Yes, Virginia, There Is An Apple Core

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that apples don’t really have cores. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; do apple cores exist?

Virginia H.
New York, New York

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the gullibility of a gullible age. They believe anything they see on YouTube. Seriously, Virginia, these friends of yours? You could do better. Did you know that Stevie wets his bed at least once a week? And Johnny picks his nose and eats the boogers when he thinks no one is looking? Do you have any idea what Sally and Jane have been saying about you behind your back? But you didn’t ask about your so-called friends; you asked about apple cores, and you deserve an answer.

State-of-the-art apple core removal technology
So many cores, so little time.

Yes, Virginia, there are apple cores. They exist as surely as the Farberware Classic Apple Corer exists, or the OXO Good Grips Apple Corer and Divider, and you know these gadgets are real because of the joy they bring on those rare and wondrous occasions when someone uses one to make a pie. Imagine how dreary the world would be without apple cores. There would be no Norpro 5103 Stainless Steel Apple Corer with Plunger, no Amco Dial-A-Slice Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer, no R & M Industries 5920 Apple Peeler / Corer / Slicer. There would be no Apple Core Removal Technology industry at all. Do you have any idea, Virginia, how many factory workers and engineers would be out of work if there were no apple cores? Or, for that matter, if people stopped believing in apple cores? Is that something you want on your conscience?

Not believe in apple cores! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might slice an apple crosswise and see no evidence of a core, but what would that prove? Have you ever seen the Tooth Fairy? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. How else would you explain the fact that every time you leave a baby tooth under your pillow at night, it’s gone the next morning, replaced by a shiny new coin? This could only be the work of the Tooth Fairy. Or possibly the Tooth Alchemist, who transformed the tooth into a coin and then just left it there, possibly in an attempt to free the Tooth Fairy from her crippling addiction to human teeth. We’ll probably never know the details, Virginia, but the point is that even though no one has ever seen either of these entities, we can be confident in the knowledge that they exist and that they skulk around your room at night, searching for body parts.

Apple cores exist, Virginia, and they always will. Rejoice in the knowledge that you were right and your friends were wrong. You should celebrate! Eat an apple! But watch out for the core — you wouldn’t want to chip a tooth.


Six Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Santa Claus

How much do you know about Santa Claus? Most people are unaware of these six basic facts.

Actually, one of the elves probably invented this
Diagrams from Santa’s human-powered sleigh patent (US1419558 A)

1. Santa initially used birds to deliver presents. He ended this practice after receiving many complaints: the owls, hungry after a hard night’s work, would sometimes carry off a family pet, and the swallows were just too slow (an unladen swallow travels about 24 miles per hour, and they’re even slower when carrying gifts). He tried using bats next, but those were considered “too creepy”. Dogs and cats were perceived as friendlier but were often mistaken for gifts themselves. Eventually, Santa decided to deliver all the presents personally. He started with a human-powered sleigh and soon switched to the now-familiar reindeer-powered model.

2. Since its inception in 1790, the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office has issued 437 patents to Santa Claus, including “Method for Rapid Delivery of Items Utilizing Airborne Woodland Creatures”, “System and Method for Calculating Metrics of Naughtiness/Niceness Based On Observed Behavior”, “Aqueous Solution to Facilitate Rapid Movement Through Chimneys or Other Narrow, High-Friction Passageways“, 27 patents related to surveillance technology, and several hundred patents related to toy design and manufacturing.

3. The International Federation of Competitive Eating banned Santa from all eating competitions after the 1997 Extreme Cookies and Milk Challenge. Santa ate all his cookies in record time, grabbed and ate some of his competitors’ cookies, and then got into a brawl with another celebrity contestant over a packet of Oreos held by an audience member. That other contestant, a popular children’s entertainer, later attempted to rehabilitate his image by appearing in a public service announcement.

4. Santa’s patent attorneys have filed over a dozen FOIA requests in an attempt to determine whether the NSA has been using any patented Naughty-or-Nice™ surveillance technology without paying licensing fees. None of those requests has been answered.

5. He performs annual feasibility studies to evaluate the practicality of replacing his Rudolph-based navigation system with GPS. The conclusion is the same every time: while modern commercial GPS devices can store thousands of waypoints, none have the capacity to handle the 447,304,311 destinations that Santa needs to visit. And even if one did, it would take his fastest elf at least 14 years to enter all those addresses into the system.

6. He once shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

If you’re feeling lonely or isolated on Christmas, check out Company For Christmas, where a bunch of bloggers will be hanging out throughout the day. I’ll be there from 10pm-12pm PDT on Christmas Eve (in other words, for two hours starting at this time).

A Christmas Poem

I have eaten
the cookies
that were on
the mantel

and which
you had probably
left there
for Santa

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so warm

I have read
the note
that was by
the cookies

and which
you had thoughtfully
for Santa

Forgive me
it was delightful
so sweet
and so warm.

I have burned
the note
that you left
for Santa

and which
would have proven that
there had
been cookies

Forgive me
it was glorious
so bright
and so warm

(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

Who is Astrid Volpert? And Other Questions for the Butterball Turkey Hotline

Not the actual turkey hotline (image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives)

I’ve just heard some exciting news — just in time for Thanksgiving, Butterball has launched a turkey recipe app. At just $4.99, Butterball Cookbook Plus sounds like a real godsend for anyone who owns an iPhone and doesn’t know how to cook a turkey or look things up on Google.

If you have turkey-related questions and don’t own an iPhone, don’t despair. You can still call the Butterball turkey hotline, which “employs more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists and nutritionists” to answer questions — which is exactly what I need, because I don’t have an iPhone, and I do have some questions. Like these:

1. Who is Astrid Volpert? She’s listed as a Butterball turkey expert, but when I click on her link, I get an error message. Some independent research led me to her website, which offers no evidence of any formal turkey-related training whatsoever. I don’t think she even speaks English.

2. The wish I made on last year’s Butterball turkey wishbone didn’t come true. When can I expect my refund?

3. What’s the capital of Turkey?

4. Remember that story about the woman who kills her husband by hitting him over the head with a frozen leg of lamb and then cooks it and serves it to the detectives who come out to investigate the murder? Do you think that would work with a turkey? Asking for a friend.

5. A turkey, a giraffe, and an otter walk into a bar. Who gets served first?

6. Help! I have a dog, a cat, a baby, a roasted turkey, and a bottle of wine in the kitchen, and I need to move them all to the dining room. I can’t leave the cat alone with the dog, I can’t leave the cat or the dog alone with the turkey, I can’t leave the baby alone at all, and it’s probably best not to leave me alone with the wine. The cat and the dog can walk. The dog will go where I tell him to, but the cat just does whatever he wants. I can carry any two items at a time except for the cat, who won’t let me pick him up. What should I do?

7. If I drop an 18-pound turkey and a 2-pound Cornish game hen off the top of the Empire State Building at the same time, what crime will I be charged with? Does it matter if the turkey is frozen?

8. If someone calls the hotline and asks a question about a turducken, do you hang up 1/3 of the way through the call?

9. Can I come work for you? Answering turkey questions seems like it could be fun, at least until the novelty wears off, at which point I’d probably just start making stuff up. That wouldn’t be a problem, would it?

10. Does this stuffing make my drumsticks look fat?

Do you have any turkey- or holiday-related questions or concerns? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer.

December is Sugar Plum Awareness Month

It was brought to my attention this week that many people have no idea what a sugar plum is. In an attempt to combat the global problem of sugar plum ignorance, I hereby declare December to be Sugar Plum Awareness Month.

Q: You’re making this announcement on December 29th? Wouldn’t it make more sense to choose a different month?

A: I chose December because it’s the month in which the sugar plum awareness theme song is heard most frequently. The timing of this announcement is less than ideal, but I think we can make it work — there are still a couple days left this December, and next December should last at least 21 days.

Q: Have you ever seen a sugar plum?

A: No.

Q: Do you know anyone who’s ever seen one?

A: Not to my knowledge, no.

Q: How do you know they exist?

A: Wikipedia has an article about them.

Q: Wikipedia also has an article about Santa Claus. Does that mean he exists?

A: Sugar Plum Awareness Month is a time of discovery, during which we will separate the truth about sugar plums from the myths.

Q: You really should have led with that.

A: Yeah, I know. Too bad I never edit these things.

Q: What do you think will be the high point of Sugar Plum Awareness Month?

A: The highlight will be Sugar Plum Tasting Day, when participants will attempt to taste sugar plums for the first time and then report back on them. This will enable us to resolve the question of whether sugar plums exist and, if they do, to track regional variations. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to organize a tasting day this year, but we expect to have one in 2012.

Q: What exactly is a sugar plum?

A: Wikipedia says it’s a kind of candy made from chopped dried fruit, almonds, honey, and spices.

Q: So a sugar plum doesn’t necessarily contain either sugar or plums?

A: Right.

Q: Have you learned anything else interesting about sugar plums so far?

A: Apparently they grow on trees.

Q: How can I, a member of the public with no specialized training, help to make Sugar Plum Awareness Month a success?

A: I’m so glad you asked! You can add any sugar-plum-related information or questions you might have to the comments here. You can suggest sugar plum activities. And next year, you can participate in Sugar Plum Tasting Day.

You can find more sugar plum facts (and, eventually, more information about Sugar Plum Awareness Month) on the Sugar Plum Awareness page.

The Pop Quiz Before Christmas

1. Where and how were the stockings hung?

a) by the chimney, with care.

b) on the clothesline, haphazardly.

c) in the library, with a rope, by Colonel Mustard.

2. Who were the children waiting for?

a) Saint Nicholas.

b) Godot.

c) Krampus

3. Why does St. Nick employ tiny reindeer instead of regular-sized reindeer?

a) Tiny reindeer have better aerodynamics.

b) Full-sized reindeer would exceed the weight limit specified in most roof warranties.

c) It was an accident. The baby reindeer that St. Nick bought from a pet store developed stunted growth and a variety of other health problems due to the horrible living conditions and poor breeding practices at the reindeer mill where they were born.

4. Visions of sugar plums…

a) danced in the children’s heads.

b) performed acrobatic feats in the children’s stomachs.

c) grew into unhealthy obsessions and, in many cases, eating disorders that lasted well into adulthood. Some of the children refused to eat sugar plums ever again; others would eat nothing but sugar plums.

Happy whatever-you-celebrate. And please, if you decide to bring reindeer into your household, don’t buy them from a pet store — adopt from a local shelter instead.

A Brief History of the War on Groundhog Day

Timeline showing events in the War on Groundhog Day.
Timeline showing events in the War on Groundhog Day.
Significant events in the War on Groundhog Day.

What do Copernicus, Bill Murray, PETA, and Sarah Palin all have in common? They’re unlikely allies in the War on Groundhog Day. While the War on Christmas has received a fair amount of media attention in the last few years, the equally troubling War on Groundhog Day has gone almost unnoticed.
Continue reading “A Brief History of the War on Groundhog Day”