Corrections and other New Year’s resolutions

Homework assignment: Write on a yellow pad of lined paper, 1,000 times, “I will not reverse the roles of Robert Oppenheimer and Wernher von Braun.”

I do not know why I got their names and roles backward, but when I wrote about my last motorcycle ride of the year, to Fort Ritchie with a friend, I erred. An astute reader wrote to bring it to my attention, and it’s a serious enough error that it deserves correcting.

For the record, J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American nuclear physicist sometimes called the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role as director of the Manhattan Project – which created the amazingly destructive weapon that ended the hot war with Japan and began the cold war with the Soviet Union.

Wernher von Braun was a German scientist with a deep desire to go into space, an urge engendered by such science-fictionalists as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. He helped his country build the V-2 rocket, a ballistic missile which could carry 2,200-pounds of explosives to targets 500 miles from the launch point.

“Captured” by the U.S., he put his talents to use in his new homeland’s space efforts, where his efforts helped lead to our own Saturn space rockets, and our first attempts at putting men on the moon and beyond.

Then there was my piece titled “Tastes of Christmas,” in which I mentioned that dates are dried figs. A sharp-eyed reader wrote to inform me “dates are NOT figs! They are both used dried, but they are not the same fruit.”

I looked it up. She was correct.

I’d like to say Mom gave me the bad information, but it’s more likely I figured it out for myself when I was too young to care about looking it up, and the misconnection stuck with me. In fact, in looking up the proof that figs and dates are distinct fruits I discovered I was in good company, or at least much company. I was surprised how many people had the same misinformation.

So, for the record, figs are what makes a simple fruit-filled cookie into a Fig Newton, which I love, and are not the first stage of stuffed dates, which I also love.

The trouble with mistakes such as these (I may have made one or two more and conveniently forgotten them. Note to self: make a list of errors, if any more there be, the better to score my performance.),

Mistakes are not made only by us elder writers, but sometimes by elder relatives of young thinkers. We were sitting at dinner the other evening and our son’s four-year-old nephew, Austin, informed him, “You don’t eat squirrels.”

“Why not,” my son, LJ, asked the youngster.

“Because you don’t kill living animals.”

“Can we eat chicken?”

“Not living chicken,” the little guy replied.

“But you’re eating chicken,” LJ pointed to the lad’s plate. “How can you eat chicken if you can’t kill it?”

“You go to the grocery store and buy it when it’s not living,” came the too-wise response.

I don’t normally bother with New Year’s resolutions. I know, for instance, that any promise to lose weight is broken before it takes effect.

On the other hand, I do hereby promise to check stuff I know, to make sure things I think I know are actually true – though I probably will never reverse roles for Oppenheimer and von Braun, and am unlikely to ever again think dates derive from figs.

Also, I promise not to eat any living squirrels.

One thought on “Corrections and other New Year’s resolutions”

  1. Good resolutions, especially eating living squirrels. That might be a tough job, getting the little critters to hold still while you slice and dice.

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