Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Does anyone have the answers to my questions?

Date: 2/9/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor

I've got a lot of questions this week and answers are always appreciated.

Which is better for the environment: turning off your car and heading into a fast food restaurant and then having to start it back up or idling through the drive-through? My gut tells me that drive-throughs must eat up more gas and create more carbon than turning a car on and off, but I'd like to know.

If so, why allow drive-throughs? Ah, the letters I'll receive.

Here's another question: do those motorized paper towel dispensers that roll out towels when you wave your hand in front of them really save any money? Is the idea that we will be content with the length of paper towel we receive and not ask for more? I always ask for more because generally I need several feet of the stuff to dry my hands.

Why do people add the sound of typewriters or teletype machines to commercials to denote news gathering or the dispersal of information? This is called a "skeuomorph," defined as "a design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary. For example, the click sound of a shutter in an analog camera that is now reproduced in a digital camera by playing a sound clip."

I love these noises as they are from my life, but I'm fascinated that manufacturers or commercial producers use them as audio cues for people who have never used a typewriter. As much as I love computers, I do miss banging away on an all-metal typewriter sometimes. Writing became a more visceral experience on an Underwood that weighed 30 pounds. You could work out your frustrations on one of those babies. I still have one at home, but you can't buy the ribbons anymore.

Who is Billy Mays and how did he get to be this country's preeminent commercial pitchman? Does he dye his beard? Does he always shout? Clearly his technique works as he is practically on the air on the time.

Every time I go to Walgreens and see their section of products known for their television advertising campaigns, I start to wonder, "Do ShamWows really do what they say they do?"

I burn through a lot of paper towels thanks to Lucky the Wonder Bichon's refusal to adhere to the rules of the house and ShamWows might be of help.

Yet I'm hesitant to pull out $20 to find out.

So which is worse, using standard light bulbs that are made in this country and are easy to dispose or the new "green" lights that are made in China and contain mercury?

Does anyone really believe the Barack Obama commemorative coins are actually a legitimate way to celebrate the new president or that they will be worth something in the future other than their face value? Is Montel Williams so hard up for cash that he is willing to front such foolishness?

Why is this switch to digital television a benefit to consumers? I understand this is supposed to improve the signal, but what we receive is still reality show slop and local news featuring endless weather forecasts.

Speaking of slop, why in the name of all that is holy does Howie Mandel have two shows on television?

Send your answers to or your own questions.


Over the next few weeks, we will be short one very valuable member here on the news staff: Natasha Clark. For those of you who don't read bylines, Natasha is the editor of The Reminder edition serving East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham and is the assistant managing editor.

In my book, she's solid gold and I'm happy to announce she was selected to be part of a group sponsored by local Rotary Clubs to tour Thailand for close to a month. The East Longmeadow Rotary Club is sponsoring Natasha.

Getting to visit a foreign country for this length of time is a tremendous opportunity for any writer and I deeply appreciate our publishers Dan and Chris Buendo for supporting her in this effort.

Natasha will be writing stories about her trip, which we will run as we get them. I'm looking forward to them.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.