Chatological Humor: Pre-Post Hunt Edition (UPDATED 5.16.08)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; 12:00 PM
Are you thinking of participating in The Post Hunt on Sunday, May 18? Do you have any questions or concerns? Do you want to chat live with Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder? Do you want us to stop framing statements as questions? Okay. Dave and Tom will be joining Gene in a special Hunt-Themed version of Chatological Humor on Tuesday, May 13, at Noon ET. If you have never heard these three guys insulting each other live before a national audience, this will be the next best thing. Don't miss your chance.
P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality.
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.
For the first time in the storied history of this chat, there will be not one but three hosts today -- Dave Barry, Tom The Butcher, and I -- all contributing remotely from different places, all with equal power. A true troika. The last attempted troika occurred in the early 1950s when Russia was ruled by Georgy Malenkov, Vyasheslav Molotov, and Lavrantiy Beria. It did not work out. Malenkov wound up an object of national disdain, widely ridiculed as "Malanya" (Melissa) because of his feminine, protruding hips. Molotov was stripped of all power and made ambassador to Mongolia, an insult as profound as if President Obama appointed Hillary to be tax assessor in Pottawatomie County, Kan. Beria was simply taken out back and shot.
But still, we shall try it. More on this in a moment, but first, some urgent business must be transacted.
My column on Sunday, which explained why I will not be attending my upcoming 40th high school reunion, garnered a great deal of mail, much of it from my erstwhile classmates. Some of this mail was negative; my favorite accused me of being a "whinning, antisimetic ass-hole." This permitted me to observe, in reply, that the writer had not only misspelled all three adjectives, but also that his letter appears to have identified, finally, among the aggregate 70-year history of Bronx Science alumni, "the dumb one."
I would proceed directly to the all-important power-sharing portion of this chat, but there are two items of business that cannot be ignored. I would like to ignore them because they are unnecessarily lurid and vulgar, but, tragically, they demonstrate important principles recently discussed in this chat.
First, we have this old video that Chatwoman found. Much as I hate to air negative footage of Bill O'Reilly, this illustrates rather beautifully the point I was making about character flaws in people who mistreat subordinates. WARNING: There is a shouted obscenity.
And secondly ¿- once again, I am linking to this only because it is thematically appropriate -- this woman's name is "Norma Stitz." She is reputed to have the largest natural breasts on the planet. The point is, Ms. Stitz's full name, which must be spoken aloud to understand its power, is NOT an aptonym, since she designed it. A pseudonym cannot be an aptonym. We are now done with today's lesson in semiotics.
Back to the chat.
This Sunday, May 18, Dave and Tom and I are going to be hosting the first annual Post Hunt in downtown Washington. We expect thousands of people in the streets, having fun and competing for substantial prizes, and, with luck, not dying in stampedes. Tom and Dave and I have been doing these hunts for 20 years in Miami, so we kind of know what to expect. But most of you don't. Which is why this here chat is happening.
Dave is at his home in Miami. I am at my home in Washington. Tom is at work at The Washington Post. Chatwoman is at her home in Arlington. We are all going to be diving into your questions at once. Liz assures me this sort of thing has happened before, but I'm guessing not with individuals having the outsized egos, and the control-oriented management styles, of today's participants. And I include Liz in that.
Okay, so no comic analysis this week. Take the poll, and now get ready for the oddest sort of free-for all.
We'll be accepting all sorts of questions, but focusing on The Hunt.
Cube City: The instructions don't say anything about tools, but answering one of the three video puzzles (almost) requires a calculator, and the final puzzle would benefit from a notepad if not a portable text editor. There's no way anybody will be able to win without writing down and doodling/calculating/anagramming/whatever, so shouldn't a well-equipped team bring a thermos full of vodka martinis?
Tom Shroder: No THAT is the kind of thinking that will go far in the Hunt. Keep up the good work.
Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.: My wife and I are both pretty smart -- and, I think, clever (i.e. good at problem solving as well as at knowledge of random facts). But we couldn't solve any of the video- based puzzles without looking at the hints. Should we still come out for the real Post Hunt? Do we have any real hope of solving any of the puzzles? Are we secretly idiots? Do I feel compelled to end this with a fourth question just to mirror the introduction to the chat?
Tom Shroder: See the earlier post referencing "a thermos of martinis."
Arlington, Va.: Dude. What if it rains?
Gene Weingarten: You get wet.
Arlington, Va.: This is for Weingarten. Do you think Abe Lincoln would've enjoyed participating in a Post Hunt? Before that Booth thing, I mean.
Gene Weingarten: In one puzzle, you are going to have to wrestle a giant otter. Abe would have been good at that. He liked to rassle. Also, he was often constipated, a trait that comes in handy at The Hunt, which lasts three hours.
Tom Shroder: Actually, Abe is going to participate in THIS hunt. I can say no more or Gene will kill me.
Tom Shroder: (And to correct any misconception Gene might be spreading, there will be portapotties.)
Gene Weingarten: Fine, Tom. YOU tell people they are supposed to be excited about Port-A-Potties.
Tom Shroder: Well YOU were telling them they should look forward to constipation. I guess you win.
Gene Weingarten: I wasn't telling them to look FORWARD to it, I was merely telling them it is a strategic ASSET.
Dave Barry: I met Abraham Lincoln once, and he is a surprisingly good dancer.
Gene Weingarten: Hey, "asset" begins with "ass."
Tom Shroder: That's the kind of thinking that won Gene the Pulitzer. We are all so proud of him.
Dave Barry: I met Abraham Lincoln once, and he has a surprisingly nice ass.
Tom Shroder: So you can clearly see why Dave won HIS Pulitzer FIRST.
Washington, D.C.: Will I not be able to participate in the hunt (just for fun, not the actual contest) if I can't arrive exactly at noon? I.e., will none of the clues make sense?
Tom Shroder: Yes, we'll have the Noon Clue written on a message board on the stage all afternoon, so you'll be able to figure out where the puzzle sites are from that. But the puzzles only operate until 3.
Gene Weingarten: Tom's answer here reminds me of the phone calls I get from him, at least once a day. I'll pick up the phone and he'll say something like: "So, do you think we should go ahead and let her try it?" There will be no antecedent. No reasonable way I could have any idea what he is talking about; Tom simply makes these call while in mid-thought about some complex situations and assumes, somehow, that through the the power of The Force, all other humans are thinking exactly as he is.
So, allow me to translate his answer, along with the necessary facts he omitted: The sole purpose of the opening clue, which will be delivered at noon, is to give you the map coordinates of the location of the five major puzzle sites you will have to visit. The map will be published in the magazine, which you will have with you. If you miss the clue, do not worry, it will be written down and kept on the main stage and remain there during the Hunt.
Washington, D.C.: As a South Florida native, please accept my thanks for bringing the Tropic, er, Post Hunt to DC. This town needs to lighten up a little already. Geeze.
How many people recognize you as you walked the streets?
Tom Shroder: We ran into my sister, who recognized Dave, but not me.
Dave Barry: That's because you were wearing that dress.
Nostalg, IA: You guys -- Weingarten, Barry, Shroder -- have been planning these Hunts for about a million years. What were you like (besides being teenagers) at the first one? How have things changed over the years?
Tom Shroder: The horrifying truth: NOTHING has changed. Except the entire rest of the universe.
Dave Barry: When we started doing Hunts, the economy was strong, the world was at peace, and there was no such thing as Lindsay Lohan. Somebody should stop us.
A hunting we will go!: Looking forward to the first annual Post Hunt!
I have a team member whose first language was not English. She is also unfamiliar with a number of American cultural references. Will she have any fun?
Another team member has a bum knee. How much walking/running about will be required?
Dave Barry: Actually, being able to speak English is a huge handicap.
Tom Shroder: That's the beauty of team work. The person with the bad knee can sit in the shade pondering the meaning of the clues while the fully-kneed can run around from site to site. The distances are short, and even Weingarten, whose knees are made from Slinkies, has been able to get where he needs to be.
Washington, D.C.: Gene,
How does it feel to be advertised using just your first name:
Post Hunt: Dave, Gene & Tom, 12
Gene Weingarten: It's like we have a tire distributorship, or something.
The Hunt! The Hunt!: Are we allowed to bring reference books? Almanacs? Unabridged dictionaries to pummel other teams?
- Captain Joan, Team Spookymittens
Dave Barry: It's a good idea to carry a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I know I always do.
Sorry, this is not about the Post Hunt: Bob Barr is running for president on the Libertarian party ticket! I can't wait to hear him rant and rave in the debates. Thanks to him, we now have the airport with the longest name ever: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Did we really need to spend $400,000 adding "Ronald Reagan" to every Metro map and sign? Just how does that fit in with the Libertarian party's ideals I just don't know.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, I believe it's the second longest. The longest, by a few more letters, is Governor Andre Franco Montoro International Airport, in Sao Paulo.
Here is a relatively little-known fact: Dave has, at least in the past, identified himself as a Libertarian. How about it, Dave -- will you be voting for Bob Barr, the only politician in America with a worse mustache than mine?
Dave Barry: I will be voting for me.
Washington, D.C.: Hello. On the advice of Chatological Humor, I have been abstaining from underpants before going to bed. It has created a problem.
Now I dream that I am someplace--a swimming pool, work, etc., and I am not wearing pants or anything. Usually someone in the dream takes me aside and says, You fool! You are supposed to wear pants here! And there is nothing I can say in return. Please help. Thanks.
Gene Weingarten: In your dream, you need to threaten these people with a lawsuit for sexual harassment. American labor laws have long established that it illegal to comment on a woman's appearance in the workplace, even if she is naked from the waist down.
Arlington, Va.: Suppose George Bush showed up and wanted to be a participatoragist in the Hunt. Would you let him?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, but we would require that he, too, be naked from the waist down. He could wear a shirt, but no pants, like Donald Duck.
Arlington, Va.: I waited too long to buy a Post Hunt T-shirt over the Internet. I am a lazy idiot. Will you have T-shirts for sale at the event?
Gene Weingarten: Yes.
Dave Barry: What Gene means is, he will sell you his.
Arlington, Va.: From "Humboldt's Gift" by Saul Bellow:
"The Pulitzer is for the birds-for the pullets. It's just a dummy newspaper publicity award given by crooks and illiterates. You become a walking Pulitzer ad, so even when you croak the first words of the obituary are 'Pulitzer prizewinner passes.'"
Gene Weingarten: This is so unfair and cynical and downright wrong. First, they write your name. THEN they put in the Pulitzer crap.
Austin, Tex.: Never before has there been a weekend I so wanted to be in Washington.
How hard did you all try to come up with a name for the Hunt that ended with a hard "c" sound, a la the "Tropic [pregnant pause from news reader] Hunt"?
Tom Shroder: After due consideration, I believe only Gene has the expertise to answer this question.
Gene Weingarten: I got a chance to watch a radio guy do a promo for The Tropic Hunt, live, on the air. He allowed at LEAST two seconds of dead air between the two words.
Dave Barry: We considered naming it "The Washington, D.C., Hunt," but that's not a hard "c," so it came out "Chunt," which obviously was no good.
Confused??: Is kissing just for the sake of kissing -- cheating? No emotions, just the physical act. I don't remember what the consensus was from past chats.
Dave Barry: I kissed Abraham Lincoln once.
Tom Shroder: What reason would you kiss, other than for the sake of kissing?
Dave Barry: Well, you might want him to appoint you to the Supreme Court.
Gene Weingarten: I hear there are dentists who do extractions using their own teeth.
Bethesda, Md.: So who drew that Post Hunt logo, with the ruddy-cheeked Metro train and all the D.C. landmarks pointing in different directions? It's really good.
Gene Weingarten: The artist for this and all previous Hunts is a talented man named (I swear) Otis Sweat.
Tom Shroder: And his beautiful wife Barbara. I haven't seen her in years, but I know she's beautiful because Otis is constantly drawing her.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am probably going to get in trouble for this, but Otis also does some excellent, hilarious x-rated cartoons, and I once asked him if he used any particular, like, models, for his superior reproduction of various types of human genitalia, and he very specifically refused to say, so really, when you think about it, I am not imparting any useful or titillating information here. At all.
Dave Barry: For the record, Otis has never seen me naked.
Miami, Fla.: How much of the Post Hunt will be blamed on Gene?
Tom Shroder: All the parts involving immature potty humor. The booger parts are Dave's fault.
Washington, D.C.: Will bringing my nine-month old daughter be an asset or a liability? She is a decent clapper, but has a terrible grip.
Dave Barry: As long as she wears a diaper, it should be... Oh, wait, CLAPPER.
Arlington, Va.: Is there a limit on team size? The rules say four is the limit, but I thought Gene had previously said that your team could have as many people as you wanted, it was only that the prizes were for four, so a winning team of larger than four might find themselves dueling in the streets over who gets what. If we are willing to risk winner-take-all drinking games on the off-chance we actually win, can our team be larger than four?
Tom Shroder: Yes.
Gene Weingarten: They don't even all have to be human.
Toledo, Ohio: This question is for Gene and Tom. If Dave's quest for the presidency appears not to be going very well, will you, as his friends and advisors, suggest that he set his sights on the U.S. Senate -- urging him, perhaps, to move to Idaho and make a run at retiring Senator Larry Craig's open seat?
Tom Shroder: Wait, did you really say "Senator Craig's open seat"?
Dave Barry: What do you mean, "appears to not be going very well?" Have you seen my interns?
Gene Weingarten: I just want to point out that if EYE had made a joke about "Larry Craig's open seat," Tom would have deleted it.
Bronx, New York: Gene, since Sports center gleefully announced the Yankees passing the Pirates in the all time franchise win list at the beginning of last week, where has the follow up story been with the Pirates putting the Yankees back behind them with their recent 6 game winning streak?
This is the kind of hard hitting investigative journalism only you can handle, not like that schlub Dave Barry.
Dave Barry: I'm excited that the Yankees have something to shoot for, since they can't seem to win the, you know, World Series.
Gene Weingarten: Dave is a fan of the Marlins. Please excuse his bitterness.
Boston, Mass.: Hey y'all!
I am graduating with a Bachelor's of Music on Sunday and I have no real life skill sets. What should I do with the rest of my life?
Good Luck on the Post Hunt!
Tom Shroder: I'd suggest becoming a humor columnist, though you may be a little over-qualified.
Arlington, Va.: As one of the thousands of concerned lawyers in DC, can you tell me if Vice President Cheney is participating in the Post Hunt?
I'm just askin'.
Tom Shroder: Cheney is the one who conspired to launch the Post Hunt, without nearly enough troops and no clear exit strategy.
Germantown, Md.: When are we going to have a chat with the infamous Rachel, who Gene refers to many times in this chat, and is in the Post Hunt video?
Gene Weingarten: Well, like, today if you want. For the last week and through the end of this week, Rachel Manteuffel and Caitlin Gibson are co-hosting the Achenblog in Joel's absence.
Miami, Fla.: In your professional journalistic opinions, who has the better hair??
Dave Barry: Not all of us HAVE hair.
Tom Shroder: I thought we were counting body hair.
Gene Weingarten: Caitlin Gibson.
Oh, you mean among us? Whew. Tom, I guess, because he doesn't have any.
Cleveland, Ohio: Can I use Google Earth to participate in the Hunt via the internets?
Dave Barry: Sure, as long as you have enough beer.
Key Bored was weak: Well, not weak exactly, but recycled from the Tropic Hunt, which was lame.
Tom Shroder: It says right there they were ALL recycled from the Herald Hunts. What you want us to think up entirely new ones just for PRACTICE? Plus, Key bored was Dave's idea.
Gene Weingarten: Dave has had all the crappy ideas, actually.
Dave Barry: "Key Bored" was Shroder, and he knows it.
Gene Weingarten: My clues have all been brilliant.
Dave Barry: True Hunt Fact: We once ended the Hunt with Gene sitting in a toilet stall in a public bathroom. The finalist Hunters came in, one at a time, and tried to figure out the answer. The answer was supposed to be "two." As in "number two." But nobody got it. Over and over they entered the stall and guessed, but NOBODY GOT IT.
I probably don't need to say this, but: This was totally, 100 percent, Gene's idea.
Gene Weingarten: Dave completely made this up, except for the part about my sitting in a toilet stall. Which is, sadly, true.
State of Fear: How will you handle the inevitable hunter getting creamed by a Metrobus?
Gene Weingarten: We will cover it up. We control The Media.
Dave Barry: We will blame global warming.
The Outback: Why should the 99.9999999 per cent of the population not taking part in this pointless event be deprived of discussion of far more important things, like Pam Anderson?
Dave Barry: She's a talent, all right.
Tom Shroder: A friend of mine was actually a writer for her TV show. I forget what it was about. Oh yeah, now I remember, it was about her breasts.
London, U.K.: Compared to Miami, is the use of force encouraged while competing for clues?
Tom Shroder: If we survived 17 Hunts without any major brawls in MIAMI, I think the worst we have to worry about here are people standing left on the Metro escalators.
Gene Weingarten: This is true. Washington is the most orderly city in which I have lived. Of course, I've lived mostly in New York and Miami, where, as Dave as written, everyone drives according to the rules of his or her native country.
Dave Barry: True Fact: Two weeks ago, police in Miami stopped a 73-year-old motorist driving a Chevrolet Cobalt. See if you can guess WHERE he was driving it.
He was driving it ON RUNWAY NINE OF MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
I repeat: True Fact.
gramm, AR: "whinning, antisimetic ass-hole"
Did you really point out that he "misspelled all three adjectives"? Because asshole is not an adjective, and I sort of think it would serve you right...
It's tedious to correct people's grammar and spelling, and should really only be done to burst the smug bubble of a boring hypocrite.
Gene Weingarten: Good point, no I said all three words.
Stoopidsville, Va.: I apologize, gentlemen, but I fear that I am not up to the mental challenge. I tried to solve the online portion of the Hunt and was quite overwhelmed. I thought that attending Gene's chats would make me smarter. Alas, I was incorrect. Good luck with the Post Hunt. I'll be the one in the dunce cap cheering you all on from the sidelines.
Tom Shroder: The truth is, it's hard to solve these alone. The Hunt is an amazing demonstration of the power of teamwork. One person will come up with a fragment of an idea, and another will bounce off of that, and then suddenly you -- the one who was convinced of his own Duncedom -- will, out of nowhere, see the light bulb click on and supply the critical connection. I've seen that happen a million times, and it's a terrific feeling. So stop cheering and grab some friends and give it a shot.
Dave Barry: If you see an actual light bulb click on, you should lie down.
Bureau of Eccentric Events, Washington, D.C.: Please be advised that your event, "Post Hunt," is NOT legally registered in the District of Columbia until you complete Forms #357-QHX-Z19(c) and (w), Sections R, YR, and BS(a) -- "Permission To Partay in Downtown Locale (Penn Quarter)." In triplicate.
Stuffy Dullard, Esq.
Assistant to the Junior Undersecretary of Piddling Tosh
Tom Shroder: I thought we already filled those out. It was Gene's job.
Gene Weingarten: I have reliably informed that I stole one of Dave's jokes. I am not sure which one, but all I can say is ... it's not th first time.
Holy Cow!: In the first 19 minutes of this chat, you have managed to post more frequently than the rest of the dicussions combined. I'm so proud.
Liz, you should get a serious bonus for dealing with all this.
Gene Weingarten: The anarchy of this process is rather startling. You wouldn't like to see it from this end.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi everyone,
And Dave, I stood Right Behind You at the Sun Valley ice show last summer! I was so excited.
Ahem. Anyway, these quizzes are waaaay beyond my brain power, and I was going to go to the hunt with my friend and her 11 y.o. daughter. I can picture us standing in Chinatown, looking completely befuddled and not having any fun. Can you assure us that the puzzles for this inaugural hunt will NOT be math-related, and therefore "fun for the whole family?"
Gene Weingarten: There will be no math more complex than what a six-year- old could do. Does that rule you out?
Tom Shroder: Sometimes people have the most fun solving "puzzles" we didn't even know where there. One year, a crowd of people formed around a dead bird, divining all sorts of clues in it. Really, the fun comes from an altered perception of a very cool landscape. Suddenly meaning is popping up in all kinds of unexpected places, and when something really does click, it's a surprisingly large thrill.
Dave Barry: On the other hand, the Hunt has never been won by anybody with an IQ below 350.
Miami "tropichunt", Fla.: What does adding YET ANOTHER another Pulitzer Prize winning writer bring to the Hunt?
Tom Shroder: A lot of very articulate whining, it turns out.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: We are 20-year Herald Hunt Vets. We noticed the time is Noon to 5 p.m. The South Florida Hunt is usually Noon to 3:00PM (final clue). We normally spend under two hours on the first portion. We are arriving in the Penn quarter around 12:30 PM. Are you just giving the dimwits of D.C. extra time to do the same task or is the final clue also at 3:00 PM? And, will we be able to pick up the map coordinates at the home base or by radio?
P.S. I named my sons Dave and Barry after you.
Tom Shroder: The format will be the same. We'll give everyone the puzzle locations at noon, and they'll be able to visit the puzzle sites until 3, at which time will give the Final Clue from the stage. We say it lasts until 5 pm to allow time for the winners to solve the endgame, and then for us to explain the Hunt to everyone from the stage. That all could end a little earlier, depending on how quickly we get winners. Be sure to bring Dave and Barry along.
Washington, D.C.: I will be stuck in the Munich airport for the duration of the Hunt (plus--woo!--an additional 10 hours). Can I participate from Munich, performing my own l'il Hunt whilst running around the airport?
Dave Barry: Let us know how it goes.
Tel Aviv, Israel: Would you consider coming to Israel to do a Hunt in a city here?
Tom Shroder: Yes, but only if all parties agree to a comprehensive peace settlement.
Dave Barry: It might be easier to just move Israel here.
Gene Weingarten: Isn't a lot of it already in Miami Beach?
Fairfax, Va.: In the Washington Post Magazine this past Sunday, Tom wrote that Dave and Gene "helped" him. Is Tom the leader here? Or, to put it in his language, is Tom the leadder here?
Gene Weingarten: It's cruel to taunt Tom about his spelling disabilities. I will have no part of it.
As far as The Hunt goes, Tom is essentially a figurehead. If there is a historical analogy to Tom's claim that Dave and I "helped" him with this, it is probably John F. Kennedy's claim that his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, "helped" him write Profiles in Courage. This was technically true, in the sense that Sorensen did all the research and wrote all the words. Profiles In Courage won the Pulitzer Prize, just as Dave, Tom and I have.
Oh, wait . . .
Alameda, Calif.: How many people do you expect. Is this any relation to the 1985 Midnight Madness in Clearwater, Fla.?
Tom Shroder: We have NO idea. In Miami, it's generally been around 5,000 or so. Maybe a little more.
Gene Weingarten: The first year, not knowing how many people to expect, I purchased 40,000 candy canes. Dave has not let me forget this. Ever.
Dave Barry: Gene also, the night before the first Hunt, insisted that we go to a hardware store and buy sheets of plywood. We didn't NEED the plywood. We didn't USE the plywood. But by God we HAD the plywood.
For Dave Barry: In your book "Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up", you make a joke about the heaviness of an airline omelette. What is that?
Dave Barry: Hundreds of years ago, they used to give you food on airplanes, and we humor professionals thought it was hilarious. We are not laughing any more.
Important question: So, does Tom have an oosik, and if so, how big?
Dave Barry: That's a very personal question. It's tiny.
Gene Weingarten: Dave and I once measured our oosiks. Mine is longer; he has yet to admit this. There was some technicality.
Dave Barry: Gene's oosik has been augmented by some kind of ornamentation. Ask yourself what kind of man needs to ornament his oosik.
Takoma Park, Md.: I'm going to lose, aren't I? I'll go all the way downtown, and flail around helplessly while people more clever (and thinner and younger) than I effortlessly anagram entire Post magazine articles into instructions on how to build a sailboat from beer coasters and Post plastic sleeves, and I'll still be trying to figure out the first puzzle when the winners sail past. I'm depressed already.
Tom Shroder: That's a very clever post. You'll do fine.
D.C. Here I Come, FL: How ironic would it be if someone from South Florida placed in the Hunt, knowing what the prizes are?
Is there a Webs ite with more information?
"Not Andy the tropichunt.com guy¿"
Okay, maybe it is.
washingtonpost.com: Post Hunt
Gene Weingarten: True fact: One team has won three times. They'll be coming in. From Seattle.
Fred from New Orleans: Dave,
Has anyone ever told you that you write better than Gene? Besides, you wrote me back once and Gene never has!
Dave Barry: Clearly, I am also more gracious.
Gene Weingarten: Dave, of late one of the principal themes of this chat is how much more talented you are than I am.
Tom Shroder: Boys! Stop comparing oosiks.
Northern Virginia: I am hosting a baby shower this same day. It was the ONLY day available! I am SO BUMMED to miss it (and possibly meeting you guys). Please tell me this will be a continuing, annual thing.
Dave Barry: Many people host their baby showers at the Hunt.
Looking for a team: I am all alone in this city, but I have a nifty phone with calculator, map, and Web access. Anyone need a team member?
Dave Barry: Is this the vice president?
Haverford, Pa.: This is for Dave who somehow survived Haverford College. How'd you do that? My real question is,since I can not make to D.C. for the contest, will you please tell me the answer now?
Tom Shroder: The answer is: 27. No wait, that's from Hitchhiker's Guide. I forget what the answer to the Hunt is. Either of you guys remember?
Dave Barry: I have no memory of that era.
Gene Weingarten: I think it involves The Jews.
Checkyourdefiniti, ON: "Erstwhile" classmates? They're still your classmates, dude, even though you graduated a long time ago. Dave is not an erstwhile Pulitzer Prize winner; he is an erstwhile columnist but not an erstwhile Pulitzer Prize winner. Check your Merriam-Webster, or whatevah.
Gene Weingarten: I would say this is wrong. I would say if we are not still in my class, they are not my classmates. Pat? Is erstwhile wrong?
Bethesda, Md.: Very good puzzles (the videos and pics). The final puzzle of the videos was tough but after the first video I got the hang of it.
I have to admit I didn't "solve" any of them though. I watched the second video, thought about it for a second and then just looked at the answer. If I had more time and I was not at work I think I would have gotten the second and third video puzzles.
I liked the fact that they were tough but not ridiculous.
Tom Shroder: You sound like a contender. You should definitely give it a shot on Sunday.
Germantown, Md.: I heart you, Tom! -- throws virtual panties --
I find the editors notes in every single other magazine besides the Washington Post Magazine very boring, but your note is always insightful and fun to read. Thanks Tom!
Tom Shroder: Is that you, Mom?
Vienna, Va.: I can't believe you professional editorial types screwed up your endgame answer. The word "the" has an odd number of letters. It should be "Your" instead of "the."
Dave Barry: Wow. You're GOOD.
Tom Shroder: Our crack web crew will fix this instantly.
McLean, Va.: I'm a sober member of AA, can I still participate in the Hunt, or do I have to get drunk first? If I do get drunk, what if I do what I did the last time I got drunk? Which was: buy crack, and drive (drunk AND tweaking) around D.C., while armed, in a Baja Bug. Would being drunk, tweaking, armed, and in a VW Bug be an advantage in the Hunt?
When will Miami get a real baseball team?
Or should I just go to Ocean City and look at pretty girls?
Tom Shroder: If Miami doesn't have a real baseball team, what was the team they just beat 11-0 at Nationals Park last weekend?
Goleta, Calif.: So I failed miserably on every test. This is funny?
Gene Weingarten: Well, it's funny to US.
Bethesda, Md.: There won't be any mimes in this thing, will there? I hate mimes.
Dave Barry: We will surround the area with a 15-foot high wall to keep them out. It won't keep you out, because it's invisible.
Albuquerque, N.M.: I grew up in Miami as a big fan of Tropic (I even had lunch with Gene at a hotel in Coconut Grove once, after winning the experience at a Miami's for Me auction), and have been back frequently in recent years for Hunts. I will be there on Sunday. I am so glad you are doing this. What inspired a D.C. Hunt? Or, what took so long?
And, will I need a cell phone?
Tom Shroder: The idea for a DC Hunt was held up in subcommittee meetings for 10 years. And this is Washington. You definitely need a cell phone. A blackberry wouldn't hurt either.
Gene Weingarten: You also need paper and a writing iron. And a copy of the mag, though some will be available for free if you are UNBELIEVABLY cheap.
No unbelievably cheap person has ever won the Hunt.
Beltsville, Md.: Wow, I'm actually kinda glad I'm going to be out of town for this. You guys are evil.
Tom Shroder: We're not evil, just too much time on our hands. Somebody needs to open a rec center.
Washington, D.C.: Do I need to pre-register or anything to participate?
Tom Shroder: Nope. Just show up downtown before noon with a copy of the magazine. It will help to read it first.
Watching, U: Dave, does Weingarten's endorsement of Obama pretty much guarantee that Gene will be enjoying the luxury accommodations at Gauntanamo Bay in January, 2009?
Dave Barry: If you ever saw Gene's desk, you'd realize that Guantanamo would be a step up.
An out-of-towner, Fla.: How do you expect D.C.'ers to react to the Hunt compared to the folks in South Florida?
Any advice to politicians who might try to compete?
Tom Shroder: We expect them to nail it. Especially the teams from the National Security Administration.
Gene Weingarten: True story: I was once at a party at a neighbor's house. I didn't know exactly what she did for a living. About an hour had gone by when something slowly dawned on me, just from catching snippets of conversation. And I blurted out, "YOU'RE ALL SPOOKS."
A deathly silence fell. I left quietly about ten minutes later.
RE: Hard C: You're telling me none of you thought to use the word Republic in The Hunt title? This would have given teams the endless joy of using the word Caucus while working together to figure out the clues.
Dave Barry: The Republic Hunt! We are SUCH morons.
Rockville, Md.: How many mile radius will the Post Hunt cover? Should I (1) wear sneakers, (2) rent a Segway, or (3) make sure I have plenty of money on my Metro Smartcard?
Gene Weingarten: By the end of the day, you will probably have had the equivalent of a two-mile walk. The only use of the Metro will be to get there.
Tom Shroder: Right, and that's two miles over three or four hours, so it isn't any worse than a day at an amusement park, maybe even less so, because you can send the younger, springier teammembers out to do recon.
Dave Barry: As a rule we have very few deaths.
Dave Barry: I just want to take this opportunity to point out that, despite the trend of recent years, there is absolutely no need to refrigerate ketchup.
Miramar, Fla.: If someone who runs a certain Hunt Web site were to organize a pre-Hunt get-together Saturday night at the Irish Four Courts in Arlingon from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., do they have a better chance at winning the Hunt and would any of the three of you go?
Dave Barry: That particular strategy has never been known to fail.
RE: Hard C: You couldn't have called it the Potomac Hunt? Really? Seems like the obvious choice.
Gene Weingarten: Aaaaargh. Even better.
Threesome: What does Tom the Butcher look like? If I'm walking down the street, I know I'd recognize Gene Shallot/Weingarten and the Night Court guy...
Gene Weingarten: Gene Shallot is that film reviewer who always cries at sad movies...
Gene Weingarten: The previous was a vegetable joke. On deadline.
Dave Barry: And people wonder how he won a Pulitzer!
Ann Ewe, AL: Can you technically consider the Post Hunt an "annual" event as you are yet uncertain that it will take place in the years to come?
Dave Barry: We're the news media. We can do WHATEVER WE WANT.
Gene Weingarten: THIS IS THE JOKE I RIPPED OFF. He wrote it first, but I didn't see it.
Dave for Prez: You have every right to run, but isn't your vote too big a responsibility to just throw it away?
Dave Barry: Correct. Which is why I am voting for me.
Harrisburg, Pa.: I have never been to Washington, but I am looking forward to visiting and have booked a hotel and airfare and I will be there this weekend. Now, where is the meeting place? It is closer to Spokane or Portland?
Dave Barry: Just go outside your hotel at noon and shout, "WHERE IS THE REPUBLIC HUNT??"
Hum, OR: Say something funny!
Dave Barry: Gene Shallot!
Falls Church, Va.: I'm a new resident and know very little about the Washington, D.C. landmarks. Am I going to be little use to my team? Or should I watch a movie instead?
Tom Shroder: You don't need to know anything about DC landmarks to be useful to your team. It helps to have, how shall I put it, a "relaxed" hold on ordinary reality.
Clue, NY: Are there any Post Hunt clues embedded in this chat today? Am I one of them right now?
Gene Weingarten: Yes, you are.
Bethesda, Md.: So to compete in the Post Hunt, we're supposed to bring a copy of "The Washington Post Sunday Magazine." Is that the little booklet where Date Lab is?
Gene Weingarten: Yes.
Tom Shroder: Also there's some humor column in there. I forget what it's called.
Dave Barry: It's called "A Message from the Editor."
Panama Jack: Which one of you three is oldest? Which is best endowed? Which has the best shot with Liz?
Tom Shroder: Dave is the oldest. I think he's turning 100 this year. Gene is BY FAR the most insane, and the chicks really dig that, so he has the best chance with Liz. And I have the most hair, if you include beard and body hair. That's what you meant by best-endowed, right?
Initial Puzzles?: Looking at the solutions to past Tropic/Herald Hunts, I see that there are always inital puzzles. What is their purpose? And will the Post Hunt also have these?
Tom Shroder: Yes. They're called the Opening Questions, and mostly they are jokes written by Dave, but they fulfill a structural function: It's the way we make sure that everyone learns the location of the five big Hunt puzzles at the same time -- exactly at noon. Basically, you take the answers from the multiple choice Opening Questions, pair them with the Opening Clue, five numbers we give from the stage at noon, and you wind up with five sets of coordinates pinpointing the location of the five puzzles on the Hunt Map. We will leave the five numbers of the Opening Clue on a message board on the stage, so any late arrivers can hurry to catch up.
Whiners: So, is there one (1) winning team or are all the teams who solve the final puzzle correctly "winners"? Do I a trophy for showing up? My mom always told me I was a winner, so could you please make one for me?
Gene Weingarten: By gosh, you're ALL winners in my book!
But only three teams get prizes.
Bethesda, Md.: Ok, on the Tropic Hunt note, and unrelated to the Hunt. What is the worse name for a boy: Michael Hunt or Michael Hawk. Of course, both go by Mike. And yes, I have seen both names in a medium that I suspect is not faked, although I have not met the men in the flesh.
Dave Barry: So to speak.
Gene Weingarten: You know, being from New Yawk, I didn't even GET the second name. Hawk is even spelled like Yawk, why would you pronounce it Hock?
Lincoln Memorial, D.C.: If there was one thing that people should NOT bring to the Hunt, what would it be?
Dave Barry: A snowmobile.
Beach, Va.: So those of us not lucky enough to live in the D.C. metro area should just tune out for a couple weeks while you guys have all the fun, or will this be somehow entertaining for us as well?
Gene Weingarten: Tom, I'll leave this one for you. I don't like to deliver bad news. Tom will now answer this question.
Tom Shroder: Hey, there are tons of people coming up from South Florida for this, and at least one team I know of is flying in from Seattle, so it might be worth the trip. Otherwise, the web folks are fully documenting the event and putting up a video recounting as of Monday, so you can at least see what you missed.
Dave Barry: You can have every bit as much fun at home, with the right medications.
somewhere rural, USA: Can I bring my tractor to the mall for the hunt?
Tom Shroder: Do you have a previous history of confrontations with Secret Service personnel?
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.: Regarding this "hunt", will FEMA or any other agency need to be placed on standby during this activity?
Dave Barry: The entire Department of Commerce will be place on Red Alert.
Tom Shroder: It depends on whether the guy on the tractor shows up.
Arlington, Va.: Wait, are there really clues in the chat today?
Tom Shroder: That would be telling.
Washington, D.C.: Are the winners the first ones to be done or is it like a random drawing at the end for everyone that finished?
Gene Weingarten: Random? Nothing is random. This is a meritocracy.
The winners are the ones who figure out The Answer most quickly.
Dave Barry: There is also no need to refrigerate mustard, but I think most people know this.
Tom Shroder: Damn. Half my refrigerator is mustard. Wish you had told me this in 1986.
Pat the Perfect, ME: Well, they're no longer your classmates in that they're no longer sitting in the classroom with you, but they are indeed still your classmates in that you will always be a member of the Bronx Science Class of 19Whatever It Is.
Someone who worked at The Post some time ago thought that "erstwhile" meant distinguished. He went on to describe a sitting Supreme Court justice with this term of admiration.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, so I am wrong or right?
Gross: "Germantown, Md.: I heart you, Tom! -- throws virtual panties --
I find the editors notes in every single other magazine besides the Washington Post Magazine very boring, but your note is always insightful and fun to read. Thanks Tom!
Tom Shroder: Is that you, Mom?"
Um... dude... your mom flings her panties at you?
Gene Weingarten: Good question! Tom?
Gene Weingarten: Tom appears not to wish to answer this one.
Gene Weingarten: But I'm giving him more time before publishing it.
Tom Shroder: I meant Gene's mom.
Gene Weingarten: THERE ya go.
Ketchup: If I don't keep ketchup in the fridge with all the other condiments, my husband will never find it.
Dave Barry: Good! More ketchup for you!
Innocent, FL: Is there another website, other than the Post's, that has information on the Hunt? Or past Tropic/Herald Hunts? Perhaps run by an insane person?
Tom Shroder: OK Andy: Check out tropichunt.com
Kensington, Md.: All three at once. We feel for you out here in Chatland, Liz. I hope you have a stiff drink waiting at the end.
washingtonpost.com: Why wait? Turns out mojitos go very well with Amy's microwavable vegetarian meatloaf.
Tom Shroder: Great! We'll just make do in the meantime with this very helpful thermos of martinis.
Bristow, Va.: Tom, will the eight pages that were missing from the middle of my Post Sunday Magazine this last week be involved in the Post Hunt, either as a clue or a consolation prize? Or did Kelly give you a wet Willie back in elementary school, and this is how you pay him back?
Tom Shroder: Um, maybe that was a CLUE.Yeah, that's what it was.
Oba,MA: Which one of you would like to see Hillary wearing Daisy Dukes?
Dave Barry: Oh MAN.
Gene Weingarten: I don't even know what Daisy Dukes are, and I am appalled.
Tom Shroder: I would tell her in no uncertain terms to put up her Dukes.
Ketchup redux: You don't have to refrigerate honey either -- it's the oldest preservative known to man. They even put Alexander the Great's corpse in a barrel of honey to transport him for burial.
Dave Barry: And he tasted great!
Arlington, Va.: The guy modeling the "Value" Post Hunt T-shirt is wearing just a plain white tee. What sham are you trying to pull on us?
Tom Shroder: What do you expect for "value"? I bet you buy the "value" tooth paste that tastes like Elmers Glue All.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, we're done! Thank you all. I will be updating during the week. Everything Dave and Tom said about me is wrong.
Hope to see many of you at The Hunt.
Floating Garbage Bar, GE: Will I need to rent a helicopter?
Tom Shroder: Yes. But it won't help.
Toldeo, Ohio: According to press reports, Room 871 at Washington's Mayflower Hotel is no longer there. Will one of the tasks in the Hunt be to find it?
Tom Shroder: To answer a previous question, that's where you'll find Dick Cheney.
Alexandria, Va.: Gene (and Dave & Tom) -
My husband has two former coworkers who are thumbmasses. Once a month or so, one or the other will call him at home to 'touch base'. Often, because hubby works as a lobbyist (sorry), he will be out at an evening function/dinner/reception etc. The thumbasses (who don't know each other), upon hearing me say, "Oh, sorry Joe, he's not here right now, he's at XYZ function" they will each ALWAYS respond with a variant of, "Oh sure, that's what he tells you/wants you to think". The first time each did it, I had a polite half-laugh, and each time there after I've just paused icily and said, "um-hmm". But I want more. What response can I give that will moisten their shorts a little? A frantic, "what have you heard"? A breathless, "since that's what he's up to, want to come over get even with me?" Thoughts?
Gene Weingarten: Here's what you say:
Him: Yeah, that's what he tells YOU.
You: (long, awkward silence)
You: I didn't think you knew, too. We should discuss it, Ralph, because dammit, it's our business too.
You: Him and your wife....
Blacksburg, Va.: I attended "Pulp Fiction" on opening night, with a friend who I suspected had a big crush on me. We had no idea what this movie was about. I was 19.
My friend was blind, and so we would sit in an unoccupied area and I would whisper quietly what was going on when there was no dialogue. Unfortunately, this got increasingly uncomfortable as the movie went on -- especially with the butt-%@- and, most of all, The Gimp. I recall it as one of the most awkward moments of my life -- which, of course, makes it the funniest now.
Gene Weingarten: That's good. Could be a scene in a movie.
Washington, D.C.: All of this talk of no pants requires that I send this.
Gene Weingarten: This clip is funny, but it is afflicted with the terrible SNL disease of Not Knowing How to End a Skit.
Washington, D.C.: OMG Gene -- I just saw the Post Hunt video -- you are fat! And here you were claiming you just had large jowls! So now we also know you are a hypocrite.
Gene Weingarten: Okay, here's the deal. Come to The Hunt. Find me. Check me out. If you conclude I am, by your definition, "fat," tell me to my face, and I'll give you five bucks. This is an open invitation to everyone. I will trust your honesty.
I am somewhere between pudgy and somewhat overweight. Not "fat." I definitely have no muscle tone. But I'm not not "fat."
Arlington, Va.: My wife just e-mailed this to me. Can you confirm or deny that this is a recipe for success? "I think part of our strategy should include me eavesdropping and/or following other people. You can work on the clues."
Gene Weingarten: Tom will not like that I'm saying this, but it's not a bad strategy, so long as:
1) Your group is three or more. You want at least two people analyzing the puzzles together.
2) You are prepared to have other people dislike you for your nosiness.
3) At least one of your group is strong enough to make concrete and correct decisions about whether you or the eavesdropped-upon party is right.
I don't recommend it. But it's not completely stupid.
St. Paul, Minn.: The three of you are cordially invited to come to a REAL hunt. The St. Paul Pioneer Press sponsors a treasure hunt every year during the winter carnival. They hide a special medallion on public land somewhere in town and release one clue a day until it's found.
But bring your long johns and a flashlight -- the clues are released every day at midnight, so serious hunters are out in the parks every night, rooting around in the snow.
And as long as you're in town, you can come to the other Winter Carnival festivities. There's ice and snow sculpture competitions, dogsled races, various exhibits, and parades (though they do let the marching bands march without playing the brass and wind instruments if it gets down below about -15).
Gene Weingarten: Gee, it sounds like loads of fun! You find a medallion and everything! Dang! Please tell us how it turns out!
St Paul, Minn.: For the person "terrified" she will start an affair (your note didn't specify, but I'm assuming you're a she. If you're a he, you may have additional issues to worry about):
You need your spouse's help on this. It's OK to have a crush. That happens.
So, you go to your spouse and say, "Look, I have this terrible crush on someone, but I really, really don't want anything to happen. Can you just ask me, say once a month, if anything has happened? Knowing that you are going to ask me and I'm going to have to answer you will help me keep my priorities straight." Or whatever formulation works for you.
Trust me, this will work.
Gene Weingarten: I think this is a rather brilliant idea, but you know what? I don't think it's the answer this lady wanted to hear. Nor was the answer I gave.
Hey: Look at this!
Gene Weingarten: THIS IS GREAT. Can someone out there with better video-deception radar confirm this is real? I am thinking it is, and that the pants-holders are as important to the success as the pants-leapers.
For the updates: Gene man, I understand your article is satire, but equating spell checkers to padded cars for drunken drivers is like equating our fictional armed robbery candidate to Obama's cocaine use. Using your definition, drunken driving is morally bankrupt because there is a high potential to harm others, whereas poor spelling only makes YOU look like an idiot.
Can I get a noted?
Gene Weingarten: Noted, with an asterisk*
This is that subject that I never win on. I should just shut up about it, but...
I don't think driving under the influence is the equivalent of armed robbery, either. It's morally worse, clearly, than using coke in your own home. But until you cause damage to someone or someone's property, you are still essentially commiting a victimless crime. Yes, I know it is or can be highly irresponsible, I know it is increasing the risk that you will injure others. But it does not equate, remotely, with terrifying someone and taking his money.
I know I will hear, as I always do, from rightfully aggrieved persons who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver. I understand. But you have been victimized by a different crime: The person who drives under the influence and injures someone. There is a difference.
Different people have different driving skills under different levels of intoxication. I know a woman who will not drive if she has one beer. I respect that; she knows herself and how liquor affects her coordination. I also know a man who will safely drive others home after a party where everyone drank a lot, including him. He knows himself, too. Never got into an at-fault accident, probably never will.
If he is WRONG about himself, and does cause damage, then you've got to throw the book at him.
Durham, N.C.: "Georgia Law Bans Retailers From Selling 'Pot Candy' To Minors"
Senator Doug Stoner pushed the bill in the Senate. "I don't think that folks are aware this is going on," Stoner told Channel 2 in April. "It's mainly, from what I can tell, particularly targeted to minority communities."
Gene Weingarten: Six thousand people sent me this.
Long Beach, Calif.: "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President..."
So my kids aren't eligible, just because I had C-sections?
Gene Weingarten: You know, this is as badly worded as the Second Amendment. I think that second comma doesn't belong there. I need to ask Pat the Perfect, who is the world's leading expert on commas. I think this is trying to say that to be president, you have to be
1) a natural-born citizen, whatever that means, or
2) a citizen at the time of the adoption of this constitution.
As written, by my reading, this whole section seems to apply only to people who are alive at the time of the adoption of the constitution.
And yes, what is "natural-born"?
My Favorite Aptonym: Did you see this awesome aptonym?
Gene Weingarten: It's almost too easy, but yes, awesome.
Arab Women: don't use tampons, only pads. I learned this on a recent shopping trip to a supermarket in the country where I'm currently working. Can you please mail me a box of tampons?
Gene Weingarten: Sometimes I will have a thought, and then immediately squelch it for reasons of retaining my job and remaining in the company of decent people. This has just occurred. The thought I had, though, involved use of the word "rag."
Centreville, Va.: Not sure why..but after watching the Videocracy video, the only thing that came to mind once the metronomes were in sync, was the process of how women's cycles come into sync after living with each other for a bit of time. The constant ticking, giving way to that thought, gave me a cold feeling inside. That same one when you get home and they are ALL extreme in whatever emotion is present.
I just read some comments below the video... "BuddhaBob" has the same reaction.
Wonder what else Newton was trying to tell us about women.
Gene Weingarten: Isn't it interesting how similarly-themed Chatological Humor questions seem to clump together, like by magic?
Boston, Mass.: I am currently temping (read: got useless masters degree) and in my boredom have decided to read old Weingarten chats, which is why this comment is a few weeks dated. Regardless, I can't believe you put Jackson on your best Presidents list with no qualifiers. Um, ever heard of the trail of tears? His policy of "Indian Removal" was appalling and I would name him one of the worst presidents any day.
Gene Weingarten: Understood. But historians, who tend to view things against the tenor of the times, do not agree with you. He is generally viewed as the right bloodthirsty monster at the right time in our history, and overall, among the near-greats.
I hear ya. I did some research. One of the better polls of historians, done by CNN, ranks each president by a dozen categories, and Jackson is given great credit for being, basically, the first president who was not part of the anointed, aristocratic elite. He was a frontiersman, the first populist. He was the strongest political force in America in his era, and is ranked eight overall for "performance within the context of times," which is one of the key rankings. (He gets his crappiest rating on "pursued equal justice for all," which is why he is not ranked higher overall.
Here's the main good thing he did: At a time when it was absolutely critical, Jackson held fast to the notion of a strong federal government.
You know the worst thing he did. The second worst was appointing Roger Taney to the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty years later, Mr. Taney would give us Dred Scott.
Austin, Tex.: I know this is supposed to be a Hunt-themed chat, but this BBC headline from Thursday must be shared: "Great tits cope well with warming."
Gene Weingarten: Indeed.
Crossword Puzzles in Pen: The really good crossword puzzler works in ink. Erasures on newsprint leave muddy cruddy unreadable smudges. You work in ink, you put down only faintly the words you are unsure of, you press hard when correcting mistakes, etc.
Thank you so much for letting me know I'm not alone. This is exactly how I do a crossword. Plus, who uses pencils anyway, newsprint or not?
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think the people who are impressed by people who do crosswords in ink are people who don't do crosswords at all. They are the "word-find" puzzle enthusiasts.
I bet we do not have a single word-find puzzle enthusiast who reads this chat.
Aweso, ME: I came across a most stimulating analysis of comics -- the writer labels it as the five most unintentionally hilarious strips out there. Do you agree?
Gene Weingarten: I am not an aficionado of the serial strips, but this site makes its case quite nicely, especially the first two strips eviscerated.
Submit questions and comments to next week's regularly scheduled Chatological Humor discussion._______________________
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.