When people discuss the good old days, they generally discuss the larger changes that have taken place -- like high-school graduates, being unable to read, nickel Cokes that cost 30 cents, and how women are being allowed to fly commercial airplanes.

When I consider the good old days, however, it's the little changes that affect me the most. No single one of them is worth losing sleep over, but collectively they've altered the quality of life. A colleague of mine had a favorite phrase to express his outlook on the build-up of piddling irritations: "I am," he would say, "being nibbled to death by shrimp."

Herewith follows a list of some pet nibbles. Feel free to add your own.

Not only do pinball machines now cost 25 cents a game, they give you only three balls instead of five.

The air quality index has been revised so that it takes worse air than it used to to reach a "health advisory," which used to be known as the more ominous "air pollution alert." Caveat gasper ("let the breather beware").

Amtrak, in the same attitude of "if you can't solve the problem, redefine it away," changed the timetables on its New York-to-Washington runs so trains can arrive 30 minutes "late" and still be "on time."

In the stealth of night a popular brand of toilet tissue went from two-ply to one-ply and didn't even have the courtesy to lower its price.

The same sort of thing happened with my favorite frozen dinner that I keep stocked for those nights when even boiling spaghetti is too difficult. One day I removed the foil tray to find the contents had shrunk like a pair of denims after its first hot wash. And to add insult to hunger, the price had gone up.

Much of Congress, several governors and assorted former elected officials are running for the presidency. Of all the dastardly things Jimmy Carter is alleged to have done, giving obscure politicians the notion that anyone can be president, if only he begins compaigning early enough may be the least forgivable.

Inflation of items such as housing and automobile prices are not pleasant, but at least they're expected. It's the unexpected increase -- two-dollar-a-pound hamburger, for instance -- that's so depressing. i

Instead of seeing a cartoon or selected short subject before the main movie, we are now treated to a series of four coming-attraction promotions.

Subway fares were increased and subway cars are out of service for repairs. Parking meter prices were increased and cars are towed away. Gasoline prices are increasing and we have to wait in line to buy it.

Nibble, nibble, nibble.