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Older wires when you look at them had a black wire (hot) and white wire (Neutral) But you really need to look at them closer. A covering over the old wires was backwards. There was oftentimes a covering over the wires that appeared to be black and white. But if you removed this covering you
If your outlets are non-grounded, and your only using them for a clock radio, or perhaps a lamp. I would not worry to much about that. But if your using this outlet for electronic equipment that requires a third ground wire or surge protection, then you need to turn off power, remove outlet and put the white wire where the black is and the black where the white is. That is all that is needed to correct this. Ten turn power back on.
Be careful as these older wires have brittle coverings that can crack. if needed a little tape on the wires is not a bad thing also.
I need some clarification on this myself.
The sizzle in the dimmer area is a sign that either the amount of bulbs size wise are way to
Another reason is that the wires within the switch box fried which would result in power shutting off to other devices.
In any case, something fried and the services of a licensed electrical contractor should be considered. Once a wire burns it may require complete replacement if its melted within the box. And unless you have a great understanding of how to properly wire this I suggest you seek the help of someone who can.
As far as the reverse polarity, this would have nothing to do with a short but can be the result of someone who did wiring before and did not understand what they were doing.
Great posts as usual Bob