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Let's be practical

This won't be my last post because I've been asked to talk about how guest-blogging on Charlie's site has affected my web hits and book sales stats, so I'll try to work that up for Friday, depending on when adds the latest Bookscan numbers into their Author Central feature.

But today, I thought I'd offer something different: Useful information for real life problems.

First, Jill Cooper will show you how to fold a fitted sheet.

Someone should have told her not to lead with "One of the biggest challenges you'll have to face in your life is how to fold a fitted sheet" but with her sheet fu powers, I doubt anyone had the guts.

Second, I'll tell you how to relieve muscle pain.

This technique is called vaso-flushing and I learned it from my wife, who makes her living doing sports massage. It works best on injuries that happened more than 48 hours earlier, and it's also good for chronic pain (including my own.)

It's simple: First, you apply ice to the painful area for three minutes. Then, you apply heat for one minute--this is best done by immersing in a hot tub or jacuzzi if you can swing that.

After that minute of heat, you go back to three minutes of ice, then another minute of heat, then ice and heat again.
When the three rounds are done, you finish up with a minute or two of ice. That's it.

I do this at my gym to take advantage of their giant ice machine and jacuzzi, but I've used an ice pack and electric blanket at home. It works surprisingly well.

Third, this former FBI Counterintelligence Agent explains how he can tell when a person is lying.

Quick warning: this article is actually a pdf file.

Fourth, you may not be named Jonathan, but this guy will still show you how to prep a suit so it can be packed in a suitcase.

Fifth, and finally, if you feel the need to sneeze but you don't have a tissue handy (or want to delay it for another reason), tickle the roof of your mouth with your tongue. It may take five or ten seconds, but the urge to sneeze will pass. It will probably come back in a few minutes, but by then you should have had time to fetch a tissue or excuse yourself from the table.

What about you guys? Do you have any helpful tips for real life problems you'd like to offer?



If you accidentally write on wood or plastic with a permanent marker, the best way I've found to remove it is to write ON TOP of it with a dry-erase board marker. After that, both markers will come off easily with just a swipe of some damp cloth.

If it's pen that's on your wood, like a desk or table or whatnot, toothpaste and a towel will work wonders. Not even kidding.


Tip 1, although I've never managed to do it myself: (which is exactly what it says on the tin, assuming it says it in Japanese).

Tip 2: when washing duvet covers, the easiest way to stop them filling up with socks is to do the buttons up before you put them into the washing machine.


And further on the topic of dry-erase pens/boards:

If you're not the kind of person who goes around writing on tables and furniture, or don't have kids, you might not be aware that dry erase board pens can also write "erase-ably" on other things with hard surfaces that don't try to suck up the ink, such as glass (may look slightly faded) or fridge doors (might not wipe off cleanly).

There are people out there selling solutions such as thin plastic sheets that stick to walls (or other vertical surfaces) by the well-known principles of magic; and special paints for those who want the whole wall, dammit.

Myself, I went down to a second hand charity store and got a glass table top for about €8. Most that you find are relatively thick, over a centimeter, and heavy; but they had one that was only 4mm, and light enough so I should be able to mount it on the wall.

And since glass is transparent, I drew up a two-week calendar template on a large-ish piece of paper (A2?) and stuck it behind the glass. End of the week; wipe, fill in new dates.

So now I am, if not more organized, at least able to pretend to be more organized, by at least 327% or so. Plus I have a giant big board to doodle on.

(I have been meaning to write this up as a blog post for ages...)


Until fairly recently, I opened bananas incorrectly.

I like them fairly fresh and slightly green, so trying to open them by the "tab" was often difficult; the tab would not break and I would end up mushing up that tip of the fruit wrestling with it. When at home I started using a knife to slice the tab to allow me to peel without damaging the fruit, but this is not practical when out and about far from any handy knife.

Then someone showed me how gorillas open bananas. You basically squeeze the black bit at the non-tab end. Thi magically creates a split and the peel then easily comes away without any fruit mushing.

Try it, it's life altering.


Excellent I always have trouble with those damn fitted sheets.

As for the vaso-flushing, I don't have ice so maybe cold flowing water can do the job? I usually give myself a blast of cold but I never sustained it that long, just a few seconds.


"Until fairly recently, I opened bananas incorrectly."

I think this has to be one of the best sentences i've ever seen written in the English language

However, i also have a technique for opening difficult bananas, which i learned in school and is more animalistic than the gorillas' technique. I just rip the tip open with my teeth.

I shall perhaps try learning this new technique in preperation for the days when i'm old and toothless


I don't have a tip that I can think of right now, but I shall give it some thought, see if I can contribute something useful.

I do have a comment thought -- I can't actually imagine a situation where I'd be in any way comfortable while being interviewed by the FBI. I mean, best case scenario it's a job interview, and even a job interview isn't exactly a no-pressure situation. Otherwise, something really sucky has happened: you're a witness to something bad, you're the victim of something bad, you're suspected of doing something bad, or you did something bad and might get caught.

Realistically, how likely is it that most people who aren't burdened by guilt or whatever are going to blithely chat away to an FBI interviewer?

Oh, and that's ignoring the fact that many people aren't automatically comfortable talking to blank strangers to start with.


I see what you mean, but you're presuming that you know that the guy you're talking to is a G-man. Suppose you were trying to sell him a car, for example?


Sneeze-stopping can also be done by pinching the bridge of the nose, don't be too vigorous, since that's likely to be painful.


When changing side-light bulbs on a car, the most challenging bit is getting the new bulb and holder back into the hole in the headlight unit after you've changed it; car manufacturers seem to like making routine maintenance like this as difficult as possible.

However, if you turn the sidelights on then watch in front of the headlight unit, you can easily tell when you've got the bulb correctly lined up. NB: DO NOT try this with main beam units!


How to get rid of an earworm: If you can't get a piece of music out of your head, try replacing it with another piece of music (one that might be easier to get out of your head). The lyrics for anything in "ballad meter" can be replaced with the lyrics for anything else in ballad meter, which can produce a result both memorable and potentially eradicable. I like to imagine "Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies" sung to the tune of "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island".



Yes but suppose the interviewee REALLY BELIEVES the untrue bullshit he's trying to sell you? ( Like every preist on the planet )

What then?


Agreed. It's like something out of Proust.


Do you place the ice directly on the skin or should there be a layer or two of cloth in between?



@14 You place the ice directly on the skin. Yes! this is hard and never seems to get any easier. I was taught something slightly different, called contrast therapy. First ice rubbed over the affected area for 5 minutes (water frozen in a paper cup works great & having someone to help is fun), then direct heat for 20 minutes (shower or hot tub for this),and repeat. My doctor has me do 2 cycles of this a day for a week when I hurt myself. It's worked so far.

  • If you accidentally touch something hot in the kitchen, grab your earlobe. The fatty tissue quickly dissipates the heat.

  • If you find yourself unable to stop giggling, hold your nose with one hand and count to five on the other. This works best if you count on your fingers in the following order: thumb, index, middle, pinky, ring. This is an efficient way to count on your fingers, incidentally, because you never have to hold down any stray fingers with your thumb.

  • As mentioned above, open bananas from the "wrong" end. Don't break off your handle. Nature put it there for a reason.

  • 18:

    I find that a mixture of wormwood, powdered moth antennae, and scarlet phosphorus helps clear out stale ectoplasm.


    "Amazing Grace" can also be sung to "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island", as can any poem by Emily Dickinson.


    My wife insists that there should be a cloth between skin and ice as protection, but I find that's not cold enough. I typically don't have anything between me and the cube except a thin layer of plastic.

    To all: I have one last post to do tonight, per request, and thank you to everyone for reading and commenting. I haven't been around as much because deadlines are looming large, but this has been fun.


    Dave Berry, your linky isn't working for me. I hadn't heard of that website but it sounds like an amusing idea.

    A couple links down: yes, "Amazing Grace" et al are all in Ballad Meter.


    Actually, retired contracted FBI agents will come and talk to you about your neighbor who wants a job that's Secret, at least. We have lots of Secret jobs and higher here and I've talked to different retired FBI agents four times (one person was two times, five years apart, and for the second interview, I had a folder with copies of her strange letters to the board to show).


    When counting on your fingers, don't count 1-2-3-4-5, count in binary.

    thumb = 1 index = 2 middle = 4 ring = 8 pinkie = 16

    trivial to count to 31 if you're using one hand or 1023 if you're using two (and know your powers of two).

    For advanced study, try learning your powers of three and use trinary. Count to 242 on one hand!


    I tend to split the difference and use pental.


    Oh, good point! I had forgotten about that possibility.

    I would probably be more comfortable in that situation, it's true. (Though possibly/probably not actually comfortable.)


    Argh - I loathe those 'how to tell when somebody is lying' articles. They invariably go on about how avoiding eye contact, moving away from close contact and nervous movements are all sure signs of lying. I do all that and I don't normally lie; I have (probable) Aspergers Syndrome and very poor eyesight (further than about 4 feet away, faces arn't much more than pink blobs with noises coming out of them, so there's little point in looking at them). And my nervousness is redoubled if I think the person is looking for signs of lying. But the tips on folding fitted sheets will actually be useful - I have a cupboard full of balled-up fitted sheets! Methods of opening a banana vary on how ripe it is. Very ripe -just a little pressure at the top end will pop it open; green - you'll have to run a fingernail or a knife point along the seams.


    Stopping a sneeze: what works for me is sticking my thumb up the affected nostril and rotating it (the thumb, that is); if you're worried about doing this in public, pretend to be pinching your nose in your fist.


    When counting on your fingers use one hand only, using the thumb to count off finger joints (3 per finger). Which might be why the dozen is a common unit.


    The interview/interrogation stuff is just NLP 101, esp as regards pacing


    On the topic of finger-counting, here's a hexadecimal system.

    It's still a single-digit system, so it only gets up to F/FF in single/double hand mode, but it may be easier to execute than multi-digit binary. Finding the right balance between capacity and ease-of-learning is left as an exercise for the reader.


    The Japanese T-shirt folding trick is dead easy when you figure out the geometry and where to pinch.

    After reading that FBI file I hope I never get interviewed by the police. I was bullied in school so my way of coping with uncomfortable situations is to freeze up and minimize body language, adopt a poker face and avoid looking in the eye. On top of that I become really careful about what I say, pausing and trying to think of how to sound convincing. I would set their warning bells clanging like the church bells of Notre Dame. Some topics are so sensitive that, well let's just say I spazzed out in a rather comical manner on the psychologist's couch when the topic of pedophilia came up.


    On the whole "earworm" thing - I discovered (much to my distinctly unpatriotic glee) that the words for "Advance Australia Fair" just happen to be in a slightly modified form of ballad meter. This means that, yes, the Australian national anthem can be sung to the tune of "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island". I try to avoid doing this too often, as it tends to put me in silly mode for the rest of the day. However, somewhere in the depths of my computer's C: drive, I have a text file which has alternating lines of the verses of "Advance Australia Fair" and "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island" - which works to cheer me up whenever I remember it.

    As a person with chronic depression, I can't tell you how useful that is. There's something about the juxtapositioning of "We've golden soil and wealth for toil" and "aboard this tiny ship" which just appeals to my inner absurdist.


    For hiccups:

    a) a lot of the time, hiccups are caused by acidosis; acidosis comes in two varieties, one of which is easiest to cure by letting a tablespoon or so of sugar dissolve in your mouth. Google for further info.

    b) I've read that this next trick works because it makes you work muscles that your body relies on for moving air around, causing your body to "reset" the hiccup mechanism.

    I have yet to find a credible medical source for this explanation. Regardless, I can tell you that it induces that panicky I've-been-underwater-too-long feeling almost instantly, and hiccups disappear:

    Take a glass of water, breathe out, drink ten swallows worth before breathing in.


    The second one I can believe works. I've been led to believe it's common in many places in Finland to go vacationing near a lake somewhere and using that lake to cool off from sauna.

    The real macho thing however is to go into the sauna, get nice and toasty, go out and roll around in the snow, then jump right back in the sauna. While you're rolling around in the snow you'll be really, really cold. But when you go back in and your skin starts restoring circulation, the feeling is really like nothing you've ever felt before. Just wonderful. And it does seem to cure little aches and the like.


    Aren't you supposed to Beat yourself/be Beaten with Medicinal Twigs cut from some sort of shrubby, bushy plant like Thingy at some stage during this process?

    Medicinal STUFF would presumably be multiple injected through the heat treated skin of the victim/patient with the beaten with twigs practice and thus do it's medicinal Stuff? Also, aren't tall Blond Nordic persons of the Female Persuasion somehow involved in the process thus encouraging the male person to have variously dilated blood vessels?

    Female /Male to be switched according to the subjects gender preferences of course.



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    This page contains a single entry by Harry Connolly published on February 24, 2011 6:45 AM.

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