A Pack Of Lies

Somebody (Hitler? Goebbels? Lenin? Trotsky?) once said, “If you tell a big enough lie loud enough and long enough people will eventually believe it.”  It’s terribly ironic that, in the Age of Information, there are quite a few of those kind of “truths” kicking around, and a lot of what we call common knowledge is just a load of crap.  Here are some glaring examples that just fall apart when you think about them:

1 – Einstein did NOT fail high school math.  Think about this for a minute!  The guy was a genius who E=MC2-ed himself to the top of the intellectual ladder, along with Newton, Copernicus and da Vinci.  What are the chances he had trouble with Grade 10 algebra?  Besides, the records show that he skipped most of what we would call high school, anyway.

2 – You can NOT see the Great Wall of China from space.  Here’s the deal.  Yes, the Great Wall is absolutely huge.  Yes, it’s the largest man-made structure on earth, and yes, it runs for thousands of kilometres, but — surprise — it’s less than 4 metres (12 feet) wide.  Your house is probably wider.  Looking down from space, the Great Wall of China is invisible — just like your house.

3 – You do NOT use “only” 10% of your brain.  The truth is, even with all our advanced technology, we know so little about the brain’s function that nobody knows how much of our brain’s capacity we actually use.  However, given some people I’ve worked with, 10% might be wildly optimistic.

4 – Coca-Cola™ does NOT dissolve teeth.  Folks, they use dental work to identify bodies that have been lying around for centuries.  Every museum on Earth has at least one set of Cro-Magnon chompers.  The corrosive elements that Mother Nature can throw at the human body make Coca-Cola look like a bubble bath.  This is just another Coke™ myth that circles our planet once a generation.

5 – Undercover cops do NOT have to tell you they’re police.  Police, undercover or otherwise, cannot entrap you into committing a crime, but they are under no legal obligation to identify themselves before you commit that crime on your own.  Use your head!  If undercover cops had to tell you they’re cops, it would kinda defeat the whole purpose of “undercover,” now, wouldn’t it?

6 – Jedi is NOT a recognized religion anywhere in the world.  Despite the best efforts of literally millions of Star Wars nerds, no national or international body outside a few fans clubs views Jedi as an organized religion.  The word is you can claim to be a Jedi on your income tax form and reap all the religious benefit and advantages.  You can’t.  Don’t believe me?  Try it!

7 – There are NOT more people alive today than have ever lived in all of history.  Do the math!  Even using the ten millennia of recorded history, fifty generations a millennium and the current reproductive rate of 23 per thousand (for most of history, it was closer to 80) the result is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 billion people.  Even counting all the lost Australian backpackers, at 7 billion, this generation isn’t even close.

8 – Mr. Rogers was NOT a Navy Seal sniper in Vietnam.  Quit saying that!  There is absolutely no evidence that Fred Rogers served in the military, nor even that he ever left the continental United States — although there’s an e-rumor that he went to Maui once, on vacation.

And finally

9 – You do NOT eat 7, 9, 12 or 16 spiders every night in your sleep.  Spiders prefer dry, still, quiet places where they can spin a web and catch themselves some breakfast.  Occasionally, maybe, a single spider might venture across your bed, but, unless they’re unusually stupid, the inhale/exhale of breathing air would scare them off.  I’m sure this lie gets retold so much because it’s a guaranteed gross out.

Canada Is Weird!

Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving.  It’s just the same as American Thanksgiving (turkey and everything) except we don’t celebrate it on the same day because – uh – we don’t have to.  So there!  And that kinda sums up Canada.  In the great scheme of things, we’re a nation like everybody else: we sit in the halls of power, we make treaties, run a decent international economy, send athletes to the Olympics, bitch about China and all the other stuff normal countries do, but … back home, we’re weird.  Here are just a few examples.

Canada is a bilingual country which means people here speak both French and English.  We don’t! The truth is, way back when (just so people would quit yipping about it) English-speaking Canadians promised to learn French in school and never think about it again (kinda like algebra) and French-speaking Canadians promised to continue speaking French.  As a result, the only truly bilingual Canadians are flight attendants and the woman who answers the phone for the federal government.   

For 30 years the CFL (Canadian Football League) had two teams with the same name – the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  When they played against each other it was practically impossible to tell who was winning.

We have this huge area that is still called the Northwest Territories.  It’s as if we showed up there sometime in the Age of Discovery, couldn’t think up a decent name and then just forgot about it for 200 years.

Canadians hold their hockey commentators to a higher standard than their politicians.  Last year, a hockey commentator, Don Cherry, was filmed pointing his finger and saying “you people.”  He was fired within 24 hours.  Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was photographed in “blackface” — not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions.  He was not fired; he was not even asked to resign; in fact, he was re-elected!

Canadians are politeWe’re not!  Yeah, we say “sorry” all the time, but all that actually means is we haven’t got time for your bullshit, so we’ll just give you this fake apology and move on.  Plus it’s a sneaky way to get a high ranking on all those idiot “Best Places on the Planet to Live” surveys.

You can buy marijuana pretty much anywhere in the country, but you can’t buy a bottle of wine anyplace but a designated liquor store.

Canada, like 99% of the world (I’m lookin’ at you, America) uses the metric system.  However, our athletes are still measured in feet and inches, our golf courses are measured in yards, and there isn’t a soul in this country who knows what a hectare is.  On the bright side, for six months of the year, it’s so cold it doesn’t matter whether we give the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Our currency is called the loonie because our dollar coin has a loon on it.  (Oddly enough, our two-dollar coin, which has a bear on it, is not called a bearie.)  Anyway, international money managers must laugh themselves stupid whenever they’re told the Canadian Loonie is “unstable” or “fluctuating wildly.”

All time zones in the world are based on the hour — except for one: the Canadian province of Newfoundland which runs on the half hour.  And, BTW, it’s pronounced “Nufenland” – all one word, as if you’re in a hurry.

Since 1973 (47 years!) Canada has been in a border dispute with Denmark.  Both countries claim sovereignty over Hans Island in the Arctic Ocean.  However, rather than dig in and start shooting, whenever the Canadian military shows up on the island (Rumour has it they phone ahead) they take down the Danish flag, fold it neatly at the base of the pole and raise the Canadian flag.  They also leave a “Welcome to Canada” sign and a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey.  The Danish military does the same, except they leave a bottle of Schnapps.  When you’ve got civilized countries, who needs the United Nations?

But the weirdest thing about Canada is our schizophrenic attitude towards the United States.  On the one hand, we think of them as our best friends.  For example, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Canada was the first country to declare war on Japan — even before America itself!  There’s also the Iranian hostage crisis (Ben Affleck got that seriously wrong) and the Canadian response to 9/11 (They even wrote a musical about that!) and a ton of other stuff.  We vacation in America, we work there and thousands of us live there (including me, for a while.)  We’re basically North American siblings (English mother/father unknown.)  However, ask any Canadian about America and we come totally unglued: “OMG!  It’s like livin’ above a crack house, a biker bar, Westboro Church and a redneck trailer park — all at the same time.”  Then we’ll recite a litany of advantages to being Canadian — starting with the War of 1812 and ending with gun control and Universal Health Care — and the only reason we ever stop is we gotta pack cuz we’re taking the kids to Disneyland.

Nerd Stuff You Didn’t Know

trivia

I love trivia, and if it’s nerd trivia, I love it even more.  And if it’s nerd trivia that nerds don’t know, I love it even more than that.  For example, it’s a common nerd “fact” that the only animal not mentioned in the Bible is the cat.  Sorry!  There are tons of animals not mentioned in the Bible — including kangaroos, California Condors, Komodo Dragons and polar bears.  So with that in mind, here are three extraordinary nerd facts to astound your friends, win Pub Night Quizzes and generally make you smarter than your know-it-all brother-in-law.

If you’re over 30, you’ve probably read the legend of King Arthur.  If you’re under 30. you’ve seen the one of the crap movies.  Either way, you kinda know the story.  Somewhere in Britain, there was a sword stuck in a stone (no idea how it got there) and anybody who pulled it out became the King of Britain.  Simple — except nobody could.  Then one day a regular guy — sometimes an oaf, sometimes a churl, but usually a squire — accidently gives it a yank and OMG! out it comes.  He is proclaimed King Arthur, and with the sword, Excalibur, rules Britain wisely for many years.  (Until he screws up, but that’s a different story.)  The problem is the sword Arthur pulled out of the stone was not Excalibur.  Excalibur was actually given to Arthur by The Lady of the Lake after Arthur broke the original sword, Caliburn.  We’ve streamlined the legend because contemporary audiences don’t have a great attention span – hence all the crap movies.  Plus, in some versions of the original story, King Arthur also has a spear called Ron.

In Nepal, it’s legal to hunt the Yeti, (Abominable Snowman.)  All you have to do is apply for a permit, pay the fee (about $1,200) and you’re good to go.  However, you can’t kill the Yeti, and if you do manage to capture one, you have to turn it over to the Nepalese government.  So it’s not like you can come home and put on the brag about the head mounted on your wall.  (Ewwww!)  Apparently, however, there are official bumper stickers.

And my favourite:

Everything is this world has a regular name and a scientific name.  For example, humans are Homo sapiens, wolves are Canis lupus, apples are Malus domestica — and so on and so on.  Scientific names are usually Latin, mostly boring, sometimes fun (like Gaga germanotta – a fern named for Lady Gaga) and sometimes they’re just lazy like Gorilla gorilla, the scientific name for … gorillas.  Normally, when a new species is discovered, the scientific community goes into warp speed to name it.  (These days, it takes less than a year.)  However, there is one species that baffled science nerds for nearly 300 years – the giant tortoise.  These huge creatures were discovered by the Spanish in the early 1500s, but they didn’t get a scientific name until 1812 when August Friedrich Schweigger named them Testudo gigantean.  So why the three century delay?  Everybody knew they existed.  Well, it seems, giant tortoises are such good eatin’ that none of them ever survived the journey back to the universities of Europe.  They all became lunch!  According to every account, the giant tortoise was so delicious that even the most dedicated botanists and biologists couldn’t resist them.  Ships would literally stop in mid ocean so the sailors could finish eating their tortoises before they made harbour and had to share.  For generations, scientific expeditions would sail out to far-flung parts of the world and return with all manner of exotic species and … a bunch of empty giant tortoise shells … having consumed the contents.  I’m not making this up!  Even the mighty Charles Darwin, Lord High Poobah of animal studies, dined on giant tortoise on the way home from the Galapagos.  Thus, it took nearly 300 years for a few of them to avoid the frying pan long enough to get a scientific name.

These days, there are international laws that protect the giant tortoise from becoming an extinct item on the menu.  However, there is a heavy illegal trade for the tables of rich culinary connoisseurs with no conscience.  Meanwhile, if you want to taste the most delicious meat in the world, apparently, you can — there’s a very expensive synthetic version.  But be warned: you might like it a little too much.