Thursday, May 31, 2007

6. Virgo.

Yes, Virgo. No snickering at the back.

SW - I'll be in touch when I find that birth certificate. I remember the date and the place but didn't note the time. Well, I was very young when it happened.

Do you do your best to be neat and tidy?

‘Do your best’ is definitely subjective. I could argue that I do my best, but that my best isn’t especially good in this case. Instead I’ll just say no.

Do you like to do things properly?

Well… there’s no point doing something unless you’re doing it properly. That usually means buying new tools so yes, I like to do things properly.

Is worrying second nature to you?

Not even tenth. In fact, it doesn’t even make the list. Worrying doesn’t fix anything.

Do you put other people’s needs before your own?

I suppose I have to answer these honestly. No.

Have you ever been told that you underestimate your abilities?

No, because I don’t. If I don’t know how far my abilities extend, I try them out until they reach no further.

Do a lot of people rely on you?

Why would they? I never rely on them.

Are you methodical?

‘Methodical’ means working through a problem step by step, rather than the more sensible approach of testing later steps to see if they work, thereby removing the need to bother with the earlier steps. It’s a no.

Are you a bit of a nagger?

I don’t think so, but then how many naggers would admit to that? I’ll tell people once. If they continue to get it wrong, that’s their problem. I don’t think I’m a nagger.

Have you got lots of nervous energy?

I’ve met people who are described in this way. They look like they have a disease of the nervous system, or they’ve overdosed on espresso. That’s not me.

Do you get caught up in too much detail sometimes?

I suppose so. That happens in science, we can get caught up in the fine detail and not see the whole picture at first. I’ll give that a yes.

A very definite non-Virgo result according to the book. I’m not a Virgo. Stop snickering at the back there!

Halfway through. I hope I can stay interested long enough to finish.

5. Leo

Do you have a burning need to express yourself creatively?

Does scientific study count as creativity? I’m on the fence with this one. I think I’ll guess yes.

Does love make your world go round?

No. I think that’s down to gravity and momentum.

Are you idealistic?

Okay, I had to look it up. No.

Do you like your clothes to make a statement?

My clothes state that I’m warm and dry, and not naked. I don’t think they need to say any more than that.

Do you prefer quality to quantity?

Definitely – it’s best to buy one of the long-lasting items than a dozen fall-apart ones. It costs the same in the end anyway.

Do you think that only the best is good enough?

Hmm. Not always. Best for the job – but that doesn’t always mean top of the range. There’s no need to pay out for super-quality hifi if you really can’t hear the difference, there’s no need to buy a huge TV if you rarely watch it anyway. At work, sometimes the top of the range equipment is far too sensitive to produce workable results. I’ll have to give that a no.

Do you pride yourself on your loyalty?

I’m going to have to give this a no because I have no employer, and nobody to be loyal to. On the other hand, I won’t break client confidentiality so maybe that’s a yes. Well, loyalty – yes. Pride in it – not necessarily. On balance, no.

Have you ever been accused of being a snob?

Only by plebs. Seriously, I don’t recall being accused of this one. It’s a no.

Is your enthusiasm easily aroused?

Yes. But it’s just as easily deflated by repetitive questions.

Have you ever been accused of being bossy?

Bossy? Me? Never.

I’m not a good fit for Leo, according to this quiz. So far, so good.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

4. Cancer

I know I said one a day, but that'll take too long. So, two today.

Can you put the past behind you without a qualm?

Without even a qualmette. Past is past, can’t be fixed, can’t be changed, no point worrying about it.

Is it difficult for someone to hurt your feelings?

They can try, but they’re likely to find I’m better at it than they are. That’s a yes then.

Are you happiest in your own company?

A difficult one. I can be happy in my own company, but I have also been known to waste a good rage when there’s nobody around to take the brunt of it. On the whole though, yes.

Where food is concerned, can you take it or leave it?

Huh? Eating isn’t optional unless you’re a catwalk model. I’ll say no.

Do you find it easy to end relationships?

I find they generally end themselves. See first question. I’ll say yes.

Do you tan easily?

No, but I can do a great lobster impersonation after too much time in the sun. Surely this has more to do with complexion than birth sign though?

Are you very tidy?

Let me look around…no.

Generally speaking, do you like being away from home?

I can’t do my job by staying at home, but I do have a preference for being on my own turf. Overall, it’s a no.

Is it difficult for you to shed tears?

Don’t know. I haven’t tried in a very long time. Since I can’t do it now, I’ll say yes.

Do you believe in travelling light through life?

Well… I believe in travelling light if I have to go somewhere, but my house is full of gadgets and other stuff, so…light through life…no.

I’m not a Cancerian, although I came closer to this one than to either Taurus or Gemini.

At this point I’m wondering whether another quiz, by another author, would yield similar results. Perhaps I’ll do another one, one day. Perhaps not.

3. Gemini.

Do you always have several projects on the go at one time?

Yes, because some will prove fruitless and be abandoned.

Are you a bit of a fidget?

What the hell does that mean? I’ll say no, because I can remain utterly still long enough to disconcert anyone sitting opposite. I don’t nod, I don’t say ‘uh-huh’, I stay motionless and silent and stare at the speaker. Try it. It’s a lot of fun.

Do you suspect that you’re rather superficial?

No, but I suspect most other people of this.

Are you an incorrigible gossip?

Gossip is for old ladies with nothing better to do than lean on a fence and discuss things they know nothing about. I don’t do that.

Can you do two things at once?

Define ‘at once’. I can have several things running simultaneously but I’m only actually doing one at a time. I have only one pair of hands, and this won’t change until medical science advances considerably. This is a difficult one but it’s veering towards no.

Do you start at the back of magazines and work your way to the front?

What kind of idiot does this? Magazines are meant to be read piecemeal, interesting articles first.

Do you need plenty of changes of scene?

Yes. Everyone needs new scenery, otherwise they stagnate in front of the Moron Mesmeriser which increases fat and sucks out intellect.

Do you love meeting new people?

Depends on the people. On the whole, based on past experience, it’s going to be a no.

Do you love making puns and jokes?

I would, if I was better at it. I’ll say yes.

Do you enjoy being spontaneous?

The question presupposes that I am spontaneous. That’s not fair. Other people can decide whether I’m spontaneous or not. I have to say no, because I had to think about the answer and I never enjoy that.

According to this test, I am not a Gemini. You will no doubt be relieved to hear there’s only one of me. As if there was room in the world for another!


I need to find detailed instructions for the construction of one of these things. Optimum length, spring, etc.

It must be out there somewhere.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New depths.

I have ranted about the stupidity of reality TV in the past, but this one is just sick.

Endemol, the 'brains' (I don't think that's the right word) behind shows like Big Brother, have set up a new show in Holland. If you're holding anything, put it down now.

The show is called 'The Big Donor'. It consists of one terminally-ill woman and three patients in need of kidneys. I'm not kidding here.

The woman has to choose which of the contestants will get her kidneys when she dies. In effect, she gets to choose who lives and who doesn't from the contestants she meets. The contestants are, in a very literal sense, fighting for their lives.

Now, if anyone can come up with a more depraved idea for a television show, I will be amazed. I will not only take my hat off to you, I'll put on another hat and take that off too.

What happens if one of these contestants is offered a kidney through proper, medical sources during the show? Are they required to decline, in the name of entertainment? What happens if the terminally-ill woman is cured? Does she still have to hand over her kidneys?

Has anyone considered the psychological effects, for both donor and contestant, of this twisted scenario?

I won't laugh at reality TV any more. It's now beyond a joke.

2. Taurus

Southern Writer's comment on the earlier post below made me realise that I'd made an unintentional assumption in carrying out this experiment. I am assuming the author of the book knows what she's talking about. I've assumed that the book I have is written by an expert and not by some hack out to make a buck. I should know better than to make such an assumption, since several ghosthunting books have followed the trajectory between my chair and the window in the past.

This author, Jane Struthers, teaches at the London School of Astrology (or did, at the time of publication of her book) so I'll continue to assume she's the real thing. The outcome of my little experiment won't conclusively prove anything either way, because it's just a one-off, but I hope it will give some indication.

On with the next sign: Taurus.

As I said, this doesn’t count as a scientific investigation since there’s only one subject of this study—me—and I know which sign each set of questions fits. It is, all the same, an interesting little experiment.

The questions should be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’, not in the somewhat flippant style I use here. When I’ve done them all, I’ll put up my scores for each one (based on the real yes/no scores) with the flippancy extracted.

Here are the questions, and my answers, for the Taurus test.

Do you think that strenuous exercise is overrated?

By ‘strenuous exercise’ I assume they mean ‘lifting heavy weights that aren’t in anyone’s way’ and ‘running when nobody is chasing you’. Definitely overrated.

Does food ease most of your ills?

Only if I’m hungry. That’s a no.

Do you save money on a regular basis?

Yes, but when it reaches a critical level I might well blow the lot. I’m going to call that a yes.

Do you enjoy tradition?

I’m not absolutely sure what this means. Festivals like Christmas? No. The UK’s obsession with ‘bank holidays’ where everyone clogs up the roads all weekend so they can stand in the rain at the beach for five minutes? No.

Are you scared of being abandoned?


Does your family come first?

There are few of them left, I live a long way from them and I'm happy with that. So, no.

Do you like things that are built to last?

A definite yes. I hate things that fall to bits, or break down the day after the warranty expires.

Do people accuse you of being obstinate?

Obstinacy is a positive character trait. I don’t mind being complimented about it.

Does the prospect of change make you nervous?

Change is important, otherwise life just gets dull. That’s a no.

Do you love being surrounded by nature?

Hmm… I like the great outdoors, but I don’t think I can say I love it. Nature won’t do what it’s told, so on balance I’ll have to give that a no.

I didn’t fit the Taurus test too well. Next up is Gemini but I’m only doing it once.

Idiocy comes home.

Not to be outdone by the Poles, our own Department of Education and Skills have issued a health and safety warning about toilet paper dispensers.

It seems those in charge of education and skills are getting hit on the head by the dispensers popping open. They have neither the skill to dodge nor the education to see it happening, it seems.

Now it's official. Nowhere is safe.

Idiocy goes international.

It seems idiocy at high levels is not confined to the UK. The Polish government is now infected. They consider the Teletubbies might be promoting homosexuality.

I wonder if it's something to do with joining the European Union? Perhaps the influx of new and pointless legislation from new and pointless beurocrats unhinges their minds.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sun signs 1. Aries.

The second book in the pile I bought at Amazon’s book sale is ‘Sun signs’ by Jane Struthers. The cover promises ‘The secrets of every sign of the zodiac revealed’. That made me wonder. Astrology has been around for thousands of years. Hasn’t every secret been revealed by now?

I opened it to the Aries section, because that section applies to me and is therefore the only one I can test in any detail. It is, quite rightly, the first sign of the zodiac, and apparently I’m the sort of person who wants to be first in everything. I don’t think I can argue with that.

Hmmm… territorial… gadget-lover… easily bored… unusual drink preferences (Absinthe isn’t unusual, surely? Although some of those beers, perhaps the banana beer or the Chimay could be considered a little ‘different’)… irritable? How dare this woman call me irritable?

I don’t think I have an excessive amount of gadgets. I have only one TV, one VCR, one DVD player, one DVD writer, one combined DVD/VCR, four VHS-C camcorders, one DV camcorder, one hard-disk camcorder (and that’s new so doesn’t really count), four (working) 35mm cameras, several non-working ones, a few digital cameras. These are all essential items, not gadgets. I’ll count the computers next time I’m in the attic.

Without going into the sordid details, the description of Aries fitted me remarkably well, with the exception of politics. I hate politics and despise those whose life’s aim is to be part of it. I also still have hair, which I do comb every day. It is a constant source of irritation that it sometimes needs another comb in the evening although I don’t have to do that unless I’m going somewhere. I also own rather more hats than I have heads.

Each section ends with a quiz. Here’s the Aries quiz, with my answers. I’ll let any astrologers out there decide what it means.

Can you wait patiently for things and people?

Certainly not. If I have to be somewhere at a certain time, I’m there. If you’re not, I’m leaving.

Do you learn from your mistakes?

I think so. Most of the time.

Do you believe it’s always important to take your time over things and not be hurried?

The key word here is ‘always’. In my work, it’s important. Many other things are best dealt with as quickly as possible.

Do you usually finish the projects that you start?

Again, in work, usually. However, there is some linoleum that’s needed to be trimmed for a couple of months, but that’s hardly a critical job. Non-work things sometimes have to wait for completion, but that’s perfectly normal.

Do you always keep to the speed limit when you’re driving?

Well, some of those speed limit signs are small, and they go by so fast…

Do you like to take your time over everything?

I’m getting fed up with typing in these questions. Why didn’t I look to see if I could download them from the Internet? Isn’t this the same as question 3 anyway? Some things are dull, and are best dealt with as quickly as possible.

Do you have a horror of taking risks?

Of course not. What a stupid question. How does anyone get anywhere without taking a risk or two?

Do you like to play safe?

This really is the same as question 7. Who thinks up these things? If I wanted to play safe, I’d have been an accountant or something equally tedious.

Do you always think before taking action?

Sometimes there’s no time to think. Sometimes, sitting around thinking means you miss your chance. So, no.

Can you keep your temper?

Of course I can keep my temper. What kind of question is that? As long as I don’t have to contend with morons, I am as calm and collected as the Buddha himself. Morons annoy me, as do one or two other things, but that doesn’t mean I’m temperamental. It means they’re irritating.

That’s it. Now, I’m going to take the tests for the other signs. If the tests are generic, I’ll fit them all. If they really are specific to a particular sign, I’ll fit the Aries one significantly better than any of the others. I’ll do one a day, and work out the scores at the end.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kirlian photography and auras.

I haven’t been idle, I haven’t been ignoring this blog, I’ve just been occupied.

It’s all the fault of the UK version of Amazon, and their book sale. Books I wouldn’t pay full price for, but would be interested to read anyway, were on sale for £1 (about $2). This meant I ended up with a rather large pile of new books.

One of these was ‘The Unseen Self’, a treatise on Kirlian photography by Brian Snellgrove. A subject I have paid little attention to in the past, and one I’m not likely to pay much more attention to in the future. This slim (130-page) book’s retail price was £7.95. At that price I’d have passed. For £1, I decided it was worth the risk.

The first thing to note is that Kirlian photography does not photograph auras. Nor does it claim to. The device uses a contact-print photographic technique. Whatever you’re photographing has to be in direct contact with the film. There is no photographic technique that can capture an aura. One technique that claims to do this is a bizarre system that uses skin-resistance to illuminate lights within the camera. These lights are then claimed to represent the aura. That device is clearly a nonsense, and provides ammunition for the sceptics, even producing a ‘debunking’ of the aura in the Skeptical Enquirer.

The debunking applies only to this device, but is used as part of the reasoning behind the sceptic’s view that the aura does not exist. Since we cannot record it, it cannot be. To me, it sounds like the child who hides by covering his eyes – ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me’. I would be intrigued to hear what these sceptics have to say on the subject of dark matter. But I digress.

Kirlian photography uses a high-voltage plate, safely insulated, with photographic film and the subject of the photograph placed directly on the film. By ‘directly’, I mean in physical contact. If you put your hand on this, only those parts that are actually touching the film will be recorded. So it’s not possible to photograph something that’s not in contact with the film, and therefore the high voltage. The corona discharge between the (earthed) subject and the high-voltage plate is recorded on the film.

Great claims are made for this technique (I repeat, photographs of auras are not among those claims). What makes me sceptical of the whole thing is that I have, for a long time, had one of these things:

The principle in operation is much the same. The corona discharge between the high-voltage centre ball and the outer, earthed shell produces a series of electrical arcs, which appear as miniature lighting bolts. Photographing this is difficult because the things move around and produce little light, but the picture is good enough to show that the bolts are evenly distributed.

This changes if you place your hand next to the outer shell:

Now, the bolts intensify in the direction of this earth source—my hand—rather than spreading evenly. To me, this looks like very much the same effect obtained by Kirlian cameras, but in three dimensions.

The book does nothing to convince me that Kirlian photography is anything more than interesting photographs of electrical discharges. Similarly, it does not provide me with enough information to dismiss the subject out of hand. Some of the claims in the book go beyond what can reasonably be inferred from the studies performed, and this does nothing to promote study of the paranormal. Rather, it hands ammunition to hardened sceptics. As I mentioned with the ‘camera that photographs auras’ above, all a sceptic needs is one easily refutable claim, and they will dismiss the entire subject area.

As an example, the book describes an ‘experiment’ in which one subject hold out their hand, palm upwards, while the ‘reader’ places their own hands above and below the subject’s, but not touching. Then they wait until tingles appear in the hands, and note where those tingles are felt. Repeated tests show tingles in several parts of the hand.

Try it yourself. You don’t need anyone else. Just hold your hand out, palm upwards, until it tingles. Keep holding until the tingles start to hurt. Don’t panic, it’s not your energy field burning out. It’s just cramp.

There might be something to be learned from images of discharges from the hands and feet, but Kirlian photography has led to jumping to conclusions. I would suggest to those interested in the subject that they adopt the approach science insists on: back off from public announcements, accumulate data, correlate the findings with the feelings/emotions/ illness/health of the subjects, and find out what’s repeatable. What can Kirlian photography reliably measure, and what can’t it measure? Restrict claims to what you can prove, what you can back up with data, and then you’ll be on much firmer ground.

The book does make repeated assertions that Kirlian images are related to the aura, but there is absolutely nothing to support this assertion. The images bear no relation to any of the auras reported by those who see them.

The images are electrical discharges. They might be useful, they might relate to the physical or mental state of the subject, but that needs to be studied, not assumed.

I’m not going to pursue this subject further. It needs time dedicated to its study, and I don’t have that time so I can’t investigate this because I won’t do half-hearted work.

Assumptions are no use. That’s just giving the sceptics a way to destroy the subject before it starts.

Anyway, on to the next book...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

The terminated train.

The UK weather remains in that state we like to call ‘changeable’. Anyone visiting from anywhere else in the world would call it ‘insane’. Today we had sunshine, rain and hail.

‘Changeable’ means you get up to sunshine, dress for sunshine, open your door and get pelted with hail. You go back inside, put on a coat, and step out into blistering heat. By the time you’re removed your coat, it’s raining. Never go anywhere in the UK without a hat.

What this means is that I’m not currently doing any outdoor investigations. I’ve found another derelict, a very, very old one, but I’m not going to photograph it because if I do, someone will demolish it before I get there. It has no roof, so I’d rather choose a time when there’s a fair chance of no rain.

In the meantime, I’ve been wondering who to pass on the ‘thinking blogger’ award to. I visit very few blogs, and some have already been tagged. So it’s not so much a case of ‘who to choose’ as ‘will I find five?’ More of that later.

With the changeable weather, I’ve had time to think about a few things. Some time ago, I wrote about ghost cars, trains, coaches, those sorts of things. There are many reports of phantoms of things that have no business being ghosts. Trains are popular, as are ships. There are a few cars, many horse-drawn coaches, even one or two aeroplanes. No trucks, as far as I know. Perhaps all trucks go straight to Heaven.

It occurred to me that I have never seen a photo or video footage of any of these. There is a ‘ghost car’ on YouTube but it’s not real. The fence isn’t fixed at the bottom. The police car chasing this ‘ghost’ could have driven through if they’d realized that.

Well, reports of ghost cars are rare, and their appearance follows no pattern. So it’s reasonable that there are no pictures. The same cannot be said of most ghost train stories.

Trains run on fixed tracks. They can’t wander around, you know the route they must take. Also, most ghost train stories centre on a specific event. The anniversary of a crash, a particular phase of the moon, that sort of thing. With a fixed route and a defined time, surely someone must have set up a camera to capture an image?

It’s hard to tell. Searching on ‘ghost train’ throws up a whole heap of fairground rides, bands, films and books. If there’s a real ghost-train image on the internet, it’s comprehensively buried by all this stuff. The nearest thing I could find turned up on YouTube. I've tried to direct-post the video here, but no luck yet.

It’s not a great capture, but it does seem to be the nearest thing to a ghost train video that doesn’t include plastic skulls on springs. It is set up at the time and place defined by local folklore, but the lights shown don’t look like train lights. To me, they look more like car headlights in the distance. The ‘horn’ sounds like a modern American engine and gives no impression of movement. No rise or fall as it approaches or recedes. Could it be from a factory nearby?

This is reported to happen on the first Sunday of every month. Now, I know there are such things as regular hauntings but I find it hard to believe any aspect of the spirit world is fixed by our Earthly calendar. What happens on leap years? Does the train sometimes appear on the first Saturday in March, because the driver didn’t check his calendar?

If that horn sounds on the first Sunday of every month, I’m definitely looking for a non-paranormal explanation. I can give credence to hauntings that appear on solstices or equinoxes, or on dates that can be related to such fixed events, but not to the idea that ghosts are controlled by their personal organizers. I don’t believe spirits either know or care what date it is. They might be influenced by the planet’s location in reference to the sun, but they don’t check their watches for their appearances. Nobody knocks on their dressing-room doors to tell them when to go to work.

On the whole, I don’t think that video’s a deliberate fake. I think this guy’s neighbours might be winding him up.

Pity. I found no other photos or videos. I found no images of ghost ships either. Nor of the ghostly carriages that plague country houses all over the UK. Why not? The trains, and to a lesser extent the carriages, are reasonably predictable in their arrivals. More predictable than the ones we have now, anyway. So why are they never photographed?

Are they all figments of the imaginations of hysterical people? Some are, certainly, but there are too many such reports, with too many independent witnesses, to discount them all.

This list gives some idea of how many ghostly carriages and horsemen are around in the UK. The first on the list has headless horses driven by a headless coachman, with a headless passenger. Despite there being no possibility of any of them seeing where they’re going, it’s said to appear every night, run for about 10 miles then explode. I’m not going to travel for that one. It’s been exaggerated to the point where I can’t believe any of it.

Others on that list have more credibility. I’d be particularly interested in the ‘radiant boy’ listed there. That’s a very specific phenomenon in a class of its own. It’s rare and doesn’t seem to be a standard ghost, in that these are not recognized as the ghost of someone dead. They might be a non-human class of spirit…but I’m getting distracted.

The Paranormal Database also has a ‘calendar of events’. Why has nobody apparently taken advantage of this to catch a ghost train, ship, or even the phantom spitfire that’s supposed to appear in January? Take a look at June and see how many events occur on Midsummer’s Eve. Yet none have been photographed, and I can find no reports that anyone’s ever tried.

It’s not so much the lack of these photos that makes me wonder. The debunkers would have no trouble proving that the dancing skeletons of Worthing, or the rotating cromlech cap of Dyffryn, are no more than legend. Their dates of occurrence are fixed. Yet there are no reports, one way or the other. Naturally, a sceptic who did observe the dancing skeletons would be unlikely to say so. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, and the sceptic who produced film of one of these events knows he would be out of a job in no time.

I’m going to try to arrange to be at one of these locations at the specified time. They’ve been ignored for too long.

I will, naturally, expect the weather to comply.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is common sense making a comeback?

It's heartening to find it's not just me who thinks life in the UK is like one of Spike Milligan's sketches.

Even the police think their activities are now ridiculous. Perhaps now there'll be a change? Perhaps. In the meantime, careful with those groceries. If you have eggs in there, you might be charged with 'intent to throw'. And if your children are out playing with their toy guns, be sure they have enough cash on them for bail.


On another note, I've been nominated by Southern Writer for something. I have to nominate five others. It'll take a little thinking time.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Weight watching.

My previous boss, Orson, was what you might call a large man. More accurately, you could call him a small planet. If you threw something at him and missed, you’d better duck. It might well accelerate as it orbited his mass and come back faster than you threw it. He was developing his own accretion disk last time I saw him.

Yet he never seemed ill. He couldn’t move too quickly, and he sometimes had trouble with the narrower doorways at Marchway University, but he never took a day off sick while I was there.

There is considerable noise being made about how much people weigh these days. Many, it is true, are endangering their health by adding to their body weight for no good reason. Coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, this does indeed lead to heart problems, and many other avoidable ailments. It is interesting to note that in none of the many, many articles on the subject is the term ‘fat people’ used. It’s not politically correct to refer to fat people as fat. It is okay, it seems, to call them ‘obese’. That’s rather like saying it’s wrong to say someone has eczema, but it’s fine to refer to them as ‘scabrous’. Odd, but there it is.

However, there are others who put on weight because they’re disabled and can’t exercise, because their bodies naturally store most of what they eat, because of some physical or psychological ailment, or as a side-effect of drugs prescribed to treat some other disorder. It is grossly unfair to categorise all fat people as lazy pie-eaters. The general public, being generally composed of morons, tend to do just that. It’s also wrong to say that all fat people are unhealthy. It’s not good for you but it’s not necessarily going to kill you either. There are extremes to body weight, from catwalk-thin to crane-required, but there is a wider range of healthy weight than is currently allowed by medicine. We are not all identical. Some can carry more weight than others and still be healthy. We don’t all fit one, single chart.

New Scientist recently ran an article that suggested it’s not only being fat that increases the risk of adult-onset diabetes, at least not directly. It seems the true cause of type 2 diabetes might be in environmental contaminants. The ones of particular concern are fat-soluble, so the more fat you have, the more of this stuff accumulates in your body. The increased, long-term exposure could be the true cause of diabetes. It’s not proven, but it’s an interesting theory.

Yet I’ve known many fat people, some of which could legitimately be called obese, some not. I don’t think any of them had diabetes, although I never thought to ask. One had asthma but I doubt that’s related. So I can’t say how common such ailments are from my own experience, because I have none.

What I can say from my own experience of associating with the Larger Gentlemen and Ladies is that, in this PC country where you can be jailed for looking at someone in a funny way, it’s clearly still okay to make fun of fatties. They might be the last group available to those who can only make themselves feel good by making others feel bad.

What these insecure scoffers forget is that being overweight does not make you stupid. For all I detest Orson and his scheming, manipulative, politically-motivated ways, I could never call him stupid. He’s Chancellor of a university, after all.

Anyone who knows me, knows I wouldn’t associate with idiots. The chubbies I have known all had a sense of humour and an acidic wit. None of them were offended by being called ‘fat’ or ‘chubby’ or anything else unless it was done with cruel intent. Here are a few of their responses to the cruel jibes they endured from those who believe themselves witty and original.

Thinwit: I think I hear a thin person in there, screaming to get out.

Mr. Large: They stop screaming after they pass the stomach.

Thinwit: There are some great diet books out there.

Mr. Large (with withering glare): Do I look like someone who reads those kinds of books?

The best response I ever heard was a long-winded explanation of how, if all the overweight dieted down to sylph-like figures, the resulting liberation of trapped carbon would accelerate global warming and kill us all. The argument concluded with the suggestion that anyone over a 40-inch waist should qualify for an immediate government grant as a carbon-sink. With the government we have now, I say it’s worth a try. They’re likely to fall for it.

Currently, the overweight are taking all the flak that used to be evenly distributed among minorities in the UK. The only other available group were smokers and we’ve already been banned from all public places because our legal, heavily-taxed activity is reprehensible and disgusting. The chubbies are the targets now.

It won’t last forever, but I wonder who’ll be the next group to get victimised? I hope it’s the Politically Correct.

Thanks to Dr. Dume for the loan of the cartoon, by the way.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The new-fangled way.

Curry’s, a major electronics retailer in the UK (part of the group that includes Dixon’s and PC World) has now stopped stocking cassette tapes. They’ve already ditched video recorders. This group are the major electronics outlets in the UK, and others (including supermarkets) generally follow their lead. It’s hard to find a video recorder anywhere other than a second-hand shop now.

Well, that’s progress. I’m not troubled by the loss of the cassette tape. The digital voice-recorders are much smaller, lighter and have no moving parts, hence no background noise. Also, it’s very easy to transfer a voice-file to computer for analysis with these devices.

Videos can go too. DVD’s take up far less space than videotapes, and you don’t have to rewind them. You can find any part of the recording in seconds, rather than having to fast-forward to the part you want, then rewind later. My latest video camera is one of the hard-disk types. It doesn’t need tapes, and copying to computer for analysis is a breeze. It also has a 32x optical zoom, and 800x digital zoom, although I can’t imagine why. At that zoom level, you’d need a lead tripod to have any chance of keeping it steady.

What does bother me is that these shops have also stopped selling 35mm film cameras. They sell only digital. Well, okay, for most applications a good digital camera is perfectly fine. For snapshots, even the cheap cameras are pretty good. I have, and use, digital cameras because of the ease of transfer to computer, because there’s no film cost, because you can see what you’ve photographed straight away, and because of their infrared capabilities.

Now, I don’t mind moving to digital for sound recordings because a digital sound file is just as good for paranormal evidence as a tape. Videos, no matter how they’re recorded, are equally valid.

Photographs, though, are far too easy to tamper with when they’re digital. As evidence of paranormal activity, they’re compromised. Saying it’s still on the camera means nothing. Changing the time and date stamp on a file and copying it back to the camera is child’s play.

A real negative is hard to tamper with. You can introduce fake ghosts at the printing stage. It’s not easy, but it can be done. If you’ve fiddled around with the negative, it’s relatively easy to spot that, no matter how carefully it’s done. The film camera, and the negative it produces, are the best tool for anyone looking for proof of the paranormal.

So I’ll be taking greater care of my 35mm cameras in future, and maybe watching Ebay for some cheap spares. I hope the film is available for a long time yet.

If that film vanishes, so does any hope of producing that absolute, incontestable photo.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Happiness 101.

Faced with rising unruliness and general bad behaviour from the vicious savages we laughingly refer to as 'young adults', the UK schools are being encouraged to teach happiness. Although, in our PC-riddled society, it's not called happiness any more. It's now 'emotional intelligence'. Therefore, if you're unhappy, it's because you're stupid. George Orwell should be elevated to the status of prophet.

There will be classes devoted to teaching our miserable little swines how to be happy. The 'how' is not clearly explained, but apparently scientists have discovered the secrets of happiness. As a scientist, I must say I was completely unaware of this. Perhaps it was one of those articles published on April 1st one year?

I assume those who fail this class will be thrashed until they cheer up?

Those with well-adjusted, non-deranged personalities will pay close attention. The dour faces of the future gangsters will remain as devoid of thought as ever. It won't affect them. If you want to make the schoolchildren happy, string up the bullies and the thugs. Bring back corporal punishment.

It sounds wrong, doesn't it? How can beating children make them happy? It's worth a try, I say, but there is a more sensible reason.

At school, I was never beaten, caned, belted, or suffered any other punishment. Was I some kind of golden child? Far from it. I, with others, discovered how to make explosives, but never tested them at school. We filled Bunsen burner tubes with water and put them back on the gas taps, we set fire to volatile chemicals by 'accident', we dissolved each others' gym kit with sodium hydroxide, and a hundred other things. I was thrown out of art class, I made several trips to the headmaster's office, but never received corporal punishment.

For one reason. Nothing I, or my associates, did at school was actually all that dangerous. We never bullied anyone else, we never picked on smaller children, we never answered back to teachers and we never hurt anyone. Not because we were half-hearted rebels. Because we knew that if we overstepped the mark, the headmaster had the right to hit us with his stick.

Today's spawnings know, just as definitely, that the teachers cannot touch them. They know how to shout 'Human Rights' if any teacher dares to defend themselves against the attacks of these poisonous little freaks. They know their parents will side with them, because those parents are just as dim and unhinged as the offspring they hatched.

We had thugs and bullies when I was at school. It was the threat of corporal punishment that kept them in check. When our feeble-minded politically-correct idiots took away that check, they gave the thugs free reign. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party that calls itself a Government continues to support those ill-conceived proposals and has now come up with this new 'solution' to the problem they created. The government like to refer to their 'think tanks'. It seems to me there's insufficient thought going on there to fill a thimble, never mind a tank.

We've just had local elections. Scotland and Wales had governmental elections. The current Labour administration have just received a sound beating. No matter how much spin they apply to the results, there it is.

So you might think they'd take a step back and consider the possibility that their lunatic policies might, in some small way, have contributed to this. Well, no. That would mean listening to the public, and Labour have grown accustomed to telling, rather than listening. They don't need to listen. They know what's best for we poor, common people.

They insist they will bounce back from these damning results.

As long as they continue to put forward ideas like this, I sincerely hope not.