Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Apr 10, 2014

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. Thanks for coming. I'm running a bit late today from a morning assignment, so we'll get started in a few.

I was just reading Frederick Douglass's 1869 words on immigration, and he uses the phrase "possession is nine points of the law". I'd always heard it as "nine-tenths of the law", as I suspect most folks have, and a little digging (by which I mean thank you, Wikipedia) reveals that "nine points" is the original phrase, even though "nine-tenths" came into use not much later, both in the 1600s. Apparently under English property laws, one had to fulfill ten points of criteria to be considered the owner of something, though in Scotland it was twelve (of course, just to be contrarian). There's your useless fact for the day! Also, I loved your work this week on Fort Recovery and the Accomack fires. Really great stuff!

Thank you!

So interesting on the Frederick Douglass phrase, at least from a linquistic perspective. From a mathematical perspective, it looks like it doesn't really change anything, does it, since 9 points out of 10 is equal to 9/10s.

Think you've probably answered this before, but couldn't find it when I looked back... I'm almost finished with the first book in the Divergent series. Enjoyable but didn't love it. Is it worth it to read the following two books, or should I just go online and look for spoilers so I know how it ends? Loved the arsonist story you just did! Great reporting and writing!


I think it's not worth it to read the other two. The second one is a narrative disaster -- in my blabbermouth opinion -- and the only reason to read the third is because of the big surprise ending.

This is pretty much the greatest thing on the internet right now. Its showing up as a trending topic daily. This is the one thing I look forward to watching on my DVR each day. #RejectedIceCreamFlavors was amazing, and last nights show was great. Have you watched it?

I have not! But now I probably should, right?

I'd like to post a facebook status that I bought my first house (yay!), because it's too hard to get everyone's emails together and send them a moving notice. How do I do this without being that annoying braggy friend? Do the chatters have any tips for how not to be a huge social media jerk when announcing good news?

Chatters, do you?


I never get annoyed reading good news posts from friends -- so long as they're presented with forthright joyousness rather than fakey humblebrags.

An example of the first case would be:

"So excited! I just closed on my first house!"

An example of the second would be:

"Ugh, I hate when you clean four bathrooms and think you're done, because you forget you have five bathrooms in your new house."

This security vulnerability would be scary enough without the extremely metal name. I predict the next big crisis will be called "Stabmurder."

Isn't that what the fake slasher movies were called in the "Scream" series?

I see lots of excitement about Colbert taking over for Letterman. But really, none of us knows what he's going to be like because we don't really know who he is when he is not in character for his CC show. What Colbert, Late Night Host will do/be? It's a mystery.

I know! I'm picturing a very sweet man, actually. Didn't I read somewhere that he teaches his kid's Sunday school?

You said: "From a mathematical perspective, it looks like it doesn't really change anything, does it, since 9 points out of 10 is equal to 9/10s." Unless you're Scots, in which the math changes to 9/12s, but nobody ever said, possession is 3/4's of the law...

Scotland is a weird place.

I feel just the opposite. I've had to unfollow a couple of my favorite comedians because they just overload my timeline at 9pm PDT with their contributions. And since every night is a different hashtag, I can't just block them. I'm sure the show is hilarious (I love Chris Hardwick and the Nerdist podcast), but I don't get to watch it so the overflow onto my Twitter timeline doesn't work for me. :(


I only sort of liked the first book. However, once I start a series I tend to try to read the entire series. I would encourage you to get the books from the library and not buy them however. I don't think they are worth the money. I managed to read or listen to the entire Patrick Obrien series on Aubrey-Maturin after seeing the movie Master and Commander- the far side of the world. That included 20 completed books and 1 unfinished book. It involved lots of interlibrary loans and some were only available on digital download or battery oepratted books on tape.

Seconded on the library  tip. I bought all of them and now regret it.

Why couldn't Ellen have gotten the gig, which would have left us The Colbert Report? Jon Stewart can't carry the fake cable news alone!

What does Hank Stuever think? I haven't had time to say hi to him today -- anybody pop by his chat earlier?

While having lunch with a friend the other day, we were discussing Awesomecon and finding people to do the interviews. It was noted that you never want a true fanboy/girl doing the interview. You also want someone who knows how to ask good questions. That led to bad questions like: What qualities do you look for in a date? and What's your favorite Vegetable? I immediately came back with, "What vegetable would you date?" There was then much discussion of the qualities of vegetables. Good safe take home to mom broccoli and bad boy avocado. So, what vegetable would you date?

Hmm. I might respectually question whether this is a good interview question. There's just too much diversity in how people perceive certain vegetables. For example, I might say, "I would date Brussels sprouts," because I happen to think they are delicious. And then you could go on and on about what it meant that I chose round green things and blah blah blah, but really all it would mean is that I liked brussels sprouts.

In order for those "What kind of ____ would you be" questions to work, I think they have to be something that really illustrates a facet of personality rather than a simple taste preference. Like, I don't know, "Which children's book hero would you be and why?" or something.



As an author, what are your thoughts on people reading your book through the library rather than purchasing a copy of your book?

For me, it doesn't matter either way -- I make virtually no money off my novels; my primary income comes from the Post. I could imagine a moderately successful author having an opinion, though, if they were trying to live entirely off of their royalties.

(Still. Most authors adore libraries for personal reasons. How would we ever begrudge people from using them?)

If your Facebook friends are not horrible people with massive insecurity complexes, they will be happy for you. Trust. My post announcing an apartment purchase got "likes" from people with whom I haven't actually spoken in years. Honestly, it says something sad about our financial situation as a country that BUYING A FIRST HOUSE has come to be seen as a shameless assertion of privilege instead of a simple life milestone. It's not a vacation getaway; it's your home, and hopefully will be for many more years.

This is absolutely correct.

Garlic, Onions, and Asparagus. You would never bring these guys home to meet mom.

We could find some people who would vote asparagus, I bet. Garlic and onions barely even count as vegetables. They're in their own dimension.

A tiny chocolate Easter egg is too little. A Reese's peanut butter egg is just right. Two peanut butter eggs. Three peanut butter eggs.

Mostly we can agree that chocolate Easter bunnies tend to be of waxy, low-quality chocolate rather than the kind you would actually want to eat.

I guess my mind went to something else and I thought heterosexual females and gay males would date carrots or parsnips while heterosexual men would date something like a watermellon or canelope or maybe something that made a good pie.

Basically I think you're saying women would all choose to date vegetables and men would choose to date fruits? This is ridiculous. Nobody of any gender would ever answer "parsnip" to a question when something like "raspberries" was an option.

Is the chatter going to post her new home address on FB since she is using the announcement for a moving notice? Depending on her privacy level, that sounds like a security risk. Maybe more like, "Hey, I've moved! If you're planning to mail me something, please let me know and I'll give you the new address." Actually, most of my friends don't have my address and just ask for it (in person, email, or via text) for wedding/birth announcements. Why even bother with the FB post?

Because it's not about passing out his/her new address. It's about announcing something you're proud of accomplishing and wanting your friends to know about. (Right, chatter? I'm assuming there were no plans to post an address).

Haters gonna hate, so post whatever you want. Imagine your "friends" getting all wrapped up in their resentment. Saying "Bayum! when you click to post would add to your enjoyment.

Saying "Bayum" while doing anything probably leads to increased enjoyment.

As someone who's moderated convention panels before, it AMAZES me that so many moderators totally lack this skill. For anyone who doesn't know the difference, listen to your favorite celebrities next time they're being interviewed. You can learn to detect the "auto-pilot voice" that comes with an answer that's been polished over the course of years, maybe even decades, by being repeatedly given to the same damn question. Polite but bored stiff. The best question is one that a.) surprises the interviewee, and b.) gives them the chance to tell a favorite anecdote they've been sitting on for a long time without ever thinking to mention publicly. And how do you know to ask this magical question? You do your research, read past interviews, and single out the passing oddball reference to something interesting that breezed right past the bad interviewer who's too concerned with moving on to the next set question.

In defense of bad interviewers: Whenever I interview a celebrity, I read my brains out to try to learn as much about them as I can. And then I go ahead and ask them boring questions, with maybe 30% interesting questions sprinkled in. You have to assume that your readers/listeners won't all have nearly the same level of preparedness that you do, and while some people will want to here Emma Watson tell an obscure story about a childhood toy, some people will still be on wanting to know whether Emma Watson still gets together with the Harry Potter cast.

uummm, no. It had more to do with the size and shape of the vegetable/fruit for its potential use by the person dating it. Or pies as we saw used in American Pie.

No, I know this is what you meant. I was being a little facetious with my raspberry answer. Because if that's the case -- "Ooh, here's a DIRTY question" -- then it's even a more useless question to ask people. Because what can you ultimately get out of the answer. "Ooooh, Emma Stone said she would DATE A CARROT, while Anna Kendrick said she would DATE A SLIGHTLY LARGER CARROT."


And? And? Who cares?

Psst: OP was making a sex joke.

(I got that. I assumed we all got that. We all got that. Right?)

You must lovingly cultivate a bed over several years. It is vegetable marriage.


If you can't share something from your life with your FB friends, what the heck is the point of being on FB? I am admittedly a late FB bloomer (had a stalker ex for a quite a few years), but it seems to me the very point is keeping in touch with people who you would not regularly be able to keep in touch with.

This. (See, OP? We all want you to announce your exciting house purchase online).

I almost never buy cookbooks when they are new, even if it is an author I really like. I always try to get them from the library first to see if it is worth it. But David Lebovitz has a new cookbook coming out, and I really like his books, and on his blog he explained in detail the process of writing, editing and publishing a cookbook. And I thought, "You know what? I am buying his cookbook, in hardback even, becuase it is totally worth $22."

Good for you. He thanks you, I'm sure.

We give that to our kids. But ... last week we found our toddler sitting on the kitchen floor, cabinet open, surrounded by Belgian chocolate wrappers, giving us an accusing look. She knows.

She won't be able to go back, either.

Still, Hershey's chocolate, I maintain, is the best chocolate for your buck. Wean her onto those Kisses, stat.

Oh, you make an excellent point! But I think the difference is that if the interviewee senses you're challenging them in general, they'll give better answers to the boring questions as well. The bad interviewer gets "Oh, of course, we're still good friends"; the good interviewer gets a more nuanced answer about how it's like keeping up a bond with your old high-school classmates, with all the complex dynamics that entails over the course of a changing life.

Also an excellent point. Thanks.

People will want to come over and see it. Bring the good wine!

Goes without saying.

The fact that this is where so many minds go first when faced with an elongated fruit or vegetable is why friends routinely mock me for instinctively dissembling all bananas before I eat them in public.

I'd say you were being overly cautious, but I really think you're probably not being overly cautious.

My brother and sister-in-law once caught their babysitter feeding the kids lobster. "Please don't try to gve them expensive tastes."

That babysitter was obviously wealthier than I ever was as a babysitter, or really loved those kids a lot.

Here's another example of something that changed over time: "eat one's cake and have it too" is the original. It makes sense, because there's no trick at all to having cake and THEN eating it, is there? It's only impossible if you eat your cake and THEN try to have it, too. Can we start a groundswell here, in favor of the original? P.S. I never heard "9 tenths" though; perhaps that's a regionalism?

"Have one's cake and eat it too" is problematic mainly becauese "eat" and "have" are both synonyms for "consume" in the English language. It would make much more sense if it were "keep one's cake" or "preserve one's cake," or even, "eat one's cake and not get fat from one's cake."

This takes me way back when my mom would make a joke, I would try to follow it up with something funny, and then she would interrupt mid-sentence and say "That's a joke..." in a highly condescending tone.

I promise you guys, I get all of your jokes. The ones I don't get, I just don't bother to post at all because I'm afraid they're secretly coded messages instigating revolution.

I disassemble them, myself, but I can see a case for dissembling in public.


How about - "Eat one's cake and stay a size two?"


We would never be revolting.


Since you mentioned sweet Emma, can we talk a minute about that bizarre gif? It takes a fair amount to shock me but that's one of the stranger things I've seen.

The GIF in question is this one. Before any of you click on it, I have to warn you that it's going to be the weirdest thing you see all day, but it only lasts 22 seconds. Go forth. If you want to.

The original, if you look in Bartlett's, makes sense: Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have thy cake?

It still doesn't make sense in modern context because of the aforementioned eating/having synonym confusion.

Actually, Colbert was interviewed as himself by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" on NPR, and he sounds like a really decent, funny, bright, witty guy. (And no, I'm not his agent).

He's given a few out-of-character interviews, and always come across much that way, IMO.


Fifty-five dollars!

Listen, I don't know your true motivations, but this kind of thing can easily come across not just as fakey humblebrag but as a ploy for housewarming gifts. How hard is it, really, to put together an email list? Not very. But it's also not a public announcement that will garner public congratulations, and methinks that's what you're trying to rationalize. A very good friend of mine just sent out actual snail-mail address-change cards. They were very cute. SOmetimes it's nice to make an effort.

Posting a few perspectives now that have accumulated throughout the chat.

Volume matters. Fifty thrilling announcements a day, day in and day out, is braggy. The occasional bit of good news is...what normal people have. Announce it. (And I'm happy for you.)

At an office party, we waited almost an hour before they cut the cake. There seems to be a silent agreement that once cake is cut, people are free to go. I feel that an hour is too long, torture even, regardless of whether there is lunch laid out.

An hour is absurd. Some people (ahem) need the cake to be cut immediately because they feel awkward at parties without some sort of food product to hold and occupy their hands with.

Ahhh, but this is a GOOD thing. Now she'll be immune to vending-machine nostalgia purchases for the rest of her life! I have a friend who was raised on good chocolate and she doesn't do junk-food impulse buys AT ALL. I still fall prey whenever there's a new Milky Way or Three Musketeers variation on the market, even though I know it will disappoint me.

I don't think that's true. I know the difference between good dessert and crap dessert, and I still found myself buying a box of Little Debbie while on a reporting trip a few weeks ago, for heaven only knows what reason.

Please. All European chocolate (and candy in general) has no taste. There are better things to have fake snobbery about. Like watches.

Good question for next time: What are you a snob about? What do you harshly judge people for, even while you know its ridiculous?

Thanks for the encouragement, guys! I very often find myself being the facebook cheerleader for long lost friends who have taken big steps, so I'd like to think they'll be the same for me. (And yes, I'll be keeping my actual address off the post.)

You're welcome! (And congrats to you!)

What on Earth is the point of Facebook if not for updating the people you know on the big developments of your life? Besides, this is a message that has benefits by NOT being targeted to a select few via e-mail. This way, you have a chance of someone saying, "Hey, I just moved to that area, too! I think we're neighbors! Wanna grab a cup of coffee sometime and catch up?"


Really, Strunk & White took on the cake thing in "Elements of Style," and while lots of adapted phrases make sense, this one doesn't. Please give it a rethink. Don't make me say problematic Cupcake. (I wouldn't.)

Wait, who are you asking to give a rethink? All of us? Are you telling all of us to stop using that phrase?

It started as a joke, then we morphed into a is it a fruit or a vegetable conversation which somehow transitioned into sexual harassment at conventions. btw cheesy celery.

Maybe you can just ask all the panelists where they stand on celery?

What do you think about this article from Lifehacker on not spoiling TV shows, movies, etc. for others? I think it raises some interesting points about not being a jerky spoiler-type person, but I also think it goes a little too far - I don't think it's reasonable for someone to think through these steps every single time they watch something that could be considered vaguely spoilery. I do, however, like the suggestion to watch with a like-minded group of viewers, so you can discuss it in that 'safe' space in real time. http://lifehacker.com/how-to-avoid-spoiling-tv-shows-and-movies-for-everyone-1561312294

I just saw this, and didn't have a chance to preview before posting. Putting it up now, for us to peruse later at our respective leisures.

"If you post your new house on FB People will want to come over and see it. Bring the good wine! " ...and if people will want to come over and see it, they will want to spend the night. And if they spend the night...." Sounds like the beginning of some book I used to read to my kids.

"If You Give A Mouse a Cookie."

I haven't caught up on the chat yet, because I started reading over lunch and I'm so enthralled. Just wanted to get that in there before the chat ended!

Thank you so much! A lot of people worked hard on that to make it as visually arresting as it was.

is the bomb. That is all.

That truly is all, because we're already after 3 pm. Thanks for stopping by. Thank you, also, for coining a new dating frame of reference that I feel quite certain we will refer back to in future chats, i.e. "He's really nice, but he's such a brocolli."

See you next week. 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.

Read the The Web Hostess Archive .
Recent Chats
  • Next: