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 a little nervous this week...last week was the most-read AskAlex yet, and I am not entirely sure why. The previous mos-read included gratuitous pictures of Alison Brie, which makes a lot of sense, but last week's didn't seem that special. Anyway, now I feel like I need to do something special to follow-up, but I am not sure I have it in me. This was kind of rushed (Alex wasted most of Thursday looking at counter tops with little success) so I can't promise that it measures up to my usual level of totally adequate work. Anywho...
First things first...super hearty congrats to @Molratty for going over 10,000 Twitter followers this afternoon! That’s 10,000 people who are just a little bit smarter every day for listening to her;-). OK...about 9,995 people that are smarter and a couple of rank morons who insist on trolling her under the delusion that they are her intellectual peers. Or, I dunno, blocking her (and me), firing off huge tweet-storms about how unimportant Twitter is before they quit, only to come back two weeks later (and block me because I mocked someone else who did the same thing), then do the same exact thing again, but this time come back under a different handle, but I digress...
She’s still my hero, although the Twitter followers have absolutely nothing to do with that.
Also, special highlight of the week was the super condescending career-advice guy who told Mo to sign up for LinkedIn because it would be a great way to get established in her field. Mo and I have talked in the past about the “little lady” treatment that sometimes comes from, especially, older men in previously male-dominated industries, but the newly minted real estate salesmen giving professional advice to the [firm redacted] Partner is particularly rich.
Also, I'd link to your website, but it's broken, dumbass...
In other news, last week’s epic fantasy showdown didn’t go too well for Mariota Kart. Led by Adrian Peterson, we put up a respectable 101 points (fourth in the league last week) but it wasn’t enough to hang with the 135 scored by @marcannem96’s Washed Up Grave Diggers. A lesser competitor would question how it is possible for a defense to score FIFTY TWO points, but I am not here to throw any shade at the Worst. Commissioner. Ever. for setting up such terrible rules. That would be un-ladylike.
Marc is 6-0 and now in first place all by himself, and @jholmsted and I are tied for second at 5-1. Bad news for @st55104716...Mariota Kart is angry and planning on hanging a huge number up this week. The 50 points we scored last night are just a taste of the pain!!!
Moving on...Daryl has some questions about Nantucket, Lady Catherine has a whole bunch of questions about, well, everything that I will get to over a couple of weeks, and one reader using (I think) a pseudonym needs some dating advice. Don’t worry, though, Alex has all the answers!
Submitted by: Daryl
Would you want to vacation in the spot where Abiah Folger was from?
Abiah Folger is, in fact, not a coffee bean farmer, and did not invent crystallized instant coffee. So, you’ve learned that today. She was, however, Ben Franklin’s mother, and a daughter of Nantucket, MA. Other than Meaghan Trainor, she is maybe the most historically consequential person to have ever been born on Nantucket.
Nantucket is a lovely place, and there are myriad reasons why it is such a revered vacation destination. It is beautiful and quiet and peaceful and just a really spectacular place when it is at its best. But be warned, it definitely has its quirks. First of all, it is a pain to get to. You can fly (from Boston it’s barely even a flight) but that is expensive and annoying. Or you can take the ferry from Hyannis which requires getting to Hyannis first and then being on the boat for an hour (two and a half if you don’t take the high speed one). If you want to bring a car with you, you have to reserve a spot for your car on the ferry, too. Good luck with that in the summer….
Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket’s “sister” island, is logistically a lot easier to get to. It’s much closer, so it is a much shorter ferry ride from Woods Hole (Falmouth), and there is so much more on the island that it is easier to navigate without having a car when you get there. There are a couple of towns on the Vineyard that are pretty busy in the summer, as opposed to just one smallish town on Nantucket. Quite frankly, there is just a lot more to do on the Vineyard, and its not quite as pretentious (which is sort of like comparing Lebron James and Shaquille O’Neal by noting that Lebron is not quite as tall...he is still pretty fucking tall).
Also? The weather often sucks. They don’t call it “The Little Grey Lady of the Sea” for nothing...it is a very foggy place. It is pretty common in the summer to barely see the sun before noon, although those afternoons are pretty fucking spectacular;-). Along those lines, Nantucket-based Cisco Brewery makes a Grey Lady Ale that is a pretty nice summer beer, lots of orange and lemon flavors to it...
Folger was the daughter of one on Nantucket’s founders, so she was one of the very first native Nantucketers of English descent (we’ll just ignore the Wampanoag, cuz this is America, damnit!). Can we stop to think about how absolutely fucking insane those people were? Imagine it’s 1641, and you live in a place that has been settled by Englishmen for about 20 years. So, you’ve got some homes and other buildings built, some crops planted, wells dug, some little villages and you are pretty sure that you are not all going to starve to death every winter. Sure, it still takes a couple of days to travel the eight miles from Boston to Watertown and you’re hand-making most everything you use, but it seems like you have gotten past the acute dangers to the entire settlement. I mean, those crazy Virginians are still dying en masse from yellow fever every three years, at least you’re not them!
Still, life is pretty hard, and you are probably pretty thankful for the little bit of municipal infrastructure to rely on. What on earth would possess you to leave that 20 years of work behind, pick up everything you have and move to start over on a somewhat barren island 20 miles off shore?! An island that requires a pretty lengthy boat ride, long enough that it would be tough to make at all in winter. And an island that doesn’t have a ton of trees or arable land or any of the other things that you need to build a settlement. I can’t imagine that the beautiful beaches that you can lounge on for 10 weeks a year were really enough to overcome the rest of the proposition.
This could be why Abiah Folger up and moved to Boston as soon as she could;-)
Submitted by: Lady Catherine (three questions this week, and at least three more next week!)
Which is the most venerable of all the cheeses?
I’m going to take this somewhat literally, since trying to tell you which is the “best” cheese would be like talking about which billionaires are richest. Who, in the end, really gives a shit? You’re all billionaires! And, likewise, even when talking about bad cheeses, you’re still eating cheese, and unless you are either lactose intolerant or a legit cheese-hating thought criminal like @cdpayne79, that is a really good thing.
First, some cheese worth noting. The single most renowned cheesy food on the planet is pizza, and you can’t make pizza without mozzarella. Even if it’s texture is better than its taste, it’s clearly one of earth’s great cheeses and worth of discussion. Burrata is like mozzarella with a turbocharger. I don’t love Feta (at least not the non-legit un-Greek stuff that gets passed off as Feta) but it’s a great salad cheese. There are a large number of spicy cheeses that do amazing things in Mexican food.
Brie de Meaux is great both because it is named (I assume) after the most cheese obsessed Misfit, and because it is so good that it is illegal in the United States. That makes it the cheese that CDP is most likely to actually eat, if only to defy the cheese police. Let’s also take this moment to note that the “Well, France is a muslim-infested wasteland that is unsafe for any travelers” crowd has neither been to France recently, nor has any respect for truly great cheese. Cheese that good is worth risking a war zone!!!
Let’s give some love to tangy, fatty sheep cheeses, like Pecorino or Manchego, or the variety of cheeses that can be made with goat’s milk. Or the great dessert sweet cheeses: cream cheese and ricotta. And underrated cheese like Gruyere (a really outstanding burger cheese). Gouda is a little played out, but it’s always tasty. Swiss has kind of weird plasticy flavor, but on a pastrami sandwich? Lights out. Most Italian food is just plain better with a salty, grated Parmesan.
Your question, though, was about the most venerable cheese. The most respected cheese. The king of cheeses. The cheese you can rely on. And that has to be cheddar. That doesn’t mean it is the best, necessarily, it just makes it the most important. It is great on its own as a snack, or on crackers. It melts pretty well, making it a great burger cheese. In a pinch, it can go into a burrito or on French Onion soup. There are people who put it on pie?!?! Those people are defective, but still…
So, I don’t want to offend any cheeses by calling them “less venerable”, but the king of cheeses is cheddar and that is not debatable.
Why do public restrooms still use 1-ply toilet paper? What are we, peasants?
I don’t know if you actually need an incentive to avoid public restrooms, but this is a pretty good one. And I think the reason they stock barely-processed tree bark as toilet paper is pretty obvious...the proprietors of the public restroom really don’t want you to use their restroom. They’re legally required to have one, but all it does is cause them consternation...they have to clean it, stock it with toilet paper and then field all the complaints from customers that think it’s too messy.
But look...everyone has been there. Whether you ate something bad that’s trying to get out of you however it can, or you have novo virus, or just saw the video of Gordon Hayward's ankle, or you just really need to pee, every single person in the world, at one point or another, has desperately needed a public restroom. And, for this, I offer you some guidance:
Your first instinct should always be to find a hotel. Always. They have really nice bathrooms that are clean and have good toilet paper and they are used to people coming and going without raising any suspicion. Look for a hotel, walk in as if you are meeting someone or staying there or looking for wedding sights or whatever...just walk into the lobby, maybe nod to the guy at reception and follow the signs to the restroom.
Second, for similar reasons, restaurants. Obviously, if it is an odd time, the restaurant may look at you funny, but as long as it is normal dining hours, they too are used to people coming and going and the bathrooms are usually nice. Keep in mind, whether it is a hotel or a restaurant, a nicer place doesn’t just mean a nicer bathroom, it also means that the staff is more programmed to be nice to everyone who comes through. The guy at McDonalds may look at you suspiciously if you walk in without ordering any McNuggets, but the guy at the Four Seasons will probably only stop you to offer bottled water or a warm towel.
Next in the public restroom pecking order are public buildings. The DMV, a library, Town Hall, train station, any place like that. Again, no one will bother you. There are always people in and out, and it is, by definition, a place you are allowed to be. It may not be the nicest of bathrooms, but you’ll get no problems from anyone on the way in or out.
Special shoutout to Starbucks, which has legendarily nice bathrooms. You may not be anywhere near one, and it may be a little awkward to walk in, not order anything and head straight for the bathroom, but it will at least be a really nice bathroom.
If none of those things work, then just go into the nearest store or gas station or office building you can find and ask them as pathetically as possible. They probably understand, and while it will be super embarrassing to ask, desperate times call for desperate measures...
Where do you place your first soldier in traditional Risk
Argentina. I'm the Eva Peron of Risk.
I’ve always been kind of a sucker for a South American strategy, but really it depends on how many people are playing. I feel like Australia is the first choice for so many people, but I like South America even if you have one extra exposed territory to defend once you have secured the whole continent. First of all, it is a little easier to pull off...everyone is looking at Australia, so it is hard to grab up too much of that right off the bat. It’s feasible if you are playing against a big field and you know that you will go first: you may be able to secure the whole continent before anyone gets a chance to attack you.
But even with that, I still like South America better if you go early on in a big game. You can probably get at least two territories to start (three if you are lucky), which means you will only need to conquer two more in your first turn. It would be suicide for another player to defend those places too strongly, which should give you a pretty easy go of it. Take the continent in your first turn if you can, and fortify Venezuela and Brazil. In your next two turns, take Central America with one, moving your fortified force there, and then North Africa, doing the same. Now you have an extra two armies every turn, three cards and a strongly defended position.
Your next level objective, then, is to take North America. This involves taking one half of the US, and splitting that force in two, then using the Central American force to take the other half in your next turn. This gets you to a tricky spot, though, since you need to split your force again unless you can get all the way to Alaska and Greenland in one turn. The timing, therefore, is really key. You need to keep moving forward to collect more cards with every turn, but you want to end every turn with the strongest defensive position possible. Ideally, you get through North America and then move your two forces into Kamchatka and Iceland...at that point your forces are concentrated in three places, you are collecting 8 armies on every turn for your two continents, and no one else can hold more than Australia. You’re in a really good spot.
That said, despite what Seinfeld told you, Ukraine is pretty useful and Europe is underrated. It is a bitch to hold, but setting up shop there early in the game often means that the other players will ignore you for much of the game. Nobody wants to waste armies on a European campaign, especially if you disperse your armies widely so that no single place looks inviting to attack.
Submitted by: Karen Cobello
Alex I have a question that needs your input. I've worked at a grocery chain for about five years. One of my coworkers asked me out maybe two years ago. He makes me laugh and we flirt a little, He's very cute and there is definitely chemistry. I told him I would never date someone I work with and he never said another word. I have my notice last week, though, and he asked again which I'm pretty happy about. That leaves one problem: I'm 37 and he's 27. I think I'm "younger than my age", but it still scares me a little. How do you feel about age differences? What's too much?
ps: if you're not bothered by this, I'm going to need you to elaborate on that sexting talk from last week. Kids these days and all
pps: I'm a single woman sending you this on a Saturday night while home by myself, just in case that matters
First of all, someone circulate this to Harvey Weinstein as a memo on how to appropriately flirt at work. Find someone you like and with whom you have established a rapport. Ask her politely if she would like to see you outside of work. When she says no, accept her answer without prejudice and continue to value her as a friend and colleague. I mean, trying to date people you work with is a pretty terrible idea, but if you insist on doing it, then at least try and act like this guy.
Which is also a big part of the answer. Obviously he just really likes you...he respectfully asked, and took your refusal equally respectfully. He didn’t pout or act entitled or get mad at you for not wanting to date...and this, ladies and gentlemen, is a very important thing to remember. Just because someone does not want to date you, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean you have to be a dick to them. Whatever made you like the person enough to want to date them is still there...you should still like them.
Further, after two years, he is still interested, which says that he is not super flighty and really, really does think you’re pretty special. And if, as you say, you consider yourself a “young” 37, he may be a somewhat “old” 27...which makes the age difference kind of irrelevant.
That is really how I feel about age differences: people have a “practical” age related to how they think and act, and it is pretty hard to be with someone who is a thoroughly different age than you. 10 years, at that age, is big but not even close to being insurmountable. You will definitely find that your friends have trouble getting along, and that you get some raised eyebrows from family, but honestly I wouldn’t spend too long thinking about it...I’d go ahead and enthusiastically accept his invitation and see where it goes. Worst case? In a couple months you decide he is too young and move on.
Story time! I have a couple of friends that this reminds me of. One, who I will call Brook, is about my age and she is married to a guy who is about 50. They started dating when she was 25 and he was 40 and I will admit that I thought it was kind of weird...she just, sort of overnight, because middle-aged. And honestly, ten years and two kids later, I still find their relationship a little bit strange, but it is pretty clear that it’s going to last. At some point you have to acknowledge that the two parties have found what they were looking for!
I have another friend, Kim, who is the opposite end of the Spring-Fall romance. She went through a really bad breakup of a five year relationship maybe three years ago (she was 32 or 33 at the time) after which she met a guy who was, at the time 23. He approached her in a bar and she didn’t take him remotely seriously, largely because he was 23 and didn’t really seem like the brightest bulb. But, he was super sweet and hotter than the sun so she gave him her number and told him to call her (figuring that, for many 23 year olds, the realization that a girl isn’t going to sleep with you that night is reason to forget her). But he did call her and he remained really interested despite her reticence to begin any sort of relationship with someone that much younger than her.
That one did not lead to Happily Ever After, and much of the reason was the age difference. He was super sweet and was absolutely mad about her, but she is a super-serious achiever and he is, well, not, so the age difference was really amplified. And, OMG, she and I hung out with his friends a couple times and it was hilarious...like going into a time warp back to your senior year of college. She ended it, mostly because he had never been anything other than wholly honest and upfront with her, and she had realized that there was no “long-term” to be had and thought he deserved the truth of that.
But I checked in with her before I wrote this to confirm what I had suspected...that she absolutely thinks it was a great decision to date him. He was just a super nice guy, and he helped restore her willingness to look for someone to be with in a more permanent capacity. She’s legitimately thrilled for him that he now has an adorable girlfriend that might be a better fit than she would be. She also had some more explicit fond memories of her time with him that I will spare you;-).
This sort of reminds me that I may have someone I want to set her up with, so i am going to cut this off and cover sexting next week!
You just call him right now, tell him you want to go out immediately and let us know how it goes!
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.