ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Mar 20, 2018

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Happy Tuesday, all! How's it hanging? 

Since there is no requirement on season length on Netflix, will TV evolve into a serial where a Dickens will write monthly episodes forever? You could follow a favorite character without any resolution for a long time.

Wait, I've got another idea: how about weekly episodes?

No, but you're right, it does seem like Netflix should want to evolve this way so you check once a month to see what Mr. Bumble is doing instead of having to be reminded every three years that Mr. Bumble exists, but given the demands of production and promotion I can see how the current model happens.  

Bob and the Backyard Belch.

Wait, an actual REM dream? Or a long-cherished wish? 

Did you use Ecce Romani as a Latin textbook in high school? Your "What you missed during the walkout" piece said the family in the language textbook have been stuck on the side of the road for eight weeks and the memories came flooding back. We went from action - Aurelia was climbing trees, Davus was iratus about something to do with a piscinam - to a stupid cart in a stupid ditch forever. Or is this just a staple of foreign language textbooks?

The same thing happened to the farmer Dicaeopolis in the Greek textbook! Although not, I think, for as long as that cart, if the anguished reports from the Latin class are correct. 

How do I get one?

You have to wait for the metier reader to come to your house and if you are in when he arrives he will explain the situation to you. 

I've just been catching up on the last few chats. Two weeks ago, someone was talking about a kitchen appliance called a "Hot Shot", described as a "little coffee-pot thing used for heating water...and ONLY water". That poster thought it stupid because water can be heated on the stove or in the microwave, until they got one and now they love it. Anyway, my question: isn't that appliance just what the rest of the world would call an electric kettle? Does America not have those? Most households here in Australia have one.

Speaking only for myself, the last time I had an electric kettle was in college, and wait, no, I did not have an electric kettle, what I had was a roommate with an electric kettle that I kept borrowing. The official brass kept insisting they were fire hazards, but you had literally no other way of heating water in a room with no stove or microwave, unless you wanted to build a fire and hope. I don't have one as an adult because I have a stove, but it was a good and trusty little guy and served for many an Easy Mac. 

Assume it has to be 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans.

Do they have to be vintage, or can I demand that Donald Trump go sit there now and remain there? 

It looks like good ole Vern Equinox had his identity stolen at Equifax by Old Man Winter.

Equinox and Equifax are both excellent names for horses! Alternatively, if you told me Mitt Romney's name at birth was Vern Equinox I would not ask any follow-up questions. 

Together, or separately.


What's French for "mansplain"?


hm I was hoping that when that word assembled it would be funnier



It heated water quickly but not really to a boil, and the metal it was made of made the water and whatever you put into the water taste nasty.

Hmm, that doesn't sound ideal. There's nothing worse than when all your food tastes a little off and you can't tell why. 

It was more like a Keurig. A sort of rectangular device where you poured a cup of water into the top, which was lined with aluminum, closed the lid, and hit a button, and it dispensed the hot water into the cup you had placed in the holder below. you could only heat one cup at a time.

That sounds sort of nifty! Man, single-serving things do have an appeal. 

I'm going to Ireland (leaving Sunday). The last time I was outside the country, I was sadly admitting that Mr. Trump could get the Republican nomination, but the hard ceiling on his support was too low to win the presidency. How do I deal with this now? I mean, there are several March for Our Lives rallies in Ireland and they don't have our gun laws. Other than just assuring that I'm not one of the people who elected there something that people who aren't Americans would find soothing. I'm really glad I'm not going to South Korea.

Ah, foreign travel, or as I like to now call it, the Apology Tour. This gets back to how Trump has been right about everything but at the wrong time; there is indeed a time when you have to journey to distant lands and apologize for America, but it was not quite when he said it was. Does anyone have good tips? 

Unrelatedly to American apologies, you may be one of those travelers who has already planned out all good things in advance, but if you have an evening to kill, I know Dublin has a literary pub crawl where two actors in bowler hats perform snippets of Irish literature (Beckett, Wilde, Behan, etc) while escorting you from one drinking establishment to the next! I've been and it was truly delightful! 

Didn't that idea die with the Jimmy Carter administration?

Wait, are there no longer meter readers? I just assumed they were still out there somewhere and just hadn't gotten to mine yet. 

When I went to college several decades ago, we had an electric kettle in my dorm room. I got second burns when I spilled water on my arm. Speaking of ancient kitchen appliances, does anyone remember making coffee in a "percolator" on the stove? That coffee was pretty nasty.

Is this what is referred to in the song when they say "it's time for the percolator"? 

you'll see today's incarnation of it. It looks like a one-cup coffee maker now so I assume the part you pour the coffee into is now plastic, like most filter cups.

What do you do when you're written something that is good and someone above you who maybe doesn't understand the issue as well as you do wants to change what you've written in a way that would make it not as good and you want to tell that person all the reasons why the change would make it not as good but you don't want to be viewed as rude or impertinent?

I would advise that you write a long email that takes far more time than it should explaining with suffused rage all the reasons you are right, then show it to someone who cares about you who will probably advise you not to send it, then write the email again and send that one. You could try the approach where you act as though you are in total agreement and just need to get the wording clearer and then change it almost but not exactly back and see if they notice. In arguing I usually find it is a good strategy to start by asserting that you can tell that the two of you are in total agreement and just need to get your terms clear, because even if not correct it usually baffles your opponent enough to get you some words in edgewise. 

How do you get rid of them? yes I have them at the moment.

I cover both ears and drink a glass of water! 

You can make bad coffee in a fancy coffee-maker and you can make good coffee in a stove-top percolator. And the latter are good for camping. But my mother remembers finding out why my dad hated coffee -- the first time she saw my paternal grandfather making it on the farmhouse's coal range.

Mine is definitely a stupid answer (it can't be a stupid question, you are in the question role) but was the source of his hate the fact that the coffee attained a specific flavor profile from his father's preparing it there? (Oh no, I just used the phrase "flavor profile.") 

I'm a Portuguese-American who visits the ancestral homeland twice a year, so I've been back a number of times since Trump announced his candidacy. Since the 2016 election, when I'm asked him, I just shake my head sadly and tell the Portuguese "Votei para Hillary" -- which inevitably evokes great sympathy and compassion (even from politically more conservative family and acquaintances).

Do kids still get the reference when someone says they read something for the articles?

"Of course! That is the only reason we read anything!"

"As a Millennial, I primarily know Playboy as a Mythical Place About Which Gloria Steinem Once Wrote."

When my dad switched to drinking tea, he'd heat the water in a tea-kettle. He repurposed the old metal coffee percolator by cleaning it very thoroughly, then using it to cook fresh asparagus, which he'd tie in a bundle, then steam in the old coffee pot.

Hold your breath.

This advice is so ideal that it is Hax-worthy (no insult to you intended). It's what I gradually learned to do in my years at a federal agency. It soothes the ego of the higher-up and keeps the discussion from becoming adversarial.

Wow, Hax-worthy? I can retire now!!

My caveat is that it is definitely possible to overdo, so try to avoid the situation where midway through the argument you wind up saying something like "oh, no, actually I guess we just have fundamentally different concepts of justice." 

I advise never writing about things you know about. That way there's no conflict when someone suggests changes.

. . . My folks sent me off to college in the 1970's with one of those immersion coil heaters and a pat on the back.

Try to relax as much as possible, and breathe out as slowly as you can. Then try to breathe in as slowly as you can.

is a good way to avoid hearing someone else's hiccups.

I tell you, having to focus on a pointless task is the surest cure for almost anything! 

Vera is a lovely name. Both ancient and modern, evocative of the silent film era and an upcoming featured player on SNL; a featured rapper on a Taylor Swift track and your grandmother.

I'm sorry, I think I missed how this started! 

I think the only trouble with this name is the existence of Vera Wang, both as the name of a human being and a popular phrase associating your name, Vera, with the word Wang, something schoolyard wits will probably have a field day with. But if you can withstand that it does seem versatile and lovely. 

You know what is also a lovely name? GILBERT

How about daily -this form has already been invented -the soap opera.

OMG, I get them a lot. What's weird is that 75% of the time, it hits me right after I disembark from public transit. This morning, it started right after I got off the bus and lasted almost the entire 10-min. walk to my office. Sometimes I worry I'm going to be one of those freak cases where the hiccups never stop.

They say one technique for making your hiccups stop is to be extremely startled, so maybe a good way to stop hiccuping is to read one of those accounts of people who hiccup for years and years. Terrifying, blood-curdling stuff. 

The percolator method is widely considered the worst way to brew coffee. Water temp is critical for extracting flavor from grounds/brewing great coffee. Boiling water is repeatedly poured over the grounds in a percolator which makes a bitter brew. Because cold or room temp water is used in a drip coffee maker and is poured over the grounds just once—much better taste.

That's interesting! I guess having greater control over when the beans touch the water does make for superior coffee. Thanks for explaining! 

I just saw Mark Hamill tweet a link to a story about him voicing Luke Skywalker for a cartoon. My dream is that one day he will voice Yoda talking to Luke, who is voiced by someone else.

YES! That Someone Else should be Frank Oz! 

The Pope show on CNN is really boring. Lots of talking heads trying to sound excited: "Then the Pope did this! Then the Pope did another thing!" Whose idea was THAT?

"You've heard of YOUNG POPE? Now meet... Regular Pope!" was a great tagline though. 

It wasn't that it was a stove-top percolator, or that it was a coal range. Mom had been wondering why Granddad's coffee was so horrible, and one morning she saw him fill the perc about halfway with coffee grounds, then fill it with water, and boil it til it should have eaten away at the stove itself. A friend describes this as "Norwegian engine oil" since Norwegians boil their coffee.


I'm singing Mary J. Blige's Family Affair now, thanks to you people. No, really, thanks. It's a great song, and no others I can think of use the word 'dancerie'.

I'm an American who owns one and it is an Australian brand. Prefer it over heating only water on the stove. Much faster and more efficient.

Ha! That happened to me. I wrote a long legal memorandum on a controversial issue ("these are the regulations and we need to follow them"). I sent it to every field office and HQ attorney I could think of; everyone was like "OK, it is what it is" except for one HQ attorney, who crossed out my [on-point] case law and conclusion, and replaced it with the opposite conclusion ("what regs?"). So I called him every day for four weeks to "discuss" the issue; he refused to take my calls and ignored my voice mail, until my boss said "screw him" and issued the memo -- in MY name. Man, was HQ attorney irate! He called me every day to call me a new name he just thought of (NOW he discovers the telephone?), then called a meeting with my boss and HIS boss - the general counsel of the entire agency. I explained the memo, GC said "well I don't see what the fuss is about" and I got a final call from HQ Attorney saying "this isn't over" but it pretty much was.

Wow, HQ attorney sounds like a NIGHTMARE! 

I am sorry that your life has brought you into contact with a non-fictional human being who calls to say "THIS ISN'T OVER"." 

I'm not sure why Americans haven't taken to electric tea kettles widely. They are popular in the UK (and Australia, apparently). I (a Marylander) got one as a gift and have to say it's handy - more energy efficient than using the stove, and it shuts off automatically. It takes up counter space, I suppose, so in my earlier apartment days I would not have wanted one.

Hm, I was going to say, maybe Americans have less counter space, but that just cannot be correct. 

There are several shows that I love even though I haven't seen a single episode yet. What is wrong with me? (your answer probably should not attempt to be all encompassing)

Or to modify this to be more accurate to my own life, there are several shows that I love because to have admitted I had not seen them in that particular conversation would have been to ruin any hopes of friendship, but I truly do believe I will love them! 

You know a candidate can't be a fraud if they're telling you what you want to hear.

We called them Hotpots in my part of the country Northern Illinois and Iowa. Although they may have been something different, as it was more like an electric kettle than a Keurig.

Place a spoonful of sugar on your tongue and close your mouth, and keep it closed tight. You may then hiccup once (or even twice) but then the hiccups will stop.

Huh, I've never heard this one! Let us know if you are still hiccuping, OP! 

I had a hot pot in college. We couldn't have anything bigger with an actual heating element. As a challenge, I made spaghetti w/ meat sauce in it. Not quite from scratch, but I browned the meat in there. Batches... many batches.

I am extremely impressed! I think honestly the most difficult part of this is before the cooking starts: finding a surface in a dorm room clean enough to place the fixings on before you put anything into the hot pot. 

Hold your nose and drink a glass of water from the opposite side of the glass (you do know hiccup cures are really invented solely for the amusement of the patient's friends, right?).

Given the current kerfuffle with Facebook, Cambridge Analytics, etc., I'd like to give a hearty shout-out to the Washington Post for maintaining an independent Comment effort. I cannot believe how many newspapers, websites, and other media outlets simply use Facebook, instead of an approach that provides them with control over their reader responses. Now you kids get off my lawn!

You know, that's true! If we have to lose facebook, we will not lose the friends (and foes) we made in the Post comments! 

This surprising vote of confidence in the Post comments section seems like a good note to end on, but I want to resolve the hiccup plotline first! Let me see how OP is doing!

You will be shunned by the other campers, but you will have good coffee.

I can confirm this! They travel well, too!

My dad terrified me when I was a kid when he told me a pope died from hiccups (Pope Pius XII) after suffering from it for years. Now every time I have the hiccups, I think it's going to last forever

It is not correct. My assumption is that Americans, with their lower voltage, did not see the point of something that used to take just as long to heat as a kettle on the stove, but the new versions are as fast as the UK ones. I don't know how they managed that, but so it is.

Hi, I recently read that using filtered water makes coffee and tea taste better. Maybe a side by side blind taste test--one cup made with tap water, the other made with filtered water--would provide the answer.

What will your accessories be?

I won't have any accessories, I will just demand that my feet are the right size. If they accede to that demand, I guess a crossword puzzle and some coffee. 

You know that if you just pour water into your coffee maker but don't add coffee you'll end up with a pot of hot water, right?

OP here. I'm getting the impression that my situation is not unprecedented among federal workers and attorneys. Thanks for the advice. I'm sure it's good, but I'm still torn between subtle snark and weary capitulation.

Those are also valid responses. It stinks to be right and in a position where you can't just give the other person the information that would enable them to realize this fact. 

I actually bought one after I took a vacation to London and decided I was going to drink tea all the time and prepare it the British way. (And I did, a few times.) By the time I got a French press and needed to boil water more often, I was kind of skeptical of the plastic and got a nice metal stovetop teakettle instead. (Also, I had an electric hotpot in college -- for ramen, obvs -- and I was so afraid the rickety old thing would catch fire that I was extra vigilant with it. Eventually upgraded to a cheap microwave.)

Gee, I don't know, maybe because . . . Americans DON'T DRINK TEA? OK, now at least ten people will write in saying "I'm an American and I drink tea." I do myself (AND I have an electric kettle), but seriously, it's not like the UK. If we make coffee we use a coffee maker; there's just not so much call to boil small amounts of water that a microwave can't cover it.

Hey, that could be it, too! (I do expect we'll hear from tea drinkers now!)

1. Fill a glass with water 2. Light a match 3. Put match out in water 4. Drink water 5. Hiccups gone! The only method that works for me

I always swallowed the spoonful of sugar. Works every time.

Hope this gets in under the wire, Alexandra, but have you noticed the alarming increase in the number of sentences (even in the WP, I'm distressed to note) that omit "a" "an" and "the" even though they're conspicuous in their absence? Let me hasten to add that I've never noticed you commit that sin of omission, for which God bless you.

I hope that I continue to be good example of quality you mention. 

certain methods of preparation inevitably affect the end result. For some reason water heated in the microwave makes tea that is sub-par in taste.

Hiccup OP, how are you doing?

by the lack of respect and accommodation given to tea drinkers in the U.S. (Canada knows how to make tea).

Mattel has standards.

Ha! And on that note, I will skedaddle! If you have any more hiccup or kettle news, I'll be on Twitter (@petridishes) and the blog (! 

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