Don’t Rinse the Bird

It’s bad for your health.

Contrary to what most of us believe, rinsing before cooking does not remove harmful bacteria or reduce the risk of food borne illness, and in fact may increase the risk by spreading bacteria throughout sink and kitchen. The only safe way to eliminate harmful bacteria is to kill it with fire — by cooking the meat to a minimum safe temperature (165F for poultry).


Bedbugs? Find Out With a DIY Bedbug Detector

No, really, from a post I wrote:

Make Your Own Bedbug Detector

To make the detector, turn the dog bowl upside down to create a moat and a dome. Next, mix water, sugar, and yeast in the coffee cup, and rest the cup on the upturned bowl’s dome. The researchers covered the outside of their bowl in cloth tape painted black; bedbugs are attracted to the color. The cloth tape made it easier for the bedbugs to climb the sloping wall before falling into the well. To trap the bedbugs inside, the researchers coated the well with sticky resin. For DIYers, a sprinkling of talcum powder will make the walls of the moat too slippery to climb back out. In fact, talc is what’s used in the ClimbUp Interceptor, the most popular commercial bedbug trap on the market.

The Science Behind It

The researchers experimented with a variety of chemical bedbug attractants, but none were more effective than the simple DIY mixture. Bedbugs are drawn to the CO2 a sleeper exhales, and the combination of sugar, water, and yeast produces prodigious amounts of it — that’s how beer gets its fizz and bread gets its rise. Hungry bedbugs on the prowl for CO2 and human blood crawl up the sides of the bowl and fall down into the well, never to escape. The scientists used large quantities of sugar, water, and yeast to generate the CO2 in their experiments. Smaller amounts — such as those one might mix in a paper coffee cup — are safer, although may not be as effective.

Yet Another Thing I Wrote

For a regular client (I’m usually just editing posts over there rather than writing them). It’s part of a new feature we’re testing:

Stuff We Love is a collection of Wise Bread bloggers’ favorite products and services, the stuff we use and know and trust. These are the things we recommend to friends and family when they ask — and sometimes when they don’t.

This one’s about the Easy Walk Harness, and I really do love it. So does my dog Doughty. Here’s a snippet:

What’s Great About It

The Easy Walk looks like all those other dog harnesses you’ve seen that loop over the back, under the chest, and across the breastbone. With those, the leash attaches to a ring on the dog’s back, the whole setup sort of like a draft horse’s harness. In fact, while those harnesses prevent the dog from choking itself, they make pulling easier, while also encouraging the dog’s instinct to pull.

It Prevents Pulling

Instead, on the Easy Walk, the leash attaches to the harness with a ring on the breastbone strap. The dog is still secure in the harness and still protected from choking. However, attaching at the breastbone makes pulling more difficult because there’s much less to pull against. Plus, whenever the dog pulls, the effect is to turn the dog in toward the handler’s legs and feet, no place a dog wants to go.

Put those two effects together and suddenly you’re the neighborhood’s model dog-walker.

Jury Duty Survival Kit

I’ve been on jury duty for a week and a day as an alternate juror. Here’re some survival tips.

  • Bring bottled water. And drink it. It’s more valuable in your body than in your canteen.
  • Arrive early. You’ll find a better parking space. More importantly, you’ll be able to park yourself near one of the few available power outlets for your laptop.
  • Bring a book. This is a great opportunity to cull your need-to-read pile. Nook, Kindle, smartphone are also options although you may need to bring along a charger if you’re gonna be here all day.
  • Take the stairs. There’s a lot of sitting around and waiting and the exercise will feel good.
  • Communicate with employers/clients. Everybody understands that you are in limbo and can’t be as productive as usual. Still, keep them updated so they know when you will be returning to the real world. Your absence is tough on them, too.
  • Don’t be surly. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve on a jury and help your community find justice, even as an alternate.

Let’s Make Up a New Company Name

To go with my recent (and ongoing) tagline refresh project, I thought it would be fun to come up with a new name for my freelance writing and editing business.

One of my favorite company names is General Atomics. They work in nuclear energy and defense, so ick all around.

Another favorite is General Dynamics. Also icky, unfortunately.

My third favorite is Applied Materials. Semi-conductors. Ho-hum.

You can see where this is going, so let’s get started.

  • Atomic Dynamics
  • Dynamic Atomics
  • Atomic Materials
  • Applied Dynamics
  • Material Atomics
  • Dynamic Materials
  • Dynamic Applied Atomics
  • Atomic Applied Dynamics

None of that has anything to do with what I do. Or does it?

Atom: “ The irreducible, indestructible material unit postulated by ancient atomism.” Or, in other words, “uncuttable.” Whether I’ve written it or edited it, that’s true for everything I produce (or ought to be): clear, concise, irreducible.

Dynamic: “Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress…” Any firm that flirts with changing its name from “Lars Peterson Editorial Services” to “Material Dynamics”, is materially dynamic.

Applied: “Put into practice or a particular use…” Such as this exercise in business naming.

Applied Dynamic Atomics: Reality Transcription Services



Tagline Refresh

The old tagline — “What can I write for you?” — is getting stale.

Let’s cook up some new ones. Let’s stay focused on what I do: write and edit. Anything, really.


  • Words wryitten, edited.
  • Words. Raw and cooked.
  • Words. Rough and polished.
  • Words. Fresh and easy.

Oops. That last belongs to a grocery chain.


Sticking with what I do.

  • Copywritten and edited.
  • Copywrediting
  • Copywreditor for rent.
  • Copy written, copy edited.


A grab bag. Hey!

  • Grab bag, talk job, write draft, cut copy, please client.
  • Copy so clean you forget it’s there.
  • Words we won’t forget.
  • Words I won’t forget to proofread.
  • Words that lose themselves in you(r business, product, or service).
  • Where the serial comma is always welcome.
  • Words first and last.




What Does a Writing Teacher Know About Copywriting?

He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about it, and so copywriting may become a rich source of Now I Know mini-essays. I do know a few things about writing, in general. Here are some of the pearls I frequently share with my writing students, in no particular order.

  • Show don’t tell;
  • Be clear and concise;
  • Choose the right word;
  • Write active sentences;
  • Understand parallelism;
  • The most important part of the introduction is the hook;
  • OK, I lied: the hook is the most important part of the introduction that comes before the thesis, which is the most important part of the entire thing;
  • (Still, come up with a good hook, otherwise nobody will read your thesis);
  • Think about your audience, but don’t pander to them;
  • If you imagine that your audience is *this much* dumber than you are, you will write with more clarity and coherence. This is not pandering;
  • Don’t use “you”*;
  • You can begin a sentence with “Because”*, but only when “Because” is used in the sense of “Since”;
  • When in doubt, describe;
  • Revise as many times as time allows;
  • Proofread at least once more than you think you need to.

A copywriter who added some tricks from Classical Rhetoric to that list could do pretty well. But that’s a topic for another day.
*Here my experience as a writing teacher bumps up against my experience as a demographic target and a copywriter. One would be hard pressed to find ad copy that does not rely heavily on both “you” and “because” (and not in the sense of “since”).

Now I Know: Photochromic Lenses

When I updated my eyeglass prescription recently, I decided to outfit my frames with photochromic lenses. What are photochromic lenses? They are lenses that change from transparent to dark as they and their wearer move from indoors to outdoors. We usually call them transitions lenses or just Transitions for the same reason we call synthetic floor coverings Linoleum and soda pop Coke; the people who make them know how to market their product. Unlike Linoleum and Coke, the brand name Transitions tells us something meaningful about the product, too.

But how do they do it?

At first I imagined millions of tiny shutters embedded in the lenses, opening and closing with the light. And, it turns out, that’s not far off. Instead of little Levolors, however, the outer layer of my plastic eyeglass lenses is embedded, to the depth of just 150 microns*, with millions of molecules of a light sensitive organic compound known as an oxazine. Organic compounds are those that include at least one carbon and an oxazine is an organic compound with one oxygen and one nitrogen arranged in a ring. When indoors or otherwise shielded from ultraviolet light, the molecules do not absorb visible light, and the lenses remain transparent. But when exposed to ultraviolet light, such as that from the sun, the molecules change shape, which causes them to absorb visible light, and the lenses gradually darken. The reverse happens when ultraviolet light is removed; the molecules return to their original shape and the lenses gradually become transparent again.

Had my eyeglasses been made of glass instead of plastic, they would have been embedded with the inorganic compound silver chloride, which has the same photochromic properties. Whatever the material, if eyes are windows to the soul, then photochromic lenses are blinds on those windows to the soul.

*How deep is that? A micron (or micrometre) is one one-millionth of a meter. A human hair is about 100 microns in diameter. So the oxazines in my glasses go down about a hair and a half.

Thinking Outside the Box

Everybody wants creative solutions to problems and when they are looking to hire people to help them find creative solutions, everybody asks for creative problem solvers who can “think outside of the box” or who are “out of the box” thinkers.

Everybody does this. What’s outside the box about that?

What we need is a new term or phrase to describe thinking that’s outside the box. In fact, let’s stop passively describing it and start actively measuring it. Let’s rationalize out of the box thinking. Let’s give it a metric. Creative workers will tally up their Eurekas! and divide them by hours worked. Freelancers can include the figure on their CVs and recruiters can ask about it on their questionnaires.

“How many Eurekas per Hour do you average?” a recruiter might ask.  Once the measurement becomes the established norm, a recruiter might slip into shorthand and ask, “What’s your Eureka Rate?” At which point, we’ll know that we’ve finally slipped free of the box and I’ll need a new way to differentiate myself.

My response will be, “Hard to say what my Eureka Rate is. My box of Eurekas overflows.”