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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday


Did you know Bill Clinton wears one?

A few centuries ago, English spelling was a far looser and more inconsistent affair than it is today. Dictionaries were few, their contents patchy. Shakespeare’s name, even by his own hand, serves to illustrate the degree of variation. Gradually, a good deal of standardisation came about, particularly in the written language, but different standards apply in different places, and usage remains much colo(u)red by variety.

As many as 42 percent of American children come from families without the “luxury” disposable income to purchase new books, according to a NYTimes “Fixes” blog post, and tens of millions of families have no books at home at all. David Bornstein (How To Change The World) writes that in some low-income neighborhoods it’s difficult to even find books to buy, with only “one book for sale for every 300 children.” Bornstein cites studies that show that having access to books in the home is the singles biggest predictor of later academic success and literacy, even surpassing “occupation or the family’s standard of living.”

[Peter] McGraw didn’t set out to become a humorologist. His background is in marketing and consumer decisionmaking, especially the way moral transgressions and breaches of decorum affect the perceived value of things. For instance, he studied a Florida megachurch that tarnished its reputation when it tried to reward attendees with glitzy prizes. The church’s promise to raffle off a Hummer H2 to some lucky congregant was met with controversy in the community—what the hell did that have to do with eternal salvation? But when McGraw related the anecdote at presentations, it prompted laughter—a holy Hummer!—rather than repulsion. This confused him.



RE: Home Without Books

This seems like a no-brainer. We buy used books and give them to every family with kids. I remember looking at my parents' books as a kid and thinking I would read all those books when I was older.

My parents were no great intellectuals but we had collections of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and other iconic American writers. Books are cheap (at least used books). Let's spread them around to people who need them.

I was a fuck-up in high school but my reading saved me and allowed me a pass into a great public university (an inexpensive back then). We either get smarter as a nation or we get dumb and die stupid.

re: "As many as 42 percent of American children come from families without the “luxury” disposable income to purchase new books"


and what does "purchase" and "new" have to do with providing kids with reading material? There's nothing about a book that prohibits reuse. A book is not like a stupid plastic water bottle. One does not need 'luxury' disposable income to take a book out of the school, or daycare or community library. Nor do the millions of children's books at Goodwill require much cash to take home. When I was a kid, we eagerly awaiting the Tuesday arrival of the book mobile in our neighborhood. With our kids and grand kids, the day they got their very own library card was a really big deal. A rite of passage attesting to their good intentions.

It's not clear to me that some charity getting publishers to reduce the price on their remainders is really getting to the root of this problem. Given the shocking rate of high school drop outs in our metropolitan schools, I fear the problem is parents who can't read well enough to even appreciate reading a children's tale.

Oh, too bad. We need to cut school and community ESL funds. The oil companies, Arabs and fat cat speculators need our tax dollars more.

its a family values thing.


a stupid plastic water bottle

hmmm...What is it about a stupid plastic water bottle that prohibits its reuse?

True, I never buy (small) bottled water in the first place, but in the town where I live where the water is loaded with sodium I buy 20 gallons at a time of reverse-osmosis-generated drinking water at 40 cents a gallon. We reuse the bottles many times (and recycle 'em when they break).

I'm all for distributing free books, but let's be honest. Used books are cheap, very cheap. Library books are "free". I wonder how many households without money for books are paying for a widescreen TV on revolving credit.

Just a little bit of research would have led to that news reporter that PowerBalance had to put up a disclaimer that their products aren't proven to work in Australia, and immediately the other PB websites around the world stopped linking to it.

Haha, there's a "report a fake" link at the PB website too. (

A few months ago, I rode past the notorious Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago, which has since been torn down. I was surprised at the number of DirecTV dishes mounted on the side of that place. If they can afford DirecTV, they can afford books. An acquaintance of mine I've known for 30 years recently confided in me that he has only read about four books in his life, and they were all required in school. He named them for me. They were what you'd expect: Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, etc. When I said, "Really?" he said, "Yeah, I've never been much of a reader." He's an upper middle class suburban guy who never encountered poverty. So although poverty may play a role in hindering access to books, I think the main culprit is something else. The importance of reading just doesn't reach some people, regardless of income.

Tim, I was referring to the little plastic water bottles made with BPA, which leach after sitting in a warm car. They shouldn't be used even once, but are worse under heat conditions. Probably if you don't have little girls, this may not be much of a concern to you, but with three granddaughters, we're troubled about the endocrine disruptions and early puberty effects of BPA which we know now, does leach. And early puberty can set girls up for all kinds of additional risks as they get older. So we've moved to metal reusable water bottles, and only use glass containers in the microwave.


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