The Cactus Who Wanted to Be a Christmas Tree

Katie loves Christmastime. Getting presents is nice, and playing in the snow with her friends is fun, but what she likes best are all the pretty decorations...

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The Boy Who Could Wiggle His Ears

Learning how to wiggle your ears is really hard. But you can do it if you keep trying. And if you learn to keep trying, no problem is too big. So if you can wiggle your ears, you can do anything!

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Some Poems About Life

(30 Actually) Gems of Wit & Wisdom

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Origin of the Drone

Word meanings  can have fascinating histories.  For example, the heavily armored vehicle was named a “tank” to disguise its true purpose.  There are oil tanks, water tanks, etc, so who would expect one that moves and shoots back? Here’s a more contemporary example.  Why are unmanned aircraft called drones? I found one explanation in the

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Are You Ready for “Giving Tuesday”?

The holidays are a good time to remember worthy charities. So, in addition to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we have Giving Tuesday, the “day for giving back.”  (http://www.givingtuesday.org/) Yes, I do have my favorite charities.  If you don’t, allow me to make some suggestions. First, do some homework.  Several organizations rate charities; I subscribe

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The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven”

Happy Thanksgiving!  This is from the “I wish I’d written that” department — a Thanksgiving poem by Jack Prelutsky.   The Turkey Shot Out Of The Oven The turkey shot out of the ovenand rocketed into the air,it knocked every plate off the tableand partly demolished a chair. It ricocheted into a cornerand burst with

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Savage Wars of Peace

A major nation’s use of power is always an interesting topic, and seems especially relevant in this day and age.  That’s why I found the book The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power fascinating.   The book begins with the wars against the Barbary pirates in 1801 and continues

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“How to Travel While Black”

Yesterday I mentioned some obsolete words associated with slavery.  Today I have another one. It didn’t used to be easy to travel through a segregated country when you were a minority.  So in 1936 an enterprising postal worker named Victor Hugo Green began publishing a guide for black travelers. Originally called the Negro Motorist Green Book,

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Echoes of Slavery Through Language

What is a coffle? It’s an obsolete (I hope) word that means a group of  enslaved people chained together in a line.  It was commonly used by slavers in the 18th and 19th centuries when they moved  slaves long distances. Coffle, like slavepen and overseer (person on a plantation paid a wage to organize the work

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Thirty Million Words

When do we start learning?  Recent research suggests it’s as soon as we’re born.  Which also suggests another advantage affluent families have over poor families — their children are exposed to more learning opportunities as preschoolers, thus giving them a head start when they get to school.   One study estimated that this translates to

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Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I forgot my favorite animated character’s birthday! Mickey Mouse’s birthday is November 18, because that was the day in 1928 when he made his first appearance, in a cartoon short entitled Steamboat Willie at the Colony Theater in New York.  Steamboat Willie was actually the third film made, but it was

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The Rapper and the Supreme Court Justice

You may have heard of the rapper Notorious B.I.G. Biggie or Biggie Smalls. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Notorious_B.I.G.)  Despite having died in 1997 at the age of 24, a victim of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, he’s still considered one of the greatest and most influential  rappers of all time.  This was quite an accomplishment for someone with

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