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Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
planted an inspirational seed in 5th grade teacher Francesca Leibowitz's mind: "What if our class were to grow a Word Orchard by planting roots and affixes? And what if the fruits of our labor (pun fully intended) were those morphemes' derivatives?"
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With Election Day behind us, everyone in my swing-state household can breathe their respective sighs of relief, savoring the sudden absence of all the recorded campaign phone calls, all the back-to-back TV commercials for Romney and Obama, all the emails pleading that one candidate or another just needs 8 more dollars from each of us by the end of the day. And we can stop hearing about the fact-checking organization Politifact's truth rankings for claims made in commercials, debates, and stump speeches.
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In the leadup to President Obama's win over Mitt Romney, a number of political commentators described the presidential race as not just "tight" but "razor-tight." Ultimately, the razor-tight
description was apt in such battleground states as Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, but not so much in the overall electoral results. But wait a minute: why razor-tight
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The headlines were full of "disruption" last week, as Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast. "Hurricane Sandy Disrupts Millions of Lives" read the headline on a New York Times slide show. Sandy "continues to disrupt New York entertainment industry," CBS News warned a day after the storm passed through. Subway, train, and air travel was disrupted, as was phone and cable service, and there was even concern that power outages would disrupt voting in today's election.
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In his fascinating book (and 1994 best-seller) The Language Instinct
, Stephen Pinker argues convincingly that we humans are born with an instinct to communicate with our voices. How humans in China form and arrange their communicative vocal sounds differs markedly from how humans in Finland do, but, Pinker asserts, beneath the many world's languages lies one universal language, an inborn ability to spin webs of words much as spiders spin webs of silk and beavers build dams of tree trunks and branches.
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Technology today allows us to outsource, perhaps to "upsource," a number of tasks to the cloud — tasks that used to require some degree of focused effort, record-keeping, or mindfulness from us. Anyone who uses a GPS navigational device, whether on a smartphone or in a vehicle, can testify to its revolutionary effect on wayfinding: the means by which we orient ourselves and navigate from place to place.