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Das butt

"The life of a navy submariner is famously tough," The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "Packed in a cramped metal tube, they have no contact with home while deep under the water. No e-mails. No phone calls. It's not uncommon to go 45 days without seeing the sun. But at least they could smoke. Now the submarine community faces a major cultural change. Starting [Dec. 31] the Navy is banning cigarette smoking on subs while they are under way. … No more quick trips to the engine room, often one of the designated smoking spots on a sub. No more standing in line, waiting to be one of the three people allowed to light up at the same time."

Another billion so soon

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"Some time in the latter half of this year, the world population will hit a new milestone: seven billion people," reports. "Already? Didn't we just hit six billion? Yep, a mere dozen years ago - and that's probably the last time you heard much about population." The world population is currently growing by 74 million people a year, says a infographic, the equivalent of a city the size of San Francisco every three days.

Sorry? So what?

"From an early age, we're taught to apologize," The Boston Globe says. "We're also taught to accept apologies. In theory, an apology should set things right. But does it? Researchers found that people who imagined receiving an apology after being wronged had a significantly better view of the apology than people who actually received the apology. Moreover, real-life apologies failed to restore trust as much as people imagined they would."

Info addiction?

"Turning off mobile phones, avoiding the Internet and tuning out of the television and radio can leave people suffering from symptoms similar to those seen in drug addicts trying to go cold turkey, researchers have found," The Daily Telegraph reports. "The scientists asked volunteers to stay away from e-mails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter updates for 24 hours. They found that the participants began to develop symptoms typically seen in smokers attempting to give up. Some of those taking part said they felt like they were undergoing 'cold turkey' to break a hard drug habit, while others said it felt like going on a diet. The condition is now being described as Information Deprivation Disorder. Dr. Roman Gerodimos, a lecturer in communication who led the U.K. section of the international study, said: 'We were not just seeing psychological symptoms, but also physical symptoms.' "

Eraser dependency

From a review of A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers and the Digital Revolution by Dennis Baron, in American Scientist: "Baron points out that just about every other new writing instrument has also been seen as a threat to literacy and a corrupter of youth. The eraser had a particularly bad reputation, under the thesis that 'if the technology makes error correction easy, students will make more errors.' "

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Krazy Kafka

"What if Gregor Samsa woke up to find he was not a cockroach - not 'horrible vermin,' as Franz Kafka wrote in The Metamorphosis, but a super-cute kitten?" asks the Los Angeles Times blog Jacket Copy. "He will, in The Meowmorphosis, coming in May 2011 from Quirk Books. … 'Gregor Samsa is a humble young man who supports his unemployed parents and teenage sister by working as a travelling fabric salesman,' the publisher's catalogue promises. It continues: 'But his life goes strangely wrong in the very first sentence of The Meowmorphosis, when he wakes up late for work and discovers that he has inexplicably become an adorable kitten. His family must admit that yes, their son is now OMG so cute - but what good is cute when there are bills to pay? How can Gregor be so selfish as to devote his attention to a ball of yarn? And how dare he jump out the bedroom window to wander through Kafka's literary landscape?' "

Hocus pocus, plus GST

"Romania has changed its labour laws to officially recognize witchcraft as a profession," Associated Press reports. "… The move, which went into effect [Jan. 1] is part of the government's drive to crack down on widespread tax evasion in a country that is in recession. … Witches, astrologists, embalmers, valets and driving instructors are now considered by labour law to be working real jobs, making it harder for them to avoid income tax. For months the measure had been debated, protested by witches and mocked by the media. On Saturday, a witch called Bratara told … the website of a top TV station that she plans to cast a spell using black pepper and yeast to create discord in the government."

Thought du jour

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

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Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), writer and Nobel laureate

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