Ever wondered how to survive an encounter with a bear? . . . throw a knuckleball? . . . write a sonnet? . . . flirt? . . . teach your cat to come when you call? . . . choose a traveling companion? . . . stop on inline skates? . . . buy cheap airline tickets? . . . repair stucco? . . . help deliver a litter of puppies? . . . kiss on a date? . . . get rid of hiccups? . . . understand a car lease? . . .

Of course you have, and that's just a baker's dozen of the 1,001 instructions for solving life's little mysteries that are found in "How To Do (just about) Everything," a 688-page book coming out this month by Courtney Rosen and the editors of eHow.com, a Web site where consumers can go for answers to almost any how-to question.

But you can't give someone a Web site for Christmas, and that's where eHow's new tome (it's two inches thick) comes in. I decided this year to try to come up with one reasonably priced gift (the book is $25; Simon & Schuster is the publisher) that would be slam-dunk perfect for everyone over the age of, oh, let's say 12. For 12 and under, buy them a scooter, but for everyone else, "How to do (just about) Everything" is a sure winner.

The editors appended that "just about" caveat to the title because, obviously, the book doesn't tell you everything. Unlike, say, "The Anarchist's Cookbook," you won't learn how to make a fertilizer bomb or illegal drugs, and there are no X-rated how-tos.

And some skills simply require more text than the typical half-page entry in this book. For example, it won't teach you how to fly a stealth bomber, build a nuclear reactor in your back yard or even repair your car's transmission. You'll have to dig a little deeper to master those skills.

But the book will tell you how to change the oil in your car, swim the breaststroke, plant a lawn, repair a faucet or get telemarketers to stop calling you.

And it's not just geared to menial tasks. Sure, it will tell you how to chop an onion, but it also offers advice on how to become a movie director and tackles such profundities as how to be happy and the ever popular how to get rich.

Author Rosen, who is the founder and CEO of eHow.com, says the idea for the site (which cracked Nielsen/NetRatings' top 10 news and information site rankings in September) came to her while she was surfing the Net for hours one afternoon trying to find out how to rotate the wheels on her inline skates.

"No site could give me the information I needed," she recalls. "What if? I wondered. What if there were one place on the Web where I could look up just about anything I wanted to do and get easy, step-by-step instructions."

Less than a year later, she and some associates launched eHow.com, which is now regularly accessed by millions of people who check out the site's 15,000 sets of instructions — or "eHows" as they call them — on how to do, well, just about everything.

And, no, they're not doing it merely as a public service. The site also has built a Web store where you can buy the items you need to carry out the instructions. And, yes, the tools and supplies you need are listed with each item.

The 1,001 eHows selected for the book are the editors' personal favorites as well as the ones that get the most "hits" from those using the site. Skill levels required for any given task are designated by a hammer icon. One "hammer" means the task is easy. Five "hammers" means you should gird your loins before taking it on. (There's a question to submit to the site: How does one gird one's loins? Does it hurt? Do you need special girding equipment?)

Incidentally, the eHows are not just sprinkled randomly throughout the book. They're compiled in categories, such as Education and Careers, Gardening, Relationships, Etiquette and Personal Care, Home Electronics (including how to program your VCR so it won't continually flash 12:00) and many others.


E-MAIL: max@desnews.com