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Mac vs PC: The Showdown

A story in The Economist last week dropped the following facts in its lead paragraph to set the stage for an interesting article:

"Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie was at the top of the charts. Ronald Reagan was staring down the Soviet Union. And Princess Diana, aged 20, was on her honeymoon with Prince Charles"¦

If the summer of '81 doesn't come rushing forth from the dim recesses of your memory, that might be because The Economist forgot to mention a certain swim meet in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where I was probably busy finishing last in the 100-meter freestyle.

Ahh, now it's all coming back to you, eh? No? Well let's continue on with some more facts from the article and see if you can guess the story:

Roughly one billion are now in use across the world

In America there are 70 for every 100 people

The combined stockmarket values of the firms involved exceed half a trillion dollars

Yes, they were talking about the PC -- and the one that started all the hubbub back on August 12th, 1981, was, of course, the original IBM 5150, which turns 25-years-old this week.

Clearly IBM wasn't the first PC on the market. There were many others, including the Apple II, which predates the 5150 by a few years (ding! IBM: 0, Apple: 1). And while early Apple architecture allowed cloning, that soon changed with the introduction of their Macintosh line, enabling the PC platform to proliferate and, let's face it, take over the personal computing world. (ding! IBM: 1, Apple: 1)

Over here at my house we're a multi-platform family: my wife prefers PC, while I swear by Apple. It's kind of like we've each married out of our respective faiths and we often joke about which platform we'll bring our kids up on.

While I could go on and on (and on!) about why I prefer Mac to PC, we'd rather hear which you prefer, dear reader, and why. So gloves off now, and may the best platform win!

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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