Why is there nothing ironic in Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”?

I enjoy listening to Alanis Morissette as much as the next guy (which isn’t much, I guess)… but there’s something that’s always bugged me. She has a song, “Ironic,” in which she lists lots of different tragic situations and then says “Isn’t it ironic…” The problem is that none of the situations in the song actually meet the definition of irony, which requires incongruity, not just tragedy.

If you haven’t heard the song before, here’s the YouTube video…

Upon hearing “Ironic” on the radio the other day, my gut responded with its usual visceral hatred for Morissette’s abuse of the English language. And then it hit me… What if that’s the irony? What if she’s really an artistic genius and she intentionally put nothing ironic in “Ironic” so that the whole song would be a heaping pile of irony? Thank God!

Unfortunately, humanity is not so lucky. In speaking of the song, Morissette stated “I’d always embraced the fact that every once in a while I’d be the malapropism queen. And when Glen and I were writing it, we definitely were not doggedly making sure that everything was technically ironic.”

So, there you have it. No artistic genius. Just a flagrant misuse of an already misunderstood term.

What’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Cider Press

Credit: Red58bill

I’ll let the State of Massachusetts take this one…

“Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. It takes about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider.

To make fresh cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is
bottled as apple cider.

Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.”

Why are there two versions of the Lord’s prayer?

If you’re a church-goer, you’ve probably experienced the awkwardness of the debts/trespasses debate in the Lord’s prayer. Pretty much everybody knows the prayer by heart, so people are likely to say the prayer from memory without consulting a hymnal or bulletin. But this leads to a problem… about halfway through, you have to start worrying! “Oh no! Are we supposed to say trespasses? Or debts?” By the time the congregation gets to “forgive us our debts/trespasses…,” a lot of the congregation sort of mumbles something out, and you can usually hear a mix of people saying one or the other. So why are there two versions?

Apparently, the Lord’s prayer was recorded slightly differently by Matthew and Luke in their gospels. Matthew’s version of the prayer is most accurately translated “debts” while Luke’s is rendered better as “trespasses.” Both are obviously intended to mean the same thing, however. We’re asking God to forgive the things we’ve done wrong, and committing to forgive those who do us wrong. Interestingly, this has actually led to a third version of the prayer, though I’ve never heard it used… Some churches now go with the overall meaning and simply say “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I’m sure that will solve all the confusion.

What’s the best Pass the Pigs strategy? (Part 1)

Pass the Pigs is a simple yet addictive dice game that uses cute little plastic pigs as dice. If you’ve never played, the rules are very straightforward. On each turn, a player rolls two pigs. The pigs will land in different positions, which will determine how many points the player has in their hand for that turn. The player may then decide to “pass the pigs” to the next player. If they do this, all of the points in their hand will be added to their official score. They may also decide to roll the pigs again to try to add more points to their hand before passing the pigs. But they must be careful! If the pigs both land on their sides with one showing a dot and the other showing a blank side, they “pig out” and lose all of the points they’ve accumulated in their hand! It’s risky business. The first player to accumulate a score of 100 or higher wins.

Pass the Pigs

Credit: Larry Moore

Like anything with dice (even pig-shaped dice), Pass the Pigs is a game of chance. That means, with a little effort, we should be able to figure out the probabilities of certain things happening in the game, and develop some optimal strategies. So how do you win at Pass the Pigs? Read on to find out.

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What are those web like things on tree branches?


You know, these things. (Credit: Alison Hunter)

If you live just about anywhere in the US, you’ve likely noticed weird things that look like a really intense spider web or maybe some sort of cocoon on the tips of tree branches in the late summer or early fall. They often seem to be clumped together with several on one tree, and they show up all over the place at the right time of year. So what are they?

The culprit is the Fall Webworm, which is actually a type of moth. Moths will lay hundreds of eggs on the underside of tree leaves. About a week later, the eggs hatch into small, hairy caterpillars, which begin eating the leaves and other parts of the tree. As they do, they build a big, silken web, which encloses and protects them. This web catches bugs, leaf remains, and even caterpillar droppings which gives it its characteristically nasty look. By the time winter comes around, the caterpillars wrap themselves in cocoons in order to survive the winter. They hatch in the spring in order to breed, lay eggs, and start the cycle all over with more nasty-looking webs.

BONUS: The Penn State Agricultural Sciences Extension page on the Fall Webworm states, “Warning: Pesticides are poisonous.” I thought that was kind of the point…

Why does every song on the radio right now have a guy chanting “hey”?

I don’t really listen to hip-hop music. Nevertheless, while occasionally listening to top hits radio stations over the last several months, I’ve noticed an odd trend. There are lots of songs that seem to feature a guy (or group of guys) chanting “hey” repeatedly in the background. To make matters even stranger… every song seems to be using the exact same sound sample for the “hey.” It’s literally the exact same chant put in the back of tons of songs.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this YouTube video…

So what’s going on here? Where did this get started? Read on to find out.

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Why are ALDI’s barcodes so big?

AldiIf you’ve ever bought anything at ALDI, you know that a lot of their products seem to feature ridiculously large barcodes. As you’ve probably already guessed, this is a cost-saving measure – bigger barcodes are easier to find and scan. In fact, ALDI’s artwork guidelines have very specific rules that specify that most packages should have multiple barcodes and that “extended barcodes should be used extensively.” They even get into where the barcodes need to be placed for a variety of different packaging types (box vs. tube vs. bottle with a trigger) so that the cashier can scan them quickly and efficiently. It’s absolutely fascinating reading.

Read ALDI’s Artwork Information Guidelines here.

How much dirt would it take to bury Cary, NC?

Cary Map

Cary bleeds over just slightly from Wake to Chatham County. (Credit Rcsprinter123)

A friend in a church group recently posed an interesting question: how much dirt would it take to cover Cary, NC (our hometown) in a foot of dirt? Ignoring all of the terrible human suffering this would cause, it’s actually an interesting question. So, I decided to go about figuring it out.

The Easy Way

So… “covering in a foot of dirt” could be interpreted two different ways. We’ll start with the easy way – putting one foot of dirt everywhere, kind of like a blanket of snow.

According to Wikipedia, Cary is 55.4 square miles, or 1,544,463,360 square feet. That makes for simple math.

1,544,463,360 ft^2 * 1 ft = 1,544,463,360 ft^3

So, it would take 1.5 billion cubic feet of dirt to cover Cary. But that’s not really a very interesting answer… let’s see if we can do better.

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Why does the moon turn red during an eclipse?


Credit: Anne Dirkse

This week’s eclipse got me wondering about something – we all learned in school that a lunar eclipse happens when the earth comes between the sun and the moon, putting the moon in the earth’s shadow. But nobody ever explained the red glow that the moon takes on during the eclipse. Why does that happen? It’s actually the same reason that the sky is blue and sunsets are orange- Rayleigh scattering. What’s Rayleigh scattering, you ask? Read on to learn more.

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