Barbara J. King

Civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent region, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. That's the lesson most of us learned in school.

In it, civilization is used in a highly positive way to refer to the rise of city-states and the development of writing around the 4th millennium B.C.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

When we read books, why do we forget so much of what we read, in only weeks or even days after we read it?

Coming across an article on this topic by Julie Beck in The Atlantic over the weekend, I found insight and even some consolation. I'm not the only one who forgets the plots of novels I've truly loved.

Late last year, an infant elephant in the state of Kerala in India fell into a well as the baby's herd moved to cross a river.

Together, villagers and government officials mounted a five-hour rescue, using heavy earth-moving equipment to clear a path of packed-down soil that allowed the youngster to climb out.

You know your cats' cute habits, their distinct personalities and their likes and dislikes for food, play and affection.

But could you say whether your cats are right-pawed or left-pawed? That is, have you noticed which paw they use first to step over a raised object or to step down the stairs?

In a post published by the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) last month, the behavior of a mountain gorilla female in Rwanda was described in striking terms.

The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda's Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old.

A year ago this month, animal activist Paul Shapiro sat in the offices of the Hampton Creek food technology company in San Francisco and put a forkful of foie gras in his mouth.

In my house, we celebrate Christmas.

In preparation, we selected a beautiful, aromatic Fraser fir tree for our den. This means that our five indoor rescued cats get to enjoy their annual holiday enrichment activity — climbing partway up through the branches, batting down ornaments, and attempting to shred the wrapping and ribbon from presents under the tree.

Some chaos definitely ensues, but it's fun to see the cats so excited — and we've never yet had an outright tree crash like this one.

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and said to your companion, "Wow, the science in that film was awesome?"

When you think of Polynesia, what images first come to mind?

A Sunday column by David Sax in The New York Times quotes a cheering statistic from the Association of American Publishers: Sales of "old-fashioned print books" are up for the third year in a row.

Would you be curious and excited if, out on a walk near your home, you came face-to-face with a young owl, not yet a confident flyer?

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

Imagine a college course that requires students to give up computer and cell-phone technology for a month — and, in fact, to cease speaking entirely for that period.

Then imagine that the class is super-popular, with students clamoring to get in.

Join me for a memory exercise involving food and family: Think back to the main-course meals your grandparents served you. And, if you're middle-aged or older, like me, your parents, too.

How many vegetarian or vegan dishes were among those main courses?

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