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Since you asked, we’ll attempt an answer


We interrupt your regular programming to lend a hand over at Since You Asked World Headquarters, where there appears to have been a glitch at the vast Question Sorting and Distribution Center.

At issue? An inquiry this past week has gummed up the works for the first time since we installed the AnswerMatic 2000 in anticipation of the dystopian society surely to result from the havoc caused by Y2K.

In retrospect, the AnswerMatic 2000 might not have been the wisest investment — seeing that it appears have a shorter shelf-life that the gross of cases filled with cans of deviled ham that we purchased at the same time.

To prevent this snafu from becoming fubar, we’re turning over this space this week to delve into the troublesome inquiry … which arrived via email from Jim of Medford, under the heading “Status of ‘Since You Asked’ feature?”

Jim writes … well, types:

“Intuitively, I am suspecting that in today’s newspaper economy managing a feature like Since You Asked takes personnel hours that Rosebud may not have. If so, it explains why the feature no longer appears daily and when it does, the subject matter may address a question or issue covered by regular news.

Bottom line: It appears to me that the frequency and tenor of the feature has changed and IMHO, not for the better.”

Jim, Jim, Jim … can I call you Jim? There’s a lot to unpack there, but might I commend your use of “Intuitively” and “suspecting,” thereby scrupulously avoiding a knee-jerk response employing the hoary chestnut about the mistake made when one assumes?

Let’s get this business about personnel hours out of the way first, shall we?

SYA World Headquarters remains as fully staffed as it was in its beginning — back in the days of the Upper Paleolithic Era, when the first question and response were conveyed in a painting on the wall of the Leang Tedongnge cave in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The question was answered by the Lingo Lounge at SYAWH … confirming that the animal depicted was called a “wild pig.”

Cave paintings were the first logo used for the Since You Asked feature — followed by, among others, stone tablets, scrolls, a Pony Express rider, a telegraph machine, carrier pigeons, various mailboxes, candygrams … and, finally, the familiar computer screen you see today.

The mention of the Lingo Lounge, though, brings to mind the various … and sundry, even … branches that have been added to our World Headquarters over the years — perhaps none so fondly revered as the Disembodied Head Investigation Unit that has been called upon twice: Once to determine how many times Abe Lincoln’s noggin went missing from the statue that once graced the entry to Lithia Park (the count is ongoing), and the other asked why there appeared to be two different pictures of Amy Dickinson adorning her daily advice column.

That was back in December of 2007 and, stumped, the unit decided to ask Amy herself … who provided the obvious answer: “Please run that photo which you deem to be most flattering to me.”

We could have presumed that, of course, but were leery of making a pres out of you, me and her.

Sorry for the digression, Jim, and I’ll be back with you in a moment … but first I have to check to see if there an even more recent picture of Amy to run with her column.

I fear another email to Amy in the near future will be warranted.

Jim, you also express concern over the nature of the SYA subject matter becoming dominated by issues “covered by regular news.” It’s fair to say that we receive quite a few letters, emails and faxes (no, wait, nobody understands fax anymore) that ask us for updates on current issues or ongoing projects.

Unfortunately, the Journalists Doing Math Division has been enlisted in ciphering Lincoln decapitations — that’ll go well — so determining how often such questions are answered in SYA can only be determined by a formula that’s locked in a safe inside a vault inside a volcano … in a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar next to the Juicedratic Equation for Starbursts.

Rest assured, questions are being answered every day at Since You Asked World Headquarters; it’s just that, sometimes, the answers are so simple that they don’t merit inclusion in the paper (“Does 2 plus 2 still equal 4?” “Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary, yes ... yes it does.”)… or are so befuddling (“How do you keep an idiot in suspense?”) that our staff is still trying to determine the answer.

SYA is not dead, Jim. This is not a situation analogous to the fate of the Since We Asked feature that began in September of 2003 and ended … well, at some point after that.

Your question is very important to us and, if this hasn’t covered the areas expressed in you email, your question will be answered by the next available response team.

Because, when it comes maintaining SYA, the one thing you can be certain of is that the staff here at World Headquarters is committed.

Or should be.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin’s disembodied head is tethered to rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.