Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Myths’

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be

I understand now how people “get behind the times” or “out of date.” It’s how we were taught.

In the ongoing educational debate over the so-called “21 century skills,” I’ve argued that we need to change how we learn without enough cogent, eloquent thoughts addressing WHY we needed to make that change.  But earlier this week, Kate at Sweet|Salty tweeted a link to this article on typography that rocked my world and really brought together in a personal way my thoughts on this subject. The article states – unequivocally – that putting two spaces after a period while typing is outdated, unnecessary, and just plain WRONG. There are few things I hate more than being wrong, let alone wrong AND outdated, so I applied my skepticism and my 21 century skills and set out to prove that I, who ALWAYS puts two spaces after a period, was NOT a dinosaur. To my shock and horror, I discovered that my name should be changed to Sue.

When I first read the article, I was so shocked by this revelation, and so sure it was wrong, that I only read the first 6 paragraphs. But then I started wondering why I use two spaces after a period? My eager-to-please, perfectionist, school-girl self immediately wondered if I’d *gasp* LEARNED IT WRONG?! But then I read the article in its entirety and realized that no – I’d learned it right, but the definition of “right” has changed. [The practice actually goes back even further than the typewriter, as explained in this article, for those of you REALLY interested!] The bottom line is this: what I learned had become outdated and because I’d never learned WHY two spaces were “right,” I didn’t know when it was time to change.

With a startling burst of insight, I realized that this problem – knowing what but not why – permeates our society (and our educational system) right to the core. I started thinking of other examples of things we do here and now because we were taught that way. Then I solicited examples from others and the floodgates opened.

My friend Rhi (say REE like “Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup”) on Plurk shared my favorite hilarious anecdote: “My mom was over at a friend’s house once, while her friend was preparing a whole turkey for roasting. Before she put the turkey in the pan, she cut off both legs and threw them out. My mom was surprised and asked her why she did that. The friend’s response: ‘Well, that’s how you’re *supposed* to do it. My mom always did it that way.’ So my mom told her that *nobody* else did it that way, and had the friend call her mom to find out why. Turns out, the friend’s mom never had a pan big enough to hold an entire turkey. For decades, the rest of the family had been throwing out the turkey legs just because they thought they were supposed to!”

So let us all be reminded that change is constant, youthful inquisitiveness imperative, and single spaces after full stops the new standard – for now!

[Note: typing this blog post with only one space after each period was insanely hard. Sometimes re-education is painful!]

Simple Solutions

Sometimes, the simple solution staring us in the face still eludes us.

I’ve had a mini-van for over 7 years, and for at least 5 of those years, the placement of the plastic garbage cans has caused me a problem: they get in the way of my sliding door.  I have long, unsightly white scratches on my van door from frequent collision with the cans.  Until today, it was a problem without a solution.


There’s simply no better place for the garbage cans than where they are.  Slimmer cans are not to be found.  My van won’t fit on the other side of the garage without MAJOR rearranging, and there are sliding doors on both sides anyhow.

But this morning, I came home knowing I would be leaving twice more.  I usually crawl through the front seats from/to the passenger side to get in and out, but in the winter THAT becomes a major pain with drippy, heavy boot on my feet.  So I decided to back into the garage for today. That’s when I noticed that when I’m backed in, the garbage cans are not in the way at all!

My front door clears the pole, the sliding doors are obstruction free, and the problem is solved!


I know why I had never considered this solution before.  Somewhere along the way, I picked up the impression that backing into the garage wasn’t as safe as pulling in forward because exhaust fumes get trapped in the front part of the garage instead of being vented out the large open door in the back.  It probably does increase the amount of trapped fumes, but cars today emit a lot less exhaust.  I don’t ever idle my car in the garage so I bet the “increased risk” is minimal, if measurable at all.

Just to be safe, I posted over in NPR’s Car Talk forum to see what others had to say.  But at this point, I’m pretty sure the increased blood pressure I experience every time my car door hits the garbage can is a larger health risk than the exhaust fumes.

From now on, I’m backing in.  Problem solved!

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.”


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