Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for April, 2007

Learn the “Hoax Ropes” at Snopes

I love SNOPES.COM. It is, in my opinion, the #1 site on the internet for debunking myths, hoaxes, and urban legends. Heard of a supposedly new computer virus making the rounds? It might actually be a hoax circulating since 1990. How about that poor sick kid who’s collecting postcards to set a world record? He might be 45 years old and healthy by now – but odds are that Snopes can give you the scoop. Yes, Snopes has got to be one of my top 3 favorite websites!

It took some time, but with the help of Snopes, I have eliminated 95% of the incoming junk emails that used to be forwarded to me by well-intentioned but misguided and gullible friends and family.

Now, I admit that I myself used to be one of the gullible. I used to fall for some of the more believable hoaxes and urban legends. But in this age of rampant internet mis-information, I soon learned to check Snopes to verify the veracity and accuracy of these nuggets of wisdom appearing in my in-box.

Having been set free by the light of truth, I started feeling sorry – really embarrassed – for the myriad people still falling prey to their friends’ well-meaning warnings. I started to educate my friends and family about the resource that is Snopes. I asked them NOT to forward me messages unless they had first been researched through Snopes. Although it took a while and some borderline rudeness to let them know I was serious (Mom – if you don’t stop sending me that junk, I will stop reading ANY of your messages!), they eventually got the message…and I stopped getting the messages!

Now, every so often, I’ll get the odd message from someone who doesn’t know about my short hoax fuse. Newer acquaintances are given the benefit of the doubt and privately requested via email NOT to forward me messages offering to grant my wish if I will just “forward this email to 100 other people in 5 seconds” or messages asking me to “please send this on to everyone else you know.”

Those “friends” who insist on spreading fictitious urban legends as truth start seeing a “reply all” from me that looks something like this:

“Thank you for your concern for me. Here is some accurate information from SNOPES.COM on [insert your favorite emailed urban legend here]. I am working hard to help my friends and family become informed information consumers. I feel that it is important for people to be able to distinguish between truth and fiction and not to circulate urban legends and myths as truth.”

I usually continue: “In the future, please research these types of email on or another trusted and reliable source before forwarding. A good rule of thumb is that any message that tells you to “forward to everyone” should automatically be suspected as a hoax and researched thoroughly before being forwarded on to anyone. I hope this information is useful to you.”

This usually does the trick to stop the unwanted emails, and if it doesn’t, my “reply all” messages get a little more pointed until they remove me from their lists.

Snopes is also useful for researching totally benign stories that you might not otherwise expect to find there. Today, for example, I received a funny story via email, which I will reproduce for you below because it gave me a good laugh! Tonight, I got curious about whether the story was really true, so I went – where else? – to Snopes. Sure enough, there was a blurb about the story and some history. I’ve included the Snopes link below the story so you can check it out for yourself.

If you are a forwarder of hoax emails, do yourself and your friends a favor and bookmark Better yet, take a minute to be skeptical of what you receive via email and check it out on Snopes before forwarding. Believe me, your friends and family will thank you.

So is the story below real, or a hoax?  Find out yourself by going to Snopes!

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Hell Figured Out

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so “profound” that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Here is the professor’s “Bonus Question”: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle`s Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let`s look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle`s Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, “it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you”, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore,extinct…leaving only Heaven . . . thereby proving the existence of a divine being . . . which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting “Oh my God.”


If You Don’t Like the Weather…

I live in Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron. Although the last week has been uncharacteristically sunny, Cleveland is statistically one of the top 20 least sunny cities in the continental US. ( The two funniest Ohio weather jokes are “We have 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction,” and “If you don’ t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Like all jokes, these have a ring of truth to them – particularly the last one. The crux of the joke is that the weather can change quickly around here. Political events over the past few months have shown that the winds of political change can also quickly shift direction.

Just a few months ago, I was blogging about the President Bush’s blatant disdain for the Constitution and my fear that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him. Now it’s early April and Congress – after what I consider a rocky start – is finally starting to challenge the President.

Have you heard of “Sunshine Week”? No…it isn’t a description of last week’s Ohio weather. According to CNN, Sunshine Week is, “a three-year-old national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It is intended to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” During Sunshine week this year (March 11 – 17), the House passed three bills designed to open more government records to the public.

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

All I can say is “amen” to that and what TOOK you people so long to get moving!

From the FBI’s abuse of the patriot act provisions (really now, is ANYONE surprised at THAT revelation?) to the deepening hole in which the Attorney General finds himself, the actions of this administration are finally being examined in a way they haven’t been since Bush first took office in 2000. I predict that future investigations will turn up even more egregious violations of the very laws and liberties Bush pledged to uphold and protect.

And, much to my relief, Nancy Pelosi is proving that you don’t need to be a man to have the …um… kahunas to stand up for what is right. From leading the charge to cut off funding for Iraq to visiting Syria in defiance of White House middle eastern policy, she is a strong symbol for the taking back of power by the people – the balance that the founders of this nation intended us to exercise.

According to CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney today said that Democrats are essentially telling U.S. troops to “retreat — with no regard whatsoever for the actual conditions on the ground in Iraq.” For once, Cheney has it right! The Democrats are simply reflecting the popular majority of the American people, who want a retreat – now. Congress is simply doing its job in representing the will of the people by voting to cut off funding.

For us in Ohio, it’s predicted to be a snowy Easter this year, but it looks like the sunshine is going to continue for a while in Washington D.C.. Let’s hope that it stays that way for more than the next 10 minutes, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of political weather.

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