Ask a Tim

Finally an answer to all your questions about everything. Not only an answer, but an answer from a Tim! E-mail all questions to or by clicking on the link on the left hand menu bar titled "Get your questions answered" and leaving a comment! I will reply (if I can) as soon as possible!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Animal Abductors

Dear Tim,

Why did the seagulls take my sister?

-Sisterless in San Diego

Dear Sisterless,

First off, I am sorry to hear of your personal tragedy. I'm never the person with the right words for these situations, so I won't burden you with any.

As to your question, possibly the answer will provide some condolence. Your situation is not that unusual, for many years there have been instances of children being taken by animals. There is the case of the dingo in Australia who took a baby, the bears who took a small child in Montana, and the lesser known incident of a family of meerkats who were stole a small monkey.

But this isn't only a recent occurrence. There is the legend of the Jungle Book in which Mowgli was taken in by a family of wolves. Wolves once mothered Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, as well. And of course, most every knows of the Mayan legend of the Alpacas who took in a young prince, and then mustered the Mighty Alpacan Armies to defeat the Conquistadors.

suckling at the non-proverbial teat

My thoughts are that animals are attempting to bridge the communication gap between man and beast. The first way that they have attempted this is by giving up their young to live in our homes. Dogs and cats have been the most successful in this infiltration, with monkeys, ferrets and hedgehogs also have some degree of success. Of course cows have failed at this quite miserably.

The second, and lesser used method is that animals have brought our young into their homes, in hopes of bridging the communication gap. While once again, dogs have had the most success at this, that doesn't mean that seagulls or other creatures won't take the chance when opportunity presents itself. As humans are the more advanced, it is harder for animals to abduct our young, so it does happen rarely.

So yes, your sister was kidnapped by seagulls, but you can rest easy in the knowledge that her abduction could help bridge the gap between man and seagull (unless they fed her to their young). My advice to you, if you have any siblings left, would be to always travel in numbers and protect them at all times. The animals could act at any moment.

:: posted by timothy, 9:10 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

And I even had my Wisdom teeth taken out...

Dear Tim,

Can a gap in your teeth be a hereditary thing? Or is it totally up to chance?


Dear Derek,

First off, thanks for submitting a question! I have been sitting patiently in the wings for months now, awaiting a new question to stimulate my noggin.

This is a question that I have a lot of personal experience with. Not only have I had orthodontics in my mouth for about half my life (I finally ripped my bottom retainer off a few months ago), but I can also see how I get my bite directly from my father. While the "perfect" mouth has a slight overbite, mine is stubborn in biting straight down, front teeth on front teeth, which means my back teeth don't touch.

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But to answer your question, there are two types of causes for irregular teeth. The first, as you mentioned, is hereditary. Hereditary factors include a mismatch in the sizes of upper and lower jaws (your bite), an abnormal number of teeth (either too many, or too few), or mismatching in tooth and jaw sizes (either your jaw is too big or too small, or your teeth are). The last two are the factors that would cause a gap in the teeth.

The other cause for irregular teeth is environmental factors. These include early loss of deciduous teeth, bad habits (such as digit sucking or pen biting), lack of proper oral care leading to oral disease, or lost teeth due to oral disease or traumatic injury.

So, to answer your question, a gap in the teeth is definitely not up to pure luck. It is either because one of your parents had it, or you didn't brush as often as you should have (or got hit in the face by a brick).

I unfortunately had the combination of hereditary factors that included both misaligned jaw and too many teeth. This led to having over 8 baby teeth pulled, 2 permanents pulled, 2 years of retainer, followed by four years of braces, followed by one year of retainer, then a palate expander for a year, another two years of braces, and then retainers again for about 6 years.

Over four years ago scientists were claiming that the next mobile phones would be in a tooth. It would use a tiny vibrating plate to send sound waves from received calls, through your jawbone to your ear canal. Of course, the big problem wasn't getting you to hear it, but getting the other person to hear you. Since words are not formed just by your voicebox, but also by the shape your lips make as you speak the word, the complication was in getting your words to sound correctly to the other person.

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:: posted by timothy, 9:10 AM | link | 2 comments |

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stick shifts and Safety Belts ... have all got to go!

Dear Tim,

Do you think cars with stick shifts will eventually be phased out in favor of automatics? I ask only because I know nothing about cars and I always assumed that when cars were first invented they were stick shifts and then they were upgraded to automatics to be more convenient. Personally I wouldn't want stick shifts to become a thing of the past because they're speedy and fun to drive (except in San Francisco).


Dear Anne,

I personally think that standard transmissions will eventually be phased out, but not for a long time to come.

I myself enjoy a standard transmission, as do most people who are absolutely nuts about cars. A standard transmission can reduce gas mileage, increase power to the engine, and reduce wear and tear on brake pads by using it to help slow the car. Some people are so fanatical about them that I doubt it will be anytime soon that we are without that choice.

When I first read your question, I thought it would be sooner rather than later, as I didn't know if hybrid cars are available in standard. Since Hybrids definately are the "wave of the future" their availbility in standard would determine the fate of the stick shift. But after some quick research I found that Honda offers a couple of models in standard, so it will live on to see another day.

So while we will most likely see standards through our lifetime, there could come a day when the standard has gone the way of the dodo, perhaps for your children, or their children.

One of the main things that could cause this would be to create a new type of engine that is no longer internal combustion. Once the day of the solplasmic (solor/plasma/electric) engine run car, the stick shift will fade into the past. But until the day of that engine named the word I just made up, we should still see the standard transmission on the plate.

And you are right, a stick shift if both fun and speedy to drive...

(except in San Francisco)

:: posted by timothy, 8:24 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tennis Anyone?!?

Dear Tim,

Why do they call it a diamond tennis bracelet? What does it have to do with tennis?


Dear Rika,

This is a very good question, and I've always wondered about it myself. Having played tennis most of my life, I know that wearing something on your wrist can be an encumbrance while playing. I once broke the face of my watch on my follow through. Though, to be honest, most good tennis players don't usually end up hitting their wrist with their racket, but the question remains!

First off, for those without a penchant for "bling", the term tennis bracelet is used to describe an in-line diamond bracelet. It was originally called an "in-line diamond bracelet" but as that term is just plain boring, the stage was set for something exciting to happen.

And something exciting happened indeed. In 1987, the ever elegant, always graceful, former #1 World women's tennis player, winner of whopping 18 Grand Slam singles titles, and sometimes grunter (not to mention the love of my life at the time), Chris Everet was sporting (pun intended) said bracelet during one of her U.S. Open matches. During an especially powerful return, the bracelet - in what some describe as a "slow-motion-event" (or SME) - was flung from her wrist to land carelessly on the hard court.

Play was stopped to allow her to find her bracelet, and while awaiting play to resume, the television announcers jokingly referred to it as her "tennis bracelet".

Due to Chris being such a popular player, the name stuck, and demand skyrocketed for the bracelet.

In all her glory...

***Did you know***
Tennis Rocks! And my all time favorite player was Jimmy Connors, mainly because of his arm spin and pump that he would do after an especially great winning shot! He also played with a wooden and metal racket long after most players had moved to the newer, graphite models.


:: posted by timothy, 4:08 PM | link | 2 comments |

Friday, January 13, 2006

Freaky Friday!

Dear Tim,

How did Friday the 13th become an unlucky day?

-Freaking out in Fredericksburg

Dear Freaking,

That is a fantastic question, and even with all my research I really can't find a definite answer. But let's start small.

First off, Friday's in general have a had a bad rap for a long time. It has long been an old wives tale that Friday's are a bad day to start a new venture, finish an old venture, birth a child or do anything that is really important. This can be verified in literature beginning around the mid-17th century

Christianity usually gets the credit for this, for a few reasons. It is believed that Jesus was crucified on Friday, Eve gave Adam the apple and they were expunged from the garden, Noah's flood began, and the mass confusion at the Tower of Babel occurred. Non-ironically enough, Good Friday is considered a very good day to do anything.

Pre-Christianity (yes there was a time) Friday was the sabbath. This could also be a reason that it is considered a bad day to do things, as anything done would not have the blessings of God upon them. Friday was also execution day in pagan Rome.

There were also other pagan relations to Friday being a holy day. Since a pagan holy day couldn't be the same as a Christian holy day, the sabbath moved to Sunday and friday became known in the Middle ages as the "Witches' Sabbath".

Thirteen also has had bad connotations for awhile. Once again, the reason for this are lost in the mists of time, but we have some really good ideas. One of the main theories is that it originally began as bad luck to sit down to a meal with only 12 other people. If that occurs, one of the members will certainly die within the year. This could stem from the Last Supper, where Jesus sat down with his 12 disciples, and was shortly after killed.

There is also a Nordic myth that 12 gods sat down for a meal, and Loki, god of mischief and the uninvited "13th" guest, arrived in quite a mood. He lobbed a mistletoe branch at Balder, god of joy and gladness, and killed him instantly, plunging the world into a period of darkness and mourning. (for Vikings to have a such a fierce reputation, they sure have wimpy gods)

Thirteen people at a table has also been considered taboo in Hindu cultures for quite a while, though the reason for this is unknown.

A proper witches coven contains 13 members.

My favorite theory I found on this was that prehistoric man, when he first began counting, could only count as high as 12, having only 10 fingers and two feet. What lay beyond this finite number of 12? Why, it could only be 13, which is scary and freaky! wooooo!

The Egyptians taught that life was a quest for spiritual ascension, unfolded in stages, 12 while alive, and the 13th being death and the afterlife. Though they viewed death as a positive thing, it is possible this belief of death being associated with 13 has been corrupted by later cultures.

The fear of 13 people at a table eventually grew into hating all things that come in thirteen's. Except perhaps a baker's dozen, because there is nothing wrong with 13 donuts! This has led to, among other things, buildings not having a 13th floor and Bilbo Baggins joining a crew of dwarves to steal their treasure back from a dragon.

For whatever reason, both 13 and Friday have long been considered an evil thing. So adversely to the wondrous invention of whoever it was that put their chocolate in my peanut butter (Loki!!!), when Friday and 13 meet up it is a very bad thing.

Fear of this day is thought to be no older than the 19th century, as there are no literary mentions of it before that time. Though a recent myth (thank you very much DaVinci Code) is that it is feared because October the 13th, 1307, a friday, was the day that most of the Order of the Knights of Templar, were arrested and falsely accused of crimes, in order to get rid of the Order, forever.

It is estimated that somewhere between $800-$900 million is lost every Friday the 13th, due to people skipping work for fear of leaving the house.

Recent scientists believe that it is the fear and anxiety the day produces, rather than any foul luck, that creates the increase in accidents and mishaps on these days.

In Spain, Tuesday's are considered the "bad" day, with Tuesday the 13th being even worse. There is a proverb "En martes, ni te cases ni te embarques" (on Tuesday, neither marry nor begin a journey).
:: posted by timothy, 8:56 AM | link | 2 comments |

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Tales

Is it true that we don't really know when Jesus's birthday really was? Is it true that early Christians said Christ's birthday is December 25 because it is close to other religious, such as pagans, holidays and made them easier to convert?

-Perplexed in Patagonia

Dear Perplexed,

It is true, we DON'T really know when Jesus' birthday was, but we do know it most likely wasn't in winter if we are to believe the rest of the tale. While it wouldn't be uncommon for Shepards to be tending their flock in December at night (about the time new grass begins to grow) it is more likely that it was in the Spring, when they would be there to assist with birthing of Spring lambs.

Many modern day scholars and astronomers have spent a lot time trying to determine a date based on astronomical events that were happening around that time (Star of David).

The first recorded time of Christmas on the 25th was in Constantinople (before it was Istanbul) around 379 AD after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity on his death bed (first death bed conversion recorded as well) and Rome followed his lead.

It is believed it was done as way to get pagans to stop having their pagan fun on the 25th for Winter Solstice, but it was probably a way to get Christians to stop observing the solstice, and worship Jesus instead. It was most likely not done as a conversion tool, but a way to get current Christians from reverting to Pagan ways.

Originally, it was the Epiphany feast, celebrated on January 6th, which is where the 12 days of Christmas come from (the time between the 25th and the 6th), and many Christian religions refused to celebrate the 25th well into the 1800's.

Many Orthodox Catholics still celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th.

***Did you know*** According to Howard Clarke, in the US, Christmas cards bearing the Magi outsell those of the shepards.
:: posted by timothy, 1:31 PM | link | 0 comments |

Friday, December 09, 2005

You play it with your feet!

Where did the word "soccer" come from? Are Americans the only people in the world that call it soccer?

-Juggling in Johanesburg

Dear Juggling,

If you are like many of us, you first discovered that Soccer was known by other names when you took your first Spanish class. There you learned that "futbol" referred to soccer, while "futbol americana" is what we call football.

There is a short answer and long answer to this question, but in the interest of the meeting I'm about to adjourn too, we'll stick with the short.

Soccer was originally known as football (as it is played with the feet almost exclusively). It is often referred to as Soccer in english speaking countries where there is a rival code of football that is more popular. Codes such as Rugby football, Austrailian rules football, or even Canadian rules football (I think they call it hockey).

FIFA, known for being the world authority on soccer and its great Playstation games, refers to the sport as football.

The IOC (or International Olympic Committee) uses football as well.

Australia recently made a national change to call it only football, much to the amusement of fans. England also calls it football, and both countries will sometimes simplify it to "footie".

The term soccer first originated around the 1880's as a slang term for Association Football (yea, I don't see any R's in it either).

So America is one of the main countries that uses the phrase Soccer. There are others, like Canada, where the usage of "soccer" is so popular even in French speaking Quebec it is called "le soccer"

In white South Africa it is mainly called soccer, while black South African's generally use "football". In the language of Afrikaans, it would be "sokker".

In Irish (or Gaelic) it is "sacar", and they have a league of Gaelic football. But to go into all the idiosyncracies of Irish life would just be far too confusing for this simple post.

Outside of these few countries, everyone else calls it "football", or they speak another language so this is all a moot point.

But the term "soccer" is on the rise. Most likely due to the U.S. wanting the rest of the world to be just like us, and instituting trade embargo's until they call it what we want. It makes it easier for us to turn your interesting little town into nothing more than a tourist stop on our way to our next stop on the new Consumer based Imperialism that is all the rage right now. (Ok, there are so many things gramatically wrong with this last sentence that I don't even know how to fix it!)

That's just how we roll!
:: posted by timothy, 8:36 AM | link | 0 comments |