Americans’ appetite for reading books — ones you actually hold in your hands — has not slowed in recent years, says a Pew Research Center survey.
Claire Harman says several of the Wuthering Heights author’s character traits – including a dislike of leaving home and bursts of frustration – could indicate autism
Latest from my new book over on my Author blog
in this excerpt, Tony is given some monumental news…
I was normally out after school, either on the sports field or spending time with Ruby, but I remember I came home straight after the school bell one day because Dad had told me they wanted to discuss something. I don’t recall being particularly apprehensive, we had talked a lot about what I would do after school, and assumed it was going to be another one of those discussions.
But when I got to the house I saw mother’s car outside, with Mother in it. She told me, in a very clipped voice, that Ben was already inside and that I should hurry. I went in to find the 3 of them, Dad, Mrs. KMcKinley and Ben all sitting round the kitchen table. “ I won’t beat around the bush,” Dad said, “ but I wanted you both to hear the…
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News Article: Would it be wrong to eradicate mosquitoes? – BBC News
I have just read this interesting article, and given the negative impact on human life by disease carried by some species of mosquitoes, it might seem crazy to even ask the question. But there are at least two reasons to hesitate.
The first is the “unintended consequences” issue. Lets say we did eradicate all harmful mosquitoes, this would leave a void in the environment. Those creatures that currently survive on mosquitoes would move on to other food sources, and what impact would that have? Without the competition from mosquitoes, other insect species would thrive, and what impact would that have on humanity?
But as well as this self-interest concern, there is a moral one. We as a species have wiped out a large number of species by lack of care, is it right to deliberately set out to destroy another? Even if there were no negative consequences, what give us a right to make extinct a whole species of creatures? And if we say we do have that right, are there boundaries, or is it unlimited?
A study I was reading the other day suggested a possible link between cat ownership and schizophrenia. Say this was shown to be the case, should we eradicate all cats too? Bears are are dangerous to humans, should we make them extinct too?
Life is a complex thing, and we should think long and hard before tampering with it.
Over on my Author Blog I’m taking part in a Haiku challenge. In case you’re not aware, a Haiku is a form of poetry which originated in Japan, and is composed of 3 lines, the first with 5 syllables, the second 7 and the third 5. I don’t pretend to be a great exponent of the form, but I thought I’d try it and see how it went. Here’s one example:
Summer fun becomes
Winters cold and short dark days
now a 5-7-5 format is not much to look at, so I thought I’d make it pretty by taking those English words, throwing them through Google Translate, and paste the result into the post. Here’s what the above Haiku looks like in Japanese:
Now, however, when I look at this post in another browser, it asks if want to translate the page to English. Just for the fun of it I said yes, and Bing tells me it says:
Makes summer fun
Winter cold and short dark days
Some interesting changes there, especially the last line; by changing the order of the words the meaning has been radically altered, as it seems to now say that it is the winter cold that changes everything And what is it that makes summer fun? We are left in suspense here, not quit knowing to what that first sentence refers.
The next step was obvious – take those words, and translate to Japanese:
and then back to English again:
Stay tuned for the summer
Cold winter and short in dark days
Stay tuned for the summer? Where did that come from? Instead of the statement “changes everything” we now have an imperative; “Change Everything!” But I really like the middle line. Although its meaning isn’t totally clear, there is now a greater prominence to the “dark days” in which cold winter (as opposed, one assumes, to the other, warmer, winter) is short.
Running it through one more time came up with:
Continuation of the summer
Cold winters, short dark days
Continuation of the summer
Dark, cold winter‘s short days
We are still “continuing” with the summer, but we have a possessive appearing for the first time. Now we are talking about have the short days that belong to cold winter, which are dark.
Yes, I agree, a pointless exercise, even though an interesting one. But it does show how simple changes in words can make a big difference in meaning.
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“No one knows where our journey will lead us – all we know is that we walk it one day at a time.”
Life happens. Just when you think that you have it all planned out and that you can clearly see the way ahead, something comes along that totally changes everything.
Some may complain about that fact of existence, but I believe it can be looked on as a wonderfully exciting thing. Not only that, but it is a comfort when times are hard to know that we do not know that the road will always be this tough, stuff happens.
Just in living a day it has changed, we are one day nearer a change, whatever that change may be. Most humans like to plan, few of us are totally free spirits without any sense of the future. And planning is good of course, as long as we remember that whilst we can plan, we cannot guarantee the results of our plan.
We are not omnipotent, we cannot control the world or others in it. And, frankly, if I were God, and I did have control of the world, I’m fairly certain that it would turn out to be a far worse place than it already is.
Each of our journeys is unique, and each one takes twists and turns we could not have imagined. Sometimes we find a travelling companion for part of our journey, sometimes we walk alone, but always we are moving, even when it does not feel like movement.
When we think we are settled, it is then that we are most likely to find a new bend in the road, one that takes us in an unexpected direction. When we most want to move in one direction, even when all else is against us, we fight along the road, and often find allies in unforeseen places.
We hear so many times of people fighting against adversity, and winning out to greater glory, and these stories can give us hope in our own struggles.
What we hear less of are the more common stories, or struggle that continues and does not end is success; rather it ends in resignation. These stories of everyday struggle show us that the journey is not a predictable thing, and it is easy to think that no progress can be made.
But even here, the fact that the journey continues can give us hope. We will not necessarily win through in the way that we dreamt of, but we will see a change in the road, and we will be able to move in a different direction.
Each day takes us forward on our journey, and at the end of each day, we can see the distance travelled.
“Don’t be clever, be clear.” -Howard Ogden
I like to cook, and I like to try out new recipes. With a few exceptions, recipes are clear; you need this amount of these ingredients, and then you follow these steps to create the dish. Recently, I was trying a new dish which had, as one of its ingredients, “2 slices of fresh lemon juice”. Whilst I chuckled about how to slice a liquid, it was clear what the writer meant, and I put it down to poor proofreading.
A recipe is a prime example of something that needs to be clear, even though the results may be extremely clever creations.
This is not the case when we come to other areas of life. I am thinking of a website I sometimes visit, which has remarkable offers on items for sale. I go there because I like their offers, but the site itself is really a turn-off. Rather than a simple description of the goods for sale, there is a discussion between two cartoon characters, which bears no relevance to the product. To get details on the product, you need to navigate to other pages where this information is displayed. It is, I am sure, very clever. I can imagine the web designer saying that the old way of doing things was stale, and they needed new bright ideas to show how modern and different they were.
And yet, to me, it comes across as trying to be clever, rather than trying to be clear. If I wanted “amusing” repartee, I’d go and look for some, but I came to this site to find out about a special offer, and it annoys me that they don’t simply tell me.
I still sometimes buy things from the site, because I know from experience that their offers can be good value, but in other areas of life being clever at the expense of clarity can definitely stop one’s point coming across.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to impress, and use words that are clever, rather than clear.
Instead of saying that someone wanted to cross the street, one could say that they intented to perambulate in a perpendicular fashion towards the opposite side of the thoroughfare. Both are technically correct, but the latter is an example of using words just for the sake of them, rather than to make the meaning clearer.
I always find that when I first learn about something, it is a muddle in my head, and I can’t always articulate what it is that I know. Only with real understanding can I explain it in clear terms, and for me, it is a sign that I understand something if I can make it seem simple.
There is a place for being clever, but the cleverest person is the one who can take something that is complicated and make it clear.
“The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense, whereas reality never makes sense.” -Aldous Huxley
Reality is a strange thing.
One upon a time I lived in a country and worked at a job and thought that this was where I would stay and where I would work until I retired. My life made some sort of sense, but then life happened, and now I find myself in another country, living a different kind of life and working in a totally different way.
This type of experience is not unique to me, as the quote from Aldous Huxley shows. Why, we might wonder, is this?
I think it comes down to the following number things:
Experience. We all see life from the perspective of our own experience. If you grow up in the center of a large City, then urban life is all you know. If you were brought up on a mountain ranch in Wyoming, it would be hard to envisage that anything else is possible. Our experience shapes us, but also it can constrain us, simply because our experiences, by definition, finite.
Imagination. Humans seem to be blessed with varying amounts of Imagination. Whilst one City dweller may be able to relate to the story of life on the open spaces of a ranch, another will understand it intellectually, but be unable to really imagine that it is real. Some people say that if we can imagine something, then we can make it real. The reverse seems also to be true; if we cannot imagine things any different than they are, they will stay the same.
Change Happens. In the midst of our daily lives, it is only too easy to think that what is true today, will stay true forever. It is interesting to see how many times people fall into the trap of thinking that things are forever the same, when the truth is that there is constant change. The very thing that we take to be the foundation of our way of life, the thing that we hold to be immutable, is often the one thing that is really built on sand, here today, but gone tomorrow. We can plan for everything, except the unexpected; by definition, that is the one thing that we cannot foresee.
Time takes its own time. Sometimes things change quickly, sometimes slowly. We all know this to be true, simply from our own experiences. When we are busy with a task we enjoy, the time seems to fly past, but when we have a boring, repetitive task, it can seem like every minute is an hour long. In the same way, it is not possible to predict how long time will take to change something. What we think will be a short interlude, lasts many years, whereas a long-term assignment is suddenly terminated. We know change happen, but what we don’t know is when.
Perspective is a wonderful thing. When we look at an event from the outside, we can often see that incident A led to event B, which in turn make C happen. From the inside, however, it often seems more that one thing just comes alone after another, with no rhyme or reason. It is often only with the benefit of hindsight that we have any idea what was happening at all.