Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
First of all, sorry for missing last week. I have no really good excuse, but I am also not getting paid for this so you have no real right to complain. So we’re even;-)
Where Alex was solo-parenting two weeks ago, last week she and her husband left the kids with Alex’s pretend family for the week and enjoyed a couple of days as childless urbanites. It was delightful! They were supposed to have another week alone this week, but her husband got a migraine on Sunday and since Alex had to be back in town on Monday morning, she left him at the beach for the week with the girls, and then she had a week to herself. Per usual, she spent it being social, drinking too much and answering your stupid questions (he spent it working from the beach while the kids were in camp every day. I feel like he may be the winner here.). She didn’t answer fast enough though, because she never got this done last week, so now you have two weeks worth of stuff to get through…
Anyway, let’s get to it. First up, a question about that mysterious “pretend family”...
Submitted by: Fishy
How many sisters do you actually have? I think I have counted 20. And are the pretend ones like imaginary friends or people that you just pretend are sisters?
Anywhere from 1-4 depending on who and how you count;-)
I guess I should have seen this coming...several of you seemed somewhat confused by my description of the sleeping arrangements of my immediate family last time. So, here goes!
I was an only child for about 13 years. Then my mother got pregnant again by some random dude and had my first little sister (well, half-sister). We’ll call her RealSister#1 and we will get back to her. Mom also sobered up and married the random dude, which got me a step-brother a year older than me. It also functionally ruined my relationship with my mother, but that is a much longer story. My new step-brother and I were never close, and at some points have been at open odds...like the time he sued me. Also a longer story.
I met a girl in college who is now my best friend, we’ll call her PretendSister#1 and I am a terrible influence on her;-). She is from Boston and she is the reason I am here. I lived with her and her father during the summer after our Junior year and interned at her father’s firm. I had never really figured on that being a career (I was a Political Science major) but I enjoyed it, liked the people a lot, and at the end of the summer they told me that they’d create a position for me the following year if I wanted it and took some finance classes. Since they were willing to grossly overpay me, I did, and then made plans to move here after graduation with PretendSister#1.
At around the same time, PretendSister#1’s older sister was moving back to Boston after about seven years in London. She eventually becomes PretendSister#2 in this story. Also at around the same time, my mother died, leaving RealSister#1 - age 10 - an orphan (her father died a couple of years before that). After some legal issues and much hand-wringing (I just yada yada’d a LOT), I became her guardian and she came to Boston and moved in with me and PretendSister#1.
Both PretendSisters, and their father (who is also my boss, as is PretendSister#2) were enormous parts of RealSister#1’s upbringing, so I consider them all to be family. RealSister#1 is something of a vagabond: she has keys to all of our houses, sleeps at all of them regularly and raids her older sisters’ closets liberally! She lived with PretendSister#1 for about six weeks after my girls were born because my Mother-in-law stayed with us to help with the babies while I was finishing my first year of business schools. For the last two summers, she stayed with both PretendSisters because RealSister#2 was staying in her room (more on this in three paragraphs). She is doing the same while our house is under construction (as am I, sort of, at least until next month).
The four of us have matching tattoos of each others’ initials and the Greek word for “Sisterhood” (eh...gender-neutral word for Brotherhood, whatever). We spend holidays together, we generally introduce each other as sisters (saves time) and we actually kind of look like each other - RealSister#1 and PretendSister#1 look more alike than most siblings. When I am at the beach most weekends, it is at the “family” beach house. RealSister#1 spent her summers there for about five years, during which time she was very much in charge (all arriving guests were instructed to check with her on their sleeping assignments!). Their father gave me away at my wedding and all of our kids call each other “cousins” and may not even know that we aren’t all really related.
A couple of years after that, my father informed me (while I was visiting him in prison, which is just perfect) that there was a chance that he may have another child, but he didn’t know and he didn’t want to know. But he was dying and he just thought that maybe I would like to know. That’s the thing about my father...all class! So, I tracked down the woman in question and confirmed that yes, I had another little sister, RealSister#2. She lives in Chicago with her mother, so I don’t see her as much as I would like, but she did come out and stay with me for the entirety of the last two summers, which I am incredibly grateful for! One of the casualties of construction this summer is that we had to skip that, and I am not sure if she will want to come out again next year after she finishes high school...we’ll have to see.
Beyond that, my husband has a twin sister with whom he shares a totally scary psychic connection. He also has an older sister, so I have two sisters-in-law. And two more if you count wives of his older brother and twin sister.
So there is your answer. I have two real half sisters - age 22 and age 17 - and two pretend sisters - age 40 and age 33.
And this is all perfectly normal and totally easy to figure out:-)
Submitted by: Dan
Can I keep that 50% of your salary you gave up?
In my apology for not delivering last week’s #AskAlex early this week when I promised, I also promised to forego half of my Misfits salary as penance. The joke is, obviously, that we would even have salaries here in Misfitland, where @jholmsted enforces a virtual sweatshop of working conditions. I mean, I know it is tasteless to refer to anything as being slavery, but I am feeling really seasick and I am pretty sure that I am chained in a small, dark, very wet and nautical smelling space between @cdpayne79 and @_cchayes. At least I think it's them...we are head to toe and it is hard to tell.
Sort of funny you mention this (only because it includes “half my salary”), because I tweeted Wednesday that I got into a wee bit of trouble because I may have spoken slightly unprofessionally to a recruiter on the phone. I am not totally sure how I ended up on whatever list they are finding me from, but I have gotten a whole bunch of calls from headhunters in the last month or so, every one of which was a colossal waste of time. One of them called me at about 7:45 in the morning a week and a half ago, somehow imagining that it would be a good time to pitch me on a really (not very) fantastic opportunity (to take a step back) with (not at all) great earnings potential and an exciting career path (leading hopefully to a job like the one I ALREADY HAVE.)
So, by the time this other guy called on Tuesday, I was already sort of predisposed to be pissy with any recruiter that somehow found my number. Then he told me about an open position that no one with a shred of understanding of the industry would think I’d be interested in. I asked him what on earth made him think I would l be interested in that. He told me that they would be very aggressive for the right candidate, possibly offering a total compensation package that I had to inform him was less than half of my current comp. I am not sure that I dropped any f-bombs, but I definitely swore at him and insinuated that he was...less than intelligent. It was not very ladylike of me.
And then the next day I got a visit from our very lovely HR manager, who asked me quite nicely to not berate the recruiters. She has used this firm in the past and would likely use them again in the future and felt like maybe my yelling at their reps would possibly be a hindrance to that. I mean...seriously, the guy should have known better...but I like our HR Manager enough that I will comply:-)
Submitted by: Jimmy
Koch Bros inherited a $21mm enterprise in early 60's. Now worth $100b. Trump inherited $200mm in early 70's, now worth $4b (maybe). I've always thought Trump bad at business, but given events of this week can anyone now say Trump is a good leader/manager? In the annals of Executive leadership, can you name a leader/exec that is more incompetent and vile than Trump? Also, can you explain WHY anyone would work for Trump? How broken and flawed must you be to do this, and how to explain Mattis?
First of all, some talk on Trump the businessman, which I have written about before. He’s not nearly the titan of industry that he claims to be, but he is objectively not “bad at business”. Lots of people have inherited vast sums of money and done less with it than he has. And a lot have built a whole lot more than him out of a whole lot less - the GOP probably suffered by not having Michael Bloomberg run for President last year for the sole purpose of trolling Trump about being poor.
No, he will never be mistaken for great industry builders like Carnegie, Ford, Rockefeller, Sloan or Morgan, or later icons like Walton and Kroc. Even business histories of his own generation of leaders would never dream of including him alongside names like Buffett, Gates, Gerstner, Grove, Bezos or Jobs. He inherited a large portfolio of valuable buildings from his father, and then rode the explosion of real estate values in New York to a staggering fortune.
The story of his wealth is mostly a “right time, right place” tale, although it would be dismissive to ignore some of his own projects. He has built some truly noteworthy skyscrapers (which have likely grown his net worth dramatically) and some beautiful golf resorts (which probably haven’t). He has also, obviously, launched a whole bunch of dud businesses and somehow managed to lose a fortune (of someone else’s money) in the casino business. So, business-wise, he probably did at least as well as an average person in his shoes would have done (although it is worth noting that an awful lot of people in his shoes never would have bothered showing up to work at all.)
I have to admit to being surprised at Trump’s personnel management skills. No one can be taken aback at his willingness to ALWAYS put the interests of Trump at the forefront of his thinking, but he has never really been someone who had a reputation for running roughshod over his own people. While a lot of this is anecdotal, most indications are that people generally enjoyed working for him in the private sector. But now that he is President, he’s doing everything he can to punish those who have been most loyal. He has made a sport out of mocking Christ Christie (to almost universal bipartisan approval). He went out of his way to be a total dick to Sean Spicer, and he did it just because he could, really. He has taken to publicly attacking Jeff Sessions, the very first and most steadfast supporter he had in the party that nominated him for President. Sessions crime appears to be in holding true to a promise that any code of ethics would consider to be unbreakable.
Ethics, of course, are not Trump’s strong suit (there is an “Ethics in Podcasting” joke to be made here, but I am not interested in starting any fights on a Friday).
Trump’s own family is afforded little better than half-hearted support. The Donald seems to relish in-fighting among his staffers and may have in fact fired Reince Priebus for the unforgivable crime of not engaging in that sort of feud publicly. He then replaced him with an aspiring cartoonish mob boss who seems to act like, as Kevin Williamson noted earlier this week, he is doing “[his] best impersonation of the sort of man [Trump] ... aspires to be.”
Needless to say, none of this is the behavior of a man that generates loyalty and any kind of excellence from those in his employ. Fear is a good way to get people to follow your orders, but it is a terrible way to get them to do anything more than that. The Presidency is a very special office, and there will always be people willing to serve, both out of Patriotic duty and the sheer allure or power, but Trump is going to very quickly start increasing the number of people who won’t serve, which is not a good recipe for a President. It is hard enough finding good people without convincing a large portion of them that they will eventually find their way under the wheels of the proverbial bus.
The answer to your last question, then, is that he is probably going to run out of good people who want to work for him pretty soon. He will be left to pick from those patriotic enough to feel obligated and those in search of the ambient power of the Presidency. My instinct is that Mattis falls into the first category, magnified by his loyalty to the armed forces and his fear of leaving the job to Trump’s next choice.
At least I hope that’s it.
Submitted by: Daryl
Have you ever eaten a Sandwich in Dennis?
Today’s Daryl Dad-Joke Question is a play on words related to Cape Cod geography, which seems to be a favorite topic of his;-). Sandwich and Dennis are both towns on Cape Cod...the former is the second town you reach on the Bay side (Bayside? Hold that thought!) if you cross the Sagamore bridge to get to the Cape, and the latter stretches across the whole Cape north to south, about ⅔ of the way to the “elbow”. In fact, if Cape Cod were an arm with a super cool, circa-2001 tribal armband tattoo, that tattoo would more or less be Dennis.
Daryl has, however, missed the best joke to be made here. Directly south of Sandwich, on the ocean side, is the town of Mashpee, which means that there are several road signs that direct you to “Mashpee Sandwich” which is really kind of a gross sounding food product. Get it? Cause its a Sandwich made from mashed peas? No..?
Wait...was that a Sandwich Joke? Shit, the Twitter Police are gonna be after me now.
But, I actually have eaten sandwiches in Dennis! I don’t spend a lot of time there (I usually drive as far as the ferry terminal in Hyannis) but it is a very popular summer vacation spot and I have visited friends there on several occasions. I’ve spent several days on the West Dennis Beach, and I am sure that I ate a sandwich on at least one of those days (probably more than one). While that is not the prettiest beach to be found, it is far and away the most accessible beach on the Cape - I think they have over 1,000 parking spaces and you can park within about 20 yards of the water. The Ocean House, in Dennisport, is a wonderful restaurant with a super cool outdoor bar right on the beach. The Oyster Company is also in Dennisport, and that is really good, too, but no ocean. Over on the Bay side, in East Dennis (which is really the north end of the town...whatever) there is a clam shack in Sesuit Harbor that makes a pretty good lobster roll. And while you are there, the north side beaches in Dennis are almost impossibly beautiful, although I don’t think I have ever eaten lunch there, so maybe no sandwiches. Drinks at sunset when the tide is out should be your goal for that.
Also a good time to note that Wednesday was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day and I ate a cookie sandwich for lunch from The Cookie Monstah that was chocolate chip cookies and Oreo mint ice cream. Estimated caloric intake: 1,400. More evidence that, left to my own devices, my diet bears an eerie similarly to that which you might expect from an 11 year old boy allowed to feed himself.
Submitted by: John Phipps
What the heck kind of people would buy a blanking CONDO?
The cool ones, obviously.
I guess the real answer is...a really large proportion of people who live in major cities..? It’s a common and necessary form of ownership in places where so many people desire to live that many are willing (or prefer) to do so in buildings that do not allow for (require) solo ownership of an entire lot. If you live in a place with abundant, cheap land (e.g., a place with naturally low demand for residency) you likely think of condos as a less desirable, lower-cost way to share a pool and landscaping costs. It is where Grandma and Grandpa go when they move to Florida and are too decrepit to mow their own lawn.
Near city centers, however, it is the means by which homeowners share buildings, and it is probably the most common form of home ownership. We do so because we desire the convenience and amenities of living near work, restaurants and culture much more than we desire the space and solitude that comes from single family homes. In fact, the energy and vibrancy that makes cities attractive is very much a function of the same population density that drives the need for condos (and is facilitated by same). It would be hard to have cities without condos.
Or, for some of us, we get hives at the idea of living in manicured, sleepy suburbs that immediately add 10 years to your practical age along with the Minivan and mom haircut that you get the day you move in...
Example: I live in a five story building (four from the street, plus a garden level...the grade falls away from the street and the front door is on the second floor). The entire section of the city, which is about ⅙ of a square mile and has a population of a little over 9,000, is mostly similar buildings. There are some single-family buildings, but for the most part, the buildings have multiple units of varying sizes and occupancies. While it would be nice to own the entirety of the five stories (which would include somewhere on the order of 8,000 square feet of living space) not all of us are rolling in Brownskin money to afford that kind of largesse…
And even at that, it is still connected to the buildings on both sides, so a single family home is not a stand alone structure in the way that you probably think of it.
The truth is that many of the most desirable properties in America are condos (or, in New York, the close cousin, the co-op). It is how lots of people manage to live and own property in relatively small places where lots of people really want to live. And it is a big part of what supports my ability to walk to work, walk the girls to school and, for the most part, avoid driving entirely.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate driving? Cuz it’s a lot.
Submitted by: Ingenious Firebrand
Can you match up Trump admin officials past and present with TV characters? Is Bannon Kevin from The Office?
You bet I can!!! But there is no way I am comparing Bannon to the adorable Kevin Malone… everyone loves Kevin! He is a lovable, simple doofus who was always a source of fun and laughter and was really easy to root for (he did, however, have one very touching moment at the end of one episode), not a maniacal super-criminal like Bannon.
No, let’s think about Bannon’s primary qualities and find a more appropriate character. He is probably a drunk, if I am judging by his complexion and constantly bloodshot eyes. Everyone he works with seems to hate him, and the feeling is often mutual. What’s more, casual observers are convinced that he is really smart and super capable despite being really rough around the edges, but it may turn out that his successes were purely accidental and that really he just screws up everything he does. My first instinct, cuz of the racism and all, was to go with Archie Bunker, but I am amending that...I never would have written this before last Sunday, but I think he may be Tyrion Lannister. But less likeable.
Reince Priebus was the central character on the show for a while but he had no actual constituency. He had no fans, no personality and served as nothing more than a blank canvas around which the better characters rotated and played off of. No word on whether or not he ever met your mother, but he has got to be Ted Mosby. Or maybe the guy from Glee.
Ivanka Trump. Ivanka is hot, and has tried very hard to benefit from her father’s wealth and influence while simultaneously distancing herself just enough to be accepted into social circles that would shun him. In other words, she is a pretty good facsimile of Meadow Soprano.
KellyAnne Conway. A ferocious dedication to supporting her man and a willingness to say whatever is necessary, regardless of its relation to anything approximating the truth? We love you KellyAnne, and we love Claire Underwood for the same reasons.
Jeff Sessions: Ned Flanders. He’s extremely religious, very polite, kind of dorky and he takes mountains and mountains of abuse from the show’s main character. (I was desperately hoping that Sessions was left-handed...he is not.) No word on whether or not he and his wife are NASCAR fans and have any plans to attend the October 15th race at Talladega in his home state of Alabama. Also not clear on what kind of T-Shirt cannons they may have...
Ben Carson. I’m convinced that Ben Carson is something of a savant. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard him say something super inane and then reminded myself “That guy once separated conjoined twins!” He has done a remarkable job of minimizing the effectiveness of the phrase “It’s not brain surgery” because, well, maybe brain surgery isn’t nearly as hard as we thought it was..? I was hoping to find some TV character who played an all-star athlete who was dumb as a stump, but all that did was lead me down a rabbit-hole watching Varsity Blues clips on YouTube. So that was kind of a dead end. I mean, for you all, not for me, since I have now had a solid half hour of videos of Van der Beek, Paul Walker and Ali Larter’s whipped cream bikini.
James Mattis: Mr. Belding. He’s surrounded by children doing stupid things and trying to be the one responsible adult on the whole show while simultaneously keeping the nuclear codes out of Screech’s hands. Digression: my absolute favorite part of Saved by the Bell is how, between Middle School and High School, the entire building, its principal and about half of its students picked up, moved from Indiana to California, took in some newer, cooler students and never once made mention of the move. Did they really do all of that just to get away from Miss Bliss? I mean, she was pretty awful, but that seems excessive.
Rex Tillerson. I would like to say JR Ewing, just because he was an oil exec but that doesn’t really fit (probably works better for Wilbur Ross). Really, Tillerson would make a terrible TV character: he’s a well-regarded executive with no outlandish personality traits, personal vices or crazy hobbies that would make for compelling entertainment. He ran one of the largest companies on earth, a company that is, by most accounts, better and more efficient than its competitors, he drove some strategic shifts intended to deal with climate change regulations and new technologies and more or less took care of his shareholders without burning more bridges than is required in the oil business. But as a TV character? He is the faceless head of the company where our hilarious lead characters work...but not in a wacky Mr. Burns way. More like “whoever was the CEO at Dunder Mifflin before Kathy Bates bought the company.”
Chris Christie: I know that he isn’t actually part of Trump’s team, but I wanted an excuse to tell a fat joke and compare him to Daddy Pig. But really, Daddy Pig was super nice and it was wrong of his family to keep telling fat jokes. I mean, he is a fucking pig after all, what do you expect him to look like? I’m fine with fat shaming Chris Christie because he is just a rotund piece of garbage, but an actual pig? C’mon...that’s not funny.
Linda McMahon...let’s see, she is rich from her ethically challenged husband’s business and is around only because his prior issues make him unfit to be seen in public. Easy: Lucille Bluth.
Submitted by: TJWFW (2 Questions)
Is it ok to establish gender based on which way a shirt buttons?
Do you mean the gender of the shirt? Or the person wearing the shirt…?
You’ve really found something here, though...the anti-science crowd tells us that there are hundreds of different genders and that gender is fluid and/or is wholly unrelated to biological sex and that gender is an arbitrary and unimportant distinction BUT wearing the clothing normally associated with your preferred gender is super incredibly important...but when it comes time to get dressed, you can’t fake it, you have to identify as either a left-buttoner or a right buttoner.
There is, however, one terrible flaw in your theory: chicks in men’s dress shirts are mega-hot. To put this idea to bed once and for all, I am using this as a shameless excuse to post a picture of Alison Brie.
Serious girl crush alert.
Unless, of course, you are wearing a pullover. Or a zip-up. Speaking of which...have I ever told you about The Sweater? Cuz that is a zip-up hoodie from the men’s department at Banana Republic...
Why no #AskAlex this week? Don't you love us anymore?
Did I ever really love you? I mean, I like some of you and tolerate almost all of you, but “love” is really strong and I don’t remember using that word…
But mostly I was just busy last week. Hard as it is to believe, recreational writing of advice columns is not my primary professional activity. I have, like, a job and stuff, and the work week was really hectic, shortened by a day and complicated by going out every night and probably drinking too much. We left the girls at the beach with the pretend sisters, so we took Friday off and headed down a day early, and there were a zillion people around so I knew I wasn’t going to sit down and write anything. Then I got back Sunday (left the husband behind, long story) and this week has sort of gotten away from me, so I didn’t finish this until today.
But now you’re only a week away from your next #AskAlex!!!
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.