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Puppy hiatus! Reruns daily; new comics restart 1 January 2019
All Previous Polls: 501-550Poll 501: How often do you buy salt?
Total votes: 3449
This poll was inspired by a recent inventory of my pantry. I found in the back a plastic airtight container full of salt. I mean full - it weighs in at a hefty 714 grams (I just weighed it now on my kitchen scales). Presumably I bought it as a one kilogram box of salt.
When I set up house with my wife.
Twelve years ago.
At the rate we're using this salt, we'll need to buy another packet in about 2040.
I had intended this poll to be about edible table salt. I didn't specify because that's basically the only salt which we ever use for anything. As I discovered from various comments and responses, people in some parts of the world also buy salt specifically to soften water in their dishwasher, or to remove ice from roads and driveways. I did think of salt for swimming pools, but oddly nobody commented about that.
Poll 502: Reference material: Experience point.
Which of the following sentences are correct?
(A) This is going to be worth so many XP.
(B) This is going to be worth so many XPs.
(C) This is going to be worth so much XP.
(D) This is going to be worth so much XPs.
Total votes: 5209
There's a long, complicated story behind this one. It refers to a recent strip of Darths & Droids: #408.
Darths & Droids is, as many of you know, written by myself and a collection of my friends. Everyone contributes, and we have lively discussions about plotting, characterisations, and the exact dialogue that goes into the strips. This particular one caused, well I won't say it was outright argument, but it was extremely heated discussion.
I was on the keyboard and, after our usual group brainstorming and discussion, typed out the last line of the strip as, "This is going to be worth so many XP." The others agreed that it was a good script, except some of them said that the last line was wrong.
I said, "What's wrong with it?"
They said, "It should be: This is going to be worth so much XP."
I said, "What? No, that's gramatically incorrect. It has to be so many XP."
They said, "No no no, you're wrong!"
I said, "You fascist Nazi bastards!"
At least that's the gist of it. After an entire lunch hour of this, with both sides absolutely refusing to back down, I agreed reluctantly that the strip could be made with the line, "This is going to be worth so much XP." And when the strip went to air on 2 May, that's what it said.
Except that when I saw it live on the website, my inner grammar Nazi recoiled in utter horror that such a travesty was visible on a website that I maintained. I apologetically e-mailed my friends at work and said I couldn't stand it, and was going to change the sentence back to the grammatically correct, "This is going to be worth so many XP."
Naturally this triggered an e-mail explosion between all parties concerned, which no doubt cost our work the equivalent of 20+ person-hours of skilled employee time. People were pulling out Google hits, dictionary definitions, grammar references, and official roleplaying game writer's style guides. The weird thing was that the latter - specifically the official Dungeons & Dragons Writer's Guide published by Wizards of the Coast - states quite clearly that XP stands for experience point or experience points. Nothing else. And "XP" is the plural form too - you do not add an "s" to make it stand for "experience points".
I saw this as completely vindicating my position. After all, you would say, "This is going to be worth so many experience points." You would not say, "This is going to be worth so much experience points." That would just be grammatically wrong.
Yet, oddly, and still to my total incomprehension, some of the other guys saw this as total vindication for their position that, "This is going to be worth so many XP," was just wrong and, "This is going to be worth so much XP," was obviously right.
At this stage I despaired of us reaching an agreement and rather bluntly pulled rank. It was on my website, and therefore I decided what version would be used. Less than 24 hours after the strip in question was posted publicly, I retroactively changed the line from, "This is going to be worth so much XP," to "This is going to be worth so many XP."
Our usual lunchtime meeting was somewhat subdued. We discussed other things, and not one of us was willing to raise the topic of this line of dialogue. After lunch, the e-mails resumed, somewhat more civilly, and someone suggested we should make it the subject of an IWC poll. So this poll question was born.
We never explicitly discussed it, but I think the general feeling was that my trump card of owning the website had won the day, and nobody was willing to raise the question again.
Until today. One of us is actually out of the country on his honeymoon, and found himself with 10 minutes in an Internet cafe. He reopened the discussion... and since then another several thousand words of e-mail have been exchanged between several of us, arguing the opposite positions once again.
This time the angle is slightly different. The objection (as I understand it) from my worthy opponents is that if "XP" stands for "experience points" then the construction, "This is going to be worth so many XP," sounds a bit like, "this is worth so many dollars," or, "it's so many metres away," or, "wow, it's a lot of degrees Celsius today". The point here being that these sentences all use a countable noun referred to with a non-specific number. The argument (as I understand it) is that these sentences are better expressed as, "this is worth so much money," or, "it's such a long distance away," or "wow, the temperature is really hot today."
The distinction here is that the non-specific number of countable noun objects ("dollars", "metres", "degrees Celcius") has been replaced by an intrinsically non-countable mass noun, ("money", "distance", "temperature"). To my worthy opponents, these latter forms of these sentences are in some sense better than the former versions. I have to say that while I agree in the temperature case, I don't really see anything wrong with the first versions of the other two examples, but apparently my friends do.
Anyway, bringing this back to "experience points", which is a countable form of a noun, the question is what is the uncountable mass noun version? The answer is "experience". So now we have these two different versions of what is essentially the same concept:
On a lighter note, this is the first IWC poll since poll #189 where one of the offered options got no votes whatsoever. That was also a language usage poll...
Poll 503: You're eating out and want dessert. The place has both chocolate cake and cheesecake. Your reaction?
Total votes: 4668
The reason I ask this is I recently faced this dilemma, and realised that I fall squarely into the last category. If a restaurant offers chocolate cake, I'll always pick that. If it offers cheesecake, I'll always pick that. If it offers both, I'm stuck in some sort of Buridan's ass situation and can't make the decision.
A few people suggested the correct course of action was to have both, which is probably something I should adopt!
(Or chocolate cheesecake, which is also a good option, but only if the restaurant has it.)
Poll 504: Twenty Questions, #11. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is its species carnivorous (as opposed to omnivorous/herbivorous)?
Total votes: 3422
A carnivore it is! The next question will appear in a few polls' time.
Poll 505: 3D movies and TV:
Total votes: 4328
Poll 506: Graffiti:
Total votes: 3181
Of course vandalism and art are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Poll 507: Twenty Questions, #12. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it a feline?
Total votes: 3520
Close one! Okay, the next question will appear after a few other polls.
Poll 508: If you were wealthy enough not to have to work for a living, would you still work?
Total votes: 3268
Poll 509: Which Jules-Verne-inspired journey would you most like to take in real life?
Total votes: 4117
Poll 510: Choose a response that produces the largest cumulative insult:
Total votes: 4259
Ya know, when I wrote this I wasn't trying to construct anything particularly insightful - I was just trying to come up with a weird question in a hurry. But I think I've shown pretty convincingly that Highlander 2 was, in fact, rather bad.
Poll 511: Twenty Questions, #13. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human, talking non-feline carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it a canine?
Total votes: 3340
Okay, non-feline and non-canine! Tricky. The next question will occur after another few polls.
Poll 512: When was the oldest piece of music on your portable music player composed?
Total votes: 3702
Poll 513: When you return here and see the poll question hasn't changed, do you:
Total votes: 4001
Poll 514: If you were a soup, which would you be?
Total votes: 2682
Poll 515: Twenty Questions, #14. I know it's a specific non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it male?
Total votes: 3008
Poll 516: From left to right, which order are these stored in your cutlery drawer?
Total votes: 3301
Poll 517: How do you eat corn on the cob?
Total votes: 4017
Poll 518: What month were you born in?
Total votes: 3362
Now that's interesting. Each month should have close to 8.3% (except February, at about 7.7%), assuming people are born at random times throughout the year. Obviously there's some odd bias amongst Irregular Webcomic! readers.
Poll 519: Twenty Questions, #15. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from literature or poetry. Is it from British literature?
Total votes: 3617
Okay then! The next question will be in a few polls' time.
Poll 520: What industry sector do you work in?
Total votes: 3392
Poll 521: Can things be both funny and offensive?
Total votes: 4187
Poll 522: What do your parents think you do for a living?
Total votes: 3300
Poll 523: You've just woken up. You need to have a shower and leave the house. How much time do you need?
Total votes: 4026
Poll 524: Twenty Questions, #16. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from British literature or poetry. Does it wear any clothing?
Total votes: 2700
Wears clothing it is. The next question will appear after a few intervening polls.
Poll 525: What do you consider to be the defining characteristic of a carnivorous animal?
Total votes: 4346
Poll 526: Ginger ...:
Total votes: 3514
Yeah, okay, I forgot Rogers. Sorry about that!
Poll 527: How many raw, whole eggs in your kitchen right now?
Total votes: 3933
Poll 528: Twenty Questions, #17. I know it's a specific male non-animated, fictional, non-human/-feline/-canine, talking clothes-wearing carnivorous mammal of a real species, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it either one of a bear, badger, mole, or weasel?
Total votes: 3152
Aha! The next question will apear in a few polls' time.
Poll 529: When you need to type a multiplication sign in a document (i.e. not computer code), what do you use?
Total votes: 3671
Writing technical reports and papers, I often need to type multiplication signs. I use the Alt-0215 method, having long ago memorised this particular keyboard code. The most common "other" answer that I saw in comments was \cdot.
Poll 530: You have a question about a website. What do you do?
Total votes: 3717
Poll 531: Twenty Questions, #18. I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear, badger, mole, or weasel, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it either a bear or a weasel?
Total votes: 2754
So, either a bear or a weasel. The next question will appear in a few polls' time.
Poll 532: How polarising will this poll be?
Total votes: 3612
Poll 533: Your favourite sports team wins a game only because of a blatant refereeing/umpiring error. Do you:
Total votes: 3630
Wow. Not much love for sports in the readership. I'm always somewhat bemused by people who don't like sport. I enjoy most sports. Particularly the more tactical and strategic team sports. They can be very intellectually stimulating, as well as aesthetically pleasing when watching marvellous displays of athleticism and skill.
Oh well, to each their own.
Poll 534: Twenty Questions, #19. I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear or weasel, originally from British literature or poetry. Is the character a villain?
Total votes: 3370
Wow, close one! Okay, the final question will appear in a few polls' time. Exciting!
Poll 535: When you change your toothbrush, do you:
Total votes: 3734
Apparently, if some e-mailers are to be believed, some people never change their toothbrushes. Or only do so when their dentist gives them a new brush.
Poll 536: In general, if something offensive is funny, is it more justifiable to do it than if it isn't funny?
Total votes: 2880
Poll 537: Retail loyalty programs:
Total votes: 2965
Poll 538: Twenty Questions, #20! I know it's a specific male, talking, clothes-wearing carnivorous bear or weasel villain, originally from British literature or poetry. Is it... Iofur Raknison from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy?
Total votes: 3851
Ah well, close. After question 19, I really only had two choices that I could think of. Iofur, or the Chief Weasel from Wind in the Willows. I had to pick one to frame the last, hopefully winning, question, and I really had no idea which might be the more popular choice. Obviously, I plumped for Iofur, and didn't get the over 50% I needed to consider this a success.
Of course, perhaps 7% or more of you were thinking of something else entirely, in which case neither option could have got me over 50%. In fact, perhaps less than 43% of you would have answered yes to the Chief Weasel, in which case I did as well as could be expected.
Throughout this set of 20 Questions, I realised that it would be difficult to come up with something that everyone agreed satisfied all the answers. I first realised this with Question #11: Is it carnivorous? The answer was yes, so I thought that meant it could be a type of cat, or dog, or various other carnivorous mammals including pinnipeds, toothed whales, mustelids, and some others. Most likely a cat or a dog.
But discussion in the forum turned on the question of what exactly is carnivorous? Most people, but not all, decided dogs were out of the running, since they argued that dogs were omnivorous - they eat vegetable scraps and dry dog food, which is mostly made of cereals, and a bit of meat. I didn't say so at the time, but I disgreed with this. Dogs eat meat. They only eat vegetable scraps and cereal-based foods because we give these things to them - mostly because meat is too expensive to feed a dog with all the time. But dogs are basically just wolves plus a few thousand years of breeding, and wolves and wild breeds of dogs pretty much eat nothing but meat. Wolves eat the odd berry apparently, but I doubt anyone would seriously argue they are not carnivorous. I figure dogs, deprived of human pet food, would also be unquestionably carnivorous.
But apparently many people disagreed. Nevertheless, I felt I had to spend a question (#13) asking if the mystery creature was a canine, which it turned out not to be. At this point I realised that you, the voting public, were most probably split on what you considered to still be valid creatures. Some of you probably thought badgers (to pick a random example) were okay, while others thought they weren't. Bears came up - people pointed out that they're not carnivorous, they're omnivorous. Well, except for polar bears, which primarily eat seals. So they stayed in.
Then Question #16 determined the creature wears clothing. Did that include armour? Again, some people on the forum argued yes, others no. So in the end I had to conclude that armour-wearing polar bears were not necessarily excluded, even though some of you very likely thought they were.
It was an interesting exercise overall, but in the end I think the vagaries of personal definitions mean that it's very hard to pin down a final answer that everyone actually agrees satisfies all the questions. Which makes my job as the asker very difficult. I may not have "won" the game, but I think I did pretty well, considering. Thanks to everyone who played along!
EDIT: Some years later I found this blog post, which discusses the different possible definitions of "carnivore", inspired by none other than this series of poll questions, and the discussion above!
Poll 539: When you come back from vacation, what fraction of your photos have people in them?
Total votes: 3129
Poll 540: How did you approach the Twenty Questions polls?
Total votes: 4380
Poll 541: Go get an orange and peel it. Go on, this poll will be here for a few days. How many segments are inside?
Total votes: 2643
Poll 542: What feature of Irregular Webcomic! do you most want to see again soon?
Total votes: 4405
That's a fairly decisive result from a poll with so many options. I'd like to say there are some coming soon, but alas I've been very busy lately and unfortunately I don't have any particularly long annotations in the buffer at the moment. But I'll try to find time to write some longer annotations soon.
Poll 543: How many different types of fruit do you have in your home right now?
Total votes: 3073
There was some interesting discussion about this one on the forums. As usual, I left the question open to different interpretations, and people discussed whether they should just count fresh fruit, or also dried fruit, or even fruit in products such as jams or cakes, or even sauces or even more processed foodstuffs. Then there was (of course) the question of whether or not to count tomatoes, and then also pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, and further into nuts. Many people on the forums included all of these and ended up counting well over 31 different types of fruit.
It seems from the results, however, that most people probably went the other extreme and only counted fresh fruit, or maybe dried fruit as well.
And then someone suggested the question was not asking how many fruits you had, but how many types of fruit: fresh fruit is 1, dried fruit makes 2, preserved fruit 3, and so on.
Poll 544: How do you press the button to activate a pedestrian crossing?
Total votes: 3846
Poll 545: What is your second favourite thing on this list?
Total votes: 3501
Poll 546: You see some candy in a bowl at a relative's house. Judging from experience, what flavour are the green ones most likely to be?
Total votes: 2922
Several German readers commented that of course it would be woodruff! Apparently all* green candies in Germany are woodruff flavoured. I'd never even heard of woodruff before!
* Hyperbole. I'm sure there are other flavours.
Poll 547: Hottest male in Irregular Webcomic!?
Total votes: 2866
I swear I did not rig the poll! Although I did get a few people writing to say they voted "Me" because they were clearly the hottest male in the comic themselves. I guess that's what I get for making you a character in my comic.
Poll 548: Hottest female in Irregular Webcomic!?
Total votes: 3205
So if we discount the fact that Jane Goodall's vote got split, she ended up with the most votes!
Poll 549: Hottest being of indeterminate, non-specified, ambiguous, changeable, neuter, or potentially wrongly assumed sex in Irregular Webcomic!?
Total votes: 3466
Someone suggested the Fire Elemental.
Poll 550: In what order do you normally put on socks and shoes?
Total votes: 3350