Tricks of the tradesMarch 22, 2005 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Trade Tricks is a collection of all the little 'tricks of the trade' which people build up with experience. Some are pretty hum-drum, but others are useful even if you don't practice the trade. For example, this tip for checking if a diamond is real may at some time be handy, and this one for washing a pan would have been useful last night. Found via, and run by the writer of, defective yeti
posted by darsh (33 comments total)

Previously, when it was still just an article and not a blog.
posted by smackfu at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2005

Parents: Always give your pre-schooler two correct choices. They desperately want to be in control, so asking if they want to go to bed will always result in a NO! And simply telling them it's time to go to bed doesn't work either. Give them two choices, either one of which is a correct answer: Do you want to go up to bed on piggy-back, or fly like superman? Works in any situation, and you'll avoid many arguments!

This works for bosses too.
posted by scheptech at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2005

Does your boss choose piggy-back or superman?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:47 AM on March 22, 2005

That site needs a search function... I'm not going through all those entries just to find out if someone has a trick for removing large amounts of blood from shag carpeting.
posted by clevershark at 8:51 AM on March 22, 2005

Tip #652:
Sacrifice a large animal, like a cow, then phone the cleaners.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:06 AM on March 22, 2005

And occasionally misinformative:
Stage Hand: Estimating the length of a coil of rope or cable? Count the number of loops, divide the number of loops by 3, and then multiply the result by the diameter. It's accurate to a couple feet.
I'm pretty sure that should be multiply by 3.

Starfleet Engineer: Multiply your repair estimates by 4. Then, when you can get them done in 1/4 the time you originally promised, your captain will think you're a "miracle worker."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:24 AM on March 22, 2005

If food residue is stuck to a pan or baking dish, simply fill the pan/dish with water and place a dryer sheet in it to soak.

I'd guess this also eliminates static cling in your cast iron cookware.
posted by ChrisTN at 9:43 AM on March 22, 2005

I think the tip for "interviewee" assumes too much about what reporters actually want. In my experience working for numerous newspapers I have always preferred face to face or phone interviews over e-mail "interviews." I think most all of my colleagues would agree with that, too.
posted by dead_ at 9:54 AM on March 22, 2005

A dryer sheet? Why not a teaspoon of dishwasher detergent? That stuff literally eats food.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on March 22, 2005

This works for bosses too.

Scheptech - last time I asked my boss whether she wanted a piggyback to bed or fly like superman, I got in real trouble.
posted by Sk4n at 10:21 AM on March 22, 2005

I 2nd clevershark..........wading through too much junk.
It is a good idea all the same.
posted by peacay at 10:24 AM on March 22, 2005

Yeah, the dryer sheet idea is actually a pretty bad one. Dish detergent would work just as well, not take up landfill space, and not leach wax, perfumes, and all sorts of icky chemicals into the metals of your pan. Ya know, unless you just want your eggs to be dryer fresh, I suppose. Keep in mind that water is one of the most powerful natural solvents in the world.

Also, most "fake" diamonds aren't made of glass and paste anymore, and haven't for 40-50 years. A \$20 zirconia will pass the "reading" diamond test if it's been cut correctly.

Most of the ones I read seem to be viewer suggested, and the whole thing reeks of "buy my book". There's virtually no editing, the fact checking seems to be fairly weak, and there's no organization or searching of topic matter. Frankly, it vibes of web project that somebody thought they could make a buck by publishing.
posted by dejah420 at 10:36 AM on March 22, 2005

Scheptech - Sadly true. I've used the "treat her like a three-year-old" explanation of my boss far too many time. A three-year-old RN is as scary as you think it might be.

Excellent post, smackfu. I love these little lifehacks.
posted by kalimac at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2005

November 03, 2004

Thanks to the dozens of people who sent in "President of the USA" tricks today, but I think I'll decline to reprint them here.

My personal favorite
posted by afroblanca at 11:50 AM on March 22, 2005

Nice collection of vegetable-cutting advice, for right and left handers, found through that site.
posted by blendor at 11:51 AM on March 22, 2005

Hints from Heloise for more than just the house.
posted by caddis at 11:52 AM on March 22, 2005

December 14, 2004
Bicycle Maker

Today's post stolen / paraphrased from Normy over at Ask Metafilter:

posted by caddis at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2005

The February Tippler tip is pretty suspect, really. Sure, you can increase the value of your vodka by running it through the filter - but the filter cost \$12. For another \$12, you could just buy better vodka.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:07 PM on March 22, 2005

They're spot on about taking the bottom bunk though: if you fall out in you're a lot closer to the floor.
posted by fshgrl at 12:23 PM on March 22, 2005

I love these little lifehacks.

Is anybody else a little tired of the word "hack" being used (mostly by bloggers) to identify any little tip, trick or hint? I was out of toilet paper this morning, so I wiped my ass with Kleenex. Killer Life/Bathroom Hack!

just me? 'kay
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:57 PM on March 22, 2005

I think most all of my colleagues would agree with that, too.

Actually, I don't, not always. I often like talking to people online - easy to cut and paste, less chance of getting an "I can't talk to you now." (Of course, other times you want the give and take of a real interview - the answers that spark new questions or lines of inquiry, the ability to jolly them along if they are reticent.)
But it's GREAT advice to the interviewee. You can't trust many reporters to get your quotes right and if you talk to one via email, you have a record of what you said.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:14 PM on March 22, 2005

I don't want to appear chiralistic, but bakeries should never hire left-handed people, because it takes all day to get their twist tie off the bag.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:42 PM on March 22, 2005

Many of the ideas seem to be very similar to ones in a book Rules of Thumb, which is at least 10, maybe 20 years old.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:50 PM on March 22, 2005

Mortician: When draining the body of fluids, time can be saved by leaning on or applying pressure to the abdomen and essentially 'squooshing out' the fluids. Don't attempt this if the deceased underwent an autopsy, however. The Y shaped incision is only sewn up and could pull apart. In addition, this pressure forces out any necrotic gasses that may accumulate, making any contact with the loved one while on display less likely to result in unpleasantness.
posted by obloquy at 2:41 PM on March 22, 2005

Is anybody else a little tired of the word "hack" being used (mostly by bloggers) to identify any little tip, trick or hint?

Yes.
posted by mokujin at 3:28 PM on March 22, 2005

Is it getting "hackneyed?"

tee hee hee
posted by jfwlucy at 3:42 PM on March 22, 2005

The current use of "hack" reminds me of the old alt.hackers usenet group, where every post and reply had to include an ObHack (obligatory hack).
posted by smackfu at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2005

> I don't want to appear chiralistic,

The complete phrase is, "I don't want to appear chiralistic - hey, some of my best friends are sinistral - but, ..."
posted by Wolfdog at 3:49 PM on March 22, 2005

This all seems like the type of folksy wisdom that gets handed down orally from generation to generation. I suppose these days, we have to take these "nuggets" and distribute them in a different way.

Always give your pre-schooler two correct choices.

See, I thought stuff like this was too intuitive and obvious to be written down, but I'm willing to admit this may just be me. Kind of like the reverse-psychology "tricks" of "Yummm!! This broccoli is sooo tasty!" That is, it might work, but only maybe the first time, unless your pre-schooler (or boss) is not particularly bright.

In that vein, I've always been amazed by that class of people (they often become salesmen) who are just full of these tricks in their handling of people. They know to keep silent when the client is considering the deal. They know that they are more alluring when they dont look at that girl across the room, since everyone else is and so she will notice who *isnt* looking at her.

But they know all this instinctively and they do it well. The rest of us geeky borderline autistics, who frequent sites like Metafilter, try to rely on and are obsessed by things like "rules of thumbs" and "life-hacks" and "tricks", falsely believeing that if we study the manual hard enough then perhaps we will be able to pass this test too.

But I dont think thats how it works. You cant study either sociability or an intutition for things or just that native competence that will always make person X a better baker/carpenter/plumber/conversationalist/parent/funeral director - than you.
posted by vacapinta at 3:53 PM on March 22, 2005

The February Tippler tip is pretty suspect, really. Sure, you can increase the value of your vodka by running it through the filter - but the filter cost \$12. For another \$12, you could just buy better vodka.

Not true! A replacement Brita filter costs \$4 at Target, less if you buy the big packs. Doing this chews through the filters, you can only do a few liters each, but it makes for ultra cheap booze without the normal hangover or nasty taste.

I use this trick more often than I care to admit.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:14 AM on March 23, 2005

vacapinta writes " But they know all this instinctively and they do it well. The rest of us geeky borderline autistics, who frequent sites like Metafilter, try to rely on and are obsessed by things like 'rules of thumbs' and 'life-hacks' and 'tricks', falsely believing that if we study the manual hard enough then perhaps we will be able to pass this test too.

"But I don[']t think that[']s how it works. You can[']t study either sociability or an intuition for things or just that native competence that will always make person X a better baker/carpenter/plumber/conversationalist/parent/funeral director - than you."

Having flagged your post (fantastic/great post) I'm now going to quibble with it. I think you're largely right, but I'd like to offer a counter-example.

For many many years, this particular hack was unknown to man, then for about five thousand years, only a small minority could perform it, even though it's a particular useful and versatile hack. But by 1900, it's claimed nearly 90% of Americans could perform this trick, in one form or another, and by 1969 only 1% could not. (I'm somewhat skeptical of these figures, by the way.)

Biologists will tell you that five thousand years is too little time for this hack to have started as a mutation and have reached 99% of the human population (even adult digestion of lactose still hasn't reached 99% of the population), yet this hack requires convoluted connections from the visual processing centers of the brain to the auditory processing centers to the motor performing parts of the brain. And five thousand years is too generous anyway, as this hack been in used by large portions of the population only in the last several hundred years. For thousands of years before that, it was used only as adjunct to certain professions: rulership, engineering, theology, and of course the professional that first inspired it, tax-collecting.

The trick, as you've guessed by now, is what you're doing right now. It's literacy, the ability to read and write. And indeed, five thousand years ago, it was used only by a handful of government technicians, tax collectors and accountants working for the Sumerian (or Egyptian) King. Much like learning a programming language today, most people didn't need to do it and would have found it hopelessly technical; even today, it's more difficult to learn as an adult than as a child.

So, if we taught other tricks, like "sociability or an intuition for things or just that native competence" like we teach reading and writing, could we produce a population in which ninety or ninety-nine percent of the population could use those tricks too?
posted by orthogonality at 3:04 AM on March 23, 2005

vacapinta writes "But [salespeople and the like] know all this instinctively and they do it well. The rest of us geeky borderline autistics, who frequent sites like Metafilter, try to rely on and are obsessed by things like 'rules of thumbs' and 'life-hacks' and 'tricks', falsely believing that if we study the manual hard enough then perhaps we will be able to pass this test too."

I should also note salespeople and HR people and CEO-types often seem to have a positive main for "rules of thumb" books, whether based on Sun Tzu's Art of War, Machiavellli's advice for princes, or Dale Carnegie's books about "winning friends" (by which Dale seemed to mean clients as much as anything).

Is it just that "geeky borderline" people are too skeptical of these tomes of wisdom?
posted by orthogonality at 3:16 AM on March 23, 2005

If I remember correctly, I think we might be skirting the edges of the old Myers-Briggs view of people where some are categorized as 'drivers'. These folks love the short answer. They seem to believe the simpler the answer the more likely it is to be true. Their opposites are 'analyticals' who only really trust the long answer. Anything too simple for these folks is suspect, a result of lazy thinking, they're always looking for more data to help them figure things out.

Just different people types. Interesting and actually useful to understand at least early in life before you start to figure all this stuff out intuitively anyway.

Btw, the 'trick' with driver bosses: dont' ask them open ended questions like what to do or try to engage them in long back and forth discussions, they hate that because it takes up their time and it means you're not thinking hard enough about your own job. Just give them a list of alternatives they can chose from, they love making decisions believing this is one of their main talents. Obviously you get to hugely influence the outcome by how you present the list and your favorite choice on it.
posted by scheptech at 8:46 AM on March 23, 2005

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