8 Laws Way Past Their Prime

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It took a few centuries, but Canada is finally allowing sorcery again. In June 2017, an updated justice bill was submitted for approval that seeks to lift prohibitions on things that are no longer relevant to 21st century citizens, like dueling (fine provided it’s nonviolent), practicing witchcraft (knock yourself out), or mocking religion (possibly tasteless, but free speech is free speech).

With Canadians getting more progressive in their thinking, it might be time to look at a few other laws that once served a purpose but have now been rendered obsolete by common sense. Here are eight codes that are overdue for an overturn.

1. NO WARMING UP YOUR CAR // IOWA

In 1913, Iowa responded to the burgeoning motor vehicle industry by declaring it illegal to leave a running car unattended. The likely thinking was that the law would prevent thieves from making off with a brand-new Model T. Over 100 years later, it’s devolved into being a total nuisance. Iowans battling cold winters often start their cars with remote starters to get them warm enough to enter, making lawbreakers of virtually everyone heading for work on a cold Midwestern morning. While it’s still on the books, police in Des Moines told WHOTV.com in early 2017 that they don’t have the manpower or inclination to enforce it.

2. MINORS CAN’T PLAY PINBALL // SOUTH CAROLINA

A close-up view of a pinball machine
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From the 1940s through the 1970s, several major U.S. cities had a bone to pick with pinball. The analog arcade game was perceived as a form of gambling, with lawmakers worried that juveniles could be driven to skip school and steal pocket change in order to feed their addiction. Pro-pinball constituents argued it was a game of skill rather than chance, and many areas relaxed their stance. But not South Carolina. To this day, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to draw the plunger and engage in a game. A bill seeking to repeal this minor infraction is currently under review.

3. A BAN ON SHACKING UP // MICHIGAN

Do you dream of living in Michigan? Do you also plan on cohabitating with your unwed partner in a lewd and lascivious manner? You’d better think twice, unless you like the sound of a $1000 fine and a year in jail. A long-outdated law is still active in Michigan that makes it a misdemeanor for unmarried couples to live together. While it’s not enforced—perhaps authorities would have to catch you in the act—it’s still an active prohibition, and one that has been repeatedly introduced for repeal over the years.

4. VENEREAL DISEASE DISCRIMINATION // NEW JERSEY

A couple sits nervously in bed
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With the best interests of the public in mind, New Jersey once decreed that they would place limitations on where people with venereal diseases could live and work. This likely stemmed from a more primitive understanding of how diseases like syphilis could be spread. Despite more advanced thinking, the law survived multiple attempts by the state’s Law Revision Commission to be repealed before it was finally dismissed in late 2014. The bill also struck down a ban on detaining homing pigeons, if you’re into that sort of thing.

5. THE HIGHLY LENIENT CHILD-ABANDONMENT LAW // NEBRASKA

Intended to provide for parents wishing to abandon their infant children without criminal reprimand, Nebraska’s “safe haven” law became something of a national outrage in 2008, when it was publicized that a number of people had dropped off children as old as 17 at area hospitals. Just before the law was repealed to set a strict age limit to infants 30 days old or younger, CNN.com reported that a man flew in from Florida to take advantage of the law and deposited his teenage son in the state.

6. ANTI-LEMONADE LAWS // NEW YORK CITY


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While area laws don't specifically prohibit tiny tots selling lemonade at a street stand, anti-peddling laws meant to curb unregulated businesses can still leave a sour taste. In New York City, several stands have been shut down due to a lack of zoning permits, health department concerns, or because they didn't have a license to sell food. Not even the wealthy are exempt: in 2014, police shut down a lemonade business operated by Jerry Seinfeld's kids.

7. REGULATING POSSESSION OF ADULT TOYS // TEXAS

While Texas may be generous when it comes to owning, carrying, and shooting firearms, lawmakers took a more conservative approach to regulating sex toys—specifically, owning too many of them. Texas law stipulates that no one shall own or "promote" more than six "obscene devices." The law, enacted in 1973 during the height of anti-obscenity legislation, is believed to be directed at entertainment or stage performers and may allow for exemptions if the toys are for medical or law enforcement purposes.

8. STRICT HALLOWEEN PROTOCOL // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

Trick-or-treaters venture out on Halloween
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You think Halloween is about having fun? It can be—provided you adhere to the strict protocol of Rehoboth Beach, which doesn’t tolerate even a single millisecond of mischief. To help keep kids and their candy bags moving along, the town allows just a small window of trick-or-treating: Parents and kids under 14 can only knock on doors from 6 to 8 p.m. Halloween night and no later. Don’t like it? If Halloween falls on a Sunday, then you don’t get to go that day at all—the festivities, such as they are, are rescheduled to the day prior.

law

9 Handy Facts About the History of Handwriting

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iStock

While today we can get machines to write for us, for most of human history, writing was a manual endeavor. And there are people who are super passionate about keeping it that way. Some schools are building handwriting requirements into their curriculums, although even the positive research results on the benefits of handwriting over typing aren’t big enough to be super conclusive, and some studies find that cursive, in particular, probably isn’t any better than other methods of putting words to paper. But handwriting has a long and storied tradition in human history, and if only for that reason, it’s not going away anytime soon. In honor of National Handwriting Day, here are some facts about handwriting through the ages, courtesy of Anne Trubek’s recently published book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting.

1. The world's first writing system was tiny.

Cuneiform, the Sumerian writing system that emerged from Mesopotamia 5000 years ago, was usually etched into clay tablets that were often only a few inches wide. Trubek describes most of the Cuneiform tablets she handled at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York as being only half the size of her iPhone. "Find the second portrait of Lincoln on the penny," a Morgan Library curator told her. "You know, the one of his statue inside the Lincoln Memorial on the obverse? That’s how small the script can be."

2. Medieval writing was regional.


A 12th century Austrian manuscript

After the fall of the Roman Empire, different scripts developed regionally as writers embellished and tweaked existing systems to create their own styles. However, this made books a little hard to read for those not educated in that exact script. All books were written in Latin, but the letters were so different that many scribes couldn’t read writing from other regions.

3. There is an entire filed devoted to reading handwriting.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t decipher other people’s writing easily. "The truth is, most of us already cannot read 99 percent of the historic record," Trubek writes. Paleographers study for years to specialize in particular scripts used in a certain time and certain context, such as medieval book scripts or 18th century legal documents. "In other words," Trubek points out, "even someone whose life work is dedicated to reading cursive cannot read most cursive."

4. Charlemagne was a stickler for handwriting.

The emperor—who was largely illiterate himself—decreed in the 9th century that the same script be used across the Holy Roman Empire, an area that covered most of Western Europe. Called Carolingian minuscule, the uniform script dominated writing in France, Germany, Northern Italy, and England until the 11th century. The Gothic script we associate with medieval times today is a derivation of Carolingian minuscule that popped up during the 12th century. It was later revived in the 15th century, and became the basis for Western typography.

5. Monks were not fans of printing presses.


Reading a first proof-sheet from a printing press in Westminster Abbey, March 1474.
Getty Images

The 15th century monk Johannes Trithemius defended the need for handwriting in his essay "In Praise of Scribes." He claimed that while scripture could last 1000 years, the printed book was "thing of paper and in a short time will decay entirely." Printing would make books unsightly and introduce spelling errors, and he predicted that history would judge "the manuscript book superior to the printed book." It had nothing to do with him losing his once-steady job to a machine, no. Indeed, Martin Luther complained of books much like people today complain about the quality of writing online, saying "the multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure or limit to this form of writing."

6. The first font was very script-like.

The first printed books were designed to look a whole lot like the manuscripts of that day, so as not to shock people with newfangled design. Johannes Gutenberg and his hired craftsmen hand-carved an elaborate Gothic script into 290 unique characters for the printing press, allowing the printer to recreate every letter in upper- and lowercase, as well as punctuation, so that the type looked just like what a scribe would make. The first letters of every section were even red, just like manuscript style dictated.

7. Historically, handwriting professionals were quite upwardly mobile.


Circa 1450, a medieval master writing with quill and parchment in his study.
Getty Images

When printing put scribes out of work, they instead became teachers, tutoring and writing books on penmanship. These writing masters became wealthy professionals in a way that they had never been as simple scribes. When businesses and governments began hiring secretaries for the first time, who would take dictation and have a working knowledge of several different scripts, it became an unusually effective way to rise up the class ranks in medieval Europe. The papal secretary was the highest position a commoner could occupy in society.

8. In the 17th century, handwriting was personally revealing.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, different scripts became more than just a sign of where you learned. Specific scripts were established for classes and professions, and even for gender. Wealthy Europeans would use one script for their personal correspondence and another for their legal and business correspondence. A whole host of scripts in England were developed just for court use, making many documents completely illegible to anyone not trained in that specific style of writing.

9. Punctuation was rare until the 18th century.

Before literacy became widespread, spelling varied widely from person to person, and nothing was standardized. It became uniform over time, and the first dictionaries weren’t published until the 17th century. Even then, standardized spelling didn’t become regular for another century. Punctuation was even worse, remaining "largely nonexistent or nonstandardized," according to Trubek, until the 18th century.

This story originally ran in 2016.

30 Fun Food Holidays to Celebrate This Year

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iStock.com/neirfy

Whether your dietary tastes stick to the old standards like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a liquid diet of absinthe and wine, there's a food and drink holiday for you. Here are 30 of them that you still have time to celebrate in 2019.

1. January 23: National Pie Day

Take today to enjoy a classic apple or pecan, or try something new.

2. January 25: Burns Night

Burns Night, named for Scottish poet Robert Burns, celebrates Scottish culture, literature, and cuisine. Break out the haggis!

3. February 2: National Tater Tot Day

A pile of golden brown tater tots
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Take National Tater Tot Day to reconsider what might be the finest form of fried potatoes.

4. February 9: National Pizza Day

You already crave it every day, so take February 9 to treat yourself to your favorite slice (and learn some of the history, too!).

5. March 5: National Absinthe Day

There's a lot of talk about absinthe's history and the myths therein. Luckily, we've got those covered—and debunked.

6. March 7: National Cereal Day

Cereal first, then milk. Learn your history.

7. March 17: National Corn Dog Day

This March, celebrate with one portable, fried, meaty treat. But first, learn about the anatomy of a corndog.

8. April 2: National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a plate atop a blue and white checked tablecloth
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Who doesn't love this classic childhood snack? Eat one today, and then get the answer to something you've wondered since childhood: What's the difference between jelly and jam?

9. April 7: National Beer Day

Be sure to correct your misconceptions about beer before having too many on April 7 (or even the night before on New Beer's Eve).

10. April 19: National Garlic Day

We all know it's supposed to keep a vampire away, but did you know these 11 facts about garlic?

11. May 11: National Eat What You Want Day

Woman picks out a dessert in a bakery
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Though it's definitely not healthy, this is a food holiday that we want to celebrate more than once a year.

12. May 16: National Mimosa Day

A staple of any brunch menu. Celebrate with a glass ... or two.

13. May 25: National Wine Day

As you're enjoying a glass of cab sav or chardonnay with friends this National Wine Day, drop a few of these wine-related facts.

14. June 1: National Doughnut Day

A woman eating a pink frosted donut
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One of two National Doughnut Days celebrated every year. Why are there two, you ask? We've got you covered.

15. June 4: National Cheese Day

There are so many different types of cheese to celebrate. Here's a quick refresher on how two dozen of them got their names.

16. June 21: National Smoothie Day

Put all your favorites together, blend them up, and check out some of the best smoothie art we can find!

17. July 6: National Fried Chicken Day

Not all fried chicken is created equal. Before finding the best in your state, learn about how it used to be made.

18. July 14: National Mac and Cheese Day

Man eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese
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You can thank none other than Thomas Jefferson for popularizing this delightful dish.

19. July 15: National Ice Cream Day

Our third president also had a hand in making ice cream a thing—in fact, according to the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, "he can be credited with the first known recipe [for ice cream] recorded by an American," and it probably stems from his time in France.

20. August 3: National Watermelon Day

They're 92 percent water, and 100 percent delicious—and you can eat the whole thing, which you should definitely do on National Watermelon Day.

21. August 24: National Waffle Day

Would it be a surprise if we told you that Jefferson loved these delicious discs so much he brought back four waffle irons from France? He liked to serve them with (duh) ice cream.

22. September 20: National Queso Day

Not just cheese dip, queso (or chili con queso) is a Tex-Mex dip served with tortilla chips. It's been called "the world's most perfect food," and we can't disagree.

23. September 25: National Lobster Day

Grilling lobsters on the barbecue
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On the day celebrating this brightly colored crustacean, consider these fun facts about the clawed creature.

24. September 29: National Coffee Day

Make the most of this National Coffee Day with some of our favorite coffee hacks.

25. October 14: National Dessert Day

Treat yourself.

26. October 17: National Pasta Day

Young boy eats a plate of spaghetti
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There are myriad ways to celebrate National Pasta Day, so why not consider some of these unique pasta shapes?

27. October 26: National Chicken Fried Steak Day

This delicious dish is a delicacy across the American South, and certainly worth taking a day to celebrate.

28. November 21: National Stuffing Day

If you're worried about celebrating the right food, make sure you know the difference between stuffing and dressing. 

29. December 8: National Brownie Day

Whether you prefer the middle piece or an edge piece, celebrate National Brownie Day by learning about its origins.

30. December 30: National Bacon Day

Sizzling hot bacon cooking in a cast iron skillet
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End every year with a generous helping of the internet's favorite food.

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