8 January 2021

[Blog Tour] 'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow #HistoricalFiction


[Blog Tour] 'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow #HistoricalFiction
'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow - Blog Tour Banner

The Book:

Beneath Black Clouds and White 
By Virginia Crow
  • Publication Date: 11th April 2019
  • Publisher: Crowvus
  • Print Length: 637 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Military Fiction/Family Saga

The Blurb:

Despite adoring his family and enjoying frequenting gaming tables, Captain Josiah Tenterchilt’s true love is the British Army and he is committed to his duty. As such, he does not hesitate to answer the army’s call when King Louis XVI of France is executed.

Accompanied by his wife to Flanders, Josiah finds his path crosses with a man who could not be more different from him: an apprentice surgeon named Henry Fotherby. As these two men pursue their own actions, fate and the careful connivance of a mysterious individual will push them together for the rest of their lives.

But it is a tumultuous time, and the French revolutionaries are not the only ones who pose a threat. The two gentlemen must find their place in a world where the constraints of social class are inescapable, and ‘slavery or abolition’ are the words on everyone’s lips.
  • Beneath Black Clouds and White is the prequel to Day's Dying Glory, which was published by Crowvus in April 2017.
[Blog Tour] 'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow #HistoricalFiction
'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow - Front Cover

Beneath Black Clouds and White - Excerpt:

Major Tenterchilt nodded and walked into his study and, pulling open the top drawer, he looked down at the pistol that rested there. He lifted it up and studied it with a fascination but set it down quickly as the door opened and his wife walked in.

“Good lord, Josiah! What are you doing with that?”

“Sparing you from terrible news.”

“Surely you mean robbing me,” she continued, her usual measured approach returning to her tone. “Robbing me of an explanation.”

“Robbing you of your inheritance, my dear.”

“Major Tenterchilt,” she began, pushing the pistol beyond his reach and kneeling down beside where he sat on the chair. “You have claimed all that was mine since that day we met. Do you recall it? Meeting on the roadside. I still wonder what made me talk to you. It was most out of character.”

“You would have been better if you had not done.”

“What has happened?” she asked fearfully. “For I cannot imagine life without you.”

“You were wearing a yellow gown and wide brimmed bonnet,” he whispered, smiling sadly across at her. “I was more nervous than I had ever been in my life.”

“Thomas was horrified,” she replied as she leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “For a lady to talk to a soldier without introduction? It was unheard of. But I knew. I knew even then.”

“And you shared all that you had with me, and I have lost it.”

“Lost it?” she whispered as she leaned away from him and stared hard at his guilty face. “What have you lost?”

“Our home, my dear. I have lost it all to a man who, I am certain, sat at the table with the sole intention of humiliating me.”

“You gambled Chanter’s House?” she hissed, rising to her feet. “How could you?”

“And the estate. I had a certainty of winning,” he responded as he dropped his head into his hands. “I could not lose.”

“And yet you did.”

“Every day for the past fifteen years I have thanked God that your carriage wheel splintered. Until now. This night I lament it.” He reached across the table and picked up the pistol. “As you can see, my dear, it would have been better if you had left the door unopened and me with this.”

Mrs Tenterchilt stared at her husband, willing herself to hate him for taking this house and the land that had been her only gift from the mother she had lost so many years ago. But, as she watched him lift the pistol, she tried to imagine her life without him and she felt an emptiness seize her. She snatched the gun from him and threw it across the room.

“I cannot believe that you have lost the house and estate, and I cannot bear to consider what is to become of us and our daughters. But nor can I bear to face it alone. Do not leave me, Major Tenterchilt, for I do not think I shall survive without you.”

Rising to his feet, Major Tenterchilt embraced his wife, trying to find the strength to support her but feeling that, in truth, she was by far the stronger half of the couple. For her own part, she needed her husband and loved him far more than she could admit at this moment.

The following day Mrs Tenterchilt rose early and ensured that she had time to discuss matters with her husband before he departed for Horse Guards. She sat at the dressing table and watched his reflection as he came to stand behind her.

“I shall visit Mr Dermot today,” she said flatly. “He will be able to advise us on what is the correct course of action.”

“Thank you, my dear.” He leaned forward and kissed her hair.

“There is something more, Josiah,” she said sternly, turning to face him. “I cannot bear that this might ever be repeated. Therefore, you must make me a promise.”

“What is it?”

“I will not tolerate gambling of any kind. For I have lost greatly to it and gained so little. And know this,” she added, steeling herself to speak the words that she had tried to contrive through the sleepless hours. “If you should fail in this promise, I shall take our daughters and begin a new life for us, for I shall not have you lose all that is theirs as well as my own.”

Major Tenterchilt stared down at her, his face becoming hard and stern.

“I mean it, Josiah,” she continued. “I will not compromise my children for a roll of a dice or a turn of a card.”

[Blog Tour] 'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow #HistoricalFiction
Virginia Crow

Author Bio:

Virginia Crow grew up in Orkney, using the breath-taking scenery to fuel her imagination and the writing fire within her. Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together such as her newly-published book "Caledon". She enjoys swashbuckling stories such as the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and is still waiting for a screen adaption that lives up to the book! When she's not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music, and obtained her MLitt in "History of the Highlands and Islands" last year. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration. She also helps out with the John O'Groats Book Festival which is celebrating its 3rd year this April. She now lives in the far flung corner of Scotland, soaking in inspiration from the rugged cliffs and miles of sandy beaches. She loves cheese, music and films, but hates mushrooms. 

[Blog Tour] 'Beneath Black Clouds and White' By Virginia Crow #HistoricalFiction
'Beneath Black Clouds and White' - Blog Tour Schedule

7 January 2021

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
A supporter of President Donald Trump, seen wearing a QAnon shirt, is confronted by Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber during the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

What is the cost of propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories? Democracy and public safety, to name just two things. The United States has received a stark lesson on how online propaganda and misinformation have an offline impact.

For months, Donald Trump has falsely claimed the November presidential election was rigged and that’s why he wasn’t re-elected. The president’s words have mirrored and fed conspriacy theories spread by followers of the QAnon movement.

While conspiracy theorists are often dismissed as “crazy people on social media,” QAnon adherents were among the individuals at the front line of the storming of Capitol Hill.

QAnon is a decentralized, ideologically motivated and violent extemist movement rooted in an unfounded conspiracy theory that a global “Deep State” cabal of satanic pedophile elites is responsible for all the evil in the world. Adherents of QAnon also believe that this same cabal is seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope in defeating it.

The evolution of QAnon

Though it started as a series of conspiracy theories and false predictions, over the past three years QAnon has evolved into an extremist religio-political ideology.

I’ve been studying the movement for more than two years. QAnon is what I call a hyper-real religion. QAnon takes popular cultural artifacts and integrates them into an ideological framework.

QAnon has been a security threat in the making for the past three years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played a signficant role in popularizing the QAnon movement. Facebook data since the start of 2020 shows QAnon membership grew by 581 per cent — most of which occurred after the United States closed its borders last March as part of its coronavirus containment strategy.

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
Aggregate growth of QAnon membership in Facebook groups and pages between January and September 2020. Data collected and visualized September 4, 2020 courtsey of CrowdTangle.

As social media researcher Alex Kaplan noted, 2020 was the year QAnon became all of our problem as the movement initially gained traction by spreading COVID-related conspiracy theories and disinformation and was then further mainstreamed by 97 U.S. congressional candidates who publicly showed support for QAnon.

Crowdsourced answers

The essence of QAnon lies in its attempts to delineate and explain evil. It’s about theodicy, not secular evidence. QAnon offers its adherents comfort in an uncertain — and unprecedented — age as the movement crowdsources answers to the inexplicable.

QAnon becomes the master narrative capable of simply explaining various complex events. The result is a worldview characterized by a sharp distinction between the realms of good and evil that is non-falsifiable.

No matter how much evidence journalists, academics and civil society offer as a counter to the claims promoted by the movement, belief in QAnon as the source of truth is a matter of faith — specifically in their faith in Trump and “Q,” the anonymous person who began the movement in 2017 by posting a series of wild theories about the Deep State.

Trump validated theories

The year 2020 was also Trump finally gave QAnon what it always wanted: respect. As Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast recently wrote: “Over the past few months …Trump has recognized the QAnon community in a way its followers could have only fantasized about when I began tracking the movement’s growth over two years ago.”

Trump, lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, and QAnon “rising star” Ron Watkins have all been actively inflaming QAnon apocalyptic and anti-establishment desires by promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Doubts about the validity of the election have been circulating in far-right as well as QAnon circles. Last October, I wrote that if there were delays or other complications in the final result of the presidential contest, it would likely feed into a pre-existing belief in the invalidity of the election — and foster a chaotic environment that could lead to violence.

QAnon and The Storm of The U.S. Capitol: The Offline Effect of Online Conspiracy Theories
A shirtless man known as the ‘QAnon Shaman’ was one of the high-profile members of Trump supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Hope for miracles

The storming of U.S. Capitol saw the culmination of what has been building up for weeks: the “hopeium” in QAnon circles that some miracle via Vice-President Mike Pence and other constitutional witchcraft would overturn the election results.

Instead, QAnon followers are now faced with the end of a Trump presidency — where they had free rein — and the fear of what a Biden presidency will bring.

We have now long passed the point of simply asking: how can people believe in QAnon when so many of its claims fly in the face of facts? The attack on the Capitol showed the real dangers of QAnon adherents.

Their militant and anti-establishment ideology — rooted in a quasi-apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world and usher in a promised golden age — was on full display for the whole world to see. Who could miss the shirtless man wearing a fur hat, known as the QAnon Shaman, leading the charge into the Capitol rotunda?

What will happen now? QAnon, along with other far-right actors, will likely continue to come together to achieve their insurrection goals. This could lead to a continuation of QAnon-inspired violence as the movement’s ideology continues to grow in American culture.

About Today's Contributor:

Marc-André Argentino, PhD candidate Individualized Program, 2020-2021 Public Scholar, Concordia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

4 January 2021

Long COVID: Who Is At Risk?

Long COVID: Who Is At Risk?
Long COVID: Who Is At Risk? (fizkes/Shutterstock)
For most people, infection with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – leads to mild, short-term symptoms, acute respiratory illness, or possibly no symptoms at all. But some people have long-lasting symptoms after their infection – this has been dubbed “long COVID”.

Scientists are still researching long COVID. It’s not well understood, though our knowledge about it is growing. Here I take a look at what we’ve learned about it so far – who is at risk, how common it is and what its effects are.

In defining who is at risk from long COVID and the mechanisms involved, we may reveal suitable treatments to be tried – or whether steps taken early in the course of the illness might ameliorate it.

Broad vulnerability

Long COVID is characterised by a constellation of symptoms, including – variably – shortness of breath, marked fatigue, headache, and loss of ability to taste and smell normally. A relatively large study of 384 individuals ill enough to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 showed that 53% remained breathless at a follow-up assessment one to two months later, with 34% having a cough and 69% reporting fatigue.

Indeed, early analysis of self-reported data submitted through the COVID Symptom Study app suggests that 13% of people who experience COVID-19 symptoms have them for more than 28 days, while 4% have symptoms after more than 56 days.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with more severe disease initially – characterised by more than five symptoms – seem to be at increased risk of long COVID. Older age and being female also appear to be risk factors for having prolonged symptoms, as is having a higher body mass index.

Those using the app tend to be at the fitter end of the population, with an interest in health matters. So it is surprising that such a high proportion have symptoms one to two months after the initial infection. Generally, these aren’t people who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Long COVID: Who Is At Risk?
Even highly fit people are being stopped in their tracks by long COVID.(Rido/Shutterstock)

Another piece of early research (awaiting peer review) suggests that SARS-CoV-2 could also have a long-term impact on people’s organs. But the profile of those affected in this study is different to those reporting symptoms via the app.

This research, which looked at a sample of 200 patients who had recovered from COVID-19, found mild organ impairment in 32% of people’s hearts, 33% of people’s lungs and 12% of people’s kidneys. Multiple organ damage was found in 25% of patients.

Patients in this study had a mean age of 44 years, so were very much part of the young, working-age population. Only 18% had been hospitalised with COVID-19, meaning organ damage may occur even after a non-severe infection. Having a disease known to lead to more severe COVID-19, such as type 2 diabetes and ischaemic heart disease, wasn’t a prerequisite for organ damage either.

Finding out what’s going on

There are many reasons why people may have symptoms months after a viral illness during a pandemic. But getting to the bottom of what’s going on inside people will be easier for some parts of the body than others.

Where symptoms point to a specific organ, investigating is relatively straightforward. Clinicians can examine the electrical flow around the heart if someone is suffering palpitations. Or they can study lung function – tissue elasticity and gas exchange – where shortness of breath is the predominant symptom. To determine whether kidney function has deteriorated, components in a patient’s blood plasma are compared to those in their urine to measure how well the kidneys are filtering waste products.

Rather harder to explore is the symptom of fatigue. Another recent large-scale study has shown that this symptom is common after COVID-19 – occurring in more than half of cases – and appears unrelated to the severity of the early illness.

What’s more, tests showed that the people examined didn’t have elevated levels of inflammation, suggesting that their fatigue wasn’t caused by continued infection or their immune system working overtime. Risk factors for long-lasting symptoms in this study included being female – in keeping with the COVID Symptom App study – and, interestingly, having a previous diagnosis of anxiety and depression.

Long COVID: Who Is At Risk?
Fatigue is the most common long COVID symptom. (Stock-Asso/Shutterstock)

While men are at increased risk of severe infection, that women seem to be more affected by long COVID may reflect their different or changing hormone status. The ACE2 receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect the body is present not only on the surface of respiratory cells, but also on the cells of many organs that produce hormones, including the thyroid, adrenal gland and ovaries.

Some symptoms of long COVID overlap with menopausal symptoms, and hormone replacement using medication may be one route to reducing the impact of symptoms. However, clinical trials will be essential to accurately determining whether this approach is both safe and effective. Applications to launch such research have been made.

With so much having happened over the last year, we will need to tease apart which impacts stem from the virus itself versus which might be the consequence of the massive social disruption wrought by this pandemic. What is clear, however, is that long-term symptoms after COVID-19 are common, and that research into the causes and treatments of long COVID will likely be needed long after the outbreak itself has subsided.

About Today's Contributor:

Frances Williams, Professor of Genomic Epidemiology and Hon Consultant Rheumatologist, King's College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

31 December 2020

[Book Blast] She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald #HistoricalFiction

She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald
She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald
Book Title:: She Sees Ghosts―The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls
(Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series
Author:: David Fitz-Gerald
Publication Date:: October 25, 2020
Publisher:: Outskirts Press
Page Length:: 270 pages
Genre: Historical/Supernatural
She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald
She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (book cover)

The Blurb:

A blazing fire killed her family and devoured her home. A vengeful demon haunted her. Ghosts of the Revolutionary War needed help that only she could provide. A young woman languished, desperate to survive, and teetered on the edge of sanity.

Mehitable grew up in a freshly tamed town, carved from the primeval forest. Family, friends, and working at the mercantile filled her days and warmed her heart. For Mehitable, life was simple and safe, until tragedy struck. When her family perished in their burning home, she retreated into a world of her own making.

As a young girl, she had seen glimmers, glimpses, and flickers of the spirit world. She closed her eyes. She turned her back. She ignored the apparitions that she never spoke of, desperately hoping they would leave her in peace. She was mistaken.

Grief-stricken, Mehitable withdrew from the human world. Ghosts were everywhere. They became bolder. She could no longer turn her back on the spirit world. Her friends feared for her survival. Nobody understood her. She would have to find her own way.

Fans of TV’s Ghost Whisperer and Long Island Medium will especially love She Sees Ghosts. This historical novel features memorable characters and delivers bone-tingling, spine chilling goosebumps. It stands on its own and it is the next installment in the Adirondack Spirit Series by the award-winning author of Wanders Far―An Unlikely Hero’s Journey. David Fitz-Gerald delivers a historical novel with a bittersweet ending that you won’t see coming.

Would she save the spirits’ souls, or would they save her? Only time would tell.

The Trailer:

Buy Links: 

  • She Sees Ghosts is FREE on #Kindle for a Limited Time
David Fitz-Gerald

Author Bio:

David Fitz-Gerald writes fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. Dave enjoys getting lost in the settings he imagines and spending time with the characters he creates. Writing historical fiction is like making paintings of the past. He loves to weave fact and fiction together, stirring in action, adventure, romance, and a heavy dose of the supernatural with the hope of transporting the reader to another time and place. He is an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked all of the highest peaks in New York State, so it should not be surprising when Dave attempts to glorify hikers as swashbuckling superheroes in his writing. She Sees Ghosts―A Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls is the next instalment in the Adirondack Spirit Series.

She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald
She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald

Social Media Links:


Book Tour Schedule:

She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series) By David Fitz-Gerald
She Sees Ghosts - The Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls (Tour Schedule)

21 December 2020

We Are Facing A Difficult Winter – But Philosophy Can Help

We Are Facing A Difficult Winter – But Philosophy Can Help
We Are Facing A Difficult Winter – But Philosophy Can Help (Photo by Sam Wordley)
All around the world, Christmas dreams are becoming nightmares. As R numbers increase and the epidemic spikes, people are seeing long cherished plans go up in smoke.

In England, plans have been curtailed as the five-day Christmas bubble which would have allowed three households to celebrate together has been reduced to one day for two households. For those in the new Tier 4, no household mixing at all is permitted.

After months of lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, many people will be feeling defeated – and exhausted by the prospect of a long winter to come, with further lockdowns possible before vaccines have been widely rolled out. If even the goal of spending one warm and happy day with friends and family cannot be attained, what is the point of all the hard work?

In times like this, though, we can find solace in a few philosophical ideas. One is the concept of human finitude. Simply put, human finitude means we are imperfect creatures with a limited lifespan. We are far from god-like; we do not have a god’s eye view, nor are we immortal.

In philosophy, finitude refers to the study of our human limitations. Many philosophers have explored finitude, including Kant, Heidegger, Levinas and Nietzsche.

This may seem an odd idea to cling to, but recognising that we are finite, imperfect creatures can bring comfort during trying times. It is understandable to feel bewilderment at changing government advice. It is understandable to resent other people telling us to stay away from our loved ones, and to feel deep sadness at cancelled plans. And it is understandable to begin to lose the resolve to do the right thing. If finitude tells us anything, it is that we are only human.

And as finite humans, we are vulnerable. Among other things, we can die, we can lie and we can be used against our wishes.

COVID-19 has taught us how intensively mutually vulnerable we really are. We depend on each other – but this dependency also puts us at risk. More socialising means an increase in virus transmission. Carrying on socialising during a spike in the epidemic might mean an increase in the number of people suffering severely from COVID-19, and a rise in the number of deaths.

So, while finitude tells us that it is understandable to feel the desire to break lockdowns and travel limits, vulnerability keeps us committed to doing the right thing by others – others who might be more vulnerable than us.

There is another philosophical concept that can keep us going in trying times. It is also more recognisably upbeat: hope.

Philosophically, there is a difference between good hope” and “bad hope. While bad hope is simply unrealistic optimism, good hope has warrant; it is based on the idea that goals and aspirations are possible, no matter how bad things seem.

In our current situation, hope is an attitude we have warrant to adopt: what we hope for is really possible. A vaccine is already being rolled out, and with it come warranted hopes: for summer meet-ups with family, holidays with friends, the continuance of lives and loves.

In fact, hope is also related to human finitude. Were we god-like, we would be immortal and all-knowing, and hope for how the future might turn out would be unnecessary. Uncertainty is an inescapable part of the human condition. Even when we cannot be certain of the end result of a commitment or aspiration, we can still hope.

It is understandable to feel resentment when plans are changed – and to feel the desire to ignore guidelines. Yet, recognising our mutual vulnerability means we cannot ignore the small voice telling us that the right thing to do is stay home. And hope can help us. Even as some hopes this Christmas are dashed, we can begin to formulate others. Spring is coming, and with it the hope of a better future.

About Today's Contributor:

Katy Dineen, Assistant Lecturer in Moral Responsibility and Political Theory, University College Cork

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know

Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know
Being Safe At Work: What You Need To Know (Image by malateronald)
Being safe at work is something that all employers and employees need to bear in mind at all times. Although it is the employer’s responsibility to put systems in place that make working safer, the employee also has a responsibility to ensure they are following the rules and not making any mistakes that could ultimately be dangerous.
Read on to find out more about healthy and safety at work and how you can ensure you are always keeping as safe as possible.

Know The Risks

The first thing that anyone, employer or employee, is going to need to know about are the risks involved in any tasks or processes that take place within the business. Some will be more problematic than others, but everything will need to have a risk assessment carried out.

This is particularly true of equipment and tools. There must be a risk assessment about each item, looking at what might be an issue and working out ways to resolve it. If you have ladders, for example, that need to be used a lot, then you might minimize the risk by having harnesses available to use or ensuring that working at heights is always done in pairs (with one to hold the ladder). If you use a conveyor belt then wearing the right safety equipment is essential, and so on.

Once you know the risks you can determine how to avoid or reduce them, and everyone will be much safer. This might involve additional training which is always a good idea.

Implement Regular Break Times

Although it might seem as though it would be more productive to work non-stop without breaks – you will get more done in the same amount of time – it is actually the opposite. Working without breaks leads to less productivity due to tiredness or neglect. The brain needs to rest regularly for it to work at its best, and by forcing someone to work without taking regular breaks, you are causing problems. It is unsafe for someone who is tired due to lack of breaks to continue working.

As a business owner, you should implement regular break times throughout the day, or allow your workers to take breaks as they are required to ensure the safest and most productive team. As a worker, you should always make use of the break times you are given to ensure you are always safe.

Use Protective Equipment

If a task’s risk assessment identifies that you need to use protective equipment or clothing – otherwise known aspersonal protective equipment’ or PPE – then this is what you must do when carrying out a specific task or using a piece of equipment.

If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that this equipment is provided, and if you are an employee, you must wear the equipment as instructed. If PPE has not been provided and you need it, then you must speak to your employer about the issue so that it can be addressed.

15 December 2020

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing [Trailer Included]

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing
Salman Rushdie (Courtesy of MasterClass)
MasterClass announced today that Booker Prize–winning author Salman Rushdie will teach a class on storytelling and writing. Drawing from his celebrated career as a novelist and essayist, Rushdie will help members explore their innate storytelling ability to write and tell the stories they are meant to tell.
"Salman's prose is magical; his storytelling, worldly," said David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass. "In his MasterClass, Salman discusses the seminal works that have influenced him, providing all writers—even those just starting to put pen to paper—lessons in how to harness the power of words."
In his MasterClass, Rushdie will share his storytelling framework, which is equal parts discipline and freedom, from how to build rich and complex story structures to crafting characters, researching and editing, providing a wealth of examples and insights from the global literature that has influenced his work. 

In addition to offering big-picture advice and his seven useful tips to becoming a better reader and writer, Rushdie will offer valuable insights on the psychological aspects of writing, including navigating writer's block, negotiating feedback with editors and more. 

Through intimate stories of the struggle and learnings from Rushdie's early career, members will get an insider's look into his journey, leaving the class inspired by his wisdom and eager to write their own unique stories.

MasterClass Announces Salman Rushdie to Teach Storytelling and Writing
Salman Rushdie (Courtesy of MasterClass)
"I've always been fascinated with the universality of storytelling and how shared human experiences unite us all, no matter where we are in the world," Rushdie said. "In my MasterClass, I hope I can help members transition to the other side of the page and reach new heights creatively with their writing."
Rushdie is an award-winning novelist, essayist, fiction and nonfiction writer known for his humorous and often-surrealist style. Rushdie's work examines themes of movement across cultures, modernity and the influence of world events on individuals' lives. 

His second novel, Midnight's Children, was a commercial and critical success, earning the esteemed Booker Prize in 1981, as well as the "Best of the Booker" prize twice in the years following. In 1983, his third novel, Shame, won the French literary prize Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, cementing Rushdie's place among the literary elite.

Over the course of his career, Rushdie has published 14 novels that have been translated into more than 40 languages. He has been internationally recognized with many of literature's highest honors, and in 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the literary world. Some of his top accolades include the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature, the Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), the Writer of the Year Award in Germany, PEN Pinter Prize (U.K.), Golden PEN Award, Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, and Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism.

The Trailer:

  • Rushdie's class is now available exclusively on MasterClass, where subscribers get unlimited access to all 100+ instructors with an annual membership.

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SOURCE: MasterClass

14 December 2020

Emerging Canadian Artist Alicja Hlibowicka’s Art Rules the Roost

Emerging Canadian Artist Alicja Hlibowicka’s Art Rules the Roost
"David" by Alicja Hlibowicka
Move over COVID-19, Alicja Hlibowicka’s bright and colourful bird art is ready to reinvigorate 2021 with positivity. Currently settled in Luxembourg, she has found a niche in her work that is as vibrant and fun as her own personality. Her roosters and chickens are displayed in bright, energetic and reflective images, each with their own distinct character.
Alicja hopes people who see her art will enjoy the colourful, fun elements and tap into the more rounded characters she gives her birds. In fact, the artist stumbled upon her art-form by accident, after looking for an animal that represented a close friend.
My friend David is such a distinct, flamboyant character - I knew there had to be an animal that reflected his personality. A rooster seemed the perfect fit. These animals are proud but colourful and form such a part of our culture that it was easy to start seeing how I could paint other people and icons who have influenced me as roosters and chickens.” Alicja said.
Emerging Canadian Artist Alicja Hlibowicka’s Art Rules the Roost
"Mini Jackson Solo" by Alicja Hlibowicka
Ever since the history of mankind, roosters have symbolised so much: observance, masculinity, bravery, honesty, prudence, pride, strength, positivity, enthusiasm, and sexuality, all things that we as humans look for. But what is defines Alicja’s work is from others, is the story element which plays a vital component to her inspiration and final work. Often, this is reflected through a vignette of the real person’s life which she captures as a chicken or rooster (i.e. woman or man). 

  • Alicja also incorporates everyday items into the rooster or chicken’s universe that is identified with the original subject. In her original artwork for David for instance, the real person was rarely without a cigarette, Alicja just could not paint the rooster any other way but with a cigarette between his beak.
Emerging Canadian Artist Alicja Hlibowicka’s Art Rules the Roost
"David - LED" by Alicja Hlibowicka
Since the first painting of David, Alicja has now a collection of over 15 originals based on friends’ colleagues, idols and icons, all themed as roosters or chickens. Her work has also expanded to LED and neon lamp versions, which have become favourites among her followers on platforms such as Etsy and Instagram as well as the attendees of her two art exhibitions held in Luxembourg before COVID-19. The lamps are as brightly coloured as her original art which inspired them.
My painting ‘David’ is so popular I turned him into a LED version lamp, which shines beautiful colours. The colour, positivity and optimism told through my art would hopefully lift anyone, especially in these days where there have been so many restrictions on life.” Alicja said.
Emerging Canadian Artist Alicja Hlibowicka’s Art Rules the Roost
Alicja Hlibowicka

About Alicja Hlibowicka:

Alicja Hlibowicka is an emerging artist and the founder of Roosters and Art. She creates contemporary rooster art. She also works for a European Institution. Born in Tunisia to Polish parents, Alicja was raised in Canada. She has been painting for fun since she was a young child.

Alicja first created an art collection during secondary school. Later as a student, she continued to paint based on her mood and inspirations in life. She is chiefly inspired by people's personalities, fashion and colours. Her art depicts animals that emit human psychology. Alicja keeps it fun and colourful so it emits good energy.

"Chicken on White" by Alicja Hlibowicka

13 December 2020

Pandemic December: How to Stay Connected and Resilient in a COVID-19 Holiday Season


A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s pandemic-heavy holiday season. (Shutterstock)
A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s pandemic-heavy holiday season. (Shutterstock)
This year’s holiday season will no doubt be different. The holidays are already a time of increased mental health risks because of anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, alcohol/substance use and other factors. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic will add a major pressure to the festive season.

Whether you mark holidays in December or not, typical winter customs are being disrupted. The pandemic has had a significant impact on society’s ability to connect and has also reduced individuals’ access to wellness-maintaining strategies and activities. For example, COVID-19 has limited and in some cases halted visits with loved ones, gatherings with friends and colleagues, and as cold weather comes, our options for outdoor activities will decrease.

A new perspective and approach may be required to get through this year’s holiday season.

The rewards of gratitude and compassion

As a health psychologist and a psychiatrist, our work at The Ottawa Hospital over the last decade has been focused on staff and physician wellness. When people are experiencing a chronic crisis, it’s exhausting, and leads to wear and tear on both body and mind. This can lead to “survival mode” in which we can become more focused on our own needs.

As we feel the impact of COVID-19 fatigue, there is increasing acknowledgement of the impact on health and wellness of the front-line workers. One of the biggest boosts we can give ourselves is to give to others. Self-transcendent emotions, which include compassion and gratitude, have a positive physiological impact by stabilizing our heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, giving to others stimulates the brain’s reward centre, and that’s why it feels so good.

Giving doesn’t have to be monetary. Messages of gratitude can be delivered throughout this pandemic to everyone working on the front lines, including health-care professionals, teachers, delivery services including post office outlets, and all of the those working in businesses like stores, pharmacies and restaurants. Thank you.

Rebooting and connecting

For many people, technology may be the only way to connect to others during the pandemic, and for some this might be the safest way to connect to family and friends over the holidays. (Pexels/Koolshooters)
In uncertain times, people can get overloaded by too much information. One way to reboot is to get out of your head. Try to pick activities that use your hands and your body. This slows you down and can shift your focus into the here and now. This can give you a sense of control and anchors you to the present. Art and crafts, photography, exercise and playing a musical instrument can all provide a means to focus our attention on a specific and in in-the-moment task.

For a bigger boost, think back to activities you loved as a kid, such as colouring, dancing, baking, singing at the top of your lungs.

We used to worry about how attached we were to our devices and particularly concerned about total screen time for kids. For many, this may be the only way to connect to others, and for some this might be the safest way to connect to family and friends over the holidays. It may be even more essential for those who live alone and/or who may have lost a significant person in their lives this year.

Part of “Zoom fatigue” may be linked to inactivity and repetitiveness of our daily activities during the pandemic. There may be innovative ways, through technology, for you to enjoy activities you used to do, and reach out for support and connection.

Expectations and expressions

As we reflect on how to approach the holiday season, it’s important to scale our expectations and be compassionate with ourselves and others in these unusual times. We do need to make space for all of the emotions — good and bad — that we are experiencing. This may include frustration, anger, anxiety, sadness and disappointment.

It’s important to proactively set up activities and actions that can connect us to our humanness: expressing our kindness and gratitude to others, being in harmony with our technology, and trying to reconnect with moments and times in our lives that were meaningful or joyful.

About Today's Contributor:

Kerri Ritchie, Professional Practice Coordinator, Psychology, The Ottawa Hospital, & Clinical Professor, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa and Caroline Gerin-Lajoie, Psychiatrist, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, and Executive VIce-President, Physician Wellness and Medical Culture, Canadian Medical Association

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

10 December 2020

Ho Ho Ho! Santa Claus Plans Socially Distant (and Out of this World) Visit to the International Space Station

Ho Ho Ho! Santa Claus Plans Socially Distant (and Out of this World) Visit to the International Space Station
Santa's sleigh flying past the International Space Station on a precise digital twin of the Earth built by Cesium, a Philadelphia-based tech startup.
The North Pole has confirmed that Santa's sleigh will perform a ceremonial fly-by of the International Space Station (ISS) on December 24. The out-of-this world visit will honor the 20th anniversary of continuous life on the ISS, a milestone achieved in November.
The official NORAD Santa Tracker at NoradSanta.Org enables users to track Santa's journey all day on December 24. New for this year, visitors will be able to see the ISS orbiting the planet in its precise real-time location by zooming out on the 3D Santa Tracker app. 

  • Other updates include additions to Santa's traditional garb, including a face mask, and for part of the journey - a space helmet.
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is a United States and Canada bi-national organization that defends North America by tracking objects flying in and around its airspace 24 hours a day using radar, satellites and fighter jets. Each year, it joins corporate partners in taking on a special mission to also track Santa's sleigh. 

  • The app shows Santa's position reflected on a highly accurate digital twin of the Earth provided by Cesium, a Philadelphia-based geospatial software company.
"Cesium is rooted in aerospace, so it's especially meaningful to us that our technology will allow millions of people to enjoy this event in real-time from the safety of their homes," said Cesium CEO Patrick Cozzi.
"The ISS is a spectacular example of what humans can accomplish when we work together," said Hannah Pinkos, lead developer of the app. "2020 has been a tough year, but I think this special trip is Santa's way of reminding us to believe in ourselves."
Ho Ho Ho! Santa Claus Plans Socially Distant (and Out of this World) Visit to the International Space Station
Santa Claus Plans Socially Distant Visit to the International Space Station (Photo by cottonbro)

About Cesium - The Platform for 3D Geospatial:

Cesium has been providing the 3D geospatial platform that powers the NORAD Tracks Santa app since 2012. Born at aerospace software company AGI, an Ansys Company, Cesium became independent in 2019. Its open platform is used across industries to build applications using 3D location data collected from sensors like satellites and drones. By creating precise digital twins of the Earth with Cesium, users can understand the operations of smart cities, measure piles of soil on construction sites from thousands of miles away, and even track the location of Santa's sleigh in real-time as he travels around the globe. 

SOURCE: Cesium

David Hasselhoff Goes Metal With Two Man Music Project CueStack [Music Video Included]

David Hasselhoff Goes Metal With Two Man Music Project CueStack
'Through the Night' - Single Cover
The metal debut of David Hasselhoff has been released today!

After announcing this collaboration to the world at the end of October, CueStack finally published the song and music video of 'Through the Night' featuring David Hasselhoff on vocals. 

Background Story:

'Through The Night' is a project that came to fruition after David openly expressed his interest in heavy music and big appreciation for his fanbase within that genre. His legendary performance at the Austrian Nova Rock festival showed the promise of something very special happening when these two worlds would finally collide.

As life-long David Hasselhoff fans, CueStack (Martin Kames, Bernth Brodträger) developed the vision for this unique project in 2018. After months of planning, meetings, songwriting and sketching out different ideas, they invited David to join them for a music- and video recording session in Vienna. Both the song and music video were recorded in April 2019 and David went back to California as CueStack and their team put together this vision during the following months.

After Martin contacted and briefed David, working tirelessly on creating an efficient schedule to pull all of this off on just one day, Bernth got to work on different demos and ideas for the song itself. 'Through The Night' was an idea for a song that Bernth wrote on the very first day of gathering material for the project. It already resembled the final result quite a bit but in regular CueStack fashion, many additional songs were created, exploring different artistic possibilities. Martin and Bernth eventually settled on the very first idea and demo and showed it to David.

David Hasselhoff Goes Metal With Two Man Music Project CueStack
CueStack & David Hasselhoff.
David liked the song right away but wasn't fond of the first set of lyrics. The song originally told the story of a lone wanderer in a dystopian future scenario, with intentions of capturing the entire journey in the music video, turning it into an epic short film. Without the images and story of the video in mind, the lyrics were too abstract for David's taste. So Bernth started from scratch to create the final lyrics, keeping only the original chorus. 'Through The Night' is now about pushing through dark times with hope and courage, fighting your way towards the light at the ending of the tunnel. This resonated with David immediately and still made it possible to work in themes of darkness and struggle into the lyrics, while keeping the focus on a positive message.
Due to the very limited timeframe of the music video shooting, CueStack turned the multiple basic sets into impressive, surreal and dystopian digital worlds afterwards. Bernth's background and previous experience as a graphic designer came in very handy for creating the digital sets, while Martin handled the extensive cutting process, editing and post-production of the final music video. With this quickly evolving workflow, they could turn those basic two-dimensional sets into vivid images and futuristic landscapes that further express the atmosphere and sound of the song.

After hundreds of phone calls made by Martin (including canceled video shoots, canceled recording dates, constantly changing crew/staff for the project, declined proposals, and much more) and many different songs, lyrics and pre-productions recorded by Bernth, the project finally came to fruition!

CueStack feat. David Hasselhoff – Through the Night (Official Music Video):

The collaboration started in 2018 and what seemed like an impossible idea slowly turned into a reality. The ultimate goal was to create a metal project with the most-watched man on TV, showing the world his heavy side. David recorded the track with CueStack in 2019 in Vienna where they also shot this epic music video together. CueStack conjured up a dystopian Sci-Fi world in the music video for 'Through the Night', continuing the cinematic style that was established with this year's first single 'Transhuman Generation'.

CueStack – Transhuman Generation (Official Music Video):

  • Another very well know special guest on this EP is Caleb Shomo, the singer and mastermind of the band 'Beartooth' who produced a retro synthwave remix of 'Through the Night'.

About CueStack:

The first full-length CueStack album 'Diagnosis:Human' will be released in 2021.

When the worlds of eccentric lighting / VFX designer Martin Kames and shred guitar content creator Bernth Brodträger collide, explosive music and art manifest in the form of CueStack. An unmistakable blend of metal and electronic music with well established sonic trademarks is the result, paired with an industrial, dystopian corporate identity that is ever-present in the band's cinematic music videos and artworks.

David Hasselhoff Goes Metal With Two Man Music Project CueStack
Martin Kames, David Hasselhoff, Bernth Brodträger

CueStack feat. David Hasselhoff – Through the Night is available on:

Fans of this unique collaboration can also get the extended 'Through the Night' Box Set: a Digipak CD featuring Caleb Shomo's (Beartooth) synthwave remix, as well as an unplugged version and 2 CueStack songs. 

The Box Set also contains a unique poster, gym bag, autograph card and baseball cap.

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