Still reading kids' books
Thanks to a bevy of modern hits such as the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight series, young-adult and teen literature is thriving today, leaving parents, teachers and librarians happy to see kids eagerly reading, says The Christian Science Monitor. "But there's a downside that's often overlooked. Thanks to a steady diet of fantasy, science fiction, vampires and magic, kids today rarely read the more complex or sophisticated literature they once did. In fact, most kids and teens today read significantly below their grade level, according to a recent story by U.S. National Public Radio on the topic." The newspaper notes that Stephen King recently told some Canadian students he worked with: "If you can read in the 21st century, you own the world."
Altitude shaped languages?
"The sounds of different languages may have been shaped by geography, according to a new study of 600 languages and their regions," says United Press International. "Until now, linguists believed language was only affected by environment in terms of vocabulary. But [a] new study reveals a strong correlation between high-altitude environments and consonant sounds produced with an intense burst of air, called ejective consonants. Caleb Everett from the University of Miami compared the sounds used in 600 languages, 92 of which contained ejectives, with the regions where they are commonly spoken. …Ejectives – absent in the English language – were found in languages spoken on, or near, five out of six major high-altitude regions where people lived."
Phone apps distract birds
The "harmful misuse" of cellphone apps that mimic birdsong can stop birds performing important tasks such as feeding their young, BBC News reports. "Dorset Wildlife Trust said visitors to Brownsea Island were using apps to imitate nightjar calls to entice birds so they could photograph them. The RSPB [Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] said birds could be diverted from vital tasks, and said people might be 'devastated' if they realized."
Hotel seeks fool
"An Austrian hotel is advertising for a modern-day court fool who is communicative, extroverted, musical, creative and imaginative," says the Associated Press. "Applicants are asked to bring – and play – their musical instrument during the job interview. Also welcome: creative costumes. The successful candidate will earn €1,400 a month. Hotel director Melanie Franke says those interested should not think they're on a fool's errand in applying. She says the idea is to treat guests like royalty, noting that 'jesters were a luxury that royal families indulged themselves in.'"
Burlesque in stately homes
Britain's National Trust is hoping to reverse a drop in visitors to its historic mansions and stately homes – by hosting burlesque nights. Racy performances featuring cocktails and scantily clad dancers will be held in a bid to attract younger visitors. It follows a 4-per-cent decline in visitors across the country last year, reports The Daily Telegraph. The trust hopes the nights will help change perceptions and give off a less "buttoned-up" impression to younger audiences. A National Trust spokesman said performances would be "tasteful," with dancers "showing off their corsets, feathers and pearls." Organizer Shelley Barns said: "It is a family event, so the burlesque dancers will be quite tame."
"Houseproud Claire Bartlett has found an ingenious way to save time on domestic chores: She does them while she's asleep," reports The Sunday Times of London. Bartlett, 50, of Newport, South Wales, suffers from a disorder in which she dusts, washes dishes and cleans windows while she sleepwalks. "I think it's every housewife's dream," she said. "I don't feel tired afterward. If anything, I'm relieved when I wake up and everything is done. This happens about three times a week. I've even started leaving out the dishes, hoping my subconscious self will clean up after me."
Thought du jour
Unhurt people are not much good in the world.
Enid Starkie, Irish literary critic (1897-1970)