A Tangle of Wires If your computer station or entertainment center looks like the dressing room at an ’80s hair-band revival, tame those wild strands with the XL Cable Organizer ($14.99) or a few smaller Cable Turtles ($6.99 or $13.99) from containerstore.com. Or for an inexpensive (albeit less stylish) fix, simply buy a few different-size utility hooks at the hardware store, screw them underneath the desk or unit, and drape the cords over them.
A Water Stain on the Ceiling After fixing the leak, if you don’t want to repaint the whole ceiling, try touching it up with Kilz Upshot (kilz.com), an aerosol ceiling primer that’s tinted to more closely match an aged white ceiling.
Or if you prefer to redo everything (and entertain yourself in the process), try Sherwin-Williams Visible Solutions ceiling paint. It goes on violet and dries bright white in 20 minutes, which ensures you don’t miss any spots.
Your Most Prized Possessions If you want a fun outdoor hiding place for your valuables without the risk of forgetting where you hid them, use a GPS device to save the coordinates (it’s called geocaching). Looking to give your heirs some fun after you’re gone? Include the coordinates to a sentimental stash in your will, or lead your beneficiaries on a treasure hunt by supplying a series of coordinates to various things you’ve stowed in different locations. Never hide anything too valuable, though. Plastic film canisters, Tupperware containers, and especially ammo boxes (available at Army-Navy stores) offer the best weather protection. Go to geocaching.com to learn more.
From Telemarketers The Federal Trade Commission manages the National Do Not Call Registry. If you add your home and/or cell number (sorry, no work numbers) to this list, you should stop being bothered by telemarketers within 31 days. Charities, political organizations, and telephone surveys are exempt, as are businesses you have called or dealt with in the last 3 to 18 months. It’s most convenient to opt out by phone (888-382-1222), since calling from the number you want added to the registry requires less information from you than opting out online at donotcall.gov.
From Junk Mailers
- To stop those annoying “preapproved” credit and insurance offers, call 888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com (you’ll be asked for your Social Security number).
- To reduce the number of catalogs and marketing brochures in your mailbox, visit dmachoice.org. At the same website, you can elect to reduce the number of e-mail solicitations you receive.
- To sign up to stop the delivery of unsolicited phone books, go to yellowpagesgoesgreen.org.
Your E-mail Address If you’re ordering something from a website and want to avoid future spam, or if there’s someone you’d really like to be honest with but only if you can remain anonymous, then register for a temporary e-mail account at guerrillamail.com. It’s free, and you’ll be able to use the address to receive messages for 15 minutes and send them for 60 minutes. After that—poof!—you never existed.
- Bank of America: 888-341-5000
- Chase: 888-868-8618
- Citibank: Call the number on the back of your ATM card or statement
- Wachovia: 866-203-5722
- Wells Fargo: 888-528-8460
Your Scent From a Blood-Hound Sorry, but if you’re on the run from one of these, enjoy your freedom while it lasts. Your scent can be tracked through shed skin cells and even exhaled breath, according to Jack Shuler, author of Training the Mantrailing Bloodhound. Therefore, changing clothes, crossing water, or using scent-masking products will not deter a well-trained bloodhound.
Bad Breath Instead of nibbling on a sprig of parsley or lemon rind, have a cup of black or green tea. According to Christine Wu, PhD, who organized the 2007 conference of the International Society for Breath Odor Research (what, you missed it?), green tea in particular contains high levels of catechins, which “chemically bind to smelly breath compounds and mask them.” For the greatest effect, have the tea without sugar and swish it around in your mouth before swallowing. When drinking tea isn’t an option, chew a piece of cinnamon gum for 20 minutes. Wu’s research team found that the gum killed 50 percent of bad-breath bacteria.
From All Those People in Your Past You Never Want to See Again If your home phone number is publicly listed, there’s a good chance that by typing it into Google or any popular online people finder, your name, address, and even a map to your house will pop up. To hide this kind of information, first unlist your number with your phone company (or cancel your landline entirely and use your mobile). Then contact each of the data vendors or sites listed below and follow its opt-out instructions:
Your Identity From Thieves When Traveling Newer credit cards, driver’s licenses, and passports increasingly contain radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. This technology is similar to bar coding, but the information contained is about you rather than a product. Armed with an RFID reader, a thief could pick your pocket of information without your cards ever leaving your wallet. To help protect yourself, Kena Kai offers “electromagnetically opaque” DataSafe wallets ($39.99 and up) and ID sleeves ($11.99).
From a Bolt Out of the Blue And finally, if past sins have you ducking in thunderstorms, then consider the StrikeAlert Personal Lightning Detector ($79.99; strikealert.com). It’s the size of a personal pager and will notify you of approaching cloud-to-ground lightning up to 40 miles away.
How to Find Your Employees and Children Popular new mobile phone services, like Loopt and Google Latitude, use GPS and other technologies to beam the user’s location to friends, and vice versa. While the technology makes for a fun social-networking tool, employers and parents may want to co-opt it and use it on the phones they provide to employees and kids. (Note to those being tracked: To find out if any of these services has been installed without your knowledge, look in your phone’s applications menu or watch for messages that it sends periodically to users.) Of course, tracking people this way isn’t perfect. Your assistant could cover up the fact that he’s on a golf course by activating the Hide feature or, even more deviously, by programming in the home address of his “sick auntie.”
How to Find a Liar The story of Pinocchio may not be entirely mythical. When someone is lying, the cells lining the inside of the nose swell and release histamine, which causes itching. As a result, liars are more likely to touch and/or scratch their noses, says Alan Hirsch, MD, founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, who has studied this Pinocchio effect. Other lying tip-offs include leaning forward (“liar’s lean”) and using words such as would not or could not rather than wouldn’t or couldn’t for extra emphasis (“expansion of contraction”).