How to Do Just About Anything

From organizing your closet to surviving a nuclear disaster, we’ve got dozens of new skills for you to try.


(page 9 of 9)


…Get Your Dog to Stop Barking

Dogs have lots of reasons for barking: boredom, stress, separation anxiety, the need for attention, or even just because they like to hear themselves bark, according to Karen Reilly, a certified pet dog trainer at the Port Chester Obedience Training Club in White Plains. “The key to success here is for the owner to find out why the dog is barking,” she says. “A lot of dogs are under-exercised; people think if their yard is fenced in, the dog is getting enough exercise just by chasing squirrels. He’s not.” Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is the first step—and often that alone will stop problem barking, she says. If not, the dog needs to have immediate and regular consequences for undesirable behavior. “For example, if he barks when outside, tell him ‘enough’ or ‘quiet.’ If he still barks, bring him inside. If you are consistent, he will learn that barking leads to less outdoor time.” The same process works for other forms of problem barking. If your dog barks when people come to the door, tell him to stop—every time—or he goes in the crate, or back room for a time-out. Cause and effect: it works like a charm, but consistency is key. What about shock or scent aversion collars that are on the market to stop dogs from barking? “They work,” Reilly says, “but don’t address the problem of why a dog is barking. And some dogs learn to turn their head to avoid the scent or otherwise fool the system.”

…Make Your Cat Stop Clawing the Furniture

Cat therapist Carole Wilbourn (, author of The Complete Guide to Understanding and Caring for Your Cat, says, “Be consistent.” That is, reprimand your cat when he scratches your $5,000 sofa and reward when he scratches the stuff you bought for him to scratch instead: a scratching post made of sisal, a scratchy welcome mat, or a piece of wood. To entice your cat, spread catnip on the scratching item and praise, praise, praise. Cats need to scratch (“To exercise their claws and trim their nails,” Wilbourn says), so stopping the behavior altogether is not an option. Instead, Wilbourn recommends a two-part approach. First, make the place you don’t want scratched unwelcome. “Cover it up tightly—you can try something smooth and shiny, like tinfoil or plastic wrap, or adhesive paper.” If your cat scratches anyway: give a “sharp no” or use a spray bottle to shpritz the cat with water.


…Park for Free in White Plains

You don’t have to pay to park in White Plains. Not if you park on Level 4 or Level 6 of the nine-level City Center Garage. Yes, there are pay stations (75 cents/hour), so you should pay. And if you don’t, you risk getting a summons (from $2 to $15). But based on our scofflaw (ahem) friends’ personal, albeit unscientific, experience, you likely won’t. The reason? Levels 4 and 6 don’t directly connect to a destination and thus are less busy. As a result, the parking enforcement intensity isn’t as high. As you can see from the chart below, the levels that directly connect to a destination (as opposed to those on which an escalator or elevator is necessary to exit) tend to be most desirable by shoppers/moviegoers and therefore the busiest (and given the most attention by parking enforcement).

Level                      Color                      Directly Connects To        Parking Enforcement Intensity
   7                     Not painted                   New York Sports Club                          High
   6                          Pink                                  Nothing                                        Low
   5                     Light Green                       Movie Theater                                 Highest
   4                        Orange                               Nothing                                        Low
   3                         Yellow                         Nordstrom Rack                                 High
   2                         Green                                Nothing                                       Medium
   G                          Blue                            Street Access                                  Highest
   L1                        Purple                               Nothing                                       Medium
   L2                         Red                                   Target                                         High

Even though L1 and 2 are escalator/elevator floors like 4 and 6, they are moderately busy (likely via spillover from L2 and G, where spaces fill up quickest) and thus receive decent attention from parking enforcement.

Our law-flouting friends report that if you keep your stay to under an hour, you usually won’t get a ticket on L 4 and 6. The longer you stay, however, the better your chance of getting a ticket.

If you’re using the Metro-North station in the evening, save money by parking in the public lot on Barker Avenue next to the Porsche dealership instead of the station ($6). After 5 pm, there’s no parking attendant until early the next morning, so there’s no charge. It’s only a minute walk to the station depot.

…Talk Your Way Out of a Ticket

Be polite and admit you were wrong, advises New York State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra. “Don’t argue that you weren’t speeding when you’re caught doing ninety-five. Acting contrite goes a long way,” Becerra says, although he admits he once let a guy go who handed him a Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card.

…Survive a Nuclear Disaster

Advice from Westchester County’s Office of Emergency Management Director Anthony Sutton:

1. Have a pre-packed “go bag” of essentials ready to take at a moment’s notice. The go bag (water-resistant; a nylon backpack works great) should include at least a three-day supply of clothing, cash (in small denominations), needed medications, energy or granola bars, and bottled water, plus copies of vital records (including prescriptions), a flashlight, battery-operated radio, extra batteries, small first-aid kit, and card of contact information for loved ones. Keep your go bag in your trunk, or at work.

2. Store at least a gallon of water per day, per person, in your basement. “We say that you should plan to take care of yourselves for five to seven days before ‘the troops come over the hill.’”

3. Buy a battery-operated radio (especially one that can also be self-powered by cranking). Or buy a tone-alert radio (available at Radio Shack and online), which exclusively transmits broadcasts from the Emergency Alert System, as well as weather-related emergency messages from the National Weather Service.

4. Have potassium iodide in your medicine cabinet. Consuming it can protect your thyroid gland from absorbing the radioactive iodide released in a reactor meltdown. Potassium iodide, however, offers no protection from radiation emanating from nuclear weapons.

…Fight a Parking Ticket

Is there anything worse than racing back to your car only to find the parking attendant placing a ticket on your windshield? Yes, and that’s getting a ticket you don’t deserve. Here’s how to fight back—and, often, win.

Step 1: Figure out why you got the ticket. If you parked illegally, didn’t bother to feed the meter, or ignored the huge sign saying “Don’t park between the hours of 6 am and 8 am,” you don’t have a prayer. Man up and pay the fine.

Step 2: Build your case. If you have a legitimate reason to contest a parking ticket, write a letter to the town court explaining politely why you believe the ticket was in error. For example, if you have paid the meter and it suddenly flashes “fail,” be aware that some towns randomly “reset” the meters during the day, effectively clearing them and leaving you open to a ticket. To back up your claim, just snap a picture of the failed meter on your cell when it happens to accompany your letter. Other meters run fast. If you pay for an hour but get a ticket at the 45-minute mark, ask nearby storeowners if your particular meter has a bad reputation; their testaments will add credibility to your claim. Sometimes piles of snow obscure parking regulation signs—you can’t know to pay if you can’t see the sign, meter, or pay station.

Step 3: Have a back-up plan. It’s a good idea to go ahead and pay the fine, but note on your check that you are paying in protest. In my experience, the check has been returned with a letter rescinding the ticket (hold onto this, just in case!), but if your appeal fails, you don’t want to be liable for late fees on top of the fine.

…Do Everything Else

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