Chatological Humor* (UPDATED 10.20.06)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006; 12:00 PM

* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."

Daily Updates: 10.18.06 | 10.19.06 | 10.20.06

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.

He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.

He'll chat about anything...

This Week's Poll: Men | Women

Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I am in receipt of a question as to why, by convention, noon is 12 p.m. and midnight is 12 a.m. Couldn't it be the other way around? Or, more correctly, shouldn't there be no ante- or post- designation for each term, referring to them as "noon" and "midnight" only? I have spent a great deal of time pondering this question, while squinting enigmatically out toward the horizon, and am prepared to render a verdict.

Ideally, there should be no designation. Ante-meridiem means prior to noon, and post-meridiem means after noon. (You thought it was "meridian," didn't you? What a moron you are. I am much smarter than you. I obtained this wisdom about two minutes ago, but still.) It's silly to put either label on either time, since each label is demonstrably wrong -- similar to "B.C." being the title of a comic strip that keeps talking about Jesus. (More on this later.)

However, if we are going to insist on applying the a.m. and p.m. terms, I think we're doing it correctly -- for the same reason that I start each chat with "Good afternoon," and not "Good morning." While there is, indeed, an instant of exact noonitude, time does not stop for this event. By the time light has bounded off the atomic clock and bounced into our retinas and tickled our synapses and registered in our brain as noon, it is already afternoon. Good afternoon.

This reminds me of a puzzle my brother bedeviled me with, when we were kids. He told me he could prove that so long as the tortoise was given a lead in the race, the hare would never catch up with him, no matter how much faster the hare was.

Here is how he proved it: Let's say the tortoise starts out halfway toward the finish line and is moving at a constant rate of, say, 5 miles an hour. And the rabbit bursts from the starting line and travels at a constant rate of 30 miles an hour. Assuming the race course is long enough, there will be an exact moment where the rabbit is precisely one yard behind the tortoise, right?

Right. So, my brother drew their respective positions.

Now, let's say it takes the rabbit one second to cover that one yard. Now he is where the tortoise was a second ago. But the tortoise is moving... slowly but steadily, right? So the tortoise will have advanced to a point that is, say, two inches ahead of the rabbit, right?

Right. My brother drew this.

Okay, now in the next quarter second, the rabbit will reach the point where the tortoise was a quarter of a second before, but in that time, the tortoise will have moved forward by, say, three millimeters. The rabbit will still be behind. So in the next tenth of a second....

You see where this is going. I never could disprove this. Still can't, exactly.

The multimedia era that is upon us wreaks havoc on magazine deadlines. And so it is that, depending on who you are and where you were on Sunday, you got one of three versions of my column. Version One appeared in the Post magazine made of paper. I wrote that three weeks ago. It contained this poem:

The Torment of George

Bibbledy babbledy
George, known as W,
Multi-task president,
Tough to the core!

Manages ably to
Simultanistically
Torture the language and
Prisoners of war.

But after my magazine deadline, the Foley scandal broke, and it was just too rich to ignore. So the 20-odd newspapers that carry the syndicated version of my column (and work on much shorter deadlines than the Post magazine) contained some variation of this poem, instead:

Foley's Folly

Higgledy piggledy
Congressman Foley's lewd
IMs to youngsters showed
He's quite the louse.

No one's applauding but
Oxymoronically
This guy's performance might
Bring down the House.

And last, there was The Post Web site, which has short deadlines AND no space limit. If you read the column online , you got both poems.

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If you're checking the results of today's poll, ( Men | Women ) you will see some subtle but significant distinctions between men and women's ablutionary behavior. These distinctions were predictable, but they do lend themselves to some entertainingly unfair broad-brushstroke generalities, which I will happily make midway through.

----

Thanks to Pat Gomersall for this link to an extraordinary Blue Cross commercial you ain't gonna see anytime soon.

And to Ronnie Martin, for this .

On the aptonym front, thanks to Brian Huntley for this incredible story from the Rochester, N.Y. area. It is rare when an aptonym involves both first and last name, holistically, together with an aptonymic place name:

(October 13, 2006) -- The arrest of a Greece business official on a public lewdness charge has put the spotlight on an issue that police have said is chronic and widespread.

Skip Beaver, who was appointed president of the Greece Chamber of Commerce this past summer, was arrested Sept. 15 at Genesee Valley Park. Beaver and another man were caught allegedly engaging in a sexual act in a pavilion, say court documents.

-----

This is probably a bad segue, so I am going to give you all a few seconds to cleanse your minds of all things tawdry and impure.

Okay? You okay now?

Here we present the First Birthday photo of Hope Riester, the Official Baby of Chatological Humor. This designation occurred a year ago, after Hope's ma, Holly, informed us of her daughter's impending birth, and then reported back postpartum the following week. Sure, any of you girls COULD have done this very thing first, and achieved chat immortality for your progeny. But only one of you DID.

But do not feel bad. It is through the milestones of Baby Hope's life -- her achievements, her disappointments, her loves and losses -- that we shall celebrate, by proxy, the bittersweet irony of life itself. A lot is invested in this little girl; she better not screw up. Today, in our first installment, we appear to be celebrating the achievement of the ingestion of birthday-cake mush.

HOPE

One of the most extraordinary events on the comics page this past week occurred on Monday in B.C. , where Johnny Hart once again seems to confirm that his strip is set not in the past, but in a desolate, dystopic, post-apocalyptic future. There is simply no other way to interpret this, inasmuch as "a thousand years" prior to the advent of carbon dating would place his characters roughly in 955 A.D. This is inconceivable, even given Hart's thickheadedly fundamentalist views of the age of the world. And how else can you explain Thor's unnerving prescience about the coming of "archaeologists," unless he is predicting on the basis of a remembered ancient past?

(Yes, yes, Hart obviously has no idea what carbon-14 dating is all about, but that's par for the course. Fundies always make fun of carbon dating, because it ruins their worldview.)

By the way, if you look up radiocarbon-dating Web sites, there is a whole section called "Dating Fossils." Which made me think of Anna Nicole Smith.

Another revealing moment from the comics last week is where Ted Forth finally cops to being a woman. This was the longest, most overdue coming out for a transsexual EVER.

The CPOW is Saturday's Frazz . First Runner-Up is Monday's Pearls Before Swine . Honorables: Monday's Speed Bump , Monday's Rhymes with Orange (scroll back one day), Friday's Candorville , and Sunday's Baby Blues , but only because we get to see Wanda's undies, and she seems to be wearing men's briefs. Or really saggy panties. Or is a man.

Okay, let's go.

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Fairfax, Va.: Gene, I enjoyed your Below the Beltway, as usual. But I've got to ask, cause rhymes with yarmulkes? Really?

washingtonpost.com: The News can Always Be Verse , ( Post Magazine, Oct. 15 )

Gene Weingarten: No, "bomb'll cause" rhymes with yarmulkes. Sort of. Part of the joke was the wince.

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Gene Weingarten: Hey, here are two good names for a character in a novel. Don't use them! I plan to!

Auntie Meridiem. Sonny Lemontina. (He's a mafioso.)

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Lancaster, Pa.: Mutts was at least amusing today, right, or am I just used to bad comics in my local paper?

washingtonpost.com: Mutts , ( Oct. 17 )

Gene Weingarten: Yes! This isn't bad.

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Alexandria, Va.: Dear Gene -

You're my last hope. I've submitted this question to various Post political chats and have been laughed at, dismissed and ignored. I'm now hoping that, since you are so adept in finding the humor in serious subjects, you can also see the seriousness in a question that, at first glance, will seem ridiculous.

If Sen. Clinton achieves the democratic presidential nomination, would she ever consider picking her husband as her VP candidate?

Here's my thinking:

If Sen. Clinton were elected president, she'd have to find a substantive job for Bill in any case. What else is he going to do? Bake cookies and serve tea? Run the White House intern program?

But if she simply appointed him the head of something-or-other, she could run into the same problem he did when he appointed her in charge of health care reform. Of course, since he's a man and a former president, it'd be less of a problem. But still, if he had formal status as a currently elected official, it would make participating in the gov't much easier.

The biggest downside would be that some might consider her weak if she picked him. But if it were spun right (and who better than the Clintons for that?), it could be shown to be a strength instead. She could say she's picking the most qualified person for the job and isn't worried about being outshone. And anyone who thinks she wouldn't be the "real" Commander-in-Chief doesn't know her very well.

As far as that pesky 22nd amendment, the way I read it, Bill Clinton couldn't be ELECTED president again, but he could presumably serve out her term if it became necessary.

And the official White House hosting duties normal carried out by the First Lady could be given to Chelsea -- she'd be great at them.

I really think a Clinton-Clinton ticket would be unbeatable. It would definitely capture the media's attention, and Bill's charisma, experience and popularity would be almost impossible for the Republicans to counter.

So what do you think? Have I been so traumatized by the current administration I've become delusional? Or could this really work?

Gene Weingarten: Well, as I read the 22nd amendment, I think it would be legal. It would be ridiculously stupid, but legal. Hillary already has Bill standing over her shoulder, as far as Clinton-likers are concerned. He's a plus already. She'd need a veep who delivers something else, in an area she is considered wanting.

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Some satire is good: I need some help in settling an argument about the movie "Borat" (my husband and I saw the trailer). He thought it was funny, I thought it was horrible and very offensive. My husband's defense was the movie was obviously satire and Sacha Baron Cohen was trying to get across a point about stereotypes. I said the average moviegoer is going to be too dumb to understand that and will laugh at the jokes, instead of considering the meaning behind them. So I am just an awful snob or is my husband right? Where do you draw the line?

Gene Weingarten: You are asking the wrong person, as I suspect you suspect. I am guessing you are not Jewish, and are taking offense on behalf of Jews and/or Kazhakistanis. Kazhaks. Kazhakistanians. Stop.

If a parody is sophisticated, and it traffics in ethnic or national stereotypes, it is almost certainly making fun of the stereotypes themselves. When it is mean spirited, you know it.

I've seen the same trailers you have, and I can't wait to see the movie.

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The Great Plains: Gene, this question seems right up your alley...

At what point in a new relationship do you believe it's appropriate for a man to start audibly (and frequently) farting around his girlfriend?

I ask because I have been dating a new guy for three months. I am smitten -- he is bright, sarcastic and goofy. However, we had barely been together for a week or so when he started merrily tooting around his apartment and my house. At first I was horrified. Then turned off. I explained to him that we were still "new," and that I still needed him to charm me a little. Didn't take.

I know that sometimes he does try to quell his fart urges, such as when he's sitting on my leather couch, which has the effect of amplifying his farts so they can be heard on every floor of my house!!! At the same time, he gets entirely too much pleasure out of farting while we're laying in bed, then giggling at his own cleverness.

Please help!

Gene Weingarten: He's a boor. Sorry.

I don't do this, around my wife. And we've been married 26 years. And, obviously, she never farts at all.

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Zeno's Paradox: The turtle and rabbit example you bring up in the intro is classically known as Zeno's Paradox. More information on Zeno's Paradox can be found on the Internet, particularly at Wikipedia .

Gene Weingarten: Thanks.

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Sandy Eggo, Calif.: Gene, this headline appeared in your fine paper yesterday. I must know, are you responsible for this?

"Gay Masseur Divides Manassas"

washingtonpost.com: Home Business Application Stirs Tensionsi n Manassas , ( Post, Oct. 16 )

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, this is the second posting I have received on this. Apparently, the initial headline was, indeed: "Gay Masseur Divides Manassas," until someone noticed the unfortunate entendre.

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Pain in the Piriformis follow up: Hi, Gene!

I saw my doctor today, and she agrees -- I have an inflamed piriformis muscle. She's prescribed anti-inflammatories, nightly muscle relaxants, stretching, massage, and any exercise that doesn't hurt. She didn't even order a superfluous x-ray!

So great big thanks to both you and the other person who weighed in on this!

Gene Weingarten: Excellent. We actually had an accurate diagnosis bumble in from the reading/posting public.

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Maryland: Your last poem "terror... in error" reminded me of the famous Ogden Nash "Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker" poem that I first heard in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. I don't think that the nun who read it actually understand what the implications were. In fact, it wasn't till I reached my majority that I realized what Ogden was talking about!

washingtonpost.com: The News can Always Be Verse , ( Post Magazine, Oct. 15 )

Gene Weingarten: I believe the title to this was something like "On Breaking the Ice," so even old Ogden was being a little coy.

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Tokyo, Japan: As Dave always used to say, as a kid you were apparently, no offense, not too bright. Your brother's premise is correct insofar as time stops at just the point that the hare overtakes the tortise. I flatter myself to think that as a kid, I'd have figured that out.

Gene Weingarten: Would you have figured out how to spell tortoise?

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The Brother: What does your brother do now, for a living? That was the geekiest story.

Gene Weingarten: Computer guy. What else?

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The Hill: Gene,

You made my day on Sunday. While walking to church in the morning, I witnessed a most inspiring display of determination. You simply were not going to park in any other space than the one you had found. I don't think I have ever seen someone crank the wheel so many times. Certainly lessons in patience, determination, the advantages of a short vehicle, and seizing an opportunity no matter the effort required! Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: I have many flaws. But I am the world's greatest parallel parker. And this is -- as you no doubt noticed from the body language -- with a car that has no power steering.

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Alexandria, Va.: Regardng the public display of family photos: A few decades ago, I use to install cable TV systems. One home I was hooking up featured big, framed color photos of each child in the family -- with prize ribbons attached to each. There were a few first- place ribbons, but, sadly, there were some "honorable mentions," too.

But that wasn't the strangest family photo display I encountered: A room in one house I worked in featured nothing but framed photos of the tombstones of family members.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I can't decide if the tombstones are brilliant or horrifying. I'm thinking about it.

Thinking.

If they were done ironically -- a Chas. Addams kind of homage -- they were brilliant. Probably not, huh?

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Durham, N.C.: Does "dressing for work" encompass time spent applying make-up and doing one's hair? I assumed you only meant actual time spent clothing one's body, so answered 5-10 minutes. But that's also assuming that I already have decided WHAT to wear. If I don't have that decision made before I walk into the closet in the morning, that can add at least another 10 minutes, depending on the weather (transitional weather is always harder than flat-out hot/cold days). So these are complex questions you've asked.

By the way, I'm one of the very few people who take more than 15 minutes in the shower, and I'd just like to ask the other women how the heck they manage to shave their legs and underarms, on top of shampooing/conditioning hair, not to mention the general washing, and still get out in under 15 minutes?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I was referring only to the actual clothing, but that includes selection.

Any fast female showerer care to answer this lady's question?

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Tortoise and Rabbit.

The answer requires calculus. You've just ensured that Liz is going to be inundated with messages from math nerds.

Gene Weingarten: There are limits and approachings, eh?

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I'm no Colombo: Gene, regarding the "police interview" video clip you posted in your October 13 update... What are the obvious signs that you said the policeman missed?

washingtonpost.com: The Clip (10 minutes)

Gene Weingarten: He got confused about his own name.

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Handicap Stalls: Gene, you are the only person to whom I can pose this question. How do men regard the handicap stall in public bathrooms? I ask because this weekend I was at a friend's house, and an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was on TV. There was a scene in which Larry David was waiting in line at the men's room (already you know this was a work of fiction), but no one would use the handicap stall -- because, as best I could tell, it would be a huge social faux pas to be caught using the handicap stall and it had to be available at all times in case someone in a wheel chair came in the restroom. This was a real source of anguish for Larry David, to the point that in a later scene, he cursed out a man in a wheel chair who used a normal stall. My girlfriends and I were completely baffled by this. In the ladies' room, the handicap stall is just another stall. To not use it would be just silly considering that there is usually a line of women waiting behind you. If a woman in a wheel chair came in, we'd likely just let her go to the front of the line as soon as the handicap stall opened. And I can't think of the last time I was in a public restroom with a woman in a wheel chair. Is this a guy thing or is this a Larry David thing? If it is a guy thing, would you mind explaining the logic? Because it just baffles me...

Gene Weingarten: It's creating a sitcom storyline.

No coherent logical argument can be made that the handicapped stall should lie fallow, when people are waiting. Or even when people are not waiting.

The purpose of the stall is to make sure that people with handicaps have a toilet suited for their needs, it is not to guarantee that they will never have to wait even a second to use that facility. Yes, once a handicapped person goes in, he or she should certain get immediate priority for that stall.

This is not the same with handicapped parking spaces. There is a reason there are always too many handicapped spaces... it is so that no handicapped person will ever have to go elsewhere, requiring a longer haul to the place of business.

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Great Place Names: I have on my computer three images relating to a town in Austria whose name is just made for your column. Unfortunately, I have no way to send them to you.

I'm reasonably sure they are genuine; I have verified that the place name can be found on MapQuest. Let's just say that the town's name is a rather vulgar participle in English that is based on a certain verb beginning with f. To find it on MapQuest, get a map that shows Hofweiden, Austria, and look about a mile pretty much due east of Hofweiden.

If you haven't already received this info from 47 gazillion of your other faithful readers, please e-mail me at singflysmith(at) yahoo(dot)com and I'll send you the images, along with info that (I hope) will establish that I am, in fact, a real person, not a spammer or other type of miscreant.

Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Now, now. Stop being so genteel. It's the actual name of a city!

washingtonpost.com: Ahem .

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Gambrills, Md.: Alright, I am having trouble submitting this, but I will try...

I am having issues figuring out whether I was a good Dad or am in need of anger management after an incident at the local grocery store last night.

I am shopping with my three-year-old son, he is in the cart, and we are in the vegetable area. The "aisle" to the onions are blocked, so I leave him, not ten feet away, to go pick out a Vidalia. I look back, not three seconds later, and another creepy looking guy is moving the cart and my son. I go back and say, "Excuse me, I got it." He replies, "What? I've got it." I reply, "Next time, say Excuse me, and I'll move the cart." He gets defensive and says, "I don't need to say Excuse me." After that, I wheel my son and the cart away from this guy, but we both exchange dirty glances. No more words are spoken.

Am I wrong for wanting to have the instinct to deck this guy? What sort of idiot walks up to another person's shopping cart, with a three-year-old child sitting in the seat, and starts moving it away so he can see the dried fruits and nuts? This guy may be a priest; he may be a registered sex offender for all I know. Am I wrong to think the latter?

Gene Weingarten: I think you need anger management. This wouldn't have fazed me at all.

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Metro Center, Washington, D.C.: Gene -- it's skirt and boots season! Hooray! I LOVE that look!

Gene Weingarten: Drool. Pant.

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Falls Church, Va.: Have you been following "For Better Or For Worse" Shlumpy, creepy, whiny Anthony has been getting all turned on by reliving Elizabeth's brush with sexual assault, and Elizabeth has been oohing and aahing over the cold, lifeless trappings of Anthony's bitter day-to-day existence. When are those two crazy kids going to see that they're made for another?

Gene Weingarten: This has been telegraphed for well over a year; it is such a stupid, fuddy story line. And it is inevitable. We will watch it happen in slo-mo, like Anthony's thought patterns.

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New York, N.Y.: Whoa, Gene, I think you just lost the respect of a few hundred readers with your puritanical disdain of emitting gas.

Gene Weingarten: I took that chance with eyes open.

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Lynchburg, Va.: Gene,

To this day I maintain that I had the worst high school mascot, the "Fighting Quakers." Can anybody beat this?

Gene Weingarten: Nope.

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Vet School, U.S.: Hello,

I sent a comment to your e-mail address, but I'm trying again here. My comment concerns your statement about the three "best" veterinary schools in the country.

I've been a veterinarian for 20 years now, and I've never heard of any such list or ranking. And from out here in the trenches, I can say with some certainty that it makes absolutely no difference which school your veterinarian attended. Experience and personality (that is, how your personality, your pet's personality, and the vet's personality mesh) are what counts.

Needless to say, I did not attend one of the schools you labeled best, nor did most of my friends and current colleagues. I complain not so much for myself, but for all the excellent vets I have worked with over the years who graduated from different schools in the U.S. as well as from foreign schools.

I'm at a conference this week with some of the top minds in the profession today -- they're all a lot smarter than me! The only reason to care from which school anyone graduated is if there's going to be an alumni reception.

I've gotta defend my people!

Gene Weingarten: Understood. As I said a couple of weeks ago, since there are only 27 vet schools in the country, each with 80-100 new spots a year, each competing for maybe 50,000 college grads wanting to be vets, all of these schools have to be good. Their student body is top-notch.

The three schools I mentioned -- Cornell, Colorado State and Penn -- are ranked 1,2 and 3, in that order, every year by US News and World Reports. We can all agree to ignore those rankings; that's fine with me. I happen to like them only because my kid is at Cornell. To me THEY ARE ETCHED IN STONE.

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New York, N.Y.: On showering:

2 minutes: enjoy the water

1 minute: lather hair

1 minute: shave underarms

1 minute: wash out soap, put in conditioner

2 minutes: shave legs

1 minute: lather body

2 minutes: wash off conditioner and body soap

A 10-minute shower. And really, it does not take a full minute to shave your underarms, nor does it take two minutes to shave your legs OR wash off soap. I think I have it down to 7-8 minutes to finish all of the above.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Seriously, it must be asked, what the hell are you men doing in the shower? It takes me 10-15 minutes because there is some significant surface area to be shaved, long hair to be washed, etc. What's your excuse? Don't most of you just use bar soap for shampoo? And I mean that lovingly, it's one of the cutest things about you. Unless of course you're using the shower to... I think I just answered my own question. Carry on, Gene.

Gene Weingarten: Nah, I think that is relatively rare behavior, that of which you speak. Relatively. I share your question. I do not like to shower. My goal is to get out as quickly as possible. I answered "Three minutes or less," and timed myself this morning, just to verify. Two minutes fifty two seconds, including shampoo.

There are a couple of tricks to this:

1. Obviously, you do not "repeat," regardless of what the bottle says. My wife contends her hair doesn't feel clean without a repeat, but I say, do it right the first time. Measure twice, cut once. Etc.

2. Deal with critical areas -- you know the critical areas -- diligently, but rely on sudsy runoff and gravity to handle some less essential terrain. "Sudsy runoff" could be a good band name.

3. Remember always that shampoo is soap. I have probably not washed my face and neck in 30 years. I shampoo my face and neck every day, though.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Gene. What is your column writing process? I mean, I assume you write one column per week on a weekly deadline and that column is published 3 or 4 weeks later, but I'm wondering what your process is from idea to submission. In other words, if you've come up with an idea and performed any necessary research, how does the writing process go? Do you get your head straight and then sit down bang out a column in one day or do you continually write and rewrite all week as new and different ideas strike you? Is there always a slight sense of panic?

Gene Weingarten: There is always panic. And usually there is one extra stutter-step when Tom the Butcher informs me that everything I have written is terrible and I have to start again. That's when the negotiations begin.

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Zucchini season: Before your Trudeau story hits and gets us all riled up about everything Doonesbury, could you give us an update on the Great Zucchini? That was such a fabulous article, and we'd all like to know if Eric actually found some nice woman to help him pay his bills on time and pick up his dirty socks.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, Eric has a girl. Eric also has a cleaning lady! It's exciting.

He and I are going to meet up oneday soon, and I will report in more detail.

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Harrisburg, Pa: My local paper ran the following Andy Rooney column , without the first two paragraphs, thereby making it timely. Methinks you take great issue with his comments on baseball. Shall we start a letter-writing campaign to Mr. Rooney to inform of all of the benefits to the catcher deciding the pitches? Catchers can become better readers of hitters since they're everyday players, Less need to disguise when no runners are on second, might as well have him do it since the pitcher is more likely to become demoralized after a particularly bad result, can you think of anything else?

Gene Weingarten: Well, Andy clearly understands NOTHING about baseball, but I like the last line of the column.

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Washington, D.C.: A couple of years ago you took the SAT, only to find out that you haven't learned anything since high school. Are you planning to take the revised format with the esssay, etc.? Perhaps you have learned something in the past couple of years.

Gene Weingarten: I took it, twice! Neither resulted in a column, because neither was definitive.

The first time I wrote a pretty intelligent essay making fun of the essay concept; satire, essentially. My thought was that they would give me a low grade, but they didn't.

The second time, I did the opposite. I wrote highfalutin' sounding gibberish. They gave me a pretty low grade. Just not definitive in any direction. No column.

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Any Town: Gene, the poll raises a perfect opportunity for this PSA, which has been rejected in other bathroom-behavior chats. Ladies, there is a medical reason to TAKE YOUR TIME in the bathroom. My doctor advised me years ago that women develop medical problems when they, er, push through. Men don't seem to have the same issue as much (but it can happen to men too if they rush!) I know, we all feel like we have more important things to do. But this is your health. Two minutes is rarely adequate.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, there is a line by Mel Brooks in one of his Histories of the World, I believe. He is delivering the secret of life, and he says, "Never --NEVER -- strain on the toilet."

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Taboo: So, what taboos are there for the religion of the Fl_ing Sp_ghetti M_nster?

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

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FOB: The last sentence of little used Amendment XII bars anyone from the vice presidency if she is barred from the presidency.

Gene Weingarten: It does? Amendment 12? Ahhhhhhhhh. Thank you.

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Long showers: I don't understand it! On America's Next Top Model the girls were complaining that they couldn't shower in less than an hour. Granted, they were aspiring models, but still. An hour? My Deluxe Wash -- shaving legs and underarms, shampoo and conditioner, washing, scrubbing under fingernails, using that pumice thingy on my feet, spacing out under the relaxing spray, making doodles on the steamed glass wall -- never takes more than nine minutes.

Gene Weingarten: Does anyone own a home with a hot-water heater CAPABLE of sustaining an hour shower?

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Arlington, Va.: The Mannassas masseur headline completely went over my head. I think that was the headline in the print edition I received yesterday. But after you posted it here I totally got it a L'dOL. That is brilliant! Whoever came up with it deserves a prize of some sort. But I am a sucker for those sorts of punny headlines.

Gene Weingarten: I do think it was probably deliberate.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, How come no one writes in their blog about you?

Gene Weingarten: This woman is obviously not a real Dave Barry fan, because she is missing one of his best books, "Dave Barry Does Japan."

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Rockville, Md.: I don't know if you're aware of this, Gene, but whether one puts family pictures up on the walls has long been used as a marker of social grouping in the U.S. I think Paul Fussell mentions it in "Class," but it seems to be based both on social class and on geography. There was a classic study (done around 50 years ago) which looked at the criteria social workers across the country used in determining whether families were suitable for adoption. In Boston, having family pictures up was considered a negative marker, while in Kansas City it wasn't at all. The conclusion basically was that "suitability" had more to do with local class prejudices than anything else.

For you, who (I assume) grew up in New York in middle-class circumstances, framed family pictures then would have doubly negative connotations -- indicating lower class, or being from the outlands, or both. I think this explains the vehemence of your reaction. For me, who grew up in Ohio in similar circumstances, they're a matter of indifference -- we never had them, but plenty of my friends did, so I never thought them odd. My relatives in Iowa, though, found it a bit pretentious to have artwork rather than family pictures on the walls -- "it's like you're trying to make your house a museum," one of them said.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting.

You ever see the brie-versus-Velveeta study?

washingtonpost.com: A Tale of Two Cheeses , ( American Demographics, Feb. 1998 )

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Hoote, RS: Dear Gene,

Several months back your chat discussed a Hooters restaurant location near Detroit, Mich., allegedly on Big Beaver Road off Exit 69. I flew to see a friend in Detroit a couple of weekends back and, based on your chat info, we had planned to visit said Hooters and send in photo evidence. GENE, SAID HOOTERS DOES NOT EXIST. A little research revealed that Hooters, Inc. filed an application to open a branch on Big Beaver Road off Exit 69 (location of the most frequently stolen street sign in Michigan, btw), but they were tragically denied. Our disappointment was mitigated by the fact that the Hooters we did end up going to, in Taylor, MI, is on Eureka Road. ps, we're chicks.

Gene Weingarten: I am so sorry to learn this.

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Macon, Ga.: Gene,

Sunday's " Save and Splurge " item featured a woman named Michelle Molitor who apparently buys nine pairs of underwear every four to six months. What is going on here?

With nine new pairs of panties, assuming that she changes them EVERY SINGLE DAY, she still has a pair for every day of the week, plus two spares. Yet as soon as four months later, it's time to go underwear shopping again?

Do women really through out their panties after wearing them just 13 or 14 times?

Gene Weingarten: I believe she is buying very cheap stuff, and throws it out when it begins to sag or wane or yaw or pitch or whatever panties do. What do cheap panties do?

Gene Weingarten: And could this be Wanda's problem, in Baby Blues on Sunday?

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Bethesda, MD: I'm trying to decide on my next Dylan purchase, but I'm torn between two box sets: Biograph or The Bootleg Series, Vol 1-3: Rare and Unreleased: 1961-1991. Would you care to make a recommendation?

Gene Weingarten: The Bootleg, if for no other reason than it has Davey Moore AND the poem to Woody.

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washingtonpost.com: Today's Sally Forth is the correct link. A thousand or so apologies.

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RE: Gambrills, Md: Gene,

Normally I appreciate your mellow parenting style but you don't touch the cart with the kid in it. Ever. The dad was right.

Gene Weingarten: But, geez. He rolled it a foot or two. Do others agree with Sarah, here?

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Oakton, Va.: Um, there couldn't be a Clinton-Clinton ticket since they both live in New York. The constitution requires that the Pres and Veep be from different states. Bush and Cheney ran into some legal tourble in 2000 when some tried to make the case the Cheney resided in Texas. Courts ruled he officially lived in Wyoming.

Gene Weingarten: A different state? What? Are you serious? How could I have missed this? I could have sworn Roosevelt ran with someone else from New York.

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Quick shower: I'm a woman, and I'm never in the shower more than 7 or 8 minutes. Even now that I have very long hair. Although I do put in a minute or so longer to thoroughly wash, rinse, condition and rinse now, compared to when it was shorter. I digress.

Here's the secret: do the face soap step while the conditioner is conditioning, and shave underarms and legs on alternate days. You know, like legs today, underarms tomorrow, legs again on Thursday. It's really not good for that delicate skin to shave every day, and really, what's one day's growth on an area that no one looks at anyway?

Gene Weingarten: This sounds smart!

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I can beat the Fighting Quakers: I went to a Catholic high school, which was named after Pope Pius XI (not the one who was in collusion with the Nazis).

Our mascot: the Popes

Girls' teams: the Lady Popes.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. This is incredible. Is this true?

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll. There's only one headline, folks.

Women are fast poopers! Men are slow poopers! "End" of story.

When I showed my wife these results this morning, here is what she said;

"That was completely predictable. Women don't have time to waste. Have you noticed that when a man is on the phone, he is "on the phone." That's it. "Don't bother me, I'm on the phone." When a woman is on the phone, she is holding the baby, stirring the pot, balancing her checkbook, answering questions. So of course we don't spend half an afternoon on the pot."

I was not at all surprised that almost all women women tote hair-care products. When Gina and I were in St. Louis for a book event, I noticed she basically had an entire suitcase for hair-care products. What stuns me is that such a large majority of men tote shampoo, too. What a bunch of sissies.

Third headline: Nobody seriously cooks anymore. What is that about? When I showed THESE results to my wife, she couldn't quite believe them. Again, I quote:

"What are these people making for dinner that takes 15 minutes or less? You can barely do that for spaghetti with store-bought sauce. It takes nine minutes for water to boil. Five more for the pasta to cook. You've got a minute to spare, even if you're multi-tasking with the salad."

My answer was "over an hour."

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RE: Worst Mascots: Okay, this is a college mascot, but how about The Whittier Poets? Can you imagine the fear the opposing football team must have felt knowing they were playing The Poets?

Red forty Haiku!

Iambic Pentameter

Hut one. Hut two. Hike!

Gene Weingarten: Very nice. Doesn't beat the Popes, though. Nothing does.

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Washington, D.C.: But WHY do men (I presume your earlier correspondent was a guy) like the skirt and boots look so much?

p.s. I am a girl. I am wearing a skirt and boots today.

washingtonpost.com: Haven't we been here before?

Gene Weingarten: We have.

Listen, it's just ... hot. It implies domination, but only slightly. It features the leg, but only subtly. It requires a shortish skirt to work well.

All men understand this instinctively.

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What's in a beard?: While I enjoyed the Speed Bump cartoon, I feel compelled to point out that the beard depicted in it is not actually a goatee, even though everybody calls it that. A goatee hangs down from the chin, much as it does on a goat or on King Tut. A little pointy beard with associated mustache is a Van Dyke (or possible Van Dyck). I have no idea what the close-cropped beard/mustache combo ought to be called.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, this reminds me of a famous double dactyl. I will answer some other questions while I try to remember it.

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Woman, New Jersey: Okay, how sad is it that I didn't have to guess how long each of the poll tasks takes me? I am a timing nerd, I guess. I put it down to being a trained process improvement professional as well as a wife who wonders why it only takes her 2-4 minutes to poop but her husband upwards of an hour. Doesn't he know there are more comfortable chairs in the house where he can read the latest American History book?

Gene Weingarten: But not behind a closed door. That closed door element is crucial.

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Worried, Md.: I noticed a small lump under the skin in my armpit. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it's now grown larger and is sensitive to the touch. The skin over it is red. I've never heard of armpit cancer, so I'm hoping that's not it. Any ideas?

Gene Weingarten: You've never heard of armpit cancer?

Ummmmm, a lump in the armpit is sometimes the sign of cancer that has gotten into the lymph nodes. Fortunately for you, this is probably not the case. As a general rule, cancerous lumps are not painful.

But see a doctor. Lump in armpit: See doc.

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Tooth, DK: Ugh! No wonder I encounter so many people with bad breath. Brushing your teeth should take 2 minutes, not under a minute as approximately 50 percent of your poll-takers believe. Just because your toothbrush touched one part of a particular tooth does not mean the whole tooth is clean. I bet these are the same people who don't brush their tongues. Gross.

(And no, I am not one of those freaky teeth people who brush and/or floss after every meal or snack or cup of coffee. I brush my teeth twice a day, maybe three times.)

Gene Weingarten: Yes you are. You are a tooth Nazi. The tongue-brushing gives this away.

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Gene Weingarten: Higgledy Piggledy

Penis Van Lesbian

Entered the business that

No Biz is Like.

Keen on increasing his

Marketability

Took on the stage name

Of Dick Van Dyke.

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Re: Lady Popes: Not only is it true, there's even a wikipedia entry (not that that's proof of veracity, but...)

Gene Weingarten: Okay, then.

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"Prizners"?: "Prisoners" has two syllables?? Next time you seek to criticize someone who mangles the language, I suggest you look in the meer.

Gene Weingarten: I suggest you look in the dic, dick.

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The Old Dominion: Hi Gene, I'm a 20-something female. I was born and bred in Northern Virginia. I went to a state university for college, and am currently attending a state university master's program. I don't consider myself a Southerner, per se, because I was raised so close to D.C. and because both of my parents are from the North, so I never really adopted that mindset. But I've never really taken issue with being from Virginia, either. The schools have been great to me, the landscape is gorgeous, the people are kind. Until now. It seems that my fellow Virginians are about to pass a bigoted amendment to our Constitution. Not the legislature, not the courts. The people of my state.

Gene, I am horrified, dismayed and embarrassed. I seriously feel like I would be compromising my values by continuing to live in a state that would pass this law. When I consider that I should stay, as I am receiving in-state tuition for my graduate program, I am ashamed that I would put money ahead of my beliefs.

Am I overreacting entirely? Is it defendable to stay long enough to finish my degree and then leave? Or should I suck it up, take out more loans, and hit the road?

washingtonpost.com: 53% of Voters Say They Back Va. Same-Sex Marriage Ban , ( Post, Oct. 17 )

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, this surprises you? This is Virginia we are talking about.

Stay in school. By the opposite way of thinking, 49 percent of us should leave the United States.

Gene Weingarten: It actually occurred to me the other day that for the first time in my superannuated life, I find myself almost ashamed to be an American. Ashamed for my country, certainly.

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Michigan: Gene,

I was mentioning to my husband on the drive into work today an odd sensation I am having in two of my fingers. He was stumped, and then I thought "hey, it's Tuesday! I'll ask Gene!" Since yesterday, my ring and pinkey fingers on my left hand have felt almost as if I slightly burned them (which I haven't). Sort of like they are alseep, without the pins and needles. I have noticed that my whole left arm seems to easily fall asleep these days, and now my left hand is really cold (right one is normal temp). I'm 33, female, relatively good health. Any idea what gives?

Gene Weingarten: Hmmm. You are sending two conflicting messages. If you check it out carefully, you will probably discover that it is not your ring and pinkie, but your pinkie and HALF your ring finger -- the outside portion, toward the pinkie. This is a nerve thing. One nerve services both fingers, in that way, and anything can cause this. An oddly compressed nerve when you sleep, etc. It's a very common paresthesia.

But if the hand is cold, THAT means you have a circulatory problem which should not, I believe, concentrate itself in two fingers. You probably want to see a gp. It's probably nothing.

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Washington, D.C.: So if tacky is believing in a sense of style when there is none present, then there might not be anything more tacky than the mustache - sorry, Gene.

Unless, of course, you're wearing it in an ironic sense of style.

Gene Weingarten: I can't really conest this, except I do not wear it as a matter of style. I wear it because I have always worn it, and fear change.

Gene Weingarten: Facial hair goes in and out of style. I suspect that within 20 years, mustaches will come back, and I will seem like a hip old grandpappy.

And the fact is, I will not be hip. Nor am I unhip now. I am simply inert.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Weingarten,

My girlfriend and I recently moved in together and things are going great.

However -- and you, as a member of the Tribe, may be able to empathize with me -- she is still coming to grips with my copious amount of bodyhair. She's obviously always known about it but now when she takes a shower after me, she says it looks like a muppet on chemo just went through -- fur everywhere. How do I get her to understand that I'm not a wookie? Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Jews are hairier? This, I never hoid.

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Khazak Embassy, Washington, D.C.: As a Jew and someone who considers himself somewhat intelligent, I think Borat is hillariously offensive. He got a whole bar full of red-necks to happily sing along with him the chorus of "throw the Jew down the well." It taught me never ever to go to that part of Texas.

Gene Weingarten: He's definitely straddling a fine edge.

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Re: Gambrills: While I'd never push a shopping cart with someone else's child in it, I think the father here needs to choke down some of that righteous indignation. He left his kid unattended for his own convenience and got irked when someone else moved the cart for HIS own convenience. And, his opinions about the other guy's 'creepy' looks have little bearing on this.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, several people have said this in different ways.

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Huh?: Regarding the woman with the nine pairs of panties:

"..assuming that she changes them EVERY SINGLE DAY"

Why wouldn't she change them every day? Am I missing something here? Ew!

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I actually had a question about this in the poll, initially, and then decided no one would ever reuse undies, probably not even guys.

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Oooh: lather body - liking that scene

Also, Woot, I love Liz

washingtonpost.com: At least someone here does.

Gene Weingarten: What do you mean? I give you constant love and attention.

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F------g, Australia Tourist Bureau: Who are you, and why are all your readers deluging our office with emails?

Gene Weingarten: You know, the town is constantly losing its street signs to thieves.

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Armpit cancer: No, no, no, you're scaring the poor dear. It's undoubtedly just a clogged pore. Put as hot a compress on it as you can handle, for a few days, and NO deodorant. If that doesn't work, then go to the doctor.

Gene Weingarten: WEll, I specifically said it wasn't cancer! Probably!

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15 Minute Dinner: One word: microwave.

Gene Weingarten: Oh. Ew.

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Velveeta: isn't a cheese. It's some sort of plastic. That's why it melts so well.

(But I still pick it every time for mac & cheese comfort.)

Gene Weingarten: I found the lack of overlap between brie and Velveeta neighborhoods to be interesting. It's not simply a factor of cost.

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Re: Cold Hands: Cold hands + tingling....could be Reynaud's syndrome. Basic symptom: hands are always cold, even with gloves on. Mine is bad enough that my fingernails actually turn blue.

Not too bad in itself, but can be a sign of bigger problems, so see a doc.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but isn't Reynauds almost always bilateral?

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Sha, ME: Gene,

I am not ashamed of the country, I am ashamed and embarrassed at the current leadership of the country and what they have done. I think thre is an important distinction between the two.

Gene Weingarten: Well, of course, but that only goes so far. We have twice elected this leadership, and it's the people who elected him, and the people are the country.

I won't make the easy comparison. But there is a point at which the will of the people helps define the national character.

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Borat: But Ackroyd and Martin did it better 30 years ago - the swinging Czechoslovakian brothers.

Gene Weingarten: Not better, different. Almost no edge to that. It was just wacky.

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Lumpy finger: Gene! Do I have a malignant tumor in my finger? My right index finger (I'm right-handed) has a lump that appears to be right on the bone, on the lowest third. It's on the inside of the finger, the side where it faces the middle finger. The lump is small but well defined and it hurts when I press down on it. Someone said it might be a bone spur, but on a finger...?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, a bone spur. Though bone cancer IS one of those that hurt.

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Tooth brushing: Who doesn't brush their tongue??? Tongues need WAY more brushing than teeth! Ewww, ick! Now I have to think about coming into contact with all kinds of people who haven't ever cleaned their tongues? I may have to stop reading the chat, I'm so grossed out.

Although the tooth nazi who posted earlier is wrong too: it's totally possible to do a thorough job in a minute or so. Any longer, and you're probably doing gum damage. After a minute's worth of brushing, move on to flossing.

Gene Weingarten: I cannot imagine brushing for two minutes. I would break out laughing.

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Alexandria, Va.:

Text of Amendment XII

"The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; ..."

In other words, a Bush-Cheney ticket could not win the electoral votes from Texas because all of the Texas Electors live in the same state as both Bush and Cheney as both Bush and Cheney were residents of Texas -- except that Cheney somehow managed to change his official residence to Wyoming (despite the fact that he was CEO of Halliburton, a company headquartered in Houston, from 1995 to 2000). Perhaps the first unconstitutional act of the Bush-Cheney administration.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. Thanks.

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Tampa, Fla.: Frozen veggies that you microwave are not "ew". Many chefs will tell you they are just as good, if not better than, fresh vegetables. They are frozen right after they are picked, thus actually fresher than "fresh", since the latter has been sitting on a truck and then in the store for who knows how long, and touched by who-knows-what else.....ew.

washingtonpost.com: Whatever.

Gene Weingarten: Whatevvvvvvvverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

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Arlington, Va.: Ok, maybe I am anachronistic - I take at least an hour to cook dinner. It is part of how I unwind. Also, we ALWAYS eat as a family at the DR table. It is not a big deal - it is just something we do. Did your family also eat together every night?

Gene Weingarten: Every night. These days, "family" is often rib and me, but this is a tradition going back, oh, 30 years.

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Dent, AL: I was positive the American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes, but it actually does not give a specific duration.

Gene Weingarten: I think they once did say two minutes, until someone pointed out this is insane.

I have one of those sonic toothbrushes. It's actually sort of fun. And I poop out around 45 seconds.

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Burke, Va.: I'm ashamed that my country nominated such a weak Democratic candidate in 2004. W was ripe for the picking, even then. Dems blew it.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed. But ... I don't mean to be nasty here, Kerry wasn't THAT weak. Nobody would have been that weak.

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Reusing Undies: Oh! You are so wrong! My hubby will happily wear the same undies for many days, or even a week or two. Or he doesn't wear any at all. Gross? Yes. Explanation and entreaty are futile. Will any other men explain this behavior?

Gene Weingarten: WEEKS???? Okay, ladies, have at this woman.

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Local: Gene,

Please look at her stack of books again. Just above Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs and just below Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys you will find the paperback copy of Dave Barry Does Japan.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, right. Dang.

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Calgary, Alberta, Canada: I logged onto the chat after it had already been going for half an hour. By the time I finished reading the existing material and hit the 'refresh' button on my browser, another ten minutes had passed. By the time I finished reading THAT ten minutes of material, another five minutes had passed. You can see where this is heading - am I EVER going to finish reading today's discussion? And how does submitting this question affect matters - it seems possible that it will just make matters worse. Did I say worse? I meant better!

Gene Weingarten: Excellent, topical observation. Thank you. You will be reading this after the chat ends.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Do you have medical training? I notice the authority with which you answer medical queries. But it was not until I read your recent column that suggested marshmallow enemas that I realized that you are at least a med school dropout, or possibly a surgeon from Kazakhistan.

Gene Weingarten: I wrote a book several years ago about minor symptoms and how they can kill you. I am a semi-knowledgeable amateur. Which is dangerous.

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Fighting Clan: No joke - my high school was the fighting Clan . Granted, it's not Fighting Klan, but the distinction is lost when when you can't see it in print.

Gene Weingarten: Good!

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Oh, come ON.: Why do you even bother taking questions if your great collective response is "whatever?"

The frozen veggie advocate made a perfectly logical counterargument.

The two of you are like 12-year-olds.

washingtonpost.com: I know you are, but what am I?

Gene Weingarten: I'm rubber, you're glue.

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Clock Question: Gene,

I inherited a couple of old Seth Thomas clocks from my father when he passed away. These are key wind chiming clocks and I know nothing about them. My question is, do you move the hands to set the correct time and then wind or wind and then move the hands around, allowing it to chime at each hour and each half hour? Thanks for your help.

Gene Weingarten: The second solution will get you in less trouble.

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Arlington, Va.: Alexandria can stuff it on the Cheney-Texas/Wyoming issue. Each state sets its own citizenship requirement. Cheney did represent the state in the House at one point. Exactly what connection did Hillary have to NY, apart from the liberalism?

Gene Weingarten: Well, she moved there. Bobby K. did the same thing when he ran for the Senate.

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Richmond, Va.: I'm a guy. And sure, I prefer clean underwear every day. But sometimes it's been just too long since the last laundry, and clean isn't available. So I'll sort through the dirty laundry until I find a likely candidate. Then, to ensure that it's clean enough, I subject it to the same test I use for checking spaghetti while it's cooking to see whether it's done: I throw 'em against the wall. If they stick, I don't wear 'em.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Hey, Wookie Boy: Buy a roll of paper towels. Keep them under the bathroom sink. Wipe out the tub and toss the paper towel when you finish.

I guarantee, you'll be well rewarded. (The "Muppet on chemo" description is priceless.)

Gene Weingarten: Agreed, re muppet.

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Washington, D.C.: Frozen vegetables taste like crap.

How's that for a counter-argument?

Gene Weingarten: Shhh. You will offend those without taste buds.

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Popes vs. Quakers: I'm not sure who wins here. If we're judging based on irony, sure there were no women popes, but in the early church there were a few women priests, it wasn't until (forgetting sunday school classes) something around 400AD that said they had to be men? Maybe I'm wrong. However, by definition, Quakers are pacifists.

If we're talking as a battle royale, popes win, they started the crusades and the quakers are still just a few hundred pacifists. Poops for upwards of 20 minutes, an hour if I have a new Economist.

Gene Weingarten: Popes wins because of how stupid it is.

Okay, folks, we're done. I'll be updating as usual. See you next week.

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UPDATED 10.18.06

Gene Weingarten: On the subject of team names, my friend Rachel Manteuffel writes in:

"My high school was named for George Marshall, so we were the Statesmen. Our game strategy was to avoid conflict, negotiate, and make sure the opponent became an economically viable trading partner as soon as possible after we beat them.

"Fear the Lady Statesmen! One girl got on varsity la crosse only 'cause she cried. That's a Lady Statesman."

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Gene Weingarten: And this from Daren Crabell:

How about good ol' Freeport, Illinois home of the -- Pretzels!! Because the high school use to be an old pretzel factory. Plus their colors are orange and brown which just exacerbates the whole thing.

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Gene Weingarten: And from Paul Stilp, this one, also true -- The Hoopston (Illinois) Cornjerkers.

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Gene Weingarten: An important piece of medical advice from Elliott Gorelick, regarding the poster with a painful finger lump --

Bumps on the finger could also be osteomyelitis which can move very slowly up the bone or cause a systemic infection. The first is nasty because it might result in amputation and the second (sepsis) is obviously undesireable. This person needs to go to the doctor.

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Washington, D.C.: You may now be the world's greatest parallel parker but when I lived in the city proper a few years back and was well-practiced, I was once applauded by passers-by after pulling my 1983 Civic cleanly into a spot only inches longer than the car itself.

Gene Weingarten: You, sir, are a rank amateur. A poseur. A child. And I am not even comparing you to myself, a comparison you would lose. I am referring to one Bernard Crane, who was the subject of a column of mine a few years back. Liz, can we link?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway (Nov. 11, 2002)

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Handicap Bathroom Stalls: If I read your answer correctly, you're saying that if there is a line for the stalls and a wheelchair rolls in, the wheelchaired person should get first crack at the stall? Why? Why shouldn't the handicapped person have to wait? I wait on occasion, you wait on occasion...why not them?

I understand not using the stall if other, non-handicap accessible stalls are open. But if there is a line, why shouldn't they have to wait like everyone else?

I have to believe they don't want to be treated differently if they have a handicap. Make them wait like everyone else.

Gene Weingarten: The answer should be obvious, Mr. Legree. Because he is the only person on line who is waiting for a specific stall. He doesn't have a choice.

Also, I would argue there is something called compassion. Give the guy a break.

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Gene Weingarten: Oh, and shockingly I forgot to include this aptonym yesterday --

The name of a woman wanted in Atlanta for polyandry (she had allegedly been married to six men at the same time) is... Shawnta McBride.

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UPDATED 10.19.06

Gene Weingarten: Another bad team name from Sarah Doelp:

I graduated from the University of Delaware, home of the fighting blue hens. Women playing on Delaware sports teams were referred to as the "Lady Hens" How ridiculous is that. Shouldn't the men have been referred to as the "Guy Hens"?

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Gene Weingarten: I love this idea, just arrived from Marc Atwood in Charlotte --

All the recent talk in your chats about folks hanging framed photos of themselves in their living rooms got me thinking... I think the next time I come across this when I visit someone's home, I will bring a framed photo of myself as a gift on my following visit, strongly hinting that I expect it to be hung in a prominent spot among the photos they currently have on display. "I thought it would look great right here, next to this one of you and the Mrs. on on the beach from your honeymoon." The awkward moment created by my gesture will be unmatched by any other awkward moment in those people's lives.

I'm thinking that if all of us who don't approve of folks displaying their photos in such a manner bring framed photos of ourselves to these people's homes, they would all stop the madness... And I'm talking about Glamour Shots type cheesy portraits...

Let the Revolution begin!

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Arlington, Va.: Ms. Underoo Reuser is at least safe in the knowledge that her guy would skeeve out any other woman he tried to fiddle with. If he starts acting normal, she might have cause to worry.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, good point. Gina's second most important sign that your husband is having an affair is that he starts buying his own underpants. The first most important sign is that he stops wearing underpants.

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Centreville, Va.: My wife and are paleolithic bigoted myth-believing Bush-lovers by the standards of this chat and its readership, and we're not voting for the Virginia amendment. As written, it outlaws heterosexual civil unions in addition to homosexual arrangements. It's poorly written.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, Lord. So you're voting against it because it inadvertently discriminates against heterosexuals who want to live in sin, not because it is discriminating against gays who DON'T want to live in sin?

Listen, as a denizen of this chat, you are obviously smart and funny, even though you are a rabid right wing horror show.

Kidding about that last part -- but not kidding about this: Can you write in and explain to me how you can be opposed to gay marriage, but not of the opinion that gays are less worthy people than straights? I'll print what you say, if it is printable.

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New York, N.Y.: Gene, I have never written in before, but I must say that the Popes have nothing on my high school -- I went to Martin Van Buren H.S. and we were the "Fighting Vee Bees" As an aside, I went to NYU where our teams were known as the "Violets." I do not have a proud team history.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I went to NYU, too. I was the editor of the newspaper that regularly covered the Violets, and we were constantly challenged by having to write headlines like "Violets Maul Tigers." I do recall that when the soccer team (Shep Messing was goalie) beat Bates college, the headline was "Violet Eleven Master Bates."

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New York, N.Y.: I am hesitant to send this in, because no one wants to make light of such a sad story. However, I feel that I must make you aware of a rather unfortunate aptonym involving an eyewitness to the Corey Lidle plane crash.

Gene Weingarten: This is astounding.

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UPDATED 10.20.06

Lusby Md.: I can top "Fighting Quakers." The U.S. Navy's Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 78 were the "Fighting Escargots" before they were decomissioned. I'm sure that struck fear into the heart of the enemy.

Gene Weingarten: I expected this to be nonsense, but it is true.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Veterinary schools.

Isn't the opposite true? With only 27 schools in the country, they can be lousy schools (i.e., with dullard professors and few resources) and still get their pick of bright college students. Where else are the students going to go?

Gene Weingarten: You know, I would have argued this also, but I have come to believe that a school is the sum total of its student body. I decided this was true during the year I spent at Harvard. I attended several writing-related classes there; my wife attended several law-school classes. We both felt that the faculty seemed quite ordinary, but the caliber of the students was knock-your-socks-off. It was their intellectual energy that drove those classes and made them special.

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No Farts?: I'm shocked to hear you and the rib can't pass wind around each other. You're people of the let-it-all-hang- out 60s, for chrissake! Not to mention the foci of many of these discussions.

My husband's and my first "date" was a road trip up the California coast (we'd been friends for years). Somehow, talk turned to road-trip diarrhea stories. About an hour later, we kissed for the first time, and have been together ever since (10 years).

I'm not saying the two things are related, and we both know not to pass gas in public. But I'm equally shocked about people who can't function in their home bathroom unless the door's closed between he/she and the spouse. Get over yourselves.

Gene Weingarten: Goodness.

Well, to state the obvious, I CAN pass gas in my wife's presence, but choose not to. I believe she would find it rude and crude, and I care what she thinks.

This does not extend to other intimacies, and, for the record, we basically decided to spend the rest of our lives together after one weekend in Acapulco where we shared a small hotel room despite a simultaneous two-day attack of firehose diarrhea. We realized if we could survive that, we were good to go.

What is so hard to fathom here, dude?

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Baltimore, Md.: In my medical school lecture today, our professor explained daily/monthly variations in body temperature in women, and then told us "If you're not a woman, you're just a normal person, your body temperature peaks in the early afternoon."

In general, I think the women and the normal people in the class disliked this lecturer.

Gene Weingarten: Splendid.

You know who I like, in general? Women. Remind me to discuss this one day. I just can't believe this is not totally obvious to everyone of either gender. Girls rule. It's like there are other people, and there are girls. And other people suck.

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Gene Weingarten: Regarding my brother's ancient Greek paradox about the tortoise and the hare, thanks to one poster for this:

An engineer and a scientist were told they could get close to a pretty woman but could only move half the remaining distance in each "step." The scientist said "I will never get there," and gave up. The engineer said "I will get close enough," and did.

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Wet, Va.: When it comes to the shower, I am the man of the house. My husband takes about 1.5 hours to get ready in the morning -- fast poop, then 20 minutes or so of gazing at himself in the mirror -- checking the gray hair, inspecting pores, etc., 20 minute shave -- lots of hot water/washcloth soaking. Looooooong shower -- I have no idea what he's doing in there, but it takes more than 30 minutes. Styling the hair -- the gel, the comb - geez. Then getting dressed -- if you are wearing a suit, why does it take SO long = it's the same every day! I am a woman with long, thick hair, legs to shave, skin to buff and polish and slather with lotion, outfits to select, accessories to match. It never takes me longer than 40 minutes, start to finish. I usually take a cool shower, since he goes first and uses the hot water. It used to bug me, but because he's so good natured about being teased about it, it's just something fun to mock.

So. What is he doing in that shower?

Gene Weingarten: Gosh, I have no idea

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