View Blog:

Bright Side

Here are 13 of the most amazing dads who know for sure how to make their kids’ childhood unforgettable. They know how to make their daughters feel pretty They’re always ready to play hide and seek The grocery shopping is no problem at all for them They believe in love at first sight

View Blog:

About me by Martin Binning

  The End Of The World As We Know It. (Apologies to R.E.M for borrowing their song title) *** Please note: the following post is my own personal opinion. I am in no way affiliated with FanBox ***   Since I’ve been a FanBox member for 3 or 4 months now, and I have been promising people since day 1 that I would write a post about my experience and thoughts of the site, I think this is about the right time to do it… Let me start from the beginning. I was introduced to FanBox by my friend Alex. Some of you may have read my brief post about him, and some may have become his fan or friend… I am starting to think that the email I got from him was simply a form of spam to get me to join; he seems less interested in the site than he first let on. So my apologies to anyone who was waiting (as I was) for his first forays into this online community. It appears that this is becoming increasingly unlikely. Anyway. I got his email in January this year. I may have received more, but like many people I considered any email with a link to a site which promised so much was a form of spam. I finally gave in and decided to have a look. The biggest reason for this was that I had been absent from work through illness for four months at that point, and was really bored. I liked what I saw. Not the money-making part; I have very little interest in money. What interested me was that here was a worldwide community who seemed to be drawn by the same ideals: the free(ish) exchange of knowledge and experience, and having somewhere to allow your true self to escape.

View Blog:

Interesting things I've found

Part of me wanted to do a whole "order in chaos" themed blog post today... It's been a while since I wrote anything that could be considered controversial. Sadly, my next discursive post will have to wait, since I found something a bit more interesting! Some of you may have heard of the Fibonacci sequence - 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21... Well, a lot has been made of this sequence, and how it seems to occur everywhere; in nature, the arts, music... For a universe which, some may argue, is created as the result of chaotic circumstances, and continues to be chaotic, it is incredible how one simple sequence repeats itself everywhere!   Anyway... I found a little bit about this "Golden Sequence" today, as well as a music video which corresponds to the same rationale.

View Blog:

Blogs by Martin

1. This series of incredible photos were all taken from the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. HotSpot Media/Colin Cameron / Via colincameronphotography.co.uk 2. They were shot by Scottish fish and chip shop owner Colin Cameron, 37. HotSpot Media/Colin Cameron / Via colincameronphotography.co.uk 3. Cameron took the photos over a series of years. HotSpot Media/Colin Cameron / Via colincameronphotography.co.uk 4. Cameron fell in love with the lights at a young age.

View Blog:

Family and society

  Lessons in Forgiveness     Should we compromise the lessons taught in many of our faiths, for the benefits of profit and the ability to judge others? This question came to me while I was praying at Sunday Mass this week. The priest’s liturgy was about sin and doing wrong, and being forgiven by God through Christ. And, like such things usually do, it got me thinking about my life and the lives of those I care about. Now, the ideas I’m going to share with you may seem simple, even naïve, but they are generally how I live my own life. I have only a few principles that I live by: 1)       1) I generally don’t do something if I know that by doing it I will hurt somebody. It doesn’t matter if that “somebody” is my brother, my neighbour, a friend who lives hundreds of miles away, or someone who hates me. If the little voice in my head called ‘conscience’ says, “You know what, doing this is probably going to make someone’s life miserable,” I don’t do it. 2)       2) If I know I can do something to make someone smile, or I have it within my power to make someone’s life better (immediately or in time) then I will do it. I may or may not tell them, but I will do it. It may end up killing me, but the point is if it is within my power, I will help in any way I can. 3)      3) I enjoy life. That’s a simple enough statement, but incredibly difficult to live up to. Even when I’m not feeling 100% on the inside, nobody would guess it unless I physically look ill. To project happiness makes other people happier, and in my day-to-day life, having happy people around me makes me happier. Win-win!  You have to understand, I didn’t make a choice to be like this. There wasn’t a crossroads in my life where I was given a chance at an easy life or one where I search for the way to make the most people happy. I don’t do it to guilt other people into being nicer. I just do it. The reason I bring all this up will become clear. Of course, my own experience of life and faith colour my thoughts, and some of you may have different ideas. I always welcome constructive criticism; in fact I encourage it! Anyway. In my faith, and many others, there is a fundamental message of being at peace, of a sort of karmic justice system, and of divine judgement. In my own particular Christian roots, the fundamental message given by Jesus to his disciples is one of love, care and forgiveness. He tells them to “love one another, as I have loved you,” and to help those who cannot help themselves. In particular, his message of forgiveness seems to be more prominent than the others. Many times in scripture, the phrase “forgive them Father” is quoted. Indeed, even as he is being summarily judged by the Jews, and put to death on the cross, he cries out, “forgive them Father, they do not know what they do!” Essentially, he is declaring that they are ignorant of the consequences of their actions. And if Christ has to ask his Father to forgive others, who on Earth has a higher power than that to reserve judgement? My answer to you is this: nobody has more authority than God. Jews defer judgement to the God of Abraham; Muslims defer to Allah, Christians to God through Christ. Most other religions also have a higher power to defer to. Well, in theory anyway. In reality, most of us seem to think we know better. We denounce those of other faiths, and those who do not believe in “our God”, and those who do wrong by our own standards. And we certainly wouldn’t forgive someone for something that they’ve done to us; that would be naïve! But, if the followers of faith don’t follow the true teachings of their faith, what hope is there? I don’t hope to answer that, I don’t think I could, but I do have an argument. A train of thought, if you will indulge me… If we think we know better than God (or whichever creator you believe in); that we can judge others in His stead, and punish them accordingly, then the basis of this can only be that we don’t think God is the Ultimate Intelligence. That’s just simple deduction: if one human knows better than the Creator, then he devalues the nature of the Creator. Does this mean anything though? Well, maybe, but you might not like the answer. It means that we humans (or some of us, at least) have become so full of vanity, pride and inflated opinions of ourselves that we forget a fundamental fact: we were created. There is something much, much bigger than us, stronger and infinitely more complex than us mere mortals. I realise that in daily life it seems unreasonable to look beyond your own judgement of people and just get along with them; they’re from a different country, or their skin is a different country, or our parents didn’t like theirs, or they are attracted to people of the same sex, or they’re just plain stupid. Can these really be valid reasons to judge someone, to deny them forgiveness, or even declare war on them? I doubt it. If “difference” was a good enough reason to hate someone, then any difference would be reasonable. To show what I mean by this, I will choose a random, seemingly innocuous difference… eye colour. If we fight and exploit people with different skin (which they generally have no control over) then how is it any different than blue eyed people exploiting green eyed people? Or what about blood type? Another random difference which we have little or no control over, no way to change. So tell me, why would you hate someone for a fact that they can’t change? Can anyone tell me what the benefit is to them? I’ll begin to wind this up now. There’s only so much you can take, after all. Like I said earlier, it is not our place to question the motives of God’s work. He created us as children exactly the way He wanted us to be, whether that is black, white, gay, straight, French or Japanese. He put us where He needed us to be. It is something that is incomprehensible to our limited, small world view. So let me say this: don’t judge someone on their differences, but judge yourself for how you react to those differences. Forgive those who do you harm, since most of them will be completely ignorant of the fact that they are causing you harm in the first place. And always remember… There is someone smarter, kinder, more benevolent, And understanding than you could ever hope to be. And He loves you all, no matter what you do. He created you, and the entire universe you live in, And He will always be by your side.   So let go of your insecurities, your limits and your bad thoughts, Embrace life, for you only have one, Be dignified in whatever you do, You never know who may secretly be judging you!

View Blog:

Inspiration, Fun, Knowledge

I've been away for a week on a pilgrimage... this will be the subject of one of three new blogs I will be writing in the next ten days, along with new chapters of my two main stories, "The Quiet Man" and "The Resistance". In the meantime, I will be uploading a couple of interesting and fun videos I find while I let the stories create themselves... To start with, here is an incredible series of pool trick shots performed by Steve Markle 

View Blog:

Little Lessons in Life

20 Things To Do When You're 30 That Will Make Life Better At 50    Someone asked a bunch of 50+ people about things they wished they had done in their younger years. The answers are incredibly smart, and in most cases, simple. If you've recently hit the big 3-0, this is your homework. by Distractify Staff 1 . Don't smoke. If you've started, stop immediately. "If you could see me now, I'm down on my poor, crackling knees begging you to at least consider stopping smoking," writes Quora user Cyndi Perlman Fink. It’s expensive, smells gross, and is 100% guaranteed to cause health problems. Want to be cancer-free at 50? Stop smoking. 2 . Stop eating junk. "You can make a lot of money in 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s,...90s to buy the whole world when you are at age 50 or beyond," writes Quora user Sireesha Chilakamarri.  "But, you cannot buy your health. Give up on fast food right now at age 30." 3 . Maintain (or repair) relationships with parents and siblings. Source: carbonnyc "...Chances are you've come across ideas and changed in ways that mean you don't see eye to eye with them on many issues. But then - that's part of what a family can help with - to learn to get along with people you don't agree with on many issues," writes Quora user Robert Walker. "I come from a family which is very argumentative. If you didn't understand the situation you might at times think we hate each other. But it isn't like that at all. Rather, we free to speak our minds because the family ties are so strong." 4 . Stop going out in the sun without sunblock. Source: hawk684 "I was stupid. I didn't listen. Do you want wrinkles and thin skin from sun damage like I have and do you want bruises from just lightly touching the side of a box and having your skin peel off? Go ahead, enjoy lying in the sun without sunblock," writes Quora user Cyndi Perlman Fink. 5 . Exercise regularly. Source: pbsdigitalstudios.tumblr.com Build an active lifestyle now, and when you're 50 you won’t be stuck in a Rascal. "Don't gain weight. Exercise. Keep your weight at a normal level that's good for your body," continues Cyndi Perlman Fink. "Weight does all kinds of bad things for you body. I've been fat, I've been thin, thin is healthier." 6 . Start saving

View Blog:

Star Trek film and series reviews

With the release of the new Star Trek film "Into Darkness" just around the corner, I wanted to write something about the franchise, since I've been a fan since I was very young and have watched every episode (and I do mean every one!) I'm going to do these posts in reverse chronological order, starting from the present day and working back to the creation of Star Trek in the 1960s.   So I'll start with the most recent film... "Star Trek" (2009)

View Blog:

Short Stories and Poems by Martin Binnington

View Blog:

Martin's Health Foods

I regularly get emails from the site where I register my running activity, with ideas for healthy food. My previous post, Revitalising Running Drinks, was one such email. Today's email concerns healthy burgers... I guess they had the hot British summer barbecue in mind!   These burgers are a wonderfully tasty, nutritious upgrade to your usual burger. They use turkey mince, which is leaner and lower in calories than beef, and calcium-rich feta cheese and spinach. Adding chilli provides a kick to the burgers as well as to your metabolism. To really make a meal of it, enjoy on a wholemeal bun, topped with onion chutney. Take a step outside your comfort zone and try a burger with a difference! Let us know your favourite running recipes, and find out what the rest of The Running Bug community have been cooking in our forum.

View Blog:

Martin's Travel Blog

Monday was somewhat tightly scheduled… at least, as tightly scheduled as temperatures of 40+ would allow. First off, we had a guided tour of parts of the old village. From the back of St. James’, we were taken by Slavica, our rep, past the statue of the Risen Christ. Even so early in the morning, there was a queue of hundreds waiting patiently to wipe the liquid which seems to miraculously drip from the wound on the bronze statue’s lower leg. Nobody is certain of how this liquid appears. Some say it is condensation, although the liquid is constantly forming little droplets (even during the height of winter when everything around has frozen, the droplets form). Some say the liquid is made from human tears, although this has never been proven. There have been stories of miracles occurring in the gardens surrounding the statue, which are available online. I wouldn’t want to comment, since nothing extraordinary happened while I was there. About half a mile from the statue, there is a mural depicting the lives of the Medjugorje villagers before the apparitions started in 1981. The village was essentially forgotten during the days of Communist Yugoslavia, and those who lived there survived by growing crops for food, along with tobacco and grapes for selling. When Our Lady appeared, one of the messages she gave was for the production of tobacco in the area to be stopped. So now, grapes, fruits and vegetables are all grown, and of course tourism has helped the village to quickly grow in stature.

View Blog:

Something To Cheer You Up

A Definitely Dead Duck. A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away." The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?"

View Blog:

Martin's Video Blogs

You've seen and read my own account of my recent pilgrimage... This is a montage of my mum's and my own photos of the trip! This is

View Blog:

The Armchair Activist

Did a 19-Year-Old Really Just Solve One of Earth’s Biggest Environmental Problems? By Rachel Keeton | Resilient Cities   |   June 17, 2014 Illustration courtesy: Boyan Slat / The Ocean Cleanup “Once there was the Stone Age, then the Bronze Age, and now we are in the middle of the Plastic Age.” So begins 19-year-old Boyan Slat’s TEDx Talk on clearing plastic pollution from the sea. The Dutch teenager has been all over local news lately — a shaggy-haired wunderkind inspiring old and young alike. Slat is taking time off from his aerospace engineering studies at the Technische Universiteit Delft to realize a project that is close to his heart. A diving enthusiast, he was horrified to see more floating plastic bags than fish on a recent trip to Greece. In the Azores, he photographed plastic shards mixed in the sand and noted the lack of red plastic, which, because it looks like flesh, had all been eaten by birds and large fish. Those animals would eventually die a slow and painful death because of it. Related Stories Europe’s Dysfunctional Carbon-Pricing System Is Keeping Coal Dirt Cheap Flood Prone Yet Fiercely Defended, Rotterdam Takes Its Methods Global Europe’s Most Car-Obsessed City Tries to Make Its Traffic Jams Greener Rotterdam Is Drowning in Empty Office Space Slat notes that humans are at the top of this food chain. Basically, we are poisoning ourselves every time plastic trash enters the water system and eventually makes its way into the sea. At 16, with just 200 euros and a sense of ambition that belies his young age, Slat began what would become a long fight against both plastic pollution and surprisingly vocal critics. For as many people who cheered on Slat’s early, one-man efforts, there grew a number of naysayers who seemed intent on his failure. Despite, or perhaps in response to this criticism, Slat’s plan to fight oceanic plastic pollution quickly gained traction with enthusiastic international experts. He eventually put together a team of about

View Blog:

Messages With Purpose

A must READ - Good morning said a woman as she walked up to the man sitting on the ground. The man slowly looked up. This was a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new.. She looked like she had never missed a meal in her life. His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before.. "Leave me alone," he growled.... To his amazement, the woman continued standing. She was smiling -- her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows. "Are you hungry?" she asked. "No," he answered sarcastically. "I've just come from dining with the president. Now go away." The woman's smile became even broader. Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm. "What are you doing, lady?" the man asked angrily. "I said to leave me alone.

View Blog:

Health Myths Debunked

It seems blindingly obvious. As our cells metabolise the food we eat, they produce rogue molecules called free radicals that wreak havoc. Over a lifetime, the damage they do slowly builds up and may cause all kinds of degenerative diseases. Luckily, though, many chemicals can act as antioxidants that mop up free radicals. Plus, eating vegetables rich in antioxidants seems to reduce the risk of degenerative diseases. So popping pills packed with antioxidants must surely help stave off these diseases too?

View Blog:

Tales of the Journeyman (chapters 1-10)

Tales Of The Journeyman (Click on the picture to start the story at the beginning) Chapter 10: Rolly’s Fall (part 3) “We have no idea where the Saradan force is located,” Fearic said, “so there is little chance of us stopping them before they make their next move.” Derenby looked up at the Journeyman. “I think I have an idea where the Saradan are. Come with me.” The group followed the Invar back to the bridge area, where he produced a roll of plastic which he proceeded to unfold. He laid it on a transparent surface to the left of the main control console. Fearic flicked a switch and the little group gathered around a holographic projection which rose out of the plastic sheet. Derenby stabbed at various points on the map. “We are here. This is the lake end, and this,” he stood on his tiptoes and stretched towards the centre of the projection, “this is the Warp entrance.” He walked around the projection and pointed to an area north-east of the tunnel entrance. “This is where I believe the Saradan are based. It is around an hour’s march from the northern tip of the lake and the Warp entrance.”

View Blog:

Tales Of The Journeyman (Chapters 11-20)

Tales Of The Journeyman (Click on the picture to start the story at the beginning)   Chapter 20: Homecomings Derenby and Hannah were having their own difficulties in the town of Mylandar. They were made very welcome by the townsfolk but Derenby could detect that there was great disappointment that Brunus had returned with these two strangers rather than with his own son and the other missing Galleni. They had arrived back in Mylandar at around midday and Brunus had directed that Derenby and Hannah were taken to his own great house, a long single floor building of generous proportions built with stone walls and topped with a huge thatched roof. He insisted that they rest there for as long as they wished. After being shown into a very large, comfortable room they were then led to separate wash rooms where they were brought huge bowls of clear spring water to wash away the dust and grime of their two days travel in the forest.

View Blog:

20 Practical Uses for Coca Cola… Proof That Coke D

  20 Practical Uses for Coca Cola… Proof That Coke Does Not Belong In the Human Body   Health & FitnessNovember 23, 2013 Coke is the most valuable brand in history, and “Coca-Cola” is the world’s second-most recognized word after “hello.” However, the beverage itself is an absolute poison to the human metabolism. Coke is very close to the acidity level of battery acid and consequently it can clean surfaces equivalent to and often better than many toxic household cleaners. It’s cheaper and easier to buy Coke in some third world countries than it is to access clean water. Coke uses “public relations propaganda” to convince consumers and entire nations that it is an “environmental company” when really it is linked to pollution, water shortages, and disease. People

View Blog:

The Running Bug

Calorie counter: what treats has your run earned you? One of the best things about running is knowing your workout has earned you the right to have a guilt free munch. Check out The Running Bug's treat calculator to see how many calories you've clocked up. What do you treat yourself to post run? Tell us in our forum now. 5k run = A pint of lager and a packet of crisps, or a small glass of wine and a couple of crackers with cheese Your 5k run can burn around 350 calories, enough for you to take yourself down the pub for a celebratory drink we reckon. 10k run = A whole pizza Push yourself to run 10k and reward yourself with 660 calories of delicious pizza,

View Blog:

Tales Of The Journeyman (Chapters 21 onwards)

    Tales Of The Journeyman (Click on the picture to start the story at the beginning)   Chapter 24 Council of War (part 2)   Before Rolly could answer, Fearic replied "Derenby, I would rather you stayed here in the town and acted as coordinator between the rest of us." "You will have to find him another communicator and urge him not to lose this one." Anmar said with just a note of sarcasm in his voice. Fearic ignored this jibe and turning to Brunus and his son, said, “Brunus, set up your men at both entrances. Let two tribes defend at each end of the pass. The Sentinel will be the third fleet if we use the Android Wars as an example.” Brunus and Valus rose to leave. Fearic held up a restraining hand “One last thing before you go. Are there any other ways into the pass other than the two main routes?” Father and son looked at each other questioningly for a moment. “I thought that might be the case. Well, are you going to tell me?” Brunus hesitated before answering but Valus urged his father to speak. “You must tell them Father. This could be important.”  His father cleared his throat and began. "There are two secret stairways carved into the cliff face near the town where the sheer stone meets the valley floor. They were constructed so as to be hidden by crevices and undergrowth and were designed to be escape routes in the event that the Galleni were overcome by invading forces. They are a means to evacuate the inhabitants of the town safely.” “I suggest perhaps just a small guard at the bottom of each stairway. That should suffice. Do you agree Fearic?” Anmar said.

View Blog:

My FanBox Experience by Martin Binnington

Comments On New Features   A couple of days ago, FanBox released two new features – 0-day Power User purchasing, and “Account Optimization”. I would like to discuss these features and what they mean to all FanBox users.   Firstly, 0-day Power User spending. This is a feature that has been in development for some time, so many of you will already know about it. What does it actually mean though? Well, it means that we can now use our 0-day profits to purchase a Power User subscription, instead of using our own money (through PayPal or a credit card). This means that you can receive all of the benefits of being a Power User without having to spend your own money! For those of you who don’t know the benefits of being a Power User, they include: -        Increased earning potential. The increase you will receive depends on what level you are (with White Power Users getting a small increase, and Bronze Power Users receiving the biggest increase in potential). Note that I say “potential” here… if you purchase a PU subscription but do nothing all month, it doesn’t matter how much potential you have: 100% of 0 is still 0.   -        The ability to create and administrate community profiles. Communities are a great way to earn additional profits, since they have all the same features and benefits that come with a personal profile   -        Pay up to 100% of your IPL fee with 0-day profits. This means you will be spending even less of your own money on FanBox! For this to be available, you will need to have your New

View Blog:

"Living Faith" - daily Catholic devotions and medi

If that comment doesn't make you feel special, even if you are among 7 billion other people on this blue marble, you're a little weird. In an outrageous argument, it would appear that the creationists among us can have their explanation of our creation, but I rather like the more substantial argument that we are borne of material created in the heart of a star, and its death brought our life. Our death therefore brings with it the possibility that atoms from our decayed remains may someday be the building blocks of another star.

View Blog:

Presidential Plans

    Our Community, Our Responsibility     (these are my own thoughts and experiences, and not FanBox’s official stance).       By now, most of you will already have watched the presidential debate video and seen the answers that I and the other two candidates have given to questions that you all submitted. If you have not already watched the video, you can do so here: http://posts.fanbox.com/2vp17   I have already made my views on the FanBox presidency very clear, but now that we are into the last week of elections I just wanted to take a few minutes of your time to reiterate these. Before you read on, you may want to check out my previous posts so that you have a better idea of my agenda. You will find them by clicking these links: The Responsibilities of a Leader Presidential Plans My FanBox Views – Past My FanBox Views – Present (part 1) My FanBox Views – Present (part 2) My FanBox Views - Future   The biggest point that I want to talk more about is

View Blog:

Bored Panda

Someone In Bulgaria Is Putting Googly Eyes On Broken Street Objects, And It’s Even Better Than Fixing Things 1.8Mviews By​ Dominyka Jurkštaitė Last month we introduced you to the art of "eyebombing," otherwise known as sticking googly eyes on basically anything you can find in order to make people smile. Well the trend has now reached Bulgaria thanks to a street artist called Vanyu Krastev, and as you can see from his "eye-catching" work, he certainly has an "eye" for the perfect eyebomb! From trees and lamp posts to trash cans and sidewalk stains, Krastev is proving that even the most mundane things can be made more interesting with two googly eyes and a little bit of imagination! Check out some of our favorites below, and don't forget to vote for the best! #1 #2

View Blog:

"The Poke" Blog Posts

@Classic_picx is a one joke account – but what a joke: matching photos with the wrong, but somehow so-right captions to lift already amusing photos into the stratosphere of higher comedy. Here’s 18 of their best: 13. View image on Twitter  Follow Classic Pics @Classic_picx Daniel Craig portraying James Bond in Casino Royale (2006), Quantum Of Solace (2008) Skyfall (2012) & Spectre (2015) 10:44 AM - 28 May 2016    2,0392,039 Retweets    1,6781,678 likes     14. View image on Twitter  Follow Classic Pics @Classic_picx Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, pictured after his capture during US military operation 'Red Dawn' in December 2003. 5:00 PM - 25 Jul 2016

View Blog:

Diet Of Life

Stop Buying Garlic. Here’s How To Grow An Endless Supply Of Garlic Right At Home Along with green onions, garlic is one of the best health-friendly plants you can grow at home. It is super-easy and super-cheap. You may not like its taste and odor, but eating a whole garlic bulb a day works miracles for your body. Garlic is a simple food that has strong healing properties. Garlic is rich in nitrogenous substances, sodium, potassium, selenium, calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulfuric, phosphoric acid, vitamin C, D, B, phytosterols, extractives, and essential oils. It contains a phytoncide called allicin, formed during mechanical destruction of plants, meaning you should crush or grind your garlic to enjoy maximum benefits from this component. Researchers believe that allicin has strong bacteriostatic effect which cures infections quite faster. Garlic is packed with anti-fungal agents, which makes it much more powerful compared with many antibiotics in use today. How To Grow An Endless Supply Of Garlic Indoors

View Blog:

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket!

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket! I love empowr. I've been a member of the site for 13 years now, and I have no plans of quitting. To date, I have cashed out nearly $5000, and most of this has been within the past year. I have been a Success Coach, and I was lucky enough to have been voted by you to be empowr's president in 2015.   However, I never put all of my eggs in one basket... here's what I mean.   empowr is NOT my main source of income, and it never will be.

View Blog:

Spiritual Short Stories

Shankara went around the country arguing. He came to a place called Mandala — I have been to Mandala many times. It is just a two-hour drive from Jabalpur, situated in a very beautiful place. Narmada, one of the holy rivers of the Hindus, falls in one thousand streams. The mountain is such that the river is divided into one thousand, exactly one thousand, streams. It is a beautiful scene. The story is that there was one monster who had one thousand hands. Narmada is the only river in India which is virgin, other rivers are married. This Sahasrabahu — one thousand arms…. That is the meaning of the name: Sahasra means one thousand, bahu means arms — sahasrabahu means a one-thousand-armed man. He said, “I am going to marry this girl. She cannot escape me. I have got one thousand hands; where is she going to escape?” So he tried to catch hold of the river with his one thousand hands. But to destroy the virginity of a woman, according to Hindus, is the greatest sin possible. Christians would have rewarded him, given him some place in their trinity: another holy ghost. But Hindus have punished him — at least in the story it is so; he turned into a stone. And really the whole mountain does look as if the Narmada is falling through one thousand hands. So Mandala has been an ancient place of pilgrimage and has always been a seat of great Hindu scholars. One Hindu scholar had in his youth moved around just like Shankara; Mandan Mishra was his name. Mandala was called after his name, Mandan, because he lived there. He was so famous that the name of the place was changed and called after him. When he was young he had moved all around the country and defeated all the scholars and philosophers. He was old when Shankara was young, just thirty years of age — he died when Shankara was thirty-three. After defeating everybody Shankara was a little reluctant to go and challenge Mandan Mishra because Mandan was so old. But without defeating Mandan he could not declare that he had conquered the whole country and convinced everybody that what he was saying was true. Reluctantly he went. Outside the town, at the we]l, a few women were drawing water. Shankara asked them, “can you tell me where the house of Mandan Mishra is?” And all those women giggled and laughed, and they said, “You need not ask. You just go into the town and you will find it, because even the parrots in front of his house recite the VEDAS. You need not ask anybody, you just go. The very atmosphere around his house will tell you that you have come close to Mandan Mishra.” Shankara was a little afraid — he had never heard of parrots reciting the whole of the VEDAS. And in the end he went and he saw with his own eyes a row of parrots in the mango trees reciting the VEDAS in perfect Sanskrit. He thought, “this man seems to be difficult. But there is no

View Blog:

Martin's Review Blog (From WordPress)

Last month I bought a soupmaker from Morphy Richards. My mum, brother and other members of my family already had one, and seeing as Danielle and I are now getting fresh organic vegetables from the Pillars of Hercules farm shop, we decided that we needed to do something with these fresh tasty veggies! So we got the Morphy Richards 48822 Soupmaker.   This piece of equipment is surprisingly easy to use. There are 3 parts - the stainless steel jug, the lid with operating controls and blender attached, and the power cable.   The jug has two levels imprinted into the steel wall - the minimum water level (which is 1300ml) and the maximum (1600ml).

View Blog:

empowr's political activist

The people we trust to teach us on empowr...   Those of use who are active on empowr regularly know that there are 3 resources available to every citizen who is in need of help, advice, or technical support: 1) the "Learn How" video link available at the top of every page 2) the "Learning Center" link which you can find by hovering your cursor over the blue bar on the left of any page 3) your Success Coach, who you can contact through the "Ask Me" link at the top of any page, or the "Get Help" link in your left navigation bar.   There was a time, up until nearly 3 years ago, when users had to prove their success on the platform before their Success Coach would consider nominating them to start testing for the Success Coach program. (There were 5 key earning areas at the time - blogging, advertising, Ad Campaigns, teaching and selling. (Teaching involved inviting at least one person to join the site, and teaching them to earn at least $100) - and individuals had to show that they knew how to do these things). However, under Brian Woosley this changed. No longer do people have to prove their success in different areas of empowr to be able to start coaching others. Now, all you need to do is reach the Orange Star Power Degree! (There are currently 28 degrees, from Basic Orange, 1st degree Orange, 2nd degree Orange, Orange Star... right up to Sky Star, the current highest level). So basically, if you are active on empowr for a week, you can earn enough to reach a point where you can start teaching others.   If you have been reading the "Why empowr?" posts that are included in the "What's New?" link in your left navigation bar, as long as this series continues, at some point the empowr education system will be discussed (this means the Success Coach

View Blog:

Everyday Short Stories

The party is just getting started. Our guests are laughing and listening to Pandora, happy at the start of the holiday weekend. Down at the beach, the sun sets into the Gulf, and here, the sky hazes yellow to pink. One of my friends supervises the carrying of platters to the buffet table. There’s beer in a nearby cooler and wine in the kitchen. I drop the hamburger patties, one by one, onto the grill, listening to them sizzle. Under my bare feet, the grass feels cool and slightly damp. Glen is my husband. He wears a thick, short beard and slightly shaggy brown hair. Some people think he looks like Glen Campbell during his Tanya Tucker stage. We met in our late twenties and have been married for twenty more. Our life is normal but that hasn’t slowed anything down. Somehow it feels like it’s gone even faster. Our children, both of them, are in high school. Seth is a junior, serious and studious, the owner of a startling long jump. Daniella is a freshman cheerleader, outgoing, bright, and willing to test the boundaries. In a way, she is mine and he belongs to Glen. That’s just the way it shakes out, a lot of the time. A few minutes ago Daniella came home late from the mall and Glen is furious with worry. On one hand, she’s growing up, and that’s scary enough. On the other hand, something horrible could stop her and that would be worse. My friend describes it later. A boy pulls up at the curb in a white sports car. This kid is Matthew McConaughey crossed with Zac Efron. He grins, all teeth and tan cheek, bad-ass attitude snapping around electric blue eyes. Daniella gets out of the passenger seat and thanks the boy for the ride. He salutes, revs the engine, and takes off. It startles a pregnant woman, walking her dog, and she yanks the leash backward. Glen raises one hand in apology, frustration leaving no room for embarrassment.

View Blog:

East Of The Web

I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year, and found him in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced elderly gentleman, with fiery red hair. With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw, when Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room and closed the door behind me.      "You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson," he said, cordially.      "I was afraid that you were engaged."      "So I am. Very much so."      "Then I can wait in the next room."      "Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has been my partner and helper in many of my most successful cases, and I have no doubt that he will be of the utmost use to me in yours also."      The stout gentleman half rose from his chair and gave a bob of greeting, with a quick little questioning glance from his small, fat-encircled eyes.      "Try the settee," said Holmes, relapsing into his armchair, and putting his finger tips together, as was his custom when in judicial moods. "I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life. You have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so many of my own little adventures."      "Your cases have indeed been of the greatest interest to me," I observed.      "You will remember that I remarked the other day, just before we went into the very simple problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that for strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination."      "A proposition which I took the liberty of doubting." <  2  >      "You did, doctor, but none the less you must come round to my view, for otherwise I shall keep on piling fact upon fact on you, until your reason breaks down under them and acknowledge me to be right. Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has been good enough to call upon me this morning, and to begin a narrative which promises to be one of the most singular which I have listened to for some time. You have heard me remark that the strangest and most unique things are very often connected not with the larger but with the smaller crimes, and occasionally, indeed, where there is room for doubt whether any positive crime has been committed. As far as I have heard, it is impossible for me to say whether the present case is an instance of crime or not, but the course of events is certainly among the most singular that I have ever listened to. Perhaps, Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to recommence your narrative. I ask you, not merely because my friend, Dr. Watson, has not heard the opening part, but also because the peculiar nature of the story makes me anxious to have every possible detail from your lips. As a rule, when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory. In the present instance I am forced to admit that the facts are, to the best of my belief, unique."      The portly client puffed out his chest with an appearance of some little pride, and pulled a dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside pocket of his greatcoat. As he glanced down the advertisement column, with his head thrust forward, and the paper flattened out upon his knee, I took a good look at the man, and endeavored, after the fashion of my companion, to read the indications which might be presented by his dress or appearance.      I did not gain very much, however, by my inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being an average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy gray shepherd's check trousers, a not over-clean black frock coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain, and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down as an ornament. A frayed top hat and a faded brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay upon a chair beside him. Altogether, look as I would, there was nothing remarkable about the man save his blazing red head and the expression of extreme chagrin and discontent upon his features. <  3  >      Sherlock Holmes's quick eye took in my occupation, and he shook his head with a smile as he noticed my questioning glances. "Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labor, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else."      Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair, with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes upon my companion.      How, in the name of good fortune, did you know all that, Mr. Holmes?" he asked. "How did you know, for example, that I did manual labor? It's as true as gospel, for I began as a ship's carpenter."      "Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is quite a size larger than your left. You have worked with it and the muscles are more developed."      "Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"      "I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how I read that, especially as, rather against the strict rules of your order, you use an arc and compass breastpin."      "Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the writing?"      "What else can be indicated by that right cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left one with the smooth patch near the elbow where you rest it upon the desk."      "Well, but China?"      "The fish which you have tattooed immediately above your wrist could only have been done in China. I have made a small study of tattoo marks, and have even contributed to the literature of the subject. That trick of staining the fishes' scales of a delicate pink is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I see a Chinese coin hanging from your watch chain, the matter becomes even more simple." <  4  >      Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. "Well, I never!" said he. "I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it after all."      "I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes, "that I make a mistake in explaining. 'Omne ignotom pro magnifico,' you know, and my poor little reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid. Can you not find the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?"      "Yes, I have got it now," he answered, with his thick, red finger planted halfway down the column. "Here it is. This is what began it all. You just read it for yourself, sir."      I took the paper from him and read as follows:      "TO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE: On account of the bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon, Pa., U. S. A., there is now another vacancy open which entitles a member of the League to a salary of four pounds a week for purely nominal services. All red-headed men who are sound in body and mind and above the age of twenty-one years are eligible. Apply in person on Monday, at eleven o'clock, to Duncan Ross, at the offices of the League, 7 Pope's Court, Fleet Street."      "What on earth does this mean?" I ejaculated, after I had twice read over the extraordinary announcement.      Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair, as was his habit when in high spirits. "It is a little off the beaten track, isn't it?" said he. "And now, Mr. Wilson, off you go at scratch, and tell us all about yourself, your household, and the effect which this advertisement had upon your fortunes. You will first make a note, doctor, of the paper and the date."      "It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27, 1890. Just two months ago."      "Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson." <  5  >      "Well, it is just as I have been telling you, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Jabez Wilson, mopping his forehead, "I have a small pawnbroker's business at Saxe-Coburg Square, near the City. It's not a very large affair, and of late years it has not done more than just give me a living. I used to be able to keep two assistants, but now I only keep one; and I would have a job to pay him but that he is willing to come for half wages, so as to learn the business."      "What is the name of this obliging youth?" asked Sherlock Holmes.      "His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he's not such a youth either. It's hard to say his age. I should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr. Holmes; and I know very well that he could better himself, and earn twice what I am able to give him. But, after all, if he is satisfied, why should I put ideas in his head?"      "Why, indeed? You seem most fortunate in having an employee who comes under the full market price. It is not a common experience among employers in this age. I don't know that your assistant is not as remarkable as your advertisement."      "Oh, he has his faults, too," said Mr. Wilson. "Never was such a fellow for photography. Snapping away with a camera when he ought to be improving his mind, and then diving down into the cellar like a rabbit into its hole to develop his pictures. That is his main fault; but, on the whole, he's a good worker. There's no vice in him."      "He is still with you, I presume?"      "Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who does a bit of simple cooking, and keeps the place clean - that's all I have in the house, for I am a widower, and never had any family. We live very quietly, sir, the three of us; and we keep a roof over our heads, and pay our debts, if we do nothing more. <  6  >      "The first thing that put us out was that advertisement. Spaulding, he came down into the office just this day eight weeks, with this very paper in his hand, and he says:      "'I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was a redheaded man.'      "'Why that?' I asks.      "'Why,' says he, 'here's another vacancy on the League of the Red- headed Men. It's worth quite a little fortune to any man who gets it, and I understand that there are more vacancies than there are men, so that the trustees are at their wits' end what to do with the money. If my hair would only change color here's a nice little crib all ready for me to step into.'      "'Why, what is it, then?' I asked. You see, Mr. Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home man, and, as my business came to me instead of my having to go to it, I was often weeks on end without putting my foot over the door mat. In that way I didn't know much of what was going on outside, and I was always glad of a bit of news.      "'Have you never heard of the League of the Red-headed Men?' he asked, with his eyes open.      "'Never.'      "'Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible yourself for one of the vacancies.'      "'And what are they worth?' I asked.      "'Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but the work is slight, and it need not interfere very much with one's other occupations.'      "Well, you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears, for the business has not been over good for some years, and an extra couple of hundred would have been very handy.      "'Tell me all about it,' said I. <  7  >      "'Well,' said he, showing me the advertisement, 'you can see for yourself that the League has a vacancy, and there is the address where you should apply for particulars. As far as I can make out, the League was founded by an American millionaire, Ezekiah Hopkins, who was very peculiar in his ways. He was himself red-headed, and he had a great sympathy for all red-headed men; so, when he died, it was found that he had left his enormous fortune in the hands of trustees, with instructions to apply the interest to the providing of easy berths to men whose hair is of that color. From all I hear it is splendid pay, and very little to do.'      "'But,' said I, 'there would be millions of red-headed men who would apply.'      "'Not so many as you might think,' he answered. 'You see it is really confined to Londoners, and to grown men. This American had started from London when he was young, and he wanted to do the old town a good turn. Then, again, I have heard it is of no use your applying if your hair is light red, or dark red, or anything but real, bright, blazing, fiery red. Now, if you cared to apply, Mr. Wilson, you would just walk in; but perhaps it would hardly be worth your while to put yourself out of the way for the sake of a few hundred pounds.'      "Now it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see for yourselves, that my hair is of a very full and rich tint, so that it seemed to me that, if there was to be any competition in the matter, I stood as good a chance as any man that I had ever met. Vincent Spaulding seemed to know so much about it that I thought he might prove useful, so I just ordered him to put up the shutters for the day, and to come right away with me. He was very willing to have a holiday, so we shut the business up, and started off for the address that was given us in the advertisement. <  8  >      "I never hope to see such a sight as that again, Mr. Holmes. From north, south, east, and west every man who had a shade of red in his hair had tramped into the City to answer the advertisement. Fleet Street was choked with red-headed folk, and Pope's Court looked like a coster's orange barrow. I should not have thought there were so many in the whole country as were brought together by that single advertisement. Every shade of color they were - straw, lemon, orange, brick, Irish setter, liver, clay; but, as Spaulding said, there were not many who had the real vivid flame-colored tint. When I saw how many were waiting, I would have given it up in despair; but Spaulding would not hear of it. How he did it I could not imagine, but he pushed and pulled and butted until he got me through the crowd, and right up to the steps which led to the office. There was a double stream upon the stair, some going up in hope, and some coming back dejected; but we wedged in as well as we could, and soon found ourselves in the office."      "Your experience has been a most entertaining one," remarked Holmes, as his client paused and refreshed his memory with a huge pinch of snuff. "Pray continue your very interesting statement."      "There was nothing in the office but a couple of wooden chairs and a deal table, behind which sat a small man, with a head that was even redder than mine. He said a few words to each candidate as he came up, and then he always managed to find some fault in them which would disqualify them. Getting a vacancy did not seem to be such a very easy matter after all. However, when our turn came, the little man was much more favorable to me than to any of the others, and he closed the door as we entered, so that he might have a private word with us.      "'This is Mr. Jabez Wilson,' said my assistant, 'and he is willing to fill a vacancy in the League.' <  9  >

View Blog:

American Short Stories

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Sometimes it enters directly into the composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous position among persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by a case in the ancient city of Providence, where in the late forties Edgar Allan Poe used to sojourn often during his unsuccessful wooing of the gifted poetess, Mrs. Whitman. Poe generally stopped at the Mansion House in Benefit Street—the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette—and his favorite walk led northward along the same street to Mrs. Whitman's home and the neighboring hillside churchyard of St. John's, whose hidden expanse of Eighteenth Century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination. Now the irony is this. In this walk, so many times repeated, the world's greatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side hill, with a great unkempt yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country. It does not appear that he ever wrote or spoke of it, nor is there any evidence that he even noticed it. And yet that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranks in horror the wildest fantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and stands starkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous. The house was—and for that matter still is—of a kind to attract the attention of the curious. Originally a farm or semi-farm building, it followed the average New England colonial lines of the middle Eighteenth Century—the prosperous peaked-roof sort, with two stories and dormerless attic, and with the Georgian doorway and interior panelling dictated by the progress of taste at that time. It faced south, with one gable end buried to the lower windows in the eastward rising hill, and the other exposed to the foundations toward the street. Its construction, over a century and a half ago, had followed the grading and straightening of the road in that especial vicinity; for Benefit Street—at first called Back Street—was laid out as a lane winding amongst the graveyards of the first settlers, and straightened only when the removal of the bodies to the North Burial Ground made it decently possible to cut through the old family plots. At the start, the western wall had lain some twenty feet up a precipitous lawn from the roadway; but a widening of the street at about the time of the Revolution sheared off most of the intervening space, exposing the foundations so that a brick basement wall had to be made, giving the deep cellar a street frontage with door and one window above ground, close to the new line of public travel. When the sidewalk was laid out a century ago the last of the intervening space was removed; and Poe in his walks must have seen only a sheer ascent of dull gray brick flush with the sidewalk and surmounted at a height of ten feet by the antique shingled bulk of the house proper. "That awful door in Benefit Street which I had left ajar." The farm-like ground extended back very deeply up the hill, almost to Wheaton Street. The space south of the house, abutting on Benefit Street, was of course greatly above the existing sidewalk level, forming a terrace bounded by a high bank wall of damp, mossy stone pierced by a steep flight of narrow steps which led inward between canyon-like surfaces to the upper region of mangy lawn, rheumy brick walks, and neglected gardens whose dismantled cement urns, rusted kettles fallen from tripods of knotty sticks, and similar paraphernalia set off the weather-beaten front door with its broken fanlight, rotting Ionic pilasters, and wormy triangular pediment. What I heard in my youth about the shunned house was merely that people died there in alarmingly great numbers. That, I was told, was why the original owners had moved out some twenty years after building the place. It was plainly unhealthy, perhaps because of the dampness and fungous growths in the cellar, the general sickish smell, the drafts of the hallways, or the quality of the well and pump water. These things were bad enough, and these were all that gained belief among the persons whom I knew. Only the notebooks of my antiquarian uncle, Doctor Elihu Whipple, revealed to me at length the darker, vaguer surmises which formed an undercurrent of folklore among old-time servants and humble folk; surmises which never travelled far, and which were largely forgotten when Providence grew to be a metropolis with a shifting modern population. The general fact is, that the house was never regarded by the solid part of the community as in any real sense "haunted." There were no widespread tales of rattling chains, cold currents of air, extinguished lights, or faces at the window. Extremists sometimes said the house was "unlucky," but that is as far as even they went. What was really beyond dispute is that a frightful proportion of persons died there; or more accurately, had died there, since after some peculiar happenings over sixty years ago the building had become deserted through the sheer impossibility of renting it. These persons were not all cut off suddenly by any one cause; rather did it seem that their vitality was insidiously sapped, so that each one died the sooner from whatever tendency to weakness he may have naturally had. And those who did not die displayed in varying degree a type of anemia or consumption, and sometimes a decline of the mental faculties, which spoke ill for the salubriousness of the building. Neighboring houses, it must be added, seemed entirely free from the noxious quality. This much I knew before my insistent questioning led my uncle to show me the notes which finally embarked us both on our hideous investigation. In my childhood the shunned house was vacant, with barren, gnarled and terrible old trees, long, queerly pale grass and nightmarishly misshapen weeds in the high terraced yard where birds never lingered. We boys used to overrun the place, and I can still recall my youthful terror not only at the morbid strangeness of this sinister vegetation, but at the eldritch atmosphere and odor of the dilapidated house, whose unlocked front door was often entered in quest of shudders. The small-paned windows were largely broken, and a nameless air of desolation hung round the precarious panelling, shaky interior shutters, peeling wall-paper, falling plaster, rickety staircases, and such fragments of battered furniture as still remained. The dust and cobwebs added their touch of the fearful; and brave indeed was the boy who would voluntarily ascend the ladder to the attic, a vast raftered length lighted only by small blinking windows in the gable ends, and filled with a massed wreckage of chests, chairs, and spinning-wheels which infinite years of deposit had shrouded and festooned into monstrous and hellish shapes. But after all, the attic was not the most terrible part of the house. It was the dank, humid cellar which somehow exerted the strongest repulsion on us, even though it was wholly above ground on the street side, with only a thin door and window-pierced brick wall to separate it from the busy sidewalk. We scarcely knew whether to haunt it in spectral fascination, or to shun it for the sake of our souls and our sanity. For one thing, the bad odor of the house was strongest there; and for another thing, we did not like the white fungous growths which occasionally sprang up in rainy summer weather from the hard earth floor. Those fungi, grotesquely like the vegetation in the yard outside, were truly horrible in their outlines; detestable parodies of toadstools and Indian-pipes, whose like we had never seen in any other situation. They rotted quickly, and at one stage became slightly phosphorescent; so that nocturnal passers-by sometimes spoke of witch-fires glowing behind the broken panes of the fetor-spreading windows. We never—even in our wildest Halloween moods—visited this cellar by night, but in some of our daytime visits could detect the phosphorescence, especially when the day was dark and wet. There was also a subtler thing we often thought we detected—a very strange thing which was, however, merely suggestive at most. I refer to a sort of cloudy whitish pattern on the dirt floor—a vague, shifting deposit of mold or niter which we sometimes thought we could trace amidst the sparse fungous growths near the huge fireplace of the basement kitchen. Once in a while it struck us that this patch bore an uncanny resemblance to a doubled-up human figure, though generally no such kinship existed, and often there was no whitish deposit whatever. On a certain rainy afternoon when this illusion seemed phenomenally strong, and when, in addition, I had fancied I glimpsed a kind of thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation rising from the nitrous pattern toward the yawning fireplace, I spoke to my uncle about the matter. He smiled at this odd conceit, but it seemed that his smile was tinged with reminiscence. Later I heard that a similar notion entered into some of the wild ancient tales of the common folk—a notion likewise alluding to ghoulish, wolfish shapes taken by smoke from the great chimney, and queer contours assumed by certain of the sinuous tree-roots that thrust their way into the cellar through the loose foundation-stones. 2 Not till my adult years did my uncle set before me the notes and data which he had collected concerning the shunned house. Doctor Whipple was a sane, conservative physician of the old school, and for all his interest in the place was not eager to encourage young thoughts toward the abnormal. His own view, postulating simply a building and location of markedly unsanitary qualities, had nothing to do with abnormality; but he realized that the very picturesqueness which aroused his own interest would in a boy's fanciful mind take on all manner of gruesome imaginative associations. The doctor was a bachelor; a white-haired, clean-shaven, old-fashioned gentleman, and a local historian of note, who had often broken a lance with such controversial guardians of tradition as Sidney S. Rider and Thomas W. Bicknell. He lived with one man-servant in a Georgian homestead with knocker and iron-railed steps, balanced eerily on the steep ascent of North Court Street beside the ancient brick court and colony house where his grandfather—a cousin of that celebrated privateersman, Captain Whipple, who burnt His Majesty's armed schooner Gaspee in 1772—had voted in the legislature on May 4, 1776, for the independence of the Rhode Island Colony. Around him in the damp, low-ceiled library with the musty white panelling, heavy carved overmantel and small-paned, vine-shaded windows, were the relics and records of his ancient family, among which were many dubious allusions to the shunned house in Benefit Street. That pest spot lies not far distant—for Benefit runs ledgewise just above the court house along the precipitous hill up which the first settlement climbed. When, in the end, my insistent pestering and maturing years evoked from my uncle the hoarded lore I sought, there lay before me a strange enough chronicle. Long-winded, statistical, and drearily genealogical as some of the matter was, there ran through it a continuous thread of brooding, tenacious horror and preternatural malevolence which impressed me even more than it had impressed the good doctor. Separate events fitted together uncannily, and seemingly irrelevant details held mines of hideous possibilities. A new and burning curiosity grew in me, compared to which my boyish curiosity was feeble and inchoate. The first revelation led to an exhaustive research, and finally to that shuddering quest which proved so disastrous to myself and mine. For at the last my uncle insisted on joining the search I had commenced, and after a certain night in that house he did not come away with me. I am lonely without that gentle soul whose long years were filled only with honor, virtue, good taste, benevolence, and learning. I have reared a marble urn to his memory in St. John's churchyard—the place that Poe loved—the hidden grove of giant willows on the hill, where tombs and headstones huddle quietly between the hoary bulk of the church and the houses and bank walls of Benefit Street. The history of the house, opening amidst a maze of dates, revealed no trace of the sinister either about its construction or about the prosperous and honorable family who built it. Yet from the first a taint of calamity, soon increased to boding significance, was apparent. My uncle's carefully compiled record began with the building of the structure in 1763, and followed the theme with an unusual amount of detail. The shunned house, it seems, was first inhabited by William Harris and his wife Rhoby Dexter, with their children, Elkanah, born in 1755, Abigail, born in 1757, William, Jr., born in 1759, and Ruth, born in 1761. Harris was a substantial merchant and seaman in the West India trade, connected with the firm of Obadiah Brown and his nephews. After Brown's death in 1761, the new firm of Nicholas Brown & Company made him master of the brig Prudence, Providence-built, of 120 tons, thus enabling him to erect the new homestead he had desired ever since his marriage. The site he had chosen—a recently straightened part of the new and fashionable Back Street, which ran along the side of the hill above crowded Cheapside—was all that could be wished, and the building did justice to the location. It was the best that moderate means could afford, and Harris hastened to move in before the birth of a fifth child which the family expected. That child, a boy, came in December; but was still-born. Nor was any child to be born alive in that house for a century and a half. The next April, sickness occurred among the children, and Abigail and Ruth died before the month was over. Doctor Job Ives diagnosed the trouble as some infantile fever, though others declared it was more of a mere wasting-away or decline. It seemed, in any event, to be contagious; for Hannah Bowen, one of the two servants, died of it in the following June. Eli Lideason, the other servant, constantly complained of weakness; and would have returned to his father's farm in Rehoboth but for a sudden attachment for Mehitabel Pierce, who was hired to succeed Hannah. He died the next year—a sad year indeed, since it marked the death of William Harris himself, enfeebled as he was by the climate of Martinique, where his occupation had kept him for considerable periods during the preceding decade. The widowed Rhoby Harris never recovered from the shock of her husband's death, and the passing of her first-born Elkanah two years later was the final blow to her reason. In 1768 she fell victim to a mild form of insanity, and was thereafter confined to the upper part of the house; her elder maiden sister, Mercy Dexter, having moved in to take charge of the family. Mercy was a plain, raw-boned woman of great strength; but her health visibly declined from the time of her advent. She was greatly devoted to her unfortunate sister, and had an especial affection for her only surviving nephew William, who from a sturdy infant had become a sickly, spindling lad. In this year the servant Mehitabel died, and the other servant, Preserved Smith, left without coherent explanation—or at least, with only some wild tales and a complaint that he disliked the smell of the place. For a time Mercy could secure no more help, since the seven deaths and case of madness, all occurring within five years' space, had begun to set in motion the body of fireside rumor which later became so bizarre. Ultimately, however, she obtained new servants from out of town; Ann White, a morose woman from that part of North Kingstown now set off as the township of Exeter, and a capable Boston man named Zenas Low. It was Ann White who first gave definite shape to the sinister idle talk. Mercy should have known better than to hire anyone from the Nooseneck Hill country, for that remote bit of backwoods was then, as now, a seat of the most uncomfortable superstitions. As lately as 1892 an Exeter community exhumed a dead body and ceremoniously burnt its heart in order to prevent certain alleged visitations injurious to the public health and peace, and one may imagine the point of view of the same section in 1768. Ann's tongue was perniciously active, and within a few months Mercy discharged her, filling her place with a faithful and amiable Amazon from Newport, Maria Robbins. Meanwhile poor Rhoby Harris, in her madness, gave voice to dreams and imaginings of the most hideous sort. At times her screams became insupportable, and for long periods she would utter shrieking horrors which necessitated her son's temporary residence with his cousin, Peleg Harris, in Presbyterian Lane near the new college building. The boy would seem to improve after these visits, and had Mercy been as wise as she was well-meaning, she would have let him live permanently with Peleg. Just what Mrs. Harris cried out in her fits of violence, tradition hesitates to say; or rather, presents such extravagant accounts that they nullify themselves through sheer absurdity. Certainly it sounds absurd to hear that a woman educated only in the rudiments of French often shouted for hours in a coarse and idiomatic form of that language, or that the same person, alone and guarded, complained wildly of a staring thing which bit and chewed at her. In 1772 the servant Zenas died, and when Mrs. Harris heard of it she laughed with a shocking delight utterly foreign to her. The next year she herself died, and was laid to rest in the North Burial Ground beside her husband. Upon the outbreak of trouble with Great Britain in 1775, William Harris, despite his scant sixteen years and feeble constitution, managed to enlist in the Army of Observation under General Greene; and from that time on enjoyed a steady rise in health and prestige. In 1780, as a captain in the Rhode Island forces in New Jersey under Colonel Angell, he met and married Phebe Hetfield of Elizabethtown, whom he brought to Providence upon his honorable discharge in the following year. The young soldier's return was not a thing of unmitigated happiness. The house, it is true, was still in good condition; and the street had been widened and changed in name from Back Street to Benefit Street. But Mercy Dexter's once robust frame had undergone

View Blog:

Spiritual Short Stories 2

Buddha was passing through a village and the people came and they insulted him. They used all the four-letter words that they knew. Buddha stood there, listened silently, very attentively, and then said, ‘Thank you for coming to me, but I am in a hurry. I have to reach the next village, people will be waiting for me there. I cannot devote more time to you today, but tomorrow coming back I will have more time. You can gather again, and tomorrow if something is left that you wanted to say and have not been able to, you can say it. But today, please excuse me.’ Those people could not believe their ears: this man has remained utterly unaffected, undistracted. One of them asked, ‘Have you not heard

View Blog:

Spiritual Short Stories 3

Once there lived a man called Moggallana. He had a beautiful wife whom he loved very much. But this lady had a wicked nature and used to ill-treat Moggallana’s old, blind parents. She kept pushing Moggallana to send his parents away to the forest. Unwilling to displease his wife, Moggallana one day took his parents to the forest and left them

View Blog:

Spiritual Short Stories 4

THERE was a great king who oppressed his people and was hated by his subjects; yet when the Tathagatha came into his kingdom, the king desired much to see him. So he went to the place where the Blessed One stayed and asked: “Sakyamuni, can you teach a lesson to the king that will divert his mind and benefit him at the same time?” And the Blessed One said: “I shall tell you the parable of the hungry dog: There was a wicked tyrant; and the god Indra, assuming the shape of a hunter, came down on earth with the demon Matali, the latter appearing as a dog of enormous size. Hunter and dog entered the palace, and the dog howled so woefully that the royal buildings shook by the sound to their

View Blog:

Spiritual Short Stories 5

A long time ago in a previous incarnation the Buddha was a monk with very, very long hair that he tied into a large knot on the top of his head, so he was known as the “Topknot Guru.” As a wandering monk he would stay in the city and, at times, alone in the forest for solitary cultivation.

View Blog:

Lourdes Pilgrimage Fundraising 2018

Lourdes Pilgrimage Fundraising 2018 Across (Glenrothes) Group is a registered charity (SC033036) which has been active in the Fife area of Scotland for over 30 years. Funds raised over a two year period help us to fund a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France for 10 VIP guests who have mental or physical disabilities, or who are terminally ill. Accommodation, travel, day trips to sites of interest and local pilgrimages are 

View Blog:

spiritual short stories 6

In ancient times, there was a compassionate prince called Tanmoqian. He had a strong resolve to practice good deeds and learn the Buddha’s teachings, so he sent people to search for virtuous teachers wise in the Dharma, but all his efforts were in vain. The King of Daoli Heaven, knowing the prince’s vows and wanting to see if his faith was strong, turned himself into a mortal named Youse, and presented himself at the prince’s palace. He said that he could expound the Dharma. Hearing this, the prince was overjoyed and received his eminent guest with every sign of respect.

View Blog:

Some Funny Stories I Found

I'd like to say I'm making this story up, but alas no. This actually happened tonight. This is long so bare with me. I have muscle separation. Having kids separated my abominal wall like Moses parting the Red Sea. Yeah it's not good and my stomach kinda points out like a cone. So you know, I am trying to get fitter and fix it so it was suggested by a physio to try yoga. Ha...hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Yeah. Okay so. I put on a pair of yoga pants, because for someone who has never done yoga, really, I seem to own a lot of yoga pants. I got the pair that looked less "Ball-y" from sleeping in and yanked them up nice and high and got a clean top. I was wearing my regular nanna jocks. No time for g strings here. We got into the class and it was dark and there's candles everywhere. (Just a slight fire risk you guys), I'm thinking, holy shit this is real yoga, not like 5, 6, 7, 8 and stretccchh... this is 'im going to go to a high place of enlightenment' right here. Everyone's talking to each other and the trainer, yoga master, limber yoda, whatever... is talking to everyone and like talking to them, she's saying "how's Daryl and his leg...?" And I'm there hiding in the corner thinking "please for the love of god do not notice me"  Everyone's taking off their socks and I'm thinking oh lord, my toes are hairy and I didn't shave them, I only dry shaved my ankles in case my pants ride up. So I'm looking out at all these slender women with their nice tight yoga pants, and mine with the 80's flare at the bottom. They all take off their socks to reveal manicured toes and here I am with my froddo feet, trying to hide in the corner so I don't have to talk about my personal life. Then ashram

View Blog:

Daily Short Stories

“See anything you like?” the curse-broker asked, popping her head in through the door of the consultation room. Lauren looked up from the catalogue open across her lap. Last week, in those first moments of rage, the idea of supernatural retribution had seemed perfectly reasonable. Now she was less convinced. “To be honest, I didn’t realize there would be so many options.” The curse-broker smiled, understanding. “It can be overwhelming.” Lauren nodded and turned the page. The heading — academic curses — had separate listings for students cursing teachers, teachers cursing students, students cursing students, and teachers cursing Other, a category which included everything from PTA members and principals to the editors of peer-reviewed academic journals. The curse-broker stepped into the room and sat down at her desk. “If I may make a suggestion, try giving page 410 a look.” Lauren flipped ahead. Page 410 was a full-color, glossy image of an open mouth, crowded

View Blog:

Life Lessons and More!

How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men By Mark Greene on Saturday January 28th, 2017 Image: Excerpt from 'Ajitto' by Robert Mapplethorpe Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives In preparing to write about the lack of gentle touch in men’s lives, I right away thought, “I feel confident I can do platonic touch, but I don’t necessarily trust other men to do it. Some guy will do something creepy. They always do”. Quickly on the heels of that thought, I wondered, “Wait a minute, why do I distrust men in particular?” The little voice in my head didn’t say, “I don’t necessarily trust people to not be creepy”, it said, “I don’t trust men”. In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will revert to the sexual at a moment’s notice. That men don’t know how to physically connect otherwise. That men can’t control themselves. That men are dogs. There is no corresponding narrative about women. Men need gentle platonic touch in their lives just as much as women do. Touch Isolation Accordingly, it has become every man’s job to prove they can be trusted, in each and every interaction, day by day and case by case. In part, because so many men have behaved poorly. And so, we prove our trustworthiness by foregoing physical touch completely in any context in which even the slightest doubt about our intentions might arise. Which, sadly, is pretty much every context we encounter. We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation. And where does this leave men? Physically and emotionally isolated. Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self esteem and create community. Instead, we walk in the vast crowds of our cities alone in a desert of disconnection. Starving for physical connection. We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation. Men crave touch but are cut off from it and experience touch isolation. The Comfort of Contact How often do men actually get the opportunity to express affection through lasting platonic touch? How often does it happen between men? Or between men and women? Not a hand shake or a hug, but lasting physical contact between two people that is comforting and personal, but not sexual. Between persons who are not lovers and never will be. Think holding hands. Or leaning on each other. Sitting together. That sort of thing. Just the comfort of contact. And if you are a man, imagine five minutes of contact with another man. How quickly does that idea raise the ugly specter of homophobia? And why?