Dec 29, 2010

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by, especially in the dead zone wasteland that is the week between Christmas and New Years.  The audience might be wee today, but I believe that those who have bothered to log in are those who are most in need of time-wasting guidance.

Let's start here, with my picks for the best viral videos of 2010.

Then let us move here, and watch New York sanitation workers completely destroy a car in a snowstorm.

And then I'm curious: When you go on vacation, do you take a vacation from the Internet as well? Do you miss your regular Googling and surfing? Or do you find that you don't miss the online world at all?

And finally: For anyone in an office right now, what is the most devious way you are flouting office mores during this empty week. Leaving early? Wearing sweats? Bring your transgressions here.

The wiki informs me that in the original Baum story the Wicked Witch of the West rode her broomstick over Emerald City and skywrote the words "SURRENDER DOROTHY OR DIE, WWW."

So was she signing her name? Or was this a threat to the World Wide Web sixty years into the future? "Dorothy, if you do not surrender, I will kill the Internet. I mean it."

I was at a Christmas party, and one of my wife's girlfriends kissed me goodbye on the lips on the front of my wife. She is having problems with her spouse. Was this a "catch me if you can" kiss, or something else?

I think it was an "I'm drunk" kiss. Or maybe an "I'm drunk and lonely" kiss. Or maybe an, "In my culture, a kiss on the mouth doesn't mean what you think it means" kiss.

The thought process behind it shouldn't matter much to you, since you're, you know, married. If her motivations -do- matter to you, then maybe it's your motivations you should be questioning.

There. Did I do okay? Was this kiss then posted on Facebook? Because I could definitely answer that question.

Thank goodness you're here! So far today I've written all my thank you notes, paid all my bills, and spent a solid hour googling Howard Hughes (we watched The Aviator over Christmas). I'm out of things to do!

Howard Hughes is an infinite trail of Googling. The Kleenex boxes on the feet. The jars of waste. It's all too much.

For advanced research, I suggest trying to rent "The Hoax" and "The Philadelphia Story" online (neither are available for Netflix Watch Instantly, alas). "The Hoax" is a Richard Gere movie about the man who wrote a fake bio of Hughes without ever having met him. "The Philadelphia Story" is a fabulous Katharine Hepburn movie, in which one of her suitors is reportedly based on Hughes.

Help this chatter out -- what else have you all been doing?

Hmmm ... the branch chief caught me clipping my nails at my desk today. Luckily I had done my toenails yesterday. Here's an afternoon nap tip. Find an empty file room. Place a bunch of binders on your head and sack out. If someone catches you, claim that you were looking for a report, the binders fell on you, and you passed out. They might even send you home!

This is so crafty it's spooky.

Can this line of deviousness be topped?

What did the "BP" tweet say? For some reason I couldn't see it.

Oh, sadness. Now I can't see it either. Here's a link to the whole fake BP Twitter feed, though. Every Tweet is worth it.

Unlike so many of your colleagues. Splitters!

Totally. I am making Carolyn buy me coffee when she gets back. Anyone else have a question they would normally ask Weingarten or Amy/Rox? We can just be the Chat of Chats today.

This morning, I read this interesting exchange with an email scammer posted to one of the NYTimes blogs. I thought it was pretty funny, and now I know what to do if a friend emails me to say he's stuck in London and needs $2k. The comments had some links to other sites that post the same kind of content, though I haven't opened any of them (I'm at work).

This is absolutely worth a read -- thanks for submitting.

Along those lines, check out the 2005 book "Yes Man," (which was later turned into a 2008 terrible movie). It's the true story of a guy who decided to say yes to every proposition that befell him during one calendar year, including giving a bunch of money to a Nigerian scammer. Their exchanges and relationship is pretty funny.

So, if Chelsea fall out of the top 4 today by losing to Bolton Wanderer's, does Carlo Ancellotti get the sack?

Yes, if by "Chelsea" you mean "Chelsea Clinton" and if by "Bolton Wanderer" you mean Michael Bolton's meandering national tour, because those are the only Chelseas and Boltons I know.

If I had just ended the answer with "yes," would that have been more convincing?

Hi Monica - i really enjoyed your column on Sunday. Found it both entertaining and rather culturally insightful. So what's with all the haters (ha!) who wrote in castigating you about it? Did they not get that one, it's the Outlook section, and two, much of what you write is funny/satirical/tongue-in-cheek/insert appropriate adjective here. I mean really.

I'm glad you like the column. And the short answer is, ehm, no. No, they don't get it. But it's not because people are stupid, it's because tone and humor are very personal, and often contextual. Someone mouthing off on stage is a performer; someone mouthing off on the street is a crazy person, etc.

So when you see a column like the "Hate" piece in the paper, in the physical copy of the Outlook section, then it's easier to get in the right frame of mind. You know what to expect. You are open to hearing voice, or sass, or humor. But when the column pops up online, next to a serious story about politics or the economy, then it's much harder to know what frame of mind you're supposed to be in.

In general, I've found that readers who read pieces in the physical paper tend to have more positive reactions than people who stumbled across something out of context.

And because this is an Internet chat, I'd be interested to know if you all have had similar experiences of reacting to something differently in print vs. online.

Hmm, flouting office mores by doing some online window shopping, leaving early, and the annual 'wearing of the jeans!" And there's nothing wrong with a little Facebook updating and blog reading, right?? And in the spirit of a new year, new calendar -- any recommendations beyond Shutterfly for calendar creation?

My calendar is gmail or a Post-It. Chatters, any better recommendations?

How come when celebrities are photographed in the wild they're always in sweats at a discount gas station holding a big gulp of coffee? Can't they spring for Starbucks?

Your class of celebrity is clearly too narrow. Britney Spears is always Big Gulping at the Circle K. But someone like, say, Reese Witherspoon (who just got engaged this very day!) can frequently be spotted looking adorable and carrying Starbucks. See evidence, here.

Enjoyed this article re a guy who went to law school and has made millions suing those who illegally send him spam. "Man quits job, makes living suing e-mail spammers":  If only the spammers could be sued into oblivion...

This story was great, wasn't it? Suing spammers is probably the closest thing we could have to superherodom. I hope his underpants have a secret spam-suing logo.

So are you doing The List again this year? Can you give us a sneak peek? Where/when can we find it? I'M SO EXCITED.

After consulting with my List colleague, Dan Zak (who, I must note, very possibly wrote this email), we have determined that we may, in fact, give you a sneak peek item.


Are you sure?

We are declaring Betty White OUT!

Who is in, you ask? For this, you must either purchase Saturday's newspaper, or visit starting tomorrow.

We'll be chatting about The List on Monday. Oh, and going on the Today show. Dan will be the pretty one.

Play the free demo: Won a Webby Award and is pretty cool!

I haven't played this yet, but I'm totally there after this chat.

Actually, I find that shutterfly is a great site for calendar creation. For the past three years, I've made up a calendar showcasing my photos taken from the preceding year and given it out as Christmas presents. Easy to do, and a personalized gift.

Are you still there, calendar-seeker? It's possible that you're already using the best site. Doesn't that make you feel good?

To paraphrase Warren Beatty in The Parallax View, chats are like a woman's nipples: three's too many and one's not enough.

So who are you voting off the island? Because we have at least a dozen around here, and I'm telling you that if we chat battle to the death, most everyone else is stronger than me.

Last Thursday, Carolyn Hax said I needed to make some new friends. Are there any websites I can use to facilitate this? Unfortunately, my job doesn't permit me to use Facebook. And, craigslist's Strictly Platonic seems kind of sketchy. is a good site for platonic activities, because you can find people who are doing what you're interested in. There are also lots of dating sites that have "just friends" options (though, be warned, some of them are populated by people seeking relationships who want to seem cool by marking "just friends") 

I'm not sure what gender you are, but I'd also heard things about, which tries to be a friend-matching site for women.

I'd welcome other ideas, too, chatters.

I shudder at the thought of the Spam Man teaming up with Roy Pearson, the Pants Man as dubbed by your old colleague Marc Fisher. The Diabolical Duo would likely sue the world into a smoldering husk.

Quick, we need a cartoonist to sketch out a pilot for this, pronto.

Whereas flushing precooked meat down the toilet would be an example of SPAM-ing sewers?


How will the Portuguese/Spanish debt defaults affect the LIBOR in 2011?

Silly, you have a mis-spelling. It's actually Tibor, and if you visit the company Web site here, I'm sure you will agree that the Portuguese/Spanish debt default will not at all impact the production of quality fishing reels in 2011.

My grandmother kisses everyone on the lips. (And holds your face so you can't turn away.) She's done this for as long as I can remember, so maybe she's been doing it her whole life. One day, that girl will be someone's grandmother! That's the best I've got - I'm really bored today. But not as bored as all the children that someone thought were a good idea to bring to work. They have been running around unsupervised since about lunch :-(

An interpetation I didn't even think of. This woman at the party was just in Grandma training.

I look forward to the cell phone, email, and web break that far flung international travel invites. I had a three week break in the Middle East last month and didn't miss it at all. Stress and ADD disappeared and I had trouble knowing what day it was. Rural Africa is even better-there is no opportunity to use a computer when you are camping in the bush! A break we all need from time to time.

So, learning what you did about how an Internet break positively impacted you, how have you carried that over into your daily life now? Are you turning off the computer earlier? Avoiding it on weekends?

You, Monica. I'm voting *you* off the island and we're taking over. Sorry I have to be the one to tell you, sweetcakes, but that's how it is.

I knew it would come to this. Y'all have taken the place over.

Can't even get "Cupcake" right, geez.

Take a class. I've found it's a horrible way to meet men to date, but a great way to create freindships with other women. We talk while we make pottery, etc. I've made life long friends, gotten a job, made cool stuff.

I'd stuck with online sites, because that's what the poster was asking for, but this is really true. Just make sure it's a class where talking it easy and encouraged and not, you know, yoga. SFW!

Soccer fan? Still there? Does this make up for Chelsea?

I hate my new (first) smartphone. Touchscreen too hard to type on, can't figure out why it won't connect via the WiFi it says it's connected to, overwhelmed by the apps. . . Is this indicative of unusual intelligence or unusual stupidity?

On the phone's part or yours?

It's most likely that you'll get used to your phone in a couple of weeks. If you don't, then it's possible that you didn't get the right phone for your personality. There's a reason that people typically swear by their Blackberries/iPhones/Droids, etc. Each one has a different feel, requires a different intuition, etc.

I'd be interested to know what kind of research you did prior to getting your phone, and whether a different brand might be a better fit.

You don't want to take Weingarten questions, because if it's not a poop joke, then likely it'll be an end-run question about feminine "groundskeeping" (which Liz Kelly, his longtime producer, would never allow). Soccer Insider questions, however, I can help you with, since I'm an Insider regular myself: There's no way Bolton will beat Chelsea. :)

Thank you for your guidance.

Liz Kelly is correct. If for no other reason than if that chat did happen it could never, at this point, live up to the gloriousness that people have decided it should be. Liz Kelly is correct.

I like And of course Google for "winkflash coupon codes" and you'll find one to give you a discount.

Thanks for the suggestion.

I informed my boss that I was taking the only other employee out for a belated Christmas lunch. He told me to put it on the corporate credit card, as if that was in any doubt! It was very good and a little decadent!



Offices are OUT OF CONTROL this week.

Yeah, but on the downside, when you make your living suing spammers, you sort of have to end up crawling in the same mud with them. That article also said that he has over 100 email accounts, presumably to "catch" spammers, and has been sued himself on several occasions for allegedly breaking confidentiality agreements, or as he claims, for payback. Either way, it sounds like a stressful way to live.

With 100 email addresses, do you think he ever accidentally spams himself?

Watch a bowl game - just starting. Go to and click on Watch. Md. vs. East Carolina Fear the Turtle!

Fear the Turtle is going to replace God Save the Queen when I get tired of it.

I am eating CRUNCHY foods with no trace of self-consciousness at ALL. Whoo, I'm a WILD one!

Get the sourdough pretzels. Those are really only okay when everyone else is out with the flu.

... is wearing only a tie. I really, really need a new job.

It's on his neck, though, right?

hahahahahahaha FTT

If anyone was here to read this, we would be shut down immediately.

How many rules are you breaking in the office today, Ms. Cupcake?

None. My whole job is wasting time. Well, wasting time and finishing this story that I really should be getting to..

The Monday "hate list" chatter was right -- you DO look a bit like Parker (Beth Riesgraf) from "Leverage." Only I think her hair is longer...

Yes. I think I shall grow out my hair.

Still, the best "you look like" to ever come from this chat was when one of you told me I looked like Orlando Bloom in "The Lord of the Rings."

And on that note, thanks for coming to this impromptu Chat of Chats. All the people you love will be back next week chatting about subjects they actually understand. I'll be back to the Internet, and look forward to seeing everyone.

Thanks, and GSTQ.

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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