Gripe, gripe, gripe, gripe, gripe.

My in-box is gripe central, as readers share things that grate or incidents that annoy.

It's a thin line between gripe and whine. Where do these recent missives fall? You be the judge.

Caution: Convoluted Verbiage Ahead

Reston's Donna Sandin asks: "Why are public announcements in Metro, and in most cases elsewhere, telling us to 'exercise caution'?"

Donna finds this construction more complicated than it needs to be.

"Do mothers tell their toddlers to 'exercise caution'?" she asks. "Is 'be careful' considered ineffective for some reason in the industry of drafting warnings and signs? Is it too familiar, not attention-getting enough?"

Donna wonders whether tourists and others whose first language is not English have any idea what "exercise caution" means.

Metro's Lisa Farbstein says messages such as that one try to strike a balance: "You don't want to trivialize something. At the same time, you don't want to scare people."

Lisa added that Metro tries to "refresh the messages so they don't become wallpaper to people who hear them frequently. We might use the expression 'be careful' at another time."

That's probably better than "Watch out!"

All Right, Fork It Over

Maria Crocco of Fairfax recently returned from a trip to London. Among the places she visited was Harrods, the famed department store. And among her purchases was a matching serving fork and spoon, ideal for shifting a bit of salad from bowl to plate.

When checking in for her flight from Heathrow Airport, she showed the security personnel the aforementioned fork and spoon.

"They kept the fork," she wrote me. "Evidently the prongs were 'too long' and 'dangerous.' "

They wouldn't let her pack the fork in the belly of the plane. Nor was there any way for her to mail it to herself. After she returned home, Maria wrote Harrods, which politely told her it wouldn't offer a discounted replacement.

So Maria now owns one piece of a two-piece matched serving set.

Our own Transportation Security Administration Web site has a detailed list of items passengers may not carry aboard planes, including sabers, ice axes and spear guns. Forks are not mentioned. Heathrow's Web site has a shorter list, but it does include "household cutlery."

The officer at Heathrow told Maria the ultimate fate of her fork -- and of all the metal objects they confiscate -- was to be melted down into statues that are placed about the city.

"He might have been pulling my leg," she said.

We called Harrods. Allan in the cutlery department said, "Normally, if we can tell you are from overseas we would say, 'You do realize you need to check this and not put it into hand luggage?' But if we can't tell from the accent, we might not mention it."

Maria said no one mentioned the possibility to her. For her part, she thinks someone could do a booming business by standing at the airport X-ray machine and offering to mail prohibited items safely to their new home.

Rock and Roll Never Forgets, Or Does It? describes itself as a "free interactive web site for aspiring rock guitarists." That's not exactly what Silver Spring's Gary Goldberg is. He's more into classical music. But he did have a question about guitar notation, the method by which guitar music is written down.

So he tried to register with When it asked for his year of birth, he answered truthfully: 1943.

"I got an error message that only years between 1950 and 1987 are accepted," he said.

Poor Gary. At 62, he is officially too old to be an aspiring rock guitarist.

"I think some of the Rolling Stones are older than me," he said. (Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were both born in 1943. Charlie Watts was born in 1941. Chuck Berry, the original rock guitarist, was born in 1926.)

I asked Colorado guitarist Mike Abbott (age 39), the person behind, what gives.

"That was the fault of the programmer who made the registration page," he said. "And my fault too because I didn't make sure it was taken care of."

Mike said he is fixing the site so users can access all parts of it without registering.

So, just to make this clear: You're never too old to rock, right?

"No, never too old to rock," Mike said.

Or Too Young

We're almost a week into our annual campaign to send needy kids to Camp Moss Hollow. So far we've raised $19,847.60 toward our goal of $650,000. Here's how you can make a tax-deductible contribution:

Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.

To contribute online, go to Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."

Or treat yourself to lunch today. All proceeds from the sale of New York style cheesecake with graham cracker crust at McCormick & Schmick's and apple pie with cinnamon ice cream at M&S Grill will go to Camp Moss Hollow.

Julia Feldmeier helped research this column. My e-mail: