Petri Dishes: Here! Here!

Oct 06, 2020

Good morning! I erroneously thought this chat was off because of a new software I do not fully understand, but it isn’t! Better late than never? Hello hello! 

Alexandra, O Alexandra, wherefore art thou, Alexandra?

well, that’s a deeper question

It’s taken me 35 years to “suddenly” realize this, but in Back to the Future it makes no sense that the images of Marty and his sibs in the photo would fade away instead of the photo itself fading away or dissolving. It's very unlikely the photo would even exist without them - someone would have to take a photo of just a well or gazebo or whatever it is they’re standing in front of. And even if they did, there’s no way Marty would come into possession of the photo if he was never born. Hence the photo itself should be fading or disintegrating, not the images on it. Discuss.

I like the idea that one of the constraints of time travel is that “all photos that are taken in the timeline before, shall be taken in the timeline after.” So if there’s a wedding that doesn’t occur say, a photographer just shows up at a gazebo and takes hundreds of pictures for no reason. 

Just curious, how many chatters successfully navigated the newly revised WaPo website and arrived here today? I spend about half an hour searching and stumbled onto a link by chance.

Whatever that number is, subtract one for me! You are truly intrepid! 

But the WaPo is making it very, very difficult to find an active link to your Live Chat.

We are working on it! Let’s all think good thoughts to steer the course of the chat in a positive direction. 

Dear Alexandra, What is your fondest memory of an Obama administration scandal? Remember "Tan Suit-gate". So un-presidential, we were told! What about "He's just reading off the teleprompter!" Or "Saluting the Marine Corps Honor Guard while holding a cup of coffee!" So disrespectful, back then. I miss them so....

One I remember is when he referred to someone as a “Corpse man.” I used to get a lot of irate comments about that. 

I don't believe that this is really Alexandra Petri here today. I think that she's being faked with a green screen, whatever that is.

I should have set up a series of phrases in advance with the regular chatters so that you would be able to know if I had been replaced. Some innocuous-sounding phrase that I would never say! “I showed up to this chat thirty minutes early by mistake” or “I hate Fall.”

I have finally arrived at your Live Chat while it was still live! Two weeks back, I just missed the cutoff - and I was singing your praises in response to some cretan who disrespected your columns. And now, I find myself with nothing to say other than thank you for bringing light to these dark times.

I’m just excited any time anyone finds the chat! And also, thank you! 

To talk about pumpkin spice comments.

I’m ready for that. What are we discussing, exactly? 

This week reminded me of a Petri chat back in May when I admitted to misspelling asymptomatic as asymptotic. We all laughed at how it could be worked into a fun safety campaign slogan about staying 6 feet away from each other. We were there first with the Math jokes! Those were the days. Now we have Dr. Jackson misusing it to describe the President's symptoms. I guess it is true the President never seems to reach a limit?

I don’t understand why people find clicking on Live Chats and clicking on Petri Dishes so difficult. I’m a grouchy elderly woman and I never have a problem getting to the chat. There are so many, many other things, mostly orange, which are difficult.

Oh no, sorry to hear your gourds are posing challenges! 

Blech. Just blech.

Well if you’re eating it by itself instead of putting it on things, then, yeah! 

All I have to do is take my personal helicopter to go to a nearby socialized medicine provider (aka military medical treatment facility). What a load off of my mind!

Don’t let it dominate your life!

Well, if the chat hosts can't get to the chats what chance do poor mortals have?

This is in my favorites...

Someone posted "I was singing your praises in response to some cretan who disrespected your columns." I'm wondering if that person was referring to a resident of a particular Greek island, in which case "Cretan" should be capitalized. But I don't think that's the case. My nimble brain thinks maybe they meant "cretin."

Yes, as another chatter joked, the Minotaur was being extremely rude! 

I assumed that you'd had enough news and had gone on vacation. Perhaps a nice stroll along a leaf strewn avenue with cup of hot chocolate with the perfect amount of whip cream.

That sounds lovely! And don’t overlook cider for hot cocoa — cocoa will be with us all winter, but perfect cider season is now!

folks, just bookmark Also, what will the next October surprise be? Aliens from Venus land at the VP debate? 2020 just won't let up.

October continues to surprise. I am not sure any aliens who have been following the news would pick now to visit, but I am not of course an expert. 

Given all the ways things seem to be going wrong with the world, I have a difficult time looking at (or even reading) the news most days, likely because of the constant non-gourd orange hue it takes. What usually works best for me to keep up with important national and international events is to scan the Times Wire ( ) a few times a day. I have digital subscriptions to both NYT and WaPo, though I don't think you need a Times online subscription to just look at the wire. My wife, on the other hand, would sit and watch the 24-hour news 24/7 if she could. I'm curious how many other couples have the same issue (or difference).

I would say that the difference in our news consumption is that I will indiscriminately watch any hearing or briefing that happens to come down the pike? But we both tend to be pro-news generally. 

it so summed up how I was feeling. Shared it with several friends and they said the same. Its all been too much, piling up too fast to process. Maybe I'll destress by raking leaves -one of my favorite fall things. Do you have something that is technically a chore but one you enjoy doing?

I find replacing the garbage can liners extremely satisfying. 

I can't tell from your post -- which cider you on?

You use a lot of exclamation points in your writing. I myself like it. It feels like your are encouraging us all to jump on in to your ideas and collectively yell - Heck Yeah!!! But, isn't there a sinister side of the good ol' exclamation point? Or rather, the lack of said punctuation? If I get an email response from my boss that simply reads, "thanks," without a !!! I feel like I just ran over her puppy with my car. Is the overuse of exclamation points dooming us to a Pavlovian response toward massive disappointment?

I definitely overuse them. Sometimes I’m going for a deliberately manic tone. But also, as you say, sentences look naked without them. F. Scott Fitzgerald, I think, said an exclamation mark was like laughing at your own joke; he never had to send an email in which he needed to make it clear he wasn’t upset! 

I think they have come up in the chat a couple of weeks in a row now, so I will say that the word makes me think of snippet of dialogue from the novel Lonesome Dove: “A man dumb enough to bet his saddle is dumb enough to eat gourds,” Mr. Gus had said when he heard about that bet. “I have et okra,” Jasper replied, “but I have never yet et no gourd.”

Eat it by itself? What, are you insane? I want no part of pumpkin spice anything, whether it be latte, muffins, pancakes, or ice cream. I say again, blech.

I like it on everything mentioned! I draw the line at the Kraft pumpkin Spice Mac and cheese. 

My next door neighbor waits until my trash can is out by the curb then puts their dog poop bags in it each week. I asked them to use their own can instead of mine but they said once it is at the curb it is free for public use. Is there anyone else on this planet who agrees with this insane principle?

Huh! This really does not seem optimal. If there isn’t a proverb along the lines of “don’t deposit your dog poop bags in your neighbor’s trash can, but certainly don’t try to insist that it is the right thing to do as a matter of principle!” there ought to be. I suppose if it’s at the point in the cycle when the person who next has to deal with it is the person whose job description is “handling many strangers’ mystery bags full of gross trash,” and there is no difference for you— you just have to haul your bin back from the curb afterwards— it’s arguable, but I still think that they are taking a liberty by altering the state of your bin from Definitely Doesn’t Contain A Bag of Non-Household Poop to Does Contain A Bag Of Non-Household Poop. Especially when they have a bin of their own! Why not just use theirs? On a third hand, the ability to put small waste things in bins at the curb when you’re away from your home can is a positive principle in general, but it seems like he’s taking advantage. You are not an anonymous single-use curb bin! You are a neighbor he is dumping poop on. 

Personally, I hate everything pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, jack-o'-lanterns, everything pumpkin spice. I love Autumn, but can we possibly do something to get pumpkins not so omnipresent during it?

Aw, I like pumpkins. I wish I had a more detailed counter-argument. Is there a compromise gourd you’d be willing to accept?

Well, we did find out there may be life on Venus and it barely warranted a news cycle. I can just imagine an alien invasion where they can't get our attention long enough to make a single demand.

So, I am a New Englander and was horrified when, during a stint of some years in the SF Bay Area, I discovered that Northern Californians apparently honestly believe "apple juice" and "apple cider" are two terms for the same thing. I mentioned it to a colleague from New York and she exclaimed, "Oh, that's right! 'Clear and yella / That's juice, there, fella / Cloudy and brown / You're in cider town" which, although I'd never heard it, seems like the kind of useful thing we should teach our young people. I for one would like to go to cider town.

That’s great! So would I. Also, I am predisposed in favor of any rhyming mnemonic with “fella” in it. 

I think the OPer makes a good point. Can he or she also provide us with his or her thoughts on the Terminator movies?

Why does no one ever see the iceberg as the real victim? It’s minding its own business sleeping peacefully in the north Atlantic - where it belongs - when it gets attacked in the middle of the night for no reason by a speeding ship.

You can't expect me to change my habits just like that.

Heh! That’s all that has kept you from flying inconveniently away, Peter-Pan-style, all these years! 

I think I read yesterday that the CDC announced that overuse of pumpkin spice can lead to a malady they call Pumpkin Spice Rationality Deficit Syndrome, where you want to put pumpkin spice on or in everything and consume it. Even stuff you really shouldn't, like rat poison or the mail carrier.

"I like [pumpkin spice] on everything mentioned! I draw the line at the Kraft pumpkin Spice Mac and cheese." Well, clearly you're one of those people I will never understand. It's a good thing we see each other only electronically.

Last month I bought a bunch of little tea cups for my hot chocolate obsession. I'm so excited! Cider is okay, I guess.

I love both! But hot chocolate is good all winter long! 

has anyone here tried it? Am wondering how bad it could be.

just asked where Petri Dishes went today because they couldn't find it?

This week we were extra unfindable! Next week I hope we are only the regular amount! Hi Gene! 

"Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." More true than ever, now! Any alien who asked to be taken to our leader would be in for a nasty shock.

That was me... I was hoping to avoid offending any Minoans or their descendants and somehow thought dropping the capital might work. Such are the wages of laziness... It seems, however, cretin or Cretin is no better: My only excuse is the giddiness of finally having arrived in time at this chat. Sorry.

I was recently shocked to learn that in recorded history up to this point, there are only two known jokes concerning bagpipes. I know the one, can anyone here tell me the other?

I’m not sure I even know the one! 

Today's teen trend of wearing mismatched socks has saved my life.

for the wonderful columns you have been writing in the past few months. You have done such a great job of capturing the ennui, angst, idiocy, and sheer terror invoked by 2020--sometimes in one day! Just wanted you to know that you're appreciated in these tough times.

Aw, thank you! 

Not too hot. Not too cold. Not t-- OMIGOD THERE'S A HURRICANE

No book recommendations. Tsk Tsk.

Oh drat! I do have a list! I just know I’m forgetting books I love, though. 

I have a tween and I am in love with this trend! I just toss 'em all together in a bin and she grabs what she wants. My boys do the same thing but I think it's out of laziness, not conscious trend-setting.

Are we really being quizzed on Bagpipe jokes? How do we know the OPer knows the first one? I can't divulge the second until I have proof of life.

And here are a few of those book recommendations I promised! 

  • The Iliad
  • The Code of the Woosters 
  • David Copperfield
  • Farewell, My Lovely
  • Le Morte Darthur 
  • Moby Dick
  • The Clouds
  • Cold Comfort Farm
  • Autobiography of Red
  • Les Miserables 
  • In Search of Lost Time 
  • Goodbye to All That

No, no, thank YOU!

And on that note, I may skedaddle! See you next week, I hope, if we can find one another! In the interim, I’ll be on the blog and on the Twitter

I can't believe you forgot that book you love!

I forgot The Picture of Dorian Gray! If I can forget that, I can forget anything! 

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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