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Dear Heloise: I always enjoy reading your hints in The (Alton, Ill.) Telegraph, but here is my hint for you: When you hear a sound that resembles the noise a cricket makes, it's time to check your smoke detectors. They probably need a new battery. One way to make sure you never have a dead battery is to change the smoke alarm batteries when you adjust your clocks for the time changes in the spring and fall. -- Mary Ann F., Brussels, Ill.

Some like it hot, some like it cold

Dear Heloise: I love reading your column in the Orange County (Calif.) Register. This is my hint: For sore areas of the body where you might need a hot or cold pad, just take a bag of uncooked rice and heat it up in the microwave for about 35 to 40 seconds. For a cold pad, take that same bag of rice and put it in the freezer. Not only does it work well, it's very inexpensive. -- Opal A., Garden Grove, Calif.

The root of the problem

Dear Heloise: My dentist says I need a root canal, but I don't want to go through the pain and aggravation. If I ignore this tooth, will it improve on its own? -- Payton D., Weymouth, Mass.

Payton, it more than likely will not improve on its own. The pain might go away, but the infection is still hiding in there, and it could get worse. The bacteria can travel to the roots and jaw, causing a pus-filled infection. If your dentist says you need a root canal, you probably do. You can get a second opinion, but please don't ignore the problem. If the expense is an issue, many dentists will work out a payment plan for you. -- Heloise

Automated job interview

Dear Heloise: I recently had a job interview by phone with an automated voice. I had to answer a series of questions for the company to review. I hated the whole experience. I had questions about the company and its products that I was unable to ask. This is such an impersonal way to qualify an applicant for a position. -- Krista J., Memphis, Tenn.

Krista, it's one of the many changes we're all facing these days. At present, larger companies feel this streamlines the interview process and cuts down the expense of hiring new people. It won't be long before this is standard practice in most places of business. -- Heloise

Cellphone rates

Dear Heloise: Why are cellphone rates so expensive? I thought that with so much competition, the rates would go down. -- Lynda Y., Santa Barbara, Calif.

Actually, rates have fallen significantly. It's the taxes and government surcharges that have risen. Much of your expense will depend on where you live. The city and state will tax cellphone users at different rates. Before signing any contract, be sure to get the total cost, including taxes and surcharges, and don't be afraid to ask what those surcharges represent. -- Heloise

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