Sunday, April 23, 2023



I read a New York Times article about some gross-sounding cookie and at the bottom was this note:

A correction was made on April 17, 2023: An earlier version of this article misstated the day of the week the reporter visited an Upper West Side Crumbl storefront. It was Saturday, not Sunday.

Intrigued by this passion for confessing their errors, I read the Times policy around corrections, which states, “We recognize an ethical responsibility to correct all factual errors, large and small, promptly and in a prominent space … Even when we catch a mistake mere seconds after publishing, we still acknowledge it with a correction. There is no five-second rule.” 

This got me thinking: I should really account for the many errors on this blog, even if that means providing corrections that are, in some cases, more than fourteen years overdue. The problem is, due to the way Blogger’s platform works, making even a tiny change to the text of an already-published post screws up the formatting when it’s viewed on a mobile device. What’s worse, for really old posts, any revision basically nukes the entire layout. So instead of making corrections to each post, I’m just going to provide them all here, in this post. I may not get to all 677 of my past posts in one shot, so this project may take me a few installments over time. I guess I’ll start with the most egregious goofs.


In “Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting A Vasectomy - But Were Afraid To Ask,” I wrote, “The nurse arranged towels around my groin until the entire area was reduced to the pink-red scrotum shrouded in white, like a sunburned toad poking out of a field of freshly fallen snow.” Upon reflection I realize that my freshly-shaved scrotum more closely resembled a frog than a toad.

In “New Cycling World Record Set in Berkeley!” I made two errors. The first I already corrected: I originally wrote that for cyclist Craig Cannon to beat the existing bicycling record of 94,452 feet of elevation gain in 48 hours, on the section of South Park Drive he had chosen, he’d need to ride about 160 miles. That did not factor in the descent required on each lap, so the actual mileage needed to be over 320 (and in fact Craig rode 339.52 miles to reach the new world record of 95,623 vertical feet). The other error, which I’ve more recently discovered, is that I said part of why he chose South Park Drive is that “he needed a route that has restrooms.” In fact South Park has only one restroom, unless you count ladies’ and men’s separately.

In “Spelling Focus - Is It ‘Kindergartner’ or ‘Kindergartener’?” I pointed out a grammatical error made by the bestselling author Mary Doria Russell but also mentioned that “I envy Russell’s ability to write good fiction.” This implies that I had actually read her fiction, which I hadn’t. (The grammatical error I’d spotted must have been in the forward to her book, which—possibly on the basis of that error—I elected not to read.) I should have written “I envy Russell’s ability to actually get published.”

In “Highbrow vs. Lowbrow” I wrote about attending a 3-D movie in an IMAX theater, and posted a photo of my wife and me wearing 3-D glasses. The obvious implication was that the photo was of the actual 3-D glasses we received at the IMAX theater. In fact the photo was from a 4-D movie we saw in London. (4D?! Yeah, that’s what the British venue called it, because in addition to providing video and audio, they added “stimulating effects like water, wind, scent and strobe lighting.” Clearly America does not have a stranglehold on cheesiness.)

In “What You Didn’t Know About Giraffes!” I made two errors. The first I acknowledged in the post itself: in claiming that giraffes engage in brood parasitism, I had confused them with cuckoo birds. The second error is that I insinuated (and, okay, to be honest, stated outright and carefully explained) that E.E. Cummings invented non-rhyming poetry because he couldn’t figure out how to rhyme anything with “giraffe.” This is not technically true. It’s not even halfway true. It is in fact completely made-up. I did admit this in the post, but not until the very end, which was disingenuous of me since I’m pretty sure nobody has ever made it all the way to the end of one of my posts.

In the introduction to “Runner-Up: A Divorce Tale” I wrote that this was “a 100% fictional story I generated entirely out of my own imagination, with any resemblance of any character to any actual person—living, dead, or undead—being entirely coincidental.” In fact, this story is completely true—that is, I told it as truthfully as memory could allow. I gave the characters fake names and declared it fiction so as not to risk embarrassing my father. (He’s dead now, so I can finally come clean on this.)

The pro bike race report “Biased Blow-By-Blow - 2020 Tour of Sweden Stage 4” contains at least 200 factual errors. This race never happened; my “coverage” was pure fabrication. I suppose I should have confessed to my deception at the end of the post (instead of adding a postscript a week or so later) but I wanted to see how many readers I could fool. I actually received emails about that post from two former professional racers (one of whom is a cycling commentator for Peacock), and neither of them spotted the ruse!

In “Corn Cob” I stated this:

The [rear derailleur of my childhood bike] was a Suntour V-GT Luxe, which my dad installed along with a larger freewheel to give me—you guessed it—lower gearing, which of course was a bit humiliating. Why me? Was I such the runt that I alone needed lower gearing? Oddly enough, the larger freewheel actually made the pie plate look smaller—but just try telling my brothers that.

In reality, the freewheel my dad installed was probably only slightly larger (perhaps a 32- or 34-tooth cog instead of a 28) and the difference in size was most likely not visible, even to the trained eye, due to that giant pie plate. Of course the freewheel looked bigger to me because I was so ashamed to have low gearing. I should have pointed out this delusion because it makes the sad story even sadder.

In “The Case for Dvorak,” concerning the more efficiently designed Dvorak keyboard layout, I mentioned the economists Stan Liebowitz and Stephen E. Margolis, who were outspoken in discrediting the layout. I neglected to mention in that post that they are both total douchebags . I sincerely regret the omission.

In “Trouble with Tire Chains” I wrote that one of my car’s tire chains, which had broken and gotten wrapped around the axle, was “dragging behind us like the Ghost of Christmas Past.” I was referring of course to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but was clearly remembering it wrong. It was Marley’s ghost, not the Ghost of Christmas Past, who dragged chains behind him. Interestingly, this was the one correction that the Oakland Tribune made when they ran my story, as you can see here.

 In “The British Faucet Conundrum” I wrote that the Internet was an American invention. An anonymous commenter wrote below the post, “Tim Berners-Lee INVENTED THE INTERNET WORLD WIDE WEB AND HE IS BRITISH NOT AMERICAN... so stick that in your hat and smoke it. In typical fashion of most americans you try to take credit for most when you don't have a creative bone in your bodies..” I neglected to reply “USA #1 let’s roll! These colors don’t run!” I also missed an opportunity to point out that Berners-Lee was educated at Arizona State University (which isn’t true, but would have goaded this anonymous commenter quite effectively). I didn’t need to point out that the Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing.

In “The Lotion Sniper” I asserted that holiday season shoppers are easy prey because they’re dazed by the Christmas music playing in the stores, and I provided as example the song “Sleigh Ride” that seemed to have acquired new lyrics such as “Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up it’s grand/ Just holding your hand.” I should have written “Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up don’t barf/ Just look at your scarf.” This would have been completely inaccurate, of course, since I totally made it up, but it would have been truer to the spirit of the post.

In this very post, “Errata,” I asserted that I never read Mary Doria Russell’s fiction, and that her grammatical error must have been in the forward. Actually, I did read The Sparrow. I totally forgot that I had done so until just now, when doing some routine (yes, believe it or not, routine) fact-checking. However, given that her book was so clearly forgettable, I stand by my earlier correction: I cannot truly say I envy her ability.

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