Mike Maughan: ‘If only they made solid, non-liquid, shampoos and toothpaste! Oh, wait, they do. A bar of this stuff washes your hair well, and since it washes your body also, it replaces the bar soap in your carry-on. You can even shave with it so you can toss out your mini-can of shaving cream. In place of toothpaste, try this. Old-fashioned toothpowder was abrasive for teeth and this stuff probably is also, but it should be OK for occasional travelers. With just these two things, I no longer need a Ziplock baggie to get liquids through the security checkpoint. Now, if only they made a knifeless Leatherman pocket tool I can take on a plane … oh, wait, they make one of those also. But since it looks exactly like a Leatherman that does have a knife, I think taking one of those to the checkpoint is asking for trouble.’


Bob Fyfe: ‘My own TSA experience was with a can of shaving cream, the only liquid or gel that I was trying to carry on board. It was small enough, the TSA official told me, but it needed to be in a quart-sized plastic bag. I didn’t bother trying to argue that the purpose of the quart-sized plastic bag was to limit the number of three-ounce containers that a traveler could bring on board. I just shook my head and threw it in the garbage.’

Greg: ‘I’ve heard that pumpkin pie (not a liquid) is allowed through airport security, so guacamole must be right on the border line. Bruce Schneier (security expert) interviewed Kip Hawley (TSA head) a few months ago. Their exchange touches on your experience, as well as other aspects of airport security. ‘Schneier: By today’s rules, I can carry on liquids in quantities of three ounces or less, unless they’re in larger bottles. But I can carry on multiple three-ounce bottles. Or a single larger bottle with a non-prescription medicine label, like contact lens fluid. It all has to fit inside a one-quart plastic bag, except for that large bottle of contact lens fluid. And if you confiscate my liquids, you’re going to toss them into a large pile right next to the screening station – which you would never do if anyone thought they were actually dangerous.’ ‘

☞ There’s an exception for contact lens solution? Who knew? (Another of you wrote in to describe his mother’s experience with frozen marinara sauce – not a liquid but, in the words of a thoughtful TSA supervisor, ‘it soon will be.’ They took pity on her when she begged them not to take away her dinner.) Here’s the TSA site.

Victor Kava: ‘I am a TSA screener in Massachusetts. This message is my own opinion; I do not represent the TSA in any way. First, realize that what was pint of ‘really good guacamole’ to you was a pint of ‘an unknown substance that the passenger states is guacamole’ to the screener. In the context of last year’s plot to smuggle liquid explosives aboard aircraft in Britain, banning anything that could be an explosive is, sadly, necessary. (As far as tasting it goes, might not a suicide-bent person be willing to taste some explosive?) The TSA screens millions of passengers, and we really cannot make snap judgments about the volume of contents in partly-empty containers. So we do go by container size, which is a policy that is unambiguous and quickly enforceable. Allowing 3.4 ounce (100 milliliter) containers is deemed safe. The one quart bag is to limit the total volume of all liquids and gels carried. The policy is not directed at your almost-used-up tube of toothpaste, but is an attempt to allow some convenience to passengers, while still preventing dangers to air travel. Speed limits apply to all drivers, in all vehicles, in all road conditions. Certainly, they sometimes appear wrong. But the problem is to have a simple, easily enforced traffic rule, which both limits damage form accidents, and also permits travel. TSA policies must be implemented by more than 40,000 screeners every day; writing a policy that is precise and exact in all cases is not a real possibility. Policies should be judged by the overall cost and benefit to all travelers, not by single cases. Also, it is a common error to say that the TSA ‘confiscated’ your 6-ounce tube of toothpaste. You were always free to leave the checkpoint with it, and put it into a checked bag, give it to a friend, leave it in your car, or mail it to yourself. Yes, abandoning the item at the checkpoint may be the easiest from the time-pressed traveler’s point of view, but it is the traveler’s choice. I repeat, we do not ‘confiscate’ prohibited items. We simply do not allow them to proceed past the checkpoint. The passenger decides what to do with the item. Best wishes for many safe and happy trips.’

☞ Best wishes back. I have terrific readers.

Joey: ‘I never understood why lighters and matches are allowed on planes. Aren’t they more dangerous than toothpaste? Answer: The tobacco cartel requested the exception.’


Kevin: ‘I’m sure your Ketchup phobia story will open up a whole new discussion. My particular (unusual) thing is that I get nauseous whenever I hear the Michael Jackson tune ‘Beat It.’ This is not an anti-pedophile, anti-anything, but when I hear the song, I start feeling ill. My wife first thought I was making it up, but I think now she might believe me.’

Mike Lynott: ‘My personal phobia is lipobibliophobia, literally the fear of being without a book. I made up the term. It reflects my fear of being somewhere where I could be reading, but have nothing to read – waiting for a ride, for example. I doubt that it will appear in the next edition of the DSM, but you never know. And yes, the prefix lipo-, usually meaning ‘fat,’ also means ‘without.’ See here.’

☞ So liposuction is a procedure to make you without fat? Maybe they should just call it lipolipo. But back to your main point: Lipobibliophobics are the perfect candidates for audible.com. Waiting for a ride, walking around the supermarket – you’ll even be able to read in the dark.

John Kasley: ‘Your Scrabble partner says, ‘The sight of condiments makes me nauseous.’ Actually, nauseous things make him nauseated. Something one touches, smells, or sees is nauseous. People become nauseated.’

☞ As for those rare individuals who are themselves nauseous – well, they do not visit this page,


Why am I talking about ketchup and guacamole when the markets are in turmoil? (Or, now, eerily calm?) Let me end the week as I began it:

The Fed cut its discount rate last Friday to begin dealing with the subprime mortgage morass – as you knew it would. Other measures will be taken to mitigate a very difficult situation. Smart people at high levels of the Administration and Congress are working for the softest possible landing. But my guess is that the softest possible landing will be, at best, rough. Do not expect a quick, painless resolution to our unfolding economic problems.

It’s generally a bad idea to try to ‘time the market.’ But as always, if you have money in the market you can’t afford to risk, it shouldn’t be there. Sell. And if you’d be one of those people who, if the market kept dropping, would finally throw in the towel and sell just when, with hindsight, it will turn out you should have been buying – you shouldn’t be in the market either. You should sell, too.

If, on the other hand, you’re in it for the long haul – perhaps in domestic and international index funds, with a few speculations on the side to keep it interesting (and to give you tax control, selling your losers to lower your taxable income by $3,000 a year and gifting some of your long-term winners to fund your charitable giving) – then, well, you are in it for the long haul. Hang tight. And if you have the income to buy more shares every year – dollar cost averaging – you should be pleased when stocks decline. The bigger the bargains, the more shares you can buy.


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