Veil by Eliot Peper

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Rate: 4/5

Medium: ARC

Overview (No Spoilers):

In every book I’ve read by Peper I find his pacing to be a breath of fresh air. One that catches you up in a whirlwind of activity,  leaving you mindlessly flip pages as quickly as possible. Veil doesn’t deviate from this fast paced mold, first established in Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream and the Analog Series, with the action and suspense keeping me ultimately glued. I can’t remember the last time I devouring a whole book in practically one sitting, but I lost hours while immersed in Veil. The literary Easter eggs sprinkled by Peper throughout Veil that subtly reference his previous works from Rachel, the CEO of the Commonwealth or the legendary reporter, Lynn Chevalier were fun flashbacks to familiar novels.

In my previous post, The Splendid and the Vile, I went on a bit of a tangent discussion regarding how book materials can overlap in surprising ways, like a complex, far fetched venn diagram. I’m continuing this thread here as, in How to Hide an Empire, the history behind the use in modern literature of the remote tropical island hideaway, where often a mastermind holds court, is traced back to the James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. The Vile and the Splendid references Fleming again, as well as the agent behind his Bond inspiration due to Churchill connections. In Veil, we see the aforementioned island base trope employed with a genius indeed pulling the strings. I found myself viewing this island base with more awareness than I might have prior to knowing some of the history established in How to Hide an Empire.

Back to the review at hand, throughout Veil Peper employs a wide cast of intriguing global characters from diverse backgrounds due to Zia’s school influence. The two that stood out were Zia and her father who were defined clearly by their emotional damage, which made them interesting, albeit not necessarily likable. I often find that the loss of a loved one in literature can glossed over or characters seem to move on  quickly after the ‘appropriate’ amount of time has elapsed. In real life, not everyone mourns with that same cookie cutter timeline, and Peper explores this dynamic in Veil. I found Zia and her father’s pain to be a fascinating layer to their depth, especially as that lingering hurt colored their every interaction. Often these open wounds seemed to heighten their reactions to the point of insults, escalating their conflict, which seems out of character in the face of the looming hurdles they need to overcome, until you realize how raw their pain still simmers just under the surface.

One theme that has resonated throughout Peper’s novels has been the impact of future technologies on society, in addition to often alarming implications behind who wields the power behind such innovations. Veil continues in this mold but adds a most intriguing wrinkle by blurring the line of right and wrong, with regard to the correct course to take. This line is in fact so marred I think I conservatively changed my mind at least four different times. Even now, I’m not quite sure what the right answer should have been, though I loved the pretty bow that Veil managed to tie out of a mess that seemed beyond salvageable. Zia’s immediate, strong, and passionate convictions had me doubting my instinct to want to thoroughly explore both sides of the argument as I plodded along at a seemingly slow processing pace that contrasted sharply with the rapidly unfolding events. Perhaps this is where the emotional pain that only been merely bandaged comes into play by stirring strong opinions and reactions for everyone involved. Peper continues to hone his craft in Veil and he genuinely gets better with each subsequent novel especially with respect to character development. I can’t wait to see what new future technology he will have up his sleeve to next haunt my general musings. Overall, Veil is an edge of your seat roller coaster that will have you crying, laughing, and biting your nails with each turn of the page while offering much fodder for future pondering regarding the complicated implications of weather control and global warming.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • I really enjoyed the scientific component of Veil. Zia’s father discovers how to temporarily halt the effects of climate change and secretly implements his findings without knowledge of side effects both long term and short term. He most definitely saved lives, but probably cost lives as well with the drought over India. Also, his band-aid did not halter the climate change process, so even though the storms had temporary abated, the root cause was still raging full stream ahead.  So good news, the heat waves and massive storms that kill millions were temporarily halted. Bad news, the earth was subjected to an untested science experiment with unknown long term consequences that has dire consequences. The concept is complicated, elegant, and offers plenty of material for pondering.
  • Zia’s immediate and forceful decision on the course of action still makes me uncomfortable. This issue was multifaceted and would/could not have an easy solution. Her actions were a consequence of her complicated relationship with her father, but this didn’t change how uneasy I was in my bones about her rushing foreward instead of processing. That being said, the pacing certainly served to heighten the suspense.
  • Galang was such a fun personality to read! Zia was so quick to want to trust him with revealing her father’s secret to the world, but I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps, Neon Fever Dream is too recent in my memory but could Zia have completely trusted him to frame the story appropriately?
  • Can I steal Selai’s idea about posing Haribo bears around the world? My favorite gummy bears!
  • I looked it up and there is actually a Zachary’s Pizza in Oakland, CA. Perhaps a favorite of Peper’s?
  • And while we are mentioning favorites, I personally loved all the Hamilton references.

Vocabulary Builder: When reading it is common that I encounter words that I’m not privy to the exact definition, however it is easy to infer the meaning of the aforementioned word based on the context of the sentence and story. As such, relatively new to the Critiquing Chemist, you’ll find an additional section that includes vocabulary words that I encountered upon reading the book being reviewed and either had to look up the definition or it is a word in which I would like to add to my repertoire. This endeavor is easier when in the Kindle format, and potentially impossible with audiobooks, however I’m going to attempt to continue this section for all future book reviews. I’ll be using the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Tessellated: having a checkered appearance

Zeitgeist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

Sequitur: the conclusion of an inference

Vim: robust energy and enthusiasm

Telenovela: a soap opera produced in and televised in or from many Latin American countries

Ineffable: incapable of being expressed in words

Verisimilitude: the quality or state of having the appearance of truth


Source: Veil by Eliot Peper

10 – Motivating Your Loved One To Complete Their High School Education

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When you see an enjoyed one end their high school education, it is a challenging thing to enjoy. Specifically when it is your kid. Many youths might not understand the importance of a high school education to their future and can only see the problem it might cause in their present daily life.

It may be they don’t get along with other trainees or even the teachers. No matter the situation, it is hard to view a liked one throw their future away.

A high school education does not require to be received in the standard high school setting. One of the finest methods of receiving a high school education is to get involved in an online education program.

Online high school education provides the trainee access to as numerous classes as they need to receive their high school diploma. Whether the student needs credit in science, social studies, English, mathematics, or a foreign language, an online education program will have them offered.

These online high school education classes also permit the student to discover at their own rate. If the trainee is working throughout the day, they can access their classes at night. The reality is online education makes it easy and convenient for the trainee.

When assisting your enjoyed one to select an online high school education program, you’ll wish to make sure it is accredited.

This indicates the school has been officially recognized as a qualified education program and your student will get a quality education from it. You’ll likewise want to make certain that your liked one has all the details and comprehends how the program works. You do not desire them to feel disappointed again and stop halfway through their program.

Supplying all the details up front is very important.

If your enjoyed one has not received their high school education, supply them with the chance and support they made to finish out their high school education. It might be they are just too scared or doing not have the confidence to continue.

When you give them the support, they will thank you for it and greatly appreciate all of the support you provided.

When you see a liked one end their high school education, it is a challenging thing to enjoy. A high school education does not need to be received in the traditional high school setting. One of the best methods of getting a high school education is to participate in an online education program. These online high school education classes likewise permit the trainee to learn at their own pace.

Source: 10 – Motivating Your Loved One To Complete Their High School Education

I Got a Call From Betsy DeVos. Here’s What I Wish She Had Said

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Every year, I look forward to the first week of May, Teacher Appreciation Week. The week is usually filled with handwritten cards and drawings, a thousand hugs and high fives, and all the candy and snacks we probably shouldn’t be eating. Most endearingly, it’s filled with grateful smiles from our students and their families.

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week looked completely different. Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced our school doors to close, teachers around the country have worked exceptionally hard to transform their classes to the virtual world. My colleagues are going above and beyond to make sure their students not only continue to grow academically but also have access to food and safety. In the middle of a pandemic, we have not thought about feeling appreciated. This is why I was unbelievably honored when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took the time to call me, thank me for my work in education and let me know just how appreciated I am.


p>I am a distinguished sixth grade Pre-AP Math and Pre-AP Science teacher at the School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove, a low-income, high minority community within the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). As the 2019-2020 DISD Secondary Teacher of the Year and a senior Teach Plus Policy Fellow, I’ve experienced a lot in my time in education, but nothing like what teachers are experiencing now. In this crucial time, I speak not only for myself but for my colleagues in expressing that, while it is important to feel appreciated, it is even more important now to have the support of decision-makers like Secretary DeVos.

As we look to the future of education and plan for our students to come back to school, there are two key items that I’m asking federal decision-makers, including Secretary DeVos and members of Congress to consider.

  • First, all educators should be able to undergo trauma-informed training before the start of the next school year. In August, every educator I know will be coming back to classrooms, whether in person or virtually, all over the state and the nation to welcome students who have undergone the different traumas associated with COVID-19. There will be students like Carla, who has watched her mother lose her job and experienced her power shut off during this warm spring Texas heat because they were unable to pay the bill. Carla has to walk down the street to her neighbor’s multi-family home to connect her district laptop to the internet so she can complete her schoolwork. Poverty, reports of child abuse, and food insecurity have increased manifold during the pandemic and as educators, we need to be ready to meet our students’ social-emotional needs.
  • Second, schools and school districts will need more support on the ground. I am thankful to work for Dallas Independent School District, which is going above and beyond to serve our community by providing food for families, childcare for first responders, and access to resources and technology so that all students can continue to learn and succeed. However, this doesn’t come without a cost. School districts around the country, like DISD, are doing their best to address the inequities in our communities to serve our students. They will need the same level of support form state and federal leaders to make sure their students can continue to learn. This is why I am asking Secretary DeVos, Congress, and other decision-makers to listen to school and community leaders and to do what they can and to do what they can to directly support our students who are at greatest risk.

I don’t always agree with Secretary DeVos, but I am greatly appreciative of the time she took to learn more about my journey in education and the community in which I work. She especially sympathized with my theater students who have to postpone their Disney musical, “Aladdin Kids,” until the fall. Still, I wish she had said more.

To make equitable change for our students, we cannot afford to allow political differences to keep us from taking action in this country. We must build bridges and work together despite our differences. The greatest teacher appreciation gift Secretary DeVos and other decision-makers can give is to show their support of and trust in educators by making sure our students have access to the resources they need to thrive.

Source: I Got a Call From Betsy DeVos. Here’s What I Wish She Had Said

10 – Imaginative Concepts to Follow Up After a Presentation

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In this day and age, it’s just not enough to call on somebody and make a presentation. If you do not follow up at least 7 times, you are wasting your time, in addition to theirs. The more time you take into getting to know your prospective customers, the much better your relationship will be.

Because of that, you need to follow up after a discussion, a minimum of 7 times, and in some cases longer. Here you’ll find some imaginative concepts to follow up that will make sure to impress anybody.

1. Your first follow up must be a hand written note, thanking them for their time. Utilize a great card, embossed with your logo design, if you desire, or just a basic “Thank You” card readily available anywhere.

Second, find some “Cheese Straws” at a specialty store, and send it with a note stating: “Understanding at straws to discover the perfect solution to …(consist of a problem you can solve for them)? This is not just a skillfully worded suggestion of your presentation, however something for them to taste and remember you by.

3. Rolodex cards are outstanding suggestions: include a note that says: “We are always within your reaches when you require us!” Make sure your rolodex card has the little tab at the top with either your name, or the most significant benefit of using your services: this will make it stick out from the others cards in the file.

4. Next, send a bag of popcorn with a note stating: “Simply popping in to remind you that we can …” (discuss one of the advantages of using your product or services).

5. A coffee mug imprinted with your logo, and filled with some coffee packets and even a cookie could be next: this will remind them of your see whenever they enjoy their coffee.

6. A seed package with this message: “We would like to help you grow your business” is another initial concept that will leave a great impression.

7. Chocolate business cards will be a tasty tip of your services. This one may be a little more costly, but well worth the expense. You’ll need to spend for a plate with your logo, however it’s a one time cost that will pay you sometimes over. The chocolate business cards are a great conversation starter, and something that will separate you from your competition.

These are just a couple of concepts: there are many more methods to keep your name in front of your prospective clients.

And to keep an eye on what you did, produce a folder for each presentation and established your follow-ups before you even go to your presentation.

You are now on your way to success: all the best with your next discussion!

In this day and age, it’s just not enough to call on somebody and make a presentation. If you don’t follow up at least 7 times, you are losing your time, as well as theirs. Your very first follow up ought to be a hand written note, thanking them for their time. This is not just a cleverly worded suggestion of your presentation, but something for them to taste and remember you by.

You’ll need to pay for a plate with your logo, but it’s a one time cost that will pay you lots of times over.

Source: 10 – Imaginative Concepts to Follow Up After a Presentation

1 – Checking out Time

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If your kids haven’t been reading over the summertime, now is a terrific time to get them began once again. Not all kids like to check out but it is so crucial during school years.

Start a reward for your kids based on reading time or variety of pages read. After they reach their objective, take them to get ice cream or some other reward.

Find a range of reading materials for your children. Present them to different categories to teach them about various sort of checking out available. They can attempt checking out a secret, and then non-fiction book. Sci-fi and experience books are actually popular with boys. Women like books that they can associate with.

Discover books that are appropriate to their age level. And do not forget the youngsters. Checking out to them will help them appreciate reading as they get older.

Kids that don’t like to check out can still discover things they take pleasure in checking out. There are magazines available for every single topic. You can discover something on their favorite subject that they can read.

If your child wants to be a pilot when they mature, discover books on flying and building planes. Finding something that is fascinating will assist inspire them to continue reading.

Checking out develops a structure for learning that will follow your kids throughout their lives. Teaching your kids excellent reading skills also allows them discipline for other studies.

Effective reading abilities will assist your children become better at school. And all of us desire that, right?

If your kids have not been checking out over the summer season, now is an excellent time to get them started once again. Children that do not like to check out can still find things they take pleasure in reading about. You can find something on their favorite topic that they can read.

Reading builds a foundation for finding out that will follow your kids throughout their lives.

Source: 1 – Checking out Time

Vector Component Form VIDEO

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Vector component form

Source: Vector Component Form VIDEO

“Renee By A Thread” by Tom Alexander

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Down the corridor, comes a scream
Was it physical pain
or the horror of finally learning
the way this game is turning
They took your clothes
gave you a gown
there was nothing to do but lay right down
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

Faint flashes behind tired eyelids
recalled moments from a busy life;
the night before your wedding
barefoot kisses by the Seine
The tentative first steps of Child Two
A shaking hand, a ‘thank you’ card
from the family of one you saved
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The ache, it came and spread like water
the fever burned, the cough, it worsened
they hooked you up, you knew the drill
the butterfly, the slow sure drip
and then it seemed to ease a while
The bed you took, brought guilt at first
your hands no longer helping
Then suddenly; your quick decline
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

There’s a feeling in your chest
and that sixth-sense you sometimes get
the dawn tomorrow, you will not witness
Nurses come, their voices hushed
gloved hands hold, always too briefly
you don’t like the letting go
The room is quiet but for the wheeze
as the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

In the chair beside you, that loving face
waiting at end of every nightshift
You know that he will raise them right
Ah, but which patient was it
which desperate hand you gently held
which reassuring words you shared
with no fresh mask to wear
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The family grieves
a nation grieves
for you
needlessly soon…

To check out more of Tom’s work, go here.

Want to submit something? Just go here.


Story Collaboration: Chapter 6 Posted. (Anyone want to write Chapter 7?)

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Hello and welcome back to the Little Writing Workshop of Horrors Story Collaboration. I hope everyone has been having fun either reading or writing this story.

Now that chapter six is posted (which you can read below), claims for chapters can begin here, and then following each new story collaboration post I publish.

The rules have changed! While still first come, first serve, you can now reserve a place in the collaboration by commenting below with your interest in writing a particular chapter. When it is your turn, I will remind you in the comments section.

Remember the rules if you want to participate:

  • Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing a chapter. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you for that chapter. You must comment to reserve a place and when it is your turn, I will remind you in the comments section. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from that point to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
  • Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing a chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
  • The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. When it’s your turn, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
  • I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.

No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.

Chapter One by Lucy

Chapter Two by Liyona

Chapter Three by James Strummer

Chapter Four by Matt Snyder

Chapter Five by Silver Stone

Current chapters claimed:

Chapter 11


Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.

Chapter 6 by DK.

“This is Steel Viper. Waiting for your command, Señor Sanchez”, I still didn’t know what was I saying or why was I saying that. I felt my body had become more stiffened than before. It was like I was given a dose of steroids. I was feeling heavy as well like my flesh and bones were replaced by metal. I didn’t feel any pain, though.

I saw a big screen switch itself on in front of me. A voice slowly gaining clarity.

“Welcome to the Gamma, Señor Charlie.” I could not see a face. Just a voice which was eerily sharp, or rather shrill and it was of a woman. Was it Venus? I thought. No, how could I even remember from what happened before? It seemed fuzzy. Amnesia just wasn’t fulfilling its satiation within me. Although my body had changed a lot, I was still harping on remembering what had happened until now. The last thing I remembered was Cracker snapped from behind and discarded out of context.

“We don’t usually choose one of ours for this mission that Gamma wants to fulfill. Standing out in the world of data base, data science and information, we aim to wipe out the entire history of mankind, from the mankind. We want to give the mankind a new history to live with. We will control the world economy, we will control the communications with space, and we will control medical and technological advancements. One global power will be there, The Gamma.”

Thud. A large bang was made and I came back to reality. It was for me to realize now that I was indeed trapped in a big web of deceit and lies. I lost all trust. The voice was not of Venus, but a woman I have heard somewhere before.

“I have a special mission for you, Charlie”, a man now said.

The voice was recognizable. It was Z. Damn, what have I got myself into? I stood still as Z continued.

“You have been installed with our latest development in the field of Integrated circuits. You see, right now the chip that has been installed within you will help you forget who you were, even your name, where you have been, your mother land and everyone else you ever came in contact with. As we speak, we are gaining access to all your medical conditions.

“Let me tell you, for a guy of 28, you have early signs of full blown dementia; we just registered that you have a mutation in your 21st chromosome’s long arm. Well, that does not concern me. You see, we are the first organization to have secretly built an imaginary connection with the Deep Web; we have hackers working to breach the network securities and firewalls in the White House, followed by their allies in India and South East Asia. We already have control over NASA’s live feed. They might be thinking that they are seeing what they are seeing, but it is actually what we are showing them that they are seeing.

“Finally, Google and Facebook too are now just dummies. We have all the information and we have created pseudo sites and servers where we are transferring this information somewhere In the South Pole. From tomorrow onwards, there will be no existence of them. Now, we also have installed another IC in your system in which we will reintegrate all this information, and then you will be transported to various countries where you will be cloning yourself, like key Government officials, top bureaucrats and so on.”

He stopped after revealing all of his sinister plans in one breath. I still couldn’t believe this. I started calculating my position here. They probably believe that my memory is a clean slate now. So they are under the impression that I can’t recognize any of them. But I can, I just don’t know how long I can retain whatever else I should remember.

My first confusion was, was Delano 618 and OPTIK GATE the same bloody organization? Were Richards and Z the same person? I wouldn’t be surprised. I decided to keep myself calm and I told myself that I will come out of this mess. I just had to know how long I had left before they send me off. And the last thing that ate my head off was where is this Gamma located? I wish I could have noticed the location, but it was just voices. Smart move, I thought to myself.

“I hope you are aboard here, Charlie—sorry, Viper,” he laughed after calling me out. I was still chained.

“Just one last thing,” the woman chimed again, “don’t try to be smart. You have 24 hours to prepare yourself for this or else we have a lot of other options.” Thud again, and the light dimmed on the screen.

I was taken back by two men who had seemingly been inspired from The Matrix’s outfit.

Once locked in the cell, I started planning something daring as well as trying to be smart. All my neurons started firing and I slowly started to plan how I could possibly avert this. Well, for starters I really need to know the main heads involved. I have a lot of questions still unanswered, I thought. I need to gain their trust and then deceive them, but it is not going to be easy.

In that pin drop silence, I heard some voices approaching. I guess I was locked inside some container, like the ones used to transport large chunk of consignments across countries. Maybe I was in the middle of the Atlantic, already being transported somewhere. I slowly moved, wary of any unwanted sound I would make. I stopped myself a yard away from the gate and I tried to listen to the voices outside.

“This Charlie is going to come around, right?” One man asked the other.

“Do you think he has any option left?” replied the other.

“He doesn’t leave us with any option, does he?”

“I bet by the time we reach our destination, he will be completely fine by then. He will be one of ours.”

I wish he said the name of the place I was headed. Slowly, I started feeling a little dizzy. But, I had to hold on; the conversation was still going on between the two men.

“Franz and Richards and Venus are just the greatest sinners of all time. These three guys will control the whole world, the whole of the free world pretty soon, trust me.”

This was a bombshell. What does he even mean by Franz and Richards and Venus are all the same? I had to get to the bottom of this but I couldn’t stand the buzzing anymore. I guess the chips and the drugs had started taking their effects; I was breathing heavily. I fell on the ground. I couldn’t keep my eyes open but before I dozed off, I heard a large honk, something that sounded like a foghorn.


Say A Little Prayer

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I don’t usually ask anything of my followers.  Your visits, comments and continued support has been more than enough for me for several years now.  But today, I am asking you to pray for my dear friend Denise.  She has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer.  I’ve done a few posts about Denise over the years.  … Continue reading Say A Little Prayer

Ambrose Bierce by way of the Rashomon Effect

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For those, like me, who had never heard of the Rashomon Effect, it briefly means that, in a court of law (or other situation), the testimony of two witnesses to the same event may vary wildly, be it through intentional manipulation of the facts or simple difference of interpretation.

The Rashomon Effect

This term comes from Rashomon, a 1950 film by Akira Kurosawa in which several eyewitnesses to the murder of a Samurai, including the victim himself (by way of a medium), tell the story of how he died.  Set in ancient Japan, the sale serves as a morality fable, highlighting the inherent pride and weakness of each of the characters.

The events themselves are gripping enough to keep attention despite the fact that the same story is essentially retold from four points of view–that of the murderer, the wife of the victim, the victim himself and, finally, the man who reported the crime to the police… a man who supposedly only found the body.

Rashomon Movie poster

This one is undoubtedly a classic, one of those films that stays with you and which, despite the miserable way the characters act for the most part, ends in an upbeat manner.  Interesting to see is how overacted it seems compared to equivalent films in the Western canon–whether that is because the film accurately depicts Japanese emotional responses in the era pictured, whether it was an artistic style popular in Japan, or whether it was an artistic license on the part of the director, I don’t know.  I did find it a bit distracting… but then, unfamiliar things often grab the attention.  There are a few more Japanese films on the 1001 movies list, so I’ll be able to give a more informed opinion moving forward.

One interesting note was that the film was based on a Japanese story which, in its turn was based on a story by Ambrose Bierce.  I’m mainly familiar with Bierce’s work via paperback horror and weird fiction anthos, and his link to the film explains the otherwise inexplicable presence of a dead man giving testimony.

Definitely worth watching and an experience which will let you think about the film itself as well as the cultural and literary links surrounding it.  Good stuff.


Gustavo Bondoni’s literary fiction, a series of stories that twine together in a similar way as the testimonies in Rashomon, is collected in Love and Death.  You can buy it here.

It was not love #flash fiction #short prose

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I alternate deep and high-pitched tones; opposing predispositions of a breathing universe.

You favor discussions about T’s novel. T was a mediocre writer. Yet he did capture a side of me that fascinates you; a side that looks like those apparitions reflected in the mirrors of our bedroom every night.

What brought T and me together?

It was not love. You know that.

Perhaps it was the knowledge that all combinations are fundamentally flawed.

Did you raise your eyebrows?

No. Don’t touch me. I don’t want to be thrown in the swimming pool anymore.


My book, Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings, can be ordered here.
Thank you.

@short-prose-fiction (Gabriela Marie Milton)

image:  Radharani; Shutterstock; [link]


The post It was not love #flash fiction #short prose appeared first on Short Prose.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Note From Sarah: The Critiquing Chemist will have a few new faces posting book reviews over the next couple of months! I have been asked to participate as a Judge in the Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off and have recruited a fantastic team to help me with the contest. On June 1st, I’ll be posting introductions for my fellow four judges and a bit more background on the competition. In the mean time, please give Jennie all your support on her first book review for the Critiquing Chemist!

Critiquing Chemist Blogger: Jennie

Rate: 3.5/5

Medium: Kindle ebook (442 pages) 

Overview (No Spoilers):

After The Critiquing Chemist invited me to join her team judging the entrants in the 6th SPFBO competition, another team member wanted to get to know us better as readers, asking about our likes and dislikes in the fantasy genre and beyond. My first instinct was to share about my appreciation for fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. In addition to being flooded with Disney content as a child (which, at the time, I did not know were the kid-friendly versions of the original tales), I absolutely loved Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. This grew to include other books such as Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter, and novels by Gregory Maguire (honorable mentions that don’t qualify as fairy tales: the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine and In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz). I even took a class my senior year of college about the subject (good ol’ GERM 247. Fairy Tales, Myths, and Legends), so I’m basically an expert. Ha! Yeah, right.

Given my current streak of reading thriller/suspense novels, I sought to update my fairy tale portfolio and stumbled upon Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Published in 2015, this highly-rated book has received the Nebula Award for Best Novel and was nominated for a Hugo Award. It has also been reviewed previously by The Critiquing Chemist if you’re interested in checking that out here.

If you are a person who views the blurb as a spoiler, that’s fair, but I tend to use it as a way to gauge my initial interest in a story. Then again, I’m also the kind of person who, uh, accidentally ruins the ending, because I like to flip to the last page of a book to figure out how many pages I have left (luckily, this problem has largely been eliminated upon the introduction of ebooks and tracking the percentage read). So, I will do my best to remember that this is a review, not a summary… Review, not summary… However, if you do read this book’s synopsis, I would argue that the story is much bigger and more rewarding than what that and the first few chapters suggest.

There are many folks who will sing the praises of this work, – and it is a lovely read – it just didn’t speak to me in the way that would elevate it to ‘top shelf’ status. Novik has created a special world with a story that is unique, albeit in a setting that feels familiar (which, to be sure, can be appealing). This narrative has the hallmarks of a traditional fairy tale, complete with rival kingdoms, a forest full of menacing monsters, and magical elements. The characters are equal parts heroic and stubborn (some might even say implacable), and usually both at the same time. As the storyline moves forward, Novik deftly changes scenery, allowing her to further shape and embellish the world, bit by bit. As a stand-alone book, the plot covers a lot of ground in its 442 pages, occasionally to its detriment; there were times where I desired a bit more backstory or a bit more honing of a character’s skills (perhaps to be continued in a sequel or novella, eh, eh?). At its heart, this is a story about a young woman, Agnieszka, fighting to protect what matters most to her, while coming into her own and discovering just how strong she truly is. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound): 

  • If I had to be labeled, I would probably classify as an ‘unreliable witness’. I’m much better at describing the big picture and how a story made me feel, than elaborating on the intricate details used to weave it all together. There’s a reason I had to read scientific articles multiple times: first to identify what the author was selling, and then at least once more to weed out any snake oil. So, I apologize if any of my musings have, in fact, already been explained and are moot points.
  • Exhibit A) Despite informing the reader early on that although the Dragon has been abducting 17-year-old girls for decades, ‘at a quick glance in the street I might have thought him a young man’, I still managed to picture him as an older gentleman for the first quarter of the book… I don’t know what to tell you.
  • Exhibit B) I got tripped up when the Falcon was introduced, because the wizards started using each other’s first names: ‘“Sarkan, what have you done?” the Falcon said, advancing on the Dragon’s seat.’ I somehow missed from that sentence that the Dragon is actually Sarkan, and later on that Solya refers to the Falcon. I never even considered that they had real names. Perhaps I need to slow down my reading pace. This is a marathon, not a sprint…
  • One quirk I noticed was that as Agnieszka would be analyzing the world around her, wondering what was going on or thinking of spells to try out to fix their current predicament, the wizards around her would answer her thoughts as if they were spoken aloud. So, either I read too quickly and missed that they can hear her thoughts, or perhaps this was a  subconscious stylistic choice done to prevent repetitive writing? I think it also bothered me because it felt one-sided. It’s not like she knew what the Dragon was thinking, just what his scowls suggested to her. Or is that kind of the same thing?
  • As for my gripes, I know it worked out in the end, and I’m not saying I don’t understand her stance, but I found Agnieszka’s persistence to save Kasia over and over regardless of real and potential consequences to be really reckless. That kind of shortsighted, all-consuming focus makes it difficult to come up with a good plan of attack (especially on your own).
  • There was also a bit of ‘I don’t know how to do it, so I won’t even try’ in Agnieszka while learning how to perform spells that I found irritating (although I know the Dragon wasn’t the best instructor for her style, so it was kind of like asking a fish to climb a tree as a gauge of its learning ability). She does acknowledge that she wished she’d done more to hone her craft throughout the book: ‘That was when I understood how much a fool I’d been. I’d never thought of magic, of my magic, as good for anything, until I stood there and knew that there was no one else but me; whatever was in me, however poor and clumsy and untaught, was more magic than anyone else in my village had. That they needed help, and I was the only one left who could give it.’ I’m not sure I like that I can relate more to the Dragon…
  • Although the fight scenes were necessary for the story, it bothered me how these situations and subsequent deaths were brought on by someone else being overzealous (I’m looking at you, Prince Marek) while Agnieszka is used as a pawn. It’s like the tension that arises from something not being your fault, while simultaneously not being able to do anything about it. This kind of scene is compelling, but I have a love-hate relationship with it because it tends to make me angry and in need of Bob Ross’s ‘happy little clouds’.
  • The time spent in Polnya felt a little slow while they waited for the trial to start. I would’ve liked to learn more about the origins of Alosha (the Sword), Father Ballo (the Owl), and Ragostok (the Splendid) – I’d include Solya (the Falcon), but he was skeevy. And tell me more about how to get on the list of wizards and the naming ceremony (and why it didn’t work for Agnieszka)…
  • How many other apprentices are being taught to follow strict pronunciation, specific body movements, and precise recipes that would benefit more from Agnieszka’s relaxed style of ‘sound it out until it feels right’? 
  • The Dragon had seemed shocked when Agnieszka blended her magic with his, as if that weren’t normal. Maybe it was just unusual for him, as someone who was as resigned to a solitary life in the tower as the women he kidnapped. Are she and Sarkan only able to create magic that is more than the sum of its parts because of their different approaches?
  • Since Kasia has escaped the heart-tree with tree-like qualities, is she now one of the wood-people who transformed into trees at the end? Is this where the wood-people came from? Could she join Agnieszka in turning into a tree after consuming the heart-tree fruit and water from the pool? 
  • I like the idea that Agnieszka could be Baba Jaga somehow. But it’s my understanding from folklore that she is generally someone to be feared. One way I can connect these two ideas is to consider that one of the unknown creatures in the Wood was finally able to trap Agnieszka and managed to turn her evil. And don’t think you’re out of the woods yet just because she’s been ‘dead and buried for five hundred years’, we all now know that Jaga is a time traveler…
  • Final thoughts: While there were characters that grated on me and moments that were too fleeting, I still enjoyed the tale.


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Source: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Guest Post: Carol Ann Taylor

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I am very pleased to feature British blogger and cookery writer Carol Taylor, who now lives in Thailand. This is her story of how she came to live there.
Carol is a great member of our blogging community, and is always fully engaged with blog posts.

This is her own bio.

My Bio
Born in the Fifties which makes me?.mmm I will let you do the math. I was the eldest of three girls and the tomboy….my sisters loved dolls and pushing other peoples babies up and down the street…I still ask myself why?? I much preferred climbing trees, camping out and spending all my school holidays on my granddad’s farm…My grandmother taught me how to cook on her aga and I suppose that was where my love of cooking started…Singing in the church choir was also a passion of mine as is playing the piano.

I was an avid reader and writer even then, my school teachers must have really cringed as I used to write pages and pages…I sometimes wish I still had my school books but I think they must have just got thrown away at some point …As I grew older my aunt suggested I keep a diary and I still do to this day …Leaving school for college but I never really settled or found anything that I really wanted to do except write and my father did not consider that to be a job. He really just thought girls got married and had babies so I did.

In between bringing up our children my husband passed away and also some close family members and I lost two very dear friends who I still miss terribly, I completed a marathon all 26.2 miles with two of my daughters. Learning beckoned again and back to college I went to do Law…I just love learning and researching and of course, writing. I also met my second husband who humours me …He has always been very supportive of anything I have done and is a great dad to my kids. The children grew up and took their own very successful paths in life and now have families of their own…Life has a habit of just carrying on, doesn’t it?

Retirement then beckoned for my hubby and of course, I was getting pretty disillusioned with the rat race so decided I would take early retirement.
That was when we decided to not only think outside the box but throw it away and now we are enjoying life in the Land Of Smiles.

I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them. I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I am using have which may improve our health and well-being.

I am also very much into the environment and am concerned about our Oceans and fisheries and about all the preservatives and processed foods and am an advocate about cooking from scratch and growing our own food where or when we can even a few pots or a window box for herbs is a start.
Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Link to my Blog

And here is her unedited guest post.

Retired In Sunny Thailand.

How did I end up In sunny Thailand?…all my life I lived mainly in the same house in the same town and did what was expected of me working in a bank and then for local government…I was good at what I did we holidayed in some lovely places for quite a few years it was Spain until sadly my best friend passed away…we then spread our wings a little and travelled to a few far away climes all very nice but not home… We thought about retirement on and off but never made any great plans… Maybe a nice little cottage with roses around the door… My youngest son then announced he was off to Thailand…why Thailand it was all to do with the world cup…Football… He came back full of his trip and announced he would be returning as he had met a young lady… The photos he showed us were of beautiful beaches and golden Buddhas…It looked exotic and very beautiful.

The relationship progressed and visas sorted and out he went again with the aim of returning to England with his lady and to get married the next year…The Thai Embassy had other ideas and advised them it would be much easier to get a visa if they married…Which is exactly what they did …The visa followed… They returned to the UK and settled down it was then that I got my first taste of authentic Thai food and discovered how many Thai girls also lived locally …I was also taught how to cook Thai food and became very good at it…I also loved it!

It was that year we travelled to Thailand with our son and his wife, two of our young grandsons to meet the Thai family…It was love from the minute I landed on Thai soil…

We loved every minute …that holiday was followed by a few more and then Aston arrived…That changed everything as my son and his wife decided they were going to make their home in Thailand so that Aston could both learn the language and all of his heritage… It was then that we decided we would up sticks and also follow them…Hubby had just retired and I took early retirement… I went from being …well I can never say I was the quiet retiring type …haha…but a whole new world opened up and we have moved more times within Thailand than I have ever moved in my whole life and I daresay we will move again at some point.

I joined a writers group quite by chance…I have always been an avid reader and loved to write mainly letters and in my diaries…but blog and write …no…In the words of one of my new friends in the group “Oh my Buddha what have we released”

I started my blog as a way of recording our travels for family and friends and the writing followed on with some short stories in two anthologies…
Initially we lived in Phuket for 5 years and ran a restaurant and bar with my son…we met people from all over the world and made some friends for life…Phuket is beautiful we lived in three different houses around the island but it is a holiday destination. People come and go it is very transient and apart from immediate neighbours you are always treated like a tourist.

This was one of reasons why we decided to relocate to the North of Thailand also it is where our Thai family live…Of course I miss the beaches but we can pop on a plane and be on the beach in just over an hour… Here there are mountains and waterfalls lots of tradition and we are accepted as part of the community. The local tuk tuk drivers know where I live and know where I stop on my way back from the shops to get my fresh coconut juice and SomTam(papaya salad)…I feel safe and at home…

We all share the produce which we grow… it is a real community…They give me mangoes I make the mango jam …They love my bread pudding hot from the oven…They bring me food to try much of which I have never seen or heard of before…I make them Christmas cake we share our different food and culture it is lovely to see and feel the welcome.

I have always cooked from scratch taught by my mother and grandmother and now because of necessity, I also have more time and the fact I object to eating a cocktail of chemicals with every mouthful of food… I have been introduced to food I never dreamed I would eat or had never heard of it is definitely nose to tail eating here nothing is wasted…some even I do not have the stomach for …

I love the fierce tropical storms which blow out very quickly and then the sun shines but everything grows so quickly and is lush and green…Thais forage every day and I am amazed at how much they eat picked from the trees and the jungle…

Every time even after 8 years of living here I invariably find something I haven’t seen before at the local markets and the market traders are happy to let me try…so friendly just adorable people always smiling.

Down on the farm we have chooks and turkeys , grow rice and vegetables we have Durian, banana and other trees…I have learnt how to make charcoal, coconut cream, many of the houses have wooden looms underneath where the art of weaving is passed down through the generations. Family is strong here and many families live together in the same house or the same area…old people are cherished and looked after and willingly the families stay together.

If I had been asked when I was 30 to write about how I thought my life would be when we retired I would have been way off base…I never ever thought I would be lucky enough to live here…I doubt that I would be blogging and writing, I wouldn’t have friends from all the corners of the world and I most certainly wouldn’t have all the lovely recipes I have been taught and gifted with…Living the dream…

I cannot envisage living anywhere else , Thailand is my home…
Thank you, Pete for letting me tell my story of how I found myself here in Thailand.

Please visit Carol’s site to see photos of her new life, and some mouth-watering recipes too.
You will be glad that you connected with such a warm and friendly lady, living life her way in a new land.

For mercy

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Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 10.55.03 PM

“Flower Clouds” by Odilon Redon.

An epilogue of a vista

in father’s ocean eyes;

the echo of the dream

fallen in conniption

a chrysalis of fuckery

at the mind-felt waves

in ice welts;


in a quasi-silencing of shame

as the wind blows the sail,

riffs on the skin,

witnessing the passivity of the shore

in winter carver;

something in your eyes

makes me want to forget,

in the early morning mist

concise, in late abject

flower clouds

in fragile dissensus

in the unfertilized wild,

far beyond the waiting sand

now onto dark eyeless waves

that seek the strait of death.


The cherry branch in requiem

in the mirror of the shore,

your mind


in the prelude of footfall

and silence that

presses the skull of sea cliffs


by the breast of the albatross,

leaving me the fuck alone;

and I remember the waves

depending on the atavism

rived with blood,

and robbed in shadows

of dreams; mourned,

the ocean wells

rising with white leer

through death

coming through

the womb of portend

in the blue birches

with a shell; a daughter of clam

endured the sea,

caught in loneliness

of dark, and beg

for mercy,

for mercy.

10 – Who Wishes to Work?

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I feel a loss when pragmatism wins over the magical. There is a higher magic at work when you engage with Source. I think that strength and optimism integrated with effort will keep marketing concepts and other found out strategies working well for success. I have a much various story to tell.

I’ve spent many years in the corporate world and in the service and sales industry. Letting those learned and hard-work concepts go to engage in a relationship with the divine has been one of the most hard difficulties I’ve ever dealt with.

Basically, the mystical, the divine, the source energy, or God if you like, wouldn’t let me go. No matter how tough I worked, I simply did not see the outcomes I wanted.

There was a transformation currently underway and I would be welcoming a brand-new lifestyle. You can not reject who you truly are. As I moved far from working hard and focused increasingly more on my presents, passion & function, wonderful things began happening.

In spite of all my marketing and service focused activities, none of my potential customers had actually ended up being a client and none of my projects came to life. Strangely, people from across North America were finding me, and rarely through my website.

As long as I took part in a relationship with the source and worked out faith, customers began showing up. Customers that were trying to find the gifts that I needed to use and the connection I needed to share.

This has actually pressed me deeper into a relationship with the mystical, the esoteric, the spiritual – numerous words to describe the same thing – and practicing a brand-new method of being in this world. It is much easier, far more natural, a lot more serene, and in numerous aspects, really simple. Well, simple when I get out of my way.

There have been times when I have actually been in a total and utter panic over what was not materializing. I ‘d come close to reverting to an old pattern and headaches would show up and more resistance in mind, body, and spirit. Within 24-48 hours, I ‘d back off from my concerns, not able to give-in and quit the dream.

I ‘d trust and just as unexpectedly, abundance again made itself known.

I see this pattern, these ups & downs, as part of the training I am receiving. To deepen my relationship with the divine. To rely on source. To trust my true calling, enthusiasm and purpose. To express more completely who I am and thereby be a better guide and instructor to those who want to engage in the same relationship with the source of production.

Magic lives all over. Being practical can work, but who wants to work?

There is a greater magic at work when you engage with Source. I think that strength and optimism combined with hard work will keep marketing concepts and other discovered strategies working well for success. As I moved away from working hard and focused more and more on my gifts, passion & function, magical things started happening.

It is much easier, much more natural, much more serene, and in many aspects, very easy. To express more fully who I am and therefore be a much better guide and teacher to those who want to engage in the exact same relationship with the source of development.

Source: 10 – Who Wishes to Work?

This Charter School Prepared for Distance Learning Ahead of Time and It’s Paying Off For Students

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As COVID-19 has forced schools across the country to adapt to remote learning, Perspectives Charter School teacher Andrew Rosenblat has led a recent technological revolution at his campus.

A Chicago native, Rosenblat spent the last few years teaching in Australia, where he was trained in how to help struggling learners catch up to grade-level. This work involved using technology to ensure that students had more access to classroom content from any location—no matter how remote. 

Pre-Coronavirus: Building a Base to Learn from Anywhere

Earlier this year, Rosenblat brought these strategies to his new job at Perspectives’ Rodney D. Joslin campus where he teaches English language arts to freshmen and sophomores. Rosenblat put all of his classes on Google Classroom so students can learn and understand the structure and flow of the content from anywhere. Rosenblat said,

I strongly believe in giving students access to materials, lessons and support. For me, this goes beyond just the classroom. One of the biggest things for me is missed work because of absences. I know that there are always family struggles, sleepy days, mental health days and/or sick days that cause students to miss school. I never want those days to cause additional stress for students to make up work and play catch up.

After he taught his lessons, Rosenblat would post his PowerPoint presentation, along with any related assignments, on Google Classroom. Students could then complete their assignments at home or anywhere they have Wi-Fi. Little did he know, these actions would soon move from a convenience to a necessity for Perspectives students.

Preparing for Pandemic: Setting up the school for remote learning

As the world moved into February and nervously watched the Coronavirus pandemic sweep across the globe, teachers and staff knew it would only be a matter of time before the virus came to Chicago, an international travel hub. In mid-March, Perspectives school leaders proactively surveyed students to see who had access to technology at home and came up with a plan to print thousands of take-home packets for students. Perspectives leaders asked Mr. Rosenblat to share his Google Classroom setup with school staff, in the case that some students could have access to the internet. Rosenblat said,

We were able to move to online remote learning easily and efficiently. We already had some discussions about using a better digital system to give students access to the material. So I think the admin team was already in this mindset when they realized the schools would be closing. We got all the students on Google Classroom quickly before the closure happened.

While school administrators covered his classes, Mr. Rosenblat went from classroom to classroom, getting every single student signed into an account. That was the week before schools closed. 

COVID-19 shuts down Chicago schools: The first two weeks

By Tuesday, March 17, all Chicago public school buildings were closed, but thanks to the prep done by Perspectives, most students logged into their Google Classrooms and resumed learning that week. Because they had a strong structure while they were in school, they were able to maintain that same learning structure outside of school. While state- and city-level leaders grappled with how long to keep students out of school, Perspectives teachers taught their two weeks of lessons that they planned earlier in the month. Rosenblat said,

Our leadership had extraordinary foresight that schools would be closing, The leadership took that time to develop materials to send home to students, while the teachers worked on carrying out the work they already planned. It took a lot of stress off our backs during the initial closure and allowed us to focus on our students, socially and emotionally.

Running remote into the spring

Students in Illinois will not be returning to their schools this school year and it is unclear what school will look like this fall. What is clear, though, is that Perspectives teachers are prepared to continue to deliver on their mission of preparing students for college and life. The week before Spring Break, teachers met (remotely) to discuss what classes would look like after the week off. They decided to take an ambitious approach and teach their students the same new content that they were planning for the spring, but modify it to be virtual. 

Mr. Rosenblat had planned on teaching a unit of argumentative essays, but he shifted to focus on argumentative analysis and more project-based learning that involves as much student interaction as possible while they’re spending so much time apart. They’re planning to watch a play and debate parts of it online. 

I am not a big fan of learning online, I like that face to face interaction, the socialness of it. I wanted to bring some of that to what we were doing online. Lots of collaboration, digital creations, using materials the kids already love and are passionate about … Project-based, real applications are the way to go with digital learning.

This rapid shift to remote learning is something that most teachers around the world are grappling with right now. They’ve had to reimagine what education looks like. But at Perspectives, they had a head start. And that head start has allowed for more students to continue their education and a sense of normalcy throughout this crisis.

Source: This Charter School Prepared for Distance Learning Ahead of Time and It’s Paying Off For Students

1 – Preschool Goodbyes

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Preschool can be really hard for young children. They do not have a principle of time, so it is difficult for them to understand that they will be at the preschool for a part of the day and then you will pick them up once again. Kids can have a hard time letting their mama or dad leave.

Everyone has seen scenes where a kid is holding on to their moms and dad, tears rushing down their face, and the parent is reluctant to leave, glancing around for some assistance. This is not only hard for the child, however also for the moms and dad. I believe we have actually all seen or faced this experience.

Scenarios like these can be less difficult if you follow a couple of basic ideas. If you are beginning at a brand-new preschool, check out prior to the very first day and take a tour of the school. Tell your child how they get to be big now and go to school. Show them where their things will belong. Learn what they will be doing on their first day.

Many schools have a schedule with styles and activities drawn up. You can speak about how they get to paint today, or they are finding out about clowns. Get your child excited about what they will be doing.

When the day gets here to take them to school, do not make a big deal about biding farewell. Help them hang up their things and take them to their instructor. Give them a quick kiss or hug and bid farewell. Then reverse and leave.

This is the hardest part – walking away. Dragging out the goodbyes just makes it more emotional for your kid. If you do not imitate you will be missing them throughout the day, they will not act that way either.

Preschool can be very hard for young kids. They do not have an idea of time, so it is tough for them to comprehend that they will be at the preschool for a portion of the day and then you will select them up again. If you are beginning out at a brand-new preschool, see prior to the first day and take a trip of the school. When the day gets here to take them to school, don’t make a big deal about saying goodbye.

Source: 1 – Preschool Goodbyes

Students With Disabilities Deserve More During Distance Learning

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At Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (Alliance) in Los Angeles, when we say that all scholars can learn and achieve, we mean all. That’s why, in 2018, we launched a multi-year organization-wide effort to ensure that every scholar, especially our English learners and scholars with disabilities, have equitable access to rigorous grade-level materials, social-emotional support, and mental health resources needed to meet their academic and career potential.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools pivoted to distance learning, our network faced a stark choice of action or inaction regarding special support services, since special education policies were not explicitly mandated by the district or state. We could either choose to put all scholar needs first or disregard the needs of scholars with disabilities and English learners who represent 12% and 15% of Alliance’s 13,000 scholars, respectively.

In alignment with the Alliance mission of educational equity, we chose action.

Alliance Marine Innovation and Technology 6-12 Complex
teachers send a message to their scholars during distance learning.

First, the Alliance special education team mobilized to provide instructional and academic resources regarding scheduling, accommodation tools in a virtual classroom, and co-planning facilitation guidelines between general education and special education teachers. Immediately after, the team crafted legal guidance with action items for our schools to follow to ensure that Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) compliance efforts were efficient, concise, and in the best interest of scholars and families. 

As part of the action plan, schools communicated with all 1,547 families with scholars receiving special support services to explain the shifts in support during distance learning. Next, we assessed each individual scholar’s needs and addressed their educational services through personalized prior written notices and virtual IEP meetings. These steps were of paramount importance, as they closely aligned with the network’s agreed-upon distance learning principles:

  • Consistency: A flexible and accessible asynchronous approach to online teaching. 
  • Connection: We prioritize relationships and individualized support.
  • Compassion: Our community is facing unprecedented and uncertain challenges.
  • Readiness: Our modified curriculum focuses on preparing all scholars to matriculate to the next grade.

I am proud to say that by April 13—less than two weeks after the launch of distance learning—Alliance was able to offer 100% of related services such as occupational therapy, counseling, speech, and vision, through virtual means. We are also continuing to offer our academic and instructional support through our special education resource specialists and instructional aides, utilizing such tools as online office hours, small group instruction and one-on-one tutoring sessions. Our ability to offer any of the above-mentioned services must be credited to the Alliance operations and technology teams for providing over 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to families in need for use with Alliance-supplied Chromebooks. 

We aren’t doing it perfectly and definitely have room for improvement, but we’re choosing action because this is what scholars need and deserve. Yes, Alliance benefits from the flexibility of a public charter school and a large support staff, but if your district or charter network is not meeting the needs of all scholars during distance learning, ask them why. Alliance has high expectations for all scholars, and we know our families have high expectations of us. You have a right and responsibility to advocate for your child to ensure that the SB 117 funding provided to each pupil is being utilized in their best interest. 

Collaboration will be key to ensuring that students across California—not just Alliance scholars—are able to succeed during this unprecedented period. Given the importance of partnership, Alliance is participating in a public webinar co-hosted by several California Assemblymembers, Senators, and the California Charter Schools Association on May 19 to share our best practices in serving scholars with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is my hope that our findings will spark action. Our scholars’ futures depend on it

Source: Students With Disabilities Deserve More During Distance Learning

10 – Education & Mentor – Language Acquisition

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Brenda Geier K-12 Reading Professional – The research informs us that with the assistance of parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators, along with direct exposure to a literacy-rich environment, kids advance from emergent to conventional reading. By connecting through reading aloud and discussion, children are exposed to finding out early.

It is really important to read aloud to children and supply chances for them to discuss the stories that they hear. As Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkinson (1985) state, “The single essential activity for developing the understanding needed for eventual success in reading reads aloud to children, especially throughout the preschool years”. It helps them develop oral language, cognitive abilities, and principles of print and phonemic awareness.

Children checked out to develop background understanding about a variety of subjects and construct a big vocabulary, which helps them in later understanding and development of reading techniques. They also watch how others check out and therefore become knowledgeable about the reading procedure. They are continuously finding out.

Still, numerous get in primary school without a strong background in literacy. These are the kids who are most at danger of developing reading problems.

At age 3-4, children begin to “check out” their preferred books on their own. They begin to utilize “mock handwriting” (Clay, 1975). Around age 5, in kindergarten, many children are thought about emerging readers. They make quick development in literacy skills if they are exposed to literacy-rich environments (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999). Children might try to remember what has actually been written or utilize an image created with the text to reread instead of utilizing the letter hints (Kamberelis & Sulzby, 1988; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

They are starting to use phonetic understanding to produce developed spellings, there is a lapse in time before they use phonetic hints to read what they compose.

For those parents who select to home-school their kids, an enormous advantage exists to teach kids phonetic understanding, sight words and decoding prior to they enter school. This knowing benefit provides power with text that a lot of will not be geared up with.

A lot of children will end up being early readers during the first grade. They typically look at starting and ending letters in order to translate unknown words (Clay, 1991; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). They know a small number of sight words.

By second grade, they are transitional readers, able to read unknown text with more independence. They utilize significance, grammatical, and letter cues more fully and utilize images in a restricted way while reading (Clay, 1991; International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, burns, & Griffin, 1998). Transitional spellers can use spelling guidelines, patterns, and other techniques to put words on paper.

By the 3rd grade, kids are generally proficient readers. They can check out for implying while focusing less on decoding. They might use transitional and phonetic spellings to spell rarely utilized words.

The kid’s principle of words changes as the kid’s literacy advancement evolves. Kids build their own knowledge hence the difference in between how an adult understands reading and writing and how a kid understands reading and writing.

Children progress through numerous categories of phonological skills from rhyming to blending. The most difficult task includes the total segmentation of phonemes and manipulation of them to form new words (Griffith & Olson, 1992; Hall & Moats, 1999). If we start teaching our children how to section and manipulate phonemes at the pre-school age, they will have the tools required to spell correctly, comprehend the significance of words and have the ability to write and check out total sentences with ease.

Screen and assessment are essential tools to figure out children’s literacy needs. Throughout kindergarten and very first grade, children can be evaluated for phonemic awareness, alphabetic understanding, and an understanding of basic language principles (Texas Education Agency, 1997a).

Educators, parents and caregivers require to understand and support kids’s emergent literacy and, in later years, kids’s shift to traditional reading and writing. Teachers, administrators, and specialists must understand the developmental nature of emerging literacy and early conventional literacy and guarantee that the curriculum and instructional materials are suitable. The literacy program requires to support children’s social, psychological, visual, maturational, and cognitive needs.

To offer opportunities for kids’s literacy acquisition, schools need to work with neighborhood groups and libraries to offer informative programs for parents relating to the development of literacy abilities in young kids.

All teachers should establish an understanding of phonological terms and work to supply a developmentally suitable curriculum in reading and composing that is achievable but tough. Educators require to develop methods for avoiding reading difficulties to begin with. Libraries or resource centers need to have comprehensive and varied resources.

Knowing needs to be a fun process that imparts a desire to discover even more. If we all work together, we can accomplish this.

As Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkinson (1985) state, “The single most essential activity for building the understanding required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to kids, specifically throughout the preschool years”. These are the children who are most at threat of establishing reading problems. For those moms and dads who select to home-school their kids, a huge advantage exists to teach children phonetic understanding, sight words and translating before they go into school. Teachers, moms and dads and caretakers need to understand and support children’s emergent literacy and, in later years, kids’s shift to traditional reading and writing. To offer opportunities for kids’s literacy acquisition, schools ought to work with community groups and libraries to supply educational programs for parents relating to the development of literacy skills in young kids.

Source: 10 – Education & Mentor – Language Acquisition

Guest Post: Lucinda Clarke

- Posted in Uncategorized by

Lucinda is a writer and blogger, as well as a published author who currently resides in Spain. She is a great follower of blogs, and is always fully engaged with every post I publish, especially fiction.

I am very pleased to present her guest post, and to feature some of her books, including her latest novel. That’s her, in the middle. 🙂

Here is her unedited guest post, which includes a short bio too.

Thank you, Pete, for giving me this opportunity to appear on your blog. I am one of your most avid followers and especially enjoy your stories.

I hate writing about myself, but if I go to the big library desk in the sky tomorrow, I shall have no regrets, life has been a roller coaster ride. Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds (a pretty part of England), and finished off in Liverpool (not as pretty). Taught in Bath (children), crofted in Scotland (disaster, bred small animals and Cairn Terriers), survived in Kenya (abandoned in the bush with 9 week old baby, no resources and tear gas riots), Libya (teaching, witness to public hanging, radio announcer, husband imprisoned, crawled through a hail of bullets to save dogs, deported), Botswana (teaching, ran very worst riding school in the world), South Africa (made legal history, teaching – fired – scriptwriter of the year award, wrote dramas and some acting, scribbled thousands of radio and TV scripts, all other forms of writing, set up own video production company, plus major concerts planning, lecturing on scriptwriting). Eventual retirement in Spain. I lie, I’m only pretending to be retired. Since 2013 independently (by choice) published 14 books.

For almost 4 decades I scribbled hundreds of diverse topics for the media eg climbing ladders; health; tourism for international conferences; educational programmes; banks; insurance companies; police and fire departments; city councils; international corporates; mayoral speechwriter; ads for radio and TV; – I could go on but I’d bore you to tears (I’m starting to yawn). I had my own newspaper column and still write for a local publication here in Spain.

I am was a freelance prostitute who wrote for anyone who would pay me and I excelled in propaganda and was wildly successful. I still don’t believe this, but the awards looked good on my study walls – when I had a study. They are now in a box under the bed. I’ve received lots more for my books, but shrank them down to fit in a couple of picture frames.

So, what genre am I unknown for? I began with memoirs, then an action-adventure series set in Africa – I was there for 35 years – a satire set in Fairyland and now I’m into psychological thrillers.

Can I scream about my latest masterpiece book, please? It’s the second in the “A Year in the Life of …” series. The first starring Leah Brand is a psychological thriller as a second time around housewife with a prosthetic leg, driven to the edge of madness by the irrational behaviour of everyday objects in the house.

Book 2 “A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe” follows on – the nightmare is not over, as life for Leah escalates into chaos. The only person she can cling to is her best friend Andrea. But everyone has secrets and what was the attraction between a quiet, insecure housewife and an outrageous, confident, outspoken woman who lived life to the full. Was she all she seemed to be?

If the lockdown has depleted your cash reserves, you can grab a free book here – the true account of my very Worst Riding School in the World.

You can find me at all these places and I’m very good at replying to virtual friends who contact me if you don’t mind chatting to an ancient wrinkly who has never grown up and who spends days torturing, killing, amputating, scaring and committing all kinds of nefarious deeds on paper. The most wonderful career in the world and I cried when I sold the company, left my team behind, and boarded the plane to fly to retirement in Spain. I love it here now but I’m just as busy.

Web page –

Blog link

Amazon author page

twitter @LucindaEClarke

Facebook Readers page

sign up URL for mailing list for my exciting monthly newsletter

Please check out her blog, and her books. Lucinda is a great part of this community, so please show her you care. Share on any social media platform you are a part of, and feel free to reblog this post if you are so inclined.

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