Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Oct 25, 2011

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.

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On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, 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.

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Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

Every time I mention my atheism, as I did in my column two weeks ago on my 60th birthday, I get a fair amount of email both scolding and applauding.


David Kessler wrote this:


"If theists can't understand something, they think it must be supernatural. I think if I can't understand something, it's just beyond my limitations as an individual or a human. A dog looks at a refrigerator. Doesn't smell like food; doesn't behave like prey. Companion opens fridge and out comes food. Must be God!  We're all dogs looking at refrigerators."


The dog-refrigerator hypothesis got me thinking more about my feelings, and I decided that in one matter, I have been disingenuous. I have written many times that I envy people of faith because they have a peace of mind that I do not. I believed that because it seemed logical. I should envy people of faith for that reason-- but with the dog and refrigerator model in my mind, I gave it more thought and decided I don't really envy them. Then I tried to consider WHY I don’t, and it led me to The Greatest Observation in The History of Philosophical Thought.  I decided to share it today. You are most welcome.

We humans like to think of ourselves as supremely rational beings, acting on principle and logic, in furtherance of our best interests and whatnot.   But the truth is that we are all little sacs of blind fear -- much of what we are about involves the things that lurk in our periphery of mind; in the uncertainties of life; the things we don’t know, and fret about.  John Locke wrote:  “What worries you, masters you.”   Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer prize with just such a thesis.


We worry about failure, and sickness, and poverty, and the loss of loved ones, and, of course, our own deaths.  That’s our elemental worry.  It nags at us existentially.  In fact, as Becker said, we all build our personalities to cope with that very fear, to tame it -- in large measure, to flatly deny it.    To the person of faith, it is surely a comfort to imagine an afterlife; it is surely part of the intricate scaffolding of denial he has built to help him cope with the thing that most terrifies him.  (Even if there IS an afterlife, it remains an unprovable assumption. So it is still something that is “imagined.”)   I, too, have a scaffolding of denial – we all do, but mine is not dependent on presumptions of mystery.  Mine is more dependent on distractions like intoxicants, and the irrational concern over the fortunes of the New York Yankees, and cynicism, and the unseemly pursuit of temporal recognition, fame and fortune and whatnot).


So we all wallpaper over our terrors, but it’s an imperfect bit of home improvement – there’s always that unsightly lump, that pulsing nugget of fear we cannot face, but that, in ways large and small, drives us to be who and what we are.  We do what we must do.   My hypothesis is that the more fervently religious the person, the greater his private terror of death. (Sometimes, the post-mortem papers of the famously devout confirm this – Mother Teresa was paralyzed with worry there was nothing out there.) 

In short – and this is really my point – deep down, Rick Perry is one scared, quaking, naked little gnome.


And that’s why I do not envy the religious, and why I envy even less the deeply religious.   I believe on that deepest level of awareness, the one that emerges in our fitful dreams or in the insomnia of our bleakest moments alone with ourselves, I believe I have greater peace of mind.   I expect only an end and while I fear it, I have come to terms with it.  If I have a faint suspicion somewhere that I am wrong – I have inventoried my consciousness and been unable to find such a thing, but it must lurk in there somewhere -- Wow!   Cool.


There is no “wow, cool” in the faint suspicions of the devout.  It has to haunt them.



Hope you all read this story today on the dog poop battle involving forensic DNA.  (Amazingly, the headline online was better than the one in the newspaper: "Public Enemy No. 2."    I side with the accused here because the suit seems to be a case of neighborhood bullying; when I said that to Tom the Butcher, he asked me if I always pick up after Murphy.   The answer is no.    I pick up after Murphy 99.9 percent of the time; the exception is when it is dark and she has chosen (as is her wont) to relieve herself in high grass or weeds, and I simply cannot find the ordure.     What I do in such cases is make an elaborate show of pickup.  What I pick up is a clod of dirt, to give the impression of heft and substance.   I do this precisely because of neighborhood bullying.  

Here is one of the simplest and most amazing optical illusions I have ever seen. The instructions are not clear enough: What you have to do is place a finger horizontally along the line dividing the two panels.

Please take today’s poll.   We need to discuss some of your preferences, some of which confound me.   I need to know why anyone other than a child wants the window seat in a plane; I cannot fathom why anyone would prefer a new home to old – have you ever noticed houses in construction?  What IS that material?  Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears to be cork.   Who prefers Mexican food to Japanese or French?  Are you an adolescent?  Have you no taste buds?

Okay, I'm done with my phony elitism.  But you still owe us some explanations.

Let's go.  We start at noon.

In today's poll (male) you made one omission from the questions about riding on the Metrorail. All four choices involved sitting, so I could not respond. In truth, I prefer standing for a number of reasons. The most compelling, however, is that I was raised during a time when men rose and offered their seat to a lady who did not have one. (Hey - I'm not that old. I'm about your age.) Unfortunately, these days many women take issue with such gestures. I don't want to insult anyone, so I prefer to just leave the sitting to others. Also, since I strongly prefer aisle seats for ease of egress, I would just as soon stand near the end of one car and make an exit easily. Admittedly, I don't take Metrorail as often as I used to, but I do have to take it occasionally during peak times. When cars are really, really empty, I'llgenerally prefer to face forward.

Yeah, several people chided me for omitting that answer.   There are apparently a lot of voluntary standers. 

My choice is facing inward.  I feel less constrained.  

In your update you wrote, "It is, I think, correct, and I am not embarrassed by it. But it is one I cannot state because it is judgmental in a way that would cause unnecessary pain to people who have done nothing wrong.)" So which is it? If you're correct, then you do believe the people you mention have done something wrong. If you're not correct, or you're not completely certain, you should be willing to share the item and have people called out for being wrong or open to having your mind changed.

Canny question.

This is about my Secret Opinion that dare not speak its name.

The people of whom I do not speak have done something that society believes is perfectly okay.   I contend it is morally wanting.   It is of such a nature that being told it is morally wanting would create both indignation and pain; plus, the people who have done this in good conscience are likely nice people.    I have no desire to cause them grief,  since they have violated no established norms -- just my own very subjective ones.  

I think I have said this before, but close friends of mine who have heard this opinion either agree with it, or disagree but acknowledge it to be a valid opinion.   But every single one of them counsels me to shut the hell up.    So, you know.  I will keep dangling it as a minor mystery, but that's it.  

There is someone who has now correctly guessed it several times  in consecutive chats, and whose guess I have not and will not publish.

I can't believe that the president of the Consumer Bankers Association is actually named Dick Hunt (anybody who doesn't get it: say it out loud a little fast, preferably in front of your grandmother).

My true answer is I don't care if it's aisle or window, but I have a bladder of steel, so I tend to take the window so as not to need to be crawled over if my seatmate needs to go. And you're absolutely right about new construction, it's made of crap...though not cork. Old construction also tended to be built with storage in mind. Smaller rooms, but more closets. Smaller kitchens, huge butler's pantries.

More closets?  Not in my experience.   My house (built 1885) is almost closet free.   The only drawback.  You improvise.

Those of you very familiar with this chat know my devotion to the double dactyl, a disreputable form of doggerel also known as the Higgledy Piggledy.     It must adhere to a very strict set of rules, to wit: 

1.  The first line must be nonsense syllables in double dactyl form (typically, "Higgledy Piggledy")

2.  All lines except the two that rhyme must be two dactyls, meaning DUM-da-da, DUM-da-da.

3 The rhyming lines go DUM-da-da-DUM.

4. The second line must be the name of a person.

5. One line in the second stanza needs to be a single double-dactylic word, as in "Gubernatorial."    (GU-ber-na-TOR-ee-al.)

Very hard.   Very stupid.  I write a lot of double dactyls.  My propensity for them is noted in many places, including Wiki.   I am immodest about my facility for double dactyls.

My good friend David Von Drehle, however, disdains double dactyls, and rightly so.  They are trash.  David  is more of a sonnet guy.  He is, among other things, an expert on T.S. Eliot.

So, a bunch of my friends (TtheB, Achenbach, Gibson, Manteuffel, PtheP, and spouses and such) all met for dinner recently to commemorate my 60th birthday.   I got some fabulous gag presents, one of which I will photograph for the next update.   Missing was Von Drehle, who, living west of the Mississippi, could not come.    Instead, he sent a double dactyl of his own creation.

It was, I am certain, the only double dactyl he has ever written.  It is also a better double dactyl than I have ever written.  David is like that.    I am going to print it here.  It is obviously better than merely good.   But can you see the thing he did that adds depth and elevates it to greatness?  It's subtle.   First correct guess gets a copy of "The Fiddler in the Subway."  I predict no one will see it.   If not, I'll tell you at the end.

Here it is:

Pulitzer, Pulitzer
Famous Gene Weingarten,
Have a great birthday and
Don’t be perplexed;

Just tell yourself there’s still
Lead in your pencil and
Means oversexed.

I asked about whether to defriend my friend on facebook who had been a good friend in college, but who now was very active with a Pregnancy Crisis Center and posted the center's info frequently on her wall. I took no action until Friday, when she posted at least three "news" stories from pro-life sources about how Planned Parenthood doesn't get informed consent for abortions and how they are "saving" women from that, and two other stories from completely biased news sources. So I wrote her a note saying that I was her friend on FB to be her friend and hear about her kids, not to receive propaganda for a cause I do not support. I told her I wished her well personally, but that I was removing her from my friends list on facebook. she sent me a nice note saying that she would not apologize for her beliefs, that she respected my right to my beliefs, and that she would miss "seeing" me on facebook. Now I feel kind of like I trampled on free speech in my own way and like I'm a jerk... ugh.

I think both of you acted honorably. 

I agree with Gene, but in the future you can always hide a friend's status updates if you do not wish to see them in your feed anymore.  No unfriending involved, right?

A fair amount of Internet buzz last week on a couple married 72 years who died holding hands.  However, they died as a result of a car accident where the very elderly husband, whose drivers license was in the process of being taken away, pulled out in traffic and severely injured the couple in the other car. For some observers, that totally negated the romance of the story, knowing that suffering was inflicted on the innocent passengers in the other car. From your prosaic point of view, should the story really have been about how to keep aged drivers from getting behind the wheel?

Uh.  No.

You read a story containing this fact:  His heart had stopped but the machine still showed a hearbeat, because they were holding hands and her heart was beating through him.

... And you wonder if it should have been a story about people too old to drive?

It was an accident.   I don't know that it could have happened to anyone, but I also don't know that it couldn't.  


Is it that you don't think being childless is a legitimate choice, that people without children are selfish and/or shallow? You've made a few comments over the years that make me suspect you might have this opinion... And you might be worried voicing it would hurt those who are infertile. If I'm right, please use the word "hedgehog" in the next chat.

Not in the least.   I think childlessness is a perfectly valid, moral choice.   Plus,  some people SHOULDN'T  have children, and if they know it, they are specifically making the moral choice.

Gene - I was pleased to see you still think Casey at the Bat holds up, as I feel the same. I'm wondering, though, if you feel as I do - that but for one word, it might be perfect (poetically, not in matters horsehide). The last time I read it, and came across the line "And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air," I felt that using "now" instead of "then" there takes some of the impact of the later switch in tense at the end of the poem, which is done so well. Your thoughts?

You are referring to this column, in which I rewrote the last verse to modernize it.

I have no problem with the line you mention.   I find the poem flawless, and if you have any doubt, just read the opening lines:

    The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day;
    The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
    And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
    A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
"Sickly silence" is just gorgeous. 

 I should mention that a few readers wrote in to contest my Moneyball solution, wherein Casey is given an intentional walk.    These readers contend it is unwise to walk the potential winning run.   And while this is true, it CLEARLY  would have been justified in this case, since the batter following case was the pathetic Ambrose Plushbotham, whose OBP was a paltry .305 and who couldn't hit with runners in scoring position if his life depended on it.  

Gene, I go to a church where questioning the existence of God is okay. I believe there are some things we are never going to know, and I see church as a place to gather with people who realize we're all in the same boat, and the best thing we can do during our time spent on Earth is to be kind to each other. You seem to find the idea that physical death is The End as comforting as those who believe in Heaven, find that comforting. I think, no matter what we believe/don't believe, longing for certainty is part of the human condition--but so is making peace with the uncertainty. The people who scare me are the ones who fashion a creator for themselves in their own image, and see that god as an excuse to bash people over the head. I avoid such people. Churches aren't necessarily full of them, or full of it, though. The truth is, we just don't know what the truth is. And that's okay.

Yours is, paradoxically, my kind of church.

Gene, in response to the poll question about sitting close to the steering wheel--I am the short person who wrote in about not being able to see at the Dolly Parton contest (remember, I said they made me sit on a phone book in drivers ed). I drive a stick shift car and have to sit very close to the steering wheel so I can press the clutch all the way to the floor. This makes me nervous if the airbag were to deploy. I love driving a stick, but I wonder, for safety reasons, if my next car should be an automatic. What do you think?

You know what I think.   You are a hottie.  You drive a stick shift.  

My wife is a shorty (5' 3") with a stick shift, drives hugging the steering wheel, and once got into an accident where the airbag deployed.   She was fine.

Loved that you included the sheet question in the poll! I was one of the small minority of women who preferred sleeping on a sheet instead of between two sheets, and I feel STRONGLY about this! It starts with the fact that I hate having whatever I'm sleeping under tucked in. If I can't kick out my legs, I feel claustrophobic. Because it' not tucked in, I usually pull the cover around myself throughout the night, depending on how hot I get, to have various parts of my body exposed/not exposed. I find that if I have more than one cover, I get tangled up in them and thus get claustrophobic again. So my happy sleeping arrangement now is to just sleep under a comforter and that's it. I always got pissed off at my college roommates when they would sleep under three or four blankets, complain about how hot it was and then run a fan in the freezing temperatures of a Chicago winter!

Even in a cold room in the dead of winter, I will kick my feet out from under the sheets/covers.

... is it that girls with teen pregnancies should be encouraged to get an abortion, because giving birth to a baby will ruin their lives, drain society of resources, and cause an innocent kid to be brought up by a mother who never finished school and most probably no father at all? And you are ashamed of it because these girls have every right to carry the fetus to term if they want to? Because I hold this opinion. I think that it's a human right not to get an abortion if you don't want one, but I think that these teen girls are better off getting an abortion than ruining their own lives and the lives of their families, and burdening society, by having a baby that they can't take care of properly.

Not my secret opinion.   Not my unsecret opinion, either.    I think girls with teen pregnancies should not be encouraged one way or the other -- which means I don't think we should be doing what we are doing now, making young women feel they are doing something awful by having an abortion, or that having the child and giving it up for adoption is the more moral thing to do.   In that sense, I suspect I am a radical on this issue.    But I also don't think they should be encouraged to abort: Everyone is different, every situation is different, and the "right thing to do" can be a different thing, with different people.

Had my daughter gotten pregnant as a teen, I would have made sure she understood, first, that I would not judge her for whatever her decision was; second, that she understood the consequences of each of her three painful decisions, and decide which was best for her.   She'd know she'd have had support whatever she chose.

If she asked me what I would have done, if it were very early in the pregnancy, and the pregnancy was accidental and unwanted, I would probably have advised an abortion.   But that's just me, and her.   


Your update is a good opportunity for me to share my Unified Theory of the Religious Right. Basically, they are not concerned with life, but with souls. This is clearest in the HPV vaccine debate, where they are willing to let girls die to preserve an argument against premarital sex. Imagine 100 women- if 98 of them have premarital sex (some studies have said this is the national average), let's say 20 of them will get HPV and 3 may die...but 2 will have pure souls at marriage. Innoculate them all, and you may have 0 with HPV but 1 of the 2 may decide it's ok to sin before marriage. To them this is a bad trade. This explains their support of the death penalty and opposition to gay rights as well- treat sinners as having no rights in the hopes of stopping at least one from going down that road. My problem with this (as a liberal Christian) is that it basically assumes a "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" scenario where souls are forfeit upon the first sin, which is completely inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Himself. They also assume that every junction of sperm and egg immediately has a soul, although none of them can explain why between 30 and 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, wasting an untold number of assumed souls. Try asking one of them what happens when an embryo splits into twins

I agree with you profoundly, on all of this.   I have a column coming up that deals with all this specifically.   But you said it better.

The other day I noticed I had tracked in dog poop on my shoe. I went outside and sure enough there was a pile of it in the grass next to our parked car. I was not amused by your description of your pantomime "because of neighborhood bullying." Why would it be "bullying" if you did not pick it up? Seriously!

You have to read the story.   I do not think it is bullying to insist that people pick up from their dogs.  People should pick up from their dogs.    But the facts of this case do not persuade me of the woman's guilt. 

Is it because he rhymed 'still' and 'pencil'?

Uh, no.  Much more complicated.

New houses are better. For me, a house is just the place I have my stuff and the neighborhood the house is in. A new house is better on a practical level. Costly repairs are likely further down the road in a new house vs. an old house. It's just that simple. I realize people may prefer the designs of new houses or older houses, just as they prefer modern vs. antique furniture. But I just don't care that much. I only care about avoiding repairs. New houses win.

Interesting.   You feel about houses the way I feel about cars.  Styling means nothing to me: I want a repair-free car.

I am not sure new guarantees repair-free, with a house, though.   Or that old implies trouble.   I've been in my house ten years, with no serious problem.

But I do get your point, intellectually.   I just want a house to breathe history, and to be eccentric.   I don't like the idea of buying a Series 5, Model C from Mr. Megabuilder company.

Can I have a hug?

Yes.  He was a beast, and you deserve better. 

isn't cork, it's oriented strandboard - otherwise known as plywood made out of wood chips instead of sheets of actual wood. But yeah, 99% of new construction is crap.

Exactly my point.   Your house is made of wood chips.

Wow, I was literally typing out the words "bladder of steel" when the previous entry appeared. Face it, Weingarten, you just don't have the urinary fortitude to handle this red-eye-flight paradise of peaceful slumber.

I admit it! In fact, the main reason I hate window seats is having to bother the other rider.  

Is it that Von Drehle referenced your two pulitzers and, putting them in the place for nonsense syllables, pooh-poohed them?

Yes, good for you.    The lines imply the Pulitzers are "nonsense," which, as I have said on numerous occasions, they can be.   They are crapshoots.   If you win one, you are entitled to feel lucky, but you should not feel validated.  

Please submit your name and address to me at

In the past you have talked about ridiculous names people give their children. Well, my sister has named her twin daughters Victoria Ann and Victoria Anne. One will be known as Vicki, the other as Tori. I know there's nothing anyone can do about this, but I can't dwell on it too often or my blood pressure goes through the roof.



I was reading your post on why you're pro-choice, and I have an interesting conundrum. I'm anti-death penalty and pro-choice. I'm anti-death penalty in part because I do not trust the justice system. I firmly believe that innocent people have been put to death, and there is always the faintest possibility that an innocent person could be executed no matter how much the judicial system may be improved. One of the big arguments around abortion is when the fetus is its own person. Like you I believe that the cutoff mark is near the end of the first trimester....But there is always the possibility that sentience may occur sooner. And so long as I don't REALLY know when it happens then I need to close my eyes and ears and keep whistling to myself so I can ignore settling this issue in my own head. Your thoughts?

They're exactly what yours are.   But I don't really have any suspicion that sentience occurs in the first trimester.   Newborns barely know they are alive.   

I thought you might be interested to know that a certain blue-eyed crooner shared your strong opinion on the subject, as explained in this Letter of Note.

This is considerably more literate than I would have expected.  I always imagined Sinatra as a thug.  He knows how to use words.

I live in an apartment building, and I sometimes sleep partially clothed for a reason Alex Trabek learned too late. One never knows when they may be a break in, or a fire, and it is better to be seen running down the hall clothed than naked.

Alex Trebek ran down a hall naked?   Please explain.

I get it, old homes have old charm. You are a person that likes old charm. I have a big family and don't want to miss out on being with them so I like a home that has an open floor plan with a kitchen leading into a great room instead of a closed kitchen with a separate formal dining room (this set up is not often available in old homes), with large closets (again, not common in old homes) is wired for cable, wireless internet etc. and has up to code wiring and central A/C & heat. Not to mention that with a large family, I need more than 2 1/2 bathrooms or else someone could end up peeing on my plants. Yes, there is less character but lots more functionality for how people live today.

Understood.   But I see these two qualities: "character" and "functionality" and one term beckons me warmly, like a siren.   The other beckons me cold and businesslike,  like a cell phone salesman

Your secret opinion is that stupid people should not be allowed to vote. There should be a minimum IQ or some other such measure to determine eligibility.

Wow!  I kind of like that one, but it would be impossible to enforce fairly, and would be open to cynical manipulation based on prejudice.  

As it stands, the mentally retarded can vote, and the illiterate can vote.  It's the only way to have it.

Hey, smart people have screwed up a lot of elections. 

Gene, you've jokingly referred to the entertainment value of comments on the Post and other websites in the past, but I wonder what your real thoughts are on the state of user comments, and whether they reflect any larger limitations regarding news-gathering and the internet.

I am in favor of comments -- unrestricted comments, but with policing for vileness.   I always read comments to anything I've written, and if I think it can be helpful, I'll pipe in right to the thread.

I see that Post writers are being encouraged to do that, now. 

And the "glue" is the strongest part of thse wood chip walls. They can be good enough to last as long as you will last - or longer. Depends on what they make them with.

B-but people.  We are talking about wood-chip walls!

I know I'm poking at someone who's trying to be religiously open-minded but..."I believe there are some things we are never going to know?" Why? Doesn't that presume the supernatural? I believe that there is nothing that humans are not at least capable of knowing or explaining with science. To come to the argument with "there are things we'll never know" is already choosing a side.

I think there are indisputably things we will not know in our lifetimes.  

I also think that there is absolutely nothing that could be proven that will persuade most people there is no deity.  Whereas there are things that could happen that would absolutely prove there is a deity.   For some reason, that second thing has never happened. 

"whose guess I have not and will not publish" = whose guess I have not published and will not publish.


I can't find the poll!

Producer to the rescue!

During the chat, you can find the polls at the bottom of the page.  After the chat ends, the polls (which are attached to the "About this chat" section) will return to the top of the page.

Not always. Costly repairs could be avoided if your old house had recent upgrades before you bought it. With an old house, you know how it performs in a flood. And best yet, with an old house, you know the walls aren't built out of CARDBOARD, Jesus Christ you might as well pay half a mil to live in a box in the alley. Also, old houses just look better. There, I said it--new houses are fug. They're just fugly. And they don't use space efficiently, and the rooms are way too big which means they're often very costly to heat or cool.

You: you.

Me: Choir.

Can you believe that last night's possibly pivotal World Series Game 5 may have turned on the Cardinals bullpen getting the wrong people warmed up? Watching it was bizarre, why did LaRussa bring in a guy to intentionally walk someone then be replaced? And why did he leave in his situational lefty against the hottest right handed hitter the Rangers had, in the 8th inning? He changes pitchers 4 times an inning! And now we hear that he says he told them to get Motte up but first they didn't hear it and then they though he said Lynn. Motte...Lynn... Do those even sound remotely alike? Gotta love baseball, so superior to the brute force of football!

It sounds like spectacular mismanagement by LaRussa.  I am not sure I believe his explanation.

Link. Wasn't naked, as far as I can tell, but the poster's point is that I guess you never know what crazy person might end up in your room. You could also argue that you shouldn't sleep in the buff in case the fire alarm goes off and you have to run outside. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Thank you.

I remember waiting to be born.

No, you don't.  

Our brains don't have the capacity to remember anything until about a year and a half, I believe, or even later.   The memory portion of the brain has not formed.

I think you're confusing new construction with crap construction. If you hire a great architect (not a "home planner" like many large builders use) and track materials and process, you'll get a good new house. And it can exude history if you site it correctly and use reclaimed materials. The only reason old houses appear to have better construction is because we only see the survivors. Old houses that were built like crap have fallen down already. Old construction wasn't necessarily better, we just only see the best examples of it.

Your second point is interesting.  Makes sense.

This article about new Canadian laws regarding marijuana trafficking contains an epic aptonym, possibly worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Fabulous!  Epic, indeed.   You need to get halfway throught the story.

Adding to the joy of this is that it is such a weird name.

Indy car driver Dan Wheldon died in a crash over the weekend, and news of Steve Jobs death is still current. An online message board at work was filled with dozens of coworker postings on their grief and sorrow about these tragedies. Personally, I can't find any emotion on this. Politician, movie star, pro athlete, industry pioneer, musician. They're all just strangers to me, I have no personal knowledge of or direct interaction with any of them. And when something terrible happens, I can't understand the pain that so many others seem to feel. Deaths that were personal and meaningful to me have had deep and lasting influences on my life, but outside of family and friends, I may take a moment to reflect, but then I'm ready to move on. Am I a bad person?

You lack a certain type of empathy.   Do you think you would have grieved for Lincoln in 1864? 

People prove themselves worthy or unworthy of respect.  Some make differences in our lives.   This was what I wrote on Twitter one minute after hearing of the death of Jobs:

Just read the news, stood up, & for the 35th time, my breakaway Mac powercord did its job, saved the computer. Thanx, Steve.

I couldn't find anything in the archives suggesting you've already covered this topic. Can you give your opinion on the humor value of The Three Stooges? I (a hot 30 year old female) can't stand The Stooges while my husband (who I love) and his father (who I don't) love it. They nearly asphyxiate while watching and laughing they can't snack or they may choke and die. Does it boil down to me needing to read "I'm with Stupid?" Am I missing a huge chunk of worthwhile humor? Can I learn to like it? Should I?

Famously, love for The Stooges is a test of gender said to be nearly 100 percent accurate.  I flunk.  I never found them remotely funny.  I don't even get why SOME people found them funny.  Can someone explain the joke to me?

the proper pronunciation of the prize and a veiled reference to your, ahem, private life.

We already have a winner, folks.

Gene, whatever happened with the 40-something woman in search of a good mate?

WE NEVER GOT A SINGLE SERIOUS APPLICATION.  I was shocked.  Maybe she's right that there's no one out there.

So I know you have an unpalatable opinion of your own, and while I'm not going to try to guess what it is, I was wondering if you could help me figure out how to feel about mine. Quite simply, I think that people should be allowed to decide their life isn't worth living and choose to die. Sure, lots of people believe this in the case of the elderly dying from cancer, but I take if farther - I really believe that some people just aren't up to living for whatever reason, and they should be allowed to die. I'm quite confident that I wouldn't want to live as a quadriplegic for example, despite the fact others successfully and gracefully do, so I don't think that I should be forced to live that way. I guess I even extend this into mental disorders and depression; if you don't want to live, so be it. How horrible of a person am I? Must this never be uttered again?

Uh.   I feel exactly as you do.   We have every right to take our own lives.   Period.  I do not think this is a particularly radical position.

When the mother of a close friend of mine committed suicide some many years ago -- she was just tired of living, and depressed -- the first thing he said at her eulogy was "She had the right."   He was in a church, and basically was setting the record straight.  In case anyone had any questions.   Which no one did.

Could you please fill us in on your stance on the split infinitive? Personally, I think the rule against splitting infinitives, at least as a blanket rule, is outdated and in many cases results in clunkier sentences. Do you strictly adhere to this rule or, like me, do you see it as one that is best bent on occasion?

I tend to frequently split infinitives. 


The other night, I was at a large corporate event at a local hotel. When I went to get my car after the event, the valet service could not find my key. Their best guess is that the guy parking my car put the key in his pocket after he parked my car and forgot to store it properly before getting the next car. They assume the key then fell out of his pocket in someone else's car, though as of now (2 days later), no one has called the hotel after finding my keys in their car. Ultimately, the hotel paid for a cab to take me to my house to get the spare key and return to the hotel to retrieve my car. They have since promised to replace my key chain, though when I first mentioned this, they asked if i had a receipt for it to prove its value (as if!). They will also pay the bill to replace my car key and the remote entry clicker that was also on that key chain. The total cost for the cab, key chain and key/remote will be nearly $500. Here's my question. Do they "owe" me something for my time wasted on this whole thing? That time includes getting home 2 hours later than expected the night of the event because of the time lost looking for my key and the round trip cab ride. It will also include the time I'll eventually need to take off from work to go to the car dealership to replace my key and remote. The dealership needs my car there to program the remote. I have been dealing with the hotel general manager on resolving the various issues related to this event, and in all of my conversations, he has yet to suggest the hotel will compensate me in any way for my time, i.e. a gift certificate to the hotel, etc. My question is - does the hotel "owe" me anything for my time? Or is that an expectation I have because of the intolerant nature of the world we live in today where people sue each other for all kinds of things and cannot accept that things happen? I guess if I am even asking the question, I must know the answer is to accept that they are paying quite a bit of money to fix the mistake and that's enough. But I guess my feelings are clouded because they handled the whole thing so poorly. Not one person on staff that night ever felt the need to apologize. They were so busy trying to figure out how this happened, that they literally never said I'm sorry. What do you think?

I understand your peeve but I think you should be grateful they are ponying up as much as they are.    They are clearly in the wrong but could have behaved far more badly.   I think a smarter establishment would have comped you to something.   But life is pretty short, you know?

I'm a Mormon, and I very much appreciate your defense of my faith. On days when other people term my religion a cult, I wonder exactly where they draw the line in their beliefs--it seems irrational to me that a person can believe in visions, miracles, resurrection, prophets, and all manner of weird supernatural stuff and yet consider my beliefs along the exact same lines all fringe-y and cult-y. Seriously? Burning bushes and tablets written by the finger of God, but not a boy in NY and some gold plates? I was a missionary for a year and a half in Japan and I've got no problem with people believing all kinds of things. Don't believe in God (one or many or any)? Sure, I can see how you might get there. Aren't sure? yep, I get that. Want to dance around trees and whip each other with strips of wolf pelts, ok. I think my way works best, and if you want to know what I think, I'm happy to talk about it, but if your way's working for you, then I'm just going to be over here minding my own business.

Amen, as it were.

I'll say it for you: People who "love kids" so much that they spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, surrogacy, or other, ah, non-sexy ways to get pregnant must not love kids all that much if they're not willing to adopt. Or, one step further: Adoption is the only "ethical" way to become a parent. (In the same sense as farming or clothes manufacturing can be "ethical.")

I sort of believe that first part, but not so judgmentally.  I don't see adoption as a second-best option.    A friend of mine once thanked me for having treated news of his adoption of a child as joyfully as if it had been a birth.  I was sort of flabbergasted.    It never occurred to me it was a lesser event.  

Why do people say this? I don't have any children and only want one child. ONE. My husband and I have spent time with my niece alone and with her and a nephew and have realized from that experience that we are not interested in raising two children. Also, my resources/energy/time will go farther with only one child to expend them on. I know people say onlies are lonely but there is no guarantee that siblings will be besties. My brother and I haven't talked in years. I know you and your wife opted for two children, but what do you think about this "selfish" label for one and done folks?

I've never heard anyone call it selfish.  I don't see why it is.

This is an awkward thing to say, and macabre, and ghoulish, but it is true: My main reason for wanting two kids is in case one died.   I know others who feel this way.


I can't believe I never thought of this myself; the perfection of this idea is unbelievable. Also, as long as I'm writing, love the chats. Signed, 35 yo woman.

Yes, thank you.    Alas I think the  publication of my application letter assures it will never be considered.  

Whoever named these kids should be shot (I don't mean that as hyperbole at all. Not killed, just kneecapped and forced to live with the impairment).

This story is completely appalling.   It has within it some amazing facts:  Doctors are not allowed to tell people in India the sex of the fetus, lest girls be aborted at horrific rates.   One reason girls are so disrespected is that families often go into hock to marry off the child -- to pay for their dowries.

There is something fundamentally seriously unsound in a society that so undervalues females.   Sorry.

Gene, please help. Was there ever a time when The Rib approached you regarding your eating habits? If so, how did she do it? Well, my sweetheart is starting to worry me with his eating habits. When he gained a bunch of weight two years ago (not a medical issue, he just started eating regular meals instead of skipping meals all the time) I thought it was good. Then I thought, oh he's a little chunky but he's still cute. Now, I am concerned because his appetite seems to be increasing and he eats all sorts of crap - brownies, loves that fat on the steak, etc. I don't want to say anything to hurt his feelings but he has the attitude that it doesn't matter if he's fat and he can eat all the food he wants because he wants to. Well, he isn't getting any younger and a heart attack is probably around the corner with this eating and his smoking habits. Do I just bite my tongue and let him enjoy everything? Attempts to cook healthier don't really help much. I feel like a jerk even thinking this so that's why I figured I'd expose myself to you.

Why do you feel like a jerk?  This is a very valid concern, regarding health.   Not to mention that (I assume) he is becoming less attractive to you. 

I think, as I have said in the past to much complaint, that within reason, people have an obligation to remain attractive to their significant others.

You HAVE to address it if you value the relationship.  You address it gently and lovingly, but directly.    You could even show him this discussion.

Anyone want to place bets on how long it takes the Post to realize that moving the location of the poll around based on whether a chat is live or not is really, really stupid?

Oh trust me, we're well aware of the discussion about the placement of our polls.  From what I understand, the reasoning for having the "About this chat" section move down the page when a chat is live is as follows:

Many people join the live chats after they have already started, and they skip down to the most recent Q&A (at the bottom).  "About this chat" section was made to move down the chat so that those readers could read the most recent Q&A and have some context about what the chat is about. 

Unfortuantely, this causes problems with the chatters who don't automatically skip to the bottom, and those chatters have let us know.

Yes, no closets because they used armoires to hang clothes. Bathrooms are teeny tiny, too, which is to me the only drawback. I love old houses.

Assuming you have some cash left over after buying the house, you can fix such things.  We increased the size of the master bathroom.  It is no longer the size of a closet.  It is now the size of a closet and a half.  

In one room, the closet is a foot and a half off the floor.

All of the bedroom doors have glass transoms.   For some reason. 

Most of the ceilings are ten feet high.  But some are barely seven feet.

I love this house.

I enjoyed the dog/refrigerator analogy. Have you heard/read Foxworthy's take?  Very funny.

For some reason, youtube is not giving me access to their vids today.  I will trust you on this.

Shouldn't that read, "You: Preacher. Me: Choir."?

Yes, it should.

Me, I would have grieved for Lincoln in 1865. 1864 seems a bit premature.


Wait! I sent in a serious application. It is not that I am serious, I write jokes all the time. Yet, I am a widower, in my fifties, and willing to try to show that there are a few good men left.

I did not see this!  Please resend. 

I'm debating to have one or both of mine done in late Spring. Have heard good stories and bad stories about doing both at the same time. You've had lots of time to heal and adjust, so have you changed your mind about the benefits of taking all of your pain at once, or would you spread it out if you have to go through it again? Many thanks!

I would probably do one at a time.  I am a pretty strong person, emotionally, and I had a moment, on about day three, when I was so frustrated I almost ripped my IV out.  What saved me was the sudden realization that "crazy" is pretty much defined by "people who rip their IV out. 

Also, I'd get a different surgeon.  This hasn't worked out all that well.

I have the simplest solution for fixing the quote on the memorial. It wouldn't take much work, and it wouldn't really throw the aesthetics off too much. How about changing the word "I" to the word "he"? It doesn't seem like that would be too difficult...would solve the problem about it being a "quote," and would embrace the actual meaning of his words much more profoundly.

I don't think so.   Absent context "drum major" sounds very odd.   What the heck does it mean?     I would opt for a completely different quote there.  


I said I preferred the window seat on a plane, but this has very little to do with caring to see outside -- I like for the wall of the plane to be there to rest my head against when I almost inevitably conk out, both for comfort and to hide my face so that I don't look like one of those awkward people lying back in the middle of the row and snoring with their mouth open. This is probably a strange thing to be self conscious about.

Hm.  I wonder if this could explain the otherwise inexplicable popularity of the window seat.   Is this it?  The WALL?

You have those because that's the way old houses were built--so you could have a cross breeze flow through the house in the hot months, but still close the door. (Life pre-central air, you know)

Makes sense.

You make your point well, Mr. or Ms. Mormon, but there's one thing you forgot -- which is one reason Mormonism makes some people uncomfortable: you aren't "minding your own business" when you do proselytizing missionary work, in Japan or wherever. Stop showing up at my door with literature and I'll feel a lot more kindly disposed toward your version of reality.

I don't mind a polite person at my door who will take no for an answer.   Happens a lot in my nabe.   Extremely well dressed people.  When I explain why they REALLY have the wrong house, I do it with a laugh.    And they'll laugh, too.

It's the taking no for an answer that's important.

I'm a little uncomfortable with all the gushing over Steve Jobs - I own several Apple products, and will probably buy more, but the features and products I like weren't invented by Steve Jobs. I suppose you could make the argument that he fostered the environment that made them possible, but from what I've heard, he was a complete jerk - everything was his way or the highway, to the point that he got fired from his own company. He firmly believed that the rules didn't apply to him, and while that seems to have worked for him and Apple, I really resent it when people like that are lauded, because for every Steve Jobs, there are tons of OJ Simpsons.

The day after Jobs' death I noted on Twitter that there seem to have been a lot of media BJ's.   Hahahahhahaha.  Ha. Ha.

We'll end on this.  Thank you all.  See you in the updates.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

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