Storing whisky in the wine rack? Ask McArdle

Need advice? Want to settle a bet? Ask McArdle.

Why can’t I smile on my passport photo? Will a grin really foil the facial recognition systems?

Have you ever played cards against a clockwork man? They are notoriously easy to bluff. The software employed by law-enforcement officials, while marvels of science in their own right, function by measuring the distance between facial features, from nose to mouth, mouth to chin and so forth. The data are compared against other photos within a database. If a traveller smiles too broadly (or, for that matter, frowns too deeply), the computer is rendered befuddled. This is why Canadians have been prohibited from smiling in passport photos since 2003. These measures, however, are chiefly aimed at preventing identity fraud during the passport application process. Photos are compared against an applicant’s previous submissions plus a pool of some 20 million passport photos, according to a very helpful bureaucrat with Passport Canada. My new friend also contends the measures aren’t just to aid the automated automatons: “Smiles and other ‘non-neutral’ expressions make it challenging for human operators” as well. This, I think, seems like hogwash. I have conned many a robot in my day. Border agents are a different tale altogether.

How long do you have to wait before it’s cool to remove a colleague’s lunch from the office microwave?

Remove the offending entrée immediately and proceed with your own lunchtime endeavours. Too many of us waste minutes waiting for a negligent colleague to fetch their Tupperware, with mounting hunger in our stomachs and bile in our throats. Are you worried about offending the oaf? Do not. I have never worked anywhere where office warfare has erupted over a third-party’s handling of a Hot Pocket. Perhaps you worry the absentee chef’s pasta primavera is still frozen in the middle? This shows more concern for the truant than he shows for his co-workers. If his noontime nosh requires multiple stirrings and warmings, the chef should stay nearby. By leaving, he accepts his dominion over the microwave ends with the machine’s beep.

Should really good whisky be stored in a wine rack?

I’ve long favoured a two-part system for storing whisky: the liquor goes in my belly and the bottle into a garbage receptacle. But I see your logic: they do both have corks. However, scotch should be stored upright in a cool, dark location. Wine is laid on its side to ensure a moist cork, which prevents oxygen from leaking into the bottle. Whisky contains much higher amounts of alcohol, which acts upon the cork in nefarious ways. I put the question to Davin de Kergommeaux, author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert, who advises the booze could end up tasting “corky” (which is unassailably logical) or like the glue used to attach the bottle’s cap to the cork. “Also, the high alcohol content could turn the cork punky and soft,” he says, meaning it might split when yanked. He also offers a warning for the piously moderate—it is a bad idea to save the last few drams for a special occasion. “The dregs will oxidize over a period of a few months and the whisky will lose some of its lustre,” says de Kergommeaux. “Once it’s down to the last few drams, it’s time to invite your buddies over to finish it off.” To which I say: Mrs. McArdle, fetch my dancing socks. We’re having a party.

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McArdle is our resident expert in many things. He believes himself expert in all things.