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The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

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This dictionary is over 100 years old and it is still very current and worth a look. It’s not a normal dictionary and  the definitions are often ironic or sarcastic. It will at least make you smile.

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist and critic born in Ohio in 1842  who died in 1914 during a trip to Mexico. From the dictionary we have chosen some definitions to give you a taste of it.  You can download The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, which you can find for little or nothing in ebooks format. 

Ambrose Bierce

AUSTRALIA, n. A country lying in the South Sea, whose industrial and commercial development has been unspeakably retarded by an unfortunate dispute among geographers as to whether it is a continent or an island.

DAY, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent. This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper—the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.

FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church feasts are “movable” and “immovable,” but the celebrants are uniformly immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead; such were held by the Greeks, under the name Nemeseia, by the Aztecs and Peruvians, as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese; though it is believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters.

EMOTION, n. A prostrating disease caused by a determination of the heart to the head. It is sometimes accompanied by a copious discharge of hydrated chloride of sodium from the eyes.

INTERPRETER, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter’s advantage for the other to have said.

ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

BELLADONNA, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

NOSE, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of humor, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one’s nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of others, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.

CHILDHOOD, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth—two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.

EDIBLE, adj. Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.

DANCE, v.i. To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbor’s wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious.

ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.

DIE, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, “Never say die.” At long intervals, however, some one says: “The die is cast,” which is not true, for it is cut.

AIR, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Worked in many sectors including recruitment and marketing. Lucky to have found a soulmate who was then taken far too soon. No intention of moving on and definitely not moving to Thailand for the foreseeable future. Might move forward. Owned by a cat.

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The Martian Sculpture in Woking Town Centre

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Designed by sculptor Michael Condron and opened in 1998 by Carol Vorderman, the sculpture stands seven metres high. It is situated at one end of Crown Square in Woking Town Centre. 
 
The “War of the Worlds” was mainly written while H.G Wells was living in Woking. He made Horsell Common, on the edge of the town, the landing site for his Martian invasion force. 
 
 Wells describes the Martians making use of their tripods, to travel around the Common.  In the Woking sculpture, tentacles protruding from the vehicle’s opening can be seen!  Fortunately, the sculpture is static! 
 
A few metres along the pavement lies the cylindrical pod, depicting the craft in which the Martians landed in Woking.  Patterned paving slabs represent the bacteria which ultimately destroyed the Martian invaders. 
 
The installation in 1998 marks the first publication of “War of the Worlds” in 1898 and confirms the town’s connection to H. G Wells.
This excerpt from the book describes the Martians progress on landing on Horsell Common.
 
Photo: © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

“And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand… Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me.”

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What is the Kindle Challenge and how to take part in it?

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kindle challenge

The Kindle Challenge is a new initiative by Amazon to encourage people to buy and read Kindle books, it’s an interesting concept that Kobo started years ago but then abandoned. 

Basically every month there will be some challenges and you will need to take part and complete them to gain badges. You can also earn credits to buy Kindle Books.  The challenges so far has been easy like reading a book, buying a book or subscribing to Kindle Unlimited. 

There is obviously a large marketing element but the Kindle Challenge can be fun for users by gamifying the experience users can be motivated to read more. 

How do I take part in the Kindle Challenge?

So far it is at a kind of pilot stage and you must have an invitation, there will be more invites sent in the next few months. Sadly you must live in the United States to take part for the time being. The Challenge might be extended to other countries in future, although there are no details yet. 

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Famous novels that are now in the public domain

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Every year on January 1st, many books enter the public domain either because they were published before 1925 (United States) or at least 70 years have passed since the author’s death (European Union and many other countries).

This year it has been discussed a lot that The Great Gatsby is now in the public domain and yes you can download it here for free.

Also very famous are other titles now in the public domain such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, Sugimoto’s A Daughter of the Samurai and John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer.

There are other major titles that have now entered the public domain on January 1st 2021 but have not yet been uploaded online.

These are Dreyser’s An American Tragedy, Hemingway’s In our Time and Aldous Huxley’s Three Barren Leaves. These will be available later this year on sites like the Internet Archive and the Gutenberg project.

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