April 30, 2007

So What Happened Was This

For those of you wondering why this site was AWOL for much of last year, here's the story in a nutshell.

When the original Tricks of the Trade article ran in August of 2004, I was immediately contacted by an editor from a well-known publisher, wanting to know if I had enough tricks to fill a book. Not even close, I told him. My original call for tricks had netted about 100 responses, from which had culled the 30 best. That left me with only 70 more, most of which were too specific, not specific enough, redundant, or otherwise unusable.

"Well," he said, "do you think you could get more? Because I think this would make a great book." I said I would try.

So the following week I started tradetricks.org. By my reckoning, doling out tricks on a regular basis would slowly build up a following, while making it easy to submit tricks would increase my accumulated store of tips.

Both of these prediction proved to be more-or-less true. By spring of 2005, I had amassed a couple hundred tricks--not nearly enough for a book, and sufficient to serve as proof of concept. I spent a week or two writing a book proposal and sent it to the editor. His response, while more subdued that his original zeal, was still positive and enthusiastic. He said that they were having a planning meeting later that week, and he would see about getting the book onto the 2007 slate.

Anyway, long story short. We corresponded for a few weeks thereafter, and at no point did I receive any indication that he was losing interest in the project. Then, one day, and every day thereafter, all my emails to him apparently disappeared into the ether. No responses from the guy whatsoever. No bounces, either, so presumably he hadn't been 86'ed or anything.

I keep the site going because ... well, because why not? It's pretty easy to maintain and people like it.

A year later I get another email from another editor at another fairly large publishing house. I tell her the above story, and she says, what hey? No one is currently looking at your proposal? Send it over! I do so, warning her that it's the first proposal I have ever written and therefore probably subpar; she replies with "no, this is perfect, and I totally want to take this to the next level." (Most of this is paraphrase, but she honestly said "take it to the next level." In 2006.)

So this goes on for a few weeks, and eventually she and I wind up on the phone together. And I say, "well, all this sounds great, but, you know, I'm kind of wary. Because the last editor just stopped returning my emails."

To which she chuckles knowingly and says, "well, I can assure you that's not going to happen here!"

So: any guesses as to what subsequently "happened here"?

Maybe this is just how editors at big publishing houses routinely end communications of all kinds: one minute you are chatting amicably with them around a water cooler, the next they dash off in mid-sentence and hide in a broom closet so you can no longer speak to them. At any rate, the experience(s) soured me on the whole Tricks of the Trade thing, as well as publishers, editors, books, words, and literacy.

Why, then, did I restart the site last month? Mostly because I got a surprising amount of email from people saying it was missed. Also, the tricks continue to flow in even while the site was inactive, and I had to do something with 'em.

A few notes. The old tricks have been removed, but will presumably resurface in this chimeric "book," assuming that ever happens. Some people asked for a full XML feed; I implemented that suggestion this morning. And the submit form is currently off-line--I hope to give this place a modest facelift in the coming weeks, and will re-add it then. (In the meantime, you can send tricks to submit@tradetricks.org if you are so inclined.)

And I still have this book proposal, sitting on the thumb drive in front of me. If you interested in it, and have an attention span of four weeks or greater, feel free to drop me a line.

You can comment on this post here.

Posted by Matthew at 12:08 PM

April 27, 2007


Purchase a "stain removal pen" and carry it your apron. Then when you see a customer get a spot of food or drink on their clothes, offer it to them. The pens cost about $3 a piece, but they average about 10-20 uses and you'll typically make an extra dollar off each patron you offer it to.

-- Ricky Spears

Posted by Matthew at 4:39 PM

April 26, 2007

Network Administrator

If you need to quickly tell if the person currently logged onto a PC is a local administrator of the Windows server, right click on the START button. If you see "Open All Users" rather than just "Open," the account is in the local Administrators group.

-- David Kendrick

Posted by Matthew at 4:37 PM

April 25, 2007


If you need a ride home after a wild night out, walk into a pizza parlor that delivers and order a pie to be sent to your house. Then ask if you can get a lift to your house -- hey, they're going there anyway!

-- adz

Posted by Matthew at 4:36 PM

April 24, 2007


If you need to put on a wetsuit in a hurry, bring along a plastic grocery bag. Put your foot in the bag before puttign it through the wetsuit: the frictionless plastic will allow your foot and lower calf to slide through quickly.

Posted by Matthew at 4:35 PM

April 23, 2007

College Admissions Representative

American high schools can be impossible to navigate due to their confusing architecture, multiple additions, and endless construction projects. So do yourself a favor: when trying to find the main entrance to a school, just look for the flagpole.

Posted by Matthew at 4:34 PM

April 20, 2007


Fill any excess freezer room with O.J or milk containers full of water. The less free space you have in your freezer the less it will run, and the more you'll money save in the long run.

Plus, if there's ever a power outage, the blocks of ice will remain frozen for a while, allowing you to keep food in there much longer than you'd otherwise be able--and, as the ice melts over time, it won't flood the freezer, because it's already in a sealed container.

-- Ed

Posted by Matthew at 8:21 PM

April 19, 2007

Trail Crew

When blazing new trail through a forest, cut all of your stumps high, around chest or waist level. You can always shorten them later, if you'd like, and if you wish to remove one of these stumps entirely the high stump can serve as a lever, allowing you to break the taproot.

-- Dan

Posted by Matthew at 8:20 PM

April 18, 2007

Auto Mechanic

You can use a golfing tee to plug a fuel line when changing a vehicle's fuel filter.

-- NoNameCanExplain

Posted by Matthew at 8:19 PM

April 17, 2007


If you are baking a cake or other desert and the recipe tells you to flour the pan before pouring the batter in, don't. Instead, give it a quick spritz with cooking oil and sugar it instead. If you have to bite into a hunk of something while eating cake, better it be sugar than flour.

-- Lauren

Posted by Matthew at 8:19 PM

April 16, 2007

Office Worker

If you are sending an email with an attachment, add the attachment first, then compose the message, and then add email addresses tothe send line. Now there's no chance you'll have to send the ever-popular "whoops, forgot to attach the file" follow-up.

In fact, it's a good practice to always put the email addresses of the recipients in last, to ensure that an errant carriage return or mouseclick won't fire off the message half-baked.

-- John W.

Posted by Matthew at 8:17 PM

April 13, 2007


You don't need the register to tell you how much change a customer is due. Just use this simple technique:

  • Start with the total for the bill -- $3.06, for example:
  • Put pennies into your hand, adding them to the total, until you come up with an even nickel amount. Four pennies gets you to $3.10;
  • Add nickels and/or dimes until you get to an even quarter amount. $3.10 plus a dime and a nickel brings you to $3.25;
  • Add quarters until you reach an even dollar amount. $3.25 plus three quarters is $4;
  • Add bills, starting with ones, until your total equals the bill the customer game you. Four dollars plus a single makes the total $5; adding a five makes it $10; adding a ten makes it $20.
If the customer owed you $3.06 and gave you a twenty dollar bill, you'll hand them 4 pennies, a dime, a nickel, three quarters, a one dollar bill, a five dollar bill and a ten dollar bill. Their change is $16.94. With practice, this is as fast as just pulling out how much the register tells you to, and it is a lifesaver if you accidentally ring a customer as having presented exact change when they didn't. And if you announce your calculations aloud as you make them, the customer won't feel the need to count his change for verification.

Posted by Matthew at 7:52 AM

April 12, 2007

New Mother

Amid the confused haze of sleep deprivation that comes with the care of an infant, a breastfeeding mother may forget which side she used last. If faced with this problem, simply place a hair band or bracelet around the wrist of the side you should use next.

-- Julie

Posted by Matthew at 7:51 AM

April 11, 2007

World Traveller

It's nearly impossible to find cold wine or beer in the stores of Europe. So when you go to the supermarket, select your alcoholic beverages, put them in the store's freezer, gather your other items, and collect your nicely chilled grog on the way to checkout

-- Peter

Posted by Matthew at 7:50 AM

April 10, 2007

Massage Therapist

One of the best oil containers available is the plastic bear full of honey you can buy from any grocery store. The shape is easy to grip, even when it's gotten slippery.

-- TRCunning

Posted by Matthew at 7:48 AM

April 9, 2007


If a bolt has broken off flush with the inside of a nut, first weld the two together and then use a wrench to remove both at once.

-- A.P.

Posted by Matthew at 7:47 AM

April 6, 2007

Car Salesman

For a quick estimate on what your client's payment would be on a standard five year loan with good credit, take the amount the want to finance and double it. The first three digits of the result will be the estimated payment.

For example:

Amount Financed - $10,000

$10,000 X 2 = $20,000

First three digits: 200, or a payment of $200/month.

-- lshamarro

Posted by Matthew at 10:05 PM

April 5, 2007

Produce Stand Owner

To find a ripe Honeydew melon, check the rind. If it is smooth like an egg, it is unripe and bland; if it has a slightly raised crackle appearance on the rind, it is vine-ripened and sweet. The more "crackle", the riper it is.

Posted by Matthew at 10:04 PM

April 4, 2007


When using tape to secure IV lines, foleys, NG tubes, and the line, fold the end of the tape back onto itself. This makes a short, non-sticky tag you can pull when removing the tape.

Posted by Matthew at 10:01 PM

April 3, 2007


If you're calling a business to speak to someone specific and you get a receptionist, it's often helpful to say "I'm returning a call for such-and-such," instead of just "I'm calling for...". It will typically get you transferred in with less fuss.

-- danielo

Posted by Matthew at 10:00 PM

April 2, 2007

Tattoo Artist

Most people sigh conspicuously deep a few times before they faint. The medical reason is pretty simple: the brain is being deprived of oxygen (which is why the person is fainting in the first place) and the urge to "sigh" is actually the urge to oxygenate.

No matter how many times a person insists "No, I'm okay," force that person to sit or lie down as quickly as you can, before they get to the ground a faster way.

Additionally, it takes the body an average of 20 minutes to recover from a faint; attempting to move the person earlier risks another faint. People often insist they are feeling better out of embarrassment, but, unless they're a superhero, they probably have the same physical requirements that everyone else has.

-- Subspace

Posted by Matthew at 9:48 AM