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AskMe question prep: it's worth it
January 18, 2012 9:57 AM   Subscribe

This AskMe thread about backing out of a high school chorus trip to Europe is an excellent illustration of the principle that you should always, always take the time to include all pertinent information in your question.

In this case, a question that sounded like "How can I make my daughter go to freshman orientation instead of letting her take a free trip to Europe?" turned out actually to be "Can I help my daughter back out of a trip to Estonia with a bunch of kids she doesn't like without spending three thousand dollars I don't have?" But not before tons of people had wasted time writing scoldy answers.
posted by escabeche to Etiquette/Policy at 9:57 AM (255 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I'll try to remember that, next time I want to not send my non-existent child on a european vacation.
posted by crunchland at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alternately, it's an excellent illustration of the principle that you should always, always answer the question asked.
posted by one_bean at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2012 [50 favorites]


I like how Stitcherbeast mentions this trip isn't about "singing dissident hymns in Belarus" and it turns out the trip is to Estonia, Finland and ... wait for it ... Belarus.

Also, I am from Russia and sending a bunch of teenagers on a spring break trip to Beautiful Post-Soviet Bloc Europe sounds like honest-to-goodness punishment.
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think it's a great example of "answer the goddamn question and stop telling someone how to be a parent when they're not asking for parenting advice."
posted by bondcliff at 10:04 AM on January 18, 2012 [25 favorites]


People really took that question as a Rorschach and ran with it. I'm not even sure this MeTa is going to help the situation much instead of just giving people a chance to vent about the situation and their personal feelings about it. The OP had admitted it might have been better to phrase the question differently. I hope people back off and either give relevant advice or keep walking.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


bondcliff: "I think it's a great example of "answer the goddamn question and stop telling someone how to be a parent when they're not asking for parenting advice."

The question as stated says she "reluctantly agreed" to send her kid. Which, whoops! it turns out she never did in the first place. Not the answerers fault that the asker can't make up her mind.
posted by Grither at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


> give relevant advice or keep walking

Motion to add this in bold letters above the post comment button.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


Finally, someone with actual experience to ask in a non-embarrassing setting.

griphus, is it bela-ROOS, or be-LAR-us?
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


byel-AH-roos
posted by griphus at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2012 [15 favorites]


Even though I know I could have written it better, a fair amount of the responses (and this Meta) are making me very sad about some of the people here.
posted by kinetic at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2012


I'm the OP. I could use a fucking hug.
posted by kinetic at 10:12 AM on January 18, 2012 [142 favorites]


I like how Stitcherbeast mentions this trip isn't about "singing dissident hymns in Belarus" and it turns out the trip is to Estonia, Finland and ... wait for it ... Belarus.

I was torn about mentioning that.
posted by kinetic at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The OP had admitted it might have been better to phrase the question differently.

The OP described an almost completely different scenario in her original question than her clarifications. I'm not saying it was intentional, just that there was a reason the OP got the response she did. While the calls to "answer the question being asked" and "stop telling someone how to be a parent" are well taken, people didn't want to be "enablers" for what they seemed to think was bad judgment on the part of the OP.
posted by deanc at 10:13 AM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


The MeTa is not meant to make kinetic or anybody else sad, or to give people more room to argue about what kinetic should do. It is not a callout. I put up a MeTa because the AskMe made me stop and think about what makes a successful Ask post, and what I could do in the future to make my Ask questions better, and I thought other people might feel similarly.
posted by escabeche at 10:14 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a perfect example of the imperfection of people. Yeah, the OP could have worded things better, but a lot of the answers could have read more carefully ("College Orientation sucks, I'm sure she wants to go to Europe!").

Look, nobody died or came close to being injured. The story is clearer now, so everyone can and should mark this down to the oddity of humanity and get on with helping the OP.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm the OP. I could use a fucking hug.

How about a cheeseburger and a glass of beer?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


escabeche, yes, that's true. There are many times on AskMe where commenters will question the very premise of the original question, and I think that's fair. Sometimes an answer to an AskMe will inevitably be "you're approaching this in the wrong way in the first place." A good example is this question where the questioner seemed to be in denial about her health problems and didn't even realize the severity of his/her circumstances.
posted by deanc at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


/sending a big fucking hug to kinetic
posted by insectosaurus at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, nobody died or came close to being injured.

You've clearly never been to Minsk.

I kid because I love.
posted by griphus at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, I am from Russia

Nuh uh you're from Brooklyn.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My school expensive-angry-hate-trip to Estonia was the best time I ever had. Just sayin'.
posted by Decani at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is pretty much the same thing.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes, AskMe is like trying to feed the ducks some bread at the park. You really want that one duck to eat the bread, but nope, its 50 friends show up being pretty loud, too. If you are lucky, they don't all attack you for your bread. But in the end, it's okay, because somewhere in the craziness, someone actually ate the bread. And that's really all my daugther wanted.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


The killer was the apparent binary of "pay or go, I don't know what to do," when it was really, "I won't pay, I won't go, so I need to develop a third option."

If I blew it, mea culpa.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:25 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


You made sure it was wheat bread, not white, right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


But then sometimes those fucking geese bastards show up and they're like three times the size of the ducks and the fuckers bite and you say 'Let's go to the library!' and you turn around and there's three dozen hungry ducks behind you and behind them a semicircle of more geese, and-- Jesus-- is that a swan? and you start stepping slowly forward but the ducks don't move back in fact they edge forward and then one of the geese honks and then it's all over.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2012 [41 favorites]


In that scenario you don't have to be able to outrun the geese, just whatever little kids might be nearby.
posted by elizardbits at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


This is what happens when you can't link to Wikipedia for answers. We just buzz around like hornets, searching for a definitive solution. Eventually we'll just die on our own stingers.
posted by Think_Long at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'll never understand why the homeless don't eat the geese in the park. With one loaf of bread, I could have roast goose and half a loaf of bread. That's a good dinner for me and two buddies.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


goose cooties is why
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll never understand why the homeless don't eat the geese in the park.

That's a terrible thing to do to a sex partner, you sick bastard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


In order to eat the goose you must first best it in single combat and they are relentless killing machines.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


I have a scar on my finger from an overzealous goose/pond feeding incident. Happily, it bit my middle finger, which I show them every chance I get.
posted by troika at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


A goose once bit my sister.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:39 AM on January 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I started typing an answer about not paying for it and then all these responses came pouring in about how much better it is to go to Europe and so then I deleted my puny words and walked away. Guess who's laughing now? Nobody.

1 new comment, show
posted by mattbucher at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2012


I got bitten by a swan once. I couldn't kill it because this was in England where I think all swans belong to the queen and so if I'd killed it I would've been put in jail. Also, I was nine. Or maybe ten.

It hurt a lot, getting bitten by a swan. I don't recommend it.
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2012


That's the new "this thread has been closed to further comments" gag.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2012


And it should be nipped in the bud and by "nipped" I mean take a blowtorch to it.
posted by mlis at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I couldn't kill it because this was in England where I think all swans belong to the queen...

No worries, we've beat them before, can do it again.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2012


I'll try to remember that, next time I want to not send my non-existent child on a european vacation.
posted by crunchland


National Lampoon's Non-Existent Child's European Vacation was my favorite of the series.
posted by The Deej at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had so many crazy chorus teachers throughout my school years, but none that ever planned a free to Europe for me. I feel either blessed or cheated, I can't decide.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:54 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, even when a question has all of the appropriate details and the question asks to solve the highest source of the problem possible, people still have a tendency to ignore the inconvenient details and answer the part of the question that they know, understand, or want to answer. Been there more than once myself

Missing important details only makes that more likely and even the answers with the best intentions can be horribly off.

Sometimes, threads are swans.
posted by Saydur at 10:55 AM on January 18, 2012


And sometimes the swans come back.... for more. [chunky guitar riff]
posted by shakespeherian at 10:58 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, fuck swans. Always swimming around like they're better than ducks or something. Like their swan shit don't stink.
posted by bondcliff at 10:59 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even though I know I could have written it better, a fair amount of the responses (and this Meta) are making me very sad about some of the people here.

Well, to be fair, the original question not only needed a great deal of additional explanation to allow us to really understand the situation, but included a factual error that led to the vast majority of problematic answers. Saying "I reluctantly agreed" is VASTLY different from "I was informed about the existence of scholarships and then had no further communication."

I'm not criticizing or blaming you, kinetic, but I don't exactly think it is fair to blame the answerers either.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh my, now all the communication is suddenly via e-mail? This just keeps getting better and better. My prediction for the next update:

"Sorry, I should've been more clear, it's actually a band trip to Micronesia, which I have signed a waiver and mailed a check already for, and my kid desperately wants to go, but instead I want her to go swim two laps around the UK. So in the end I've decided to let her do what she wants. Now can we please get back to the REAL question here: How do I best prepare a meal of swan and goose for me and my homeless friends?"
posted by Grither at 11:02 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh my, now all the communication is suddenly via e-mail?

Now you're just being shitty. If you can't be bothered to help, but can be bothered to nitpick, please find something else to do on the internet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on January 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


I got bit on the chest by a goose at the zoo once, but some toddler got flayed to death by one of the roaming peacocks so I figure I got off easy.

This just keeps getting better and better.

This is a question posted by a fellow mefite who has actually shown up in this thread and is obviously feeling frustrated and has acknowledged the framing problem with the question. I get where you're coming from but maybe ease up a little?
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dont visit Ask much. I've asked a few questions and the responses were generally good. But everytime I get directed there from MeTa I see such condescension and know-it-all behaviour and assumptions being made in bad faith it makes me not want to go there at all. I can't believe this turned into an attack on the OP for using personal pronouns.

"How can I make my daughter go to freshman orientation instead of letting her take a free trip to Europe?

I totally didnt read the question that way FWIW. Yeah there were a few confusing points about the question (like "reluctantly agreed"), but really I think even as originally worded it wouldnt be hard to come to the conclusion they can't make you pay for a trip you if you didn't authorize it, and they raised the money without your knowledge or consent so it's their problem.
posted by Hoopo at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wow, people are really getting their rocks off judging the kinetic (in this thread too, now!). When did we stop giving community members who are asking for help even a modicum of the benefit of the doubt?

Are we really playing "gotcha" with askers who don't include every single detail in the original question? Seriously, this whole thing makes me not want to ask questions on the green.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


Please send me to same by Midsommer, please?
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2012


AskMe is unseating MeTa as MeFi's Thunderdome.

Are you not entertained?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


How do I best prepare a meal of swan and goose for me and my homeless friends?

A-he-he-he-hem.

SEAGOOSWAN

Ingredients:
1 Goose (live)
1 Seagull (live)
1 Swan (live)
1 Discarded coffee filter
3 Discarded cans of pet food (wet)
2 Loaves day-old bread from behind the deli
Asstd. vegetable peels

Preparation:
Prepare stuffing by mixing equal parts day-old bread, pet food scrapings, coffee grinds and vegetable peels.
Preheat empty garbage can to "on fire."
Have goose, swan, seagull fight to death over one loaf of the day old bread.
Pluck, skin and remove entrails.
Stuff seagull with stuffing.
Stuff goose with seagull.
Stuff swan with goose.
Throw seagooswan in garbage can along with entrails for 1hr.

Serve!
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on January 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Now you're just being shitty. If you can't be bothered to help, but can be bothered to nitpick, please find something else to do on the internet."

Nah, I was just messing around, hoping for a good goose recipe, and voila! griphus delivers.
posted by Grither at 11:13 AM on January 18, 2012


The only good goose recipe is a dead goose recipe.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2012


If this turns into recipe time this website really will go dark.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:16 AM on January 18, 2012 [61 favorites]


sending a bunch of teenagers on a spring break trip to Beautiful Post-Soviet Bloc Europe sounds like honest-to-goodness punishment.

In post-Soviet Belarus, spring breaks you!
posted by octobersurprise at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


IF YOU KIDS DON'T QUIET DOWN BACK THERE I'M TURNING THIS WEBSITE RIGHT AROUND AND DROPPING YOU OFF AT FARK'S HOUSE
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2012 [43 favorites]


/hugs the op

I must ask, though, what do y'all have against Estonia? Ok, so the weather is generally awful, the food is even worse, and there's nothing here to see other than a bog or two, but it's not that bad.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:22 AM on January 18, 2012


But Moooooooooooooooooom, he's on my side!
posted by shakespeherian at 11:23 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are lots of things to love about Estonia. For example, not being Latvia.
posted by Copronymus at 11:27 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Back in Finland, Estonia was loved for cheap booze and pedicures.
posted by infini at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Geese are fucking assholes, this is true. But one time a friend of mine had to measure pollution levels in a river, at different points in the river, and she needed someone to help. So I agreed to help her.

She gave me these GIANT thick overshoe things, that were basically like galoshes which go all the way up to your chest and become overalls strapped around your shoulder up top. I guess you guys that work in wet environments probably have a name for them and are intimately familiar with them, but I'd never tried these things before, so it was a fun novelty -- a dry environment of like an eighth-of-an-inch of olive-colored rubber, protecting everything seamlessly from my toes to my armpits.

So we go to the river, and the riverbank is just SWARMING with geese. I've been bitten by geese before, and I think they're dicks. But now I'm wearing these giant boots that cover my whole lower half. So I just walk right into the midst of them. And the geese go fucking BALLISTIC, man. Honking and biting, but they can't get through the rubber, and they can't open they tiny geese beaks wide enough to actually grasp any part of my legs. So they keep getting madder and madder, and trying to bite me, but I'm pretty much invulnerable.

So I'm standing there in the middle of the geese, cackling, yelling at them "HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, FUCKERRRS?" and they're like, "HONK HONK HONK" and I'm like "ha ha YEAHHHH"

i guess if i were applying to college now that would probably be my essay about a time i really learned to believe in myself
posted by Greg Nog at 11:28 AM on January 18, 2012 [340 favorites]


I was waiting for the part where both you and the geese remembered that they can fly and your nose is unprotected.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


I would imagine that a teenage American girl would be an instant target of attention from teenage Estonian boys. Hey, baby. We have grain alcohol...

I'm not really helping, am I?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay guys. I think we've answered the OP's concerns here. I'm going to close this up now.
posted by schmod at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2012


Honking and biting, but they can't get through the rubber, and they can't open they tiny geese beaks wide enough to actually grasp any part of my legs.

This is how Superman must feel every time the Hired Goons train their revolvers on him and open fire.
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess you guys that work in wet environments probably have a name for them and are intimately familiar with them

"Waders."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry. I should clarify.

We have not answered the OP's concerns, and I'm not a moderator, so I can't close this up.
posted by schmod at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is how Superman must feel every time the Hired Goons train their revolvers on him and open fire.

The best part is always when the Goons run out of bullets and then the guy chucks the gun itself at Supes and he fuckin' ducks because HOLY SHIT THAT COULD REALLY HURT
posted by shakespeherian at 11:33 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Big hugs to you kinetic and take care.

(the rest of you: what the hell?)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2012


I'm the OP. I could use a fucking hug

Sorry that my personal contribution to that question was not super-helpful. I wouldn't have commented at all except for the apparent confusion about signing something versus agreeing, which after the follow-up turned out to be irrelevant anyway considering that you apparently never agreed to begin with. Some other people have posted better answers given the more detailed information in your follow-ups. I hope it ends up working out for you and your daughter!
posted by burnmp3s at 11:36 AM on January 18, 2012


I would imagine that a teenage American girl would be an instant target of attention from teenage Estonian boys. Hey, baby. We have grain alcohol...

Fact: all teenage Estonian boys wear waders.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


(We're literally drowning in geese and you really don't want them to bite off your naughty bits if you're a teenage boy)
posted by daniel_charms at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2012


I befriended a gray goose at the wedding of some friends once by just letting it bite me until the novelty wore off. It wasn't very painful. Then it was my friend-goose, and let me pet it.

Later that night, after cocktails, I explained my method to a fairly intoxicated fellow guest ("nah, just let it bite you! It doesn't hurt! I swear! Look, see? It just pinches!"), and she let the goose bite her a bunch and then thanked me profusely for my wisdom.

The next day I got up early and took pictures of the goose, who posed for me.
posted by little cow make small moo at 11:43 AM on January 18, 2012 [29 favorites]


Supplementary Fact: Every pair of waders in Estonia was made in 1979 and tailored to Lenin's measurements as those were the correct and proper dimensions of an Eastern Bloc man. They were all produced in the Tallinn Rubber Extrusion Plant and Restaurant.
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I knew this crazy lady who kept two geese inside her tiny courtyard in her bungalow just a few blocks from downtown. They were total assholes and she kept them as guard geese since her house was like two degrees from being a crackhouse. I kicked one once square in the breast when it was biting at me and it didn't seem to notice.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see this in advice forums pretty frequently. The question asked is not always the question that needs answering.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2012


I would love to go to Finland, on account of how all the people I know who are Finnish are freakishly good looking and cool. So in my head Finland is this magical land where everyone are chiptune composers for their own stop-motion puppet rock operas or other cool things while maintaining a part-time career as models for quirky yet stylish clothiers.
posted by winna at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Vichai Thongto, who lived near Bangkok, was killed by his pet peacock. Mr Thongto, 30, was feeding the family's four caged peacocks when the sole male, "Yoong Thong" - Golden Peacock - clawed at his head. A scan showed a blood clot on Mr Thongto's brain; he died on Monday. His father, Somchai, said he still loved Yoong Thong.
AP - Bangkok


Once during a three week dxm, mescaline, psilocybin and mdma bender I spent a few days squatting in a maintenance shed on the roof of a 400 year old church in Guanajuato.

For breakfast, lunch and dinner we had free range pigeon slow cooked in stone ground wild chile sauce. It was good.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2012


the best were the 1972 50th anniversary commemorative Young Pioneer waders with the flaming star emblems.
posted by elizardbits at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


winna: you've been browsing hel-looks.com, haven't you.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:54 AM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


So in my head Finland is this magical land where everyone are chiptune composers for their own stop-motion puppet rock operas or other cool things while maintaining a part-time career as models for quirky yet stylish clothiers.

I think when their economy isn't crashing this is pretty accurate. Puppet rock operas are a springtime affair.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:56 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


My family had a dacha in Komarovo, and when my mom was a kid, she used to listen to rock and roll coming in from Finnish radio stations.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2012


Playing devil's advocate here but the comment by julipelase certainly re-re-re-raises the possibility that skeletons lurk in closets here.

The hole I see in your story is this: the fact that you emailed him on 1/9 to say that she could not attend due to a conflict in dates indicates that up until that point, you also were under the impression that she was scheduled for this trip, scholarship or no.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2012


winna: "all the people I know who are Finnish are freakishly good looking and cool."

I think you're mixing up Finland and Sweden.
posted by Grither at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2012


Anyone who likes salmiakki is a good and beautiful person in my book.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is Finland the one where apparently everyone is nude all the time?
posted by burnmp3s at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2012


This thread needs more Harry Egipt
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2012


We have geese, ducks, swans all over campus here (York). I mean LOTS of them. I think there's like, 40 species of waterfowl here. We even have a duck of the day blog! You can imagine...every PPT and training module being duck-themed, trying to not cycle over birds while getting through campus (they actually charge and try to bite your tires at times), and oh, the puns, those awfoul bird-brain droppings!

But now, the city is freezing over and those pampered aves will soon be holed-up in their secret hideout. All that will be left will be their slippery, unwanted contributions to this fine institution, as the whole campus zone will smell like a shit popsicle for the next two months.

It is damn cute when the baby ducks are about in late spring, though.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{kinetic}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}
posted by Lynsey at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is Finland the one where apparently everyone is nude all the time?

Gonna need some examples.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2012


That avalanche of pitchforks and excited, gleeful judgment made me feel awful for the OP. I'm so sorry, Kinetic.

I'm not sure there actually IS a way to ask a question that doesn't invite judgment. No matter how clear you attempt to be, someone is going to be able to get it totally wrong and say cruel things. If you write a long question, people will skip over details. If you write a concise question, people will leap to conclusions. If you are anonymous, people will assume crazy things. If you are non-anonymous, there's always that guy who's like "Reading through your past questions, I see that you once asked for a recipe for beet salad, so clearly the "blood" in your stool is just beets, stop being a pussy."

(And if you ask a question about healthcare financial issues, people will insist, in spite of all personal experience to the contrary, that doctors know what things cost.)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the problem of narrative, the problem of human brains trying to fit every pattern of facts into a concise linear story, beginning, middle, end, villain, hero, thematic arc, blah blah blah. Real life is super complicated. Complexity is uncomfortable, tidy narrative is comforting. Ask questions are often like inkblots, I guess. You see a question that's like "Am I an asshole for thinking about leaving my spouse for this penguin I met on the internet?" and depending on where you yourself are coming from with marital fidelity stuff, "YES, YOU ARE A DICK!" or "CHASE YOUR BLISS!" is out of your mouth before you've even read the rest of the question.

I think there's also an issue of... our default assumption is that the world is just, and so if something shitty happens to somebody, clearly they did something bad to cause it themselves. And so someone's complex question - something bad is happening, how do I handle it, here are my unique circumstances - becomes an opportunity to point out their terrible flaws which caused this disaster, they brought it on themselves, stop whining. And so, I guess, we soothe our own anxiety. If I do everything right, this will never happen to me. I will never receive an unexpected bill, or develop a crush on someone at work, or not be able to afford to go to the doctor to check out this lump, or not know how to break up with someone, or need help figuring out how to deal with my kid's crazy choir director. No, those things will never happen to me, because I will always make all the right choices, and the universe is never random.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2012 [77 favorites]


This is a non-Anser.
posted by gubo at 12:07 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sweden is also full of lovely people, but they are not like the people of Finland. The people of Finland can control the weather by whistling!

It is advised not to dream of moving to Finland, though, because their language was plainly designed by lunatic super-geniuses to prevent people from learning it.
posted by winna at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Finland (I've been told) a cucumber cost $14
posted by From Bklyn at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2012


OMG was Kim Jong Il Finnish?
posted by XMLicious at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2012


Nothing costs dollars in Finland.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


And it should be nipped in the bud

Once I was nipped in the bud by a goose. True story.
posted by found missing at 12:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The next day I got up early and took pictures of the goose, who posed for me.

We can't look at that picture today, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on January 18, 2012


Nothing costs dollars in Finland.

Still, 450 kraaäwnaaakjksrii is a lot of money!
posted by griphus at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2012


(it's NSFW. pinup goose.)
posted by shakespeherian at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2012


The hole in my story. Christ.

Playing devil's advocate here but the comment by julipelase certainly re-re-re-raises the possibility that skeletons lurk in closets here.

Yep. Goose skeletons with laser claws and the power to kill a teenage soprano at 50 paces.

Argh. No. Until I contacted the choral director on January 9th, there had been NO communication about the days of the trip, the cost or any of it. Nothing than an initial email that some kids qualified for scholarships. Then silence.

So the whole thing seemed like it would never actually happen.

As soon as my kid had a genuine reason to bail, I emailed the choral guy and told him she wouldn't be going.

Then a goose bit my finger and I made a YouTube video about it but it wasn't funny.
posted by kinetic at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2012 [23 favorites]


We can't look at that picture today, though.

I was able to see it.
posted by cooker girl at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


prenup goose? post-nup, actually
posted by little cow make small moo at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2012


the possibility that skeletons lurk in closets here

I'm not exactly sure why we're cross-examining the OP asker, here? Is there some sort of dastardly mystery afoot? Are you convinced that kinetic is actually Old Man Jenkins who owns the closed-down amusement park?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


escabeche, yes, that's true. There are many times on AskMe where commenters will question the very premise of the original question, and I think that's fair. Sometimes an answer to an AskMe will inevitably be "you're approaching this in the wrong way in the first place." A good example is this question where the questioner seemed to be in denial about her health problems and didn't even realize the severity of his/her circumstances.

Wow, that's an understatement. I just read that question for the first time, and it sounded exactly like the now-deleted question from the schizophrenic asking "how can I convince people what I'm seeing is real and how come my psychiatrist is treating me like a child?". She needs help, far beyond what the internet is equipped to handle.
posted by Melismata at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2012


A long time ago, back ay my first job, I stayed late on a summer evening to test something that developers in a different building on the corporate campus were finishing, so when I left, my boyfriend's little red Miata (which I had borrowed that day, knowing I was going to work late) was the sole car in the parking lot.

As I walked closer, I realized that that there were a couple of geese quite close. There were many geese which lived in the corporate campus's suburban pond and attacked people as they walked around the trail after lunch. I had never had much contact with them and had always silently mocked my new co-workers who were terrified by them. Little did I know this was karma biting me in the ass.

Though it was late, since it was summer, the sun was just setting so I couldn't see the car clearly. As I approached, I realized that there were actually nine geese surrounding the car -- including one on the hood and one on the soft top. Nothing else in the entire parking lot but my only way home, now the nest for nine geese who were, terrifyingly, standing completely still. I'd made too many jokes about Tippi Hedren's abuse at Alfred Hitchcock's hands. This was my punishment.

I was hesitant, but still figured they'd move as I approached. I was wrong. Though some turned to look at me, they weren't frightened at all. I shook my keys, stomped my feet, even yelled a bit. They refused to move.

Finally, I pretended to dig into my pocket (as if they would assume I was getting out some bread) and threw some change such that the one closest to the door would hopefully try to fetch it (also assuming it was bread.)

This actually worked, and I was able to dash for the door, just closing it before the pissed-at-no-bread goose tried to stick its neck in. But there were still two in front of me and at least one behind, leaving the car pretty much stuck in an almost empty lot.

Then one of them jumped on the trunk and another one jumped on the soft top right above me.

I may or may not have shrieked.

Eventually, I calmed down to get, from the glove box, the only-for-emergencies cell phone (like I said, a long time ago) and called my boyfriend. Because he was awesome and I had killed plenty of spiders for him, he did not mock me. We brainstormed. Starting the car didn't work. Flashing lights didn't work. Spraying windshield wiper fluid only moved those off the hood. Slamming doors did nothing but make me afraid I'd decapitate one. Honking the tiny little horn only got a chorus of much more frightening honking responses.

Finally, it came down to 2 questions: How would I feel about running one over? And who would win in a Miata vs. goose showdown?

I guessed on both questions, but fortunately never had to learn the answer because as I pulled forward, the goose that was blocking me from behind moved and I was able to reverse and pull the fuck out. With no other cars around, I cut through the parking lot like a madman, taking the most direct route out. I was going so fast that I almost blew threw the red light intersection at the exit, but instead slammed on the brakes.

That's when a goose still on the roof slid down onto the windshield and started flapping like mad.

I know I shrieked that time.

--

As for the issue at hand, like mattbucher, I initially read the question more like the intention. And I regret not responding, if only because, after feeling like I'm continually putting my foot in my mouth lately, it'd be nice to be right for a change. But I don't think this is some sort of deep insight I have into the human condition -- I just have experience with crazy choir directors.

Best of luck to you kinetic. Hope it all works out okay. As for your younger child, if the choir director is pulling stunts like this, with any luck the director won't be around in a few years.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:29 PM on January 18, 2012 [54 favorites]


skeletons lurk in closets here.

Very seriously do not do this here. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]



the possibility that skeletons lurk in closets here

I'm not exactly sure why we're cross-examining the OP asker, here? Is there some sort of dastardly mystery afoot? Are you convinced that kinetic is actually Old Man Jenkins who owns the closed-down amusement park?


It would have been exactly some reason like that, if I'd been doing it. There is something about the question which seems very at odds with itself and not what it appears to be. The follow-ups add to that impression. When I'm looking through askme and find something like that, it makes me incredibly curious. Sometimes I post a question; sometimes I keep coming back to the thread to see if things come clear.

I don't know, maybe that sounds callous. But this did not seem like a situation where the OP was distraught or in danger or anything. And was she hard done by? The first several answers were good-natured, "Send the kid to Europe!" Then it got a little more complicated, but I am betting some of the answers were really pretty useful. All in all, not a bad outcome.
posted by BibiRose at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually thought the way this went awry was pretty simple. A three-part problem.

1. Everybody assumed "new program for freshmen" meant the same boring things they did at orientation. Not a safe assumption.

2. Everybody assumed "choral trip to Europe" was both something the kid wanted to do and something that would be awesome. Not a safe assumption. This even extended to things that don't follow at all, like assuming the kid's friends were going.

3. The OP said "reluctantly agreed" and meant "decided, but did not communicate, that I'd go along with it."

They're all understandable. There's nothing particularly suspicious about it, I don't think. It's a reminder that can be useful to all of us at times that communication is imperfect, and that therefore, it's good to calibrate your amount of tone to the amount of information you have.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


There is something about the question which seems very at odds with itself and not what it appears to be.

And what are the consequences of giving the asker the benefit of the doubt and just moving on? Not everything on the internet needs to be won.
posted by bondcliff at 12:38 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Attack goose, y'all. She's on our side.

In Belarus, goose eat YOU.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:47 PM on January 18, 2012


I wonder if the tone of a lot of the answers can be accounted for by the fact that a lot of people read the original question as a mother asking how to deny her daughter a trip to Europe, and that activated some latent resentment in people's brains from times that they were not allowed to do things. That said, I don't really understand why we wouldn't give Kinetic the benefit of the doubt once things had been cleared up. There are times when the premises of questions need to be questioned - almost everyone in a horrible relationship wants to take breaking up off the table, almost everyone going through a traumatic breakup insists on remaining friends, etc. - but this wasn't one of those times.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


In Belarus, goose eat YOU.

BelaGOOSE!

posted by argonauta at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, maybe that sounds callous.

It does sound callous! Because AskMe is not here to titillate the reader, it is a service for community members.

When I started lurking around here 2+ years ago, I thought the best Ask threads where when readers discovered holes in people's stories -- u.n. owen, that guy who was trying to scam people on eBay, husbands posting on their wives' accounts, etc. I couldn't understand why jessamyn would tell people to cool it in thread when it was so much fun to read.

But this is the flip side of those threads. It's so much fun to call people on their bullshit that people will go looking for bullshit to call when there isn't any. All we're left with is a parent who is more stressed out then when they asked the question, a few people who insist on continuing to be jerks, and a bunch of people making goose jokes. Cheers all around, I guess.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:57 PM on January 18, 2012 [13 favorites]


I sympathize with the daughter. I didn't go on my choir trip (to Gatlinburg Tennessee) nor my senior trip (to Washington DC) because 99% of the other kids were bullies and jerks and I would have been completely miserable.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The more I think about this, in any way, the more I think this is just a music director with shitty organizational skills on a power trip (oh man did I have my share of those). Let's imagine that kinetic payed the $3000 and then had to cancel the trip. Would she be out all $3000? No, of course not. The plane tickets may be 'non-refundable' but you can often pay a change fee. The hotel is almost certainly refundable (I'm sure they are packing the kids 4 to a room but if so many are dropping out they can consolidate). If this is a package deal, part or all of the tour package fee will be refundable.

So even if kinetic, like, signed a permission slip, that doesn't mean that she owes some mysterious scholarship donor the full cost of the trip.

I wonder if the director actually meant that if the student doesn't go on the trip, she won't pass the class and thus won't graduate? Some of my friends had that threat lobbed at me a couple of times, and in my school district it was actually against the rules and my director was cited. They ended up having to do alternate assignments.
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2012


There is something about the question which seems very at odds with itself and not what it appears to be.

Yes, well it's a complicated situation, an emotional and complicated situation, an emotional and complicated situation communicated via text, an emotional and complicated situation communicated via text by a person in the middle of it.

It's the perfect conditions for bad communication. So, there was some miscommunication in the question, which is what this Meta is supposedly about (by the way, I'm pro-clear questions with relevant details, but don't believe that the lack of those things means the person asking the question is bad).

Requesting clarification to help you come up with an answer is one thing, examining the story for "holes" is quite another. This isn't an episode of Colombo, it's a woman with a problem. If you don't want to help her solve it, then don't; assuming that someone has an evil master plan that involves lying on the internet to strangers about a possible trip to Europe that her daughter could take is just... weird. Even if one were to truly believe that Kinetic was lying about some details, do you really think that pointing out that "AHA! There is no daughter, it's a son, and the trip's to Slovakia for BAND not choir!" is going to help any one in any way?
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [18 favorites]


Estonia looks awesome to me! They have a sauna bus to rent and it's the home of the awesome Nami-Nami!
posted by vespabelle at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2012


It does sound callous! Because AskMe is not here to titillate the reader, it is a service for community members.

I see what you mean, and I agree that (if I understand your post) curiosity is not the best reason to read askme. And it is, not even not the best, but not a good reason at all to participate in a thread. When I commented above, I wasn't so much trying to justify any jumping into threads that I do out of mere curiosity, as to explain what the attraction is.
posted by BibiRose at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2012


I sympathize with the daughter. I didn't go on my choir trip (to Gatlinburg Tennessee) nor my senior trip (to Washington DC) because 99% of the other kids were bullies and jerks and I would have been completely miserable.

MeFi is usually so sensitive to bullies in schools that I was surprised it didn't occur to anyone that the chorus might be full of Mean Girls, or the daughter's unbalanced ex-boyfriend, or even just a totally incompetent choir director.

Belarus aside, I assume even Paris can be ruined by terrible accommodations, transportation snafus and mixups about when you are supposed to sing at St. Sebastienne Church of the Sweet or wherever that result in you and 20 of your not-so-close friends sitting in a freezing alcove or side altar with nothing to eat but granola bars for four hours while the adults in your group "straighten all this out."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then there were some geese, or something.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:16 PM on January 18, 2012


Real geese are mean, but I someday hope to own a porch goose.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2012


This is what happens when you start poking through the goose shit to see what the goose ate.
posted by peagood at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2012


I wasn't so much trying to justify any jumping into threads that I do out of mere curiosity, as to explain what the attraction is.

Yeah, I get where you're coming from, and I don't think it's bad to rubberneck posts that seem to be a disaster in the making (it's fun!) -- I just think people seem to go out of their way to attack askers because they like those types of threads so much, and I think that hurts the community.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:21 PM on January 18, 2012


Metafilter: condescension and know-it-all behaviour and assumptions being made in bad faith

Metafilter: skeletons lurk in closets here

and on preview:
Metafilter: poking through the goose shit
posted by euphorb at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2012


MeFi is usually so sensitive to bullies in schools that I was surprised it didn't occur to anyone that the chorus might be full of Mean Girls, or the daughter's unbalanced ex-boyfriend, or even just a totally incompetent choir director.

Even if that did occur to people, it's not really relevant at all to the actual question. The core question was about figuring out how to solve the problem of the OP being told she owed $3000 for a trip that she said her daughter wouldn't be able to go on.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was referring to the assumption by many posters in the first third of the thread that the daughter definitely wanted to go to Europe and that there was no reason any child would not want to go to Europe with his or her school.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2012


our default assumption is that the world is just, and so if something shitty happens to somebody, clearly they did something bad to cause it themselves.

I am beginning to think more and more that this is a great source of ill in the world.

also:

"Where am I?"
"In MeTa."
"What do you want?"
"Information."
"Whose side are you on!?"
"That would be telling..."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2012


Am I the only one with a sudden urge to watch Summer Heights High after reading that thread?
posted by arha at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I am coveting a porch goose.
posted by Cocodrillo at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2012


I was referring to the assumption by many posters in the first third of the thread that the daughter definitely wanted to go to Europe and that there was no reason any child would not want to go to Europe with his or her school.

I read the peer pressure line in the original post as being about the kid wanting to go.

I assume I was not alone in that assumption, since many other people apparently had that same interpretation. We weren't all ink-blotting it up in the piece as much as all that.

With that said, I have had a couple of questions in which I clearly explained why option a or z was not the answer, only to have some smart alecks come in and try to get me to do option a or z, so I understand that AskMe can be an exercise in frustration for everyone sometimes.
posted by winna at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2012


kinetic wrote...
I'm taking a Tylenol and marking this resolved.

First step towards letting this ugly blot fade into Metafilter history.

I'm glad you got some useful answers in the end.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else see that Greg Nog had written a comment about geese and, before even reading it, cackle aloud with glee?

Just me?
posted by Aizkolari at 2:10 PM on January 18, 2012


Don't scare him away again.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think people started off coming from a good - defend the daughter place, but its kind of getting a bit too detectivey, a bit too much rooting in other peoples inventories. If you've ever been the subject of some amazingly way off snap judgements in mefi you'll know its not great.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's weird that this question has aroused so much gnashing-of-teeth on behalf of kinetic. I see many, many AskMe questions that are not riddled with inconsistencies that raise serious questions about the asker's credibility, where the asker gets treated like shit and everyone seems to think it's okay.
posted by jayder at 2:23 PM on January 18, 2012


I see many, many AskMe questions that are not riddled with inconsistencies

Like this one? It wasn't clearly explained, but nothing is inconsistent. I wanted to post something like "My college had an amazing week-long prefreshman orientation that I missed because I was poor, and I have always regretted it because so many people became friends and once again, I was left out." But that doesn't answer the question at all.

and everyone seems to think it's okay.

I don't, but there's not much I can do except flag.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on January 18, 2012


OK, it was only a weekend long, plus another weekend for honors students. In the first case I was too poor and in the second I wasn't good enough at math.
posted by muddgirl at 2:30 PM on January 18, 2012


I see many, many AskMe questions that are not riddled with inconsistencies that raise serious questions about the asker's credibility,

Please point to the many, many metas you are talking about.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:37 PM on January 18, 2012


I just went through the "corrections" of a few student's papers that I had to examine last week (regulations of the uni here. Examiner may ask for completions and corrections, to be delivered within a week).
May we just please appreciate and applaud the average stellar non-flakiness of the Meta-NoMatterWhetherTheyAskOrAnswer-er, even if some tiny accidents do happen even here? I mean, honestly, normal people, when being given a list of five items with page references (for a c. 40-p. paper) to correct, sometimes with big HINTHINT ready-formatted examples all over the place, nevertheless turn around stuff that STILL needs correction. Smart people, I led the seminar and saw it with my own eyes. Why is this so? Because they can't even read their own stuff. Or concentrate on one thing. Whatever: instead of mechanically using the search and replace function of their text editor or doing any other of those concentrate-for-five-seconds-and-be-done tasks, they engage in talking to their parrots via twitter, sending away bottle messages in their bathtub, cooking half an oxen sous vide in the lukewarm January rain, or God knows what else.

We're good here, believe me, really good.
posted by Namlit at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


All I know is that if they go on the trip, then Anwar will have sex with the cute slavic girl and Tony will go down on Maxxie while Michelle pretends to be asleep and freaks out. This is all good.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:44 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's weird that this question has aroused so much gnashing-of-teeth on behalf of kinetic. I see many, many AskMe questions that are not riddled with inconsistencies that raise serious questions about the asker's credibility, where the asker gets treated like shit and everyone seems to think it's okay.

Well, for me, I am gnashing my teeth because what's happened to kinetic was a perfect distillation of a problem I've seen many times in Ask and someone opened a MeTa about it framed as a soft rebuke of the asker and it seemed like a good place to gnash about it.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:55 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Just back to this, sorry about the skeletons thing, it was a poor choice as far as a turn of phrase where I really meant something more like what BibiRose said here:

There is something about the question which seems very at odds with itself and not what it appears to be.

Regardless, I'm not here to fight a battle, nor did I really see it as one but that doesn't excuse any casualties I may have caused with my tone, and I hope the two tidbits I put into the orignial AskMe can help. Really, when I come to an AskMe to help it is to provide some information/views that could help, it really is.

In kinda-related news, via some context searching I found this MeTalk thread from the past and it provided some nice insight into how things maybe, kinda, sorta, should work in the future.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:02 PM on January 18, 2012


Bah, before the grar restarts, that link is mostly for the grar-ers (myself included), not the receivers of grar as it stands here and now. Not trying to fan the flames, really not.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2012


I still have problems with the initial question going from "I" repeatedly to "my daughter" (citation) in clarification. To me that makes it similar to the question leotrotsky asked though possibly accidental.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:11 PM on January 18, 2012


I still have problems with the initial question going from "I" repeatedly to "my daughter" (citation) in clarification.

Have you considered therapy?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Finland, Finland, Finland, the country where I want to be.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still have problems with the initial question going from "I" repeatedly to "my daughter" (citation) in clarification.

Kinetic explained the reason for that in one of her responses:

I added in my kid's perspective because people had asked. To me, it wasn't relevant because the question wasn't "Should she go to Europe or not?"

Which brings us back to: just answer the question asked or keep walking. The pile on in that AskMe thread made me queasy. People were getting all Nancy Grace all over the place.
posted by Tha Race Card at 3:46 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dont visit Ask much. I've asked a few questions and the responses were generally good. But everytime I get directed there from MeTa I see such condescension and know-it-all behaviour and assumptions being made in bad faith it makes me not want to go there at all.

I think I see the problem, Hoopo.

I am from Russia and sending a bunch of teenagers on a spring break trip to Beautiful Post-Soviet Bloc Europe sounds like honest-to-goodness punishment.

So we have the explanation: basically this is pure blackmail on the part of the choral director. "If you don't pony up three grand, your little girl is goin' to Estonia with the special chorus, see? And I ain't talkin' euphemistic-like, lady. Your other choice is she don't graduate, and you still owe the three big ones, see."
posted by gingerest at 3:46 PM on January 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think what I'm struck by exchanges like this is the escalation:

1. Person takes a shot at asking a question, trying to balance brevity with relevant details.

2. People mostly good naturedly give a response, but not an answer to the initial question (send her to Europe! or whatever.....)

3. First opportunity to a redirect is missed, as the OP could thank people for their good wishes, and give more information to help them understand the situation better. But, because they may be feeling a bit frayed and attacked, they give more information, but sort of escalate with curt language or what not.

4. Second opportunity to redirect and de-escalate is missed, as although most people acknowledge or ignore how the OP's frustration is affecting the OP's tone, and focus on answering the question with new information. Yet a few people who felt the OP's opprobrium a little too sharply, and probably would have appreciated just hearing acknowledgement of their their mostly good natured intentions a little, but didn't, and so respond with curtness of their own, and.....

5.....We're off the the races, as language gets sharper and sharper, as if the point of the interaction is to figure out who is to blame for the communication not going in the direction either side wanted, which was to get useful help (from the OP), and to offer useful help (many posters).

Maybe there could be a helpful one-two de-escalation protocol:

1.... where the OP sees that many posters are just way off track, but acknowledges that people are trying to help, and thanks them for it, even if it wasn't as useful/or perhaps a little more grar than they would like. Maybe they avoid the sharpness.

2.......Maybe the responders could give the OP a two sharp phrases pass, ignoring the grar and just focusing on the new info, and revise their answers based on the new info. Maybe they avoid the, 'well, you are dead to me now' tone in their voices, when the follow up.

Maybe everyone could just remember that few of us ask for help as skillfully as we'd like, and sometimes it doesn't get offered in the manner we'd like, but both sides could acknowledge the intention of the other. The OP didn't mean to ask an unclear question. The responders often don't mean to be unhelpful.

/I also live in a world where there are no alarm clocks, veggies taste like jelly beans, every person is musical, and everyone lets everyone else slide their car in a lane during traffic jams. It's a good place, and Imma be really, really sorry when I am forced to wake up. So your mileage may vary on my suggestions.

posted by anitanita at 4:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have any particularly good goose stories, but about a year & a half ago, I came out of work late (around 1:30am) to find a wild turkey hunkered down asleep on the roof of my car --- and lemme tell ya, those suckers are *big*.

Only thing I could think of doing was stand way back and keep beeping the car alarm at it until it finally woke up and got off.
posted by easily confused at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]



Have you considered therapy?


Maybe we all should - Matt books a mountain retreat for a week, hires some professional counsellors, holds biggest mefi meetup ever.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:24 PM on January 18, 2012


1. Person takes a shot at asking a question, trying to balance brevity with relevant details.

1. Also, give a key detail, apparently erroneous, which completely changes the nature of the answers to be given. ("...I reluctantly agreed...")

I'm glad everything worked out in the end, but the initial question and its surrounding details changed upon clarification. It happens.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:29 PM on January 18, 2012


MetaFilter: they can't open they tiny geese beaks wide enough to actually grasp any part.
posted by batmonkey at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sticherbeast: "1. Person takes a shot at asking a question, trying to balance brevity with relevant details.

1. Also, give a key detail, apparently erroneous, which completely changes the nature of the answers to be given. ("...I reluctantly agreed...")
"

I disagree with this. The initial question never changed. People answered a question I never asked.

My question was about how to respond to her high school, not if she should go to Europe. In fact, in no way does my question appear to be asking if she should go to Europe.

I got a load of well-intentioned advice about a question I didn't ask. About 35 immediate responses were along the lines of, "She should go to Europe! Freshman orientation is a waste of time!"

I should have clarified that when I said I reluctantly agreed after peer pressure, I meant that I told some other parents that if their kids would go, mine probably would as well. I made it really clear that I never gave permission to the school that my kid would go on this trip.

I appreciate the nice advice and many hugs I received, but this felt like I asked a question, people responded to something I didn't answer, and then it got very weird very fast.
posted by kinetic at 5:39 PM on January 18, 2012


* people responded to something I didn't ask...
posted by kinetic at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2012


yeh, kinetic, I was surprised by how many answers there were, then I opened the thread and was shocked by how all the answers were "let your kid go to Europe". Then I remembered it was ask.me.

Anyway, I hope you got some useful answers to your real question and I hope you're able to get a resolution with the school.

BTW, my honors choir director in high school was a little tyrant as well, but I don't think he ever tried to scam a trip to Belarus out of anyone.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2012


Second prize, TWO trips to Estonia!

(I kid because I love. I guess. I don't know, I used to listen to "Voice of Estonia" on the radio when I was a kid and it sounded kind of interesting. Though not as interesting as "Spotlight on Latvia." Massachusetts gets weirdly specifically ethnic once you get outside route 495.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:53 PM on January 18, 2012


AskMe is like the snooty gang of so-perfect chorale singers of MeFi High. I prefer to hang out with the glue-sniffers in FPP Shop 101 and those bad kids who are always smoking by the Grey wall.

Also, I too had a goose experience.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2012


I should have clarified that when I said I reluctantly agreed after peer pressure, I meant that I told some other parents that if their kids would go, mine probably would as well. I made it really clear that I never gave permission to the school that my kid would go on this trip.

Once again, I'm really, truly not trying to be a dick, but "I reluctantly agreed to take a $3000 scholarship for the trip" is still extremely different both from what you said about there being literally no conversation about the trip after the director brought up the scholarship, and this is different yet again: where I guess you told other parents, but not the director, that your kid would go if their kids would go. These are all very different stories, the first being by far the most different from the latter two. To you, it's all fairly clear because obviously you lived through all of it, but written out, they each have very different meanings.

Also, to many people, a trip to Europe is a mark of privilege, and something highly desirable, even if the real life details aren't as nice. I've never been to Europe. I certainly wasn't able to go to Europe as a kid. I've still never been. Many people from my continent are in a similar boat. So, I hope you'll forgive the Pavlovian reaction when I get excited about trips to Europe.

Either way, I hope and presume that this can all get resolved to your satisfaction.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:59 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once again, I'm really, truly not trying to be a dick, but

Please just leave this alone. Please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Okeydoke.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2012


Once again, I'm really, truly not trying to be a dick

Prefacing a statement with this rarely works.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I once took my then-girlfriend (now-wife) on a romantic trip to Estonia. We'd been living apart and she was visiting me in England from India. People thought I was crazy to go to Estonia. Why not Paris, or Italy, or anywhere else? I'll tell you why.

We went to a recreation (or was it?) of a peasant village that had multiple exhibits on the history of plow technology. We couldn't stop laughing. Seriously, they had all this information about plows and how the invention of the yoke was a huge breakthrough because it meant Estonians no longer were pulling their own plows or something. There was peasant food at said historic (?) village and as vegetarians this meant a boiled potato. It was like every single joke you could make about Estonia had come to life and we loved every minute of it. It was near the summer solstice so it was light all the time and we could just go exploring Tallinn at all hours.

The best part was the nightlife. We would go to a club and we stuck out like Greg Nog among the geese. See, I may not be Beyonce but I can dance well enough and that made us light years ahead of Tallinnians. We were clearly Americans and people stopped and watched us. At one point, my now-wife said "I think people are clapping because we are able to grind" and it was true. We got applause. For non-incompetent dancing. Also, there was this weird moment when another non-white person walked into a room once and everyone got quiet because how often does that happen.

Everyone was really nice, I assume, because there was little to no communication with anyone around. And when I got back to England, my friends asked how it went. I said it was amazing and I stand by it. And thanks to recent developments in plow technology, I can stand by that plow and not need to make my wife pull it in the winter.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:51 PM on January 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Here, have a bizarre Estonian joke:
An old Estonian is driving to his summer home for the season and spies a dead crow on the road.
“This crow might be of some use,” he thinks and puts the dead bird into the trunk of his car.
In the fall the old Estonian is driving back from his summer home and he stops at the very same place, takes the dead crow out of the trunk and lays it on the road.
“Ahh, I didn’t need it after all,” he says to himself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2012 [11 favorites]


I own a light-up goose (formerly a porch goose) named Leonard.

Wait, let me clarify:
I own a light-up goose (formerly a porch goose) named Leonard Junior. Leonard, Part One (please tell me I am not the only person who loved Leonard, Part 6) met his demise after a good 15 years of being used as a crayon-graffiti surface.

I had to rescue Leonard Junior from a life of bonnets and calico. He is now a treasured part of our guest room, and is the first part of our future nursery. (Or maybe our disco den. NO MAN CAN SAY.)
posted by Madamina at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, fuck swans. Always swimming around like they're better than ducks or something. Like their swan shit don't stink.

Dude. What swan flew up YOUR ass?
posted by orange swan at 7:46 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please just leave this alone. Please.

Why are you keeping this thread open then? Nothing he said is out of bounds, he wasn't insulting or aggressive. If you're not going to allow discussion any longer. Are these stupid sawn jokes are now the point of this thread?
posted by spaltavian at 7:58 PM on January 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


The thread was nominally about how to best phrase AskMe questions.If people want to talk about the topic in general, super. If people want to interrogate kinetic, this isn't the place for it. Generally speaking we avoid closing on-topic-for-MeTa threads that aren't going horribly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, now that I've made my half-jokey half-annoyed contribution to the thread, I actually would like to know more about people's strategies for asking questions that elicit the kind of answers they want on AskMe. Like, do you have some way of predicting what detail will make the question go totally off the rails and what detail/solution you need to acknowledge lest the first ten answers become, "Try solution!"

I feel like in some of my questions I end up way too super specific and in some I leave out something that a lot of people assume is my problem when it actually is not. I assume there's a magic balance that makes AskMe the place of light and saving people from their locked bedrooms I know it can be.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I actually went on a choir trip (in graduate school) to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Estonia was by far the nicest part of the trip.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:39 PM on January 18, 2012


I spent time in Communist Estonia in 1989 living with a local family in Tallinn. Had a day trip to Tartu when tanks were rolling in. Estonia is beautiful and its people are a delight.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:58 PM on January 18, 2012


Clear writing is a skill that people are bad at.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude. What swan flew up YOUR ass?


It wasn't my ass and I don't think that was a real swan anyway and now some goddess is SUPER MAD at me.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:13 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't have much luck with completely eliminating the unhelpful answers entirely, but I've been fortunate enough that most of the time I get answers that help along with the ones that don't. I also suspect it depends on what kind of questions you ask- the one time I asked a vaguely human relations question I got a bunch of people judging me for not wanting my picture all over the Internet and for being skeptical of team-building exercises.

Incidentally, I overheard a conversation in class the other day that TOTALLY VINDICATED my refusal to play ball with the picture exercise- some of my peers use the pictures of our classmates as a 'hilarious' screensaver. I am still dubious about team-building.

I think the only real strategy is not to wade back in and defend yourself. It's like wrestling with a pig, you just get filthy and then the pig is all hohoho you have been defeated by my piggy powers. It is insanely difficult not to do that, though. I think the key is just to stop looking at it once it starts to go pear-shaped and resign yourself to being painted as whatever the internets decides you are a bad person for being. But it is okay, because we're all bad people for something in Internet terms.
posted by winna at 9:20 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


AskMetafilter: hohoho you have been defeated by my piggy powers.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


3. The OP said "reluctantly agreed" and meant "decided, but did not communicate, that I'd go along with it."

You know, people so rarely admit they were wrong on Metafilter, so let me offer a mea culpa for my thinking (even though I didn't participate in the thread).

As I read the thread, I was in full-on Lieutenant Detective Gotcha mode. Like Grither, I thought, "Oh. First you said you agreed to the choral trip, and now all the sudden, after reading our responses, you're saying you didn't. Whatever. Liar."

Then I read Linda_Holmes' post above, realized she was almost certainly right, and felt like a jackass for thinking like I did.

I'm going to try to be less presumptuous in reading/responding to AskMes, and if pertinent information is missing or communicated in such a way that makes it unclear, I'm gonna ask. I think this is a far more important lesson to learn here than "People need to write perfect AskMes and anticipate every possible question that might come up."

Sorry for my uncharitable thoughts, kinetic.
posted by mreleganza at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


goose cooties is why
posted by elizardbits


They're called "gooties"
posted by blueberry at 9:38 PM on January 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


An old Estonian is driving to his summer home for the season and spies a dead crow on the road...

I find this joke strangely hilarious. I haven't stopped giggling yet.
posted by fatbird at 9:44 PM on January 18, 2012


The best part is always when the Goons run out of bullets and then the guy chucks the gun itself at Supes and he fuckin' ducks because HOLY SHIT THAT COULD REALLY HURT

I don't have anything to say about Geese or choir trips, BUT - shakespeherian, dude, there are better resources on Superman than 50's television.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:00 PM on January 18, 2012


Some geese wear shoes and enjoy belly rubs.

Just sayin'.
posted by subbes at 10:10 PM on January 18, 2012


Jessamyn: yeah, I know, this isn't MeFi's finest moment. But I have laughed so much at this thread, today. We'll be more serious tomorrow, I swear!
posted by SPrintF at 10:18 PM on January 18, 2012


I can see how asking a question on Mefi can be incredibly difficult, mostly because of the tendency to self edit.

A person who is emotionally and physically involved with an issue (and all the history behind it) has to decide what information to transfer to a third party. They have to attempt to predict what information will be salient to an evaluator when they are on the inside and can't see what it looks like from the outside (which is why they are asking in the first place).

Thus, AskMefi seems prone to the extremes. You get questions where the person has summarized far too much, leading advice givers to fill in the blanks themselves, which can in turn lead to unhelpful or irrelevant advice, or questions that include every detail but in doing so become an unmanageably large wall of text.

Such is the nature of forum style advice. Not optimal, but understandable.
posted by Shouraku at 10:30 PM on January 18, 2012


I've been giving this a lot of thought and I think I could kill a goose with my bare hands. A park goose, mind you, not a proper wild goose.

I'd lure it in with bits of bread.
posted by Bonzai at 11:39 PM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Canada Goose would duck you up right quick.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:02 AM on January 19, 2012


I find this joke strangely hilarious. I haven't stopped giggling yet.

I'm glad someone else had a use for it.

That Estonian joke reminded me of this old joke, which made me laugh for no reason as a kid:
A man goes into a bakery and asks for a cake. The clerk says "how do you do." The man asks for a cake in the shape of a bee. The clerk says, "come back tomorrow for your bee-cake."

The next day, the man comes in and asks for his bee-cake. The clerk shows him the bee-cake, and it looks great. It looks like a bee, and it's a cake. But the man is not happy.

"I'm sorry, but this is not the cake I asked for. I should have been more clear. I did not want a cake shaped like a bee. I wanted a cake shaped like the letter B. I'm sorry, but this is very important."

The clerk apologizes profusely. The man says it is all right. The clerk says, "come back tomorrow for your B-cake."

The next day, the man comes in and asks for his B-cake. The clerk shows him the B-cake, and it looks great. It looks like a capital B, and it's a cake. But the man is still not happy.

"I'm sorry, but this is not the cake I asked for. I should have been more clear. I did not want a cake shaped like a capital B. I wanted a cake shaped like a lower-case b. I'm sorry, but this is very important."

The clerk nods, confused. The man says it is all right. The clerk sighs and says, "come back tomorrow for your b-cake."

The next day, the man comes in and asks for his b-cake. The clerk shows him the b-cake, and it looks great. It looks like a lower-case b, and it's a cake. The man is delighted.

"This is perfect, this is exactly the cake I asked for."

"Very well. How shall I wrap this up?" asks the clerk, gesturing to the boxes behind her.

"Oh, that's all right," says the man, "I'll just eat it here."
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:36 AM on January 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


I would love to go to Finland, on account of how all the people I know who are Finnish are freakishly good looking and cool. So in my head Finland is this magical land where everyone are chiptune composers for their own stop-motion puppet rock operas or other cool things while maintaining a part-time career as models for quirky yet stylish clothiers.

There is something to be said for having to wear a long wool coat most of the time: you feel more comfortable taking risks with what you put on under it. (I lived in Finland for 2 years.)

Is Finland the one where apparently everyone is nude all the time?

I'm sitting here chuckling because a couple of days ago the Helsinki city tourism info page on FB posted a pic of two half-naked guys in shorts sunbathing on the Esplanaadi. In January. In Finland. At -7°C. When "sun" means, at best, "twilight".

Estonia, yeah... had quite a few Finnish and French friends go to Tallinn and some smaller places. Apparently parts of Tallinn are quite beautiful, but no one came back particularly enthused about their visit. Except for the duty-free alcohol on the ships there and back, but that's the same story for trips to Stockholm, which are rightly called "trips" because some people just get on the boat to buy crates of duty-free alcohol and never actually set foot in Sweden...

In Finland (I've been told) a cucumber cost $14

Someone found a cucumber in Finland?!? (I jest because in 2000, when I was there, it was nigh impossible to find ripe fruit or vegetables other than potatoes. Thankfully, I like potatoes.)
posted by fraula at 12:46 AM on January 19, 2012


I got attacked by a swan once while cycling in Norway. Had to fend him off with my bike, I did not escape with my dignity intact but at least my shins were unbloodied.
posted by arcticseal at 12:47 AM on January 19, 2012


Great joke, Sticherbeast, and it reminds ME of an old favorite:

During WW2, an American infantryman is stationed in England. While there, he happens to stop into a cafe where he has a supremely divine slice of peach pie. It was so good he remembered it for the rest of his days.

Many, many years later, the vet, now an old man, gets awful news: He has a terminal disease and only has a few days to live.

He decides he must have this pie one more time before he dies. He books a flight to England, but the plane crashes just off the UK coast. He's badly injured, but manages to tread water and swim to shore...but not without sharks biting his legs off.

Once ashore, he drags himself to the road. He grabs onto the bumper of a bus, which drags him several miles along bumpy roads before miraculously passing right by the very cafe where he had the peach pie.

He lets go of the bumper and pushes himself into the cafe. The server who sees him is horrified.

"GAH! SIR! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU! I'LL CALL AN AMBU-"

"No, no, it's okay," the man sputters. "I...I'm dying anyway. I just wanted to have a slice of your peach pie before I die and so I've made it here through hell and high water. Please, just give me a slice of peach pie."

"Oh, sir, no! I'm so terribly, terribly sorry....we're out of peach pie!"

"Eh, I'll have cherry."
posted by mreleganza at 12:49 AM on January 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I also got bitten by a cow once (well, more munched).

Why yes, I was wearing a green grass coloured sweater, why do you ask?
posted by arcticseal at 12:50 AM on January 19, 2012


I imagine that posters who've had the experience of asking a question and having their character impugned in the answers are much more likely to extend the benefit of the doubt when answering other people's questions, because they realize how easily questions can be misread, and the impossibility of providing all the back story necessary to reassure everyone that you are really not the worst lying, cheating, narcissistic person in the world who is abusing your spouse/child/dog/cat/goose.

For asking questions I suggest a few tactics:

Try to be really super clear about what the question is. Make it absolutely impossible to miss. Sometimes I have to read over questions several times just to figure this out. I often literally Control-F for the question marks. Sometimes there are no question marks. The benefit to doing this is that not only is it more likely to result in answers that actually address your question, but also, if they don't, it's much easier for moderators to axe the derailing comments. If we can't figure out what your question really is, we can't help as much. Sometimes the title is a question, and there's a different question in the body, and they are not the same question at all.

Don't be too self-effacing, jokey, ranty, clever, casual, demanding (as in I ONLY WANT ANSWERS FROM X, AND DON'T MENTION POLAND). Whatever is oddish or nonconforming about your phrasing will get waaaaay more attention than it should and is very likely to lead to assumptions. Most of us are writers and communicators of some stripe and don't like to be mundane in our speech, but if your question is sensitive at all, this is probably the time to forego wit or drama in favor of as much simple, boring clarity as you can muster.

If your question is complex at all, hang around to answer questions if they come up, or settle any confusion. It's easy for a thread to get steered in the wrong direction, so if you are on the spot to say something like, "sorry, I see that many of you are assuming X, but actually..." you can more easily head things off.

Unless you really, really mean "all/any advice appreciated," please don't say that. It's fine for something like "I don't know anything about [hobby], but am thinking of learning; where should I begin and what are some good resources? All advice appreciated." but when your question is a lot more sensitive, it sort of opens things up to a lot of the presumptuous answers that may otherwise not be okay re moderation. Likewise, requests to be abused in any way (like, "tell me how stupid/awful I am for doing/thinking X").

Try to be as calm as possible in the framing of your question, and in your responses. Often people are posting because they are very upset/angry/hurt/scared about something, but since most commenters aren't going to know how you are when you aren't under this sort of stress, they may conclude that you are an angry and aggressive person, for example, if your question is ranty and your responses are hostile, and this sort of thing will adversely affect the sort of advice you get.

Ultimately, though, we hope commenters understand that the person asking the question is in a vulnerable position and often under stress, and will refrain from assuming the worst or projecting their own issues onto the question or asker.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:13 AM on January 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


Griphus, Belarus definately isn't exactly a vacation spot right now...but Finland and Estonia are about the most awesome places I can imagine to take a teenage choir tour - both have HUGE, educated audiences for choral music and Estonia even owes part of the success of its independence struggle to mass choir performances. Plus, Tallinn, Tartu, Helsinki, Turku, etc. etc. - all awesome places to visit, even if the people aren't naked most of the time (??).

Giving up a trip to Finland and Estonia to go to freshman orientation would be a tough choice, even it if was the responsible option (In this case, the trip was with people the daughter didn't like and included a leg to Belarus, which is a whole other kettle of fish, but still.)

I wonder if answers like the ones the OP in this case received are contributing to a rise in anon parenting questions? It seems like anon questions get far less "you're a bad parent!" type answers than named OPs, but that might be just me (with a limited history on Mefi) seeing patterns where there are none?
posted by Wylla at 2:53 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


kinetic: "As soon as my kid had a genuine reason to bail, I emailed the choral guy and told him she wouldn't be going."

Yay, that's exactly how I read it ("I'll bet as soon as she could some up for a reason to not have to go is when she contacted him.")! Good to know that my armchair detective skills still work.

Giving up a trip to Finland and Estonia to go to freshman orientation would be a tough choice, even it if was the responsible option (In this case, the trip was with people the daughter didn't like and included a leg to Belarus, which is a whole other kettle of fish, but still.)

Good thing it wasn't freshman orientation:
it's not freshmen orientation. It's a week of living in the dorms with upperclassmen, being mentored, meeting professors for lunches and dinners, going to classes and lots of activities while she's still in high school. My kid is psyched beyond measure to do this. She could give a fuck about this trip to Europe.
The only thing that surprised me, although it's none of my fucking business, is that the daughter qualifies for free lunches and has already been on a few trips to Europe. It's not often that those things go together.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:57 AM on January 19, 2012


MetaFilter: DON'T MENTION POLAND
posted by cooker girl at 6:07 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


One day, maybe your family business can be dissected and raked over the coals on the internet!
posted by Burhanistan at 6:07 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Missed the bit about it being a 'freshman dorm experience' rather than a formal orientation, but my comment wasn't directed at the OP, so much as at Griphus's remark conflating Finland and Estonia with Belarus and "Post-Soviet Bloc Europe" (Finland wasn't even in the Soviet Bloc and the Baltics are something of a special case, as several others have pointed out).
posted by Wylla at 6:17 AM on January 19, 2012


When my brother and I were very little, we used to build Hobbit houses under the kitchen table. For some reason, the most important part of the Hobbit house was the goose lamp. After all of the blankets had been secured and a passageway out of chairs had been constructed, we would crawl into it. Then my mother would hand us the goose lamp through the blankets and my brother would reverently plug it in. It was always a very solemn moment.
posted by colfax at 6:28 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not often that those things go together.

Divorce. Abusive relationship. Immigration. Church group. Benefactor. Military service. And those are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head and it's actually none of our business and has nothing to do with the question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:43 AM on January 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Yup which is why I said it was none of my business; I was just surprised is all.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:03 AM on January 19, 2012


It's none of your business, which is why you're speculating about it in a public forum :)
posted by muddgirl at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


People answered a question I never asked.

I don't think that's unexpected or unwarranted. A lot of people, naturally, are going to back track, try to understand what the actual goals and intent of the asker is, look at the interests of the various stakeholders involved, and tailor their answers based on that.

We are robots, and neither are you: we all have our own interests and biases and preconceived notions, and posting an AskMe that asks for something other than "what is this tv show from my childhood?" will inevitably get down into the weeds of the issue.
posted by deanc at 7:33 AM on January 19, 2012


If you want a specific explanation, Deathalicious, I was raised by a single mother, qualified for free lunches in Elementary/Jr. High School and reduced (25c instead of $1) lunches in high school and have been to Europe about a half-dozen times between the ages of 12 and 19. World-travelling was really all my mom did outside of working 60+ hrs a week and going to the beach during the summer.
posted by griphus at 7:34 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also--and I know this is none of my business, but--deathalicious's name makes me think of cannibalism, and I'm just surprised that he never talks about his (not so) hidden secret, or those two Jehovah's Witnesses that went missing.

But, whatever, you know--just surprised.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:51 AM on January 19, 2012


MeTa: We are robots, and neither are you.
posted by heyho at 7:54 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to eat Jehovah's Witnesses you really need to keep them locked up in a room full of uncooked oatmeal for a few days to detoxify their flesh.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on January 19, 2012


> griphus, is it bela-ROOS, or be-LAR-us?
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:09 PM on January 18 [1 favorite +]

byel-AH-roos
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on January 18 [14 favorites +]


Sorry, griphus is wrong, it's bela-ROOS. You can see this at the Wikipedia article ("/bɛləˈruːs/ bel-ə-rooss; Belarusian: Беларусь, [bʲɛlaˈrusʲ]"). It means 'white' (bela) 'Russia' (Rus).
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on January 19, 2012


Could that be a St. Petersburg accent thing? I grew up with pronouncing the "bela" root with a distinct "ye" in there (like in "белка.")
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2012


(I mean that was the pronunciation of the color white, not just in Belarus.)
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on January 19, 2012


Sure there's a "ye" in there (that's what the raised "j" is doing in [bʲɛla]), but that wasn't the problem. The problem is the stress. You said "byel-AH-roos," which puts the stress on the second syllable when it's on the last: byel-a-ROOS. When I said "it's bela-ROOS," I was just quoting the original question, which is why there's no -y-; in English it's more common to leave it out, but in any case I took the question to be asking which syllable the stress was on.
posted by languagehat at 8:39 AM on January 19, 2012


If I had known where you were coming from, I would have said "griphus is focusing on the palatalization of the first consonant, but I think you were asking about the stress, which is on the third syllable, not the second (which is what his response suggests)."
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Oh, okay, got it. I just tried pronouncing it the way I had written it and it made no sense.
posted by griphus at 8:46 AM on January 19, 2012


griphus always focuses on the palatalization of the first consonant. that asshole.
posted by Think_Long at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want to make some sort of appropriate linguistic joke in response but languagehat is watching and I'm self-conscious D:
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha ha declension, amirite?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:02 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh, this pisses me off, but I feel like it's inevitable when you ask a question on the green. Even on my totally harmless question about books for kids, someone managed to insult my family. Metafilter amazes me sometimes, and rarely in a good way. At least not anymore.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2012


Erm, I just looked back through the thread, and I'm not seeing where anyone insulted your family?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably this answer which comments on the OP's "family culture".
posted by Deathalicious at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Enh. I'd give that comment about a 2 on an insultingness scale going from 1 to 10. That person had no way of knowing whether your family typically gives books as gifts. The fact that you were concerned about being being the (awesome!) aunt who always gives books suggested that perhaps you were the only family member always giving books as gifts, even if that's not actually the case. I guess it could have been worded more elegantly, but you would have to add a really nasty subtext to that comment in order to make it an insult.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2012


I would have been a little annoyed at that answer as well. I know it's meant well, but the tone came off as a little judgmental.
posted by Think_Long at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm squinting, but I just can't see an insult there. It raises the idea that your extended family isn't into giving books as gifts, but hey, that's a real possibility. Some families are into reading and giving books as presents, and some aren't. Obviously, since I'm here, I'm a reader, but it's not rude to acknowledge that there are other ways of living.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:23 AM on January 19, 2012


Enh. I'd give that comment about a 2 on an insultingness scale going from 1 to 10.

You probably came from a family where other people's feelings were not a big concern! In my family, we always were very sensitive to making sure that people didn't feel bad, even unintentionally!

I dunno, comments about someone's family milieu rank higher than a 2 to me (you monster).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2012


> You probably came from a family where other people's feelings were not a big concern! In my family, we always were very sensitive to making sure that people didn't feel bad, even unintentionally!

This statement is not without unintentional irony.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:32 AM on January 19, 2012


This statement is not without unintentional irony.

Neither is this one, I presume.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2012


Holy cow that answer is like a condescending pat on the head combined with a class-based slap in the face. It comes across to me as if the answerer is saying bless your heart, it's so cute you people don't love books for gifts like my family does!
posted by winna at 11:36 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, I intended a bit of irony.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on January 19, 2012


No, I intended a bit of irony.

Whew! So did I!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:38 AM on January 19, 2012


It wasn't an insult, unless being from a family that is not a big bunch of readers and book-givers is somehow an insult. Perhaps the commenter meant that to be so for some unknowable reason, but if we are all going to try to be charitable to poorly asked questions (which we should), we need to extend that charity to poorly phrased answers, IMO.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:40 AM on January 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, that one actually did sound mean. But I get the weird sense that the intent was not to insult, and that the responder was just trying to make some kind of "are you kidding? of course books are good gifts" joke but was just really, REALLY clumsy at it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2012


> Holy cow that answer is like a condescending pat on the head combined with a class-based slap in the face

"Class-based" only if you think that giving books as gifts is a class-based activity. Maybe it is -- I haven't looked at any statistics -- but that certainly isn't what I've noticed myself.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:47 AM on January 19, 2012


Before the geese and Estonia jokes came rolling in, wasn't this entire thread about not reading ill intent into our typically brief, vague internet comments?

I can see why people would have been irked by that comment, but at the same time, singling it out as something offensive is just as problematic. Why assume the answerer actually meant anything negative? They were just trying to be positive and helpful. Also, not every family gives out a lot of books for gifts, for a variety of reasons - is it an insult per se to have some stranger not know if you're part of that set? I got almost all of my books from the library, or from my parents' preexisting collection, as a kid. Ditto for my girlfriend, whose parents didn't speak very much English, and who also just plain didn't buy very many books. By the time we were old enough to be discerning readers, we both just bought our own books. I did not grow up with any relative buying me books on any regular basis.

So...it would be a tremendous insult to think someone, somewhere could possibly share our families' lack of book-buying?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:53 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah I think this is one of those "hey people are different!" things which is what I think yankeefog was getting at in their comment. I can see why it pushed a button, but I can also see that I don't think it was meant to, except in that doofy sort of "I can't believe you haven't watched Game of Thrones!" way that people have when they realize that other people aren't like them. So there are a few things at issue

- topics that people feel are off limits for casual commentary in this way. For some people this list is longer than others
- communication scrutiny as far as whether it's more important in site culture to make sure you never cause offense (if you even could) or make sure you never say you're offended (if you even could) and whose responsibility all of that is. We talk about this sort of thing in MeTa all the time
- and then there are just AskMe expectations which I think come up a lot. Whose responsibility is it to make sure a question goes smoothly?

There are people who habitually seem to ask questions that are on subjects that are important to them, and possibly when they are in a not great frame of mind (not talking about this post at all, this is me generalizing) and then have a hard time managing the range of responses they get, responses that are, to my mind, sort of predictable if not optimal. And it's tough to tell people "Hey you probably shouldn't ask a question if you can't handle a few annoying comments" but there is that understanding here, that the comments are unmoderated if they're on-topic and not assholish. So some snark sneaks in.

And there are some answerers, who sometimes act like mreleganza reported above: "full-on Lieutenant Detective Gotcha mode" And we see them doing it and sometimes it gets called out and sometimes it doesn't and sometimes I leave notes asking people to not answer if they can't do it without sounding judgmental [only they know if they are being judgmental] but there's even a judgment call to "this sounds judgmental" and so you have to do some internal calibrating with your own irritation-meter [I am easily irritated, I need to be careful when I am CERTAIN something is offensive or dickishly-meant] when you decide others are being jerks.

And if they are, if it's even clear that yeah someone was specifically on purpose pushing your buttons, there's still the choice of how you decide to react. And my plan, and I've told people this before, is that if it's more or less a one-off I assume people got back from the dentist. Even if it's not a one-off I may assume that they are having a bad time in their life. Basically for anyone who is sometimes good and sometimes bad at MetaFilter, unless we've talked to them a bazillion times already, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt which is usually just non-response. Because I've been in MeTa enough to know that my own view of how things are going is really just one among many views and my job is really to try to find the zeitgeist of the site and not just my own GRAR-meter.

tl;dr I try to pretend to be a better person than I am on MetaFilter, even if I think other people don't. It's not a terrible way to be if you can avoid being sanctimonious about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Reading is in fact strongly associated with social class.
posted by winna at 12:02 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's automatically bad to answer a question other than what was asked, but if the person is asking you one thing, they're going to give you one set of facts -- the ones that, as far as they know, are relevant to answering that question. If they ask something else, they're going to give you another set of facts. (Not a conflicting set of facts, I'm not saying, just different ones chosen from all the ones that exist.)

Here, if the OP knew people were going to focus the issue of whether the kid should go, there would have been more information about the trip, who was going, the kid's wishes, etc. Because that information wasn't there, there was a lot of guessing to fill in those holes, and that's part of where communication went bad. If you're questioning an underlying assumption that isn't really the question, I think it's good to give the OP a shot at explaining it before you conclude that the information in the question doesn't justify it; thus, it is unjustifiable.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Reading is in fact strongly associated with social class.

But we're talking about giving books as gifts, not reading. They're not the same thing at all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:21 PM on January 19, 2012


But we're talking about giving books as gifts, not reading. They're not the same thing at all.

I think you're just parsing words now, corpse. Regardless, I didn't think the answerer was being deliberatively insulting. That's just how it came off. I'm sure I seem a dick some of the time, when in reality I'm a dick nearly all of the time.
posted by Think_Long at 12:28 PM on January 19, 2012


I think the highest-class thing of all might be to buy a kid a book, not in the expectation that they will actually read it, but in the expectation that the leather-and-vellum tome will look smashing on the walls of their private study.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:34 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


> I think you're just parsing words now, corpse

Oh, you're right, and I apologize for my own poor wording. I've wandered down a lane of "I wonder if giving books is a class-based activity? Huh, how interesting," and should've said I was just idly speculating.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:39 PM on January 19, 2012


I think the highest-class thing of all might be to buy a kid a book

Or an entire publishing house!
posted by scody at 12:45 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


that is not meant to tweak anyone, unless there is someone reading Metachat who really was given a publishing house as a child.
posted by scody at 12:48 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


my mom bought me a paper store when I was little...

















...and then it blew away.
posted by kinetic at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Miranda July is just aching to turn that joke into her next screenplay.
posted by Think_Long at 1:03 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did my undergraduate dissertation on the choral tradition in Estonia after spending three months there in 1996 singing with a couple of choirs. I loved it so much I went back for a year after graduating and studied Estonian at the University of Tartu.

Lovely country and lovely people, with an incredible choral tradition and beautiful music.
posted by penguin pie at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, out of a 100 people, somebody's going to respond bitchily. I'm not sure it should be surprising that people can take any topic and respond bitchily on metafilter. We're a planet of 6 billion. I'm amazed there isn't more grar every. single. day.
posted by anitanita at 3:05 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apologies for commenting and then disappearing.

I agree that it would be helpful to read things as though they weren't meant to be insulting, however I think that that kind of commentary (i.e. speculation/assumption) is unnecessary and, at times, negative for both the OP and the general atmosphere of the thread.

I am most certainly more sensitive to responses to my questions than others here. This question about advice for research practices for older adults was another frustrating one for me, and I think in that one people assumed that the snippy tone I took when responding to some of the more unhelpful answers was the same tone I use when talking to our research participants, and their answer was that it was OBVIOUSLY that I was a terrible human and that old people didn't like my "attitude". And in that question, I never even said we have a PROBLEM (other than being frustrated by our lack of training), just that we were looking to be better. We're (as in, my lab) actually really, really amazing and have formed great relationships with all of our older adults.

I'm a first generation college student, born in lower-class urban Philadelphia, continued to be lower-class when my parents moved us to a upper-middle class suburban neighborhood when I started high school. I worked full-time for years and, when I turned 24, started putting myself through school because my parents were too skeptical about student loans to even fill out the fafsa form when I graduated high school. Now, I am still an undergraduate student, but I work full-time, both at an ivy league university. I can't even begin to tell you how many times in my life I've been tortured for being poor.

So yes, I happened to find that comment about my family culture to be a little insulting. I can see how you wouldn't, but I honestly can't see how it was necessary or how it helped answer the question. I'm sorry for that; I'm definitely biased in that sense.

Metafilter is a great community. But there are most certainly people here who have various "triggers", and I think that if we challenged ourselves to answer the questions (after reading them thoroughly!) to the best of our abilities without making assumptions or speculations about the OPs we could be 100 times better. Yes, there will always be times where tough love or a heavy dose of reality seems like the best answer, but in the case the class trip/college program question, I think that was a huge pile on and a really bad showing on the part of the commenters.
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:28 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


So what's the etiquette about talking about a single comment in a thread in MeTa? Do you post the MeTa link to the primary thread, or send memail, or do you just dissect the comment and not worry about whether the commenter knows?
posted by gingerest at 3:43 PM on January 19, 2012


It's really up to folks. If there's an entire thread predicated on a comment or a post, it's usually a good idea to let people know. If people are talking about a general topic and then they bat around different examples I don't see it as required to let people know about it if there's not really anything that can be done. And dragging people in here just so they can "defend themselves" is not really this community at its finest, so I guess I'd think over what could be gained and then move forward appropriately.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:59 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This whole kerfuffle has been strange - the original question seemed pretty clear to me, and I was dismayed to see the "Europe! Europe! Europe!" cries so fast and furious. Trust me - not EVERYONE (of any age) wants to go to Europe. That said...sure, the question could have been a bit clearer, but having the whole thing reach this level is just...wow.

NOW - on to the fun stuff - this MeTa has been AWESOME in terms of goose humor. Griphus, your recipe had me literally gasping for breath and my sides splitting, it was so awesome. Thanks to all for the fowl-flavored levity!
posted by davidmsc at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2012


they tiny geese beaks

I know it was a long time ago upthread, but that is my new favorite band name.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:36 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er, am I the only one who doesn't get the bee cake joke?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2012


Er, am I the only one who doesn't get the bee cake joke?

Probably not! No joke is ever that funny after too much explanation, so I'll keep this brief and to the point.

The joke is that the man waited days and days to have a cake in the shape of a lower case "b", and he completely refused two other perfectly good cakes of different shapes, and he repeatedly said that it was "very important" that the cake be of that certain shape. Typically, you would associate this sort of build-up with that cake being meant for someone else, that the cake must have been that shape in order to mean something to someone other than the person ordering the cake, but it turns out that he just wants to eat a cake in the shape of a lower case "b" for his own private reasons, and apparently he wants to just eat the entire cake by himself in the cake store.

His desire for the lower case "b" cake is not simply a special addition to the normal desire for a cake. For him, the lower case "b" shape has actually completely replaced all the other normal attributes of ordering a cake. The joke would seem to support the orthodox Freudian view on fetishism, which holds that the fetish object replaces the maternal phallus, as opposed to more modern interpretations, such as by Bersani and Dutoit, in which the fetish object is seen as the sexual object unto itself, distinct from both the penis and the maternal phallus, a displacement rather than a replacement.

But perhaps the lower case "b" cake is not a satire of the sexual fetish, but rather a satire on commodity fetishism in late capitalism, in which every desire must be made a product, and every product must be made a seller. We hear in advertising slogans that you can "Have It Your Way;" our experience in chains such as Starbucks is that every person ought to have their own special three-pronged order for coffee, detailing the sort of sweetener, the sort of milk, all the other choices and flavorings to be incorporated into our coffee drinks, and indeed the baristas are encouraged to keep track of regular customers' orders. Is it not the case that the lower case "b" cake man is simply a customer who has paid attention to the message from the television, whereas the truly foolish one is the clerk who, despite serving as an employee in a late capitalist milieu, cannot hear this man's desire, who can only reproduce that obscure object of the man's desire after an absurd number of prompts and false starts?

Perhaps the true heart of the joke is in the fundamentally heretical nature of the lower case "b" cake man's quest. By "heretical", I of course refer to the Žižekian idea of heresy as over-conformity. This is the idea of the heretic as being one who, by following too strictly the rules of society, exposes the fundamental absurdity of these rules, including their assumed power relationships and excused contradictions.

In the case of this joke, the lower case "b" cake man has what appears to be, and what we only realize belatedly to be, a completely absurd, arbitrary desire, but what's more, he is only able to express this desire clumsily, through a series of homophonous and unthinkingly unspecific requests. There is no way for the clerk to know that he means the letter "b" and not a bee, just as there is no way for the clerk to know that he wants a lower case "b" and not an upper case "B." And yet the clerk must know this. It is the clerk, not the man, who apologizes for these errors. The man never offers to pay the clerk for the parade of "misshapen" cakes, which will apparently now either go to waste or be sold as completely arbitrary cakes to customers who will not specifically desire a bee cake or a "B" cake.

We see here laid bare the twisted logic of a consumer who outright assumes that the machines of industry shall produce for him precisely that which he desires. This is the very "invisible hand" itself. We often hear capitalists speak highly of this invisible hand, that we must trust it to produce that which we need, and yet you almost never hear of the invisible hand as helping consumers. Through the image of the Žižekian heretic, this joke deftly exposes why such faith would be absurd to hold unchecked, especially by someone without a profit interest in maintaining the free market status quo!

Compare this joke's criticism of late capitalism to Patrick Stewart's famous "erotic cake" sketch from Saturday Night Light. In this sketch, Patrick Stewart plays the proprietor of an erotic cake shop. His character receives multiple requests for a variety of erotic cakes, but his response is to always bake a cake in the shape of a woman going to the toilet. The humor stems from the fact that not only is this fetishistic imagery not what any of the customers desire, but also that Stewart's character maintains unflagging, utterly tone deaf good cheer with each repeated suggestion. The customers stomp off furiously at his inflexibility and refusal to listen. He never learns his lesson. But the real surprise comes at the end, when a customer requests a cake with the image of a woman going to the toilet. Stewart's character turns to the audience and says "I know just the thing!"

The sketch provides sharp criticism of a command economy, but is not the breaking of the fourth wall also a sly reaffirmation of the invisible hand? Why is there such catharsis at the revelation that this man's erotic cake shop can actually provide a valuable service to those with specific needs, and why is it important to remind the audience of this fact? Who was it who demanded that this sketch's trenchant commentary of late capitalism be undercut in such a manner?
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:25 AM on January 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


The best part was the nightlife. We would go to a club and we stuck out like Greg Nog among the geese. See, I may not be Beyonce but I can dance well enough and that made us light years ahead of Tallinnians. We were clearly Americans and people stopped and watched us. At one point, my now-wife said "I think people are clapping because we are able to grind" and it was true. We got applause. For non-incompetent dancing. Also, there was this weird moment when another non-white person walked into a room once and everyone got quiet because how often does that happen.

I've had this very experience in Eastern Europe (the former East Germany, really) and now I want to go to Estonia. Heard about some quite scary experiences in Lithuania though, a friend (from China) once got chased through Vilinus' streets by a neo-Nazi-types.

(Although, that's not my favourite Lithuania story. That would be the tale of a Lithuanian friend of mine who got stopped at Singapore's Changi Airport while Immigration and Checkpoints Authority looked Lithuania up on an atlas. True story.)

I have no geese tales to share.

posted by the cydonian at 5:24 AM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Who was it who demanded that this sketch's trenchant commentary of late capitalism be undercut in such a manner?"

That was me. I am the audience.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:36 AM on January 21, 2012


Sticherbeast: "Probably not! No joke is ever that funny after too much explanation, so I'll keep this brief and to the point. "

Nicely done!
posted by Grither at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2012


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