Chatological Humor (Updated 5.4.07)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 1, 2007; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: 5.2.07 | 5.3.07 | 5.4.07

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Poll: Women Only| Men Only

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I got a lot of mail on my Sunday column, some from people reporting that they have a similar affliction, some from people suggesting that I get counseling, pronto, and some from people who simply could not believe I got the word "douhebag" into the Washington Post. Thank you. That last was a feat of which I am proud.

About a week after the column went to press, I was reminded of an example of my douhebaggery far more serious than anything I had put in the column. It happened when my wife had no choice but to enter and use my basement office. This is the one part of the house into which she never ventures, largely for health concerns.

Anyway, afterward she came to me and informed me that she had cleaned up my office because she could not stand to be in it in its normal state. "I cleaned everything," she said, with a meaningful look, "INCLUDING THE RAT POISON." (emphasis mine.)

Some of you may remember that about three years ago I wrote a column about how we actually had a rat in the house. We called an exterminator, who put out rat traps and blew rat poison into the walls. Unfortunately, he had not first ascertained where it would fall, which was right into my basement office.

Rather than clearing it, I have been working, for nearly three years, in the middle of a dusting of rat poison powder, some of which had settled into little mounds. I just worked around them.

So. Lessee. I had an interesting experience over the weekend at a little community park. A few feet away was a family of three -- man, woman, little girl. He was a very dark-skinned black man, she was a very fair-skinned white woman, and the baby had a beautiful skin tone between the two. Suddenly, the man said to me: "Can I HELP you?" in a way that I recognized to mean, "What the hell are you looking at?" and I realized I was staring. I was. I was fascinated.

I said, "Sorry, I was just noticing that the insignia on your daughter's Yankees cap is... wrong." He laughed. "Yeah," he said, "It's some bad Chinese knockoff." Then we all talked happily about the Yanks for a while.

On the aptonym front, I used to think no mortuary could ever top "Amigone Funeral Home," but a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous found this one.

Also, I am in receipt of this correspondence from my friend (Jennifer Hart, Arlington), the brilliant Style Invitational Hall of Famer, who here comes eloquently to my defense. I should note that Jennifer and I have luncheoned together on more than one occasion, so she knows what she is talking about.

"In last week's Chatological transcript, a letter was printed from a Mr. or Miss "Jack Bellows" who was disillusioned after hearing Gene Weingarten's voice on NPR, calling it a "paltry voice, shaky and inconsequential, but grating, oh so grating on the ears." I was very upset to read this description -- in fact, shocked and appalled would be more accurate.

Because, for crine out loud, what a colorless and timid description! What a sorry lack of imagination! Weingarten has described his own voice as nasal, adenoidal, similar to a mosquito's buzzing. He has admitted to having a harmonica shoved up his nose. I would add (having heard this voice a few times) that it has a wheedling, reedy tone, like a midget playing a bagpipe. In fact, the Weingartean vocals could safely be compared to a rising whine of helicopter rotor blades; to "Psycho's" screek-screek soundtrack; to the squealing brakes of a rusted-out VW Beetle; to scissors being ground on a stone wheel; to the keening snarl of a hungry street dog; to a choir of jackasses braying "Livin' La Vida Loca" in zero-part harmony. Step right up, folks, and hear The Man With a Kazoo for a Larynx! And once you get past the buzzsaw tone of the voice, oh horrors, you have to deal with the Bronx accent, as thick as a pastrami sandwich made by a loving Yiddish grandma, with a heaping cynical side of horseradish. This is a voice that should be hawking peanuts and beer at Yankee Stadium -- except that, unfortunately, its carrying power is damped down by a thick black moustache.

Yes, a strange and distinctive voice, a voice that is 100 percent perfect for a writer who needs to cozy up to sources and wheedle out their most private secrets. A voice that attracts dogs with its high-pitched sonics, that makes children giggle and reporters jump. A voice that has been shaped, through millions of years of evolution, into the perfect voice of the humorist. What, you want a whoopee cushion should sound like a Stradivarius? Gene Weingarten's voice is perfect, and all of his readers should be grateful for that.

I will be addressing the changes to our comics pages in later chats, but there is one thing I must note now. I was the principle agitator to get "Agnes," and it had not been in the paper for more than a week or so before it demonstrated why I love it. Hope you all saw this.

A very weak comics week. Points to Zits for the "Good Boy" storyline. Comic Pick of the Week is Monday's Speed Bump. First runner up, amazingly, is Thursday's Baldo and even more amazingly, Thursday's The Wiz of Id. In a category of its own -- Not real funny, but quite elegant -- is Monday's FBOFW.

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Gene Weingarten: Er, as usual, please remember to take today's poll, the results of which so far are, in a way, completely startling. I'll be analyzing soon, 'cause I need to hear some explanations from both the guys and the girls.

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An Eastern Market junkie: Hey Gene,

I don't care if this makes the chat or not; I'm all broken up about the Eastern market fire and I know you'll understand.

I'm a guy in my late 30s who has lived on the Hill for 16 years and change. Before today, I didn't think that much about how my life revolved around Eastern Market. But, it does.

I stop there for coffee and breakfast a few times a week, going back years.

I've taken dates to art or movies or dancing on Friday nights and I've taken dates to Market Lunch for Saturday breakfast.

Virtually every visitor I've ever had from out of town since I've moved here has been there, because I always insist that we go. And they all have raved about the place.

Every time I bring meat I've bought there to a cookout, everyone there asks me where I got such a wonderful steak.

My home is decorated with items I've picked up from one of the outside vendors or at the flea market.

The market brightened my life because of the people who worked there, most of whom must be facing the worst kind of uncertainty, not knowing when they can return or how they will support themselves in the interim.

When I heard about the fire this morning, I felt compelled to go and see the place on the way to work. I stayed for an hour, paralyzed by shock and sorrow. There may have been a hundred people there, all feeling like I did.

Watching the workers boarding up the windows on my way home from work, I had a feeling like I might have if a loved one had an accident and I saw them in the ICU, hooked up to tubes and machines, unconscious. And I choked up. In public. Not something that a 30-something guy does very often.

Please inform the chatters about the fund for merchants and workers of Eastern Market at www.capitolhillcommunityfoundation.org. At least I get to go to work this morning.

Than ks for letting me get this off my chest.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I'm with you.

I deliberately address Eastern Market in the intro because you've read and heard enough about it from others. But I live 500 feet from the market, and I am totally broken up about it.

I heard the fire engines at 1 a.m. on Monday, and went outside to watch. Flames were licking up from the roof. There were maybe 100 people in the streets, all of whom had wandered out the front doors in a state of shock and deshabille. A few were crying.

My memories? The meat guys who used to throw in to our bag the ends of those giant bologna and salami loaves, for Harry. The guys at the poultry stand on the day before Thanksgiving, joyfully flinging 25 pound turkeys around like beachballs. The upretentious grunge of the place, with birds sitting up in the rafters, pooping down on the counters. The unbelievably surly, no-nonsense, put-you-in-your-place ladies manning the fish-n-eggs breakfast stand, who would melt when in the presence of a baby. The fact that you could get any part of any animal, even anatomical parts you did not know existed, at the meat stands.

Eastern Market needs to be rebuilt just the way it was. It should not be fancified. It should not allow in any franchise operations.

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Baltimore, Md.: Dear Gene --

It's Tim Page, writing you from Baltimore. I'm so sorry about Eastern Market: what terrific times we used to have there when I was your neighbor.

Today marks a truly "hysteric" anniversary in the chronology of photo-ops. It is now four years since Flight Suit Boy landed on an aircraft carrier and pranced around in front of a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." Obviously, it wasn't.

My question is this. Has the term "Mission Accomplished" been completely debased by this farcical misrepresentation? Is it now one of those phrases that nobody will ever be able to use again without irony -- like "heckuva job," "make him an offer he can't refuse," "behind him 1000 percent," all the way back to "peace in our time"?

Your thoughts, maestro?

Gene Weingarten: Hey, Tim.

Absolutely correct!

Also, "It's a slam dunk."

Can anyone think of other farcical debasements of terms, to the point where they mean the opposite of what they're supposed to mean?

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Lifelongliber, AL: My dad died shortly before your return to the chat. He was 94 and had lived a good life. He was in a rehab hospital following shoulder surgery when he developed bleeding in his brain. He died shortly thereafter. He had a great sense of humor, and here is his last funny remark, though as an ultra-liberal he was being serious, too.

In the days leading up to the discovery that my dad had bleeding in his brain, he had been showing increasing signs of dementia and depression. I was concerned and spoke to his attending physician. She then starts asking my dad some questions to test the dementia symptoms. She first asks him if he knew who I was. I thought that he would get this right and he does. She then asks him what year it is, and based on how confused he was in my last conversations with him, I thought that there was no way he'll get this right. Of course, he says, "2007." So, the doctor asks him the month. Now, I know he can't get this right, and he says "it's April." Well, I'm getting irritated because I'm sure there's a problem and he keeps getting the answers right. The doctor then asks him if he's sad and depressed, and he says: "Sure, I'm sad and depressed. Who wouldn't be sad and depressed with that 'clump' in the White House." So the doctor bursts out laughing, pats him on the knee and leaves the room. They discovered the subdural hematoma the next day, but it was still a pretty good way for a liberal to go out.

Gene Weingarten: This is great.

My father had serious similar issues very late in his life: Bouts of dementia-related amnesia. He wanted me to quiz him about it, so we could gauge how bad things were. The worst moment came when he couldn't recall the first name of my mother's sister. There was a dead silence in the room. He asked me to ask him another question. I didn't want to, but I did it. I asked him my mother's first name.

He couldn't remember.

There was nothing much to say. Kind of in desperation, I looked around the room, and saw the sports page. So I said, "Hey, the Yankees got Al Leiter."

And my father said: "Ooh, he's good! A lefty, used to pitch for the Mets."

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Theophyla, CT: Yesss! I saw that "Agnes" and was far more amazed that it got past the censors than that your Sunday column did.

Gene Weingarten: True. It was on the comics page!

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Principle?: What, does PtheP not read your intros?

washingtonpost.com: Oopsy.

Gene Weingarten: Ooopsie. Note correct spelling, Lizzie.

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Maryland: Have you seen this?

As the leading expert on funny, I ask you: is it intended as sarcasm, or is it real? Am I a liberal elitist for thinking anyone could actually be this dumb?

Gene Weingarten: The last paragraph pretty clearly suggests this is a joke, and a very good one. The joke is both on conservative deniers and on the editors of the newspaper.

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Medford, Mass.: was the NPR thing part of the Joshua Bell interview? I haven't listened to it yet -- can't listen at work.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to an update post about the horrifying timbre of my voice.

No, I was interviewed separately, by Bob Garfield, about the story.

Josh's interview about the story is short and excellent. He has one very funny line. Liz, can you link to it?

washingtonpost.com: A Concert Violinist on the Metro?, ( NPR, April 11)

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McLean, Va.: Gene,

A pitcher for the Washington Senators hit for the cycle: Camilo Pascual in 1960. He also tossed a complete game three hitter and struck out 13. Amazing. For some reason he does not show up on the list of pitchers who hit for the cycle, but here is the boxscore to prove it happened:

4/18/1960, Bos60-Was60, Griffith Stadium

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E LOB DP

1960 Red Sox 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 7 0 6 0

1960 Senators 0 0 2 0 6 5 8 1 x 22 18 1 6 1

Red Sox AB R H BI AVG Senators AB R H BI AVG

Green 2b 4 0 1 0 .250 Gardner 2b 5 4 3 3 .600

Runnels 1b 3 0 1 0 .333 Green cf 2 3 1 0 .500

Malzone 3b 4 1 2 0 .500 Dobbek cf 0 1 0 0 .000

Stephens rf 4 1 1 1 .250 Killebrew 3b 5 3 3 8 .600

Williams lf 3 0 0 0 .000 Bertoia 3b 1 0 0 0 .000

Keough lf 1 0 0 0 .000 Mincher 1b 5 2 1 0 .200

Geiger cf 4 0 2 1 .500 Allison rf 4 2 2 1 .500

Buddin ss 4 0 0 0 .000 Lemon lf 5 1 2 6 .400

Sullivan,H c 4 0 0 0 .000 Thronebery lf 1 0 1 1 1.000

Sturdivant p 2 0 0 0 .000 Battey c 5 1 1 0 .200

Worthngton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Consolo ss 4 2 0 0 .000

Jackson ph 1 0 0 0 .000 Pascual p 4 3 4 2 1.000

Chittum p 0 0 0 0 .000 41 22 18 21

Casale p 0 0 0 0 .000

34 2 7 2

Red Sox INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA

Sturdivant L 0-1 4.1 4 5 5 2 4 67 42 10.38

Worthngton 1.2 9 8 8 1 0 59 30 43.20

Chittum 0.1 2 6 6 4 1 37 15 99.99

Casale 1.2 3 3 3 3 3 47 26 16.20

8.0 18 22 22 10 8 210 113

Senators INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA

Pascual W 1-0 9.0 7 2 2 1 13 137 85 2.00

9.0 7 2 2 1 13 137 85

Bos: Keough inserted at lf in the 6th

Jackson batted for Worthngton in the 7th

Was: Dobbek inserted at cf in the 8th

Bertoia inserted at 3b in the 8th

Thronebery inserted at lf in the 8th

E-Consolo. 2B-Geiger, Gardner, Killebrew, Allison 2, Battey, Pascual.

3B-Malzone, Pascual. HR-Gardner(1), Killebrew 2(2), Lemon(1), Pascual(1).

K-Green 2, Runnels 2, Stephens 2, Williams, Buddin 2, Sullivan,H 2,

Sturdivant, Jackson, Killebrew 2, Mincher, Allison, Battey 2, Consolo,

Bertoia. BB-Runnels, Gardner, Green 3, Mincher, Allison 2, Battey, Consolo,

Dobbek. SH-Pascual. WP-Worthngton 3.

GWRBI: Pascual

Temperature: 55, Sky: clear, Wind: out to right at 8 MPH

washingtonpost.com: I'm only sending this question over because I assume the writer is insane and probably spent a large part of his weekend assembling this info.

Gene Weingarten: Wowowowow. Very cool. Camilo Pascual!

Now, we are going to try an experiment. You will recall that last week Liz got all huffy about my presumption that as a girl she knew nothing about baseball, even though she knows nothing about baseball.

She said this when a female poster explained what "hitting for the cycle." And I predicted that by the same time next week, Liz would not remember what it means.

So here is the challenge, Chatwoman: Tell people what it means, right now. No googling. On your honor.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Hi Gene! I was going to ask this last week, but because wp.com is making it so difficult to find the links for the chats, I completely forgot. Oh well. Better late than never?

I'm graduating in two weeks with my masters degree and am going to be moving back to the D.C. area for a Maryland and Virginia, and I think living in the city would complete my experience as a Washingtonian. However, I was telling this to my Dad a couple weeks ago, and he seemed very much against the plan - he even went so far as to request refusal on the location of any apartment.

My question is -- as a Dad yourself, and as someone who lives in DC, is this an appropriate response? He won't be paying for anything since I'll have a job, but I think he's overreacting and thinking of me still as his baby girl. I know I'd be able to choose someplace appropriate and safe, but I don't want him freaking out about my choices. Any advice you have would be wonderful.

p.s. if you haven't seen the movie "Hot Fuzz" yet I highly recommend it.

Gene Weingarten: There are absolutely wonderful safe funky areas to live in, in D.C., even on a limited budget. The only reason to live in the suburbs is if you are worried about schools for your children, which you are not. Kiss your daddy on the forehead and tell him he is a silly old coot but you love him for worrying about you.

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Farcical Debasement of Ter, MS:"fair and balanced"

Gene Weingarten: Yes!

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washingtonpost.com: Ummm.... does it involve menses?

Gene Weingarten: SHE DOESN'T KNOW!

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PA, IN:"I feel your pain". I can't believe Clinton used to say that with all sincerity. No one could ever pull that off now.

Gene Weingarten: Yep.

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Arlington, Va.: I've had some good times at Eastern Market in my five years here.

Do you seriously think it will ever be the same? I doubt it, and I think the lament of the first poster sums it up.

By the time the government rebuilders go in, and worry about 21st century building standards, fire codes, wiring, etc., it just won't ever be the same.

May as well stick a Burger King in the corner.

Gene Weingarten: No, it won't be the same. No way. Their choice will be modernized, or faux old. Neither is good.

But if they don't franchise it up, if they stay with colorful old eccentric vendors, it will be OK.

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New York, N.Y.: Seriously, I can't figure out "extraterrestrials." It's supposed to be "extra" what, exactly?

Gene Weingarten: Someone please tell her.

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Dog,MA: My friend has an old female chocolate lab named Murphy. The best dog 'trick' I've ever known/seen is performed by this team.

The owner will get Murphy's attention and proceed to ask "how do we pay the rent Murphy?" To which Murphy promptly lays down spread eagle on her back!

It's great! Maybe your Murphy could pay the rent this way as well.

Gene Weingarten: Ha.

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New York, N.Y.: Hey Gene,

I've been asking every relevant, and irrelevant chat this question, but no one responds.

Why does Bush call Alberto Gonzales "Fredo"? I'm convinced it has to do with Fredo, the ne'er do well Corleone brother in the Godfather films. And we all know what happened to him.

washingtonpost.com: See last week's updates.

Gene Weingarten: yes, do.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi Gene-

Wanted to share this link. It's a news article about a scam in China where sheep were sold as poodles. I laughed out loud when the woman said her dog "wouldn't bark."

Dog Owners 'Fleeced' in Poodle Scam, ( Metro.co.uk, April 26)

Gene Weingarten: I have a hard time believing this is true, but it made me laugh.

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Regarding the poll: I am surprised so far by the majority of women's answers to the first question. There is clearly only one correct answer, and that's option "C". "A" is an obvious line. Any reasonably attractive 30-year-old woman has heard that line a million times, and should recognize its disingenuousness. Reminds me of the girl in Airplane!: "I don't mean to sound forward... but I don't think we're going to live through this, and I've never been with a man before." As for the others, "B" is just plain creepy, "D" is pathetic, and "E" is someone who is guaranteed to talk about himself all night long. At least "C" has a sense of humor.

Gene Weingarten: I TOTALLY agree with you about all of this, on every point except the creepiness of "B," and was equally surprised by the results so far.

So, to the poll.

Many, many things surprised me about these results, but nothing surprised me more than how well the men have been doing, how closely their answers track the women's answers. Good for you, guys.

I had intended question three to be a mammoth trap. I knew knew knew knew that the ladies would be repelled by a guy who talked mostly about her; he doesn't know you that well to be that bowled over and it is potentially creepo impending stalker behavior. But I didn't expect all that many guys to intuit this. I thought they'd all opt for the divorce thing, which is really nothing major at all. It's a first date -- probably the correct time for that disclosure.

So, good for the guys.

I was also surprised at the degree to which the women are afraid of men. That is how I see the pattern of answer, and if I am wrong, please correct me, girls. You are opting, to a greater degree than I anticipated, for the boring but safe.

Which leads me to the central dichotomy here. I would have predicted the women's answers for all of these questions, though not nearly as universally as the women are showing them. If my goal was to get a phone number, period, I would have gone with Question A, even KNOWING that it was probably recognizable as a line. It's earnest and humble, and I would figure most women would at least be neutral to it, and many would like it. The creepiest to me was not B but E, the egomaniac who tells everything about himself AND uses the word "attorney" instead of lawyer.

And yes, D, the knock-knock joke, is unbelievably lame.

But if my goal was not just to get the phone number but to do a little screening at the same time -- limiting my success maybe, but increasing the likelihood this would be a good match, I would go with B or C. I think they are (ahem, kaff kaff) kinda excellent. Why? One, because they acknowledge themselves as lines, and so are making fun of themselves at the same time. Two, because they are both funny. Three, because they have spirit and thought and energy.

My personal favorite is C, because it is, well, not only funny but the truth. It satirizes the entire hitting-on process by reducing it to its essential truth. I think if I were a woman, I would have been impressed by that one. At least enough for a cup of coffee in a public place.

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What is wrong with my fellow women?: Gene I picked C, "Lets have sex..." because its FUNNY! What's up with these women who want the annoying Woody Allen nervous schmo, "I don't know what I'm doing, I am a fool". Ugh! I am 30, married. But I always have been attracted to the funny glass-bowls.

Gene Weingarten: You're getting me hot here.

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Debased: Read my lips.

Gene Weingarten: This is perhaps the most perfect example. The expression is GONE because it means, "I'm about to lie."

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Washington, D.C.: So I'm a guy who picked the impossible-to-get tickets option to the second question in the poll. I wanted to pick dinner and a movie, but couldn't because you included that I'd be picking her up. It's just that a lot of women wouldn't be comfortable with a random guy who asked for her number at a bookstore to know where she lives before at least one date. I'm curious if you purposely put that in there, or it was just something you didn't think about. The option I would have really liked to have seen was meeting up with her for drinks or coffee. That way if it went well, it could turn into dinner, if it didn't then you could bail after half an hour.

Gene Weingarten: The impossible to get tickets makes women feel the guy is trying too hard, for a first date. Right, women?

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Cat litter cake: Please Google "cat litter cake." Now, is this disgusting or funny? When I first heard of it, I was revolted. I can't decide whether that's because I'm a cat owner, or in spite of it.

Also, is it acceptable to use "Google" as a verb? I started doing this one day without realizing it.

Thanks and welcome back!

washingtonpost.com: Cat Litter Cake

Gene Weingarten: This is hilarious.

Of course Google is a verb. It is one of the most amazing corporate incursions into our language ever. It's bigger than Scotch tape.

In fact, I can't even think of another way to say Google. "Search the web for ...." I guess.

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Preggers Has Request: Hello, Gene,

You may remember me as the girl you diagnosed as preggers when I couldn't sleep on my belly anymore, due to sore chest-age.

I'm preggers again. Twice inside of twelve months. Whee.

Anyway, to get to the point, I've been obsessing on music. Hubby jokes that I'm having music cravings. I listened to "American Pie" 37 times today.

Would you or great, wonderful, sexy, amazing, brilliant Chatwoman link back to your detailed analysis of said song?

Gene Weingarten: Gene's "American Pie" analysis

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New York: Two questions about your community park incident: how did, and do, you feel about getting "caught" staring for racial reasons? I experience the staring thing (receiving end) on a daily basis and from time to time get inwardly impatient with the gawkers. On the outside, I'm merely "icy."

And oh, the other question -- does it give you any pause at all when people say "really bad CHINESE knock-off"? I like (sarcastic) how people put the emphasis on "Chinese", as if "really bad knock-off" doesn't cover the full extent of their grievance; only explaining/stressing that it's Chinese does it justice.

Gene Weingarten: You didn't get it, or I didn't tell it right. I wasn't staring at them for racial reasons at all. I was staring at her hat.

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Alexandria, Va.: She should tell her dad she found a nice apartment right behind Camelot just to see if he knows what it is.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I don't get it. Splain.

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Seattle: yep. Death to the unworthy. We want kids, but only if they promise to be smart and handsome and not too inconvenient.

(P.S. Yes, we WERE subject to this choice. We were fortunate that the test was wrong, and we had a normal child)

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to an item from last week's update, in which a couple said that they had terminated a pregnancy after a diagnosis of a serious genetic defect. They felt they had done the right thing, but know that this decision would be viewed harshly by others. I urged them to go on with their lives and not look back. I also told them two other things: That this was the one issue about which I cannot and will not speak freely; also, that I would have made the same decision they did.

This poster gets me angry. But I am not going to address it. However, he or she gives me an idea, about a way into this issue. This is going to be the subject of next week's poll.

So, thank you, poster.

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Poodle Sheep: Urban legend, and racist to boot!

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, figured as much. It is funny.

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Washington, D.C.: This line made your whole column worthwhile:

Plus, you wind up listening to a lot of rap, some of whih atually is rap.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks!

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Little black bo, OK: Let's all pause for a moment to contemplate the sadness and desperation of an elected Republican official -- in fact, an official who promoted abstinence-only policies to fight AIDS -- caught with a record of receiving massages from nubile and highly-paid massage therapists and being forced to resign by a cold, judgmental world.

(Pause.)

Okay, that's long enough. Let the humor begin! I was immediately reminded of your classic column about getting a back massage from a questionable establishment... I'm sure Chatwoman could find it for us. And I'm sure you can offer some insight into recent events.

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, ( Sept. 2, 2001)

Gene Weingarten: I love the fact that he resigns, and then says the massages were not sexual.

THEN WHY DID YOU RESIGN, DUDE?

The truth is, I'm not sure I see why he had to resign, other than the fact that we are ridiculously prudish and hypocritical, as a country, at least in what we demand of our public officials. Isn't it great that the French presidential elections are between a woman whose mate is not her husband and a man whose wife has no particular intention of living with her husband in the presidential palace, or whatever it is those frogs call the residence?

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Re: Eastern Market: I agree wholeheartedly that there should be no franchises, etc, in the renovated Eastern Market. But, remember, modernizing it to a certain extent isn't a bad thing (like, um, a nice fancy fire prevention system that includes sprinklers?). I don't want to make light of what happened. But people should always remember that, throughout the centuries, the world's landmarks have been burned, bombed, and otherwise destroyed -- and rebuilt. I think the goal should be to rebuild in a way that was true to the original, with an eye to making sure that 300 years from now this fire is just a part of Eastern Market's lore.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed.

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Camelot: It's a strip joint in D.C.

Gene Weingarten: Oh. But why would an apartment behind it be so bad?

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911 in Ameri, CA: The Wash Post recently did an article (2/11/2007) about the suicide rate in Va and made the comparison that you are eight times more likely to die from suicide than murder. But still we put our heads in the sand and don't talk about it until something very public and televised happens. Have you ever noticed that local obits never list suicide as the cause of death?

I take 911 calls for a living.

I speak to more mentally ill people than you can ever imagine. We shove them to the side of our world and never talk to them or about them. I have spoken to adults who have guns in their hands or pills in their stomach. I try to get them to come out of their homes, and let us help them. I don't always succeed. I have answered the call from small children who have come home from school to find Mom bleeding to death from self-inflicted wounds. The woman who called because she found her niece in the bathtub with a radio in the bathwater. I know of calls from co-workers who have talked to parents who came home and found their teenage daughter has hung herself in the closet. From people who come to a lake and find clothes piled neatly on the bank. A woman who comes to work and finds a note from a co-worker that reads, "by the time you read this, I will be dead." People call 911 and then commit suicide while on the phone because they want someone to come and find their body. You can not possibly imagine the private, secretive and hidden pain people of all ages feel. We hide it well.

Never heard of these deaths? Yet all these calls happened right here in affluent and educated Fairfax County,Virginia.

Gene Weingarten: You also write well.

Please email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com.

You are a story, I think.

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Burke, Va.: Favorite Jeni joke, he said he was a lesbian trapped in a man's body.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

So am I.

Actually it's sort of deep. It describes a certain type of heterosexual man, and that's about as far as Chatwoman is going to let me go with this line of thought.

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Indecisi, VE: Advice for the young (not quite 30, but close!) and perplexed, pretty please? This may be a Hax question, though I feel like I'll get a less free-to-be-you-and-me answer from you. So I'm seeing this guy, it's been a year and change, and it's the best relationship I've ever had. We get along, we make each other laugh, we share interests and backgrounds, the physical side is good, all that jazz. But I don't feel like I know that he's "the one." Other young (and clearly unperplexed) friends say if you don't know by now, he's not it. So my question... is there a time when not knowing means no, or do you just keep going until you know for sure either way?

Many thanks, and missed your chats terribly.

Gene Weingarten: I never felt I had to have "the one." I never even asked myself that question, because it reeks of the paranormal. It suggests spirituality, predestination, and the immature notion of souls made for each other, and thus such. Poppycock. Marriage is something that you craft. You find someone you love, and then you have to work at keeping it going.

You haven't mentioned the word love. Do you love him?

Okay, I know what I mean by that, but I can't really define that for anyone else, so ask yourself this: Would you look forward to the prospect of raising kids with this guy, with all the attended stresses and joys? Can you imagine sharing all that with this particular person, including the enormous weight of responsibility? If the answer is yes, go for it.

If you don't intend to have kids, then it doesn't matter. Go for it. If it doesn't work out, divorce. No biggie. No harm, no foul.

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Anonymous: Tom let you keep douhebag? Really?

washingtonpost.com: Ya, that's fued up (my "k" isn't woring, either).

See What's Missing, ( Post Magazine, April 29)

Gene Weingarten: Tom never even expressed reservations about it!

When the column was sent to its syndicate clients, my editor, Amy Lago, asked that we offer editors an alternative word to substitute if they wanted to. I suggested "dikhead," but for some reason that didn't fly. So we wound up with "ninompoop."

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Northern Virginia: About the asparagus pee: We actually learned about this in medical school. There was a debate about people with non-smelly pee - was it a lack of smell receptors or a lack of chemical in the pee? Two studies were performed -- one in Europe, one in Israel; the European one showed that "non-smellers" did indeed have pee that was lacking in the smelly chemical, however the Israeli study showed that everybody's pee smelled, and the non-smellers were missing the appropriate smell receptor. There was much debate about whose study was actually correct, but then a third study showed that there are indeed two separate populations: people without the chemical in the urine, and people without the smell receptor. I happen to be in the latter group, as I discovered after a friend correctly pointed out that I had been eating asparagus when he used the bathroom after me (geesh, and I had flushed, too!). Pee!

Gene Weingarten: So there are four types of people: Smellers, nonsmellers, stinkers, and nonstinkers. I wonder if they are present in equal numbers?

Fascinatingly, smellers know if they are stinkers, but nonsmellers don't; smellers who are non-stinkers may well be unaware they are smellers. The most self-aware are the smeller-stinkers. They are the Zen group.

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College Park, Md.: The asparagus experiment is complete!

After eating an asparagus-only appetizer, so as to purify the results, my boyfriend and I headed to the bathroom as soon as the urge hit.

It worked! He could smell my asparagus pee, but I couldn't! He said that mine wasn't a very strong smell, but it was definitely asparagus. I did drink a lot of water, though...

Gene Weingarten: Yayyyyy.

He is a smeller-stinker. You are a nonsmeller-stinker.

Thank you for your empiricism.

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Impossible Tickets: Actually, Gene, I picked the tickets choice for the same reason the male poster mentioned -- it was the only one definitely in a public place where I could get there and back under my own steam. Women are really conditioned to be very careful on a first date with a total stranger, even if you've been chatting via phone or e-mail first.

Gene Weingarten: Why are you guys so scared?

I understand caution, but this seems excessive to me. I guess I am wrong. I accept that I am wrong.

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World Bank, Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Would you put your career at risk for Shaha Ali Riza?

washingtonpost.com: Shaha Ali Riza

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe it is proper or appropriate to comment on a woman's appearance, nor do I feel that one's appearance is the most important way of evaluating a person.

No, I would not.

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Pat the Perfect, ME:1. "Heckuva job."

2. "No offense, but ..." (translation: "I will now say something that I realize is incredibly hurtful")

Gene Weingarten: Yes, on the first.

The second doesn't really fit the paradigm, Pat.

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Hitting on Chatwoman:"washingtonpost.com: Ummm.... does it involve menses?

Gene Weingarten: SHE DOESN'T KNOW!"

But bless her for her response!

washingtonpost.com: Aren't I cute? I can also type 55+ WPM.

Gene Weingarten: I understand she can also recite, from memory, the first 12 lines of Canterbury Tales in olde English.

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Eastern Market: I haven't been to Eastern Market in a while (since I changed jobs). But I remember the dining experience as something similar to the Soup Nazi. You had to be prepared - -now dawdling allowed in either ordering or eating. It was kind of like getting slapped around by the beautiful and charming waitresses at the Tune Inn or, to a lesser extent, at Sherrill's.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene,

Lines B and C depend on having comic timing. Most guys (indeed, most people) do not have comic timing. Coming from you, line C would be ridiculous on its face. But coming from a halfway-decent looking younger guy, there might be the slightest doubt about whether he was serious, which would make a woman want to run to the nearest police station. Likewise, someone of your stature and demeanor could not be taken seriously with line B, but with other guys it would just seem unbalanced.

So, in sum, those might be good lines for YOU, but that wasn't the question.

Gene Weingarten: This is one of the most adroit backhanded compliments I've ever gotten.

A woman once told me she liked spending time with me because I was "safe, like someone's gay uncle."

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New York, N.Y.: Why are we scared? The guy has control of the wheel, can lock the doors, drive us somewhere abandoned (or to his place), rape us, and kill us. You really couldn't figure that out?!

Gene Weingarten: B-but....

Never mind. I am wrong. I accept that.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Gene,

Your posting of the Mark Fiore animation reminded me of a question I had for you, since you are the only person I know of besides myself who enjoys discussing comics.

When the Pulitzer Prizes were announced, I noticed that the winner for editorial cartooning (Walt Handelsman) was noted for his "zany animation." Then I went to look at the other finalists for editorial cartooning, and it seems they have all dabbled in animation. It seems Pulitzer was making a point, and I'm not sure I like it. I find these little web animations to generally be not that funny, and I think the skill demonstrated is not as impressive as the actual ink-and-pen art of editorial cartooning.

What do you think? Are all cartoonists going to have to turn to animation? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Gene Weingarten: I think it is the future, and I am ambivalent about it. In one way, I think it is good because it simply expands the craft in an interesting way. In another way, I see it as a cheapening element, like the emergence of MTV and rock videos. I still hate that. Still.

I have now twice judged the RFK editorial cartooning awards, and Fiore's animations were always strongly considered. They didn't win. They might someday.

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Mangled Station Na, ME: Gene,

Thank you for highlighting an important issue in your cover story of a few weeks ago. Mispronunciation of Metro stops by train conductors is reaching epidemic proportions. L'Enfant Plaza is but the tip of the iceberg and something must be done about this now.

As a proficient and prolific professional of proper pronunciation, I humbly request that you do something about this post haste.

Just to show you the breadth and depth of this horror, I provide the following examples:

West (or East) Falls Church pronounced as "West Falls Chorch"

Ballston as "Boston"

Clarendon as "Clar-ing-don"

Rosslyn as "Roz-a-lynn"

Farragut West as "Far-gut West"

McPherson Square as "Mick-fir-son Square"

Judiciary Square as "Judy Sherry Square" (yes, Judy Sherry as two separate words, as if it were a first and last name).

Please, can you do something to help?

Gene Weingarten: You got the Judiciary wrong. It's Jewdisherrary.

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Ironically sad: Renowned Cornell University cat veterinarian James Richards -- who was injured when he crashed his motorcycle trying to avoid a cat in the road -- has died, the university said Wednesday. He was 58.

Gene Weingarten: Just incredible, if true. This description of the accident sounds a little improbable, though. The sort of thing someone might speculate on, and it keeps getting repeated because it is so moving.

I just got off the phone with Molly. She says this guy was utterly beloved, and the vet school is still in shock and grief.

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Genderbender: I was reading over some ancient chats (you know, 2003), and one of them discussed a gender test that was apparently in your June 15, 2003 column. Unfortunately your column archives don't go back that far. (Why is that?) Could you convince Liz to find and post a link?

Thank you!

washingtonpost.com: I was able to locate the column in question using a powerful tool available to us journalist types: Google.

Below the Beltway, ( June 15, 2003)

Gene Weingarten: A slightly longer version of this wound up in "I'm With Stupid."

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Iceburg?: Does your computer also randomly switch vowels in words? Jeez Gene, I know you are lazy, but about this? Tsk Tsk.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, I and everyone else missed that. It was in a line in the column about "the tip of the ieburg," which, as I pointed out to Tom, sounds like a term for the foreskin.

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Great NPR clip: I like Bell even more after listening.

Gene Weingarten: He is a really cool guy. I love his observation about the hats.

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Liberal Med, IA: Gene,

Monday on Washington Post radio, your colleague Howard Kurtz offered the following on George Tenet:

"So what's interesting here is: This is no longer the liberal media saying this. This is no longer a bunch of journalists of questionable patriotism saying the Bush administration rushed to war; wanted to invade Iraq all along; didn't have a serious debate. This is the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and I think, in some ways -- leaving his motivation aside -- he has validated the press accounts that we've seen about the way that this war unfolded."

Do you have any idea who Kurtz might be referring to when he talks about "journalists of questionable patriotism?" Friends of yours? Were they the same ones getting the story right all along?

Not funny or anything. Sorry. Just wanted to get a sense of how this comment was received inside The Washington Post (by you or anyone else).

Gene Weingarten: Wow. I think Howie would pull that line back, if he could. I think it didn't come out the way he meant it.

I am guessing here, but I think he meant some version of: 'Journalists whom administration partisans are able to attack by questioning their patriotism."

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DoesAnybodyReadTi, ME: I didn't know that David Von Drehle was leaving the Post for Time magazine! What a depressing loss. How did The Post let this happen? And to learn this after reading his very insightful, instructive, and heartwarming story in the Mag this weekend...

washingtonpost.com: From Here to Eternity, ( Post Magazine, April 29)

Gene Weingarten: It's a gigantic loss to the Post. This was one of the best pieces of writing I've seen, anywhere, ever. If you haven't read it, do so now. We'll miss you here, but there are always the updates with whih to reconnect.

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Dr. Gene: Geez, what have I done without you to relieve my hypochondriac fears?

I have been absolutely exhausted lately. Dead tired. Sunday I had a rare free day and spent the whole afternoon sleeping instead of any of the things I wanted to do. I called in sick a week and a half ago because I was so exhausted, and not only slept all day long but had no trouble getting to sleep again at night. I can't tell you how many times in the last few weeks I've laid down on the couch at 8pm, feeling like lead is running through my veins, and woken up again only when my husband goes to bed at midnight (or later--we're still young).

My husband thinks it's because I'm anemic, but I'm usually just a tad bit anemic and that certainly hasn't changed. I even had my iron up enough two weeks ago to give blood. This is really starting to depress me, as the evening are my only time to work out and relax. I struggle with my weight and am worried that I'll start creeping up again due to all of my missed work outs.

Help? (Oh, I haven't tested but I doubt I'm pregnant--I've, uh, not missed anything lately.)

Gene Weingarten: Honey, go to the doctor. Fatigue can mean nothing dire, but it can also be a presenting symptom of a lot of serious things you need to know about. You need a full blood work up.

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Agnes?: I've been trying to figure out what Agnes' friend misheard, and the only thing I came up with was that she thought Agnes said "extra nostrils." Yet you and another reader seem to think it's something more salacious.

Gene Weingarten: It's a joke about testicles.

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Melbourne, Australia: Uh oh.

I am the only one to have picked 'not a good dresser' in the final question of the poll. I would normally have chosed one of the other options, however have just been out for lunch and enjoyed a few glasses of wine.

What does this mean? Am I less inhibited and answering truthfully? Would I not normally?

Gene Weingarten: It means I have no shot with you.

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Washington, D.C.: Great timing on the return of your chat. It's like you knew that you were needed.

My office just installed new fixtures in all the bathrooms, including fancy new auto-flush toilets the use a sensor to detect when you're getting up and flush themselves. They're very clever, high-tech, and undoubtedly contribute to a cleaner and more pleasant bathroom experience. They were also clearly designed by a right-handed person.

The problem is, when one twists one's body to reach for the paper left-handed, one's body moves out of the range of the sensor, triggering the flush. There seems to be no way of positioning one's body so that one can both get and use the paper left-handed without a flush. Reach, flush. Reach, flush. Repeated for every piece of paper.

In addition to being a big waste of water (one trip to the rest room probably cancels out a lifetime of using low-flow toilets), this is a huge embarrassment, even for men. A quick, informal poll of other left-handed men in my office suggests a sudden reluctance to use the office bathroom for anything that requires a stall.

But, of course, the real question is, what are the left-handed women in our office doing? It's not like they can easily avoid stall use the way we can. And, given what we've learned in this chat about female bathroom behavior, if even men are experiencing flush shame, what must it be like for women? Should I be avoiding my left-handed female colleagues in the fear that some day one of them is just going to explode in a giant ball of urine?

Gene Weingarten: I hate auto-flush, as does Berkeley Breathed, who has a campaign against them in Opus.

My biggest beef is that sound before the flush; at the Post, it sounds like a baby crying. Very disturbing.

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The Yankees: Is there any truth to reports when someone throws out a ceremonial first pitch, Joe Torre now asks if they can go seven innings?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

Chatwoman does not understand this.

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Gene home cubicle: Does any natural light get into your office at all?

Gene Weingarten: No. Not even close.

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Gene Weingarten: I had construction guys install jail-type bars on the (interior) window, just for laughs.

Hey, Cwoman, can you link to the pix of my office?

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washingtonpost.com: Gene's Basement Office

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Fly Over, IN: Welcome back - blahdee, blahdee, blah.

Since you are a world famous author, I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight into genius and how to approach it.

I'm going to go to a book signing in a few days for world renowned cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed. I plan on purchasing his new publication, two copies actually, and have him autograph them. But do you think he would sign one of his older publications? I don't know the proper protocol - is this acceptable?

I thought since you know him, you might be able to let me know if he would be 1. honored, 2. offended, 3. honored and offended? Also, I'm sure I'll do nothing but babble (I did that at a Dave Barry signing), so do you have anything pithy that I can say to him. I'll write it down on a notecard to take with me.

Gene Weingarten: He would be honored. Bring old books.

Tell him that I told you to remind him that his entire fascination with anagrams was begun by me when I told him that Opus anagrammed to Soup. This was 20 years ago.

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Fairfax, Va.: One time I spilled a little water on my keyboard and a few keys stopped working. I thought that eventually they would dry out at which time I would be able to use the keyboard as I had before. But in the mean time, I opened a file that had all the letters that didn't work, and as I needed them, I would simply cut and paste the desired letter into the file I was working on. Each document I had to work on took a really long time to complete. I did this for about a week. Was this lazy?

Gene Weingarten: You are the fourth person who has told me of this behavior. Lazy is not really right. It is a form of procrastination: inertia-driven behavior. I understand.

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Seattle, Wash.: Do you read Maureen Dowd? I used to enjoy her and take her Clinton-disgust on face value. But she's decided to extend that disgust to Democratic candidates, and comes off as silly and unserious.

I think it's a complete shame, by the way, because I was once completely in love with Maureen Dowd for her brain, her looks, and most importantly, her chutzpah. Now? She makes me sad.

If it matters, I'm 25.

Gene Weingarten: I used to enjoy her columns more. I thought she deserved her Pulitzer. I wouldn't give her one now. She isn't trying as hard.

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Seattle, Wash.: Let's be clear. The "serious genetic defect" was Down's Syndrome, not micro-encephaly.

Gene Weingarten: Next week, dude.

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Minnesota: Gene: "I was also surprised at the degree to which the women are afraid of men. That is how I see the pattern of answer, and if I am wrong, please correct me, girls. You are opting, to a greater degree than I anticipated, for the boring but safe."

You hit it on the head here, Gene. The man who wrote the book "The Gift of Fear" (his name escapes me because I am 45 years old and the memory is the second thing to go -- the mammary is the first) -- Anyway, he says in his book that at core, men are afraid that women will laugh at them, and at core, women are afraid men will kill them.

I believe this to be true. The historical record also proves it.

washingtonpost.com: Gavin De Becker

Gene Weingarten: I like the mammary line.

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Fort Belvoir: Speaking of out-of-town pronunciation, there's a George Clooney phone commercial where he pronounces it at Fort Belv-whar.

Gene Weingarten: Huh? It is fort bell-vwar, no?

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Agnes: And the last throwaway line is awesome, too. "He wrecked her Volvo"

Gene Weingarten: Yep. Just incredible. An amazing, amazing bit of comics subversion.

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Hartford, Conn.: If we're going to evaluate Shaha Ali Riza, can Chatwoman link to a photo of her other half? And can someone please explain his appeal?

washingtonpost.com: Paul Wolfowitz

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Cut It O, UT: Consider the human appendix.

At one time in our evolutionary history, it was a useful item, helping our hominid ancestors digest cellulose or other matter. Now, it no longer serves any useful function. However, it can make us very ill, even kill us, when inflamed or diseased.

Consider the second amendment. . . .

Let's just cut it out.

Gene Weingarten: Can anyone offer a good argument why this Amendment should not be trashed? Or modified, so it cannot be interpreted to mean that every single American has a God-given right to have a gun?

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Washington, D.C.: At 3 minutes and 4 seconds after 2:00 a.m. on May 6th it will be 02:03:04 05/06/07. This is the only time such a sequence will occur in our lifetime since it will not happen again until May 6, 2107.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you so much for this important information.

I know that sounds like sarcasm, but it isn't.

I once pulled over to the side of the beltway to take a picture of the odometer on Molly's Honda Civic. It was 1234567.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene,

We got a puppy around the same time and age as Murphy, and can relate to your stories. Our girl also favors rocks, construction materials, etc. Have you found a way to curb this behavior? We repaired a plaster wall and today she ate the dried spackle right out of it. We're afraid that if we leave her out of her crate while we're gone, we'll come back to a pile of rubble where our house used to be.

Gene Weingarten: Back when we had two mewling insomniac babies, I hated people who told me about their perfect little infants who slept through the night. So I truly hate saying this, but Murphy is not destructive. At all. We no longer crate her. She has the run of the house when we are gone, and damages nothing but her own toys.

I'm sorry. I'm really sorry.

Look up a trainer named Victoria Schade. She's really good.

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Kurtz on the Radio: I think Howie would have been making "air quotes" when he was talking about liberal journalists if we could have seen him. He was describing the jabberwocks the wingnuts have been questing for over the last few years.

Gene Weingarten: Right, I assume so.

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Washington, D.C.: Oh my lord. I just took the poll, and it looks like most men are picking A as the best pick-up line. Idiots. Guys, don't you realize that women like self confidence more than anything else? Which is why you do not start a conversation by pointing out that you are bad at something!

In fact, they all kind of suck. But at least the knock knock joke will make her smile. Sigh, no wonder all my idiot buddies complain about the women in D.C. It's not the women, it's the fact that men don't know how to approach them.

Gene Weingarten: Read the ladies' answers. You, sir, are the dope.

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Seoul, R.O.K.: I was hoping to read a different take on the VT massacre from you. "He was insane" seems a little too pedestrian for such an extreme act. While Occam's Razor suggests we look for horses, I think the possibility of zebras warrants scrutiny.

Pharmaceuticals, anyone? I heard it mentioned that Seung-Hui was on an antidepressant. When I heard this my mind flashed this scenario: a troubled boy visits the school doctor and tells him he is depressed and can't sleep, faster than you can say "tickity-boo" he walks out of the office with a prescription for Paxil, or Zoloft, or some other "wonder" drug, after a week or so on time-released cocaine he starts getting ideas...

Gene, what do you think the chances are that Cho, a possible garden variety manic-depressive, got misdiagnosed as depressed by a doctor who interviewed him for 10 minutes and quickly became manic, psychotic and delusional on serotonin uptake inhibitors?

Gene Weingarten: Well, as I recall, that misdiagnosis and erroneous treatment is EXACTLY what happened to Jane Pauley, who killed no one.

I'm sure we'll discover if you're right, but I sort of doubt it. The key to your scenario is "quickly." Cho was exhibiting deeply disturbing and aggressive behavior for some time.

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Bill Maher on the Justice Dept.: So now it seems that even the summer interns are vetted for their political loyalty. I don't know why -- call it the drop that finally causes an overflow -- but that has me really scared.

Bill Maher sums it up nicely:

[W]henever there's a Bush Administration scandal, it always traces back to some incompetent political hack appointment, and you think to yourself, where are they getting these screw-ups from? Well, now we know. From Pat Robertson. I'm not kidding.

Take Monica Goodling, who, before she resigned last week, because she's smack in the middle of the U.S. Attorneys scandal, was the third-ranking official in the Justice Department of the United States. She's 33 years old. And though she never even worked as a prosecutor, she was tasked with overseeing the job performance of all 93 U.S. Attorneys.

How do you get to the top that fast? Harvard? Princeton? No, Goodling did her undergraduate work at Messiah College. You know, Messiah, home of the Fighting Christ-ies? And then went on to attend Pat Robertson's law school. Yes, Pat Robertson, the man who said that the presence of gay people at Disney World would cause earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor, has a law school.

And what kid wouldn't want to attend? It's three years, and you only have to read one book. U.S. News & World Report, which does the definitive ranking of colleges, lists Regent as a Tier Four school, which is the lowest score it gives. It's not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook.

This is for people who couldn't get into the University of Phoenix.

Now, would you care to guess how many graduates of this televangelist's diploma mill work in the Bush Administration? 150. And you wonder why things are so messed up. We're talking about a top Justice Department official who went to a college funded by a TV host. Would you send your daughter to Maury Povich U.? And if you did, would you expect her to get a job at the White House?

In 200 years, we've gone from "We, the people," to "Up With People." From "the best and the brightest" to "dumb and dumber." And where better to find people dumb enough to believe in George Bush than Pat Robertson's law school?

The problem here in America isn't that the country is being run by "elites." It's that it's being run by a bunch of hayseeds. And, by the way, the lawyer Monica Goodling just hired to keep her a$$ out of jail, went to a real law school.

Gene Weingarten: It's sickening. It started with Ashcroft, who used to hold prayer breakfasts with his staff. You didn't HAVE to attend, but, you know ...

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Brisbane, Australia: No, Gene, the rest of the world is not laughing at you about gun control. It's more like watching a close friend who's ruining his life through drug addiction or destroying his family by gambling away his money.

The solution is right there in front of you, it seems so damn obvious to all of us, yet the people who matter can't seem to grasp it.

After the Virginia Tech outrage, Australian radio interviewed a bloke from something called (I think) the Virginia Citizens Defence Association. Presented with gun homicide figures for the US and countries with meaningful gun control, this fruit loop seriously dismissed them because ""over here it's all drug dealers shooting each other''.

Of course he also quoted the line from the Constitution, which was drafted in case the King of England decided to come and get his tea back, as justification for his personal right to pack anything up to a tactical nuclear weapon.

No, we're not laughing. We're a bit sad though.

Gene Weingarten: Well put. We are, indeed, nationally diseased in the head about this.

Did you see 60 Minutes on Sunday? There was a man -- a gun lobbyist -- who was straightforwardly arguing that it is wrong to deny the sale of guns to people with diagnosed mental illness, including those judged to be a danger to themselves and others. Only in America.

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Middle of the Atlantic Ocean: You know you've made an impact when people start copying

you.

Tasmin Little: Playing Great Music in Unexpected Places, ( The Independent, April 20)

Gene Weingarten: A pretty ineptly done story, I thought, with similar results. Also, they didn't seem to make the same effort at secrecy; we didn't have a photographer obviously hanging around.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I somehow knew that finding a part-time job was the only way to while away the time during your absence. Thank you for returning. I'm too old to be working that much. However, if you still want a pen pal, I'm 70 and totally unreliable. (Please tell me what IMHO means.)

Have you had any problems with Murphy's diet, since the dog food scare? Samantha, the "Velcro Beagle" that lives with me, has had a few stomach upsets. I threw out all of her food and completely restocked.

Gene Weingarten: In My Humble Opinion.

Mildly interesting Darwinian food fact: We feed Murphy a combination of Pinnacle duck and potato dry food, and Prairie canned food, which is produced by a company not affected by the recall. Prairie foods have choices of several different meats, some unusual: There is chicken, lamb, turkey, venison, rabbit, beef and duck.

Murphy is a Plott Hound, which is a purebred, backwoods country huntin' dog. A bear and boar hunter, and a small-game forager, by breeding. And damned if she doesn't show a very strong preference for the rabbit and duck.

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Postees: Are other columnists jealous of your telecommuting? Do you feel "green"?

Gene Weingarten: A lotta people at The Post telecommunicate. It's an honor system, and it becomes clear when someone is abusing it.

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North Bethesda, Md:"This is the only time such a sequence will occur in our lifetime since it will not happen again until May 6, 2107."

WRONG!!!

I know where I was at 12:34:56 7/8/90. It's happened before.

Gene Weingarten: I' m not sure about that 0. It may invalidate it.

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Re: Auto-Flush: Here's a trick to stop the auto-flush - wet a small piece of paper towel or toilet paper under the faucet, and paste the piece over the sensor. I learned this trick because the loud flushes of many public toilets scare my small children. I remove the piece of paper once the child is finished and we're ready to leave the stall - that gives us a few seconds to close the door behind us to muffle the flush noise.

Gene Weingarten: Cool.

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Sudoku: Do you like this puzzle? When it first came out, you withheld judgment.

Gene Weingarten: No. The rib likes it a lot. I just find it annoying. And I hate that when you realize you've made a mistake, it's too late to rectify it, rectify being a funny word.

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Sacre bleu!: Hi Gene,

Your mention of the French presidential election reminds me of a story. When I was in my mid-20s (about 10 years ago) I worked for a consulting firm doing work with NATO and the Eastern European countries wanting to join. I should mention here that I'm female, as it has bearing (ha) on the story. During a big week-long military exercise in Germany, our US Army client (and host of the exercise) thought it would be a good idea to have a country-western karaoke night. Bad enough in any Hometown USA bar, let alone featuring crooners from 27 countries all soused on homemade moonshine they'd smuggled into their luggage (at the risk of sounding condescending, I'm not making that up).

When my turn came to sing, I performed woefully, and exited the "stage" rather humbly. I returned to the group with whom I'd been chatting prior to my performance -- two Brits and a Frenchman who had just come into the room.

Frenchman: Leeza, I 'eard your performance, eet was...inteeeresting.

Me: Yes, uh, I guess I had a bit of a frog in my throat.

Brit: GOOD GOD WOMAN, NEVER say that to a Frenchman!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha.

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14th and I: Holy crap, we have the same baby-crying automatic toilets, too! I frickin' hate them.

The sinks are automatic, too. I also hate them.

My building provides free mouthwash in the bathroom, and I once took a mouthful and forgot how Listerine really stings. I spit it out, and shoved my face under the faucet to rinse off my screaming tastebuds. The water didn't turn on, but the soap dispenser did. Right into my eyes.

I hate my office bathroom so much I want to fight it like a ninja.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, yeah. Those automatic faucets are also awful.

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McLean, Va.: Re the time/date sequence: since Europeans typically put the

day before the month (e.g. today would be 01/05/07) they

will have a shot at the sequence on June 5.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Madam I'm Adam: Would you resign if your name appeared on D.C. madam's client list?

Gene Weingarten: WHY? HAVE YOU HEARD SOMETHING?

No, I would not. I would write about it in a funny way. My problem would be at home. Deservedly.

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Anonymous: So I was wondering today -- I know sometime readers see you on the street and out and about. Does this affect your behavior in any way? Do you stop yourself from yelling at people in traffic or being rude to cashiers, on the off chance that the person behind you recognizes you and reads your columns or loves the chats? Or do you behave as you usually would, hoping they'll understand and/or not caring what they think? Am I thinking about this too much?

Gene Weingarten: I am always aware, in public, that there might be people I don't know who know me. You would think that this would curb my tendency to go outside unshaven, wearing dreadful clothing, etc. It does not. It does, however, tame my behavior a little. I won't ever make a scene for any reason, however provoked or right I might be.

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A Gender Question: As you are an internationally recognized arbiter of gender-difference issues, perhaps you could explain something to me.

Why is it that printed news stories (and bloggers and chatters on the various washpost.com politics sites), when referring to our current Secretary of State -- and trying to do so politely --, speak of "Ms. Rice" and not "Dr. Rice"....whereas the earned degree of former Secretary Kissinger is always acknowledged by referring to him as "Dr. Kissinger?"

Gene Weingarten:"Dr." is always wrong, except in the case of Kissinger, who MUST be referred to as "Dr." because he is and will always be and is perfectly typecast as Dr. Strangelove.

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Towson, Md.: Re: First 12 lines of Canterbury Tales in olde English

I had an english prof at the U of Maryland that made us to this. Still remember most of it. Also had a history teacher in high school that made us memorize part of "The Crisis" by Thomas Payne. That was 1988 or 89 adn I still remember most of it. Strange how that stuff sticks in your head.

washingtonpost.com: Yes, I'd just like to say to Mrs. Martin, teacher of AP English at Washington-Lee High School -- neat trick.

Gene Weingarten: I know several poems by heart, including some long ones. They stick because they are beautiful. I sometimes recite Ozymandias to myself. Those final few lines are, well, sheer poetry.

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I am listening : to Bell's metro performance on washingtonpost.com while reading this chat. I really should just buy a CD, but somehow I love the background, life noises in the recording.

Gene Weingarten: Wasn't it gorgeous?

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Re: Other Wo/man: Gene, I have been a divorce lawyer for over 25 years. I agree there is probably someone else and that it is probably a woman. I have a favorite party trick: As a client is leaving the initial consultation in which he has told me that his wife is a good woman and a great mother but he just doesn't love her any more, I ask "Oh by the way, what's her name?" Client: "What?" Me: "I'll need your girlfriend's name just in case her husband ever calls we'll know there's a conflict." Client: "[Gasp]! How did you know!? Wow -- you're good."

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Is this basically a ploy? There wouldn't really be a conflict if you are representing clients who are on both ends of an extramarital affair, so long as you don't KNOW they are, right?

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Alexandria: Violinists at the Torpedo Factory were making oodles of cash. To crowds of tourists. Playing so so stuff. Perhaps you have created a trend where people are now scared not to stop and listen to the violinists in case they turn out to be Joshua Bell.

Gene Weingarten: I have gotten several emails from street musicians, saying profits are up. Way up.

I find this exciting.

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Media Notes: Read his column every morning, it's worth it -- Kurtz corrected himself about mid-column (right after a Dinesh D'Souza quote, if I remember correctly). PLEASE post this, so Howie gets his due for correcting himself. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Good. I missed it.

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Go Pinstripes: So will A-Rod's performance this season (if he keeps it up) be enough to hush the doubters? And will BoSox fans ever stop gloating when they start off the season (again) taking the lead in the East? Has the last decade taught them nothing?

washingtonpost.com: Does this question have something to do with hockey?

Gene Weingarten: ARod will not shake his rep unless and until the Yanks win it all. His rep is that he is only good when it doesn't matter.

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New York City: Gene:

I picked the impossible-to-get tickets because then, even if the date sucked, I'd have gotten something cool out of it, and it minimizes the potential for awkward silences. I hate awkward silences with a passion.

I also went with the first line, because the truth is that I'd never give my number to someone who approached me in a bookstore.

Gene Weingarten: It's better than a bar, no?

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Vienna, the one in Virginia: Gene, again, how do you write? I`m sure the stoires don`t always come easily and you have writers-block, too. So how do you do it? Do you write at a certain time (morning, night), under a strict schedule (from x to x), with a strict aim (no less than xx words)?

Gene Weingarten: I write when I have put it off sufficiently that I have no choice but to write.

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re: second amendment: Seriously, I'm no gun lover, but how would it sound to ask the same question about modification/trashing in reference to the 1st amendment? Or 4th? 5th? 6th?

I think the best answer is because if we start treating parts of the constitution as disposable, the whole becomes somewhat devalued.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I agree. But the Constitution is supposed to be a living document, amended as needed. That's the point. I think two such things in the 250 years of the Republic isn't going to turn us into a banana republic.

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Different take on the VT massacre : I'll give you a different take: he committed crimes against women, stalking, threatening, so he was given a lot of passes.

If he'd cheated on his poetry exam, he could have been expelled from the university. But threatening and stalking women? Go home boy, be nice.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Very true.

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If we see you in public: would you prefer us not to say anything? Or perhaps we can have a secret hand signal that can transmit "Hey -- love your chats" without saying anything.

Gene Weingarten: Chatwoman suggests that you flash me Snoop's Shocker.

Thanks everyone. Terrific questions. I'll be updating as usual, and back next week with a Very Serious Poll.

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Canterbury, England: Middle English, not old English.

washingtonpost.com: I know, I know. My bad. I was dusting a table while answering.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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UPDATED 5.2.07

Gene Weingarten: I am in receipt of an interesting correspondence from Peter Sagal, host of NPR's terrific improv comedy show, "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!"

On his show a week ago, he and his guests were talking about the death of crooner Don Ho, and it was noted that Ho had dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. On the air, with a sudden inspiration, Sagal said "You know, when all those babies were in diapers, that means dozens of nappy-bottomed Hos."

The audience roared. Some groans could be heard. Afterwards, NPR fielded some complaints.

Peter asked me if I thought he had gone over the top.

Nope. That was a great joke, edgy but harmless. It was not about race. It was a joke on the entertainer's name, and on the Imus furor.

People need to get a life and stop looking for reasons to get offended.

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Gene Weingarten: Several readers pointed out one of the most egregious and ubiquitous Metro conductor mispronunciations: "Groves-ner."

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Silver Spring, Md.: Following up your comments on Kurt Vonnegut's passing, did you see Fox News' "obituary"? This may be the most vile thing Fox News has ever done.

Gene Weingarten: This is despicable. Only Fox news would have a snide, politically slanted obit. I've met James Rosen. I had breakfast with James Rosen. And James Rosen is no Kurt Vonnegut.

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Vancouver, B.C.: Hi Gene,

Regarding Carolyn Hax's second letter on April 20th, personally, do you "stop before you indulge"? Did Hax get one wrong this time?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I do. I am not a leerer.

I got cured one day maybe 10 years ago when I turned around to look at the rear of a woman who I had passed in the hallway, just at the moment she was turning around, too. Got caught. Got the contempt. Took it to heart.

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Baltimore Md.: An aptonym for you: I just learned that the chief public health officer for Baltimore County is named Pierre Vigilance.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

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Blacksburg, Va.: So why would you get married again? Want more kids? That's the only reason for marrying, right?

Gene Weingarten: I didn't say I'd get married again. I said I'd get another Rib.

I'm not AGAINST marriage sans kids, I just said I don't see the reason for it. So if I were suddenly ribless, and then fell in love with another woman and wanted to live with her forever and ever and ever, I would simply want to live with her forever and ever and ever. I'd see no reason to marry, because I am done with kidhaving.

If, however SHE wanted to get married, I'd do it for that reason. The deal would be that in return for marrying her, she'd have to agree that we'd have the wedding in, like, a bowling alley or a cemetery, with four people present.

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Washington, D.C.: Lesbian trapped in a man's body...I think Chatwoman is more broad-minded than you give her credit for, Gene!

Maybe you could put your analysis in an update later this week, after carefully phrasing your statements in such a way that they would pass muster.

I say this because I think you may have described me as well, and I'm curious.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Well. Okay, let's see if I can get this through Chatwoman.

A lesbian trapped in a man's body would be a heterosexual man who particularly enjoys aspects of sex that would be the sorts of things that might constitute (see, I am using big words here, and complex syntax) aspects of conjugal behavior that, presumably, constitute a large measure of a particular activity that might represent a substantial part of the ordinary repertoire of lesbian physical lovemaking.

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Arlington, Va.: "There are absolutely wonderful safe funky areas to live in, in D.C., even on a limited budget."

Really? Even with D.C. taxes factored in? Name one where I don't need a roommate. I'll move there.

Gene Weingarten: My neighborhood and environs. Looks for "Eastern Market" or "Union Station." You will want to rent a basement apartment (many of these are aboveground and airy.) You can probably find a nice one for a $900 -- $1,000 a month. Is that affordable?

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Gene Weingarten: Ooop, I appear to have shot from the hip yesterday, wildly, on the issue of guns to the mentally ill. Thanks to Joe Loong for pointing out that the guy on "60 Minutes" who thought it was wrong to deny guns to the mentally ill was not a pro-gun advocate. He was a former president of the National Mental Health Association.

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UPDATED 5.3.07

Gene Weingarten: Jack Bellows responds to criticism from Jennifer Hart about the lack of creativity in his criticism of the sound of my voice ---

Please tell your friend Ms. Hart that I could have used more "colorful" depictions of your voice (Harvey Fierstein speaking a few octaves higher, Alvin from the Chipmunks after his first round of estrogen shots for gender reassignment therapy, Peter Brady singing "time to rearrange" in that episode on puberty, an asthmatic Lhasa Apso getting neutered) but such vivid imagery would serve only to re-traumatize me. I am trying to heal my wounds, not deepen them.

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Littleton, Colo.: Gene,

Next time someone accuses you of being cruel to telemarketers, send them this.

Gene Weingarten: This is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. I wish the hosts weren't stepping on the lines with their guffawing.This is probably work-safe, but it is not politically correct.

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LA VA.: Of course auto-flush toilets are horrible, soul-crushing devices. So are automatic faucets, automatic paper-towel dispensers, and all the other insipid machinery of a careless society. It boils down to this: the number of a-holes who can't be trusted to flush the toilets or turn off a faucet after washing is so high that I have to endure autoflush and wave my hands around like an idiot just to wash up.

There are countless other situations wherein everyone is inconvenienced by the stunning thoughtlessness of others. I call this "paying the a-hole tax." You can, too, if you like.

Gene Weingarten: I couldn't have said it better, so I won't try.

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2nd Amendment: I totally disagree with you about gun control, but you're not going to listen to any arguments in that direction so I won't bother.

However, I do admire that you're advocating repealing the Second Amendment to get your desired end, since at least that is the "correct" way to do it. A lot of gun control proponents want to instead take the stand that, well, maybe the second amendment doesn't REALLY mean that; or else just want to pass laws that blatantly violate it and then pretend that it doesn't exist.

Gene Weingarten: Well, the Second Amendment does mean that, but it means it for an outdated purpose. It is as though there were an Amendment that said, "Since travel is an essential freedom, no law shall be made restricting the ownership of horses."

You know what I think? I think anti gun control advocates are paranoiacs. There, I said it.

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Houghton, Mich.: Hi Gene-

Is there such a thing as a funny knock-knock joke (that would appeal to someone over the age of 6)?

I guess this begs the question "what is funny?", but all that aside... can you provide an example of good knock-knock joke?

Gene Weingarten: A good knock knock joke is one that subverts the form, reccognizing its stupidity. As in The Interrupting Cow.

My favorite knock knock joke is where you tell someone: Okay, go "Knock knock."

So they do.

Then you say: Who's there?

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BS in Physics?: Oooooooo, baby!!!! Wish I'd known that while I was still single!

Gene Weingarten: Uh, it's phony. I bought it online for $750.

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greyhou, ND: Can you explain Saturday's "Frazz" to me? What does the baggie represent? Does it refer back to the previous day where the kid was making fun of the Greyhound going after fake rabbits?

Gene Weingarten: You don't have a dog, do you? The baggie is to pick up his poop.

Some comic has a line: If aliens came to Earth and saw us walking after our dogs, picking up their poop in little bags, which species do you think they'd assume was dominant?

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Washington, D.C.: So this sounds awful, but I'll say it because well, we're anonymous. I've been thinking about breaking up with my girlfriend of almost a year, in large part because I don't feel intellectually challenged or engaged with her as much as I'd like. Clearly I owe her some good answers at this point, but just as clearly I can't say, "You know, I just don't think you're smart enough for me." At some point I'll have to suck it up and say something, but I don't feel like there's an honorable way to get through this. So I thought I'd ask you. Why, I can't really say, other than the fact that you're likely to have an opinion.

Gene Weingarten: What is honorable is telling no lie, but not so much of the truth that you cause more pain than needed.

C'mon, you know how to do this.

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Concord, Mass.: My wife has the asparagus gene. Yes, I can smell the asparagus. I can't smell anything unusual from myself when I've have some.

If that settles that, how about another question. Why can't I hear myself snore? I'm told I rattle windows (apnia). When my son was an infant, I could hear him coo as he was waking through an unholy racket I was making. Selective deafness?

Gene Weingarten: I need to investigate this. I snore, too. And it's weirder than what you describe. There are times when I think I am awake -- I feel awake -- and my wife will nudge me and say I am snoring. Loudly.

Any brain doctors out there who can explain this?

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UPDATED 5.4.07

Warshington, .D.C: Gene,

Is there any way to reprint your column on dogs and Congressional Cemetary? I just told someone how brilliant it is and now cannot find it anywhere (I stupidly threw it out when I moved).

Gene Weingarten: Lizzie, please search for "Tuesnelda" and my name.

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (April 7, 2002)

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Disillusioned: Something's still bothering me about the comment you made stating IMHO about there being "someone else." Isn't it possible for two people to fall out love? Isn't it possible for a marriage to end and the parents of young children realize that it would be a better environment for the children to grow up in with two happpy, although separate, parents? I think it's archaic to stick it out for the kids when the marriage is obviously over. Young children are the ones who will not be injured as much by a divorce--because they won't remember it.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, it is possible for people to fall out of love. But so long as the marriage is not a complete dysfunctional disaster, I think parents of young children are obliged to tolerate their lack of passion. THEY screwed up; the kids should not have to pay. You have to try.

It's not always about you.

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A Genius Invent, OR: This week comes word that scientists are working on a drug that will fulfill every man's two greatest desires: More sex -- and thinner sexual partners: Hope for Sex-Boost Slimming Pill (BBC News, April 30)

If the inventor of Viagra wins the Nobel Prize (and if he hasn't, he should), I'm not sure what this team of researchers should get -- perhaps several Hawaiian islands. (And yes, I am waiting for Cwoman to make snide comments about us men being such crude and vile pigs.)

Gene Weingarten: Wow. A diet pill for women that increases libido. And it was tested on female ... shrews.

This is quite a story. It includes the phrase "rump presentation."

washingtonpost.com: That's "Chatwoman" and gee am I glad there's someone out there doing important work to "fulfill every man's two greatest desires."

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Google as a verb: You think its bigger than Fedex or Kleenex? Or Bandaid? Already! in such a short time?

Gene Weingarten: Well, they are all similar but many people (me, for example) don't say Kleenex or Fedex, unless I mean the specific products or services. Band-aid is huge, and might be as big. The thing about Google is that it is virtually the only term used for what has become a nearly universal practice.

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Automatic: There are three hot air hand dryers in the women's room at church and they have hair triggers. I'll be using the bathroom, listening to my four-year-old daughter scream with laughter as she runs back and forth setting them all off.

Gene Weingarten: Places that have only hot-air dryers in their bathrooms don't care about their customers. They take forever and are useless on a face.

washingtonpost.com: "Most users walk away with wet hands and wet hands transfer bacteria 500 times more readily than dry hands..." -- Electric Dryers vs. Paper Towels in the Public Washroom, (Buzzle.net, July 31, 2006)

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Reference Material: When's the last time you used an old fashioned hard copy reference book for any research?

Gene Weingarten: I use a Thesaurus all the time: Vintage 1975, Roget's, with the index in the back. Online Thesauri are no good, don't have word nuances, etc. Outside of that, no.

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Cloverly, Md.: That hitting for the cycle by Pascual is bogus. At least the Baseball Almanac thinks so. Here's the box score from that day.

Great day for Pascual, actually struck out 15, but only had one hit (a double).

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Alas. A hoax, I guess, on me.

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New York, N.Y.: You may have already seen this link.

But I thought of you, of course!

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well, this is completely ridiculous and it made me laugh.

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Submit all retorts, rebuttals and the like to next week's show.

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