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 up, I want to again thank my fell Misfits for chipping in on a super fun Ask Alex last week. You can also all feel free to badger JR, Daryl and Kayla into finishing their answers, too...I can still add them. They were some seriously good questions, too! It has also given me an idea to do something similar with readers in a future week when I don’t have time to write...so, let me know if you are interested in participating!
Something of a hodgepodge this week, as I have some catching up to do from being away last week. I have a couple questions left over from Adam Gdowik, Daryl, Heather Lebowski, and an anonymous writer, and then I am going to start tackling a giant batch of questions that came in through #MisfitMischief (every Friday night, around 7:00 Eastern!)
Submitted by: Adam Gdowik
Thoughts on this article?
The summary of the article, for those of your too lazy to click, is as follows: in a study conducted by some App that is mentioned in the article, people who ordered fried chicken or Bloody Mary’s on first dates were more likely to land a second date than those who ordered other types of food. Ordering beer reduced your chances of a second date to only about half of the chances had you ordered a Bloody. While not specifically published, I would assume that ordering beer flavored with mango or watermelon reduced the chances of a man getting a second date with a woman to nearly zero.
I haven’t been in the dating pool in some time, so you should take all of this with a grain of salt, but I find these results to be somewhat misleading. First of all, the Bloody Mary thing is a tip-off to me that all is not right with this sample...who drinks Bloody Mary’s after 11:00am? No one, that's who. So, I feel like these are breakfast dates that are taking places after the participants have already made some questionable decisions the night before. So, I don’t think that the Bloody Mary makes it more likely that you will have a second date nearly as much as I think that already having had sex before your first date increases the chances of a second date.
Also, Bloody Mary’s are a fucking disgusting slurry of foul spiciness that should never be drunk by anyone on any occasion outside of impending death by dehydration. Drinks are not supposed to be spicy. Or made of tomatoes. End of story.
The fried chicken thing is really weird, since I just can’t imagine why someone would order fried chicken on a first date...it's a really strange choice. And it polled only slightly higher than ordering a vegan dish, which seems like it would wholeheartedly impress another vegan and not really anyone else. In fairness, though, I know (and follow on Twitter) a couple of really hot vegans, so you may want to consider this...
The underlying study is pretty fun, too, especially if you are from one of the cities that they surveyed. In Boston, Legal Harborside makes a really logical great spot for a first date, and Yvonne’s says “I’m classy enough to love a great restaurant, I’m rich enough to eat here, and I am committed enough to try and impress you this much” which is a pretty good recipe for a second date. The grossly overrated garbage stew at Barcelona (seriously, America, get over tapas...it’s a trash concept) is a surefire bet to kill whatever mood you are trying to foster. Chicago is noteworthy for its two non-restaurant entries on the “best first date” list: the Lincoln Park Zoo and Wrigley Field. I’m actually a little surprised by this, only because Bostonians (especially women) are much more obsessed with Fenway Park than Chicagoans are with Wrigley, and it actually seems like a much more common first date locale. Heck, it was an entire reality TV show!
Totally off the subject, but this reminds me of a time that I was at Fenway, maybe three years ago, sitting next to a girl who was with her boyfriend (this also makes me super sad that @boobzandbrainz blocked me - I don’t actually know why - because I feel like she would love this story more than anyone else I know on Twitter). The girl was a) not wearing underwear, which I know because b) her skirt was so incredibly short that she flashed me every time she stood up.
She was also texting her best friend all night, which I know because her phone was set to something like a 56 point font and she kept the screen pointed away from her boyfriend all night and therefore pointed right at me the whole time. If you have ever sat down past first base in Fenway Park, you know that the seats point at the centerfield wall, so you have to look almost straight left to see the game. So, her phone was directly between me and the pitcher.
Our striking young critic of underwear with the bad eyesight was certain that her boyfriend was going to propose later that night. She also disclosed to her friend that she had yet to make up her mind on whether or not she was going to say yes or not...she was going to wait to see the ring. Sadly, I never got the chance to get the best friends phone number so that I could follow up with her later on, but I am sure they are really happily married now!!!
It also reminds me of the time I went on a first date and the guy tried to cancel because he mentored a 12 year old special needs kid who had just invited him to his baseball game and he really wanted to go. I kinda thought he may be making that up (c’mon…“Oh, girl I haven’t met yet, I need to cancel our date because I spend my free time hanging out with developmentally delayed kids”? That’s way too good to be true) so I told him I’d go with him if he wanted. Sure enough, he was totally legit and I went on a first date that involved watching his special friend’s little league game and then taking him out for ice cream.
THAT is a good way to get a second date!
Submitted by: GringoSuave (2 Questions)
Did you read William James in grad school?
Daryl, I went to business school. The only philosophy we read was “Only the Paranoid Survive.” I suppose that, if you needed to include any psychology or philosophy in a business education, James' pragmatism is probably a good way to start (it’s got “cash value” right in it!) but frankly, that is not the sort of thing that is generally a part of a business school curriculum.
Somewhat related: a girl that I know just finished her MBA and asked me if she should add “, MBA” after her name on her email signature and business cards. She wasn’t going to, but she had seen some people add it and thought she should consider it. It’s really not normal, which makes it sort of unique among academic designations. Lawyers often add some initials (or “Esq.”) after their name, doctors make you call them doctor, and most PhD’s add the initials as well, regardless of the garbage discipline that they earned their PhD in.
But MBA’s almost never do, which I think points to the sort of weird relationship between business education and the rest of academia. It is kind of the “anti-academic” discipline, and I feel like eschewing the letters after your name serves to minimize the importance of education, despite those who have done it generally thinking highly of the value of that education. This doesn’t go on forever, though, as people who have earned a CFA generally run in the same circles as those who refuse to put “MBA” after their name, and it is pretty normal to include that after your name.
Speaking of which...last Saturday was CFA day, which means Monday and Tuesday were the days that I heard about everyone who took it lamenting their wasted year since they are certain that they failed and will have to take whatever level this was again. Man, that shit is hard.
I'm going to Disneyland. Can I catch Mono if I ride the Monorail?
Everything I know about monorails I learned from Lyle Lanley. Based on that song, I am going to say that there are no direct negative health effects to riding the monorail at Disneyland, save for the high likelihood of a fiery crash. That said, there is little that stirs the libido quite like the velvety smooth ride of airport terminal transportation, so there seems to be a strong likelihood that random women will want to make out with you on the train, and any one of them could have mono. So, yes, I think you can catch mono from riding the monorail.
You’re probably in the clear on pink eye, though!
Submitted by: Heather Lebowski
I have been thinking a lot lately about my living room. It feels... sparse. Not in a hip minimalist way, just in a not completely tied together sort of way. Maybe a carpet?? I really want something magical. Maybe something of Arabic influence? Anywho. I admire your sense of style and trust you will have some valuable advice.
I don’t get enough decorating questions! Which is too bad, because I have so many answers (this is a lie...we are renovating and I am hiring someone to do most of it because I don’t have the patience to pick out more than about 20% of the stuff.)
You know, Heather, a nice area rug can really tie a room together. I might suggest this high-quality, reasonably priced selection.
Worth noting, though, that particular rug is Persian, not Arabic (neither is appropriate for Shabbos). Specifically it’s Kashan, and if you are looking for some real hand-woven wool and silk Kashan rugs, you may want to check out this website, which seems to have a pretty nice collection. They are obviously going to be pricier than the machine-woven polyester ones, but they can add a really nice touch to any room. Further, they are generally quite sturdy and will often last for decades, even with heavy usage...in other words, they make great generational hand-me-downs.
Funny story...I was talking about this with my husband on Tuesday night. There was an article in The Boston Globe about Baby Boomers downsizing and trying to figure out what to do with their stuff because their kids don’t want it. We were specifically referencing a conversation that we had with friends last weekend (it was a bar crawl and it got super messy) about rugs...we may not want their stupid dishes and awful furniture, but no one seems to be shy about taking their parents good rugs!
Rugs are so expensive, and the buying process is so opaque (you’re entering a world of pain) and intimidating that it is just much easier to inherit one, even if it isn’t the exact color scheme you are looking for, than to try and buy a new one. I mean, that’s just like, my opinion, man. In fact, we *might* have a large rug in our dining room that used to be in my in-laws living room before they downsized, and a 22 foot runner that may have been in my husband’s aunt’s house before she moved into a house without a hallway long enough for that. It is a really nice way to accumulate rugs, and dammit if they don’t really tie the rooms together!!!
Rugs, if you don’t know, are kind of like wine: every region in the rug-making world makes them a little differently, from Iran to China (although the Chinaman is not the issue here). The trained eye can identify the origin of a rug based on the materials, colors, stitching and combination of patterns and symbols in the design. And while it’s primary purpose is as a useful part of the decor, they are expensive enough that it is hard to completely ignore their value. Which is why it is bothersome that, when buying it, you are buying it from someone who has a much better idea of it’s market value than you ever will. You’re gonna be out of your element, Donny.
Still, I think a nice area rug is probably your best bet to solve your living room problems.
Just let me find a cash machine...
Submitted by: Anonymous
I’m getting married in a couple of months, and my future husband and I have been talking about whether we should have joint bank and investment accounts or separate bank accounts. I always assumed we would have joint accounts but i have heard from people who maintain separate accounts and it seems to work. It seems a little weird to me to always be thinking about who pays for stuff. What do you think?
First of all, congratulations! Here is my un-requested wedding day advice: don’t worry. As long as the bar is open, everyone will have a great time and no one cares whether the centerpieces match the pew decorations in the church. Don’t sweat the details:-)
This is a really good question, and it is one for which there is really no right answer. I know of people who handle this in all kinds of ways, and I feel like it can work in a lot of different ways for different people.
First of all, there are some accounts that can only have a single owner: like 401k, 403b and IRA accounts or pension entitlements. And others that will be driven by other decisions: your mortgage, for example, will have to be issued to whoever is on the title to the house. If you own the home jointly, the mortgage will be a joint mortgage and can’t be any other way. Also, if one of you has a profession or activity that carries an abnormally high level of potential liability, then keeping assets separate might be a good idea for non-marriage dynamic reasons. Like, if the wife is an anesthesiologist, it is probably worthwhile to explore keeping the beach house in the husband’s name on the off chance that she royally screws up in a way that her malpractice insurance won’t cover. (You should talk to a lawyer about that kinda thing…)
So really we are talking about checking and savings accounts and taxable investments, for which you have wide discretion on how to title the accounts. Quick review of the Pros and Cons of each:
Joint accounts - It is much easier. Whenever an expense arises, be it a new furnace, swimming lessons for the kids or dinner out, there is no dispute over who pays how much and when. If there is a large earnings differential between the two spouses, this becomes more important because it is really going to be hard to live if one of you has substantially different means than the other. It supports shared goals and objectives and a sense of common purpose. In addition, should one of you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated, the other has unfettered access (and should one of you die, you’d usually have immediate complete ownership) of all jointly held assets without having to produce a Power of Attorney or Court Order of some sort.
On the down side, it could potentially harbor resentment over how you choose to spend a fungible resource. If wifey wants to buy a Porsche, it inherently means that hubby has less money to spend on needless extravagances. It can also lead to unhealthy examination of discretionary expenditures...you can’t spend your time worrying about who is spending more on lunch.
Separate accounts - Keeping your accounts separate solves that last problem by setting a clear delineation around who has what discretion over what money. If wifey still wants that Porsche, it is coming out of her discretionary income and not his, so he (theoretically) doesn’t have any sacrifices to make. It allows spouses to set their own priorities within clear bounds, and to have a modicum of privacy over their own spending. If one of you came into the marriage with substantially more assets and you have a pre-nup for this reason, this may be necessary to keep the pre-nup intact.
But, it is much more complicated to maintain, since you have to agree on how to split shared expenses. Will you pay the mortgage 50/50, or will one spouse pay a larger share? What about utilities and groceries and whatnot? Who carries the health insurance and does that impact their share of other expenses? What if one spouse “can’t afford” something that the other thinks is necessary? Or loses his or her job? This seems like a scenario that works best if the two spouses earn roughly the same amount of money, but even then it carries some complications.
Also worth noting that having separate bank accounts makes the passing of those assets to your spouse necessarily tricky in the event of your untimely death - they will need to go through probate where a joint account (unless it is held Tenants in Common) won’t. Nor will it have any impact on the distribution of assets in a divorce...anything not covered by a pre-nup goes into the pile to be split regardless of how it was originally titled (Smokey, this is not ‘Nam...There are rules.)
There are hybrid ideas as well. One friend of mine and her husband maintain a joint account out of which all major shared expenses are paid - mortgage, utilities, car, groceries, etc. Since they earn, more or less, the same amount of money, each of them pays half of the budgeted amount every month into that account and keeps the rest of their paychecks for clothes, leisure, whatever. If they go out together, they just kinda take turns paying the check, and if they make large purchases together, like vacations or things like that, they just split them. If one of them made twice what the other did, it would be pretty easy to re-apportion the responsibility for funding the household expense account, but that would certainly confuse things.
My own early married life was somewhat complicated by having custody of my little sister (she was 14 when we got married), and frankly I can see where having mixed families would really muddy the waters. In my case, we handled it with a pre-nup that clarified certain assets of mine that were intended for the support of my sister on the chance that I got hit by the proverbial beer truck, and a life insurance policy with her as the beneficiary. We now keep some assets jointly and others in one or another’s name individually, but those are for reasons unrelated to this discussion (I would happily tell you about if you ask me via email or DM). And all of our income and expenses go through joint accounts. But people combining households and dealing with multiple kids who have other parents that may be paying child support would get a lot trickier and may necessitate some special accounting.
This answer is already too long, but I want to hit on an important piece of marriage counseling: you have to talk about money before you get married. Beyond this, you have to talk about priorities and expectations. How much do you plan to save vs. spend? Where do you want to live? Suburbs or city? In the most budget-stretching house you can afford, or a lesser house that gives you move flexibility to spend money elsewhere? Will you both work? How much do you think you will earn?
I once talked with a priest (for serious) about conducting pre-marriage workshops and he told me that the question that most confounded soon-to-be-married couples was “How much do you expect that you will earn in 10 years?” The answers, which require assumptions about who works, who gets additional schooling, what kinds of careers and sacrifices each makes, tend to be all over the place...and it is a discussion that you should absolutely have before you get married. There are no right and wrong answers, but you should both at least know what the other one is thinking.
Long and short...my general feeling is that married people are usually better off with joint finances, but that doesn’t have to be a universal idea (a quick Misfit survey showed strong preference for joint accounts). Do what you think will work for you, but make sure you talk it through as soon as you can! And congrats again:-)
OK...change of gears here. A couple of weeks ago, we ran a Misfit Mischief item for “Rejected #AskAlex Questions.” Since there is actually no such thing - I answer them all! - I have decided that I will, in fact, answer them all at some point! There are like 20, though, so I have to tackle them a few at a time for the next couple of weeks, starting with a pair of really urgent inquiries from Persnickety...
Submitted by: Persnickety
If I save 4 kilos of Fine Colombian in a safe would that be a big enough of a nest egg to put my 8 year old through Harvard?
Well, keeping it in a safe certainly won’t help you...they don’t accept cocaine as payment for tuition at Harvard. You’re going to need to move that product at some point in order to convert it to something that is more “tuition friendly”. Further, cocaine has proved to be a terrible investment over the last 30 years, as improved production and distribution capabilities have driven prices down, in real terms, by as much as 80%. I don’t suggest holding onto it and expecting it will increase in value (also, I have no idea what the shelf life on cocaine is...anyone?)
So, you have to sell it, and fast, which raises a lot of questions about where you are going to sell it and how you are going to sell it. As a guideline, cocaine gets more expensive as you get further and further from its point of origin and further and further down the distribution chain. At a beachfront hotel in Colombia, for example, you can buy an eight ball (3.5 grams) for like $15. Outside of the three cocaine producing countries (Bolivia and Peru are the others), Brazil is the cheapest place to buy coke (for reasons which seem pretty obvious) and it will cost you roughly $10/gram.
From there, it more or less gets more expensive as you get further away. The rest of South America is a pretty cheap place to buy it, and the US and Canada are more expensive, but substantially cheaper than Europe. Within Europe, Spain and Portugal are the cheapest places to buy it, and the rich inland countries (Switzerland, Austria, Germany) are the most expensive. Australia and New Zealand are the most expensive places on earth to buy cocaine, where it can run you well over $200/gram.
All of which makes sense. It is illegal to transport cocaine anywhere in the world, so every time it moves, the distributor takes on criminal risk and cost to get it from point A to point B. Crossing a porous border in the Amazon to get a couple of kilos in Brazil is pretty easy, and getting it across an ocean is pretty hard, so there has to be a pretty good incentive to move it from South America to Europe. New Zealand and Australia are small markets on remote islands halfway around the world...there is no reason to try and bring any drugs there without some huge incentive.
Even within the US, there are substantial price differences, with cocaine being cheaper near its points of entry (Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio) and more expensive further away. A full Kilo might be found for as little as $15,000 in Laredo but could run you well over $30,000 in Detroit or Minneapolis.
There are also huge differences based on how you sell it. If you want to break it up, cut it a little bit and sell it as a retail dealer, you could probably take your 4 Kilos of fine Columbian (which is really probably 4 Kilos at about 80% pure), turn it into 5,000 grams of better-than-average street stuff and sell it for $100/gram in clubs in Chicago or Detroit without ever having an unhappy customer. That runs a pretty high risk of jail (or worse) and it will be a LOT of work, but it has the potential to turn into about a half million bucks.
On the flip side, if you live in Texas and you just want to get rid of it, you should be able to get $70,000 for the four kilos in a bulk sale. In the Northeast or Midwest, you can probably get as much as $125,000. The good news on that is that now you can invest your ~$100k to earn some return over the next 10 years while we wait for your 8 year old to reach college. The bad news is that your best reasonable hope is that you earn a return that matches the inflation in college tuition costs. Which more or less means that your $100k will pay for exactly as much tuition as it does today...which leads to a whole discussion of your financial situation and the likely financial aid that your kid will get from Harvard. The retail tuition, room and board and fees come to about $63,000 a year, but no one actually pays that (for a family who earns under $65,000 annually, the tuition is $0, for example).
All of which means that you have some decisions to make! Exactly what kind of kingpin are you looking to be?
If I gave you 12 turkeys, 3 mastodons and a Basilosaurus, how many homeless folks could you feed?
This is turning into the best management consulting interview ever!
First, you can ignore the turkeys because they don’t matter. #NotAllTurkeysMatter. What we need to focus on is figuring out how much meat we can get off of a mastodon and a Basilosaurus. Mastodons were giant elephant-like creatures that roamed the earth until about 10,000 years ago when they went extinct through a combination of climate change and nomadic Clovis hunters. Which means that they did, in fact, feed homeless people!!!
At about twice the size of a modern elephant, a single mastodon would certainly make for quite the feast. Since elephants are our best approximation, I am going to assume that the ratio of edible meat on a mastodon is similar to that of an elephant...a surprisingly low 20%. So, a single 12 ton mastodon would produce something on the order of 3 tons of edible meat, which is a really good start to our homeless Thanksgiving.
Basilosaurus is a little more complicated, owing to being both an actual early genus of whales that lived 35 million years ago and a fictional whale-like dinosaur from the video game “Ark”. Sadly, for this bland and entirely carnivorous meal, it does not taste like basil and can not be used to make a weird kind of dinosaur pesto. Thankfully, both the real and imaginary basilosaurus are approximately the same size - the ARK website describes it as being “roughly Mosasaurus-sized”, which puts it somewhere in the vicinity of 45 feet long and weighing 15 tons, pretty close to the actual basilosaurus weight of 10 tons.
Using a 10 ton body weight, I’m going to assume that it has a body composition similar to a modern whale, which means that about 20% of the animal’s weight is bone and another 30% or so is inedible (cartilage, skin and other organs). This leaves an edible portion much larger than the mastodon, but that makes sense...land animals have much bigger, much heavier skeletons and have less ability to carry extraneous weight without the gravity-reducing effects of water. It is why ocean bugs like lobsters and crabs, have such heavier exoskeletons than things like roaches and crickets.
That gives us five tons of edible basilosaurus meat to go along with 9 tons from our three mastodons. The turkeys, as you can see, are pretty irrelevant...the 175 or so pounds of meat that come from a dozen massive turkeys are just not going to move the needle. We have 14 tons, or 28,000 pounds, of edible meat with which to prepare meals for the homeless. Allocating 8 ounces per person, that makes for 56,000 meals out of these four animals!!!
Which means that someone better start making 20,000 pounds of mashed potatoes potatoes, because this is going to be one massive picnic.
Submitted by: Timothy E. Miller
What is your honest opinion of me?
Well, this is awkward. You are really gonna wish you didn’t ask this… *winds up a four paragraph diatribe that includes several newly-created expletives*
OK, ok, so I am not going to berate you in this forum (or really any other forum). Frankly, it’s hard to have a real opinion of someone you know only casually through Twitter, so I can’t really pretend to have a fully-formed, or fully informed, opinion. There are a handful of Twitterati that I “know” pretty well, but even at that, having never actually sat and talked to them, there is a limit to how much you can really understand about someone.
But clearly, I have some thoughts! I have never let a lack of expertise stop me.
You seem to like Star Wars a lot, or at least you like to hear me ramble nonsensical stuff about Star Wars. And video games...gaming isn't really my thing, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. That's why we keep @VixenRogue around;-) I also notice that you don't really tweet that much...you RT a lot more stuff than you tweet. That is a perfectly fine way to use Twitter, but it makes it hard for anyone to really "know" you.
I am also not sure on your handle, since I have never seen Sicario (which I assume is the inspiration). But I love Emily Blunt, and I have a soft spot for Josh Brolin because his father appeared as Colonel Bill Kelly on Pensacola: Wings of Gold (check out the classic first season with Kathryn Morris and Kristiana Lokken before they both got much better jobs - that is as big a cast shakeup as anything other than the time that Bayside High School fired Miss Bliss, expelled Mikey and that girl with the curly hair and transplanted the entire school building, Mr. Belding, Kelly Kapowski, Lisa Turtle, Zach Morris and Screech Powers from Indiana to California just in time for new transfer students A.C. Slater and Jessie "There's never any time!" Spano. Go Tigers.)
What was I talking about? Oh, yea, you seem pretty nice, I guess;-)
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.