Ask Alex - February 17, 2017
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.
This week we’re talking about Hair’s unlucky ex, more about sandwiches, terrible celebrity chefs, college majors, fantastic daughters and things we love about Belgians...
Let's get started!
Submitted by: Hair
If my ex dies in a suspicious accident, how long after the police clear me should I wait to ask out her sister?
There are a lot of variables here... How hot is she? How rich are you? How closely did the police look at you? How solid was your alibi? Had she updated the beneficiaries on her life insurance, or did you collect on her untimely “accident”? And how well insured was she? How much did she like her sister? How much older/younger than you is she? How enthusiastic might the sister be to latch onto a new, rich husband, especially one she may outlive? How interested are you in trolling your ex’s parents, who very clearly think you’re the guilty party? Is Dateline going to portray you as a legitimately grieving former spouse, or a scheming sociopath?
I think there is an equation that could translate all of that into a specific number of months, but I don’t have the patience to lay out that many variables. Frankly, given your age, you don’t have time for that, either, you’re going to need an answer pretty quickly;-)
Funny story...my husband’s Great Great Grandparents (Thomas and Mary) came here from Ireland in the 1880’s along with several children. They settled in South Boston, had a couple more kids and then Mary sadly died in childbirth in about 1890. As was kind of (maybe) normal at the time, Thomas sent back to Ireland for Mary’s unmarried younger sister Frances to raise the children. In a somewhat unclear chain of events, Thomas then married Frances and had several more children. The three of them are buried next to each other in a cemetery in West Roxbury…
I don’t think Mary’s death was a “suspicious accident” - women died in childbirth all the time - but I also don’t think that this caused massive social scandal. In other words, you need to stop treating your newfound romance as something that needs apologizing for, and just make it clear that you are a very traditional, throwback kind of gentleman and you think that your wife’s younger, hotter sister is the only appropriate female influence to help you raise your impressionable adult children!
And when it all comes down to it, just remember that #LoveWins. But you should probably lay low for a while;-)
Submitted by: BrownSkin
Twitter still includes "@names" in the character count, although they've promised to change this, they still haven't. This, often times makes it difficult to carry on a coherent discussion with multiple people unless you group DM. We all know that group DMs are elitist, racist, and exclusionary unless you're part of a twitter gang. Having said that; Have you ever eaten a spaghetti sandwich?
A less kind advisor might suggest that crowded Tweets is not one of the ten or eleven biggest impediments to your ability to carry out a coherent discussion;-)
You know, I kind of thought that Twitter had fixed the @name character problem. I remember them announcing it, but clearly they haven't executed on that. Also waiting on an edit button (ftr: this would be a terrible idea, even though everyone seems to want it) or a list of people who have a user blocked.
Twitter promises a lot of things that they don’t deliver on...like, say, “profits”. (Although, Jack Dorsey is apparently still a believer). Or, one key reason for that, a way to block or eliminate fake accounts so that advertisers don’t feel like they are paying for impressions on people who aren’t actual people. Or giving users some insight into who has followed or unfollowed them in a certain time period (or, the last tweet someone saw before unfollowing you!) It’s maybe not a company with a great record of producing the features that it promises...a simple look at its stock chart will show you that it has delivered a lot less than its investors were expecting over the last several years…
Group DM’s are absolutely elitist and exclusionary, which is specifically why they are so popular! It’s like a country club without an initiation fee. Or a secret society where, every once in a while, one of the members throws a tantrum demanding the right to punch women in the face, then abandons Twitter because the rest of the group finds that attitude somewhat distasteful...
As for the spaghetti sandwich, yes, I have, and I can’t say that I am a huge fan...the texture doesn’t work for me. But I have heard that it works better if you add meatballs or breaded chicken, which makes sense, so I am not willing to write off the concept entirely. One other thing working in it’s favor? Jennifer Lawrence, who is unaware that we are probably best friends, has put together her own variant, and it sounds exquisite (per People Magazine).
“It’s called a chili pizza sandwich,” she says of her greatest culinary invention. “You have a piece of pizza, you put chili in it with noodles, like southern chili with noodles, and then another piece of pizza, and then you eat it like a sandwich.”
Now, I know that the Food Network has made everyone and their mother think that they are a reasonable facsimile of Hubert Keller, but this is pure fucking genius. But rather than try to figure out what “southern chili with noodles is”, I am just going to remind you that Jennifer Lawrence invents food products like that, looks like this and is somehow single.
Submitted by: Mo Mo
Why is Bobby Flay a thing?
I guess Stan Marsh and his Creme Fraiche roll us right into Mo’s question. And, to continue the theme, if Jennifer Lawrence can be single, then the stupidity of the human species covers Bobby Flay’s celebrity as well, right?
To be totally honest, I was a little surprised at the Bobby Flay hate that came out in the replies to this question. Sure, he seems like kind of a dweeb, and I had a thoroughly mediocre meal at his restaurant in Caesar’s Palace once a very long time ago, but I don’t find him super offensive. I have much greater questions about the “thing” status of Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray, both of whom are about as enjoyable as a root canal for a person who’s allergic to anesthesia.
Really, I am irked by the seemingly endless array of “celebrity chefs” that operate overpriced restaurants and demand that people call them “Chef” as if running a kitchen deserves a designation comparable to being “Doctor”. Shit, I went to business school with people who earn total comp that reaches eight digits annually who don’t even think it’s worthwhile to put “MBA” after their name in their email signature, but these glorified fry cooks think that a white hat earns them a formal title. And now every career busboy at TGIFriday’s is working on his own proprietary spice rub that’s gonna make him the next Emeril Lagasse.
Sorry, I got really sidetracked there…
I always kind of liked the show where Bobby Flay shows up to “compete” against a local person known for some specialty food, mostly because he lost a lot more than he won, and he never seemed at all broken up about that. And while the original, voice-over version of Iron Chef was better than the American one, he was fine on that (incidentally, “The people’s ovation and fame forever” is a remarkably useful phrase…)
But to answer your question...I can’t think of anything that makes him all that interesting, either, so I have no idea why he is a thing. He seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not super interesting or charming. His flagship restaurant isn’t as good as Danny Meyer’s, for example, and Bobby’s Burger Palace is total junk compared to the culinary masterpiece that is Shake Shack.
OMG...everyone stop right here because I just visited Bobby Flay’s website and found out that there is a fitness section headlined by him doing a totally forced and awkward yoga pose in ratty sweatpants and I take back anything nice that I said earlier. You know what is even better? The top linked story on the fitness page, right next to the note about finding healthy recipes for readers, is a how-to demonstration to make double chocolate pancakes.
All of which is my long-winded way of saying that Bobby Flay is a thing for the exact same reason that Jennifer Lawrence is single: because sometimes stupid things happen and we can’t explain them!
Submitted by: Jimmy’s Incorrigible
My daughter got a full-ride academic scholarship to the college of her choice. She's an actuarial science major. She made a all "A's" with two "B's" first semester and is kicking ass now. My q: Is she the most kick ass daughter?
My kids had a “career day” at day care once, and I went in to tell them about what I did. One adorable little girl kept raising her hand with “questions”, only to roll into a description of her Mommy’s office or the food she ate at lunch with her Daddy at work. By about the third time she raised her hand, the teacher started asking her “Sophie, is this a question or a story?” She’d think for a second, say “It’s a story” and put her hand down.
The point of this is just to ask you, Jimmy...is this a question or a story? Cuz it sounds more like a story than a question;-)
I remember when your daughter was looking at schools and getting ready to apply a couple of years ago...big giant congrats to her on getting what she wanted!!! (I actually think I remember where she wanted to go.) I’ll give her a pretty high kick-ass score on the scholarship, on tackling an unusual but tough major that would scare a lot of people off and on settling right into school. Good for her, and good for you!
I don’t know if I’d go “most kick ass ever”, cuz there are an awful lot of kick ass chicks roaming around, and every one of them is someone’s daughter. People like Meg Whitman and Mary Barra and Serena Williams and Ana Patricia Botin and Taylor Swift and Janet Yellen and Angela Merkel and Susan Wojcicki are all pretty kick ass in their own different ways, and every one of them is a daughter!
I mean, if we are totally being honest with ourselves, aren’t I the most kick ass daughter ever?!?
I think really, what your question amounts to, is “How much bragging about my daughter is acceptable?” And the answer is: a lot. I think you are totally justified in bragging about her at every chance you get, right up until you have thoroughly annoyed your friends and co-workers with detail accounts of her exploits! I mean, if we’re still being honest, you’re all incredibly sick of my incessant need to talk about my little sister/first child (graduates in May, btw;-))
One last note: your single most Dad-proud moment is going to happen in about three and a half years. She’ll graduate in May of 2020, at which point she will land her first real big-kid job with a salary and benefits and a career path (she’s going to be really employable, which is nice!) and then she is going to buy you dinner with the big-kid salary from that big-kid job and you’re gonna get maybe just a little teary-eyed;-).
You’re also going to make her max out her 401K, but we can talk about that later!
Submitted by: Rebecca de Winter
How important is the choice of major in college?
Well, this is a convenient question to take up right after Jimmy’s…
This depends almost entirely on what you study and what you want to eventually do. There are, in the simplest sense, two kinds of majors: technical skills and non-technical skills. Technical skills include very career-specific skills that a student would have a really hard time learning elsewhere. Kids who study these majors generally roll right into very defined career paths that leverage these skills immediately. Engineers and natural science majors fall into this category, as do nurses and computer scientists and I would put Jimmy’s daughter and most accounting and finance majors in here as well.
The non-technical skills are much less career specific and include humanities, languages. social sciences, generic business administration, etc. A lot of majors can be a little bit of both (like, studying Mandarin for example), but I think you probably understand what I am saying here.
There are advantages to both, although the advantages of the technical majors are a little easier to identify. For one, they tend to make more money coming out of college and have a much easier time finding jobs. This is especially true in many of these fields for women, who are in short supply for the large number of companies looking to balance their workforce. One of my best friends in college was a Chemical Engineering major (nationally, I think ChemE’s are nearly or over 80% male) with a spotless transcript and a lot more personality than a lot of engineers. She had three job offers from companies at which she did not apply (that is a true story: three companies that she met at a job fair but did not formally submit for an actual position offered her jobs).
The downside is that these majors pigeonhole workers more than a liberal arts degree does. Not that you can’t switch careers, especially early on, but it is harder to do that when you have invested time and money and effort into a specific career-path like this. That is a lot for an 18 year old to commit to if they aren’t fully committed to it.
Non-technical degrees tend to be a little more flexible, though, and this is really helpful since very few 18 year olds have any idea what they want to do with their life when they grow up. Shit, I’m 34, I’m five years out of graduate school and I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. Kids who graduate with degrees in economics or political science or art history or whatever will certainly find a less welcoming job market than will a physics major, but the smart, hardworking ones will still find jobs, and when they all decide to go back to school four years later, the prospective graduate schools probably don’t care much about your college major.
This is something that I feel like we often miss out on in our discussion of kids choosing majors (and I am absolutely guilty of this...don’t @ me, bro). It’s pretty common to critique gender studies or Central Asian Art majors as being unemployable after they graduate, but that sort of misses the point. The truth is that there are huge numbers of employers who are looking for smart, hardworking entry-level workers without really caring much about their major.
Here in Boston, the biggest employers of newly minted graduates are probably in health services (hospitals, biotech and insurance) and investment management and asset servicing (mutual fund companies and banks). Sure, they hire nurses, researchers and accountants that have some specific technical skills, but they also hire tons of people who don’t need any specific major at all. They do, however, need a degree...not for what they have learned, but as proof that they are a serious and hardworking person who is worth investing in.
Fidelity, State Street, MFS and BNY Mellon hire armies of new grads into fund accounting and custody and other financial services rolls in Boston. Most of those kids probably had business degrees, but I think this has much more to do with who applies for those jobs than it does what the employer is looking for. If a gender studies major wanted to work in claims processing at AthenaHealth, I don’t think he or she would be at a significant disadvantage to a business administration major (ok, ok, “he” would, but she wouldn’t…)
I have another friend, one of the smartest girls I know, who was an art history major at Harvard (graduated in three years) and went to work immediately as an analyst at a leveraged buyout shop. Why? Because they needed a super smart, hyper-driven girl and they didn’t really care whether she already knew how a theoretical buyout model worked. They can teach that.
The employment issue for sociology or humanities degree-holders has much more to do with the kinds of jobs that they are looking for than their actual field of study. The people who chose those majors don’t want to be a fund accountant or an accounts payable administrator or any of the many other entry-level jobs that allow people to earn some experience and start building a resume. I’m frankly not real sure what they want to do, but whatever it is seems to be a field that doesn’t have a demand for paid help that matches the supply;-). The Internet may have an insatiable appetite for think pieces, but the sector that results in a paycheck is much, much smaller;-)
So, you can put me into the column for “majors don’t matter that much”. At least some of this is colored by my own experience (I was a Political Science major and I have spent my whole professional career in private equity), but I’ve also observed enough of the employment market to feel pretty good about my conclusions. I think that, if a kid really has a passion for something, it makes a lot of sense to major in it, especially if that is one of the technical skills majors. But I also don’t think there is any point in majoring in biology if you don’t really like biology but think it will get you a better first job.
Submitted by: Out Yonder
Please, ma'am. I know I may be too late for this week's Wisdom, but I need an answer for my 7 yr old:
Related to a previous article: Why does a waffle iron have those squares, and why aren't they round? TYVM, and cheers!
First off, let’s note that you could make a dog house out of waffles MUCH more easily than you could make a dog house out of pancakes. It is a much better building material.
The reason it has the squares is easy...it dramatically increases the surface area of the waffle exposed to the waffle iron, which makes it crispier (much like the all-edges brownie pan), cooks it faster and makes it much more manageable to eat with your hands, which is how you’re supposed to eat a waffle. Am I right, Belgians?!?!?
It also makes it a better receptacle for whipped cream, or syrup or Nutella or whatever else a real Belgian wouldn’t put on a waffle that should be delicious enough on its own! As for the shape being square and not round, I imagine this is related to the same thing...circles would leave too much space between then, decreasing the waffle iron surface area (someone with some geometry skills will need to opine on this.)
You know what this has made me realize, though? We really, really undersell Belgian cuisine. We talk a lot about French food, or Italian food, or Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Japanese or even Spanish food. Germans (“Hmm, can we pickle that?”), Brits (“Let’s take meat and vegetables and then boil them until totally devoid of color and flavor”) and the Nordic cultures (“Sure you can pickle that, as long as it is fish”) are rightfully ignored, but we never really give Belgians the credit they deserve.
Just for starters, Belgians have mastered the french fry. That alone is worthy of admiration. Their most well-known dishes include ridiculously delicious Mussels in white wine sauce with french fries, and steak with french fries, and Beef Stew with french fries. Also, tomatoes with those tiny shrimp that are absolutely divine. And they make some of the world’s best beer (full disclosure, I find Belgian beers kind of yeasty). Throw in the chocolate and the waffles and it is hard to see exactly how Belgians don’t get more credit for their food.
So, good on you Belgium...home of great food, International Organizations of questionable use and the totally above-board, not at all shady diamond trade!
2/17/2017 04:59:13 pm
I think Jennifer Lawrence was probably referring to chili mac, which is a combo of chili and mac and cheese. Something they used to serve at school occasionally when I was a kid. I'm from TN, but didn't realize that it was a Southern thing.
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