Archive for July, 2011

Whether you’re a student, mother or teacher it’s that time of year when we’re thinking about back-to-school supplies. This year it’s all about getting everything in one stop. Here’s what you’ll be looking for.


Calculators – Printing, non-printing, pocket-size, or scientific, calculators in every shape, size, and price, continue to be among the best-selling of all back-to-school supplies.
Pens, pencils, highlighters, markers – A necessity for every student, every school, everywhere.
Pocket calendar – One of the most underrated items, a pocket calendar helps with everything from dating an assignment to planning a research paper.
Cell phones – While talking during class isn’t allowed, it’s a family necessity for schedule coordination.
Ruled notebooks – Get a different color for each subject. This year consider going green by buying those made of recycled paper.
Binders and pocket folders – For organizing miscellaneous handouts and papers.
Backpack – Big enough to hold various shapes and sizes, but not too large for the child.


In addition to the above, popular items for the college-bound include:
Planner – Electronic or paper, this must-have helps keep projects, papers, and assignments on track.
Sturdy backpack or messenger bag – While a shoulder-style messenger bag keeps things neatly arranged, a sturdy backpack (or one on wheels) easily accommodates the heaviest textbooks.
Laptop – An everyday essential for class work, research, and communications.
Flash drive – For those times when you can leave the laptop at the dorm, conveniently carry your work in your pocket.


Markers – Including fine-point, thick-point, and plain (non-toxic).
Colored chalk – Livens up the lesson and helps make an important point.
Index cards – Great for customized flash cards, teacher’s notes, and general organization.
Post-it notes – Handy labelers and reminders.
Color folders – Keeps classes, subjects and lesson plans together.
Tape – Both transparent and masking for multiple uses.

Get the school year off to the right start with the right stuff.


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To think it all started with a pen.

“When in the course of human events…we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Eventually 56 delegates, including two future Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, would sign our Declaration of Independence. John Hancock, the most recognizable and flamboyant signature, was reported to have defiantly said, “The British ministry can read that name without spectacles, so let them double their reward!” The truth is much less dramatic. He was simply the first person to sign and there was plenty of room. The youngest signer, South Carolinian Edward Rutledge was only 27; the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, 70.

There were other, lesser-known but equally dauntless men who risked their fortunes and lives that day when they picked up the quill. Born in Northern Ireland, George Taylor emigrated to Pennsylvania in his early twenties. A working man, George had little interest in pursuing a political career after signing the Declaration, preferring his work as Ironmaster at a local furnace. Button Gwinnett was unsuccessful at both farming and business, yet this British transplant eagerly fought for American independence from his own homeland.

With the stroke of a commonplace quill pen, history was forever changed that steamy July day in Philadelphia.

For nearly a thousand years, the feather pen had been used to record the routine – daily merchant records, correspondence…and the remarkable-Shakespeare’s plays, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

While expensive quill pens were made from swan feathers, the goose feather pen was more common and likely the type used by our Founding Fathers. Interestingly, the feather from the left wing was preferred because it curved outward, away from a right-handed writer. Because of their delicate nature, the pens lasted only about a week. To sharpen it, the writer used a special knife – the pen knife.

The idea of creating a pen that contained its own ink had been sought for centuries. Although several patents were given to various types of fountain pens, it was insurance salesman, Lewis Waterman who developed the first practical pen with an internal ink chamber in 1884. He was tired of ink splotches ruining his insurance contracts. The birth of the ballpoint came in 1938 when a tiny ball bearing was fitted to the end of the pen so ink could easily roll on to the paper.

Today, we have stick pens, retractable pens, roller ball pens, gel pens, liquid ink pens, multicolored pens, refillable pens, and customizable pens, not to mention markers, highlighters, and more. Pens are so common we scarcely think about them, yet wars have been won, lost and averted with their stroke.

Next time you pick up an ordinary pen to sign your John Hancock, think about the extraordinary power it can wield.

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