Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Language teachers

I have, in the past, made abortive attempts to learn other languages. I even tried Welsh, which was brave because a mispronounciation can cause you to swallow your tongue. I think it's the only language where grammatical mistakes can be fatal.

Language classes are usually dull. Make them more like this, I say!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas visitor.

Interesting this should show up today, of all days.

I hold no special Christmas feeling here, because this date for the birth of Christ was set by the early Church to overlay the old Pagan religious ceremonies linked to the winter solstice and the lengthening of daylight hours afterwards. It isn't actually Christ's birthday.

Nonetheless, a hospital monitor seemed to show an angelic vision just before a girl, who was due to be taken off her ventilator and allowed to die, made an astonishing recovery.

I think it's just sunlight, based on the reflection in the floor which makes clear that the light is on the wall, not in front of it. Note that the corner set into that wall does not reflect so brightly in the floor.

All the same, the girl recovered so whether it was an angel or not, she and her family certainly had a happier Christmas than they expected.

Which makes a nice change from all the Christmas-Eve murders I've been reading about today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent nights, unfortunately.

No luck with my own investigations lately, and I haven't found who owns the field where Robert the Bruce's battle was fought, so I had a look on Flickr for ghost photos instead.

Over 3000 responses to 'ghost' and from my point of view, very disappointing. All those I saw were fakes - they don't pretend to be otherwise, they are arty fakes. Although I rather liked this one and wonder how it was done. I'm thinking chicken wire supports and careful angling of the shot.

Anyway, the UK is about to close for the day. Nothing sensible will happen before the fifth of January now. Not that there's been a great deal of sense around lately anyway, what with bans on everything and a new stupid law every day. On Friday, the Sales begin and I'll be keeping well out of the way. People go into a frenzy for things they don't need just because they're cheap, and it can be infectious so it's best not to go near them.

I hope to get out and scout a couple of locations but at this time of year, the chance of being interrupted by wandering drunks is very high. If the weather holds, there are one or two remote places.

On the other hand, I do have some very nice whisky here and it's warm inside. A night off seems in order.

Merry Christmas to those who aren't offended by it, and Bah Humbug to those who are.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back to the river.

Low light image of where I think the ford was located in 1745.
Photo taken an hour after sunset this evening.

I wonder if anyone remembers, this time last year, I visited a spot beside the river where the Jacobites crossed to attack the Macleod’s men? The date was either the 22nd or 23rd December 1745; historical records vary on this.

There was another battle here, on the 24th December 1307, when Robert the Bruce defeated the Comyns. That took place in a field to the other side of town which I have not yet visited.

It seems then, as now, the Scots took to fighting a lot at this time of year. Maybe it’s their favourite way to keep warm. Although that would not explain the Battle of Barra (May, 1308) or the battle of Harlaw, (July, 1411), both within a couple of miles of here. It’s usually reasonably warm during those months.

I have, tonight, revisited the river site and again I have little to report. I still wonder if I’m at the right spot – there have been a lot of changes here in two and a half centuries. The ford is long gone, there is a railway bridge and a road bridge – the second road bridge to be built here – so the original site of the ford is very difficult to pin down. The shallowest region of the river is currently beneath the road bridge but it could have silted up as a result of the presence of the bridge, or it could have been filled during construction. So I’m not certain the place is correct.

I wasn’t expecting ghosts, although there were a few deaths during the Jacobite crossing and of course, during the construction and reconstruction of the bridge. What I was hoping for was a replay phenomenon. No actual spirits, just a recording that would show no interaction with the observer. Once more I was disappointed but as long as the weather holds, I can try again tomorrow night. A trip to the 1307 site on the 24th is also possible although I will need to find out who owns the field and secure permission to visit, if I can. Farmers here have a habit of chasing off interlopers with buckshot so it’s best to make sure.

Searching on the history of this place is difficult because of the vagaries of such deep history: the mysterious mounds known as the Bass and the Conyng have not yet been explained, despite some historians’ insistence that they are mediaeval motte-and-bailey structures, even though they appear to have been in existence around 881 AD and possibly earlier. The Conyng is rumoured to contain the remains of a certain King Aodh. As far as I am aware, neither the Bass nor the Conyng have ever been excavated. Since they are now surrounded by a cemetery, in current use, it would take a very brave archaeologist to insist on disturbing that ground.

The Bass, with the Conyng hidden behind it.

Looking down on the Conyng from the top of the Bass.

This place was known to have Pictish inhabitants, and I have already posted some of the stones they left behind. So the history here goes a long way into BC dates and hardly anyone bothered to keep decent records until relatively recently. There is a lot of interesting stuff compressed into a very small area.

The Bass and Conyng can wait - tomorrow it's back to the riverside for me. It might be a futile investigation but it doesn't even incur travel costs, so it's worth a look.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NDE studied by science at last.

At last, someone's set up a serious and reasonably large study into near-death experiences. This is to be run over a whole range of hospitals and will use some good science to look into the matter.

It'll take time but it will be interesting to see what they find. It'll be especially interesting to find out whether they manage to publish the findings.

Firefox takes over.

I have used Internet Explorer since its inception, mainly because it came free with every computer I've bought. However, lately it seems there's been a bug which puts computers at a high risk from hackers, and since I operate my bank accounts online, I switched to Firefox for safety.

It's pretty good, but it takes a bit of getting used to. For one thing it seems to need plugins installed for all the things I took for granted - flash video, etc - and it'll take a while to sort all that out.

It is faster, but then I haven't yet bogged it down with a cache I rarely clear and massive amounts of cached pages I never bother to wipe.

All the same, if you bank or shop online, it might be better not to do it through Internet Explorer until that security thing is fixed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blue cars and rigid logic.

Suppose you sit at the roadside for an hour and watch the cars go by. Suppose every car that passes while you're there is a blue Ford. Is it reasonable to conclude that (a) all cars are blue Fords or (b) that no cars other than blue Fords can use that road? Or something else?

Suppose I buy a blue car and paint it red. I have therefore replicated a red car. Is it then reasonable to conclude that all red cars are fakes, that they are all actually overpainted blue cars?

All of the above are patently ridiculous. I can't conclude from watching one stretch of road for one hour that blue cars are all there is to see. Just because I can overpaint a blue car red does not mean that all red cars are overpainted blue ones.

And yet those are perfectly correct logical deductions based on the inflexible application of logic to a limited dataset. They are exactly the approach used by sceptics and by those we might call 'militant atheists'. That last distinction is important - I consider myself atheist but I'm not intent on converting anyone else to my way of thinking, or even interested in trying. Militant atheists put considerable effort into conversion of others into what can only be considered a sort of paradoxical religion. An unquestioning belief in non-belief based on the pronouncements of a few Wise Ones who claim to have Seen the Unlight.

Okay. I'm in a bad mood. I was looking forward to the Geminids and that huge full moon but cloud cover wrecked both. Now we have fog so dense I can't see the house across the street. So someone's going to take the brunt of it.

James Randi believes that because he can fake a bent key, that means Uri Geller is also faking it. (For the record, I think he probably is too but that's beside the point of this argument). Randi is painting the blue car red here and concluding that because he can replicate something by trickery, everyone who does it is also using trickery.

Likewise, all those stage magicians who 'replicate' astrology by giving out generic, newspaper-style 'readings' assume that because they can fake it, all astrology must be fake. Cold reading can give a good impression of communication with the dead, but to assume from that that all mediums are fakes is, once more, painting the blue car red.

Perfectly logical deductions from a limited dataset. Oh, I can't blame them for it. The paranormal, by definition, isn't a defined science. I can't call a ghost to order. Neither can any real medium. I don't know what ghosts are made of so I can't devise a machine that will definitely, undoubtedly, tell you when one is present or let you visualise them. I honestly don't know whether Uri Geller was ever able to bend metal or whether he can do it now. I have doubts on the spoon-bending, but one thing I do know is that any paranormal ability depends on a calm mind.

One thing that's common in reported ghost sightings is that when the subject is asked what they were thinking about, the usual answer is 'nothing in particular'. Their minds were relaxed, not concentrated on anything and therefore more open and receptive. A busy mind ignores extraneous information. In particular, it ignores the unexpected. A passing shadow will be dismissed in favour of the task at hand. I think that's why ghost reports are declining now that people are in general very concerned about matters financial. The stress of being forced to perform on demand will make most fail and will make some fake it to get a 'result'. But this is digressing from the point.

In the latest Fortean Times (issue 244), there is a long article on Richard Dawkins, the Archbishop of Atheism. It makes some very good points. The author sounds religious and I am not, and yet the author is not expounding the fundamentalist religious 'oh no it isn't' argument, but making logical and sensible arguments.

One of Dawkins' principal contentions is that since it would take a long time for an intelligent being to evolve, and longer still for one to evolve who was capable of creating a universe, then a being such as God is impossible because the universe has not existed long enough for him to have formed.

There is an obvious logical flaw here, but before I continue, let me just say that I have no truck with the literal six day creation followed by a sit down and a cup of tea scenario. That is obviously allegory and is not meant to be taken literally, and has been disproved to death. The best estimate at the moment - and without a time machine we'll never know for certain - is the big bang theory. That does pose a problem for a pure science world view in that we don't know where the matter came from, we don't know why it was compressed into a point and we don't know why it went bang. 'Let there be light' is an equally valid stance at the moment.

(side note: it's not possible to take a time machine back to watch the big bang because before it happened, all the universe was in that dot. Any time machine arriving there would be mashed into quarks inside the dot. Outside the dot was the whatever-it-is outside our current universe, and possibly a God who lit the blue touch paper. Or maybe not.)

The logical flaw is perhaps best described by a little story. Imagine, if you will, a man with a tube full of single celled organisms. He builds a little world for his pets in which they reproduce at such speed he is able to watch them form larger organisms, until they develop an intelligent species, who then set out to study their world.

Although our experimenter gives his pets clues to his existence, they don't believe him. The world, they argue, has physical limits that do not permit the existence of the experimenter. Besides, it hasn't existed long enough for the experimenter to have evolved.

Therein lies the fallacy. The experimenter set the physical limits of the world so he is not constrained by them. He's outside it, looking in. He also had already developed to his current state before time began for the world he created.

So if there is a God, he was already God before the big bang and therefore before time began for our universe. Physical laws do not apply to a being that is outside the universe and able to look in on all of it. God is not disproven by Dawkins.

Dawkins does not succeed in disproving God because it cannot be done. I choose not to believe (with hedged bets just in case) but I cannot prove there is no God. People are alive for a short time. We see that road for an hour and count those blue cars and think that's all there is. It does not occur to most of us to look around the corner and see what else there might be, or where the road might lead. Some are scared of what it might mean. Some flatly refuse to believe there even is a corner - and if there is, it's blue cars all the way.

Whether there is a God or not I can't say. I am, however, certain that there's more to that road than just the blue cars and I'm trying very hard to see around that corner.

There is more than what our five senses can detect. Science already knows this to some extent but has grown old and complacent and introspective. Whatever happened to 'research for the sake of it'?

Don't watch the cars go past. Look at where the road is going.


Every night has been overcast with thick cloud and rain. So, no sign of the Moon and no sign of the Geminids from anywhere near here.

I think I'll have to go and punch a sceptic.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bad moon rising?

The moon's orbit around the earth is elliptical, not circular, so sometimes it's closer than at other times. Tonight is one of those times.

The unusual part of this otherwise perfectly normal event is that the moon is also full tonight. If it's not cloudy, we'll see the biggest full moon in a long time.

The full moon has psychological effects on many people - real effects, psychologicaly measurable, and not usually good. We call raving madmen 'lunatics' for a good reason.

So if you're out watching the moon tonight, don't forget to watch out for lunatics too!
Oh and don't forget the Geminid meteors. They start tonight and usually last for three nights.
Update at 8pm Saturday: It was overcast with rain all last night and it looks like being the same again tonight. If anyone gets any good photos, let me know!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Santa's clock is six months out.

Apparently, science has been studying religion again. Specifically, the star that was supposed to lead the Wise Men to the birth of Christ.

It seems that there was a bright conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 17th June, 2BC. That's not far out. Certainly, since the calculation of our current calendar took place long after the BC/AD changeover year but long before the invention of computers, an error of two years is pretty good.

Finding that there was a 'star' at that time does not, of course, prove that it's all true but it does show that at least part of the story is accurate. Whether there were wise men and whether they followed that star or not, there certainly was an unusually bright 'star' in the sky at around the right time.

I am always intrigued to find scientists studying something they generally deny exists. There are some religious scientists but these astronomers, I think, are not. That these scientists are not students of religion is clear:

'December is an arbitrary date we have accepted but it doesn't really mean that is when it happened.

No, the date was chosen deliberately by the early Church to override an important pagan festival that was already in place, at the winter solstice and the three days after that. It never actually had anything to do with the birth of Christ. Just like Easter (a fertility festival) and Halloween (a cleansing ritual at the end of harvest: Celtic New Year), and others, the Church dates were set deliberately to swamp out the older religions. The dates don't mean a thing.

What this does mean, for those of you looking forward to Christmas, is that you've missed it. Sorry. It was six months ago.

Well, probably, anyway.

This can't be good for me.

I haven't been here much lately because I'm working on a recorders and microphones section for the second edition of 'ghosthunting', and I'm trying not to get into excessive detail. Well, okay, I already did. I'm trying to make it less boring which is hard because the detail doesn't bore me.

I have, while working on this, just been scared half to death.

MySpace (I have a page there but haven't looked in for months) just sent out an Email headed
"Hi Romulus Crowe, have our photographers spotted you yet?" (I added the comma. The senders don't seem to know what they are).


I know about Google Earth and their mission to photograph everyone and everything. I have already ducked one of their camera cars. I had no idea MySpace were in on this too.

Fortunately it was a false alarm. They are 'catching the hottest people at hotter parties' and since I am no friend of either heat or parties, it is unlikely they'll happen across me.

...on the other hand, it now occurs to me that I should be on film so that someone, sometime, will be able to verify that my ghost is really me, someday. I'm going to have to think about that. I'm not used to being in front of the camera.

So. What's a 'smile' again?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Outside temperature is -5C/23F so I'm browsing the news tonight.

Some time ago, so long ago I haven't been able to find it, I mentioned one of those experiments where one person wears virtual reality goggles, and someone else has cameras linked to those goggles. The effect is that the person with the VR goggles has the sensation of seeing themselves from outside their body and actually feels as though they are outside their body. At the time, it was touted as proof that out-of-body experiences don't happen. That they are illusion.

My response was that it proved nothing of the kind. It proved only that the sensations reported by those who claim out-of-body experience (OOB) can be replicated using technology. Nothing more. It had no bearing on OOB, ghosts, the soul, nothing. It was just a clever technological illusion. Well, I thought no further about it.

It's come up again, and this time I've thought about it some more (they're not making silly claims so I've been able to read it more calmly).

The report says that those who experience this artificial OOB effect report a sense of ownership of the body they 'inhabit' through the illusion. That it becomes theirs, even if it's someone of a different race and/or gender, or even a plastic dummy. The researchers plan to use it to attempt to treat sufferers of anorexia and bulimia, to correct their body image. Worth a try. It might work, it might not, but at least it's not drugs.

However, it made me think. If the mind can be so easily disconnected from the body, why is nobody apparently following up the implications of that? From where I'm standing, it has some pretty big implications.

Okay, I'm biased because of my particular interest but even so, the implications are there. A readily disconnectable mind/body pair suggests firstly that they might well be separate things (something psychology and neuroscience have been known to fight over) and secondly, that they are not particularly firmly connected in the first place.

So, rather than debunking OOB, these experiments increase the possibility that there is something real happening in those reports. It also puts the credibility of ghosts, the soul, and even (whisper it) religion up a notch. The sceptics will scoff, but let them.

In these experiments, the brain does not leave the body. Neither does the mind, if you'll allow me the assumption that these are separate things for the sake of this argument. This is not an OOB, it's just an illusion. The mind is not transferred into the other's body. All that happens is that sensory input from one person goes to another person's mind. No telepathy, no ghostly wandering, no Ka, no soul, just wires. This experiment doesn't prove or disprove anything supernatural--it wasn't intended to--but it does suggest another possible line of research.

What is interesting is that one person's mind can so readily accept that it is in a place other than in its own body. There is no resistance. There is no screaming madness at the 'wrongness' of it. It's just accepted and the recipient of the illusion genuinely feels as though they are in another body. Just like changing into a new and unfamiliar suit of clothes: they feel a bit odd at first but you soon get used to them.

I have no personal experience of OOB's and no religious agenda so I don't seek to convince anyone of the reality of those things. I have yet to be absolutely convinced myself. However, if the mind can accept that it is apparently outside the body and not find that situation uncomfortable, doesn't that at least make you wonder why?

Why would the mind be so capable of dealing with that?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Too cold, even for me.

I like the cold. It's heat I can't stand, that and bright sunlight. If you turn the brightness and the contrast up to their fullest level on your TV, you'll get an idea of what the world looks like to me when the sun's out. You could stand right in front of me and I'd be hard pressed to make out your face. And you can forget sunbathing. A more tedious way to spend time I cannot imagine.

I see well at night, better than most. It's just the way my eyes are. Don't tell those doctors because I bet they'll try to 'fix it' - and since I like to spend most of my time wandering around at night, I really don't want that particular aspect of me meddled with at all.

(An aside - I visit opticians rarely. One of them left me in the waiting room for two hours, then called me in. He tested my eyes with a puffer thing which measures internal pressure. It was high, so he alarmed me with talk of glaucoma and insisted I go back once a year. Subsequent tests showed nothing. It wasn't until later that I thought that perhaps, having sat for two hours before he could be bothered to do his tests, the high pressure was probably universal throughout every part of me and was linked more to the frustration than anything else. Doctors? Pah.)

Anyway. I was planning to go out tonight to a remote church. It's partially ruined, I think it's fifteenth century but I have yet to check, and it has some fascinating carvings.

However, I scraped the ice off my car and found another layer of ice on the inside of the windscreen. Since there's no shelter out there, and since my fingers felt as though they might crack if I moved them, I decided maybe tonight wasn't the best choice. I have officially chickened out due to extreme cold.

Another time. It's been there for at least five hundred years. It's not going anywhere.

I really don't want to get that flu again.

Tears in rain.

I am fascinated by old manuscripts. I don't have any because they tend to be hideously expensive and anyway, they'd be no use to me - I have no skill with languages and not enough patience to learn them. Although some of those nights spent on fruitless investigations might have been used with a teach-yourself-ancient-Greek tape, I can't know if an investigation is going to be good or bad until it's over. So I can't spend the time with headphones on.

All the same, it intrigues me that something written on a scrap of papyrus can survive for thousands of years and still be legible. Those ancient civilisations might be gone now, but their writings are still here. There is a scrap of an ancient copy of the Gospel of John on sale, if anyone can scrape together the price. Dated to 200 AD. That's over 1800 years ago, and it's still readable. Pity it's only a fragment of one page.

It's sobering to realise that, when our time is over, all this Internet-based writing will vanish. Not a trace will survive because, unlike that scrap of papyrus, none of it actually exists. It's just a bunch of electrons jiggled temporarily into shape on your screen. When the computers fall silent, all such writing will be gone forever. As the replicant said at the end of 'Blade Runner' - " tears in rain".

We may think that our civilisation will last forever. I'm sure the Greeks and the Romans and the Etruscans and the Celts etc thought so too. How long do we have? Well, since today brings news that a member of Parliament, one of the opposition MP's, has been arrested, his office and home ransacked, and questioned for nine hours, maybe not that long. The government deny involvement. The charge appears to be that he embarrassed the government.

I think I'd better print this stuff, while I can.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It sounds like an insult and is often used as such, but in fact it is the correct scientific term for the appearance of Down' s syndrome people.

Have you ever spent any time with such people? They are the nicest bunch of folk you could meet. Their world view is very simple. No deception, no double talk, no hidden messages. No messing around with trying to work out what they really mean, or what they think. They tell you straight. If they don't like you, they say so. If they do, they might try to hug you (a little disturbing, but honest, although they often have overdeveloped musculature so brace yourself). No, they are not all stupid. They aren't likely to be company directors but some are perfectly capable of living without meddling do-gooders getting in their way. The stupidity of 'normal' people who have no genetic excuse for it far outweighs theirs. At least they don't make you guess what they intend to do or say. They just come right out with it. I like them all. Effortless conversation is always good.

The numbers of Down's syndrome children is increasing. When pre-natal screening for the condition appeared, parents chose often to terminate a Down's child and I can see why. They were looked down on and regarded as less than human. They were different. Some needed considerable looking after. The do-gooders often took over the parent's and child's lives. So, many opted for termination. Now the number of Down's births is higher than before the screening.

Now, there is less stigma attached and more help available to those who think they need it. So the terminations are in decline.

However, Down's people are prone to a variety of other ailments, notably heart problems. It is a genetic malfunction and certainly not to be desired, if such a thing as choice were available in the situation. Which it isn't.

While I can agree that the birth of someone a little different should not be in any way discriminated against, I have to ask, based on that report...

Is it a cause for celebration that the number of genetically-damaged babies is on the increase?

It does make me wonder if something, perhaps something environmental, isn't right.

(I have never come across a ghost with Down's syndrome. I have no idea whether 'mental' disabilties in this life carry over to the next. Physical ones certainly don't.)

I knew it!

It always seemed to me that the only way to lose weight was to burn more calories than you consumed. Nothing else (other than disease or parasites) made sense, and even disease and parasites work the same way. More calories used than consumed overall.

So I have always been baffled by those who spend more on diet programmes when trying to lose weight. Considering the simple formula intake - expenditure = weight gain, surely if you're eating less, you save money? If you are trying to lose weight, you save more because your calories stored in body fat act like savings. No need to buy energy you're already carrying around.

In these days, of course, people like to sit in front of TV and watch drivel most of the time. How they can bear it I'll never know, but it seems popular. They think that by drinking some cement-based powder they'll magically lose weight. I always thought it was a con.

It's good to be proved right.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Oh, this is too much.

It's really not my day at all. If my blood pressure gets any higher I'll have to get some leeches.

I came across this and thought I'd give it a go. The result?

Silhouette of a womanWe think is written by a woman (60%).

AAAAAGH! First I'm mad, now I'm a woman?

Can it get worse?

(I checked their stats on accuracy. They're about 50% accurate at the moment. In other words, guessing.)

It's enough to drive you mad.

The rage is building here. I just found some more 'disorders' online.

[Dyslexia] ...tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effects can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling.

I know someone with dyslexia. We shared a lab during our PhD studies. He'd leave indecipherable notes. He's a professor, still in mainstream science, a head of department and (he likes to tell this with a laugh) did a stint as editor of a high-ranking journal. Just you try your 'counselling' on him. I'd pay to watch that.

Hyperlexia is characterised by an intense fascination with letters or numbers or, in younger people, an ability to read far beyond their age.

An ability to read far beyond their age. That's a disorder? Those with an intense fascination with letters or numbers are more likely to be budding mathematicians, or those who spend their lives interpreting Mayan symbols. They really want to cure that?

This one is the best.

[Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome], first described in the 1980s, is increasingly becoming recognised as part of the autism spectrum. The central difficulty for people with PDA is their avoidance of the everyday demands made by other people, due to their high anxiety levels when they feel that they are not in control.

If you don't like being ordered around, there's something wrong with you. In which case, sign me up for that one too.

Everyone is diagnosed with something now. Every one of us is mad and in need of counselling by smug, patronising, overbearing fools who need us all mad to keep themselves in a job. Everyone has to be exactly the same - if a child can read beyond the prescribed limits for their age, they are mad and must be corrected. Anyone who resists the 'demands of others' is mad and must be trained to obey. Deviate from the norm and they find a slot to put you in and make appointments and then phone when you don't show up, and then send letters when you shout at them down the phone. I expect to see a padded van soon.

Oh, now I have teeth marks in my keyboard. I bet they have a name for that too.

Defying diagnosis.

Psychology is one of those subjects that's borderline scientific. As a subject, it's becoming more 'hard science' because of the methods used, but so many practitioners have to rely on impressions and feelings they get from those they study that it's difficult to make it fully science. By that I mean hard-data no-question science, like chemistry or physics (although apparently physicists are currently debating whether time exists or not and wondering how long it'll take them to work it out. And they call me 'fringe!').

The paradox is that, if you look strictly at methodology, parapsychology is nearer to mainstream science than psychology, because no information based on feelings or impressions is ever going to get us anywhere. It's hard data or nothing.

Anyway. I went back into the psychology world briefly to look up this Asperger's thing. I have never read so much patronising drivel in all my life. What happened to being more scientific in approach? The whole autism-spectrum thing is overrun with well-meaning do-gooders who love nothing more than to pat people on the head and say 'there there, there's nothing wrong with you really but let us look after you anyway.'

No. I have looked after myself perfectly well so far and will continue to do so in exactly the same way as before.

Apparently one in a hundred, in the UK, are diagnosed with Asperger's. One in a hundred. And that's not the rest of the autism-spectrum, that's just the little sideline they call Asperger's. One in a hundred does not count as 'abnormal', not 'odd', not even 'eccentric'. One in a hundred who don't think and act like the others is normal, no matter what criteria you apply.

I have never had any part of my body pierced (apart from the incident with the drill, but that wasn't intentional. And I didn't adorn the wound with a gold dangly thing. I let it heal). I bet more than one in a hundred have holes in them somewhere and Christmas decorations hanging out of them. I find the idea of someone letting someone else punch a hole in them somewhat disturbing. Likewise, letting someone poke you repeatedly with a needle and then fill the holes with ink has no appeal. Those people need counselling. And yet they are regarded as normal.

I wonder if anyone has worked out how many in the UK work in science and science-based subjects? One in a hundred? Less than that, probably. I'll put money on the table and say there's going to be a huge overlap between the 'scientist' set and the 'Aspergers' set.

Because, as I found here:

To try and make the world less confusing, people with Asperger syndrome may have rules and rituals (ways of doing things) which they insist upon. Young children, for example, may insist on always walking the same way to school. In class, they may get upset if there is a sudden change to the timetable. People with Asperger syndrome often prefer to order their day to a set pattern. For example, if they work set hours, an unexpected delay to their journey to or from work can make them anxious or upset.

Every scientist I know is like this. Just replace 'anxious' with 'enraged' and we're all in there. We do not like our timetables messed with. We don't like interruptions and unexpected visitors. We don't like being late and we're not tolerant of others who are late. That's not a disorder. That's scientists.

Okay, I fit most of the criteria in there, I find it much easier to communicate through written means rather than speech and so on, I don't 'read minds' by watching the twitches and tics of body language, I do it through verbal cues. It's called cold reading and it's a cheat - I'll use it for demonstration purposes, never for real.

But I think almost every scientist out there would fit those criteria.

As for this:

In order to help a person with Asperger syndrome understand you, keep your sentences short - be clear and concise.

If you're planning on talking to me as if I'm a five-year-old, watch my hands. The moment anything appears in one or both of them, run. And don't run in a straight line. I'm a good shot.

I think that diagnosis should have been 'scientist'. There's nothing wrong with me (although I'll have to assume they were right about the cholesterol/diabetes/angina, just in case).

It's other people that are deranged. As I've always known.

More green stuff.

I have an idea.

The recycling industry has collapsed.

I planned to put a few steps in my garden but had nothing to fill the space under the steps unless I used good growing soil, and I won't.

So I plan to make a mould out of old tin cans and put it on my chimenea. Then, when it's good and hot, I'll drop in plastic bottles until the whole thing is full of melted plastic. Then leave it to set while I melt another lot. I'll need more than one mould but there are always more cans available.

That will give me a whole heap (eventually) of plastic bricks I can use to fill in the spaces under those steps. Plenty of time. I won't be gardening again for a few months. And they'll be free.

Why do the greenies never think of useful things? All they want to do is dump the stuff in China.

The coldest global warming ever.

Or maybe it's the hottest ice age. Outside it's snowing like there's a surplus in the snow stockroom and they're giving it away free. We've already had snow - in October - apparently on the same day our lunatic leaders were debating the best way to solve global warming (it seems the way to solve it is to tax us some more. That's the way everything gets solved here).

I looked around a bit and found that the whole global warming thing is based on some very dodgy science indeed. Its only purpose seems to be to act as an excuse for more tax. And since I have the heating still on at this hour, it's going to add up to a lot more tax. The colder it gets, the more fuel we all use and the more tax we all pay on it and all the while we're told it's getting warmer and it's all our fault and we should hang our shivering heads in shame.

I propose a National Punch-a-Greenie day.

Every day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Out of oblivion.

It was a mistake to visit the doctor.

I only had flu. Then I had penicillin allergy which meant they could play around more. After their poking, prodding, diagnosing and general meddling, I now have a whole raft of things. I have type 2 diabetes and angina and high cholesterol. I want that left alone. I paid for it. I have Aspergers (still working on the implications of that but it doesn't feel like any kind of problem at all. I think it's just something made up by interfering busybodies who insist on all this social interaction crap). I have a load of little brown bottles for this and that and I have appointments for 'help groups' full of self-pitying morons that I have no intention of keeping.

Apparently I have to tell someone where my pills are in case of emergency. Well, I'm telling the readers of this blog. Both of you. If you're looking for my pills, look in the local sewage farm. I flushed the lot. If they give me more I'll flush those too.

I have never felt so lethargic and generally apathetic in my life. Before I visited the doctor I felt okay, a bit of a cough sometimes, a general 'yeuk' sort of feeling now and then, occasional chest pains and tingling fingers but otherwise okay. Those pills turned me into a zombie. I could barely raise the energy to get out of bed some days.

I might not live as long but I plan to at least know it's happening.

I am back.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The home of ancient sky-watchers.

I took this at 4 pm. Half an hour later it was completely dark. The picture doesn't do justice to the glow in the clouds.
Sometimes, when you just kick back and look at the sky, it's easy to see why there are so many stone circles and intricately carved ancient monoliths around here.
It's cold here often, it's dark most of the winter, but I like it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Crank call.

It occurs to me that investigators into the paranormal spend far too much time defending themselves from sceptics. I spent a lot of time arguing with one on this very blog, some time ago, and it ended as it always does. He didn't sway me and I didn't sway him. After all the words exchanged, neither of us changed our position at all. That particular sceptic was at least civil throughout the exchange. Most just sneer and call 'Crank', and that, as far as they are concerned, is that.

There are times when I'm sceptical. It's part of the deal. Investigating the paranormal does not mean accepting it all as unquestionable truth. If something is unquestionable then there's no point investigating.

I think all orb photos are dust and insects. On the other hand, corpse candles and the like have been seen for centuries, and digital cameras are only a decade or so old. So there are ghost lights but they are visible to the naked eye. If they're not, they're artefacts. That's my current stance on orbs. It can be changed if I'm convinced otherwise.

I think most, if not all, TV psychics are fakes. Again, it's just an opinion which I will revise if shown evidence to contradict it, but at the moment I don't believe any of them are real. Ghosts don't turn up on command, in sufficient numbers for a show and always related to those in the audience. It doesn't work like that. No TV psychic has ever had a show where no ghost showed up. That should happen once in a while. It never has. Never.

While I can agree that those who make a lot of money out of claimed abilities or claimed special knowledge should provide some proof that their claims are true (and that goes for the wealthy religious leaders out there too), there is no such obligation incumbent on me at the moment. I don't charge for investigations. They are for my own benefit more than anyone else's. The same goes for most investigative groups. If someone wants to donate, fine, some groups depend on donations, but I don't ask for money from anyone, ever. I have other sources of income. Not huge, but enough. The taxpayer does not pay my wages and nobody is entitled to tell me what I should or should not investigate. If I ever investigate for you, don't expect me to stay out of certain rooms or to have the decency to leave the attic, underfloor spaces or ventilation system alone. Anything denied my access becomes irresistible. I might not be the easiest to get along with but so far I've never been fooled by a fake ghost.

I know, for certain, that there are genuine ghosts. I've seen them. I can't show you one, I can't order one to appear to a sceptic to convince them. So I cannot prove what I have seen but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Worse, I cannot tell you where a ghost will definitely make an appearance, I can't tell you whether they are definitely the souls of dead people or demons or something from another dimension or anything definite. I can't tell you what they are made of, why they appear to some but not others at any particular time, why they never tell us anything important. I don't know.

Not knowing does not, to me, mean I should give it all up and get a 'real job'. Not knowing, to me, means I have to find out. I have to know. Maybe I never will but it won't be for want of trying. Maybe, even if I do one day know what comprises a ghost's form, I still won't be able to prove it. That's not so bad. I'll know, I can pass the information to others and someone else might find the proof. I'll have answered a question that bugs me and that's a good start.

There is so much unknown out there. We really can't waste time arguing with those who think we are cranks because unless and until we have solid proof, there is no way to win that argument. Even presented with proof, there will be those who refuse to believe it. There are still those who believe the Earth is flat, you know. Belief is unassailable. Science can't fight it and should not try.

Ignore the sceptics. Let them be. There is no point in fighting weaponless. Spend the time finding answers instead of in arguments we can't win at the moment.

If they call you a crank, revel in it. You're looking where many don't care to look. The fact that some want you to stop because they don't think it's worthwhile is their problem, not yours.

Keep working and ignore the background noise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ghosts and walls.

I've come over all philosophical this evening.

I was thinking about the ghosts who walk through walls, but who can't seem to leave a particular building. It doesn't add up. If they can walk through the wall then why can't they leave, even through an open doorway?

I don't mean the 'recording' types. Those don't involve any spiritual activity. There are no actual dead people in them, they are just a form of movie, replayed over and over. What triggers them, and what records them in the first place, I don't know but I'm still working on it. These recordings won't give any insight into any life-after-death information but think what you could do with it - rocks in your garden could project an image when someone walks by, if we only knew how to record and trigger playback. I've been thinking about those sorts of hauntings again because its nearly time to go back to that riverbank I visited last December. I hope the weather improves. Rain, gale force winds and temperatures even I have to admit are a bit chilly can be off-putting. Shaky camera images taken with numb fingers will impress nobody.

The recording-type phenomena always do the same thing and usually at a specific time of day or year. Footsteps heard climbing stairs that are no longer there, that sort of thing. They will pass through new walls or walk on floors that are at a different level to the current floor but they don't interact, and don't vary their actions. They aren't spirits of the dead any more than a video of Elvis contains his soul.

No, what I've been wondering about are those ghosts, the ones that (I think) are dead people, who seem to be trapped in a place but who can walk through walls within that place. I've said before that I think they can't walk through walls that existed when they were alive, but they can pass through new walls. But that still doesn't explain it. If the new wall is made of the same material as the old, then it's not a property of the material. Also, if a non-corporeal being can pass through a solid object, why some and not others, even when the objects are essentially the same?

So if it's not a property of the material object, it must be a property of the spirit.

Okay, here's a scenario and a theory. If there are holes, point them out.

You have a house. Someone dies in it. When he 'comes to' as a ghost, he sees the building as it is. He's only been dead a few minutes so nothing's changed. A year or two passes and new owners put in new partition walls. Let's say it's a historical building and the new owners have put in walls to the same specification, using the same materials, as the original partition walls.

Our ghost can't walk through the original walls but he can walk through the new partition. Why?

He has no material substance. No wall should pose a problem. Yet he is stopped by the original walls. Even if the building is demolished, he can't leave its boundaries. That seems to come up a lot, notably in places like Borley rectory and in a new English shopping centre built on the site of a previously haunted house.

The best I can come up with is that the ghost's inability to walk through those walls comes from himself. He believes the walls are real and cannot, or will not, violate his own reality. It might be that the reality he sees is a comfort to him, it might be that it is in the nature of the ghost to see that reality. Either way, he cannot pass through those walls, not because they present a real obstacle but because he believes they do.

The new wall is not an obstacle. It's not in his reality. It's possible he doesn't see it at all. It's possible that even if the house is demolished and new buildings put up, the ghost still sees the original as it was at the point of death and reacts to it in the same way as we react to the reality we see. The exception seems to be people - ghosts interact and therefore are aware of living people but their interactions make no sense unless they think they are still in their own homes. In that case, the living visitor is an uninvited guest. Perhaps they don't see us any more clearly than we see them, so their fright and occasional violent reactions would be understandable.

The test would be to take out one of the original walls and see whether the ghost can now pass through where it was. If the theory holds, he won't be able to because for him, it's still there. That does depend on getting a ghost to co-operate, which isn't going to be easy.

None of this explains why, since reports of ghosts opening interior doors are common, they don't just open the front door and leave. Or leave while someone else has that door open.

Perhaps it's too frightening outside. Perhaps they can't open the outer door because they think it's still locked. Perhaps, given the limitations of the human mind, their projected reality only extends so far. Perhaps, to them, there is nothing outside.

If only one of these ghosts would give answers that meant something, if only one of them would get into a conversation with us, we could answer some of these questions.

Then again, most investigations seem to concentrate on when, how, and who died. Not on what happened after.

Investigators should, perhaps, regard their questions as far more than just a confirmation tool. It's useless anyway - information that can't be verified can't be proof, and information that can be verified could have been looked up beforehand. It'll never sway a sceptic.

So ignore the sceptics and study the ghosts. Work on the mechanisms and let's find some kind of concensus on what's happening. As it is, every researcher has theories but we are all working alone. It's time to find some definitive common denominators between hauntings. Collect the information first, worry about the proof later.

With enough data, the proof might show up on its own.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

In the doldrums.

That illness has left me with a very lethargic attitude to life. It's wearing off, but there are many unreplied Emails and a few ignored messages here for which I must apologise.

The lack of any reports of paranormal activity have not helped: the news is full of bank crashes and impending doom, which doesn't help either, and any spare news space has been taken up with the election of a new President in the USA. I'm sure every American regards that as vital news, but whoever runs America is of only minor interest to me. We have enough political madmen of our own to worry about.

There was a gesture by a few, well, rather a lot of people, who got together and sent a copy of 1984 by George Orwell to every MP in Westminster. There are 646 of them. Two have replied with dismissive contempt on their blogs, 644 have made no comment at all. Oh, apparently the books were inscribed with something along the lines of 'This was not meant to be an instruction manual'. The press have not touched it. It's only there on the blogs.

Overall, then, with post-illness lethargy and living in a country that is overwhelmed with depression, I haven't been here much. However I have to do something to shake myself out of it or I'll end up like this.

So I'll do some more of the updated and improved version of 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator'. I planned a chapter for each item of equipment, how it can be put to good use and, in some cases, whether it's really any use at all. Time to dust off those files, I think.

Back soon. Well, sooner than last time, anyway.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Footprints yeti again.

A team of Japanese researchers claim to have found Yeti footprints in Nepal.

"The footprints were about 20 centimetres (eight inches) long and looked like a human's," Yoshiteru Takahashi, the leader of the Yeti Project Nepal, told AFP in Kathmandu on Monday.

I've just measured mine. They are 9.5 inches and I don't think I have particularly big feet. Those footprints sound like they were made by someone smaller than me. The photo of the footprint looks very human indeed.

There might well be yetis out there. There might well be Bigfoot out there too - although the last one (the body in the freezer) was another hoax. The 'yeti hair' found recently turned out to be goat hair. I'd put no credence at all in a footprint that looks exactly like a human footprint, and a small one at that. Barefoot in the snow isn't pleasant, but anyone could bear it long enough to make a few footprints.

But Takahashi said the footprints were proof enough.

No. They are not. No footprint is proof of anything. The footprint is not the foot - even if it were unusual, even if it had three long toes and claws on the ends, it's not possible to prove it wasn't made by a polystyrene cutout of the base of a 'foot'. I'm not saying they faked this print. I'm saying they can't prove they didn't.

None of the footprints, the crop circles, the dents left allegedly by alien ships' landing pads, none of the impressions left by something that might or might not have been there, none of that is proof of anything. If you are sure they weren't faked then you can count them as evidence, but not proof. That evidence applies only to your own investigation. It will not convince someone else so it isn't proof.

I sound pedantic, I know, but some words have very precise meanings when used in a scientific context. Proof is one of them It's a very strong word to bandy around because if you prove something, then you can demonstrate it to others in such a way that they find it difficult to refute what you say. No dent in the ground is ever going to be proof.

Evidence is less strong. Evidence is what leads to research. It's what makes a researcher begin and continue his research. Evidence is not, and never will be, the end point of research. It's accumulated information applicable to only one researcher or research team (although often, researchers share evidence, they do so on the understanding that it is not proof). Evidence is open to question, proof should withstand questioning.

So these footprints are not proof. They are not even convincing evidence, in my view, but that's a matter for the researchers involved.

All study of anything regarded as paranormal, including cryptozoology, attracts a lot of flak from the scientific community. In the spirit of independent, dispassionate research into all aspects of the world, they'd shut us all down completely if they could. Displaying a footprint that looks very human indeed and calling it proof of a yeti is just handing those guys the ammunition.

Photographs of the prints have been posted on the expedition's website,

Unfotunately I don't read Japanese at all so haven't been able to navigate that site. The article quoted at the start is on Yahoo news, and might not be around long. If I find a more permanent link I'll update this.

I'll have a look around when my teeth stop grinding.

Monday, October 20, 2008

One for the UFO followers.

The paranormal has been quiet lately, nothing much being reported, even though there seems to be a lot of activity around. People are all worried to death about losing their homes (mine is safe) and their savings (mine are dispersed so I won't lose everything) and about all the debts they have (I have none - but it's time to fill out the tax form so that won't last). They don't seem to be doing much more than worrying and blaming each other, as far as I can see.

Anyway, in among all the bad news, it seems the Ministry of Defence have released a lot of UFO files. I know a few who visit here are interested in UFO's and they probably already know all about this, but in case anyone's missed it, there's a report here.

Interesting stuff. I don't study UFO's myself but I might have a look at those files anyway, since nothing else is being reported to interest me at the moment.

1984 as a manual for government.

Most of the time, a mobile phone (cellphone) is just a nuisance. Especially if someone else knows your number. Sometimes it's vital, such as when you're working somewhere remote at night and if you fell down a hole, nobody would find you for months. Hasn't happened, but it might.

So, as much as I dislike mobile phones, I carry one. It's not a fancy one. I don't want a camera in my phone because phone cameras are, let's face it, rubbish. I don't want a MP3 player in there. I carry one so I can phone or text when it's vital I do so. Nothing more. I'm sure the Apple iPhone is a wonderful thing but I don't want one.

I have a friend who has this phone--he says it's a phone--which looks for all the world like a miniature computer. It works like one too. It browses the Internet in full colour and he can even type on it. The one thing he can't do is answer it when it rings. By the time he's scrolled through the options and put it in 'phone' mode, his caller has given up. He had to buy another, simple phone for calls and now he carries both.

So I have a cheap one. It makes phone calls. It can do texts. It can do other things but that's because those other things are now standard. It does something called 'bluetooth' which doesn't look like something I want a phone to do so I turned it off. It has a camera, which I used once and was disgusted at the result. It's on a pay-as-you-go tarriff, I bought it with cash and my name is not associated with it at all.

That is changing.

Our Government decided that every phone call must be logged, along with every Email and every web page we visit. They claim 'terrorism' as the reason, but the terrorists have been silent for years. The real reason is control.

Someone must have realised that these cheap phones, bought with cash and with no contract attached, cannot be associated with any individual. Their huge database of logged calls will be even more useless if they can't pin a call to an individual. So we will have to register, or the phone will die.

This is supposed to deter criminals. I don't see how it will do that since the criminal only has to steal a phone and their activities will be blamed on the poor sap who is registered to that phone. The only reason to do this is population control. Keeping people scared of government is the Stalin way of doing things. Now it's happening here.

I used to laugh at management. I used to joke that they used Scott Adams' 'Dilbert' books as manuals.

Now it seems our government is using George Orwell's '1984' as their manual.

That's not nearly as funny. It's not funny at all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Only in America.

An American senator has decided to sue God for making terrorist threats against Omaha. I have two Bibles here, the King James version and the American Standard version (for some reason, they gave us that one in school in the UK, years ago. I doubt it would be allowed now - they'd have to give out the Bhagavad-Gita and the Q'ran and all the others too). Anyway, I've checked in them both, and even had a skim through my New Testament in Welsh, which I can't actually read but keep for historical value, and I can find no mention of Omaha at all.

The judge threw the case out, on the grounds that they don't know where God lives and so can't send out a summons. The senator responded that since the court has tacitly admitted the existence of God, they must also admit he knows everything so he knows about the summons already. Since the common perception of God is that he is everywhere, there's no need to wonder about where he lives either. He's already in the courtroom and always has been.

I'm not sure what point this senator is making. Something to do with accessibility to the law for lunatics, perhaps?

If there is no God, there is no case.

If there is a God, then deliberately irritating him seems like a bad idea. Besides, if there is a God then the law cannot apply. If there is a God, then God made Man, and Man made laws. It's like saying that the heirarchy your pet lizards live by applies equally to you, their owner.

I did find the whole thing amusing. Perhaps it's in one of the lost books of the Bible?

And God spake, and did say 'Adam, thou shalt father my people,and they shall spill forth across the face of the earth. Except Omaha, which is a terrible place. I shall smite all those who abide there.'

And Adam did say 'Yo, whatever, Dad. See you in Omaha. Not!' And he did weave and bob and make gangsta gestures.

And God was displeased, and spake thus: 'Disrespect me not, thou callow youth. Thou art but the dust on my beard. Verily, I will smite Omaha, especially those who name themselves Senator, for they are litiginous filth.'

And so on. I expect the stake will be set up on the village green for me tomorrow night, but well, it is comical, isn't it?

I wish British politicians had a sense of humour. Then again, I just wish they had sense.

Those ice floes await.

Society in the UK has degraded to the point where old people can no longer trust their relatives.

Someone else put it much more eloquently than I could, so I'll just give a link.

Prepare to be disgusted.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Expert Speaks.

Many have said that, when it comes to anything that can be called 'paranormal', there are no experts.

It's true. Those of us who devote considerable time and effort to paranormal matters do end up knowing more about them than those who don't study them at all, but that's true of anything. None of us can claim to be 'an expert' because we can't prove any of it to anyone else yet.

If you're an architect, and all the buildings you design stay up, then you're an expert. If you drive a racing car and never crash, whether you win or not you're an expert driver. Things like that are quantifiable - an architect whose buildings are hideous and unsafe is not an expert, one whose buildings are attractive and secure is an expert. The paranormal is not quantifiable in this way because I can't present a ghost on demand, a UFO researcher can't show any piece of a spaceship or an alien, Bigfoot hunters have never caught one, and so on. We can claim to be 'researchers' but we can't claim to be 'expert' because there is no solid evidence as yet so there is nothing to base any claim to expertise on.

When anyone comes up with 'an expert says' as 'proof' that their statements are true, I loose a little more enamel from my teeth when they grind together.

So, let's take a look at the most recent case of this, in which an 'expert' claims that UFO's have been visiting Earth since 1947. Let's not even mention Alexander the Great's claimed sighting, nor any of the others that might or might not have been alien ships in the historical record. Let's hear this expert speak. He's talking about Roswell, the famed 'Area 51'.

The area is surrounded by charred trees and bushes and a mysterious blue substance that dribbles down rocks.

We have stuff like that here. We call it 'water'. Seriously though, if there is a 'mysterious blue stuff' then it should be simple enough to sample and test it. Charred trees and bushes - in a desert - don't sound too surprising either. Dry trees and bushes catch fire easily. We even have occasional forest fires in the UK, where there are no deserts, few forests, and it rains almost every day. So, aside from the mysterious blue substance which, it seems, evades attempts to sample it, there's nothing paranormal so far.

US physician Dr Ronald Rau said in the 1940s high levels of radiation pointed to a ship landing there in the 1940s.

Two things here. First, in the 1940's there were quite a few nuclear bomb tests in the American desert. Nobody knew quite how deadly the radiation was so I'm betting there were no serious attempts to track where the fallout landed. When Chernobyl blew up, in Russia, there were radiation effects here in the UK. So those bomb tests probably spread fallout over quite a lot of desert.

Second, how does Dr. Rau know the propulsion mechanism of unknown alien spacecraft? Even if their engines are nuclear, if they leak radioactive material to the point where it can be detected at landing sites, then their occupants would all be dead on arrival. Would an alien race capable of travelling between worlds really build such shoddy machines?

Saying that high levels of radiation indicate a landing site for an alien ship is not just jumping to conclusions, it's Olympic standard pole-vaulting to them. Science is not advanced by guessing.

Mr Mantle said: "A good friend of mine Ed Gerham first found the site and I flew over as soon as I could. It was a real find and as soon as I arrived there I knew what a special and peculiar place it was. There is nothing around it for around 70 miles, it is literally in the middle of nowhere."

The only thing special about this place, it seems to me, is that nobody wants to go within 70 miles of it. That doesn't lead me to conclude that an alien landed there. It leads me to conclude that this is an especially horrible place to be. Since these aliens must have come a very long way, choosing a landing site that's 70 miles from anything interesting doesn't sound like good planning. Did they really travel all those light years to land somewhere so dreadful that none of the locals want to live there?

I can't see why this expert is so convinced that he's found anything interesting at all. What he appears to have found is a place nobody else wants to visit, so why would an alien find such a place irresistible? And why does it prove that aliens only arrived in 1947?

"Us Brits really have beaten the Americans at their own game and it is really great that we have done that. It really is revolutionary for the UFO world."

Really great? Why? Are you researching or competing? Before you claim glory, it might be an idea to wait until you've discussed your findings with other researchers, and not just UFO researchers. If you have some blue stuff, get a chemist and a geologist to look at it. It might just turn out to be something natural. Have a biologist take a look too, in case it's some kind of lichen.

The 'blue stuff' might turn out to be the UFO equivalent of 'ectoplasm'. Ectoplasm never existed. It was made up by fakes in the 1800's, and was usually muslin, treated to make it glow in the dark. For a long, long time, and still to this day, that faked paranormal phenomenon has dogged those who try to study real paranormal phenomena. It was eventually debunked, proved to be nothing but fakery, and it had fooled some pretty eminent scientists. It absolutely fooled the public.

Ectoplasm is one of the sceptic's main weapons now. This 'blue stuff' could turn out be another such weapon, handed on a plate to those who want to deride an entire subject. The sensible thing to do would be to get it tested every way possible, get it analysed, and get experts (who really can claim the title) in chemistry, geology, biology and any other relevant subject to attest that it has no natural explanation. Then, it's paranormal. If it turns out to be normal after all, then this guy has just made a rod for his own back.

Mr Mantle is set to reveal his full findings at the UFO Data Annual Conference later this month in Leeds.

Unfortunately I won't be able to go. I expect Fortean Times will cover the event so I'll just have to wait for that.

I don't claim the title 'expert' because that particular pedestal is very fragile indeed. It's based on personal experience and theory only. Paranormal research doesn't have collections of samples and artefacts to study. The things I study can fade into the air before my eyes, the UFO's these guys study can fly away and leave no trace (I refuse to believe they have leaky engines). Unless someone else sees them for themselves, there is no way to convince anyone else of their existence. There are no specimens in jars.

Until there is some absolutely incontrovertible evidence, claiming the title 'expert' is just asking to be shot down in flames.

I'll stick with 'researcher'.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

One for the writers.

Whether you write fiction, or you're a journalist (much the same in the UK these days) or just an ordinary blog-babbler like me, this article might be of interest.

Some points:

- I haven't read the story in question and I'm not going to. It sounds like tacky porno to me. Not interested.

- It wasn't on a blog. It was on a porno story site which, I assume (hope!) is members only with safeguards concerning the age of members. Not a public-view blog that anyone could happen across.

- The guy is not a blogger. He's a writer. Possibly a severely twisted writer, but a writer nonetheless.

- It is illegal (in the UK) to write stories including real, living people without their express consent. He hasn't been arrested for that. The band he wrote about have not complained. I'm guessing they knew nothing of this until the story broke.

- He was arrested because some self-appointed watchdog group were scanning the site, looking for something to complain about. I'm afraid we have far too many of these professionally offended types here now.

So he posted a (presumably very unpleasant) story to a (presumably members-only) website, one of the professionally-offended found it because they were looking for it (therefore they must have joined the site), and now he's prosecuted.

What he did was illegal. He wrote about the torture and killing of people who are currently alive, who are in the public eye, and there are individuals out there who are deranged enough to try to act out that fantasy. They might have tried anyway, but his story gave them a specific target and therefore put specific people at risk. He should be prosecuted for that, not for the content of the story.

Although, if the moderators of the site were any use, they should have spotted the legal implications of the story and pulled it at once, then sent him a note to the effect that if he rewrites with fictional characters, he can put it back.

What makes me uneasy is the way in which it happened. His story was not on public view. Someone had to get into a site to see it. A site that only a certain kind of person would be interested in joining. That 'someone' was not just a member, shocked at the story, but was a person who had joined the site with the specific intention of looking for something to complain about.

I'm not interested in porno sites. I'd never have joined this one so I'd never have seen the story. Neither would anyone else who doesn't share that particular interest.

I'm not much interested in Western gunslinger stories, although I enjoy films of that type. So I wouldn't join a line-dancing group or a country and western club or a website set up to cater for those who are interested in the Wild West types of thing.

That does not mean I think such things should be banned. I don't want to see them. All I have to do is not go to those websites, those clubs, those places which are not interesting to me. I would never dream of infiltrating a line dancing group with the intention of seeking out some health and safety risk that would get them shut down.

Okay, nobody could possibly get offended by line dancing. It's completely inoffensive. Just dull.

That, however, is what these self-appointed moral guardians are doing. They are joining clubs they don't like for the specific purpose of looking for things to report to the police.

The police do this sort of thing for legitimate reasons. They watch sites known to be used by terrorists and paedophiles and often catch dangerous people as a result. It is, however, a matter for the police. Not for Web-based vigilante groups with their own ideas of what should be illegal.

It's an underhand form of censorship by self-appointed censors that could have serious repercussions. If they win this case then nothing they disagree with will be safe, whether fiction or reality.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Weasel Stomping Day

Okay. There's a sense of humour, there's a twisted sense of humour, and then there's just plain sick.

I think I just crossed the line because I laughed till I cried at this one. If there's a Hell, this video booked my room.

Yours too.

(I get a 'no longer available' on the link, but it is. It's here).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The flying ghost.

I still say the tacky tabloid newspapers are the place to look for ghost stories that the seious papers won't touch, but this one is just too silly.

Yves Rossy has flown over the English channel on a jet wing - no mean feat and not without considerable personal risk. An historic act indeed.

Some idiot took a photo and was shocked to find a UFO following the flying man. The UFO is the same size and shape as M. Rossy and is clearly an internal reflection in the lens.

Genuine paranormal events are hard enough to spot as it is, without junk like this getting in the way.

Worse, Nick Pope, who claims to be an expert, seems to have been completely fooled. That doesn't help at all.

Sometimes I wish I'd been a train driver.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's how you tell it that counts.

The often bizarre world of the paranormal is quiet at the moment. People have no time to worry about things moving on their own or strange lights and sounds. There are much bigger concerns.

I have already been told (offline) that this proves the non-existence of the paranormal. If it were real, they argue, we would all see it all the time. My argument is that maybe you are seeing it all the time but your mind is occupied with other things, such as trying to budget for a life where prices are going up exponentially and incomes are not.

It all hinges on one thing, really. Can people's perceptions be twisted by a few distractions and some clever manipulation to the extent that they aren't sure what they are seeing, reading, or believing?

Here are two links. One is something we all need to worry about, the other is nothing to worry about at all.

Which is which?

First impressions, please. A little thought will make the difference clear but remember, most people don't apply such reasoning. Most will go with those first impressions.

Then, perhaps, think a little about your day. What do you remember of travelling to and from work? What happened at lunchtime? Who did you see? What were they wearing?

Memory and perception are nowhere near as good as we like to think. Just because you can't remember the colour of your boss's tie doesn't mean he wasn't wearing one.

Or does it?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The economy, with swearing.

I came across this in my internet wanderings tonight.

Be warned - if you're sensitive to strong language, this might not be for you.

Maybe Canada would be a better option. Or Australia.

Or Antarctica.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sometimes I wish I'd stayed ill...

It takes a while to get back into the swing of things. I'm scanning photos and listening to recordings from my outings earlier in the year. Nothing earth-shattering to report as yet. The recordings are hard work. Hours of night-time sounds coming through earphones are a sure way to get your attention to wander and a very good way to put yourself to sleep. There have been occasional perk-ups but the voice turns out to be me muttering something, the screams turn out to be a cat, or a cow in the distance. Storing up too much data and trying to go through it all afterwards is a very bad idea.

Then, yesterday, I had to go and buy a new keyboard because I sprayed coffee over mine.

Our country is involved in two wars against people who have never threatened us. The soldiers who are fighting those wars are underequipped and when they get home they are treated like dirt. That's not what cost me a keyboard.

We are in the middle of a financial crash that is going to go deep and hurt very hard. One of the worst-hit banks (HBOS) is where most of my money was stashed until I spent a few days moving it. The government have decided to fiddle with the world of finance, about which none of them know anything, and are making it much worse. That didn't cost me a keyboard either.

People are being arrested for littering and convicted in the absence of evidence, and they are denied the chance to prove they weren't even in the country at the time of the alleged 'offence'. Meanwhile, violent criminals are set free because the prisons are full of people who drop litter, overfill their bins and park in the wrong place. That nearly cost me a keyboard, but not quite.

Guns are banned, having a knife in your pocket on the street is banned, and yet gun and knife crime continue to rise. The youth are out of control and uneducated to the point where they know far more about drug use than they do about spelling. Electricity and gas prices rise by double-digit percentages every few months and the government insists on building inefficient windmills while the power stations are falling apart and all our nuclear energy generation is now owned by the French. None of those things cost me a keyboard.

What destroyed my keyboard was the news that, while the country crashes and burns around our ears, our government is spending its time wondering whether a catholic should be allowed to be the King or Queen of Britain.

It might well be an important question to some, and indeed I might weigh in with an argument or two at another time, but wouldn't you think that there are more pressing concerns than which church the Queen visits once a week?

What's it like in America, and does anyone over there have a spare room and an exceptionally tolerant attitude?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The smoking police.

As the pain in my throat subsides, the temptation to have just one cigar increases.

It's not so much addiction. I've been non-smoking (not by choice) for long enough to have flushed that away. It's more a case of... I like cigars.

There is also a definite element of sheer, perverse, bloody-minded disobedience involved.

Read this and tell me I am over reacting. If you say 'Yes, Romulus, you are over reacting' I will smack you one.

It's not just the patronising, officious, overbearing and dictatorial attitude of these people that has sent my blood pressure into dangerous territory. It's the appalling pseudoscience behind it.

I get told, all the time, that hunting for ghosts is pseudoscience. It is not. Hunting for ghosts with equipment that is not proven to find ghosts, and pretending to find evidence which is not evidence at all, is pseudoscience. Science is a method, not a subject of study. Any subject can be approached with either a scientific or a pseudoscientific approach. It is the approach, the experimental design, that determines whether the study is scientific or not. The subject of the study is not pseudoscience. The subject is not science at all. Science is only in the method of study.

In this case, our idiot government insist that smokers in the street must be shown how much carbon monoxide they inhale.

In. The. Street.

Where they will inhale traffic fumes full of carbon monoxide, as will the non-smokers. Non-smokers will not be tested. Only smokers who, in the street, are guaranteed to have carbon monoxide in their lungs. So will everyone else.

The experimental hypothesis here should be 'In a particular environment, the lungs of smokers will contain more carbon monoxide than those of non-smokers'.

The experimental method would be to test smokers and non-smokers equally within a street, within a limited time range. A balanced experiment where overall, there are equal numbers of smokers and non-smokers exposed to the same amount of street with the same average traffic flow. That will show whether there is a difference due to smoking.

Yet all they plan to do is to show smokers that they have carbon monoxide in their lungs and so drum up business for their anti-smoking classes. They plan to do this on the street so that every single test will definitely be positive. There is no control group.

You want pseudoscience? Look to the government. They are the experts in this, not researchers into subjects you don't happen to like.

I still can't smoke. Perhaps I won't, but things like this definitely won't help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back and furious.

I missed all the furore about the Bigfoot corpse that turned out to be Urko from Planet of the Apes (that's who the photo reminded me of). Well, I didn't so much miss it as felt too ill to comment.

This one, however, I am perfectly well enough to rage at. You think universities and colleges are run by intelligent people?

Think again.

Who are these idiots, and why aren't they wearing tar and feather suits?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Not yet dead.

I've been ill. Nothing too deadly but seriously inconvenient.

It started with a cold which, it soon became clear, had ambition. It turned into flu. Not very serious but I couldn't stare at the screen so I stayed away from the computer. Since it refused to leave on its own, no matter how much whisky I poured over it, I broke the habit of a lifetime and went to see the doctor.

He was surprised to see me. Apparently he thought I might have died years ago.

Anyway, he gave me antibiotics, Now, I have just enough knowledge of that subject to be dangerous, gleaned from hanging around with microbiologists in universities. I knew that antibiotics had no effect on viruses. I knew I had a virus. So I didn't take them.

What I didn't know (but do now) is that the antibiotics have another purpose. They prevent secondary bacterial infections moving in where the virus has left a mess. Naturally, the bacteria took note of my reluctance to take pills and swiftly moved in.

After much head-shaking by the doctor, I relented and took the antibiotics. It was at that point I discovered I am allergic to penicillin. So the medication made me worse. It was small comfort to point out to the doctor that I had been right not to take them after all.

I'm almost back to normal now. I'll catch up with messages over the next few days.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Home again.

You know, it seemed like such a good idea to go for a wander around the countryside with no intenet access for a few weeks. It was, indeed, very pleasant apart from the British weather. When we say the weather is 'changeable', we don't mean by the day. We mean by the minute. Brilliant sunshine can turn into a thunderstorm in moments, so it's a good thing I never go anywhere without a hat.

Anyway, I have no astounding successes to report (which you must have guessed by now or there'd be a photo in this post) but I still have a lot to go through.

One thing I had forgotten about was spam. It turns up every day and I delete it as it comes in if I'm at the computer. Overnight I can expect to get about 20-30 spams, hardly enough to be troubled about. Those that appear while I'm at the computer get wiped at once so I couldn't say for sure how many appear daily.

Over a period of weeks they amass to several thousand! Buried in there are ones I actually want to read but for every good one there are at least a hundred duds! Phishing mails for banks I don't have accounts with, offers of marriage from Russian women (thanks, but I don't speak Russian so it just wouldn't work out), PayPal has apparently frozen my account fourteen times even though there's currently nothing in it, and if I took all those offers to expand my trouser bits I could use the damn thing as a scarf.

Well, I can see how they make money with them. They send millions and they only need a few gullible idiots to make it worthwhile. What I don't get are the ones that have only one line, usually a quote from a book. No link, no attached virus-riddled software, nothing. What are those? Is there a class of spammer now that just wants to be as much of a pain in the backside as possible, without all that bother of selling junk?

Anyway, I have still to clear them all so if you have an email in there, be patient. I'll find it. Eventually.

First, some sleep...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Intermittent postings.

I have been out and about, and am likely to continue in that vein for a few more weeks. I don't often get to the internet, but I hope, when it's all over, to have some interesting pictures.

While I was on this time I went back to look at Scary Monster's blog. He moved on quite a while ago and I could never find out where. Fortunately he left a clue.

The Monster is still stomping, here.

I hope he doesn't mind me handing out directions.


Recently I witnessed an accident at close quarters. Very close quarters indeed.

Whenever I drive, or ride the bus, I marvel at the idiots who think that once they set foot on the road, they are invincible. Ears plugged with iPods, or glued to phones, they stroll across as if their walking pace is more than a match for the approaching traffic. Every time I see them I think 'One day, mate, you are going to discover that these things are hard and heavy, and you present no obstacle to their progress at all'.

You'd expect hedgehogs to behave in this way, and rabbits, and to a lesser extent, dogs and cats. You'd think that people would be smarter, but they're not.

So while what I saw was unpleasant, it came as no surprise at all.

I was on the bus, sitting on the right side at the window. In the UK, that's the side facing the traffic. The bus was stopped at traffic lights, another bus in front and just enough gap between them for a dim young girl to run through. So she did, ignoring the fact that there existed, just past the buses, another lane of traffic moving away from the junction and therefore accelerating.

She made quite a dent in the 4x4 (SUV) she collided with. Then she bounced off the bus and landed in the road.

Police, ambulances, all arrived with impressive speed. The girl was not seriously harmed but off she went to get checked anyway. The woman driving the 4x4 was very shaken and was questioned, but the accident was not her fault. She can't see through buses and could not have anticipated that anyone would be stupid enough to just run out in front of her.

Chalk up one, then. One pedestrian who is now aware that cars are not made of fuzzy felt and that a pedestrian cannot stop them once in motion. She was shaken, slightly cut, possibly had a fracture or two, but was mostly undamaged. She was lucky.

She could have been roadkill.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another newspaper ghost.

See what you think of this one .

It could be a ghost, but the background of trees means it could also be an artifact of light and shadow.

If I had taken that one, I’d be pleased with myself, but I don’t think I’d have gone to the newspapers with it. It’s not perfect, it’s open to interpretation.

Still, it’s pretty good.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sometimes there's no alternative.

Alternative medicine isn't something I've studied at all. I don't bother conventional doctors much either because I'm rarely ill enough to take up their time. I haven't even had my blood pressure tested in decades and I've never had a cholesterol test. Shocking, isn't it? Here I am, managing to stay alive without being tested for anything. How dare I?

So I haven't experienced much at all in the way of medicine, alternative or conventional.

As far as I understand it, 'alternative' includes things like homeopathy, acupuncture, something involving poking your feet that I can't recall the name of and other things that I would consider harmless. Whether they are effective or not I wouldn't like to say, having experienced none of them myself. Yet I would consider them harmless because they don't involve any invasive techniques, no cutting, no drugs, nothing like that. Even homeopathic remedies I would say are harmless because of the extreme dilution.

If someone has a stress-related illness, with symptoms that are entirely psychological, then any placebo will work as long as the patient believes it. Any relaxation treatment will help with stress, anything the patient believes in will alleviate imagined symptoms.

I don't discount the possibility that some of these alternatives might have effects on real diseases too, but I'm a scientist so I need to see data to convince me. Many herbs have proven antibacterial effects, and some have proven systemic effects. Wintergreen for headaches, for example, does work because wintergreen contains salicylic acid (better known as aspirin). New data (unpublished so I can't say too much or someone won't ever tell me anything again) has shown that some types of fruit have a direct effect on Salmonella infection, and other infections, in the gut. Anecdotally, I know several people who say that acupuncture has definitely helped them with arthritic pain. Whether it alleviated the arthritis or simply reduced their perception of the pain, doesn't matter to them. They feel in less pain and that's what counts.

So I maintain that alternative medicine is harmless. What is not harmless, however, is some people's mania for these treatments which reaches a level bordering on the fanatical.

There are many things alternative medicine can't do. There are some things that medical science simply must be trusted with. If you have a serious and chronic gut infection, don't just eat fruit. Get antibiotic treatment. Eat the fruit too - it'll help your gut recover - but get the antibiotics. If you have cancer, do not rely on herbal tea and pins in your skin. Get to a doctor and get that thing cut out. If it's done early your chances of survival are good. If it's left to fester while you run the gamut of alternative therapies, you're going to die. Get it out first, then go to alternatives for pain relief and recovery if you wish.

Should you be one of those who regards 'alternative' as your only choice, then I suggest you read this all the way through.

Alternatives have a place. It's good to have choices.

The trick lies in making the right choice.