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.
Hey-ho everybody! Crazy week at work, but I was totally burned out by yesterday afternoon, so I stopped doing actual work and I have been writing furiously for your entertainment ever since. I will thank myself on your behalf. I had a lot more questions than I had time, so I have a handful in the queue for next week already...I didn’t forget them, I will get to them!
Daryl is back this week, after a long absence! I am also going to tackle some Tootsie Pop Technicalities for MrsFiveO, leading to one of the Internets great rabbit holes, and then provide some grading advice to the divine ST. That, by the way, does not stand for Secret Teacher, but I feel like it could, and maybe should, so it does from now on! Proper Opinion is handicapping a fight between giant, possibly-inflated corporate mascots, Aggierican has a question that can only be answered by Tweetstorm and Puter is flirting with Mo some more!!!
Submitted by: Daryl
What was the first city in the country to have a paid police force?
I believe that it was Broward County, FL, and they have been setting the standards for world class, cutting edge law enforcement ever since!
As with every question Daryl ever asks;-), the answer is Boston! The first City-funded Day watch (full time police force) was created in 1838 and was followed by every major city in America over the next 20 or so years (New York 1845, Chicago 1851, Philadelphia 1855). Early records are spotty, but my guess is that the original force was made up mostly of guys named Fitzy, Sully and Murph. Most of their brothers and cousins were with the Fire, and the bulk of their work included arresting other guys named Fitzy, Sully and Murph for being drunk in public and harassing the gays in the St. Paddy’s Day parade.
I joke but there is some interesting Irish-American history here. The first Irish-born police officer, Bernard “Benny” McGinniskin was appointed by Mayor Benjamin Seaver in the early 1850’s, creating significant controversy in the city. After Seaver retired to star in the 1980’s Sitcom Growing Pains, the City Marshal, Francis Tukey, tried to fire McGinniskin on the grounds that it represented an immigrant taking the job of an American. After some criticism in the press, Tukey reinstated the officer, only to fire him again in 1854 during the anti-Irish groundswell of the No-Nothing party. It’s unclear at exactly which point the rules were changed so that only Irishmen were allowed to be officers...
Boston was one of the first U.S. police departments to integrate, hiring Horatio Julius Homer in 1878 (a little bit oddly, it appears that New Orleans had the earliest fully-integrated police force). Washington DC appears to have been first, hiring an administrative officer in 1861, and Chicago hired its first black officer in 1871, although the CPD didn’t hire a uniformed black officer until the 1940’s.
This, however, hasn’t put any kind of a damper on the CPD’s habit of terrorizing its black constituents...so they still have that going for them...
How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?
Thrrreee!!! Deeper scientific research shows that the answer is somewhere between 144 and 481 licks. My own research has shown that there are some things that will pop with a lot fewer licks than that, provided the licker knows what he or she is doing…
Much better question, though, is “Why are you eating Tootsie Pops?”, which are kind of a garbage candy. I have no problem with Tootsie rolls, which are pretty delicious, or with lollipops (meh)...but I don’t see what the purpose of combining the two is. The whole is less than the sum of the two parts. Part of this is that the construction sucks: the pop is never of a thickness that is consistent enough that sucking on it will reach the Tootsie roll center evenly, so you end up sucking on Tootsie roll while you try and get the last bits of the lollipop dissolved.
I'm totally changing subjects, though, because I've started working through the “Up Next” videos on the old Tootsie Roll commercial, and while wholly unrelated to Tootsie Rolls, they are absolutely phenomenal! Just take a quick gander:
That is, frankly, a YouTube rabbit hole that I am really surprised I managed to get out of at all...and I wish you Godspeed in your efforts for the rest of the day.
Submitted by: ST
I want to know what kind of stickers to purchase to put on my students' assessments
One of the great dangers to today’s youth is the continuous decline of objective standards. We joke a lot about participation trophies and sports without scores...but the bigger, more insipid threat is rampant grade inflation. Kids have learned that they can earn A’s if they merely complain loud enough, and their parents too often support their bitching by pressuring teachers to award better marks than the kids deserve.
And this goes from high school all the way into college, where elite universities have simply stopped trying to tell kids that they aren’t perfect. There was some consternation a number of years ago when word leaked that over 90% of Harvard Students graduate with honors, and that the median grade is A-. Yale promises that honors will be limited to the top 30% of the class, but seems to give them out to more like 55%, which seems to be in line with most of the Ivies.
(Contrast this to a school like MIT, which ends up with the smartest aggregate class of freshman in the world and then seems to ensure that every one of them fails something just to remind them that they aren’t as smart as they think they are! Which reminds me that the best way to annoy a Harvard alum is to tell them “Harvard? That’s a really good school...like, the second best school in Cambridge, right?”)
I therefore feel like it is your duty to provide the children with entirely accurate feedback. Should the kids do very well, then by all means give them a gold star, or a smiley face, or a Paw Patrol thumbs up (OK, so your high school-aged students may not dig on the Zuma stickers), but you are going to need some stickers for the kids that just don’t quite measure up. Things like “Meh” and “Adequate” for the ones who aren’t worthy of praise, and then some passive-aggressive ones like “The World Needs Ditchdiggers, too” and “Don’t worry, science isn’t really for everyone” for the ones who really have no hope.
Frankly, giving dumb kids the delusion that they can make a living from their brains isn’t really helping them. There are some times that you need to deliver some difficult truth that a sticker could make a little easier, like “Trying was a waste of your time” or “You could have played video games instead of studying and gotten the same F” or “Just Quit” or “I’m Sorry, You’re Awful. I’m Not Sorry.”
Your job as teacher is to help them be the best they can be, right? But what if the best is really pretty shitty? If that’s the case, you at least want them to feel like they are living their best life when they finally land their ideal job as a custodian at Walmart or the guy who rounds up lost carriages in the parking lot at Big Y. And when he does, don’t you like the idea of chubby little Bobby Jenkins sitting back in his trailer and thinking…”You know what? Mrs. T saved me a lot of time with her honest assessment of my abilities. If I could operate a ball point pen, I would write her a Thank You note”?
Then you will know that you really made a difference.
Submitted by: Proper Opinion
If they were the same size, who would win in a fight between the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man?
Bibendum vs. Poppin Fresh! The Corporate Mascot Battle of the Century!
I see this as a battle between measurables and intangibles. Between the physical superiority of the Michelin Man and the grittiness and determination of the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
The Michelin Man is obviously physically superio. First, he is a man, not a boy. He’s also got longer arms and legs, which should make him faster, more agile and capable of exploiting his reach advantage. Having hands and feet seems like kind of a big deal in this fight, too. And the ability not to giggle every time someone touches his stomach will probably go a long way. Further, his knowledge of travel and discerning taste in restaurants tell us that he is a worldly and sophisticated man, likely schooled in the arts of self-defense and hand-to-hand combat.
So, on paper, this isn’t much of a battle at all. But battles aren’t won on paper, are they? They’re not contested in the cushy seats and cold, sterile analysis of the critics and the analysts. Battles are fought in the arena, soiled by the blood and sweat of the combatants, where the careful plans and sober strategies of the weak fall to the iron will of the strong. In the words of the great American poet Michael Gerard Tyson, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
And here’s where the Dough Boy is going to win this fight. Because the Michelin Man is French, and there isn’t a physical advantage that can change the fact that there is simply no way on God’s Green Earth that a Doughboy is losing a fight to a Frenchman. Not after 4 million of our boys boarded boats in 1917 to rescue those cheese-eating beret-wearers from the Kaiser’s evil clutches!
America came of age in WWI, asserting its influence on the Global Stage, redrawing the European map and spreading the devastation of Spanish Flu to a whole hemisphere it otherwise might not have reached! (Fun fact: it is called Spanish Flu because wartime sensors in Germany, England, France and the US minimized the disease’s devastation to improve public morale, creating a false feeling that neutral Spain was particularly hard hit.) And it would be a goddamn insult to the memory of those veterans to even consider for a moment that some nancy-pants frog is going to stand up to the bald eagle and apple pie fueled, baguette-shredding power of American muscle!
So, most likely, this fight starts with the Michelin Man bouncing around the ring, nibbling on a nice baked brie, showing his superior mobility and his likely stylish fight clothes. Then, after several seconds, someone shouts “Look, Germans!” and he immediately surrenders.
Submitted by: Schaedenfreudelish
Will the Twitternovelas ever stop? Why do people bother subtweeting? When will the idiocy end?
C’mon, who doesn’t get s super tingly feeling when you see a Tweet that ends with “1/327”? Whether it is a weird sort of Rubio/Cruz romance fetish, some Game Theory, or a detailed look at the finer points of every single song The Beach Boys ever made, breaking out of the Twitter norm and writing an entire blog post in 280 character chunks is an art form that we should all appreciate. Sometimes, you just have SO MUCH to say, that you need more than 18 tweets to say it!
Actually, let me put in a plug here, because if that happens, we’ll probably publish it for you at MisfitsPolitics.com, so you can send it to one of us and we will post it all in one piece for you:-).
I’m super guilty of subtweeting, so I can’t really take anyone to task for that. Heck, I drop the equivalent of subtweets into this column regularly...like, you know, earlier in this answer! And I do think subtweets serve a purpose: they let the writer blow off a little steam without creating a needless direct confrontation. They can also be super effective because the person you are subtweeting must first admit that they a) care and b) think they are important enough to be subtweeted before they can respond. It’s quite the effective form of discourse!
True story: a member of The Bitchley Club that I won’t name once blocked me over a subtweet that wasn’t even about him. In fact, I never followed him, he never followed me and we had never interacted before that, but one of their groupies does follow me, thought it was about him and forwarded it. That led to a handful of Tweets about why subtweets aren’t really so bad, and then blocking me. So, there you have another advantage of subtweets...you can sometimes get really annoying people into a tizzy totally by accident!
That’s a downside, too, though...and on more than one occasion, I have scuttled a subtweet about one person because I realized that a whole separate person would take it entirely differently. Obviously, without saying who a tweet is aimed at, anyone can assume that it’s them. I have also had more than one instance of someone asking me privately “Was this about me?” and while it has thankfully never actually been about them, it kinda argues against subtweeting...so many I need to rethink this.
As for the idiocy, it’s never ending. It’s the human condition. We have a LONG way to evolve, and right now the median person just isn’t very smart. Which, more than anything, speaks to the genius of the really smart people, because they’ve managed to not only keep 7 billion of us alive, but to dramatically improve the global standard of living despite the best efforts of the idiot masses to eat Tide Pods and elect reality stars as leaders.
Here’s to the elites!
Submitted by: The Gormogons (Puter)
When is Mo going to replace the car antenna she snapped off my 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger and then beat me with?
Get back in your corner, Puter, or I’ll show you what it means to REALLY be beaten with car parts. You don’t want me to prove to you that Mo is the nice one, do you? Don’t be fooled by my size, I will pistol whip a bitch if I need to (which, contrary to television, is not to be done with the butt of the gun but with the muzzle…), and I absolutely know people who will stab another human for less than $30…
Honestly, just accept that you’re not going to get your antenna back. Take solace in the healing of your bruises and, if you’re lucky, your ego. Buy a new antenna (which you can find here for $16.82) and move on, forgetting that the unfortunate beating situation ever happened. I mean, if we are being really honest, you should probably take some pride in getting beaten by Mo...she doesn’t spend that much time on just anyone. I mean, certain American business interests pay her handsomely to beat the (figurative) crap out of people, and here she is doing it to you for free!
Combine that with the energy she put into that elaborate scheme to strand you on a shrinking ice floe in Lake Michigan, and I think we have some evidence that she really likes you! This is how she flirts. Some kids on playgrounds pull hair and call each other names...Mo beats you with scrap metal and tries to drown you in the frigid waters off of Kenosha...
In other words, stop asking about your antenna and ask her out on a date already. If you don't know where to go, try Applebee's...I know a guy (subtweet!)
Alex’s random old song of the week
One of my daughters is obsessed with Super Bowl Halftime Shows. I think it goes back to Katy Perry four years ago, but she has become something of an aficionado...and therefore made me record this year's, which she has since watched several dozen times. If you are counting, she considers it a big step down from Lady Gaga's (which she is right about).
But it led to her asking about the guy in purple on the giant screen, which got me to explaining Prince (who, it should be noted, turned in a really good Halftime Show of his own, even if the Bears lost). I am by no means a Prince Superfan, but he's pretty awesome. And there are a whole bunch of songs I could pick (I think the real fans would take Purple Rain or When Doves Cry), but I am going to pick one that wraps up all of his brilliance and overt sexuality in one three minute masterpiece: Little Red Corvette.
I guess I should of closed my eyes
When you drove me to the place
Where your horses run free
'Cause I felt a little ill
When I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me
That's fucking poetry, man...
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.