I have a love-hate relationship with the sun shining through my windows. I clean and clean and still I see dust in the air everywhere. I've even watched it land in my food! Where does it come from? We have a new furnace with the best filters. I do have two black cats, etc., but, gee, there is a lot of dust. As you can probably tell, I am a cleaning freak. -- Marilyn Webb, of Swansea
You're certainly not alone. Just a brief Internet search turned up this Munch-like scream of frustration, "(It's) from hell! I hate dust -- hate, hate, hate! Whatever you do, it's just ... there!"
And, unless you upgrade your house's environmental system to where you can manufacture computer chips or Martian rovers, there's not much you can do. So you may have to close those curtains and just grin and bear it.
The particles are so tiny that I'm sure they all look the same to you as they blissfully float through the air. But if you were to examine each through a microscope you'd see distinct differences, revealing a myriad sources.
As you might expect, scientists in Arizona have studied this very problem and produced a report called "Migration of Contaminated Soil and Airborne Particulates to Indoor Dust" for an American Chemical Society journal. They found that 60 percent comes from the outdoors, stuff you've either tracked in or was blown in.
That's just the start. It is estimated that you shed 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells every minute -- not to mention your cats' fur and dander. Furniture fabric, bedding and clothes release tiny fibers every time they are disturbed. Carpeting sheds fiber as well. Add them together, and you have up to 2 pounds of new dust every week, some estimate.
And, of course, just by walking through your house you leave a trail of dead cells as you kick up all the junk from your floors and carpets, sending them back into the air to do what scientists might call their Brownian motion dance back to the floor.
The best you can do is minimize this air show. Air cleaners help, but they filter only a small area, so you'd have to buy one for every room. Microfiber dust cloths, better furnace filters and taking off your shoes at the front door may help, too.
Even so, when it comes to your battle with dust, I can't help remembering the final line of that hilarious 1972 National Lampoon spoof "Deteriorata":
"With all its hopes, dreams, promises and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate. Give up."
Q. "Two and a Half Men" is about the raunchiest show on prime-time network TV. How is it that it merits only a PG rating?
-- S.L., of Shiloh
A. It sounds as though you may have grown up, as I did, in an era when TV married couples slept in separate beds and didn't seem to own a toilet. Even today, I marvel how old sitcom writers could fill 23 minutes without some crude bathroom humor by Opie or double entendres from Bud Anderson.
But times and tastes have changed, leading to rating systems for everything from movies to comic books. Still, those systems are human and imperfect. You can't have a computer watch a TV show and have it spit out a rating by counting naughty words and off-color jokes.
As a result, I think you'll often see complaints that, over the years, such systems have grown more liberal as audiences have become more accustomed to material that may not have passed the censors 20 or 30 years before. What used to be an R movie now may be a PG-13 or even PG.
That's probably the best way to explain why "Two and a Half Men" earned a PG rather than a 14, the next step up in TV ratings. (The last is MA -- recommended only for those over 16.) In addition to the overall rating you have to look at the letters that go along with it.
A 14 rating involves intensely suggestive dialogue (D), strong, coarse language (L), intense sexual situations (S) and/or intense violence (V). Whoever graded "Men" decided it had only "some" suggestive dialogue, "infrequent" coarse language and "some" sexual situations -- the definition of a PG.
My question: Children won't heed the ratings, but shouldn't parents know after five minutes that the show is inappropriate for their youngsters and change the channel or the V-chip? But, then, I'm a bachelor, so what do I know? The kids probably will be sent to their rooms, where they'll watch it on their iPhones ...
Why should baseball fans forever honor the bravery of 11-year-old Reuben Berman?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: On March 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address in history -- an 8,445-word marathon that took him two hours to deliver on a bitterly cold, wet day without so much as an overcoat or hat. Three weeks later, he caught a cold and, shortly after midnight on April 4, died of pneumonia and septicemia, ending the shortest term for any American president -- 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com