News item: Beer continues to flow at University of Maryland fraternity parties, despite new regulations -- Beer can no longer be served in kegs or punch bowls at frat parties, and beer can no longer be delivered from off-campus stores.

You don't need to be a genius to find the loophole. No kegs or punch bowls? That means beer in cans is still okay. And no deliveries allowed? That means buying beer and bringing it back to campus yourself is still okay.

So it's little wonder that College Park's liquor stores are crammed with business on Friday and Saturday nights -- much of it frat folk buying cans of beer by the case.

In fact, the new fraternity beer control system is more dangerous than the old one, because it increases the likelihood that frat-house drinking will mix with driving.

Picture Saturday as it turns to Sunday. The brothers of Phi Glugga Brew have just run out of suds. Two pledges are handed $50 and told to buy some more out on Route 1 someplace.

In the old days, there would never have been any such shopping trip because 10 untapped kegs would have been sitting in the living room of the PGB frat house. Everyone would have swilled beer until 4 a.m. or until they passed out, whichever came first.

Now, however, two college kids who are at least a little buzzy (and maybe very buzzy) have to hop into a car. Maybe they make it back in one piece and maybe they don't.

What's the point of these new regulations? To discourage drinking and driving? The regulations achieve exactly the opposite. To make it harder for minors to drink? It's neither easier nor harder under the new system. To limit the amount of beer that the average fraternity partygoer consumes? As long as the average car holds 40 cases of beer (and it does), there are no limits whatsoever.

Why not try a quota system at Maryland frat parties? Two cans of beer per customer. The first can be obtained with a red ticket, the second with a blue ticket. Both tickets would be given to you as you arrive at the party.

Sure, this system is beatable. Tickets can be filched, forged and traded. And a student who wants a third beer can always get it, there or elsewhere.

But two-per-customer would put a crimp in overindulgence, and that would put a crimp in tragedy.

News item: Food court planned at Prince George's Plaza. Developer says it should keep the average shopper at the mall for 75 minutes instead of the current 45.

Now you know why I've never worked in marketing and never could. It makes no sense.

Of course the average shopper will spend an extra 30 minutes at Prince George's Plaza once the food court opens. But he'll spend it chowing down on egg rolls, not sifting through the $400 suits.

And even if Joe Typical spends only 20 of those extra 30 minutes eating in the food court, why will he be more inclined to spend money on non-food items once his belly is full? Just the opposite is more likely. Once you've spent $15 on food, you're less likely to have (or to want to spend) another $50 for CDs and Reeboks.

I recognize that there's such a thing as an impulse shopper at shopping malls. I recognize that no one will buy anything at a mall unless he's induced to come to the mall in the first place.

But won't a Prince George's Plaza widget dealer sell more widgets through his own promotions and discounts than through some other retailer's pizza?

News item: After an absence of 57 years, Hoover-ball returns to Washington with a tournament on the mall. Hordes pay absolutely no attention.

You made a large mistake, hordes. Hoover-ball sounds like the perfect game for those Washingtonians who think the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Reason: Hoover-ball puts the weight of the world right in your arms.

It's played like tennis, with a six-pound medicine ball, across an eight-foot-high volleyball net. There are three people to a side. Back and forth goes the ball, until someone drops it, hurls it into the net or gets knocked unconscious by it.

Obviously, the premium is on strength and endurance, which sets it apart from all our other favorite sports. Tennis? Too gentlemanly. Volleyball? Too easy. Bowling? Too 1950s.

Hoover-ball allows macho grunts, squeals of teamwork and raspberry welts. It permits great gusts of complaining, huge swirls of sweat and extended Gatorade breaks. Doesn't that sound more like True Washington than jogging?

Besides, Hoover-ballers lose weight. President Hoover reportedly lost 25 pounds in less than a year by playing Hoover-ball each morning with members of the White House staff.

Alas, in 1932, Hoover lost more than weight. He lost his job, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. So perhaps Hoover-ball is not the perfect D.C. game after all. We love rough-edged displays of fitness. But we love a winner more.