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Stories by Matthew Alice

The Answer Man: 25 years of facts ... mostly

All the greatest questions and answers from Matthew Alice’s Straight from The Hip column which ran for over 25 years in the San Diego Reader.

Repossession of possessions upon death

Heymatt: A few years back, a friend’s husband’s death required the coroner. His very expensive cowboy boots, sterling silver belt buckle on a nice leather belt, wedding ring, and watch were undamaged. He also had ...

The tallest tree in SD

Heymatt: What’s the tallest tree in San Diego? I have some guesses, but I suspect I’m completely wrong. And I wonder if the tallest tree in these parts is one that was planted by humans ...

Storm-ending bombs?

Heymatt: If we can develop bombs that level whole cities, why can’t scientists come up with the same stuff to obliterate tornadoes before landfall? What is it in these tornadoes that can’t be neutralized? Tornadoes ...

Mouthy ASL users, “South” vs. “Southern” Florida, the surname South

Why do people mouth words while using ASL? Why “South” and not “Southern” Florida? Popularity of the surname South.

San Diego's tallest building

Heymatt: How tall is the tallest building in San Diego? Is there a limit as to how high you can build in the county? — Jeff, via email There’s an easy answer to the first ...

The right to use restrooms

Heymatt: Your answer about gender-specific bathrooms got me thinking about building codes. Since all these buildings have to be constructed with working restrooms, is it technically illegal for someone in a shop to tell me ...

Grounding straps for cars

Heymatt: When I was a kid (a long, long time ago), all the cars had a strap hanging down under the frame that dragged on the street. We called them “grounding straps.” The story back ...

Yacht shopping

Heymatt: Where can I get a huge yacht like the one the Russian billionaire has parked in the harbor? I doubt you can just go down to the yacht store and pick one up. Is ...

Star Wars fanboy question

Heymatt: Now that Disney owns the rights to Star Wars, do you or one of your Ewoks know if they are going to release the original, unmolested Star Wars movies IV-VI? As far as I ...

Staying awake behind the wheel

Heymatt: I do a lot of long-distance driving and keeping myself alert and wakeful is always a challenge. Drinking coffee and caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull and whatnot is a pretty good strategy to ...

Baja plates no hindrance for CHP

Heymatt: Every day I see cars here in San Diego with Baja California license plates. I was wondering if our cops can run the plates on cars that are registered in Mexico or if those ...

Star-gazer setup in University City

Hey Matt, I grew up in the University City area. I’m a grownup now, but I still go back up Regents and then up Pennant Way from time to time to visit Mom when she ...

“Catch my drift?”

Heymatt: I hate the phrase, “if you catch my drift.” I think it sounds stupid and it doesn’t even make much sense. What is my drift and why should anyone have to catch it? — ...

Bubble butt history

Heymatt: Okay, I’m sure there are more pressing questions out there but, what causes bubble butt? For some people, it’s like their body weight accumulates disproportionately around the hips and booty, even if they don’t ...

Ugly, yellow, truncated domes for the disabled

Dear Matt: Please help my poor husband solve his ongoing perplexity. When there are perfectly good and relatively new wheelchair ramps on each corner of an intersection, why do we see crews tearing them out ...

Heaviest skiers the fastest speed skiers?

Hey, Matt: During the 1992 Winter Olympics, speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Speed skiing is just another name for schussing. Knowing some physics, I commented that this sport was silly because (all other things ...

Plastic covered what off the 125 Freeway

Heymatt: Driving north on the 125 into Santee, I see mounds of something covered with white plastic. They’re on the west side of the freeway. They look like grave sites and there are dozens of ...

How canine became K-9

Dear Matt: While watching TV, there was a police scene where they were waiting for the K-9 unit to arrive to track the suspect. This led me to wonder where the term/name K-9 came from ...

WWII bomber mystery parts

Heymatt: Watching [the movie] Battle of Britain, I saw a ball-shaped device just back of the pilot’s window on the left side. It was mounted on cables or wires top and bottom. Could this be ...

The restroom gender conundrum

Heymatt: Why do gender-specific, single-occupancy restrooms exist? I see things like, for example, a queue of women outside the women’s room when there is plenty of space in the adjacent men’s room, or vice-versa. Why ...

Fletcher Hills’ mystery radio station

Heymatt: I grew up in Fletcher Hills. Ever since I was a kid, I have wondered what was going on at the corner of Hacienda Drive and Hacienda Circle. There is a fenced-off area with ...

Orange as the color of hot

Heymatt: I noticed that the cherry on my cigarette, the coals in my BBQ, and the element in my fish-tank heater all glow the same shade of orange. I believe this isn’t a coincidence. Could ...

Opposing traffic’s differing speed limit

Heymatt: Why do some local roadways have different speed limits depending on which way you’re going? Seaworld Drive between Friars and Ingraham is 55 in one direction and 50 in the other. West Point Loma ...

Government travel reimbursement

Heymatt: Do taxpayers pay for congresspeople and senators’ flights to and from their home districts or is this built into their pay? Similarly, when the president flies on Air Force One to give a speech ...

How much chicken is actually in chicken noodle soup

Heymatt: As a kid, I ate plenty of cans of chicken noodle soup and liked it. However, I could not help but notice the very few pieces, well, tiny pieces, okay, microscopic particles of what ...

Who profits from movie theater ticket sales

Hi Matt, Like most people, I have been going to see movies since I was a kid. I even remember the newsreels that were at the theaters on military bases where we were stationed. But ...

Mysterious yellow powder on recycling bin

Heymatt: I’ve noticed a yellow powder accumulating on the blue recycling bins in various parts of the city. What is it? I haven’t seen it on the black trash cans. — Observer, via email I ...

Creeping carpets

Heymatt:In every place I have lived, throw rugs on top of carpeting have migrated in one direction. They move quite quickly. Even a six-by-nine-foot with furniture on it will migrate. I always assumed that foot ...

Car closeouts

Heymatt: I am in the market to buy a new car. I have visited several dealerships looking for a good deal. Seeing all these new cars, I started to wonder if they all get sold, ...

The battling 'Bertos

Hey Matt: I used to live in San Diego and ate at Aliberto’s, Rigoberto’s, and all the other iterations of ’Berto’s I could find. I just saw your article from March 16, 2000, and I ...

Rough treatment for a charliehorse

Heymatt: Once or twice a year, I will wake to a charlie-horse. In my leg. I always instinctively pound the offending muscle group with my fist. I’d like to know if this is a universal ...

The highest chair in Del Cerro

Matt: Going east along the I-8 before the College turn-off to SDSU, if you look left you will see a giant highchair on the hill below Del Cerro. Or a ladder. Or something. It’s out ...

Mission Valley’s fiberglass go-go girl

Heymatt: Back in the ’60’s, ’70s, there was a big statue of a go-go girl on a sign in Mission Valley/Grantville that was visible from the 8. I seem to remember that she was all ...

The opposite of a homonym

Homonyms vs. Homophones vs. Homographs vs. Heterographs vs. Heteronyms

Duggars and taxes

Heymatt: If the Duggars have 20 kids — that’s a lot, by the way — I was wondering what Ma & Pa Duggar claim on their taxes. Is it possible to claim all the kids ...

Metal sidewalk markers

Hi MA, In my neighborhood, the sidewalks have these metal buttons embedded in the sidewalk. They look like an oversized Levi’s jeans rivet, are made of copper or brass, and are stamped with “LS 5456.” ...

Cable-company monopolies

The travesty of cable-company monopolies held by Time Warner and Cox Communications.

Saggy-pants origin

Hello Matt: I hope this finds you and the Elves doing well. I know I am un-hip to most things these days, but something has puzzled me for quite some time. Why do certain fellows ...

Calories out, calories in

Heymatt: For the last week I’ve been climbing Cowles Mountain every day. It takes me about 1 hour, round trip. At the bottom, I reward myself with an entire box of Girl Scout Thin Mints. ...

Timekeeping across the ages

Hi Matt: Back when I was a kid, not too many people had wristwatches. This was not a problem, however, as all you had to do was turn on the radio to any station and, ...

Bridge-construction practices and reflective tape on semi-trailers

Mr. Alice: Whenever I encounter bridge construction on the interstate, or most any other highways and roads, fastened onto the temporary supports at both sides of the road is a painted and illuminated, white board ...

Why congress no longer approves gas prices

Heymatt: Please set the record straight. Back in the day, when gas prices first hit $2/gallon, Congress would have had to approve the increase. What happened to that law? There seems to be no need ...

Moon reflections

Hi Matt: I was gazing at a full moon and a bunch of questions flooded my mind. How reflective is the surface of the moon? Does moonlight have a UV content? Would there be any ...

Getting more ink from a ballpoint pen

Heymatt: Here is one no one can answer: how to restart ink flowing in a ballpoint pen after non-use. This has everyone stumped, so if you can’t answer, that’s OK. — John, via email At ...

A roll up a gravity hill

Mattster: In my ’50s cruising days, after hitting Oscar’s Drive In on El Cajon Boulevard, one stop we would always make was at a “magnetic hill” where steel cans appeared to roll uphill. I believe ...

Only one way in and one way out of the post office

Hey Matt: A colleague and I were at the Tierrasanta post office. It’s located in a typical shopping center with enough room for traffic lanes in each direction, yet they have signs showing only one ...

Con-man math

Heymatt: My brother-in-law used to tell me this riddle all the time, but he passed away a few years ago and now none of my family can remember the answer, if ever there was one: ...

Stepping into Mission Valley from Hillcrest

Heymatt: About 30 years ago I heard about some concrete stairs leading from the area around UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest down to Mission Valley. I went exploring and found them, but I only went ...

Turn that down!

Heymatt: Why do some clubs have such loud music? I know loud volume is a substitute for quality tones, but do they really need to go that far? Some have sound levels of 105 decibels, ...

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