Jump Start

Posted: December 06, 1994

HONK, HONK: As you bump bumpers on the Schuylkill Expressway or wait for traffic to move on Route 202, you might get the idea that the Philadelphia area has the worst traffic congestion in the country. Not so, according to Tim Lomax, a transportation engineer at Texas A&M University who studied Federal Highway Administration data on hours lost, fuel wasted and such.

The Philadelphia area ranks only 17th - tied with Boston and Dallas - among the nation's urban areas in its traffic tieups. No. 1 is Los Angeles, city of highways. No. 2 is Washington. Philadelphia even ranks behind Honolulu, New Orleans and Portland, Ore.

THAT'S RIGHT: The new Nutrition Labeling and Education Act says that to be labeled "light" or "lite," a product must contain only half the fat of the original product. No longer is merely "less" acceptable.

Some companies have decided that if they can't be "light" they can still be "right." Sounds sort of healthy, anyway. Examples: Procter & Gamble's Pringles Light Crisps have been renamed "Right Crisps" because they contain one-third less fat than regular Pringles. Similarly, Kraft Deliciously Light salad dressing is now called "Deliciously Right."

MORE LIGHT LABELING: If the Christmas light string you're looking at in a store doesn't have the Underwriters Laboratories label, don't buy it.

The UL people stress two other precautions regarding light strings:

* Follow manufacturer's instructions to the letter. This is especially important when it comes to replacing bulbs and fuses and when determining how many light strings can safely be connected together.

* Outdoors, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use. Check the wattage rating on the label of the extension cord. Add up the wattage ratings of all the products that will be operating at the same time on those cords. Make sure they're within the limit. Do not staple or nail through a light string. Turn off all light strings and other lighted products before you leave the house or go to bed.

TALE OF THE TAPE: Peter Doughty, a British civil servant, has won a $15,000 innovation award from Timex to finance the production of a machine to measure women's bra sizes accurately. The plan is to install the machine in a cubicle in a shop. A woman would go into the cubicle and put her breasts into a box, containing light-emitting diodes and sensors, to create "shadows" which accurately measure a three-dimensional object. "After that, we would look to a computer program to assess what cup size they would fall into," Doughty said. The result would then be printed on a slip to be handed to the shop assistant, who would fetch a bra of the correct size.

HAVE A PC CHRISTMAS: Hopeful children can put down their pens and paper and send their Christmas wish lists by computer to Santa's Internet address and receive a personal reply. The service is offered by Softway, one of Australia's largest UNIX system software companies. Santa's new electronic address is Santa.northpole at softway.sw.oz.au.

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