Chatological Humor

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; 12:00 PM

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.

Submit your questions, comments and other detritus before or during the discussion.

This Week's Poll: Door 1 -- I lean Democratic| Door 2 -- I lean Republican

Not chat day? Visit the Gene Pool.

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.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

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washingtonpost.com: Good afternoon.

Apropos of today's poll, we learn this morning that Hillary Clinton admits she "misspoke" about her arrival as first lady in Bosnia some years ago, apparently having invented an entire scene involving sniper fire, running for her life, ducking for cover, lobbing grenades at the enemy, pistol-whipping insurgents, etc. Instead, the actual scene of her arrival - as captured on video -- seems to have been rather placid, involving a poetry reading by an 8-year-old girl.

I think we need to go easy on Hill; memory can play cruel tricks on us. For example, it wasn't until recently, when I happened upon the photo album from my bar mitzvah, that I discovered to my embarrassment that, contrary to my memory and the stories I have told, there WERE no hookers and no lap-dance jamboree.

In my special auxiliary cover-story chat yesterday, an interesting question was raised, namely, why did the magazine copy desk change "douchebag" to "douche bag"? This bothered me inordinately, and it bothered the chatters, too, one of whom contended that though the hygiene device might well be two words, the asshat to whom it refers is clearly one.

But I also got a different sort of complaint from my friend Molly Strzelecki, who contends that my use of the word, with any spelling, is further evidence of what a clueless old fud I am. Molly is 29. The word douchebag is "over," Molly said, having been replaced in the young, urban lexicon by the far more descriptive "douche nozzle." This startled me, but it seems to be correct. Plus, "douche nozzle" contains the sound "schnozzle," which really can't be improved upon. I am abashed, and stand corrected, and will not make the mistake again.

Are there other (publishable) improvements in the putdown lexicon of which I must be aware? Putdowns are my turf.

Today I will begin a special new feature of Chatological Humor, namely, the CLOD, or clip of the day. This is from one of my favorite comedy troupes, the BBC's "Man Stroke Woman." Alert: the s-word appears very briefly. You can hardly hear it!

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In news from The Gene Pool, did you guys catch this video from last week. It's a test of alertness. It's slightly manipulative, but absolutely spectacular. It raises the question why Americans don't have great ads like this, but instead have ads like THIS and THIS and THIS.)

(Question: Do women actually even shake out their wedgies? It's a different maneuver entirely, no? )

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Okay, so, listen. You have spoken with one voice; actually, with many voices that overlap into a really annoying, whiny cacophony, but those of you who dislike The Gene Pool really dislike it, and I don't want to lose you. So I'm going to be doing the updates again, starting next week. Every day. Just like before. The Gene Pool remains for the amusement of the Genepoolers.

You're welcome.

Please take today's poll ( Door 1 -- I lean Democratic| Door 2 -- I lean Republican). I am kind of delighted at how reasonable and multi-partisan you are being, and what good citizenship you are all showing. Me, too. Just for the record, I am bothered, at least a little, by everything in the poll. We'll discuss.

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A great comics week! CPOW is Saturday's Get Fuzzy. Runner Up is Monday's Candorville, which is a great capper to a week of very clever twitting of The Washington Post. Go back and look at the whole thing.

Honorables: Wednesday's Pickles, Wednesday's Pearls, Monday's Orange, Sunday's Single and Looking.

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Washington, D.C.: After reading Cheney's reaction to the 4,000th U.S. military death in Iraq in case you missed it, I cannot feel anything other than complete and utter contempt and disdain for the man. I'm not even very close to anyone who's gone to Iraq, let alone died, and I am sickeningly offended by his comments. I can't imagine how the families of the fallen must feel. GWB carries the biggest burden? Really? The man was tap-dancing on national television last week. He honestly makes me feel ill.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you know, GWB actually SHOULD carry an enormous burden, a burden almost too great to bear, because of the torment of having caused such unnecessary tragedy through incompetence and arrogance and ignorance. But he seems to be bearing up just fine, doesn't he? What a man.

He will go to his grave believing vindication is just around the corner, as soon as them dumb historians finally git it right.

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Oakton, Va.: An aptonym in Easter's Kid's Post.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, this one's almost too easy!

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Some thoughts about Oba, MA: Hi Gene,

I was at a Bar Mitzvah on Saturday, and the rabbi (a very charismatic fellow; almost like a preacher), in his sermon, after talking about Rev. Wright's words and Obama's relationship with him, pointed out that he (the rabbi) has had many congregants leave his synagogue over the years because they disagreed with him, due to the courage of their convictions (the theme of the sermon). He was therefore somewhat dismissive of Obama because he did not demonstrate that same courage. He also pointed out that even if Obama had not been physically present at the infamous sermon, after being with a particular clergyman for a while, you know what s/he is all about.

Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think Obama's remaining with this preacher over the years means that he believes in everything the preacher says; my concern is with his political judgment. He should have understood that this was poison.

My concern about it is only minor, though. I trust this guy. I give him the benefit of the dout.

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So what?: Gene, on the heels of your electronic self-flagellation, I think you're uniquely qualified to answer an important question for me: Why should we care what Barak Obama's preacher said during his sermons?

To me it seems like a tempest in a crock-pot that simmered and bubbled along only to feed the pundustry. The only possible reasoning for caring is if we as a nation believe that because Obama looks to the preacher for spiritual guidance he also would be influenced by his political opinions. That's pretty weak. The only good thing that came out of it was Obama's amazing speech on race.

So what do you think? Am I missing something? Or has this whole thing been completely blown out of proportion?

Gene Weingarten: I think what I answered to the previous post!

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Ann Coulter article: can I just say "what a hoot!" - was she just naturally funny or did you coach her? I didn't think she had it in her.

Gene Weingarten: She was fine. I think I had to ask her to try again on a couple of answers, but she was fine. A funny lady. I LIKE ANN COULTER.

There, I said it.

Liz, can we link to this column?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, ( Dec. 28, 2003)

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Gene -

Page B3 of today's Metro section, the left side of the middle picture -- is that what I think it is?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, in my copy of the paper, all I see is a blur of an elephant there. Does anyone see anything more dire?

More important, though, when I emailed Lizzie this morning to see what her paper showed, she disclosed that she does not get the paper version of The Post.

I remonstrated. I accused her of very bad things involving words like "disloyalty" and "sedition" and "murder" of her colleagues' jobs. She held her ground on some very, very bogus theories of economics.

I promised that I would not embarrass her in this chat. If this is a cost-saving device she wishes to employ, that is her right.

I'd like to take up a collection, however, for Liz. Donations of no more than ten cents apiece, please, sent to her at washingtonpost.com, SO SHE CAN AFFORD A SUBSCRIPTION TO HER OWN NEWSPAPER.

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Seattle, Wash.: Douche nozzle? Sheesh. I'm out of college for two years and I miss this development. Or is it purely a K-12 phenomenon? Is it regional? The public has a right to know! (And making Chatwoman uncomfortable is an added bonus)

Gene Weingarten: You're asking me?

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U Toob: Oh, no! More youtube links. Blocked at work. Will have to wait 'til later to get jokes.

Gene Weingarten: What kind of work blocks youtube? Salt mines?

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Charlottesville, Va: Any chance of gving a birthday shout out to my husband who is probably reading this chat right now.

I'd fling my panties at you but it is his birthday and so I'm not wearing any.

Gene Weingarten: There was no way but you saved it with that last line.

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Boston, Mass.: I don't think I have a drinking problem, but....

I like alcohol, wine in particular. Sometimes I'll have vodka in some juice or soda, but for the most part I live other alcohols and liquors as special treats. I drink wine plenty though. I usually have about three glasses a night, but have been known to have more if I'm staying up late on a weekend, or celebrating, or if the wine is a particularly light table wine.

I never drink during the day and rarely get drunk (although in the extremely rare occasion that I've overindulged I've blacked out). I'm not often hungover either, except an occasional light headache. My behavior does not change when I drink, and I don't drive or overindulge at inappropriate events.

However, various family members on both sides have struggled with drinking problems. Others do not, but imbibe regularly. That's the culture I grew up with; my husband's is different. While he does drink every so often, he doesn't do so as much or often as I do. He doesn't think I have a problem, though he thinks I have to be careful. Sometimes I wonder though, and worry.

I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and OCD, and sometimes I get caught in an obsessive self-perpetuating cycle--I worry so much about it that I can't stop thinking about it and when I get home at night it's suddenly a huge deal and the fate of the world rests on my decision to get out the corkscrew. I am too embarrassed to tell my doctor about this, and terrified of becoming an alcoholic. Help?

(Oh, and I have been able to stop drinking for periods of time, when I've tested myself. Still. I can't stop worrying.)

Gene Weingarten: If you are worried this much, you have a problem. Sorry. You want to talk to someone experienced in this.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm hoping you can offer some perspective. My boyfriend and I have been together four years and live together. Everything's great with our living situation and our relationship, but unfortunately he hates his job. Like, HATES. He's been going to therapy just to learn coping strategies. The plan was for him to stay in this job and save money until he gets into grad school (another 10-11 months), then we'd move next year to wherever he goes to school. Well now, he's interviewing for a job in CA that could turn out to be exactly what he wants - in a field he's passionate about, for a company he respects. So far, they seem very interested in bringing him on board. Both he and I know that if the job is right, he'll have to go, but we also know that I can't join him for at least another 9 months or so, possibly longer (job commitments on my end). We're both getting sad and stressed about possibly being apart for that long. Do you have any advice - anything we can use to remind ourselves that a temporary separation isn't that big a deal if it's good for him long-term?

Gene Weingarten: He has no choice but to go for that job, so stop worrying. If you are meant to be together, you will be. And nine months is NOTHING.

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Morality question for you: I recently faced a slight moral dilemma and I wondered immediately What Would Gene Do? WWGD would be a great topic for the Gene Pool, but I digress.

I was trying on clothes at a department store and found nothing I liked, so I put my clothes back on and left the store. I drove a short distance and went into another store. I walked into the dressing room to try on clothes when I realized I was still wearing an item from the first store. WWGD?

I figured my options were to leave it in the dressing room where I was, or take it back to the first store. Taking the item home simply wasn't an option for me, though it may be for you. Going to the first store involved driving back to the store and enduring the embarrasment of returning the item, but I did it anyway.

Since it was an undershirt (shell) that I tried on and I no longer have it, I will virtually fling it at you if you answer.

Gene Weingarten: Well, okay. These are two questions.

1. I think you did the right thing, morally and ethically.

2. I probably would have just kept the item of clothing, so long as it was cheap. I would have felt bad about it, but it wasn't deliberate, and I just hate wasting my time. I am neurotic about that.

That is the wrong choice, it is not defensible, but it's probably WGWHD. I hate admitting that.

There are two factors that would have changed my mind: If this was an expensive item, and if the first store had been a mom n pop kind of operation and not a department store.

How do I excuse this to myself? Well, I lose money in stores all the time. I am careless. I don't count change. I literally DROP money.

Not a good excuse.

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Fairfax: Gene,

The Urban Dictionary may be the answer to your question about updated insults. For example, the Urban Dictionary includes the noun "e-hole", defined as a clueless person who swamps others with useless e-mail such as chain letters and lame jokes.

Gene Weingarten: Good, thank you.

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Oak Park, Mich.: Your old paper, The Detroit Free Press, is getting a lot of attention for their investigation that led to the Mayor of Detroit being charged with eight felony counts today. Some are calling this a remarkable example of journalism, while others are calling it motivated by race or bias against the city. Did you ever see any such bias while you were there?

Gene Weingarten: I was there in 1977 and 1978. No comparison makes sense.

With absolutely no specific knowledge of the situation behind the story, though, I am prepared to state unequivocally that racism was not involved.

This is a largely black city. The Freep is well aware of its constituency, and is not going to pursue an unfair investigation of a popular leader. Plus, the facts are egregious. Have you followed this story?

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can you link to Style's excellent piece about this? It was Feb. 16, I believe, by Neely Tucker.

washingtonpost.com: In Detroit, Not Exactly LOL LOL!, ( Post, Feb. 16)

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To Cleveland Park: Yes, that is elephant shlong. In the Washington Post. I am aghast.

washingtonpost.com: Gee, and I'm missing so much.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yes.

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Arlington, Va.: I have the photo of you at the snack machine as the background on my work laptop now. Is that a little creepy?

washingtonpost.com: Allow me: Yes.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. It's even creepy to me. And I have to live with this face.

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Alexandria, Va.: I know you were already harangued about this in your cover story chat, but I don't think you fully appreciate the mind-boggling dweebitude inherent in the wearing of a clip-on bow tie. Do you think George Clooney wears a clip-on tie? Gene, Jason Alexander doesn't even wear a clip-on.

Durham, N.C.: I notice your bow tie was essentially a clip-on. How does it happen that a straight-razor-shaving, stick-shift-driving person such as yourself doesn't know how to tie a bow tie?!

Gene Weingarten: I would never wear a bow tie except with a tux, ever. So I have no need to master this particular technology. But thanks for asking.

Gene, no one NEEDS to master straight-razor-shaving or stick-shift-driving. They do it because it's badass (one word) or cool, respectively.

Consider, which is hotter, the suave motion of untying a silk tie, or dorking around with a stupid clip-on?

Gene, you don't suck, but I have come to the sad conclusion that you rule less than you did before you allowed yourself to be seen in a clip-on bow tie.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, let's discuss this.

I think bow ties are ridiculous. I think every single man looks like a pretentious snot in them. Everyone looks like Tucker Carlson. Everyone. Even a tux bow tie is silly.

The only reason I would ever wear a bow tie is as a joke, as I did in the cover story.

If I am going to learn a skill, it will be a skill I am proud to demonstrate. Driving a stick shift. Shaving with a straight razor. Skydiving. Tying my shoes in one of those unusual patterns where one end of the lace snakes straight down the tongue of the shoe and the other end does all the lacing.

Not bow tying. It is a skill I contemn. A skill I condemn. I will not learn it.

Gene Weingarten: Urgent correction: When I said everyone looks like a pretentious snot in bowties, I was in error. I meant a pretentious TWIT.

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Virginia: Gene,

I'm a black male in my 30's. I've recently had a few conversations with friends and coworkers about racism (thanks a lot Obama!), and I was wondering, as a Jewish man, what has been your experience. What was the worst case of bias you've experienced and what was the funniest?

The worst case for me was meeting the parents of a college girlfriend who had not told them I was black. The father literally did not let me in the house. With a few years perspective I see this more as a response to her choices, aside from my ethnicity, but I was livid at the time. Of course in the wake of O.J., the L.A. riots and gangsta rap, even open minded white folks may have been apprehensive at the time.

The funniest incident was when I was shopping for a car. I had been driving by a dealership and keeping an eye out for a certain used Lexus (it was a Lexus dealership). I noticed one day that there was one on the lot I wanted. I stopped and was approached by a white, mid-50's salesman who asked what I was looking for. I replied I was in the market for a used car. He said, "You're in luck. I just got a nice Cadillac in this week." I gave him that "you've got to be kidding look," and he got very embarrassed. I let him of the hook pretty easy and said, "I was thinking of a Lexus since that's what you sell." The upside is I got a great price.

Gene Weingarten: You sound remarkably unflappable and cool about stereotypes, just like I'd expect of a black guy.

Ha.

I am deaf and blind to antisemitism; at least I assume I am because I don't think I ever felt it except, occasionally, in the extreme. And I dismiss the extreme as aberrational and therefore invalid.

If you google my name and "a Jew at The Washington Post," you will find a delightful piece in a white supremacist website that took exception to a column I wrote alleging that the 2000 election was a victory for the hicks, or a hicktory.

These things just make me laugh. Unless it is really foul, mMost bigotry kinda makes me laugh. The only single time I can recall that I was made to feel a little weird about being Jewish was when I met The Rib's appropriately named Uncle Dick. She and I were either newly married or about to be married. Uncle Dick was a small-business owner. He shook my hand, said he was pleased to meet me, didn't seem to have anything else to say, then looked around, and said, "Hey, don't get me wrong. Some of my best salesmen are Jews."

One of the better moments of my life! This stuff just doesn't bother me.

Hey, speaking of "black guy," did you all see the new Onion. A brilliant front page piece about how this black guy is going to big cities and asking everyone for change.

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Washington, D.C.: You can't shake out regular wedgies, but I have attempted to shake out, erm, front wedgies. Only sometimes successful.

Gene Weingarten: Front wedgies?

You can non-manually dislodge a cameltoe?

I am learning so much. I feel blessed.

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It may be over....:...but I think you can tell a lot about a person by who they think is a douchebag.

For instance, I work with a douchebag. He's a large, loud and arrogant guy who always one-ups everyone. He's also the guy who will wear his suit out to the bars even when he has time to change, just so he can look powerful. He's in his early twenties, and my very definition of a douchebag.

He recently referred to his friend's brother as "a total douchebag, a union sympathizer type".

Very telling...

Gene Weingarten: Excellent!

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washingtonpost.com: Black Guy Asks Nation For Change (The Onion)

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New Haven CT: OMG - no one says douche bag or douche nozzle anymore. when someone says something stupid as a rejoiner, we say "douche" (like touche but douchier).

Gene Weingarten: Not bad. Is it pronounced doo-SHAY?

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Elepha, NT: I think the reader is referring to the placement of the, er, tip of the lead elephant's trunk. And how it looks like Something Else.

Gene Weingarten: Interestingly, I am not seeing that on my copy. I wonder if the Post sort of smudged up the picture for the sake of decency.

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Pat the Perfect, Print Paper Newsroom, Washington, D.C.: What I'd like to know about that picture of you at the coffee machine is the huge selection of drinks that seemed to be available. We have the same machine but many fewer options. What are all those things?

Gene Weingarten: Flavored coffees, as I recall. I stuck to "Colombian."

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WWGD: The undershirt (shell) (whatever that is) could have been returned without embarassment by simply going back into a dressing room at the store with another item and then leaving both items behind. No need for a confession. In fact, why not just walk into the store with the thing in your hand, go over to the shelf where you got it and put it back? Who would even notice?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think her problem was embarrassment. If you are coming back from outside, obviously it was a mistake.

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Bow Ties: What about the late Illinois Sentor Paul Simon? Twit?

Gene Weingarten: Poseur. Yes.

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Drinking problem, or some kind of problem: If this woman is spending this much time focused on drinking, she has some sort of problem related to drinking. You don't have to be a stumbling drunk to be an alcoholic. In fact, alcoholics are usually NOT stumbling drunks, because they have so much practice.

Gene Weingarten: That is my point.

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Elephant Porn: Useless facts, elephant schlong's have a curve, a gentle S bend if you will. They are also able to move it independently in order to uh, procreate. It has a mind of its own so to speak. Elephants have inflexible hip joints combined with massive size rendering them unable to truly get their groove on. Evolution is a wonderful thing.

You're welcome!

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. So the elephant stays stationary, and the protuberance does the work? I didn't know.

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Midsection of the country: Hi Gene -- I read your article about the pundustry with interest. I am really concerned about what all this polarizing blather is doing to us as a country. The local papers here have started publishing reader comments in their online editions. And it is virtually all extreme crap. Mostly from the right side of the political spectrum but also from the left side. I think anyone reading these comments would get a really distorted idea of where we are politically as a state. And the commenters are really bullies. They "shout down" anyone who disagrees with them. I was thinking it might be good to organize a small informal group that would comment in an organized way, simply to politely ask commenters what their support is for unsupported wild statements of "fact." Simply to raise that question and not to get into arguments with any of these people. I think it might help create a more respectful and fact-based discussion. We would come up with some criteria for deciding what kinds of comments to address and how to do it.

What do you think? Could it work?

Gene Weingarten: No.

I think the only thing that would work would be to eliminate anonymous commentary, though I don't know how you would police that, and I suspect it is anathema to the freewheelin' nature of the Web.

But people are willing to be astounding jerks if they don't have to answer for what they say. They'd be astounding jerks anyway, but silently or just with friends.

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washingtonpost.com: Gene, you're underselling that douche-y coffee machine. It also offers fruity teas, hot chocolate (with marshmallows) and the artery-clogging "creamy latte topping." Or something like that.

-- Liz, who works in the rival digital newsroom.

Gene Weingarten: Like I said, I stuck with Colombian.

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Answ, ER: I am not concerned by either of the potential democratic nominee's lack of experience. I don't feel experience is a huge factor; there have been a lot of good leaders with less.

HRC has greatly exaggerated her claims of experience. I am married to a nurse, and have visited her in the hospital numerous times, does this make it possible for me to skip med school and go right into practicing medicine?

BO has little experience, but it's not like he will be there all by himself. (GWB had little to no experience and he got elected... oh wait horrible example)

I also don't have a problem with JM and his position on Iraq, or his mix-ups with the Sunnis and Shias. Should he be elected president it will come to him (besides he is an old man, he forgets things!). Do you think every other world leader knows the difference between Quakers and Mormons? While his position on Iraq is not what I would like, I think that would change once he was elected president. Then again we all know he will not be elected, he barely has the support of his own party.

I am only using the initials of the candidates so I could put B.O. in there.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

Have you read David Von Drehle's excellent cover story in TIME about whether experience matters in the presidency? It covers this beautifully. (Summary: No.)

The thudding incompetent James Buchanan was one of our most experienced presidents; Mr. Abe Lincoln was one of the least. Etc.

Chatwoman, can we link to this piece? It ran a week ago.

washingtonpost.com: Does Experience Matter in a President?, ( Time, Feb. 28)

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New York, N.Y.: I always assumed you drones at the Post got free subscriptions, as a perk. The Post needs subscription money that badly?

washingtonpost.com: We get free papers at work. I just happen to work from home.

Gene Weingarten: We not only don't get free subscriptions, but we are kind of encouraged to buy a subscription. Not induced, encouraged. Like, hey, why don't you buy a subscription, dillweed?

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Baltimore, Md.: Gene,

Don't let those people who said mean things about how you look get to you. I saw the pictures, and I think you're adorable.

Oh, and I'm a woman, 24 years old, and totally hot.

Gene Weingarten: No you are not. You are a fat old lady trying to make me feel good. But thank you.

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Just Great: In yesterday's chat you provided an explanation that finally allows me to come to grip with my father's political allegiance. He is a decent, caring man and I have truly struggled over the past 8 years to understand how he can continue to support Bush. I honestly think that he listens to Fox news too much and he is brainwashed.

From yesterday: "Gene Weingarten: I continue to believe that far right wing conservatives are either intelligent, rich people protecting their self interest, or poor, misguided, deluded fools who have been conned by the first group into working against their best interests."

Is it funny or sad (or both) that I'm glad my father is in the second of the two categories?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

Excellent kicker line.

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Anti-semitism: When I went to rent my first apartment after college, in Columbus, Ohio, the landlady had several questions for me -- including what religion I am. Being a naive 21-year-old with no knowledge of what my response SHOULD have been to that question, I answered honestly that I'm Jewish. Her response, at least feigning surprise, was, "But you're too handsome to be Jewish!"

Gene Weingarten: Heh.

Times have changed. When my wife got her first job at a newspaper (1970s) she was asked, during the interview process, whether she planned to get pregnant in the next five years.

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The Onion Article: Gene,

I am so glad you brought that up. I usually scan the headlines when I pass the Onion box at the top of 14th and Mass NW. I saw that headline and nearly tripped--it was great!.

I also thought Obama's speech was incredibly moving. True he dealt with it in a way that I think most politicians would not deal with it--he basically said that it would damage his integrity to disown the man which while would have been better politically only strengthened my conviction that I voted for the right guy in the VA Primaries. (Especially in the wake of Hillary's admission this morning.)

I also enjoyed seeing you on video. I don't think you're ugly--in fact I think you look rather friendly.

Gene Weingarten: You mean I have a nice personality.

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Northern Virginia: In the photos with your pundit-fest all-nighter article, I was surprised to see that you wear a wedding ring. Is it okay to wear wedding rings, just not engagement rings?

Gene Weingarten: Right.

You wear a wedding ring because your wife likes you to. Period. No further cerebration is required.

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Wisconsin: Are you still taking examples of odd hyperlinks in WaPo stories?

Here's one from Monday's Style piece on isms:

Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of research at the National Council of Negro Women, says the answer lies in perspective. "That was Betty Friedan's truth. That was her experience of feeling bound by the limitations of being a housewife. That was not the typical truth for the black woman."

"Avis" was hyperlinked....three guesses on the content of the link, and the first two don't count.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you know, I think Ms. Jones-DeWeever's point was probably that black women have to try harder.

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Washington, D.C.: I hope you realize that your support of Obama essentially boils down to his ability to give a really good speech and nothing else. Maybe he'll choose Tony Robbins as his running mate.

Gene Weingarten: This is such a bogus and tiresome line of argument.

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Grand, PA: I mostly agree with your bow tie assessment, but I think it only applies to a certain age range. Small children in bow ties are pretty cute and so are many octo-nonagenarians. Do you grant the exception?

Gene Weingarten: No.

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Baltimore, Md.: For the poster from Boston with possible issues with booze: I've been sober for 22 years now and one of the first things I heard in AA that really hit home was, "If you think you have a drinking problem, you do." The fact is, only people who drink too much ever worry about drinking too much. And if this woman is having blackouts when she drinks (even occasionally) she is headed down a very bad road. I've been there and the scenery isn't pleasant.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Pennsylvania: Gene: What's the right thing to do here: when ordering food for take-out (when one is walking into the restaurant to pick it up) is it necessary to leave any kind of tip?

Gene Weingarten: No.

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State of Confusion: I hope that you all can help with a browers/web page problem; no one else at the WP will answer my queries. I read the editorial cartoons with Firefox on a Linux box. Sometimes there's a huge ad--usually for the Capitals -- which I can't make disappear & which makes it impossible to see the cartoons. When I roll over the ad, nothing happens, and when I try to hit the close "x" in the upper right hand corner, the "x" disappears. What gives?

washingtonpost.com: That happens to me, too, sometimes. My solution: Shift/Reload the page and hope that the ad is no longer in rotation. Usually works.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, what she said.

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Arlington, Va.: Chris Cillizza wrote a nice reaction to your Post Mag piece on The Fix. Allow me to summarize, pundustry sound bite style: "Entomb ... Gene's ... hard ... tittle. ... Hyperfocused ... extract ... of news ... media scrum. ... The Fix is ... regular ... name-calling ... vitriol. ... Good."

Gene Weingarten: Good. Now no one has to read it.

The Fix is one of the best daily hosings of news and opinion, actually. It's intelligent, insightful, and relatively calm. But Cillizza is also alarmingly young, which just happens to tick me off.

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Washington, D.C.: After I saw that Liz had interviewed Sheryl Crow, it occurred to me that, like the movie "A Star is Born," your pupil is on the verge of becoming a bigger star than you. So my question is: how soon until you're producing her chats?

washingtonpost.com: Never! I could never interview Sheryl Crow the way Gene could. In a tuxedo.

Gene Weingarten: I would happily produce one of Liz's chats, if I had any of the skills of a producer. I would also drink champagne out of her shoe.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene-

I am a college student, and I just found out that my cat is really sick and (depending on the visit to the vet today), may have to be put to sleep. I've had the cat for 12 years, so as you (and Liz) know, this is really hard. How do I deal with all those friends who think I am being ridiculous for getting so upset over a cat? It is bad enough to think of losing my cat, and having them act like I am being melodramatic and that I shouldn't be sad about a cat and making it worse.

washingtonpost.com: Sorry. That's really a rough break. Gene'll have a better answer, but I'd just say that if they don't understand now, they never will. Let it go and, if you think of it at all, feel sorry for someone who is closed off to that kind of love.

Gene Weingarten: Wrong, Liz. I have no better answer.

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Urinals have a flat-top surface.: From Monday's chat re: your weekend story: OMG! Never before have I admitted to "penis envy" but a new door has opened. As a woman old enough to be your mother, who has spent a lifetime in and out of women's restrooms, the one universal and overarching complaint I've always had is the absence - anywhere -- of a flat surface.

During my work years it was the near-impossibility of dashing into and out of the ladies' loo en route to meetings because there was no place to lay the papers I was carrying; now, in my retirement, I find that -- depending on the loo location, my keys and purse must go either into the sink or on the floor -- neither repository being in the least satisfactory. I've been convinced for years there was some kind of conspiracy, but am now amazed to learn it's just one more manifestation of sexual discrimination. Bah!

Gene Weingarten: Well, you're making me laugh, but aren't sinks a flat surface?

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To, NY: Tony Robbins has huge hands, surely with those massive meathooks he can join this nation together!!!!

Gene Weingarten: Tony Robbins is Frankensteinian. I have been in a small room with him. He completely fills the room. You feel panicked for air.

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Pregnant in five years?: Oh, they still ask this question.

Gene Weingarten: What?

I believe this is an illegal question. Has any woman been asked this question in a job interview in the last ten years?

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Poll: Your poll questions are pretty biased towards the Democrats, don't you think?

Gene Weingarten: Does anyone else think this? I tried to make em evenhanded.

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For Molly - cat seizure: Hi Gene,

If I may, I have a question for Molly: would a steroid or antibiotic cause a seizure in a cat? Last night, my boyfriend's cat shook and convulsed for about a minute. She's never done this before, and she frightened us (and herself) terribly. She had just started taking amoxicillin and a steroid for a suspected skin infection. The vet insists that there is no way that these drugs could have caused the seizure; I'm less sure. What says Molly?

My boyfriend loves this cat and has been with her much longer than with me. The boyfriend's a very manly man and is adept at using power tools, but he would be completely bereft if anything were to befall his kitty.

Thank you so much,

your neighbor on A St., NE

washingtonpost.com: If you get any definitive info on this, please e-mail me: liz.kelly@washingtonpost.com. My mom's cat has had the same thing happen recently.

Gene Weingarten: Molly is at an externship at a Boston clinic, and I can't reach her till tonight. Any vets around?

If not, email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com, and I'll try to get you an answer.

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Gorilla douche: That British ad you linked to is just a cutesied-up Harvard experiment from 1999 (Paper here, video here). The Harvard folks used an ambling gorilla instead of a moonwalking bear.

Also, you don't say "doo-SHAY" when someone's just said something so stupid conversation comes to a halt. You wince and say "cold douche," because that's the kind of unpleasant chill your interlocutor has inserted into the proceedings.

Gene Weingarten: I like doo-SHAY better.

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Not voting for Oba, MA: Here's what bothers me about Obama's handling of the preacher issue.

First, he's still trying to finesse the whole thing. At first, it was "I wasn't in church that day." Now, it's "Of course I knew he says wacko stuff, and I disagree with the bad stuff (though I won't be specific about which stuff is bad)." It seems rather Clintonian, frankly.

Second, and more important, he hasn't explained how and why he came to that church and stuck with it through the wackiness. My understanding is that he came to know Rev. Wright first as a "community leader," and then joined the church. It's not as if Obama joined Trinity for the Sunday School program and then stuck it out when the preaching got a little crazy. He chose that church specifically because it had this pastor who was known to be a little crazy. That's pretty different from most mainstream Christians' experience, I think.

Finally, while there is some defensible explanations for the "God damn America" sermon, as pointed out in several op-eds lately, I can think of no defense whatsoever for spreading lies like "the government created AIDS to kill black people." Aside from being a vicious lie, it is the kind of vicious lie that prevents the very racial healing that Obama claims to want to promote.

It just doesn't add up. Obama's a phony just like all the rest of them.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Feeling the bias: My experience as a (white) gay man is similar to yours as a jew, Gene. There are times where I'm sure I've been oblivious to prejudice against me, and then a few times where it has been blatant, but almost laughable. Examples: a 5'2" grandmother at a rally telling me the Bible says I should be killed, occasional stammering from people who asked about my wife, etc. Somehow it just doesn't "connect" with me as hurtful, just amusing. Guys in pickup trucks shouting expletives in Dupont Circle.

I think for many African-Americans, the experience is quite different. A more constant, grinding reality of prejudice that is not funny or ignorable. That makes you just trust less in your fellow Americans, and a need to be ready to respond.

Gene Weingarten: I am sure you are right, but the particular black man who wrote in didn't seem fazed.

Don't guys in pickup trucks faze you? I would hear an implied threat, I think.

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The True American Tragedy : The tragedy for American citizens is that the current President is so dumb, he'll never, ever, understand how bad a President he is. He'll go through the rest of his life with a clean conscience, believing he's a great man.

So we can't even have the satisfaction that we had with Nixon, in that we felt he at least understood how he was viewed, even if he didn't agree. So he suffered at least a little for his sins.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. Bush will never have a dark moment of the soul. I am sure of it.

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New York, N.Y.: My worst experience with anti-semitism:

Outside my dorm one day, a lady approached me and asked me to lend her some money so she could get a bus ticket home. She had a plausable story, so I gave her some money. A few dollars. She made a show of taking my name down in a notebook so she could repay me. Since I lived in a secure dorm at the time, I didn't see the harm in replying truthfully.

As soon as she heard my last name she stopped writing, looked me right in the face and said, "I knew you were a Jew!" I said, "Excuse me?"

"I can't see my own reflection in your eyes. So says the Koran." I can still remember the sudden hatred I got from that woman's face. Didn't even feel like debating the Koran with her at that point.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Can't see my reflection!

I never heard that one. Did she feel for your horn buds?

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Sinks as a Flat Surface: Well no, Sen. McCain, sinks generally don't count as flat surfaces, since they are usually bowls.

Maybe you mean the rim of the bowl, or the area near the faucets. In most of the women's rooms I've been in, there is not enough space to balance a key ring, and certainly not any papers. The best place is the handicapped stall, because it frequently has a double wide toilet paper holder, which is flat on top. Since our clothes also don't have any pockets, these little staging areas are all the more important.

Gene Weingarten: Er, okay. This is touching a nerve?

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Politi, KS: I think that the way each candidate runs their campaign is a good example of their leadership style and an indication of what we might expect from a presidency if elected. Clinton has presented a campaign that is calculated if not contrived, and some might say that this is exactly what is needed as an executive. This would be a presidency that would try to win the political game by the established rules. I believe Obama has attempted to raise the political discourse, and his campaign has seemed more transparent and populist. An Obama presidency would, in the very least, try to lift the deeply entrenched marble-sink-in-the-psych-ward that is the partisan political machine in Washington.

Gene Weingarten: I agree with this. What about McCain?

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340 PM Monday - WHERE'S THE POLL?: I mean, really.

Gene Weingarten: I had a chat yesterday so the poll wasn't up until 7:30 this morning. Within exactly five minutes of it going up, we had 45 responses.

You guys. I love youse, but... lives, people. Lives.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Just because some smart-aleck youngsters come up with some silly new phrases doesn't mean they have any enduring value. Check back in a year and see if anyone is still saying "douche nozzle". I doubt it. You don't hear many people saying "Hasta la vista, baby!" too much either these days.

washingtonpost.com: Does this mean "douche wad" is also passe?

Gene Weingarten: Douche nozzle seems to have a life online. Plus, it's good. It makes sense. Asshat makes no sense.

_______________________

Planning on getting pregnant question: is completely illegal to ask. But it seems like a lot of interviewers don't know this or feel like its ok to ask it anyways.

Gals - do the rest of us a favor and refuse to answer this question (even if you're not actually planning anything of the sort).

Gene Weingarten: That's easy advice to give, hard to take. C'mon. It's a job interview, you don't want to create a tension. I'd just say no, whatever the truth is.

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Gene Weingarten: The only think I would like to add to the rather straightforward poll resuts is:

Why are so few people unworried about Hillary's experience? She has very little. I think she is a very capable person, but c'mon. She has mostly been a political wife.

_______________________

New York, N.Y.:"I never heard that one. Did she feel for your horn buds? "

No point. I had filed them down that very morning.

Gene Weingarten: Good. Horn maintenance is very important for Jews.

Hey, you know who looks like he might have had horns, once? Spitzer.

_______________________

Experience: One reason I don't like Hillary is her constant droning on about "experience". It strikes me as hypocritical, given her husband's lack of experience & her trumpeting of how great those years were.

Gene Weingarten: WEll, you know, there is a certain breathtaking arrogance about her claim to 35 years experience. It's just a chimera.

_______________________

Public Religi, ON: This Rev. Wright controversy is so astoundingly trivial. Preachers spend their whole lives trying to convince others that they're moral infants who need an imaginary friend's help to live good lives, and then people get up in arms because one of them said the U.S. deserved 9/11? These guys generally say that everyone (newborns included) deserves Hell because Adam left the Garden and no one bats an eye, and don't we all owe a 2,000-year-old rabbi huge for doing us all a solid and dying for our sins, but it's somehow too great a stretch of cause and effect to connect 80 years of recent foreign policy and a terrorist attack?

Preachers of all faiths say certifiably crazy things every day. Every day. Why is "God damn America" different?

But good luck finding a politician who is willing to point that out.

Gene Weingarten: This is extreme.

I don't think the Rev. Martin Luther King, during a far more racially contentious period, used language like the Rev. Wright. And he WAS contentious, and firm, and fire-breathing sometimes.

_______________________

More about Obama: Gene, please let me address some of the accusations about Obama's church that a previous poster mentioned.

First, the person wrote that the preacher was outside of the Christian mainstream. I'm sorry to have to mention this, but the mainstream he speaks of is the white mainstream. Black churches are not the same as white churches, and (as a black person) I don't see why they should be. Black churches exist in this country because white people didn't want to worship God next to black people. Why on earth do white people expect to hear good things about themselves in black church?

Second, the AIDS conspiracy theory may be paranoid, but it has been making the rounds of black communities for over 20 years. I don't believe it, but considering the many examples of unethical medical testing by white doctors on black people in the US, I would be more sad than shocked if we ever find it is true.

So you can dismiss Obama as overly political, naive, or anything else, but I think first you should try to familiarize yourself with black churches and a little history. Try talking to your black friends and asking them if they have ever heard any of this stuff. After that, if you hold the same opinion, I'll give a little more weight to it.

ps. I am American and black but attend a "white" church. And I still can't gin up any outrage over Wright and other preachers like them.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

But:

That AIDS thing? Nuts.

_______________________

Gay (white) man again: No, the pickup trucks in the city do not phase me, because they are so clearly powerless and afraid when they do it. They need to be going 25 mph in a steel chamber in order to approach a (presumed) gay man. The threats are both explicit and implicit, but they are the deviants these days, not me, and it shows.

It's not even the same threat feeling as I've had when seeing a woman who is propositioned by a stranger on the sidewalk.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well good.

We seem to me moving fitfully forward, yes?

_______________________

It's not even a question ...: You have to give the item back to the store. Otherwise it's THEFT. It will eat at you when you eat, work and sleep. It will devour your brain. You will get silent messages during sex - I'M A THIEF. And by then you will have worn it and ask yourself how you can truly give it back. Save yourself the angst. Give the item back.

Gene Weingarten: It wouldn't eat at me. I am a bad person. It's too small a thing, and I would know it wasn't deliberate. In my mind it would not be stealing.

Sorry. As I said, I cannot defend this. My time is just worth too much to me.

Someone asked what the item value cutoff is. I dunno, $12?

_______________________

Torn on Liz's cheapness: When I was a newspaper copy editor, I still had a daily subscription to the paper.

When I worked for a snooty political magazine, I didn't (mostly because the subscription was way too expensive and I was paid almost nothing).

Now that I have left journalism, I actually make a decent salary and can afford a second subscription to the Post. How about I just cover Liz?

washingtonpost.com: Trust me, my online perusal of The Post does just as much for the company's bottom line. Why do you think we were all subjected to those toenail fungus ads for so long? Cash. Though I do think we're doing a bad job of getting the adult massage personals up.

Gene Weingarten: Liz said getting them up!

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Washington, D.C.: Black woman here. I think for some of us, you get so used to the subtle racism of each day. For example, if I got upset every time someone called me the name of the other black woman in my office (who looks NOTHING like me btw) I'd be angry by 2 pm every day. If you have a sense of humor, sometimes it is fun when you watch people realize that you aren't fitting the stereotype they had made for you. The one thing that bothers me is the education thing. I'm a little tired of people getting wide eyes every time they find out that I'm a highly educated person. The fact they assumed I wasn't is kind of annoying, since I don't assume the education level of anyone else, nor do I ask it of anyone. I think it's a little ridiculous that once I throw out a word they wouldn't use in normal conversation I get the, "Where did you go to school?" or "What exactly is your position here?" question. It never seems relevant.

Gene Weingarten: You know, that seems pretty bad to me. That would work on me.

_______________________

Boozer in Boston: Yikes, ok. Sigh. Thank you. This sucks, but I'll deal with it. I do have a severe anxiety problem--I worry about everything excessively and sometimes to the point of obsessively--but that's just an excuse. And if it's not, I've done something good for myself.

Thanks, Gene. Does this mean I can never have a drop of alcohol again? Or...what?

Gene Weingarten: It means you need to talk to someone who knows far more about this subject than I do. Good luck, sweetie.

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New to the Chat: Um, so, do you accept virtual briefs in addition to panties or do you duck when the briefs are thrown at you?

Gene Weingarten: Uh, uh. Please hang on to your briefs. Thanks!

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Blocked videos: I work for the federal government, and all streaming videos are blocked here. Youtube as a whole can't be accessed, and videos embedded anywhere else don't show up.

Your tax dollars at work!

Gene Weingarten: This is bad. What percentage of the audience will I be excluding, do you think, with a Clip of the Day?

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Opening Day: It is still March, and already the Yankees are in the American League East cellar.

Are you prepared to concede the (eighth) season (in a row)?

Gene Weingarten: I am less obnoxiously certain of myself this year. Which means they might actually have a chance.

_______________________

Instant karma's gonna get you...: I'm obsessive about returning money to the cashier if they give me too much change, tell them if they forgot to ring something up, and will leave an item in the cart if I discover it wasn't on the bill. The one time I did keep something that I hadn't paid for, a three-pack of gum, I was on the receiving end of a hit-and-run car accident later that day. I don't believe in god, but clearly -someone- was smiting me.

Gene Weingarten: This is the entire underpinning of superstitiouis behavior.

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Alexandria: How did your wife answer that question about her pregnancy plans? According to your description of your marriage, she actually was pregnant or shortly to be so at the time, right?

Just curious, because I'm a woman of the same generation, but never had that question lobbed at me during my job interviews in the '70's. Always wondered what I would have said, though.

Gene Weingarten: No, she was married to another at the time. She said she had no pregnancy plans, which happend to be true; but she would have said that even if she was three months gone.

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New York, N.Y.: You have to promise us that the clips of the week will at least be safe for viewing on office computers - no loud profanity or sex where cubicle mates will report us.

Gene Weingarten: Deal.

Hey, thank you all. No updates this week, but we start next week. The Gene Poll continues.

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