Archive for the 'Blogs' Category

Introducing the Milliken Action Calendar

March 27, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 27, 2017

March Madness, the trademarked nickname for the collegiate basketball tournament that largely coincides with the third month, is such a catchy and popular term. Don’t the other 11 months deserve to have an equally slogan? Sure they do!

Herewith, I present the first draft of the MAC, a.k.a. the Milliken Action Calendar (trademark pending):

January Japery

February Fervor

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Cheeps and Chirps for Jan. 29, 2017

January 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 29, 2017

Wow, I didn’t realized it had been so long since I’d shared some of my Twitter gems.

I’m going to limit myself to tweets from Jan. 28, as the cruelty of President Trump’s executive order banning Muslims sank in, and as news broke that the president’s inner circle was going to limit the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in some key national security meetings.

• ZOMG Donald Trump!

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Recent Readings for Dec. 9, 2016

December 9, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 9, 2016

• “Trump has declined many intelligence briefings offered to him according to Senate aide.” Trump is meeting with plenty of potential political appointees and holding rallies as part of a “Thank you tour,” but he apparently doesn’t think intelligence should occupy very much of his time. Writes CBS News’s Rebecca Shabad: “Even during the campaign, there were reports that Trump was at odds with what intelligence officials briefed him on. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas[,] the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in late October that he told Mr. Trump that Russia was trying to influence the U.S. election through hacking, but he said Mr. Trump rejected that information.” As I tweeted (with a typo!), “It’s hard to escape the feeling that President-Elrct [sic] Donald Trump just isn’t interested in working hard.”

• “The Last Line Of Defense: Federal Bureaucrats Wait Nervously For Donald Trump.” Jessica Schulberg and Amanda Terkel take a deep dive into the anxieties of several (anonymous) federal employees who “often have decades of experience and institutional knowledge that the incoming administration will need to ensure that the federal government doesn’t fall apart under the leadership of new, sometimes inexperienced, political appointees.”

“[W]e’re worried that our president might actually turn out be to a fascist,” one Department of Labor employee says. A worker at the Defense Intelligence Agency says colleagues wonder, “Am I going to be an unwitting enabler of war crimes under this administration?” Says a Democrat in the Environmental Protection Agency (about which see below), “I would take George W. Bush any day over this.”

• “What’s Pushing Down U.S. Life Expectancy?” Dina Fine Maron over at Scientific American interviews Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, over newly released 2015 data. An uptick in flu cases may have had a widespread effect, Anderson explains: “The flu can impact other causes of death, and it can cause people with existing chronic conditions to die from those conditions. So someone with heart disease who gets the flu, that flu can precipitate a heart attack, or exacerbate existing chronic lung disease or many other things. For people who are very ill and may be hanging on, they can die sooner than they may have otherwise.” Anderson also notes that accidental suffocation, both in bed and otherwise, may be responsible for an increase in infant mortality.

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Cheeps and Chirps for Aug. 27, 2016

August 27, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 27, 2016

Some Twitter for you!

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps for Aug. 16, 2016

August 16, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 16, 2016

There will be Twitter!

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps — belated July 2016 Democratic National Convention edition!

August 12, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 12, 2016

Yep — have some more Twitter!

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps — belated July 2016 Republican National Convention edition!

August 11, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 11, 2016

Twitter feed, represent!

Sadly, this could be an evergreen tweet

 

• Reminder: The U.S. is still at war

 

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps for July 15, 2016

July 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 15, 2016

Presenting more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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Recent Readings for July 8, 2016

July 8, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 8, 2016

I spent a great deal of Independence Day reading. Here’s a selection of worthwhile #longreads for you to enjoy!

• “The Devil on Paradise Road.” Bruce Barcott tells the gripping story of a fatal shooting on New Year’s Day 2012 at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state. After an Iraq war veteran with a history of domestic violence and alcohol abuse shot a park ranger and disappeared into the wild, authorities attempted to rescue their wounded colleague and to protect numerous park visitors without knowing where or when the next bullets might be fired.

• “A Short-Order Murder.” In 1969, newlyweds Helen and Peter Menicou moved to America. In 1997, she was shot to death by a cook whom she’d worked with amicably for years. Lisa Davis’s feature article, published a few months after the slaying, vividly conjures the atmosphere of San Francisco’s Pinecrest Diner and sketches the universally beloved victim:

Sometimes the topic was money — fortunes were made and lost in the Pinecrest stock market — but whatever the subject, the discussion always occurred underneath the smell of bacon grease, sweet, sticky syrup, brewing coffee, and grilled meat all mixed together.

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Cheeps and Chirps for July 2, 2016

July 2, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 2, 2016

Please enjoy some more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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Recent Readings for July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 1, 2016

• “The Love Song of Robert Bentley, Alabama’s Horndog Governor.” GQ political correspondent Jason Zengerle dives into one of the recent scandals that has rocked the Alabama political world: The extramarital affair between Gov. Robert Bentley, a kindly dermatologist and grandfather whom some nicknamed “the accidental governor,” and a senior adviser. The whole thing is sordid, and includes the firing of one of the governor’s friends, a top state law enforcement official, because he crossed Bentley and his lover. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the entire affair is how Bentley’s entire character and life appear to have changed as a result of his dalliance.

• “Is Mike Hubbard the Most Corrupt Politician in America?” Gov. Bentley isn’t the only politician from the Yellowhammer State to have run into serious trouble. In 2010, former sports broadcasting mogul Mike Hubbard masterminded a Republican takeover of all branches of Alabama state government after Democrats had held the legislature for 136 straight years. In 2012, a grand jury indicted Hubbard on 23 felony counts. This article by Joe Miller was the first in a series of five New Republic stories describing the charges against Hubbard and his trial, which concluded in June with a mixed verdict.

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Cheeps and Chirps for May 15, 2016

May 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 15, 2016

Here are some more recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed.

• Comedy!

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Cheeps and Chirps for April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 26, 2016

Here are some recent odds and ends from my Twitter feed. I hope that “Cheeps and Chirps” will be a semi-regular feature on my blog. (Ideally, it’ll be more regular and less semi than “Recent Readings”…)

• Check out this great hockey name!

• Aging man (almost) yells at kid. On Wednesday, I saw a bicyclist (I think she was a college student) bicycling with her helmet dangling from her handlebars. I had to restrain myself from scolding her. #GetOffMyLawn #AgingManYellsAtKid (Except I didn’t actually yell at her.)

• About that pitcher who was fired by ESPN last week… Curt Schilling, who has regularly made a habit of posting right-wing memes on social media that disparage Muslims, the LGBTQ community and liberals — excuse me, libtards — in general, recently lost his job. Unsurprisingly, right-wingers rallied around him. I attempted to remind conservatives that their hero of the moment had extracted $75 million from the coffers of the state of Rhode Island for a video game company that was a tremendous bust — hardly embodying the free market that conservatives claim to reveal. But hey, it’s OK to tout Schilling as a conservative icon as long as he regularly hates on lefties and queers, right?!

This old Saturday Night Live skit would be…problematic today. And rightfully so.

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Recent Readings for Jan. 9, 2016

January 9, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 9, 2016

• “The Fall of King Coal.” In December, a federal jury convicted former Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship of conspiracy to violate federal mine-safety laws, a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in prison. In “The Fall of King Coal,” which Mother Jones published in the fall as Massey’s trial was getting under way, reporter Tim Murphy took a close look at Blankenship’s career, which involved breaking union strikes as well as existing contracts and safety and environmental regulations.

“It was very, very obvious from the first part that [Blankenship] cared about one thing and one thing only, and that was the dollar, and it was clear that he worshipped at the altar of greed and dollars, and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way,” one longtime union foe told Murphy.

• “The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross.” The American Red Cross did not have a good 2015, when several reports came out exposing it as a floundering and at times ineffective organization. Take, for instance, a June report from ProPublica and NPR that bore the headline “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.”

Last month, Justin Elliott extended his reporting on the American Red Cross by describing how former AT&T executive Gail McGovern has brought a businesslike mentality to the charity that has coincided with, if not actually caused, budget deficits, layoffs, internal cutbacks, sagging morale and the loss of trust by countless volunteers and partners. One of McGovern’s apparent missteps was hiring Jack McMaster, a former AT&T colleague who ran a Dutch telecom company into the ground before getting a job with the Red Cross.

• “Republican doom doesn’t equal Democrat victory: Our political chaos could destroy them both.” Salon columnist Andrew O’Hehir blasts the left and the right in this essay:

Clinton’s tone and rhetoric have been measured during this campaign, but as Salon’s Bill Curry wrote recently, she remains an unregenerate foreign-policy hawk who shows every sign of yearning to double down on failed military overreach. Whatever you think she may have said, Clinton has absolutely not ruled out sending American troops by the thousands to fight a ground war against the Islamic State. She has called out Republican candidates for their “bluster and bigotry” and rejected talk of a “war on Islam,” which is all to the good. But the policy proposals discernible below her calm and resolute-sounding language over the last month are virtually indistinguishable from those of the non-Trump GOP contenders: More war, more surveillance, less First Amendment. “You are going to hear all the familiar complaints: ‘Freedom of speech,’” she told a Brookings Institution audience on Dec. 6. I know! As if that’s in the Constitution or something!

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Recent Readings for Dec. 20, 2015

December 20, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 20, 2015

• “Devils, Deals and the DEA: Why Chapo Guzman was the biggest winner in the DEA’s longest running drug cartel case.” In 1992, the Drug Enforcement Agency decided to dismantle a Mexican drug-running organization known as the Arellano Félix Organization, or AFO. One supervisor estimated that the task could be completed in six months; ultimately, however, the agency pursued the case for nearly two decades. David Epstein examines the long-running probe, looking at how and why it left a number of loose ends that still haunt some of the men who worked the case.

• “Now Louie Gohmert and Fox News will mansplain Planned Parenthood: The new lie right-wing men can’t stop pushing.” Peter Dreier describes the life and career of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whom conservatives are fond of calling a eugenicist and a racist, despite her ties to black progressives and civil-rights leaders. Sanger (1879–1966) was the sixth of 11 children:

Her mother, Ann, was a devout Catholic and the strong and loving mainstay of the family. When she died from tuberculosis at age fifty, young Margaret had to take care of the family. She always believed that her mother’s many pregnancies had contributed to her early death.

Sanger longed to be a physician, but she was unable to pay for medical school. She enrolled in nursing school in White Plains, New York, and as part of her maternity training delivered many babies — unassisted — in at-home births. She met women who had had several children and were desperate to avoid future pregnancies. Sanger had no idea what to tell them.

• “What Kind of Person Calls a Mass Shooting a Hoax?” Six-year-old Noah Pozner was one of the 26 victims of the shooting. His parents, like relatives of all the victims, have tried for the past three years to refute skeptics who claim that President Obama or his cohorts faked the massacre in order to become what gun-rights activists like to call “gun grabbers.” Mike Spies profiles a prominent Sandy Hook truther, Wolfgang Halbig, who insists that the Dec. 14, 2012, killings at a Connecticut elementary school were staged.

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Thanksgiving notes

November 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 26, 2015

I wanted to throw up a quick entry here mentioning some previous blog posts that are relevant to the season:

Three years ago, I wrote a post listing six things for which I was grateful. All still apply. What are you grateful for? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Six years ago, I began tweeting tributes to the seniors on the Stanford football team toward the end of the season. (The timing is loosely tied to the senior day tradition established by the late Dean Smith, a legendary men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.) My most recent tribute appeared on Twitter shortly before the kickoff to the 118th Big Game last Saturday; subsequently, I updated the page on this blog that contains all of the tributes. Be sure to visit if you have any interest in the Cardinal football team!

In 2013, I wrote about Christmas creep, which, I assure you, is alive and well. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed no decrease in the insistence by conservatives that Christianity is imperiled here in the United States. (See: Kim Davis.)

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Recent Readings for Nov. 19, 2015

November 19, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 19, 2015

• U.S. releases longtime British captive who was never formally charged with wrongdoing. A small step was taken last week to repair the depressing legacy of the invasion of Afghanistan, a war that I consider to have been completely necessary but handled in suboptimal fashion. Gabrielle Bluestone has the (mostly grim) news for Gawker:

Shaker Aamer, a British citizen who spent more than 13 years in Guantanamo Bay, was freed Friday and is reportedly on his way back to London.

Aamer, the last British Gitmo detainee, was captured by the Northern Alliance in 2001 and eventually turned over to the U.S. on allegations that he had worked as an Al Queda operative in London, associated with Osama bin Laden and led a band of Taliban fighters at Tora Bora. Over the next 13 years, the 46-year-old — who says he was in Afghanistan doing charity work — was subjected to waterboarding, force fed through a nasal feeding tube after coordinating a hunger strike, and held in solitary confinement for years. During that time, his six-by-eight-foot cell reportedly had 24 hour exposure to light and constant noise from a nearby generator.

The British House of Commons had unanimously passed a resolution calling for Aamer’s release.

Bluestone notes that 112 captives remain at the American military installation in Guantanamo Bay, of whom only 10 have been charged with a crime.

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Recent Readings for Oct. 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 22, 2015

Being a fool for love turned this woman into a criminal. Brendan Koerner has a harrowing profile of Audrey Elrod, a Southern divorcée whose desire for affection helped her fall prey to an online racket run by Nigerian con artists. Unfortunately, while Elrod’s case may be unusual in the degree to which she fell prey to romantic delusions, it is by no means unique:

[T]he romance-scam industry is flourishing as people become more accustomed to finding soul mates online. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, American victims of online romance scams lost more than $87 million in 2014, compared with just $50 million in 2011. In the UK, a 2012 study by researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Westminster estimated that 230,000 Britons had already been duped by Internet swindlers whose promises of love inevitably segue into demands for cash.

Koerner concludes his article on an absolutely heartbreaking note.

• More information doesn’t always lead to better choices. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan summarizes the findings of a new psychological study published by Nature: Climate Change which indicates that learning that natural disasters have struck a particular community “increased participants’ appetite for risk,” in the study’s words. As Campbell-Dollagahn writes,

Plenty of people have expressed consternation about why the last few years’ widely-publicized fires, floods, hurricanes, and other weather events haven’t scared more people. But it seems that … the horror of the first-person accounts, photo essays, and other reporting about these disasters have an unexpected effect: They subtly reinforce the idea that “most of the time,” we’re safe.

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Recent Readings for Sept. 29, 2015

September 29, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 29, 2015

• The next Supreme Court term. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress has a useful primer on three cases that the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider in its next term, which starts on Monday. One of the cases could result in depriving public-sector unions of what are called agency fees or fair share fees, a vital funding stream. Another could change how state legislatures draw their districts. A third case, Fisher vs. University of Texas, which the court already considered in 2012, could affect the future of affirmative action. Millhiser also notes that the court is likely to agree to hear two major reproductive health rights cases.

• Skeptical police response to sexual assault allegations ultimately costs a young child his life. Katie J.M. Baker’s feature article about Virginia authorities’ questionable handling of a possible rape electrified my Twitter feed Sunday evening. Police didn’t believe the complainant and ended up filing charges against her and her sister — charges that were used as leverage against the sister in what turned out to be a fateful custody hearing. The next time someone is tempted to ask why a potential rape victim didn’t contact the authorities, he or she would do well to remember Baker’s chronicle.

• Can the brother of a victim in the Lockerbie bombing help bring perpetrators to justice? Patrick Radden Keefe describes the many ways in which an obsession with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 has forever changed Ken Dornstein’s life. Only one man was ever convicted for his involvement with this act of terrorism, but after finishing Keefe’s story, I was persuaded that at least one other individual likely got away with mass murder.

Author’s note: Dornstein’s film, My Brother’s Bomber, will be broadcast in three parts on the PBS documentary series Frontline beginning tonight; the second and third segments will air on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13. MEM

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Recent Readings for Sept. 17, 2015

September 17, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 17, 2015

Welcome to the first entry in Recent Readings, which I hope will become a more-or-less weekly series of postings here on the blog. The title should be self-explanatory. Let’s get to it, shall we?

History as foreshadowing in the Pacific Northwest. Ann Finkbeiner has some scary news about the seismic tendencies of the Pacific Northwest, a region where earthquakes are relatively infrequent. But when they come, quakes in this area have historically been prolonged — perhaps three minutes in duration! — and extremely violent, thanks in no small part to the tsunamis that follow them. The consequences of the next quake could be catastrophic.

Finkbeiner filters this story through an anthropological lens, examining research on the stories Native Americans told about the devastating quakes of centuries past. About midway through her article, she strikes an oddly comforting note: Although the quakes had devastating short-term consequences, wiping out homes and killing many people and animals, the affected communities re-established themselves with minimal long-term changes.

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A note to readers

September 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 10, 2015

Well, it’s happened. My six-year-old MacBook Pro gave up the ghost, and this time it’s for good. That’s mainly because I will not pay anything to get the computer fixed, and I won’t even bother to bring it into the Apple Store to see what’s wrong. 

I had a blog post about the film Memento nearly finished when the machine started going haywire. It took me a while to realize that there was a serious malfunction going on, as opposed to a small difficulty connecting with the local wireless network. I now believe that the hard drive is shot. 

Today, I connected my Internet router to my circa-2005 iMac with an Ethernet cable and tried to log onto WordPress. I couldn’t do so because the keyboard’s A key does not work.

The upshot is that I’m going to select and order a new laptop computer this weekend. Hopefully, I will have it in hand by Wednesday or so next week. Until then, the blog will be either dark or featuring only short posts. 

Blogging: Here’s where I’m at (and here’s what’s coming up)

August 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 12, 2015

So I’ve returned from my big trip. I managed to keep my blogging pace up… almost… mostly by dint of posting three times on Saturday (which was two days after my return).

Just to set the stage for the next few weeks…

While on vacation, I finished reading Margaret Atwood’s moving 2009 post-apocalyptic tale, The Year of the Flood, which I’d actually begun in late March. (I took several long breaks because the novel is full of darkness and foreboding.) I also completed Ariel Djanikian’s excellent 2013 dystopian science fiction novel, The Office of Mercy (which arguably might be better labeled post-apocalyptic). Reviews of these will be forthcoming.

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A constantly changing, convoluted narrative leads the reader to unexpected delights in Frederick Reiken’s ‘Day for Night’

July 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 3, 2015

Frederick Reiken’s 2010 book, Day for Night, is hard to characterize. Technically, it’s a series of connected stories; however, it reads like a novel. (The indicia page indicates that three of the 10 chapters were previously published as stand-alone stories.) Each chapter is narrated by a separate character; each is connected in various ways — some of them obvious, others not so — to people or events in other chapters.

The woman at the heart of Day for Night, if such a disparate book can be said to have a heart, is Beverly, a New Jersey physician with two teenage daughters who is poised to adopt Jordan, the 13-year-old son of David, her terminally ill boyfriend. She narrates the opening chapter, in which a young Florida tour guide takes her, David and Jordan to swim with manatees. In the next section, the narrator becomes the tour guide, Tim, whose bandmate, Dee, has spent much of her life fleeing her family, a secretive and mysterious Utah clan.

Chapter 3 takes the form of the deposition of a veteran FBI agent who interviewed Tim and Dee in Salt Lake City because they were seated on an airplane flight next to Katherine, a strangely elusive fugitive suspected in a bombing, a kidnapping and other crimes going back nearly 15 years. The agent later encounters Katherine as she spirits away Dee’s brother, Dillon, a badly injured young man who appears to be a captive of his odd parents.

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In ‘The Tiger,’ John Vaillant compellingly explores what happened when a natural predator turned on humans

May 23, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 23, 2015

In early December 1997, Vladimir Markov seemed to be anxious about something. Markov lived in Sobolonye, a village in Russia’s Far East, and he’d been roaming around the community’s outskirts. These movements weren’t unusual in and of themselves, but as he visited various friends, most noticed that he paced nervously, smoked endlessly, and refused offers of food and shelter despite the long winter nights and the piercing cold.

A few days later, Markov was found dead, the victim of a brutal tiger attack. When a team of inspectors from a Russian agency with the unlikely name of Inspection Tiger visited Markov’s cabin, little remained of Markov’s corpse — the enormous cat had made sure of that. This was somewhat unusual. But as John Vaillant documents in his thrillingly readable nonfiction book, The Tiger, other ominous signs were afoot.

In this early passage from the 2010 book, investigator Yuri Trush and his team learn that the method in which the tiger hunted Markov was quite extraordinary and disturbing:

[Markov’s] latrine, his beehives — everything that might have his scent on it — had been thoroughly explored and much of it destroyed. His washstand had been knocked off the cabin’s outer wall, and there was a swipe of tiger blood by the door. Tiger tracks were everywhere, circling the cabin, interrupted only by packed expressions in the snow where the animal stopped to wait and watch before circling the cabin yet again. In one spot, by the wellhead, the tiger had lain on a patch of snow long enough to partially thaw it out. When it finally moved on, a furry shadow of itself remained behind, frozen in place. The tiger had clearly been on the premises for a while, perhaps days — long enough to defecate twice, both times within a few feet of the cabin. It was as if the tiger had staked a claim to the premises and all they contained.

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A few more notes about this here blog

April 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 9, 2015

Time to update my standard blog disclaimer!

In November 2012, I wrote the following:

With some exceptions noted below, I have not requested or received any free items to be reviewed on MEMwrites; nor do I plan to request any. The blog is an entirely voluntary venture for which I am receiving no financial compensation. The only reward I derive from MEMwrites is the satisfaction I get from writing and from being read.

All of the books and movies that I have been reviewing on MEMwrites have been chosen by me without any outside prompting. With some exceptions noted below, I have purchased all of the books and movies reviewed on the blog myself.

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