drops elsewhere in the plumbing no matter what you do, because flushing the toilet actually lowers the water pressure from the source.   What are you gonna do?  Happily in those instances, though, you typically see a very close decrease in both hot and cold water pressure at the same time, which usually means you get less and slightly colder water until the toilet finishes filling / the dishwasher shuts off / et cetera.

So (if you didn't catch this already), in your particular house, you don't get burned when someone runs the sink or the washing machine simply because either they're on a different pipe to the main than the bathroom is, or possibly just because they're close enough to the main that they don't decrease the pressure too much (the maximum flow rate decreases proportional to the length of the pipe and inversely proportional to the diameter of the pipe that it travels through)... whereas in the bathroom, "right next door to" the shower, so to speak, and on the same pipe run, that toilet tank opening up steals half of the water pressure for the cold water from the shower.  Ow!



I Love It When She Blows My Horn


> I have a question for ya. Do you watch The Tonight
> Show? Ya know who Kevin Eubanks is... the band guy?
> Well, what I want to know is- who was the band guy
> before Kevin? Who did Kevin replace? I've asked
> lots of people, and no one can help... You're a
> smart guy. I figured you might know.

> -Lisa


Ah, Professor Stoner can help!  Actually, Kevin Eubanks is a good guy and a talented pianist, but he'll never be half the man in jazz that his predecessor was and is.   When it comes to jazz, Branford Marsalis is the man - a masterful saxophone player.  In addition to his own well-known work - including a weekly 1-hour gig on National Public Radio, Jazz Set With Branford Marsalis - he's done work with all sorts of greats, including Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie.   He was also the front man for Sting's instrumental backup, and he did the soundtracks in a number of Spike Lee "joints" - including Do The Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, and School Daze.   Unusually enough for a top jazz musician, he's also had roles in several films - School Daze, Throw Momma From The Train, and Bring On The Night.

Something of a blot on his career, on the other hand, is the fact that he also worked with Tina and Teena - Tina Turner and Teena Marie, that is.   But given the outstanding nature of the rest of his career work, I suppose we'll just have to forgive him an indiscretion or two, won't we? /wink.gif (135 bytes)



branfordmarsalis.jpg (11898 bytes)

Remember this when building your next bong, kids
> What's the main reason why fluids are
> used in hydraulic systems instead of
> gases?  What properties of fluids make
> them better for such things?

That's a fairly easy one, actually.  Hydraulic systems use fluids in pipes and chambers to transfer pressure from one place to another - for instance, in the brakes on your car, the master cylinder is connected to your brake pads with a hydraulic system.  When you press down on the brake pedal, the master cylinder pushes VERY hard on the brake fluid in the long, thin steel line that runs from the master cylinder to your brakes - on the other end of that line is the caliper, which pushes the brake pads into your rotor, slowing down the car.  You can actually get a tremendous mechanical advantage by using hydraulics in this way - which is why you have hydraulic brakes instead of a big lever that goes from your brake pedal to your brakes.  You could connect them directly with a lever or a rod, but you wouldn't be able to put anywhere near as much pressure on the rotors that way - and therefore, you'd have to step on the brakes much harder, and even then you couldn't stop as fast.

Now, the enterprising souls among you may have tried to do your own brake job at one point or another - and if you have, you learned mighty quick that if you don't get all the air out of the line, your brakes are all spongy and you can't stop worth a shit.  Gotta bleed those lines!  Why is this?  Well, hydraulic fluids are specifically chosen for three major properties: stability at a particular temperature range, viscosity, and incompressibility.  You can't make a hydraulic system with a compressible fluid!  (Air is an example of a compressible fluid.)  Think about it - if you have air in the lines, then when you try to "step on the fluid" with the master cylinder, that pressure won't be transferred smoothly to the brakes - instead, it will most of it will be wasted in compressing the air in the line - leaving you with only a very little bit of the pressure you applied actually getting to the brakes.

Brake fluid, on the other hand, is effectively incompressible - so once you've bled those lines, when you "step on the fluid" with the master cylinder, the brake fluid smoothly transfers that pressure to your brakes on the other end of the line.

Now that we've covered the basics on how a hyrdraulic system works, the answer to your question is obvious - all gases are highly compressible, so we can't use a gas as an effective hydraulic fluid.


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