Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The shadow-clip is available from quite a few of YouTube's members. You can find them with the search phrase 'Most Haunted Shadow'. I've had time to look through them, over and over, and I concluded that...it's just a shadow. This is clear in some of the enhanced images that appeared on the site.
What's still interesting is that there was only one shadow, but there were two women. I wish I had the original footage, but that, sadly, will never happen.
Visiting Transylvania to see this place for myself isn't possible at the moment. I'm all out of garlic.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Trouble is, I'm in the UK. You can't have a 'black' board because it's racist. (You figure it out. I never could). When I started lecturing, the blackboards gradually vanished to be replaced by green ones. The PC crowd clearly hadn't met Scary or green wouldn't have been allowed either.
We had to refer to it as 'chalkboard'. I called it the greenboard, as a minor act of defiance.
Enter Health and Safety, in pinstriped bubble-wrap suits. Chalk dust is dangerous, despite the fact that everyone who's studied chemistry knows that calcium carbonate is inert. So no more chalkboards.
They were all replaced with whiteboards, which are, curiously, not racist. Again, I hit upon another minor act of defiance and referred to it as 'The write-on thing' because surely no PC cretin could ever find anything to object to in that term. Perhaps it's some oblique slight on the illiterate, but since they can't read this, how can they be offended?
The death-dealing chalk was replaced with dry-wipe marker pens which produced copious quantities of (presumably safe) dust when dry, and exposed the lecturer to (presumably harmless) organic volatile solvents. Throwing a dry-wipe soft cloth at a student was far less effective than throwing a wood-backed board-wiper, but they'd already banned that anyway.
A few years later, and these whiteboards were deemed old hat. By now you're starting to wonder who's paying for these wholesale changes. I wondered the same thing. Now, lectures are put up on computer-driven projectors at a speed no student could ever match with note-taking.
When we had blackboards (there, I said it--but I'm not racist, I know several people who are boards) the student's rate of writing had only to match the lecturer's. The transfer of information was slower, but it was at a pace that the human brain could assimilate. Even with the transition through greenboard to write-on thing, this was still true. The overhead projector with Powerpoint-driven graphics delivers information at a rate only a Dalek could assimilate.
By the time I left lecturing, students no longer took notes because it had become impossible to do so. They dozed through lectures and downloaded the Powerpoint files from the university website later.
Not in my lectures. I still used the write-on thing. I also insisted on the continued use of something that has fallen out of fashion. Speech.
Students are bombarded with information now. Their brains are full before they're halfway through their courses. Students are dropping out and burning out. They have no time to absorb and digest one lecture's worth of information before the next info-blast comes along.
A few things for today's lecturers to consider: Faster does not always mean better. University education cannot work on assembly-line principles. Student brains are not fitted by Intel.
Give students time to think. That's what you should be training them to do.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The programme has run through seven series and a number of live events, and has not produced absolute proof of the existence of ghosts. This is not a criticism. I don't have proof either. Nor does anyone else. Most investigations produce nothing at all (no, orbs don't count unless you can see them without a digital camera).
At the moment they are running a live event in Transylvania, at the castle once lived in by Vlad Dracul, the Impaler and inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula.
If you have Sky TV in the UK, it's channel 112 (I think). If you have another UK cable or satellite TV provider, Living TV might be elsewhere.
Otherwise, there's a website with live webcams. The show runs 9pm to midnight GMT, but I think the cameras are on all the time.
Last night they did pick up an interesting thing, but not with all the techno-wizardry they took with them. Their security men were checking the place, and, since they'd never been to Transylvania before, one of them took a snippet of film with his mobile phone.
Two women were in the courtyard where he was filming. As they left, a shadow appeared to rise from the floor near them and follow them out.
My first thought--and no doubt yours--was that it was a shadow of the women. Yet it was clearly one shadow, and there were two women. The shadow took long strides. If it was a shadow of both women, superimposed, then unless they marched perfectly in step, the legs would have been blurred. They weren't.
It's a very interesting piece of film and I hope to see more of it. I expect someone will capture it and put it on YouTube soon. There might be a logical explanation, but I don't see one at the moment.
Just goes to show - you can spend a fortune on equipment, than have your best evidence captured on a mobile phone camera by someone who isn't part of the team.
Ghosthunting involves a huge element of luck. The amount you spend on equipment is irrelevant. You still have to point it in the right direction. Unfortunately, there are no signposts to tell us which direction to film.
It seems Mr. Steiner, and the Washington Post, are happy to print their assumptions that the teacher in question actually practices some kind of vampire rituals at night, and are no doubt delighted that many of their redneck readers have condemned this woman solely on the basis of their thoughtless babbling. All she has, in fact, done, is write a book. If we are to assume that every writer lives out what they write, then Clive Barker and Stephen King should have been locked away a long time ago.
The Press thrives on conflict. Where there is none, they make it up. The only comfort in this for me is that the UK press are not the only ones guilty of such feeble scaremongering. There was a time, not so long ago, when reporters actually went out and looked for real stories. Now, it seems, they are content to browse the Internet for some tidbit they can build on to produce their worthless chatter.
If someone gets their career ruined in the process, well that's just tough. Mr. Steiner and his ilk are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank, their consciences firmly gagged with dollar bills.
In the article linked, Mr. Steiner relates two earlier cases in which he has villified teachers who, he states, committed no crime. Neither has any crime been committed in this case. Clearly, he does not permit a trivial detail such as the truth to get in his way when he wants to demonise the innocent.
This is a story of a small-town school with a minor issue to deal with. There is no crime here. Heck, there is no worthwhile story here! It's a small administrative issue. Teachers found publishing pornography are--and have been--immediately dismissed. This is not the case here. The whole thing is like the gossip that travels around knitting circles, embellished and exaggerated at each step. The half-senile, wizened old crones who never bother to check the facts are, in this case, reporters.
Mr. Steiner and his cronies can splash around in the shallow end of the gene pool to their heart's content for all I care.
I just wish they'd do it more quietly.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
What caught my eye this time was the story of a teacher who's in trouble for being an author in her spare time.
She's an English teacher, so it's really quite pertintent. I don't know about you, but if I knew the person teaching me English had a novel or two in print, I'd be more inclined to listen to what they have to say. Rather like being taught chemistry, physics or any science by someone with a list of scientific publications, or being taught cookery by a Cordon Bleue chef.
The publication of her work is surely a credit to her? Proof that she's good at English, the subject she's paid to teach?
Ah, but there's a snag.
She's written an erotic vampire novel. I haven't read it, and I'm not likely to, because that's not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, she's written it, and it's published. That suggests, to me, that she is definitely capable of teaching our children how to write. There is no suggestion that she encourages the children in her care to follow her subject matter, nor that she uses her own book (or anything similar) in the classroom. Nor has she arrived at school dressed as a sexy vampire, attempted to bite anyone, or sat on the high desk at the front of the class with legs akimbo (I'm probably breaking a whole raft of religious rules in my head here. Lucky for me I don't know what they are).
The school she works in is a Roman Catholic school in the UK.
Now she's being investigated by the school. They haven't sacked her, they haven't said they're going to, but once a teacher is the subject of an investigation, for any reason, their career is just about finished. No, it's not fair, but that's how it is.
The school was asked whether it was inappropriate for a Christian school to hire someone who writes gothic novels.
Note, the school didn't say that. A reporter asked the question. A reporter. One of the same group of people who stir up public fury over whether it's socially divisive for Muslim schoolgirls to wear a headscarf to school. My grandmother wore a headscarf, as well as a bizarre thing called a hairnet, and in her latter days had blue hair. So did most of her friends, and they were all nominally Church of England. I saw no reports claiming that these blue-haired, headscarved old women should be banned from anywhere. Thinking back, I doubt anyone would have dared. They could hardly have been described as 'frail'.
But I digress. Back to the point, which at this stage is the inconsistency of the press.
On the one hand, then, they say 'Religion should not be part of school life', a sentiment with which I agree. Religion should be based on choice, not dictated by teachers. Then, when something like this comes up, they say 'How can you let this woman work in a religious school?' Why not? The book she's published has no bearing on her work other than to prove she's good at it. Don't we have 'equality' laws now, or are they to be selectively applied?
The press are only in this to stir up trouble, because trouble sells papers. Left to themselves, all the school needed to do was say to this teacher 'Take your picture off your websites so the kids don't know it's you'.
She's already written under a pseudonym so that's no problem. The whole thing would have drifted away, if left alone.
Unfortunately, the press have caught this, and they smell a witch-hunt. The woman is doomed as a teacher. We are therefore likely to lose an English teacher who has proven her ability in the subject, at a time when the education system in the UK is in an utterly abysmal state.
Her book isn't in a genre I'd read, but nonetheless I hope it sells well. I hope it gets the full Hollywood treatment with all the spin-offs that entails. I hope, one day, she can wave two fingers at the Press and say 'You tried to slap me down, and you failed'.
Newspapers have far too much influence on the way people think. Most of that is because people are stupid enough to believe anything in print. At the same time, the Press have a great responsibility, precisely because of the way people hang on their every word.
It is unfortunate indeed that such responsibility is in the hands of the second most irresponsible sector of the population. Only politicians abuse their position to a greater extent.
So, I suggest we need a 'Slap-a-reporter' day. Try to knock some sense into them.
Friday, February 16, 2007
But that's not quite what this post is about.
Surely you'd expect journalists to be able to spell? It's their livelihood, after all.
Look at the fifth paragraph. Should that be 'bouffant' hair?
Or maybe this journalist is having a subtle dig at the world of fashion?
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Very nice of them.
All the law-abiding citizens who had handguns, including those who had Great-Grandfather's rusty Boer War pistol in the attic, handed them in.
The criminals didn't. What a surprise. So the arms are now all in the hands of the harmful, rather than the harmless.
The criminals were put in a position where they knew the law-abiding citizens had no guns. I've ranted about this before. Did this Government's scheme cut gun crime, or was it yet another example of action without thought?
Judge for yourself.
I have no guns. Never have, and never will. Bows are legal though and require no license.
They're also silent, so the neighbours need never know if I have a burglar in the house.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
On a more philosophical note, New Scientist recently carried an article on whether free will exists or not. Are we making decisions, or are we simply following a predestined route? That sort of thing.
It doesn’t take long for your head to start hurting with this stuff. Eventually, though, you come to a dead end.
There’s no way to test this, either way.
Suppose I decided not to post this after all. Suppose I said ‘I’m going to exercise my free will and make a decision to delete this.’
Did I make the decision through free will, or was I destined to delete? In the event, I have posted it. Did I decide to do that myself or was it Written that I Must?
It is not possible to determine whether or not we have free will. Every word we utter, every letter we type, every idiot we insult, might be the product of an individual decision. Equally, they might have been scripted, and we simply follow the script.
The best argument against predestination is human intelligence. If we simply move through time, saying and doing what we are destined to say and do, why do we have intelligence? We don’t need it if everything is predetermined. Why, they say, did we evolve intelligence?
We can equally argue that humans are intelligent because we were destined to be. We can further argue that intelligence is an illusion. We are not intelligent if we are following a plan. We are simply doing what we have to do, thinking the thoughts we were meant to think. We do what quantum physics decided we would do at the Big Bang, or if you prefer, what God designed us to do.
Is every claim of intelligence or free will simply an expression of the route we have to follow? Is there a God in a white coat watching this program unfold, to see whether we work out that we’re only doing what the initial stages of the program dictated? Or, as most of us prefer to believe, is it all random and our own decisions shape the future?
The only way to find out is to step outside the universe and look in. We can’t do that.
There is one further possible test.
If the future is already determined, if tomorrow’s events are already set up for us, there might be a way to work out what those events will be. If we can devise a way to predict what will happen tomorrow, the day after, or next year, then if it all turns out as we predicted, the future is indeed already preplanned. We have no free will.
If that is the case, then we are destined (or not) to find out. What will we do about it? We’ll do exactly what we were supposed to do. Blame someone, most likely.
The flaw in this idea is that if our predictions are wrong, we won’t know whether that means we have free will, or that our method was wrong. So future predictions might prove that we don’t have free will, in which case there’s no point doing them because it’s all going to happen anyway and we can’t do a thing about it.
Future predictions can’t prove that we do have free will because if the predictions don’t happen, we won’t know if our predictive method was any good.
The most dramatic prediction around is that of the end of the world. According to many major religions we are now in the Last Days, the End of it All, the Kali Yuga. These predictions were made thousands of years ago. If it happens, if the big ‘Game Over’ flashes in the sky, we will finally know for sure. We didn’t have free will. It was all planned and someone told us, a long time ago. We didn’t listen because we weren’t supposed to listen.
I wonder who’s destined to be the first to say ‘Oh, crap.’
I hope we do have free will. I’d like to think the insults I generate are my own ideas.
I just can’t see any way to solve this one. I wish I could stop thinking about it, but maybe I’m not supposed to.
Monday, February 12, 2007
So I've been browsing the news to keep my cynicism up to speed.
It seems the current Conservative leader (they're not in power, but can't be worse than Blair's lot) ONCE smoked pot when he was fifteen. The press are circling this like buzzards around a dead cow.
What the hell does it matter? He's not fifteen now. Things I did when I was fifteen and knew no better are not admissible as evidence. Things you did when you were younger are similarly stricken from the record.
Did I ever smoke pot? Yes.
I tried it once, when I was a student. It did nothing as far as I could tell. I heard 'Oh, you have to smoke it a few times before it has an effect'. Well, I thought, to hell with that. I heard it was a Great Thing. I tried it. It did nothing. I'm not bothering again.
I've never tried harder drugs (unless you count malt whisky, Absinthe and cigars) because they have immediate and lasting effects on the brain, and my brain is what earns my living. Maybe when I retire. These days I don't even take aspirin.
So, should this leader of the Conservatives be damned forever because he did something naughty when he was fifteen? Compare that with what fifteen-year-olds are doing today. Stealing cars. Beating up pensioners. Stabbing people. Shooting people (yes, in the UK, and in the last week). Dealing hard drugs.
To me, smoking a bit of weed is a trivial offence compared to those. And it's not like he was doing it while he was a politician. If there was the slightest evidence of that, you can bet there'd be headlines.
He was a kid at the time. He's refused to deny it, and why should he? He did something wrong when he knew no better. He's not doing it now.
I've never voted Conservative, and I have no time for politicians, but really, if this is all the press can come up with to damn this particular one, then he can't be all that bad.
I'm still not voting for him though. I want someone who will make political correctness a crime.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I can no longer believe the ludicrous depths to which this country has now fallen.
Take a look for yourself.
Any day now, this blog will be under fire because it offends the 95% of the population who are stupid. On second thoughts, make that 'thinking-challenged'.
Tough. If you think I offend you, tell me so. I'll be delighted to hear it.
Monday, February 05, 2007
It’s called ‘Are you an idiot?’
The world contains only two basic types of people: idiots and smart people.
Each group contains a range of intelligence, but for simplicity I’ll just refer to ‘smart people’ and ‘idiots’.
Now, the smart people know they’re not idiots, while the idiots all think they’re smart. So the target audience for this book consists of the idiots, by far the largest single demographic in the world today. They will buy the book because they’re idiots and want to prove they’re not, but will never admit to having bought it. Therefore they will not share the book. Every idiot in the world will buy their own copy.
The book consists of a hardcover edition, bound in fake leather with the words ‘Are you an idiot?’ embossed in gold leaf on the cover.
It will retail at £200.
Inside the book is a single page, bearing this text:
‘Are you completely untouched by the insistent noise of conscious thought?
You’ve just paid £200 for a one-page book.
Can you work it out?’
‘If not, sign up for the Romulus Crowe six-week course to discover just how stupid you are. A bargain at only £500 per week.’
I can’t see any reason why this should not be a runaway success. Does anyone see a flaw in the logic here?
OK I blew it up - and sharpened it and cropped it, etc and the only thing I see is that there's
a bit less foreground grass in front of the indicated part. Now if you are going to claim the rounded portion is a head - then what about the 2 shorter ones behind it? and maybe a less distinct short one in front of the tall one? Nah! take away the foreground grass and you'd have one large dark section like to the right of that. I can't figure out a way to add the 'enhanced' photo I emailed you. Perhaps you could post it?
Duly posted - Heyjude's enhancement from the original.
It's a possible explanation. I'm not sure I agree with this particular one but it's important to consider all possibilities. We have another bout of snow in the UK so I haven't been back to try again - the snow isn't the problem, it's the lack of sunlight. I need to get the conditions as close as possible to how they were when I took the original picture.
Anyone else want to rip into this one? If someone knows of a natural explanation, or a possible explanation, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
When I visited the churchyard yesterday to photograph those Pictish stones, I had my infrared filter with me. I thought I’d just take a few photos for fun, since I’d heard no reports of ghosts at the site.
The camera is digital. It’s a Sony H5. I had to be wary of the direction of sunlight since any dust on the filter produces orbs if the sun catches it. What I found wasn’t dust though.
What I like about this camera is that it has a ‘program auto’ mode. This means I can set it up to use the infrared but let the camera decide on the exposure. All I need to do to switch from infrared to normal is slide the filter out of its holder and turn a dial. I can therefore take a normal photo and an infrared of the same scene, seconds apart.
I originally planned to take photos only in infrared. No ‘normal’ controls, since I didn’t expect to find anything. I changed my mind when I saw, through the viewfinder, something glowing brightly and moving. It took only a glance to see what it was, so I took a normal photo of the scene also.
So that nobody gets needlessly excited, here’s the normal photo first.
The ringed area is where I saw the glowing thing. Here’s an enlargement.
It’s just someone walking around. A live one. What this person looked like through my infrared filter was this (he's in the same place but changed position between shots):
Now, aside from the impressive difference in the scene when using infrared, the pictures show how, in sunlight, people reflect infrared to the point where they glow. I tried it with a few other passers-by but didn’t photograph them in case they objected. Each time, the person looked luminous through the viewfinder.
Well, I’ve wondered about this in the past, and concluded that a ghost wouldn’t glow like that in the infrared. Since ghosts are often associated with reduced temperatures, I’d expect them to absorb infrared, not reflect or emit it. They’d look like a shadow rather than the bright images living people give, especially in daylight.
I took a few more photos and set off home to load them up onto the computer. Many were useless because the infrared filter cuts out so much light that the camera is operating on a very slow shutter speed. Camera shake spoiled a lot of the photos. Next time I’ll take a tripod.
Among the usable photos was this one:
I enlarged the shadow in the middle of this picture, and here it is:
The figure is human shaped and human sized. It can’t be a living person because there’s no infrared glow at all. Unfortunately I didn’t notice it at the time so I didn’t take a normal photo of that scene.
There were long shadows, but there’s no shadow leading up to this figure. If it’s a shadow, then it’s a shadow of something hanging in the air behind me. Not the top of a tree- or headstone-shadow.
The area where the figure is standing is outside the graveyard. So it’s not a headstone. I’m left with the possibility that this shape is formed by some infrared-absorbent patch of material that just happens to be human-shaped and human-sized. I can’t say for sure until I get back there at the same time of day, in sunshine, and check.
There’s one other possibility, of course.
I’ll have to wait for another sunny day to check this. If the same shape appears in the same place at the same time of day, then it’s probably something natural. If it’s moved, or gone, well…
I’ll take a video camera and voice recorder along too. Just in case.
Here's the photo again with the enlarged section marked.
The original image files are huge, but I have to shrink them to get them on here. Then they shrink some more. I can Email it to anyone who wants it - but beware, it's about 3 Mb in size!
Saturday, February 03, 2007
It would seem impressive to the existing population that their old gods have been so easily subjugated, so they convert to the new religion. That’s the theory.
Of course, many places of worship are not built on such places. The population of the world in, for example, pre-Christian times was much smaller than today. There are few of these pagan places left to build on, and people now live in areas where nobody lived before.
The UK is a small place so there are a lot of examples of churches built on Pagan holy ground. Often, the Pagan stones were used in the construction of the new church, sometimes broken, sometimes whole. Many of these have been recovered and replaced at their original sites, or as near to those sites as archaeology can determine and practicality allows.
The churchyard I visited today is one such place. There is no longer a church building at the site, it is now simply a graveyard and is still in use, since it’s not yet full.
In the 12th century there was a motte-and-bailey fortification at the site. That’s basically a wooden fort on top of a mound of earth. There was a church on the site from mediaeval times and there was still a church on the site in 1745, which is as far as I have been able to trace it. It’s long gone, but I don’t know when it was demolished. The oldest ‘modern’ gravestone I found there was dated 1818, although there are many so worn that I can’t see the dates.
Like this one: -
The church moved into the town, which had grown about half a mile from the site of this original habitation. There are now at least three churches of note in the town, of different denominations.
When the mediaeval church was demolished, four Pictish stones were found to have been used in its construction. These are 1500 years old and are thought to be clan markers for grave cairns. The cairns might have been destroyed by the construction of the church or the fort, or they might have been destroyed long before that. So the place started as a graveyard, became a churchyard, then a fort-with-church, then a churchyard, and now it’s a graveyard again. Some things are just meant to be, it seems.
The stones are in various states of repair, and photographing them depends a lot on the direction of the sun. Some are easier to see in the morning, some in the afternoon. The correct angle of sunlight helps to reveal their engravings. I photographed these just after noon. I’ll try to get back there one morning to see if I can improve the images on those in shade.
There’s a handy information board nearby with drawings of the engravings. I’ve cut-and-pasted the drawings and included them with the photos.
Some are very faded, but they might show better with the morning sun.
This has been a place to bury the dead for the last 1500 years, at least. It was, most likely, a holy place to the first people who lived here. So why did they let the Christian missionaries build a church on it?
I don’t think they let them do it. I think they helped them do it.
It’s hard to believe a couple of missionaries could build a church on a village’s holy ground. Building a stone structure is hard work, especially if the locals see you as heretics and put some effort not only into trying to stop you, but into trying to kill you. The missionaries must have had the help of the local people.
Therefore, the locals converted first, then built the church, rather than the other way around.
So why did they build it on their Pagan holy ground? Surely there were a few who did not convert. Then, as now, there will have been many who pay lip service to religion but don’t actually care about it too much. There will have been atheists too. There will also have been fundamentalists, who would have declared that if these people want to build a church, they should build it somewhere else.
The converts wanted the church on that site. The lip-service converts would weigh in with them. The atheists wouldn’t care, but in the climate of the times an atheist was a dangerous thing to be, so they’d have to choose one side or the other.
The original religion practised its rituals in the open air. In sun, rain or snow. The Christians said it was okay to have a roof. So all the atheists, and the entire lip-service group, would likely have sided with the Christians. Even some of the fundamentalists would have wavered. So the Christians won, and the church was built.
Why on the Pagan holy site? To assert the new religion over the old?
People in those times had to be practical. They had none of the luxuries we have today. To build elsewhere meant either losing some farmland or building a long way off. Neither was sensible.
I think they built on those sites for no other reason than because it was a convenient place to go for worship.
I did have my infrared filter with me, and although it was the middle of the day and certainly didn't feel haunted, I did pick up one oddity. I'll have to try to debunk it myself first, naturally, but if I can't I'll put it here.
Now the purveyors of animated skeletons are to strike back. Another reality-TV show, where perfectly healthy young women are to be bullied into anorexia by someone who, I can only assume, is a direct descendant of Cruella deVille.
Reality TV is mindless pap for mindless viewers. Fashion shows are pointless displays where clothes that would be too tight for the average skeleton are modelled by caricatures of real women. Both are sickening, but put them together... how many fingers can I shove down my throat at once? I wonder if the theme tune for this show will run 'Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around'?
I like to know women have ribs and shoulder-blades. I don't want to see the ligaments that hold them together. I don't want to see expensive dresses modelled by the cast of Dawn of the Dead.
The crazed sadists who run the fashion agency concerned refer to themselves as 'purveyors of flesh'.
They are not. They are purveyors of bones so lacking in flesh the average street-mongrel would turn up his nose.
I hope I'm never involved in a plane crash in some remote wilderness with a planeload of these women. I could barely make a stew out of ten of them. I'd get more sustenance if I took a photo and ate that.