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Saturday, March 17, 2012 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“Gossip is fun, one of the most profound and satisfying pleasures we humans are given. If Eleanor Roosevelt was right that ‘great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,' then count me among the 99 percent. I don't even care if I'm unacquainted with the parties being dissected; if anything, total strangers make a purer sport of the conversation. I experience a similar frisson reading a Dear Prudence column as learning that my childhood dentist was once arrested as a Peeping Tom (fact!).

“Several writers have weighed in recently on this age-old human foible that is gossip, with varying levels of success. In ‘The Virtues of Our Vices: A Modest Defense of Gossip, Rudeness and Other Bad Habits,' philosopher Emrys Westacott examines the ethics of several conventionally frowned-upon social transgressions and ‘moral failings' like rudeness, snobbery, and, of course, gossip. He begins his examination of the subject by posing the big-picture questions: Should we condemn all gossip? If gossip isn't an ‘inherently pejorative' act, can it ever be acceptable or even beneficial?

“Westacott finds compelling ethical justifications for the innocent pleasure so many of us take in slamming our friends and loved ones.”

– From “Loose Lips” at

A quiz

How many different species of plants are there on Earth, 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 or 400,000?

Wisdom of the ages

“I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” – Albert Einstein

Current wisdom

“It's almost like we skipped winter and now we're going to skip spring, too.” — Gino Izzi, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service, in a statement as warm weather is arriving early across much of the U.S., even in northern states where perplexed residents are swapping their snow shovels for golf clubs.

Quiz answer


Snob words

iniquitous (ih-NIK-wi-tuhs), adj. – characterized by injustice or wickedness; wicked; sinful, as in: “The editorial writer relaxed when he realized the council members weren't smart enough to carry out an iniquitous conspiracy against him.” It literally meant unfair in Latin.

Today in history

On this date in 1960, President Eisenhower formed an anti-Castro exile army under the CIA; well, that didn't exactly work out, did it?

Now you know

Thirty percent of all Dalmatians are deaf in one or both ears.