I volunteer for a UK heritage trust and for the last two years I was asked to be Father Christmas at the local Museum. The children were mainly 6 months to 3 years old and most parents wanted to photograph their little one with Santa, preferably on his knee. Here are a few things I found humorous - hope you agree?
Question: And what would you like Father Christmas to bring you? Answer: A beard!
Question: ditto – Answer: Blue! – Follow up Question from Santa: Anything blue in particular, like a fire engine, ambulance, teddy bear, train, astroturf? Answer: Yes!
Question from Mummy to very little girl: Have you got a question for Father Christmas? Answer: Does he move? So I stood up to prove I could and – the child burst into tears!
A baby about 6 months old would not sit on Santa’s lap as requested by Mummy and Daddy, so I said, ‘Maybe if Mummy holds the little one and...’ before I was able to finish saying ... ‘and I’ll stand by you while Daddy takes the photo’, Mummy said ‘Good idea!’ and sat on my knee holding the still struggling baby! Daddy took several photos muttering, ‘That’s great! Now smile!’
Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Michio Kaku’s brilliant book is one of those few that make the reader feel sad at the end. This is not because it has a denouement that pulls out the tears for the events that overtake any of the participants but because of the author’s skill of inspirational explanation about such an incredible subject. You just feel as though you want more of this kind of elegant and entertaining exposition. What could be considered to be very dry and difficult areas of physics to make explicable to those with little interest in or knowledge of science are made as compelling and as intriguing as any crime thriller. The main subjects Kaku tackles are cosmology and quantum theory, as well as a fair dose of string theory which is his specialism. But his weaving of philosophy, science history and the many anecdotes surrounding famous names, for example Newton, Einstein, Darwin, Hawking, as well as some less well-known physicists to layperson readers, has produced an extremely comprehensive book about parallel universes that is accessible and fascinating – without as I recall any sign of an equation throughout it!
The “events” of which I spoke earlier are all those, physical, chemical, or biological that have occurred since the so-called Big Bang and Inflation; and those that are still yet to descend upon all planets, galaxies, universes; and include all forms of life and consciousness as the “participants”. When the author moves towards the end of the book on to the subject of the purpose and meanings of life and the universe it is with great sensitivity, even optimism, and his undoubted enthusiasm and awe for the wonders and mysteries of “everything” in this universe also comes through. Many of the subjects are handled with a hint of fun and amusement from Michio Kaku and this often helped to balance my own large lumps of scepticism in some of his discussions. Another great bonus for this particular reader was a better grasp of string theory, which I once despaired of ever achieving. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the destiny of humanity in this or any other world – one that may be just a few millimetres away.
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My poem reached number 2 in the author'sden list of Popular Poems in the Thanksgiving list. CHUFFED!
Remember, remember... Fireworks stunt disaster in third So What! series book! - So What Do I Do? #5 in Amazon top 100 thriller list downloads!
A criminal stunt using fireworks on Guy Fawkes night goes badly wrong, causing painful trauma and heartache for the local community and many of those connected with Birch Green High School!
This is how the third stand-alone book in the So What! series begins. To find out more download So What Do I Do? while it is reduced to $0.99 in US or £0.99 in UK.
This is a thriller of the “How&Why’d they do it?” category and the book stands alone with its intriguing trail of catch-up between the police and the criminals. It's in the "Columbo style" of a mystery where you see the crime committed then watch all of the recriminations unfold around it while detective Shantra pieces clues together and tracks down the felons.
It's a crime that produces a trail of chaos. It’s a winding trail that the reader must try to follow and which two ex-pupils from the school, one a detective and the other his violent quarry, take around Britain only to end at its shocking conclusion.
What can be the connection between the strange faces on the back of the two heads? A Guy Fawkes mask and a sinister threatening tattoo. And how does a black spider monkey figure in the capture of a dangerous criminal? You must read this intriguing novel to find out!
Download today for only 99cUSA or 99pUK!
Short term gain versus long term pain.
In this incredibly important book Naomi Klein encapsulates the real problems that “ordinary people”, OP, have when it comes to correcting the Earth’s run-away climate change through adjusting the way that we choose to live our lives. The politicians and high level governmental administrators are too easily blackmailed and/or persuaded by the threat of decisions made in the boardrooms of giant corporate businesses. When many, if not most, of these companies have economic power much greater than the smaller sovereign countries then arguments about “keeping the lights on” tomorrow in the so-called developed countries are going to carry a lot of weight. So using fossil fuels, from whatever source (oil, coal or gas), is the quicker and simpler solution to making chemical and electrical energy for the numerous gadgets and vehicles that make life easier for the “ordinary folks”; and for chemical and oil industries provides a cheaper, more profitable quick-fix. When arguments about fracking, tar sands, and shale oil are put to governments by those major companies, then the balance between losing at the ballot box with expensive energy (through the development of alternative energy technology) compared to the cheaper quick-fix available (through finding more fossil fuels) is easily tipped towards carbon rich sources. The practical problems about providing energy on the large scale needed seem to be well out of the realm of OP so they have to rely on “them that know about it”. After all OP mainly just want the lights to stay on, the washer to wash, the TV to work and convenient transport. The discussions in Naomi Klein’s book illustrate this well but she is at pains to provide ideas about economic and political pressures that can and have been applied by OP and groups of OP in different parts of the world in order to change things.
Readers discover through the book that many oil companies have “looked into” the development of alternative energy technologies, even invested large amounts of finance and resources into its R and D, but decided to come back to it later – probably much later, when there is no more carbon-rich fossil fuel to be found. It is confirmed over and again in Naomi Klein’s book that the company’s bottom line is still the most important criterion behind a giant corporation’s decisions. If an awkward decision can be shelved for someone else in the distant future to make then of course that is what will happen. It cannot be denied that many of the people running these large organisations are intelligent, well-educated and well informed and will know the risks and the gamble they are taking about the future world that will be left to our (and their!) children and grandchildren. Either they are gambling that a solution to global warming will be found at some time in the future or they don’t believe it exists as threat to life on Earth. It still seems like they are putting their company’s short term gains before the probable “pain”, such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, drought and disease, that future generations of OP and the more privileged are likely to suffer!
I have seen arguments put by climate change deniers that the Earth’s atmosphere had very much more CO2 in it following the Ordovician period, something of the order of 15 times our present levels. And so, the reasoning goes, “life” has obviously survived for the past 450 million years because here we are – living it and complaining about it! However, it wasn’t until the end of this period of geological time that the first simple land plants, moss-like bryophytes, began to creep from the oceans and rivers onto the land. It was well into the later Silurian then Devonian periods before more upright plants and eventually tree-sized flora began to spread. Only then did the oxygen level, about 15%, in the atmosphere begin to approach the more “normal” level of around 20% we have in modern times. Not until the Carboniferous period around 350 million years ago did extensive forests of trees appear and the number of land animals was still restricted to primitive arthropods, some four limbed fish and later salamander-like amphibians. The plentiful CO2 in the atmosphere was therefore being converted by the rapidly spreading plants to the oxygen needed by the evolving land animals. All of that atmospheric carbon was, and has been since, safely locked away in the plant life. When it eventually became fossilised as coal, oil and “natural gas” it was also safely stored and buried for many millions of years. Oxygen levels were at an all-time high at the end of the Carboniferous period (290 million years ago) and CO2 was still dropping to around 3 times more recent levels. Eventually, many millions of years later a flexible balance between oxygen and CO2 has existed, allowing Earth’s flora and fauna to jog along in reasonable harmony together.
Why then, is it so difficult for some people to understand that, when the Industrial Revolution was born, around 1760, the human species also forged the key to unlocking all of those millions of tons of locked away carbon dioxide (and a few other greenhouse gases, such as methane in the tundra). We have continued for over 250 years to release more and more greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. The result of this, as many teachers of the simplest science show their pupils, and all gardeners and horticulturists know, is that the environment covered by the greenhouse “barrier” gets warmer. We are told that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius is a limit that must not be exceeded in the next decade or so, but it looks very much as though the powers-that-be are still prepared to gamble that a future generation will be able to “put things right”. So they have to answer the question is it worth the risk? The risk to the health and well-being of our future generations, leaving aside the effects on wildlife and the environment. There was similar procrastination about CFCs (fridges) and the ozone layer; and then with sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide (petrol exhaust) and acid rain, but over time there was international agreement to legislate and do something about each threat to the atmosphere, as it would affect humans. There is a risk that our children and grandchildren may not have the resources required at some time in the future to make a suitable skeleton key that will unlock the impending catastrophic padlock which will soon imprison our wonderful planet. It seems to me that gambling on correcting things later for the sake of immediate profit is too big a chance to take.
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This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have long been convinced by the science that climate change and global warming is occurring through the effects of human activity. Teaching science for over twenty years, very often organising pupils’ investigations into the “greenhouse effect” left me and my teen age charges in no doubt that the same warming could occur through an accumulation of so-called greenhouse gases over the Earth; carbon dioxide CO2, methane CH4 and water vapour being the principle gases involved. “This Changes Everything” from Naomi Klein is an inspiring and momentous book that should be read by all who care about the environment and future generations. It is written in the most accessible and persuasive fashion, for layman and expert, with comprehensive research and accurate revelations about corporate individuals, possible corruption, and collusion between major organisations – on both sides of the climate change argument. I imagine that I was not the only reader to be surprised to find disclosures in the book about suspicious discredit of scientific proof of climate change by some who stand to benefit from such practices, even financing such apalling behaviour.
Even if the science about climate change causes some people to still doubt that it is indisputable proof that the damage is being caused by human activity, and not just due to natural climate cycling, we must surely still ask is it worth the risk? There is no doubt industry is addicted to using fossil fuels as a source of energy, and that the developed, and developing world, is addicted to its use of electricity, through its ever growing range of devices requiring electrical energy. There could well be an argument to reassess the ways of the capitalist world to free us from our addiction to electricity. But I do not think that is going to happen, notwithstanding some major catastrophe that forces the issue. Changing how we resource the provision of the energy rather than through fossil fuels should be a smaller task than completely changing modern societal living. So changing the behaviour of the big businesses providing the resources and sources that make electricity should be a reasonable thing to expect governments to bring about. Yes? Well maybe it’s not that easy.
Naomi Klein’s most important book illustrates well that this question of changing big business regarding provision of “useful energy” is still deeply involved with politics, and those who claim it has much to lose by changing its practices. Governments which allow themselves to be pushed around by large corporate organisations instead of legislating on the issues that will affect future generations of its citizens are not acting in the best interests of the people. The energy business is intent on continuing to use fossil fuels, which everyone now knows, and this book well demonstrates is detrimental to the Earth and all life, including human, on it now and in the future. The author does not write only about doom and gloom for the future. She relates tale after tale about people around the world who achieved seemingly impossible change using a variety of peaceful methods. Leaders and policy makers everywhere know what the problems are but when will they act rather than procrastinate? To quote from the book:
“It is slowly dawning on a great many of us that no one is going to step in and fix this crisis; that if change is to take place it will only be because leadership bubbled up from below.”
We can only hope that the leader emerges and the change occurs before too long, before 2017 ideally, or else we may have another serious bubble bursting over us all sometime soon. I heartily recommend that all who care about the future of the Earth and our children read this book.
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The Time Sphere by A.E. Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Billy Townsend is an orphaned boy who tries not to be noticed. He spends most of his time avoiding attention because he has become tired of being picked on by others who look down upon the kids from a care home. Having moved on from home to home, throughout his young life, Billy sees little point in making friends with others, until one day he is surprised to find Jeanie wants to be his friend. She insists on it even though he tells her not to bother, since it is likely he will soon be moving again.
When one day a quirky, elderly man called Dickens takes them on a journey through time they embark upon a fascinating adventure. They meet several brilliant historical heroes, such as Archimedes and Descartes, and Billy begins to learn as much about himself as he does about history. This charming and intriguing coming of age story offers a lot to its young readers: thrills, spills, humour and a few poignant moments when you may shed a tear. The twist towards the end was clever and a surprise and made for a satisfactory conclusion to the story.
The Time Sphere is the device that makes the adventure possible and its origins and eventual destination are as interesting to the reader as are the events that envelope Billy and Jeanie. A E Albert is to be congratulated on her first novel and I expect this book will attract many young fans wanting more. I found a couple of confusing instances in the sequencing of the plot, but nothing that prevented my enjoyment from beginning to end.
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Writer of Wrongs - an aspiration!