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Darts and laurels

Dart to ědistracted walking,î a hazard recently highlighted by the N.C. Department of Transportation. While some may question whether we bipeds really need a government agency instructing us on how to navigate sidewalks and street-crossings, too many of us are stumbling into the danger zone as we fiddle with mobile phones, iPods, tablet computers, e-readers and other portable communication and entertainment devices. For instance:
Ohio State University researchers reported 1,000 pedestrians were injured in 2008 after they tripped or struck an object while talking or texting on mobile phones.
In London, 68,000 texting mishaps were reported in 2007. Authorities wrapped lampposts to protect wayward pedestrians from injuring themselves.
A University of Alabama at Birmingham study found that school children using cellphones took 20 percent longer to cross the street and were 20 percent less likely to look both ways.
Eventually, weíll probably have an app that warns pedestrians of impeding danger. Meanwhile, your best defense is to take it one step at a time and watch where youíre going.

Laurels to the art of storytelling, which was featured this week at the 12th annual Stories at the Millstream Festival at Sloan Park. The festival celebrates a tradition as old as humanity itself whose practitioners range from the ancient bards to 21st-century bloggers. At heart, human beings are a storytelling tribe. Some of us love to spin a good yarn; others take delight in listening. While modern media has transformed our communication abilities, thereís still something mesmerizing about a single performer on stage, creating a world with words and inviting us to share it.

Dart to a spike in the default rate on federal student loans, which has jumped almost 2 percent. The two-year cohort default rate was 8.8 percent in 2010, compared to 7 percent in 2008, according to the Department of Education. Experts say several factors are behind the rising default rate ó increasing college costs, low graduation rates and fewer job opportunities for recent grads. Meanwhile, along with rising college costs, weíre seeing an increase in commentaries questioning the value of a college degree, including a YouTube video called ěCollege Conspiracyî that has drawn more than 2 million views. Many graduates are saddled with debt theyíll be paying on for many years. However, many of them, if not most, still believe it was worth it. In a Pew survey released earlier this year, 86 percent of college grads said higher ed had been a good investment for them personally.

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