The Web Hostess: Online manners, memes and must-see video

Oct 19, 2011

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. We shall commence at 2.

I wigged out last week. 1) I was catching the plague and 2) I was caught in a tailspin of State Dinner history and preparations. (Roxanne and I went!). At the last minute, I asked Paul to cancel the chat. Many of you have properly chastised me via Facebook.

The good news is that Paul was able to move all of last week's questions to this week's queue, so now we can go back and discuss. (Did anyone know that Steve Jobs died?)

In new topics, I should like to discuss this blog with you. It is called "Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street," and it is what it sounds like. What do you think of this blog? What do you think its intended tone is? Does it offend you? I want to hear your thoughts.


I thinking of going as zombie Steve Jobs = a black turtleneck + an apple.

This is correct.

And we should clearly take this time to help each other brainstorm other appropriately nerdy Halloween costumes. I think that a "Hairy Potter" is done and done. But the world is still so open with other possibilities.

An awesome reminder to do your monthly breast exam

Surprisingly, this video is absolutely safe for work (shirtless guys, not shirtless gals), but I find it so absolutely horrifying that I cannot get more than 45 seconds. If someone could explain my horror, that'd be nice.

I had a birthday at work. What bothers me is a co-worker pulled my ear lobes claiming it is a well known birthday tradition. I have never of this tradition. I looked on the Internet and found claims of it, but I don't think it is that well known a tradition, or have I lived a sheltered life? I also did not know how to feel. Was this appropriate? I did not know if I was supposed to feel humiliated and, if I was supposed to feel humiliated, if this was appropriate in the workplace. I thought I would throw this out there for our usual discussion. Personally, I don't think anyone should touch another without permission, especially at work, are am I an old fuddy duddy who should go along with the pack and with tradition?

Clearly, it was right and appropriate of you to come to us for this problem.

I have never, ever heard of this tradition. Chatters?

That being said, I don't think it's humiliation-inducing. If anyone in this situation is going to be embarrassed, it's the earlobe puller. I mean, right? It's the equivalent of stripping nekked at work only to find your office mates are still dressed, and then having to say, "Wait, you DON'T all celebrate Arbor Day this way?"

Please discuss.

I'm a somewhat-active anonymous commenter on and a couple of other cultural-political discussion websites. How can I be sure every comment I submit isn't going out over my Facebook, Yahoo, etc. to friends whom I don't necessarily want to know that I commented?

Is your Facebook account synced with the Post's (and other sites) social reader apps? Because making sure it's NOT is probably your first step in keeping your Facebook activity from cross-pollinating with your Other Web activity. Personally, I keep different email addresses for different types of accounts, just to make sure I haven't accidentally pressed some permissive button that I didn't mean to press.

Here's a blog post that I really like:  It rings true with my experiences as a teacher. We don't get credit for doing much right, but this piece reveals the heart and art of what we do.

Thanks -- I can't wait to read. In related news, if any of you followed the Fed Up With Lunch blog, written by the anonymous teacher who ate school lunch every day -- the teacher went public a few weeks ago. I meant to mention that last week, but then, you know, plague.

I know that sometimes people recommend blogs here (that Middlest Sister one was just delightful!), and I thought I'd mention the charming curated by a friend of mine. It's a mix of well-written book reviews, pop culture, and good-natured English teacher snark. She told me she thought of the slightly punny name while deciding which books to take on vacation. It's worth a look, I think.

Not sure if this is the same person posting twice -- but we have all been doubly encouraged now to check out this blog.

I think they need to rename the blog "Chicks of Occupy Wall Street". It's 3 pages of pics where maybe 2 are of hot women. The others are attractive but not necessarily hot and the two cops, yes hot but not of the "occupy wall street" group.

Well, -someone- has high standards.

I found a costume online of Sudoku! I am so excited - its nerdy, interactive (the numbers are velcro), conversation starter. I just hope people dont steal my numbers...

On the other hand, dozens of people are bound to think that "Can I have your NUMBER" is an excellent pick-up line.

This is bizarre. Never heard of it and never done it...maybe there's some culture that's obsessed with ears? And pulling on earlobes is lucky or whatever? Agree that the earpuller should feel strange, not you. And no one should be touching me without my permission! Anywhere!

Oh right -- I meant to ask this. Is the victim of the earlobe pulling still present? Was the puller someone from a different cultural background? Perhaps a background where luscious earlobes are considered lucky or appealing?

Hey cupcake, While I mostly use the inter-webs for watching cat videos, I'd like to make some donations to charities and I'm a little overwhelmed on how to find a "good" charity that uses donations well. Any suggestions?

Start with It's an independent evaluator that tell you the breakdown of what your money will likely be used for.

Today is my birthday and I am at work. All I've gotten is 4 projects that are all due at 3pm. No one has touched my earlobes, but the day is not yet over...

Would you like us to come over?

Would only consist of the Fox News blondes.

However, there are several of them and they are lovely.

I'd take a look but undoubtedly my office firewall will block it.

Oh, everyone is clothed and PG.

How is your plague? You don't hear too many cases of plague these days. I hope you are fully recovered and feeling great, and anything not going well heals quickly.

It was the plague that failed to fully manifest. Last Wednesday I was weakened and listless, like a delicate flower. But after two days of pounding zinc tablets and homeopathic teas of indeterminate origin, I was fully recovered before I ever even got fully sick.

What the h does ear lobe pulling have to do with a chat about mems and must see video?

Is this your first time here? I apologize in advance.

My daughter's friend did this to her just a few weeks ago! It totally freaked her out. Apparently, the friend's family in Spain are always doing it...

The SPANISH! Now we know who to blame.

Is there a website that allows you to create your own e-card? I heart but they are lacking in certain departments (I'm sorry my cat threw up on you, sorry your girlfriend dumped you but we were pretty sure she was a cylon anyways, etc.)

Oh, I actually really like the fact that the departments are limited. "I'm sorry your girlfriend is a cylon" is somehow much more amusing when it's accompanied by a picture of a Christmas tree or pirate.

My family used to do this on one's saint/name day, not birthday. I never questioned it and even missed it the first year that I was away from my parents' house, but I certainly never went around doing it to other people! I have no evidence to back this up, but looking at my family tree I am going to hazard a guess that it may be a Roman Catholic thing...?


Quick poll:

Is a coworker pulling on your earlobes on your birthday LIKE or UNLIKE someone sticking your tag in when it peeks out of your shirt?

I could argue that the tag-sticking is just as intimate, as it often results in neck-brushing or hands-down-shirts. So is it just that the earlobe pulling is so strange that the oddness makes us uncomfortable?

Doesn't matter. The words hot and chick are too much of this firewall. I dread getting the huge "YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO ACCESS A PAGE BLOCKED DUE TO INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL CONTENT" just as my boss is walking in. Of course I don't know how I'd explain spending all my time on a chat either. At least I can say I'm eating lunch to explain wasting time. But trying to explain wasting time on an inappropriate site may be too much. And yes, my boss does often just rush in and come behind my desk blurting out questions.

Your firewall makes me sad.

But when I put on mascara I look like a sleepy raccoon. Any suggestions?

Yes. You need to watch all of this YouTube user's videos. He appears to be a stuntman (maybe even Johnny Depp's stuntman), and he has a whole series of tutorials on Jack Sparrow's hair and makeup.

Charity Navigator relies heavily on financial data that can be reported in various ways to skew results. It also tends to feature bigger national orgs, not your local ones that do so much good. Check out or Find your local community foundation and see what they've given to recently. Talk to your friends. And thank you for supporting nonprofits!

Thanks for the additional data!

Had this done to me in a PA Dutch family. Don't think it's just Spaniards.

The mystery continues.

I say it's unlike--the other person is putting down the tag to save you embarrasement that results in having your tag sticking out and everyone seeing that you bought your shirt at Talbot's and you're a size XL, or whatever. And it can be done quickly and discreetly. Earlobe pulling--not so. Also, definitely not a Catholic thing. My family's Catholic all the way back (Irish, Italian, Scots, Irish and German Catholics, here) and we have NEVER done this.

I don't know. I am trying to envision a quick, discreet earlobe pull.

I still don't think this would bother me. But I would probably burst out laughing. And then maybe give the other person a nose honk, or some other gesture that seemed appropriately festive and reciprocal.

I used to work in the charity evaluation field, and it can be tough to know that your money is actually going to the cause. One recommendation I have is that when researching these charities and the percentages they spend on various functions (as Charity Navigator does), just beware that sometimes those percentages aren't accurate. Charities can classify things as programs they aren't so they look better on such sites, while other charities may have high fundraising or admin percentages for reasons than other spending wildly on those functions (for example, they may be raising money for something that affects only a small group, so it takes more money to get the word out). Use a few sites - the BBB also has a charity review service that looks at charities for different characteristics. If you're really adventurous, get their annual reports (which are publicly available) or their IRS Form 990 (available on to see where there money _really_ goes.

Love, thanks.

If you didn't feel like packing a bag and were going home to visit family for 4 days? Sure, bring extra undies. Would you try to manage with one outfit for four days? (A flight is involved which is why you don't want to carry any baggage.)

One extra pair of jeans. One extra sweater. Multiple extra T-shirts, as those can be folded very tinily in a backpack and worn under the sweaters, to prolong sweater livelihood. Presumably, your family has a washing machine that can be enacted in case of spills.

I still can't manage to go anywhere with less than four pairs of shoes, though.

My life is torturous, but absolutely funny to my coworkers and friends. The only thing keeping me going is my ability to make others feel better about their lives. I've been told that Twitter wouldn't do to share my pain. I'm not quite ready to write a book so I was thinking about a blog. Someone suggested a video blog. Is that the best way to entertain others through my wacky life?

It depends. Do your coworker and friends think your life is funny based on emails you send them, or based on stories you tell them in person? Where does your funniness lie? Your facial expressions? Your vocal imitations? Or is it your words, and the way you construct sentences on the page?

See what I'm saying? The best way to entertain others is going to depend on what will best play to your strengths. And please remember to share links with us either way.

Dennis Ritchie - of ten times the significance to the computing world - died a week ago today.

Thanks -- I meant to link to a Dennis Ritchie obit.

Duh - they are clearly taking advantage of new co-worker to indulge in their sick little earlobe fetish. It's kind of funny that everyone is taking a moment to find out whether anyone else has even been subjected to this "tradition". Survey says . . . none!

I thought of the fetish angle. It's possible.

Pulling earlobes, spaking, etc. is supposed to ward off evil and attract good luck. All this according to Wikipedia.

Oh, well if you're actually going to bother to RESEARCH it...

I am going as a steampunk interpretation of Lady Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and a noted mathematician of the 18th century. She worked with Charles Babbage to develop an Analytical Machine that would perform various computations (basically, the first computer), and she predicted that the computer would have much greater capabilities than just number crunching. She wrote a program to calculate the Bernoulli numbers series (rational numbers, with a connection to number theory), and is therefore considered to be the first computer programmer. I'm having a lot of fun putting this costume together. Do I win for nerdiest Halloween costume?

I cannot believe you thought you needed to spend time explaining who Ada Lovelace is to me. Ada Lovelace is my ghost BFF.

Thus far, you win for nerdiest costume. But the chat is still young.

Basically my mom would come in to wake me up on my birthday and pull one earlobe once for each year while I was still lying in bed, plus "one to grow on". I've never heard of someone outside of an immediate family doing this. Was it a workplace flirtation?

Does you family now have long earlobes?

When I was a lad I lived for that. Sometimes you could sneak in a dreaded purple nurple.


Not too often but there are about 20 cases / year in the US. Mostly from flea bites or handling infected rats, rabbits or squirrels. Think about that the next time you're tempted to touch a wild squirrel or rabbit.

Do wild squirrels or rabbits ever let you touch them?

I submitted a comment deriding the notion of anyone else pulling earlobes and even made a scurrilous sexual allegation re: the original offender. But . .. the Spanish do it, the Dutch do it . . . turns out I'm just not Euro-cool enough. :( Should I start doing this to friends and family on birthdays and see if there is a correlation between post-college backpacking in Europe and familiarity with this still frankly weird custom?


Sorry, was busy. Also tried to check out the Wall Street link but it is blocked at where I work. The puller was opposite sex, caucasian. I've heard others at work tell about birthday bumps, where they pick people up by the legs and bump them against the ground. I think I may need to keep my distance from these people....

What kind of office environment IS this?

Really nice piece on her. There was also a small thing on her in a recent Vanity Fair and I have to admit I am smitten (as a hetero female). She's beautiful, of course, but also seems to be sweet, warm and level-headed as well. I think it's just refreshing when there is an alternative to all the "crazy" celebrities out there who take themselves so seriously. Can't wait to see her work.

Thanks! She was just lovely, which actually makes it harder to write about someone. No one wants to read a 2,000 word gush.

Have you been stalking Elizabeth Olsen?

Would this be a problem?

I have a job with very few actual daily duties, which leaves me zillions of work hours to peruse the internets. What the hell is up with blogs being turned into books, which then makes the blog lame and boring? I'm talking about you, and you,, and you and there are others too, but I've forgotten them because I quit reading them after they became pretty much just a vehicle for telling me about their book. Ugh. Also, what are the best blogs for baking? I already read and (though I've been soured on her since her TV show started)... I'm looking for normal, delicious, non-vegan desserts.

Totally agreed on the blog-to-book phenomenon. What makes it more irritating are the rash of blogs that are clearly started with the vaguely hidden intent to become a book. It's often gimmicky and slapshod, and the quality declines even further once the book deal comes through.

I know nothing of baking blogs. I am hoping the chatters may assist. My editor is standing here with me and she wants you to go to It is not so much a baking blog as it is a site where you can buy amusingly-shaped pans and other things with which to decorate your cupcakes.

Have you strolled out of our office and through the Occupy camp in McPherson square? No hotties to be found.

So untrue.

Has anyone else noticed how many dog adoption sites now list dogs that are clearly pit-bull mixes as anything but a pit-bull? I've seen dogs that are so obviously a pit mix labled as "black lab." I know people have prejudices against pit-bulls and they're trying to get the dogs adopted, but isn't this mislabeling wrong?

It's wrong-ish. The only reason it's not flat-out wrong is that often, shelters are just making guesses about a dog's breed. Case in point: When I got my dog from the New York Ave. Humane Society, they told me she was a Belgian Malinois. Shortly after, I met four or five other people who had also gotten their dogs from NY Ave, and also been told their dogs were Belgian Shepherds. These dogs? They looked nothing like my dog. I also once lived with a roommate who had a purebred lab -- papers and everything -- who looked very Pit-ish.

The point is -- if dog breed analysis often comes down to educated guess, can you fault the shelter for educatedly guessing Lab over Pit?


If you're trying to log into online banking and it tells you that you've exceeded your failed login attempts on your first try, how worried should I be? I'm guessing either someone's trying to break in or somehow typed in the wrong ID (which seems more unlikely).

Call you bank and find out. See if you can get information regarding when and from what computer these alleged failed login attemps occured.

When I was in college I used to get french fries at the university deli, then sit outside on the library steps to eat them. Squirrels would come right up to me and eat them out of my hand.

Snow White!

She was not Lady Ada. As the daughter of a baron, she would only have been, at most, the Honourable Ada. You have to be the daughter of at least an Earl (e.g. Lady Diana Spencer) to be Lady Firstname. And NO, Lady Firstname can NEVER be Lady Surname. They are mutually exclusive categories.

She married an Earl. Does that change things?

However, you are correct in noting that for most of her life, her title was The Right Honourable Countess of Lovelace.

It's definitely better in person. It's harder for me to rant and sulk over email. I'm told the look of anguish in my eyes really brings it all together. Is there a special video blog hosting site? Or should I just use Blogger and add videos? Start my own YouTube channel?

I vote for starting your own YouTube channel, and also staring a blog via Tumblr, on which it is very easy to post videos, but on which you can also add other posts of different mediums.

This actually is a really huge difference, isn't it? I used to get my coworkers, friends and family laughing so hard they were crying. But I was usually just matter of factly telling them some idea I had for an SNL skit. Encouraged, I tried to "perform" a few of my next funny ones... to blank stares and "huh?" They told me I should be a behind the scenes writer only.


Is there anyplace women can go and not be objectified and/or reduced to certain physical properties? I'm guessing "no".

Thank you. I'm glad you said it.

That's why I was curious to know what people thought about the tone of the blog. If it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, or self-poking, I can roll with that. But it seemed to be presented pretty straight: "Here are some women we think are hot who are protesting." Ew.

She's so cute and so innocent and fresh looking compared to her sisters.

Oh, cute and innocent and fresh-looking, period.

(We're coming up on 3 pm. I'll stay on a little late to make up for my slackerly ways last week)

Not solely baking, but . I have made a TON of her recipes and not one has steered me wrong. Her "everyday cakes" are especially delightful and easy.

I like already. Previous chatter, you there?

Did you catch Mitt Romney putting his hand on Rick Perry's shoulder during the debate? I didn't watch the debate (I have some standards!) but I saw a clip this morning on the news. I think someone needs to make this a still photo with a thought balloon over Rick Perry's head ("get your mitt off me!). I have to credit Perry for not shrugging the hand off his shoulder and, especially, for not slugging him.

That was shocking, wasn't it? So odd to see personal spece invaded in a public forum.

Maybe for Halloween I'll go as a pineapple to represent the Fibonacci sequence. What do you think?



How could I forget Amy Sedaris? I read her entertaining books and dream of parties I will never have.

for baking I like and

You all are sending great suggestions, and I'm running out of time to link them. I apologize for the cutting and pasting you will need to do in order to reach the cake.

I'm keeping a private blog diary where I write down funny things my daughter says and documenting stuff she is doing. The plan is to use one of those blog-to-book websites and have it printed for her as a keepsake.

Well, but that's for your daughter! Totally acceptable.

I missed most of the chat while our interwebs were down at work! What have ya'll been up to without me?

Do not pull someone's earlobes at work unless you are Dutch, Spanish or Catholic. That basically sums it up.

Actually a lot of dogs that people think are Pit bulls are NOT Pit bulls. Pit bulls aren't even a breed, they're a type...but this is fun:

Who knew?

So untrue. Prove it!

I was walking there just this morning. Clearly I am delectable. In a Cupcake sort of way.

So I kinda like Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street because they're not all hot (contrary to the previous chatter). I don't know if I'm just in a weird mood today, but it struck me as kind of an awesome everyone-is-beautiful-in-their-own-way thing.

Interesting. I like this perspective shift.

You could also go as a pine cone to represent the Fibonacci Series.

I hope the two of you find each other and get married.

Good costumes for bespectacled ladies who don't want to be Velma from Scooby-Doo. Help!

Professor Trelawney. Clarkette Kent?

Damnation, I should have a whole slew of ideas at the ready, but I'm lost. We must pick this thread up next week.

Nope. She's still Ada, Countess Lovelace, not Lady Ada Lovelace.

Thank you.

May I defend Mary Kate and Ashley? They came into my office for a meeting (slightly weird because we're not at all in the entertainment biz) and were amazingly lovely and nice. I was expecting a bit of haughtiness but nowhere to be found...

Oh, I totally buy that! I never ever think they come across as anything but nice.

Did you happen to see "Jeopardy!" the other night? The Final Jeopardy clue, re what famous song was played on May 17, 2011, in Ireland (I forget the rest of the details) was "God Save The Queen" when Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to visit Ireland since its independence.

I think this is a sign that it's time to end the chat.

Sorry for all of the unanswered questions -- you were fast today! Please come back next week, where everyone is expected to have at least one good idea for lady Halloween costumes involving glasses. And I mean everyone.

Oh, and one more thing. I mentioned Tumblr. As I occasionally promote, Dan Zak and I run the Style section's Tumblr at We would love for you to come and visit/follow us.


Thanks for answering!! Can't wait to use my afternoon (hello West Coasters) hopping around looking at these suggestions!

You're welcome. Glad we could help, and see you next week!

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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