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Dear Matthew: I just had my second baby. During the few times I could actually think straight during labor, I began wondering why something as basic to the survival of the species as childbirth is so painful. I thought evolution made things better, not worse. My cat didn’t look like she was going through pain when she had her kittens. Has childbirth always been so bad? — New Mom, Again, San Diego

Best I can tell from the research, it’s been more or less painful since we decided to walk on two legs and got so darned smart. Evolution seems to have made a few trade-offs. Standing upright and walking on two feet was a good evolutionary choice. But in the process, the pelvis had to be narrower and the angle changed a bit. It’s better that we get smarter and our brains (thus our skulls) grow than to stay dumb and in a cave. But there wasn’t any corresponding increase in the size of the birth canal, so fitting that fat head through a narrow passage takes time, stretching, contractions, and the resulting pain. But the evolutionary exchange was good for the species. So, pelvic size and angle is a compromise between childbirth and the ability to run fast from the cops.

But our heads...now there’s a big problem. Relative to body size, humans are the most top-heavy mammals at birth, so as the cavefolks got smarter, their baby heads got bigger. Birth canal? No change. But a bigger brain was worth it, apparently. Though, considering what we’ve done with the place, I’m not sure it was a good thing for the planet. Anyway, more giving-birth problems. At least evolution has made one good compromise. Human babies’ heads will grow 3.3 times as large from birth to adulthood; chimps only 2.5, by comparison. So, Mom, if evolution hadn’t taken pity on you, you’d be trying to squeeze out a volleyball. In order to keep newborn head size small, human babies are born way before they’re able to do anything at all for themselves, unlike other mammals’ kids. So, I guess the downside of that upside is the 2 a.m. feedings and the lugging around and all the mom attention that babies need. They’re born only half-baked. Amazingly, none of this has stopped humankind from giving birth. Maybe because it’s the farthest thing from anybody’s mind nine months earlier.

Dear Matthew Alice: I seem to have a major problem at this time. My problem is mice, not in my house but in my car. The mice have decided my car is a perfect home for them. I drive my car six days out of seven per week. Inactivity is not part of the problem. I’ve tried cleaning my car, vacuuming it out, and used cleaners that should keep them away. Now I’m using glue traps and maze traps, but nothing works! They now go under the hood and chew on wires. My cruise-control light blinks off and on, and the check-engine light is on all the time. I need to repair the problems, but it will just happen again. I’m hoping you know of a permanent solution. Until then, I’m “Infested in East County.”— L.G., Pine Valley

If I had a permanent solution to this universal problem, L.G., I’d be out of this chicken outfit and would be peddling Forever Rataway and making billions. Yes, your mice are likely rats, or a mix of the two, just to add insult to injury. We tackled this question several years ago, and my answer then was the same as my answer now. Nobody’s hit on the perfect-for-everybody solution. Rats are persistent and love to chew wires to wear down their ever-growing teeth. I’m sure all car electricians own second homes in Baja thanks to the nasty practices of rats.

Last time this question came up, we solicited suggestions from the vast Alice readership. To wit: You might try a tray of mothballs inside your car, or in the engine compartment when the thing’s parked. One guy smeared hot sauce on his electrical wires and swore it worked. Sounded to me like he just added a tasty condiment to an already toothsome rat snack, but he swore it shooed them off. One person simply moved her car into her garage rather than parking it in the driveway, and that cured the problem. Rat poison is very tricky stuff. Dogs seem to love it, so I’m always reluctant to recommend that to anyone. I’ve seen the aftermath of two dogs having eaten rat poison; they didn’t die because we zoomed them to a vet in a hurry, but it was a pretty ugly, bloody sight.

So, once again I open it up to the multitudes. In the past several years, has science solved the rats-and-wires problem? Have you hit on a concoction that works? Please let us know. L.G. and I will be waiting eagerly.

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