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

Dec 07, 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.

You guys, I have a confession. Instead of preparing for the chat today, I went to a food-by-the-pound deli and ate mashed potatoes. But throughout lunch, I nervously told Paul Farhi and Josh du Lac (J. Freedom!) that I was betraying my chatters, and I was afraid the chat was going to be boring. I couldn't even enjoy the mashed potatoes.

Bottom line: We can talk about anything you want today. Anything at all. I will find a way to make it related to the Internet. We'll get through it together.

So, the debate between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum (only confirmed debaters so far) is supposed to be like the Lincoln-Douglas debates. I can that, but what do we do when both candidates want to be Douglas?

Make Donald Trump volunteer to be Mary Todd Lincoln?I would be far more excited about this debate as a "Lincoln-Douglas" affair if all of the participants came in period costume.

So what's everybody think about TV's newest comedy series: the Republican debates! I'm so far past getting worked up over horrifying political stances that I grab a drink, some snacks, and settle in for the show every time one comes on.

Do you have a favorite moment so far? Or a drinking game that you would like to share with us?

I'm supposed to be looking for a job, the point of this chat is slacking, correct?

Correct! Whatever else happens, we will most assuredly prevent you from looking for a job in the next hour. That much is sure.

Monica, observe if you will the unwelcome intruder in this passage from Richard III: "Since I cannot prove a lover / To entertain these fair, well-spoken days / FYI I am determined to be a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days." Does not this prove the unmentionable initialism to be an enemy of poetry and, by extension, any prose that strives to be elegant? Why must we strive to be elegant in our prose? Because, to paraphrase Orwell, careless prose evinces a careless mind. And careless minds must not be allowed to prevail in any sphere of human affairs. Let us, then, pronounce a sentence of death (or at least permanent exile) upon this unspeakable acronym, this merciless tyrant who daily inflicts misery upon the ears of careful and cultivated English speakers.

Discussion topic!

I am mildly bothered by FYI. Meaning that I still use it, but I cringe a bit whenever I use it. I am not, however bothered by FYI as much as I am bothered by other acronyms. Are there nominations that each of you find particularly execrable?

Does anyone know if this is true or a myth? There was a claim somewhere that placing clothes in a freezer works similar to washing them in that the germs die in the cold (not that the freezer gets out stains.) I searched the Internet and found some sites where people dismissed this as a myth, but I can't find any "expert" comments, i.e. a college with a research grant that looked into this. Does anyone know if this is true, or not?

You couldn't find any expert comments, so you came to us as a trusted source? My stars, I am so proud. Proud, and disturbed.

For you, I have found the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which is administered through the University of Georgia, and therefore probably scientifically sound. They answer questions related to cold and the destroying of germs. They do not, however, deal with clothes specifically. I'm just including it because I love that it exists.

I am going to sidestep your question for a moment, however, to ask another one: Why would you freeze your clothes? Even if freezing your clothes destroyed germs, it would not destroy stains and or odor, right? For that, the magic ingredient is water. Additionally, heat has the added benefit of making your clothes toasty when you pull them out of the dryer. Why would you want to put on cold clothes? This is madness, I say.

I just recently found this site, and it is has really proved to be a great website to set to play in the background while I get work done.

Thank you.

May we please have a moment of silence for Harry Morgan?

Yes. Additionally, here is a YouTube clip in which he discusses the series finale of MASH.

First, happy Pearl Harbor Day, where, as we all learned from "Animal House", is when Germany bombed Hawaii. Which leads to what I hope will be a softball question: do you have any rembrance sites to recommend concerning Pearl Harbor?

Hmmm. Not sites, in particular, but I love Michael Ruane's piece on how the news of Pearl Harbor broke. Lots of tidbits in there that I hadn't known before.

Someone beat me to the Straight No Chaser 12 Days of Christmas video but it bears repeating. Here's a doggie Christmas surprise.  Also last year's Simon's Cat  (my cats have made similar sport of my Christmas trees over the years).

Ah, submissions for my quest for the perfect holiday video! More, please!

Have you seen this one ? I love it *almost* as much as I love the kids from Quinhagak, Alaska and their flash card Hallelujah. This coming from someone who runs screaming from stores that have the 24-7 Christmas music soundtrack playing this time of year.

I don't have time to watch either right now. But these videos and I have a date for after the chat.

Good to hear he's still kicking. Used to take part in his Freedom Rock chats (probably before your time you young sapling of a girl). Funny Farhi should be at your lunch too. Youse threes are the only chats I've ever taken part in on wapodotcom. You should do a combined one. Could be a Web angle for you, a music angle for J Free and a baldness angle for Farhi. Maybe make it about aging, balding musicians who are employing the Web to their advantage.

This is genius.



So, I joined pinterest a bit ago and these folks are OBSESSED with Harry Potter. I had read one book and seen one or two movies, but wasn't that impressed. Based solely on the assumption that a volume of people this large cant' be wrong, over the course of three weekends I watched all the movies. I don't get it. They're interesting-ish, but nothing that amounts to the level of love I see on Pinterest. My conclusion is that Pinterest folks are a strange subset of society and now I"m one of them. If I start pinning random quotes from Harry Potter, I'll know it's gone too far. As it is, I really like some of the foods and crafts I've made from there, and it did inspire me to get caught up on a big pop culture gap I had.

I will not acknowledge your viewing of the movies as a true effort at fanship. If you have not read the books, the movies will not seem good. Really now.

I submitted this last week, but I think it got lost in the technical abyss. I just wanted to let you know that I hang my head in shame before you and the chatters because I failed to complete NaNoWriMo. I am utterly dejected and cast myself upon your mercy. (I am a freelance writer and editor and got so swamped with work that everything else got abandoned.) Perhaps I will try again in February...

Did you write anything? If you wrote anything, you did not fail. The idea of completing a novel in one month is ludicrous. I think the idea is just to jumpstart your ambition and write anything, anything at all.

and how do we feel about FYA? I admit I use both (I dislike FYA even more), but if an alternative can be suggested, I'm happy to try it out...

I had to Google this. No one in my personal or professional life has ever used FYA. Bullet dodged.

"FYI" gained wider currency starting in the late 1980s when it was chosen as the name of the "60 Minutes"-like TV news magazine on Candice Bergen's TV sitcom "Murphy Brown."

Really? I did not know this. Thanks for the random knowledge tidbit.

This is an important question: When you are reciting your phone number to someone do you pronounce a zero "zero" or do you say "oh." This is assuming there is a zero in your phone number. I found myself saying BOTH, using oh for the first zero and zero for the second one.

Two-oh-two if I'm talking to someone in DC, who I think will be familiar with the area code. Two-zero-two to everyone else. But I never thought about that before now.

I notice every now and then, especially when I type quickly, that I misuse or misssspell a word or I accidentally write something that makes no sense (look at that flying pig). I actually have something called dysgraphia, which until recently meant "too stupid to write" but I am told that it is an actual thing. So apologies when I submit something that makes no sense, which is why I am going into politics (that flying pig just ate a pencil).

Did you submit something that made no sense? Did I print it? Does that mean we have duel dysgraphia?

Additionally, it's possible that something that made no sense made perfect sense in the context of this chat.

The magic ingredients are water and soap/detergent. Plain water won't do it all.

Either way, we agree that freezing your clothing is missing out on several components that make clean clothes enjoyable.

Well, I wouldn't put the clothes on frozen. I haven't tried it. I want to know if it is a myth or not. True, it would not deal with stains, but it would deal with odor, in theory, if the myth is true. The germs with the odors would freeze to death (or at least be unconscious enough that they then fall into your food and later poison you, but that's another question.)

So many, many other questions.

They recommend doing this if you suspect you've been in a hotel with bedbugs. Also, if you've purchased masks or other wooden artwork overseas, you can put them in the freezer to freeze any bugs in the wood. (My parents used to do this with their rather large collection of African masks.)

Ah, this is making more sense. And is not nearly as quirky as I was initially imagining.

Last year our chat about good sites for holiday shopping was fun, useful, and interesting. Could we do something like that again this year?

Oh, yes! Let's do it next week.

We once let some friends stay in our apartment while we were out of the country for a bit. Upon returning, I opened up the freezer to get some ice for my drink, and found a pair of (pretty dirty) jeans sitting on top of the ice tray. Turns out friend had bought a pair of expensive jeans and received instructions not to wash them for a month (!!!!) to set in the desired crease marks, and that stuffing them in the freezer would be enough to at least kill the smell. Friend has not lived this down, and I did NOT use those ice cubes.

This anecdote gets a gold star.

Cheer up. You did write something, right? I didn't even start anything. You are my hero for trying. Besides, getting a novel written in a time when the holidays are upon us seems ludicrous to begin with!!

See, original poster?

NANOWRIMO should clearly happen in August.

That's about like saying "Happy September 11 Day." Not cool.

Oh, the poster was looking for sites of remembrance. Which is far more acknowledgment than most people do. I think that no offense was intended.

This was sent to me, and I pass it along. As best as I can tell, this is one of those Internet TV shows that would appeal more to you Republican viewers than Democratic viewers. It is, literally, a series about a man riding a buffalo.

I haven't clicked on the link yet, but I cannot imagine why all people of all ages would not watch this show. A whole series about a guy riding a buffalo? Come on!

Oh, please, can we pretty please make everyone say zero when they mean the number/numeral? In addition to LOL and a dozen other things, it is one of my most strongly felt pet peeves. When people say "oh" instead of zero, I sort of die inside. I would've been an excellent participant in the Spanish Inquistion, if I had actually been alive at the time, male and in a position of power to do something about all those pesky people with whom I disagreed.

New discussion point:

What completely absurd linguistic pet peeves do each of you have?

I cannot stand when people say "unconsciously" when they mean "subconciously." I also cannot stand "nauseous" instead of "nauseated," but it's the un vs. sub that really gets to me.

Yahoo news had an article several months ago that detergent is essentially a myth. Believe it or not (and I will admit I did not believe it), detergent does little to clean your clothes. It is a marketing genius that takes all the credit for water's hard work.

But it smells like fresh meadows.

Maybe they live in a place that is very cold but has no running water.

The tundra?

Methinks we might need to submit this one to the Mythbusters...

Maybe they can launch a freezer containing a pair of jeans through an unsuspecting suburban neighborhood?

Do you know of any good apps or websites for tracking your goals?

Health goals? Life goals?

There are several Web sites that do that, but none are immediately coming to mind. Chatters, please suggest here if you know some. And if we don't get any good suggestions, you can email me later and I'll come up with a few.

Next week is too late to chat about holiday shopping! Next Wednesday is already the 14th... But I think as a follow-up to Carolyn Hax's annual Holiday Hootenanny which is this Friday (the 9th) I think your chat next week should be devoted to stories of holiday woe or wit that is somehow connected to pop culture and/or technology. Sadly, I have no such stories from my own family (save the times I've wanted to put my fingers in my ears and sing 'na-na-na' when my much older sister has talked about ridiculous reality shows such as "The Bachelor" - shows she is too old and too intelligent to be watching AND wishing to discuss!).

I think the 14th is the perfect time to talk about holiday shopping. That's when all of us who are slackers and haven't gotten our acts together will be giving up and desperately looking for online gifts. And the rest of you who HAVE gotten your acts together can guide us with your wisdom, and mock our procrastination.

I believe this is a common gimmick at minor-league baseball games and such, where participants are each given a frozen folded t-shirt and the first one who can unfold it and put it on wins a prize.

They don't shoot them out of a T-shirt cannon, do they?

"Utilize," "nutshell" and "if you will." I hate them all.

Utilize is the worst.

He's still around? I miss his chats, his was one of my favorites back in the day (along with Vic Sussman's, RIP).

He's upstairs in Metro now, writing fabulous non-music features. I'll tell him that his chats are beloved and missed.

Thanks to the chatter who posted this. I am now listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio as I do a rather tedious task involving an Excel spreadsheet.


Really?? Who are you - Sheldon Cooper? My personal pet peeve is more geographic than linguistic - Baltic and Balkan are not the same!!! Also, Metro train operators and anyone who has live in the DC area for more than a decade yet who cannot pronounce Grosvenor correctly (spelling it is a whole different ballgame).

Nauseated didn't bother me until high school, when I learned the difference. Now, every time I hear someone use it incorrectly, I want to enlighten them. But because "englightening them" in this instance would also mean "being a massive jerk," I keep my mouth shut. In short, I am not Sheldon Cooper. But this tic makes me feel like Sheldon Cooper, and I hate that.

"towards" instead of "toward" (I don't think "towards" is actually a word) Also, the hard "t" in "often"

I saw an amateur production of Pirates of Penzance once that was completely ruined by the Modern Major General's inability to pronounce "often" without the T.

Is anyone on this chat enough of a dork to understand why that pronunciation would completely ruin major scenes of the production?

I'm looking for one package to track it all. I've recently been diagnosed with some health issues that can be helped with better eating, so I'd like to give myself a gold star every day I do well. But also I'm working on turning a hobby into a side business and want to track my progress on that. So just a general goal tracking thing. I've looked Joe Goals, but it was too simple.

Thanks. We'll see if any chatters have suggestions, and if not, I'll do some research on my own.

When one is talking and comes across the name of a foreign city (or even a commonly used term, ex: tortilla) and break into cultural dialect. Yes, I get it. You did a semester out of country in college. Or worse, when Latin terms make an appearance; well, anything beyond et cetera. In this case, yes, I understand that you were a nerd in school and, unfortunately, no much has changed.

Oh, ditto on the first one. "Back when I studied in Fraaaahnce...."

However, I actually do find it completely absurd that we have our own names for foreign countries. If Germany wants to be Deutschland, who are we to say they can't?

I suggested you write about your life of crime and juvenile delinquency, and I apologize if that was too personal (maybe you killed a man in Reno). I did that because I recall your comment last week about being a nerd when younger. I believe that nerdom is great and am glad people recognize that nerds are cool, afterall. Go nerds!

Eh, I wasn't begging off because of embarrassment. We just had a slew of questions come in that I figured people would be way more interested in reading.

The most trouble I ever got in in high school was when a policeman saw me trying to get into the high school late on a Sunday night and thought that I was up to no good. I was really there to get my AP Chemistry flashcards.

If you're nauseated, you're probably also nauseous to anyone in your immediate vicinity.

I'll tell myself this, but it won't help.

Gee - I forgive you your mashed potatoes. Sorry you didn't get to enjoy them! Now for the question: through the magic of the internet and the popularity of Prince Harry, the English nickname for redheads - ginger - is gaining strength in the US. Several beautiful redheads who are near-and-dear to me think ginger is a slur. Is it? I think if anyone knows for sure, it would be thee. GSTQ and all that.

In the UK, it is a slur, and it is used almost exclusively to describe men with red hair. The bias is that women with red hair are gorgeous, but gingers (men) are undesireable. Naturally, I vote for reclaiming the word, but that lead must be taken by the redheads themselves.

"Utilize" is tied for #1 on my list along with "orientate". The runner-up is the less common but more illiterate "for all intensive purposes".

Several people have suggested orientate. Every time I have heard that word, I have assumed it was being used ironically.

I agree that next week would be great. After all, according to Canada Post, December 15 is the heaviest day for mail and post offices (at least here in Canada). That's the day when everyone realizes that the stuff they should have mailed weeks ago just has to go now or it won't be delivered in time.

I am so pleased that we have Canadians on this chat.

But what do you do when almost everyone gets a word wrong and you feel like they will think you are the incorrect one if you use it properly? Do you dumb it down? The other day, I said something wasn't my forte. The correct way to say it is like "fort", not "fort-ay". I said it properly and my boss corrected me in front of 20 people! I wanted to say something back but I kept my mouth shut. Hilariously, his boss was also in the meeting and emailed him afterwards to tell him he was wrong and that he owed me an apology. Take that, jerk boss!


Do you, in fact, know what it means to be an orphan?

Often frequently!

YOU SHUT YOUR FACE, I took a decade of Latin and I will pronounce it "WEESA-WERSA" if I damn please.

Weesa-Wersa could also be good names for twins?

One app to track them all, one app to list them. One app to hide them all and in the darkness break them.

So you are saying that a Lord of the Rings-themed site would be best, if we could find one?

Did you know that clean clothes are warmer than dirty clothes. A clean shirt has air pockets between the fibers that act as insulation. After wear the clothes for a few hours (or days for some of us!) the fibers become compacted and the insulating air pockets disappear.

Fascinating. And I really mean that sincerely.

Ginger from Gilligan's Island can be the official spokesperson.

Really, what else is she doing? (Please tell me she is still alive). (I think) is the USDA (I think)-run website that allows you to enter your food intake and characterize your daily activity. I've been pretty happy with it.


I have one that I DO & I can't stop myself. To be clear, I never took French, but whenever I have to say a word with a French origin I break into an atrocious French accent. I made potatoes au gratin for Thanksgiving & I just kept doing it all day!

I would probably forgive this, just because in addition to the mashed potatoes today, I also had a bit of potatoes au gratin (I know, I know -- it's rainy and I wanted comfort food) and they were delicious.

Oh, yes. I wrote a bunch. I also interviewed someone who works in the same field as my main character (which I know little about), so that was very helpful.

I just found this, buried near the top. See? This was totally successful. Congratulations!

So you want us to pronounce it "offin." That doesn't sound right to me.

And yet it is everyone else in the United States.

Misusing 'ironic' is my pet peeve!

Obviously, it does not bother me. Mostly because I think people use "ironic" incorrectly because there is a linguistic hole in our language, and no word that means exactly what they need it to mean. And thus we have coopted "ironic." So I'm cool with that. Lots of people aren't, I am.

Ginger is still alive, and writing children's books. Her children's book can be read in about 30 seconds. It is meant for about a five year old reading level. I was joking that it took her years to write without realizing she was standing right behind me. She thought I was serious and interrupted and told me that she indeed spent over a year writing the book. So, Tina Louise is still alive.

I don't think we can end on any better comment than this. It has celebrity, it has social awkwardness, it has children's books, it has gingers and Gingers. Well done, chatter.

Dont' forget: next week, bring your favorite shopping sites and we'll have a bonanza.



It's not sarcasm. It's different than that. I cannot describe what it is, because we don't have the right word. See the plight?

Okay, I'm signing off now.

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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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