Dec 31st

12/31/2013

8 Comments

 
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Here's a fitting story to end the year's blogging. A humpback whale jumped for joy yesterday after her friend was cut free from entangling ropes. It must have taken the observer's breath away, especially when the spectacular victory roll caused a wave that almost capsized the rescuers.

Christine Callaghan, a guide with a whale-watching cruiser in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, about two miles off Long Island in Nova Scotia caught the magical moment while riding in the boat with the fishermen who cut the whale free from lobsterpot ropes. The 40-ton humpback whale celebrated the release by soaring from the waves. It must have been an incredible moment.

Many years ago on the bottom of the globe, I caught sight of a Southern Wright whale in the cold water at Robe, in South Australia. Sitting in the sunshine on a cliff top, I watched her rise for hours, spellbound by the awe of eye contact with a giant of the ocean.


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In the northern sea, tourist boats can draw close to slow-swimming humpbacks, which get their name because of the habit of raising and bending the back in preparation for a dive, accentuating the hump in front of the dorsal fin. They have the longest flippers of any baleen whale which may be up to a third of the total body length. These are used for feeding and social signaling. Breaching, lob tailing and flipper-slap are common and often occur several times in a row.

And so I leave this year's blog with a water slap from the humpback whale and a victory roll. I've achieved 360 posts of my views on news this year. I'm setting up a blog for 2014:  http://511580395457358476.weebly.com
(it should work this time. I left the http:// off yesterday. Pop over and take a look.

I'll continue my daily views on news there next year. Hope you stay with me. I appreciate your support.


 

Dec 30th

12/30/2013

5 Comments

 
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Power has now been restored to homes after a fierce storm lashed northern England over the last few days. I feel so sorry for the people whose Christmas was ruined by floods. Now they have to face cleaning up their soaked possessions and carry on with their lives.

However, on the other side of the world, thousands of people are leaving their homes after a volcano erupted in eastern El Salvador, that's south of Mexico (I had to look it up).


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Residents in the coffee-producing region of the San Miguel province heard a powerful explosion before the Chaparrastique volcano began spewing hot ash and smoke into the air after a lull of after 37 years. The volcano spewed lava in 1976 and caused a strong tremor in the area in 2010.

The Salvadoran government detected increased activity inside the volcano, and has been monitoring the situation since 13 December amongst the 20 volcanoes in the small Central American nation.


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Fortunately, nobody has been hurt. Civil protection authorities are setting up temporary shelters for the 5,000 evacuated people living in a 3km (2 mile) radius. About 300 communities live around the volcano.

So many people around the world are displaced and suffering right now because of natural disasters and conflict among the people. Today's news reveals thousands of children are likely to have been separated from their families as a result of the latest violence in South Sudan. Children are our future. I hope the people who care for them are kind.

I'm setting up a blog for 2014:  http://511580395457358476.weebly.com
I'll continue my daily views on news there next year. Hope you stay with me. I appreciate your support.



 

Dec 29th

12/29/2013

6 Comments

 
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Everyone dreams of finding one of their possessions is actually worth a fortune. Recently, a painting featured on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow has been revealed to be a Sir Anthony Van Dyck portrait worth about £400,000.

The Antiques Roadshow show will be broadcast on the UK BBC tonight. One of the people featured, Father Jamie MacLeod who runs a retreat house in north Derbyshire, took the artwork to Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, in 2012. He wanted to sell the piece by the 17th Century Flemish artist to buy new church bells. At the time, the presenter thought it might be more valuable than first thought.

The paintings featured are all well-known, not the new discovery.



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Following restoration, the painting was verified by Dr Christopher Brown—one of the world authorities on Van Dyck. The painting emerged from under layers of paint to show Van Dyck's skills of direct observation that made him such a great a portrait painter.

The portrait, originally bought at a Cheshire antiques shop, is the most valuable painting identified in the show's 36-year history.

Van Dyck was the leading court painter in England under King Charles I and is regarded as one of the masters of 17th Century art.


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Another painting, a Van Dyck self-portrait, was recently sold to a collector who wants to take it abroad. It has become subject to a temporary export ban. The National Portrait Gallery is trying to raise £12.5m to keep it in the UK.

My husband told me a story of finding and selling paintings when he was a boy of about 10 years in London just after the end of WW2. His father used to buy old pianos and refurbish them before selling them on. While he worked, he sent his two sons out to search for good pianos. I can't remember how it happened, but somehow they got hold of five large oil paintings. They might have been included in a lot. With the cumbersome paintings under their arms, the brothers traipsed into various second-hand shops and finally sold them on their father's instructions. To this day, my husband wonders about their real value.


 
 
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In England, people through the ages have held special sites in England as sacred. To this day, Christians, Buddhists, pagans and curious visitors with no religious beliefs of any kind are drawn to ancient sites.

On Dec 21st 2013, revelers gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the shortest day of the year—the Winter Solstice. More than 3,500 people watched the sun rise at 8.09am at the Wiltshire site, where new buildings cater for visitors. Despite the nearby business enterprise, Druids and pagans chanted, danced and lent their heads on the huge rocks. It is the only time the meticulous layout of the stones appears to align. At dawn, the sun casts a line of light directly connecting the altar stone, the slaughter stone and the heel stone. The Winter Solstice is regarded as more important than summer as it was the time when Bronze Age clans would slay cows, finish fermenting their wine, and mark the start of a new year. Something about the old ways appeals to us even now.


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Similarly, St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall is an astonishingly beautiful, even magical spot. The fairy glen has been cut by water and erosion over unknown millennium. A waterfall drops into a natural bowl and then emerges through a circular hole cut by the endless stream. Moss and lichen cloak the sheer sides, along with precariously perched trees, so the whole place has a mysterious, otherworldly atmosphere. Once revered by pre-Roman Celts who venerated the spirit of the water, and later associated with the 6th Century Saint Nectan, it is still visited today by thousands of people from all over the world. The Arthur myth too has been bolted on and folk thereabouts believe the king and his knights came to the glen to be blessed, before heading out in search of the Holy Grail.


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I find inspiration in old sites, especially in Cornwall. In my book, Tidal Surge, one of the characters paints Tintagel Castle from the beach, right before the tide sweeps in and catches them unaware.

Many people leave little souvenirs of their visit to sacred sites—single coins wedged into tree trunks, old train tickets from the journey, photos and keepsakes of loved ones.

When the area around St Nectan's Glen was sold last year to a private buyer, worries were raised about continued public access. However, the new owner vowed to keep the spot open. Now, an area has been cleared and a new tearoom, gallery, and education center built in a style sympathetic to the surrounding woodlands. As before, the public have free access to walk up through the glen, with a charge to see the waterfall. The money will be used to maintain the 35-acre site. It's well worth taking a look at the business site for St. Nectan's Glen. I think they've used sensitivity in the handling of their business.


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It's hard to reconcile the blend of enterprise and nature. However, if visitors are drawn to any natural beauty, they need facilities and perhaps a place to sit and eat.

Here's a link to a 5 min video of the waterfall and surrounding area containing very rare footage with original music by Christian Cello.  If you start at 1.47 sec. you go straight to it. Soothing music accompanies the trickling of water.

What are your views on private enterprise taking advantage of historical sites? Would a cup of tea on a cold day sway your opinion?


 

Dec 27th

12/27/2013

7 Comments

 
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Carnivorous fish related to the piranha have attacked bathers in an Argentine river, injuring about 70 people of all ages. A lifeguard told Associated Press that bathers suddenly began to complain of bite marks on hands and feet as they cooled off in a heat wave.

The attack happened on Christmas Day while thousands of people were cooling off in the Parana River in Rosario, 300km (186 miles) north of Buenos Aires. It's normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great. Paramedics reported dozens of people with bites on their extremities. Some children have lost entire digits.


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Officials blamed the exceptional attack on a school of voracious palometa fish. Apparently, this is a large type of piranha with sharp teeth.

That's enough to send fear into anyone. I'll bet the local people will think twice before immersing themselves again. I remember a time in the early 70s, when my family was touring Australia. We stopped off at an isolated beach in the north of Queensland. I sat under tamarind trees in the heat of the day, hoping for a sea breeze to cool me. No such luck. Although we'd been warned about stingers, deadly jellyfish with trailing tendrils, I longed to immerse my body in the lapping water. Jellyfish stings in Australia can cause death, with there being several venomous species of jellyfish, such as the box jellyfish and Irukandji Jellyfish. Box jellyfish have caused more than 60 deaths in Australia in the past hundred years.

Temptation won. But I was quick. I ran into the shallows, bent so that the water covered me for a second, and then ran back to the scorching sand. In two seconds, the air temperature removed any benefit. I wonder if youngsters living beside the Argentine river will challenge themselves in this way.


 

Dec 26th

12/26/2013

3 Comments

 
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Japanese history lessons barely cover the facts about WW2. Read one Japanese woman's startling facts about the few references to the event in her country from BBC.  She left Japan at 14 years to continue her education in Australia. In Japan, only 19 of the history book's 357 pages dealt with events between 1931 and 1945. From Homo erectus to the present day - more than a million years of history are covered in just one year of lessons.

For instance, the Nanjing Massacre:  A six-week period of bloodshed, after the Japanese captured of the city in December 1937.  The International Military Tribunal for the Far East set up after WWII, estimated more than 200,000 people were killed, including many women and children. Dispute over the scale of the atrocity remains a sticking point in Chinese/Japanese relations. Some Japanese question whether a massacre even took place.

She said that students have no time to dwell on a few pages of war violence even if they read them in their textbooks. Now, Japan's Asian neighbors—especially China and South Korea—accuse the country of glossing over its war atrocities.

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized China's school curriculum for being too "anti-Japanese". He wants to change how history is taught, and is considering revising Japan's 1993 apology over the comfort women (prostitutes or slaves) issue. If and when that happens, Japan's Asian neighbors might raise a huge stir. And yet, many Japanese have no clue why. It seems to me that war, brings about more war, which continues on and on and on.

Yet times of tumult make the best stories. Consider the great emotions stirred during the American Revolution and WW2 in films like Gone With The Wind and Casablanca.


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My husband and I watched both epic productions yesterday, as those of us without family are prone to do.

Gone With The Wind lasted over 4 hours. I don't remember most of it. Perhaps I'd previously seen a version where whole sections were cut. What a great story of human love and selfishness, emotional hardness and sacrifice. Every human sentiment the characters displayed tore at my heart. And all that killing. I don't know if the end justified the great cause of ending slavery. Hope I got my facts right and that's what the civil war was trying to achieve.


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Casablanca showed a time when the Germans were marching into Morocco in 1942, the year of my birth. My husband and I both had the wrong idea about its location. I thought it was East Africa, and he said Close to Portugal. Casablanca is actually on the coast below Portugal in the West of the African continent. The great stars acting in the movie showed love, bitterness and sacrifice. What a classic.

War. Everyone needs to learn the correct facts, which could be hard long after the events occurred. Perhaps knowledge will prevent further aggression, suffering and hardship. I doubt it, though.


 

Dec 25th

12/25/2013

6 Comments

 
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Some people are lonely this Christmas. Their family may be far away, part of a dimly remembered past. Those without a home will have no chance to read this message. Worldly goods won't be part of their belongings. I only hope they find some comfort on this day.

People working for the Salvation Army do a wonderful job in caring for anyone living on the streets. They don't judge, but understand the frail mental, emotional, and physical condition of the people they contact. I wish I could adopt the same attitude. I'm working on it. How about you?

In the latest news, the police fund gave £50,000 to food banks in West Yorkshire out of money raised from stolen property.

The commissioner said: "As Christmas approaches more and more families are struggling to make ends meet and the reliance on food banks has become a reality.

"This money will help those food banks in the areas of greatest need to buy more supplies as the festive season draws closer and into the New Year.


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"This donation will go some way to addressing the needs of families and hopefully contribute towards easing the pressure on those in our communities in these increasingly difficult times.

I remember my childhood in Australia. The Salvation Army would march to my street and play music. My sisters and I would join the crowd to listen to their message of peace and understanding. Times were hard in the 50s, but we knew no other life.

We should never take what we own for granted. Who knows what's around the corner. 'But for the grace of God, go I'.


 

Dec 23rd

12/23/2013

4 Comments

 
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These days, amongst millions of published novels, a writer has to hustle their books to shift them. Even big book publishers use new tactics to ensure a novel reaches plenty of readers. Recently, I read about a major publisher issuing meal invitations to guests along with a copy of their latest book. Although they weren't buying loyalty, the publisher used marketing to achieve sales in a more focused way.

It's a hard business, writing novels. After years of working out a good plot and building believable characters, editing, going over and over your words until they are the best you can make them, you have to market the books as best you can alongside millions of other authors. How can a writer reach more readers? That's the question authors toss around. Nobody has the answer.

Nothing beats fiction writing as an enjoyable, legal pastime. I guess that's why so many people are self-publishing their efforts. At Solstice Publishing, we authors get together on a facebook group. Leaders pass on tips for reaching more readers, and writers share ideas.


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Here, several of us have joined together to answer questions about the way we write and share our background. My link came from Edith Parzefall, the wonderful German author with whom I wrote the published Higher Ground series. http://edith-parzefall.de/  The titles for the post-apocalyptic novels include Wind Over Troubled Waters, Knights in Dark Leather, Golden Submarine & Long Doom Calling, which you can see on the sidebar along with the novels I wrote alone, Still Rock Water and Tidal Surge.

You might be interested in how we handled the collaboration between England and Germany. We worked very fast and emailed each scene to the other before she wrote the next one.  At the start, we picked characters. We tried to keep them distinctive, although we went over each others work constantly.

I’d made a start on the first book and Edith jumped in and continued. She knew my style because she edited my first book Still Rock Water. She’s much better at action scenes than I am, so I was glad she chose the men. I did all the individual profiles, but Edith chucked them out the window as their personalities grew. All the characters, based on those from the Moonstone series, get another chance at redemption and of course experience karma. Chuckle! Now for the Q & A.


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What am I working on?

At the moment, I'm editing the third book in the Moonstone series. The way I do it is to write the first draft, and set it aside for at least six months. Then, I send it to a couple of other writers. Using their feedback, I go over it with a fresh mind and sort out the plot. Why do I always make the stories so complicated? Anyway, once I'm happy, I read the whole thing out loud, which helps to find word echoes and inconsistencies. Finally, I submit it a chapter at a time to the novels list at the Internet Writers Workshop. After a final read out loud, I'll submit it to my publisher, Solstice Publishing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The main way my story differs from another writer's is in the word choice and that unique voice we all possess. Beside that, nobody else would write about a similar subject. The story is based on a star moonstone ring with links to the past, a unique character, and her set of beliefs. After all, who would give a perfectionist heroine a series of tests during visions that anyone would have difficulty with?

Why do I write what I do?

I believe that the basic good in each person will emerge in the end, despite the hardships—or maybe because of them—life throws onto the path. I like to puzzle out how a certain personality will handle a particular situation.

How does my writing process work?

When I have an idea, I start writing, filling in points and details as they present themselves. With my first book Still Rock Water, I removed thousands of words at the beginning before I had the real start to the story. But nothing's wasted. Everything forms the background for the character. The joy comes from the creation of a story.

Next week, three of my chosen authors will share the way they write.

Authors Mel Massey, KC Sprayberry & Carl R. Brush. Let me tell you a little about them.

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Mel Massey is a novelist and the author of Earth’s Magick. She has studied Cultural Anthropology and the History of Religion. Her husband, SGT. Maroni with 988th MP Company serves in the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She is also the mother of her own two adorable monsters. She spends most of her time talking to her imaginary friends.

https://www.facebook.com/melissa.masseymaroni

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KC Sprayberry loves reading, but not as much as she loves writing stories for young adults and middle-graders. Her interest in telling her stories goes back to her high school years, where she excelled in any and all writing classes. After a move to the northwest area of Georgia, she dove into this pursuit full-time while raising her children. While she spends many days researching areas of interest, she also loves photography and often uses it as a way to integrate scenery into her work.

blog:  http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.co.uk/http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.co.u

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Carl R Brush has been writing since he could write, which is quite a long time now. He grew up and lives in Northern California, close to the roots of the people and action of his historical thrillers, The Maxwell Vendetta, and its sequel, The Second Vendetta. A third volume of the trilogy, Bonita, set in pre-gold-rush San Francisco is completed and awaiting publication.

You can find Carl living with his wife in Oakland, California, where he enjoys the blessings of nearby children and grandchildren.

Journals in which his work has appeared include The Summerset Review, Right Hand Pointing, Blazevox, Storyglossia, Feathertale, and The Kiss Machine.  He has participated in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop.

Blog:  Carl R Brush http://www.writerworking.net/

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Dec 22nd

12/22/2013

5 Comments

 
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ACTRESS Sian Phillips attended the funeral of former husband Peter O’Toole with their daughter Kate, despite their unfriendly split more than 30 years ago. The screen icon O’Toole died at the Wellington Hospital in London, aged 81, last weekend following a long illness.

The award-winning Welsh actress, 80, was married to the Lawrence Of Arabia star for 20 years and they had two daughters together, Kate and Patricia, but they had not been on speaking terms since their bitter break-up in 1979. At the time of the split Miss Phillips publicly stated that her husband was a “dangerous, disruptive human being.”

How sad that so many marriage splits end with hard feelings. I can see how he could have been the way she described, and I sympathize with her pain. She probably took the brunt of his foul moods in the past and didn't want to repeat the experience.

However, she said she wanted to put their differences aside to attend his funeral. If only she'd done that—forgiven him—while he could appreciate her offer.


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The Irish actor Peter James O'Toole was born on 2 August 1932 and died on 14 December 2013. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and gained recognition as a Shakespearean actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theater and with the English Stage Company, before making his film debut in 1959.

The eminent actor achieved stardom playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) for which he received his first Academy Award nomination. He received seven further Oscar nominations – for Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006) He holds the undistinguished record for the most Academy Award acting nominations without a win.

We can all learn a lesson from their relationship. Live each day as if it's your last. Don't cling onto past pain. Forgive everyone, even your enemies or those who have hurt you, knowing they possess faults like every human. I'm not saying you should present yourself to be fired on again. Rather, forgive them, and then choose to withdraw yourself.


 

Dec 21st

12/21/2013

7 Comments

 
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After more computer problems caused a two-day delay in posts, I'm back, shaken and stirred. Not only did I hand out money I can little afford to a technician to set Ciboxer to rights, I learned that in April next year, Windows XP will no longer be supported. I'm considering the purchase of a reconditioned Windows 7, which is half the price of Windows 8. Although the cost is hard to bear, the computer is one of my main reasons for motivation. It keeps my mind active and enables me to write and publish books.

You might not be at my stage of life, but, believe me, focusing on a goal is just as important as keeping the mind vital. Another is working out a daily crossword.

One hundred years ago the first proto-crossword appeared in the New York World newspaper on December 21st 1813. Since then, millions of people have chewed pencils, jotted down letter clues on a separate sheet of paper and stared into space.

Apparently, the crossword is the secret of keeping readers happy. The newspaper can alter their politics and even get their facts wrong, but they should never mess about with the crossword. Each time a clever puzzle-setter has tried to vary the style, readers have responded with anger—or stopped buying the paper altogether. Many people turn straight to the crossword and toss the rest aside unread.


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 72% of British adults solve the puzzles, with around three in 10 attempting a crossword at least once a week. My husband and I do it together every day. He makes a start as part of his daily routing and then hands it on to me. If incomplete, I attempt to fill in the missing words. We slap hands when it's finished—a team effort which brings us closer.

I'm new to the world of crosswords, never finding the time or inclination before.  In fact, I never played games—and I guess a puzzle falls under that heading.

Physical newspapers are declining, but the humble crossword puzzle might save them by being one of the few features to benefit from taking physical form. By the time the copies arrive at the kiosk, the news may be out of date but the grids are there—original, interactive, brimming with challenge—waiting to be filled. This could be the one reason to keep printed newspapers alive.

Indulging in this game may not set the world to rights, but it keeps every mind alive no matter what your age and is particularly good for the elderly—like me and my man.

Do you set your mind toward solving the crossword puzzle?