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Online social media such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to progress story lines outside the blog itself while also bringing in readership. Reader interaction can be encouraged through the use of comment boxes and web page sharing. Photos and illustrations can easily be uploaded.

Embedded sounds effects or music can create an aural backdrop for visitors to listen to as they read. YouTube is available to present live action segments, be it public readings by the author, visual segments for reference by a reader or a fully staged, live-action scene culled and performed from the story itself. It is the discretion of the writer how far these other sources of information remove their work from the traditional notion of fiction at its purest, that being solely words on a page.

But with so many options at your fingertips, I feel blog fiction can keep true to that ideal while offering so many other avenues for the writer to express himself or herself. Blog fiction is in the process of finding its own shape. Any literary project morphs and reveals itself the more you write, but this fact feels especially true of a fiction blog, particularly as new technology and social media trends go in and out of vogue.

My fiction blog, Dandy Darkly , has shifted from what began as highly serialized, short stories to a longer format with many recurring characters and far reaching plot lines. The challenge has been in presenting short works that stand alone in both quality of writing and clarity of story while keeping true to a larger narrative arc and hinting at things to come.

At times if feels like I'm improvising a novel in published chunks. Another challenge is finding an audience. Hawking my blog is an exhausting task. Attention spans are short on the web. With an inundation of websites to browse, readership can be sparse for a fiction blog.

Hence many of the "bells and whistles" listed above. Ideally a writer wants the strength of the words alone to draw in and keep readers, but on the web that simply isn't always the case. I have a fiction blog because I love the evolving format and I'm passionate about what I'm writing and performing. Ultimately I'm as along for the ride as my characters are. I recommend every writer play with the format. It's been a rewarding journey and I'm eager to see what will happen as technology evolves and more writers turn to fiction blogging to express themselves. West Virginia Writers Conference is now registering.

Pre-registration for the Conference will be open from March 7 through May 30, I have three books to recommend for your summer reading: a brand new collection of short stories; a twentieth century classic; and Jared Diamond's stunning study of why the West won— that would be the West as in the culture that developed in the great Euro-Asian landmass. And Diamond , who deeply believes that people like his New Guinean friend are at least and maybe more intelligent than the average European, made this magisterial survey.

There is no single answer, of course, but rather a coming together of many elements in the cultures with the technological advances that gave them the ability to engulf other people's lands, resources, languages, and gene pools. One essential element turns out to be the availability of plants and animals that can be domesticated for food and other uses. Diamond distinguishes between animals that can be tamed, like my parakeet, and animals that can be domesticated and used for food, transportation, etc. Animals turn out to be not only essential tools of war and agriculture, but also vectors for the great epidemics that spread over the Asia-Europe land mass, killing off millions, but also leading to some immunity in the survivors-- and eventually to unconscious at least at first germ warfare against more isolated people like those of the Americas.

Diamond also discusses what he calls the axis of communication. The axis of Eurasia is east west, which meant that many crops and animals would be in same general latitude for eventual expansion. He compares this to the Americas with a north-sound axis and barriers of climate, latitude, and topography that meant the Aztecs and the Incas barely knew of each other, and that maize was probably domesticated more than once. Africa had the great barrier of the Sahara between north and south plus certain terrible diseases of the subsaharan rain forests that stopped horses and cattle from moving south.

Diamond's knowledge and his relentless enthusiasm for sharing it are a real delight. It's a book with big, expansive ideas that make you feel, at least for a moment, that you're got some perspective on history and geography. This is a short story collection of shapely, separate stories that are made stronger by being grouped together. First, truth in advertising: I blurbed this book, but in rereading it as a whole, I find it even better than my first look.

It is a book of stories about Americans on the move, mostly on the road. These are people who run away or drift away, going on the road, leaving their lovers and families. It begins with a family of grifters and ends with some shrewdly dishonest drifters— who may or may not be going into more danger than they're escaping. The longest story, "Letters," is about the ideal of romantic love as a destructive force, especially for women in the 's. There is plenty of humor and horror, lots of feisty characters and lost characters and American landscape.

So the parts are excellent, but the collection really succeeds in its grand design. I am a deep admirer of shape— I feel that shaping our world is one of the major reasons we read and write fiction. Simmons creates the shape of her book with repetition and unexpected turns, especially with her excellent endings. One story, "Suitcase," set mostly in Guatemala, has been called a modern "Heart of Darkness," which is nicely apt, except that Simmons' story is both more compact and more shocking— and more realistic— than Conrad's classic.

You feel something bad coming, but you don't see the actual end. A story at the other extreme of weather has two young people going homesteading in the Yukon, and this one too has a satisfying surprise at the end. Simmons is wonderful at what you might call earned surprises. Endings tend to be a problem for contemporary writers, and maybe especially writers of short stories, but Simmons breaks new ground.

I'm not going to reveal any endings here, except to say that each story has a payoff, and the collection as a whole pulls you in and doesn't let you go. This is one of those books that blew me away thirty-five years ago, and I sometimes think of it or maybe the feeling it gave me would that be "kafkaesque"? But re-reading brought an entirely different experience from what I remembered. It is an unfinished book, with scholarly and biographical debate about what belongs in, the order of chapters, and, of course, if Kafka really meant it when he asked to have his work destroyed after his death.

One of the things I didn't remember is that it is a novel that is crowded with characters and funny and absurd passages, and also sex, as well as being famously off-kilter and disturbing. How odd, though, that my memory of the book was of loneliness, especially the execution at the end. In fact, though. The novel starts with police or something like police pushing into K. And my memory of the end was of a final scene possibly from the movie? But the novel is weirder, and sillier, and more moving. Banville suggests that the book used for its structure an event in Kafka's on-again off-again engagement when his fiancee brought him to a meeting with a friend and herself where she put him through a kind of trial over their relationship.

Marriage, Banville thinks, was to Kafka a kind of capital sentence. If this sounds overly psychological or even diminishing to his accomplishment in the novel, I would say that great artists demonstrate their greatness not by the loftiness of their subjects but by how they take whatever materials are at hand and make a great thing out of them. Art moves even quotidian things to another level, makes a leap that allows us all to participate in something that may have begun as local or individual. This brings me to a question: when you re-read the works that you met as a young person, do you find them very different: In what way?

Do they hold up? Are they entirely different? Suzanne Rahn writes about a writer's conference she attended in San Francisco. She says, " I enjoyed this conference very much. I stayed at the Fort Mason Hostel which was a 5 minute walk to the conference and 20 min walk to Fisherman's Wharf. I would recommend the hostel as an extremely affordable place to stay. Very nice area. She goes on to say, "Michael Neff's credentials are listed on the website and his style is that of a literary "Simon Cowell" but not so heartless.

His workshop is designed to help a writer improve, but he also won't sugar coat his opinion. His goal is to further a good story or help rescue a terrible story. I would highly recommend this conference to any writer who wants to take a serious step towards firming up and pitching his or her novel.

A whole new world of writing is taking place online with Fan Fiction, in which fans write stories associated loosely or tightly with their favorite author, classic, or genre. Mindy Kesterman, along with her freshly-minted Princeton graduate daughter, provided this overview of Jane Austen fan fiction sites:. Mindy writes: "You can post a chapter for commentary by other fans, or there are parts of the sites where you can ask for editing or a beta reader.

A work in progress can be posted at say the rate of a chapter or two a week and fans return to read the serialized novel. I feel in some unsettled way that reading is not as central to my life as it once was. I know that for many years I have found some of the satisfaction that used only to come from reading in other parts of my life— friends, family, my low key social activism. I suppose this is a good thing, and it isn't that I want to return to being a child whose real life is in books. But another part of it has to do with being discriminating. When I was young, I read everything with equal attention and hunger.

It could be well-written, poorly written, adventure, nonfiction, fantasy— I didn't care. I have more specific things I want now. I recoil from the badly written and the inauthentic. I spend so much time on student work that when I am reading strictly for myself, I am extremely choosy. Almost daily now I read poetry because of the attention to the language. When I read novels or narrative nonfiction, I want to take a trip.

I have less and less patience for prose that shows off or tricks me or can't figure out how to end— and then has an explosion or a rape, like bored kids writing "And then they all died. Here are a couple of books that, for various reasons, satisfied my needs, sometime with a trip to another world, sometimes with honest self-exposure. I don't know what it is with me and Genji, but I own two full length translations see a very early one of these newsletters. I was sitting on my screened back porch one rainy summer Sunday and something about the mistiness just made me want Genji on my Kindle, so I could go into that strange foreign world whenever I chose.

I meant to dip in, but got caught by the undercurrent, and away I went. The Royall Tyler translation is very clear, and he does an especially good job with the frequent poems. On my first reading of Genji, I totally didn't get the poems, which were apparently an essential part of eleventh century Japanese court life and especially of court-ship in the court.

Characters express their strongest emotions in their poems, and simultaneously show off and even compete with their artistry. There are a lot of sadly wet sleeves, usually in the form of dew covered flowers. When Genji is in exile by the sea, there are poems about the lonely salt water ocean waves. I think my fascination with this ancient classic written by a court lady circa Common Era is that I feel with these people, and at the same time am amazed that I am feeling— every moment of their lives is governed by such different rules from mine. For example, fathers and mothers are constantly trying to give away their well-brought up and accomplished daughters to the emperor or other high status men as concubines.

There is a political goal, of course— with a daughter in high places, perhaps even as Empress Mother, then the family's power is greatly enhanced.. That isn't so different from, say, Medieval Western king and queenship, although the Heian court is more upfront with training the girls to attract the emperor. But then there is the subplot of how lovely sweet smelling high minded Genji essentially kidnaps a beautiful little girl and raises her to his own specifications and falls in love with her, and she with him.

Meanwhile he has many other affairs, although in Genji's defense, he seems capable of loving and attending to all of them. He rarely abandons women. And there's the atmosphere: the secret fragrance in the night that tells you who is visiting your bedchamber, the curtains and blinds, handwriting that causes people to fall in love. This is a real trip into alternative reality see below for an alternate reality book I didn't like. The other two books I want to mention are of this present decade, also by women, and also with sexuality front and center. And both writers focus their books on homosexual men.

She enjoys her life, but feels cheated by the lack of romantic love that she believes is essential to true happiness. She meets tennis pro Nick Hamilton, falls for him hard and fast, especially because he is so different from men in her past. They marry, and immediately, things begin to fall apart— most disastrously when she discovers Nick's sexual orientation in the most humiliating way possible. Mary Cate starts a new life by moving from her narrow if affluent home town to Atlanta where she rehabs a house in a neighborhood that proves to be a favorite place for gays and Lesbians.

Slowly, as Mary Cate realizes that more and more of her good friends are gay, she becomes a deeper, more interesting human being. She gives up the fantasy that she can't live without a man, and she makes a family of the friends around her. She helps a man with AIDS through some of the rough times at the end of his life, and even reconnects with Nick.

This is a story with a happy ending— but the happiness is not at all what the Mary Cate of the beginning would have imagined. Carter Seaton's book is full of gay and Lesbian characters, and some of the scenes are from their points of view, but the sex acts are not often dramatized. She makes a music of sex in the first third of this novel, as two unlikely men fall in love. Jim is a rich New Yorker, older, and bereft after a great loss, and Sean is young, poor, edgy, a talented artist, just in from the Midwest.

Their love story is almost equally a paean to New York City. There is an enthusiastic richness of physical detail— food, wine, buildings, streets, and bodies, of course. It is a wonderfully, enhanced, reality with all sensations heightened. And part of what is really amazing about this book is that the happy ending doesn't last— and that, I suppose, is part of the reality of it. The second half of the novel brings in Sean's sister and Sean's background, and the story gets rougher as it moves from the riches of new love to the stark horrors of the siblings', but especially Sean's, past.

Plot comes to the fore, and a kind of ugliness in the backwoods of the Midwest that makes New York City seem like heaven on earth. And the very final part takes these two disparate sections and finds a way to bring them into— if not exactly harmony, then a believable balance. I've read a fair amount this summer, but my big announcement is that I finally finished probably the only book I ever laid aside because it was making me sick to my stomach.

And, no, it was not gore or violence. When I tried to read it ten years ago, every time I picked it up— a small print paper back, as I remember, maybe a Penguin classic, with a long introduction— I felt like I was reading in the back seat of a swerving car. I hated this book. I was also humiliated that I, who pride myself on catholic taste in literature, had failed to get what everyone sees in Henry Adams.

It wasn't the content, I didn't think: I had once at thirteen skipped part of a Leon Uris novel because I knew I wasn't supposed to read what happened after he unzipped her skirt. This was something else. Not wanting to invest too much in the book in case it all happened again, I downloaded a. On the other hand, I still don't like the book. Knowing some of Henry Adams' biography made me more open, or at least more interested.

Charlie Hebdo - more questions then answers

His wife committed suicide in mid life, which he never mentions in this version of his life story, and he was a noted socializer, and a great friend to many people. He also was burdened with the weight of expectations for a young man from a family in which the grandfather and great-grandfather had both been presidents of the United States. He was, at bottom, a very smart, very neurotic, very limited member of the ruling class of the United States. Of course we are all limited by our class and our ethnic group and our time and place, but some of us manage to peer at least a little outside: Tolstoy could do it; Emily Dickinson could do it.

So could all the great writers. Henry Adams, at least in this nonfiction book, seems totally unable to see outside his narrow little track. The conceit of the book is that Adams' whole life has been a failure, specifically a failed education. The strained humorous tone when he writes about his youth sets my teeth on edge, and his view of the American Civil War he was private secretary to his father, the ambassador to England seems coolly distant at best and at worst nearly frivolous.

Again, I need to offer a caveat: many people don't read it this way at all, and Adams himself deplores being so far from the center of the great event of his generation. His voice gains authenticity as he closes in on his chronological age as he is writing, which is in his mid-sixties. The final quarter of the book— except for his crackpot theories of history— creates an atmosphere of genuine amazement and humility in the face of the material culture of the new century— and also a tone of increasing sadness.

The book ends with the death of one of his best friends, Teddy Roosevelt's secretary of State, John Hay, who had also been Abraham Lincoln's private secretary. I still don't know why I have reacted so strongly to this book. There is, of course, my own twenty-first century assumptions and expectations— of more personal revelation, for example.

Also, I have had a lifelong preference I admit it! But I really am appalled by his assumptions: he assumes his readers have Latin, and that they went to Harvard. He assumes that they criticize Harvard, too, of course, and he assumes his readers are amused by immigrant Poles and Irish and Jews as the second element in various unflattering similes. He assumes that complimenting women's grace and kindness allows him to say anything he wants about them.

Why is it that Harriet Beecher Stowe who was as thoroughly of her time and place as Adams, and probably a less talented writer, could occasionally hit the mark— leap out beyond her own prejudices? She has that ability to take the imaginative leap, not always, but occasionally, that makes a connection across time and race and class. So I'm going to give Henry Adams another chance.

It has a wonderful set up: a housewife paints pictures of Jesus all over the walls of her house, and walks out on her life. There is no mistaking that she is mentally unbalanced, but her breakdown is presented in a fascinatingly balanced way: yes, she's crazy, but no, she's not all that much more unhappy than anyone else. Part of the project of the book seems to be to imagine a creative and graceful, but not sentimental, mental breakdown.

The novel insists, explicitly, on closing all the circuits it opens up. This doesn't mean anything old fashioned like marriage rings, but rather some near-miraculous coincidences such as the itinerant woman preacher who arrives in town just in time to reconcile with her daughter and perform her marriage ceremony.

The closing of the circuits also means satisfying outcomes for most of the characters— lovers for those who want them, artistic hobbies that turn into high art or ways to make a living. The husband who cooks because his wife has left him becomes a superb cook with a likely book contract. It's twenty-first century wish fulfillment: that we could really support ourselves doing what we love best, in community, across racial lines, with family dysfunction healed.

Like Aurora Leigh, Bathe is the matter of her book. One of the most striking things that I've been encountering is the emphasis on 'mind' by these women writers, including Elizabeth Barrett's Aurora Leigh. The other little signifier is the mention of 'curls,' which suggest spirit and independence. Nevertheless, the novel absorbed me in a way I had not previously felt much of this still holds true for most nineteenth century fiction that I regularly harvest. I should not like to find out that what I loved did not love me, that it was weary of me, and that whatever effort I might make to please would hereafter be worse than useless, since it was inevitably in its nature to change and become indifferent.

That discovery once made, what should I long for? To go away--to remove from a presence where my society gave no pleasure. Plus, you've got to love the neutered pronoun, this from the excellent Penguin Classic--excellent notes and a good intro. Much of this may have been superceded, but this is a nice place to start, and it has a lively introduction by the author, who was mistakenly addressed as 'David Deirdre.

The National Book Award fiction winner, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, a West Virginia resident in the late s, takes place in a world many of us are unfamiliar with, an insulated world with a language and culture of its own: claiming races at a track in West Virginia. Prior to the opening of the novel, Gordon gives readers a leg up by including a technical description of the rules for "claiming" a horse. From this point on a dictionary and "google" proved useful as Gordon incorporates Yiddish, French, and German phrases into a mix of folklore, religion, mythological creatures, conjuring, racing rules, theories, and jargon.

And did I mention the novel comes complete with sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and organized crime, not to mention a cast of interesting characters, both animal and human? Maggie, the protagonist, is a young intelligent college graduate destined to give her affluent Jewish parents gray hairs. She is a risk taker, fascinated by drugs and violence and willing to try anything once, provided it isn't lethal. She is enthralled by a charismatic but volatile fellow college graduate who is "just not right in the soul, really.

Like horses in a race, the story starts off slowly, picks up speed in the stretch, falters slightly, and then ends in a rush of excitement. There is an interesting mix of characters of different faiths, sexual preferences, and colors. Their stories unfold, sometimes in their own voices. Prior to the National Book Award, Gordon was one of the famous authors readers hadn't read or heard about. A professor, scholar, and a fiction writer of note, she had a small faithful readership and a totally dedicated publisher.

Now readers will find interviews of Gordon, study guides for Lord of Misrule, and a superfluity of reviews of this work on the internet. That is all to the good. Lord of Misrule is a work to study and respect as well as to enjoy. As the protagonist Maggie says of her charismatic but mentally ill lover Tommy, "The strangeness draws me in. Dolly Withrow talks a little about some magazines: "Readers can sample excerpts and get other tidbits by accessing The Sun Magazine online.

It is ad-free, which means the publisher often asks for donations. I think this is true of most 'little' magazines. Creative Nonfiction magazine that's how I Googled it is also available. One can read samples, get writing guidelines, and access lots of other information online. If you or anyone on your list has an opinion about Appalachian Heritage, I'd be most interested The largest unionized bookstore in America has a webstore at Powells Books.

Some people prefer shopping online there to shopping at Amazon. For a discussion about Amazon and organized labor and small presses, see the comments of Jonathan Greene and others in Issues 97 and Note : To create a link to this newsletter, use the permanent link. It is a story of family love and struggle, honest and powerful with a lightness on the surface that almost but not quite belies the force underneath. The tone is the opposite of, say, someone like Dostoevsky, whose mangiest street rat is fraught with tragic meaning. The story line here is a visit by one sister and her successful, self-important husband to her family home in Old Delhi.

As if it is any of his filthy, goddam business. Does he run this country? Khan is a disaster — will only get worse! Trump has not ceased since his inauguration to criticize the management of Britain and other countries — Sweden, who knew? Tall, blond Norway… reminds him of his daughter? Would he like to fuck Norway? Just bile spewing from his fat gut and an overweening sense of his own importance, that he is putting before, even, his own country. Deary me. And this pathetic shill wants to be Prime Minister.

Under a second Trump presidency, no doubt. Some very good people, obviously. Trump is the fucking disaster. Needs a new President. Trump has instructed his assfucked acolytes not to testify or submit documents to Congress, despite legal subpoenas and threats of lesser impeachments, and to ignore court orders at which he openly sneers. He and his family members are openly and illegally profiting from office. These are the actions of outrageous criminals who believe they are untouchable because of the power of the President.

A career criminal himself, Trump has no respect whatever for the rule of law. Never has. Never will. Why he thinks that qualifies him to comment on law and order issues in other countries, no-one can say. More storms, with high winds, big hail and intense rainfall are arriving over eastern areas of France and Germany , up into Denmark. The flash storms, which brought hailstones as big as pingpong balls to some areas, killed 2 people in France and Switzerland , and injured at least 10 others.

The agriculture minister said the government would … introduce emergency measures to deal with what he described as a catastrophe for farmers. Commuters were transferred to a second train which also became stuck due to flooding on the line. Food and water ran out onboard and 1 person collapsed.

USA: And the wet goes on. India: Has escaped the worst of Cat 2 Typhoon Vayu as the storm has turned northward parallel to the coast. The Weather Channel. Unfortunately that means no relief yet from the brutal heatwave inland that has claimed 36 lives. Deutsche Welt. Save for agriculture and electricity, all sectors were up. CO2: Normally starts to reduce in May in the northern hemisphere as spring vegetation growth starts to absorb more.

Of concern therefore must be a sudden spike in the weekly average over the past two days, putting concentrations back to the late May At its peak in mid-May it was over And remember, CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas — the others are all increasing more rapidly than previously. Well, now you can. Climate change news. Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser went off Saturday 15th for the 22nd time this year.

Intervals have shortened from every 7 to every 5 to every 3 days…. Heating: The Canadian permafrost is already thawing at the rate previously anticipated to occur by Coastal areas higher humidity in places like the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea are approaching the limits of human survivability.

Paul Beckwith. Functional extinction describes a state where sufficient adverse factors exist to bring about imminent population collapse. The Australian koala, for instance, is said to be functionally extinct, after 30 million years on earth. Once shot in their millions for their fur, the cuddly marsupials are down to a population of about 80, In itself that might be enough to preserve the species, but habitat loss is scattering ever-smaller communities over ever-wider distances, leading to inbreeding and epidemic disease.

God will then create a new Earth for the righteous. New York Times 30 March, et al. Pulling strings: Nigel Farage commands the fish to rise from the waters. Sky News. Forty or so years ago there used to be a pretty anodyne and harmless but highly rated family quiz on Sunday evening primetime TV. You tended to put it on in the suburban background in lieu of anything else, other than getting remorselessly pissed on gin, there being only one and a half channels to watch and no Netflix in those good old days. Oh well, next time. National treasure, Sir Brucey twirled off for the last time into the wings last year, aged Unfortunately money is not, and never has been, an adequate substitute for creative originality.

You need more sparkly tat. I mention Osman so frequently, only because I do at least know who he is. The normal response to a similar campaign might with luck just be 1. I was the hero of the hour. No-one ever got anywhere overestimating the tastes of a bussed-in British TV audience, either. I thought those people had gone extinct in the s, but… Brexit?

Look forward then to an extended run, maybe as the nights start lengthening in the Autumn and the realities of our economic situation set in, a return to the s will seem attractive. Four out of five head teachers are reporting growing signs of malnutrition and sickness among their pupils.

A report compiled with the Child Poverty Action Group, presented at the annual conference of the National Education Union in Brighton reveals that many schools are having to devote increasing time and resources, not to improving test results, but to social action programs to try to relieve the consequences of nine years of knuckleheaded, attritional Government cuts to welfare, universal child benefit, tax credits — creating adverse knock-on social deficits, such as massive reductions in local government safeguarding services.

There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. Another from Portsmouth, said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of children with child protection issues. Head teachers acknowledged that many of the parents of these starving children are working poor, who would be marginally better off on benefits. Dear God, voters of Britain, when will you look up from your stupid fucking phones, instruments of social control, and throw these diseased incompetents on the bonfire of history?

No civilized country should be managed like this in the 21st century. The sixth largest economy in the world and we cannot house, clothe or feed our people. Yet our crazy housing market adds two thousand paper millionaires to the heap each year. As is the brutal illogicality of spending millions on remedial action as they claim to be doing.

He will keep any profit he makes on the swish apartment if he decides to sell or rent it out. Who knows, stranger things have happened. As diplomatic relations slip through the rabbit-hole into an Alice in Wonderland world of threats and conspiracy theories, many of them thrown up by the wily Russian who succeeded as ambassador to the UN, a predecessor whose autopsy following his sudden death a year ago has been marked Classified, the odd case of the Salisbury Poisoner continues to raise many apparently unanswerable questions. The Pumpkin has asked many of these right from the beginning.

It has been said, for instance, that novichok A is a virtually instantaneously acting nerve agent, whose lethality decays over time. Yet the Skripals apparently spent several hours having lunch in town after they were supposedly contaminated at home, before they were found unconscious on a park bench. And they have both apparently survived; unlike a Russian banker and his secretary who were also poisoned with a novichok agent in Moscow in and died almost immediately.

A tribute to the skills of the NHS, I expect. What do they expect to find? What was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house? One of the cats was eventually taken, barely alive, to Porton Down for examination for traces of nerve agent but had to be put down by a vet. The other has gone missing. Cats, okay, so James Bond — but what was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house?

Did he manufacture the A himself, for some other purpose? It can be done in your garage, apparently, following some simple instructions available from certain sources. Many questions also remain, concerning the contaminated policeman, Detective Sergeant Bailey. It now appears a second, unnamed policeman was also treated in hospital. Why has he remained unnamed thus far, but not Bailey? Did Skripal have a security detail — or just a tail? Where did they come into contact with the A?

If the nerve agent had been suspected before Sgt Bailey went to the house, why did he go there unprotected? If he had been, then he surely would not have been the one to go straight to the house…. Did he already know who the Skripals were, and where they lived? Nothing adds up and I doubt it ever will. The speed and volume of growth so early in the year were, in my view, unprecedented. Trees that would not normally crown before May were already densely and — for a change — healthily in leaf; wildflowers were blooming, the nearby playing fields covered in snowy mats of daisies; ground-cover and climbing plants fighting for light in the densely packed hedgerows and head-high clumps of already berrying brambles.

Just outside my studio, five years ago I planted perennial herbs. A border hedge of rosemary; oregano, that would be covered in bees, a clump of thyme.

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And a rather expensive, miniature ornamental Japanese acer. The early clematis Hendersonii is in flower…. But nothing much has come to life in the valley. But not nearly as cold or snowy here on the west coast as in the east. Cold and wet. USA: caught in a loop of the jetstream, Winter Storm Wilbur is dumping another foot of snow over the northern states, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, as the song goes. Too warm to settle for long, though. Local forecasts for Phoenix Az. Dangerous UV levels already being measured.

Meanwhile northern Europe and Russia have also seen extreme cold and heavy snow persisting well into spring.

‎Backwoods Home Magazine # - Sept/Oct en Apple Books

In Mexico, an intense hailstorm reduces streets in Tlalpan to rivers of ice. Local media reported that the city received 3 times the amount of rain it would normally see for the whole of April. Indonesia: Devastating floods in Sumatra and Java. Up to 10cm 4ins of snow blanketed areas of north England, north Wales and Scotland.

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I react to this statement with the same frisson of horror at the depths to which self-aggrandising, sexually incontinent Alpha madmen like Johnson and Donald Trump can sink when they disengage from their essential humanity as anyone might to the allegations against Trump. Dreadful dirge though our British national anthem may be, after the Rio Olympics you would imagine most people in the world are now pretty sick of hearing it.

I was astounded then when, on being asked to sing only the first two lines for dramatic purposes, not one member of a chorus of seven young people at my drama group, six of them in their early 20s, one perhaps excusably still a minor, had any idea either of the words or the tune. The tune, if you can call it that, is lost in the mists of time. Of course, in we had a German king on the throne, George 11; also, a Scottish Jacobite Catholic rebellion going on, to reinsert with French help, that was not entirely forthcoming Bonnie Prince Charlie into the line of the British monarchy, that had been diverted away from the Catholic succession with the Glorious Revolution of You will often hear blimpish British dimwits asseverating pompously that we have not been conquered since His legacy sadly was the plantation of protestant Scottish farmers in Ulster that led inexorably to sectarian division and the Troubles.

Charles Stuart was the presumed heir of James His army came close to seizing London, but on receiving false information that a second English army was approaching, they stupidly retreated. Of the seven execrable dwarfs, two may be excused, possibly, although Wales is part of the United Kingdom, on the grounds that they are of slightly differing ethnic groups: one Welsh, the other Irish.

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We all hate computers, I know. Even writing those words causes my brain to turn to the stuff you find in the filter of your tumble dryer, without the 20p coin. Yesterday I left my desktop PC running while I took Hunzi for his morning excursion around the exurban space that passes for our local park, and when we got back I found the computer had detached itself from the internet by the simple expedient of losing not only its connection wired with the router, but also the router itself, which was no longer to be found on the list of available hubs.

The router itself was still showing the steady blue light that says it has a good connection with the broadband service. And lo, it spaketh immediately to the internet even without benefit of the LAN cable, by dint of magical wirelessness; as does my new tabloid, to which I managed to download 1, transposable jazz chord charts in a matter of seconds.

So here I am, typing the usual weekly garbage into WordPress on my laptop once again; happily aware that the old version of WordPress is still running here, while on my PC it has become something unbearably stupid, just for the sake of the new none of the actual annoying things users complain of has been fixed in the process. My cursor just disappeared, by the way. Joy, the files having been transferred over in bulk from the laptop when we installed the PC, they were still held in the old disk memory of the laptop. Now… no sleight of hand, nothing up my sleeve, and please understand: the laptop is not by any means connected to the PC, which by now I have powered down in despair.

Drum roll. As I played the music tracks stored on the laptop, one by one the tracks in the list that were not playing started to shut down, all by themselves. Little red flags were appearing next to the track listings in my libraries, four or five at a time, until the entire playlist became inaccessible; and so on to the next one, and the next, until there was not a single file left that would open. How can that happen all by itself to licensed files I have been playing for months and years, taken off paid-for CDs, on a machine that has no connection to the faulty one?

I am getting the notion that, as the sun orbits the galaxy, the Earth passes periodically through a region of space, a Cloud of Improbability, that turns natural order on its head. Absolutely nothing is making sense right now. Principally because I spent fifteen years of my life working in or freelancing for advertising agencies. During that time, I counted that I had worked on creative and strategic consultancy projects for some different companies and NGOs.

He seemed unconcerned that his wife and year-old daughter were both sleeping with the same employee, who rented a room above the offices. And the purpose of the yacht was twofold: one, so that he could produce made-up invoices claiming he had chartered the boat to clients, thus reclaiming VAT on non-existent transactions; and two, so he could ship suitcases full of cash over to Jersey, where he had an offshore account.

There was, it must be said, the occasional waterside champagne junket for staff during Cowes Week: he had to keep us quiet somehow. Then there was B. It was never enough, he was always double-booking his own appointments and instead of simply rescheduling, would manufacture operatic lies to get around the problem.

On one occasion, he told a client he could not make a meeting because his wife was gravely ill in hospital. The poor man, a devout Christian, spent many hours on his knees praying for her recovery. Turning up to the rearranged meeting two days later, he was somewhat startled when she walked into the room unannounced, miraculously saved by Jesus. Driving with me to a large client many miles away, B. Would I take one of the meetings?

Back in the car, he asked nervously how it had gone. I tried to avoid corporate nights out, but sometimes attendance was unavoidable. The marketing director, a noisy, balding oaf, got up onstage and, after a witty speech some of which I wrote, in Shakespearian blank verse , presented her with her leaving gift: an inflatable male rubber sex doll with an erect penis.

The room, almost entirely unmarriageable men with bad breath and dandruff, exploded in raucous laughter. You may know the company, UniBond. They make overpriced, niche-marketed gloop for DIY enthusiasts. Another psychopath, D. He fancied himself as a newspaperman, but I learned from one leaving employee — the staff turnover was rapid — that he had formerly been employed only as a typesetter in the printroom of, I think it was, The Sun. One day, a fresh young journalist arrived to take up his first job in the murky business.

We all looked at one another sidelong. Photograph what? There was no story! A drunk had been ejected after aiming a punch at the publican, nothing more. An hour later, the young journalist returned with only five shots showing the exterior of the pub, and the landlord. At the end of my shift, I informed D. He looked at me, crestfallen. Business is overrun with these dismal, underqualified, insecure bullying cretins and madmen. It may explain why our economy has been tanking at least since the Second World War. In my view, directors should be forced to take a business driving test showing their fitness to employ people, before being registered and allowed to practise.

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Meredith Sue Willis's

Lock them up! To the police service — we back you. And to the criminals, I simply say this: We are coming after you. Silly cow. The party of law and order, indeed. Word of the month…. Thinking leaving the European Union is a bad idea. Voting Lib-Dem. The Terrible Twins: Lekima and Krosa. Their rank corruption pollutes everything it touches. Literally, it seems. Corbyn, eh? How predictable. In other words, no-one has the slightest idea what the fuck they are doing anymore. Pot, kettle, smack The traitor, US President Trump, busy lying that he never said he would welcome illegal help from the Russians to get re-elected, like that other Trump did on ABC TV last week, has been tweeting his usual racist garbage against the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, following a mini-spate of knifings and a shooting in the city on Friday.

The Weather Channel Unfortunately that means no relief yet from the brutal heatwave inland that has claimed 36 lives. Guardian Climate of concern CO2: Normally starts to reduce in May in the northern hemisphere as spring vegetation growth starts to absorb more. Tunnel approaching… Yellowstone: Steamboat geyser went off Saturday 15th for the 22nd time this year. Mary Greeley Heating: The Canadian permafrost is already thawing at the rate previously anticipated to occur by Take cover.

Spring Climbers fighting for light, Evergreens turning brown.