PRACTICALS








Everyday-Life Aids, Grumps, and Speculations








  • Zero Day:
    During the present month, the problem of figuring upon what day of the week a future date falls is easily simplified. As each month ends, simply note the day of the week. E.g., 2013/1/31 is a Thursday, which makes February a Thursday month. (Also March, 2013 being a non-leap-year.) That is, Thursday's days in 2013 January are all zero mod 7. Jan 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th are all Thursdays. So, if one needs to know quickly, say, what day of the week the 25th falls upon, just go back 3 days of the week from Thursday to Monday and that's it.
    Just note Zero Day as the previous month ends, and one's appointment calendar gets markedly clearer.

  • One of the botherations of using a keyboard is the accidental hitting of the “Insert” key or the “Caps Lock” key.
    Question: Does anyone ever actually USE the “Insert” key? After all, how often does one want to wipe out JUST as many characters as one is newly creating?!
    And, then, there's the “Caps Lock” key: how often does one need to type a whole paragraph or whole page in caps? How many caps-situations can't be conveniently met by just holding down the regular “Shift” key for a few strokes?
    Remedy? Simple, rip off both the offending keys. DR did so years back. Not a single regret since.

  • Municipal Altruism at Its Finest:
    Isn't it convenient that we have parking meters? How else will car-burglars know when the owner will be back?
    After all, without such considerate municipal assistance, Mr.Burglar mightn't know how much time he has to break in and scram.

  • To appreciate the connexion — rigorously media-avoided, since attention to it would endanger the profits of commerce — between health and galloping population-growth (hinting at a possible [and possibly non-linear] relation of this to the acceleration of world-pandemics' frequency), just consider how many viruses a separated colony of 100 people would acquire: virtually if not exactly zero.
    [An accidental controlled test occurred on 1911/2/4, when the British Antarctic Expedition stumbled upon the Bay of Whales camp of the Norwegians (who would beat them to the South Pole that December). Nearly all the Norwegians came down with a sneezing head-cold later that day. (Roald Amundsen The South Pole London 1913 1:205.)]

  • On most visible digital displays, it is often too difficult to distinguish ones from sevens, because the technology used is usually an old simple one,. using a vertical (instead of slanted) leg for the seven. This problem should be easy to fix.

  • A littleknown culprit in overdosing the public with sugar is: ice-cream. If you doubt this, try tasting melted ice-cream: sickeningly sweet! [Though, one of my more energetic younger friends claims to prefer slurping it so….] The reason: cold dulls the tastebuds, so ice-cream must be super-saturated with sugar just to have any discernable sweet taste. I don't know whether or not consumption of sugar is occasionally related to causing diabetes; but, if so, ice-cream may be a major contributor to this plague.
    A much more certain, cruel, and preventable contributor is diabetic parents' essentially racist replication of their genes.
    A constructive suggestion to help counter this impulse: why not give diabetics preference for adoptions?

  • When walking in the city in wearingly hot weather, it's wise to deliberately seek grassy paths, since air over lawns is much cooler than that over streets.

  • Saying “world wide web” is 3 times quicker than saying “www” — because “w” is 3 syllables. (Similarly, “Gone With the Wind” is easier than “GWTW”, once an inexplicably common “abbreviation” for the book-film.) Oddly, there is no two-syllable letter in the English alphabet: 25 one-syllable letters and 1 three-syllable letter. Suggestion: instead of six syllables for “www”, we should mimick the origin of w by multiplication and two-syllably refer to www as “sextuple-u” or, better, just “sex-u”. Could be the most popular abbreviation ever!

  • More useful suggestion: henceforth pronounce “w” as “dub” instead of “dubelyou”.

  • A novel culinary notion: if there's a food that you like but is bad for you, (then try SMELLING it while eating something else. This scheme works best if the something-else is itself completely tasteless. So, we're working at creating an edible DIO.)

  • We instinctively gauge our likely longevity when we take chances with life. Risky driving would be utterly nuts if we had 100000 yrs to live — that is, risks that could lead to permanent crippling every 1000 yrs are tolerable for us, but not if it usually meant (as for a 100000 yr life-length) 99% of the rest of your life.
    So, if long-lived, we would for example ride backwards in a train (skipping the better view going forwards) — or on a plane, since backwards is MUCH safer.
    (Check out the stews. No, I mean their reverse seat-orientation.)

  • One can stall when accelerating from a stopped position. So, when taking a left turn in rush-hour traffic after a light turns green, it is wise to start moving forward before swinging left — that way, one's momentum will assure completion of the left.

  • Many tape-decks display a digital “counter” which usually indicates revolutions n of one of the deck's reels; n is aggravatingly unproportional to time t, so it may be useful to provide the general relation of t to n, which is:

    t = An + Bn2

    Finding a few correlative points for t and n allow solution for A and B.
    (DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡2 §J2 [p.16].)

  • Speculation:
    Sudden, drastic dieting may be more dangerous (than otherwise) if one has up-to-now been clogging the vascular system with thick fats.
    It may be wisest to shift to a low-fat diet for ordmag a month while still maintaining a caloric intake not too far below the earlier rate — beginning only later to restrict calorie-intake towards a lower weight.

  • Blinders:
    There is a wellknown legend that certain 17th century churchmen adamantly refused to look at the sunspots revealed in Galileo's telescope, allegedly because they could not believe there were blemishes on the solar disk.
    However, was the churchmen's actual concern simply: possible eye-damage? Incidentally, Galileo later went blind.
    Galileo at least took some precautions to dim the sunlight he observed; but many ordinary citizens today staunchly ignore warnings and stare right at the Sun during solar eclipses' partial phases. Result: every solar eclipse produces lots of retinal-damage cases. Lesson:

    Never stare at the Sun; all you'll see is a doctor.

    (DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡1 §D11 [p.16].)


  • Feet seem to heal quicker than other parts of the human body. This is presumably (in the light of evolution) because one could not stay off one's feet for long without starving. Might medicine learn from the chemistry that could be working here?

  • Though mushrooms are vegetables, never try preserving them in the “crisper” at the bottom of the refrigerator. Place them in the coldest part (the top, if there's a freezer above), so long as they aren't in danger of freezing. This way, they'll stay fresh several times longer than if in the crisper.

  • Navel oranges are just a habit. Valencia oranges are an experience.

  • To get the most out of an orange, don't use a squeezer or a spoon&squeeze. Instead, after spooning out the meat in the standard fashion, go back into each cell and you'll find that the meat that's still there is considerable in net bulk. In any case, one achievement of this technique (and the standard spin-squeezer) is: don't squeeze the rind — the bitter taste of rind-juice is in ghastly contrast to that of the meat.

    [Simpler scheme for avoiding wry-rind-flavor: just switch to tangerines.]

  • When I was (officially) a child, I loathed grapefruit; but the non-sweet tartness won me over long ago.
    Accessing: Cut equatorially. Use toothed spoon to clear out all meat from one half, whose rind you can then use as a handy temporary wastebasket for the seeds you'll be flicking into it while clearing the other half.
    All scooping done with axes aimed away, to protect shirt from spray; though, adoption of the Lizzie Borden gambit can render this caution less critical.

  • How to get toothpaste back in tube: start getting paste out in the 1st place by striking the other end so hard that it collapses at an angle. Later just pull on that end to suck paste rapidly back into the tube.

  • Regular toothbrushing has an extra benefit besides the obvious: the very botheration discourages one from taking too many meals.

  • The usual immediate achievement of wiping up spilt messes is not total removal nor the shrinking of the area of puddles — rather the aim is to dilute to virtual water —and then to shrink the thickness of the water puddles to the point that evaporation will take over and the puddles will disappear in a few minutes.

  • Why do microwave ovens put the Power button right close to the On button? Which greatly ups the likelihood that weak power gets applied — and for chicken (where salmonella is fairly common), this can be dangerous.

  • In a computer age, it is inexcusable that our phone books do not include zip-code with address. If the redundant local area-code were dropped and such addresses as “123 Main Str” shortened to “123Main”, there'd be no need for extra lines of type for over 90% of the entries, so the book would be only triflingly thicker but alot more useful. As my wife notes: the zip-code not only helps with mail but instantly tells a casual searcher what part of town the party is in.

  • Classy restaurants too often have background music that is ludicrously inappropriate to the clientele: stuff that's apt to a sleazy bar. Cause? The semi-liteate “Help” chooses the music (often by careless default). So, I make it a pesty practice to jog managers' awareness of this folly (since it costs them customers). And it's encouraging how many realize the truth of the hypothesis and the associated penalty to business — and thus take steps to choose music for the customers' immediate pleasure — and (hopefully) the servants' ultimate uplift.

  • Fake-Plus-Fake Does a Cancer Make?:
    Following worldwide fashist-decree that female underarm hair must be faked as non-existent (DIO 6 [1996] ‡5 n.1 [p.49]), millions of women shave and then apply directly to the scraped (often porous or even bleeding) skin a powerful chemical-soup: deodorant. (Thereby following yet another fashist law: humans cannot emit non-fake odor.) They might as well inject this chemical-soup directly into the bloodstream. Sounds dangerous — and suggests the possibility (as DR has wondered aloud for decades) that repeatedly shaving such a sensitive area (thus re-opening wounds ere re-injecting chemicals) may not only be a perversion of nature but a factor in the mysterious prevalence of breast cancer.

  • DR has been killing bees&wasps with his hands for decades (without ever once being stung), but it was only on 2006/8/5 (in Jena) that he simultaneously discovered two alternate efficient methods for eliminating these lunchtime moocher-pests (who if accidentally swallowed will sting your insides):
    [1] While a bee is feeding, take a thin-pronged fork and try squashing it from above — evidently, the open sky between the prongs (or the glow from the metal?) often fools the bee into thinking there's no danger.
    [2] Lay out some honey (half-filling a vertical-shape cup): greedy bees will find themselves gummed up in the vertical-walled-in sticky stuff.

  • Why are any knobs on home devices smooth (rather than rippled, as many fortunately are)? If there's any stiffness in rotating (often the case) this guarantees that slightly wet fingers can't turn the knob. This is a one-digit-IQ matter — yet, nearly a century into the age of convenience, the problem remains ubiquitous.

  • Defending Fahrenheit:
    Most of the French Revolution's metric system is superior to the English system: meters, calendar, etc. But the Centigrade or Celsius system has little advantage over Fahrenheit's, unless one is a water molecule or a physicist — and the latter would probably prefer the more universal [less water-based] Kelvin system anyway. Fahrenheit's edges:
    [1] Nearly twice as fine: each degree 1.8 times finer.
    [2] Only rarely need negative values. (For the same reason, Astronomer Royal Geo.Airy promoted the use of NPD rather than Decl. In geography, co-latitude has the same advantage. [The preferability of full-circle one-sign longitude is iffier, especially if you're in the high 350s.])
    [3] Range from 0° to 100° covers normal human weather experience, so full range of two-digit positive numbers gets used and is generally all that's needed.

  • Satellite dishes would be useless above 81°1/3, since synchronous satellites are at 6 2/3 EarthRadii and arcsec (20/3) = 81°1/3.

  • To lower the chance of getting bled by paper-cuts from stiff folders' edges, simply smooth&round those edges by pre-scraping them (in both directions) in the crotch of a metal pair of sharp scissors.

  • Who really loves shellfish, which are so inherently tasteless that they must be seasoned? A lobster tastes like butter and or sauce. A clam tastes like tabasco or “OldBay” or whatever else is put on it. And an oyster-plus-garnish tastes like yuck-plus-garnish. We all know plenty of beef-lovers who like rare beef for the taste of beef. Same for venison, duck, even boar. But what percentage of self-purported “shellfish-lovers” like their dish unseasoned? Is this a snooty-fad? And-or do some folks just like a snob-value tasteless delivery-system-for-delicious-seasoning? (Or, do they like the thrill of risking food-poisoning, which is much more common with shellfish than other foods.) Suggestion: If the seasoning is what you like, then sprinkle it upon almonds (or DIOs) and enjoy the same “delicacy”: [a] at a far lower price, [b] with less cooking, & [c] with far lower chance of contracting illness.

  • Standing to applaud after a tremendous concert is widely accepted as polite. It's the very opposite. It blocks the view of those behind, who may not agree so strongly with the reaction of those in front. (Approval is best conveyed in the aural arts by earnest aural applause.) View-blocked parties may include persons who are too old and-or infirm to stay standing for long. (An especially obvious factor these days for classical music audiences.) Moreover, the standing-ovation ploy is too easily abused: an artist's agent can station a few flacks in row \#1, who at the end of the performance, can easily (by starting a backward-moving wave of blocked views) FORCE the entire audience to stand-or-be-blinded. (The herd-reflex is ludicrous: if five people stand at a concert's end, half the audience will almost always be on its feet within a minute.) The previous common flack-tactic (applauding concerti between movements, a frequent interruption during the 1980s) is now mercifully dying out. (Its success was commonly just a measure of hickness.)
    Let's not continue such inconsiderateness into the 3rd millennium.

  • Happiness ultimo-key: have lots of irons in the fire. A crude example: switch-hitting is one reason DR never experienced a batting-slump in 58y of playing baseball.

  • TIME TO CHANGE STANDARDS OF TIME?

    1. The main reason we use Daylight Time (the bane of astronomers) is that parking signs and company rules have been printed fixed, not fluid. But, now, in a computer age, why not [though there are good arguments in both directions here] keep our clocks fixed and just change seasonally the rules about the times of the workday?

    2. The boundaries between zone-time regions across the US are controlled by metropolitan groupings. E.g., you won't usually find adjacent cities on different time just because they're in different states — because too much communication goes on between these two cities. So look into the future: eventually most parts of the US will be populated as densely as our cities and all parts will be communicating so much with all the others that every city will be a neighbor city. Regarding standard-time, the solution is: one time — say Central Time — for the whole nation. And each city will then make its own rules in accord with CT\@. E.g., Los Angeles citizens will rise around 9:00 and do their “nine-to-five” work between 11:00 and 19:00 — etc. For NYC, the same times would be 6:00 and 8:00-16:00. (Obviously, world-time would soon follow.) Someday, our current motley time-conventions will be looked back upon with the same puzzlement we feel when contemplating 1750 Europe, in which a traveler from Julian England to Gregorian France had to set his calendar forward 11 days!

    3. The Third millennium ought to have a standard dating scheme, so all would understand that 2/4/3 = 2002 Apr 3. (Advantage explained at DIO 8 [1998] ‡5 §Q2 [p.61].)

  • The phone company might helpfully arrange prefixes which (as with Time's “TI” and Weather's “WE”) will make mental connexion easier to recall. E.g., each city's railway station's numbers could all begin with “222” (two-two-twain).
    (Observers have wondered right along: just how low will DIO “humor” go? Does this answer their curiosity?)

  • Folks whose fingers are peeling on the sides of the tips may not realize some common causes: [a] over-heated dishwater; [b] handling acetic fruit while eating it: oranges, tangerines, lemons, and especially pineapples. Use of plastic gloves or utensils helps.

  • EARVANA:
    Like most cats, ours crave ear-rubs; but we've further found that they like in particular having an ear rubbed between one's fingers like one were testing the quality of paper. The effect simulates mutual cat-grooming, so they love it.

  • Though I think dogs are smarter than cats, BarbaraR & DR have had a succession of largely bright felines. (The least intelligent was elected 1973/1/1 to the National Geographic Society by its Board of Trustees: see DIO 1.1 [1991] inside back cover.) They have shown off a variety of tricks (some on cue): cheerleading (“wowing”); playing tag (“touchéing”); jumping from ground onto arms (Rasalas) or shoulders (Miu); fetching balls (Reggie) or toy helicopters; bounding onto ceiling-high curtains (Miu), dueling (from there) an imaginary enemy, crashing down onto bed (“Katoing” — honoring Inspector Clouzeau: see below); and high-leaping two-paw tag from-behind (“biffing”) a fave of SIR (Spoiled Irredeemably Rotten) Hobbes. We owe it all to B.F.Skinner's techniques with pigeons.
    My experience as a Board member of the useful (if not overhonest) organization known as “CSICOP” included some positive items: [a] learning alot of magic, and [b] spending an afternoon (doing magic) with B.F.Skinner, the only one of CSICOP's famous backers who had the decency to reply (& sympathetically) when CSICOP's cynical sTARBABY coverup was in full swing.
    The secret: whenever you see the cat do anything (initially by chance) which you regard as a fun trick, you immediately feed him. Just continue this “positive reinforcement” (in Skinner's well-known phrase) a few times in succession, and, remarkably quickly, the cat will start to perform the trick on his own, repeatedly. Not always when you like. E.g., our never-fully-domesticated cat Miu learned to leap, from behind — from high perches — onto a shoulder, frequently when one was handling food. (SIR Hobbes' leaps are fortunately from the floor.) This can be upsetting to calm and-or dishes. (Remember Peter Sellers & Kato in the Pink Panther series? We lived it. And loved it: 1989-2002.)

  • The 1991/7/26 USA Today says that cinema-goers' chief gripe is: talking during the film. My wife and I talk plenty during films & concerts but use a simple method for avoiding interrupting others' enjoyment: put one's lips at the other's ear and talk at a subwhisper. (That way, we only bother each other. Pity her.)
    Taking advantage of sound's attrition according to distance's inverse-square: no sound gets to others, but we can hear each other clearly. The USA Today article includes lots of advice, but this self-evident technique isn't mentioned. (As far as I know, it's never been published anywhere previously.)

  • Jock Itch & Palm Itch: TV sells pills for all ills, so long as they don't cure that ill — which would kill the profit. E.g., athlete's foot & jock-itch can be stopped just by drying well after washing. Simple as that. Compare the number of times one hears this (on TV) vs. the number of times TV's ads have asked you to buy its snakeoil-ments. Incidentally, it doesn't take alot of smarts to extrapolate this lesson into political & social arenas — and thus get an inkling of why, decade after decade, none of the “solutions” sold to us by TV 'snews (in the service of its wealthy owners and their governmental, land-developer, & ecclesiastical-pacifier friends) ever seems to solve any of our societal problems. [Similarly: if the Church ever cured sin, it would be out of business.
    DIO 1.2 [1991] §D2 [p.101].)]

  • You're at a restaurant and the waiter comes by every 5 minutes interrupting conversation by asking if everything is OK. The big-tipper species of restaurant-goer probably loves this; however, most of us find that the waiter often appears when he's not wanted but can be hard to find when one needs a little more water or whatever. So: how about buzzers at each table — as for hospital beds? And, why not: a pitcher of water (or an easy-spout big bottle) at each table? The first restaurant to adopt these ideas will become so popular with intelligent patrons that buzzers & pitchers could quickly become the norm.

  • How to lower state budgets: unemploy those who manufacture and those who post the omnipresent “No Right Turn on Red” signs. These metal pests:
    [a] slow traffic,
    [b] insult drivers' intelligence,
    [c] fly in the face of a national law permitting such turns,
    [d] waste city workers' time,
    [e] squander metal,
    [f] aren't enforced anyway.

  • Tired of watching moisture peel, crumble, & mildew your bathroom walls? Suggestion of Barbara Rawlins: remove your shower head, so that (during a shower) the water flows in a stream rather than a spray. This drastically lowers the total air-contacting surface of the water used during the shower, thus proportionally reducing evaporation & resultant wall-damage.

  • Tired of a rough, veiny face from face-shaving? Try shaving once every other day: the skin regenerates between shaves sufficiently that soft skin is maintained years longer than with daily shaving. (Notice soap's sting if only 1 day between shaves.)

  • TV 'snews implies that, outside of frequent hand-washing, there is little one can do to avoid colds. (Perhaps TV 'snews is worried that those who seek security from colds will become asocial — which might upset the efficiency of smooth capitalist production & exploitation. But maybe such concern will wane in a computer-network era.)
    To dodge colds & flu:
    [a] Outside one's home, acquire a rigorous mental habit of being conscious of what others have touched. (These objects or surfaces may be fresh off an encounter with hands recently gooed by others' mouths, noses, or honkerchiefs.)
    [b] Avoid touching those objects.
    [c] Doorknobs-are-the-enemy. Doorknobs are the most common transmitters of social flu. Do whatever it takes to avoid handling them. Push-open outward doors with shoulders or knees. For inward doors (which require pulling a knob): be inventive. (E.g., in winter, it's easy to cover one's pulling hand with one's coat.)
    [d] Live religiously by the Half-Hour Rule. Outside a carrier's body, viruses die in under a half-hour. (Some say: way under, but DR would rather err on the safe side.) So, if you buy a sandwich and have reason (ungloved preparer) or just a suspicion that viruses got onto it during its creation, then wait a while before eating it.
    [e] Another restaurant-rule: look out for water-pourers who paw glasses' rims. (Carry straws with you.)
    [f] Many colds are caught through the nasal membranes, which helps explain why colds are so common in winter, when very dry cold air makes these membranes so thin that they often nearly or actually bleed. Solution: humidifiers for the main rooms of one's home.
    [g] Avoid temperature extremes, in home or outside. I.e., if one is uncomfortably hot when reading at home, don't just accept this — instead, move to a different chair or whatever. Outside, in cool weather, don't let one's chest or forehead be exposed too long. (The former can quickly bring on pneumonia.) If one lacks a hat when the weather turns cooler, a scarf can be made into a babushka. If scarfless, then convert a honkerchief into a semi-stable makeshift forehead-covering bandana by tucking two diagonally opposite corners behind one's ears.

  • Try drinking day-old water from a plastic cup or bottle and you can sometimes even taste the plastic that's seeped into the water. Doesn't seem healthy, especially in a nation filled with so much cancer that innocuous-looking everyday sources may turn out to be among the causes.
    [The International Herald Tribune of 2007/12/3 (p.1) carried a curiously-headlined Boston Globe story that started as a pitch for more funding for cancer research but ended by noting the suspicious statistics and false hopes of decades of anti-cancer promos. One of the neatest sleights exposed was the fact that apparent improvements in mean survival-times may be based upon nothing more than early detections!]

  • Jogging is dangerous to knees & ankles — and (by jouncing the brain) could perhaps cause a little punchiness (similar to boxers').
    [It is my (amateur) impression that boxers' brain damage is more motor than mental.]
    My way around this difficulty is to take long walks during which I intermittently sprint a few dozen yards at top speed. (A helpful horseback-riding analogy: trotting is tough on one's body, while cantering is easy.) The basic reasoning: walking and sprinting are natural, while jogging is forced — largely by those who want a quantifiable I-went-x-miles-today-without-stopping achievement. (Some just want a high.) But in the state of nature, NO HUMAN EVER JOGGED — so the human body evolved with equipment for walking and sprinting, but not jogging.

  • Practicals: Many people feel guilty when they pass beggars on the street without tossing a few pence to there-but-for-the-sake….
    [Just as most are guilty about not voting: roughly half of non-voters lie and claim they do vote.]
    I have no such feelings, because for years I've engaged in the following recommended experiment-tactic — which swiftly reveals just how generous beggars themselves are. (Orwell, who himself once had to beg, reports that most beggars are more hateful than grateful to the sources of their alms.) In my experience, virtually every panhandler tips off his move before he makes it. As soon as I see one who's about to try putting the touch on me, I veer over and confront him with the statement: “I sure could use a good meal. Can you spare a few dollars?” I have performed this experiment on scores of occasions, all over the US. (And my garb is frequently not very prosperous-looking — since DR has always been a Beau Bummel-trend-setter in academic trashionable attire.) Not once has a single US panhandler parted with a single penny. As a backup (for the cases where one is blindsided by an unanticipated moochmaster), I often carry a bag of peanuts. When a beggar quickpitches me, I offer him food instead of money. Try it yourself sometime. Rarely has any interest been evoked. I conclude that most panhandlers spend their money on something of greater interest to them than food: booze & cigaboos. Those who give to such pests ought to realize the truth: [a] their money goes mostly for these or other drugs, and [b] you are just encouraging a public nuisance. (Of course, I feel the same way about voting for pols.)

  • For counting pages (or [attn. Chairman Rug] money], just:
    [a] square edges & corners of pile;
    [b] holding pile horizontally in hands, squeeze (very hard) its right side;
    [c] bend left side downward to fan out left edges;
    [d] grip left side (very hard); [e] release right side;
    [f] repeat until fanning effect is adequate for unerring page-turning or counting.


  • Baseball Hitting Practicals:

    1. There is a baseball secret I've used to advantage for years. If you start your swing a little early, not only do you:
      [a] get more rotational inertia into the bat (due to torque applied over longer swing-arc), as I presume is wellknown, but there is another gain (hitherto ignored)
      [b] you don't pop-up (or ground-dribble) to the infield nearly as often (as straightaway hitters do), because such dinks glance off the bat with a flaring horizontal component (due to the non-verticality of ball-glance angle's plane) and thus tend to go rather harmlessly foul. (For decades, virtually all of my very infrequent pop-outs have been quite difficult catches by agile firstbasemen & thirdbasemen in foul territory. Zero to the catcher.) If this ploy works so well in slowpitch softball, it's bound to be work even more effectively against fastpitching, if one can get around on the ball. (Otherwise, try pushing the ball just inside the opposite-field foul-line — you still get the same angular advantage of protection against dinks going fair.)
      [Obviously, one hits straightaway on occasion for variety. But if canny fielders start shifting way to the left when you bat righthanded, then just cross the plate and bat lefthanded. The rules (if any) appear to be loose on this in pick-up softball. But if fielders are permitted to take large fractions of minutes shifting tens of meters, then: why can't the batter take 1 timesecond to move 1 meter across the plate to the other batter's-box?]

    2. A simple aid for killing baseball slumps: Calibration. If I start hitting flies instead of liners, I shift my aim to hit the top not the middle of the ball. (Inverse if too many grounders.) Another slump-killer: being a switch-hitter, if I'm getting off-key (right or left handed), I just move across to the other batter's-box for awhile.

  • Misery-Multiplication Circle:
    How never to turn alcoholic: if you must drink alcohol, always do so when happy — never when unhappy and looking for happiness from a bottle, which will only lead to more trouble in the real world, and thus more thirst for escape.

  • Why do so many lower-middle-labor-class guys pay EXTRA to drive a “Sports Utility Vehicle”? When the damn things are in front of you on the road (“squatting”, as Dave Barry puts it), they wipe out your ability to see traffic ahead — which is an automatic dangerous situation. (Isn't it illegal to drive tanks in traffic? — unless they're as big as SUVs?)
    Though they create a whole new horizon for you, these SUVs almost never seem to have any more than one person in them — so they are sumsorta macho fashion-statement. If the genii who love these biggies bought a little Honda for tens of thousands less, they could spend the difference on a Tahiti vacation in paradise. But no, they want to spend the mon instead on a piece of metal vast enough to let 'em throw a flock of deer stiffs into the back anytime. There's a cause worth missing paradise for.
    [How many ex-SUV-drivers are now soldiering on the front line in Iraq, getting shot-at? — so the oil will keep flowing, to feed the latest crop of SUV-drivers….]

  • The Post Office should issue alternate stamps, printed with not price but service: first-class, third-class, air, Europe, etc. True, the price for the service will eventually go up, but if the PO will INVEST this pre-paid money (at prevailing interest rates), it will have roughly the necessary higher amount in its account when the stamps are finally used or otherwise redeemed. Advantage: no more bewildering array of ever-changing prices for services. In particular: citizens who now have to wait in line, in order to have their material accurately stamped, will henceforth be eternally released from further queue-servitude. Few lines at POs. Less confusion. More efficient.

  • Extremes of temperature are not only hard on teeths' fillings, but on the teeth themselves — causing crackings and even loss of pieces of teeth. So when slurping hot or cold drinks, minimize fluid's contact with teeth. Straws help.

  • After moving to California in 1977 July, DR soon got a new license plate but (given the migratory nature of the state) he tried an experiment: he didn't put on the plate immediately. (Just kept it [covered] in the back seat.) It wasn't until 1979 Spring that a policeman asked about the lack of tag — and even then only because some other minor infraction drew his attention.

  • In an apartment, it's wise to remove apartment-numbers from mailboxes. This way, a burglar who wants to phone to see if you're home won't know which unit you live in.

  • Airports at airplane-loading time usually request coach seating in order by row, advancing parallel to the fuselage. But, why not try doing it perpendicularly? Window-seats first, then middle, then aisle seats. (Less hassle and passengers climbing over each other and-or hopping to their feet to let others get to their assigned seats.) Perhaps a combination would be best.

  • Why separate baggage from passengers in airplanes? Trains don't do this, so why must planes? If one expanded the passenger section to be bigger, using the extra space created by elimination of the baggage section, then there would be plenty of room for overhead compartments — right in the passenger section.
    [This belongs in the same dep't as former decades of auto company refusal to make headlights go out automatically when the engine was off. At least the latter egregiosity makes sense: the auto industry sold alot more batteries that way.]
    Perhaps we simply haven't discovered the correct theory that explains the airlines' policy. Do they auction off the lost bags? (The Post Office has done so with the mailed items it loses — thus profitting from its own incompetence.) But the airline-baggage procedure may now have transformed into something connected to guarding against drugs and terrorism — in any case, none of it excuses such a poor policy.

  • Phonetic spelling could finally be put across if two steps were decided upon:
    [a] Find different pronunciations for problem-words — like too&to&two and bo&bow&beaux.
    [b] Several established authors publish important books using phonetic spellings throughout — but with footnotes [or brackets] pointing out conventional spellings so that none of the pioneers can be accused of slovenly, ignorant, or careless work. This would confer respectability upon phoneticism and those who defy the present pointless (and rather recent) fashist tyranny in spelling.
    [In a computer (and voice-recognition) era, with googling and global searches, uniformity of spelling (and pronunciation) does at last have serious utility. Thus, establishing phonetic spelling might prove to be a revolutionary step that (if done thoroughly, world-wide) would not require repeating.]

  • One of the factors that ages elders prematurely is plush seats, which un-naturally cut off thigh-circulation. In the state of nature, men sat on their ischia, preferably on non-rocky ground. So the answer to the modern problem is to sit on a surface of the semi-soft firmness of earth, but hard enough that blood circulation to the backs of the thighs is not cut-off.

  • The subject of corruption in filmdom triggered the following beef (based on (DIO 2.1 [1992] ‡1 n.39 [pp.11-12] — this comment appended 1993):
    When Public Television runs an archival film of the Kaiser or the Czar, I object to seeing them strutting about like Charlie Chaplin — an all-too-common desecration. Cause: films of that time were made at 16 frames/sec, instead of the 24 frames/sec which became standard once talking pictures came on; but the old ones tend to be run at the modern speed, thus 50% too fast. Remedy: television uses 30 frames/sec, so if historical films were videoed at two film frames for each TV frame, the match would be within about 10% of fidelity — effectively as accurate as the hand-driven cameras of that era achieved, anyway. However, instead of taking such care, most producers just sloppily convert old film footage at the standard modern 5/4 ratio (30/24), which is used to convert current 24 frame/sec films into video. The 1925 scifi film, The Lost World (based on a 1912 A.C.Doyle novel which DR has long believed was triggered by M.Conway's from-the-audience comments upon P.Fawcett's 1910 RoyGeogrSoc lecture, reprod at p.530 of GeogrJ 35.5:513) has been modernly released after conversion at a 3/2 ratio — which is better than 5/4, but still insufficient for faithful reproduction of what original audiences saw. It is obvious that the technology for accurate conversion exists, but it is instead being used for less noble ends.
    At least since 1987, some broadcasters have been quietly scrunching (speeding up) modern films by having them specially pre-converted at a frame ratio higher than the correct 5/4. (Noted in some media at that time; then largely forgotten outside the trade press.) The original alibi for this tampering was that scrunching permitted advertisers to get in more commercials during a film.) Recently, having noticed discrepancies in the actual-vs-official times of Cinemax (cable) films, I became curious as to the cause and started by comparing Cinemax versions to rental versions. Naturally supposing at first that portions must have been deleted, I was amazed to find instead that Cinemax is scrunching films, commonly (but not always) at a 6/5 ratio, thus shortening them by precisely 4%. But why? (Not to get in more ad-time: Cinemax doesn't even have ads.) Answer: mere scheduling convenience. While The Movie Channel starts films at odd times (like 9:25 PM), its competitor Cinemax prefers (especially in primetime) to start on the whole-hour or half-hour (like 9:30 PM). Thus, if a film is so inconsiderate as to last, say, 93m (which, if it started at 8 PM, would cause it to bump the next film's starting time to c.9:35 PM), Cinemax will scrunch it down to 89m — all so that the following film can start at the round time, 9:30 PM. (The intent is obvious, since the only films which Cinemax scrunches are ones that are just a little bit over 90m or a similarly round time.) Classic films are less likely to be mistreated thus. However, even so wellknown a film as Road Warrior has suffered the Cinemax scrunch. In any case, I find the practice almost as offensive as its sneakiness. No notice is given by Cinemax. Or the media's film-promoters aka “critics”.
    (One recalls these same parties' years of obsessive attacks on Ted Turner's colorization of old black&white films — which is harmless since most TV sets have a black&white button. The anti-colorization hysteria was obviously just the anti-Turner crowd's way of sniping at him, since the far more serious scrunching-vogue has barely been noticed by these same folks.)

  • If TV 'snews wishes to contribute something to civilization, it might pummel mobile-phone users with suggestions that they TRY to see if talking 10% as loud as they now often do (disturbing all nearby) would not come through to the other end just as clearly in most cases. Regardless, talkers should at least flexibly start out each public-area cell-phone chat at a low volume, and just learn by trial in each case how soft a voice they can communicate with. They might be greatly surprised.