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Tricks Of The Trade

The Tricks Of The Trade article is now running at The Morning News.

A huge "thank you" to the hundreds (!!) of people who responded to my call for occupational secrets. Narrowing it down to 30 was tough, and I hope to post all the suggestions here in the near future. Again, sorry about the lack of names in the piece -- since 75% of the ones I chose were submitted as "Anonymous" we decided to run them all unsigned. I also shortened some, and, since they were all submitted in different tenses (past, present, subjunctive) and persons (first-, second- and third-person), I reworded most for uniformity of voice -- I hope no one is irritated by my heavy editorial hand. (Is it obvious how guilty I feel for altering your submissions?)

By the by, someone started a Metafilter thread on this topic, and more great tricks are being posted over there.

Again, thanks to everyone who wrote in. I have the best readers ever.

Posted on August 24, 2004 to Elsewhere, Tricks Of The Trade


Sweet Candy ass! You used my Pebkac story. you the man.

Posted by: wedge on August 24, 2004 10:45 AM

This is an absolutely fantastic article. Can't wait to check out the Metafilter thread.

Posted by: Shawn on August 24, 2004 10:48 AM

Thanks for using (what I assume as) my comment. Now I almost feel published!

Posted by: jdodd on August 24, 2004 11:24 AM

What a great article! I enjoyed it. And the one about the graphics designer is one I need to remember :op

Posted by: Rob Mientjes on August 24, 2004 12:53 PM

I'm going to assume you didn't use my babysitting tricks because your readers are usually over the age of 13.

Posted by: Mickey on August 24, 2004 3:16 PM

Too cool...you used mine! I feel so SPECIAL!

Posted by: april on August 24, 2004 7:54 PM

superb. favorite was balloon-twister

Posted by: 990000 on August 24, 2004 7:59 PM

I've heard the PEBCAK (or PEBKAC) one before, but ran across the other day tech support folks referencing a "ID-ten-tee" problem source -- which sounds pretty technical, but which when written down (ID10T) is right in the same ballpark.

Posted by: *** Dave on August 24, 2004 8:59 PM

oooh yeah, i made the list! though i'd bet money i was the only landscape architect to submit.

Posted by: slowhell on August 24, 2004 9:33 PM

What I think is humorous is that all the advertisements I have on the Morning News Site are directly related to the Balloon Twisting Advice. I guess butchers and box-flatteners just don't have the web presence.

But which of the ones you used, matthew, was your favorite tip of the trade?

Posted by: Kevin on August 24, 2004 10:17 PM

Neat and interesting list. Designers should be careful with the Graphic Design tip. In many cases, the client will ignore the obvious mistake and go for something else. Then you've still got to fix something you like and your stuck with something you don't.

Posted by: Dave K. on August 25, 2004 4:46 AM

ya, ID10T is decent, but i think is a bit too obvious. especially with that style of speak being used so much in spam. How often to you see
V1AGRA and C1AL3S, and so forth so it can get through your spam blocker?

Posted by: wedge on August 25, 2004 5:00 AM

Excellent article - kudos for the idea. I frequently contract with architects and designers peddling their renderings...to be called 'colorings' from this point on.

Posted by: Sloan on August 25, 2004 2:28 PM

That was probably the best thing I read in years. Would you *please* consider finding a willing publisher and compiling more of these into a small book?

Posted by: Jonathan Martin on August 25, 2004 2:34 PM

I literally just saw the Juggler "miss the impressive-but-not-difficult closer" trick in action in Whistler 2 weeks ago. They augmented it by going on and on beforehand about how difficult a trick it was, and how many times one of the guys missed it last time they tried it. The audience was putty in their hands.

Posted by: courtney on August 25, 2004 3:21 PM

A+ story. Would read again.

Posted by: Joel Johnson on August 25, 2004 3:31 PM

ID-10-T is the one you can *say* in front of the user, such as if you're calling another tech to get them to dig up a replacement foot-pedal or cupholder.

The TMN story was stellar. If you have enough material, a sequel would be great, a series greater.

Posted by: LAN3 on August 25, 2004 4:52 PM

Great article! I thought of one and forgot to submit it but then I'm embarassed to tell the trick of my trade. It's so cheap!

Posted by: Miel on August 25, 2004 6:30 PM

I can't believe you made an article completely out of your reader's suggestions (just like Scott Adams does). GET BACK TO WORK!!!!

Posted by: Not Fooled on August 26, 2004 7:42 AM

hey awesome article!

Posted by: shub on August 26, 2004 11:53 PM


This was the trick set of questions on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell me this weekend. Dr Ruth tried to answer them.

I was feeding the baby and called to my husband that the questions sounded awfully familiar!!


Posted by: Anita on August 28, 2004 9:13 AM

I heard that, too, on Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me! They specifically reference the article in Morning News. They used the clown one (althought they didn't mention that the word changes every year). I couldn't hear the other two because I was driving and it was right when I started losing reception on that channel :(. I did hear enough through the static to realize that Dr. Ruth didn't get any of them right, though :).

Posted by: pete on August 29, 2004 6:43 AM

Pete, you didn't happen to be driving through Rifle, CO on the I-78 highway when you heard it this afternoon, were you? Because that's where I was and I too started losing reception. ;)

Posted by: Chuck on August 29, 2004 10:12 PM

Great list! I'm with Jonathan in hoping to see it released in book form. By the way, another alternative to PEBKAC or ID-ten-T is "ESO Error," which is an abbreviation of "Equipment Superior to Operator" and works for anything from those darn broken PC cupholders to vcr clocks and programmable coffee makers.

Posted by: Marla on August 31, 2004 7:43 AM

no, chuck, I was on Rt 2 in MA right before Gardner. weird.

Posted by: pete on September 1, 2004 1:51 PM