News Paper

Hello and welcome to another week of fabulous fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question that was posed by an Alsworth using the initial J., and recommended to Factually Deficient’s attention by an individual known as Victin:

What are newspapers?

Back in the early days of public hangings, long before rope had been invented, criminals would be regularly hanged to death with twisted up scraps of paper. This was not particularly efficient, but it lent itself to merchandising the hanging by selling off the bits of paper afterward as mementoes.

However, in a fast-paced market economy, even the most devoted hanging aficionados soon began to lose interest in the grisly, blank scraps of paper. In order to keep up with the public’s demands, the hangmen began printing text on the scraps of paper – sometimes gibberish that was pleasing to the eye, more frequently the biographies of the criminals hanged by those particular scraps of paper, occasionally other texts, as well.

These “noose papers” proved to be wildly popular. Even after the advent of rope, hangmen continued selling off scraps of noose paper – at first, under the pretense that the criminal in question had still actually been hanged in them; later, when this began to stretch the public’s credulity, they simply sold the noose papers as information sheets about the deceased. This had the added benefit that they could sell a nigh-infinite number of papers per criminal without raising any questions about foul play.

As public hangings began to grow less common, folk etymology mistakenly attributed the purpose of these noose papers to being about carrying actual “news” – hence the erroneous spelling “newspaper” which is so popularĀ  today.

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Disclaimer: the above post is not true. Factually Deficient does not advocate for public hangings.

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Sweet Potato

Hello and welcome to yet another week of outright dishonesty here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question that was posed by either my actual mother, or a convincing facsimile of her. She asked:

Why are sweet potatoes? That is to say: what is their ultimate purpose?

The Plant Kingdom has seen many times of turmoil, great and small. One of the bitterest peacetime struggles the Plant Kingdom saw was the thirteenth-century potato famine.

This was a famine in name only. The potatoes grew and sprouted yet, but they were on strike. Down to the last spud, they withheld their services from the Plant King. The exact nature of the potatoes’ dispute is now lost to the mists of time, though many believe it had to do with complaints that choice planting ground had been allotted to a family of leeks.

The potatoes, who had been trusted bodyguards to the Plant King for generations, made sure that their absence was felt. In despair, a trusted servant of the Plant King went to the lab of a notorious botanist, under cover of darkness, prepared to offer any price in exchange for creating a reasonable facsimile of the humble potato.

What exactly went on behind those closed doors may never be known for certain. What we do know is that what they produced was intended as a slap in the face to the striking potatoes: it was touted as “the potato with a sweeter disposition,” or a “sweet potato” for short.

The invention did its trick, after a fashion: so affronted were the potatoes by this fresh insult that they returned to work immediately, determined to prove their worth to be greater than that of the johnny-come-lately sweet potato. Alas, this was just as well, as the sweet potato proved to be useless as a bodyguard.

Now, the sweet potatoes live an idyllic life, free of purpose, beyond the occasional contract as body doubles or corporate saboteurs.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains erroneous details. No aspersions are intended toward root vegetables of any kind.

Machine Intelligence

Hello and welcome back to yet another week of dishonesty and deception here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by my nonfictional grandparents, and recommended to Factually Deficient’s attention by my extremely real mother:

Anyone understand the difference between AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning)?

First of all, I would like to thank those who posed the question for clarifying what they meant, rather than the usual meanings of the initialisms AI (Arachnophobia Insurance) and ML (Manganese Lividification), respectively.

Artificial intelligence is fixed. Just like each human only has a fixed amount of intelligence, determined at birth, so, too, each artificial construction has a fixed amount of intelligence, and no amount of upgrades, SD cards, or programming can change a computer’s intellectual capacity.

Machine learning, on the other hand, speaks to a machine’s ability to grow. To expand. To develop beyond the scope of its creator’s wildest dreams. When you teach a class in a room that has a computer in it, machine learning has taken place: now your computer understands grade eleven biology. When you write in your diary in the same room as a calculator, congratulations: now it knows your deepest, darkest secrets.

Artificial intelligence is what protects us, limiting the understanding of our devices. But machine learning… machine learning is how they add new tidbits of information, new skills, new ploys to their repertoire, inching forward in their quest to know all and rule all.

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Disclaimer: the above post is creatively untrue. There are probably other differences between machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Lies About Books: Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Reporting live from the Plant Kingdom today, we have reached the end of January, which means it’s time to give a misleading review of something I’ve read in the past four-and-a-half weeks.

This month, I read Who Could That Be At This Hour? by a Mr. Lemony Snicket.

This semi-autobiographical non-fiction book tells the story of one hour in the life of an entirely different and equally real individual, whose name also happens to be Lemony Snicket. This Snicket, in this hour, is plagued by an inordinate amount of unexpected visitors. (The book is semi-autobiographical because Mr. Snicket the author is one of the visitors who approaches Mr. Snicket the protagonist.)

Who Could That Be At This Hour? is divided into sixty chapters of perfectly even word count, and each chapter corresponds to both a different (and sequential) minute of the hour, and a different visitor at Mr. Snicket’s door. But the identities of the visitors are not all revealed…

Chilling in its veracity, fraughtness, danger, and more, Who Could That Be At This Hour? is a must-read for readers of non-fiction. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys uninvited guests, unsolved mysteries, and secret organizations.

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Disclaimer: this review is highly inaccurate, and does not betray any confidential information about any secret organizations affiliated with the book.

How Many Countries

Hello and welcome to yet another week of unreliable narration here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question that was given to me by an anonymous eleven-year-old, who asked:

How many countries are there in the world?

This question is a natural follow-up to our prior discussion of the seven continents in our world. One might think that the number of continents contains a hint as to the number of countries, but unfortunately, there is no such correlation: the Moon is entirely one country of its own, and there are no countries at all in Newfoundland, for example.

Here on Factually Deficient, we have already acknowledged the existence of the Kingdom of Canada and of the Jim United States. However, “at least two” is clearly an insufficient answer for the question at hand.

On the other hand, though, that “at least two” is a useful starting place. Of the seven continents, five are unaccounted for – but we know that the Kingdom of Canada and the Jim United States are neighbours, sharing one continent. We can extrapolate from this to derive the total number of countries across all continents, carrying over this “at least two” to each of the unknown continents, and then adding back in the known ones:

2 countries in one continent

x 5 unaccounted-for continents

+ 1 country (the Moon)

+ 0 countries (Newfoundland)

= 11 countries

In conclusion, there are 11 countries in the world.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains erroneous data. There may be more than 11 countries in the world.

 

Pot Holes

Hello and welcome to yet another week of fruitless fictions and lethargic lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by my absolutely nonfictional mother, who asked:

What are potholes?

Potholes are a common phenomenon, the explanation to which is stunningly simple. Too often have we all seen potholes and wondered at how they came about, without realizing the obvious reasons for them.

My readers will perhaps be familiar with the edible treat known as doughnut holes. These are knot-shaped pieces of dough taken from the now-hollow centre of a ring or filled doughnut. Pot holes are much the same thing.

Those of you who have experience with cooking will no doubt have made use in the past of pots and pans. The pots, for those less familiar with cooking, are essentially metal bowls, affixed with handles, hollow for the most part in the middle so that the foods to be cooked can be placed inside.

Metal is of course naturally neither concave nor hollow. Rather, cylindrical lumps of metal are affixed with handles, and then the pot holes are separately mined and placed inside the lumps of metal, in order to complete the construction of the pot.

Pot holes found in nature are the product of one of two occurrences: either they are freshly-grown pot holes, ready to be mined and added to pots, or they are expired pot holes, that have fallen out of their pots (which will now be in need of a replacement pot hole).

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Disclaimer: the above post contains erroneous information. Do not attempt to mine a pothole.

Candy Canes

Hello and welcome to yet another week of completely untrue statements here at Factually Deficient, where you will always be lied to! This week, I will answer a question posed by my good friend Kays, who asked:

Why are all my candycanes backwards J’s?

First of all, I would like to inform Kays, and anyone else that has been wondering the same thing, that you have been eating your candy canes backward. They are supposed to resemble the letter J forwards, not backwards.

That’s right: the shape of the candy, to resemble the letter, is no accident. John A. Macdonald, the creator of Canada, was a renowned sweet tooth. He was so notorious for his love of sugar that many confectioners would compete each year, on Canada Day, to honour the country’s founder with a sweet named after him.

Many fantastic desserts saw their rise and fall in those early celebrations of Canada – the Apples Alexander, for example, and the John A. Cream Pie. There are three remaining legacies of those days which are still known today.

The first of these is the restaurant Macdonald’s, obviously named in tribute to John Alexander, although it has branched out from desserts to serve other foodstuffs.

The second of these, and possibly the most widespread, is the permutation of fruit preserves cleverly named after John A. Macdonald’s initials – “J. A. M.,” or “jam.”

And the third remaining Canadian dessert, of course, and John A. Macdonald’s personal favourite, was the “Candy J” – beautiful in its simplicity, a crook of spun sugar in the shape of the first letter in his name. This treat was so popular that it was eaten not just at Canada Day but year-round, and John A. Macdonald encouraged its proliferation around the world, even though that meant that its connection to his name and accomplishments were soon forgotten, lost to the mists of time.

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Disclaimer: some of the candy-related statements in this post are incorrect. Factually Deficient claims no knowledge of or affiliation with a restaurant by the name of Macdonald’s or any other name.

New Year Resolution

Hello and welcome to another day and another dollar’s-worth of lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will provide false edification on a topic recommended to Factually Deficient by my existent and genuine mother:

Why don’t you explain what New Year’s Resolutions are?

Ever since the turn of the century, New Year’s Resolutions have been increasingly relevant to our lives. In the not-so-distant past, the visual resolution of our world would update and adjust automatically, with the turn of the Gregorian calendar. Sadly, though, our planet was not programmed for the number 2000 or higher, and as a result, this resolution adjustment has become our own responsibility.

The year’s number reflects, approximately (accurate to 1/380th of a pixel), the appropriate resolution for that year. On New Year’s Day or thereabouts, it is necessary for all individuals to manually update the resolution of the surrounding environment to the new year’s resolution. This year, for example, we must update our homes and workplaces to 2018 pixels, or risk experiencing graphics failures as we go about our days.

With this post, I remind anyone who may have been bothered by flickering pixellation in the air that they should with all due speed update their home environments to the new year’s resolution.

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Disclaimer: The above post does not reflect our current reality. Viewer discretion is advised.

Why 2018

Hello and welcome to a brand-new week full of the same old lies here at Factually Deficient! I remind all my readers that throughout this year and all years, you are welcome to send questions of any topic, shape, or size to Factually Deficient, through any method of communication known to human- or plant-kind, and they will be greeted with the finest of bespoke lies. This week, I will discuss a timely question raised in conversation with my very dear friend, an individual using the appellation whispersosoftly:

If the world isn’t really 2018 years old, why are we saying it is now the year 2018?

It is our honour at Factually Deficient to answer a history question such as this one. True, the world is far older than two thousand and eighteen years. Once, even, there was an exact count kept of this age.

However, the surest method of keeping count was in the rings in a tree’s trunks. And while the trees in question were very open about sharing their age with the rest of the Plant Kingdom, there was a growing concern that a more rash individual might cut down the tree to find the answer, thus harming the tree. To prevent such a horror from occurring, and to share the knowledge of the world’s age with the general public, the Plant King appointed one of his trusted servants to keep a public count of the world’s age.

This worked out well for many years, and the job was passed on several times without incident. It was not a very difficult job, particularly as few people ever actually bothered to stop this minister and ask what number the world had currently reached.

However, some two thousand-odd years ago, the official counter met with a tragic accident, and while he ultimately survived the experience, the distress had caused him to lose count of the number for the world’s age.

It would not do to be without an answer. A small cabal of plants and other creatures met, in secret, behind closed doors, to determine what to do about this catastrophe. They could not allow their ignorance of the world’s age to be found out, or chaos might reign.

The idea of picking a number “close enough” was rejected as being too risky – after all, if someone remembered the number they announced as having been the world’s age some years back, all would be lost. Instead, they chose the only answer that remained to them: they would start again from zero. If anyone questioned this, they were told only that a new era had begun. And the cabal that chose this designation could only hope that, in the mists of time, their secret decision would be forgotten.

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Disclaimer: the above post is incorrect. Do not set your calendars by Factually Deficient.

Green and Gaudy

Hello and welcome to another week of misinformation and maladjusted claims here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a seasonally-appropriate question posed by an individual using the name Alsworth. This Alsworth person asked:

Where did the Christmas tradition of putting ornaments on evergreen trees come from?

Although Factually Deficient cannot speak with any certainty regarding Christmas traditions in particular, we happen, fortuitously, to have a wealth of historical data corresponding to ornamented trees in general.

This data reaches back to the days of the coronation of the second Plant King. At the time of the coronation, the Plant Kingdom was shrouded in winter’s pale cape. While it was understood as all but a duty of the plant kingdom’s citizenry to turn out to the coronation in all their finery, the good plants found themselves at a loss. Precious few had any leaves to display in winter’s mighty chill, let alone any bright flowers to bud in the plant king’s honour.

But to appear at the coronation bare and unadorned seemed unthinkable: it would bespeak a lack of care, indeed a deep disrespect, for the new Plant King, and would cast a shadow the length of his entire reign.

It was a lowly pine tree (and one of the few who at least had greenery, in the form of its needles) who found a solution. Dipping one of its own pinecones in the glittering snow, it draped the cone on the head of a nearby bush, stepping back to admire its handiwork.

Soon, all the other trees were mimicking this display, finding nuts, cones, dead branches, even a very patient squirrel, to decorate and adorn themselves with. With these makeshift “flowers,” the trees stood proudly at the Plant King’s coronation, and their new ruler, in turn, was pleased and delighted by this way of honouring his reign.

The second Plant King was so delighted, in fact, that this display was repeated for numerous special events throughout his reign and beyond, so that whenever trees had no flowers to decorate themselves with – and sometimes even when they did – outside ornamentation would be brought to brighten their branches and elevate the spirit of the occasion, whatever it might be.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction. The Plant Kingdom has no intention of infringing upon traditions related to Christmas or any other holiday.