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E-books and reading

"If you read an e-book in the past year – or suspected your holiday gift of an e-reader has led you to read more – you're not alone," says The Christian Science Monitor. "Some 21 per cent of adults have read an e-book in the past year, according to a new study by the Pew Internet Project. What's more, readers of e-books read an average of 10 books more per year than readers of print books. … And good news for publishers: e-readers also buy more. Those who own e-book reading devices not only read more books, but prefer to buy, rather than borrow, books."

The unknown pen pal dies

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"A years-long mystery ended for a North Dakota family when they learned 'Jim,' who sent them postcards as if they were close friends, had picked them at random," says United Press International. "For the Olson family of Turtle Lake, N.D., the sad part was finding out that 'Jim' was Jim Moore of Mankato, Minn., a complete stranger who started sending them postcards seven years ago, had died, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday. Fed up with only receiving bills and coupons in the mail, Mr. Moore had come to realize he missed receiving real, handwritten letters. So he got on the Internet and picked a random Midwestern town, and a random last name: Olson. So began his one-sided correspondence with Stan and Sheila Olson." About three times a year, Mr. Moore sent postcard messages such as: "Was in Paris and saw Francois and Emilie. They send their regards." Soon, friends and relatives of the Olsons were asking after Jim. In January, Mr. Moore, 38, died from complications of bile duct cancer. His friend, Andrew Reeves, wrote to the Olsons to explain the postcards.

Choirboys croaking sooner

"For 800 years, the St. Thomas Boys Choir [of Leipzig, Germany]has been filling churches with pure, young voices," writes Michael Birnbaum of The Washington Post. "Now it's confronting a confounding phenomenon: Every year, those voices are cracking with teenage angst just a little earlier than before. Other boys choirs have been noticing it, too, as an unrelenting march of puberty sweeps voices into rebellion. … 'We have only a short time, from age nine until 12, to squeeze in all the musical training for the boys,' said Stefan Altner, manager of the St. Thomas Boys Choir and once one of its singers. When he started working at the choir in 1993, most voices broke when boys were 14 or 15, he said. Now the average is closer to 13."

Too old for Twitter?

"A Philadelphia city councilman who pays a company $28,800 (U.S.) per year to use Twitter and Facebook for him said 53 is too old to understand the technology," reports United Press International. "Councilman Jim Kenney, who has 10 staff members making a total of $654,034 per year and pays $30,000 per year to a public relations consultant, said he has to spend an additional $28,800 in taxpayer funds to Center City-based company ChatterBlast to implement his 'social media strategy' on Facebook and Twitter, the Philadelphia Daily News reported [last]Wednesday. 'I, at 53 years old, do not have that facility, he said. 'So I need consultant advice to communicate with a group of folks who are not necessarily in my age group.' "

The age of exclamation

"The exclamation point is singular among all punctuation because it has no true grammatical function in English except to amplify a feeling – excitement, enthusiasm or shock – presumably not adequately conveyed by the words selected," writes Pamela Haag in The American Scholar. "It wasn't even a standard feature on typewriters until the 1970s. Before then, you had to be judicious about that exclamation point because assembling it required that you type a period, backspace, and type an apostrophe above it. Today the exclamation point is used with unprecedented, hyperventilating frequency in correspondence, deployed to soften underlying hostilities or to gin up excitement when no true reason for it suggests itself. As the default punctuation setting, occupying the place in e-mail and texting where the staid, neutral period once stood, the exclamation point is the grammatical mascot of an age that values the public projection of sunny emotions and feeling."

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Thought du jour

"In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm. In the real world, all rests on perseverance."

Goethe (1749-1832)

German polymath

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