Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2009 January 23

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January 23[edit]

Rubik's cube:: V-cubes 6&7[edit]

I am a rubiks cube enthusiast and I really want to buy the new Vcubes 6 and 7: but the problem is that they are way too much expensive. they are currently priced at 39Euros ($51.87) for V6, and 48 Euros ($63.84) for V7. I'd really like to buy both of them, but they are way too much expensive for a 14 yr old like me. My parents aren't as much understanding as i'd like them to be: they don't understand why I need to spend so much money on such nonessentials ("children's toys" they call them) so asking my parents for money is pretty much out of the question. so my question is: Is there any chance that the prices will go down in the future? How long do you think it will take, and how much will the price go down? And (I know this is probably stupid to ask, but still) is there a place where i can get them at a cheaper price?? Thankyou everyone!!Johnnyboi7 (talk) 01:25, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

If you can wait a few years you will be able to pick them up second hand for much lower prices. If they turn out to be popular they will be cloned when the patent expires in under 20 years and there will be many cheap imitations around. And the second hand market will be full of cubes that people don't want anymore. Graeme Bartlett (talk) 01:52, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
This doesn't answer your question directly but you could try a Google search on "teenager earn money". hydnjo talk 02:43, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
More on the earning money thing, you could buy one with your own earned money to show your parents how much you really want them. The Reader who Writes (talk) 03:38, 23 January 2009 (UTC)


Thanks guys again for your thoughtful advices...all of you..

Additional question: For those of you who have purchased the vcube(s) already, is it actually worth all that money?? I mean, i already own a professor's cube(555) and a rubik's revenge(444) (they're both eastsheen products). is it any more exciting or challenging? with professor's and revenge it was really fun for me , since I could only solve the normal 333 at first, and i had no idea how to even begin solving a 444 or 555 so it was a big challenge for me. now i have overcome that challenge and after a few months they have lost their magic -- it doesn't attract me as it used to: it feels no different from the ordinary 333. I guess i could just try doing it on computer softwares (like gabbasoft) but mouse clicking can be quite irritable and rotating the cube to see the opposite side can be rather difficult. It just isn't the same as actually having it in the palm of your hand and physically rotating it. It has a subtle satisfaction that only cubists can appreciate.

So, is it much different from professors and revenge?? Is it actually worth the absurdly ridiculous price??? or would it be better off to be contempt with having professors and revenge, and trying the new ones out on the computer?? And how good are v-cube products compared to "Rubiks original" or Eastsheen? Apparently they have improved its mechanisms, but are they any smoother??Johnnyboi7 (talk) 09:58, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm not sure about Europe, but in Canada at least, you can get a job at some fast-food restauraunts or Tim Hortons when you turn 14, and newspaper delivery jobs (but with much lower pay) are availible at a younger age still, as are other "jobs" such as snow shovelling. Or, another possibility is to win a contest (one that doesn't require you to be at age of majority, which is rare!) and save up the money. Or you could save up allowance over a long period. ~AH1(TCU) 16:31, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Priapus Garden Gnomes descended from Greek fertility god?[edit]

I was recently doing some research for a paper I'm doing, and I saw that some scholars think that the traditional garden gnome is somehow related to the Greek god Priapus, most famous for his tremendous phallus. I'm just wondering why anyone would ever compare the expedia spokesman with a tremendously well hung mythological character. It just doesn't seem to make sense.

Any answers are welcome. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Schmopper25 (talkcontribs) 02:13, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

It's not Expedia - it's Travelocity. SteveBaker (talk) 05:58, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
We have a page for Priapus, and it gives a little bit of info on the garden gnome thing, and it has a number of sources listed at the bottom that you may find potentially useful. Cherry Red Toenails (talk) 03:36, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
The reason for the ExpediaTravelocity mascot is to do with the Travelling gnome prank (jeez - we have an article about that?!!!).
It was common (at least as far back as the mid 1970's when I did this) to steal garden gnomes and to terrible things to them - principally because their owners are exhibiting a kind of canonical bad taste. In the 1976 University of Kent "Rag week" (a traditional British university charitable fundraising event) we spent most of one night with several hundred students scouring the gardens of the City of Canterbury for gnomes - which were kidnapped and brought to the hill on which the university sits - where each had a small ransom attached - with the money going to some worthy cause. Sadly, even though the ransom was a tiny amount of money (like 20p to 50p depending on the ugliness of the gnome and the presence or otherwise of fishing rod) we were actually happy to give back the gnomes for free - and the local police were carefully turning a blind eye to our activities, only a fraction of the several hundred gnomes we kidnapped were ever claimed. The owners who claimed them were happy to do so and most gave us much more than we asked. The pile of unclaimed gnomes we ended up tossing into the trash was one of the more bizarre sights I can recall in my life. Still, we did manage to raise the tone of that historic city by the large-scale elimination of the red-hatted vermin.
Anyway - one particularly popular form of Gnome prank is to steal one - then send it on a long trip, taking photos at every stop and sending them back (anonymously) to the original owner as postcards. This became known as a "Travelling Gnome" (yes, we have an article about THAT too!) - and that's where ExpediaTravelocity got the idea from. (And we even have an article about that! Where is my Gnome?).
Somewhere in this answer there should be the words "Garden Gnome Liberationists"...but that's just an excuse for ANOTHER silly link!
Weird - but true. SteveBaker (talk) 05:35, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Aging and Alcohol[edit]

Are there any alcohol beverages (ie rum, whiskey, beer, etc) that do NOT require aging? If so, what are they? Thanks, Aiuw 04:21, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Beaujolais nouveau - famously! This would be a longer reply - but it turns out that this is my 15,000th Wikipedia edit and my hands hurt. SteveBaker (talk) 04:34, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Well, depends on what you mean by aging. If you mean ingredients that do not include ethanol, that you can just mix together, and which instantly turn into an alcoholic beverage, nope. But you can get alcohol pretty quickly, in just a few days, although chances are that it'll taste really awful and give you explosive diarrhea: behold the Finnish wonder, kilju. I recommend it like I recommend a punch to the kidneys. (It was also discussed on the Ref Desk last year, though in a somewhat different context.) There are also other alcoholic beverages that go through a very quick fermentation process, such as Beaujolais nouveau.
And here's to the next 15,000, Steve. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 04:44, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
"Ageing" refers to any of several unrelated processes:
  • Letting the material get old so that, as the flavor compounds break down, new flavor compounds emerge.
  • Letting the material get exposed to "cultures" (molds, funguses, bacterias, yeasts, etc.) so that the action on the material by the cultures adds new flavors.
  • Storing the material in a medium which itself adds flavor (such as wooden barrels).
Most varieties of alcohol are aged by the first and third methods. In terms of alcohol which is "unaged" the two best that I can think of are moonshine (aka White Lightning, corn whiskey, hooch, etc.) and Vodka. Most aged "whiskeys" are essentially Vodka and/or corn whiskey which is left to sit in wooden barrels; the brown color comes from the way that the neutral spirit extracts compounds from the wood. There are also unaged rums, such as white rum; unaged tequilas, such as white, blanco, silver, or platinum tequilas. If you want an unaged spirit, you are usually looking for a clear, colorless spirit. --Jayron32.talk.contribs 05:07, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Some beers don't require much time to make. IIRC ale fermentation is done in a small number of days; it will then need two or three more days once the cask is tapped before it's ready to drink. The time between racking (filling the cask) and tapping can be a little while, but that's typically just for the practicalities of transport - I don't believe there's any minimum time required for that part of the process. 93.97.184.230 (talk) 09:03, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
That's just to give it a chance to settle down after being shaken up by the transportation (the quickest way to get something into a cellar is to drop it, after all). If you tap it too soon, it will fizz up and make a terrible mess (just like opening a can of coke just after it's been dropped). I think the reason you leave it for a bit after tapping it is because you need to let all the bits settle back down to the bottom so they don't end up beer when you serve it. --Tango (talk) 02:45, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Those mechanical aspects are part of it, yes, but they're not the whole story. I used to be involved in organising a medium-sized beer festival (70-100 beers), including being part of the team deciding whether a particular beer was ready to be served yet. (The vast majority would be by opening night, but typically a few needed a little more time.) It's by no means uncommon to have a beer that has dropped bright ("bits settle[d] back down") but still tastes "green" or not-ready. Keeping the room too cold is a good way of causing this problem. 93.97.184.230 (talk) 12:14, 25 January 2009 (UTC)
I think I remember recently reading where they are fairly successfully artificially aging wines in less than 10 minutes. Dmcq (talk) 11:47, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes there was an article in New Scientist about using high voltage. It's briefly mentioned in Aging of wine. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's the Chinese who seem most interested in it in recent times Nil Einne (talk) 09:41, 25 January 2009 (UTC)
I believe pruno has a relatively quick turnaround time. Tomdobb (talk) 14:35, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I am among those who think that champagne should be drunk young, likewise ice wine. --Milkbreath (talk) 14:52, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
The new wines of Vienna's heurigen are meant to be drunk very young.[1] Rmhermen (talk) 17:03, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Fruit wine is best when consumed young, especially if it's home made. 76.97.245.5 (talk) 17:26, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

US Tax deduction[edit]

Hello, I was wondering, do you HAVE to file deductions? I filed my taxes early and I forgot that I had paid interest on a student load. I received a form today that would allow me to deduct the interest if I were to refile my taxes. I paid so little interest that I dont really care about deducting it, I'd much rather not refile it. Can I just leave it like that? 24.7.33.175 (talk) 06:04, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

No, you are allowed to pay more than the required amount of taxes in the U.S. But this is only discussion, and does not constitute legal or financial/tax advice, for which you should consult an attorney or credentialed financial advisor. Edison (talk) 06:10, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
From personal experience, overpaying federal income taxes may result in you getting a nastygram detailing your red tape inferiority and threatening an audit... along with a refund check for the amount you screwed up. It's a comical combination. — Lomn 13:56, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I have received the refund check without the nastygram or audit threat after miscalculation of my tax liability in the government's favor. I'm not sure whether the government monitors student loan interest payments such that it would even discover your error, and it is certainly no crime to overpay the government. Note that none of us are qualified to offer legal or financial advice. Marco polo (talk) 15:24, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
It's possible your deductions add up to less than the standard deduction, in which case, it wouldn't matter anyway. Tomdobb (talk) 15:41, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
The deduction for student loan interest is a separate line item; it's not part of your itemized deductions, and can be claimed even if you don't itemize. Of course it's more complicated than that, as it always is — in particular there's a maximum amount that can be claimed, an income cap for being allowed to claim the full amount, and a phase-out past that, and maybe other complications that I don't recall at the moment. But I wouldn't want readers who know they're not going to itemize to simply forget about deducting student loan interest if they're eligible to do so. --Trovatore (talk) 22:11, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
A problem may arise if you claim the deduction in a following year or if you claim other items related to that loan. That is because there's a smudge in the paper trail for them. If you happen to get audited they might see fit to claim that you didn't have a student loan from that year on or some such. Authorities tent to be highly suspicious of honest citizens. 76.97.245.5 (talk) 05:43, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Random articles[edit]

When you click on the random article link in the navigation box, is there a chance you might get a sex-related article? --Crackthewhip775 (talk) 06:06, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Yes. Edison (talk) 06:08, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
RANDOM means RANDOM, there's no telling what article will pop up. FYI: Don't click it at school/work/other place where looking at that means trouble.  Buffered Input Output 14:04, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I have the vaguest possible recollection that Random article isn't actually random, but rather picked from a very small rapidly-shifting pool of articles. I've clicked Random a few times in rapid succession and actually gotten the same article again. 64.26.68.82 (talk) 19:26, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
In my very considerable experience - it's very hard to get ANYTHING except articles about Japanese railway stations. But the question about randomness has been asked before - there are some exceedingly subtle non-random things involved because (from memory) it actually does something like picking a random hash-table key rather than a strictly random article. That exerts a very subtle bias to not pick articles that happen to share a hash key with greater or fewer other articles...but because the hash function is rather good - that doesn't bias the results in any systemic way. It's a VERY subtle effect though. SteveBaker (talk) 21:24, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
The random article question, or a variant thereof, surely must be among the most often asked on the Ref Desks (along with questions about sex; this one gets bonus points for including both!) I personally recall it being asked three or four times. Anyway, for those of a technical bent, the way it works is described at Wikipedia:FAQ/Technical#Is the "random article" feature really random? Rockpocket 04:33, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Hey - any question I can answer without having to use the word 'coprophagia' is a win. SteveBaker (talk) 16:19, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Even if you don't get to mention aardvarks? Algebraist 16:22, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Aardvarqs have very little mouths and much, much, bigger pooh - I don't think they can be coprophagic.SteveBaker (talk) 17:17, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
When I click random article, I find that I get either a geographical stub or a biographical stub half the time. ~AH1(TCU) 16:24, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree. But that doesn't imply any lack of randomness. Perhaps half of our articles are about people or places? It wouldn't surprise me. Our average article length is something like 300 words - so the fact that so many of them are stubs is also unsurprising. SteveBaker (talk) 17:17, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Same here. 80% of what I find are geographical stubs that don't take up enough room on the page to have a scroll bar, and 15% are start-quality biographical articles. One time I found an article on a dock in New Zealand, no joke. Tezkag72 03:50, 27 January 2009 (UTC)
Japanese railway stations? You're lucky. All the gods of randomness ever give me are cricket teams! :-)
Seriously, there's a FAQ entry on this, and a discussion on the village pump. APL (talk) 06:36, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

How does one go from Roswell, New Mexico, into Mexico?[edit]

A friend (an author) is writing a book and he wants to know the following:

If one were in Roswell, New Mexico and one wanted to travel South and illegally cross the border, what would be the quickest way to do it (assuming one was happy to shoot border patrol agents)? Geographically it looks like going down into one of the small border towns like Ojinaga might be an idea, but having never been there, I've no idea how busy these parts of the border are or what the security's like?

Thanks in advance.--Rixxin (talk) 11:03, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

If he wants "quickest" and is willing to blast through security, then why does he care what the security is like? Google Maps suggests that Alamogordo to El Paso is the quickest way. Otherwise, I think he needs to redevelop his criteria. — Lomn 14:02, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I strongly suspect that an American citizen would have little difficulty crossing the border into Mexico at one of the legitimate border crossings (assuming of course they have a valid passport, no illegal weapons/drugs and are not wanted by the authorities).
If it really must be done illegally, I read somewhere that it is possible to wade across the Rio Bravo in many places along the Texas border. However, I suspect that the US border patrol is aware of this and have a long fence primarily designed to keep illegal imigrants out of the USA. Perhaps you could seek the help of illegal imigrants in Roswell and ask them how they came to the USA; and then reverse their route. Astronaut (talk) 14:24, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
It's true that an American citizen can typically get into Mexico legally just by showing a driver's license, so there is no need for heroic measures. (Crossing the border in the opposite direction is definitely harder.) If the Mexican authorities were on the lookout to stop someone from crossing, though, the border fence along the Rio Grande extends no further east than Fort Hancock, Texas, according to this blog. If someone needed to cross into Mexico illegally, he or she could drive east on I-10 to the next exit east of Fort Hancock, near Mc Nary, Texas, then drive a short ways to the river, get out of the car, and wade across the river into Mexico. To stay mostly dry, that person could bring an inflatable dinghy in the car and row across at night (to avoid being conspicuous), since the river is sluggish at that point. Marco polo (talk) 15:21, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Wouldn't the quickest way be to take a flying saucer ? :-) StuRat (talk) 16:29, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Or a black helicopter? --Rixxin (talk) 16:32, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

My friend thanks you all for your replies.--Rixxin (talk) 16:32, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Lomn, here's a reply for you:
I probably should've clarified that my dude IS wanted by the police. Yes, he's willing to shoot a few guys but there's a difference between shooting two half asleep security guards in a hut and trying to shoot fifty dudes with machine guns, high tech cameras and a fence the size of Paris.
--Rixxin (talk) 16:36, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I figured on the wanted thing. Unfortunately, I don't have any practical experience with evading law enforcement, etc, etc. However, I'll toss out an alternate idea:
  • Major roads, of which few exist around Roswell, are easily checkpointed (I'm assuming that we're going with some sort of steal-the-UFO-secrets thing, given Roswell). If it is a steal-UFOs thing, then I think it's reasonable that the gov't decides the checkpoints are acceptable.
  • Quickly reaching Mexico is perhaps not the real objective (rather, safely reaching Mexico is) -- in other words, speed doesn't really matter provided it's the sort of thing that can be done in three days or so.
  • As a result, the real plot point looks to me to be "how do I ditch Roswell?" rather than "how do I cross the border?" Once that's solved, any sleepy crossing into Mexico (or for that matter, Canada) should do. — Lomn 17:14, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Should the Reference Desk really be advising people how to illegally enter a country? Tomdobb (talk) 17:02, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
The tradition seems to be that giving legal advice is prohibited, but giving illegal advice is OK.  :) --Sean 17:42, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Sure, why not. (Should Wikipedia contain information on how to commit suicide? Or how to inject intravenous drugs? Sure. Wikipedia is not censored.) -- Captain Disdain (talk) 19:46, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I was primarily curious if it fell within the scope of "no legal advice." Tomdobb (talk) 19:51, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I don't think it comes anywhere near it, particularly as we're talking about fiction here. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 20:04, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Either way. I was just curious. Tomdobb (talk) 20:12, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Title please[edit]

This is bugging me. Please help. US Airforce officer in Iceland takes command of US Marine and (later) British Special Forces troops. Maintains observation on invading forces. Is awarded the Navy Cross.86.194.250.77 (talk) 16:34, 23 January 2009 (UTC)DT

Are you perhaps thinking of Tom Clancy's novel Red Storm Rising in which the Russian military invades Iceland and a met officer at Keflavik evades and goes to ground. Nanonic (talk) 16:53, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, that's almost certainly it. I really enjoyed that book. ~ mazca t|c 18:22, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
As a side note, this is a prime example of a confusing Ref Desk question: Once "Red Storm Rising" was mentioned, I recognized it, but before that I had no clue. My first thought was that he was asking about the title the officer in question held or perhaps received as a result, and I thought this must be some kind of an obscure WW2 thing. It would've been helpful if there had been just a little more information provided -- like a note that the question was about a book, not real life. Still, Nanonic figured it out, so what the hell. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 19:38, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
And I thought they were looking for the name of the officer, not his title/rank. It would have helped if the question had been on the Entertainment desk since the question was about a book. Dismas|(talk) 19:59, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Literature is the Humanities desk, and I assume that's intended to include popular fiction. If there had been a movie version, that would be Entertainment. --Anonymous, 06:12 UTC, January 24, 2009.

Oh dear ! I seem to have upset an ant's nest. Sorry, I'll try to do better next time. (I had thought 'title' was sufficient to distinguish a book but underestimated the analytical ability of the Wikipedians and their desire to be precise.) But, yes, thank you. You have provided what I was so bugged about. Now I shall locate a copy and re-read it. a bientôt.86.197.150.220 (talk) 11:29, 24 January 2009 (UTC)DT

Hey, no harm done -- after all, one of us figured it out with ease and you got the answer you were looking for, so it's all good. I was really making more of a generic observation here. -- Captain Disdain (talk) 22:06, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
One of the things to recognise is people often ignore the title of questions if they're just reading the question. A good title is useful to help people know what the question is about before reading and to find the question again but unless it's obvious from the question not everyone is going to read or notice the title. The other thing is even though in theory a movie or TV series should go into the entertainment desk there's no guarantee it always happens. If you just say title please as opposed to saying "Does anyone know the title of the book which had this" or something people are not going to know you're talking about a book, they may think you're referring to a movie, TV series, even an opera or song. Since you knew it was a book, it's helpful to specify that as it's not generally much use someone thinking of the TV series they've watched if you're asking about a book Nil Einne (talk) 07:55, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

Obama Inauguration Transcripts[edit]

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

MR. The question we ask today is"

What does "MR" mean in that last sentence, it's in every single transcript I've found.169.229.75.128 (talk) 19:04, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

It's not in this version on the ABC News site. And it's not in this version on the White House site. Likely the MR is a stray typo that got repeated as different outlets pasted the copy in. --- OtherDave (talk) 19:35, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Why are boogers yellowish green?[edit]

Kind of a stupid question, until I started thinking about it. They're pretty much all the same color. What is in the air or bloodstream that assigns every booger this range of the electro-magnetic spectrum?--THE WORLD'S MOST CURIOUS MAN (talk) 23:09, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Presumably Mucus is the main cause of the colour, but not 100% sure. ny156uk (talk) 23:39, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Actually, the color seems to vary from whitish to yellow to green, according to the German Wikipedia article on snot and other sources. The reason for the yellow or green color has to do with cells called neutrophyls. This article gives a fair explanation for why snot is sometimes green when there is an infection. I think that air pollution can also lead to a greyish discoloration of yellow snot so that it looks green. Marco polo (talk) 03:35, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Hey, air pollution turns your snot grey or even black! Spend a fortnight in London and see for yourself!--TammyMoet (talk) 15:07, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Not all "boogers" are mucus. Some are solid and dry (and if there's any blood on it, then it's red). ~AH1(TCU) 16:13, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Old Renaissance Festival joke, depends on knowing that a "Festie" is a person who travels to many such festivals during the season: You Might Be a Festie if ... you can tell which fest you're at by the color of your boogers!
--DaHorsesMouth (talk) 22:24, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Will you get arrested if you travel to restricted countries?[edit]

At least when you return? I've always wondered how they enforced this. I dont plan to travel to these hellholes, but I wonder about people with families down there. Sorry if this is legal advice.--Hey, I'm Just Curious (talk) 23:26, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

What country are you in, and what country are you asking about travel to? Algebraist 23:43, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
In recent history, US Government has effectively restricted its citizens (in some way) from setting foot in just four countries: Cuba from 1961, North Korea from 1950, Iraq from 1990 and Libya from 1981. Recently Iraq, Libya and North Korea have all had their restrictions lifted, leaving only Cuba. But its worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, US citizens are actually not banned from going to Cuba. US passports are accepted, and there is no legal barrier from visiting from the US side, but there are other restrictions that make it practically challenging.
The major issue is the Trading with the Enemy Act, which means it is illegal for US citizens to spend any money in Cuba. Ist difficult to visit without spending a single cent. There are special licenses available from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, that excludes certain people from the regulations (journalists, scientists, students and people with specific family situations). In theory, if you visit without one of these licenses then your risk being prosecuted and/or fined when you return to US soil. The penalties are not trivial either: up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 and $250,000 in individual fines per violation. Civil penalties up to $55,000 per violation may also be imposed.
In practice, however, when Americans travel via a third country and plan their trip carefully, then it is highly unlikely that they have any problems. Indeed, many thousands of Americans visit illegally, without licenses, each year. The Cuban authorities take great delight in having US citizens visit Cuba against their Government's wishes, so they don't usually stamp US passports on arrival or departure. So there isn't really any evidence that they have been, so long as they are careful. That said, the US Government claim to have observers in third countries that will document US citizens visiting Cuba. They probably do too, but really don't care that much unless you are already a person of interest to them. If you are thinking of visiting Cuba personally, then you should seek professional advice before doing anything. Notwithstanding you risk breaking a federal law, there are also real dangers in visiting a state that lacks diplomatic/consular representation from your own country. Rockpocket 05:16, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Um...but don't a lot of North Americans visit Cuba while on vacation? ~AH1(TCU) 16:09, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Not a lot of Americans, no. Tourism in Cuba gives the numbers as 600,000 Canadians and 30,000 Americans. This compares to 450,000 Canadians and 928,000 Americans who visited the top Caribbean destination for "North Americans", the Dominican Republic in 2004. The Bahamas and Jamaica both also claim that title with the Bahamas receiving huge numbers of cruise ship passenger (3.6 million visitors to an island group with a population of 300,000, wow) Rmhermen (talk) 17:48, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
A lot of Canadians go to Cuba simply because they do not expect to find Americans there; not because they don't like Americans, but because it is funny to do something Americans can't. But Canadians don't travel to Havana or anywhere like that, they go to the resorts just like everyone else. Also, I can't find any numbers, but it's possible that more Canadians go to Turks and Caicos than Cuba or the Dominican; there was some semi-serious talk about having the islands officially join Canada a few years ago. Adam Bishop (talk) 18:19, 24 January 2009 (UTC)