34 amazing first lines of famous books.

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ever wonder how to get your book reviewed?

Ever wonder “How to get my book reviewed”?

So you’ve published your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While starting your marketing campaign usually happens well More »

‘People are hungry for real bookstores’: Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are growing

At 78, the multimillion-selling author has begun a new career, opening her own bookshop and joining a business sector thats flourishing again in the US   She might be a beloved and More »

That List Of 33,000 Migrants Who Have Died Is Just A Slice Of The Tragedy

Last week a list of more than 33,000 migrants who had died on their way to Europe made headlines worldwide after a Berlin newspaper printed it as a 48-page insert in its Nov. 9 edition.

People on Twitter declared the lengthy document, which named migrants who had died journeying to the continent since 1993, “heartbreaking” and “shameful.” 

But the worst part is, the list of thousands likely reflects less than half of those who have actually died trying to get to Europe in the last couple of decades, said Geert Ates, director of the nonprofit United for Intercultural Action, which created the list. The list is also nothing new ― United has been compiling and releasing it to the public annually since the 1990s.

“We had thousands of cases in the 1990s. We thought media would care, but nobody was interested when we published the first list, nor when we published 10,000,” Ates told HuffPost on Wednesday. “Now we have 30,000 names and all of a sudden everybody jumps on the list. I don’t know why.”

“Once a year, we publish the list. Once a year we make the call: People are dying at our borders, and no one does anything to stop it,” he added.

Why the list is only a fraction of those who have actually died

It’s a difficult task to track all of the migrants who have died while traveling to Europe, whether they perished while crossing its borders on land or while traveling to its shores by sea. Hundreds of thousands journey each year across the Mediterranean alone, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Tracking those who have drowned is particularly difficult. 

What’s more, United’s list doesn’t even account for migrants who have died on the African continent, many of whom may have been journeying across countries toward Europe but perished before making it to the Mediterranean.

“Most probably thousands more are never found,” Ates said. “Many are frozen in mountains, or boats disappeared or smugglers let the boat sink.”

“When a boat sinks, the survivors estimate how many they were on the boat, but that can well be wrong,” he added. “And their families will have no idea.”

Even when a body is found, it’s another challenge to identify it, as many migrants travel without documents, with fake names, or have lost papers along the way, Ates noted. Just a cursory glance at United’s list shows just how hard naming the dead can be: The vast majority are listed as “N.N.” ― or “no name.”

One line from February 2016, for instance, lists the deaths of a 14-year-old girl and a 40-year-old woman as “N.N., Iraq, froze to death after crossing the river from Turkey to Bulgaria.” Another line from April 2017 records the deaths of an 8-year-old boy and a pregnant woman as “N.N., unknown, died on sea from Libya to Italy.”

“We get calls from family in Africa,” Ates told HuffPost. “‘Do you know where my brother is? He went to Europe and disappeared.’”  

Tony Gentile / Reuters
Migrants on a rubber boat are rescued by the SOS Mediterranee organization during a search-and-rescue operation off the Libyan Coast on Sept. 14.

As the number of migrants dying has grown, efforts to account for them have gotten better

So far this year, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) has counted more than 3,000 migrants who have died journeying across the Mediterranean or in Europe, fleeing war or persecution or simply seeking a better life.

Over the past few years, the number of migrants dying on their way to Europe has swelled, from more than 3,200 in 2014, to close to 4,000 in 2015 to a record of more than 5,000 last year. The vast majority die in the Mediterranean as smugglers take them on dangerous trips in boats unfit to carry so many across such distances.

United has been keeping track of migrants who have died while traveling to Europe since 1993, counting those who perished at sea, on land while crossing borders or in detention centers. For decades it was one of the only groups compiling a systematic list of migrant deaths in Europe. A handful of volunteers would release the list each year, compiling it by scouring local news reports, collecting information from the group’s now-550 partner organizations across 48 countries, and enlisting help from journalists and researchers.

In the last few years the IOM has also started an initiative to count migrant deaths. Their findings largely match up with United’s, with a difference of a few hundred each year.

While the numbers on United’s list ― and in IOM’s reports ― are staggering, neither group can possibly capture every single death, Ates said.

For us the figure is not the most important. Each unnecessary death is one too many. Geert Ates, director of United for Intercultural Action

Ates estimates that United’s numbers from its early years in the 1990s accounted for only about 30 percent of actual deaths. Their network of partners was smaller then, and Google alerts didn’t exist, making tracking local newspaper reports of deaths harder.

In recent years, as governments and international organizations like IOM have also started efforts to track, Ates estimates the figures are closer to capturing information on 80 percent of those who have died. 

“It’s hard to give a figure, but surely 50,000 [have been uncounted] since 1993, and probably 80,000,” Ates wrote HuffPost by email. For us the figure is not the most important. Each unnecessary death is one too many.”

Ismail Zetouni / Reuters
Rescuers carry a bag containing the body of a migrant at the coast of Tajoura, east of Tripoli, Libya, on June 27.

This is what happens when countries close their borders

Many European countries have closed their borders in recent years in response to the refugee crisis. Hungary slammed its border shut in 2015, leaving thousands of migrants stranded. Last year, Denmark and Sweden tightened their border controls. Even Germany, once a leader in opening borders to refugees, recently capped the number of refugees it would allow in.

As a result of such restrictive migration policies, many of the people trying to reach Europe’s shores have had to resort to taking higher risks to get there.

“Migration policies making it harder to enter is killing people who are taking more risks,” Ates said. “If you build a wall, people will try to go around it ― with more risk ― and end up dying.”

“These are the consequences when Europe shuts its doors and eyes,” Ates said. “How big must our message get before something will change?”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/united-for-intercultural-action-list-migrants-died_us_5a0ced2be4b0c0b2f2f7afa2

Guy Finds Joke Book from 1940 with a Hitler Reference

Reddit user dragonxp1 recently stumbled across a joke book from 1940 entitled, 10,000 Jokes, Toasts, and Stories, and found this Hitler joke (#5524):

Hitler went to a fortuneteller and asked her, “On what day will I die?” The seeress assured him that he would die on a Jewish holiday. “Why are you so sure of that?” demanded Hitler.
“Any day,” she replied, “on which you die will be a Jewish holiday.”

[via draonxp1 on reddit]

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/10/hitler-joke-from-1940-book/

A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans. It’s a catastrophe

Insects have triumphed for hundreds of millions of years in every habitat but the ocean. Their success is unparalleled, which makes their disappearance all the more alarming

Thirty-five years ago an American biologist Terry Erwin conducted an experiment to count insect species. Using an insecticide fog, he managed to extract all the small living things in the canopies of 19 individuals of one species of tropical tree, Luehea seemannii, in the rainforest of Panama. He recorded about 1,200 separate species, nearly all of them coleoptera (beetles) and many new to science; and he estimated that 163 of these would be found on Luehea seemannii only.

He calculated that as there are about 50,000 species of tropical tree, if that figure of 163 was typical for all the other trees, there would be more than eight million species, just of beetles, in the tropical rainforest canopy; and as beetles make up about 40% of all the arthropods, the grouping that contains the insects and the other creepy-crawlies from spiders to millipedes, the total number of such species in the canopy might be 20 million; and as he estimated the canopy fauna to be separate from, and twice as rich as, the forest floor, for the tropical forest as a whole the number of species might be 30 million.

Yes, 30 million. It was one of those extraordinary calculations, like Edwin Hubbles of the true size of the universe, which sometimes stop us in our tracks.

Erwin reported that he was shocked by his conclusions and entomologists have argued over them ever since. But about insects, his findings make two things indisputably clear. One is that there are many, many more types than the million or so hitherto described by science, and probably many more than the 10m species sometimes postulated as an uppermost figure; and the second is that this is far and away the most successful group of creatures the Earth has ever seen.

Terry Erwins beetle collection from rainforest canopies in the Amazon, on display in Washington, DC. Photograph: Frans Lanting/Alamy

They are multitudinous almost beyond our imagining. They thrive in soil, water, and air; they have triumphed for hundreds of millions of years in every continent bar Antarctica, in every habitat but the ocean. And it is their success staggering, unparalleled and seemingly endless which makes all the more alarming the great truth now dawning upon us: insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.

The astonishing report highlighted in the Guardian, that the biomass of flying insects in Germany has dropped by three quarters since 1989, threatening an ecological Armageddon, is the starkest warning yet; but it is only the latest in a series of studies which in the last five years have finally brought to public attention the real scale of the problem.

Does it matter? Even if bugs make you shudder? Oh yes. Insects are vital plant-pollinators and although most of our grain crops are pollinated by the wind, most of our fruit crops are insect-pollinated, as are the vast majority of our wild plants, from daisies to our most splendid wild flower, the rare and beautiful ladys slipper orchid.


Furthermore, insects form the base of thousands upon thousands of food chains, and their disappearance is a principal reason why Britains farmland birds have more than halved in number since 1970. Some declines have been catastrophic: the grey partridge, whose chicks fed on the insects once abundant in cornfields, and the charming spotted flycatcher, a specialist predator of aerial insects, have both declined by more than 95%, while the red-backed shrike, which feeds on big beetles, became extinct in Britain in the 1990s.

Ecologically, catastrophe is the word for it.

It has taken us a lot of time to understand this for two reasons: one cultural, one scientific. Firstly, we generally do not care for insects (bees and butterflies excepted). Even wildlife lovers are fixed on vertebrates, on creatures of fur and feather and especially the charismatic megafauna, and in the population as a whole there is even less sympathy for the fate of the chitin-skeletoned little things that creep and crawl; our default reaction is a shudder. Fewer bugs in the world? Many would cheer.

Secondly, for the overwhelming majority of insect species, there is no monitoring or measurement of numbers taking place. It is a practical impossibility: in the UK alone there are about 24,500 insect species about 1,800 species of bugs, 4,000 species of beetles, 7,000 species of flies and another 7,000 species of bees, wasps and ants and most are unknown to all but a few specialists. So their vast and catastrophic decline, at last perceptible, has crept up on us; and when first we began to perceive it, it was not through statistics, but through anecdote.

The earliest anecdotal impression of decline was through what is sometimes termed the windscreen phenomenon (or windshield if you live in the US): time was, especially in the summer, when any long automobile journey would result in a car windscreen that was insect-spattered. But then, not so much. Two years ago I wrote a book focusing on this curious happening, but I gave it a different name: I called it the moth snowstorm, referring to the moths which on summer nights in my childhood might cluster in such numbers that they would pack a speeding cars headlight beams like snowflakes in a blizzard.

But the point about the moth snowstorm was this: it had gone. I personally realised it had disappeared, and began writing about it as a journalist, in the year 2000; but it became obvious from talking to people who had also observed it that its disappearance dated further back, probably to about the 1970s and 1980s. And the fact that an entire large-scale phenomenon such as this had simply ceased to exist pointed inescapably to one grim conclusion: though unnoticed by the world at large, a whole giant ecosystem was collapsing. The insect world was falling apart.

Moths are in steep decline. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Today we know beyond doubt, and with scientific statistics rather than just anecdote, that this is true, and the question immediately arises: what caused it?

It seems indisputable: it is us. It is human activity more specifically, three generations of industrialised farming with a vast tide of poisons pouring over the land year after year after year, since the end of the second world war. This is the true price of pesticide-based agriculture, which society has for so long blithely accepted.

So what is the future for 21st-century insects? It will be worse still, as we struggle to feed the nine billion people expected to be inhabiting the world by 2050, and the possible 12 billion by 2100, and agriculture intensifies even further to let us do so. You think there will be fewer insecticides sprayed on farmlands around the globe in the years to come? Think again. It is the most uncomfortable of truths, but one which stares us in the face: that even the most successful organisms that have ever existed on earth are now being overwhelmed by the titanic scale of the human enterprise, as indeed, is the whole natural world.

Michael McCarthy is a writer, naturalist, and author of The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/21/insects-giant-ecosystem-collapsing-human-activity-catastrophe

Should we all impose a one-gift rule at Christmas?

Image copyright Getty Images

Hollywood stars Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher are implementing a “one-gift” rule this Christmas for their two young children so they don’t grow up spoiled.

The rule comes after their daughter, now three, was showered with presents last year.

“We didn’t give her anything – it was the grandparents. The kid no longer appreciates the one gift,” Mila told Entertainment Tonight.

So now the children’s grandparents have been asked to pick one gift only or make a charity donation.

The celebrity couple are not alone in grappling with the very first world problem of too many gifts at Christmas.

The Mumsnet website is awash with discussions on how to persuade grandparents to rein in their spending.

One mum describes her own mother giving her two bin bags full of Christmas presents for her daughters, one of whom was a babbling six-month-old baby.

So, why do grandparents do it?

It’s an emotional thing, says Naz Brown, who has four granddaughters, aged four, three, one and seven months.

“I love to spoil them. This year at least two of the grandchildren are with us so I’m taking over my mother-in-law’s house and making it very festive.

“I will make a point of getting Christmas stockings for everyone, even the grown-ups.”

Naz plans to hit the shops soon, with her eyes on clothes, toys and books and a flexible budget of up to £70 for each grandchild.

Image copyright Naz Brown

Things weren’t the same when she was a young mother. Her boys got a couple of Fisher Price toys and some Lego.

“There are many more expensive toys on the market now,” she says. “It’s very difficult for parents not to spend a lot of money.”

Her two eldest granddaughters already have iPads.

“If you are getting them at two or three, where do you go from there?” she asks.

Can we spoil children with too many presents?

When we are given a lot, we expect to receive a lot, says clinical psychologist Linda Blair.

Even if it’s only at Christmas and on birthdays, it will impact on children’s attitudes.

She says that by focusing on the children’s presents, the emphasis moves away from sharing and giving – which research shows bring longer-lasting good feelings.

And quite practically, she says, the little ones can’t enjoy everything they get.

Clive Whichelow, author of Grandparenting for Beginners, disagrees.

“Grandparents are like grown-up kids themselves. They are more on a level with the grandchildren than the parents.

“The grandparents are in collusion with the kids. Parents are there as moral arbiters.

“Parents need to take a step back and let grandparents spoil them – that’s part of their job,” he says.

What to buy?

Have in mind The Prophet, says Linda Blair.

In his 1923 classic, the philosopher Kahlil Gibran tells us: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Linda, mother of three and stepmum to three more, advises doing Secret Santa with a price cap.

That way you are thinking about what you are giving and you are more equal with everyone else, she says.

Or, if you want to give a gift, give your time. Take them out, go for a pizza, a film, listen to them, she advises.

Those are gifts that have so much more value than anything you can buy in the store, she adds.

Image copyright Getty Iamges

Naz says she will be giving her sons her time – babysitting for her granddaughters to give them a night off.

But for her granddaughters, she will splurge.

“I can feel less guilty now about buying nice dresses for the eldest as I know they’ll be handed down,” she says.

She’s also building up a Beatrix Potter book collection for one of her granddaughters and can’t wait to give them her childhood favourite, the Magic Faraway Tree, when they’re a little older.

Is it time to rewrite the rulebook?

We’ve had the four-gift rule – something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read, and now the one-gift rule, says writer Clive Whichelow.

But has anyone told Santa Claus about all this? he asks.

Naz says no rules have been imposed on her yet.

She does ask her sons what the girls would like, and buys from a list of little things.

“Then we’ll buy them a bigger present too,” she explains.

But for parents with small flats and indulgent grandparents, Mumsnetters, in typical no-nonsense fashion, have some short-term solutions.

Donate them to the Salvation Army’s toy appeal, Women’s Aid or a local children’s hospital unit – or hide them in a cupboard and bring them out through the year.

The harsher among them advocate selling them online or regifting them.

For a longer-term fix, psychologist Linda recommends having a chat.

Do it face-to-face in a public place, she warns, as you’re less likely to lose your temper or become emotional.

“Tell them: I want to raise my children with the values I have.

“You gave me those values because you didn’t have so much. I want you to help me pass those values onto my children.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41579683

The university that broke the mould turns 50

Image caption Stirling University is now 50 years old

Fifty years ago this week Stirling University became Scotland’s first brand new university for more than four centuries.

During the 1960s a new wave of universities were established in Scotland as part of a great expansion of higher education across the UK.

Strathclyde University, Heriot-Watt and Dundee grew out of existing institutions but Stirling was different.

The others had a back story – for instance Strathclyde’s reputation in science and engineering built on the work of the Royal College of Science and Technology.

But Stirling, as a brand new institution, had to work hard to make its reputation from scratch and its whole set-up was an alternative to the existing structure.

For example, it was the first Scottish university to pioneer a “semester” system for students – one which is now adopted by others.

Initially it was probably seen as the most radical of Scotland’s universities.

An incident in 1972 in which some students jeered the Queen when she visited caused a national uproar and cemented this reputation.

One student from the early days recalled the difficulties which led to extra stress for undergraduates and the anger when the Queen visited.

He spoke of unfinished campus residencies which meant some students had to live as far away as Callander, the scarcity of course books in the library and the pressure which the then novel semester system led to – especially how coursework and essays counted towards final marks.

It took years for the university to overcome its difficulties but its radical edge faded as it became a more established institution.

Expansion of universities

The drive for new universities came from a report published in 1963 which was commissioned by the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan and chaired by the economist Lord Robbins.

It recommended an immediate expansion of universities and that all Colleges of Advanced Technology should be given the status of universities.

As a result of this, the number of full-time university students across Britain was to rise from 197,000 in the 1967-68 academic year to 217,000 in the academic year of 1973-74.

The Robbins Report also concluded that university places “should be available to all who were qualified for them by ability and attainment”.

It said the institutions should have four main objectives essential to any properly balanced system:

  • instruction in skills
  • the promotion of the general powers of the mind so as to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women
  • to maintain research in balance with teaching, since teaching should not be separated from the advancement of learning and the search for truth
  • and to transmit a common culture and common standards of citizenship.

These were broad principles which Stirling was to follow. Indeed Lord Robbins was to be Stirling University’s first chancellor.

Several sites were considered for the new university including Perth, Falkirk and Inverness before Stirling and its campus on the edge of the town was picked.

Until the 1960s there were just four universities in Scotland – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St Andrews – although several other institutions had the power to award degrees.

Actually going to a university was, in many respects, seen as a privilege.

For many years, a certain rivalry existed between Scotland’s ancient and modern universities – in truth each institution had its strengths and weaknesses.

Another great expansion of higher education came in the early 1990s when many former polytechnics were granted university status.

Stirling has often performed well in studies of the so-called “pre-1992” universities.

As a general rule, the ancient universities still rank higher in international studies but it is hard to claim that so-called ancient and modern universities do not generally enjoy parity of esteem within the UK.

Stirling University today has some 14,000 full time and part-time students. It is no exaggeration to say that the institution has changed the character of the city of Stirling itself.

Indeed so many of the aims of post-war policy and the factors which led to Stirling University’s foundation sound familiar.

The number of Scots going to a university – whether one of the ancients, one created in the 1960s or a former polytechnic – is around a record high.

All universities are expected to work hard to widen access and help youngsters from disadvantaged areas get into higher education.

But on Stirling’s golden jubilee, it is worth reflecting on the role played by an institution which quickly became a respected part of Scottish public life and whose graduates – from the author Iain Banks to former first minister Jack McConnell – have contributed to society.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41322668

‘Outlander’ says goodbye to one major character, but there’s hope for another

Image: starz

This recap contains spoilers for Outlander Season 3, episode 3, “All Debts Paid.”

Episode 3 of Outlander Season 3 is a pretty big deal for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s novels: Not only does it reintroduce a pivotal character in Lord John William Grey (all grown up and decidedly more dashing than the last time we saw him in Season 2, now portrayed by David Berry), but also closes the chapter on Claire and Frank’s tumultuous relationship in surprisingly poignant fashion.

While the show has to omit or streamline countless plot points from the novels in the adaptation process — including cutting Jamie’s trip out to the seals’ isle (although perhaps we’ll see it later in flashback) and the many prickly layers of his complicated relationship with Lord John — for the most part, Outlander’s writers do an admirable job of staying faithful to the emotional arcs that drive Gabaldon’s novels. That’s especially true of episode 3, written by Matthew B. Roberts, which takes our heroes on a believable and equally effective journey, even if the signposts are a little different along the way.

But “All Debts Paid” also featured a massive change to the narrative of Gabaldon’s Voyager — one that will have ripple effects across the series — and we couldn’t be happier about it.

In the books, Murtagh FitzGibbons Fraser, Jamie’s godfather and right-hand-man, is killed at the Battle of Culloden, but episode 3 reveals him to be alive (if not well) at Ardsmuir. When the prison is closed, the fan-favorite character, played by the indispensible Duncan Lacroix, is shipped off to the American Colonies with the rest of the prisoners, while Jamie is taken to an estate called Helwater to serve Lord Dunsany. 

Showrunner Ron Moore tells Mashable that there was one very good reason why he chose to keep the beloved character alive: “Murtagh’s development in the series is different than the books basically from the beginning. We made him much more of a key player in the story, much closer to Jamie, and then he got in on [Claire’s] secret in Paris. He became part of the family in a different way than in the books. And I just wasn’t ready to let him go in Culloden. He is going to survive and we will catch up with him later, we will just keep him going.”

Fans who’ve read book four might have some idea how Murtagh could come back into Jamie’s life, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Image: starz

Back in the future, we see Claire’s relationship with Frank fracture beyond repair. The episode’s early moments reveal that Frank has been seeing other people, since Claire can no longer love him the way she did before, and while their agreement seems amicable at first, over the years, the connection between them deteriorates to the point where Frank decides he wants a divorce so that he can take Brianna back to England without Claire, to start a new life with his mistress — a suggestion that naturally incenses Claire. 

(Sidenote: I hope the TV Academy and HFPA will finally pay attention to Outlander next awards season — over the course of these first three episodes, Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, and Tobias Menzies have all done a spectacular job of establishing the passage of time through their nuanced, perfectly calibrated performances, conveying the agony of grief, insecurity and old wounds more effectively than any old age makeup or hair change could. Heughan’s powerful, restrained delivery when John touches Jamie’s hand effortlessly evokes all the trauma he suffered while at Black Jack’s mercy in a single expression, while Balfe and Menzies’ confrontations are searingly honest, loaded with the weight of two decades’ worth of unspoken resentments.) 

Unfortunately, Frank never gets the chance to start over, because he’s killed in a car accident following the fight.

According to Balfe, Claire manages to be content in a marriage of convenience for so many years because she experienced true love with Jamie — but things aren’t quite so simple for Frank. 

“She’s sort of decided within herself that once was enough for her, and that the memory of that love is enough to carry her through the rest of her life. Her marriage with Frank, yes, it’s a marriage of convenience, but I think it’s a marriage of friendship in some ways,” she tells Mashable. “They come to an agreement where she won’t ask any questions, he can do what he wants. She’s going to focus on her career and being a good mother, and he’s going to be a good father. It works for them, and it works for 20 years. And really the tragic victim in that marriage is Frank, because he’s somebody who really wants Claire and still is in love with Claire and still desires her, but she just can’t reciprocate it.” 

She adds, “Everyone gives Frank such a bad rap, but if you’re in that marriage, I think he can’t help but try and find the things that he needs outside of it. Claire still has Jamie’s love inside her heart, so she’s good.”

As emotional as Claire’s farewell to Frank is, Balfe reveals that filming the hospital scene presented an unexpected challenge.

“Our first take, I look down and realize that sound had stuck a microphone to Tobias’ bare chest. That was not very emotional. I was like, ‘Um, does the dead guy need a microphone?'”

Despite the technical difficulties, Balfe adds that the scene was incredibly important for Claire as a character.

“At that point they were so emotionally far apart from each other, and the intimacy had been gone for so many years, but it’s like you don’t realize how much you love somebody until they’ve been taken away from you,” she notes. “They’ve been so used to living in this side by side world, but taking each other for granted, in a way, that at that moment she just realized that, there’s always been this huge love for [him]… It’s an apology.” 

Tobias Menzies has now said goodbye to both his characters, Black Jack Randall and his descendant, Frank, but admits that he doesn’t exactly feel emotional about losing either:   

“It’s sort of odder than that, because they’re all just like bits of you, so they don’t go anywhere. Will I miss playing them? Yes, it’s been great. It’s been an amazing ride. And I’ll also miss all the great friends that I’ve made on it. But it’s been fun to go on and do other things. We’ve been doing this for three and a half years now. But yes, I’ll definitely miss it, and it’s been a really great adventure.” 

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.

Watch: ‘Outlander’ Season 3 is a heartbreaker

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/24/outlander-recap-season-3-episode-3-frank-dies-death-murtagh-alive-lord-john-grey/

Forget Meditating, Just Go For A Swim

Ryan Holiday Instagram

There is one quiet place left on this earth. One quiet place where there are no phones, no news tickers, no instant messages or even music. It’s the one place where you can have not just quiet but utter silence and meditative calm, even if those things don’t come to you naturally.

That place is underwater.

This morning, I ran a mile and a half down to the lake near my hotel. I left my shoes and phone and sunglasses on the dock and eased myself into the water. It was barely 8 am. The water was just warm enough to be pleasant, just cold enough to be invigorating and a few seconds later, I was enveloped in it, swimming along the surface.

What was on my mind as this happened? Nothing. It was still. Every few minutes I would switch from freestyle to breaststroke in order to scan for boats, but otherwise there was not a care to consider, a thing to worry about. Then, as I got out towards the middle, I switched to backstroke and watched the sunrise over my shoulder.

By the time I had turned back and pulled myself out of the water, I was both exhausted and energized. My head was clear and I knew exactly what I wanted to do that day. In other words, I was experiencing all the benefits of meditation and mindfulness—it just also happened that I’d knocked out my calorie goal for the day and saw a new part of a city I had visited many times before.

It has become cliche—and annoying, frankly—to try to sell people on Zen Buddhism and meditation these days. Sit and watch your breath, they say. Try a five day silent retreat. Read this book. Download this guided app.

I think there is a simpler solution: Just go for a swim. A long one.

In a pool. In a lake. In the ocean. At a natural spring. Wherever you can, provided, you know, that you actually can swim (The last part is very important. Please don’t ignore).

You’ll see the benefits immediately. Not only is swimming one of the lowest impact forms of exercise—while still activating the whole body—it is, as I said, an immersive transcendent experience akin to meditation. It is impossible not to get something out of the silence, the repetition, the staring at the line on the bottom of the pool. Me, I like the sound and pressure I feel in my ears as my head goes in and out of the water. I like the way my goggles fog up and reduce my visibility to just the necessary amount. I like the feeling of the flow state when I hit just the right speed for just the right distance. I even like the mental math I sometimes do in my head to come to terms with the monotony…a mile isn’t counted to 72, it’s 7 sets of 10. And 4 laps into 10, means I’m almost done with this one and then I’ll get to start the next one…wait, what number am I on again?

Lots of people smarter than me have propounded the benefits of swimming. Follow the athlete and podcaster Rich Roll on Instagram and you’ll see him bang out a lunch swim of 5,000 yards. He has said that “submerged, the idle chatter of the monkey mind recedes. Each stroke, each lap is like a metronome, lulling me into a calm state of presence. When my swim is complete, I have an inescapable feeling of gratitude, with a light dusting of accomplishment.” The writer Robert Greene swims 1.25 miles multiple days of the week as a way of both breaking up the tough work of writing and toughening himself up to be able to do it. When he was president John Quincy Adams would swim in the early mornings in the Potomac River (can’t do that anymore—though Theodore Roosevelt used to swim nude in the river as well). Oliver Sacks picked up swimming from his father, and they both referred to it as the “the elixir of life.” The author Ruth Fitzmaurice has described swimming as a kind of “reset button.” “You’ll never regret a swim,” she once said. “You’ll always feel good coming out of that water.”

But meditation is more deliberate than this, you might say. It’s not just about getting some quiet time, it’s also about intentionality, about stilling the mind and having a mantra. I get that. For me, the solution to this problem was quite unintentional. I have tattooed on my forearms the phrases “The Obstacle is the Way” and “Ego is the Enemy.” When I swim in clear water, they are my mantras. With each stroke I am essentially thrusting them in front of my eyes and forcing myself to think about how I might overcome difficulties I face and how I might reduce and disassemble my ego.

I love running and there’s no question that it provides many of the same benefits, yet I always leave a swim better off than I do a run. Perhaps that’s because running has fewer defenses against the intrusions of the world. There are the stoplights and the honking cars. Our phones and our iPods used to be separate devices but the distinction has merged and the willpower to switch the phone into airplane mode has waned. Besides, what if we want to look at Google Maps? What if there is an emergency? What if someone is trying to reach me?

Not that these technologies aren’t coming to the pool either. When I look over and see a swimmer in the next lane with waterproof headphones I think, “Icarus! You are going to ruin this for yourself if you’re not careful.” The new Apple Watch is waterproof, and originally I was quite alarmed that it would be an intrusion. I’d fling it out of the water if it was but instead I’ve found that tracking my laps digitally means I don’t need to count as much, which means one less thought in my head. I shake my head at other “inventions” too. What are you swimming with fins for, friend? What’s with that ridiculous snorkel? To each their own, I guess.

One last story, one last sales pitch, I promise. Earlier this week I was walking out to the pool at my gym and a fan stopped me as I was getting in the water. “Are you Ryan Holiday? I just read Perennial Seller.” I thanked him and started my swim. It occurred to me though, about halfway through, just how much of that book I had written in the pool, in the middle lane, which I always prefer because there is less to bump into. Not writing consciously of course. I would head out to swim precisely when I was tired of writing or helplessly stuck. Yet it would always seem to be that the swim would unlock whatever door I was struggling to get open or some insight would creep into my brain that would be perfect for that spot in Chapter 3 that I hadn’t considered before. My writing wasn’t just enabled and encouraged by the clarity I had after my swims, but in fact, the process of swimming itself was a writing tool.

So anyway, from one person to another—from one person who can’t seem to sit still long enough to meditate to another—that’s my trick: Go for a swim. Maybe not every single day but incorporate it into your weekly routine at the very least.

Because swimming is good for the body and good for the soul and good for the mind.

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2017/09/forget-meditating-just-go-for-a-swim/

How To Correctly Explain Reading

Read more: http://www.ifunny.com//pictures/how-correctly-explain-reading/

The British Library Has Fully Digitized 570 Pages of Leonardo da Vincis Visionary Notebooks

The British Library has fully digitized one of Leonardo da Vinci’s visionary notebooks, ‘The Codex Arundel’, and anyone is free to view and browse the prized historical artifact in amazing high-resolution detail.

The British Library has uploaded 570 high-res images of the notebook, which features a collection of papers written in Italian by Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452, d. 1519), in his characteristic left-handed mirror-writing (reading from right to left), including diagrams, drawings and brief texts, covering a broad range of topics in science and art, as well as personal notes.

The core of the notebook is a collection of materials that Leonardo describes as “a collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place according to the subjects of which they treat”, a collection he began in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli in Florence, in 1508. To this notebook has subsequently been added a number of other loose papers containing writing and diagrams produced by Leonardo throughout his career.

‘The Codex Arundel’ offers a glimpse into one of the most brilliant minds humankind has ever known. Da Vinci has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. [source]

Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. [source]

Below you will find select pages from the fascinating notebook. You can see it in its entirety by clicking here.

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/08/leonardo-da-vinci-notebook-digitized-by-british-library/

Becoming by Fouad Azim

Becoming by Fouad Azim

Story Summary

This is a story of blooming love and betrayal, about children coming of age, of conscience and the sociopaths who lack it; it is a story about trust and how true love empowers and heals us. In the end, it is a story about humanity and the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Nyla and Junaid are classmates learning about the world around them and in the process discovering themselves. They must endure and survive a path fraught with confusion and peril if they hope to emerge victorious, though not necessarily unscathed. They will learn of innocence and its loss, about how budding love can be snuffed out if not cared for and its formidable power when nurtured and protected. They will become closely acquainted with evil, with its insidious presence in plain sight and how it mangles and corrupts those it touches. They will have to confront and defeat it if they can. If you think you recognize some of the characters described herein, it is only because the human experience around the world and in the different cultures is not unique, and we all share some of the same burdens and the joys of similar emotions and trials as we go about learning to find ourselves.

The setting is the foothills of the Margalla Mountain range, a part of the lesser Himalayas, north of Islamabad in Pakistan, during the 1990s.


Pacific Book Review

Author Fouad Azim has written Becoming, an emotionally gripping novel about young love in the1990’s Pakistan which will enthrall readers.

Becoming tells the story of classmates Nyla and Junaid. Junaid is a shy young man who comes out of his shell once he falls in love with the intelligent and independent Nyla. Their fledgling romance is threatened by the jealousy of Jahal, an emotionally unstable boy who is determined to break them up. Nyla and Junaid must overcome Jahal’s wicked actions and other obstacles to discover true love.

This book is a unique coming-of-age novel about young love in a land far away from the United States, which is still a universal story. Junaid’s sensitivity and devotion to Nyla is admirable and makes him a relatable protagonist. Nyla is a strong character that isn’t just a passive love interest for Junaid. She’s a self-sufficient young woman that is brave throughout Becoming as she fights the cultural traditions that try to keep her from Junaid. Jahal is the perfect antagonist as the psychologically disturbed villain of the novel. Though he commits horrific acts, Azim’s writing doesn’t limit him to a one-dimensional monster. Jahal is more of a wounded soul than a soulless anti-hero.

Azim’s writing is evocative and poignant. The hills and caves of Pakistan are described so vividly that readers can imagine they are in the rugged terrain of the South Asian countryside. He also easily captures the complicated social lives of teenagers and how fraught young relationships can be in Becoming’s dialogue. Though there are some cultural differences between Western and Eastern culture in the book, the universal themes of the novel comes through to the readers. Azim also expertly handles sweet romance and dangerous drama throughout the novel. This story has exciting and suspenseful moments which will leave readers wanting more.

Becoming would be best for fans of the Kite Runner and Khaled Housseni. The novels both have similar stories about friendships in South Asian countries and both authors write masterfully about love. This book would also be good for fans of historical fiction, especially of fiction set in countries outside America. The novel would be perfect for readers of all ages. Becoming could would be great for young Pakistani or South Asian culture in general will learn a lot from this book as well. Fouad Azim’s novel shows how love can conquer hate, making Becoming an unforgettable novel which all readers will love.


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