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facts & arguments

Bet you missed the office

"With the arrival of Labour Day and the close of another vacation season, America's office workers will be migrating back to their native habitat – the hive of cubicles and corporate suites that, for those who are employed in this shaky economy, constitute a home away from home through much of the year," writes Danny Heitman in The Christian Science Monitor. "It's the proximity of so many personalities within the narrow geography of an office building that gives workplace culture its strange and sometimes comic energy. An ineffable quality of corporate life thrives when a critical mass of brains and bodies work at the same address, and it's that density of social interaction that can get lost in the wake of business downsizing, clerical outsourcing, teleconferencing and the rise of the telecommuter."

Reverse sightseeing?

"A Minneapolis man says he awoke from a nap in a park in northern Minnesota face to face with a bear," reports United Press International. John Steitz, 26, said: "'I was just on top of my sleeping bag. … In my dream, I was playing with a dog. The dog was jumping on me, scratching me, licking my face – the playful puppy thing.' Mr. Steitz said he then woke up from his dream to find a very real black bear on top of him. 'I opened my eyes, and there was a bear on top of me with its face in my face,'" he said. When he sat up, the bear moved back about five feet. Mr. Steitz then woke his hiking companion and the two began banging on pans with a hatchet and the bear moved farther away. "The hikers notified Bob Kirsch, area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 'Probably [the bear] was curious,' Mr. Kirsch said. 'It saw something it didn't quite understand and took a couple of pokes at him. Sometimes they're sort of curious.'"

Paper beats pixels

"Several [U.S.] universities have recently tried a new model for delivering textbooks in hopes of saving students money: requiring purchase of e-textbooks and charging students a materials fee to cover the costs," says The Chronicle of Higher Education. "A recent report on some of those pilot projects, however, shows that many students find the e-textbooks 'clumsy' and prefer print. … [In a survey], students praised the e-books for helping them to save money, but didn't like reading on electronic devices. Many of them complained that the e-book platform was hard to navigate. In addition, most professors who responded said that they didn't use the e-books' collaborative features, which include the ability to share notes or create links within the text."

Info overload? Yes, please

"A new study says fear of information overload appears to be more hype than substance," reports Psych Central. "Using a focus-group methodology, Northwestern University researchers discovered that in their sample, very few Americans seem stressed out or overwhelmed by the ubiquitous flow of digital news and information. 'Little research has focused on information overload or and media consumption, yet it's a concept used in public discussions to describe today's 24/7 media environment,' said Eszter Hargittai, PhD, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern and lead author of the study. Researchers say that most of the previous literature on information overload dynamics has involved fighter pilots or battlefield commanders. … 'We found that the high volume of information available these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic,' Dr. Hargittai said."

How we got the ghost

"Have you ever wondered why ghost is spelled with an h?" writes Daisy Goodwin in The Sunday Times of London. "The answer … according to David Crystal's entertaining Spell It Out, is the whim of a Flemish compositor called, gloriously, Wynkyn de Worde. De Worde came over from Bruges to work for William Caxton who, when he set up the first printing press in London in 1476, couldn't find the skills he needed locally. De Worde's English wasn't good and like many non-native speakers, he was bewildered by the random nature of its spelling. So when he saw the word 'gast' or 'gost' (spelled 'gheest' in Flemish) he decided to spell in the Flemish way, with an h."

A wedded threesome

"Officials in Brazil have sparked controversy," says Orange News U.K., "by allowing a man to marry both of his two girlfriends. The trio, from Rio De Janeiro, have lived together as a 'married couple' for three years and share bills and a bank account, reports the BBC. Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues argued that the man and two women should be entitled to family rights. Ms. Domingues allowed the three to be joined in a civil union three months ago and added that there was nothing in law to prevent such a union. 'We are only recognizing what has always existed. We are not inventing anything,' she said."

Thought du jour

"As we acquire knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious."

– Albert Schweitzer, German-French medical missionary, (1875-1965)

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