Saturday, May 27, 2006

A clue for the clueless.

Here's something for all you ghost hunters to consider.

Ghosts are dead people, but they're still people. Many of them don't understand their situation, so they're confused and scared.

Put yourself in that position. You're alone in a house, and suddenly hordes of people arrive, with armfuls of electrical equipment. They're shouting to each other, setting up mysterious gadgets, then they come looking for you.

"Come out!" they shout. "Show yourself."

Each of them carries something that might be a weapon, for all you know. You can't see them clearly, but you know they're hunting you.

What would you do?

Is it any real surprise that these ghosthunters find nothing? That they console themselves with pictures of dust and recordings of mice scratching in the walls?

If you wanted to sight a rare animal or bird, you'd set up a hide and keep very, very quiet. You wouldn't barge into the forest with floodlights and cameras, shouting and demanding the animal come forth. You wouldn't really expect the animal to step out and pose to be photographed, would you?

Treat ghosts as shy, neurotic, terrified people.

That's what most of them are.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

No smoking

I am not a heavy smoker, although I do enjoy an occasional cigar.

I visited Scotland this week, where the new smoking laws are being tested out before they are applied to the whole of the UK. The officious 'empty-suits' have been hard at work there.

Let me first remind everyone that tobacco is not (yet) illegal in the UK, and in fact provides a huge source of revenue for the taxman. With that in mind, consider this:

Scotland has banned smoking in all 'enclosed public spaces' and 'places of work'. Now, I agree with this in principle. Even though I smoke, I don't want to eat in a restaurant where the air is filled with smoke, and where even the napkins smell of tobacco. So far, so good.

The downside is that the streets are littered with cigarette ends. Outside some of the seedier pubs, these are gradually forming a mound that will eventually obscure the door.

The ban hurts more at airports. Once inside the departure lounge, there is no 'smoking area' any more. Dedicated smokers are having a tough time of it there. I expect we'll hear of one or two having breakdowns while they wait for long-delayed flights.

They have also banned smoking on railway stations. Not just the waiting room, not just the covered sections, but even on the open platforms. It's a place of work, so no smoking.

Now that's just silly. Scotland is a windy place, and if you stand next to a smoker on a railway platform you'd be lucky to even catch a whiff of tobacco.

Moving from silly to downright stupid, I noticed a 'no smoking' sign at a bus stop. This stop consisted of a single upright panel and a flat canopy. You cannot smoke there.

If you take one step outside the canopy, you can smoke. Step under the canopy and you're breaking the law. So, someone walking along the street, smoking, will have to either extinguish their cigarette, or cross the street to avoid passing under the canopy.

These laws will apply in England soon. The anti-smoking brigades will no doubt clap their hands in glee. Everyone will have to give up smoking because it's just too inconvenient to bother. So the tobacco companies go down, leading to increased unemployment. This has already happened in Eire, where a cigarette factory closed after their smoking ban. There was uproar. How can a company simply fire so many people?

Perhaps because those same people voted not to buy the product, and not to let anyone use it?

Then there's the tax issue. Loss of smokers means a huge loss of revenue for the Government. Will they manage with less money, or will they increase other taxes to compensate? You decide.

What concerns me is that, from next month, I will be self-employed. My home will be my place of work.

So, by strict interpretation of these ridiculous laws, it will be illegal for me to smoke there.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lunacy in the infra-red.

Many amateur (and some so-called professional) ghost hunters make extensive use of electronic equipment. In particular, they do like to have a good supply of infra-red cameras and thermometers.

They are astounded at the 'orbs' (dust) these things pick up, the temperature variations when waving the thermometers around, and when the TV turns itself on they scream 'Proof'.

I scream, too. In despair.

Things reflect infra-red differently to visible light. Plants, for example, reflect infra-red as if they were mirrors. Dark clothes can appear light. Dust shows up exceptionally well. That’s reflection, not emission. Now, why would an insubstantial creature like a ghost reflect infra-red?

The amount of infra-red emitted by an object is related to its temperature. This is something that should be carved in stone and nailed to every ghost-hunter's head. Since ghosts produce cold areas, why on Earth would anyone expect to see them with an infra-red camera? They aren't producing any. If anything, they’ll absorb heat and infra-red light so they won’t be reflecting it either.

Infra-red light passes unhindered through air. Air does not emit infra-red light. Therefore, an infra-red thermometer cannot possibly measure air temperature. It measures the temperature of whatever you point it at, not of the air in between. It is not possible to detect a cold spot with an infra-red thermometer. What you get is an average of the temperatures in its cone of measurement, and the area it measures gets bigger the further you are from an object. Waving it around in the middle of a room will give you wild fluctuations. Read the instructions! Then carve them in stone and nail them to the ghost-hunter’s head too.

I've saved the best for last.

I've seen many of these ghost-hunter programs take place in darkened rooms, with infra-red floodlights so the cameras can see what's happening. Many of the crew carry camcorders with infra-red lights, and there's usually a halfwit waving a thermometer at the walls. In several programs, televisions have turned themselves on and off, even when the 'expert' has the remote control safely tucked away in his pocket.

Wow, how could that happen? Could it be supernatural? Or maybe super-idiocy?

Consider what appears above: infrared reflects differently to normal light, and the room is full of infrared lights. Some of the lights are mobile, hand-held. Some are static, but the people who reflect it are mobile. So is the dust, but that's a separate issue.

TV remote controls work on - yes, you've guessed it - infra-red.

I can aim my TV remote control at the wall behind me. The wall reflects the control's output and the TV changes channels. If you have lots of sources of infra-red in a darkened room, and either the sources or the things reflecting the light move around, chances are that sooner or later your TV will receive the right pulse of infra-red and turn itself on. Or off. You can take the batteries out of the remote, you can hide it in another room, you can smash it with a brick, or with the stones nailed to your head. It doesn’t matter. You won’t need it.

Not when you’ve filled the room with infra-red emitters, and idiots to wield them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Spam, spam, spam, spam... so went the refrain of the vikings in the transport cafe, from a long-ago transmission of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Spam was (and still is) a can of meat with all the goodness processed out of it. When the Monty Python crew made fun of it, it was funny. Modern spammers are not.

Here's one from the comments box on the last post. It's probably on every blog, though most will have deleted it. I'm not going to be so kind.

Get any Desired College Degree, In less then 2 weeks.

Call this number now 24 hours a day 7 days a week (413) 208-3069

Get these Degrees NOW!!!

"BA", "BSc", "MA", "MSc", "MBA", "PHD",

Get everything within 2 weeks.
100% verifiable, this is a real deal

Act now you owe it to your future.

(413) 208-3069 call now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This is Spam, by the modern definition. An advertisement with all the intelligence processed out of it. As such it is open to any and all abuse I can find to throw at it. If you want to object, Davey-boy, remember that you'd have to admit to spamming in order to come forward.

A line by line commentary is called for here, I think.

Get any Desired College Degree, In less then 2 weeks.

Less then 2 weeks? I take it this does not include a degree in English?
Bad opening, Dave. If you went to college, you obviously didn't listen. Perhaps you should have spent more than two weeks there. Honestly, if anyone believes they can get a degree in two weeks then they need to be locked away safely before they hurt themselves. Only the terminally stupid and the criminally idle would even think about this.

Call this number now 24 hours a day 7 days a week (413) 208-3069

Whenever I see this line, it is my fondest wish that someone will invent an autodialler that could call a number repeatedly, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. On answer, it would give out the recorded message 'You're an idiot', hang up and redial.

Get these Degrees NOW!!!

Oh? I thought I had to wait two weeks? Or at least until the cheque cleared.

"BA", "BSc", "MA", "MSc", "MBA", "PHD",

If you don't know what the letters stand for, and you pay for one of these fake degrees, be ready to be ridiculed without mercy. In public, perhaps even in the newspapers.

Get everything within 2 weeks.
100% verifiable, this is a real deal

What's the 'everything'? Since a PhD takes three years, does 'everything' include three years' worth of knowledge? In two weeks?
Verifiable made me laugh aloud. The only thing these people are interested in verifying is your payment. A real deal, yes, you give them money, they give you a worthless certificate. The deal is real. The degree is not.

Act now you owe it to your future.

No, you owe it to Dave's future. He'll have your money while you try to convince an employer you've suddenly sprouted a degree. Oh, you'll be so proud. You can command respect because you're Certifiably Clever. Well, certifiable, anyway.

Here's what will really happen. You turn up to a job interview with a piece of paper that says "This man is clever, signed Dave". Your interviewer will ask where you studied. He'll ask detailed questions on your degree subject - after all, you're the 'expert' he wants to employ, aren't you?

You are going to look so stupid you'll wish you had never been born. Your humiliation will be total. Your name will pass from employer to employer (yes, they do talk to each other). You'll get interviews just to provide some comic relief. What you won't get is a job. You cetainly won't get any respect. People will point and laugh at you, and you paid Dave to make it happen. Imagine that before you call this number.

(413) 208-3069 call now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Call it once. Call it now. Don't give them time to hard-sell you a piece of paper with your name on it. Just say 'You're an idiot' and hang up.

Now that would prove you're intelligent.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Da Vinci strikes again.

I’m going to leave the Witnesses alone today, because the Catholic Church has once more made a public fool of itself.

Dan Brown’s wad of tripe, the Da Vinci Code, is to be made into a film. A film that, like the book, would have made no more than a modest impact on the world if left to its own devices.

However, the Pope’s head of propaganda, or whatever he’s called, has once more villified the story as lies, and insisted that Catholics boycott the film. You can’t buy publicity like this. Dan Brown and the film’s producers must be thanking God – for doing their job for them.

Best of all, take a look at this.

An English Catholic group has had the sense to play it calm over the proposed boycott. However, they are annoyed that the film will not carry a notification that it is fiction.


I doubt there was such a disclaimer at the start of A Clockwork Orange. Nor Hellraiser, parts one to ninety, or wherever that one’s got to. Halloween, The Grudge, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Spongebob Squarepants. None of these films, I’ll bet, state that they are works of fiction.

How stupid do you have to be, then, to assume that all those films are true stories?

Dan Brown’s book is FICTION. Anyone with half a brain can see that, and for the rest of you, Dan Brown himself has stated this fact.

If you’re a Catholic, consider this: The high chiefs of your church consider you to be so ill-informed, so gullible, so idiotic that you have to be told that this story isn’t real. They actually think that if you see this, you might be shocked and dismayed.

Are you really so carefully wrapped against the world? Can’t you decide for yourself?

Naturally, some people won’t want to see it because they consider it insulting. Fine. I won’t see it because I don’t consider it interesting. That’s fine too.

I am not, however, going to presume to tell anyone else what they can and cannot choose to see.

That’s not religion. That’s totalitarianism.

How to get the public on your side.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. Here’s a new one to play with.

The UK government lost over 1000 criminals of foreign extraction. They were supposed to be deported at the end of their sentences, but none were. They are wandering all over the country as I write.

On the other hand, the same government has been trying to control immigration, but the feeble liberal-minded morons of the Human Rights movement (the same ones who want criminals to have rights, including the right to rob, rape and murder who they please – but that’s for another post) have blocked their attempts.

The Human Rights buffoons had the public on their side, by telling us that these poor criminals might face the death penalty in their home countries.

Why does anyone have a problem with that? We should have the death penalty here. I have suggested a cull of problem teenagers, but nobody listens. It would save a lot of seals, and still give the baseball-bat brigade something to do.

But I digress. The conspiracy theory starts here.

What if the government let these criminals loose on purpose?

The timing seems somehow appropriate. Our pinhead leaders want to control immigration, but the human-rights weaklings won’t let them. The government need public support for their plans.

So, we have a thousand murderers, rapists, paedophiles and so on wandering about the place. All of them immigrants.

“Oh no,” says the public. “How can this be? How did all these terrible men come here?”

“Ah,” says the sly spin doctor. “They have human rights on their side. If you want us to do something about them, well, we’ve tried. We wanted to control immigration, but you wouldn’t let us.”

“Control it!” The public screams are deafening. “Stop them now.”

I expect to see the human rights mob deported along with the vicious low-lives they support.

I always thought all politicians were idiots, but if there’s any truth in this totally made-up scenario, than I have to revise my opinion.

It’s actually a very clever piece of Machiavellian manipulation.

The end is nigh. Again.

I feel a certain kinship with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe the end of the world is imminent, while I wish it had already happened. To them, anyway.

They invited me to a talk, to discuss whether God was still in control. Well, he’s not in control of me, so I didn’t go.

The discussion was to centre on the idea that the tsunamis, the earthquakes, and similar terrible events were somehow necessary. To a group who want Armageddon more than anything, they must seem so.

Well, these things are necessary, but not for Armageddon. Exactly the opposite, in fact. They are necessary to life on Earth.

We orbit a sun that gives out light and heat. It also emits radiation, and charged particles that could sterilise the surface of our planet.

Fortunately, we have a magnetic field around the planet that deflects these nasties. Some make it into the atmosphere, at the poles, and give rise to the aurorae. These pretty displays are the ending of sunbeams that would destroy us if they hit full-on.

So the planet produces magnetism. It does this because it has a solid metal core surrounded by molten metal. The solid core floats in the molten metal, and their rates of rotation differ. This makes the whole planet a giant dynamo, which produces the magnetism that keeps us alive.

The downside of this is that the crust, on which we live, is also floating. It cracks and moves, some parts slide under other parts, some pieces collide.

That’s what causes earthquakes and other disasters. Volcanoes build land, to replace what the rain washes into the sea. We need rain. We also need land. The truth is, we need volcanoes. Of course, it’s best not to actually live on one.

We need that magnetic field, so we also need to learn to live with the cracks and rumbles that are a consequence of its production.

The simple fact is, we can’t live without them.