Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Many Happy Returns Webby!

Posted: May 10, 2014 in bankers, Business, Computers, Current Events
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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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World-Wide-Web

The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.

There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.

Here’s my take on some of them.

To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.

Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.

Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.

The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.

www words

As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.

Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.

China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.

In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?

It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.

This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.

big brother is watching

They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.

The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.

Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.

social media

Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.

And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.

You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!

All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.

Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.

So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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An Easter themed quiz this Monday appropriately enough.

Most of the questions shouldn’t prove too difficult although there are a few in there that might be challenging.

I’ve included some multiple choice too to help the odds a bit.

Enjoy and good luck.

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Easter Quiz

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Q.  1:  Which Jewish religious event often coincides with Easter?

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Q.  2:  Who was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection?

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Q.  3:  How long does Lent last for?

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Q.  4:  Egg-rolling is a traditional Easter event in seven countries. A point for each one you name correctly.  

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Q.  5:  How many disciples joined Jesus at the Last Supper?

            a) 10           b) 12          c) 14

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Q.  6:  What is the religious significance of the egg at Easter?

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Q.  7:  In the Christian calendar, what is the name given to the last Sunday before Easter?

            a) Palm Sunday           b) Pentecost           c) Whitsun

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Q.  8:  In which country is there a contemporary tradition of reading or watching murder mysteries at Easter?

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Q.  9:  Who starred in the movie Easter Parade?

           a) Judy Garland           b) Ginger Rogers           c) Elaine Paige

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Q. 10:  When the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate offered to release Jesus, which prisoner did the crowd demand was let go instead?

            a) Herod           b) Barabbas          c) Judas

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Q. 11:  Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the score for which Easter-based musical?

            a) Evita           b) Jesus Christ Superstar            c) Cats Glenn

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Q. 12:  Which American island is named after rabbits?

            a) Coney Island           b) Staten Island           c) Long Island

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Q. 13:  In Bermuda, the ascent of Christ is symbolized by what?

            a)  Balloons            b)  Kites            c)  Doves            d)  Fireworks

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Q. 14:  What buns do people traditionally eat at Easter?

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Q. 15:  What is the name of the disciple who betrayed Jesus and what did he receive as payment?  (A point for each correct answer.)

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Q. 16:  What does Mardi Gras have to do with Easter?

            a)  Mardi Gras is the first day of Lent           

            b)  Mardi Gras is the last day to indulge before Lent.

            c)  Mardi Gras has nothing to do with Easter.

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Q. 17:  What does the period of Lent symbolize?

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Q. 18:  Which British gangster film stars Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren?

            a) The Long Easter Monday   b) The Long Easter Sunday   c) The Long Good Friday

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Q. 19:  The word ‘quarantine’ literally means ’40 days’. When Neil Armstrong went into quarantine after returning from the Moon, which musical instrument did he take with him?

            a) Penny whistle          b) Banjo          c) Ukulele          d) Hammond organ

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Q. 20:  “I am the eggman” is a lyric from which song by The Beatles?

            a) Paperback Writer           b) I Am The Walrus           c) Hey Jude

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ANSWERS

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Q.  1:  Which Jewish religious event often coincides with Easter?

A.  1:  Passover.

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Q.  2:  Who was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection?

A.  2:  Mary Magdalene.

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Q.  3:  How long does Lent last for?

A.  3:  40 days.

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Q.  4:  Egg-rolling is a traditional Easter event in seven countries. A point for each one you name correctly.  

A.  4:  US, UK, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Lithuania, and Egypt.

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Q.  5:  How many disciples joined Jesus at the Last Supper?

            a) 10           b) 12           c) 14

A.  5:  b) 12.         

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Q.  6:  What is the religious significance of the egg at Easter?

A.  6:  It represents the tomb Jesus rose from.

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Q.  7:  In the Christian calendar, what is the name given to the last Sunday before Easter?

            a) Palm Sunday           b) Pentecost           c) Whitsun

A.  7:  a) Palm Sunday.

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Q.  8:  In which country is there a contemporary tradition of reading or watching murder mysteries at Easter?

A.  8:  Norway.

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Q.  9:  Who starred in the movie Easter Parade?

           a) Judy Garland           b) Ginger Rogers           c) Elaine Paige

A.  9:  a) Judy Garland.

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Q. 10:  When the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate offered to release Jesus, which prisoner did the crowd demand was let go instead?

            a) Herod           b) Barabbas            c) Judas

A. 10:  b) Barabbas.         

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Q. 11:  Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the score for which Easter-based musical?

            a) Evita           b) Jesus Christ Superstar            c) Cats Glenn

A. 11:  b) Jesus Christ Superstar.

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Q. 12:  Which American island is named after rabbits?

            a) Coney Island           b) Staten Island           c) Long Island

A. 12:  a) Coney Island.

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Q. 13:  In Bermuda, the ascent of Christ is symbolized by what?

            a)  Balloons            b)  Kites            c)  Doves            d)  Fireworks

A. 13:  b) Kites.

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Q. 14:  What buns do people traditionally eat at Easter?

A. 14:  Hot cross buns.

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Q. 15:  What is the name of the disciple who betrayed Jesus and what did he receive as payment?  (A point for each correct answer.)

A. 15:  Judas Iscariot,  and he received 30 pieces of silver.

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Q. 16:  What does Mardi Gras have to do with Easter?

            a)  Mardi Gras is the first day of Lent           

            b)  Mardi Gras is the last day to indulge before Lent.

            c)  Mardi Gras has nothing to do with Easter.

A. 16:  Answer b) Mardi Gras is the last day to indulge before Lent.

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Q. 17:  What does the period of Lent symbolize?

A. 17:  Jesus’s time in the wilderness.

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Q. 18:  Which British gangster film stars Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren?

            a) The Long Easter Monday   b) The Long Easter Sunday   c) The Long Good Friday

A. 18:  c) The Long Good Friday.

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Q. 19:  The word ‘quarantine’ literally means ’40 days’. When Neil Armstrong went into quarantine after returning from the Moon, which musical instrument did he take with him?

            a) Penny whistle          b) Banjo          c) Ukulele          d) Hammond organ

A. 19:  He took c) a Ukulele.

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Q. 20:  “I am the eggman” is a lyric from which song by The Beatles?

            a) Paperback Writer           b) I Am The Walrus           c) Hey Jude

A. 20:  b) I Am The Walrus.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We’re getting close to the end of another month and close to the end of this short series.

Hope you enjoy this penultimate selection of perfectly times photos.

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 ptp No, I won't wave

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ptp Quick - grab my beer

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ptp right-moment

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ptp saddlesore

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ptp See Through Book

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ptp she_loves_a_cock

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skater

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ptp supportive crowd

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ptp tevez

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ptp Thanks for the ride

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ptp water stand

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avoiding-tornado

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Once a pun a time there was a blog that championed that element of humor called word play. You are about to read the latest batch of these puns right now.

So all that remains to be said is, enjoy!

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I walked into the boss’s office and handed him a pear.

“What’s this for?” He asked.

“A pay rise.” I replied.

“My wife told me to grow it first and then ask you.”

grow-a-pear

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The other day a friend of mine hit me with a chocolate bar.

How dairy!

cadbury-dairy-milk

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HMV to close sixty stores.

Is this the Vinyl Countdown?

cadbury-dairy-milk

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I won £10,000 on a scratchcard last week and the wife said

we should draw up a list of what to spend it on.

“Well, I’m going to book a holiday for one.”

“Oh goody” she screamed excitedly, “I can’t wait!”

Can’t help thinking she’s misunderstood what I said.

single-vacation

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I was reading through the ingredients for

a fruit salad I’m making today and it said:

“Pineapples: five cubed.”

I’m not sure though,

125 will probably be too many.

5 cubed

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My friend has no hands.

I feel for him.

no hands

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When I was young, my mum always used to hit me with the telephone.

I was always on the receiving end…..

telephone-cartoon

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My calculator is missing the minus button,

but on the plus side, it still works.

calculator

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A gay guy asked me if I liked to blow people.

I told him I’m not a fan.

cartoons-fan

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I just hired a really uncomfortable car.

It Hertz like hell.

hertz

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I said to my friend, “I just watched that film about the Nazis.”

He said, “Oh what, the one with Adolf in?”

I said, “No mate, you’re thinking of ‘Flipper’, this was just about the Nazis.”

flipper

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I went house hunting at the weekend.

I went to see one house that had mirrors all over the walls.

I thought, “I can see myself living here.”

mirror walls

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I told my Chinese friend that I bought very cheap cigarettes

that were shipped in from a foreign country.

He said, “Is that Regal?”

regal cigarettes

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Why shouldn’t you buy Ukrainian underpants?

Because Chernobyl fallout.

ukraine_viktoryanukovych

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I was walking into my local pub,

when I suddenly realized it was darts night.

So I did a 180 and left.

darts 180

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Our Brazilian housekeeper is rubbish at making the beds.

She’s very tidy downstairs though.            

brazilian

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There was an unbelievably close finish

in this years “Shemale of the year” contest.

It was a Thai.        

thai

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Everyone can put on their curriculum vitae

that they know a little Latin.

logo CV

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I’ve got a fear of two-letter words.

I get scared just thinking about it.

Scary

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I turned to my wife last night and said,

“I’m into anal”.

She gave me a look of despair and glared at me as she said,

“Animal”.

I love it when we do the cryptic crossword together.

cryptic crossword

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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One of my blog friends, Kenton over at the Jittery Goat, wrote a post recently as part of the daily prompt series about the first book/story he read that gave him an interest in reading and writing. His choice was a good one, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.  

On a few occasions I have been asked the same thing and it is a very good question to put to anyone who is interested in either reading or writing or both.

When I was growing up the main influence as regards reading and writing was school. I’m sure that is the same for many of you. I was both fortunate and unfortunate here.

For a few years I had an excellent English teacher. Someone who was interested in the subject she taught, but someone who was equally interested in passing on her enthusiasm for reading and writing to her pupils. She was a great teacher and a great influence on her pupils. One could not but develop a taste for English literature, for exploring other writers and for writing too.

Now for the bad news.

As happens in schools, as you progress through the grades sometimes your teachers change. And unfortunately mine did.

I got lumbered with the most awful teacher there has probably ever been. Another woman, but this woman was one of those self-absorbed dullards who would probably have made any subject the most boring and tedious thing in the world.

She could take the most exciting story and just drain the life out of it. With poetry she did the very same, just killed it stone dead with her monotonous voice and her complete lack of feeling for the subject.

Watching the proverbial paint drying or concrete setting was real exciting stuff compared to this woman’s classes!

The result?

Sadly, for a few years she turned me, and I would guess almost all her pupils completely off both reading and writing. I will never forgive her for that.

However time passed and although I’m not sure how exactly it happened, I got the urge to start to read again. Perhaps to ease myself back into it I decided to start with some short stories rather than a long book or novel.

And what a great choice that turned out to be.

The first story I read in my new life as a reader once again was called “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”. It was a tale set during the American Civil War and was written by Ambrose Bierce, who himself was a veteran of that war, and a gentleman of whom you will hear a lot more in future fasab posts.   

And so I have been reading and writing ever since, mostly for my own amusement and occasionally, as in this blog, also for the amusement of others.

I’d be interested to find out what you make of this story so I have reproduced it below. If you are unfamiliar with it, or want to refresh you memory if you have read it before, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

And when you are finished let me know what you make of it.

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AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE

by

Ambrose Bierce 

An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge

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A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners–two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain.

A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest–a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.

Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground–a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators–a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock.

A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.

The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.

The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace.

These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!

He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift–all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality.

He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by– it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the trust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.

He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”

As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.

II

Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime.

Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure to perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.

One evening while Farquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Farquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.

“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.” 

“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Farquhar asked.

“About thirty miles.” 

“Is there no force on this side of the creek?” 

“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.” 

“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?” 

The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.” 

The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.

III 

As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened–ages later, it seemed to him–by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity.

They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible!

He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.” 

He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor!

Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!

He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck.

He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf–he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass.

The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.

He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.

Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle. The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.

A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears.

Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:

“Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready!. . . Aim! . . . Fire!” 

Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.

As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.

The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:

“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!” 

An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.

“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me–the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.” 

Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of Aeolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.

A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.

All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.

By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again–he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.

His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them.

His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!

Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!

Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.

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If you prefer to listen while you do something else, here is an audio version of the story:

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part one of four

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part two of four  

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part three of four  

   

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An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce, narrated by Robert Englund, part four of four  

 

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

They say that all you have to do is ask.

Well, I’m asking, so I guess the rest is up to you.

Here you go….

Why doesn’t onomatopoeia sound like what it is?

onomatopoeia

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Does a fish get cramps after eating?

cartoon fish swimming cramps

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Why is it when two planes almost hit each other it is called a near miss ? Shouldn’t it be called a near hit ?

near miss

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Why isn’t palindrome spelled the same way backwards?

palindrome

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Why is it called TOOTHbrush when you brush all of your teeth?

toothbrush

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Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?

fat chance slim chance

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If someone invented instant water, what would they mix it with?

water drop

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How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?

a fool and his money

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Do cemetery workers prefer the graveyard shift?

graveyard shift

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If carrots are so good for the eyes, how come I see so many dead rabbits on the highway

bugs bunny with carrot

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Where does the fire go when the fire goes out?

fire

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So what’s the speed of dark?

speed of dark

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Is reading in the bathroom considered Multi-Tasking?

multi-tasking

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Why do grocery stores buy so many checkout line registers if they only keep 3 or 4 open?

grocery checkout

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If anything’s possible, then is it possible that nothing’s possible?

anything is possible

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Does anyone actually kill two birds with one stone?

Kill Two Birds With One Stone by mcaldero

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Where in the nursery rhyme does it say humpty dumpty is an egg?

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a wall

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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More pun fun today. It’s amazing how bad a joke you can get away with when there’s a pun or two involved. The evidence can be found below.

Enjoy.

 

 

A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

 

Dijon vu – the same mustard as before.

 

Practice safe eating – always use condiments.

 

Is a shotgun wedding a case of wife or death?

 

A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.

 

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

 

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

 

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

 

Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

 

When two egotists meet, it’s always an I for an I.

 

A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two tired.

 

What’s the definition of a will? (It’s a dead giveaway.)

 

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

 

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

 

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

 

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

 

They tried to save him with an I.V. but it was all in vein.

 

Stir-fry cooks come from all woks of life.

 

Did your hear about the illiterate fisherman who was lost at c?

 

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