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.
I’m still about a week behind on questions, but I think I caught up a little bit this week. We are going to start with some phone selection talk, then move on to the dietary habits of goats. We will tackle some holiday talk after that, talking first about the chronically underappreciated Thanksgiving, then ranking the three days weekends from worst to best. Rascal still doesn't understand that he is morally unworthy of his Hollywood betters, and we tackled a semi-serious question about online relationships.
No #AskAlex next week on account of the holiday, so enjoy your turkey without me! I will catch you again in December!
Submitted by: SpookySnarkySkeleton
Google Pixel 2 or Motorola Moto Z2 Force Droid? Not looking at Samsung, don't like their launcher setup. Not an iPhone guy either.
First of all, join the human race and get an iPhone. Because it is nice when stuff works like it is supposed to.
That failing, your basic choice is going to be screen quality vs. camera quality, and the differences are minor. Most obvious hardware differentiator is that the Moto has a better display, which is a pretty big deal. The phone is slightly bigger (half an inch longer and a quarter inch wider) to fit a screen that is a half inch larger. But that screen is more densely pixilated, so the screen has nearly 80% more pixels than the Google does. And since the phone is slightly thinner, you get that screen without any additional weight. It also has a faster processor.
The Pixel has its advantages, too, though. It comes with a newer version of Android (8.00 vs. 7.11) although I feel like that is pretty easy to fix. The tangible advantages on the Pixel are in the cameras. Both feature 12 megapixel rear cameras (the Google is technically 12.2) but the Moto’s front camera is a sad sounding 5 megapixels while the Pixel offers a more usable 8 megapixel front camera. A girl’s gotta take her selfies, after all. The Pixel also offers higher speed video recording (240 frames per second vs. 120)...so your revenge porn will look fantastic!
They come in different colors if that matters...black, white and blue for the Pixel and black, grey and gold for the Moto. The Moto has headphones if you need them, and it costs a little bit more ($700 vs. $650).
I’m guessing that most people would opt for the Moto’s better display over the Pixel’s better front camera, but that is really a personal preference. Bottom line: if you have decided to make your life difficult by owning a device that promises years and years of software incompatibility, then you can choose either of the reasonable options! The rest of us will just be over here iMessaging snide insults about you.
Submitted by: Voice of Privilege
Do goats like mustard?
Of course they like mustard. Who doesn’t like mustard?
On their hot dogs, like a right-thinking person.
You have, either intentionally or unintentionally, stumbled on one of the coolest things about goats, though. Goats make a great non-chemical disposal method for plant pests. And to that end, you can rent goats to rid your property of weeds and other invasive plants.
That includes Garlic Mustard, a plant that is native to parts of Asia and Europe but a dangerous invasive species in North America. Goats don’t always eat Garlic Mustard, but this guy in Minnesota has had some success in clearing large swaths of Garlic Mustard from vulnerable forests. His goats will also eat Buckthorn and Dame’s Rocket, neither of which is a thing I could identify.
But you can be honest that the existence of a plant called Dame’s Rocket is the best thing you have learned all week.
You know what else goats eat? Poison ivy! First I heard about this was last summer when our HR manager told me that she rented two goats for a day to eat all the poison ivy out of her yard (not a euphemism). It was relatively cheap, a guy showed up early in the morning with the two goats in a truck, put up a temporary fence around her yard and then let the goats eat until the poison ivy was gone. Voila! Problem solved!!!
Another story...my husband has a friend who bought a house in a distant suburb a bunch of years ago. Part of the attraction of buying the house was that they wanted a big piece of property and a big yard...so the house they bought was on about 2 acres. That probably seemed like a fine idea until he realized that he either had to mow it or pay someone to mow it, neither of which he really wanted to do. His solution, then, was to try and figure out exactly how big the grassed area would need to be such that he could have one goat and never have to either mow the grass or feed the goat...so, how big should the lawn be that the goat’s natural, healthy diet matched the exact speed that the lawn grew new grass?
Since his wife is a high school math teacher, this seems like a workable problem, but In the end, they moved back to civilization and got a smaller yard…
(Side note: no one is punished more by union-negotiated fixed salaries than high school level science and math teachers. Discuss.)
Submitted by: Foxy
Hi Alex, I was wondering why is Thanksgiving so underrated?
My feelings on Thanksgiving are pretty well documented. I think it is the best Holiday, and the most quintessentially American: it is an entire day devoted to eating and watching football and we do it in celebration of taking advantage of the largesse of native peoples that we will eventually relegate to small, sad enclaves in terrible places. It’s like someone put all of Howard Zinn’s stupid complaints into a single holiday narrative!
Honestly, I don’t know why it is so underappreciated. I guess that some of it has to do with a rush to get to Christmas, but that is a pretty lame excuse. It is a four and a half day weekend...how can that alone not make it the best holiday?!?! Sure, in two out of every seven years July 4th falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, creating an all-trumping midsummer four day weekend, but that gets countered by having a totally shitty Wednesday holiday once in those same seven years (like in 2018). A Wednesday holiday?!?! What is the point, even? Maybe late November isn’t the best time of year, but we get the full super long weekend every single year.
I wonder if some of the underratedness is because nobody sells us anything on Thanksgiving. Christmas is entirely about consumption and every retailer in America devotes substantial marketing dollars to the Christmas season. Halloween is about selling decorations and candy and costumes. Even stupid Valentine’s Day is about cards, flowers and candy. That kind of omnipresent marketing focus reinforces the feeling of being in a Holiday Season, which makes the holiday seem important. If you subliminally see Halloween-themed advertisements all month long, you are bound to feel like the holiday is a big deal.
You know who I blame most, though? John Maynard Keynes. Not only has his ridiculous, empirically dubious “policy-makers uber alles” witchcraft poisoned the minds of three generations of central bankers into thinking they should constantly stimulate the current environment, whatever is is. And led those policymakers to believe that they weren’t undermining fundamental economic progress with their short-sighted and ultimately fruitless forays into demand management. And caused a spiraling, unmanageable debt situation that they handle most effectively by simply ignoring.
But he also built in a fetishization among policy makers for consumption as the highest and best economic activity. It’s not marketers who have turned Christmas into one giant debt-fueled shopping binge (and resulting retail rage), it’s idiot baby boomer economists who have told you that the economy only works if you consume everything you can as soon as possible. Why does America have such an embarrassingly low savings rate? I dunno...maybe it is because the “smart people” have treated investment like consumption's crippled, bastard brother. “Never save a penny for tomorrow that you can spend on useless shit today!”
Fucking Keynes, man. Inspired economists to justify huge levels of debt. Provided the intellectual foundation for “government spending for the sake of spending” under the guise of “stimulating the economy”. Allowed for the massive expansion of (and reliance upon) public spending to no real end other than increased government dependence. Forwarded the malevolent progressive goal of central economic management by enlightened Ivy League elites. Discouraged personal savings and responsibility so that no one would be empowered to distrust government as they aged.
And, finally, he so worshiped consumption that we have culturally expanded the scope of Christmas and ruined the most American of holidays.
Submitted by: Salvador Mundi
What’s the best three day weekend of the year?
Great question, and a totally relevant followup to the last question! This calls for a list!
Three day weekends, ranked:
10) Martin Luther King Day - I gotta be honest, between Black History Month being the shortest month and MLK Day being at the absolute worst time of the year, I am starting to think that America may just be actively trolling black people. We just had the twin holidays of Christmas and New Years, and now at the darkest, coldest time of the year when we are all trying to get into the swing of the new year, we are giving ourselves another three day weekend? To do what, exactly...look out the window and be cold? I’ll grant you that Blackish made a hilarious MLK skiing episode, but really there isn’t a whole lot that going on in mid-January to get excited about. Proposal...make Martin Luther King Day the third Monday in April, in commemoration of his seminal Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and safely away from the shadow of any other holidays (unless you get Good Friday off, I suppose).
9) Presidents Day - A holiday most known for car sales. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, than I don’t know what does. But, just in case, how about this? There is absolutely no consensus on what the name of the holiday even is! Look around, you will find Presidents, Presidents’ and President’s Day, all used relatively interchangeably. Are we celebrating all of the Presidents? Does the Day belong to just the current President? Does it belong to all of them…? Make up your mind, National Association of Auto Dealers!!!
8) Veterans Day - I feel like our Veterans deserve more than this. It is too early in the season for skiing or skating or any kind of Christmas festivities, but too late for anything that requires nice weather. A month ago, on Columbus Day, the trees were at their hued peak, the pumpkins were ripe and everyone wanted to be outside celebrating the harvest...now, everything is dead, your Halloween candy is gone and you have to worry about paying for Christmas presents. You may catch some good college football games on Saturday, but other than that, what are you going to do on your day off? Proposal: the Japanese surrendered on August 15th, ending World War II. We may not be able to deliver them adequate health care, but at least we can give our Vets a summer holiday, no?
7) New Years - Is there a more overrated holiday than New Years? Think about the amount of time, effort and money that goes into planning The. Perfect. Night. all of which really just ends up with getting obscenely drunk, ruining a really pretty dress and waking up next to some random whose name you are maybe 85% sure you know… There is a ton of pressure around Christmas, but there is a very different pressure around New Years: the pressure to kick off a year that will prove to be the most important in your life in style! And in that sense, the night is just a metaphor for the year to come: it begins with so much possibility, and ends with the sad reality that you just aren’t gonna write that novel, lose that 25 pounds or convince your hot neighbor Jenny that you are the one for her...
6) Patriots Day - Remember earlier, when I suggested we move Martin Luther King Day? Well, funny thing...some of us already have a holiday on the third Monday in April. Who’s laughing at our high taxes, absurd property valuations, shitty weather and crooked politicians now?!? OK, don’t answer that… Patriots Day is ostensibly to commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord, but in reality it is Marathon Monday and we have one giant 26 mile long party in celebration. This would be a better holiday if the weather were more reliably good, but mid-April in the two states that celebrate Patriots Day (Maine and Massachusetts) is really hit or miss, and it is hard to plan anything that is weather dependent. That is one bonus of moving Martin Luther King Day to this weekend; as a national holiday, it is actually pretty well placed, weather-wise.
5) Christmas - Meh...I can see where this would fit anywhere on the list from top to bottom. For me, Christmas is just a little too much...too much eating, too much drinking, too many presents, too many parties, too many decorations, too much terrible music… I’m looking at my calendar for December now, and there are already 14 nights claimed by some event or another. FOURTEEN!!! But I am still getting a real tree, and you are going to have to answer to Jesus when you get to heaven if you don’t.
4) Columbus Day - Sure, he was a delusional, gold-obsessed and diabolical murderer and enslaver of native peoples...but his holiday is not so bad. It’s about five or six weeks into the back-to-school season, so we are all settled in and ready for a quick break. There are plenty of outdoor fall activities to let you take advantage of the last of the year’s nice weather - soccer, baseball, lacrosse, football, hayrides, apple and pumpkin picking, etc. It is a pretty busy time of year, and dropping a three day weekend that doesn’t bring a ton of social expectations with it is a nice treat. Bonus around here, it is usually the prettiest time of the year, with the landscape looking resplendent in the fiery colors and golden sun of fall. I am going to knock off some points because we are celebrating a guy who was an incompetent sailor that stumbled on the most important discovery of Renaissance Europe and was too stupid to even know what he had found.
3) Labor Day - That last gasp of the fairest season, and the ceremonial sendoff to the slow-paced ease of summer. Tuesday dawns with all of the hard, cruel facts of Fall, but you have one last fair-weathered long weekend at the beach to finally capture all of the promise of summer that never quite materialized...and to finish off whatever Sam Summer you can still find. Labor Day always has a slightly depressing convicts-last-meal feel about it, but the days are long, the sun is warm and we can put off all of our troubles for just a couple more days...
2) Memorial Day - Summer’s here, bitches!!! You’ve made it through a cold winter and a handful of your kid’s soccer and baseball games in the chilly rain. Your reward is a three day weekend to kick off the best time of the year. School is about to end, work is about to slow down, you are probably planning vacations...and all of the promise of summer spreads out before you! Summer of George!!!
1) - July 4th - Obviously, this is not always a three day weekend, but more often than not it is, and it is the undisputed King. Warm weather, long days, parades, barbecues and the refreshing newness of summer make this the pinnacle of all three day weekends. I am a little confused as to why we associate fireworks with the holiday that has the latest sunset, but that is kind of a minor quibble...as far as three day weekends go, July 4th is where its at!!!
Submitted by: Gentleman Rascal
Some of my peers and betters in Hollywood and other places seem confused about contact more than a handshake. What say you?
Pshaw…”peers” in Hollywood? You...a red-state, flyover-country rube, having peers in Hollywood?!?! Why, that is very rich indeed. Hollywood is filled with our smartest, most thoughtful and insightful and morally rightest peoples. Why, you probably haven’t even moved socially into the 21st century to the point that you sexually harass men, women and children with equal aggressiveness. You don’t even believe in equality!!!
I don’t think that people in Hollywood are confused at all. In fact, until recently, the rules appeared to be very clear: in any meeting between two people, the person with the greater level of institutional power decided if they were going to have sex. He also had the right to decide how he would broach that subject...some chose to just whip out their junk and start jerking off, while others elected to first grab the genitals of the man or woman they were meeting. Still others chose the more subtle “show up in an open bathrobe” strategy...but all were perfectly acceptable.
No, it is you normals that are confused, what with your dress codes and “offices” with “meeting rooms” and your marriage vows and stuff. I mean, if you insist on doing your work in designated offices AND in dressing appropriately in those offices, how are you supposed to rub your ball sack on the back of Susie in accounting’s dress? You’ve got this weird dynamic where you have to like, have a weird conversation about seeing each other socially and then some kind of ill-defined courtship where you mutually decide on whether or not you will advance your relationship both physically and romantically at every step. I mean, how stupid is that?! What if the girl doesn’t want to have sex with you? How would you even navigate that?!
Everyone knows that you can’t make important decisions by committee, and that includes decisions on when, where and who to have sex with. Allowing both parties to participate in that decision is a recipe for disaster...like, what if your consent app is malfunctioning?!? Or, like, one person wants to have regular sex, but the other one wants to watch Scooby Doo while he jerks off onto a blueberry muffin and then watches her eat it wearing an Olive Oyl costume? No, all important decisions should be made by the smartest person involved, and that is automatically going to be the person who is most famous. Until you hicks figure that out, you will be stuck in your social backwaters while Hollywood continues to march forward. #RightSideOfHistory
Submitted by: Anonymous
Do internet friendships matter?
The Internet is a wonderful thing. It informs and empowers and liberates and connects people in remarkable ways. It limits much of the traditional power of information used by oppressors and entrenched interests to solidify their structural advantages and allows for any voice, so long as its message is compelling, to reach every corner of the planet in an instant. It facilitates social media that allows the networking of people in a way never dreamed of only 25 years ago. With Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, one can connect with people all over the world with the click of a button.
Digital interactions are free and easy and flexible and really wonderful. They are also limited, and they can never replace in-person interactions. Anybody can be anyone they want behind a keyboard, and the ability to represent yourself as someone you are not is unlike anything in the offline world (says the self-proclaimed girl with the pseudonym and the cartoon avatar!) And virtually everybody acts differently in a digital environment than they do in person.
Digital friendships are almost too easy and because of that, they are too quickly disposable. Your offline friendships are built on considerable time spent together, including your reactions to shared experiences and conversations complete with long sentences, mannerisms, tone and all sorts of other lost-in-text embellishments. There is no tone in an email or a tweet. Your online friends may be quiet or loud or awkwardly shy and you’d never know. Everyone is smarter when they have time to think about what they are going to say...
Online relationships happen fast and develop based on very little. There are a large number of people that I would call Twitter “friends” who have never even seen a picture of me. A fair number of your know my first name, but none of your know my full name or exactly where I live. Most of you are more forthcoming than I am, but I would wager that very, very few people are fully transparent online in the same way they are offline. You can meet people online and you can even know them. But you can’t really, really know them in the same way you do when you can actually talk to them.
Even with those limitations, it is possible to make friends online. My adoration for my co-Misfits is well known. I would count a whole host of other people as friends, too…Tiffany, Anna, Sarah, Brownskin, Freya, Kari, Kelly, Kim, Scottus all come to mind, and there are many others. But I’d also have to recognize the people that I had really, lengthy interactions with who just disappeared from Twitter. Piper, AlleyCat, Mugsy, Paddy. And those that I dropped intentionally, or who dropped me intentionally...or the very long list of people that I just sort of lost touch with. The point, really, is that online relationships ebb and flow at a rate much faster than offline relationships.
So, yes, online relationships matter. But they aren’t a substitute for “real” relationships, and it would be a mistake to conflate the two (which, based on further discussions with you, is something you’ve already figured out). It is fun and refreshing to make new friends online and flattering when they show genuine interest in you. You just have to remember that flattery is free, and it is much easier to dish out online than in person. Online friendships are too easy to throw out to think of in the same way you think of people with whom you have a longer, deeper past. And you never know people as well as you think you know them.
The problem with reveling in the online flattery is that is can so easily be taken away. You are a better person than that...you’re smart and funny and there is no need to take personal validation in the approvals of anonymous online personas. Appreciate Twitter for what it is: a lightning fast means of having a huge number of shallow interactions with a massive variety of people. You just have to fight the urge to really trust in someone who won’t even tell you their real name (this, btw, goes to the several dozen of you that have sent me nudes...I can assure you that they are safe with me, but seriously, what are you thinking?!?!? I could be operating a revenge porn website for all you know!!!)
But, I will leave you on a less depressing note! There are a growing number of happily married people who met online, and not just through Match or eHarmony. And I have at least two good Twitter friends…@Vixenrogue and @smittie61984...who met their significant others via Twitter, and know of several others. I even know a couple of people who met...ahem...extramarital friends via Twitter;-)
But, you know, like, also in person afterwards...cuz that seems to matter more.
Alex’s random old song of the week
None of your answered my trivia question from last week, which just tells me that no one actually reads this far into the column! So, I guess that this is where I will post nudes from now on...seems safest. To refresh, the question was about Tiny Dancer and its (close to) repeat of its own lyrics in both halves of the song. Anyway, the other song (and there could be many others, but these were the two that came to mind, is the single best song made in the 2000’s, and you should either agree with me or just admit that you are a terrible, terrible person and move on. Mr. Brightside (or this one). Or, you could meet me at TD Garden on January 7th, because the Killers are coming, and Alex has...oh, Alex has some feelings about the Killers…
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.